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Demon Drive - 2003 Interview with Jochen Mayer

INTERVIEW: Demon Drive (May 2003)
We enter into a little four-play with DD's Jochen Mayer.

Jochen Mayer and Demon Drive: 'Four Play'
Written by: Gdazegod

Try telling the guys from Demon Drive to revert back to playing a style similar to past faves Casanova, and you're more than likely to be crossed off their Christmas Card list! 'Been there, done that, even got the T-Shirt, hahahaha' jokes Demon Drive's Jochen Mayer. 'That was more than ten years ago. That was then, we were there, Casanova's four albums are surely among the best that came out of Europe in the 90's Hardrock/Rock - genre.' And as they say in the trade, some things are best left in the past, which is exactly where the Demon Drive guys want Casanova to stay.

March 2003 saw the release of the latest Demon Drive album, the entertaining set called 'Four Play'. Now, if you really want to dissect the music, and are pining for a dose of Casanova, then 'Four Play' is as close as you'll get. If you recall tunes like 'I'll Come Runnin' or 'One Of These Days' from 1992's 'One Night Stand', there is a lot of similarity to be had with the modern day equivalent of Demon Drive, despite protestations to the contrary. Their previous album, 2001's 'Rock n Roll Star' saw the start of a new phase - sort of modern rock meets Bon Jovi. A change in direction and in fortunes. 'RARS was our chance to shed some skin, and we did' says Jochen. 'After the trouble with the Casanova split and the 'Heroes' album, we needed to do an album just for us. No looking left or right. Just four guys, a rehearsal room, a studio and lots of fun.'

'Four Play' has certainly garnered some positive reviews out there so far. Far more encouraging than the reaction to RARS two years ago. Perhaps it was just bad timing or an apathetic listening audience. Jochen gives his take on events. 'I don't get tired saying that I still love RARS, and whenever I listen to it I'm awfully proud, because it's exactly what we intended to do. And by the way, it's loud and very, very live - hardly any overdubs on it. OK, it didn't sell as much as this new one, but hey, maybe one day people will discover the pureness and the beauty of it all.'

One thing that is plainly obvious is the deliberate move away from the glossy sheen of Casanova, to a rawer, stripped down approach, something that Jochen and his bandmates agree on. 'Yeah, it was really important for the band's own personality and style. I think what people didn't like about RARS was mostly it's sound. We were sick and tired of this Journey-like sound on most of all these other releases, hiding weak songs behind walls of keyboards with the same song structures we had already achieved with Casanova back in 1992.'

As it turns out, the fans didn't move with the times as much as the band did, or as much as the band had hoped. 'We expected too much from the audience' says Jochen. 'We thought that they had gone with us all the way, sort of grown up alongside us. Unfortunately it seems most of them are so stuck to a certain kind of sound and style. As a result, RARS was almost certain to fail!' As ironic as that sounds, a song like 'August Nights' might as well have been on 'One Night Stand', because the early demos were written way back in 1993 - according to Jochen. So there you have it, there's just no pleasing the fans is there?

With that in mind, I get the impression that fans would rather D.D revert back to the halcyon days of Casanova, but I think it's a bit late for that now. 'What people don't understand is that even now, Casanova wouldn't sound like they did back in 1992' stresses Jochen. 'Casanova would probably sound like a mix between Demon Drive and INXS. A lot more modern than Demon Drive. Why? Simple! Different people, different preferences, democracy! One thing is for sure, though! We would not get back together to record an album that people would demand from us. I'd simply have a problem being almost 35 years old, standing on stage singing something like 'Hollywood Angels' for instance' he says.

Actually, the state of German rock and in particular, the German charts makes for interesting analysis. It's quite confusing for an outsider like me to see a band like Manowar for instance, make it into the German charts last year. That's unheard of anywhere else. Jochen offers his opinion on it. 'Traditionally Heavy Metal has always been strong over here. Critics always had problems with bands that were better looking than they were! I guess if we had 365 sunny days over here people wouldn't be so depressed and listen to more easy music, not so exhausting. In Manowar's case, they got pushed real good, and believe me, that was the only way the company could get some of the money back that they had to pay them.'

The German scene is inundated with melodic/power metal outfits. Labels like Noise, Nuclear Blast, AFM, Shark, Limb and Metal Blade all having a strong presence. It could be difficult for a band like Demon Drive who walk a different melodic rock path to make an impact at home because of that. 'I hate the phrase 'melodic rock' says Jochen with a twist of iconic humor. 'You wouldn't call Rick Springfield, Bryan Adams or Jimmy Barnes 'melodic rock', would you? It's simply Rock. That's what we like! That's where we're heading and that's actually what Casanova and Demon Drive have always been. Listen to 'I'll Come Runnin' on the 'One Night Stand' album and imagine it with a more modern sound - it's not too far from the above mentioned. But to get back to your question, as long as we will always find a label that has the same vision, we're fine for the next twenty or so albums!'

Musically, we see many similarities between Demon Drive and a band like Gotthard for instance. Obviously that hard-edged modern rock sound is still popular over there in Continental Europe. 'It's getting more popular again to the mainstream masses. Bon Jovi's new album made it to all the radiostations - it's gotten pretty big over here. I love 'Bounce' by the way. The melodic rock scene hated it - like it hates all changes in sound and image. Def Leppard got beaten really bad, which I think was stupid, because their last album had some really strong songs and a terrific production. It just didn't sound like 'Hysteria' or any of their 90's albums. Fans usually follow a band's way, critics and the rest of the scene call it a sell-out. Personally I think the scene is killing itself with such ignorance. That's another reason why I prefer reviews from the other side of the globe. People aren't as narrow minded.'

Onto 2003, Demon Drive have hooked with the team of Escape Music and Germusica. A new relationship for all involved. 'Being responsible for most of the band's promotional work I come across the name ESCAPE - Music quite often. To me it stood for 'quality releases' and unlike other british labels - only one release every four weeks! That was really important to us since we wanted full support for our next album.

I contacted Khalil of Escape Music, sent him a few demos and he liked it from the beginning. We had total control on the creativity side and he's done a terrific job so far making the band's output available to the masses. Thanks to Escape Music and our promoter GerMusica.'

Now, onto the songs, whats with the Bob Seger 'Hollywood Nights' soundalike on 'Roller Coaster Ride'. Who's idea was that? Whoever it was, damn good idea!! 'It was an accident actually! Michael came up with this great guitar part and we soon made a song out of it. Later on somebody mentioned, that it sounds like Bob Seger! But hey, we loved the song and we didn't want to throw it away, so we had to thank him for inspiration, as you pointed out in your review.'

Tell us about the choice of cover this time around - 'Devil Woman'. Is this going to be a regular occurrence, as we had Kiss' 'Sure Know Something' on 'RARS too if I recall? 'It depends. Usually we never pick a cover version to begin with, but whenever we record a DD - album, we all meet in the studio, jam, drink, jam, drink, record, listen to old 70's music, jam, record ... and all of a sudden you feel the urge of trying out one of those great 70's songs, record it and if it's cool, put it on the album. We have already recorded so many cover songs we could release an 70's tribute album. Hey, that's a good idea, maybe we'll do that!' Did you ever hear the version that the UK band Shy did I think on their 'Excess All Areas' album? 'No! I hate SHY!'

Could the band undertake a poll next time and let the fans choose a cover song for you on the next album perhaps? 'It's difficult to imagine a song in a different version if you're not a musician with the vision of the way you would play it. Most of our favourites are too good already and shouldn't be re-recorded anyway! 'Sure Know Something' was always on my wishlist, so, you never know, maybe there will be no cover version at all next time, maybe we'll let our fans decide. With this band you just never know!'

Do the guys have any particular favourites? For me personally, I'm in love with tracks like 'Misdemanor' and 'Here Comes That Feelin' Again'. 'I'm sure you hear that a lot' says Jochen, 'but we love all of them, and a lot more we had recorded for the album, but we had to decide on only eleven songs, that was tough enough! If I had to point out some songs it would be 'Room No. 17' because of it's difference compared to the rest of the album and it's virtuosity. Also 'Remember Where You Heard It First', because it's something like the theme to the album!' I still think for many old Casanova fans, myself included, they are still gonna get plenty of mileage out of 'Four Play'? 'Exactly! Like I said before, the differnce between 'Misdemeanor' and 'Living A Lie' e.g. is just the more modern way of producing and the progress in technology.'

Though the idea behind a video is not new, it is something a little different for Demon Drive, in effect, making 'Four Play' an Enhanced CD. 'Michael Boresch, the director of the video likes our music a lot, he had some time, we had the ideas and the location, he had the equipment, so we did it! Four hours recording, another two days editing. To us bonus material isn't just 'unreleased demos' with a shitty sound, because most of the time there is a reason why these songs have not been released (yeah, we know why, they were crap to start with.. Ed). We wanted something different!'

Unfortunately a live proposition for Demon Drive is not currently viable, nor would it attract the sort of interest that the melodic rock scene says exists. Jochen disproves that theory. 'Playing live has gotten too expensive and if you're not with a major label that will cover the debts you're always in danger of losing your house.

Even if musicians don't ask for any money, just a bed and a breakfast, you still have to pay the other people on the tour. Harem Scarem played live in Gemany last year, three times. One of the shows only had 35 visitors, the others around 65. So much for the local scene. We'd rather invest the money we make in the next albums. We never get any offers for festivals actually! I wonder why?'

And finally as a wrap-up, Jochen is given the opportunity to practice his direct marketing skills on prospective punters (ie: you the reader) looking to buy that new CD. 'If you like rock music, songs, that will stand the test of time, a cool, modern production or if you're just looking for a background album while crusin' with the top down, go out and buy 'Four Play'. Sound samples can be found on And if you are one of us, that wish Bryan Adams would stop recording those greasy ballads and get back to his rock days, then 'Four Play' is perfect for you. If you like those handmade songs from the 70's with a modern sound, then buy it!'

Thanks Jochen. A pleasure to converse with you as always! 'Keep up your objective point of view George. It's most important ... especially on the net! Because that's what it's all about!' - Regards Jochen Mayer.

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