INTERVIEW WITH HENDRIK WIPPERMANN OF EAT THE GUN
Date: August 22, 2015
Interviewer: Greg Troyan of Lipstick
GERMANY’S EAT THE GUN ARE ABOUT TO RELEASE THEIR FIFTH ALBUM ‘HOWLINWOOD’. THE MORE MODERN SOUND THAT WAS INTRODUCED ON THEIR 2013 RELEASE ‘STRIPPED TO THE BONE’ CONTINUES ON THEIR CURRENT ALBUM, BUT WITH A MORE POLISHED PRODUCTION AND TIGHTER SONG ARRANGEMENTS. AS THE BAND PLANS A EUROPEAN TOUR, I SPOKE WITH THE GUITAR-WIELDING FRONTMAN OF THE BAND, HENDRIK WIPPERMANN, AND CHATTED WITH HIM ABOUT THE HISTORY OF THE BAND, AND IT WAS A BLAST! HENDRIK IS A TRUE KINDRED SPIRIT OF ROCK N ROLL, AND WE BONDED A LOT OVER A BUNCH OF MUSICAL SIMILARITIES. PERFORMING THE INTERVIEW WAS A TON OF FUN, JUST LIKE THE MUSIC THAT HENDRIK AND HIS BANDMATES PRODUCE. THIS IS GREG TROYAN OF LIPSTICK REPORTING FOR SLEAZE ROXX.
Sleaze Roxx: As an American, I was not familiar with Eat the Gun before I was sent your album. I liked it a lot. It was awesome, straight-forward hard rock, so I was definitely into it. You’ve been around for a while — over a decade. I’d like to start by asking what the songwriting process is like for Eat the Gun.
Hendrik Wippermann: Well there’s no general rule on how we write songs. I’m a traditional songwriter, so I just take my acoustic guitar, toss out some chords and write some lyrics. I’m writing from the book [laughs]! So that’s what I do all the time — I collect ideas. Eventually, I show it to the guys in our rehearsal studio and if they like it, we start playing, jamming, whatever, and if we’re lucky [laughs], there’s a good song that comes out of it. That’s basically how we do it. There’s no basic rule, it’s always different [laughs].
Sleaze Roxx: So sometimes it’s lyric first, other times it’s riff first? There’s no set standard?
Hendrik Wippermann: Right. Sometimes an idea comes up and you say to yourself, “Well, I’m not sure what’s going to happen with that.” Like with the title song, “Howlinwood”, I just had this term in my mind and I thought to myself, “Okay, what can we do with this? It sounds funny. It reminds me of Hollywood [laughs].” And then I came up with simple chorus lyrics, “Take me to Howlinwood, where the music plays and life is good.” And it was funny, everybody was laughing, and we just made a song about it [laughs].
Sleaze Roxx: That actually ties into a question I wanted to ask you. I checked out your stuff, not just on your most recent record but the other stuff you’ve done, and I noticed that through the years, it looked as if there was a shift in the band towards being a bit more serious. But, as you tell me that, there’s still obviously a sense of humour in the band. So, was there a deliberate shift towards being more serious? Some of your earlier stuff had a much more old school, ’80s kind of youthfulness to it, with the “Yeah! Let’s go party!” mentality, and the lyrical themes now seem to have gradually progressed into something more serious. There’s a bit of humour here and there on ‘Howlinwood’ but for the most part, I don’t want to say it’s a serious record, but maybe not as light lyrically as your previous work.
Hendrik Wippermann: You’re totally right, you’re totally right. Back 12 years ago, we started off as a garage rock n roll band. We were like 21. Back then, it was all about partying [laughs], and that’s what you hear in the music. Of course, over time, we grew up. That’s basically the main influence: life. Things are changing, you grow up, and maybe you get a little bit more serious. We never really thought about this development because it just happened and we just continued writing music and playing music. We always did what we wanted and what we liked at the time. It’s just natural development, I think. There’s no plan or strategy behind it, or anything like that. I think it’s just about growing up and becoming a little bit more serious [laughs].
Sleaze Roxx: So, in doing some reading about you guys, I found out that you got some decent college radio airplay a few years back?
Hendrik Wippermann [forgetfully, but excited]: Oh really?
Sleaze Roxx: Yes.
Hendrik Wippermann: In the US?
Sleaze Roxx: Yes.
Hendrik Wippermann: Oh right, I remember that. There was something [laughs].
Sleaze Roxx: [laughs]
Hendrik Wippermann: Yeah, nothing much happened with that. We’ve never been there.
Sleaze Roxx: So, my question to you in relation to that, is whether or not you’d like to tour the United States and Canada, and if you have any plans on touring over there?
Hendrik Wippermann: I can tell you, man, it’s a huge dream. It’s one of our biggest dreams to get a chance to tour the US and Canada. That would be so fucking cool. But it’s really hard for a European band, you know? Because nobody knows us. Now that we’ve got some interviews like this one, there’s a chance people will start to notice us. There might be a better chance for us to maybe tour the US one day. It would be really great and I’d love to do it. But there’s no such plans at that point, and it’s really disappointing man.
Sleaze Roxx: As far as American bands for you to go on tour with, I think you guys would pair awesomely with Calabrese. Sonically, you guys have a lot of similarities and I think that would be a really great tour and there would be a lot of fan base crossover.
Hendrik Wippermann: The name sounds familiar, but I don’t know the music.
Sleaze Roxx: The band is pretty amazing. All of their music videos end with the tagline, “Believe in Rock n Roll.”
Hendrik Wippermann: YES! [laughs]
Sleaze Roxx: I think you guys would be a good pair.
Hendrik Wippermann: Yeah, it would be great, man. You know, it’s hard for a German band to tour the US because of all the US bands. There are so many great bands touring the US and it’s really hard to get some attention over there, but we’d love to do it. I’m sure one day, we’ll get a chance to do it. Our record company is supporting us really well on everything, and I’m sure we’ll get a chance to tour the US, hopefully supporting some bigger bands. We were just at the Summer Breeze Festival, which is a big metal festival here in Germany. I got to see Black Stone Cherry, and they are so cool man, it was a blast. They are a band I would love to tour with and support. We’d love to come to the US and to Canada, of course.
Sleaze Roxx: So, I wanna go album by album to find out where you were at musically, the writing process, and your thoughts on each album, starting with the debut album all the way up to the current one. Let’s start with ‘Cross Your Fingers.’
Hendrik Wippermann: Alright, so, you want me to tell you something about ‘Cross Your Fingers?’ It happened so long ago I don’t remember anything about it [laughs].
Hendrik Wippermann: I was just kidding. We started to work on that album back in 2004, so like 11 years ago, and it was our first full length album. It was pretty influenced by our hard rock roots like Aerosmith, Guns N’ Roses and all those bands we were listening to back then. Looking at it today, it’s like reading your diary from ten years ago [laughs]. It’s really funny because it feels a little strange. But I’m really proud of that record because it was the first one.
Sleaze Roxx: So, this is definitely my favorite album title of yours, and I’m sure you’re not surprised [laughs].
Hendrik Wippermann: [laughs]
Sleaze Roxx: ‘Super Pursuit Mode Aggressive Thrash Distortion — that’s one of the best album titles of all time!
Hendrik Wippermann: [laughs]
Sleaze Roxx: I’m calling it now, that’s one of the best album titles, ever. That definitely has the youthful, “not taking yourself too seriously” vibe we talked about earlier [laughs]. Tell me a little bit about that record.
Hendrik Wippermann: Well, it was a really funny record. We had a lot of fun back then. I remember when we came up for the name for the record; we were playing a show in Spain, and we were pretty wasted at the point, and we got to thinking about our own distortion pedal and what name it could have. So, we came up with that description, with some ’80s Knight Rider influences in there [laughs].
Sleaze Roxx: [laughs]
Hendrik Wippermann: That’s basically how we came up with it. And then we had people telling us, “Hey, that album title is too long,” and we’d say, “Hey, come on. It sounds fucking cool!” And everybody was laughing at us, and we were like, “Hey, come on. This is a fucking cool title. We’ll do it.” That album has a little bit more of a punk rock influence to it. It was a step further into the direction that the last two albums are like, where there’s a little bit more of an alternative rock influence. It was back in 2008 when we recorded that one. We actually recorded that with a skateboard legend, Claus Grabke, I don’t know if you him, but he’s a German skateboard legend who’s been skating since the ’70s and he was the first German skateboarder who had a Santa Cruz endorsement, so he’s a pretty cool guy.
Sleaze Roxx: [laughs] Nice! So, now we move onto ‘Runner’, which was a bit of a transition album for you. Tell me about that one.
Hendrik Wippermann: Yeah, ‘Runner’ is a strange album. I like all of our records, but ‘Runner… I don’t know why we did that album. It was like, “Hey, we’ve got to do an album” and it was a mixture between rock n roll and some heavy metal influences. I don’t know what I can say about it. I like some of the songs very much. We don’t play them anymore, unfortunately. I see that album like a bridge between the old rock n roll times and the new times, so I think we needed that album to get where we are now. It’s a heavy album and one of the darkest albums we’ve ever written.
Sleaze Roxx: Now we’re at ‘Stripped To The Bone”, which I know is a record you’re very proud of. Everywhere I read about that album, I heard nothing but praise. I want to hear, in your own words, what that album meant to you, what that musical shift meant to you, why you decided to take the album in that direction, and why you think album has received such acclaim.
Hendrik Wippermann: Well, you’re always proud of your latest record. It’s a piece of art and you put a lot of passion and effort into an album. That’s what we did with ‘Stripped To The Bone.’ It was the first album that we did where we truly felt that we found ourselves and found our own unique sound. If that happens, when you’re an artist, that’s a pretty good feeling. We also got that deal with SPV at the time and it was a great step forward for the band because we were an independent band before that. We had to do everything all on our own, and having support from a label was great. Musically, it was a little different. The recording situation was pretty tough because we didn’t have a studio. We recorded in our old rehearsal room, which was a place in a warehouse. We recorded in the winter time and didn’t have a heater, so it was pretty cold. We had to build the studio room out of whatever was around. It was pretty much stripped to the bone [laughs]. So, we ended up being proud that it turned out to be a cool album. It brought us a lot of attention, which is something we never ever expected.
Sleaze Roxx. Now we’re onto the current album, ‘Howlinwood’, which seems to be a bit of a continuation of ‘Stripped To The Bone’ in that same direction, but it expands on it a little bit. I wanna hear your thoughts on how ‘Howlinwood’ compares to ‘Stripped To The Bone’ and how ‘Howlinwood’ takes it to that next level.
Hendrik Wippermann: Well we didn’t have much time between ‘Howlinwood’ and ‘Stripped To The Bone.’ We started touring directly after the release of ‘Stripped To The Bone.’ We were lucky to find a rehearsal studio with a heater [laughs].
Sleaze Roxx: [laughs]
Hendrik Wippermann: So yeah, it’s much more comfortable now. Some of the songs on the ‘Howlinwood’ album existed back when we did the rehearsals for ‘Stripped To The Bone.’ I think the main change is that we recorded at another studio — a real studio — and that we had a little more time and a little more money to pay our producer. So that’s really all that changed –nothing else. We just did what we liked, playing rock n roll, and recorded it. It’s always hard to say what the difference between those albums are, because when you write all the songs, you rehearse them, you record them, it’s hard to really say what’s the difference between old stuff and new stuff. We worked a little harder on the sounds: the drum sound, the guitar sound, the vocal sound, the overall production. That’s the main difference when you compare those albums.
Sleaze Roxx: So, this next question is a question that my band Lipstick recently got asked in a Sleaze Roxx interview, which was a cool kind of curve ball question I didn’t expect. What are your top three favorite albums?
Hendrik Wippermann: My top three favorite albums! I hate that question, man. It’s so hard to say that [laughs].
Sleaze Roxx: I know! It was such a curve ball question and I didn’t know how to handle it [laughs]!
Hendrik Wippermann: ‘Appetite For Destruction’ and ‘Use Your Illusion’ I and II [laughs]. Nah, I’m just kidding. ‘Appetite For Destruction’ definitely. Number two and three are hard for me right now. Let me think. Do you mean like all-time favorites or current favorites?
Sleaze Roxx: I’ll take both. When I got asked the question, it was so hard, so I said, “I’m just gonna go with my top three favorite bands and pick an album from each of them [laughs].”
Hendrik Wippermann: [laughs] Well, Guns N’ Roses’ ‘Appetite For Destruction’ definitely. Danko Jones… hmmm… which album? It’s hard to say at this point. ‘We Sweat Blood’ — great album! And number three… all-time… I gotta promote these guys — The Kyle Gass Band. These three albums are all some of my favorites. Maybe not of all-time, but it’s hard to say, sorry man.[laughs].
Sleaze Roxx: No, it’s fine. I had a little trouble answering the question myself.
Hendrik Wippermann: It would be a little boring if I just said AC/DC or Iron Maiden, one of my favorites. But I couldn’t decide which album.
Sleaze Roxx: Oh dude, I cheated. I used runner-ups and said, “Just use this Thin Lizzy album as a runner up [laughs].”
Hendrik Wippermann: [laughs] But yeah man, those are some of my favorites.
Sleaze Roxx: So, this is my second interview with Sleaze Roxx. My first interview was with Tom Keifer of Cinderella, and I’m wanting to start a tradition where I ask the same question at the end of each interview. So, this is my final question for you: What is your advice for the kids out there in bands just starting out?
Hendrik Wippermann: If you wanna rock, you should fucking do it!
Sleaze Roxx: [laughs]
Hendrik Wippermann: Whatever it takes [laughs]! Because that’s what life’s about. If you want to do something, do it. Don’t waste your time.
Sleaze Roxx: I’m not going to say I like your answer better than Tom Keifer’s answer because that would be unprofessional — wink wink [laughs].
Hendrik Wippermann: [laughs]
Sleaze Roxx: Let’s just say I like that answer quite a bit.
Hendrik Wippermann: That’s what I did, you know, and I’m sure that’s what you did. You like to rock, and that’s why you did it and why you still do it. You are folllowing your dreams.
Sleaze Roxx: Well man, once again, thank you so much for your time. It was a blast talking to you.
Hendrik Wippermann: Thanks man. You too!