Master’s Hammer conquered the underground in the 80’s and early 90’s with their awesome and unique black/death metal approach. The band’s demos got spread out through tape traders around the world. After the SLAGRY album, the outfit vanished until a return a few years ago with the MANTRA album. The unique and original sounds of Master’s Hammer have indeed appealed and influenced several extreme metal fans. The newest effort titled VRACEJTE KONVE NA MÍSTO proves Master’s Hammer is able to create the catchy occult based songs. The founding member and mastermind of Master’s Hammer Franta Storm sheds more light on the new album and tells about the past.
Good day, how’s it going there in beautiful Republic Czechia and obviously the summer is getting nearer and the winter is over?
Hi, I love it here in studio, wild nature straight behind my windows.
NEW ALBUM –VRACEJTE KONVE NA MÍSTO
Master’s Hammer returned a few years ago by releasing MANTRA. The most recent output titled VRACEJTE KONVE NA MÍSTO has already been out for a while. Apparently you never listen to the album afterwards, but seriously are you pleased with how the new album turned out after all?
Very pleased. Live drums are back in record after all that MIDI crap, Jan Kapák is the best drummer in the underground metal here. New people with refreshing approaches – Joe Harper on throat singing and jaw’s harp. Blackosh for mastering. Not forgetting Necrocock’s parts. They all pushed my songs way forward. For what I know, this album has been accepted better than Mantras, and I guess why…
Where does the title of the name VRACEJTE KONVE NA MÍSTO originally come from – does it refer to something?
Yes, I’ve seen such inscription on a cemetery, it says “put watering cans back in place” as some visitors don’t care. I hate titles like darkness, evil, fire, abyss,… and such clichées, my choice was original – nobody ever titled anything like that. Apart from that, the title itself is very onomatopoeic.
You have described the album as a “Strange album – transitional one – self therapeutic” in an interview (published in Nocturnal Cult Webzine). In which way the process of VRACEJTE KONVE NA MÍSTO became more self-therapeutic for you and how the album with twelve songs turned out as strange?
When working on MANTRAS (and older albums) I used to consult my lyrics with Vlasta, Necro and others, but this time I deliberately stuck alone surrounded by silence. Great experience indeed. It was different than at any previous album. Luckily, Necrocock and Kapák were so kindly critical that I changed about half of all music for sake of the result.
How did you start working on the material for VRACEJTE KONVE NA MÍSTO and in which of point of composing and working did it become obvious that Vlasta, Silenthell and Monster won’t take art in the album after all ?!
From the very beginning of writing the songs. Vlasta is great and skilled musician for a special kind of music. I’d be happy to work with him again on other projects. But extreme metal is after all not his native cup of tea, and I really needed a bit harder stuff on Konve. Anyway it’s advisable to stay near Vlasta as he is The Brewer, he makes the best beer on this planet. Silenthell will definitely play tympans again on a next album (if any happens), I only didn’t need him on Konve. Monster is kind of busy now, I’m worried about him a bit.
The lyrics play the important role in Master’s Hammer. In the early days lyrics were quite straight, whereas the JILEMNICE OCCULTIST album was based on the whole storyline. What kind of things and topics inspirate you to pen the lyrics about – and could you shed a little bit light on lyrics on VRACEJTE KONVE NA MÍSTO ?
Frankly, I must recall a bit, it’s almost a year when I wrote first lyrics to Konve, now I’m in writing new stuff which is going to be slightly different. The idea and mood with Konve just dismissed with past winter mist and hopefully will never come back. It was about worsening of everything in this world, getting older and some Indian inspiration, too. I’ve tried to “auto-translate” some songs from Czech to English on the web and I was surprised – better than original! To a certain extent, of course, but I use some archaic expressions and forgotten Czech words which are very specific to my native tongue only that make it impossible to translate.
According to the official of Master’s Hammer, the album was created “Under the inspiration of nocturnal winter landscape”- Does the nature and its beauty influence you to find a right mood to create the music and the art?
Exactly. I won’t return back to a city. I want to grow a park surrounding my studio and draw the inspiration from it. No matter if it’s fullmoon or tropical sunny day, I’m alone in a circle of 2 kms in diameter and I can hear the nature’s breath, watching animals, stars…
Return of Master’s Hammer came out of blue for sure. What made you to resurrect Master’s Hammer as I definitely though the band will never return to the limelight ?
I’m font designer and programmer, I needed a change, do some noise other ways I went mad from programming. MH is not the only musical project with me, I did some ugly electro stuff earlier.
Was the return of Master’s Hammer basically a new start for you after being on hold for about 14 -15 years ?!
You can assume that MH is not a band anymore, but a studio project with unspecified line-up, musicians are coming and leaving and it makes each album unique. On the comback LP “Mantras” we wanted to glue back the old group, but it wouldn’t work after two years.
When Master’s Hammer went on hiatus after SLAGRY, did you ever consider returning Master’s Hammer back to activity back in day – Were you more or less fed up with the whole band thing and felt enough is enough and decided to pull the plug ?!
I need fun with all of my work, manic pleasure from drawing a new typeface or from writing a song. Šlágry was one of the ingenious jokes you invent several times in life only, it was made very quickly, which is also very important feature – do everything right away,when the idea is still fresh, hot and wet, don’t let it dry, don’t let it calm, just do it. Vlasta would certainly agree with that, he likes Šlágry too.
Before going on hiatus you were on Osmose, how was the working with them – And now afterwards are you kind of disillusioned or do you feel mistrust toward record labels because of releasing the latest albums on your own ?
The Osmose period is luckily over for many years, and after all I can’t complain. We’ve got just what we deserved. Period. Now we don’t need any label, it’s just the band linked with a functional web based e-shop with records and merchandise. Nothing in between. Recommended. I wonder why all bands don’t do this way, what are you waiting for?
Did you even consider inking a deal with some label or was it obvious to release the newer albums on your own?
I remember times when we needed an expensive studio with a pro engineer, nowadays, a teenager can achieve good sound on a laptop with stolen software, and it will most probably sound better than if taped at Abbey Road. Grab photoshop, compose the artwork with logo and send the .waw and .pdf files right to the factory the day after. Raise some www promo + distro. Done. No matter if you are into tape-trading and fanzine copying in late 80s, this is still the same underground. What do we need from renowned labels? Indeed, it applies only for “bands” who don’t play live, like us. Also – I’m not saying that labels suck money out of artists, that’s not true, I know well how much work is the production and nobody works for free. Countless hours of picking decibels and pixels, negotiating with the factory, loading and unloading heavy boxes of records, driving, paying webhousing and programming, managing e-shop, it’s about 15 hours a day job every first two weeks after release. On the other hand, I have everything under control and I wouldn’t change.
Both MANTRA and VRACEJTE KONVE NA MÍSTO have been self-released. Have you made any kind of deal with some wholesalers or distributors to have larger distributions or do you handle the selling via the internet ?
Yes, we do wholesale, alot.
Does the digital give more opportunities for you to spread the music after all as your old demos are digitally available as well as albums via the website of Master’s Hammer – how do you view this?
Real fans ask for physical products. We’ll do our best to offer more of them stepwise. I personally don’t believe in digital although I have an iPod loaded with tons of music. You can find one turnable in my studio, second in the kitchen. I’m not any sort of collector nor vinyl-fetishist, but playing LPs is more exciting.
As stated above Monster, SilentHell and Vlasta were not involved in the new album, but did you keep the contact to each other during these years despite the band was on hold ? Is there a chance for you to work with them again in the future ?!
Of course, we’re having beers together time to time. Future? We’ll let you know when anything happens, but we can’t predict…
THE SOUNDS OF MASTER’S HAMMER
Master’s Hammer has always had the loyal and above all fanatical following in the catacombs of the underground since the early days when the band was founded. Even though the band vanished for 14 years however the music of Master’s Hammer lives, are you surprised or were you aware of Master’s Hammer’s impact on the extreme metal scene as the material of Master’s Hammer has been covered by various bands, younger bands cite Master’s Hammer as one of their influences and there are quite a few sites for MH – All in all does it feel enchanting to realize the youngsters have found Master’s Hammer and the legacy of Master’s Hammer still lives on ?!
I can’t judge, when they call me a “legend”, I definitely don’t feel comfortable with it, it’s too bounding, I’m not that responsible. However, fans perhaps like our individual way we do it, independently and freely. Even at the cost of loosing certain part of radical fans. Most of the cover versions are brilliant, we could never play it so accurately.
When I discovered Master’s Hammer for the first time over 20 years ago, I was stunned and blown away by catchy songs, the unique style and personal vocal styles. How did the sound of Master’s Hammer get developed?
All nice things in this world were developed by mistake. We just tried to make sound closer to our early demos in a pro studio, that’s the Ritual album. Later on, Necrocock brought his “sick harmonies” in, he should have it officially patented, I guess. Valenta on drums was crazy, he usually skipped each first beat of a verse and his breaks sounded as potatoes on stairs. I was recently scared when I heard Kapák imitating his fuckin’ great “style”! I asked him kindly to cut such “inspiration”. And I just can’t play much complicated riffs, so I play simple ones, which appeared to be best ones. Singing? Nobody recognize that I’m actually singing quietly – I simply push the vocal tracks louder when mixing.
Each MH album sounds different and unique – there are certain sounds having created the trademark of Master’s Hammer, from which the band can be identified and recognized, do you pursue to treasure and maintain the identical sounds of Master’s Hammer in the music that has been developed within these years?
Oh yes, just to overlap previous answer: generally, we didn’t care TOO much for the sound, we had other priorities, such as lyrics and arrangements, feeling. The final sound mastering is quite new experience to me – Blackosh told me some basics. But it certainly doesn’t solve the band’s expression, mastering is kind of must, a technical procedure which is necessary before you pass the album for pressing. Our distinctive sound stamp is a complex of diverse items – beginning with the way I hold the chord, how I damp the strings or how I breathe when recording vocals. It’s not easy to explain, each band has its own natural alchemy.
As far as I know you have a special custom made guitar. Do you view that sort of custom made guitars creates that unique sounds for Master’s Hammer, or what was the specific reason for having the custom made guitar ?
The strongest reason is the aesthetics. Now I have also custom made studio monitors made of sturdy Norwegian loudspeakers and local thick plywood (I built myself). I couldn’t stand the plastic made-in-Poland tannoys with their stupid wine red color and neglected typography on the logo. My Vivian Ganesh has also extremely good sound to be sure. I always liked the ergonomics of an explorer, I used to have one in the old days, so when I decided to design and order this one, the shape was my nostalgia. I played a Les Paul prior to this and enjoyed its comfortable neck and fretboard, so I ordered same neck profile for my blue Ganesh.
BEFORE GOING ON HIATUS
SLAGRY was definitely kind of an exceptional output as it differed a lot from the previous material. As I as know the line-up had undergone some changes and obvious the whole black metal theme started bugging you, or did you wanna explore new approaches in the music of Master’s Hammer on SLAGRY or were you fed up with the whole black metal thing?
Šlágry is my favourite album, also it brought us some new fans who never liked metal. We had a very good time with Vlasta when recording Šlágry. I’m not against metal, but sometimes I need a break, I hope you know what I’m talking about as I don’t believe people who says: “I’m only in metal, I hate other styles” – they are just too shy to confess that their ipods hold complete discography of Boy George and Duran Duran. On the contrary – jokes apart – last year I found the Iron Maiden for myself, awesome stuff! Never realized it was such a great band. Well, it doesn’t apologize Šlágry yet, but it explains terms like “devotion” and “openness” from the view of music perception.
What kind of reactions the material of SLAGRY caused in the headquarters of Osmose Rec – The album came out on sub-label Kron-H, not on the main label ?
I think it was absolutely proper idea to release it on an alternative label, not to mess up with metal styles.
Were you aware of the reissued versions of RITUAL and JILEMNICE OCCULTIST came out via the German label named “Nuclear War Now”, were you informed in the first place about putting the albums out or did this come as a surprise ?!
Nuclear what? I don’t even own a single copy of that unhappy release.
When the JILEMNICKY OKULTISTA demo came out 91/92, the booklet looked utter amazing, what kind of process was to develop and create the art and above all the flyers were rousing, raising the hair up into the air ? How many copies did you sell the demo?
I remember the “cassette age” of underground with love, the passion and care all bands put into self production is awesome. There were no computers with audio interfaces, just a cassette recorder put on the floor of a rehearsal room, no internet, just a bunch of flyers stuffed in envelope along with each tape. And it worked! We don’t have exact figures on demotape sales, I estimate it nearly 200 copies or so, correct me who can…
The demos of Master’s Hammer got spread out via the tape trading thru the world wide underground. I for one got those demos via tape trading as well. But were you utterly surprised at how the demos spread like wildfire all around the world ! Did you ever ponder how a band singing in the mother language was getting massive responds and attracted to underground black metal crowd ?
Seen from today’s perspective, yes, it’s huge, but I remember there were other bands with greatly accepted demos. Root for instance.
The KLAVIERSTUCK was released by Poserslaughter Rec from Germany (Berlin If I remember right), how did this come about ?!
The head of Poserslaughter Peter “Pluto” Neuber visited MH on one of the few concerts here in Czechia and came up to an idea to feature our songs in his radio program “Tendenz hard bis heavy” in Berlin, then he put the songs on a green-marble vinyl. We liked it very much and had many beers together.
How did you land on Osmose after all ? As far as I am able to remember you negotiated with Deathlike Silence in some point ?
Correct, we have been in touch with Euronymous shortly, but sadly the deal didn’t work out… Osmose were kind enough to pay the recording for The Jilemnice Ocultist and Šlágry.
When you started out back in 1987, you sounded extreme raw and brutal. Were your aims to sound and look extreme brutal and grim in the early days and remind a bit of Bathory or other black metal bands of that time ?!
Yes, Quorthon was always our greatest idol. We needed to play the hardest possible style of music. In 1989 when our colleagues were busy with the velvet revolution, we were in studio with “The Mass” demo recording. We were against everything. We liked Venom as well and I’m happy that they’re still playing as young guys.
In the early days the pictures of Master’s Hammer exhaled the mysticism and occultism as you used to stand with the pentagram flag, had painted faces etc. How much were you interested in the occultism ?
Not deeply, I was always interested in such an unhealthy literature, Lovecraft, Flammarion, Klíma, Váchal, La Vey, to put some names in. I admit that we cared about our image in the old days pretty much. Nowadays it’s rather the content…
You are known for works with historically inspired fonts, what is the thing that you like most as far as designing type is concerned ?!
Legibility. (Sorry for impolite one-word answer, but it says everything, it doesn’t need any further explanation, that’s what I kept saying to my students too.)
Do these design types come by natural for you or how do you develop these types?
For type designer there are basically two fields of use – custom font work or self-invented projects. The first brings bread, the second just pleasure. I’m an adherent of baroque typography, most of my designs are to a great extent based on it. In typography you can’t invent something entirely new unless you don’t want to turn it illegible.
You are described as artist, graphic, designer, photographer, musician, teacher etc.. What is the nearest thing to your heart and is there dreams of being a little bit something more?
A lawnmower man, for this afternoon, I do some small carpentry occasionally. Some months ago, I had a strange dream where I become an army officer, I don’t know why, but I didn’t feel bad with the idea. Strange enough, normally I hate systems of all kind. Sober and awake – I’m looking for to be called “haver-of-fun” or “doer-of-nothing”.
Before quitting the interview I have to ask a little bit about the Czech beer cos the culture andhistory is impressive. What makes Czech beer so great and special, when is the beer at its best and when for example I visit Czech, what kind of beer I am supposed to taste to have a real feeling of the true Czech’s beer?
Germans call it “Reinheitsgebot” – the act on purity of beer. You can have a good beer virtually anywhere under the condition that it’s pure, unfiltered, unpasterised and free of any chemistry. In Czechia you can drink both bad and good beers, but I’m lucky that I have some small brewers as friends. Vlasta started to brew Czech beer in India this year – a biggest step forward for a decade of our appearance on that fine beach.
I for one thank you time for doing the interview to Metal-Rules.Com and looking forward to hearing more Master’s Hammer albums in the future. And as usual your last words to conclude the interview
Thanks. I hate last words. Keep it open, I’m not dying yet…
The official Master’s Hammer site