NIKKI PUPPET’s stardom is rising fast. The Hannover based band has already shared the stage with the likes of VICTORY and the MICHAEL SCHENKER GROUP. And they even showed their skills at the recent edition of Wacken Open Air, the biggest annual metal festival, situated in the northern part of Germany. Only the best and most famous names play there! All the more reason to get in touch with power seeker Nicky Gronewald and discuss the past, present and the future of NIKKI PUPPET. A fantastic band, that delivered their best CD so far with the amazing “Power Seeker”....
When was NIKKI PUPPET founded and can you please introduce the band members to us?
Nicky: “We´ve been working together since four years in this cast and we love it! Christos (guitar) and me (Nicky, the voice) played together since forever (smile) and we worked with a lot of different musicians in the past. But we never had musicians like Anke (bass) and Flo (drums) before. We started the band NIKKI PUPPET in 2004. We were searching musicians for this project, who like the same style of music and who want the same like we wanted. Becoming rich and famous (laughs). Anke joined the band first (we were searching for a female bassplayer on purpose in a magazine) and a half year later we found our drummer Florentin the same way to complete the band.”
Who came up with the name NIKKI PUPPET and why did you actually choose this name?
Nicky: “For sure, NIKKI PUPPET is a name nobody had. When you search for us on the internet, you´ll find our site at first. NIKKI PUPPET is a combination of my name Nicky, the voice from NIKKI PUPPET, and our blonde bassplayer Anke. Her nickname is BASSPÜPPI (basspuppy). Yes, that´s it. A women´s name combination. But the boys think it´s ok and they agreed with the name (they had no other choice - haha).”
Did any of the other bandmembers play in other bands before NIKKI PUPPET and if yes, in which bands did they play? Did they also record with these previous bands?
Nicky: “Well, each one of us played in other bands before NIKKI PUPPET. Not any famous names though. For example, Flo played in a band, called STUPIFY. They recorded a demo tape with our producer, Mr. Herman Frank (VICTORY/ACCEPT), too. And Anke played in a band, called SCHIRLING. They followed STUPIFY, recording a demo tape with Herman Frank. Apparently, everybody wants Herman Frank (smile). Also, Christos played in many hardrock and punk bands, but the list will be too long now. With me, it´s the same. Before NIKKI PUPPET was born, we all just made demo tapes with our bands. But I think, it all started with NIKKI PUPPET.”
What happened to Michael Wolpers, who played the drums on your debut album? Why did he actually leave the band, and when was that?
Nicky: “Michael Wolpers was a studio drummer, whom we hired for our first album “Puppet On A String”, recorded in 2004. We had no drummer at the time, but lots of ideas and songs and then Herman Frank offered us to make a CD. Our old drummer had just left us for personal reasons and we were desperately searching for a replacement. Michael Wolpers was a very successful studio drummer, and we found nobody else at short notice, who sounded as great as him, so we gave him the job. Before that, he played the drums for GUANO APES and many other bands. With this small group of musicians and a studio drummer, we started recording our ideas at Hermans’ studio. During this process, Anke joined the band. Michael played the first live shows with us as well, until we found Flo, our recent (and permanent) drummer.”
Is it still possible for a band to be original, in a time when there is an overflow of bands? And in which aspect does NIKKI PUPPET differ from all the rest?
Nicky: “NIKKI PUPPET has actually formed their own style, you know. Female-fronted heavy rock with a power vocalist, a great guitar player, our blond basspüppi and the drum machine Flo. People just have to get to know us! It´s not that easy to say: ‘They sound like this band or they sound like any other band’. This is what we like to do very much. All reviews about our new album “Power Seeker” have been very positive. And most of the audience like the two girls on stage! So, you really have to join the band live.”
Who can we see as your musical influences and maybe you can also name some influences of each band member individually here? Nicky: “We all listen to different kinds of music. It´s hard to say and in the end, it is the mix of four different people with four different kinds of inspiration, I guess. Christos loves AC/DC, BLACK LABEL SOCIETY and TRUST. Flo likes the modern stuff, you know, like DREAM THEATER for example. Anke listens to QUEEN and power metal bands in general. My favourite inspiration is my guitar player Christos, because when I´m singing a melody, he´s searching the chords for this idea. Without him, I couldn´t compose my songs this way. Another important person for me is our producer, Herman Frank. He has the overview, he truely tells us what he´s thinking and he knows how to record the proper sound of NIKKI PUPPET. And he´s very open-minded to our ideas. To record a new album of NIKKI PUPPET? Impossible without him! The third person, who inspires me is the fantastic voice of SKIN, the former singer from SKUNK ANANSIE. She has got such a powerful and brilliant voice and she´s also quite critical of society, which is a good thing.”
How did the press react towards your most recent album “Power Seeker” so far?
Nicky: “Well, very positive indeed. The feedback, we received is great and people write about us now more seriously and they accept NIKKI PUPPET after their third album. I’m sure, that as soon as we release another new album (which will happen every year now), people recognize that we are never gonna stop! The band is growing, you know. You can hear our development in our songs and watch it live on stage.”
Were there any negative reactions as well, and if yes, how do you deal with negative criticism in general? Do you try to learn from it or do you rather like to forget about it as quickly as possible?
Nicky: “Sure, everybody’s entitled to have his own opinion. We live in a free world, don’t we? So, my opinion is to check out, who critisizes you and what he is critisizing. If it´s Herman Frank, for example, I´ll listen very closely, because he has got a lot of experience and knowledge about music, songs and the whole business in general. After that, I´ll find out if we have to change something or not. But what the newspapers and the press write about NIKKI PUPPET is not important to me, because I accept their opinion and still believe in myself and my music, despite what other people might say. The only thing that is important to me is, that they write something about the band. It makes no difference, if it´s something good or something bad. People have to get to know the band and make their own decision what to think about the band and our music. It would be crazy, if they forget you and write nothing at all!”
Can you tell us how you came up with the songs/ideas for this album? Please
tell us about the writing process and all its different stages….
Nicky: “It was so much fun and much work, too! We wanted to show some different kinds of songs, but all made in our own style. There should be an acoustic song on the album – only guitar and voice, including a one-minute-acoustic-guitar solo - some fast songs and some slow songs and something traditional from the eighties as well. Before we went into the studio, we created the songs in our practice room, sometimes together with Herman. Imagine three people, sitting in a room with instruments, jamming to ideas and putting them into the computer. Afterwards, Anke and Flo put their influences with our ideas. When we burned the CD with our ideas, we went to Herman again and listened to it together. Finally, we decided which songs should be on the new CD and which ideas still needed to be worked out more in the studio. We always have a lot of fun, when recording in the studio and Herman is really awesome! We record some songs just like they are, while other ideas become totally new songs when we work with Herman. It took us one month to record the CD, after that Herman started the mix and mastering. So, it´s much work, but with a positive feeling. A nightmare was the day after party, that we gave after finishing the album!!”
Who writes the lyrics and what are they about?
Nicky: “Well, I write all the lyrics for NIKKI PUPPET. I write about everything that comes to mind, like love, war, sex, peace, gelationships, government, political power, nature, human beings, music… Stories from real life at its best.”
Herman Frank (formerly ACCEPT) is the producer of all the NIKKI PUPPET CDs. What’s so special about his approach, that you keep coming back to him and how did you actually get in touch with him?
Nicky: “All CDs by NIKKI PUPPET are produced by Herman Frank at his Arena 20 Recording Studios in Hannover, Germany. Hannover is the hometown of the SCORPIONS. He saw NIKKI PUPPET live at a club in Hannover in 2004 and after that gig, he invited us over to his studio to record a CD. For Christos and me a dream came true! The rest, you know…. We agreed to record the songs with a studio drummer and meanwhile we were searching for the right musicians. We just love working with Herman. He is so awesome and has really good ideas. He gave NIKKI PUPPET the right sound and he has got some very special ears! He hears everything!! Sometimes, he even helps us putting our compositions in the right way. It´s very good to have somebody looking from the outside, who´s a producer and a songwriter. And Herman has much experience and a very huge background-knowledge about the music business. The relationship with him grows stronger and stronger. Actually, he´ll release his brand new album “HERMAN FRANK – Loyal To None” in Febuary 2009. [http://www.hermanfrank.com]”.
What's your favorite NIKKI PUPPET song and why?
Nicky; “For me, it´s the first song off our debut album “Puppet On A String”. Why? Because it´s one of the best songs together with thirty-three other songs by NIKKI PUPPET (laughs) . It´s fresh, full of power and has got a very cool refrain…Well, this song basically formed our music style. Somewhere between old school and very modern rock.”
Are there any leftovers from “Power Seeker”, that didn’t make it to the album, and do you have any plans with these songs?
Nicky: “It´s true, there´s still one song that is not on the album. It’s still inside my head. We´re working on it, something was wrong with the refrain. Some songs only need a few seconds to write them, while others need days, months or even years. This song will be ready soon for our fourth album. Ha!”
Do you have other hobbies or interests besides playing in a band?
Nicky: “NIKKI PUPPET takes a lot of time in my life, but I´m also interested in nature, animals, the work of Greenpeace…and for sure, party, drinking and having fun.”
What can people expect from the live shows of NIKKI PUPPET?
Nicky: “Female-fronted heavy rock, very lengthy and cool guitar solos, dancing drums, girls, girls, girls… lots of power and songs burning your ass.”
Do you use any show elements during your live gigs?
Nicky: “Yeah! Looooong guitar solos by Mr. Mamalitsidis himself. And there’s a drum solo by our young and wild drummer Flo included in our set as well. Furthermore, I’m wearing a military helmet, while singing “Militant Mother” - haha!”
Do you play any cover songs on stage, and if yes, which covers do you like to play live?
Nicky: “No, we don´t play any covers live, only original NIKKI PUPPET stuff. But we have recorded a few cover songs on CD. On our second album “Militant Mother”, we recorded “We Didn´t Start The Fire” by BILLY JOEL , which is a pop song with some very good lyrics. Unbelievable for many people and a big positive surprise to others.”
Perhaps it was an odd choice for a cover song, but I think it received a mighty fine NIKKI PUPPET treatment!
Nicky: “Thank you. Especially, the album “Militant Mother” got some mixed reviews, because of this cover version by BILLY JOEL. It was a big surprise to some people, because it´s not from the hardrock or metal genre. We put up the tempo and it sounds a little bit like punkrock now, so most of the people like it, but others couldn´t believe that we recorded it. When listening again to the album and the lyrics, you’ll find out that it’s still very relevant and the song fits perfectly on our album “Militant Mother”. Some other songs are quite critical of the government and our system as well. Ok, maybe I should change some of the lyrics to make it more real, like “Germans in Afghanistan” or something like that.”
With which bands did you share the stage already?
Nicky: “Yes, there are some bands: ROSE TATTOO, MICHAEL SCHENKER GROUP, VICTORY, MOB RULES, JANE, ZED YAGO - all the bands from the festivals…”
Did you learn anything from these well-known bands?
Nicky: “Drinking! And that success is being able to play your instrument and to write songs! Good songs! That´s the reason, why the old famous bands still exist: they have songs!”
Are there any funny stories to tell our readers about things that happened on stage or during a tour?
Nicky: “Yes, there are many funny stories, because NIKKI PUPPET is a funny band. We don´t take ourselves so seriously. When you take a look on our homepage, you can find many funny photos from us (http://www.nikkipuppet.de, choose “Pics”). But to come back to your question: Yeah, one story with Angry Anderson, the singer from ROSE TATTOO, was very funny. We did a show in 2007 at a great club, called Zeche, in Bochum, Germany. NIKKI PUPPET had their dressing room next to the Tatts, but in our room were the showers. Angry came in and invited the whole band to take a shower with him. Well, we were quite surprised by his offer. Only Anke, our bassplayer, said to him very cool: “Angry, my dear, look, you´re not very tall, so, can you shave my legs?” Haha, Angry got the joke. But – he went to the shower alone…”
With which band would you like to go on tour, if you could pick any band of your choice?
Nicky: “SKUNK ANANSIE, AC/DC, WHITESNAKE, OZZY, MOTORHEAD, SKEW SISKIN, SLIPKNOT…. Actually, every good band!”
You already kicked ass on the stages of the Wacken Open Air festival in 2006. That must have been a hell of an experience, to play at the biggest heavy metal festival of the universe?!
Nicky: “Yeah! People, come on and watch it at http://www.youtube.com! NIKKI PUPPET playing “Ignorance” live at Wacken 2006, so watch it! It was really great to play at this festival! It´s totally crazy: You come to a small village near Hamburg and you meet more than 60.000 metal heads. For some days the village is full of life and in peace and harmony with the village people. Lots of bands, music, party and fun and it´s very well organized, too. The audience is great, people know the lyrics and sing along to your songs! Great! But there are some other great festivals as well: for example Graspop (NL), Sweden Rock…we wanna play there, too!”
What has been your most important gig so far?
Nicky: “The most important gig…hmm…every gig is important to me. But the most important event for NIKKI PUPPET was the European tour that we made, supporting the MSG. From May ´til June 2006 we traveled from Germany to the Netherlands, England, Scotland, France, Spain, Italy, Swiss, Austria and back to Germany. We had a great time together with them and we enjoyed the fact that people came to us and said:“Hey, you´re the best support band in the world!“. The fans made many pictures of our female bass player Anke and me at the merchendise stand and we even played “Doctor, Doctor“ with the MSG live on stage in London! Wow!”
What do you like better: playing live on stage or composing new songs in the studio?
Nicky: “Both are fantastic! I can´t say what´s better. Both are about experiences and you give your heart and soul to it. Let´s say they do belong together.”
What is the metal and rock scene like in the Hannover area, where you come from? Are there any good clubs, where you can play live?
Nicky: “These days, many people in Hannover listen to metal in different styles, while twenty years ago, people were mainly listening to all the great hardrock bands. Every period of time has its own music style, when we talk about rock and metal. I´m sure that heavy rock and songs with great refrains will have a comeback! During the European tour with MSG, I got the impression that the rest of Europe is more open-minded to new stuff than Germany is, but, we’ll see! In our hometown Hannover, where the SCORPIONS, MSG, VICTORY are from, there is still an audience for modern rock´n´roll. I hope, it grows more and more. For example: NIKKI PUPPET and MSG attracted in Munich 600 people, the same package in Valencia, Spain, 2500 people. All the bands we met have been so nice and we loved drinking and partying with them! It was like a dream come true to have a beer with Angry from the Tatts and we had a blast with the guys from JANE!!! Especially the older guys know how to rock´n roll! And most of the time, they are the headliners at every festival.”
What are the future plans for NIKKI PUPPET (on the short and long term, please)?
Nicky: “You probably know right now, that NIKKI PUPPET release a CD every year, so I think we´ll go on this way! And you can visit our live shows. Click to http://www.nikkipuppet.de or visit our page at My Space http://www.myspace.com/nikkipuppet. There you can find out where we are! So come and join the band live! And keep your fingers crossed, that you can meet NIKKI PUPPET at a festival in 2009!”
Do you think, that women in rock and metal still need the kind of recognition 'zines like Metal Maidens give to them?
Nicky: “Yeeees, for sure!!!! Your ‘zine for example is the connection between fans and bands! Everybody gets the news, the releases, some special stories about bands, Instruments, festivals and shows, businesss…please never stop!”
Are there any important gigs on the agenda for NIKKI PUPPET?
Nicky: “We´re planning a tour in 2009, which will be called “Power Seeker Tour 2009”. We’ll start on Febuary 13rd in Hamburg, Germany, at the Ballroom. We also want to travel to Greece in April. Thessaloniki (where Christos comes from), Volos, Athens and again Saloniki. And we´ll play some shows in the Netherlands. So please visit our homepage for the dates.”
How did you guys get on the sampler CD of ROCK HARD magazine (one of the most prestigious metal magazines in Germany)?
Nicky: “When your stuff is interesting enough, you´ll have a chance to be a part of the sampler. But it costs some money, too. But so many people can listen to your music and people get to know you all over Europe. Very cool!”
What's the best thing about being in a band? And maybe there’s an inferior side too, that you would like to mention here?
Nicky: “Your behaviour can be as bad as possible and people will say “It´s just rock´n´roll”. Haha. Yes, you can express yourself. You can send feelings to other people. Or express your opinion about certain themes. You can get many men (laughs) and have huge backstage partys…and if you´re good in your job, you will be rich and famous!”
Do you have any personal messages for our readers?
Nicky: “Be yourself, only do what you like and what you really want to! Believe in your dreams, stay true to yourself, make a concept and definite your aims. Follow your heart and have your own experiences.”
Is there something you would like to add to this interview. Maybe there is something we forgot to mention here, that is essential for the story of NIKKI PUPPET, so far? Maybe a recent newsflash?
Nicky: “Yes. Some special words about Christos and me. I started singing, when I was nine years old and my audience had only been my parents and my three sisters. The first time I saw David Coverdale with WHITESNAKE on MTV, I decided to be a singer in a rock band. What a voice, what a man! He really inspired me. My first rock band was an all-female band, called SHARONA. It was very interesting, that we played live everywhere without having a proper demo tape. I took singing lessons for five years I think and I had many rock bands. That was great, because you learn to improve every time. When I found Christos, my guitarplayer, in 2000, everything changed. We found each other in composing songs and we shared the same vision about our own band and later on about making a CD. That´s how it all started for NIKKI PUPPET. Christos learned to play the guitar, when he was nine years old. He played in many bands, from hardrock to punkrock, blues and acoustic guitar. He has great potential and competence. He made my dream come true. Thank you!”
The famous last words in this interview are for NIKKI PUPPET…
Nicky: “Get to know some female-fronted heavy rock bands! Please buy our original CDs, we need the money badly! Haha. And thank you very much for the interview!”
Visit their website at: www.nikkipuppet.de/
or My Space: www.myspace.com/nikkipuppet