Interview: Thomsen – No experiments anymore!

No experiments anymore!

It’s pure power metal from Hannover/Germany. Rene Thomsen, mastermind and guitar-player of THOMSEN, knows the scene for decades, working behind the scenes, too. A very pleasant and highly informative talk was about to unfold on a rainy day in August. The third record of THOMSEN, which more or less finally marks the evolution from an international project into a real band with local musicians, called “III“, sounds exactly like this. But let’s see what he has to tell…

Album number three is about to embark and it was conceived during the Corona pandemic, right? And it brings some remarkable changes…

Well, we started already in 2017 but actually did most of the work in 2020, yes. I have my studio next to my house and business, so it didn’t really matter whether there was a lockdown or not. My computer is constantly turned on and whenever there is an idea – it doesn’t take any effort at all to track it right away. Whereas on the first and second album we had lots of international players, this time we exclusively focussed on players from from around here. I am not a highly talented player but what is most important for me is that the songs are melodic and heavy at the same time. The first record should have been a studio project only but more and more people like Herman Frank (ex ACCEPT) came to me and said, we definitely should bring those songs onto the stage, and I was like “Ok, let’s do it, I’m in“. We practiced very hard and although we had some issues with so-called professional musicians who helped us out the first show, it almost went down like a true band effort. These days with “III“, we are all from around here and even our drummer, who lives like two hours away, is here very often and highly dedicated to the band. When I have a new demo ready, he comes round and we start putting things together. Therefore, the situation in Thomsen today is totally different from the one at the time of the debut or album number two. From time to time we rehearse a song in a live environment to see whether a song suits our sound or not. And then there is for example our multi instrumentalist Niklas Thurmann who played or plays with e.g. Jon Uli Roth, Fair Warning or Gregorian. When you are among those artists you are better good at what you are doing. He was supposed to play acoustic guitar on one song but ended up playing bass for us. So, things fell in place one after another…

What would you consider being the key song on the album – if there is any? You don’t have a specific title track…

The album is called “III“ and not e.g. “Rise“ or “Salvation“. I think there is not a single track that sticks out so much that you could name the album that way. Actually, the initial plan was to call it “Rise“ but that was even before the song was written. Then we had the song but others came up and we decided to simply call it “III“. I think the album as a whole speaks for itself. We actually already have several songs ready for the next record. So we have been pretty busy recently. So, like I said before, not everything is negative about not being able to go out or do stuff you would usually do.

The track “Forget It“ is rather modern, although well within the sound of THOMSEN. It is somehow reminiscent of FIGHT, the band Rob Halford was fronting after his temporary departure from JUDAS PRIEST…

You’re right, this song is slightly different especially when it comes to guitars and the good thing is Jürgen can actually sing like that. I had the rough idea for the song and showed it to him and he instantly came up with the kind of vocals you can hear on that song. Jürgen is somebody who only speaks up when he really dislikes a part of a song. But his opinion is extremely important. Furthermore, he plays guitar pretty well, too, and is able to give cool suggestions on how to play a certain part sometimes. Unfortunately, he stepped down from vocal duties after the first record more or less because we were not a band at all. Now the situation in the band, like I said, is totally different and I’m so glad Jürgen is back in. He’s really very comfortable to work with. To cut it short, who says everything has to sound similar? Nobody…and “Forget It“ kicked out another song but it this happens sometimes when you are determined to go with only ten songs on an album.

The legend that is Charlie Bauerfeind who worked with e.g. Helloween, Hammerall or Blind Guardian to mention just a few did mix and mastering. How is working with him?

He is an extraordinary human being foremost. He’s very talented and has the ability to stay calm and focussed. I had some options here in my area but thought it might be good to change something for album number three. Charlie takes a lot of time to listen to the material and to get a feeling for the songs. He is a very reliable person with a huge expertise. I went to his studio in Southern Germany for a few days and it was very pleasant to work with him. I brought some of my gear to face as little problems in terms of compatibility as possible and it worked out pretty well. The result is truly amazing! He’s a very straight-forward guy, very reliable and he is able to listen. I know him many years but this album has really been very cool experience. Charlie wanted to have a look at he sessions to get all the details and an impression of the progress of the songs, too. After maybe two days he did not need me in the studio anymore and I drove home but it took a couple of weeks and I started to be nervous but he totally delivered. 

You bring out the album yourself through a platform or service called Artist Station which isn’t a full label by definition, is it? 

Yeah, Artist Station offers distribution and helps with whatever help you need. Real labels today do not much more as budget for promotion and the like are constantly cut. I booked a promotion agency myself and think this is better than being one of many bands on a single label, even if it is a renowned one. I guess, for me and a band like THOMSEN this is the ideal setting because it leaves lots of stuff up to me and is the most effective way to put out an album these days – at least for a small band like ours. I think we do have one or two songs on each album that definitely have a certain commercial potential but being a small band without huge financial backup it’s quite hard to get airplay or press coverage that you can build on.

Some reviews and even die press release with the band’s biography offers some comparisons. How do you deal with that?

Well, some of those I can’t understand. I, for instance, don’t see that we sound like Metal Church but others are ok, of course. My music is influenced by what I like. And that’s Judas Priest or even Testament. But we never try to sound like this or that band in a particular song. Sometimes it just develops naturally. One of my heroes is Zak Wylde from his Ozzy years and I guess everybody has got his influences. That’s ok but, like I said, at times comparisons in reviews are strange.

If the right offer comes along and the circumstances allow something like that, would you be willing and able to play a small tour? The videos that you published prior to the album release are more or less classic “live and stage action“ videos which certainly is not a coincidence…

Yes, but it has to make sense. Everybody involved has to take days off from work which in my case as a self-employed person running a business is not a huge problem, given good planning, of course. But the others have to sacrifice a lot and therefore, it must be the right tour and band to play with and the right venues and stuff. Playing with a so-called bigger band in front of like 50 people on a Tuesday night and even pay for playing does not really make sense to me. But, who knows, we would really like to play the songs live and the last gig we did was a long time ago and overshadowed by some difficulties prior to the show. Let’s put it that way, my local musicians were well-prepared and those who were not know who they are, I’m sure…

Anything you would like to add, René? Any song you would like to mention especially or anything else I might have forgotten?

Yes, the last song on the album “Turn On The Light“ is very dear to me. The lyrics are pretty simple at first glimpse but I tried to deal with the situation of the many musicians, technicians and promoters who were basically deprived of their jobs and businesses due to Covid. The message is simple, too, but very strong and effective. And last but not least, I’d like to mention that we are booked for a couple of festivals like Rock Harz next year, so keep an eye open and check out the next live shows. We can’t wait to play the material live because that’s what this type of music is meant for!

Thank you very much for taking the time and for a great piece of music, Rene! Stay healthy and horns up!

Martin Stark

Author: Martin Stark

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