May 2003
interview by Ian C Stewart

Who does what in High Wheel?
ERICH: High Wheel is WOLFGANG HIERL (guitars, flute, vocals), ULI JENNE (drums), ERICH KOGLER (basses, taurus, vocals) and ANDREAS LOBINGER (keyboards, vocals). Wolfgang is also the main songwriter and vocalist and is responsible for our homepage, Uli deals with financial stuff, Lobi is our main technician. I do all the organization things, like selling CDs, booking.

Where and when did the band form?
ERICH: Uli, Wolfgang and I founded High Wheel in 1989 in the Miesbach High School, which is 60km south of Munich. Andreas joined in 1991, when we realized we would need some keyboards to create the sound we wanted. Andreas was in the same school and we all knew him for years.

Where did the band's name come from?
WOLFGANG: In the beginning, most of the band's music was inspired by the books of Erich von Däniken, who is a guru for people searching for extraterrestrial intelligence. In one of his books, there were sketches of possible spaceship designs. Some of them looked like giant wheels. So the first song we played was called "High Wheel In The Sky," and that's where we got the name.

Are you active in your local music scene?
ERICH: Since three of us work as professional musicians, we have to be active locally. But, of course, we also like to play and to perform. Uli plays in several country bands, Wolfgang and I also play in a cover band called Trouble Boys. Wolfgang does classical concerts as well and I play a lot of orchestra stuff with the Munich Symphonics and other smaller ensembles, and Bavarian folk music. And we all work as music teachers and work for studio productions and other projects.

How do your songs come to be?
WOLFGANG: I write most of the songs at night, using a Roland keyboard and a computer. A few of the parts are written on guitar. I write the score for all the instruments and vocals, and then record a MIDI version. Then we start working together to give the songs a live-band feel. Sometimes we still change things when we are rehearsing together, but in most cases we use what's in the score printout. Lyrics come in last, sometimes I start writing them even after we started recording everything else.

Who are your influences?
WOLFGANG: The beginning for me was quite similar to Erich, except I started with Abba and Queen, and ended up with Slayer and stuff like that. Since we started High Wheel, I've become familiar with most of the older prog, but this was just because people kept telling me that it sounds like our stuff. I started listening to the newer prog stuff as well, like Flower Kings, Anekdoten, Spock's Beard, Thinking Plague, etc, and I like the new music better. But I try to write something different if possible. One of my main influences is classical music, especially modern music of the 20th century. I played and listened to that a lot during my studies and I try to put some of those ideas in our music. I also like pop. As long as the song is good I don't care if it's Yes or Cypress Hill.
ERICH: My first influence as a bass player was Steve Harris of Iron Maiden, and I tried to play all of Maiden's songs when I was fourteen. Then I discovered Roger Glover and Deep Purple and then Chris Squire, of course. Other artists that influenced me a lot were Slayer, Jimi Hendrix, Metallica, Led Zeppelin, and many others.

What's the biggest show you've played so far?
ERICH: With High Wheel, I think the biggest was last year's Burg Herzberg Open Air, which had about 10,000 people. When we opened it, I think there were about 600 people already there.

Funny band stories?
ERICH: When we released our first CD, Wolfgang's girlfriend at the time had a lot of friends all over Europe, and one day she got a letter from Scotland, from a guy who had gotten a cassette from his friend in France, with music from a German band called High Wheel. The Scottish guy asked Wolfgang's girlfriend if she knew anything about this band or where he could get their CD, not knowing she was dating the guitar player.

What's next for the band?
ERICH: We'll try to play as much live as possible, the main thing will be playing at the NEARfest in Trenton, New Jersey. Not only because of the concert itself, but because the gig will be recorded. So, if everything goes as planned, we might release a live album this year. And we will also play one or two festivals in France, and maybe someone reading this wants us to play in South America? Feel free to contact us. Wolfgang is also working on some new stuff for our fifth album, so even we don't know what's coming next.

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