DATE OF INTERVIEW:
9th November 2012
MÁTÉ MOLNÁR; GÁBOR KOVÁCS
Hungarian power metallers Wisdom formed in 2001 and, despite prestigious support slots in their home country opening for the likes of Iron Maiden, Europe, UDO/Doro, Heaven and Hell, Judas Priest, Helloween and Saxon, it's taken until 2012 for the band to embark on their first ever European tour. On the road with Sabaton and Eluveitie, Wisdom finally have the opportunity to expose their music to a wider audience and with a stunning new album, 'Judas', to their name, it seems the timing couldn't be better. After an aborted interview attempt at their stop-off in Manchester early November due to a techno-communication failure, bassist Máté Molnár and guitarist Gábor Kovács answered Metal Discovery's questions by email a few days later...
METAL DISCOVERY: I gather the Swedish Empire Tour with Sabaton and Eluveitie is your first ever European tour so how’s the whole experience been so far?
MÁTÉ: This is something like a dream for us. You know, we worked 10 years with this band to be here (and several years more before Wisdom) so I can say that this is the result of years of work, pain, fights and sacrifice.
(Máté Molnár on garnering recognition peripheral to Hungary)
"It’s not easy to break out from there, because the international labels don’t really try to search bands from this territory. We always tried to open to the west, but it took us 10 years until we succeeded."
Máté Molnár onstage at the HMV Ritz, Manchester, UK, 3rd November 2012
Interview & Photography by Mark Holmes
Photograph copyright © 2012 Mark Holmes - www.metal-discovery.com
Wisdom Official Website:
Albums & EPs
Thanks to Nina Potthoff for arranging the interview
Wisdom Official Facebook:
Words of Wisdom (2006)
At the Gates (2007)
MD: The band formed back in 2001, the first EP was released in 2004 – why’s it taken quite a while to embark on a full tour?
MÁTÉ: We are from Hungary, from the middle of Europe. And unfortunately this country is still treated like a country which is better to avoid. It’s not easy to break out from there, because the international labels don’t really try to search bands from this territory. We always tried to open to the west, but it took us 10 years until we succeeded.
MD: A fantastic new album with ‘Judas’ and it’s been received so well by the press. Did it meet your own expectations of what you were aiming for?
MÁTÉ: Yes, of course. I am the optimist in the band, and when we made this album, I always told the others that I know that this album will change our life. I felt that the songs are good enough for the international scene, the sound is not worse than the bands in our genre, our outfit is organic; it has to work. And luckily I was right :)
MD: It’s a very nice sounding record with a great production and mix so did you have a lot of studio time to work on getting the exact sound you wanted?
GÁBOR: We have worked in our own studio and this fact made it easy for us to work on the album as much as possible. Also we wanted to work on the mixing ourselves as well as we know best how we wanted the album to sound like. It was easier this way than involving another engineer or producer.
MD: There are some great vocal harmonies on there – do those come quite naturally or do you have to work hard at getting the right harmony parts?
GÁBOR: After we finished all the songs of a following album, I begin to make the vocal harmonies. This is not a difficult job if you know the music theory. Of course, when I write the songs I consider how the vocal harmonies are going to be like so I always have to think ahead while writing the tracks.
MD: You have Mats Levén singing on the album’s title track as the character of Judas – how did you manage to get him involved?
MÁTÉ: It was much easier than you think. I wrote him an email about our imaginations and sent him the song. He emailed me back soon, that he is interested in it. I cannot tell you how happy we were that day:). After it, everything went very quickly and easily. He is a professional; he carried out perfectly what we imagined. So we are very honoured to have him on our record.
MD: You have the character of the Wiseman appearing throughout your albums and EPs on certain songs and in the artwork so will he be a permanent feature on all your future records?
MÁTÉ: Yes, sure. Wiseman, for us, is something like Eddie for Iron Maiden or Vic for Megadeth. His story started on our first EP, and will end when we finish Wisdom. But until then his story will continue on every single Wisdom album like a soap opera :). However, I have to mention that our albums are not concept albums, usually just one or two songs are about Wiseman’s life on a record. But the whole Wisdom life-work is a conception around the life of our mascot, Wiseman.
MD: Do you already have ideas for how his story will develop over time or haven’t you thought about the Wiseman’s future yet?
MÁTÉ: No, we never know how his story will continue. For example, after Judas, we didn’t know how to bring Wiseman out from the situation, where one of his betrayal followers, who was tempted by the devil, tries to kill him. By now we have the solution, but you have to wait for it until our next release :)
MD: You do what’s been billed as special ‘Keep Wiseman Alive’ gigs – what’s the idea behind those shows?
MÁTÉ: This is a regular Wisdom show in the capital of Hungary, usually in November or December, but always in the end of the year. Basically, back in 2005, we planned this show for one single concert, where we wanted to show the people what we are able to do by ourselves; built a huge scenery, used pyrotechnics and special show elements. But this show was so successful for the first time, that we decided to make it a regular show, where we can say “Thank you” for our fans who stood by Wisdom that year. That’s why we gave the name “Keep Wiseman Alive” for this show because if you come to see us, with this, you help us to stay alive in this pretty hard metal world. Luckily this show became quite famous during the years where a lot of fans celebrate together with us year by year.
MD: Do you have a desire for Wisdom to become a more theatrical band over time with some of the characters from the songs as actors on stage perhaps?
MÁTÉ: Yes, of course. We plan to make this show bigger and bigger, and if possible, sometime to bring this whole show to a tour. That’s not easy to do nowadays, but we are working on it. Back in the years, there were shows where Wiseman came up to the stage, but later we wanna complete it with other theatrical elements.
MD: Hypothetically, if you had an unlimited budget, what form would your stage shows ideally take?
MÁTÉ: I would mix these theatrical elements with special pyrotechnics but considering that this is a metal concert. It means that our concert wouldn’t be only a theatrical show; it would stay a great power metal show with as many theatrical elements that won’t kill the metal feeling of the audience.
MD: There was a period of inactivity for the band between 2008 and 2010 and it states in the bio on your website that you “were faced with some problems which were resolved in 2010.” What kind of problems were those?
MÁTÉ: In the end of 2007 we parted ways with our former singer. We couldn’t agree regarding the future. For a metal band, the change of the frontman is something like when the band has to start everything from the beginning. First we didn’t know that we will continue Wisdom, or not. Finally we started to look for a singer, but we decided until we don’t find our perfect frontman we won’t be back to the metal scene. And it took us 3 years to find NG.
MD: Were you worried that disappearing from the public eye for so long could have a damaging effect on the fanbase and momentum you’d already built up and did you find the fans stuck with you when you returned?
MÁTÉ: Yes, and it was what happened exactly in the first few months. But, luckily, our original fanbase was really great, and when we came out with the ‘Live Forevermore’ video, and with the ‘Judas’ album, they recognised that Wisdom with NG is not worse than Wisdom was before him and what is more, Wisdom is much better! So we gathered back our fanbase, and collected much more fans since then.
MD: Am I right in thinking Wisdom nearly ended up representing Hungary in the Eurovision Song Contest?
MÁTÉ: Yes, thank you for this question. Our debut album was a great success in Hungary, and that’s why we were nominated to the 5 performers where one of them was voted to the Eurovision finals. Unfortunately we finished only in second place, but we were really happy with that too. The winner was a pop musician with the whole Hungarian media behind her.
MD: If you had made it through to the Eurovision finals, would you have considered that great exposure for the band or do you think it could have had a negative impact participating in what’s essentially a pop music competition?
MÁTÉ: I think Lordi has shown the world how to play metal music on the Eurovision contest. If they could do this why couldn’t we do the same? We will never give up the music what we like for an ephemeral success.
MD: You had the privilege of opening for Iron Maiden in 2003 at a big stadium gig – what are your memories from that show now?
MÁTÉ: This is something like a heavy metal band is always dreaming about. We couldn’t believe it that time, and that’s great to recall that day. It was a huge stadium with thousands of people who were going mad. One of my greatest memories. I remember that I was standing on the right side of the stage in the front, when the intro of the ‘Number Of The Beast’ started. Adrian Smith came up to the stage and waited behind the curtains. He observed me and after some seconds he smiled at me and dropped his pick to me. I still have this pick in my safe. Few seconds later Bruce Dickinson arrived, and wanted to start the first lines of the song, but forgot to switch on his microphone. He smiled a bit to his technician and switched it on. It all happened a few steps from me.
MD: Finally, what selling point would you like to offer up to encourage people to check out Wisdom?
MÁTÉ: I don’t wanna persuade or force anybody to see us on tour or listen to our music. I hope that if we are really good sooner or later people will hear about Wisdom and they will decide to see us on stage or listen to our music. It seems, this is what happens on this tour with Sabaton and Eluveitie. That’s why we are here.
MD: Thanks very much indeed for your time and best of luck for the future.
MÁTÉ: Thanks, and cheers for every metal fan in the UK, hope to meet you soon!