Sielck: "With This Story, Maybe The Lyrics Are Not That Cheesy As They May Appear To Some People..."
Four years had passed before Iron Savior landed with the latest release “The Landing.” In the time since “Megatropolis,” founder/guitarist and producer/engineering mastermind Piet Sielck, unknown to many, was struggling to balance two bands, two record labels and three children. The collapse of his label Dockyard due to betrayal of trust with his partners, Sielck was abandoned with mounting debt which ate at his love of music to the point where he had consciously decided he might give it up.
However, AFM Records struck a deal to buy out the failing label giving Piet the light at the end the tunnel he needed. Then in late 2010, Piet picked up the guitar, the same one he picked up a year prior having found he lost the passion, and wrote half of what would become, ironically, the song “RU Ready.” The first song complete with lyrics would also foreshadow and embody the new Iron Savior, the true metal track “Heavy Metal Never Dies.” Piet had found his passion again and love for metal. In 2011, he managed to leave the nightmare of Dockyard behind, sign a new deal, shed one band (Savage Circus) and release one of the finest Iron Savior albums ever, “The Landing” (see Metal Underground’s review at this location).
Piet checked in with Metal Underground to tell the story of his re-birth in true metal.
PS: Hey Carl, this is Peter.
CROMCarl: Piet, it’s an honor to speak to you. I really appreciate your time.
PS: No problem, that’s what I am here for [laughs].
CROMCarl: I guess could start with the obvious question: Where the hell have you been?
CROMCarl: What is this….I saw you mention in other interviews that you were about to quit metal prior to writing “The Landing”?
PS: Yeah, actually. That is….yeah…that occurred to me [laughs]. But obviously, I didn’t [laughs].
CROMCarl: I’m thankful.
PS: Actually, this question is not easy to answer in one or two sentences. Maybe it’s going to be a little more than two sentences. I don’t know if you are familiar that I used to own a record label a couple of years ago….
PS: Dockyard, yeah. It didn’t work out too well with Dockyard I must say. In 2009, it was quite obvious that the label…yeah, didn’t work out. There were tons and mountains of unpaid invoices, piling up to huge mountains and well, I sort of like had to hit the brake with this because it was just not going anywhere anymore. Well, something like this can happen. The dumb thing was that I found myself in the situation that I was [in], then afterwards completely left alone by my so-called partners, [who] after the label went down the drain just took off and left me alone with all the crap. So that took me about two years to dig myself through that, pay most of the invoices which I paid from my own pocket and, well, in the end…somehow selling the remains of this label to AFM Records, who luckily took most of the stuff over and somehow, yeah…this was the end of two years of total trouble, I must say.
PS: Yeah, so that is what I was doing the past four years. The two years before that, I was doing Savage Circus.
CROMCarl: Right, and I will get to that in a second, but is there any relationship between the Dockyard 1 and Dockyard 2 labels. Is that the same thing?
PS: Yeah, that was the same thing. I mean, the basic idea was that Dockyard 2, at the time, was to get the good bands from Dockyard 1, put them on Dockyard 2, make money and pay off the debts of Dockyard 1…slowly, but continuously. Just after Dockyard 2 was founded and Savage Circus was, more or less, the first….maybe with two other bands [are the] only bands that ever got released through Dockyard 2. My other partner, [who] also was in Dockyard 1 with me, and we had trouble….we were three people actually and we had trouble with one person in Dockyard 1 so we separated from him. Then we came up with this Dockyard 2 thing, where I again raised money from my family to put into that and to found this company. Just a couple of weeks after I did that, my other partner who I really trusted in also took off and left me alone. So here I found myself with being betrayed by two persons I really wouldn’t [have] expected that this would happen and with two companies to run, which was absolutely not possible for me. I am a musician, I am not a businessman. So, I somehow bit my way through it. Those are the two years where I really thought ‘Pete, why…what are you doing? Why are you still in this industry. Forget it’ [laughs].
CROMCarl: Yeah, but you never lost that desire to be a musician. It was just the business end of it?
PS: No, no. It was also….because it really was so depressive, that I really didn’t feel like doing music at all for quite a time, you know. My studio here was really deserted. It became a storage room, whenever something…I didn’t know where to put it, I’d just drop it in the studio, it’s not being used anyways at the time. When I took my guitar…picked up the guitar and played a couple of chords and [I] just put it back because it wasn’t satisfying me at all. Yeah, that was really bad. That was about to change by the end of 2010 when I finally, well, made this deal with AFM Records that they take over the catalog of Dockyard 1 and Dockyard 2. Now it’s just the tax department I have troubles with [laughs], but that is going to be solved also. This was something like a turning point for me. That was the point when I was seeing some light at the end of the tunnel again and I started to cheer up, of course.
CROMCarl: So that gave you the inspiration to start doing music again, right?
PS: Yeah. Well I really felt relieved when this was done, you know? Well, just the other day when I came to the studio and picked up a guitar and played something….well, it was pleasing again. I came up with something, with half a song, which was “RU Ready” and I felt hey…hmmm, yeah – this is cool, I like it again! Great! That gave me a real kick [laughs], so I took all the crap that was piling up here in the studio and just threw it out in the garden [laughs]. [I] cleaned up the place and started all over again. And the first real song I was writing, and of course, the first entire song for this album with complete lyrics and everything was “Heavy Metal Never Dies.” With this story I just told you, maybe the lyrics are not that cheesy as they may appear to some people, who are not familiar with that [laughs].
CROMCarl: So now “The Landing” comes out, and you have to love the reactions you have been getting on the whole. Most believe this is the best Iron Savior release. After multiple listens I have to say that the album recaptures the power metal glory that has been lost. It sounds wide open and huge with gargantuan choruses. There is majesty, melody, heaviness, softness. Was that the goal? When you were getting back your passion, did you feel that magic come back?
PS: Yeah. I actually felt really great when I realized that creating songs is working again for me, because I really like music and I really like being a musician. I was really happy and was [in] an extreme good mood for the entire process of writing songs. As we talked before, I was really thinking in those years that I would just quit doing music and just quit the whole thing. So I had no expectations at all [with] this album. This album was written for myself [laughs]. Creating this album, I had no restrictions at all. During these bad years with Dockyard I was ready to give up, ready to quit playing music again. I had no expectations at all and also no restrictions to this album, what would be allowed or what would be forbidden – or how people would like it or not like it. It was not important to me. The most important, or the only important thing, was for myself. I wanted to please myself with this album [laughs]. So, whatever I like was allowed and was good. It was my personal definition of….well, I just wanted to create heavy metal that pleases myself. That was the only issue on this album.
CROMCarl: Yeah, and I see you liked your studio clean up so much that you showed it off on the video for “The Savior.”
PS: Yeah [laughs]. Well, this video – it’s amazing how many people are interested in this video. I never thought….well, it was just a tiny little thing I did on the side, you know, because AFM was asking me ‘hey Piet, you pictures from the studio, or so. And I thought, ‘yeah, well ok – I put up a camera and just do this.’ I let it run for one time and sing a little bit to it and I never was expecting this video to have over 50,000 clicks by now. It’s amazing.
CROMCarl: I think that might be because A: we haven’t heard from you for a while and it was nice to see you again and B: I think people like to see behind the scenes stuff. I know that when I post up the studio reports on our site before the albums come out, they are huge.
CROMCarl: People really like watching the creation of music.
PS: Yeah and some people wrote in the comments – and it made sense to me – that they really enjoyed seeing real people in real environments, you know? [laughs]
CROMCarl: Right, you didn’t have to show the spaceship!
PS: Yeah, and of course we are not pretending to play live or something, you know? There is nothing wrong with a professionally made good music video, but on the other hand, I think this is more charming. Of course, it’s not an official music video, but it has a charm of its own and it’s definitely different than a professionally made music clip.
CROMCarl: One of my favorite songs on the album is “Hall of the Heroes”….
PS: Yeah, I would think so [laughs]
CROMCarl: ….and the first thing that jumped in my head was…and don’t take this the wrong way ‘cause I just thought it was really funny, but the first thing I thought of is “How long will it take for Joey DeMayo from Manowar called you yet and demanded royalties?
CROMCarl: That chorus can be on any Manowar album I have ever heard! It’s great!
PS: Yeah, I don’t know…maybe, yeah. When I wrote it, it somehow did ring a bell, but I couldn’t figure [out] where it was coming from, so I didn’t care too much about it. I must say, I don’t really have a favorite song on the album. The only song that is, of course, special to me is definitely “Heavy Metal Never Dies,” because it was the first song I was writing for this album and the lyrics are kind of personal…for my personal situation. I must admit that “Hall of the Heroes” is my secret favorite track on this album. I really love this. When I heard the first time, the introduction…this intro riff, just this guitar… SPACE…..WALL of Guitar, you know….it just fucking blew me out of the house. I couldn’t believe this is Iron Savior, to be honest [laughs]
CROMCarl: Hey, I noticed you used, and I think you had done it before, but there is a use of keyboards on “The Landing” that is interesting on this album. I don’t know what it does, but it really heightens that sounds and makes it more full and complete. Did you happen to play the keyboards on the album?
PS: Yeah, yeah. I did the keyboards for it. And yes, that’s maybe the difference between the other Iron Savior [releases], especially compared to the previous one and also, maybe, the “Battering Ram” album, that the use of keyboards did increase quite a bit on this, but on a more subtle level. Basically, every song is layered with keyboards somehow. It’s only little keyboards in the background that create this epic feel, you know. If you take them away, you wouldn’t realize it instantly, but something would miss. It is pretty much like you described it. You can’t really say what it is, but it adds something to the sound that makes the whole thing kind of huge and, well….great, epic.
CROMCarl: Yeah, I agree. It almost makes that whole sci-fi feel come back, even though the album really isn’t sci-fi.
PS: Yeah, I know…exactly. It‘s sci-fi, but it gives the whole thing color of a soundtrack flair. For example, “Hall of the Heroes,” I mean this guitar intro…of course, it’s also layered with some keyboards, but these keyboards are really in the background. You don’t hear them popping up to you, but you take them out it still would be massive, but not as massive as it is with the keyboards.
CROMCarl: Shifting gears a little but, I am one person who believes that your contribution to the scene is often overlooked, even more so here in the U.S. You are firmly embedded in the lore of the German metal scene and have a pretty significant part in the lore of Helloween and Gamma Ray. You have produced and/or engineered some of the finest power metal albums out there. To me, you are practically a professor of metal.
PS: [huge laughs]
CROM: So, professor, tell me what is the state of German power metal scene in general? Has it become stagnant and overdone, or is there still a place for it?
PS: Well, if you look at power metal, which for me, is pretty much what I would call “classic metal.” Some people call it power metal, I call it “classic heavy metal,” so it doesn’t matter to me too much. Speaking of the word “classic,” I think that implies already what is happening already with this music. It is a classic style of music that will just live on just like other types of music do. If you look at blues, it is there for, well almost a hundred years now. Guitarists like BB King, I mean, if he plays his notes, which aren’t too many, they are still cool. I think it’s the same thing going for metal, especially this classic metal. Looking at the music itself, how it develops, well a couple of years ago it was not really cool and not en vogue to go for this cheesy classic power metal stuff. I think it’s coming back quite a bit lately in the past years and I think that is one point why “The Landing” is quite successful at the time. The people are re-digging into classic heavy metal at this time. It’s not cheesy anymore, it’s kind of cool to go for classic metal again. Of course, I personally do like that. If you look at previous interviews I gave, like 15 years ago or so [laughs], I was saying that this classic metal stuff….it’s coming and going in waves. I think where we are at now, I think we are seeing the wave going up a bit.
CROMCarl: Right, but don’t you see that it is slightly altered a bit every time it comes back? There is some differences and then on top of that, it also depends on established bands. If you were a guy just starting out with a brand new band, you will be labeled a copycat, basically. But if you are like Piet Sielck, who comes out with Iron Savior, an established band…a guy who is from the Helloween era, I think it comes with a little more respect.
PS: Yes, of course. I mean, I think that also helps that Iron Savior now out there for over 15 years by now. By now, we are power metal veterans, as I have been reading in many reviews. Yeah, that’s some of the case, we are kind of like veterans. I have seen a lot in this business and also the people I play with are not doing it just for a year or so [laughs]. It somehow gives more respect to the band than being just a young band that comes up with a good album. It’s a different status we have.
CROMCarl: There is also, and maybe it’s a little longer than I think, but seems like there is a lot of older metal bands lately that have reformed and come back to the scene? Do you think that is a good thing when you see a lot of the older fans come back and reform?
PS: I don’t know. For some older bands that have been missed, I think it might be good and interesting to see what they are doing nowadays. Of course, there are some bands where the question pops up….WHY?...because they weren’t good before [laughs]. Why should they be good today? But, then everybody has to decide for himself, I think, so I really don’t want to judge about that. I think whatever…when the people like it, its ok.
CROMCarl: What newer bands have caught your ear lately?
PS: Uhh….no, not really. Actually, I’ve been too busy. I’ve been looking around quite a bit for new stuff to listen to, and I think in March I will have some more time to do that. I didn’t find the time even to listen to the new Disturbed stuff. Of course, the latest Primal Fear output is also interesting to me. But I just don’t have the time to take a listen to it. I have three kids at home [laughs].
CROMCarl: Well, that will take away your time.
PS: Absolutely, man [laughs].
CROMCarl: Ok, there are a couple of questions about the past that I have to ask, just to clarity some disputes and inside betting I am having with some friends of mine. First off, we all know the Iron Savior is a ship. However, was the actual Iron Savior ship ever actually depicted on any of the album covers? I know there are ships on “Unification” or “Battering Ram”, but was the visual of the Iron Savior ever depicted?
PS: You mean pictured?
PS: No, no – it wasn’t. “The Landing” is the first album where the original Iron Savior….where the space ship is pictured. On the cover, it is obviously the savior who has landed on the planet surface.
CROMCarl: So this is the first time it’s ever been really depicted, right?
PS: Yeah, exactly.
CROMCarl: Did you have an idea of what that ship looked like way back when you came up with the concept?
PS: Yeah. The funny thing is that I was always picturing it as a large sphere, just like it is.
CROMCarl: So really it is just part of the logo….the original logo.
PS: Yeah, pretty much. The sphere in the logo was sort of like the ship. But, what I really like about this…because the guy who did the artwork, he also is a huge Iron Savior fan, I must admit [laughs], so that’s why he did it so cool. But he came up with the idea to have all these things that hover around the savior, not only the sphere, also the other stuff….transform that into [a] 3D ship, and make it part of the ship. I think that was a really cool idea because that gives it a really special look.
CROMCarl: It’s almost like a Saturn type look to it.
PS: Yeah, exactly…the Saturn stuff that goes around. Actually, the original form of the logo came from a tribal art tattoo.
CROMCarl: Really? Ok. Now, is it true that when you were in Gentry (Pre-Helloween) with Kai Hansen….
PS: That I had hair? [laughs]
CROMCarl: No, no, no – I already know that. We solved that one. [laughs] Did you and Kai really bribe the audience with potato chips so you can win a band contest?
PS: Yeah, I did! [laughs]. That’s what we did. We went to this contest with, I think my mother took us there with her car, and we had tons of potato chips with us and…yeah, we were going for the audience and exchanging potato chips for votes! [laughs]
CROMCarl: Now, where these little bags of potato chips you were handing out?
PS: No, not in Germany. In Germany, we didn’t have these small bags, we had really big bags. So people were really willing to give us a vote! They said ‘hey, yeah sure!’ [laughs]
CROMCarl: Well, I had to make sure that was true.
PS: But we were also quite good! So….[laughs]
CROMCarl: Hey, do you recall any of the other bands that you were up against in that contest are still around?
PS: From that contest, no. Not that I can think of.
CROMCarl: Did the Gamma Ray song “Heading for Tomorrow” originate from the Second Hell (another pre-Helloween band with Piet and Kai Hansen) song “Second Hell”?
PS: Yeah, actually it was….well not the entire song, but I think the whole middle section was part of the song “Second Hell.”
CROMCarl: Ok, so where you responsible for writing at least part of that song?
PS: Yeah, well that was a song we more or less wrote pretty much together jamming along in the rehearsal room. So, yeah that was like a collaboration.
CROMCarl: Right, but you only got writing credit for “Time Goes By.”
PS: Yeah, yeah that’s right. I know, I know. I mean this “Heading for Tomorrow” mid-part, it was pretty much….yeah, it was a collaboration, but it was more or less, we were just jamming around and it’s basically just two chords, you know, that are going up and down and up and down again. It is more or less atmosphere, so I didn’t think that writing credits would be ok for that. It was more the idea of this part, the composition is rather simple, I’d say.
CROMCarl: Outside of Iron Savior, when you think back to all the bands you ever worked with as a producer/engineer, which band was the most fun you ever worked with?
PS: Uhh, well, I really had a lot of fun with Blind Guardian always. It was also kind of stressy and really, really time consuming. We really had a lot of fun all the time in the studio. Good laughs, pretty much. Yeah, I would say those times with Blind Guardian’s various albums…that was really nice working with the guys.
CROMCarl: Now you recently announced that you left Savage Circus to concentrate on Iron Savior? Was that split on good terms?
PS: Well, I mean it was just like I wrote it in my statement. Also in Savage Circus, I turn out to be the work horse, you know. It started out with the first album where I did most of the work. On the second one it got even more….there was even more stuff on my shoulders. I just couldn’t figure myself doing this for a third time and also, on the other hand I really had to say after writing and coming up with “The Landing,” with an album like this, I couldn’t picture myself sitting down in [the] summer and write stuff for Savage Circus. I just couldn’t picture myself doing that. Savage Circus is also one of the reasons why it’s been four years for a new Iron Savior album. So I thought ‘hey, it think for the future I really want to do the stuff that really, really comes from my heart and that really makes me happy.’ It’s not that Savage Circus didn’t make me happy, it was challenging to do that and it was interesting for me to see if I’d do a good job, but as I wrote in my statement, my heart beats for Iron Savior and music simply is a matter of the heart. Iron Savior is definitely what I prefer for the future and [what] I really want to save my time for.
CROMCarl: Ok, and the last question I have is….are you guys going to finally see some time out on the road at all?
PS: Yeah, yeah. I mean, those songs from “The Landing,” they really crave to be played live, so we are going to do this. Right now, we are putting together a couple of shows. The booking process has already started. There is a lot of interest for the band, luckily, so the basic plan is to play three or four long weekends in Germany, to have all together like ten shows or so and playing in all the important places in Germany. We prefer to do that on the weekends, like play for three days with hotel stays in between and go home for the week. On top of that, we are going to play a lot of festivals for sure. Hopefully, also we make it over to the States again.
CROMCarl: Oh, man, I would wait for that.
PS: Oh, well….maybe, maybe. Maybe something like ProgPower, that would be really nice. I must say we really enjoyed playing that in 2008. It’s a cool venue.
CROMCarl: Yeah, they have such a good lineup this year, and I am actually going for the first time.
PS: Oh yeah, you can absolutely look forward to it. I really must say, it is one of my favorite festivals. I mean, not only in the States…in general. It’s really cool, its nicely done. The venue is not too big, not too small. Really nice people and it has a certain magic about it that I really like. Good that you go!
CROMCarl: Anyway, true to my word to your PR rep….I have kept you for exactly thirty minutes.
CROMCarl: I really appreciate your time. It was a pleasure talking with you. I hope to catch you guys live one day.
PS: Well, keep your fingers crossed for it to work out. Thanks a lot – it was nice talking to you.
Carl Frederick is a staff writer for Metal Underground.com. From the early to mid-90's, Carl published his own fanzine called C.R.O.M. In 1997, he released a compilation entitled "CROM: The Resurrection of True Metal," which featured songs from bands from around the world, including the first U.S. release of any kind for bands like Italy's Rhapsody (n/k/a Rhapsody of Fire) and Brazil's Angra. Follow Carl on Facebook and Twitter: @CROMCarl.
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