FFO: Metal, Heavy Metal, Hard Rock
During a recent interview with David Reece, the metal wailer gushed over Andy Susemihl, a longtime collaborator, who played guitar and produced the singer’s most recent outing, Cacophony of Souls. Kudos for the Cacophony collection is well-deserved.
Andy Susemihl’s output has been almost as frequent as David Reece’s production through the years. The German guitarist and songwriter began recording during the 1980s. The musician’s first two recordings were critical European metal albums: Sinner’s Dangerous Charm (1987) and Mean Machine by U.D.O. (1989). Since then, Susemihl has collaborated with Reece several times on solo albums and in Bangalore Choir. Susemihl’s solo works have always been more experimental than the hard rock and metal on which he built his reputation. He takes risks, often performing lead vocals, while tracks are peppered with stellar guest musicians.
The EP Burning Man continues the tradition of guitar-driven excellence with a seven-song taste of things to come. Available now on El Puerto Records, Burning Man spans 30 minutes of what the label has dubbed, “sophisticated global rock.” The album is comprised of both somber and uplifting songs which explore life, travel and social issues and closes with a fun instrumental. Check out the title track, a mid-tempo rocker featuring former Accept bassist Peter Baltes and drummer Andre Labelle of Vinnie Vincent.
Musicinterviewmagazine checked in with Andy Susemihl about Burning Man, David Reece collaborations, a full-length album to be released later this year and more.
An Interview With Andy Susemihl
Burning Man is described as “sophisticated global rock.” How do you feel about that characterization?
Andy Susemihl: Well, it’s actually not my definition but the definition of a marketing guy who thought it would define my music pretty well. I’m always thankful of people helping me with their outside views because when you write, record, produce, mix and perform everything yourself as your own producer, you’re kind of married to your work and that could make you blind to the whole picture. I think a lot about the musical arrangements and I twist the lyrics word by word until I think they’re ready for release. So without sounding arrogant, I think the definition fits the style.
What led you to write Burning Man and what is your writing process?
I’m a player and musician first, so most of the time I write the music first and then come up with the lyrics. After I was done producing Cacophony of Souls, I immediately started writing songs for my new album. I kind of did set the goals pretty high because the last album, Elevation, had really raving reviews everywhere and maybe due to that fact, writing new songs started out pretty rough and I was beyond worried to keep the standard.
To make a long story short, I ended up having 19 songs total for the new album and with that fact the luxury problem of how to release them. I thought about a double CD, but almost everybody I asked said that’d be not a good idea. So, I thought about releasing an EP. The title track is about the Burning Man Festival and the story behind that.
How is writing for your own projects different from playing for Reece, U.D.O. and Bangalore Choir?
It’s different because you write in a team and most of the time you write to lyrics that already exist. You have to deal with people, their ideas and visions, which is great because when you write your solo stuff, you have to motivate yourself. And in this scenario you get the push and motivation from the team.
This album is not as intense as Cacophony of Souls. How do your solo albums provide a different creative outlet than your heavier output?
To be honest with you, I don’t really think about that. The beautiful thing about the solo stuff is that I don’t have to write for a specific genre. It was great to really write and record heavy stuff again and I really dig that style, but I’m also thankful about having one hundred percent artistic freedom with my stuff. I’m not signed and I don’t have anybody to report to or justify my style except the fans and I believe this is what real artists should be able to do.
Look at Queen back in the days, for example; they had so many styles on their albums and nobody cared. I released a pop album with German lyrics a couple of years ago, Alles Wird Gut! and in order to get airplay on commercial radio, you had to stick pretty close to the guidelines. It was an experience, but I wouldn’t want to do that permanently.
How did co-writing and playing on Cacophony influence Burning Man?
That’s actually a different animal but every production, release, etcetera, makes you a more seasoned artist and more experienced human being, in general. David writes great lyrics and reading and understanding those definitely made me a better lyricist.
What was the collaboration process like with David Reece? When can fans expect another collaborative project?
We’ll be definitely working on the next album again, but right now I have to deal with the release of the EP and the album in fall. We have some new stuff in the pipeline, but right now I don’t know when I can start diving in full force since there’s so much stuff that needs to be done on my end, like videos and all the administrative work that I have to do myself. But I really want to start writing and recording with David in the near future.
What are your favorite songs on Cacophony?
I always liked “Chasing The Shadows” a lot because it’s just a straight in-your-face, no compromise rocker. Also “Collective Anaesthesia” is a cool track in my opinion because the arrangement is absolutely great, courtesy of bassist Malte Frederik Burkert. I think the lyrics accurately capture today’s insanity.
Will the Burning Man songs be on the upcoming LP or are they a preview of the direction you are leaning toward?
There won’t be any of the Burning Man songs on the new album. I had 19 songs total, so there will be 12 on the full-length album. I guess, in general, the long player will be a little heavier than the EP, but the style will not change dramatically.
What is your relationship like with Peter Baltes? How far back does it go and how did he get involved in playing with you?
We met back in 1989 at the Dierks Studios in Cologne, Germany, when Accept recorded Eat The Heat with David and I was recording Mean Machine With U.D.O. We hit it off pretty good and I remember us recording pop songs in the basement studio during downtime. We stayed in contact loosely over the years and then I just asked him if he wanted to contribute some bass tracks to the new album and he said yes.
What are the chances you and Peter will collaborate again?
I always have different players on my albums so who knows who will be on board the next time, but working with Peter was definitely a great experience. Plus he’s such a nice guy.
“Across the Pond,” “One More” and “People Get Ready” have a Steve Winwood feel to them, even in your vocal melodies. How much of an influence is he on you?
I take that as a compliment, but I never listened to Winwood explicitly. He’s a great artist, of course and I remember his music being rather top of the line compositions back then. I believe a songwriter’s mind is a combination of all the great songs and musical compositions that sunk into the subconscious over the years.
How has COVID impacted your output?
Actually nothing really changed for me except the fact that we had to cancel all the live shows which is nothing short of a mess, but that’s another story. My business pretty much shifted from live into the studio. I have a lot of offers since this thing kicked in, so in a nutshell I’m making the same money but I don’t have to leave the house anymore, which is kind of a good thing. On the other hand it sucks because my life is about playing real music for real people.
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Justin Smulison is a professional content writer and producer whose first love is music. Smulison’s digital and print copywriting experience spans music, law, true crime, advertising and real estate, among other subjects. You can often find JS in Long Beach, New York, either running on the boardwalk or in the sand with his family.