Guitarist Hank Shermann has long been a powerful creative force in Heavy Metal music. For years he combined efforts with King Diamond in Mercyful Fate and brought a sense of horror and evil to the front for Metal fans worldwide. Now, working with long time collaborator Michael Denner he has formed Force Of Evil. This no nonsense act is sure to please all fans of his work. Currently their release “Black Empire” (the second CD by the group) is receiving critical acclaim and a tour is being discussed. Hank took the time to answer a number of questions and we present them to you now.
PIERCINGMETAL: Hank it is great to get the chance to talk to you about your newest band “Force Of Evil”. The first CD was a very exciting and heavy piece of music. Now with “Black Empire” being released tell me about the response you have been getting from the followers you have had over the years.
HANK SHERMANN: Everyone seems to “dig” the new piece of music, which of course makes everyone in the proud. We always do our best at the moment of recording, so positive feedback is a nice reward.
PIERCINGMETAL: I wondered that with the group having so many members of Mercyful Fate, why did you not just keep the band as Fate instead of the new name? After all you will be playing some Mercyful Fate tunes in your set I can imagine.
HANK SHERMANN: Mercyful Fate cannot exist without King Diamond or I so would be impossible anyway, but sure we are all kind of connected to that group. But for me this is basically starting from scratch and then builds up the band, like we did with Mercyful Fate way back.
PIERCINGMETAL: Your Partnership with Michael Denner is admirable, what is it like playing with him after all these years.
HANK SHERMANN: I would describe it as being the same feel as when we started, a good friendship also makes it very smooth and family like… On top Michael is one of the rare breed of guitar players, who masters the melody phrasing with such an emotion and sound that you rarely hear nowadays.
PIERCINGMETAL: How did you come about choosing Martin Steen as the vocalist? He is very good, but holds a different style from that of his predecessor. Was this the original plan?
HANK SHERMANN: The “plan” was to find a singer with a unique tone and the ability to go for high pitched screams when needed. So we picked up this CD of the 1st Ironfire called “Thunderstorm” and instantly heard his very personal tone and high pitched vocals. So here was a potential young singer who just needed a little help from the experienced guys ha ha…and on BLACK EMPIRE he surely shows his development….Much more to come, I’m sure…
PIERCINGMETAL: The 1st CD was excellent, was there a long writing process involved in the piece, and from disc, what are your very favorite numbers.
HANK SHERMANN: It went really fast after we had the first band meeting with everyone on October 28th 2002, then we did our first demo in early December 2002 and by last week of March 2003 we began the basic recordings… So this was a pretty smooth and fast ”writing” process , helped by the excitement being a brand new band. My faves from the 1st would be “Eye Of The Storm” and “The Calling” in my mind classic pieces of metal , with all the elements and highlights a Metal song should have.
PIERCINGMETAL: Was any of this material supposed to be Fate stuff or was it always in your mind to have a new group that addressed different flavors in metal.
HANK SHERMANN: All the material on the 1st was composed from scratch but some of the songs/riffs obviously would fit with ease in Mercyful Fate. I have many tapes and disc with riff and ideas dating back as early as Mercyful Fate 1983 days, but I just have a tendency to always work on new stuff. I might start to go back and pick up an “original” riff from ´84 ha ha..
PIERCINGMETAL: I recently got to see and review the live concert DVD “Evil Comes Alive” and found it very enjoyable. I am wondering what made you release this DVD so soon after the first CD came out. For that matter a filming of the bands second performance ever, this all seems unlikely behavior. Tell us about it.
HANK SHERMANN: We were asked by the company if we wanted to do a DVD while playing together with Candlemass and Trouble and of course we said “yes”. Also it’s cool to be able to follow the band from the very beginning. I think 4 or 5 years from now, this DVD release is very exceptional, you know – second performance… I would love myself to get hold of Judas Priest 2nd show ever .he he..
PIERCINGMETAL: I found it interesting that the first performance was in Cleveland USA rather than your native Denmark. What brought that about?
HANK SHERMANN: . It was Marc Gromen who had read about FOE somewhere and contacted us via Email. Asked us to join the Festival. This was very exciting for us to start like this. Very good motivation.
PIERCINGMETAL: Thinking Denmark for a second, what is the general reaction from your Countrymen on the group has it been receptive or indifferent.
HANK SHERMANN: Denmark is a small country regarding the Metal scene , and like with Mercyful Fate , we end up outside our own country…But we are working at getting it to people’s attention , by doing some selected shows in Copenhagen.. It’s always special to play your hometown.
PIERCINGMETAL: Regarding touring. Now with “Black Empire” hitting the shelves is a return to the States imminent, or do you find it problematic getting here based on all the security initiatives?
HANK SHERMANN: We are working on setting-up a US mini tour or as support for another act, later this year. It seems like the US is very positive and open towards FOE. And the States is my ultimate favorite place to play….the best.
PIERCINGMETAL: Have you decided to do some sort of shared bill with this group or is the chance to headline already available to you?
HANK SHERMANN: No we have to work ourselves up the ladder , so it would be very good for Force of Evil to get in front of a more established band…And being also original guitar player from Mercyful Fate and King Diamond is certainly not enough , you need to show the band live for people to get credit and earn your position !!
PIERCINGMETAL: Will the band hit some of the larger Europe festivals anytime soon. If so which ones?
HANK SHERMANN: We are playing “Sweden Rock Festival” on June 9th and July 22nd we will enter the stage at the “Earthshaker Fest 2005”. Then we have a concert in Copenhagen early August that’s what’s at hand right now….But our booking agency is working on getting us out on the road.
PIERCINGMETAL: When you watch the live DVD, you see that the stage setting for the group appeared to be mainly a backdrop of the logo. A very understated setting. Will future shows see anything a little more elaborate?
HANK SHERMANN: We were the opening band so a back-drop was a good way to feature in the DVD and for people to know who is playing ha ha …..But we have our light tech doing some suggestions for a show , in order to progress our stage appearance….I think we will use some elements from the BLACK EMPIRE cover…we will see…But nothing like a King Diamond show though..
PIERCINGMETAL: Let’s talk about “Black Empire” for a moment. Was this an easy album to complete? I mean in the sense that the group just did the debut, and DVD, so I was wondering if you were on a creative blitz or you had left over stuff from the first CD.
HANK SHERMANN: I am always on a creative blitz so to speak , I can’t help it…but it needs to peak at the right moment… We did 20 songs which all are up to the level. From there we voted for 12 songs and ended up with Black Empire. The other the other 8 songs we will likely use selected riffs and vocal lines for the next output. Yet like I said I always try to go for the newer stuff but am very aware that “too good” riffs or songs are not forgotten. We don’t have any plans so far in a new recording but would like to keep the “one a year” schedule. Just like it used to be 🙂
PIERCINGMETAL: What made you focus on the horror aspect for this? Will we see some interesting videos from this using these ideas?
HANK SHERMANN: It was Martins love for this theme as it is also his private hobby. He collects videos of horror……So he started out with some lyrics inspired and based on one of these movies , and from here he did another and then another,,,so we realized it was kind of a pattern going on here , so that’s when the main idea was to have as a theme for Black Empire.
PIERCINGMETAL: Mercyful Fate. How long before we see a tour or new release from the original lineup? Or is Fate on a complete hold since Diamond is so busy and now you will be as much with the Force Of Evil.
HANK SHERMANN: As for now it is on hold but we have not disbanded and we still have another record in the contract…so who knows…I think it will surface very natural again sometime. But for now King is putting his focus on King Diamond and myself the focus is on Force Of Evil. Since KD and FOE both are playing MF songs then the candle is still lit :-9
PIERCINGMETAL: Are you in contact with King Diamond all that much?
HANK SHERMANN: We are now and then doing a phoner or some having some email connection…and since there is an upcoming Mercyful Fate DVD release of the early material we of course work together on that.
PIERCINGMETAL: As someone who has been in the music industry for over 20 years, what is your take on the current state of heavy metal music? We see big guns like Priest reuniting, Iron Maiden and Ozzy still holding on. I was curious for some of your input on this.
HANK SHERMANN: It’s amazing that the Giants from the 80s still are the giants regarding “classic metal” that’s something. It could be that the songwriting is not as strong as it was it the 80’s. Priest, Maiden and so on has so much to offer regarding good songs…But suddenly we will see a new Halford or Tate , maybe even a new Van Halen/Schenker or likewise. And the Metal has also become so broad and diverse spanning from extreme Death Metal to Melodic Metal. It’s a very saturated market…But you know , the good stuff will always surface at some point. The commercial market is also a completely different game than it used to be.. Positive thing is that bands now can have an open window to the world in form of a website…very good indeed.
PIERCINGMETAL: There is so much talk of the “new metal” sound which does not have the wonderful guitar breaks we are all so familiar with. What is your take on this, and honestly do you think it will hold up over time?
HANK SHERMANN: I am coming from the 70s metal started by Judas Priest so that’s my “fave” style. But the new is very aggressive and brutal sometimes, which I fully understand and am impressed about. But I have a hard time listening to a band if there is absolutely no melody in there. Yet the youth seem to love it as that’s their thing. The very best will likely hold up over time but there will be tons just fading away as well I’m sure.
PIERCINGMETAL: This is a two part question because I want to see on each side of the ocean who you like the best. From the crop of recent bands, who stands out in your eyes, who has the potential to do this as long as you have? I am speaking for the Europe scene and the American scene.
HANK SHERMANN: Wow, thorough question. I have a hard time finding a band with the qualities. To me bands like let’s say Primal Fear or Hammerfall are just a clone of something that has already been there, with respect of both bands though. Today there are so many brilliant singers and musicians but I don’t see or hear a new original “Judas Priest” coming anytime soon here in Europe. For the USA its bands like Slipknot and so on that kind of dominate the “sales” but for classic metal I’m not too sure either. In the 90s I think Pantera really did some reinvention of metal and they had the stuff. Unfortunately this was ended by a freak. But I have to pass with any other names since I’m too old and have been around too long and as result can easily hear where all the new bands are getting it from. So then I prefer the originals…But hey there are so many good bands out there. I’m just glad that Judas Priest is STILL leading the pack , since they are my favorite.
PIERCINGMETAL: Who are you surprised is still playing and touring?
HANK SHERMANN: I’m thrilled of all those band from the 80s and some from 70s keeps reforming their
band , it’s like being in the good old days again…I love it …But in order to do it , then you must prove and show that you still have a “flame” and are capable of writing “up to level” material…otherwise its turning it to “a sad” thing…But if it makes a lot of people happy that’s fine too I guess , but u need to take care of yourself though…not to end like a “has been” or a joke….
PIERCINGMETAL: Who inspired Hank Shermann, what do you listen to for your peace of mind or inspiration.
HANK SHERMANN: I got into music in school where Black Sabbath and Deep Purple were played at the parties. Later I got hooked on KISS , and that inspired me to pick up the guitar. I bought my very 1st Les Paul copy in March 1977. I wanted to play like Ace…..then late 70s I discovered Judas Priest , my god that hit me , and they have been a great inspiration in my songwriting in the early days ,and also now , but now it’s just a part of me. Then Michael Schenker and Uli Jon Roth surfaced in my life and even to this very day I still feel they are “the gods” from what they did in their early works. So naturally I was trying to copy some of their style but don’t have that talent from “outer space” you know ha ha
When I work on my Mac I have iTunes filled with “feel good” songs. It could be “Operation: Mindcrime” by Queensryche or Sabbath , Priest but also tons of ABBA which I really dig. They had superior songwriting as did Heart (70’s). Some Van Halen and even some Tom Jones tunes (he could have been a great Heavy Rock vocalist and completely run Dio off the stage ha ha)
…So in general not 100 % metal. I save that craving for when I pick up my guitar….
PIERCINGMETAL: Tell us about the website, are you heavily involved in getting it put together?
HANK SHERMANN: I was the one who did the idea and design , then we had a webmaster putting it all together…But now I’m running it myself , since it’s convenient and very effective. So I got into it so much that sometimes late June or so I will be launching my own website (www.hankshermann.com) which I have build up from the ground.. It will contain a lot of music from all of my music career, mp3 files as well as very rare photos even from early, early Mercyful Fate time. And then my work as a photographer as well, lots of good looking models. So all in all, “Metal and Models”.
PIERCINGMETAL: Hey that already works for me and I am sure the fans will love it. Any closing comments for Readers?
HANK SHERMANN: I really hope to arrive with Force of Evil in the States later this year. Keep it Metal until then Thanks a lot for the support.
PIERCINGMETAL: Hank thanks so much for your time, I look forward to seeing the Force Of Evil live here in the USA as you predict (New York in particular) . Readers, make sure you check out the CD and DVD, as you will not be disappointed.
Official Website: http://www.hankshermann.com