An Exclusive Interview with Axel „Ironfinger“ Ritt of GRAVE DIGGER!

Almost four decades of Grave Digger – almost four decades of True German Heavy Metal! When you think of pure and unadulterated traditional metal, you will at some point stumble over these German veterans that gave the scene such loveable milestones as Witch Hunter and Tunes Of War. The five-piece survived trends, ups and downs and simply continued to deliver solid material. The latest example is called The Living Dead and marks the 20th studio long-player by these old schoolers.

The Living Dead is out now and is a varied and rather catchy affair that reminds of the band`s most brilliant output in the 90s. Grave Digger have incorporated a lot of timeless melodies and even cooperated with Austrian labelmates Russkaja for the rather exotic ‘Zombie Dance‘. The Germans will embark on the „Tour Of The Living Dead“ in 2019 – another crucial step in celebrating 40 years of Grave Digger!

We’d like to bring to your attention this interview with Axel „Ironfinger“ Ritt – guitarist of the legendary German heavy/power metal pioneers Grave Digger! The following interview is taken exclusively for Rock Arena. Enjoy it!


– Hello, Axel and welcome to Rock Arena! Almost 4 Decades into the band’s career with your very own style and creativity over the years… what’s changed for Grave Digger?

♦Axel „Ironfinger“ Ritt: Hello Toni! Well, a lot, or should I say, almost everything has changed in these 4 decades? I guess in the early days, the band was wild, very wild, but also with a lack of structure and discipline. Today, the band is like a Swiss clockwork, able to perform any kind of show at any time in any venue around the world. Not that bad for a bunch of old farts… 😉

– Your debut ‘’Heavy Metal Breakdown’’ was released almost 33 years ago, and yet you’re still going strong… What does it take to keep the band extremity alive during all those years of Metal Glory?

♦Axel „Ironfinger“ Ritt: Reaching an aim and immediately heading for a new one. As an artists, the worst thing you can do is to copy yourself from album to album, well, of course just when you’re not AC/DC. You have to keep your trademarks, but you have to keep the development as well. If you stop trying to get better, you already stopped being good.

– The new upcoming full-length ‘‘The Living Dead’’ is out now… Who writes the music and the lyrics, and how would you describe the music on the new album? Do you think it’s a continuation of what you were doing recently or more like a throwback to an earlier vibe?

♦Axel „Ironfinger“ Ritt: Chris (Boltendahl) wrote all the lyrics and the vocal hooks and this time, I was the only one who wrote the music and did the arrangements for the single instruments like guitars, basses, drums, choirs and keyboards. The final song structure, I did together with Chris in the end again. The album is 100% Grave Digger, but with a little more sophisticated songs, which scratch at all edges of the plate. Some fans will need to listen to the album more than 1 or 2 times, to get the full impact, but then, you’ll never get it out of your head. It’s legal dope… 😉

– Who’s the producer and what’s the idea behind the album name and the album cover… What do you say in this particular new album?

♦Axel „Ironfinger“ Ritt: The album has been produced by Chris, Jörg Umbreit (In Extremo, Iced Earth, Toten Hosen) and me. I did the pre-production and all the guitar recordings at my Meadow Studios, the rest of the instruments incl. vocals and choirs have been recorded at the Principal Studios by Jörg. Let’s say Jörg takes care of the technical part, I take care of the harmonic part and Chris takes care that it’s still metal in the end! The album is about the Zombie theme, but believe it or not, none of us ever saw just a single episode of the US TV-Series.

– “Fear Of The Living Dead” has the amazing powerful synergy between killer solos, galloping drums and great vocals… Who wrote that song and what’s the story behind the script?

♦Axel „Ironfinger“ Ritt: As every song on this album, Chris and I wrote the song. As far as I remember, it was one of the first songs we wrote for the album. The songwriting process was pretty similar for all songs. Instead of starting with the main riff of the guitar, I suggested starting with the vocal hook of the chorus, because even in metal, the chorus hook is the main part of the song. So Chris sang every hook or lyric idea in his mobile and sent over the samples to me. I analyzed his lines regarding key and so on and composed the complete song around his chorus hook. This was a very satisfying challenge indeed, but the songs speak for themselves.

– For thе track ‘Zombie Dance‘, Grave Digger cooperated with Russkaja… It might be the most surprising song the band has ever released but the symbiosis between Metal and Polka turns out to be perfect… How the idea of ‘Zombie Dance‘ was born, can you tell us more about it?

♦Axel „Ironfinger“ Ritt: To all of our colleagues out there, songs like „Zombie Dance“ can happen, if your lead singer has too much time to think about music … hahaha. Yes, it was Chris idea to do a party song, Grave Digger never did before and he had already the magic words „Step to the right, step to the left“ in his head. I thought it would be a great joke by suggesting a polka to make him laugh, but the only thing he said was „PERFECT“… I guess I asked him a minimum of 3 times if he’s joking, but hey, give the singer what he wants! 😉 I told him I can write everything you like, so why not a polka. We are GRAVE DIGGER, if anyone is allowed to release a metal polka, it’s up to us. And one’s for sure, it’s already a hit. 70% of our fans love it, 30% hate it, but 100% talk about it.

– Grave Digger already released 18 albums which is very impressive! How you are always able to come up with new inspiration and what are your sources of ideas?

♦Axel „Ironfinger“ Ritt: I guess we’ll probably never have a lack of creativity. There are so many songs, sounds and styles more to explore, it’ll never get boring. To be honest, actually, Chris and I are already writing songs for the next album in 2020, although the new one will just be released tomorrow.

– How essential has it been to record the album from the hands of Napalm Records? What’s it like working with Napalm Records?

♦Axel „Ironfinger“ Ritt: Napalm Records became over the years one of the two leading European record companies in metal music. They know every trick in the book and we both participate from each other because Chris and I do have a lot of experience in promotion, publishing and distribution of music as well. It just fits like a glove.

– “Old School Metal never died…” As a veteran of the Metal scene whose opinion does matter, what’s your outlook on the record industry today… How do you think the Heavy Metal scene has changed?

♦Axel „Ironfinger“ Ritt: Unfortunately, music became fast-food for the upcoming generations and there’s no chance to get back to the „glory days“ of music. Bands like GRAVE DIGGER are the last lucky dinosaurs, who can live on music, but no actual or future band will be able to live on music anymore. Because of Spotify and friends, no matter how good you are, there’s not enough income anymore to save some money or feed a family, so music will just be a hobby in the future. Very sad, but very true as well.

– With the exception of Marcus Kiep (keyboard), who joined the band in 2014, the rest of you have been playing together for a long time… What inspires you to do what you do and what’s the best thing about being a musician?

♦Axel „Ironfinger“ Ritt: Inspiring: Knowing that I know NOTHING. The more I learn, the less I know. When I was 18, I thought I know everything. Today I’m 100 times more experienced, but I know nothing. The best thing about being a musician: Getting paid for something, you would also do, if there would be no money at all.

– Grave Digger will hit the road again in 2019 with a series of headliner appearances on the “Tour Of The Living Dead” opening in Hannover, Germany on January 11th… When can we hear the band live in the UK?

♦Axel „Ironfinger“ Ritt: Pack your bags! GRAVE DIGGER will be in London, UK – January 29th 2019!

– Thanks for taking the time out to do this interview!

♦Axel „Ironfinger“ Ritt: Hope to see you at one of our upcoming shows!

More information at:

Interviewed by Toni Rock