Interview with guitarist/producer Achim Welsch, Ivanhoe (September 29th 2008) - I am pretty sure most of our readers do not know your background, so could you start by telling us a bit about you and your musical background - you are after all no spring chickens in the musical business, and can track you lineage a long way back…

Ivanhoe – Achim (Guitars / Producer) 

Our history is very long, full of the best and the worst things you can imagine. After 22 years of making music together, we can say: Our fortune has failed. We learned very clearly, what kind of shit can happen to a band. We learned that the music business is not our home, because it’s full of idiots that all tell you the same kind of shit. In the following, I give you a short overview over the past.

We started at the Age of 15, when the whole music scene was on an experimental trip, creating different styles out of what we once just called “Rock”. We had a wide bandwidth of Bands we where listening to, from Iron Maiden to Dio, Queensryche, Helloween, Yngwie Malmsteen, Whitesnake, Black Sabbath, AC/DC or Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth and more of all the Bands that wrote some of the greatest chapters in music history. The first line-up with Gio (Bass), Markus Britsch on the Keyboards and me was a great pool of excellent ideas, but it didn’t last too long. We recorded our first Demo in 1988 (I did the vocals...not really good!), and it had some very promising tunes, but we were too young to keep our personalities under control, so we got the first split of the Band. At first, Markus also had left the Band, but after a while he re-entered, so Gio and him could search for new band members. After several line-up changes with different singers and guitar players they found Chuck Schuler and Andy B. Franck (Brainstorm). He was an immature musician at this time, but he had a good power in his personality and learned very quickly to perform on stage. They were playing many gigs, and in 1994 they recorded the first CD “Visions and Reality”, containing many great songs I think, but obviously the band still had to improve the production and performance. The first climax was the second album “Symbols of time” that was released in 1995. This album really hit me very hard, a great piece of music. Chuck Schuler left Ivanhoe after the release, and so I was really happy to rejoin the band, because I loved playing the “Symbols...” songs – the CD sold very well, and the situation wasn’t too bad for us. After playing very nice Gigs in Italy and Switzerland, we went on tour with Iced Earth and Nevermore (Hi guys!) and had a lot of great feedback, that pushed us forward to write songs for the next CD “Polarized” – but then, everything went wrong. Our record company had no more money to spend on Ivanhoe a short time before the release of “Polarized” in 1997. So, we had no support at all, no promotion, no tour, but a very good CD nobody knew about. The second split of the band was a horrible situation for me – just lawyers talking to each other, so many bad feelings I don’t want to think about anymore. After that, Gio and I were trying to keep the music alive by launching the “charisma” – project, with the great voice of Annette Kienzle, a jazz singer, and Massacre Records, the new record label. But we couldn’t work with Annette for a longer time, because we still wanted the “real” Ivanhoe to get back on stage. In 2000 we had some Gigs with a new singer, but it didn’t work too well with him. We needed a really enthusiastic guy that is creative and mature in his performance, so when Mischa Mang crossed our way in 2001 we felt like “okay, this could be the right one for us!” Mischa had such a huge amount of self – definition that in the beginning it was very hard to combine this with a matured band that also knows how it wants to make music. It took us a long, long time to find together, but in 2005 we finally released “Walk in Mindfields”. But though we got better reviews than any other Ivanhoe CD before, our situation still was bad, no touring, no further support of our record company, and it was obvious that they didn’t believe in the band, which all the reviews couldn’t change. The last chapter was the connection to Wolfgang and Mario from Silverwolf Productions, who were very interested in us, and so we didn’t hesitate to sign with them, because there’s a lot more understanding for each other between us.

It’s a miracle, that two guys, Gio and I are still in the same band after all these years, still having ideas that kick our ass. We held this line to the past through all the time that passed. There are many reasons why this album is called “Lifeline”, and perhaps this is the best. But this is also the first time in the history of the band that we have a REALLY stable line-up and a record company that is working well. That’s extremely satisfying and a new situation, so we can concentrate more and more on the music and not on questions like: “Who could play drums on our next CD” or “Which record company should we trust?” This has got nothing to do with music, and we are glad that someone helps us; doing all that business shit we cannot listen to anymore. – The album will be released shortly, what kind of expectations do you have for it?

Ivanhoe – Achim

I don’t expect anything. The future is not very clear for me, because it’s always a dream, that either comes true or not. And what else should I want for myself than being a successful rockstar? Or at least a successful musician? I surely hope that all the music listeners talk just about us and our album and not about anyone else. So I’m equal to most of the other people making music...isn’t that boring? – If you had to pick one song off the album, one that summarizes the band in one song, which one would you pick and why?

Ivanhoe – Achim

In the long run, no song is summarizing the band. I hope that the listeners can pick up all the pieces that we gave to our music, no matter how tiny they are. One song is not important. We are not important. It’s just the sense, and listeners will find it within the music, if they can give some of their passion as well. To me, the whole album makes sense. If I’d pick one song, the other songs would kill me for that – they hate being underrated... – What would you tell a total stranger, if he asks what kind of music you play?

Ivanhoe – Achim

I would say: Listen to it. That’s the truth. That’s why I myself would never ask anybody which kind of music he/she is playing. Your mind believes that words can bring order to life – but they’re just confusing...

Everyone has different meanings of the same words, so words can only produce misunderstandings, but most of the people don’t realise that. How could I know what exactly is going on in someone’s mind if I say “Progmetal” for example? I cannot describe something with one or two words that are very complex and only related to my own feelings, which nobody can imagine. Words are too less to describe any kind of music. You only need feelings to understand. - Who has produced and mixed the album, How does the final result compare to the idea you had going into the studio?

Ivanhoe – Achim

I both produced and mixed it. The whole recording is a long process, an experiment, and its total chaos. That’s okay for us, because then we don’t have the time to argue too much with each other. There’s always something new in the songs that is surprising and pushing ahead because it’s very clear, how it might work. After starting with the first two, three songs it becomes a project for us, the next CD. It all develops out of itself, and we’re part of it, doing just what comes to our mind. It’s like a curse - but it’s a good one!  The final result therefore is very complex, built out of a billion decisions, and yes, to me it remains total chaos. There is no idea of how the music could be like at any point in time. We just let it happen. Anything that doesn’t work well will be erased to bring out something better. It could be anything that makes sense. Even Mischas (...or Gios) farting. (It never made sense by now, but...) - Tell us a bit about artwork…

Ivanhoe – Achim

Mischa wanted Mathias Janke as the cover designer, he was very enthusiastic about his work for ARK and “Provokatio”, Mischas self-produced CD. Mischa and Gio had certain Ideas how the cover might look, with the pyramids (Mischas beloved theme!) and the girl in the front.

I had nothing to do with that, but I have to say that Mathias is a great designer, great job... - Ivanhoe – any special story behind your name?

Ivanhoe – Achim

It was an idea of a good friend of us. I don’t really know why we took this name, and today it doesn’t matter to me where it came from. We have a special connection to this middle – age styles, but our name itself didn’t have any meaning for us. Just like maybe Bruce Dickinson had never dreamed about iron maiden – or did he? We don’t know... - What’s the ambition for the band on a longer term?

Ivanhoe – Achim

Being the biggest band of the world. Ruling the world. Becoming God. (That’s what everybody wants, isn’t it?) - What are the best and worst trends in music today?

Ivanhoe – Achim

The worst trend in music is to make everything louder and cooler. I hope there will be a musician in the future writing the loudest and coolest Song EVER. So we can end this championship and make other kinds of music again. (Just listen to AC/DC s “Hells Bells” if you need an example how music once sounded – and it was good, and it is still good! Today this would be a demo - sound wise...)

The best trend...not so easy to say, are there any good TRENDS? There is a bunch of great bands, and perhaps we need a trend to honour their music, because it gives us so much sense. But today, many things are just decided by money because that’s all that matters in this damn fucking crazy capitalistic world. There are no good trends I think. Money becomes our master, we have to follow...

By the way, there is a very bad trend – we have less time, everything has to work faster and faster, listening carefully is not wanted by many people. Deep feelings are not wanted, because they need time to unfold. You better run through your life today, otherwise you don’t have a chance to be successful. So many people are just slaves of time and success, forgetting all the other senses in life. And they wonder why this life doesn’t satisfy, but they’re too stressed and too brainwashed to even realise this...

They shouldn’t lie to a new car and sell your soul... – You are told that you are going to take part in an experiment where you have to live seclude for a month, and are allowed to take either 5 books or 5 albums with you. What do you choose and what would you have taken along with you and why?

Ivanhoe – Achim

Perhaps I take the albums. But my mind is too unsteady to know all that. I still see no importance in seeing the future. Making too many plans is like a cage to me. So I don’t have a clue, because I don’t want to. I don’t know how I might feel in the future and what I’ll desire. It could be all or nothing. - Thank you very much for answering my questions. Do you have any last rants for our readers?

Ivanhoe – Achim

Don’t try to become a musician. You’re only be lied at.

Interviewed by Kenn Jensen.

Ivanhoe - Lifeline

Album available on Silverwolf Productions.