Axel „Ironfinger“ Ritt
One of the icons of heavy metal, Germany's finest Grave Digger, has just released their brand new record called Symbol of Eternity. Axel „Ironfinger“ Ritt was so kind to answer all of my questions, not-only-new-record related.
Hello Axel. After 2 long years of pandemic I have this amazing chance to ask you a few questions again. I am very happy about it. Let me start with the ´cliche´ one but I am really interested in knowing how you are and how you have been during the crazy times we all had to go through?
Hi Domi, personally, I'm doing very well. I used the pandemic to finally tackle a task that I've been putting off for years, learning finance. I've spent 2 years dealing with stocks, bonds, P2P lending and cryptocurrencies and have learned a lot, which I now enjoy very much.
Last time you sounded really pissed off. How do you look at the world now?
The world has not changed one bit for the better, on the contrary, everything has become much worse due to the catastrophic Ukraine war. As long as criminals, such as those currently in force in Russia, Brazil, Belarus or Hungary, lead us by the nose, the world will not find peace.
Last time I asked you if there's a chance that this world could change after facing all of these things and you automatically replied ´no´. What´s your opinion now?
Unfortunately, I still agree and I would love to be wrong, but a few subjects still ensure that we consistently ruin each other.
Covid crisis is, hopefully, over but we have to now face new ones, the energetic one and not even talking about the war just a few hundred kilometers from my house. How do you react to it? What´s your opinion?
The threat of nuclear war has never been greater. I'm sure Putin would burn Europe in a fireball before accepting defeat. In my view, the only solution lies with the Russian people, who will eventually realize how much they are being lied to and taken for a fool by their political leaders, and then rise up in large-scale rebellion. But it has to be a very big scale that the henchmen of the political leadership can't bludgeon down, and that's very difficult.
What's the situation like in Germany? How do people feel?
They are all horrified, some more, others less. Murder, death, destruction and rape only a few hundred kilometers away from us have not been on our screen for what felt like forever. It's a good thing that evil is at least clearly defined, so the majority of the world community, except for those who let themselves be bribed with cheap oil and gas, could appear united.
The prices are going crazy. You have an electric car. What about the electricity bills?
I invested in a photovoltaic system very early on and am therefore largely independent of the local power supply. As soon as the sun shines, my Tesla is at the charging port, but of course I also have to recharge on longer business trips. Currently I have half the transport costs compared to a combustion engine, also no costs for oil, seals, spark plugs and brake pads, only the tires have to be changed every few years. Of course, all of this can still change. I expect electricity costs to double, petrol costs to increase by 50% and gas prices to triple until Germany finally gets its lame ass up and expands renewable energies appropriately.
Let's turn the page. Judging by the pictures and your reactions, you and Grave Digger must have had a great summer! What are the best moments and memories?
Luckily we had a lot of shows to catch up on, so we've basically played one or more shows every week since April of this year. But we also know that this situation is exceptional and the real challenges will come next year. Many colleagues have already had to cancel their tours because of the low demand for tickets. People are simply dreading the next gas and electricity bill and watching inflation, now over 10%, eat away at their savings. There's no point in a good rock or metal show unless you're in the league of Bryan Adams, Kiss or similar artists, that scale always works.
In a few days you're performing Full Metal Holidays in Mallorca, so summer is not gone for you, right.
Yes, we will be able to soak up some sun for almost 23 hours, but that's it for this year.
You can finally perform and meet people. How does it feel?
Meeting or getting to know friends and colleagues at festivals is always one of the highlights of a festival appearance. One or the other after-show party has always developed, always a pleasure.
I´ve seen some pictures of you and your garden recently. Do you still have so much to do? I've also seen some glass statues in your garden. Did you create it yourself? Is there anything else that you're able to do and your fans have no idea about.
My garden is very large at 12,000 square meters and requires a lot of maintenance. Just today, on a Sunday, I ripped and cut blackberry roots out of the ground for 3 hours, hell for every gardener. But I love the garden, it gives me a lot of joy and the forest area with the pond gives me the opportunity to retreat when I want to relax. The glass work of art is not mine, but there is a lack of technical possibilities, it was a gift to my wife for our 30th wedding anniversary.
I can see you´re still pretty active in showing people the truth behind the non-vegan products and generally how non-vegan world looks like. Does this cause any problems to you as a professional musician and also a businessman? I´m asking this because I´ve been vegan for 5 years now and I've lost so many followers that there's basically no one who would even see that.
Yes I have the same problem. I'd probably have many more followers if I didn't share information about cruelty to animals like some vegan or vegetarian colleagues do. But I consider it my duty to be a voice for the voiceless and to repeatedly draw attention to the abuses. If not us, then who, if not now, then when? A lot of people have started thinking and changing their diet because of my posts, that alone is worth all the loss of followers. And if I could have persuaded just one person to adopt a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle, it would have been worth it. For some it is "just" a rabbit, "just" a chick or "just" a snail, but for the rabbit, chick or snail it is their whole life!
Why don't people want to see the truth? They don't want to see and know. Or only very few of them.
Nobody likes to have a guilty conscience or to be held up to a mirror. But the development is going in the right direction. The next generation will no longer accept the agonizing murder of living beings as normal, only old people of my age will still adhere to this behavior that they learned in their formative phase. The killing of billions of animals will come to an end.
I hope so. Let's have a look at your newest record Symbol of Eternity. Present it to your Slovakian fans a bit, please. What to expect this time?
At Grave Digger, every fan knows what they're getting. Also this time we pushed our trademarks and gave the fans what they wanted to hear. No right, no left, just Grave Digger.
I have gone through some of your fans´ reactions about your newest record. I´m going to include some of them here. Can you please comment on them? Do you agree or not? ´How can sound so entertaining after all these years and so many albums? One of the most consistent and hard-working bands in the genre for sure.´ ´I can certainly appreciate the effort to create music of variety and depth.´ ´We can always count on GRAVE DIGGER to bring us some good old school heavy metal!´ ´Pure 80s!´I could continue but I don't think we have enough time. I even read one comment that you now sound more like Iron Maiden.
It makes me happy when the fans like our songs enough that they buy the album and come to our shows, that's the point of a new album, but I'm absolutely sure we won't have any Iron Maiden-style songs on the album.
Do you as a band read people's comments? Is it important to you? Or you rather rely on selling of the records and the attendance at the shows?
I am happy about comments that are formulated constructively and do not fall below a certain level. I like reading comments like that, they can also contain criticism, but it has to be well-founded. To be honest, I'm not interested in anything that doesn't fit into this pattern.
Now, a bit of philosophy, what ´s the symbol of eternity for you? What will be eternal?
I don't think anything on this planet is meant to last forever except for a few laws of physics.
We´re coming to an end. Are you coming back to Slovakia in the close future?
We would love to play in Slovakia, but it's not up to us. If the local organizers call us, we come immediately, but we have to be called.
Would you like to say something to your Slovakian fans?
Don't be taken for a fool, distrust the populists and consider going vegan. It's a great thing for the environment, for the animals, and most importantly, for you!
Thank you so much for your time.
Axel „Ironfinger“ Ritt