After 15 years with the same guitar player, the Rage lineup was recently revamped to feature guitarist Marcos Rodriguez and drummer Vassilios “Lucky” Maniatopoulos. Speaking to vocalist Peter ‘Peavy’ Wagner, it is obvious this change has been a positive one for him. He talks about ‘regaining control’ and feeling like the band are ‘united in a vision of what the Rage sound is’. This has flowed to a period of renewed creativity, with two albums out in two years, ‘The Devil Strikes Again’ in 2016 and now the soon to be released ‘Seasons of the Black’. Wagner says that the band is ‘constantly writing new songs’, which they are able to immediately go and record in their home studio. While it is obvious that the internet has allowed for file sharing to severely cut the profitability of recording new music, he agreed that the ease of creating your own studio and having control over your recording output is a positive side to technology.
Rage have had a long and successful career. They had chart success in 1988 with ‘Don’t Fear the Winter’. In 1996, during a lean time for metal in general, they were the first metal band to record an album of new material with a full orchestra (assuming you discount Deep Purple). Wagner is proud that his band has ‘always put food on the table for all it’s members’. Above all, he’s proud of his history and that his band has kept going and ‘kept the faith’ for so many years, no matter what trends were, Rage has always followed their vision of good music.
Growing up in a musical family, Wagner was exposed to music early. His earliest influence was The Beatles who he explains ‘are a strong influence on my harmonies especially’. Beyond that, it was bands like Deep Purple, Rush and Motorhead that influenced him towards heavier music, with Lemmy famously being the motivation for his switch from guitar to bass.
While the new album is consistently strong he says his current favourite track is ‘Justify’, because of the ‘driving, direct beat’. With the album so new, he says which songs will become regulars in the setlist is ‘still being worked out’.
The album ends with four songs that form a concept called ‘The tragedy of man’. This set of songs talks about the ‘inevitable extinction of man and the ways we humans are bringing it about more quickly’. While the world has seen its share of human tragedies this century, Wagner says he comes at this ‘from a naturalist’s perspective. Evolution states that every species will die out, and humans will, too’. It’s a depressing subject, but exactly the sort of real world problem that fits perfectly with the subject matter of a metal band.
Our review copy of the new Rage CD did not include the bonus CD, which contains classic tracks from the first Rage EP as well as tracks released as ‘Avenger’, rerecorded with the modern line up. When asked why now seemed a good time to revisit these songs, Wagner said ‘we were recently working on a box set of early albums and looking for bonus material and that’s how we came to be listening to these songs. The idea was not to update or change the songs in any way, it’s more that we were kids when we recorded these songs, and we didn’t have the ability to do them justice. It seemed like a perfect chance to bring these songs up to date and play them the way we always wanted to’. Wagner recommended we check out the track ‘Adoration’ on a streaming service and it’s definitely a harder, faster, less refined version of Rage. Sounding closer to thrash, it’s a great sounding song and a cool window in to the early days of the band. You can really hear the band having a lot of fun with it. Bands often struggle with trying to recapture an earlier sound, but this approach of being faithful to older material while bringing today’s skills to the track has produced excellent results.
One question we were hesitant to ask, but couldn’t find an answer to online was, where does the name ‘Peavy’ come from? Wagner explains ‘I never wanted a nickname and I hated it at first, but I’ve got used to it. It’s not a cool story or anything. When I was in grade school, I used to draw cartoons to amuse my classmates, and I would sign them P.W. (Peter Wagner). The kid next to me got confused between W and V and started calling me PV and for whatever reason, it stuck.’.
If Rage have ever toured Australia, we couldn’t find any records of it. When asked about the possibility, Peav Wagner indicated that he’s hoping that the tour for this album will come to Australia some time in 2018. Hopefully those plans come to fruition. Rage had a strong run with the previous version of the band, which was split in half by the move from Mike Terrana to Andre Hilgers on drums, but defined by Viktor Smolksi on guitar. Talking to Wagner and reading the liner notes to The Devil Strikes Again, you get the feeling that perhaps Wagner feels he’s regained control of his band with this new lineup, and while the past material was also great, it’s not surprising from how he speaks to find that Rage are sounded better than ever before. If Rage do manage to get to these shores, it’s a testament to their continued hard work that fans will be as excited to hear the new songs, as the old classics.