ALEX LANDENBURG’s first major step into the spotlight was at age 26 when Jeff Waters asked him to join one of Canada’s most important Metal acts ever – ANNIHILATOR. He toured with Annihilator, supporting the record “Metal” which was recorded by none other than drum legend Mike Mangini. Shortly after Uli Kusch himself asked Alex to replace him in the legendary progressive band MEKONG DELTA. In Alex’s musical carreer we can add also the bands, as 21Octayne, Angels Cry, Axxis, Stratovarius, and Timo Tolkki’s Symfonia… Now, in 2012 Alex is super excited about his newest endeavour – playing with Luca Turilli’s RHAPSODY, which he has joined as their new permanent drummer! Alex states: “What an amazing opportunity to join the band together with new singer Alessandro Conti and to start this new chapter together! I can’t wait to get out on the road and to play the new stuff as well as the Rhapsody classics”!
A week ago I had a pleasure to interview Alex, we were talking about his past, present and future, please join our conversation…
1. Hi Alex, I’m Tarja. Welcome to Metalshock Finland! what were the first tunes you listened to today? after your alarm clock, i mean… lol
Hey Tarja! The first tunes were “Game of Life” and “Reach within” from Circus Maximus’ new record Nine.
2. Just recently you’ve joined to Rhapsody line-up as their permanent drummer. Tell me about this your newest endeavour, about how it started?
Well, our mutual friend and Rhapsody’s front of house engineer Sebastian Roeder suggested me to Luca Turilli. One day, totally out of the blue I received two emails from Luca asking me wether I was up to joining Rhapsody. We got on the phone the same day and had a really nice and long talk and 24 hours later I was in the band. I knew Alessandro from before and that was another reason why it was easy for me to make that decision so quickly.
3. Nearly at the same time with you, also the new singer, Alessandro Conti, joined the band… what do you think, how yours and Alessandro’s input is going to change Rhapsody?
Well, a different voice is of course a big change, especially if you are following up someone as remarkable as Fabio Lione. But I have no doubts that the fans will go crazy about Alessandros performance on the upcoming record. He is probably the biggest new discovery when it comes to singers in this style in many years.
I joined right after the record was done already, so it’s still Alex Holzwarthstill playing on it. So I didn’t have any input on the music so far, but I’m sure that I will be able to put a little bit of my own stamp on Rhapsody’s music. It’s a thin line, you have to respect the original composition and parts and still try to make it your own in a way.
4. So, what are your next plans with Rhapsody?
For now, it’s mostly promotional stuff. Actually on June 29th we will have a signing session in Milano for example. Touring will start in the fall I guess.
5. Besides Rhapsody, you currently are playing also in Mekong Delta, 21Octayne and Angels Cry… what are the latest news in these camps?
With Mekong Delta we just released a new record called “Intersections”. 21Octayne is currently negotiating for a record deal for our first album and with Angel’s Cry there is not much happening right now but we discussed rerecording our older material at some point maybe this or next year. We are all involved in other bands as well so it’s hard to find windows to really work on it.
6. To play in 4 bands asks a lot of organizator skill … how do you manage to divide your time between them?
Well, it sounds more dramatic than it is. Not all of them are gigging at the moment. Of course, you have to give a band like Rhapsody priority when it comes to touring plans. But then again, on a scale like that these things are arranged months in advance, so it’s not like “Hey guys, let’s play a show on the weekend!”. So you just have to look for windows for the other bands to keep on working with them.
7. Tell me about your drum set equipments…
From early on in my career I made it a point to never endorse stuff that I wouldn’t buy myself.
I don’t see a point in endorsing instruments just to have an endorsement. After all you have to use this stuff and I wouldnt wanna use anything i’m not comfortable with. I’m using DrumCraft drums, actually since they have been introduced in 2009. I was one of their first endorsers and recorded and toured with a prototype of their Series 6 drums.
They even manufactured my own signature drum, limited to 50 pieces. So I couldn’t be happier with the situation.
Same goes for all the other stuff i’m using. I play Meinl Cymbals and still use Cymbals I bought many years before I became an official Meinl artist. And just recently I became a Vater Drumsticks endorser. Same thing…..i had been offered endorsements from many other companies but actually refused them because I preferred Vaters.
8. What are the legendary drummers that have influenced you the most?
Oh, I could talk for hours about that….I’ll try to narrow it down to a couple ones. My biggest influence in Metal and Rock drumming will always be Deen Castronovo. Especially the stuff he did with Tony Macalpine and also the Cacophony record with Jason Becker and Marty Friedman. For progressive Metal my most important influence was Mark Zonder from Fates Warning. Especially “Perfect Symmetry” and “Parallels” where incredibly important to my development. But I also have to give credit to Portnoy. He was a huge influence to me as well. Two other drummers I really admire for their style are Simon Phillips and Steve Smith. Both also always have an incredible sound on every recording. And two other guys I look up to in regards of pushing the limits are Virgil Donati and Mike Mangini.
9. Lets go to the past when you were 26 years and when Jeff Waters asked you to join Annihilator for their European tour, replacing one of the great drum legends, Mike Mangini. What are your memories of that tour?
It was an amazing experience. We rehearsed in Canada and toured pretty much all of Europe afterwards including headlining the first day at Sweden Rock 2007. It was 47 or 48 shows in total. I learned so much on that tour and many things I learned from working with Waters made basically everything else I did afterwards incredibly easy in comparison.
10. Shortly after touring with Annihilator, you were asked to replace yet another drum legend, Uli Kusch, in Mekong Delta, where you’re playing still today. And then in late 2008 you joined a famous German act, Axxis… what would you want to tell us of those years?
I met Uli at a show in my hometown Saarbrücken. He freaked out when he heard I had just toured with Annihilator, which was really cool because Uli, much like Ingo Schwichtenberg as well, was a huge influence on my playing too. We talked for maybe 2 hours and then he asked me wether I could imagine replacing him in Mekong Delta. Of course I said “sure” and then I actually auditioned for Mekong Delta a couple weeks later and got the job pretty quickly. That was in 2007. In 2008 we played a couple really great shows with Mekong Delta, some of my favorite shows to this day, like in Athens, in Moscow or at Progpower Scandinavia in Copenhagen.
In late 2008 I joined Axxis as their new drummer. We recorded their album “Utopia” in 2009 and played lots of fun shows as well. My personal highlight of my time with Axxis was recording their live DVD at their 20th birthday show in Bochum/Germany. My good old friend Kleif Baltes worked hard on that DVD, doing all the edits and cuts and everything.
11. In late 2009 you did clinics for DrumCraft drums in Shanghai/China and in Switzerland… but tell me, how the role change, when playing on tour and when doing the clinics?
It’s something completely different. When you do a drum clinic, it’s really all about you, no singers, guitarists or anything else to “hide” behind. When you play with a band, it’s all about the band! I enjoy doing clinics and I always try to give people something they can take home with them. Something to learn or practice, because that’s what I always enjoyed most about the clinics I went to.
12. However, from all these earlier experieces, the 2010 seems to be quite significant in your carreer… Firstly Drumheads Magazine included you in their special issue “Drumheroes” which covered Germany’s 50 most influential drummers. And then in the fall, you were asked to play drums for Stratovarius. Something you’d like to share with us about that year? (editor’s note: this interview has been made before the new Stratovarius drummer was announced on june 20)
Yes, I remember when I received that email from Drumheads magazine, telling me they would include me in that special issue. To be honest I personally know a lot of fantastic drummers who aren’t in there and who, in my opinion, would have belonged there just as much or even more than I do. So I was really happy about that of course, what an incredible honor and recognition of my work up until that point!
Touring with Stratovarius…of course, the circumstances that led to that were tragic and sad, especially since at the point when I started touring with them we couldn’t know yet how fast and well Jörg would luckily recover. But aside from that, and especially now looking back at it, it was a fantastic experience. I was a Strato fan as a kid and almost even more so an Yngwie fan, so to play with them and especially with Jens was nothing short of amazing. We got along really well too and I’m glad to call them friends, we had so much fun together!
It would have been great to join them fulltime and I was really hoping for that after Jörg had officialy left them, but when the opportunity with Rhapsody came up I knew I had to go with that. It was a gut decision.
I’m sure whoever they will pick now will be a great drummer and I hope the fans will give the guy a fair chance!
13. Then in eary 2011, you were asked again to step in for Uli Kusch, this time replacing him in Timo Tolkki’s Symfonia. What do you want to tell us about that experience?
After the Stratovarius tour I was actually joking, saying to a friend “probably Tolkki will call me next.” When then in early 2011 I received Tolkki’s message – this time no email but a Facebook message - I really thought I had lost it for a second. It was just too funny to be true. Of course it wasn’t so funny anymore when I found out that Uli had some physical issues and that’s why I was asked to step in, but luckily he is doing much better again recently. I was originally only asked to step in for the first Symfonia show at the Finnish Metal Expo 2011. That week alone was a fantastic experience. It was freezingly cold, even by Finnish standards. Minus 30 degrees. Rehearsals went great and we played a good show. What a fantastic band, probably up until that point the best combination of musicians I had ever played with. Especially playing with Jari Kainulainen was just great. As a drummer you can’t think of a better situation than playing with someone like him, he is that good! The South American tour we did afterwards was also lots of fun. The band was on fire and the crowds were simply amazing. And last but not least it was a pleasure to play in a band with Andre Matos, what a fantastic person and unbelievable singer as well. The most charismatic frontman I was playing with so far!
14. If my sources tell right, you started to play drums at age of 11 and basically you haven’t stopped ever since. But tell me what was the moment you knew that it’s gonna be a life-long-story?
I know that sounds cliche, but right when I hit a drum for the first time I knew that’s it.
15. And now, one hypothetical question, if it weren’t the drums, what was it?
16. Where would you like to see yourself in 5 years from now?
Alive and well, with my family and friends still around me.
Musically, I hope I will be working with the same bands still 5 years from now, as I feel that each of them has a lot of potential left and still a lot left to say artistically. And since I will keep practicing and playing I believe I will be a much better drummer than I am now.
17. Alex, thanks very much for this interesting interview! Hope to see you soon on stage! and now the word is yours… What would you like to say to our readers and to your fans?
I thank you all for your support and love throughout the years and I hope we will have many more together! Please keep supporting music, go to concerts and buy records, we all need to keep this alive!
Interview by Tarja Virmakari
For more information, please visit: https://www.facebook.com/alex.landenburg