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The Butcher Never Sleeps


Архив интервью | Русская версия

Over the past 10 years, Germany’s premier thrash metallers Destruction have gained a reputation of the band that is not likely to come up with any surprises. However, a flow of solid yet quite predictable albums was broken last year with the release of “Thrash Anthems II”, a second collection of re-recordings of the band’s classic songs from the 80s. You might think it’s not worth paying attention, as all the bigger hits were already re-recorded for the first installment of “Thrash Anthems”, released back in 2007, but if you give it a try, you’ll be blown away by the power and the quality of these remakes. Having checked it out ourselves, we wasted no time in connecting bassist and vocalist Schmier to have his comments on this pleasantly surprising release, especially given that the timing is quite right – Schmier together with Mike (guitar) and Vaaver (drums) are coming back to Russia this month for a couple of performances that are also expected to differ somewhat from the band’s live routine. Read on to know more about the latest developments in the Destruction camp.

You will come back to Russia for a couple of shows in a month. You’ve been to Russia quite a few times before – what is your strongest impression of this country? Do you have any kind of interesting story about your travels in Russia?

Oh, I have a lot of crazy stories! We’ve had quite a few shows in Russia. I remember the first time we didn’t really know what to expect, and it was crazy how wild the audience was. There’s a lot of energy in the crowd in Russia, it’s something that you never know if you haven’t visited the country. I remember also our last show in Moscow, it was like three years ago, the atmosphere was amazing. Russian people can be very euphoric, and that’s what heavy metal needs – the energy. And of course, there’s a lot of crazy parties in Russia. I remember our promoter once invited us for a dinner to a heavy metal bar in St. Petersburg. We had good food and a lot of drinks, and then I came up with a drinking game, a vodka drinking game. I tried to beat the Russian people in drinking vodka fast, and of course, it ended up very bad. (everybody laughs) I kind of destroyed some tables and some chairs. I wasn’t aggressive, I was just jumping around, and I’m a big guy. It was a kind of big party. The next day Eugene the promoter came with a big bill and said, “OK, we have five chairs, two tables, 20 glasses, you have to pay for this now”. I was like, “I don’t remember”, and then they showed me the pictures. That’s when I learned never to drink vodka with Russians and try to beat them. I did good that night, but I lost my mind, you know. I like to drink and I like to have control when I drink. But when I go to Russia, it always can get a little bit critical.

Will the Russian shows be based on old school stuff from “Thrash Anthems”, or will they be more like regular Destruction shows with both old and new material?

There will be a lot of old songs, yeah. We’re gonna bring in some of those classics from “Thrash Anthems” now that we haven’t played for many years, and we will have, of course, a little bit of the latest album, “Under Attack” (2016), as well. There will be a lot of classic songs this time, because “Thrash Anthems II” came out at the end of last year, so we will mainly focus on an old school set. Of course, some fresh elements – “Nailed To The Cross”, “Thrash ‘til Death” and stuff won’t be missing. It’s getting more difficult nowadays to create a setlist, because of 35 years and so many albums. But on the other hand, the fans get a quality setlist with only hits basically. There’s gonna be a lot of songs in the setlist that we have never played in Russia before. The fans that saw us in the past couple of years will get a lot of songs that we didn’t perform back then.

Before you come to Russia, you will perform on board the “70,000 Tons of Metal” cruise. What are your expectations? In general, what do you think about this new form of entertainment?

I mean, it’s basically capitalist overkill! (everybody laughs) I was on the boat before, and it’s a thrill! It’s actually amazing. Those cruises are normally fucking boring, because there are normal people on there, and they’re having normal boring conservative parties on there. But if you put 3,000 metalheads and 500 musicians on the boat, it completely changes everything, and it will be the best party you can imagine. Of course, the boat is huge, and once you’re in the Caribbean Ocean and you have a huge deck with a huge stage, you have a beer in your hand, and there’s some metal playing on those stages, it’s a fantastic feeling, a feeling of freedom. Of course, those boats are very big and extraordinary, it’s a kind of interesting experience. It’s, of course, not for everybody, because it’s very expensive, I think the cheapest ticket is 1,200 [euros] or so, but on the other hand, when you go on holidays in the summer, you spend the same amount of money on some shitty days at a shitty beach, when there are 500 people around you. I think it’s definitely worth the money, I was there twice before, it’s our third time, and I was very happy when they called us again and asked us if we wanna play. It’s definitely an extraordinary experience even it if’s capitalist overkill. (laughs) It’s definitely fun!

Now let’s talk about your recent album “Thrash Anthems II”. You launched a crowdfuning campaign to finance it – what are your impressions from this kind of interaction with fans? Do you intend to continue doing things like that?

Who knows? In a few years it might be the future of everything. But at the moment we’re on a good label, Nuclear Blast, and I’m happy that we have a good partner. What “Thrash Anthems II” showed me, to begin with, is that crowdfunding is a lot of fucking work. We were doing a lot of videos, preparations, news, we had to print everything ourselves, we had to ship everything ourselves, it was a lot of fucking work. For us it was important, it was the stone that kept “Thrash Anthems II” rolling. We wanted to do this album, and when Nuclear Blast originally said, “We are not interested”, we were like, “OK, fuck them, we’re gonna do it with this pledge campaign”. For that, it was a great experience, and I’m glad that I checked it out. It was also giving us an opportunity to be very close to the fans, because basically the fans chose the tracklist of the album. The fans also gave us a lot of input during the whole recording sessions. For a young band, we can really say that this crowdfunding stuff is an interesting part that you should really consider doing before you sign to a label that wants money from you, where you get no money. Do crowdfunding, because you only need a couple of hundred fans to finance the album, and then you can print a record, bring it out on your own and distribute it on the Internet. Nowadays it’s anyway going over the Internet, it’s all about downloading. And I think it’s possible for the fans and the band to have fun with it. Of course, it’s still new, so people need to have a little more trust in it. I could see that for a lot of older fans it was like, “Oh, what’s this? I’m not sure. I need a credit card to pay for the music online. I want to have a CD, but I will only get a CD in a few weeks…” They were a little unsure about this, but I think it’s definitely a part of the future for music. I’m lucky we did it, I’m happy that fans support us, and without this pledge campaign there wouldn’t be “Thrash Anthems II”. Nuclear Blast in the beginning were like, “Oh, that’s a tough album. We’re not really interested. Do you really want to do that?” Everybody knows that best-of albums are not selling that good, it’s something that’s not so famous anymore. It’s the same with live albums, live DVDs, it’s kind of dying out.

What made Nuclear Blast eventually change their mind and release the album after all?

When they heard it, they were like, “Oh fuck, it sounds so good!” (everybody laughs) On paper it sounds like all songs are re-recorded, and there’s already the first “Thrash Anthems” that has the best songs of the 80s. But the songs on the second part include a lot of little pearls. When you listen to the album, it doesn’t sound like it’s the songs from the 80s, it sounds like a fresh new record. I think that’s what made Nuclear Blast change their mind, they were like, “Oh fuck, it sounds great! We’re interested now”. We said, “OK, why not from the beginning?” But sometimes you need to kickstart. I’m happy that they finally released it, because we have a very good relationship, and I was a little disappointed when they said, “We don’t wanna do it” But on the other hand, we have enough positive energy to say, “Hey, if you don’t want it, we’ll do it ourselves. We have enough faithful fans”. In the end, it’s great that Nuclear Blast released it, but all the pledge people that supported us on Pledge Music got their super-limited edition of “Thrash Anthems II”. I think it has the smallest amount of CDs ever printed for an album, the limited edition really has a low circulation, so it’s gonna be a super rare item. The original “Thrash Anthems II” pressing from Pledge Music – there’s only a couple of hundred people who have it.

“Thrash Anthems II” includes a very early song called “Front Beast”, which was previously available only on a demo tape. As you said, the album tracklist was chosen by the fans. Were you surprised to see this song in the polls? Or were you excited to finally re-record it?

(laughs) We were actually prepared, I was prepared a bit that the people would recommend this one, but I didn’t expect it to do so strong. So many people asked for it, basically in every post and in every email they sent us, “Front Beast” was in there. It was like the number one song. We were kind of unsure in the beginning, because we hadn’t played this song since 1984. We never played it again after we recorded it, actually. There was actually a funny story behind all that: we recorded our first demo tape live in the studio, and our drummer fucked up “Front Beast”. If you listen to the original demo, at the end of the song Tommy, our drummer, starts to go into the ending of the song far too early, and then we all stop the song. When we re-recorded the song now, we found out that we had two more verses in the original lyrics that we never actually sang and that have never been released. That was the reason why the song died – we fucked it up on the demo, and we never re-recorded it somehow. It was a very special thing to dig out this song and make it a new song. Of course, when you listen to the version on “Thrash Anthems II”, it has a different vibe. The original one is very punky, and now there are still punk vibes, but it sounds much more structured. The original song was one of the newest on the demo, and because we fucked it up, we thought it was cursed, and we never recorded it again. It’s kind of crazy that it took 30-whatever years to record it again. Thanks to the fans!

There is also a bonus cover version of this record, “Holiday In Cambodia” by Dead Kennedys. Why did you add it to your original compositions? Was it an important song for you in the 80s?

Dead Kennedys was as important as GBH and The Exploited for us in the 80s. Apart from the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, we also listened to some of those punk bands, and we took the speed, the aggressiveness and the lyrical content of punk bands. That’s how we created our style in the beginning – mixing that with the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. Dead Kennedys was a band that we really really liked. We never made a cover version, but we always talked about it. Over the years we always talked about Dead Kennedys again, but we never recorded this cover version. When it came to “Thrash Anthems II”, Mike came up with the idea, he said, “Do you remember fucking Dead Kennedys, man? We never did it”. At this moment, we just sat down in the studio and recorded it. It was a very spontaneous decision – you have to take the heat of the moment, you know, and just do it. That’s what happened to “Holiday In Cambodia” – it’s a great song, we loved it all our lives, and we never recorded it, but for “Thrash Anthems II” we thought that would be a great bonus tracks.

I really love your version, and I also like your version of The Exploited’s “Fuck The USA” a lot. Haven’t you thought about doing more punk covers? It’s something that turns out so good when you play it!

Yeah, we’re all punk fans. Before heavy metal was born in Europe, punk rock was big, and a lot of my friends were punks at that time. I was one of the few metalheads, and as there was no metal scene, I was hanging out with the punks, going to punk shows with them. I didn’t like all the punk bands, but some punk bands really had an influence on me. Especially the ones that could play a little bit better, such as GBH and Dead Kennedys. Without the punk rock of the late 70s and early 80s, there would be no thrash metal. It’s the same with Slayer and all those American bands. Even though at that time there was no Internet and no connection, they did the same thing: they listened to punk rock and the New Wave of British Heavy Metal and mixed it up, and it became thrash. It’s kind of crazy how it went. Those punk bands area really important, so who knows? It’s actually a good idea to do more punk cover versions, GBH may be next! (laughs)

All of your releases from the 80s were re-released on vinyl last year by Floga Records. Did you participate in putting them together? And what do you think about the recent vinyl revival?

First of all, I’m a kid of the 80s, so when vinyl kind of stopped, I was very sad. To me the vinyl renaissance is a great pleasure, it shows that the industry cannot kill everything, that it’s the fans who decide. The underground is still alive, and even if the industry stops something, but the fans still like it, it’s still alive. There’s a great thing about vinyl: it has the 80s spirit, and of course, it’s the best sounding musical product, still it is. I’m very glad that vinyl has this big revival.

As to the re-releases, Floga only did the first demo. It’s actually High Roller Records who did the rest. We were fighting for many years with our old label for the rights to original recordings of Destruction, and after many years with layers in courts and stuff we won the rights back. Now we could finally do good versions of those albums, because our old label put out very lousy versions of those albums, and the vinyl wasn’t available for many years. What we did was we did the vinyls first, and we will do the CDs now. They’re coming out starting, I think, end of February. All the old albums will be re-released on CD as well, they’re coming out next, actually. We’re very proud, because we’re giving quality to the fans. It’s not just re-releases, it’s good re-releases in which we all put efforts and time to give some value to those albums again.

We talked the previous time in 2008, when you were promoting “Parasite Of Society” by Headhunter. You seemed quite optimistic about the future of the band back then, but why didn’t the band continue?

It’s because at that time everybody had stuff to do. We played some shows, we played some festivals, and them somehow we were all busy again. Jorg (Michael, drums) was still playing with Stratovarius, I was with Destruction, our guitar player (Uwe “Schmuddel” Hoffmann) kind of got divorced, married a different girl, moved to East Germany, so everybody was drifting apart and having his own aims. We stayed in contact, but we never had the energy to do another album. Also, of course, “Parasite Of Society” wasn’t a huge success. If an album is a huge success, if people are demanding it, and you have opportunities to play live, then it’s easier to continue as a band, but Headhunter was always very underground, and only for the special people who really liked the oldschool kind of metal. It was always difficult, as I said, and the support wasn’t as big as we needed it to go on. We all lived far away from each other, it’s costing a lot of time and money to rehearse and stay connected, and our main bands were just too busy at that time. That’s how everything kind of floated out, and we lost it. We’re still in touch, we still talk, and, who knows, maybe one day there will be another Headhunter album, but at the moment I don’t see it. Another reason is that Jorg Michael, our drummer, isn’t playing active drums anymore. He’s doing production, he’s doing the Wacken festival and other stuff, he’s very busy on the other side of the curtain. But I would say “never say never”, it was always fun with Headhunter, but of course, at that time, it was not very easy to see the future because everybody was too busy, I guess.

Now you also have two bands, Destruction and Panzer. Isn’t it difficult for you to combine two bands that seem to be working pretty actively?

Actually Destruction is my life. It’s more than a band, it’s my existence. It’s my main priority, but Panzer is a nice little extra. It’s the little things I can’t do with Destruction: jamming with different musicians, playing a different kind of metal, paying tribute to my very early roots, to those 80s heavy metal roots, which is, of course, fantastic memories. I really enjoy doing this, but I also know that basically it’s not more than a big hobby of mine. Depending of the new album ("Fatal Command", 2017) getting good reviews and good reactions, we will see how it goes. We want to play some shows this year, we have already announced some festivals and we have some offers, but of course, we will see how much time we’re gonna have for this. For a musician it’s very important to have a playground on the side that keeps the fun alive. With Panzer, there are no expectations, no borders, no rules, we just play and have fun, we’re friends, and that’s actually the great thing about it. Of course, if the fans like it, the project will go on, if we can do some more music in the future, it will be great. For me as a musician, it’s an amazing opportunity to jam out with friends and do something different than I do with Destruction. It’s a little extra on the side that keeps me going as a musician and keeps me enjoying what I do.

How that Panzer have a new line-up, how have the atmosphere and the writing process in the band changed as compared to the first album (“Send Them All To Hell”, 2014)?

You know, V.O. Pulver is one of my oldest friends, and we recorded the first Panzer album in his studio. We also did live shows with him as a second guitar player, so he’s been a part of the Panzer line-up since the beginning basically. When Herman (Frank, ex-guitarist) started to (sighs) have this idea that he wants to write more himself, we said, “Herman, you know, do your solo album”, and that’s what basically happened, he went out for solo stuff so that he can be him, 100% Herman Frank, and that’s what people also want to hear from him. For us, for Panzer, it was a good thing because we could write as friends. V.O. and me, we produced many albums together, we did a lot of Destruction albums and other stuff, but we never wrote songs together. That was a kind of interesting experience and a very successful writing process as well. He lives only half an hour from me - I live in Germany, he lives in Switzerland, but it’s just half an hour from each other. So the whole writing process was much easier, because I could go to his studio in between Destruction’s tours, I could just jam and write songs for Panzer. It made stuff a lot easier for me, because Herman Frank lives in the north of Germany, and stuff was more difficult. Now everybody’s happy: Herman has his own band, he’s the boss, he can do his own stuff, and Panzer is easier to continue, because we all basically… Stefan (Schwarzmann), our drummer, also lives in Switzerland, he moved down here many years ago when he played with Krokus. We’re all in the same region here to do the basement. Of course, Pontus (Norgren), the second guitar player, he’s in Sweden, but Stockholm is also about 1.5 hours away by plane. Sometimes it’s easier to travel from Moscow to Frankfurt than from Frankfurt to another part of Germany where there’s no airport. Now with the air transport system flights are sometimes cheaper than train tickets, it’s crazy.

Apart from playing in two bands, you have also tried yourself as a producer. How did you get involved in producing the band Burning Witches? What made you pick up this band to work with as a producer? I guess you get a lot of offers…

Of course, I get a lot of offers, and I don’t have the time to do it all. Sometimes I’m really honored, but I can’t contribute everywhere. Of course, I always look at the scene, I look at what’s interesting, and Romana (Kalkuhl), the guitar player from Burning Witches, is a friend of mine, and she came up with this idea of the band. She wanted to have some help and some ideas, and I told her, “If you want to do this, you have to do it right. Then you call me again, and I will be able to be your supporter, producer, manager, if you want. I can give you some ideas, and I know people in the metal scene, of course, and I have contacts”. But I said, “If you want to do it, it has to be with a very strong line-up, with a very good singer, you need a very good image”. For her it was a kind of dream to do this, and she was really searching hard for some girls in Switzerland. When I heard her first rehearsals with the singer (Seraina Telli), I was like totally hooked on it, and since then I support them. It’s actually been a crazy career over two years, doing an album to great reactions, and also shows so far have been sold out or really packed. It’s amazing to see that a young band can still make it when they do something different. On the one the hand, it’s very difficult for girls, because heavy metal is a macho world, and a lot of men don’t take it very serious, but on the other hand, there’s a lot of support, there’s a lot of really dedicated people who really like to see this. Come on, to be honest, what’s better than heavy metal girls and beer? It’s fucking killer. I’ve been trying to help them since then, and it’s not always easy because there’s a lot of people who are not taking it serious, a lot of men are machos, even at record labels and stuff. That’s why we did the first album (“Burning Witches”, 2017) ourselves, and now the second album will come out on a big label. Watch out for Burning Witches, they’re definitely gonna go their way, it’s gonna be a big band in the future.

I guess you get asked about the 80s in almost every interview. But apart from talking to press people, how often do you think about that era? Do you recall it a lot of times, or is it something very different from you now?

I mean, your roots are always your roots. What happened in the 80s is still in me every day. Some stuff you keep, some stuff you learn, some stuff you handle better in the future. I’m not a very nostalgic person that always looks back and says that everything was better in the 80s. It’s just a part of my life, but of course, there are some nice memories. And I’m in the lucky position that I still see a lot of people from the 80s. In the music scene of today, there’s still a lot of bands from the 80s, so when I tour the world and play festivals, I still meet a lot of people, and we bring out the stories. But I’m not like living in the past. I think the 80s are an important part of my life, the 80s kind of structured my career but I’m not thinking about them every day.

Quite a lot of metal musicians are writing books, e.g., Scott Ian, Tom Warrior, etc. Have you considered writing a kind of memoir? Or having some writer do an official history of Destruction?

It’s kind of funny that a lot of musicians that had a very conservative career are writing books. I think the only band that wrote a book that was really outstanding was Motley Crue. “The Dirt” was really like nailing the head and very interesting. For me, I was asked so many times to write a book, but I’m not a writer. But now when I’m getting older, I think I should nail down my memories fast, because in some years I won’t be able to remember a lot. (laughs) Actually I still have a very good memory about a lot of events, a lot of moments back in the day, but I can also see that when you turn a certain age, stuff starts to blur out, you cannot remember all the details anymore. If I write a book, it has to be soon, you know. And if I write a book, it has to be ruthless, it has to be war stories from the road, it has to be the brutal truth of rock’n’roll. No philosophy, no boring life stories, I wanna tell the truth how it was in the 80s. It will be interesting, but I still need a motivator, somebody that comes up to me and says, “Hey, I have a good publishing company, we’re interested, let’s do this together”. I think you also need a professional writer, somebody that helps you, in the beginning at least, to get your shit together. I think once it starts, the ball keeps rolling, it’s easy to do this, but you still need somebody who supports you. I guess I’m still missing that somebody who kicks my ass about this. I know I should do this in the next five years, otherwise I won’t be able to remember shit. (laughs)

Do you remember a Russian thrash metal band called Manic Depression?

Yeah, we played with them in Moscow, I remember. When was that? On one of our first visits, ten years ago or something like that.

The thing is that they released a song called “Legacy Of The Past” in 2010, and they were referencing many classic album titles in the lyrics, and two years later you also had a song called “Legacy Of The Past”, and its lyrics are structured in pretty much the same manner…

(laughs) Really? I didn’t know about that. Is the song online somewhere, is it on YouTube?

I’m not sure about YouTube, but it’s definitely online somewhere.

OK, I didn’t know it, it’s the first time I hear it. But that shows also that the metal scene sometimes is very close together. Back in the day, when we wrote our first demo tape, in 1983, we had songs called “Antichrist” and “Tormentor”. And then six months later, the first Slayer album came out, and it had “Antichrist” and “Tormentor” on it. Also the first W.A.S.P. album had the song “Tormentor” on it. When people think alike, this is what happens. It also makes heavy metal great.

Destruction have a while ago played shows without Mike, with Ol Drake replacing him. You have also played shows without Vaaver, with Randy Black on drums. Is a Destruction show possible without Schmier?

(laughs) There was a couple of years ago when these guys tried to be without me.

(laughs) Yeah, I know, but at the moment is anything like that possible, what do you think?

Back then it didn’t work that well. If I’m not able to play, you have to find the right guy to replace me, I guess. I broke my shoulder this summer, I dislocated my left arm, it was really bad, I had to have a surgery and wore a cast for eight weeks. But we still had some shows, so I played those shows without telling my doctor. It wasn’t very funny, but I made it, you know. I’m sure if it’s for one or two shows, and you bring in a singer that is kind of cool, a kind of known, maybe it would be a good replacement, and for people it wouldn’t matter. They would actually think it’s cool. But in the end, people want, and of course, it’s always very difficult to replace a singer.

Do you already have any plans for a next Destruction album?

We always work spontaneously, and our plan this year is to do all those tours. We go to Asia and Australia, we also go back to South America, and we have a lot of festivals this summer. After this we wanna start recording the first demos for a new album. I would see us starting to record a new album in the beginning of 2019, so maybe it comes out before summer 2019. We have no rush and no pressure, Destruction is now part of metal history, we don’t have to record an album every one or two years anymore. We wanna do good products, good albums, there have to be a good vibe when we record. I think we’ll start recording the first demos at the end of the year, and then we’ll see. It’s too early now to tell. We were busy with “Under Attack”, then we got to do a lot of tours, and now we’ve done “Thrash Anthems II” which doesn’t sound like much work for the fans, but in the end, it was a lot of work for us. We did the Pledge Music campaign, and paying tribute to all those old songs was also work. I don’t see us in a rush to do another album this year, we wanna do a great album in 2019.

Destruction on the Internet: http://www.destruction.de/

Special thanks to Eugene Silin (Alive Concerts) for arranging this interview

Interview by Roman Patrashov
Photos courtesy of Nuclear Blast Records
January 19, 2018
© HeadBanger.ru

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