03.09.2011Архив интервью | Русская версия
Every time a new Destruction album comes out, every metal medium finds it necessary to publish an interview with Schmier, the frontman of these German thrash metal patriarchs. But our webzine took a different path this time around. First, we did not manage to arrange an interview on time for the release of Destruction’s latest studio offering, “Day Of Reckoning”, and this particular conversation is timed to their upcoming visit to Russia, already their fourth. Second, we asked the promoters to get us the phone of guitarist Mike Sifringer, who may not be as famous among the general public as Schmier is, but many of the long-time fans believe him to be the driving force behind the band’s music who has the final say in many of the matters related to the band. Mike turned out a nice and talkative person, who enjoyed answering questions quietly and in great detail, which is logical for a musician who has achieved a lot and knows what he is worth. Hopefully this comes through in the text below.
Let’s speak about the latest album of Destruction – “Day Of Reckoning”. It seems this album is faster and harder than its predecessor “D.E.V.O.L.U.T.I.O.N” (2008). What influenced you to make it more aggressive?
(laughs) There were a few people complaining about that, but that was not really the point. There were just a few people who said that “Devolution” was too slow, who started to ask us why we can’t play fast anymore and stuff like that. But the fact is that we always try to stay interesting. Maybe the next album will be a bit slower again, you never know. We always change a little bit, otherwise it gets boring.
Lyrically “Day Of Reckoning” is a kind of continuation of “D.E.V.O.L.U.T.I.O.N.” – you sing about the fall of mankind and so on. Why did you decide to continue this theme?
Nothing gets better about the mankind, it only gets worse, so why should we change our message? If there’s any good news we will sing about it, but there’s not much good news in the end. It stays the same, and we still complain about what’s happening.
What do you think about the current riots in Great Britain? Isn’t it the same thing that you describe in your songs?
Of course it is, we are just prophets! (everybody laughs) It’s easy to see that. A lot of people, especially poor people, in all the countries are not really happy with their lives. It’s obvious why. Everybody has a fucking TV set and everybody looks what they can buy in a store and there’s a lot of reports about rich people and what they have, and there’s a lot of poor people that wanna have that, too. It’s a kind of primitive riot, not very political, but in the end, it’s only because the people in power don’t take care about poor people anymore, and poor people eventually try to get what they want. It’s not really the fault of the poor people. I think there should be some riots in every country because it’s all the same - a few rich people and a lot of poor ones, even in Germany. All the world thinks, “Oh, everything is perfect in Germany” – oh my God, no, it’s not! Here it is the same. We are kind of angry about that.
In one of his interviews Schmier said that this time you took a good care about the songwriting process. Can you tell me about the working process for this album?
Yeah, this time we took a little bit more time. This time we did more at home. (laughs) I have a good computer in my living room, and I like to play guitar under good circumstances which means that I need to smoke and I need comfort. And at home I have it all – good food, etc. I can comfortably sit on my sofa and play guitar. Moreover, you don’t have extra costs when you’re working this way. If you go to the studio and your songs are not finished, and it’s gonna be expensive. It takes time to experiment, and at home you have that, you can check out more varieties, more voices, more ways to do it, and do it all in a more relaxed way. That’s what we did this time. We just recorded the drums in a local studio, because you need a little space for a better drum sound, you need a room and microphones and stuff like that, and worked on the rest of the stuff at home.
“Day Of Reckoning” was written in time when Marc Rein left the band. Did it influence you to write something you hadn’t tried before?
No, that was not the point. We always try to find drummers who are good enough to follow what we have in mind. It makes no sense to bring in a drummer who don’t play what we want him to play, we don’t wanna cut that sound because of the drummer who can’t play it. In this case we would change drummer, I guess. (laughs) Maybe the new stuff sounds a little bit different because of the new guy, because of his style and the way he plays. The new guy, Vaaver, is really good. Marc was fast, and he is even a little faster than Marc. I don’t really like the blast stuff, you only can do good drumming with nice cymbals, and that’s what Vaaver is really good at. Maybe that’s what makes the music sound a little bit different.
By the way, what can you say about the division of roles within the band? Are there any matters which you decide alone by yourself, like you write all the riffs and don’t let anybody interfere in?
No, no. If I play guitar, I do care a lot about riffs, but Schmier also comes up with a lot of ideas, hook lines and harmonies. Mostly we do it like that – I come up with drum beat ideas and riffs, I show them to Schmier, and he tells me what he likes and what he doesn’t like. Then he shows me what he has, and we try to mix it up. You just have to have kind of the same tempo, similar drum beat ideas and then you can mix it automatically, you can put different stuff in there without any problem. In general, I write more of the riffs, and that’s natural, most guitar players mainly do the riffs, especially given that we have no keyboards.
In 2009 you were forced to miss some shows because of a broken finger and Ol Drake (Evile) replaced you for those dates. What did you feel watching the band playing with another guitarist?
Oh, I was a little scared, because I really wasn’t able to play guitar at that time. I wasn’t scared about Ol, I like the guy, and he’s a really good guitar player, really a genius – but I was more scared about myself. I wasn’t sure at that time that I would be able to play again, because I wasn’t able to even touch anything. I thought, “Maybe he’s a good replacement for me”, because I really wasn’t sure about my future, but in the end I was lucky. It wasn’t really comfortable to come back, it was a little bit painful, and I played a little bit not as good as before, but it was OK. Yeah, it was a very strange feeling.
I understand, because there were your riffs, your solos and your songs, and somebody else played them while you were not on stage…
Yeah, but it was a big honor. We were talking to a few guys about replacing me, and some of them said, “Yeah, I can do it, but I need a lot of information, I need to talk to Mike how the riffs are going in this and that song”, but Ol already knew a lot. He came to Germany, Schmier gave him the setlist, and he said, “Oh, I already know five songs”. He played along to them a long time ago and he still remembered full songs. Then he had a few days to practice the new stuff, he came and no fucking questions – he played them all, and it was almost perfectly correct, just a few small things here and there. In the end, it’s a big honor for me that somebody learns my songs without being told. Ol is a really good guitar player, and I really appreciate it.
Have you ever thought about asking him to join the band as a second guitarist?
We’re kind of comfortable with the situation we have right now. The more people you have, the more discussions you can. Maybe Ol will want to write songs, too, and we’ll have to talk more about it. Maybe it would be cool, maybe not, you never know. Maybe we will change our mind, never say never.
We are really lucky with this Polish guy, our new drummer, at last we found a really nice person and a good drummer. Vaaver is friendly and he can behave, and in a band it’s absolutely necessary to have good manners and behave adequately. He’s really well educated, and when he joined us, we were really happy. I’m sure Ol is well behaving, too, but sometimes we enjoy being just three people.
For example, if we have bad gear, or if we play a shitty club, and such places often have really small stages, it’s much better when you have just two people in front of the drum kit. And it’s even better to have just one guitar if you don’t have a good PA. If you have two guitars, sometimes you just get mud out of the fucking gear. Sometimes it’s easier to control those shitty places when you’re just a three-piece. Of course, if you have a perfect sound and you play with two guitars, you can do good stuff such as twin guitar leads, and I miss that. You never know, but so far we are pretty fine.
Also in 2009 your guitar was stolen when you played in Anaheim, U.S. Have you managed to get it back?
I personally didn’t do anything for it, I left the U.S. one day later. But all of that was really strange. Some time later, at the NAMM show, this big music fair, a guy came up, a pretty young, 14-16 years old and showed that guitar. They called up the guy at Dean Guitars who immediately showed up, and this youngster told him, “Oh, I lately found that in a garbage can.” I guess what happened in Anaheim is that we had problems onstage with the stage manager, he acted as if he was a really cool guy, a perfect technician and shit like that. But we don’t need a stage manager, we have our own technicians who put up the stage as we want it, and we were headlining that day. We told him, “Now, baby, get offstage, we’re managing ourselves and we don’t need you”. And he stole the guitar and put it in a garbage can. Then the teenager who brought it was not lying. Or maybe he was lying and he had stolen it himself, you never know. Luckily I got in back in a good condition.
“Day Of Reckoning” was released via Nuclear Blast Records. Why did you decide to sign with them once again?
They are obviously a strong label. With AFM we had our little problems, they’re not of the same format, they’re not pushing their bands like Nuclear Blast are. If Nuclear Blast sign a band, they’re getting behind it as long as it’s worth it. We have more power if we’re on a good label, and we missed that with AFM. And talking about the American market, Nuclear Blast are much stronger there. We still know all the guys who are working there, we’ve known the boss for years, and we’ve always liked the guys, they’re more from our region, the southern part of Germany. You’re in a totally different situation if you’re on Nuclear Blast - you get invited to the label building, you can talk to the boss, you have a party all together, you have fun there. It’s more of a social behavior, and it’s quite different from AFM. For all our years with AFM, I never talked to the boss. I’m really happy that we came back.
The limited edition of “Day Of Reckoning” contains a cover version of Dio’s “Stand Up And Shout”. Can you say a couple of words about this track? Why did you choose this particular song?
The bad thing is that he died, and that was the reason. “Stand Up And Shout” was always one of my favorite songs, and it was one of the first songs I learned. When the song came out, I thought, “Wow, what a riff!” I checked it out myself and it gave me a lot of inspiration because it already had that thrash kind of feel, it was fast and heavy, and it’s not so easy to play. I’ve always liked the song, so I asked Shmier, and, of course, he liked it too. Ronnie died, it’s sad but true, so this track is a kind of tribute. We do it really differently from Ronnie’s version because of the vocals, but we don’t care. I’m a really big fan of Ronnie James Dio, I hope he would have liked it. (laughs)
Destruction have covered Iron Maiden, Metallica, The Exploited, but one of you strangest covers is “My Sharonna” (originally by The Knack, recorded by Destruction for the “Cracked Brain” album (1990) – ed.). Why did you decide to record this song and didn’t it confuse your fans at that time?
Yeah, some were confused, some found it funny… As I said before, I like to keep it interesting, and sometimes it’s nice to do funny stuff. Some people didn’t like it because they found it too pop-ish or something, but come on, in the end it’s a heavy riff. OK, it’s not thrash metal, I’m sure about that, but sometimes we need to prove we can play other stuff. And you don’t always need to take this stuff too serious.
You have appointed shows in Russia for this September. What are you expectations?
Oh, we always have good expectations from Russia! First, people are crazy, then the conditions are pretty good, especially in Moscow the class is pretty high, the PA and technicians are good, so the sound will be pretty OK, hopefully. In general, I like Russia because of good parties. (laughs) This is the first time we will play in Yekaterinburg, and I’ve never been that far in the East. It’s gonna be an interesting trip, I guess!
Speaking about Russia, I heard that Dostoevsky is one of your favorite writers. Many of his books have a feeling of craziness and sickness in them. Don’t you want to write a song based on his books?
(laughs) That’s a good idea! Maybe in the Russian language! (everybody laughs)
Yeah, U.D.O. did that, so why not Destruction?
If it is possible to convince Schmier to sing that… Dostoyevsky wrote really crazy stuff, and he was actually a little crazy himself, he was epileptic or something, and he had those strange visions and stuff like that. In the end, he’s kind of a modern writer - look at all this craziness we have right now. So, a good idea, we should try that some time, do a whole concept album based on one of his books.
Last year Destruction shared the stage with Kreator and Sodom at Kavarna Rock fest in Bulgaria. Was it a special show for you, or was it just another ordinary gig?
No, no, that was really like a family meeting! It doesn’t happen so often - these three bands playing together, so the organizers made a smart package. I had fun there, too.
I have a couple of questions about the early days of Destruction, if you don’t mind.
You can try that, I don’t mind, but maybe I won’t remember, it was a really long time ago. But maybe you’re lucky enough!
OK. Is it true that you taught Schmier to play bass in the early days of Knight of Demon (that’s how Destruction were originally called – ed.)?
That’s true. We wanted to start a band, we had a singer and a drummer, but no bass player. We weren’t looking for a good player, just for a guy who could play bass. I wasn’t really a good guitar player back then, and the drummer was really bad, but it didn’t matter. Schmier looked pretty OK, and he was one of the only metalheads in the area…
So you were looking a buddy with a potential of becoming a great player in the future, right?
Yes, you’re totally right. “Would you like to play? Buy yourself a bass, and we’ll show you”. And he always wanted to be a musician.
There are some rumors that you fired Ulf, the original singer of Knight Of Demon, because you and Ulf quarreled over a girl. Can you comment?
It was a funny story. We had a grill party, something like a barbeque, but it wasn’t because of a girl, Ulf was just talking, he was a big mouth type of person. We were almost drunk, and he was talking all the time, and I told him, “Man, you’re talking too much!” It was just a silly argument, something like that, I don’t remember what exactly happened… Lots of bullshit. Probably I pushed him, and he pushed me back, and I didn’t like it.
Can you say a few words about Harry, the band’s second guitarist in the 1980s? How did you get to know him and what did he do after his departure from the band?
To get to know him was not a problem, the town we live in is not really big. There are not so many good bands here, and it was even worse at that time. Twenty-five years ago there were not so many metal musicians, so different bands would just meet each other. We knew him from concerts, and he was one of the best lead guitar players in the area.
Did he play in any bands after his departure from Destruction?
Yes, but they were not famous. They made a few demos, and then he had his own project, he was recording songs on his computer and stuff like that. Now I don’t think he plays anything, but I’m not sure.
In 1989 you did a tour with U.S. band Cro-Mags and I heard that in New York City some idiot fired a gun at their guitarist while Schmier was standing nearby. Was it really the case?
He didn’t fire the gun, he just pointed it. It was scary. But it was a case of bad behavior on our side. We – Destruction and Cro-Mags - were standing in front of a club, more of a funk club, mostly for black people, and there were black people driving around the club in a big pickup truck, and on the back of the truck there were people dancing to hip hop music. The guitar player of Cro-Mags hates hip hop (laughs), he’s a very extreme guy, and he went like, “Hey, you fucking niggers, what kind of fucking shitty music do you listen to?” This was wholly anti-social and kind of dangerous, totally New York style - “Fucking hip hop bullshit!” And the black people didn’t like that, they drove one more round and came back with a big fucking pistol. (laughs) That guy looked like a madman, he pointed it at Douggy and was like, “What did you say, you white ass?” And Douggy was standing brave – “Fuck you nigger, go away with your fucking gun!” The black guy eventually backed down, but it was pretty scary to see a gun pointed at someone standing right next to you.
You also toured with Motorhead in the 1980s, and Lemmy is well known for his love of alcohol and other hard stuff. Did you have any troubles because of that?
We had been expecting something like that, but I don’t remember anything insane. They were always friendly.
The album “Release From Agony” includes the song “Incriminated” and it tells about the feeling of guilt for what the fascists did. This song has the following words, “Why do we take the responsibility of his insanity”. Does this feeling still exist in Germany?
That’s something I cannot really comment on, because the song was written a long time ago, and the lyrics were written by Schmier anyway. Maybe the really old people still do feel guilty, but the young people don’t have much of it, they didn’t live at that time. I don’t really feel guilty, because I have nothing to do with that. History is a strange thing, maybe the Germans can be angry about other countries too. A longer time ago we had that feeling that we are friends with the British and the whole Europe, but we were betrayed. That was in 1600s or something, but come on, it was fucking bad, too. Of course, Hitler was a really bad motherfucker, but – this shouldn’t be an excuse, but he was a fucking Austrian, and the Austrians have never felt as guilty as the Germans. Funny stuff, man! I don’t feel guilty about it. Well, in general, I feel guilty, because the mankind is a fucking piece of shit. I don’t feel very good for being a man. (laughs) In the end, we’re not much better than fucking apes.
After Schmier left Destruction in 1989, you kept the band going for 10 years without him, but you never managed to regain the success you had before. What was the reason?
First of all, it was a bad time, the time when grunge took over, and all the fans cut off their hair. It wasn’t a good time for all extreme metal, it was a time of pop music. All the bands had big problems at that time.
I heard that “Cracked Brain”, the first album without Schmier, was also the first ever thrash metal album recorded in a 48-channel studio. Was that indeed the case?
We record parts of it in a 48-channel studio, but it’s not that everything was recorded on a 48-track, because it was too expensive. We moved to a smaller studio for finishing it. But I don’t really know if it’s indeed the first 48-track production in thrash metal, I’m not sure about it.
When Schmier put together Headhunter, did you consider them as your competitors? What did you think of their music back then?
Hmm, I never see other bands as competitors. As long as people treat me OK, I treat them OK. Of course, if they’re fucking dickheads, I don’t want them to get successful, but with Schmier it wasn’t the case.
I have asked you about some of the rumors around the band. And what is the funniest rumor you’ve ever heard about the band or you personally?
Actually that was not a rumor, that was a fucking picture. Some three American guys, I don’t know where they’re from, made a band picture and put “Destruction” underneath in the original fucking letters. They pretended they were Destruction, but they were not, it was totally not us! (everybody laughs) They were given those photos away to everybody, they were like, “Look, this is Destruction!” That was totally funny. Once I was approached by a guy who wanted me to sign this picture, and I said, “No, not this fucking thing!” You know, there’s a guy on Facebook who says he’s me. I’m not on Facebook, but he makes people believe that’s my account. What the idea is behind this, I have no clue. I just hope most of the people recognize the fake. (laughs)
And to wrap up this interview, please tell a couple of words for your Russian fans.
OK, I hope you will all come in September, I hope you have enough strength and can take the fucking punishment! (laughs) We will try to play a good show, we are in good shape, and we are prepared for this tour.
Destruction on the Internet: http://www.destruction.de
Special thanks to Eugene Silin (Alive Concerts) for arranging this interview
Konstantin “Hirax” Chilikin
August 17, 2011