An Interview with Jutta Weinhold & Holger Marx of Velvet Viper

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Jutta Weinhold – Wikipedia

Metal goes deep. Perhaps deeper than any other genre, seeing as there are sub genres, micro genres and adjacent genres, there are a myriad of areas where any prospective new fan could start. That said, within the deep annals of Metal history resides some seriously heavy, ferocious and backbreaking metal. Are you into that sort of thing? If so, meet Jutta Weinhold, Holger Marx and their band Velvet Viper.

Jutta Weinhold’s lineage within Metal dates back nearly 40 years and her career in music dates back over 50 years. As both a solo artist, as well as the founder of Zed Yago and later Velvet Viper, Jutta has created some of the most heavy and lyrically in depth Metal that has ever come out of Germany, or Eastern Europe in general. Ever the consummate performer and hard worker, Jutta has steadily released quality album, after quality album for our listening and headbanging pleasure.

In 2017, with the help of Holger Marx, Jutta revived the legendary Velvet Viper and has been going strong ever since. In 2021, the band is set to release their latest effort called Cosmic Healer, which you can grab a copy of here or here.

Today, I’ve got both Jutta and Holger with us for a chat. We talk about their new record, the metal scene today, Jutta’s long history in music and much more. Dig in.

Andrew:
Jutta, thank you for taking the time to speak with us. This last year has been rough, right? How are you holding up during this seemingly ever-raging dumpster fire?

Jutta:
Thank you for your interest in our music. Holger and I started writing new songs in February 2020. With our creativity, we have pushed the pandemic far into the background. Our last gig at a festival was on March 6th. Velvet Viper was in really good shape at this point, so Q1 2020 was a successful one. We still benefit from this today. In June and July we went to a studio to record Cosmic Healer. In the studio there was enough space with daylight and fresh air so we could comply with the Corona rules.

Andrew:
Tell us about your backstory. What was your musical gateway so to speak?

Jutta:
Oops, that will be a long story. I’m trying to make it short. I started with HAIR and Jesus Christ Superstar in 1969. Beginning in 1975, I had the Jutta Weinhold Band, we played a kind of Blues Rock. In 1985, I had the best idea in my life. Heavy Metal, because this music is powerful enough to give the songs strong lyrics. I wanted to write about mythologies, literature, poetry, sagas, legends and, last but not least, about fantasy. This resulted in Zed Yago, The Daughter of the Flying Dutchman.

After two albums, we split up and I continued with Velvet Viper until 1994. In the years after that, five more albums were made under the banner of Jutta Weinhold. When I met Holger Max in 2015, the time was ripe to start at full speed. We brought Velvet Viper back to the scene.

Andrew:
As a singer and songwriter, who are some of your earliest and most important influences?

Jutta:
My only goal since 1969 has been to be part of the Rock ‘N’ Roll family. Early influences were Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, Small Faces, Vanilla Fudge and Frank Zappa to name a few.

VELVET VIPER | Cosmic healer - Nuclear Blast

Andrew:
Let’s jump right in and talk about your upcoming studio album with Velvet Viper, Cosmic Healer. How did the album come together? What was it like recording during the pandemic?

Jutta:
I think this album is our best since the reformation of Velvet Viper. I already mentioned the studio in the countryside near Hanover. We were able to work socially distanced. Holger Marx was supported by Ralf Basten, who back then produced the two Zed Yago albums. We are very happy that we were able to win him over for this work.

Holger:
We have now found a stable line-up and recorded the album with Micha and Johannes who we shared the stage with on the last tour. We recorded the basic tracks together to have a kind of a live situation and did way less editing than is often done today. The album sounds much more alive and showcases how we sound on stage, which is really important for our kind of Metal. 

Andrew:
From a songwriting perspective, what theme are you exploring with your new record? Are you lyrics intensely personal, or are you merely telling stories so to speak? How have you progressed as a songwriter compared to some of your earlier work in the 70s and 80s?

Jutta:
I don’t actually write any personal texts. After the 1970s, the lyrics became more conceptual. Since Zed Yago, I’ve wanted to make lyrics that don’t come off the Rock ‘N’ Roll assembly line. As I said, I love legends, sagas, poetry, literature, fantasy. These are the worlds that touch me. On the new album I used Egyptian mythology. “Holy Snake Mother” tells my story of the Velvet Viper. Inspired by Cleopatra’s suicide. I love telling stories. *smiles*

Holger:
These lyrics based on fantasy stories and old mythology just work best for our music. Singing about how we feel during the lockdown or something like that just wouldn’t feel right.

Andrew:
How about the production side of things? Did you self-produce this record, or did you bring in outside voices to help harness your sound? What went into the decision either way?

Holger:
This is the third album we did together, and Ralf Basten is a well-established sound engineer who also does our live sound. By now, we know how our music has to sound, and Micha and Johannes had great ideas, too. We discussed our ideas, recorded demos and worked on them until we were happy with them. When we went to the studio, we already had a very good idea of where we wanted to go on this album.

Image Credit: Tine Gennaio & Paul Bossenmaier

Andrew:
Let’s go all the way back now and talk about the origins of Velvet Viper. For those that don’t know, how did the band come together? The band was once called Zed Yago, right? What led to the name change?

Jutta:
As already mentioned, I invented Zed Yago in 1985/86 and put the band together. It worked fine for 3 years. Then came the Rock ‘N’ Roll ego problems. I wanted to continue with a new Zed Yago line-up and fell into the deepest hole of my life. We had a civil law society. Unfortunately, I hadn’t filed a private copyright for the name Zed Yago. The band name was given to the majority. Therefore I am no longer allowed to use Zed Yago.

That was a tragedy and the start of Velvet Viper. In 1990 came the first Velvet Viper album and in 1992 the second and 1993 the last album with my themes by Zed Yago, the daughter of the Flying Dutchman. Then the style of music changed so much that we could no longer do our thing. Incidentally: I lost my name but not the rights to the songs and so we were able to release these first productions in 2020 as a re-master at Massacre Records.

Andrew:
As I am sure you are aware, women are vastly underrepresented within the music industry. As a strong female front person, what are your feelings on that? How do we flip the script and enact positive change?

Jutta:
There are probably several reasons.

We Germans are thoroughgoing, but also slow. German cars for example are popular and respected worldwide. But it takes an Elon Musk to build an e-car factory here. It is similar in the music it was a British radio DJ who had to draw the attention of RCA Germany to Zed Yago.

A second aspect that the prophet has no honor in his own country.

Third, women have always had a harder time in the music industry. Metal is a male domain with a conservative image of women. I just wanted to show that women can do more than “looking sexy.”

None of this will stop me from going on with all my might.

Holger:
The Rock and Metal world is very male-dominated, not just on stage but also behind the scenes, and I’m afraid that hanging out in dirty backstage rooms and interacting with slightly drunk stage hands is not really that appealing to most women.

Andrew:
Shifting gears a bit now. The Metal and Hard Rock scene here in North American is pretty stagnant. It’s almost become indie in a way, with only the major bands getting a lot of traction- it’s a struggle, it seems. That said, in Europe, the Metal scene is thriving and seemingly always has been. Why do you feel the ferocity for Metal and Hard Rock is so much stronger throughout Europe than it is in the rest of the world?

Jutta:
The Metal audience is the truest in the whole wide world. I don’t know what it’s like in the US but American bands in Germany often have sold out shows.

Holger:
I think the more traditional styles of Metal are kind of experiencing a downturn right now, with established bands like Iron Maiden, Metallica, Dragonforce or Helloween doing still well, but without a real wave of strongly emerging bands from that sector, while more extreme bands like Gojira, Lamb of God or Arch Enemy seem to be more successful in gaining new supporters, but that might just be my personal impression. In general, there are lots and lots of bands out there, many of them really good at what they are doing, and it has become very difficult to stand out or get sufficient support from a label to really reach the international level and be able to go on a longer tour and really grow.

Velvet Viper – Respice Finem | Keep on Rockin'

Andrew:
More on the subject of Metal. Oftentimes, “Metalheads” are judged for their appearance. It’s odd though, people will judge someone for looking “too metal,” but in the same breath, someone can be judged for not looking “metal enough.” What are your thoughts on that?

Jutta:
I’m an old Rock ‘N’ Roll Indian *smile* and I love long-haired musicians. I believe long hair make the boys more feminine and it fits to the masculine attitude. Metalheads love their jackets with band patches on them to demonstrate their affiliation. Honestly, it’s not all about that; we all feel the power and energy that comes from our music.

Holger:
Heavy Metal should be about individuality, so as a band on stage you should look recognizable and interesting and show that you feel affiliated to the metal culture, but there is a fine line between a credible metal outfit and a caricature. Not everyone can dress like Rob Halford and look good doing that.

Andrew:
Since the days of Satanic Panic in the, Metal and Hard Rock music in all it’s forms has seemingly been on trial. What are your thoughts on the persecution of Metal/Hard Rock as a genre? Do you feel it will ever be widely accepted the way that Pop or more mainstream Rock music is?

Jutta:
Here in Germany, Metal and even Rock is a subculture. Music loses its value when the mainstream takes it over. Like Punk music lost it, for example. Pop music is a different planet and has the shelf life of a curd cheese. I hope and wish that Metal stays in its subculture corner. My belief: Rock and Metal music is more than just commerce and consumption. It can convey values that we have lost in our materialistic world.

Holger:
In countries like Iran, you can still go to prison for playing in a Metal band, those guys and girls are really brave and should get more attention. In the western world, Metal has kind of lost its dark and fearsome aura it used to have in the times of Venom or Mercyful Fate, or even Twisted Sister. Sometimes the whole metal attitude seems to have become like a meme. I would welcome a shift towards more earnestness in our scene, that could be a path for the future.

Andrew:
Touring is usually a huge part of a working musician’s proverbial machine, but as we know, COVID has disallowed it. What do you miss most about touring?

Jutta:
Oh, I miss the performances, I miss the friends and fans, I miss loud music, I miss the stage, because every performance is a fountain of youth for me. I fall in and it gives me strength and passion keeps the spirit of metal music alive.

File:2015-08-01 Jutta Weinhold Band (Bäääm festival 2015) 034.jpg -  Wikimedia Commons

Andrew:
One disturbing fact I’ve learned over time is that Spotify doesn’t pay artists well, if at all. Meanwhile, Bandcamp seemingly goes out of it’s way to take care of its artist.  What are your thoughts on that issue? How do we as fans do our part to help?

Holger:
The whole business of getting money for recorded music is really screwed up, I’m afraid. For most bands, touring and selling merchandise has become much more important than selling albums. What bands get from streaming platforms is sadly very little. It has become almost impossible to refinance a big production like they did back in the day. We would need a big shift in this whole area in order to get even close to what bands got for their recorded music in the pre-internet age.

Andrew:
In a world dominated by late-stage capitalism and social media, can artists really, truly get ahead? How do we keep the playing field level so that everyone has a chance to succeed?

Jutta:
Let’s talk about the young, talented bands, they no longer have a chance to make a living from their music. It is so sad and a great loss to society. If people don’t buy records, labels aren’t spending money to support a band. Most musicians in Germany have a second job to pay their rent, that’s a shame, I think. Creative artists are no longer valued. Something strange happened. Many people no longer want to pay for creative work. They think that everything has to be free in the digital world. This brave new world isn’t really nice for artists. The big ones get bigger and the little ones stay small. Another problem: The very young no longer listen to Rock or Metal – they are absorbed by the Pop mainstream. I feel sorry for them because they don’t know what they’re missing.

Andrew:
Are you into records? Tapes? CDs? Digital? Where do you like to shop for music? What are a few albums that mean the most to you and why?

Jutta:
I have records and I have CDs. In my collection there are, to name a few, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Free, Deep Purple, Rainbow, Dio, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Savatage, System of a Down, Anthrax, Korn, Helloween, Gamma Ray. By the way, Kai Hansen produced our first album in 2017, Respice Finem. What ever you do, do it wisely and consider the end.

Holger:
When something interesting comes out, I still buy the CD and listen to it in my car. The last albums I purchased were The Way of All Flesh by Gojira, The Hunter by Mastodon and Watershed by Opeth.

Musik: Interview mit Jutta Weinhold! - Bikes, Music & More

Andrew:
Who are some of your favorite artists? Ones that mean the most to you.

Jutta:
In addition to Metal and Rock music, I love Classical music, for example Richard Wagner. I was shaped by Janis Joplin and Bob Dylan. Janis with her uncompromising manner and Bob with his extensive texts. But I should also mention the powerful voices of Dio or Bruce Dickinson.

Holger:
My favorite bands of all time include Arch Enemy and Nevermore. Michael Amott and Jeff Loomis on guitar are just killing it. Kai Hansen has also been a very important influence for me when I was younger.

Andrew:
Last question. What advice would you have for artists just starting out? How do they stay afloat in a world that seems to be so abhorrent to creatives?

Jutta:
Everyone should make the music that corresponds to their own mentality. Music should come first in your life. Don’t copy other bands or songs. Always be yourself and you will achieve that people like exactly the things you do, the music you play.

This is the only way Rock music will survive. Once again our music is more than just consumption or commerce, it creates values that are almost lost in our material world. Support your local bands, go to the clubs and take the time to understand the content of the lyrics.

Stay healthy. Music is the best, the best, the best…

VELVET VIPER – 'Respice Finem'!' Rock Arena UK

Interested in diving deeper into the work of Velvet Viper? Check out the link below:

Dig this interview? Check out the full archives of Vinyl Writer Interviews, by Andrew Daly, here: www.vinylwritermusic.com/interview

About Post Author

Andrew Daly

Since he was a young child growing up on Long Island, NY, Andrew has always loved writing and collecting physical music. Present-day, Andrew is proud to share his love of music with the world through his writing, and the result is nothing short of beautiful: articles and interviews written by a music addict for fellow music addicts. Andrew lives on Long Island and works as a Horticultural Operations Manager by day and runs the Vinyl Writer Music website by night.
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