Having recently released their 5th album „Mystoria“, which leads Englands AMPLIFIER on the solid road to a more straight rock direction, there’s a lot to talk about with Amplifier-head Sel Balamir. A few hours before entering the Luxor stage in Cologne, where they convinced with an energy driven high decibel show, entertaim.net had the chance to interview Mr. Balamir. Cologne – his favourite city in Germany, as he asserted during the gig …
Interview: Martin Hannig / photo by courtesy of Pirate Smile, (c) by Sam Ryley
Sel: I really like coming to Cologne! Today I just went down to the park to sit and watch people. The turkish and german old men playing boule, and the african guys playing football. (laughs)
entertaim.net: Yes, this part of town is like a melting pot….
Sel: Yeah it’s nice just sitting in the park you know. A peaceful city.
entertaim.net: How did your tour go so far, people are coming to the shows?
Sel: Yes absolutely. It’s interesting touring this album, it’s much more of a rock show, which I really enjoy. It’s quite physical, and I’m much more tired than on the other shows. We play a lot more physical, I just end up and always pace myself, running around…. But that’s what we want! We’re not getting any younger (laughs).
entertaim.net: It’s a good way to keep the energy high….
Sel: … yeah and I like the record for that, reminds me of when life was kind of a bit simpler.
entertaim.net: To me “Mystoria” is more of a rock n roll album –I never thought I would relate Amplifier to that expression “rock n roll”. More positive rock vibes, that’s what I’m meaning….
Sel: Absolutely! You know we really wanted to simplify our lives. When you get older life becomes really complicated – you know family, relationships… When you got all that stuff going on and you play music, it makes sense to me to do it that way.
entertaim.net: So did your change your approach to your music in a way?
Sel: I think yeah. “Echo Street “ was kind of emotional record, “The Octopus” was quite an intellectual record, so we wanted to do a record which was more straight. And we wanted to celebrate the electric guitar! I mean AMPLIFIER was always about electric guitars, but I think about the spirit of rock you know. Like the way records used to make me feel when I was a kid – listen to AC/DC or QUEEN or VAN HALEN. I mean we brought out “Echo Street”, which is a great record, and than looking at people like STEVE WILSON, I mean he’s a great musician! – but I just felt that we need to hold on to the spirit of rock music….
entertaim.net: Did the whole band went this way?
Sel: Oh yeah! You know we like going for a beer, we like listening to MOTÖRHEAD or SLAYER….
entertaim.net: On “Mystoria” there’s that happy song, like we never heard from Amplifier, “Cats Cradle”.
Sel: Yes it’s a happy song! Like the whole record: it’s just makes me feel good! That’s all the record’s supposed to do. It doesn’t have any big narrative, any big story. A very humble record. The only thing it’s designed to do is make you feel good 45 minutes. That’s it! “Cats Cradle” makes me happy! Some people doesn’t like it cause it’s kind of …
entertaim.net:… pop, ska…
I make music because I’m living!
Sel: Yeah! You know, lots of people in rock like listening to things like MADNESS, SPECIALS… You don’t have to justify music. That’s not the reason why I make music. I make music because I’m living. I don’t really think about it anymore than I just sit around with my friends and make music. If we make it, we make it. I don’t think: oh people are not gonna accept this… (laughs)
entertaim.net: “Named After Rocky” is one of the songs 2014 for me. It has these Amplifier guitars, but also a special feeling like on an old space rock Monster Magnet song. Your voice and your singing on that sounds very well. How many takes did it needed to sing it like that?
Sel: Oh no, the whole approach to the vocals is completely different. I haven’t any grand kind of vision you know (laughs). It’s much easier for me to perform this record. “Named After Rocky” is a good example. It’s easy for me to sing that. It has got a very definite style of delivery. I didn’t spent a lot of time doing the vocals on the record, to be honest – in comparison with the other ones. It just has a lot to do with us getting to the basics. We didn’t want this record to be a high-maintenance record.
entertaim.net: Well I still wonder about the fantastic vocals, and melody lines, like on “Bride”….
Sel: On this record we all sang lines, that was kind of a difference. When you’re all singing together, it is more fun! We kind of stand around one microphone, you know, and you absolutely feel that!
entertaim.net: Let’s look on the business side. I guess since beginning of rock n roll, it was always about doing a recording, and then go on tour to promote it. It is still the best way to keep a band running financially?
Sel: I guess it’s the predictional rock and roll way. It’s two main elements of our income. Touring obviously can’t do it all the time, unless you travelling all around the world. But we can’t much leaving Europe. But at the moment we are much more interested in making records, because we write records very quickly at the moment. That isn’t always! I think the next couple of years we just carry on makin’ records. I think by that point our back catalogue will be pretty.
entertaim.net: I recently attended a panel about the live music industry. And they said it’s getting more and more competitive to play live, cause everybody wants to play or has to play live.
Sel: Oh yeah. And there’s more and more bands and fewer places to play.
entertaim.net: Would you confirm that in the last decade it has been getting harder to find places to play or some promoters….
Sel: I don’t know. If you really think about it, it would be too worrying. I’m just the guy playing music you know. In the end we love playing shows, and there’s always someone who wants us to play, no problem! We play until we have enough, then we see if we record a next album. You know I’m looking forward to making another record now! We got some new songs already, and I might write some more new songs.
entertaim.net: We have a little Q&A thing running on our site. I give you 2 words or expressions, and you tell me what you like more.
Sel: ok fine!
entertaim.net: Country or city?
Sel: Country. Because I live in the city.
entertaim.net: Autumn or spring?
entertaim.net: United or divided Kingdom?
Sel: (thinks a few seconds): You know it.
entertaim.net: no… what’s your opinion about the scots independence movement?
Sel: A very very complicated thing. You can’t say yes or no. It’s not possible, it’s a stupid question.
entertaim.net: Thank you!
entertaim.net: Stones or Beatles?
entertaim.net: Lennon or McCartney?
Sel: (needs time to think): mmhhh…. They are two different types of people. I like John Lennons artistic sensibility, but he was a bastard. Paul McCartney is kind of lighter in artistic way… but Paul McCartney is just Paul McCartney! He still makes great records! The Fireman was really great!
There’s no razzmatazz with Lemmy….
entertaim.net: Lemmy or Ozzy?
Sel: Lemmy! Because there’s no razzmatazz with Lemmy. I love Ozzy, everyone loves him. But he’s a bit of a clown. Lemmy is quite human, he’s a character.
entertaim.net: Last one: Bon Scott or Brian Johnson?
Sel: Bon Scott. (thinks) But Brian Johnson too (laughs). Here again: they’re different.
entertaim.net: Did you hear the rumours and news about Malcolm being very ill and cannot play anymore?
Sel: Yeah, very very sad! I mean he WAS the band. Absolutely! He writes the songs…. Angus – you know Angus comes in. He’s the cherry on the top of the cake! But he’s not the cake for sure! — Well, I love Bon Scott cause he’s a real character. He’s like a stereotype – of the hard drinking fast living… Brian was completely different, he had to fill in his shoes you know. Imagine you have to go fill in his shoes…. and do Back in Black!! I mean imagine that – what a triumph that was! Out of that disaster. A lot of respect for Brian. And his voice is every bit as unique as Bon Scotts…