The Band: Hyghlander
The Men: Achim (vocals), Alvar (drums)
Interview by Vpower
This awesome German band is back after many years, they have released a remastering of great some from the past, that I presume were not easy to get until now. So these songs now are completely reborn with a high quality sound. Plus that, they have added 3 new tracks that are at the same level as the rest of the compilation. All in all, this a must-listen work if you are in the vein of the Classic Heavy Metal. Let’s go with the interview that, you can believe, is very interesting.
Hello Hyghlander, first let’s talk a little about the history of the band. You are from Germany, but apart of that I have not been able to find much info about you. So please, tell us about the origin of the band and so on…
Achim: The Band was founded in 1989 by guitarist Thomas Tefke and bassist Claus Vonberg. Now you may say, ‘Hm? 1989?’ That’s correct. Sorry to say the source you got the ‘No Time For Dreamers’-album from, did seemingly not display the fact that this album is a compilation. It features 3 unreleased high quality demo-tapes recorded between 1990-1992.
Thankfully the highly professional digital remastering for ‘Scream Records’ raised the
sound-quality to a standard able to cope with modern productions. The band HYGHLANDER existed from 1989-1992, before the internet-era… For more details about the band’s history,we will attach the official band-info for you.
Alvar: Yeah, your comment about "the old school taste with the freshness of the new century" is absolutely correct and very well observed - recordings from the early 90th with a fresh sound due to nowadays remastering.
So I guess it was not easy to find these great songs you have remastered now. Why Hyghlander as the name of the band? Is there a reason behind it or you just thought is sounded good?
Achim: Especially our guitarist Thomas was- and still is- a fan of the british band QUEEN. Also most of the band-members loved the movie Highlander, featuring Christopher Lambert and Sean Connery and the Soundtrack performed by Queen. So our band’s name was a homage to the movie largely. Back then we had no clue, if the film-company that released the movie might claim any copyrights…so we decided to add this little typo HYGH… to our name.
Aha, so I was not so wrong when I was linking your name with that classic movie, I confess I love it too. It also surprised me that with the great album you have delivered you don’t appear in the Metal Archives, is there any reason for this?
Achim: HYGHLANDER is now part of the ENCYCLOPAEDIA METALLUM. Beside this, it is because such internet-archives didn’t exist back then. I can’t tell if the record company is going to subscribe HYGHLANDER in further archives.
Well, Achim, I don’t wanna seem like a pain in the ass, but these guys in the Metal Archives still rate you as split-up... at least in some sense you are active now. I have the names of the members but not the role, can you introduce yourselves?
Thomas Tefke – Guitars
I’m stating him first, because beside being one of the founders, Thomas was also our creative ‘master-mind’ composing most of the music for Hyghlander.
Claus Vonberg – Bass
Fantastic bassman and second founder beside Thomas. Also blessed with great creative potential, as the songs ‘Colors Of Blood’ & ‘The Miracle’ may prove.
Alvar Siefert – Drums
When Alvar joined the band he added a wide range of skills to our work. Beside forming an awesome rhythm section with Claus, Alvar was also well-integrated in the song’s rhythmic development. In my opinion not only an excellent drummer, but a true musician, who always kept in mind: ‘Is this rhythm good for the song?’
Achim Hopf – Vocals & Lyrics
I’d call myself a pure Hard Rock- and Heavy Metal-singer. Beside Paul Stanley from Kiss, mainly inspired by british NWOBHM-bands. Right from the beginning I intended to develope my own way of singing. In my opinion a band may quickly gain attention having a singer who sounds like an already famous front man. But sounding like a copycat, such a singer will also become the main hindrance for a band’s distinct reputation.
As a member of HYGHLANDER, Thomas and the other band-members gave me 100% free hand, as soon as the songwriting-process came to the point of creating vocal-melodies/-arrangements and lyrics.
Great musicians, all of you, and I truly agree with your words, Achim, you have an awesome voice and your own style too. I have made a review of your album in my blog and one of the things that I most liked was the the sound you got. Your album sounds as an 80’s classic, but not repetitive as many revival bands nowadays.
Yeah, you are right…and thanks . Of course this is because we WERE a true 80s-band.
We were all born in the sixties, growing up with the music of 70s-bands. Especially Thomas and I founded our first teenage bands under the fresh impression of the NWOBHM…
You really have a long history in this subworld and, moreover, I praise your faith and courage to continue fighting for what you like. You should have been born in 1985…or it is all right now?
Nice you mention 1985, because that was the year when I joined my very first band as a lead singer…we sat together, listening to records from Judas Priest’s ‘British Steel’ to Manowar’s ‘Battle Hymns’ and then we started rocking…
Of course the influences of the other Hyghlander-members may differ a bit, but of course the Metal-scene back then was mainly ruled by bands like Judas Priest, Iron Maiden and Saxon.
Every piece in the album fits perfectly, but the guitars, let me tell you, are absolutely brilliant and dominant in the album, especially when it comes to the solo part, clean, technical and awesome melodic solos…
Agreed – Thomas was awesome, both as songwriter and guitarist. Beside Rock/Heavy Rock he occupied himself a lot with classic music, Bach, Beethoven etc….
As far as I remember his favored guitarists were Randy Rhoads, Brian May, since Tygers of Pan Tang John Sykes + the Judas Priest-guitarists Downing/Tipton.
One of the reasons that lead me to join HYGHLANDER was the pure power, presence and precision of Thomas's guitar work and sound.
I have to point out that without our great bass player Claus and his timing, his precise and supporting playing none of us could have delivered their best.
Well, well, some day I must talk to that guitar-hero, named Thomas, please tell him...You, Achim, deliver also a great perfomance. It sounds very classic, in some moments it reminds me of an early Geoff Tate, also the vocalist of Sanvoisen…
I was already singing in a band when Queensryche released their first album ‘The Warning’.
Like most Metal-musicians in our home town I was highly impressed when I heard the first Queensryche-song! But if anything, only a secondary influence on my way of singing.
The sub-genre ‘Prog Metal’ didn’t even exist when I already sang in bands… Way more important to me were singers like Paul Stanley, R. Halford, R.J. Dio, P. Di’Anno, B. Dickinson, Lou Gramm and early Eric Adams.
Achim is one of the best vocalist I ever had the pleasure to play with, next to his undeniable vocal abilities and his creative imagination, it is his professionalism - a seldom seen reliability in studio and on stage - always delivering 100% - that I appreciate so much and let me add this: A wonderful and easy to work with person.
Well, everyone with ears can confirm what you are saying, Alvar. You got no less than 17 songs in the album! All of them high quality, but why so many songs in only one album instead two albums and less tracks in each one? You were afraid the end of the world was around and wanted to deliver the goods as soon as possible?
Well, this is indeed a compilation of 3 remastered demo-tapes of a band that split in 1992.
So HYGHLANDER’s ‘End of all days’ lies already 23 years in the past…
When Sasch who also remastered the songs, coincidentally discovered one of the old demos and played it to the boss of Scream Records, they loved the songs and wanted to release them. Sasch found out my phone number and called me on a Sunday afternoon…
So there were those 17 songs…luckily Alvar had digitalized them from old tapes years before…nothing more existed. We spoke about how to release the songs best. Of course there was also an option to release a CD with 11 tracks and keep 6 of them for an EP if people liked the longplayer.
But HYGHLANDER split up before digital cameras became common, so there was hardly any good photo-material left. So we decided all together to release all songs at once, together with a wonderful booklet containing the best pictures we still had.
Yes, the pics herein are from that booklet and they look pretty cool. Gunlady and Universe are outstanding songs in my opinion, what are your favorite tracks?
Wow, difficult question…. To be honest, I loved to sing all of them.
So I try to pick some from the lyrics-writer’s view:
Birds Made Of Steel, United States of Europe, Your Own Tiny World, Colors of Blood,
Sitting in a Glasshouse
But of course I mainly picked my favored lyrics here.
I love all of them but if had to pick some ... it probably would be United State of Europe, The Miracle, Colors of Blood, No, No, No and No Time For Dreamers, as for me they would have pointed the way for a future HYGHLANDER ...
How was the creation process? How long have you been working in this album?
As said the album contains a compilation of 3 demos. Demo 1 (1990 / Track 1-5) was the only ‘real’ multi-track production. This demo still contained keyboards, which might lead to comparisons with bands of our time like e.g. Pretty Maids.
Demo 2 (1991 / Track 6-11), as well as Demo 3 (1992 / Track 12-17) are both live-recordings without any overdubs. Both, demo 2 and 3 were recorded in one night.
We did those live-sessions for interested record companies who wanted more material as preselection for a longplayer.
Back then we didn’t have the money for a real demo-production. But luckily our friend, who recorded the first demo, let us into the studio late at night….
Was like a concert…we brought our equipment, my microphone stood in the sound-protected drum-booth…quick sound-check. Then we rocked down the songs and were gone long before the ‘paying customers’ arrived.
So track 6-17 also represent what people got to hear when visiting a Hyghlander-concert…
Yeah - Demo 2 & 3: No click tracks, no drop-ins, no quantisation, no rhythm guitars in solos, no doubling, no extra backing vocals - just full throttle pure HYGHLANDER, an excellent mixer then and a great mastering now (Thanks to Sasch Menschl).
Musically speaking, what are your sources of inspiration and the bands that have influenced your sound?
Thomas and I had in common that we both liked Judas Priest and Tygers of Pan Tang a lot. Beside this our favored bands differed a bit. But looking back I am convinced we found our own way of writing songs. I am confident, no one would call Hyghlander Judas Priest-copycats, even after knowing the main songwriters heard this band a lot.
In my opinion what was special about HYGHLANDER resulted from different influences and musical preferences of the members - but still providing a strong common intersection.
Thomas's interest in classical music, Claus's musical background rooted in bands like Free and Geordie, myself being a big Rush fan and having a wide spread taste in music including Jazz-rock and Fusion.
A so wide range and a very good taste, indeed. What are the lyrics about?
Luckily the band allowed me to write about whatever came to my mind after listening to the basic riffs of a new song. So the songs on ‘No Time For Dreamers’ deal with a wide range of topics…
We were mainly a Rock Band who wanted to entertain people with our music. So quite a few songs have relationship/love & Rock’n’Roll topics. But we also weren’t a ‘Party-Band’.
In my opinion the more political songs convey a flashback on several topics which influenced society and politics during the late 80s.
Some examples: ‘United States of Europe’ – I wrote this during the perestroika and meetings of the presidents Gorbatschow & Reagan. Before Germany’s reunion…
‘World of Broken Dreams’ – Environmental pollution, especially under the fresh impression of the Exxon Valdez tanker average in March 1989. Sad to say, I could have written this only some years ago, after the collapse of the BP-Platform with all the ecological consequences for the American coast…
The big variety of lyrical themes is hopefully represented in the 12 page booklet. One out of every field was picked exemplarily and I tried to illustrate each one adequately in it s one way - so beside the "classic" cover holding everything together you`ll find a colourful and diversified inner life - Just like the music.
Hahaha you guys are as a History Book, so cool, my most sincere congratulations for your deep approach. As I said, all in Hyghlander sounds classic, even the cover, very typical of the 80’s Hard Rock or Heavy Metal band, with a picture of all the guys together…
The front-cover shows the band’s official 1991 promotion-photo. I see this as a perfect conclusion of the Hyghlander-story. In my opinion this photo gives a decent impression of what kind of music you’ll hear playing the HYGHLANDER-CD.
We picked this as we thought it represents our music the best. A band as ONE, pure - no frills, authentic and essential - and METAL.
Being very unsatisfied with the pictures of professional photographers who were not able to capture the spirit of the band, I took some photos at my place one evening, consciously in B/W - and a parallel to our recordings - brought the original, raw, unretouched, analogue pictures to nowadays standards.
What do you think of the current Metal scene and how does Hyghlander fit in?
Our home-area in Germany is bit special here. Especially the scene for small shows in clubs and the founding of new bands has been dominated by Death Metal and other Hardcore- genres. But just recently it seems even here a rising number of younger fans become interested in melodic Metal and Hard Rock again. Considering this + a more vivid Melodic Metal community in southern Europe, France, UK or South America…I think the Hyghlander-songs fit way better in 2015 than in the last decade.
I think so. Imagine you have the chance to perfom a live show with a big Rock or Metal star, what guy you would choose for the occasion? And the song would be?
I personally would like to play/sing ‘Heaven & Hell’ with Tony Iommi, ‘Blood Red Skies’ with Judas Priest or ‘Roads to Madness’ with Queensryche.
Alvar and I played together in a Metal-Cover band for a while. Our set contained Queensryche’s Silent Lucidity’…loved to sing this too.
May I do the backing vocals? Hahaha Great songs, man. Are you thinking to promote your debut album with a tour? Will the Spanish fan has the chance to see you?
Well, this will obviously never happen ;-). At least I am the only former Hyghlander-member who is still active in Hard’n’Heavy-music. As lead-singer of ‘Ferromanic’ I have just completed the final vocal-recordings for a second album with them. Except download trade we offered the first album as self-release via the band’s website.
I can’t say yet, if we will handle the follow-up likewise.
Ever since beeing musically active (though more in to jazz and fusion related music - drumming in different projects and leading a drum school) - I still feel very emotionally bound to HYGHLANDER as being my 'first big love'- nevertheless I think it is very unlikely to perform together again.
Well, I remember one guy, named Tobias Sammet (I suppose you know him), saying Avantasia would never get into the stage..., just to mention a case. So, we don’t lose hope. And I also take note of Ferromanic, a band to review... Thanks Hyghlander, I wish you a big success with this great work. If you wish to add something…
Achim & Alvar:
Thank you! Regards to all your readers and thanks a lot to all those fans who keep Hard Rock and Melodic Metal alive!
HYGHLANDER rules! Don’t miss this album, you Heavy Metal Maniacs, a must-listen and a must-buy.