Stallion must be one of the most talked about German newcomers of the last few years. A demo was recorded in 2013, and received praise from most of those who heard it. However, it was their debut-EP, “Mounting The World”, containing a mixture of heavy metal and hard rock, that really turned people’s heads. The self financed vinyl only release proved to be a real success with the first press selling out rapidly before High Roller entered the picture and made sure a second edition was made available.
Stallion’s first full length “Rise and Ride” is scheduled for release in September, and I gave singer Pauly a call to talk about the success of the EP and get all the essential details about the new album. While most newcomer acts have a tendency to be very short and to the point when they do phoners, Pauly also wanted to give us an insight in some of the challenges the band has faced so far.
How did you get the idea to form a band like Stallion?
-It was Äxxl and mine idea to form Stallion, about five years ago. We have shared a flat for something like six years now, and always had a plan to form a band like Stallion. Unfortunately we never found the right people to do it. It took us quite a long time, so finally we decided to write the songs, record them and bring the EP out by ourselves first and then look to form a whole lineup afterwards. It worked quite well, and people seemed to like the release.
Pauly admits that it was pretty easy and convenient working on material as he and Äxxl lived together.
– Yeah, it worked quite well. I did all the vocals and wrote all the lyrics. The songwriting was mostly done by Äxxl. The two of us put it together and that’s basically it.
Have you known each other for longer than the years you have lived together?
– No, it was quite funny, because we moved to the small city where live in the South of Germany for our studies. Äxxl and I met at a bar and started talking to each other. It appeared that he searched for a flat and as soon as someone moved out of my flat, Äxxl moved in.
Was the name of the band easy for you to agree on?
-That’s a good question. We searched for a long time for a good bandname, and we had a lot of ideas, but there was nothing that really grabbed us. Nothing that we said:“Okay that’s it” to. One night Äxxl came out of his room asking: What about Stallion? A Stallion is a quite strong animal, and it felt like a good name for a band.
Do you know where Äxxl got the idea from?
– Hehe, actually he was watching Game Of Thrones, and that brought us to the name Stallion, and also the title of the EP.
Did you have clear view back then of how the Stallion sound should be, or is it a result of experimentation to find the right expression?
– Well, in fact it was quite clear what the sound would be like. We are both really into old school metal and stuff like that and wanted to create something similar.
Did you deliberately try to stick out? I am asking, because the mixture of hard rock and heavy metal certainly sounds fresh.
– I am really happy that you mentioned that, because its really important for both me and Äxxl to have different styles in the songs. I like thrash, speed and hard rock, in fact all kinds of metal. What we did was to bring our favourite styles together. That was very important for us on the EP, and something we have tried to do on the coming album as well. I hope it works.
Pauly is not sure if the fact that the band is mixing styles is one of the reasons for the success.
– It’s difficult for me to say, because I am in the band, but I’ve always hoped the people liked what we do, and the fact that we’re mixing styles.
I believe the first press of the EP was limited to something like 555 copies on vinyl. When you decided to release the EP by yourselves, were you pretty sure you would be able to sell most of them or all of them?
– No, no…We had no idea that the release was going to sell out. We were blown away by the amount of orders right from the beginning. Stallion, was like a dream that we simply had to do. We didn’t have a choice. Even if we sold like 50 copies, we would’ve been happy. We were totally blown away by the success. There was also a second pressing done by High Roller Records and the whole story is just unbelievable.
The EP has not been released on CD yet. Will it ever see a release on this format?
– Äxxl and me originally wanted to release it on vinyl only, simply because we wanted to keep it as old school as possible. Since then, there have been many requests from different labels saying: Put it on CD and it will be sold out as fast as the vinyl. So far we’ve declined, but I can’t say that it will never be released on CD. For the moment however, there are no plans.
But what about the fans that don’t own a turntable?
– We decided to put a download link with the vinyl release. The fans that decide to download it, they do it anyway. Either they buy the vinyl and support the band, or they download it illegally. With the addition of the download link, everyone that bought the EP was able to download it and burn it on CD or whatever they want to do with it. The true fans buy it on vinyl of course.
Yesterday I was listening to the EP again, as I was preparing for this interview, trying to freshen up my memory of how it sounds. I noticed a sentence from the thanks list: “Screw you guys who have never taken us seriously. Have you met a lot of people that you would put into this category?
– Yeah! Maybe not directly related to Stallion, but there have for certain been people who have not taken me and Äxxl seriously. That’s something I just hate about the metal scene, because there are a lot of people out there looking at each other and saying bad things about your style, your music and calling you…I don’t know…faggots and shit like that. It’s something that makes me really sad, because in my opinion, the scene should work together and stand united, no matter what style you play. Hard rock, black or thrash, it doesn’t matter. Personally I like all these styles, and accept each and everyone. I think it should be possible to give respect to each other for everyone involved.
Are these people musicians themselves or fans?
Have you had any unpleasant experiences with these people?
– Yeah, we always have when we go to bars and places .There are always people that want to fight you, and I am not up for that at all. In fact, I am a very peaceful person, and so is Äxxl as well. I simply can’t understand why people should argue because of different tastes in music.
In form of the track“ Stigmatized”, there is also one song on “Rise and Ride” that deals with the subject.
– The song is about the things we just talked about, being jealous of each other and meeting people in the scene that hates you.
Pauly is 28 years old and Axl 26. While not exactly young anymore, I suspect the guys have met people that are envious of Stallion, thinking the band has had a too easy ride…?
– Well, I don’t really know what to answer, but there are some people, especially from Germany that we bumped into on festival, that have bands themselves and have been running these for years. Some of them have seemed a bit envious about our success, but these guys are mostly people that don’t know anything about Stallion, or the history of Äxxl and me. We have been doing this for years now, being in different bands, releasing demos limitied to 200 copies and stuff like that. I think if they knew more about us, they would understand it better. In fact, I don’t care. The people I like, like our stuff too. I guess there will always be people hating you and your music.
Stallion was formed back in 2013. Many bands would like to know how you have managed to put out records and play big festivals in this short time? Is it only about the quality of the band, or is it a bit of luck and circumstances as well?
– As I already told you, we’ve have been spending a lot of time togheter, especially Äxxl and me. I think it’s important to know a lot about your band mates. If the chemistry is right in a band, the workflow will be much better than if you just have a project and see each other once a month or something like that. As I also mentioned, we had a clear idea of what we wanted to sound like. I think that’s the whole magic about it. You just have to do music with the people you like and love. It certainly has a strong effect on the songwriting.
Do you think you will get any reactions from the people you just spoke about when they hear “Stigmatized”?
– My only hope is that people hear the song, I don’t care about possible reactions. It’s just important to me that I put this song on the album, and that people will get a chance to hear it. I also think the people who listen this track will understand who we sing about.
You recently perfomed at Hells Pleasure, a festival with focus on more extreme metal that also attracts extreme metal fans. Did you encounter something like that on this particular festival?
– No, I was quite surprised, because I expected that we would be hated on this festival because we were probably the only old school speed metal band there. There were a lot of death and doom band on the bill, but nothing happened. It all was very peaceful and very nice. Probably one of the best festivals I’ve ever been to.
Before Hells Pleasure, Stallion also performed at KIT, coming in as a late replacement for Masque who had to cancel. Pauly seems very satisfied with the whole experience…
– Yeah, we were fucking nervous before this particular show. We had a support show for Jag Panzer in Austria the day before and travelled all night long to Keep It True. We had like two hours of sleep before we had to go to the soundcheck. We were so fucking nervous, but it felt great when we came on stage. It was like wonderland for me, because we’ve been attending the festival many times as fans. To go on this stage and perform for these awesome metal maniacs, was like a fucking dream come true for us. Awesome!
I was a bit surprised With the amount of people wearing Stallion merchandise at the festival. It seem like a lot of people were there to see you. Do you have a loyal fan base travelling everywhere with you?
-Well, there is a few people that have seen nearly every show so far, but I think another reason for your impression, might be the fact that many people really like the artwork for the “Moutning The World”-EP and has bought a T-shirt.
I was about to mention that. You seem to be quite clever when it comes to merch.
– Yeah, and another reason is that there are not that many bands printing white shirts at the moment.
Of course you don’t have a choice, but how do you feel about playing so early on on these types of festivals?
– It is nothing but an honour, because the openers on Keep It True are always special bands.The people attending the festival always give a special respect to opening, newcomer bands. I was really happy with our slot.
Let’s talk a little abou the new album, titled “Rise and Ride, released on High Roller. Did you have interest from other labels as well?
– Yeah, we had a lot of label requests even before we released “Mounting The World”. We had like ten requests or something, but no one that made us change the plan we already had: to release it by ourselves. . Regarding the offers, there were no real deals offered, the labels wanted to buy our music and not support us in the way we wanted to be supported. Then, after the EP was released, High Roller offered us quite a good deal. We signed and we’re pretty happy about it.
You used the Heavy Metal University Studios in Germany for the EP. Did you enter the same studio this time? By the way, with a name like Heavy Metal University, we certainly must be talking about your own studio or something similar?
– It was indeed the name for our own studio. We recorded it at the University were we study. Heavy Metal University was simply the name we chose for it. On “Rise And Ride” we recorded the vocals, the guitars, the bass and the drums at our rehearsal room. The three first were recorded by ourselves, while the drums were recorded by our producer Patrick Engel.
He’s an experienced guy. What was his contribution to the album?
– We were not really into drum recording, maybe you know that we programmed the drums for “Mounting The World”? We simply had no experience with drum recording, and Patrick is an oldschool freak who does all the recording for bands like Cloven Hoof, Liquid Steel and bands like that. It was a pleasure to work with him and he did a good job for the band.
Were there certain areas that you wanted to improve since the EP?
– Especially the drums, but we also wanted to sound bigger. We wanted an oldschool sound, which Patrick brought to us. There should be more bass in our music, and I think the production is an enormous step forward compared to how “Mounting The World” sounds.
A full length needs more diversity compared to an EP, did this affect your songwriting?
– No, I don’t think so. We put together what we wrote and just wanted to see how the songs worked together. Actually we wrote like 13 songs, and ten of them is on the album. There is one bonus track we hold back for a Japan release or something like that and also two songs that will be released on a 7 inch that will be sold on our European tour this autumn.
On this tour Stallion will team up with Bullet and Striker. Pauly thinks the band will fit in well along with these acts.
– I think it’s a perfect package. Striker is one of our heroes, and we’ve already met them on one of their last tours. I think we will do a 45 minutes long set each night. That’s all right for an opening band. I have no idea what we’re going to play, but it will be stuff from the EP as well as from the new album. I would also like to mix up the set and not do the same song every night.
Back to the recording session. No cover songs this time?
– There is one cover, but we decided to put it on the B-side of the 7 inch. We didn’t want one on the album this time. The song is called “Flame Of The Show” and is a cover of the German speed metal band, Warrant.
Very cool band!
– Yeah, it’s my favourite speed metal band. “Flame Of The Show” is a quite unknown song, because Warrant only released it on a rerelease of one of their albums. Not many people know this song, but for me it’s one of the greatest speed metal hymns of all time.
I have to admit I don’t remember the song, but I have the rerelease here, and will check it out later.
Back to the EP, when I listen to it, and in particular songs like “The Right One” and “Give It To Me”, I find the lyrics to be a little naïve or silly. How important are lyrics in the music of Stallion?
– I know what you mean by “naïve”, but as you know, some kind of metal is quite easy to understand, to put it that way. Some things in life are also easy to understand, and why not write lyrics about the things that happen to everyone? Why not write about normal that happens in Your daily life? It’s not always about Vikings or unicorns and stuff like that.
And since you mix different styles, you might also need different types of lyrics? The hard rock songs need a different type of lyrics compared to the metal songs?
– Yeah, exactly.
Do you feel that the lyrics are in the same vein and of a similar quality to the EP, or have you developed as a writer?
– I think it’s mostly the same things I write about, but there are some songs, for instance “Wooden Horse” that don’t have anything to do with normal life. That’s kind of an improvement compared to “Mounting The World”.
What inspires you when it comes to writing lyrics?
– Everything! When I go to bars and meet people, I always makes notes. When I talk to people or if I have special feelings or special thoughts, or if I am interested in something, I can feel a desire to Write something. I end up always having some notes laying around. If Äxxl comes with an idea, I always have something in the back hand.
You have re-recorded two songs from the EP. “Canadian Steele” even featured on the demo you made. According to High Roller they were rerecorded due to popular demand. Do you really think the fans want to hear the same tracks again instead of a couple of additional new tracks?
– Actually this is the reason why we decided to record two of the songs again, because there have been a lot of fans asking us to put “Canadian Steele” and “The Right One”, on the album. That’s why we did it. The most important difference is that these new recordings have real drums. The sound is also much bigger compared to the EP. Apart from that, we wanted to keep the songs themselves as close to the orginal version as possible.
Let’s talk a little bit about one of the re-recorded songs, “Canadian Steele”. It seems like you have a lot of love for the new generation of bands coming out of Canada…
– Two years ago we met Skull Fist on their first European tour. I also reviewed their album myself, because I am a writer as well. They’re so cool guys and we made friends from the beginning. Everytime they visit Europe, we meet and spend time together. It’s a strong friendship between them and us. “Canadian Steele” is our tribute to all the new Canadian bands like Skull Fist, Striker, Axxion and Cauldron as well. All are good bands and I think they brought a lot to the scene. They certainly brought the old school metal back.
Darkthrone made a song some years ago called “Canadian Metal”, With References to the likes of Piledriver, Razor and Sacrifice. Are the new wave better than these old acts?
– Yeah, I know about it. I like Darkthrone, but their song hasn’t got anything to do with “Canadian Steele”. Sure, I like Exciter, Annihilator and stuff like that too, and I certainly don’t think the new bands are better than the old ones, but its always different to see a young and fresh band on stage compared to an old band you’ve already seen about 20 times and that doesn’t bring anything new to the table. The new acts bring something fresh to the scene, that’s what I like about them.
What do you think about all the reformations of old bands at festival and the steady flow of rereleases and old demos being issued for the first time? I sometimes feel they get in the way of new bands and releases?
– Hard to say really, normally I don’t like rerecordings, because there is something…you record it and there is a special spirit in every recording, and I don’t know why bands want to cover their own songs, you know. I like what the Keep It True-festival do though, putting old bands back together and let them perform their old songs on stage, because the younger metal generation hasn’t had a chance to see their heroes on stage. I think that is something really important.
Especially as long as they combine it with new and upcoming bands?
– Exactly. We met a lot of old bands at Keep It True ,and they were happy to meet us, as they got some kind of proof that the scene is surviving.
“Rise and Ride” is the title of the album. Why did you choose this title and the title track as the opener of the album?
– It’s a really strong song. We were also blown away by the success of “Mounting The World”, and we wanted to stride on. We simply rose and rode on!
What is your personal favourite song from the album?
– Let me see, that’s a hard question. I think “Wild Stallions” is my fave, it’s a very strong and fast track. I think “Stigmatized” will be quite hard to perform live, it’s really fast and hard. As a singer it will also be a challenging one, as its really high. We haven’t peformed this tune live yet, but are looking to do it.
Which singers have inspired you?
– My favourite band is Savatage. I really like the lyrics of Jon Oliva, and the way he sings his own songs. He’s like a God for me. I love the early period of the band, and my favourite album is “Fight For The Rock”. It was the first Savatage album I listened to, and its still my favourite.
That’s a peculiar choice, as it is the album that no one seem to like?
– Yeah, I know, but I think its often the case of prefering the album you first heard. I also like the later albums with Zak Stevens on vocals. I think he is the best replacement for Jon Oliva Savatage could get.
Are you also a big fan of the Jon Oliva solo material?
– I like it when they play live, but it’s not something I listen to at home. I have seen them a couple of times live, as unfortunately I didn’t get the chance to see Savatage on stage. But as I’ve already told you, there are many bands and many different styles that are important for me: Mayhem, Sodom and Warrant, the German one of course. There is something in every band I am interested in.
What about singers that have inspired you when it comes to the way you act on stage?
– That’s a really good questions too…Hard to say really, but I think Blackie Lawless was a pretty good performer back in the eighties.