Interview: Mallet – Proud to be independent

It was in 1996, when a friend of mine with a small record store in Frankfurt and sent me a CD from a band, whose name I had never heard before. At the time there was no internet and getting informed about unknown musicians wasn’t quite as easy as it is nowadays. But I was hooked by the melodic rock the three piece called MALLET had on offer. Nearly 25 years later, the guys are still alive and kickin’ –  for four decades. And they have a very good new album out called “Rock N’Roll Hero”. So it was time for a chat with Manfred Dünzl, bass player and business cat of MALLET.

What can you tell me about the musical influences of the Mallet members?

My main influences are surely Melodic and Classic Rock , but the other two (Jürgen – guitar player and vocalist and drummer Mario Gerhards) love to listen to Jazz and Prog Rock sometimes.

Mallet – new album

40 years of Mallet with 25 in the same line-up. Not many independent German bands can compete with a career like yours. What’s the “secret of success” for playing together for so long?

First of all, I have to tell you it’s all about fun and passion, and we still love what we do. Having this train going independently isn’t easy at all, getting all the gigs, the money for the next record and promoting it, with just the three of us. If we hadn’t shared the work it would have been much more difficult. Jürgen is the “musical director”, while I’m mainly concentrated on the business side of MALLET.

Three years since the last record “Man On Fire” but regarding the impressive touring schedule over the years, you managed to come up with “Rock N’ Roll Heroes”. How did you find the time to write new material?

Some of the songs were already written during the period of the last album. Due to the fact that we have a pretty good job sharing in the band it sounds more difficult than it is. Jürgen is constantly coming up with new music. In earlier times, I was responsible for the lyrics. Nowadays, Mario has taken over this part, because he was in many English speaking bands before MALLET and so English is his second mother tongue.

Like its predecessor, recordings took place in the well-known Horus Sound Studios in Hannover. Results speak for itself, but surely not the cheapest studio in Germany. What are the reasons for using that place?

We spent a lot of time and even more money on our records, because we want to have the best possible standard for our productions. The last albums were all done in the renowned Bazement studios run by Markus Teske, and we were absolutely satisfied with the results. But for this album, we felt it is time for a change soundwise. We wanted to sound “old -fashioned”, but in a good a way. More 70s and 80s sound, especially for the drums than modern Heavy Metal. The result is amazing and the best in our four decades career – thanks to Arne Neurand (Horus Sound) and the mastering done by Robin Schmidt of 24-96 Mastering in Karlsruhe.

Talking about my personal highlights of the record. “Rock N’ Roll Hero” is one but I especially like “Machine Man”? Comments?

“Rock N’ Roll Hero” together with “Eighties Coming Back” is our remembrance on the past. We look at ancient pictures from time to time and try to put our thoughts about the “Good Old Days”. “Machine Man” deals about a robot getting out of control, because he sees what went wrong with mankind.

Which of the songs mean the most for you personally and why?

“Lonely Without You” is clearly one of my highlights – love the drive and the melody of the track. “King Kong” is a very old idea of Jürgen using a rap part.

I know you were involved in the “Rock Around Barock” musical for many, many years. This year will see a restart not in Wiesbaden, but in Essen. Is there anything new in the program?

More money was spent for the stage pictures and especially for the lighting. In the beginning, the ballet, the choreography and the music was  top notch, but the lights were only black and white. That has changed nowadays.    

Have you recorded the jubilee gig for a possible live album?

No, we haven’t. Plan was to come up with the record you now hold in your hand for this event. As we all know, that didn’t happen – but we wanted to enjoy this very special event with both our fans and a lot of band members from the past. Even our Frenchman Jacky Voutay and some of the former American band members showed up. A packed place on top – what more can you ask for?

Mallet 2020

40 years and just one DVD of live footage. Don’t you think it’s time to come up with a new one?

Don’t think so. We did the “All For One” just for fun, but it was a pretty demanding process, because I wanted to put some rare footage on it as well. If I had known before how expensive such a production is, I’d probably stopped the project immediately. For instance, I had no clue about the GEMA fee, which is much higher than the costs for a normal CD. Because of the cheap pressing costs however, I still got tons of this DVD in stock. 

Thinking back – what are the highlights of four decades?

First of all the ballet,  but not close behind I have to mention the “European Biker Week” in Austria at lake Faake, where we take part each and every year since 1999. A lot of fans show up and it’s always great fun!

Andreas Höhn

Author: Andreas Höhn

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