Updated: 05/20/00

Grave Digger has been around for nearly two decades, delivering a heroic brand of Heavy Metal that has been appreciated the world over. Even at extraordinary import prices, Grave Digger fans in the States still bought all the releases faithfully. And now, Grave Digger is with Nuclear Blast and is releasing their latest here in America. Entitled Excalibur, the album tells the story about the days of King Arthur and The Knights Of The Round Table. We recently had a chance to interview vocalist Chris Boltendahl who was calling from his promotion office in Germany.

Highwire Daze: What made you guys decide to do a concept album based around the Excalibur story?

Chris: We did two other concept albums before but they were not released via Nuclear Blast in America. The whole concept is a trilogy. We started in 97 with Tunes Of War Ė it was a concept piece about Scottish people. Then we were going further with Knight Of The Cross in 98. And then we finished this trilogy last year with Excalibur. We read a lot of books on this topic. We needed nine months to do this record Ė just reading all the books and writing down the concept and then composing the songs. And then putting the concept into the lyrics Ė that was the most important thing.

HD: Who is your favorite character in the Excalibur story?

Chris: Merlin, because I like sorcerers and mystic people very much. And the second one is Parcival.

HD: When writing the albums, was it hard to stick with the original concepts?

Chris: Yeah. I think the most important thing is that the music compares to the lyrics and the concept. Thatís why we started with writing first the concept and then the songs. Then we said, "This topic could go to this songÖ" And when we dispatched all the concepts to the songs, then we started writing the lyrics.

HD: Do you prefer doing concept albums?

Chris: Yeah, I love it. I think after these three concept CDís, I think I will never do the other. Itís so much fun to work with a concept CD. Iím looking further, because the next one may be about the Trojan world perhaps. But itís a lot of fun to work with.

HD: How much input do you have on the artwork on the CD?

Chris: Everything. Itís my idea, and I watched it (the painting) all the time. I had a lot of meetings with the artist Ė we changed our minds and then we do something new Ė we look at the colors. I watch every step from the beginning until the end. From production and concept to promotion and marketing.

HD: How do you think Excalibur compares to some of your earlier work?

Chris: I think itís very near to Heavy Metal Breakdown, our first record. I think the new Grave Digger is one hundred percent traditional heavy metal Ė but with a modern sound. If you listen to our first record from 84, itís a different sound. We recorded it from a 16 track recording machine and on Excalibur we have 100 tracks from computer to everything.

HD: When performing live, do you plan on doing the entire Excalibur album?

Chris: Not the whole one. We played now in Germany for this tour and we did five songs off the record. We started with the intro and played "Pendragon," "Excalibur," "The Round Table," and also "Morgane Le Fay" and "Mordredís Song."

HD: Are there any plans for a tour here in the United States?

Chris: Oh, yeah, we have plans, but we have to see how we will realize it. Most of touring in America will cost money because we are not so big to do a headliner tour so weíll have to do a support. But there are some plans Ė perhaps we can go with U.D.O. or perhaps we can go with Helloween. In Europe, our record company for the next studio CD of Grave Digger will be Nuclear Blast and then we have the whole support of Nuclear Blast worldwide. So I think if we donít play this year, we will come over next year.

HD: What is a live Grave Digger show like to those of us who have yet to see you?

Chris: It is something like heavy metal entertainment. If you come to Europe, you can build up a whole show. We have a lot of pyros and a castle on the stage and a reaper in a costume Ė a burning sword Ė everything! A lot of clichťs of heavy metal Ė we love them! Itís a real heavy metal show like in the 80ís Ė like Dio or Judas Priest!

HD: When you look back on the early Grave Digger albums, what do you think now when you listen to them?

Chris: In some parts, Iím a little bit funny about those albums. There are some things today I wouldnít have done in the past. But every record stands for itself. I think I donít want to change them. In the moment I record or compose a record, itís for that moment and itís the best I can give the fans.

HD: What do you think of the state of the Heavy Metal scene today?

Chris: I think after the success of Hammerfall, the whole scene was growing up very fast again. We have a lot of good bands and a lot of sh*tty bands out. And now we have like 200 new bands over here, and I think thatís a bit much for the people because they canít buy 100 records in a month.

HD: What do you think of Black Metal and Death Metal?

Chris: Itís not my favorite kind of heavy metal. Iím very deep into this classic and traditional heavy metal. Some bands I like, but normally I donít listen to them.

HD: What do you think keeps Grave Digger going after all these years?

Chris: This year we are celebrating, in November, 20 years of Grave Digger, because we were founded in 1980. I have a lot of plans with Grave Digger. And I say to the people I will do heavy metal until Iím 50 and this will be in 12 years. And you can await a lot of cool Grave Digger records in the future too.

HD: Is it still exciting for you to perform and meet the fans after all this time?

Chris: Itís a lot more exciting then when I started. Most of the time when I started, I was out cold Ė we drank a lot of beer and wine and spirits Ė before after and during the show. And today I am much more serious and I can enjoy my shows much more Ė because I can recognize much more what I do onstage.

HD: Do you have any messages for Grave Digger fans?

Chris: I would just like to say the band is very glad about Excalibur Ė and if the American people also like it, thereís a big possibility that weíll play one day in America. We enjoy the support from our fans. A lot of times they bought our records as an import Ė very expensive! And we are proud to present to the American people the CD as a licensed deal from Nuclear Blast. They can buy it for the normal CD money. And that is very important for us and our fans.

Excalibur is now available domestically from Nuclear Blast USA!


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