– Hi Mr. Hartmann and thanks for dedicating me part of your time. First off I would ask you about your beginnings into the Rock world. You started as a guitar player in bands like HANZ DAMF or CENTERS. More recently you also played guitar in some projects like AVANTASIA but your voice is really wonderful and seems like you prefer to sing rather than playing guitar; why? When did you notice at first your best or prefered musical skill was singing? Was with CENTERS your first time singing professionally?
I got my first guitar from my uncle at the age of 10. Besides the guitar players I was listening to as kid I was always interested especially in these bands which had that combination of great singers and guitars players, like Whitesnake, Journey, Malmsteen and many others. After a few years I also started to sing at the age of 17 and joined at professional rock cover band in the early 90’s what was very helpful to develop and improve my skills as a singer. I can’t say that I prefer the singing more than the guitar playing because it feels very natural for me to do both at the same time. But I think that the vocals are maybe the more important part for a song since it’s combining tone and words what makes it a strong tool.
– During the late 90’s you started your professional career with the German act CENTERS. What was your labour in the band and what do you remember of those years?
Besides some other projects CENTERS was indeed the first band that had a certain international success and where I was recognized as a singer. I was the first project of Olaf Lenk and me and of course it was very important for me regarding my singing.
– Throughout your development as professional musician you have played in several different projects and with many other musicians. Who do you think gave you the most positive experience to finally be the great musician you are now? And which is the artist that had the most positive impact on your music or helped you the most?
I think that all bands and musicians I was working with were somehow important for my development as a musician. One of the most positive experiences was AVANTASIA because when the first album came out nobody expected it to be that successful. Tobias is a great musician and very funny person so it’s always a laugh to meet and hang around with him. The first touring with the band in 2008 was maybe the most impressive experience by playing all the big festivals as Wacken and many others as a headliner. All people who are involved in it are good friends and we always have a great time being on tour together. But of course it was also an amazing experience to join ROCK MEETS CLASSIC last year and to play with Lukather and Gillan. Besides that it was of course very important for me to form HARTMANN. It’s the band where the music is a 100% me and where I can express myself best as a musician.
– In 1998 you formed AT VANCE with Olaf Lenk. You recorded four albums with that band. How did you meet Olaf? Why did you decide to form the band? What was your motivation and your intention with it? And, finally, why did you decide to name the band «At Vance?
We were searching for a name starting with «A» to be in the first row in the record stores, haha 😉 We first had «ADVANCE» but this somehow sounded more like Tennis than Metal and then the record company changed it into «AT VANCE» even if it doesn’t have a real meaning 😉 I first met Olaf in mid of 90’s where we were both just young guitar players hanging around and exchanged some guitar riffs and licks. Our first project CENTERS which was formed in 1995 was pretty progressive and didn’t sell very well so it was stopped by the record label after two releases. But we wanted to keep on working together and so we later formed the neoclassical metal band AT VANCE which was pretty successful.
– And the last question about this ex-band of yours: What were your feelings in the band? Why did you leave in 2002, four years after its inception? What were your feelings back then that made you leave your own band? And how is nowadays your relationship with AT VANCE and Olaf Lenk?
Despite the success we unfortunately somehow reached a point after a few years where it became more and more difficult to get along well and to work together. Besides a handful of tracks written by me I didn’t have much influence on the songwriting of the band. Of course it wasn’t easy to jump off the train since I was a main part of the whole thing but after our tour in 2002 I draw the decision to leave the band. In the end it was the absolutely right decision and then started to concentrate on the songwriting for my solo project.
– Curiously, is since your departure from AT VANCE when you participated in several other projects. Around 2001 it seems like you built a good relationship with Tobias Sammet, and later you collaborate with him in EDGUY and his personal project named AVANTASIA. In fact, since your collaboration in the EDGUY’s album «Mandrake», you have played or collaborated in the last five albums bu EDGUY and in the other AVANTASIA’s records. What could you tell me about your friendship with Sammet and his bands, Mr. Hartmann? How is working with him like?
As I said it’s always great to work with him and we know each other for more than 10 years now so it really turned into a great friendship, too Besides his funny side he’s a musician that know exactly what he wants and that’s definitely one reason why he’s so successful – either with EDGUY or AVANTASIA. I’m happy to also always be invited to each EDGUY recording since a few years and already I’m looking forward to the next one!
– And in 2005 you started your amazing solo career with an album entitled «Out in the Cold». And you managed to surprise everyone with your music style, as previously you used to play in Power/Progressive Metal bands. But with that debut solo album you showed your other style to your fans, less aggressive and more melodic. You released an awesome Melodic Rock piece and, personally, I think your voice is just impressive. Was this a way to show your other/unknown side? Is this your favourite music style?
Due to AT VANCE and AVANTASIA I was pretty well known as a metal singer but HARTMANN is definitely the music where my musical roots are. I got the freedom to involve and combine all my musical influences. I’ve always been a Metal fan but most of my influences have their roots in the Rock and Hard Rock of the 70s and 80s. Besides that I also listen a lot to other styles – from Pop to Metal, modern and old. The musical output of HARTMANN is maybe a certain own mixture of all that and it feels very natural for me to write this kind of songs.
– Your two first albums, «Out in the Cold» and «Home», were released with Frontiers Records. Why did the third and foruth HARTMANN’s albums weren’t released with the Italian label?
Although the first two records were successful Frontiers wasn’t really interested in my idea of releasing the unplugged CD/DVD «Handmade» so we decided to go separate ways. We released our last album “3” on our own label SONIC 11 Records. On one hand it’s a good thing to have your own label and the full control but on the other hand you have to take care of the overall promotion, advertisements, distributions and lots of other other stuff that keeps you away from doing your job as an artist. For this new album we decided to go back to a record company to simply have more time for the main thing: taking care of the music. I think we found a good label with AVENUE OF ALLIES and they really like our music since the first record. With GERMUSICA we also have a partner now regarding the management and this already helped us a lot for the new album “Balance”
– Still talking about your solo efforts, I think you have always known how to put some nice quality on all your CDs. But on your second album, «Home», you changed some sounds compared to your debut opus. The feedback «Home» got wasn’t as good as the response your debut album got. But I think this was a really original piece and musically superb. Why do you think «Home» didn’t have the success «Out in the Cold» got?
Personally I think «Home» wasn’t that different compared to «Out in the cold» despite the fact the mix was maybe a bit rougher. Our first record was really successful and reviewed as «album of the month» many times so most people expected something very special from the second album. There are many great tracks on «Home» but unfortunately it wasn’t reviewed as good as the first one.
– And now, in this same month, you have released your fourth solo album, entitled «Balance», three years after your previous «3» came out. First off; what could you tell me about it? Are you satisfied with the final result? And what are your feelings on the acceptance this effort has had from your fans?
I’m absolutely happy with our new album and it received many great critics so far. We’ve been working on this album a bit longer than we used to in the past – close to two and a half years now. The main reason is that I was touring a lot with other projects like AVANTASIA in 2010 and ROCK MEETS CLASSIC last winter so I didn’t have the time to really concentrate just on HARTMANN. That’s why the songwriting for the new album somehow happened in steps. Another reason is that – although we already had enough new material in mid of last year – I wasn’t really satisfied with a few songs so I decided to write more tracks and to work over the arrangements here and there. In the end it was the right decision because we didn’t have any time pressure to release a new album so we had the chance and time to sort out just the best tracks for the new album. Our bass player Armin also wrote a few songs this time and we decided to take “Like a river” and “From a star” which are great and perfectly fitting songs.
– On this record we can find one already known song, «Shout», a cover of the well-known track by the British band TEARS FOR FEARS. Why did you decide to cover this tune? Is this band a reference for you?
Of course I’m a fan of TEARS FOR FEARS and «Shout» is definitely one of the best 80’s tracks. To do a cover version of “Shout” was already planned for “Home” but somehow we never had a good final version that really fits to the style of HARTMANN. As I said the original is a great classic 80s track and I’m really happy with the version we have on “Balance” now.
– And, talking about such, «Balance» kicks off with three absolutely superb tracks: «All my Life», «Like a River» and «You are the one», do you agree? The whole album is impressive though. Did you place on purpose these songs on the first positions of the tracklist to attract the listener?
«All my life» is definitely a perfect powerful opener which also describes best the musical style of HARTMANN cause it combines our 80’s influences with modern elements. «Like a river» and «You are the one» are maybe the most popish songs on the album with very catchy melodies and chorusses so they fitted perfectly to continue with a good mood for the listener.
– Changing to another subject, last year you toured with Rock Meets Classics, where you played with many great artists. What can you tell us about it? How was this experience like?
Touring with this project and with this amazing line up was really a great thing. I was already visiting the last tours as a guest so I was really happy to get a call for joining this project. The whole mood during this tour was relaxed and of course it was a big honour for me to play and sing with greats as Ian Gillan and Steve Lukather. Steve was planned to be guest musician on “Dance on the wire” for the new album but unfortunately he didn’t have time when we had to finish the production in April. But we’re still in contact and he really likes the band so I guess we will hopefully arrange something for the next record.
– Finally, do you plan touring in support of your new album, «Balance»? Will you come to Spain touring? Have you ever been in Spain in the past (with AT VANCE or any other act)?
Right now we are looking forward to some touring in summer and we are still working on doing the support for a well known band we already accompanied in the past. Besides that we hope to also tour outside Germany this time, hopefully also outside Europe in autumn but let’s see how things will develop. We know that we have many Spanish fans, too so of course we’ d like to come to Spain, too.
– Thanks all, Mr. Hartmann. Do you want to add some thoughts or to tell something to the Queens of Steel’s readers?
Yes, of course I’d like to say HI to all readers of Queens Of Steel and to all fans of Hartmann in Spain. Let’s see how our tour plans develop so hopefully we’ll be in Spain this time, too!
Alex M. Romero