-- Grave Digger gets shredded --

Stijn Daneels
The Black-Out Bash festival in Geraardsbergen has always given me fond memories ever since I visited its second edition back in 2014. Over the years I encountered both great Belgian (Bloodrocuted, Prematory, the Black Tartan Clan, etc.) and non-Belgian acts (Angelus Apatrida, Gamma Bomb, Evile, etc.) but during the festival’s fifth edition (November 4, 2017) I had the chance to sit down with Chris "Reaper" Boltendahl from Grave Digger! We talked about the band’s recent release and his love for his family and old-school metal. We also shared our thoughts regarding Manowar’s infamous “death to false metal” claim and we talked about olives. Yes, my friend, this was a fun shred! Come get healed by metal! Pictures by Jo De Boeck from Liveacts Belgium expect for the final photo.

BMS: Welcome to Geraardsbergen, Chris! I hope you’ve already had good time here.
Chris: Hello and thanks for the hospitality. The guys and I are looking forward to playing here tonight. It’s not often that we play in Belgium so we want to make this gig worth every penny.
BMS: All right! So, earlier this year you released your 18th studio album, Healed By Metal. How did the production go?
Chris: The album’s title is inspired by a show we did at the 2014 Moscow Metal Meeting. The festival took place near a hospital and I said to my tour manager: “I feel sad about the people in that hospital there, they must’ve gone mad with that metal music they’ve being forced to listen to for several days in row.” To which my manager responded: “See it on the bright side, they’re healed by metal!” That line stuck with me and so I decided to write a song about it and make it the title of the next Grave Digger release. As for the production, we once again produced the album at the Principal Studios in Senden, Germany as we had been doing ever since 1995’s Heart Of Darkness. We used the same production staff as usual so we didn’t change anything in terms of lineup. Neither did we change our song writing methods. Either Axel comes up with a riff and I write lyrics for it or the other way around. Business as usual and we like it that way as it’s well-optimized to our individual needs. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

BMS: I agree with that. You know, Chris, what I like about Grave Digger is how simple yet effective your music is. It isn’t overly technical nor does it use complex song structures. It’s straight-forward, anthem like heavy metal.
Chris: It’s mainly due to the fact that most of Grave Digger’s members were born in the 1960s and we all grew up listening to likes of Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and obviously the music you’ve listened to during your childhood and adolescence influences your own work. We as Grave Digger are fully aware of our strengths and therefore we know that we’re at our best when our music is simple and to the point. We don’t give in to music trends and have remained true to ourselves ever since the beginning all those years ago. When you put on a Grave Digger record you know what to expect and that’s what we’re aiming for. A full-blooded old-school heavy metal experience!
BMS: Do you sometimes listen to more recent bands as well?
Chris: Sometimes I do listen to newer bands via Spotify, but my heart and soul still belong to the older bands and that isn’t going to change.
BMS: Nor does it need to! You know, Chris, you’ve already released 18 albums with Grave Digger which is damn impressive! But tell me, how are you always able to come up with new inspiration?
Chris: It’s simple really, when you’re really passionate about something, which is metal in Grave Digger’s case, you can always find new ideas to turn into songs. The guys and me are already working on the next album. Yes, you’ve heard me correctly! There will be another Grave Digger album coming and if everything goes according to plan, we’ll unleash it to the world in September 2018!
BMS: That’s awesome news! Now, in preparation for this interview I saw a statement you made in 2014 about Manowar and how you don’t believe in what they call “false metal.” Tell me more about it.
Chris: Personally I think that Joey DeMaio is more driven by money and fame rather than true passion for the metal music and culture. He reminds of the Münchhausen syndrome, which is a psychological condition wherein the patient makes up injuries and complaints in order to attract sympathy and attention. That’s exactly what Joey does, he makes people believe that true metal is under attack by false metal and that we should be defending the true metal by supporting Manowar. But to be fair, I don’t believe in false metal. There are so many subgenres of rock and metal music and they all deserve to be respected and to be listened to no matter how true or false they may be according to some people. Life’s too short to whine about the things you don’t like, let people enjoy what they want to enjoy and focus yourself on listening to what you want to listen to.

BMS: A beautiful statement, Chris. Now, you’re a hard working and touring band but I’d like to know if it’s easy for you to find a balance between Grave Digger and your life as a family man.
Chris: My wife and I have been together for 28 years so we’re used to the fact that I’m not always around. Plus my 11-year son is a huge fan of Grave Digger and he always begs me to come with me to our shows and see me on stage! Of course that’s not always possible but this year we went to Wacken Open Air together and he loved it! And I promised him to bring him to another festival next year. I love my family very much for being on my side for all those years!
BMS: Have you been to Greece lately, Chris? I heard you love that country.
Chris: Yes I do, I frequently go on vacation in Greece with my family, although the last time I played there as Grave Digger was in 2014. The financial crisis tore the country apart therefore few people can afford to buy concert tickets. I really hope we’ll be able to play there again soon.
BMS: You know, I visited Greece as well in 2008 in the form of a high school road trip. And I particularly remember a friend of mine who managed to convince me into eating raw olives.
Chris: Let me guess, you didn’t like the taste?
BMS: Good guess, Chris. I needed five Mentos gums to get the horrible sour taste from my mouth! Best April Fool’s Joke I’ve ever had!
Chris: Ha, ha, ha! Yeah, never eat raw olives, my friend, they taste terribly. I personally do like eating olives but of course only the seasoned ones!
BMS: All right. Now it’s time for a cheesy question. Since you’ve been consistently around since 1980 and went on numerous tours all around the world I consider you to be a very successful band. So what advice could you give to up and coming acts?
Chris: Believe in yourself and be passionate about what you do as a band! It’s that simple, don’t go around copying other successful acts because people will see right through that phony bravado! A good band is a passionate band, they show determination, confidence and consistent dedication to their craft.
BMS: Well said, Chris! Is there anything else you wish to share with the group before we take the picture?
Chris: Thanks for the friendly shred! I’m grateful to be part of this great festival and the boys and I are looking forward to give this place a heavy metal breakdown!

Grave Digger - Heavy Metal Breakdown