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InterviewsMob Rules interview with guitarist Sven Lüdge

Posted on Wednesday, September 05 2018 @ 20:56:40 CDT by Steven Reid
Heavy Metal

After 24 years together German metal masters Mob Rules feel like a Beast Reborn. Having overcome tough times both within and out with their ranks, the band’s guitarist and song writer Sven Lüdge felt it was necessary to reflect that journey in not only the title of their new opus, but also through the music it contains. Any band with nearly a quarter of a century together will undoubtedly be comfortable with their own identity, but as Sea of Tranquility’s Steven Reid discovered, that doesn’t mean that Mob Rules are happy to stand still, or to simply play to type.

Mob Rules have just released the excellent ‘Beast Reborn’ album. What is the meaning and inspiration behind choosing that name for the album and what connotations does it conjure?

We’ve had a lot of fights to fight and blows of fate to deal with on a business as well as on a personal level in the last 2 years. Deaths, illness, divorces etc... It felt like it would never end. This has also influenced the band and influenced many processes within the band. We had to stand by each other as band colleagues as well as friends and have become even stronger as a result. Then something like anger or defiance arises, which has given us the necessary energy to overcome all of this and to write this record. And there was a need for this to be reflected in the title of the record. In this respect, we feel "reborn".

Mob Rules have a long and respected catalogue of music that dates back to 1996. However, the reception that your previous album, ‘Tales From Beyond’ received was overwhelmingly positive and felt, from the outside, like something of a watershed moment for the band. Did that alter the way you approached this new record in any way?

I think with ‘Beast Reborn’ we have continued the path we took with ‘Tales From Beyond’. All in all, our way of writing songs has evolved into more gut, less head. Meaning we now allow things to work more intuitively, to let things develop easily and not to turn over every stone 3 times to see whether we can do something else. We are now quite self-confident and have so much experience that this principle works well and we have developed more joy in our writing. This is something that started on the ‘Tales From Beyond’ album and we deliberately continued this on ‘Beast Reborn’. 

You have recently released a video single with “Children’s Crusade”, a song which illustrates the involving and varied lyrics on the album. Can you give us some insight to the story behind this song?

“Children's Crusade” is about a mysterious children's movement at the beginning of the 13th century in Germany and France. There were violent crusades to liberate Jerusalem but they were unsuccessful and left the people impoverished. An angel appeared to a boy from those people at night, whose message was fateful - Only a train of innocent, pure children can liberate the Holy Land. Drowned, captured or enslaved none of the pilgrim children finally arrived in Jerusalem.

However, that song isn’t alone in providing some thought provoking and unusual lyrics, with “Traveller In Time” showing the diversity of topics covered on ‘Beast Reborn’. What is the story behind that lyric?

Around the year 2000 a person appeared on several internet forums, who called himself "John Titor". He pretended to be a time traveller from the year 2030, who has been sent to the present time with the mission to procure an old IBM computer from the year 1985. In his time this computer would be needed because of a specific secret mode that could fix a bug in ‘UNIX systems’ - a similar date bug as the Y2K problem. Years later this secret mode of the IBM computer turned out to be real and John Titor’s story and the multiverse-theory is dealt with in this song.

While I’m also intrigued by the inspiration behind the last song on the album, “My Sobriety Mind (For Those Who Left)”, which takes a different tack both lyrically and musically. Where did the inspiration for this song come from?

This song arose from a very small idea. It grows around a simple piano melody that leads to a tremendous guitar solo. The whole song is carried by the piano, which creates an intimate and melancholy atmosphere. The ballad is about the heaviest of all subjects. Farewell, loss and searching for solace in the hardest times. This is something we had to go through as a band but also for some of us on a personal level in the past 2 years.

Mob Rules are obviously famed for your trademark power metal and hard rock approach. However, does being grouped in with that scene sometimes ‘hide’ the musical diversity you always offer up on your albums?

Yeah, you're right about that. I don't think we really fit into the power metal scene. At least we convey something different than most people think about this kind of music. As you said before, Mob Rules always offers a little more than you might think. I think that works both on the musical level and on the lyrical level.

However, having said that, there’s an undoubted hard-hitting approach on this album - the press release mentions that it is ‘straight forward’, which I think does it a bit of a disservice. Did you go into the writing and recording for ‘Beast Reborn’ with a clear battle plan of how you wanted it to come together and how you wanted it to sound?

Not as detailed as you might think. We had the plan to go further in the direction we had taken with ‘Tales From Beyond’. To push the metal aspect of our music further into the foreground. But at the same time not to lose our ‘playfulness’ and to offer a lot of ‘colours’. At the same time, we are now confident enough to know that it always sounds like Mob Rules in the end.

Cleverly, this album manages to show the band’s roots and the approach that has long fuelled this style of music in the first place, while adding a new, fresh Mob Rules aspect. How hard a balance is that to strike?

This is a development that has taken place over the years. The longer we’ve been in this band, the more songs we’ve written and albums we have produced. As time has passed we’ve also become more aware of certain stylistic developments in our work and realised the differences we now have to the roots of this music. But only then can you interweave these two aspects. Today it is quite simple for me to combine the roots of this music with my own stylistic evolution and all of those other influences.

One of the biggest changes in the band since ‘Tales…’ is the addition of second guitarist Sönke Janssen to the line-up. Why did you decide to add another guitar to the band’s armoury and how has it impacted on your sound and approach for ‘Beast Reborn’?

I didn't have to change anything in the compositional approach because I've always written and recorded the guitar parts on our records alone, or at least since the ‘Radical Peace’ album anyway. That's why I went about it the same way. Sönke is a former guitar student of mine, so I knew that he would be able to contribute some great solos. And he did it really well. Not having to write and play all the solos was really nice and the collaboration in the studio really inspired us both. There was a real a joy in our playing and a lot of constructive "cheering on" in the studio right from the start.

When it was clear that Matthias [Mineur] would not be available for the promotion and the tours for ‘Tales From Beyond’, we quickly needed a replacement to fill in for the time being. I have known Sönke for a very long time and knew that he would do the job well. He is also a nice guy, which is very important when you integrate someone into a band. Otherwise things can quickly become unpleasant.

Markus Teske (mixing) and Jens Bogren (mastering) helped put the finishing touches to the album. How much of an impact did this respected pair have on the sound, feel and atmosphere of the finished product?

Markus Teske in particular is very important for our way of working. In terms of production, he has all the threads in his hand and brings everything together in the mix. Furthermore, he is an important partner for Klaus [Dirks] when it comes to the vocal recordings. He knows how to get the best out of Klaus through years of working together and the high level of mutual trust they've built up. He knows our way of working like no one else and we trust completely that he knows how we want to sound. Jens Bogren was brought on board for the first time because we always try to do things differently at some points. And he really put some great finishing touches to the record.

While you have once again teamed up with Sebastian “Seeb” Levermann, who is responsible for providing most of the choirs on the album. How does that collaboration work?

The cooperation with Seeb is very pleasant. Klaus sang some choir parts for the last album by Orden Ogan, so the idea that Seeb should make some choirs for our records was obvious.

The album is available in a number of formats and with everything from a towel, patches and stickers to the more expected orange vinyl and bonus CD. How important is it having a label like SPV/Steamhammer behind you, willing to put this push behind the album in the hope of recouping the investment put in to recording and releasing an album - especially in this day of streaming and downloading?

Having a label like Steamhammer is very important, even today. Many things could not be realised without the knowledge and connections that a record company offers and the cooperation with the streaming services is also handled by the record company.

Can you share some details about the bonus track on the vinyl edition of the album and also what fans can expect to find on the bonus CD that’s also available?

The bonus song on the vinyl is a cover version of “Sacred Heart”, a song by Dio. We met Ronnie James Dio when we opened a show for him in Germany and since Dio was one of the greatest singers in the rock and metal world, we wanted to cover one of his songs. On the bonus CD you can also find this song as well as “Lord Of Madness”, a song that is demanded again and again by our fans and which we have therefore reworked to be able to give it the sound of today's Mob Rules.

You have already played two album launch shows, with another to come next month. How did those first two ‘Beast Reborn’ shows go?

The shows were great and a lot of fun for us and the fans. We are now looking forward to the next shows. Playing live is the real deal and is the moment you get the reward for all the work.

And you’re also performing at the Metal Crash Festival in October. Do you have plans for more shows after that and maybe some gigs outside of your home country as well?

Yes, we have a booking company that takes care of such things and they and we are planning further shows and tours for this album.

(Click here to read our reviews of Beast Reborn)

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