Interview: Roger Staffelbach

Guglielmo Malusardi: Let's start with an introduction: how did a young guy from the quietest country in the whole world hook into metal's sacred fire?

Roger Staffelbach: You know, I started listening to rock music when I was 8 years old. My first record was Status Quo's "Just Supposin'", this was back in 1980. So I listened to Quo, the Stones and others for quite a while, until I heard Kiss for the first time. I guess this was the moment I really got infected by the heavy metal thing. It's crazy how fast time goes by; I feel as if it just happened yesterday.

Guglielmo Malusardi: When did you realize that you wanted to be a musician?

Roger Staffelbach: I started playing the trumpet when I was 8 years old and continued to do so until the age of 13. When I turned 14 I heard Malmsteen's "Trilogy" for the first time, and from that very moment I knew I wanted to go for it, it changed my life.

Guglielmo Malusardi: Did your parents help you to realize your musical dreams?

Roger Staffelbach: My parents never were too happy about all this, but I must say they always let me do my thing and that was cool. Furthermore, my Dad bought me my first electric guitar, so I guess I got some kind of support, there's no doubt about that.

Guglielmo Malusardi: Let's talk about your first band.

Roger Staffelbach: Soon after I started playing gutar, I put together my first band; I must have been 15. It was a metal band with friends from school. Basically the same way most musicians start out when they start making music. We had our first gig one year later and did support some bands; maybe the biggest back then was Krokus, which for us was absolutely great, we were young, and these guys were our heroes. Anyway, soon after that I decided to quit. I had a specific idea in mind for a band that would require a top notch keyboardist, and when I was 19 I met Vitalij Kuprij, whom I saw playing in a small bar in my hometown. We became best friends and started doing our thing. The rest is history.

Guglielmo Malusardi: Then you flew to L.A. and...

Roger Staffelbach: Vitalij and I then formed our first band, called Atlantis Rising. We recorded two instrumental demos. After recording the second demo, I decided I wanted to go to L.A., and I enrolled at G.I.T. I really learned a lot there and it was a great experience to hanging out with all those musicians from all over the world who all shared one thing: a passion for music.

After maybe eight months in L.A., I got a call from Mike Varney who received the demo I sent him and he was interested in having Vitalij and I making a record for Shrapnel Records. He requested vocal tunes, as he didn't want to put out a instrumental record, but a vocal-oriented album. So I went back home to work with Vitalij and look for a decent singer (which is almost impossible in Switzerland) and write new material. We recorded another three demos over the next one or two years, during which time I believe I called Mike Varney once a week, begging him to sign us. We finally ended by signing the long awaited recording contract with Shrapnel Records.

Guglielmo Malusardi: Seven albums with Artension. Let's hear Roger Staffelbach's favorite Artension album list. I know you played your best on all of them, But I'm asking you to list 'em from favorite to least favorite.

Roger Staffelbach: OK, my favorite album is "Phoenix Rising". The expectations after the success of "Into The Eye Of The Storm" were high, but everyone was highly motivated and we really put everything into it. I love the songs and the sound a lot on this record. It also enabled us to go to Japan; unfortunately the tour got cancelled when we were already over there, because of visa problems. I think this was the main reason why the band never made it to the next level careerwise, unfortunately.

My second pick I guess would be "Into The Eye Of The Storm". You never forget your first record. It was a great experience to get together for the first time with John, Kevin and Mike, and I think we really had some outstanding tracks on this one, including the title track (our best song ever), I really still love to listen to that one. Number three for me would be "Forces Of Nature" together with "Machine". Both records sounded somewhat different, but both have some great moments.

Then there was "Sacred Pathways", a reunion album of sorts, we got together in Corland, New York (which is John's home town), had a great time, and It became a really nice record, with some great tunes on it. After that I would pick "Future World", which in my eyes is a hugely underrated album. I would say the least favorite of mine is "New Discovery" - I just don't like the mix of the record, that's about it.

Guglielmo Malusardi: What's going on with Artension? Is the situation in limbo?

Roger Staffelbach: You know I would love to make another Artension record, but for now I don't know if this will happen. As for me, I very much hope we can get together again one day and go for it.

Guglielmo Malusardi: Time now to talk largely about your new project Angel of Eden, what does the band name signify?

Roger Staffelbach: Angel of Eden was the name of one of the tracks we recorded for the demo, and Carsten and I really liked it a lot, so we just used it for the band name. There isn't any deeper meaning to the name, I just thought It sounded so cool.

Guglielmo Malusardi: Who is the outstandingly beautiful woman on the cover?

Roger Staffelbach: She is a friend of Jason Juta, who was responsible for the cover artwork, if you want more Information about her, simply go to and you'll find the link to her site; her profile name is Fracture. And yes indeed, she's real, and not looking bad indeed...

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Guglielmo Malusardi: What did you use on the recordings?

Roger Staffelbach: On my new album, I can say that you should listen to it in one go. To make that possible, apart from the songwriting, I used as little as possible for the recordings. "M.S.D." was entirely recorded with one amp, one distortion pedal (obviously playing as much as possible with the gain), an acoustic guitar and a Jim Reed with D'Orazio strings.

Guglielmo Malusardi: And who are those long haired guys with the rough expressions pictured on the inside booklet? Would you like to introduce each one of them?

Roger Staffelbach: The line up is as follows: I'm on guitar, Carsten Schulz is the voice, Mistheria handles keyboards and Rami Ali plays drums. The photo shoot took place in Esslingen, Germany and the location was just outside the photographer's (Roland Guth) studio.

Guglielmo Malusardi: How did you set up the band?

Roger Staffelbach: I was contacted by Carsten three years ago; he was writing for a German metal magazine back then, and he interviewed me for the latest Artension record "Future World".
That's how we got in touch for the first time. I then mentioned to him that I planned to do a solo record and I checked out the stuff he did with Domain and especially with Evidence One, and I liked it very much. So we started to put things together. Carsten then recommended Rami and Ferdy to me.

I checked out their stuff and was very impressed with their material as well, so things started to get going. Ferdy then played keyboards on the four Songs we recorded for the demo, which then landed us an Asian deal with Marquee/Avalon. I later transferred these tracks to the final recording.

As for bass, I contacted Steve di Giorgio, whom I've known for many years, since the early days with Artension in America. He also played on the "Future World" album and I really dig his bass playing big time. Also, we get along very well and always stayed in touch over the years. I told him what was happening and he just said, "OK, let's do it."

Regarding the main keyboardist, I had someone in mind (nobody I had worked with before) but it just didn't work out. Then I ontacted Mistheria; I knew that this would be the guy to work with, as I simply love his sound and his playing, so the whole thing came together to my absolute satisfaction.

Guglielmo Malusardi: When did you start to compose the tunes?

Roger Staffelbach: The songwriting and the recording of the songs took me about one year. I started back in 2005.

Guglielmo Malusardi: Can you go over the songs on the album one by one?

Roger Staffelbach: "End Of Never" was the first track we put the vocals on, and I was overwhelmed by how powerful it sounded, so it was clear for me this would have to be the opener. I really like the pure power and the harmonies on this track.

"Dreamchaser" was a track I finished very quickly. I had this opening riff and everything came together really nicely. It has a kick ass chorus with terrific vocals and a stunning keyboard solo from the Maestro - Mistheria.

"Angel Of Eden" was the second song I completed, and I really like the vocal melody and the solo section as well as the outro. Also, it has a driving guitar riff in the second part of the verse.

"Return Of The Pharaoh, Pt. I" I think is the song I'm most proud of, amongst all the tracks I have written so far. Outstanding performances from everybody. It also features a killer guest solo by former Manowar guitarist David Shankle. We really go off on this one, but I also like the mood and the 6/8 feel of the track a lot. Regarding the song title, I am into medieval and Egyptian history, so that's the link to the title of the track.

On "Battle Of 1386", I was inspired by a historic battle that took place close to where I was brought up. I wanted it to be kind of a soundtrack, and I think we got pretty close. Mistheria did a wonderful job on the orchestration and on the intro of this track. He understood my vision of this song absolutely perfectly, as he did on the rest of the tracks. Part of the concept of this record was to have John sing on one track, and this was the one I thought would fit best - and he did a great job on this one, as you would expect.

"Into The Black" was the first song I completed and I really like the Maiden-like rhythm in the verse, as well as the intensity in general.

"Return Of The Pharaoh, Pt. II" for whatever reason came into my mind while lying on the couch and watching TV. I got up, recorded five tracks of guitars and that was basically it. I like the orchestral feel it has. Normally It takes me much more time to complete a track. For example, when I was talking to Uli Jon Roth and I was asking him about songwriting and stuff he said that he gets up in the morning and has 95% of the track finished; it's just there in his head. So I guess I experienced this at least once.

"Keys To Avalon" was supposed to end up on a record for a band I was playing with for a while, but it just didn't work out. So I took it for the AOE Record, as Carsten is into hard rock much more than I am. I knew this was kind of thing he would love to do, and he just made it happen once again. Once again, a brilliant solo from Mistheria.

"Toward The Light" was a song I released previously on the "Shawn Lane Remembered Vol. II" CD, released by Lion Music in 2004. I re-recorded it. I wrote it in honor of Shawn Lane. I think it best displays my abilities. It's also a song which means a lot to me and a song I'm very proud of.

Guglielmo Malusardi: The last track on the Japanese edition you sent me features the infamous Yngwie Malmsteen tune. Is it a kind of tribute or something?

Roger Staffelbach: "You Don't Remember, I'll Never Forget". I wanted to cover this tune because this song and the "Trilogy" record are the reason I'm playing the guitar, and furthermore, is the reason I'm talking to you right now.

Guglielmo Malusardi: Where did you record the album, and what did you use in terms of studio tools?

Roger Staffelbach: I recorded my guitar parts mainly in Switzerland, and some parts I recorded in Germany. The studio I usually work with in Switzerland has a great Amek Mixing Console, I'm really into the analog sound, it just sounds so much warmer. We work there with Pro Tools, which makes things so much easier compared to the old days when we were recording demos on tape, or later on working with ADAT. However, soundwise I prefer an analog recording technique, and I think maybe one day I will do a recording using only old devices. I just love the analog sound.

Guglielmo Malusardi: How much time did it take you record all the guitar parts - solo included?

Roger Staffelbach: The recordings were done over a long period of time, with long breaks in between. I was confronted by technical problems, and then scheduling problems, and so on. I think if I had recorded it all in one go, I guess around 15 days.

Guglielmo Malusardi: Describe for us your approach to soloing, during the recording and on stage.

Roger Staffelbach: Normally, I go in the studio and then start jamming to the solo section, once I have worked out the solo I start recording it. Mostly I work out some ideas at home, but I finalize them in the studio. I unfortunately don't play live too often, but when I do, I stick to the studio version. I really hope to get on the road with this band.

Guglielmo Malusardi: Tell us about your guitars amps and effects.

Roger Staffelbach: OK, I endorse Dean guitars and I received two guitars from them. One is a ML Tribute which is made of mahagony, with a rosewood fingerboard and is equipped with a Floyd Rose tremolo. Plays great and has an especially great rhythm tone.

I also have the Vendetta 4 Floyd, which is made of flame maple, equipped with Dimarzio Humbuckers and a Floyd Rose tremolo. I found this guitar suits me best for my lead playing. The playability as well as the lead tone is great. I also own an Aria Pro II V, which by the way was my first guitar. And I have a Soultool Guitars Model, which I've endorsed for quiet some time. But definitely my main guitars nowadays are the Deans, great stuff.

Regarding amps, I'm into tube amps. Modelling amps are fine, but I miss the dynamics. I own a POD for working at home, but I do not use it for recordings. I own the Engl Savage 120 amp. I was looking for this amp for years and I must have tested dozens of amps but they never satisfied me, there was always something missing, until the day I came across the Engl, which had the exact tone I was looking for. Engl rocks, it's that simple.

Regarding the speaker cabinet, I use my old 'magic' Mashall 1960 cabinet, which works perfectly in combination with the Engl amp.
I'm not really too much into effects, to be honest, I like that raw, in-your-face sound, which you only get if you go from the guitar directly to your amp. However, when working in the studio, I work with an Eventide H 3000.

I mike the speakers with an SM 57, which in my opinion is the best Microphone for record guitars to get the sound I'm after. I've tested it against many other mikes in the studio, but I always come back to this one.

Also, in case you're still interested, I use D'Addario strings, 09-46's and Dunlop picks 2mm.

Guglielmo Malusardi: After a whole career with Ukranian keyboard virtuoso Vitalij Kuprij, another keyboard virtuoso (from the mighty mountains of Abruzzo region in Italy) is playing keyboards on the CD - the much in-demand Mistheria (Bruce Dickinson, Neil Zaza, Rob Rock, Roy Z, George Bellas, Barry Sparks, Matt Bissonette, Anders Johansson, John Macaluso, Franck Ribiere, Winterlong, Lasse Mattsson). Would you like to talk about your choice of keyboardist?

Roger Staffelbach: I think the best decision I made was to have approached Mistheria for this record. I think he's one of the leading metal keyboardists out there; he's a keyboard prodigy. Also, we share the exact same taste in music, and he has a great personality. We got along great from day one and the job he did on this record was terrific. He understands my vision of the songs perfectly and I'm looking forward very much to working with him again on the next album. He's simply a great guy and friend.

Guglielmo Malusardi: Analyzing your own playing, is there any difference in terms of musical expression in your head and fingers between the Artension Staffelbach and the Angel of Eden Staffelbach?

Roger Staffelbach: Probably the main difference is that in Artension I don't write the music, but I do write the music for AOE, so I get to display more of myself in AOE.

Guglielmo Malusardi: Did you ever think about releasing an instrumental solo album?

Roger Staffelbach: Maybe one day, but not anytime soon I guess.

Guglielmo Malusardi: Although in the past few years massive downloading from the net is damaging the music industry (especially in case of independent or productions without major label support), the numbers of guitars sold is increasing! Any comment?

Roger Staffelbach: The Internet is a good thing, but also a bad thing. It's great for almost everything, but this illegal filesharing stuff, you know it just harms us musicians. It's really hard to sell records nowadays and this problem of illegal downloads should be brought to the attention of people much more, but people just don't seem to be aware of how bad it really is. However, I'm not surprised about the increasing guitar sales, nowadays everybody thinks he is (or wants to be) a star, don't they? The guitar always will attract and fascinate people, and it definitely is a cool instrument to play.

Guglielmo Malusardi: Let me close by thanking you very much for the interview, and I'd like to ask you if there any chance of catching you live on tour with Angel of Eden?

Roger Staffelbach: Thank you very much for having me here Guglielmo. I really hope we get to tour in support of this album, so in case you want us to play live, give us a shout!

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Switzerland's Confederatio Helvetia is a confederation of three different sections: Italian (Svizzera), French (Suisse) and German (Schweiz). From the German section of this very unique country comes "redcrossed" (a common nickname used for Swiss athletes due to their white cross on a red flag) Roger Staffelbach. Staffelbach is famous in the prog metal world because of his lead guitar work with Artension, a band with a stellar line up that has released seven albums worldwide. With Artension on standby, Roger is just taking off with a new musical project: Angel of Eden. Lion Music just released their debut CD, "The End Of Never".

Guglielmo Malusardi met up with Staffelbach to talk largely about Angel of Eden, as well as other musical things.