Patrick Hemer discusses his new
album "The Writing's On The Wall" (Lion Music) with Andy Carey
Can you please tell us something about your background, like for instance your time with the German band Horizon.
Well, to make a long story short, Horizon was formed in 1998 around drummer Krissy Friedrich and me. We recorded a self-produced debut in 1999 that caught the attention of Kosta Zafiriou, who, at the time, was managing a lot of big German or Swiss bands like Helloween, Gotthard, Silent Force, Sinner, etc., and it is he who made us sign with Massacre Records. We worked with Massacre until I left the band in early 2006 for various reasons including the fact that I couldn’t get our albums produced the way I expected.
At that time, I felt the need to make a break with band life and so I turned to studio work and teaching. But, after a while, even though I loved what I was doing, I really needed to put together a new band to play my music, which eventually turned into a solo project to avoid having to live again some of the problems I had experienced with Horizon. Since then, I have been trying to intelligently combine this solo project with my teaching, studio activities, and various musical collaborations.
Have you always been singing as well as playing guitar or do you see yourself more as a guitar player?
I am a guitar player and a songwriter who can sing if the situation requires it. :D But I sure don’t consider myself a singer.
I sang in Horizon because I was the one who had sung on the demos, then had sung on our first recordings because we had no singer, and, since this seemed to suit everybody else, I ended up being the only one who still wanted to look for a singer so I could concentrate better on my guitar playing. Despite all this, at one point, we had finally found a singer who had even started recording the "Worlds Apart" album, but things did not go very well in the studio and the easy way was to ask me to re-record all the vocals with very little time to meet the deadlines... and keep the singer position.
As far as my solo project goes, I originally had planned to work with a singer and only be the guitar player, but finding the right person turned out to be much more complicated than what I expected, so, after a few tries and demos with a couple of guys, I finally preferred doing the lead vocals on “More Than Meets The Eye” rather than having to accept someone would change my melodies and write lyrics I couldn’t relate to.
Then, this became the way it was and, today, I enjoy the independence and autonomy that come from being able to sing, but I would be ready to give up all the vocal duties to someone else if I met someone talented and who shares my vision.
Who are your main influences both now and when you were first getting into music?
When I was a kid, I started taking piano lessons around 7 or 8 and I was living in a pretty musical environment, but I was not exposed to Rock music, and therefore, I was more into Pop songs and stuff I could hear on the radio or on TV.
I discovered Rock music trough classmates when I entered college, and when I heard Judas Priest, Van Halen and the likes, I knew this was what I wanted to do. I
was also a lot into Iron Maiden and AC/DC too, and those bands were my first big influences.
As a guitar player I was also influenced by Uli Jon Roth, Cacophony, Gary Moore, Michael Schenker and Yngwie to some extent, but also many many others. The list could be very long. Today, I still love listening to Marty Friedman, Jason Becker or Uli Roth, and therefore, the old influences remain. Then, of course, I also listen to things like Sons Of Apollo, the awesome Jeff Loomis, or Symphony X among others, but they’re not influences, just great musicians who set very high standards to keep up with.
The Writing's On The Wall (2019)
Do you come from a musical family or how did you end up as a musician?
Both my parents studied music and play an instrument even if neither of them ever was a professional musician. But they’ve always been into classical music exclusively and my attraction for electric guitar and Rock music was not really welcome... :D
The positive aspect of this is that I had someone at home to help me whenever I had questions about music theory, other than that, I know a lot of musicians coming from non-musical families whose parents were much more supportive than mine, if supportive at all.
Are there any chances you will bring your new excellent album ”The Writing*s on the Wall”on tour?
I would love to. For now we’re working at setting festival dates for the summer of 2020. Then, the possibility of a real tour will depend on how “The Writing’s On The Wall” will be received and the proposals that will result.
Are you still a member of any band(s) or are you mainly a solo artist these days?
I am no longer a member of any band today, except, of course, if you consider that Patrick Hemer is a also a band ... On the other hand, even if I am no longer into trying to find musicians to put together a new band from scratch, with a band name, a personal style, etc., I would be quite ready to join a band that would offer me something exciting.
Do you have any special goals with your new album?
My first goal was, as always, to make my best album ever. This one has been achieved. :D Then, I would like “The Writing’s On The Wall” to allow more and more people to enjoy my music and keep me doing what I do as long as possible.
Let's talk equipment a bit :-) what guitars do you prefer and why? How about amps?
I use Jackson guitars, Kellies for most. I’ve always been attracted by the Explorer- style shape but I also needed a guitar with a 24-fret neck, a Floyd Rose, easy access
to the upper frets and great craftsmanship, and the Kelly meets all these criteria. I use 6-string Kellies that are very close in specs to a standard KE-2, the only differences being the DiMarzio pickups and the custom electronics, and then I use 7- string models built by the Jackson Custom Shop and meant to be the exact 7-string version of my custom KE-2’s.
As far as amps go, I feel like Iv'e always used the same thing : Marshall JMP-1 preamps and 6100 power amps that I prefer to current EL34 models because the 6L6 tubes of the 6100 deliver a less creamy but more aggressive tone.
What is your favorite song off your new album as well as from everything you have released to date? And why?
Each song on “The Writing’s On The Wall” is my favorite, there is no filler on this album and I love all the tracks in the same way.
From my past solo releases, I always love to play “The Godfather”, “Edge Of Insanity” “Guilty” or “Firelight”, I have a special affection for “The End” and I’m really proud of the acoustic arrangement of “For All Eternity” on the “For All Eternity” EP.
Horizon’s “Always A Stranger” is a great song too and one of the first I ever recorded with a 7-string guitar.
Do you listen to and/or play music that is very different from your recordings, and if so, what?
I studied classical guitar for some time during my High School years because I wanted to expand my knowledge of the instrument, and I still play classical guitar once in a while. I also have an impressive classical CD’s collection ranging from Medieval Music to 20th century classical.
Then, I love the Blues. I’ve always listened to Blues or bluesy stuff : B.B. King, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Rory Gallagher, Gary Moore, etc. and I’m a sucker for a jam with a Blues band.
Finally, I’m more and more attracted to Fusion. I’m a long-time Frank Gambale fan, I listen to Allan Holdsworth or Scott Henderson and I find that Fusion and Jazz are the ultimate schools for improvisation. I’d love to import a little Fusion flavor into Metal- oriented music.
How do you feel about today’s music business with diminished CD sales and streaming more or less taking over?
Things have changed considerably and there will be no turning back, even if the return of vinyl shows that there are still music fans who need to hold and collect physical music.
Today, musicians and labels have to adapt to a totally new way of working, which may take time but will be done naturally.
The complicated side of all this is that we will first have to solve the two main problems which are piracy and the ridiculously low fees that some platforms pay to artists.
Piracy can not be completely eradicated without a global commitment of governments, which will probably never happen, so, on that matter, we’d better rely on a new anti-piracy technology that remains to be discovered.
Concerning the fees, it’s just a power game. Streaming platforms need the artists and the labels at least as much as artists and labels need them. Their power is therefore destined to decrease from the moment when all the big music suppliers will systematically negotiate their streaming fees.
What are your future plans?
I’d like to record a fully, or at least mostly, instrumental album. If there are a few songs with vocals, I’d like to sing only one or two of them and have the others sung by different singers. This would allow me to tour as an instrumental act and only focus on what I like the most : play the guitar.