Paragon are the essential power metal speed band. Their gestation period was in Hamburg, (Germany) in the early 1990’s. They were founded by guitarist Martin Christian.
In 2009, Paragon took a break. After nine full albums and sixteen years hard slog. They just stopped for a breather. And right then they lost two of their members: Guitarist Gunny Kruse – who had played on their three studio albums between 2005-2008 – then bassist Dirk Seifert who played on “Screenslaves”.
At the end of that same year, the band managed to re-invigorate themselves. They became active when the former bassist – Jan Bünning – rejoined the group. More recently, the band has recruited Jan Bertram for guitars and backing vocals and Sören Teckenburg for drums.
I met up with Paragon at this year’s Hammerfest Festival in North Wales.
This was the second time I had interviewed the band.
The first was just after the band had completed work on their superb tenth studio album – “Force Of Destruction“.
It is fair to say that it has been a long and difficult road for Paragon. Sometimes it may even have seemed like a struggle.
But I was eager to focus on the high points for the band. So I asked them about their best moments:
“To be sure, the best moment of all was in 2004 – playing on the main stage at the Wacken Open Air Festival…” The band enthusiastically told me – in unison –
[ Friday- upon the double-main-stage ] “Man … it was really fuckin’ great.”
“But we can also cite a single show. Just a single show that really blew us away. It was the show with ‘Gamma Ray‘ in Barcelona.” [2003?]
“That was fuckin’ really fuckin’ great. Really. We felt like gladiators that day. We were standing behind the curtains – we opened up them curtains – just a little and – wow! It was like that scene in Monty Python’s Life of Brian – when Brian opens his Mum’s curtains to discover an enormous crowd of people shouting for him outside. At the show, everyone was naked (were they?) and the whole crowd were chomping.”
“Chomp – chomp chomp.”
“We thought – wow – we are gonna be devoured. We are really, really gonna get eaten.”
“And it was the only time (on that whole tour) that we had a hotel room. But we didn’t use it! Because it went mad. After the show we did a whole pile of signings. Then we went to a rock club. Then onto a party. Then… we met some lovely girls. Something like that. Well, you get the idea. And our guitarist at the time [Claudius Cremer] – arrived about ten minutes before we were supposed to check out of our hotel – he said that he needed to get some sleep. What in ten minutes? It was really sex drugs and rock ‘n’ roll.”
The band has just played a big show in Greece. Athens. I was eager to ask how it went.
“Yes, it was called “Up The Hammers” … We love West Ham United – but this had nothing to do with that!”
“We love football, but we had to make a decision [a long time back] to invest our time in music. And that meant no more time to follow the games…”
“But returning to Greece – yes – that was a really, really great show. They really accepted us. It was the first time for us in Greece. The first time in our band history. And we even had a little time to do some sightseeing.”
“The people were really nice. They may not have a lot of money. But the passion is there. We thought there was a lot of atmosphere in the city. A lot of police around. A few streets seemed dodgy. But people love their metal.”
“People in Greece have this ambition, attitude, and a desire to give everything they have. Giving to hard rock . There is almost nothing left to lose … They just want to give it all for the music. This is good.”
I hear the band is working on new material, so I asked how that is going…
“Well, its hard, you know. But going well. For the last album we did a lot of pre-production. And that is how this is being built. The guitarists meet up to record the riffs. Then when they are done we give the riffs to Bushy [Andreas Babuschkin – lead vocals] and he starts trying to write the lyrics …”
Andreas says – “Yeah! I’m Fuckin ‘ lazy man.”
“I always get the feeling that everything is ready. The music is ready. Everyone is waiting, now, for the vocal parts. They wait on me. Why? Because I haven’t had time to write the lyrics. That’s it…”
“But hopefully – maybe- we should be finished doing the creative bit by [early summer] something like this …”
“But it’s hard to find the time. One weekend we are going to Greece. The next it is here [Wales] … so when do the lyrics get written? When?”
“And it’s worth remembering that we all have to work – you know. It’s only a hobby for us. It is a very, very passionate hobby. But it’s still a hobby. It’s true – we cannot live on the music. It would be great if we could. But we can’t.”
“The only guy who lives on the music is our new drummer [Sören Teckenburg] – he is a music professional – he gives lessons and he plays in a pub band every weekend…”
So, I ask, does this lifestyle that you have chosen give you the freedom that you need to be creative and expressive ?
“Yes – it gives us the opportunity to do produce what our fans want to hear. And there’s something about this as well … we do it because we really want to. Not because we need money. We have a passion for this music. And nothing else. Really, nothing else actually matters.”
“The way we do it ( this way) might be difficult – but at least we can say, “I do not care what the fuck a record label says to me …”
“And our band is our family. You know. And we would do everything we need to do- for each member of the band.”
So, would Paragon include the fans as part of this extended family?
So what happens after the creative process ends in early summer 2014. When does the recording process start?
” Yes – yes … ” ( Andreas says ) “I got my fuckin’ pen in my hand and I’m going to write a little fucking bit of the lyrics right now, okay? I get the fucking hint.” [ All laugh ]
“But seriously, we need a couple of weeks – just to nail things together. Then we’ll go into a rehearsal room. To hear how it all sounds. We can make some changes. But often the first run-through works really well, you know.”
So, how will the new album compare with the last one ?
“Well, we think it will be in the same direction. But it will take some twists and turns.”
“Because we have one-or-two longer songs. Maybe around 8-10 minute songs. Maybe like “Masters Of The Seas” [from the Revenge album] …”
So, what started the band to think like this – writing larger and more grandiose pieces?
“When we were doing ‘Masters’ we had in our minds that people were always saying ‘ blah blah blah – simple riffing – simple songs – simple band – blah blah blah.’ And we were like – so what? Hey! This is heavy metal. We are a rock band – you know. Paragon is not a prog metal band.”
“But then we thought, hey , maybe we should do something long, something epic. With many changes of direction. And ‘Masters‘ came out step-by-step and it turned into a good song.”
“And with the new record we will have to make some changes because of the new drummer. It will have to be a little bit faster.” [All laugh]
“Other bands – when they reach our age – are going slower. We do not want this. Oh no! We’re always going to keep the energy … we’re always gonna play at full force.”
“We will continue to strengthen through and through! Because this is heavy metal.”
So what, I ask, is the band secret for keeping energy levels up?
“I think it’s because we have got an aim. And we have learnt to pace ourselves. Before a big show like this (at Hammerfest) we will maybe rehearse four times. But with breaks between each rehearsal. This gives us time to think and breathe.”
“We do not have management that drives us – we manage ourselves – and that’s good too.”
“And the pressures of everyday life are let out on stage.”
“We love what we’re doing.”
“Sometimes, after work, it’s true. You get tired. Shit, yes you have to get yourself going to the rehearsal.”
“But you know what ? After the first note … the first note – we say to ourselves: Let’s go … more, more. Give more. Give more…”
“We can not live without it. You know. You’ve either got it in your blood. Or you don’t.”
I give my hearty thanks to the band. And we shake hands generously.
They look worn. They look frayed. But they have steel in their eyes. And passion in their bones. And as I shake hands, I really understand.
Paragon are the living spirit of metal.
It lives. It endures. It is dynamic.
And it is unbeaten.
Paragon were talking to @neilmach © 2014
Photos by Neil Mach © 2014