Having released a killer melodic metal album, “Final Days”, Orden Ogan is ready to taste success. The metal community shall reward Orden Ogan, since the German melodic power metallers have just delivered us a bouquet of shockingly beautiful metal songs, which sound so fresh, so intriguing, so compelling. We are talking about a Teutonic melodic metal force, which takes us on a ride over the fields of power metal, beyond boundaries, clichés and tags. Myth of Rock, amazed by Orden Ogan’s melodic metal skills, talked with Sebastian “Seeb” Levermann and learned a lot of things about the band, its music, the new record and so many other interesting things. Will you join us in this ride?
by Dimitris Zacharopoulos
After a lot of delays due to the coronavirus pandemic, you are finally releasing your new album, “Heart of the Android”. Why are your feelings now?
I am feeling great! Actually, most of the delays have not been because of the coronavirus pandemic, but because we had terrible problems during the production process, it felt almost like somebody didn’t want us to get this thing finished, you know. We had at least fifteen to twenty situations that threw us back for like one week each, or something. During the drum recordings, to start with, I had to go to the music store five days in a row, because we broke something down, we broke a microphone, we broke cables that we couldn’t replace … Then I had some terrible noises on the guitars in my studio, so I had to go to another studio and work there at the night. When I was back in my studio and having finished all the guitars, obviously everything was fine again. So, a lot of these stuff happened. The worst thing in the end was that basically, my mixing sessions died, I don’t know why, and we were not able to recover that, so I basically, after the first song was already released, I had to remix everything to the point that it sounded the same like the first three songs that we had already been mixed, which is actually virtually impossible to do, it is almost not possible to do that. But still, the record now sounds like it is one record that really works together with all the tracks. And yeah, I am super happy to have it finally out and to be finally able to show it to the fans. I mean, there are a lot of bands, who are postponing their releases, because they can’t tour, but I don’t think that this is the right approach. There are so many people out there, who maybe are not feeling great right now, at the moment, with this situation, and if we can at least make the situation better for our fans by just releasing new music that they can listen to and laugh, then that is the least thing that we can do.
Seeb, did you produce the new Orden Ogan album?
Yes, this is my main job, being a music producer. I started back in 2010 with the “Easton Hope” album (the second studio album of Orden Ogan), it was the first album that I completely produced and mixed and everything. Then, basically it started when other bands came to me as well, asking if they can record at my place or if I can mix something for them and stuff, and back then I really thought to my myself, OK, where do you wanna go, do you want to work with the small bands from the next town, the next village, or do you want to be working with the really great acts in the metal scene. I mean, for me the way was clear and so, I really had to sit down and really really practice a lot to get to a point that I could compete with all the top guys, mixingwise, … it was a lot of work for a couple of years, haha. But now, I really feel comfortable, and in the last years I have worked with bands like Rhapsody of Fire, Brainstorm, Ross the Boss, Asphyx ,I did the live record with Riot, stuff like that, … Yeah, so I recorded, engineered, wrote everything, mixed, mastered, everything, basically there was nothing that I haven’t touched in this process.
Oh, you also wrote all the songs of the new album!
Yes, most of it… I did couple of stuff together with Dirk, the drummer, and also some songs and some parts are based on ideas of the other guys. But putting everything together, making a song out of it, that was my job.
Where do you draw inspiration from? You are doing so many things, basically everything!
I am getting this question for this album, during this period, during these interviews, it is interesting!!! I never got this question before, which is funny … in my case, in my head, it is just music, 24/7, for as long as I can remember. When I was two years old, I was already singing along to the oldies that my father was listening to and stuff, you know. There are people who are playing instruments, and there are real musicians. Our drummer, Dirk, for example, he is like the guys I am talking about, he is a real musician! Put him down on a chair, like somewhere, and it doesn’t take five seconds and he will start drumming on his legs, stuff like that, haha! Like I said, It is just music in his head, it is the same with me. So, it is not really that I really have to draw inspiration from somewhere, it is just always there, it is always surrounding me. Coming up with new ideas for the new songs, it can be that I am walking on the street and sometime a melody comes up to my head and I am singing it to myself, … It happens that I may sit on the couch, playing the guitar and there will be a riff, and I say, “OK, great, I should do something with that”. It also happened a couple of times that I woke up in the middle of the night, like three o’ clock in the night and have this song that I have dreamed about. And then I will sit down at the computer and start recording it, before it is gone. So I can really say that if there is something like inspiration, then it is basically everything that you come across in your life.
Could you please compare your new album, “Final Days” to your previous one, “Gunmen” (2017)? In my opinion, the new Orden Ogan album is much heavier and more melodic, at the same time!
I think the Orden Ogan records are all a bit alike … there has always been this super specific sound, you know, writing songs that sound Orden Ogan. The harmonies, the melodies, stuff like that. You will absolutely realise and understand that this is an Orden Ogan album, if you listen to it. In comparison now with “Gunmen” … First of all, the production got a lot better, and heavier than ever before, it is probably even the best mix I did in general in my studio. And I think that the new album is more diverse … Actually I wouldn’t necessarily say “heavier”, because you also have these pop - ish songs like “Inferno” for example. You also got a tune called “Let the Fire Rain”, which starts with this classic 80s heavy metal riff. You also got a ballad on there, you didn’t have a ballad on “Gunmen”, “Gunmen” was more like a really straightforward heavy metal record. But also of course, you have songs like “In the Dawn of the AI” and something like “Hollow” that are longer and more on the progressive side, “Hollow” is possibly like the heaviest track that we have ever written. If you ask me, I would say that “Final Days” is more diverse than “Gunmen” was before.
I think that this new album, will be your breakthrough album.
It always depends a bit on what you consider to be a breakthrough, haha!
I mean, I think that it will be your most successful album worldwide.
I hope so, though I really have to say that “Gunmen” for us was a super successful album, we felt a big push with that record. We played our first real headlining tour throughout Europe with the support acts, Rhapsody of Fire and Unleash The Archers, which are both not small bands on their own. There were many shows sold out … we did also our own small cruise on a ship, on a lake that was sold out in 24 hours. The final show of the “Gunmen” tour that was sold out with 800 people, I think, like 18 weeks before the show! We played all these great festivals, we played in Japan, we’ve been to 70000 Tons Of Metal, we played in ProgPower festival in USA. And so we really felt that there was a lot “moving” with “Gunmen”. Especially for me, my main goal is already achieved anyway, because I am making my income from Orden Ogan, my whole living. I could do just Orden Ogan or just the Studio. I mean, I am in a super comfortable situation, because when we do a little bit of a break with Orden Ogan or a forced break, like right now, I can do just the studio stuff, but I don’t have to rely on the studio stuff. When we are on a tour with Orden Ogan, then I don’t work in the studio. For me that’s a great situation, so the main goal is already achieved. But! If you are saying that this is going to be our most successful album so far, I won’t argue with that! It is fine, haha!
Where do the lyrics of the new songs refer to? Is it only science fiction?
The whole record is science fiction themed, there is an overall theme for the record. We always do that. In the beginning, when we had the album title, “Final Days”, we thought that it was a strong name for a record, we really liked it. In the beginning we thought, we would do ten songs with ten different situations of how mankind could find its end. I think that the first lyrics that had been written were in the song “In The Dawn of The AI”, which talks about Artificial Intelligence that takes control and then ultimately destroys mankind, then we had “It is Over”, which is about a huge asteroid hitting the earth for the last time. There was also a song about a killer virus that it was already written in 2019 and we decided not to put it on the record, we thought that it might be not so appropriate, but it didn’t turn out as it was planned before, because there were a lot of other songs that are more personal or have other themes. What I like a lot, what I did in the past a lot and I will continue to do, because I think it’s a big part of the fun for me, is that I will pick a semantic field, a field of words that are connected to the overall theme and then I will build metaphors with that, which actually means something totally different. An example, we got this song, “Black Hole”, which of course is a word which you associate with science fiction and space and stuff, but the song actually is about the feeling that the wait of your own depression is dragging you down to the ground. Also the song “Heart of The Android” … most people thought the song is about the question if artificial intelligence, a robot or a computer program can develop some sort of a personality, once it is sophisticated enough, I mean that is the obvious thing, what people think, but actually is about a person, who feels that he just has to function like a machine, because people are expecting from him to work properly…I really like that a lot, it is big part of the fun, there are a lot of people, coming to me, after shows, saying “ohhh, I just understood what this song is about! Four years later! Can you imagine?”! Yes, that is always great, I always laugh with it, haha!
Can you tell me about the radio broadcast that can be heard on the “It Is Over” song?
Yes, the song is about a giant asteroid, hitting the earth, which ultimately destroys all life on our planet. A few people in the story have made it and get away with some spaceships, which go to Mars, in order to establish a colony there, and this radio broadcast is the basically the last radio broadcast on Earth, where all the nations are talking to the people. We thought it would be an amazing idea to do that in, if not all, at least in some of the big languages of the planet. The main thing that you can hear is English, but it is also in German, French, Spanish, Japanese, Russian, we used some friends from all over the world, who recorded their voices for that, I think it is an amazing moment in the record, it is one of my absolute favourite moments in the record.
Let’s talk now about the changes in your line-up!
Yes, of course.
Firstly, you have focused only on singing.
That means that you didn’t play the guitar in the “Final Days” album.
Oh, I played the guitar, while recording, because I wrote most of the stuff, it didn’t make sense to teach the other guys how the riffs are supposed to be played. And, whereas the others are really really great solo and lead guitar players, I focus a lot on really nailing rhythm guitars, you know. That absolutely made sense. But I have to tell the whole story, otherwise it doesn’t make any sense. In 2019 I broke my thumb, and I couldn’t play the guitar. But we were then basically starting with the festival season, so it was two weeks before the festivals and we really didn’t want to cancel, we really wanted to do the festivals. So, Niels Löffler, our bass player, who is actually a great guitar player, obviously moved from bass to guitar, to play my parts, it was obvious that we would do that, since he is a great guitarist, as I said. So we did the first couple of shows with other bass player, I was just singing and people seemed to like it so much, that a lot people came to us saying, “ohh, this is amazing, you should keep it like that, because Seeb can run around and talk to people and do more bullshit on stage, it just feels better!”. Our record company said that, a lot of the press guys, even the Powerwolf guys came to us, I think it was at the Summer Breeze Open Air Festival, and said “Oh, you should keep it like that, because it is great”. I felt like a fish in the sea as well, so I said OK, if everyone likes it and we like it, then there is no point in not doing it. That was the obvious thing. So, we needed a bass player, and that was actually super simple, because we were just thinking about who could do that and the only guy who came into our mind was Steven Wussow, he is the former bass player of Xandria, the female fronted symphonic metal band. We had been on tour together, he is a super great guy, amazing bass player, beast on stage, so that was obvious. When we were in the rehearsal room talking about that, we said, “Who could do that?” … “Steven!”, so we gave him a call and he was like, “Hmmm, I can’t come over, mmmm” … super unenthusiastic, basically! The fun thing about that was that, actually, it is a big thing to bring in a new guy to the band, but for us it was super clear that it had to be him, and also for him it was super clear that it had to be Orden Ogan. We felt that it was inevitable. That was easy, the more complicated thing then was that we also had the impression that we had some problems coming up with our guitar player, Tobi (Tobias Kersting), that started already in 2018. I don’t want to go into too much detail, but, sometimes in your life, things change in your private life, so that you are not able to have all the energy and the time to do other things that you really love, because sometimes stuff just goes wrong in your life, you know. We didn’t really want that to happen, but it looked like it was …, it had to happen and so, Tobi has gone on a long vacation now. It was very, very difficult for us to come up with an idea of who could possibly do that on guitar, because, I mean, it is not exactly technical progressive death metal what we play, but still on guitar it isn’t easy, especially if you are taking into account all this shredding stuff that he had done for the solos, and it is really tough, if you want to nail all the rhythm guitar parts. That is the first thing, we had to find a guy who is able to play that and then, the other thing is that in our case, we are very likely the nicest band that you will ever meet, because everyone is super down to earth, super relaxed, there is no ego bullshit going on at all, everyone is always in a good mood, we are always joking about each other and stuff … everyone is super grateful that we can do what we do, we love what we are doing. So it is really tough to find somebody who is not a diva, a guy who really understands how everything works. There was nobody coming into our minds, and then, I got a friend, he gave me a call, and said: “Hello, I’ve heard that you have some issues there, what about Patrick Sperling?”. I had just seen the guy once, I didn’t know much about him, so my friend explained to me that Patrick looks like a young version of Zakk Wylde, he plays like a young version of Zakk Wylde, he is living thirty minutes from your place, he is a big Orden Ogan fan, he is a super nice guy and he is able to tour. I answered, “This sounds like winning the lottery! Let me give him a call!”. I gave him a call and the first thing he does is laughing at me! I asked him why he is laughing and said: “Ahhh! Don’t think I am a weirdo or something, but I was somehow expecting this call to come at a certain point. Then I told him: “Ohh, ok! Then you know what the question is!” and he replied:”Yes! And I am in!” Hahaha! That wasit! … He is a great guy, phenomenal guitar player and is the strongest Orden Ogan version, the best version Organ Ogan have had.
In the new album you have two special guest appearances, Gus G (guitar, solo, Firewind, ex – Ozzy Osbourne) and Ylva Eriksson (vocals, Brothers of Metal). Can you give me some information about this guest stars?
Orden Ogan has been growing a lot, I make my living from that, like a lot of people who make some money from the band, but I’ve never viewed Organ Ogan as a commercial product. I don’t really care, I mean it is great if it is that way, but I don’t care if it is 450,000 people listening our songs on Spotify or if it is just 4 people listening on Spotify, I would do these records anyway, because this is what I love to do, this is what comes from the heart. It sounds super cheesy but it is true. When it comes to guest appearances, it was never about namedropping or finding the biggest names or something. It was always about what the musician can bring to the table. It is an improvement for the song. I don’t think I have to talk more about Gus G, because obviously everybody knows that he is one of the best guitar players on the planet. That basically just derived from a joke, because when we felt that we had some problems with Tobi coming up, we were basically just kidding, saying “OK, if he can play the solos, we should find a guest guitar player”. Niels, our guitar player, who had been on tour with Gus G, told us: “Ahh, can I ask Gus?” and we answered “Ohh, yes, it would be awesome”. I think between this conversation and the final solo of Gus G there was just a couple of days. I mean, it sounds stupid, when I put it like that, but it is obvious that it is an honor for us, he is one of the best guitar players in the planet, his performance on the song is amazing, it is an honor for us to have Gus G, the former Ozzy Osbourne guitar player, the guitar player of Firewind and other super successful stuff, also a great solo artist, a great guy by the way, I knew exactly what we would get, you know. For Ylva now … We knew that in the song “Alone in the Dark” there had to be a female voice in the second verse and the second chorus, because it was written from two different perspectives. There were a lot of names thrown around, of female singers who could possibly do that. She was suggested by AFM Records, I think, I listened to all the singers we were talking about and I also I listened to her, I thought “If she could do that with a really fragile, low, melancholic voice, that could be really amazing” and so, we gave it a shot, and when she sent back her tracks of her performance, I was super blown away. I think it is amazing, she really nailed it, I don’t think that any singer in the world could have done that in a better way, differently maybe, yes, but not better. I think the performance is perfect as it is, we are super happy.
Finally, Seeb, could you please tell us about the Final Days Tour? I think it is planned for February 2022.
Yes, it is the third time that we postponed it. The first tour was planned for September 2020 with Orden Ogan headlining and special guests Grave Digger and Rage, which would have made a fantastic German metal package, I am also really looking forward to maybe bringing this on the stages sometime in the future again. We had to postpone it to April 2021, but the other two bands’ schedule didn’t match, so we had to bring Brothers of Metal and Windrose, which are two bands we really wanted to take with us on tour anyway. This is another nice thing about Orden Ogan, by the way. We can go on tour together with many bands, both the older, bigger bands and the super young, the super new bands. Our target audience includes the young and the older people. That’s what I also like about Orden Ogan… Yes, now it is postponed again to February 2022, and I actually think this time it is possible. I personally didn’t believe that there would be new shows this year, still not to this point, but I think February 2022 is absolutely possible. Most people will have been vaccinated until then, so I believe we will have concerts in February 2022.
OK, Seeb, thank you so much, it was an honor talking with you!
Thank you, man, have a nice evening!