Holy Moses - Interview
With "Invisible Queen" Holy Moses have now written their last chapter of their discography (read review here) and will give a farewell tour. So I had the opportunity to talk to Sabina Classen via Zoom about the new album and the band's history. The result was a very entertaining interview, where I had a lot of fun and where there was a lot of laughter. Many thanks to Sabina and also to Markus Wosgien (Fireflash Records), who organized this opportunity for me on such short notice!
Hi Sabina, thank you very much for your time! How are you?
I'm doing fine, thank you.
On April 14, your latest album "Invisible Queen" was released - at the same time as the new Metallica. That's going to be a tough battle, isn't it?
Yes, haha! I'll say this - Metallica is in a different league (laughs). But I'm really happy that the release date is together with my friends from Overkill. We're always really happy and Bobby, too, we're in contact all the time and he also sang a song on the bonus CD, "Cult Of The Machine". We both thought it was funny because we both didn't know it between each other that we have the same release date and I think Overkill is another floor higher than us (laughs), but we're totally happy and we're going to have a lot of shows together as well and we're always happy to see each other.
But in terms of cover art, you've already won by a long way. Who designed this and do I see it right that there are some allusions to old albums of yours?
Thank you very much! Gyula Havancsak did the cover and we discovered him by chance. It was a tip from our management because we were looking for something drawn and had some basic ideas. We then got a link to Gyula and said that he understood what we wanted to do and so it was. He got it super to the point and I think it's great that you realize because in this day and age where you have really small covers, it's not so easy - thank God we're releasing this on vinyl because Markus Wosgien from Fireflash Records was also in favor of it, and you'll discover little details there. You've already discovered the Dogs, and if you look closely, you'll find a lot of things again.
Are you the "Invisible Queen" on there?
Yes, of course. I mean, I wouldn't call myself the Queen now, but also my band members have always said in connection with fans and press and meanwhile I guess I have to admit that I was the first woman in the world who sang with these blatant vocals. So many people say "You are the Queen Of Thrash" or "You are the Queen Of Death" or something and when I talked to the band and said that I would like to stop at a certain point and make myself invisible, Peter, our guitarist immediately said "Okay, Invisible Queen". Everyone immediately said it was the appropriate title. If you see that we started with "Queen Of Siam", even though it had a different meaning at that time, but Queen at the beginning and Queen at the end fits and in the end it has a double meaning again. But I said that I can't write lyrics about myself because I'm too shy for that and the guys then said that I shouldn't worry, they would only write what people always say about me. Peter then wrote me the lyrics to the body, also used words that I can also sing well live and shout out the live well.
Why did you actually decide to break up? There are enough bands, which continue at your age diligently...
It's actually also a sign that I'm mega grateful that I got to be with Holy Moses for 43 years. We started as a school band and have gone through all the ups and downs, but on the other hand we have also played all over the world, which we would never have thought of as a school band. Also that we even got a record deal at that time was very amazing (laughs) and the gratitude of the metal scene. I think you have to find the right time to stop. You can drag it out like chewing gum, but I didn't want to do that. Of course we could still play next year and the year after, at first there was also the thought to stop in 2021, because that was the time when I would have been with Holy Moses for 40 years, but there was this interesting virus in this world and nobody knew how it would continue and how we could play at all, and since I like round dates, the next one this year was my 60th birthday. To stop at the peak with a really good record and a really awesome final tour, you did everything with that. As a musician, to know when to stop, when it's still exciting. Now I know that I'm still full of energy and I can decide it myself and I don't want anyone or anything to decide when to stop and unlike other musicians I've said that I don't want to die on stage, I still have a lot to do in life. I have many projects, a great job and know enough other things to do and will not be bored. I will of course stay in the scene because I am a metalhead from the bottom of my heart, I have been part of everything that started in metal and I will continue to go to festivals but also just enjoy it without the pressure of having to play, look at the other bands and enjoy the festival. That's also something special and that's why the decision to really say we stop now at a point where we can still decide it ourselves.
Okay, another point for you and not for Metallica, haha! Musically, "Invisible Queen" has become a bit very exhausting in places, which is due to the quite dissonant parts (e.g. 'Out Of Chaos'), your already pretty nagging hoarse vocals and the hectic song structures. Do you want to say goodbye with a big Fuck You?
Haha, that's awesome that you put it that way! What you feel is a new basic aggressiveness or one on top of it. The last three years, I think it all needed to come out (laughs). I mean, Holy Moses has always been good for surprises and we've always been without compromise and we've never adapted to any trends, we've just done the shit we wanted to do (laughs). We also didn't take into consideration what record companies and recommended and for me, where you say there are higher screams - if you look closer - on "Finished With The Dogs" that was also and when I was in the studio I really beamed myself back through the years again in a kind of self-hypnosis. I felt into the songs and of course the guys in the band gave me a mega template with that, to just scream through those parts and I really did it out of that feeling. A lot of stuff was really done in the first or second take in the studio. The guys did quite a lot in home recording, but I didn't feel like focusing on technology, even though I have a home recording studio here as well, but I had to do it really old school in the studio and went to Andy Classen at Stage One Studio and recorded songs there. At some point during the production I got an extra dog and I didn't want to do it to the puppy to always drive so far and then I went to Schrödey, who I trust and who I know from "The Temple Of The Absurd" and he lives in Hamburg and that's only 45 minutes away and of course the two producers know me to the bone (laughs). They also forced me to go into this mood that the song triggers in me and that's how these different vocals came about.
Back to the album - do you have a common thread in the lyrics?
That's an interesting question. First we had considered whether we spin the story of "The New Machine Of Liechtenstein", because that fit the virus and the fans said that this story of the album in 2020 really took place, but that we were then too repetitive. We have then but "Cult Of The Machine", also the video that everything is very aggressive quasi as the end of "The New Machine Of Liechtenstein" taken and we survivors now have the chance to finally smash this machine and thus free the world. That's ultimately the rough overall concept because I find that people are in such a kind of darkness because of the last three years and in general because of the new technologies and everything that's going on in the world. It was really about getting out and making people aware that you don't follow everything you're told and so keeping a bit of a watchful eye on what's right or wrong, what's appearing on social media. Also, the way people treat each other is getting worse and worse and we dealt with the human psyche and its background on the album and maybe that's what makes the aggression, just to say: people open your eyes for once! (laughs).
Since you just mentioned "Cult Of The Machine" - how did you come up with the idea of the "Useless Box"? I saw the thing for the first time at the Phänomenta in Bremen and had to laugh so much when I saw the thing in action!
Laughs. Gerd, our drummer, is a specialist for such things and when he gave them out, we thought about it and said: "that's exactly it! You have to think about it a little bit and we also want to encourage you to at least start reflecting a little bit and everyone is allowed to interpret it themselves.
The other day was International Women's Day and I saw a lot of posts on Facebook paying homage to female musicians of the last few years. Are you proud of what you have achieved as a quasi pioneer in heavy metal?
In the meantime, yes, and I am also aware of it. I think learning to be able to say, "Yes, I can be proud," is an important step. As you've already mentioned yourself, you know, I'm a psychotherapist myself according to the Heilpraktikergesetz and I practice with people so that they are proud of what they've done. So of course now I have to set a good example (laughs) when clients of mine also see videos of me or read something. I think admitting that and saying that you can also be proud is something. I was never so aware of that before. I think I was never that proud because I doubted myself if I was going the right way with these vocals. I actually wanted to sound like Ozzy Osbourne or I actually didn't want to sing at all. It was an accident that I became the singer of Holy Moses. It was our school band, Andy Classen, my friend, we were in a class and he joined Holy Moses, we kicked out the singer one night and then Ramon, the founder and boss of the band said "Sabina, you hang out here in the rehearsal room, you sing now!". I just went up to the microphone and did this roar to show that I couldn't sing. Then I was supposed to do it again and then he said, "That's it!". I kept doubting in between, even on "Queen Of Siam" where people were like, "what's that junk?" (laughs). I was never someone who did it to stand out. I started playing soccer at a very early age as a teenager, not even to say, "Look, emancipation - a girl plays soccer," but I come from a soccer family and did it out of naturalness. That's how it was with Holy Moses, too. Then, of course, it's difficult to be proud of something when you yourself actually know that it wasn't planned at all (laughs). In the meantime, I've seen the effect of what I've done there and how many women have really dared to do something like that. But for me it counts just as much for men. I've also had men write to me saying that because I did this, they found their voice and enjoyed singing in a band. I hate that, to see everything always in terms of emancipation, but I see it always the same and should give everyone the strength, whether man or woman. Everyone should go his way and have joy in life, that's important. If I have contributed a part to this, I am happy and proud.
But you have to say that women are still in the minority in the metal scene. Would you say that it's still harder for women to gain a foothold in the scene than men?
It's very difficult for me to answer that, because I didn't have any problems as a woman, and I think because I was there from the beginning and belonged. Sometimes you also have to see that the women don't make it so difficult for themselves to be accepted, because if they always just play with these feminine charms, then you get looked at funny. If you're in your naturalness, and there are some like the girls who did guest vocals on our new record and who I specifically chose and who are friends of mine - Diva Satanica from Nervosa, who doesn't put on a lot of makeup and looks very natural, Marloes from Haliphron and Izegrim Rægina from Dæmonesq, Daniela Karrer from Headshot - these are all such examples who sing with a natural voice from the gut and don't use such a gargling technique and dress the way they feel and don't dress up in a special way. That helps women when you say, "I'm here and among you and it doesn't matter if you're a man or a woman."
When you look back on the many years of Holy Moses - which is your absolute favorite album and which would you say we would have done better differently?
It's quite difficult because each album describes a period or decade of my life and I remember how I was on it and did it. Musically I really like "Finished With The Dogs" and "New Machine Of Liechtenstein", but when I say that, I hear very specific songs from "World Chaos" or "Terminal Terror" again. You just asked which one shouldn't have been done that way and for me that's the "No Matter What's The Cause", the 94 album where we re-found each other and where I almost didn't sing on it at all. Andy Classen did an excellent job singing it, but we then let the band rest for a while, I did Temple Of The Absurd, because you had to find yourself again. There was a phase in the mid-90s with grunge and stuff where it was quite difficult for us thrash bands. Dan Lilker was the bass player at that time and he was doing totally different music with Nuclear Assault and S.O.D., Meff from the Rykers joined as a drummer and Andy, Dan and Meff were on a different trip and I was so much metal and thrash that I said I can't sing these songs. That's when I always say it was a record company thing that they put the Holy Moses lettering on it anyway, where I say I vetoed it back then and said it should be called something else. But well, it didn't hurt us either, you can make yourself aware of what was there and that's part of the story.
Do you have a particularly funny or take away story that stuck in your head?
There are of course many, but right now I spontaneously think of one, where we just had this with men and women in the scene. At a gig where it was mega warm outside, I was wearing tights and a miniskirt. Normally I always have pants on stage. Since I'm someone who doesn't change all the time, I went on stage with them and after the gig someone from the audience went up to the rest of the band and said, "Say, why does your singer actually wear a skirt?" (laughs). I had to think of this story in this context.
You also work as a psychotherapist. Why is heavy metal particularly good for the psyche?
I can say that heavy metal makes you happy. Just headbanging from a physiological point of view. You know when a hare is being chased by a fox and the hare manages to escape by hooking the fox. There he is traumatized for a very short time because he has been chased and then he shakes himself and then he has forgotten it (laughs). Then he's happy again and hops on. That's how I see it in metal, too. I think the headbanging, moving and getting into happiness and that community that makes you happy. You know yourself, if you are a metalfan with your shirt somewhere in the world and you have nothing to eat or drink and no place to sleep and you see someone else with a metal shirt, you know that you can talk to me and you are taken care of and you have a place to sleep. That's something very special and metalfans kind of stick together. When you see a big mosh pit where everyone is looking out for each other and if they fall, they pick them up, I've seen that differently at punk concerts.
When can we treat ourselves to some live therapy?
Yes, live therapy - we have over 30 shows (laughs). We started in Murcia / Spain, and you can look on our Facebook or Instagram page. We have club shows and festivals and everyone who wants will find something and everyone is welcome. We play at a very fair price, on December 27, a Wednesday, but it is a day after Christmas, Markthalle in Hamburg with our friends from Warpath and Rykers and a surprise band that we will announce soon we will play on my 60th birthday and I would be happy if the hall is full.
Very briefly, will the old albums be re-released?
Yeah, it's all organized through Fireflash Records at the moment. They are not all on Spotify and we never really cared about it, but Fireflash have our complete trust and they will take care that it will all be released piece by piece and above all will be available on Spotify.
30th Anniversary: In The Power Of Now
Agony Of Death
Strength, Power, Will, Passion
Disorder Of The Order
Master Of Disaster
No Matter What's The Cause
Too Drunk To Fuck
Too Drunk To Fuck
The New Machine Of Liechtenstein
Finished With The Dogs
Queen Of Siam
- Ossuary - Stellar Annihilation - Nov 30
- Abyss Of Hel - Into The Abyss - Nov 30
- Oniricous - Los Cultos Del Ghoul - Nov 30
- Isospin - Aftermath Chronicles - Dec 01
- Nornír - Skuld - Dec 01
- Demoncy - Black Star Gnosis - Dec 01
- Grau - Abseits Des Lichts - Dec 01
- Koldbrann - Den 6. Massedød (Manna Fra En Annen Himmel) - Dec 01
- Yermo - Yermo - Dec 01
- Paradise Lost - Icon 30 - Dec 01
- Cryptosis - The Silent Call - Dec 01
- Abyssal Tomb - Buried - Dec 01
- Heimdalls Wacht - Mystagogie - Lieder Voll Ewigkeit - Dec 01
- RüYYn - Chapter II: The Flames, The Fallen, The Fury - Dec 01
- Beyondition - Abysmal Night - Dec 01
- Varathron - The Crimson Temple - Dec 01
- Helfró - Tálgröf - Dec 01
- Nimrod B.C. - Legacy Of The Dead - Dec 01
- Dethroned - A Bridge To Eternal Darkness - Dec 01
- Walking Corpse - Our Hands, Your Throat - Dec 01