After the split of Austrian Power Metal bands OMEGA EFFECT and ELEFTHERIA, guitarists Daniel Stockinger and Andreas Poppernitsch teamed up with vocalist Siegfried Samer to form the Dragonslayer Project. After bringing in some additional musicians for the project, the project became a band and took on the name DRAGONY. The debut album, Legends, is now available for purchase. Sea Of Tranquility's Geoff Glenister had an opportunity to ask Vocalist Siegfried Samer some questions about the formation of Dragony, the creative process, etc.
SoT: So, I understand that Dragony was originally going to be just a temporary project: can you tell me more about how this became a band?
Siegfried: Well I wouldn't say "temporary" project, but it definitely was "project" at first, haha. When Daniel and I met, we knew we wanted to do classical Power Metal with all the typical elements and, if you will, clichés: lots of double bass, very melodic guitars, catchy hooks and big choruses, and of course the classic fantasy setup. But we also knew that it would be very hard to find musicians for this type of music in the Austrian scene, since our brand of metal isn't particularly popular here right now, so we thought we should keep it more a studio project. Also, being big fans of Tobias Sammet's AVANTASIA, we thought: "Hey, why can't we do something like that in
the Austrian scene?" You know, another band from Vienna - ECLIPTICA – they had originally started out with a rock opera project like that as well several years ago, and since Daniel already had his studio back then, we thought we might just follow up on that. However, things came a bit differently than we expected, haha... and so we found ourselves with a full band line-up, and soon discovered that just hanging around in rehearsal rooms and the studio was a bit boring, and so we decided to "go live". And voilá, we became a band!
So in 2011, when we were working on the debut album, we also dropped the "project" band name, and changed to the short and catchy DRAGONY, which we feel really represents our take on the genre quite well: You have the classical elements and clichés, but at the same time you immediately know that we also can have a little fun with what we're doing, and don't take our themes too seriously at all times. And if we manage to get that across to the audience, then that's a big success for us.
SoT: I wanted to ask about the writing process - how does that work for you? Does one person write the music, or multiple people writing seperately or together?
Siegfried: Usually, one person would come up with the basic outline for the song - usually either Andi, Daniel or myself - where the essential framework is laid out already. So we'd have a few melodies for verses, bridges and chorus, and a rough draft of how the song should be structured. But then of course we all work on it, contribute our individual parts... and that's how we ended up with what we put on "Legends", haha!
SoT: To follow up on the writing process, how about the recording process – do you each record on your own time and then put it all together or do some or all of you work together on the recordings?
Siegfried: Thankfully, a lot of the recording could be done in Daniel's studio, and with the sampling technology we have today, Georg also could prepare most of the keyboards at his place. However, we still went into a full-fledged studio to record the drums, as we really don't enjoy using drum computers too much. Also, it would be a shame since our drummer Frederic is freaking amazing, haha! Anyway, guitars and bass as well as vocals were all recorded at Daniel's studio, and then our producer Frank Pitters did the mix together with our main mixing engineer for the album, Jakob Grabmayr, at Jakob's "WildOneMusic" studio in Vienna.
Me personally, I preferred to record alone with only Franky handling the recording process - I think for everyone, it's a little different... but in general, we've never really had one more band member present at any recording session next to the guy who was playing. Too many cooks, you know...
SoT: Where do you find inspiration for your music? Does it come mostly from real life experience, or other forms of art you enjoy? Is there a real life story you'd like to share that inspired a particular song from the album in some way?
Siegfried: Well, with our tales about dragons, magic and unicorns, it's not exactly the daily real life experience that influences us, haha... I guess you could say that we're all just big fans of classic Power Metal from bands like HAMMERFALL, HELLOWEEN, EDGUY, AVANTASIA and so on, and we're also all a bit nerdy and into the whole fantasy stuff - from classical high fantasy like Lord of the Rings of course to all sorts of role-playing computer games – so it was quite an easy choice to go into this direction. We are well aware it's laden with clichés and has been done time and again... but the fact of the matter is: We simply don't care. We love that stuff, so we want to do it. Why should we be doing anything else, just because it's more "trendy" or "less people are doing it"? That wouldn't be very "Metal", if you ask me.
Sure it's great and important to have new bands who introduce new sounds and structures, and who even invent entire genres... but honestly, not every band needs to do that. Sometimes, you just enjoy a particular thing very much... and if that's the case - why would you force yourself to do something else?!
As for the album tracks... the 10 tracks on the regular edition of the album are all parts of a simple but nice fantasy tale that Daniel and I came up with; originally the story was much more extensive, but that still goes back to the "Dragonslayer Project"-days. So when we decided to act as a "real" band and record the first album not as the rock opera thing that it was originally intended as, we cut the story quite a bit and simplified it...and well, what remained of it can now be heard on "Legends"! So those ten songs are all based on that conceptual story, and so have no immediate source of inspiration in the "real world", except for the fact that we enjoy all sorts of fantasy stuff anyway, as already said.
The bonus track, "Sparta", on the other hand, is quite obviously based on a "real" story - the legendary battle at the Thermopylae. A great story, and a perfect fit for our type of Symphonic Power Metal, which we also like to call "Glory Metal", haha. This track, however, is only available as a bonus track on the Japanese edition of the album. But if you can get your hands on a copy of that - do it, the song is great! Haha!
SoT: So I understand Dragony came about through a combination of members of two bands that split up - Omega Effect and Eleftheria. Can you tell me a little about how the work from the previous bands influences your sound or writing as Dragony?
Siegfried: Yeah well, I used to be the singer for ELEFTHERIA (which is actually Greek for "Freedom") some years back, but that band only existed between 2004 and 2006, and except for one EP, we never really released anything. Looking back now, that band was really not much more than taking the first baby steps in the world of metal for me. It was fun while it lasted, but we were all still pretty young and inexperienced, so we never managed to take it to the next, more "serious" level. And I guess pretty much the same holds true for Andi and Daniel, who had been playing together in OMEGA EFFECT. But well, with DRAGONY then, we managed to work quite well together and things somehow took on a life of their own... and before we knew it, we were playing some nice support slots for pretty big international acts here in Austria, like for example AXXIS, FIREWIND, EDENBRIDGE and SONATA ARCTICA! And then, it was the next logical step to record the first album. And well... here we are now, and thanks to our record label LIMB Music, that album is now available worldwide!
SoT: So I hear you come from Austria - are you finding your strongest fan base comes from your home country, or is it more spread out in other areas?
Siegfried: Well at first, most if not all our fans were from Vienna, of course... but traditionally, Vienna and Austria in general aren't exactly fertile ground for our very melodic type of metal. People here seem to enjoy the "rougher" and heavier sides of metal mostly, so naturally, we were very excited when we got the deal with LIMB Music, because now people in other countries can check out our album as well, and I believe that the scene in countries like Germany, Spain, Italy or of course the whole of Scandinavia might be even better for our type of music than Austria is.
But we're also doing our best to make melodic metal more popular again here as well: every few months, we promote shows here in Vienna with more established national and international melodic metal acts such as SERENITY and most recently PRIMAL FEAR and BRAINSTORM where we also act as supports. And this way, we try to get more and more people to check out our favorite bands and music, heh. Right now, we're actually preparing for our five year anniversary show in November, and for that show, we have booked FREEDOM CALL from Germany as a headlining act. We're really looking forward to this, as FREEDOM CALL are definitely one of our main influences musically, and also for me personally: the first "real" metal show I ever went to featured them as opening act, haha. That was quite a while ago!
SoT: Can you tell me more about the concept behind the album, Legends?
Siegfried: The story as it is now is one of classic sword and sorcery: An evil wizard, Shiranion, was banished from the fantastic realm of "Alcador" to a twilight world hundreds of years ago, but now he's managed to come back. And oh boy, does that mean trouble! He forces his will unto the mighty race of dragons, killing all of them but one. But with the help of that dragon - and his foul minions, of course - he attacks the capital of the realm. So of course the evil wizards kills the king of Alcador and claims the throne for himself, and then proceeds to torment the population by invading their dreams and causing them terrible nightmares every night. The few survivors flee, and choose a hero from their ranks to become the "Dragonslayer", who is then sent out to fight Shiranion's dragon. He manages to defeat him, but is severely wounded in the fight and later proclaimed dead. The remaining survivors prepare for battle to take back the city and land of Alcador, but are in doubt if their forces will be enough to defeat the evil lord. At last, on the eve of battle, the Dragonslayer returns after he has healed from his injuries, and joins them for the epic final battle. And well, the good guys win of course - and thus the story ends with the triumphant return to "Alcador"!
SoT: How and when did you first become a metal fan?
Siegfried: Me personally, I've always listened to Rock music. My uncles introduced me to it when I was still very young, probably nine, ten years old. So I really enjoyed stuff like DEEP PURPLE, JETHRO TULL, PINK FLOYD, URIAH HEEP from an early age. The first CD I bought, at the age of ten, was also BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN's "Greatest Hits", haha. Then later, I discovered METALLICA, but that wasn't even what got me totally hooked... it was a bit later even that I thought to myself: "Hm, well I know all those old Rock bands... but, what kind of rock music is there today?" So I went out, bought an issue of Metal Hammer, and when I saw a full page ad for HAMMERFALL's "Renegade" album, I checked it out - and was hooked from that moment on, haha. And I've never looked back.
So after that, I got into bands like STRATOVARIUS, EDGUY, AVANTASIA, KAMELOT and RHAPSODY, but also more classic stuff like IRON MAIDEN and JUDAS PRIEST. And as the story goes, sooner or later you just get to know everything haha, from AMON AMARTH over IN FLAMES and DIMMU BORGIR to progressive stuff like DREAM THEATER and one of my personal favorites, SYMPHONY X.
SoT: Who are your top musical heroes?
Siegfried: As singers, I'd have to name a few: Ronnie James Dio of course, who was probably the greatest rock/metal singer who ever lived, right next to the great Freddy Mercury. Currently, I really admire Russell Allen for his versatility, but also Jorn Lande for that "rock" factor. And of course guys like Bruce Dickinson, Oliver Hartmann and Mats Levén are also big favorites of mine. Oh, and I shouldn't forget David DeFeis of VIRGIN STEELE – probably my all-time favorite metal band!
SoT: What led you to choose to be a vocalist?
Siegfried: The funny thing is, when I was a kid and growing up, I couldn't sing a note straight if my life depended on it. And I actually come from a musically talented family on my mother's side, so you can believe me I was made fun of quite frequently because of that! But I always enjoyed it, even though I had no real talent haha... So at the age of sixteen, I picked up the guitar and took some lessons. I never was really great, but it was fun - and hey... me and some guys from school, we had a band and we tried real hard. No one got married (yet) though. Still, the band split after we graduated from school, and we never got far. So when I got to Vienna for university, I somehow wanted to be in a band. I met Van Alen, who is now the lead guitar player for ECLIPTICA, at a STRATOVARIUS show in Vienna, and that's how later ELEFTHERIA came into being, haha. However, most people were a lot better at playing the guitar than I was, but it was virtually IMPOSSIBLE to find a male singer. So once again, I remembered that I had always enjoyed singing (although rather unsuccessfully until that point, haha!), so I figured I might just switch back. And well, with a lot of practice, over the years I got a little better I think, and now I'm here with DRAGONY - and I even got to sing a duet with the amazing Ralf Scheepers on our first album, haha! To think that the singer from PRIMAL FEAR, who were also one of the first metal bands I discovered (and I still love their "Nuclear Fire" album, which was the first of theirs I got) would appear as a guest on my first real album - wow, that's quite something! And it just goes to show: don't listen to naysayers and people who claim that there are certain things you just "can't do". If you really want something, just work on it, and keep trying. There may be no guarantee you will make it - but I'd say chances are you will. More things are possible than we usually believe in at first, I guess.
So I'm personally really thankful for this opportunity now, and I really enjoy what we're doing - maybe we're not re-inventing the genre, but we're definitely putting a lot of effort in and we're trying to deliver the best product possible for the people out there! So I guess there will people out there just like me, who enjoy this classic Power Metal approach that we have, and we're already working on new song now, so we can soon follow up with a second album that's hopefully even better than this one.
You know, while we are definitely having fun with our very "traditional" themes and concept, we're definitely dead serious about the music and the products we deliver. You see, it's very easy to just make fun of something, especially something that has so many clichés and that is already looked upon as "ridiculous" by many people, since not everyone is so much into the fantasy stuff as we are. But while we like to have fun WITH the themes, we're definitely not making fun OF them - simply because we love this stuff, and we want to deliver good songs, and good production so that people can actually enjoy listening to the songs, and hopefully also have fun with our music. And I think that we really got the message across with "Legends", as we've gotten really a large number of very positive reviews on the album, which is quite hard to do in our genre sometimes, especially when it's only your debut album. Of course we also got one or two not so nice ones as well, but you can't please everybody, haha. All in all we're really happy with the reception so far, and we of course hope that the positive feedback will continue, and people keep enjoying our album. That just helps so much more with the motivation to now go into writing and recording a second one!
So thanks a lot for all the support and also this interview opportunity, check out "Legends", stay heavy, and... Unicorns unite!
(Click here to read our review of Legends)