Interview with vocalist and guitarist Charly Steinhauer
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: October 25, 2014
From Würzburg, Germany comes the band Paradox, one of the most appreciated and adored Metal forces in the whole German Metal scene. Paradox formed in 1986 and was soon snapped up by Roandrunner Records, thanks to the hype around their 8-track demo Mystery, released in 1987. Paradox's first two albums, Product of Imagination, released in 1987, and the follow-up album, Heresy, released two years later in 1989, helped Paradox's career skyrocket and brought opportunities to share stages with bands like Exodus, Lääz Rockit, Candlemass and many others.
With a total of six albums under their belts, today Paradox is without a proper line-up but they are not dead, far from it, actually. Founder and mastermind Charly Steinhauer has kept working on new material, hoping to get the next Paradox album released sometime in 2015.
The Metal Crypt wanted to get our facts straight and asked Charly if he would be willing to shed some light on Paradox's current situation as well as sharing his most enduring memories with the band.
So Charly, to begin this conversation...
Luxi: How's life in Würzburg, Bavaria? Enjoying the fact that autumn's just around the corner and cold, dark winter days are soon to follow?
Charly: Würzburg is a really nice city. It's very comfortable to live here, but good weather is rare. Last year we had just one day of snow in winter and this summer was again a big rainout. My girlfriend comes from Greece, so if the weather bothers me too much here, I spend my time in sunny Athens and leave this shit behind.
Luxi: As I understand, Paradox hasn't split up, even though there's no permanent line-up for this German Speed/Thrash Metal powerhouse at the moment. Could you tell us what's going on in the Paradox camp?
Charly: First of all, Paradox is still alive and will be as long as I can breathe. Some people seem to have a problem with the line-up changes but for 30 years it's been the same singer and songwriter and that means the trademark sound of Paradox has never changed.
All the line-up changes over the past 30 years were the result of serious issues. People change their character, priorities or private circumstances, or they quit playing music, have a lack of interest and/or communication. Others had problems maintaining the level of commitment. In some cases, I was forced to record their instruments (drums and lead guitars) on the records. There are some rumors about a few musicians who never were members of Paradox, as well. Finally, I made some mistakes. Not all of my decisions were right, but Paradox was never at risk.
Now, I think only from record to record and who fits best will be a part of it. No compromise.
Luxi: At the end of August this year, you had a jam session with some original Paradox members, drummer Axel Blaha and bassist Roland Stahl, both known for their work on Paradox's 1987 debut album Product of Imagination. Did this jam session result in an attempt to recruit both of them back to the line-up of Paradox?
Charly: Axel Blaha is still one of my best friends but he quit playing drums in 1991. This was the first time he was sat behind a drum kit in 23 years. With huge respect, he did well, but Axel will never play drums in a band again. He is too busy in his private life. His life's priorities have changed. It is the same with Roland Stahl, who has job and a family. I would love to play again with my old buddies but there is no chance for a reunion. When we meet, we still have fun and talk about great times we had together.
Luxi: Did you also try to talk Markus Spyth (second guitar, also known for his work on Paradox's first twp albums) into joining this jam session?
Charly: Actually, Markus should have been a part of the session, but it happened too quickly. He will be there next time, if we jam again.
Luxi: How intriguing is the idea of reuniting the original Paradox line-up to record a new album and possibly playing some well selected shows? Sounds quite tempting, doesn't it? ;o)
Charly: To be honest, we talked about that, but the guys are too busy with their jobs or families. It would be great but it is just not possible. There is no space for them in Paradox.
Luxi: Have you ever discussed the possibility of re-recording either Product of Imagination or Heresy, to give them a modern, updated sound? Many metal bands have done just that, for example German thrashers Accu§er re-recorded their second album, Who Dominates Who? this year...
Charly: I do not think it's a good idea to touch a classic original to get a more modern sound to it. It is not possible to top the original and make the re-recording sound as good. The fans grew up with the sound of the original. In general, I'm not a fan of re-recordings really, even if I would like to hear some of the Paradox records with better production. I may think about re-recording a song like "Pray to the Godz of Wrath," but just as a bonus track. I keep my focus on new music.
Luxi: Paradox's latest album, Tales of the Weird, was released on Germany's AFM Records in 2012. How was it received by the Metal community? Did it generate the kind of reaction among the fans that you expected?
Charly: I'm satisfied with Tales of the Weird. The sound (especially the drums) could be better, but this also depends on the budget, which was not enough for a top production, unfortunately. The response was fantastic for this album, though. Many people, from press to fans, said Tales of the Weird was the best Paradox album since Heresy. Heresy is still the best record for the old school Paradox fans. It's definitely a classic.
Luxi: How ambitious a project was the Tales of the Weird album for you? It sounds like the kind of album on which every single detail was refined to perfection, making for a stunning listening experience for everyone.
Charly: Thank you! The making of each album is a big challenge for me. As a songwriter, I always want give my best. You'll never be perfect, otherwise each record would sound great and be successful. The first song I did for Tales of the Weird was the title track, which is one of the best pieces I've ever written. I'm not somebody who just collects a few riffs and puts parts together. If I write a song, I start from the beginning and go through straight to the end. I don't like fillers, you know? Each song that I have written was one I really like, even at this very moment.
Luxi: You also produced the Tales... album all by yourself, so what did you learn from being in this particular role? Not to forget pain killers if you ever take the producer's role again, eh?
Charly: To produce a record means you are responsible for the whole thing. You must know what you want if you are going to do this. If I make a mistake, I know it is my own fault. Of course, it was not possible to get a top production with the limited budget, but this is another topic. It is a big advantage to have this kind of control over my music. Sometimes its hard work and you need painkillers but this is the price I like to pay because I love doing things this way.
Luxi: I have to believe that since the songwriting sessions for Tales..., being the productive guy you obviously are, you haven't been resting on your laurels. So my question is how much new material do you have ready for Paradox's next album?
Charly: I have countless ideas in my head. I have written a couple of songs for the next album. I guess all rough the versions should be ready by Christmas. Then I will do some fine-tuning, change a few arrangements that are not perfect, in my eyes, and I plan to start my vocal parts at the beginning of next year. The record should be out sometime in 2015.
Luxi: Do you believe you have maintained the high level of quality with your new songs that matches what you have previously released under the Paradox moniker thus far?
Charly: If I did not believe that, I should stop. I know that the next album will surprise fans and the press worldwide. It's a kind of cliché to say each record will be better than the next, but if the rest of the songs are as good as the songs I've already written in the last few months, it will put a big smile on my face. I can already promise that no Paradox fan will be disappointed.
Luxi: Every Paradox studio album, six all in all so far, has been quite a success story in the Heavy Metal community. Do you believe you still haven't written your best album yet?
Charly: I feel like I still haven't written the best Paradox album yet. I'm fighting to realize this dream. Each album has had some great moments, but there is not one album with which I'm totally satisfied. To reach 100% perfection is a big challenge for me.
Luxi: Do you consider yourself a perfectionist?
Charly: Exactly! Nobody is perfect! Enough is not enough. There are always things you could do better. If I were able to do all perfectly I would be a kind of god or something. Every human being makes mistakes. I try to limit to minimum them but it is not possible to avoid them all. So yeah, I would describe myself as a perfectionist without being perfect.
Luxi: Paradox's sound is packed with riffs, tons of them that mercilessly pierce the listener's eardrums like a stray bullet pierces the head of a poor grandmom innocently collecting mushrooms in the autumnal forest. Do you consider yourself, more or less, a riff master, a guy who puts a lot of effort into creating some fancy and tricky guitar solos?
Charly: Ha ha... what a point of view you have there. Hmmm... I like to be called riff master. I don't try to record the trickiest guitar. If it sounded good, it could also be something really easy to play. As for creating solos, for me, a good solo is like a small song in a bigger one, with atmosphere and feeling. I don't like to record a solo just for the sake of it. It must have something special to it. To show off how good I can play scales is nothing special.
Luxi: What kind of things do you always try to pay attention to in a Paradox song? What kind of elements should it contain in order to sound like Paradox?
Charly: The combination of heavy riffs with good melodies is the key to creating a Paradox song. Just a good riff is boring to me. It's like an orchestra without violin or something, in my opinion.
Luxi: America's Stormspell Records released Paradox's 1986 and 1987 demos, with some bonus tracks, at the end of January 2014. Did they approach you first with the idea for putting them out in proper CD format? How pleased are you with the final product? Did it contain all the necessary things that make it worth purchasing by the Paradox fans?
Charly: Yes, Stormspell Records asked me if I would be interested in releasing the demos on a double CD, especially for "die hard" Paradox fans. There are 30 minutes of unreleased bonus tracks, which were recorded live at the rehearsal room, plus a very nice booklet with many rare pictures and both original demos in a remastered version. To have the whole back catalog of Paradox on CD is a great thing for the fans, collectors and my personal archive, as well. I'm proud of it.
Luxi: If we go down memory lane, can you still recall the band's debut demo back in 1986? I guess you did not know much about working in a studio environment back then, in your early teens, correct?
Charly: No. We were young, poor and naive. The second demo, Mystery, was our first experience in a professional studio with an engineer, in February 1987. We were worried about whether or not it would successful, but later on it was voted as "The Demo Of The Year" in some big print magazines. That demo was the reason Roadrunner Records asked us for a possible collaboration.
Luxi: One of the highlights in your career must have been getting your first recording contract with Roadrunner Records, which was a big and well-known Metal label back in the day. Then, of course, recording the debut studio album, Product of Imagination, must have been an overwhelming experience, as well. Is there anything particularly memorable from those days that you could share with the fans of Paradox as well as with the readers of The Metal Crypt?
Charly: To us it was like a nightmare, in a positive way. Roadrunner was the biggest Metal label. As a big Heavy Metal fan I bought albums from Roadrunner Records. I made blind purchases. All my favorite bands released their albums on Roadrunner Records back in the day and, suddenly, they gave us a record contract and we were a part of them. I was like 'wow...!'
I am so proud that I was able to realize much more about myself and my chances to achieve something big in my life. Later on, our debut album, Product of Imagination, was "Record Of The Month" in Rock Hard magazine. We were also voted "Newcomer #1" in Germany, a band on its way to becoming the next big thing out from Germany.
Luxi: How well do you remember Paradox's appearance at Dynamo Open Air festival back in 1988? You shared the stage with bands like Exodus, Lääz Rockit, Toxik, Sabbat (UK), Candlemass, and so on, at that particular festival. Undoubtedly, those were great times for a young musician like yourself...
Charly: For young musicians like us, it was like we were suddenly big rock stars. We shared the stage with our favorite band, Exodus, in front of 22,000 metal bangers. A day before we played soccer with Exodus and Lääz Rockit. Toxik...oh man! What power they had incorporated into their music. I asked for autographs. This show is actually in my personal hall of fame. Sometimes we had tears in our eyes when we thought how lucky we were, and if it was really true what had happened for us. I remember, before we started playing, I shouted to Axel, "hey...we made it! Now we are a big name. Look at all these people who came to see us playing live."
Luxi: In 2015, it's going to be 25 years since Paradox's second album, Heresy, saw the light of day. Any 25 anniversary shows in the works?
Charly: No. I have no plans to celebrate anniversaries. For a while, I thought about writing a follow-up album next year, but it makes no sense to me. Everybody would automatically compare Heresy II to the first Heresy album. Also, it might make people think I am only trying to ride on the success of Heresy and that is not really necessary.
Luxi: Before I let you go, what do you expect from 2015, if we keep this subject restricted to Paradox?
Charly: Paradox will release a new album in 2015. I can't promise live shows but I am in talks with some great musicians who are interested in being a part of it.
Luxi: I am glad you made it this far. Thank you so much Charly, for your time and, in the same breathe, I want to wish you all the best with your future endeavors with Paradox. May your road be full of pleasing rewards. Time for the last comments, which you are entitled to... ;o)
Charly: I have to thank you for your support! Greetings from Germany to all readers of The Metal Crypt. Your support keeps Paradox alive.
|Other information about Paradox on this site|
|Review: Collision Course|
|Review: Collision Course|
|Review: Riot Squad|
|Review: Riot Squad|
|Review: Tales of the Weird|
|Interview with Charly Steinhauer (guitars and vocals) on October 13, 2009 (Interviewed by Daniel DGYDP Guerrero)|
|Interview with guitarist and vocalist Charly Steinhauer on November 13, 2015 (Interviewed by Luxi Lahtinen)|
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