RALF SCHEEPERS – It’s not inappropriate to call Ralf Scheepers a Heavy Metal tenor. His larger than life voice can rival the very best in the history of Heavy Metal. Just let your ears delve into the back catalog of albums that Ralf Scheepers has sung lead vocals on and you shall be convinced. As a founding member of Gamma Ray, alongside Kai Hansen, Ralf Scheepers was the lead vocalist on three of their studio albums, from 1989 to 1993. In 1997, Ralf and Mat Sinner founded Primal Fear, a formidable Heavy Metal band that has etched out a powerful legacy to this very day.
There are many famous lead vocalists in Heavy Metal and Ralf Scheepers is one. However, when it comes to Ralf Scheepers, there is much more to being just a “famous” front man for a world known Heavy Metal band like Primal Fear. I never received a micro-hint of ego from Ralf as we spoke, nor did it ever appear that Ralf has, will or ever rest on his laurels. Ralf values friendship, (in a tiered format which he explains) and likes to create music on his acoustic guitar in front of his fireplace.
No, your not going to read on about a spoiled and partied out Heavy Metal star here, instead you will find out that Ralf Scheepers puts more thought into compassion and staying in touch with family, than he does about any Sunset Strip shenanigans. His new solo album “Scheepers” accentuates his fondness for ballads, guest musicians and of course, Heavy Metal. After my interview with Ralf Scheepers ended, I had to quickly remind myself that he is the intimidating vocal and physical presence of Primal Fear, for he truly carried himself in such a relaxed, polite and accessible manner. Here is what Ralf Scheepers had to say:
HRH: How relieved and proud are you, now that your solo album is being heard and praised?
RALF: I’m very pleased about it. The reviews have been good so far. I hope the people who bought the album are having a good time with it.
HRH: Which song on “Scheepers” moves you the most on a personal level?
RALF: Definitely “The Pain Of The Accused”, it’s based on a personal situation that I went through years ago. Once I got the melody line in my head for this song, I couldn’t get it out of my head.
HRH: How was the idea of doing a song (“Remission Of Sin”) with Tim “Ripper” Owens born?
RALF: I actually got to know Tim five or six years ago. We have gotten to know each other personally and Tim is a very nice guy. We’ve kept in close contact over the years. We email and see each other often, getting together to have some beers. I sent Tim this song while he was between two tours and he recorded it! I’m very happy about the way it came out. Tim and I are just good buddies!
HRH: Am I out of line by calling “Saints Of The Rock” a Heavy Metal Anthem Classic?
RALF: Well, you know, this song was recorded back in 1996 originally. It’s been re-recorded with Matt (Sinner) on bass. I did the whole choir on this re-recording.
HRH: A “Cyberfreak” never existed back in the eighties. Were the eighties a better time for Heavy Metal and the world as well?
RALF: I don’t think so, there’s always many changes happening. You have to deal with progress, you know? I sent my first email fifteen years ago! It’s a better world now. I get to stay in touch with cousins in America through Facebook, where years ago I couldn’t as easily stay in touch from a long distance. Facebook is a great network to keep in touch with friends and family. I’m not trying to sound like a Facebook commercial here by promoting them either. (laughs) You can advertise your music better through the internet now, then again, you can also lose money from people illegally downloading your music too.
HRH: Many of your friends appear as guests on “Scheepers”. Where do you rank friendship on the scale of life?
RALF: That’s a good question. It all starts with Facebook right? (laughs) It’s the same in personal life as well. I have friends that are not as much close. Then I have friends in business and friends I exchange problems with on a more personal level.
HRH: What other musicians would you have liked to guest on your current solo album and perhaps on any future Primal Fear or solo album?
RALF: For a guitarist, Neal Schon is amazing. He had no time and was just too busy with touring and recording to appear on my record. I’m pretty sure there are many names I can’t think of right now. There are many out there, it’s not easy to name them all. Rob Halford still is an old time favorite of mine! Tim “Ripper” was great to sing together with!
HRH: What are the differences that you see, when it comes to Heavy Metal being marketed in Europe compared to the U.S.?
RALF: That’s a tough question. In the U.S. the market is huge, it’s the biggest. I’ve learned later in life (laughs) with Primal Fear, that you must go to the U.S. and play for the fans. You play for the kids in the U.S. to go out and buy your album. It’s the opposite in Europe, the kids buy your album first and then go to your concert.
HRH: Would you ever consider a singing role on Broadway, if the situation was right?
RALF: Never say never! I love the musicals in Germany. At the Musical Theater in Germany, they are really studying singing and stuff. I’m not quite aware of being able to do it though.
HRH: Why’s that Ralf?
RALF: You have to be very professional and deliver the goods more so than Heavy Metal. It is night in and night out on Broadway. It’s a job too, it can become boring in a way. Then again, Heavy Metal is an everyday job too! I’m sure there has to be different feelings you must have to perform on a Broadway stage as well.
HRH: Will there be a solo tour in the U.S.?
RALF: It would be great! Only, with the new Primal Fear album being recorded and released, combined with Primal Fear doing festivals and tours, it may not be. I also have to see what the market reaction is to my solo album. If the promoters want me to go out solo, I am the last one to say no!
HRH: Do you feel our world needs to exercise some more compassion right about now?
RALF: Yes. I mean, I had the idea for this song (“Compassion”) when the earthquake happened in Haiti. Now its Japan too. I had the chords and the melody in my head as I watched the news on that Haiti earthquake. We need to show people we have feelings and not only money, that people are there for them, to give them (earthquake survivors) feelings that someone is there for them. I remember writing this song on my acoustic. I’m the acoustic guitar guy in front of the fireplace.
HRH: What? Ralf Scheepers sits in front of the fireplace, with his acoustic guitar and writes songs? (laughs)
RALF: (laughs) I also like to shred with my acoustic too! (laughs) That doesn’t mean I’m a big softy or anything like that! I’m still the Heavy Metal guy!
HRH: (laughs) Don’t worry Ralf, you’ll always be the big Heavy Metal guy in my mind!
HRH: How is the new Primal Fear album coming along?
RALF: We have now, about ten songs. The guys are very busy. They’ve sent me playbacks and I’ve put my vocals and melodies on them. Then, we team up and rehearse the songs. It is very important to team up with the band and not rely solely on the internet when writing songs.
HRH: Good luck with the recording of the new Primal Fear album Ralf!
RALF: Thank you very much, it’s going to sound great! I’m already banging my head to these Primal Fear demos!