Any metal fan worth their “metal” has at least three or four RAGE albums in their collection; but it should really be twenty two. I first came across RAGE, funnily enough, on Rage, late on a Saturday night with the film clip of ‘Invisible Horizons’ being aired; lifted from Secrets in a Weird World 1989. They immediately grabbed my attention – speed, melody and an amazing powerful vocal. I went straight out and began the accumulation of the back catalogue and have been a huge fan ever since. They are band with such a vast recording history, and a history that has never let the savvy metal head down.
The history of RAGE has been one of pivotal line-up changes, from three piece, to four piece and back to three piece, and throughout all of this, the band has not only survived, but flourished musically. The second longest serving member of RAGE, Victor Smolski, the faultless metal virtuoso and composer, came late in to the fold, in 1999, but paved a new road for RAGE, and in many respects pushed the band further up the metal ranks. With his leaving in 2014 a lot of people speculated about RAGE and its survival, but Peavy Wagner didn’t. The powerhouse bass guitarist and vocalist, the only surviving original member, was resolute in the bands continuation. With the band embarking on their first full length release with the new line-up I caught up with Peavy to talk all things RAGE.
“This is the first musical statement with the new line-up, so it says a lot really. I think that musically it is a little different in a number of aspects actually. Firstly, it is more straight forward and more to the point. It has more of thrashy elements too, but it stays true to our melodic roots. I am very excited to release this new album and showcase to the metal world RAGE in 2016.”
In the media, Peavy has been nothing but glowing of his new band and he seems to have found a new level of energy for RAGE. He stated last year that the two new members of Rage, Marcus and Vasillios “have literally inhaled RAGE their whole lives.” So I asked Peavy what he saw as their greatest contributions to the studio sound of the band?
“Those guys are huge RAGE fans since their teenage years. For this reason they understand the essence of the band. All in all when you see the band it is very typical RAGE and in particular the band from the 90’s as I was the principle song writer as I am now. They are also long-time friends and this is helpful in building the songs and really finding that magic. Before this line-up the band was a working relationship, and not much of a personal interest with each other. But now it is three buddies hanging out, we are having a lot of fun.”
I have been fortunate enough to hear the new album in advance and the new album is definitely RAGE, but it has an attack that I haven’t heard in RAGE for a few albums and so I pushed Peavy about where this has come from.
“Like I said, I guess it is because with Marcus and Vasillios, they are true fans of the band and they have brought new energy and fire to the fold. They are not looking to put in other musical genres or style they are committed to making RAGE albums and so the focus is straight and direct as a unit.”
So how then did the new material come about with The Devil Strikes Again, did the songs come from jamming as a band or were ideas put forward and then developed in the rehearsal studio?
“The main ideas have come from me, my basic skeleton of an idea. I worked them through with Marcus, especially in solos, and we flesh the songs out from there. But in general it shows that we are a really good working team, Marcus and I. He understands what is needed for the band from start to finish. From here we did final arrangements with Vasillios, our drummer. Vasillios is also the manager of the band and so he is busy booking gigs and all that stuff and so he asked not to be involved in the creative process. So that is how we pieced together the music for the new album.”
I wanted to focus some of our conversation around Victor Smolski. This split caught a lot of media attention as Peavy and Victor really complimented each other musically and they seemed to be such a tight team. How do you look back on your career with Victor Smolski and do you think that you could possibly work together again?
“It is the end of an era. We have never been friends, he is a brilliant guitar player but it played its course. It was a good collaboration for a long time and we had a lot of respect for each other. He was more of late working for himself and this didn’t work, as RAGE was not his principle focus. It wasn’t possible to work with him in the band any longer so I realised he wasn’t available and so I looked for other guys who would work with me and in the name of RAGE. I had to deliver, he as not willing to deliver any more, no hate or emotion it was a logical decision.”
As mentioned earlier, RAGE were a pivotal player in the formation of the power metal movement and I have always wondered how Peavy sees his place in the initiation and development of this genre. I put it to Peavy, do you look back across your whole career and see yourself and RAGE as one of the forefathers of the European power metal movement?
“This is a great question actually. I think that now I am one of the grandfathers of the movement! Surely I am a guy from the first establishment of this metal style, but on the other hand RAGE has never been the typical metal band in any movement. We always had a kind of individual approach. I guess the correct answer would be yes, we are a part of this German metal scene but we are also an individual metal band.”
In 2014 Peavy reunited with two pivotal earlier members of RAGE, Manni Schmidt and Christos Efthimiadis. This rendition of RAGE recorded five of the most famous platters the band has ever released and so the band getting together under the banner of Refuge attracted a lot of attention. The reformed RAGE, or Refuge, that saw the light of day in 2014 attracted a lot of attention and support, so Peavy are there any plans for Refuge to play or even record an album in the future?
“Yeah Refuge was a complete fun project and we never had any intentions to do anything professionally. They established themselves in the regular life, the real world, and they don’t want to get back to professional musicians with the commitments they now have. So this is making it difficult to work in such a way. The idea to record new stuff is there, but I really can’t say seriously if this will happen. This will take some time as they don’t have the time anymore. We have started on some new ideas but a long way away from writing songs. Yes a possibility, it will take time so don’t expect Refuge for some time. A fun project to play here and there and I would love to record with those guys again someday.”
We changed our focus back at this point, looking toward the future of the band, and I put it to Peavy, Being now the sole original member of RAGE, how long do you see RAGE continuing or is there a plan for the future?
“Of course I want to continue making music as long as I can. I can’t stop, it is not a job for me, it is my life. I am going to continue writing and recording music as long as I can. The future hopefully is long for me and I still have a lot of ideas to call upon so of course this band has no end in sight.”
To finish I wanted to put a local slant on the interview and quizzed Peavy on if there is any chance of RAGE touring Australia at some stage?
“Actually if we get a chance this year hopefully, as we are planning a headlining tour currently. So if we get to Japan by October, which is the plan, this would be a good chance to come to Australia. It is always a problem to come over to places like Australia with the cost. It would have to combine with that you know. There are offers been thrown around and I would love to make it happen.”
Finally, I gave Peavy the last word and asked if there was a parting message that he would like to give to his Australian fans?
“I know that RAGE can only exist because of the true fans and so thank you for everyone who has supported the band throughout our history without that support RAGE would not be continuing. So thank you.”
It was a real treat to sit and chat with Peavy and get a handle on RAGE in 2016. He is very easy going and really happy to shed light on his creative child, that is RAGE and now also Refuge. The band, with the release of The Devil Strikes Again in June, are as powerful and strong as they were on Secrets of A Weird World (1989), Trapped (1992) or Missing link (1993), well their entire back catalogue actually! Let’s just hope they not only release the new album this year but also make their way to Australia!
Interview By Mark Sneddon