INTERVIEW WITH THOMAS WINKLER OF GLORYHAMMER
Date: October 16, 2015
Reviewer: Greg Troyan of Lipstick
POWER METAL BANDS OFTEN SING ABOUT SLAYING DRAGONS AND BATTLING WIZARDS, SOMETIMES WITH THE TONGUE FIRMLY IN CHEEK, AND SOMETIMES PERHAPS A LITTLE BIT TOO SERIOUSLY. GLORYHAMMER, A PROJECT LED BY CHRISTOPHER BOWES OF ALESTORM, HAS GREAT COMEDIC SENSIBILITIES WITH SONGS ABOUT BATTLING ZOMBIE UNICORNS, BUT THE MUSIC IS NO JOKE, AS IT IS WELL CRAFTED, CATCHY POWER METAL. THE VOICE OF GLORYHAMMER IS THOMAS WINKLER, A FRONTMAN WITH A POWERFUL VOICE AND A BADASS SUIT OF GREEN ARMOR THAT HE ADORNS FOR SHOWS. I GOT TO SPEAK WITH WINKLER ABOUT THE LATEST GLORYHAMMER ALBUM, ‘SPACE 1992: RISE OF THE CHAOS WIZARDS.’ IT WAS A TRUE PLEASURE TALKING TO A FRONTMAN WHO UNDERSTANDS THE IMPORTANCE OF BOTH MUSICALITY AND THEATRICALITY, THIS IS GREG TROYAN OF LIPSTICK REPORTING FOR SLEAZE ROXX.
Sleaze Roxx: So, I want to start off by asking about the “characters” in the band. Gloryhammer is a very theatrical band, where all the bandmembers wear outfits onstage and represent characters in the ongoing musical story that Gloryhammer tells, so I want to ask you who represents who in the Gloryhammer saga.
Thomas Winkler: Well, of course, we have the evil wizard Zargothrax, the main antagonist of the story, and he’s played by Christopher Bowes (keyboards) of Alestorm. Then we have James Cartwright (bass) playing the barbarian warrior of Unst. Well, he used to be the barbarian warrior of Unst, but now he’s the barbarian warrior of California, because he went Hollywood and became the Hollywood Hootsman on the second album. Then we have Paul Templing (guitar) playing Sir Proletius, who used to be the Grand Master of the Knights of Crail, which is a little small town in Scotland, but of course one thousand years later, he died and he lives on through a hologram, so he’s a hologram knight now. Then we also have Ben Turk (drums) playing the mysterious space hermit of the Cowdenbeath sector. Nobody really knows whether or not he’s evil or good yet, and I think we’ll find out in the next album, maybe. And then we have me, playing Prince Angus McFife. I’m the good guy, obviously. I play Angus McFife on the first album, and I play his descendant on the new album, so I’m a successor of myself, actually. I’m Angus McFife XIII now.
Sleaze Roxx: So, you’ve got the main hero and the main villain onstage together at the same time. Are you guys battling onstage at all?
Thomas Winkler: We’re actually doing that sometimes. We can’t do it all the time, of course, but we have some scenes where we fight each other, especially at the end of a show. I’m not quite sure if we’ll do the same thing on the next tour with Stratovarius, because it’s a different story, so we’ll probably have some new stuff going on onstage.
Sleaze Roxx: So, I want to go through the story of the albums so that people who may not know it can better follow along on the tale. So, what happened, plot-wise, on the first Gloryhammer album, ‘Tales from the Kingdom of Fife?’
Thomas Winkler: There was the attack of the undead unicorns on the city of Dundee, which is part of the kingdom of Fife in Scotland. Those undead unicorns were made evil by the evil sorcerer Zargothrax, who took the beautiful princess Iona McDougall to his castle. It was up to Angus McFife to free the beautiful princess and save the city of Dundee. At the end of the album, Angus threw the wizard into liquid ice, who was then sealed away for a thousand years. And then, a thousand years later, in the year 1992 (the new album), war has returned to the galaxy. This is where the chaos wizards free the wizard Zargothrax, who doesn’t want to merely fight Earth, but the whole galaxy and universe. And for this purpose, he goes to another dimension where there is a goblin king, and he has to get a crystal to unlock a chaos portal beneath Dundee. And from this chaos portal, there is ancient demon who wants to destroy the whole universe. And, of course, we have to try to avoid that.
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs] Man, that is so freaking awesome.
Thomas Winkler: But yeah, that’s the story. Basically.
Sleaze Roxx: So, I noticed you guys seem to have a bit more of a sense of humor than a lot of other power metal acts, with things like undead unicorns and the like. You guys seem to have the tongue placed firmly in cheek. Is the sense of humor an intentional thing, or are you guys just making it so over-the-top it may come off as silly but you don’t care?
Thomas Winkler: Well, you know, if you know Christopher Bowes from Alestorm, you know what will happen next [laughs]. The band was founded because of an idea for a songtitle called “The Unicorn Invasion of Dundee.” Chris said in an interview back in 2009, “Aah! This songtitle is so cool I want to start a whole band based on it!”
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs]
Thomas Winkler: And that’s how Gloryhammer started. It was called Gloryhole at first, actually.
Sleaze Roxx: I’m not sure you guys would have come up as quickly in the search results. You guys would have come up many pages down the line.
Thomas Winkler: [Laughs] I think so too.
Sleaze Roxx: So how did you and Chris hook up with each other?
Thomas Winkler: He found me in a youtube video. I made a youtube video to audition for Dragonforce when they were looking for singers, but it was too late and they had already found one. But there were other bands that were interested in the stuff that I did, including a Chinese band, and there was Christopher Bowes from Alestorm. He said to me, [in a pirate voice] “Hey! I’m Christopher Bowes from Alestorm. I want to start a new band. Are you interested in it? We’ll dress up like idiots!”
Thomas Winkler: And I said, “Not really, actually.”
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs]
Thomas Winkler: Because, you know, a new band wasn’t what I was really searching for. I was looking for something more established. But he contacted me half a year later and said, [in a pirate voice] “Yeah, are you sure you don’t want to join my band? We already have all the songs and have a label and stuff.” And then I said, “Well, that sounds alright to me. Why not? Let’s try it!” And now I’m really happy that I actually said yes.
Sleaze Roxx: You’re a great frontman for the group. You add a lot of charisma and charm to the band. I was watching that with my bass player Stephen Smith, and we were like, “That dude is totally awesome.”
Thomas Winkler: Thanks man.
Sleaze Roxx: So there’s obviously a lot of influence from Sci-Fi and Fantasy in Gloryhammer, so I want to know what your favorite works of fiction are. Do you like video games, are you an action movie kinda guy, sci-fi novels or anything like that?
Thomas Winkler: I love a lot of different things. I love action movies, but who doesn’t? I love fantasy and stuff. I’ve loved Lord of the Rings since I was 6 or 7 years old. I love Iron Maiden, so the musical influence was there. There was also the art influence from all that stuff. I also loved He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. That was one of my favorite things back when I was 6 or 7 years old. So maybe those things all influenced me, and in the end, it’s a combination of all those things. I can’t really say it’s this or that that made me like the kind of stuff that I do, but in the end it’s a combination of all the things that I consumed during my childhood and teenage time.
Sleaze Roxx: And my next question for you is what are your three favorite albums of all time?
Thomas Winkler: Wow, that’s a hard question.
Sleaze Roxx: I know. Everyone hates that question, and I hated it when my band got interviewed for Sleaze Roxx.
Thomas Winkler: So do I [laughs]. ‘A Real Dead One’ by Iron Maiden is one of my favorites. It’s actually a live album, but it’s one of my favorite albums because it was the first album I bought myself, when I was six. It’s actually one of the worst Iron Maiden albums I’ve read, but I love it. There is another metal band that I really appreciated back in the day, because it was the first CD I got as a gift from my aunt, which is Tourniquet, which is a metal band from the USA. And then…I like DJ Bobo. He’s a Swiss dance pop act, and he’s very famous in Switzerland and in the dance scene in Europe, and when I was a child he was a big thing, and he still is, actually. And he was one of the first artists that I listened to, and that’s why I still love listening to his music, sometimes at least.
Sleaze Roxx: Well, I definitely appreciate the diversity of that answer. Everybody has been giving me the standard hard rock answers like Led Zeppelin and Thin Lizzy, and that’s the first dance-pop act on the list, so you get street cred for that.
Thomas Winkler: I mean, the influence is still there. In “Universal Fire”, for example, off the new album, it’s very much influenced by all that techno pop dance stuff. I think Chris is also a big fan of that stuff, so we have that in common.
Sleaze Roxx: And my final question: What is the advice you have for kids out there in bands just starting out?
Thomas Winkler: It’s really important to just practice as much as you can. Especially as a singer, it’s a muscle you have to train. If you’re not talented, it’s hard to become a good singer or become a good musician, but if you’re talented and practice a lot, you should become a really good musician. But that’s only one point. Much more important is the whole gimmick around the band, or the whole marketing behind the band. If you have a concrete idea of what to do, then it might become popular. If you’re just starting out as a band, most times it will end badly. You just have to have a good vision of what you wanna do, and then you need to try and reach that goal with everything you can.
Sleaze Roxx: So you’d say, “Have an idea of what you want do and then go for it. Don’t just do something random but have a plan.”
Thomas Winkler: Exactly. Exactly. It’s the same for everything in life. You have to a vision, you have to have an idea of what you want to do, and then do it.
Sleaze Roxx: Any closing statements?
Thomas Winkler: Hoots!