audio/video articles pictures other

metalium: metal for the new millennium - interview with chris caffery

Aardschok, August 1999 (The Netherlands)
by Robbie Woning
translated by Yvonne Kluitman
corrected by Dan Spengler

Chris Caffery is a very busy man. After Dr. Butcher, Savatage, and American Rock Live, this summer the American guitarist suddenly appeared with Metalium --a new German project-- completed with former Zed Yago/U.D.O. bass player Lars Ratz, drummer Mike Terrana, guitarist Matthias Lange and vocalist Henning Basse. Although Caffery constantly stresses that he is not the most important man in Metalium, and is still not even an official band member, he recently has posed for the band pics. He is also allowed, due to his reputation and his never-ending desire to travel ("I'm now in Hamburg waiting for somebody from Berlin, we will ride to Amsterdam this afternoon"), to tell the Metalium story to the press all by himself. Not that that's bad, it gives us the opportunity to catch up on Savatage.

RW:
The last time we got to talk with Chris he was touring with ARL, a project with bass player Barend Courbois, vocalist John West, and (again) drummer Mike Terrana. The four did a short European tour at the end of 1998. Some of the songs they played ended up on the Metalium debut "Millenium Metal-Chapter One". In spite of this, Metalium should not be considered as a continuation of ARL.

Chris:
Although Mike and I are playing together again, this is a completely different band. Metalium was founded by bassist Lars Ratz. He was the promoter of the ARL tour and approached me on the last Savatage tour to play an Accept tribute. I thought that it was a great idea and we booked a studio in Hamburg. Soon it appeared that Lars had some own material on which he needed guitar parts. I played some of those parts and flew back to New York with the rest of Savatage. In December, Lars called me to tell he got himself a record deal. He asked me if I might be interested in playing with Metalium. The cooperation so far was good and Mike Terrana would also be a part of it, so I didn't have to think one second about the answer. Of course, Metalium had a problem with asking me. My life is mainly dominated by Savatage, and therefore I can hardly tell exactly when I am available. Recordings won't be a problem, but when both bands decide to tour at the same time, I will definitely choose Savatage. Lars seems to be able to live with this idea and wants me in the band in spite of that.

RW:
Metalium proves on its debut that the unwritten rock-and-roll-rule "names don't make a band" isn't always true. The audible experience of the five musicians and the very "fat" production do indeed lift Metalium above the enormous mountain of new "real metal bands." At the same time, the band, by choosing Mike "drumming everywhere" Terrana and Chris "also very occupied" Caffery, are predestined to go on as a project forever.

Chris:
To me Metalium is more than a project. There's no real leader as we play together; it feels like a real band. I am afraid, though, that we have to make at least a few CD's with the same line up to be taken seriously. For now, the facts are against us. Certainly now that Mike is also gonna play with Rage.

RW:
The band name is a fusion of the words "metal" and "millenium". Do you want to let us hear how metal should be sounding in the new century?

Chris:
I wouldn't say the concept goes that deep. We wanted to make an album with a future sound, but at the same time go back to the feeling of the classical form of heavy metal. Our album sounds very varied and gives, around the year 2000, a good view on the word heavy metal.

RW:
Personally I think it sounds very German.

Chris:
The album sure has that typical German metal "feel". After all, the German band members wrote most of the music. I tried to let the guitars sound a bit more sharp when mixing. Many German metal bands are sounding a bit too polished in my opinion. I wanted to make a raw album and I think we've succeeded. I am very satisfied about the CD, anyway. Especially when you look at the short time in which this project was done. From writing the music to the final mix, it took no more than three months. Everything went fast with Metalium anyway. Last December, the band didn't even have a name, and now we will play all the big summer festivals.

RW:
At last, the inevitable question. How is Savatage doing? The last time we spoke to each other you even seemed to be fed up with Savatage a bit.

Chris:
The problem was that I wasn't as involved on the new TSO as some of the other band members were. The recordings overran very much and even resulted in the cancellation of some Savatage shows. I was frustrated by the waiting. I felt like an artist whose hands were tied behind his back. The ARL tour came as a relief for me. I was back on stage all of a sudden, and in a way it also got me involved in Metalium. At the same time it was kinda like a statement. I wanted to let people know that I wanted to do more than give interviews and hang around in the band's apartment. I guess I woke up the other Savatage members. Eventually it appeared we still all shared the same conviction: we fought for years to get this far and should not be careless with that success. This consciousness changed the way Savatage started the last European tour. We practiced very hard beforehand, made a complete new setlist, and didn't drink one drop of alcohol on stage. After some of the shows were canceled last summer, we considered going straight into the studio to record a new album. I am glad we decided to do the European tour first. It made us get a lot closer again; the friendship is back and everybody has a head full of ideas for the next album. This enthusiasm will definitely be heard in the new music.