Interview with Guitarist Alex Ritt, Domain (November 20th 2006)

Hi, first off I just want to congratulate you on your new album “Stardawn”. To new fans could your please fill us in on the history behind it all?
Alex -
Domain first captured a special place in the hearts of fans of melodic metal back in the 80s with their first works, "Lost In The City" (still under the old band name KINGDOM), "Before The Storm" and "Crack in The Wall", as well as with their hit songs such as 'Lost In The City' and ‚ 'I Don’t Wanna Die'.

But it was their comeback albums, "One Million Lightyears from Home" (2001), "The Artefact" (2002) and "The Sixth Dimension" (2003) as well as a successful tour with the rock legends, Glenn Hughes and Joe Lynn Turner (HTP) that secured the quintet a firm place in the Champions League of the European Melodic Metal scene. Harder but also epicer than ever before, DOMAIN is still impressing thousands of fans in this, the 21st century, with their perfect mixture of progressive, melodic and symphonic music. And that is when the career of the excellent guitarist Axel "Iron finger" Ritt, first class vocalist Carsten Lizard Schulz (Evidence One et al), and the long-term band mates keyboarder Erdmann Lange, bass player Jochen Mayer (Boysvoice, Demon Drive , Casanova) and the ex-Symphorce drummer Stefan Köllner really began…  

In 2005 the band again hit a high score with the concept album, "Last Days of Utopia", based on an idea of singer Carsten Lizard Schulz. And to accompany the ambitious work, which truly demanded all the talent and energy that the band could muster, they found a great partner in Limb Music Products, who were to accompany them during their extensive projects in the years to come. With "Last Days of Utopia" and a bunch of older hits in their luggage, DOMAIN - on their Melodic Metal Alliance Tour didn't just please the fans. As promotion for their albums "One Million Lightyears from Home", "New Horizons", "The Artefact", "The Sixth Dimension" and "The Essence of Glory" (a limited edition Best Of album) which had been newly released in Asia, they went on tour through Korea . At the Busan Festival DOMAIN were greeted by 25,000 fanatical fans like superstars. They also played a live show on Koreas ' biggest Saturday night TV show to millions of viewers.  

The success gave the band wings, and punctually for their 20th anniversary, DOMAIN pulled another stroke of genius out of their proverbial sleeve. Under the productional guidance of Axel Ritt himself, several prominent musicians were invited to play on the new album "Stardawn". Amongst these are Ferdy Doernberg (Axel Rudi Pell, Uli Jon Roth) and Michael Voss (Casanova), as well as the vocal acrobats Tarek Maghary (Majesty), Val Halla Jr. (Iron Mask) and Connie Andreszka (Circle Of Pain), who appear on the album as the "Stardawner Boys Choir" for incredible backing voices (e.g. on 'Crystal Stone Island', 'Temple Of The Earth', 'Headfirst Into Disaster'…), thus impressively underscoring the extreme versatility of the album's character. It doesn't matter whether the CD player's layer head reaches the fabulous cover version of Chris de Burgh's 'Don't Pay The Ferryman', the rocking 'Headfirst Into Disaster' or the extraordinary guitar fireworks at the start of 'All In The Name Of Fire', "Stardawn" documents all the band's strengths in an incredible manner. And with the 25-minute long epic 'Shadowhall', which, in a musical-like fashion describes the rise and fall of a vampire clan, DOMAIN again sets song writing standards against which all other bands of today's Melodic Metal scene will be compared. The new album will in addition be released as a limited edition 2CD/DVD digipak with a great DVD including a 40 minute long tour documentary entitled "7 days in Korea" with comments and interviews with Carsten Lizard Schulz and Axel Ritt, a 35 minute long live clip from the Busan Festival, a 15 minute long TV documentary etc., etc. and an additional Best Of CD with the very best from the albums "Lost In The City", "Before The Storm", "Crack In The Wall", "One Million Lightyears From Home", "The Artefact“ and "The Sixth Dimension", as well as two cover songs which have until now only been released on two compilation CDs, ('Stormbringer’ and 'Over The Hills And Far Away’). There just isn't better value for money!  

How has “Stardawn” been received by the media, and what kind of expectations do you have for it?
Alex -
All reactions I’ve received were pretty well, much better than I’d expected.  

What do you consider to be the biggest difference between “Stardawn” and “Last Days of Utopia”?
Alex -
This time, it’s not a complete concept album. After the success of the last DOMAIN-album "Last Days of Utopia", we had a long discussion within the band regarding the orientation of the upcoming album. I didn’t want to leave the new epic-symphonic path we’ve headed but some of us favoured to step back to the traditions of the Melodic Metal background the band celebrated in the albums before.  

So we decided to divide the complete album into two partitions. One partition should satisfy the wishes of the long-time fans, the other one should strike the right note for the new fans, who, for example took "Last Days..." for the debut album of the band.  

To create the first partition, all of us picked up their hooks, ideas and arrangements to place them in the new songs, which finally had been completed in our rehearsal studio. To create the second partition, the band permitted me to exploit my whole creativity by composing a complete 25-min. symphony, divided into 7 chapters, basing on a story of our singer Carsten.  

This opus made me pushing the envelope. The sheer monstrosity of "Shadowhall" took about 3 months of pre-production and arrangement/score-works before I could start with the actual recordings. All in all, it took almost one year to finish the album. Never before have that many tracks been recorded, has the orchestral arrangements be that extensive and never before had that level of virtuosity been performed.  

I believe that we’ve strike a balance between past and present, between yesterday and today, still looking for the musical borderlines we didn’t reach until now.  

If you should choose one song, which represents the essence of Domain on the new album, which one would that be and why?
Alex -
It’s impossible to choose only one song as a representative, because the songs are totally different and every song got a part of DOMAIN.  

I know artists don¹t like to put a label on their music - but a spaceship from outer space has just landed in your backyard, and is demanding an answer - so how would you describe your music to an alien from another galaxy?
Alex -
Pure power, performed in a virtuosic style.  

If your music was an emotion, which one would it be?
Alex –

How do you get inspired, who writes the songs – is it a group effort? Walk us through the creation of a song?
Alex -
In the older days I wrote 80% of the songs, this time 4 songs have been written by the whole band in the rehearsal room, the rest again was written by me.  

Tell us a bit about the lyrically side of thing…
Alex -
It’s a mixture of autobiographical und fantasy content.

You have included a cover-version of “Don’t Pay the Ferryman” (Chris DeBurgh) – kind of a strange choice – why this song? And who came up with the idea, and how well did it go down with the rest of the gang in the beginning…?
Alex -
The reason for taking this hit as a cover-version is a funny story.  About 20 years ago, the first concert our singer Carsten ever went to, was a CDB-show. It looks like that the show has left a mark, so that he decided, now that he’s a musician as well, to recommend this song for doing the cover-version. First, all of us were very mistrustful about this proposal, but the more we look into this subject, the more we recognize that this song is already very "Domainy"; we just had to make contact to the actual DOMAIN-sound. The song fits perfect in the classical DOMAIN-song-structures, so I gave it a modern sound, more punch in the arrangement and here we go.  

The album has been fitted with a brilliant sound, who produced and mixed it? And looking back, how pleased are you, and is there something you would have done in another way?
Alex -
For all DOMAIN-albums since 2000, I did the engineering and the producing by myself. In comparison to our actual sound, the production of "One Million Lightyears From Home" is not that powerful, so with hindsight, I’d like to change it.  

I really like the artwork – what’s the background for it, and who has created it?
Alex -
Well, there are some assumptions that the Egyptian empire and his technical predominance has grown that fast because they had some contact with extraterrestrial life-forms. You can’t evidence it but it’s a good basic for interesting stories and guess-works. Again, the artwork has been done by Jason Juta.  

How important do you feel it is to have a great cover?
Alex -
It’s very important, because it’s the first impression of the band for a new fan!  

Do you have any touring plans for 2006 and beyond?
Alex -
There will be a tour in spring 2007 but I can’t tell you at the moment where and when.  

Let’s speculate – you have been granted a free slot on a tour of your own choice – who would be your ideal touring partners?
Alex -
Blind Guardian! Musically the same style and a guaranteed well visited tour.  

The internet is a very important source for many metal fans – how do you use the internet and how important is it for you and other bands?
Alex -
I can’t live any more without the internet. It’ll be the main distribution and communication platform in the future.

How do you feel about the German metal scene at the moment?
Alex -
It’s not that quality anymore as it was in the last decades. It’s better than in other countries, but many countries developed a better scene in the mean time.

Which song do you consider to be the best one you have ever written?
Alex -
"Shadowhall" from the new album STARDAWN.

Name an album, person or event that has had a huge influence on your life … and why?
Alex -
Leonardo Da Vinci! A brilliant artist, an incredible scientist and a handsome guy, loved by all women. What can you expect more?  

Which album(s) have put a big smile on you face and has made you bang your head in 2006?
Alex -
The soundtrack of the movie "Dragonheart". Great melodies and perfect arrangements.

I thank you very much for participating in this interview and sharing this information and your thoughts with us - these last lines are entirely for you. Any final words you would like to round off with?
Alex -
DOMAIN 'till I die! ;-)

Interviewed by Kenn Jensen/The Jack

Domain - Stardawn

Album available on SPV.

For more info on Domain - click on the album cover.