Does anybody remember 1989? When Axel Rudi Pell released his first solo effort “Wild Obsession”, the Berlin Wall had just come down. It’s been ages, right? And the world has changed. Axel Rudi Pell hasn’t. For three decades, the Bochum-based guitarist has ticked and worked like a Swiss clock releasing critically acclaimed hard-rocking albums consistently. Like his anniversary offering, a live document of his most recent tour. And it will come out on the same record company as his debut in 1989; his contract with legendary label SPV having lasted longer than the average marriage these days. “SPV and I have grown together, we have witnessed highs and lows and we’ve managed to get through them all,” the 58-year-old musician states with a smile. “Never change a winning team” is the secret of his success. Having sold more than 1.6 million records so far, Pell also has a ridiculous amount of online streams: his songs have been streamed more than 37.5 million times, figures he would never have dreamt of when he first started out.
“If the whole thing hadn’t taken off, I’d be bored to tears in my trained job as an industrial management assistant to this very day.” Make it or break it: Since his very first chart entry with his fourth studio album “Between The Walls” in 1994 (no. 90 in the German charts), Pell has known that he’s been heading in the right direction. After that, he’s never taken a wrong turn. One reason for this is his flair for talent: “In Germany, there hardly were and still aren’t any singers who are compatible with my music.” For this reason, he has thought in international terms from the start, his first few albums featuring some of the world’s best vocalists in the hard rock genre: Charlie Huhn (ex-Ted Nugent, Gary Moore, Victory, now with Foghat), Rob Rock (ex-Impellitteri, Driver) and Jeff Scott Soto (ex-Yngwie Malmsteen, Talisman, now with progressive supergroup Sons Of Apollo). When former Hardline frontman Johnny Gioeli joined in 1998, they formed a creative unit that has lasted ever since, no end in sight. And after ex-Rainbow/Black Sabbath/Blue Öyster Cult drummer Bobby Rondinelli joined the Pell fold in 2013, the band – which also features keyboardist Ferdy Doernberg (since 1998) and bassist Volker Krawczak (since 1989) – has made another huge leap forward in terms of quality. Blood, sweat and tears mean a lot to Pell, which was recognized by the great and late Ronnie James Dio, too: When Pell and his band got the opening slot for Heaven & Hell (the Dio-fronted version of Black Sabbath) in Germany in 2009, the legendary singer knighted his support act, saying: “You’ve got the job because you’re good.” Take it or leave it, over the last thirty years Axel Rudi Pell has been one of the constant and eminent figures of the international hard rock circus. Speaking of which: He has a long history with Wacken as well. Since 1999, Pell has played the main stage of the world’s biggest heavy metal festival six times. Because: “Wacken and I have grown together, too. It’s fascinating to see how many fans you can reach with your own songs.” Even in Russia Pell is a star in his own right. He took the stage at an award show at the Moscow Kremlin at the end of March 2019, performing alongside renowned acts such as Chris De Burgh, Michael Bolton and Leona Lewis, selling out a 2,000-capacity venue the night after that. “The fans sang along to all the lyrics, I couldn’t move anywhere without signing autographs and having selfies taken.” That Pell hysteria has led to another Russian adventure: He is set to perform during the prestigious ‘White Nights’ festival in St. Petersburg in July 2019. On-time for this event “XXX Anniversary Live”, his 30th album release in as many years, will see the light of day on June 6th, 2019. A milestone by all accounts and a stunning document of his most recent tour which he did not plan at all, but the recordings, from Bochum and Budapest among others, were so good that he felt he just couldn’t scrap them. They are a worthy follow-up to “Magic Moments”, his 3-hour anniversary show at the ‘Bang Your Head’ festival in 2014, where he celebrated 25 years as a solo artist. Axel doesn’t like to be compared to Yngwie and told us the words he had when someone did. We spoke with him to catch up with what he’s been up too.
When you go into the studio, do you have everything already prepared or do you experiment and change things up?
ARP: I prepare everything way in advance before entering the studio. I’m always writing stuff, collecting little bits and pieces. When the melody comes to my mind, I sing it into the voice recorder on my cell phone. So the next record, we enter the studio around mid-November and the next record will be out I think at the end of April next year. I’m really excited to make another one.
Who are you presently endorsed with for equipment?
ARP: Fender Guitars Engl Amps, DiMarzio pickups, and Dean Markley strings. I’ve been with Fender for a long time.
Has anyone compared you to Yngwie?
ARP: In the beginning about 20 years ago, they said you’re the German Yngwie. I said, fuck you. I’m not the German Yngwie and I’ll tell you the difference. Years ago, my intention was to be one of the fastest guitar players in the world. This is absolute bullshit because Yngwie writes the solo and does the solo around the song. When I write a song the solo is part of the song. I don’t sit there and be like let’s see how fast I can wank on the fretboard. Sometimes you can say more in three notes more than a bunch.
Do you write the lyrics or music first for a song?
ARP: Every time the music, I can write lyrics and then, when I write a melody when the melody comes to my mind, the lyrics have to has to fit personally. I know which key Johnny hates because I’ve worked with Johnny for 21 years and I know about his voice and know what key he sings perfectly. I can make him shine bright like a star on a singing scene (laughing).
Who influenced you the most to play the guitar?
ARP: Definitely Richie Blackmore. His notes and style are excellent.
Tracklisting: CD1 1. The Medieval Overture (Intro) 1:48 2. The Wild And The Young 4:41 3. Wildest Dreams 6:12 4. Fool Fool 5:10 5. Oceans Of Time 5:47 6. Only The Strong Will Survive 6:15 7. Mystica (incl. Drum Solo) 14:24 8. Long Live Rock 6:31
CD2 1. Game Of Sins / Tower Of Babylon (incl. Keyboard Solo) 16:07 2. The Line 9:12 3. Warrior 4:44 4. Edge Of The World (incl. Band Introduction) 6:53 5. Truth And Lies 2:29 6. Carousel 5:10 7. The Masquerade Ball / Casbah 8:24 8. Rock The Nation 6:37
Line Up: Johnny Gioeli – Lead and Backing Vocals Axel Rudi Pell – Lead, Rhythm and Acoustic Guitars Ferdy Doernberg – Keyboards Volker Krawczak – Bass Bobby Rondinelli – Drums