INTERVIEW WITH SCHMIER OF DESTRUCTION
The German thrash metal is an institution in the metal world. The thrash metal scene has had a huge impact on bands and their sounds and of course, imagery. The thrash metal icons Destruction have been thrashing since the 80’s and since then kept pounding out the metal with the intensive work. The legendary three-piece has released the THRASH ANTHEMS II feat. re-recorded versions of their gems and been touring all around the world. Metal-Rules.Com recently talked to the frontman Schmier about the albums, labels, social media and a lot more.
Interview and pics by Arto Lehtinen
THRASHING AROUND THE WORLD
You have been playing quite a lot and crisscrossing the world from Australia to Europe, to South America, from North America to Russia. Where do you have the strongest support?
I think, it’s in general that Latin America has an incredible audience. The Latin people are hot blooded. If you watch a football game with Latinos, you will see the same reaction in metal shows. They’re really wild and they’re very passionate about everything. So these shows are amazing. There is a lot of metal fans in Latin America and also the amount of people, which is very nice. We played headlining shows in Manuas, Brazil, in front of 4000- 5,000 people. I think, we also have a record of playing the several times in Santiago, Chile and Bogota and Sao Paulo. We’ve been playing so many times in cities, it’s crazy. We also played in a lot of places, where no other metal bands have played before. We are the first international heavy metal band, that has played in some city in Chile or in Peru.
You also played in China – Do you think that exotic countries are more interesting for you to play nowadays than normal European countries?
Back in the day, it was impossible to go there and now now the scene has established. The most important thing is you need a good promoter to do the shows. In China, some cities are easier to play now: Shanghai and Beijing. It’s not a problem. If you go into the countryside, it gets really weird and then you can experience the real China and it’s a little bit adventurous. I think that’s why we’re doing this. We want to see something new. We want to reach the fans and of course there is nothing better than when you play the first time in a city and you meet the fans for the first time. They’ve waited for many years. There is lots of crying and emotions and it’s also great for a musician of course.
Back in the day you used to do the most of the touring in Central and South European countries, but not in Northern Europe in the 80’s.
Back in the day the heaviest band in the North European countries was TNT. Of course there was Heavy Load and Torch from Sweden.
Yeah, Bathory. It was one guy that had a big mouth. I don’t want to say anything bad about him, because he’s a hero for many. There was not so much going on in the Northern sphere. The metal scene was more like hard rock and heavy metal and it took until the 90’s even, when the extreme scene established. I remember, when we played with Motorhead. We had a lot of tours with Motorhead. We already made it to Denmark. We never played in Nordic Countries, except Copenhagen in Denmark at that time. It was difficult. It was very easy to play at that time. We played everywhere, where we had a demand. Until the 90’s there was no chance for us to go to Scandinavia basically, except Denmark.
When you were playing outdoor festivals like Wacken and Brutal Assault, you had some special things on the stage like ‘The Mad Butcher’ and other guests. Do you find that having those special things on the stage is a good way to entertain people?
We try to keep the shows special. Basically we don’t want to do too much of those “Butcher” shows, because if we do it all the time it gets boring. We want to keep it special. Sometimes the promoter of festivals comes and asks us; “Could you do a show with Mad Butcher” or “Can you do a show with more old school songs and stuff?” Of course, it depends on the actual tour and schedule and everything. We’re usually open for that and we want to just keep it special and we don’t want to do it over and over again. We did the butcher show now in Germany and as you said, in Czech Republic and one time in Switzerland. We want to keep it special.
You had a massive legion of guests at Wacken in 2007, because you were shooting a DVD. I guess the whole thing, when you have so many people, means a lot of organizing, planning, and rehearsing together. How did you carry out the whole thing?
It’s a nightmare. When you have so many people on the logistics, it’s brutal. You have to get everybody into the room, to rehearse. You have to make the plans with the dancers, the Butcher, the members and drum kits we had and we also had the pyros. It’s always dangerous that somebody walks into the pyros and just burns like a Christmas tree. You have to really plan everything before. Meanwhile we made those shows a couple of times and we have brought some ex-members on stage. So we have a little more experience. Of course it’s a lot of planning involved. It looks easy in the end, but it’s not that easy.
As for the line-up, when you played at Sweden Rock, you got Randy Black behind the drum kit, because Vaaver is out and focusing on his family life. What about this drummer thing right now? Have you seriously started thinking about the drummer situation?
Actually we had tested the best drummers, and Randy Black already played the whole tour with us with Sepultura in The States last year. Actually when we got Vaaver in the band, at the time Randy was also on the list for our drummers, but he was playing with Primal Fear at the time. We were talking to each other and the time wasn’t right for that. There is a certain background with Randy, that works really good. He’s a nice guy. He lives in Germany and he’s a fantastic drummer. It works really good with him right now. We said we will test some other guys also and in the meanwhile Randy helps us out. We will decide this summer or by the end of the summer latest, who’s going to stay with us. I think what I can say at the moment is a lot of fans really like Randy, and he got really good reactions from our fans. That’s of course something I’d like to see, because it’s very difficult for a new guy to establish. I know how hard it was for Vaaver at the beginning, the first two, three years. It’s very hard and I see with Randy, there is a difference and that’s nice to see.
Of course he’s a great drummer and very professional. He’s very well prepared and I don’t know if you saw the show, but it’s very tight. The band is very tight. It sounds already like we’ve been playing a lot of tours together. Which is not the case as it looks like. We had Australia and Asia before. It’s like 12, 13 shows we played together. It sounds really good. So who knows? Randy is definitely in the top notch on the list. We have some other guys that we tested. We have a good two, but in the end what matters is not just the playing, it’s also the personal side; how you get along and the little details of course. You have to be on the same level. You want to be together for the next 10 or 15 years until we stop. I don’t want to search for another drummer again. But you never know, drummers are a little flaky. When they come to a certain age, they slow down. For us it’s not possible to slow down, we’re Destruction. We need a drummer that has a good stamina and a good power level.
When you’re looking for a new replacement in general, what kind of things do you usually require for a candidate? Are you looking for a younger drummer with fresh blood or a skilled drummer or at the same age as you are?
Yeah, we had all that before. You know, the young kids are very flaky. One day they are totally into metal, then they have a new girlfriend and all of a sudden they like something else. I had this before, we had a very young drummer. He was very dedicated at the beginning and then he had the wrong girlfriend and he was getting really distracted and weird. Then we had to look for a new drummer. That’s what I’ve learned in this business is – the young guys are very motivated, but everything can change really quick. We’ve been through all the shit, all the ups and downs before, we really appreciate what we have and we work hard for it. That’s why I prefer someone who’s a little bit older, a little more experienced and doesn’t decide tomorrow, that they are going to have 15 babies and stay home. So we really want to have somebody that much more sure about what he’s doing.
Do you have to adjust your playing style with the drummers style, because every musician has a certain style when they’re playing?
Of course, it’s important for us that the drummer understands the way of thrash. Thrash metal just doesn’t mean to play fast. It means you also let everything swing. That’s something you usually have, it’s what I meant with Randy, Randy swings right away. When he came into the band, he knows how to play this kind of stuff, because he was playing it for many years in Annihilator and other bands. I remember, when we had the other new drummers. Even with Vaaver, it took a little time until he got the certain swing, that he’s not killing the songs with speed. It’s not just about speed, it’s about playing the speed right. Of course there are a lot of drummers that they’re not playing the fast hi-hats. When you play a fast beat and you don’t play hi-hat with the fast notes, then it’s basically Polka. You have that in Finland, it’s “eww-kaa eww-kaa eww-kaa” and that’s not thrash metal. Sometimes when I see those young bands, and the drummer can’t play the 16 notes and its still Polka. I’m like, owww, it hurts me in my soul, because thrash metal for me and the drummer needs to swing and needs to play the 16s on the hi-hats.
THRASH HYMNS AND THRASH ANTHEMS
THRASH ANTHEMS Part I and Part II. The first one came out in 2007 and the second one last year. Where did you get your idea to re-record the old material? Did you want to try and have an approach with a modern touch in the studio or was it a money issue behind the whole idea somehow?
It’s not money behind it, because you don’t sell so much records. This is basically something we do for the die-hard fans. The best of album, like this, will never sell as much records as a new album. It was like that we have recorded the bonus material on all the albums. Since the reunion, we always recorded an old song again. It started with ALL HELL BREAKS LOOSE and it started actually with a demo we did. We re-recorded “Bestial Invasion”. We found out that a lot of fans like it. They like the new recordings that the band is tighter and it sounds better. Over the years fans started to ask, “Why don’t you do best of the albums, with new recordings?” That’s how we came to THRASH ANTHEMS I. We had a tour that was over and we weren’t inspired to write new songs and we said, “Why don’t we now do the THRASH ANTHEM thing that we’ve been talking about before?” Of course the reaction is always diverse, because some of the old school fans think we should not re-record those classics. Basically that’s the way we play those songs now. We’ve been growing up as musicians. We interpret the songs a little bit different now. We still play a lot of tribute to what we are, because we’re Destruction. We founded the band and we’re still the same guys. We actually found out that we had a lot of fun doing this. What also is the biggest plus for this is that you can refresh your set list. You can bring in songs that you didn’t play for years or maybe never played, especially now with THRASH ANTHEMS II. There are songs on this album that we never played live -never, ever played live.
Like “Black Death” and “Black Mass”. Also “Satan’s Vengeance”, we didn’t play it for many years also. There is a lot of songs. “Confused Mind” we played last time in 1986 as well I think. There are a lot of songs that we kind of re-discovered. It’s actually great for us and it’s great for the fans too.
As for the RELEASE FROM AGONY album, it has been written for two guitarists at that time. Did you have to change some parts or leads, when recording those songs for the THRASH ANTHEMS and in a general for the live situation?
We were playing some songs for this album and…
“Dissatisfied Existence” for example.
Yeah, “Dissatisfied Existence”. We played “Sign of Fear before and “Unconscious Ruins”. We’ve played “Release From Agony” quite often. We tried around with those songs and sometimes we bring them back into the set list. As you said, all the songs are written for two guitars. It’s a little bit tricky to play as a trio. When it doesn’t feel right for us and when you don’t feel so comfortable on stage with a song, then you don’t just bring them back in a set list. I think “Release From Agony” is the one that we felt most comfortable with. Of course, there was also the anniversary of the album. That’s why we brought it back for a while now. It’s a song that people also love. Never say never. We still flip around the set list all the time and at the end it’s up to the fans. We play so many shows and we see the reactions. Sometimes when people don’t react to certain songs, then we just kick them out again and we bring in something else.
What song was the most challenging one to re-do for the album from back in the day?
I think, there was a couple of challenges. Actually we didn’t play most of the songs since the 80’s. There was really the lyrics. I had to really recover the lyrics, there was no lyrics sheets anymore. Actually Tommy, our first old drummer, he found some old lyrics sheets. Some of the lyrics, I really had to discover myself again. I listened to songs like 20, 30 times to see what I’m singing. I think it was quite challenging. I think maybe the most difficult ones were – Let me think – I think “Ripping You Off Blind” was difficult also, because it’s a pretty progressive song that we also never played before. I think “United By Hatred” was quite a challenge too, because it has different pieces in the song. It’s not one tempo through all the song. It changes the tempo three times. There is a slow part in the beginning of the first part and then the first part has a different tempo again. It’s a little challenging to play this in the studio to get it tied on grid. We usually use a click track in the studio to get the band tied. When you have to program three different click tracks, it’s a weird feeling. Back in the day nobody recorded with a click track. We just went in the studio and we just did what we did. The click track is important and you have to be tied as a band. When we were young, we didn’t care about tightness. We were just learning our instruments and we were just throwing stuff into the studio. Nowadays it’s different, because to make a band sound good, you have to be tied. Therefore every musician should learn, how to play with the click track. Otherwise the band can never be tied. That is the rule number one for musicians in general. We have had great fun though recovering the songs. It was a more challenge than we thought in the beginning. Also, it was a lot of nice re-discovery. Also with songs, you have the memories. We had a lot of good laughs in the studio and also some of our old members came to visit us and we had a lot of good stories to share again. It’s a little bit nostalgic.
Of course, you have flashbacks. I think everybody has these moments, when you listen to a song on the radio, it brings back memories. When you play maybe one of your first metal albums or certain metal songs, it brings back too much memories and it’s the same with us. When you re-recorded the songs or re-discovered the songs, then you remember the first time you were in Berlin and in the studio or the first tour with Slayer or Motorhead. Just certain memories about the lyrics also, that brings me back ; the first time I was in Canada and stuff. There is a great thing about the music, it connects to life with memories.
I still have a cassette from 1987 in my collection. There is Sodom’s PERSECUTION MANIA on the A-side and RELEASE FROM AGONY on the B- side.
That’s SPV edition or?
No, no. It was a self made tape.
Self-made tape? Those were the best of course.
Because at that time it was really hard to get those albums here in Finland. If someone got them, everyone was bringing the tapes.
I had a huge collection of tapes. We’ve all been tape traders and tape collectors at that time. The new generation cannot imagine how it was back in the day. How difficult it was to get music and how much effort you had to put in. Now they just go on Apple Music and they download a new album from whatever, but back in the day it was a struggle to find a record and finally have it in your hands.
Yes, exactly. As for the Pledge Music campaign, and how the album was financed. Were the labels against the idea to release those ANTHEMS album in the first place, that you decided to do the whole thing on your own?
Yeah, yeah. The Best Of record will never sell as much as a normal new album and the label wasn’t interested in the THRASH ANTHEMS. They were like, “It’s the Best Of album. We’re not very interested in this.” Because the problem is these labels think only about how much records they can sell and that’s kind of difficult to convince them in the end. In Germany it’s like you have to be in the charts. It’s all about the wholesale business. If the album is not in the charts and the wholesalers has not arrived. The next album will have more problems to go into the charts and the wholesale people will not take too many copies into the stores. That’s the fear that the label has. We don’t care about that with this shit. We said, “Fuck it. If you don’t want to do it, we do it ourselves.” I heard about this pledge campaign, because Anvil kind of told me about it. Robb Reiner really had a big speech to me when we played in London, when he was at our show. I said, “Why don’t we do the fucking pledge campaign?” It’s a new thing, it’s a challenge. It’s maybe also a new role model for the future for bands. Who knows in 10 years there will still be labels? We just did it and actually at the end it was funny, because when the album was done and Nuclear Blast heard it. They said, “Can we have the album?” It was like, “What the fuck?” That really was ridiculous, but on the other side I wouldn’t miss the chance. Doing this I have to say it was a lot of fucking work, because we were filming a lot of videos also. Trying to keep the fans connected with everything. We also organized the whole shipping and everything ourselves. It was really a lot of work. It was a very intimate album, because we could do it with the fans. The fans had been picking songs and we did a lot of videos for the pledge people. It was kind of interesting new model and I can’t wait for any young band. It’s a great thing to do.
Queensryche is doing it the same way.
Queensryche is doing it the same way?
Yeah. Pledge music.
A lot of bands, Obituary also did it. I can really recommend this to young bands. You only need a little following to support you, to make enough money for production and that’s what it’s all about. You need 15, 000 € – 20,000 € to produce an album. Nowadays, it’s difficult to make this money. The pledge campaign will support you and you can make this money and you can produce your album independently and then maybe sell it to a label. That’s what Anvil did. They basically did the pledge campaign and then just sold the album later on to SPV. It’s a good way, it’s a new good model. It’s definitely worth a try.
How about this guest thing on both the Anthems albums? Because you have people like Ol Drake and Michael Amott. In general, how do you get those guests on the albums?
It’s always great fun to have guests on the album. We’re in touch with a lot of friends and a lot of guys are inspired by Destruction. They always ask me – Michael Amott for example, he didn’t play a guest solo on albums for many years. I think the last guest solo he played was with Michael Schenker. He’s a huge Michael Schenker fan. Of course I was happy, when he said he’s going to do it. Because he kind of bugged me over the years ; “Hey – When are you going to invite me for an album?” He likes the old stuff and especially OVERKILL. He had this idea about “The Ritual”. The solo is very iconic and very special, very melodic also. We thought he was the right guy for doing it. It was great fun and he delivered an amazing solo of course. That’s something great about the new times. The music scene is closer, everybody is closer together. The jamming aspect is great fun. People like to send files around and it’s easy nowadays. Back in the days to play solo on a Destruction album was a big effort -Flying the guitar player and bringing him to Berlin or wherever when we recorded an album. Of course nowadays everything is easier. That’s why we can do this with some friends playing on albums.
BEING UNDER ATTACK
UNDER ATTACK came out a couple of years ago, 2016. I have noticed that you’re putting out new albums every second year. You don’t rest on laurels and you’re working really hard. So you’re kind of be starting putting ideas together for the next album, I believe ?
Yeah, true. People keep on asking, “When is the new album coming?” Mike and me has now officially said that by the end of the summer. We’re going to start sitting together and write the new first songs for the new album. There is no pressure yet. At one point, of course, I have to tell the label, when we’re going to release. But for now at the moment I think if we start recording the first demo this end of summer. Maybe we can go in the studio in December, January and then the new album should be out, maybe before the summer or like next year in May or something like this. That’s possible.
We’re under attack for a lot of things. Because we’re having smartphones now, the prototype we’re under is we’re always available for everything. Don’t take our smartphones away, I’ll check my mails, I go online and I respond to my friends on WhatsApp. I’m always reachable. Today is one of the worst days ever, because everybody is trying to reach me about everything such as about the South American tour. Randy Black is calling me about some endorsement stuff. A friend of mine went to hospital. My mother is calling for her 80th birthday. Then I have a Panzer show coming up in Barcelona. Which I’m not sure I can play, because I have too many things going on. I’m like, “What the fuck?” If I don’t reply on WhatsApp, hell breaks loose. People are like, “What’s wrong. Why don’t you reply?” I’m like, “What the fuck?” I think this is the worst attack we’re under. We cannot have a silent moment anymore. We have to be 24 hours available for everybody and that’s not been so healthy. Sometimes I’m trying to put my phone away, but then on the other side we’re basically managing most of the stuff for Destruction ourselves. I got to be online to answer my shit and answer some emails. If I don’t answer my emails for two days, hell breaks loose.
I have the same feeling. Regarding lyrics, when reading the lyrics, I got the impression that the world, from your point of view and everybody’s point of view, doesn’t seem a good place or has it ever been, not even in the 80’s – the same thing I guess ?
The world is a beautiful place, the problem is the humans. Humanity never learns and I think that is a scary thing and that is coming out a lot of lyrics of mine. The same conclusion that we make mistakes and then we make the mistakes again. Are they wars or is it technology, is it development? Humanity is very greedy and that’s the problem of the world. I think this hasn’t changed so much. Of course nowadays there is a new approach of dealing with things, because everything is fast over the internet. The general problems are the same and the major problem of humanity is of course greed and the pride we have. Everybody wants to be the best. Then of course our system that we have here in the western world, that the only thing that matters is the growth. We cannot grow, until we blow up. There has to be a different thing than this. Of course, you write about the stuff you care about and stuff you see when you travel the world. Because I’m in the lucky position to see many countries, many different systems and many different ways of living. Sometimes you go somewhere and you’re like, “Wow! People are much more chilled here than in Germany.” Australians are little on the same level as we are here in Europe. High standard, western cultured, but they’re more relaxed. They have a different approach to do the stuff. They’re a little more cool. I like it. The Finnish are cool too of course. In Germany sometimes, they make too much stress about stuff and they don’t enjoy life enough.
Regarding “Curse The Gods”, an old song, when taking a glance at the lyrics of that song – you know how the opening lines go, “Allah, Buddha, Jesus Christ…” and it continues. In my opinion those lyrics were relevant back then, but I think they are more relevant nowadays. Obviously you hit the nail, back then.
That stuff doesn’t get old. It’s actually very true. When we wrote the song in ’86, we were already aware of the problems, but now the problems are worse. That song doesn’t get old. That line “Allah, Buddha, Jesus Christ whatever your God maybe” – It’s a classic and I know a lot of fans that still relate to that. That’s of course right, when you write a song that 32 years later is still relevant.
I asked this same question to Mille (Petrozza) “Do you think you are some kind of Nostradamus of metal?” But he declined to comment on the whole thing. What about you? Do you think that you’re able to predict what’s going on?
No, I can’t. I don’t want to. Nostradamus was a very interesting man of course. I was reading some of his stories and stuff. The problem is the translation is not very good. There is many different translations and people are kind of translating his ideas in different ways. There is never a 100% forecast, what he did say. It’s very interesting and I think nowadays we have the problem that people relate too much on fake news and what we see on the TV, and nobody knows what to believe anymore. We’re going to have a huge problem in the future that something has happened in Germany. The fake news thing is everywhere. Half of Germany believes that all the news are fake. Which is kind of true, because the news are kind of manipulated by the government. Kind of not manipulated, but people are kind of led. If they want to tell you that Russia is bad, they will tell you about Russia for the whole month. At the end of the month people believe Russia is bad, but it’s not just Russia is bad. At the time of course Russia have the news channels in Germany, the German people are watching and believe it’s the real news. But it’s coming from Russia. It’s a huge mess what’s going on in the media and just the problem I see in the future. People ask, who are you going to believe in the future? What is the real news? It’s a scary scenario for me, because you need reliability. You need to have the news in some way. Nowadays it’s difficult to find out, what’s real, what’s manipulated and that’s going to be a problem.
It’s everywhere. It’s not only in Finland or in Sweden, it’s everywhere I guess. But you still have the anti-Christian and anti-religion attitude that you reflect in your lyrics.
Yeah, it does. It didn’t get any better as we saw it. The religious is much crazier than ever. In my books, it would be the best thing to just forbid all religious beliefs. Just wipe it off the surface of the world and we would have a better world. Because all those fanatics, nobody needs such things anymore in 2018. Of course, people are easy to be manipulated, when you have this religious insanity, and that’s why it’s not so easy.
You don’t hide, what you think about the politicians and the leaders of the world. That can be seen on the front cover of the second Panzer album.
Yeah. I have my opinion and I like to put it out. Back in the day, in the 80’s, it was normal to make album covers like this. It was normal to provoke and nothing gets actually a task as a musician, an artist in general. You should provoke and you should do the stuff that kind of makes people think. That’s of course what we did, we did a provocative cover. It was funny, when we played in Russia with Destruction, somebody showed me the Panzer album and it had a sticker on the Putin head. It was just like Schmier from Destruction, Pontus from Hammerfall on Putin’s head. So you couldn’t see Putin. It’s kind of funny that stuff still provokes, especially America. Americans were pissed off, like many Trump fans were writing, “I’m going to burn my Destruction collection.” It was of course ridiculous.
Do you have to be in a certain mood when writing lyrics and creating new riffs?
Of course you have to be. Everything that has to do with the writing, you need a certain mindset. You cannot always sit down and just write something. But sometimes you have a good day, good ideas, you just write two lyrics in one day. One day you sit down and you kind of write shit. It depends on if you have some good ideas. Of course the inspiration is on the street, you just see the stuff and then you just get inspired. I usually write, when I see the stuff and then just sit down and start writing about the stuff that I just saw on the road.
PRODUCER, LABELS AND SOCIAL MEDIA
You have worked with V.O. Pulver, who is a guitarist for Poltergeist, on several albums. Is it easy for you to work with him and his Creek studio? Because you live in Southern Germany and he’s in Switzerland, it’s not far away from each other.
Yes. It’s actually only 45 minutes from my home. He’s been a good old friend since back in the day. He had a band called Carrion before in the ’80s and then later on he was in Poltergeist. He was always playing music. We’ve always been friends. When he had the studio, we kind of supported the studio a bit. Over the years we started to record lots of stuff there with Destruction, demos and we did some album mixes there. His studio kind of developed on a really good level in the last year. We kind of supported that and for me it’s much easier of course to just drive for over 45 minutes in the studio and start doing some stuff there than to fly to Finland or to America to work with a producer. There is a certain amount of trust in between us – A certain amount of trust as musicianship and also personal taste. It’s an important part of doing the album together, that you trust the person who is mixing and recording you.
I guess you will work with him in the future for the next release.
Yeah, most likely. We didn’t plan that prior, but it looks like that we’re going to record in Switzerland again.
You have mainly been on Nuclear Blast since you started Destruction again, but you made a short visit to AFM releasing three albums. What was the purpose of doing the short trip to AFM?
There was a time, when Nuclear Blast got really big. Our contract was actually over and there were bands like NightWish selling like 250,000 albums. They were huge and for me as a metalhead, it was kind of difficult to follow this. Because Destruction was one of many bands and I was like, “How is it like when you’re on a smaller label that takes you as a top artist?” There was this guy from AFM and he knew our contract was over and he tried to sign us. He said, “If I sign you. I’m going to give you the best.” Basically we believed him and what actually happened was tragic, because the guy died in his car and was having a demo tape in his cassette recorder basically. We signed a contract the same weekend. We signed a contract and the guy dies. The label is without the boss, but we have already signed the contract. Then we were basically nailed to AFM without the boss. The boss was gone. The brain of the company was not there anymore. This was maybe not the easiest years of our career, because the label had to find a new way. Now AFM has re-established everything to also be one of the bigger metal labels. Back in the day it was a difficult time, because the main guy, the brain of the company died in that week when we signed to the label. It was brutal.
Then you went back to Nuclear Blast, when your deal was over with AFM?
Yeah, yeah. When the contract was over, they tried to keep us. They got bought by a big distribution company. For me the best years Destruction ever had were on Nuclear Blast ; friendship, professionalism. Everything together, it combined so good at Blast. I took a chance to go and ask if they would take us back. Of course they thought it’s a little bit funny that we would leave them and then come back. At the end of the day, there are lots of friends who work in there. It was the best decision we could ever do, by going back to Nuclear blast. It’s like a big family.
As a member of Destruction and Headhunter, you have worked with different labels over the years. Basically, what have you learned from labels and the business over these years since ’80s? Have you become wiser and more strict, when you’re doing the final decision?
Of course, over the years you learn. We just have fought for many years to get the old catalog back now. All the albums are re-released in a high quality at the moment. Because for many years, we had no influence on that. Now when we sign the stuff, of course we have more experience.I think that’s the problem, when you’re a young band, you don’t know shit about the business. You don’t know anything about contracts. Over the years you learn, of course you become more suspicious. You become smarter and you get the better deals, you make the better deals. Of course experience is like with everything in life. In the music business it’s also very complicated and it’s called monkey business for a good reason. Experience really helps.
Actually I came across the re-issues of those albums from the 80’s, that came out on High Roller Records, early this year. How did this come about? Do you still have full rights for the release that came out in the ’80s?
We didn’t have rights for many years. We fought the rights back over the last 15 years in a long court case basically and we won this court case last year. Then we signed with High Roller, because we thought we go to the smaller label that is very dedicated about re-releases and especially about vinyls. Because High Roller in Europe is the best company for re-releases and for the 80’s stuff. They put so much effort into recreating. We had nothing anymore ; the original tapes were lost, the original cover, our work. Everything, everything was gone. We had to re-create everything and High Roller was a big support with that. They really wanted to have high quality re-releases and I’m super happy. It’s so high valuable, what they did and we had great reactions from the fans also about the re-releases. They also sold really good so far. It was really worth of it with this product and to not go with the bigger label, maybe just bring the albums out. We went to a smaller label that is specialized in re-releases. They put a lot of effort in the details and the fans love it.
When I came across those re-issues, I was like, “What the hell is this album? What are these reissues?” Because I wasn’t aware of them.
As you see the back catalogue, they have done a lot of the stuff and they do really good quality. If I look at some other re-releases from bands or from our era, I have to say that compared to stuff that I saw lately that came out again. Were the bands that had no influence on the re-releases. Ours really differ from that with the little details. The little stuff that the fans like, little pictures and lighter notes and all those things that they make an album better.
You have released a bunch of videos; “Under Attack”, “Carnivore” etc… I guess the only way to get them out for people to check out is YouTube nowadays, because VIVA doesn’t exist anymore.
I guess that’s the only way to get videos out is YouTube. Is there any other ways to spread your videos then you have to post to social media? Then the people are aware of your videos. They still have TV shows in some countries . It’s funny, if you would go to Czech republic. There is a full metal TV show still going on there. Also they still play metal on TV in some other countries. Germany is very conservative. There is no more MTV and no more VIVA. It’s gone from TV. I actually heard Headbangers Ball is going to come back in Germany. Let’s see, if it’s really going to happen. As I said, YouTube is the biggest source nowadays and especially the young generation is still in there. Of course it’s a fantastic thing to spread the video, and also for the newcomer bands to be seen. It’s just crazy that we don’t make any money out of it. Because most of the time the label is claiming the YouTube channels, and then the label is making the money that comes in basically. It’s okay, but for me I see videos as a promo tool. I think it’s an important thing. It’s something that you have to do with something like streaming. I think streaming is genius in one direction, but then on the other side it’s very badly paid for the musicians. It’s only for lazy people. If we wouldn’t have the streaming, I have to be on the streaming portal, otherwise people don’t know what the band is all about. I have to do the streaming. It’s the same with YouTube. It’s a promotional tool, but it’s not there to make any money for the bands.
You didn’t release any promo videos in the 80’s. A friend of mine used to do videotape trading. In that way he used to get a hold of your first TV appearance on the Swiss TV and then “Reject Emotions”. That’s all what I got.
Yeah. There was no video clips basically. It was “Bestial Invasion” on Swiss TV and it was “Reject Emotions”…
From Tele5, exactly and there was nothing else.
What about social media? Is it one hell of a pain to keep the social media channels updated about what’s going on in the Destruction camp right now?
Actually it’s a good thing, because I’m also using that. When I want information about bands that I like, I’m also going onto social media to keep me informed. I think it’s actually a great thing. It’s quick, you reach a lot of people. If you don’t want to be there, just switch it off. It’s certainly like it’s the fast lane. I like that about it.
PANZER AND HEADHUNTER
Your other band is Panzer. What’s up with that right now? You said you’re supposed to have a gig in Spain?
Yeah. We have a gig in Spain, but right now Pontus has a tour with Hammerfall. So he’s not there. I have a show with Destruction the day before. Everything is complicated as fuck. Right now we just want to find connection flights to bring us in time for the show, because we’re basically opening up the main stage on the day as Kiss is playing. It means that we have an early show like 1:00 O’clock or something. It’s almost impossible to make it. Right now we have to see if it’s really going to happen, because when we booked the show many months ago. It looked easy, but then of course everybody has his own band. Then Pontus is not there, because of the Hammerfall tour. We have a replacement guitar player of course. Maybe we have to wait and see, when all the bands doing a little break, but we’re also busy. It’s kind of difficult, but I’ll see. We thought it’s a little bit easier to get the band together on some stages, but as we’re also busy, it’s not so easy.
You started as a three-piece band with Herman Frank in the line up, but he left. Now you’re four-piece. So it has expanded a little bit.
Heavy metal needs two guitarists. When we recorded the first album, we did a lot of over tops and double leads and stuff. Herman Frank said right away , when we play live, we need the second guitar player. That’s how V.O. Pulver, our producer basically came into the game and he was basically the second backup guitar player live for the first Panzer shows. Then that’s how he became a band member basically. He produced the first album and he knows the band well and later, when Herman left, I asked him to join the band. Because I needed a guitar player to write songs with. That’s how the four-piece basically started it. I loved the three piece thing with Destruction, but it’s kind of heavy metal with all the melodic leads and double leads and stuff. It needs two guitars.
When writing a riff and songs, do you have some kind of platform or formula, by knowing if this is going for Panzer or this one for Destruction – How do you do that ?
It’s a different approach. For Destruction we still try to write unique stuff that just sounds like Destruction. It has to have a certain exclusivity and a certain style. For Panzer I write basically heavy metal stuff. When I write for Panzer, I try to recreate the 80’s. The stuff that I loved in the ’80s. The melodies and the speed and the harmonies sort of vocals. That’s when I write for Panzer. Sometimes it happens that I write a riff that doesn’t fit and then I just put it away. In general, it’s two different approaches. For Destruction, I really try to write in a different way. Also for Destruction we write a lot. It’s a different kind of harmony; solution, resolution. It’s a different kind of thing behind the writing. Also Mike and me are the good old team. When we write together, it sounds like Destruction right away. When I write with Panzer, there are different people. Of course you hear my style, but it’s never the same and I don’t think it’s that close together also.
I believe Headhunter is pretty much done nowadays.
Michael is not playing anymore and Schmuddel, the guitar player – we actually ask to help us out for Panzer. He was actually also still active and is playing music. But he had a heart attack, just some weeks ago. I think Headhunter is not looking too good at the moment. Who knows? Never say never. Maybe one day we’re all going to come together and say, let’s do our last album. At the moment it doesn’t look like it.
That was the only show we played. I think was 2009 actually.
Did you tour with Accuser and Antidote in the early ‘90s?
Yes of course and Timo Tolkki was the sound engineer.
Nino Laurenne was in Antidote.
Exactly, exactly. The drummer at the time is the guy from Impaled Nazarene. Nobody knows about this tour and actually because it was in the ’90s, it was kind of difficult times. Not so many people know about it.
German thrash. I’m going to ask little bit, because I’m from the ’80s. I’m ’80’s kid. German thrash is a concept known in the whole world. But this question has been asked before. What makes you Destruction, Kreator, and Sodom so special because other bands didn’t make it like Deathrow they vanished in the early ’90s, along with Living Death. Of course Tankard and Holy Moses are still here, and Assassin as well. There are tons of bands. You survived! Did you have just a better condition, better labels and better promotion and better luck?
I think at the end it becomes all together. You need a certain amount of luck to be there. Of course we were lucky to be in the first row of bands that came out in the ’80s. We had one of the first releases on Steamhammer at that time. We were one of the first official German extreme bands or European extreme bands. We had our problems too, with our splits and stuff, but we always worked hard. It was also important when we came back, it was all about friendship. You have to learn from your mistakes. You have to have a different approach next time and that’s what we always did when we had our fights and our problems. When we came back together, we just did the stuff differently. We fired managers. I think we have learned from all those years. That’s the important thing in the music scene. You have to learn from your mistakes and you have to keep on marching forward. You have to stand up. It’s not very easy to throw everything away and say, “I stop. I don’t want to do this anymore.” You throw away a lot of achievements and that’s what we’ve been always fighting for our achievements and for our style. It’s a certain amount of hard work and of course a huge percentage of fans that always kept on demanding the band. Even in the ’80s, end of ’80s or beginning of ’90s, when thrash metal was dying. People still kept on asking and when I was not in Destruction for some years. I couldn’t hear the question anymore like, “When are you coming back?” For me the capital was over for a while and the fans still kept on bugging me. Of course the fans are also a very important part of this.
Do you think that the cult of Destruction was kept alive by the Norwegian bands, when I used to read the underground magazines in the early 90’s, they were always referring to bands like Destruction and sort of the early stuff – Did this create some kind of kind of cult following for and have more hype for Destruction?
I think it’s the early bird thing, that was important. Of course we had the extreme image and we were there just at the beginning. The second wave of the bands for them it wasn’t so easy as you said; Assassin and Deathrow, all those bands. They had more problems. Because we were the first ones and I think that creates the cult thing. Our image, together with the first albums have created something that is unforgettable and it’s tied to the history of heavy metal. I guess that was important to still be there now.
GERMAN HOCKEY AND FOOTBALL
The world championship of football has started. Are you going to follow it?
Of course, of course.
What will happen to Germany?
It’s not looking so good to see it. We’re having a lot of personal issues in the team and of course there is a lot of pressure. No champion ever made it the championship twice in a row. It’s not looking easy at the moment and there is lots of good new teams. I think France have a very good chance. But as we could see today, also the team like Russia. That is actually more than mediocre normally, but the whole country on their side now at home . They made a great game today and I think there is a couple of teams that can be world champion. It’s going to be a hard to fight for Germany. We have to go through the first couple of games and find out a way, because the last games weren’t good and a lot of players weren’t in good shape. A lot of people were injured also. Then there was the scandal with those two guys that have Turkish roots. We’re going to have a very difficult game as the first one with Mexico and then after this will see how it goes. My expectations are not so high. I don’t expect a miracle really. I’m just looking forward to a lot of good games and a lot of great teams. So it’s going to be fun.
Were you surprised that the German hockey team did really good in Olympic games?
Olympics, yeah. That was actually the biggest surprise in 20 plus years in the hockey. Actually nobody expected it this and I even stayed up in the morning 5:00 O’clock whenever it was to watch the final game against Russia. It looks for a second they were going to win. It was ruled, but yeah. Those are the moments in sport that you cannot recreate, those emotions and those surprises. There is good chances that this year there is totally a new team that going to make the world championship also. Look at Iceland, two years ago at the European championship. They came out of nowhere and surprised everybody.
All right Schmier. Thank you so much for your time during this long interview.
All right. Thank you sir.
You’re very welcome. Thank you very much.
The official DESTRUCTION sites
DESTRUCTION AT SWEDENROCK 2018
DESTRUCTION AT VARIOUS PLACES