Interview – Nic Maeder of Gotthard


When one thinks of Switzerland chances are the first things that come to mind is amazing chocolate and their exquisite time pieces, but not Rock-n-Roll. Squashing that notion, for over two decades Hard Rock band Gotthard has become one of the country’s best selling acts ever. Building a name around the European market, known for a distinctive Heavy Rock styling, the band was struck with tragic in 2010 when founding vocalist Steve Lee was lost in a motorcycle accident. Hitting the band of brothers hard, they recollected themselves and recruit Nic Maeder to carry on vocal duties and lead them forward. Now three years and two albums since Maeder has joined the fold, Gotthard continue to progress, while still holding strong grip as Rock leaders. Recently, we sat down with Nic Maeder for a personal look at his joining the band, their new album Bang!, the band’s growth, and much more. – Gotthard has been together now for over two decades.  In that time they have had platinum selling albums all over the world and has been one of the most successful Swiss bands of all-time.  You joined up with the band in 2011.  What has the ride been like for you thus far?

Nic Maeder – It has been a pretty crazy ride actually.  Obviously, under the circumstances I had joined, it was a pretty stressful time.  We had a lot to do, we had to make a new album and tour.  We toured twenty different countries and made an album all within that same year.  The beginnings were really tough and hard for everyone.  I suppose, in a lot of ways, it was good that we had so much work and stress, that we sort of did not think too much.  We just put our head down and moved forward, which the band really needed to do at the time.  It has been a few years now with the band, and the second album, we had a lot more time to do it.  We knew each other musically better and it allowed us to experiment more, and experiment with my voice.  We wrote these new songs for my voice.  It was a little bit different the first time around.  We just sort of jumped it and did it as fast as we could.  I think things have settled into a routine, for the lack of a better word.

Nuclear Blast – Right, now we all know of the tragic passing of Steve Lee in 2010. When the band contacted you to become the new lead singer, was it at all overwhelming? How did you feel about it all?

Nic Maeder – The process took quite a while, there was eight months of audition.  The first day they actually heard my voice, they had about four hundred and sixty auditions.  There were a lot of people that tried out and we pretty much did the same thing.  We sang a catalogue of their own old songs where we had to record our voice onto it.  I was living in Australia at the time, in that year I went three times to Switzerland which is a twenty-six hour flight (laughs).  We were all very comfortable at that stage.  One thing we did, part of the audition process, we wrote some songs together.  We actually wrote four songs that ended up on the first album.  By the time I got the job, it almost felt like I was in the band a while.  They called me over the phone in a conference call to tell me.  It was a big party night for me that night (laughs). – That is a very interesting story.  Since that time, you have be part of two writing and recording processes with the band.  The most recent album, Bang!, was released July 8th in North America.  What was the writing and recording process like for this new album?

Nic Maeder – It was pretty much the same way as the one we did prior.  Basically, with the two guitars and myself, we got together and wrote the music together.  Once we were all happy with all that, I went off and did the lyrics.  The real big difference with this album was the fact that we did not feel as much pressure.  I know a lot of people say the second one is harder than the first.  I think in this instance it was easier because the fact that we had more time to really try and experiment.  Experiment with my voice as well, playing around with the lower range.  Just really working until we were really happy with everything.  We had the luxury as well that Leo has a studio at his house, so we were not really restricted with time too much where we had to get out there really quickly with another band coming in.  It was a really good experience. – It sounds like it was a little more of a relaxed experience.  When things are a little more relaxed, that allows creative juices to flow some more.  The record is full of great guitars and some really great vocal work by yourself.  Did you have a new level of comfort this time around considering you have been working with the band three years now?

Nic Maeder – I think it is like you said, you can really hear it is much more relaxed.  It is a good evolution from the previous record.  It still works well within the band’s style.  We are really happy with the album.

The End Records
The End Records – As you should be.  The record definitely has a variety of sounds and styles in it.  It would be difficult to say one song defines the entire album.  Was the band going for that diverse sound?

Nic Maeder – We were not specifically going for that. We just went in and tried to write as many good songs as we could.  It just kind of happened that way.  The three of us have different tastes as well, all three of us are bringing in different songs.  It is one of those things that it is a fantastic band to be in if you a songwriter, it allows for that, you can make a really simple ballad, and the next day a really heavy Rock song.  We throw in some different instruments as well, we have some accordion on one of the songs.  It seems to be there are not too many rules, but still somehow we are keeping with the style and the Gotthard sound. – Yes, Bang! is a very fun record for sure.  Now, Gotthard has had a great deal of success in Europe as mentioned.  What do you think has been the key to the band’s success and why do you think perhaps it has not caught on as strongly in the North American market over the years?

Nic Maeder –  That is always a hard question to answer.  They always say with the music industry, you can never predict anything.  The guys have been playing for so long, consistently making albums, and building up a really good fan base.  The band is really close to the fans as well.  I refer it to the Gotthard family, and it really is that way.  I think building up a real fan base with real people, it is probably the way the band is selling actual physical records.  It is the same fans who the band has had for over twenty years, and they are still here.  It is hard to tell why the band really never pushed toward America that much.  It is a hard question to answer.

BMG – That is understandable. Sometimes it has to do with marketing in the country. Sometimes with a band, they concentrate so hard on touring the European market and touring cycles come and go.

Nic Maeder – Yes, absolutely.  I know that the record company the band had for the first ten years, they were not very interested in pushing the band over to America.  When you are in that situation it makes it really hard.

Nuclear Blast
Nuclear Blast
Nuclear Blast
Nuclear Blast – You are absolutely right.  Seeing that the band has more of a traditional Rock sound and has steered clear of trends of modern Hard Rock, in your opinion, what do you think of the current Hard Rock scene and do you feel audiences are yearning for a return to roots like Gotthard has?

Nic Maeder – I think it never goes away.  The classic Rock a lot of bands are playing around with it, it seems trendy all the time.  There are some great young bands like The Answer or Rival Sons.  There are still a lot of young guys who are going out and playing the classic sound.  I do not think it will ever go away really. – That is true.  Classic sounds always seem to find a way to survive.  What are some of your musical influences?

Nic Maeder – I grew up with AC/DC.  I was eleven years old and heard “Hells Bells” on the radio, that was it for me (laughs).  I became a hardcore AC/DC fan overnight and kind of never stopped, still am now.  That is really my big influence.

Atlantic Records
Atlantic Records – They are obviously a legendary band which has influenced a lot of Rock-n-Roll.  My last question for you is pertaining to movies. covers music and Horror films.  If you are a fan of Horror films, what are some of your favorite Horror films?

Nic Maeder – I used to be a big fan of Horror films.  I would have to say the original Evil Dead (1981) would have to top the list, that and the original Exorcist (1973).  I must have seen the original Evil Dead one hundred times.

Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.
New Line Cinema
New Line Cinema – Two classic Horror films.  You said you used to be a big fan.  What do you think of the modern Horror.  There have been a lot of remakes of late.  What is your opinion of the remakes?

Nic Maeder – To be honest, I have not really been into the Horror thing for years. When I was younger we used to go down to the video store, I think I saw pretty much every single Horror movie in the 1980s.  I kind of stopped after a while, but I saw The Ring (2002) and Saw series, which are really cool and good as well.  I am not as much a fan of it as I was.  I suppose maybe the Horror films back then were too outrageous and nowadays it is a bit more serious.

Tour Dates:
Nov 07 Essigfabrik Cologne, Germany
Nov 08 Turbinenhalle Oberhausen, Germany
Nov 09 Neue Stadthalle Langen (Cuxhaven), Germany
Nov 11 Rockfabrik Nurnberg, Germany
Nov 12 Posthalle Würzburg, Germany
Nov 14 Bank Austria Halle Gasometer Vienna, Austria
Nov 15 Allgäuer Hallenkartbahn GmbH Kaufbeuren, Germany
Nov 16 Gemeindesaal Kundl Kundl, Austria
Nov 20 Tonhalle Munich, Germany
Nov 21 Stadthalle Chur, Switzerland
Nov 22 Westhalle Langenthal, Switzerland
Nov 26 Eishalle Winterthur, Switzerland
Nov 28 Waldmannhalle Baar, Switzerland
Nov 29 Patinoire du Littoral Neuchatel, Switzerland
Dec 02 TEATRO FLORES Buenos Aires, Argentina *
Dec 04 Polideportivo del Club Olimpia Asuncion, Paraguay *
Dec 06 Opinião Porto Alegre, Brazil *
Dec 07 Audio SP Sao Paulo, Brazil *
Dec 08 Music Hall Carlos Prates, Brazil *
Dec 10 Teatro Caupolican Santiago, Chile *
Dec 13 Circo Volador w/ Edguy, HammerFall Mexico City, Mexico
Dec 20 Knock Out Festival Karlsruhe, Germany
* w/ Edguy & Hammerfall


Read the review of Bang!:

gotthard album cover

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