The thrash metal titans Destruction’s new album DIABOLICAL saw the light of day in April. The album definitely proves Destruction is one of the leading thrash metal names in the genre. The band however went through changes in the line-up, got a new guitarist, a new label and went thru the pandemic era. However DIABOLICAL is a fine slab of brutal and raging thrash metal from the beginning to the end. The album is a strong piece of evidence that the machine of Destruction is not slowing down. Metal-Rules.Com sat down with the frontman of Destruction, Schmier, to discuss the new album and sports.
Interview and pics by Arto Lehtinen
Our previous interview was three years ago, so it’s time to upgrade it because so many things have happened in the Destruction camp.
Oh yeah. And we have a new album coming out, so it’s a good reason to talk.
You did some shows this year, right?
Yeah. I mean, we had shows in the pandemic. In the first year of the pandemic, we did some shows with limited people, some shows with social distancing, some shows with sitting people, some shows with masks. And last year we played some festivals, all kinds of festivals, sitting festivals, normal festivals, festivals with vaccination proof. We did it all. We really tried all the solutions as long as you could play. We even played shows that had only like three weeks promotion, advancing for three weeks. We announced the show and we played them in three weeks’ time. So it wasn’t easy, but anything is better than nothing. So we set this to it and it helps us a little bit through the pandemic.
Do you feel that you’re like an animal released from a cage, that to be able to play again because the pandemic is basically over now? It’s not over, but basically.
Yeah, it’s kind of an interesting comparison, but we just had a show last weekend in Holland at Oktoberfest, which was moved to March and it felt great to play again. But also you’re kind of afraid that you lose your routine because when you play a lot – The structure of the band, we play 200 shows a year. We play, always play. So you have a muscle memory, your brain is just used to the training, and then we don’t play anymore for two years. So sometimes I wake up sweating like “Dude, can I still do it?” Because nothing is like– the best training is playing live. You can rehearse whatever you want but then you’re on stage, all the adrenaline and the circumstances and everything, and we’re not getting younger, so of course, you start to worry sometimes. But the show went great and all the muscle memories are still there. So it feels good to be back on stage. It’s what music is made for and it’s an important exchange between the fans and the band and the energy and all that was missing for two years so badly.
Basically, you have the two albums to play, because BORN TO PERISH came out three years ago and now you are getting DIABOLICAL out. So it’s going to be tough to make a setlist because you have to play two albums. Then you have to pick up, of course, the classic ones from the past.
Yeah, yeah, it’s actually impossible to do that. In Germany, we say the coffee is cold, let’s do a new one. We’re going to play the title song Born to Perish and maybe one more song from that album. And we’re going to focus on the new album because I think there are a lot of great live songs on this new record. And it also marks a new time of history for the band and of course all the classics have to be there, so it’s getting more and more complicated. I saw that last week. We played in Holland and we had a 1 hour time for the set and I was like, “Dude there’s no time. All the songs are missing.” We couldn’t play “Total Desaster” and we only play one new song from Diabolical so far. So it will be hell to do the setlist for the next tour, that’s for sure.
In my opinion, the new album is goddamn strong and fast and furious.
I feel that you got a more aggressive vibe on the new album than on the previous one. So did you get some kind of feeling to let anger and frustration and out?
For sure, it’s kind of scream for freedom, scream for music. But also the new team worked really well. It was a team effort. I’m the main songwriter, and of course, I’m the captain of the ship. But the guys are great and they’ve been very cooperative and the band is a real unit. And you can hear this on the record. And also the songwriting, there was no discussion about the direction of the album. Sometimes back in the past, me and Mike, we had different opinions about musical directions. I’m more the thrasher – I’m the old school guy and Mike was always the guy that wants to try different things. So sometimes it didn’t lead to the perfect result in the songwriting. So this time there was no disturbing in the songwriting. We would just go on and write thrash music. And of course, you also have some new elements on the new album. There are some different things here and there, too. But basically, it’s a really raw, thrash piece. And that was from the beginning, the aim of the album. And I’m glad because we didn’t know how it’s going to go with a new team. Is it going to work right with the songwriting and how the song is going to turn out? But it was great fun to do that, especially in the pandemic where everything went so bad. We had a kind of a highlight to do, yeah, we could meet in the studio and produce something, be productive, and that really helped us through the pandemic also.
I took a glance at your video that was recorded when you were working on the new album. You said that this album or recording saved your life and changes of what you have faced, and that you had a great vibe and atmosphere during the process of the recording of the Diabolical album.
Yeah, because there was a pandemic, which made a lot of difficulties because the band is located all over Europe. So for a while we couldn’t see each other because I live in Germany and Randy lives in Germany, but Martin lives in Belgium. Damir, our guitarist lives in Switzerland. And our rehearsal studio and our studio is in Switzerland. So when all the borders were closed for a while, we couldn’t see each other. It was really difficult. And to be able to meet again and play music was just an amazing feeling. We have changed the label also at the same time, yeah, the time when Mike left us, which wasn’t so easy also. So there was a lot of difficulties until we entered the studio and then the sun was shining again. It was like, “Oh, my God, now we’re back. We can do what we love, no more talking, no more planning. Let’s just rock and roll,” and I think that’s what we did. And that’s also why the song sounds so fresh on one pull because we didn’t use so much the brain. It’s supposed to be for music. We used the stomach and the gut feeling to produce the album and I think that was really great fun. 7:54
There’s an acoustic intro being basically a trademark on the Destruction albums. So it reflects the past, am I right?
Oh yeah. I think, not always you have the inspiration for acoustic idea for album opening, but I think for Destruction, we have some of those classics in our past. The “Curse the God’s” intro is one of the best intros in our history. And we have a big tradition on those acoustic jams to go into the album. And the Diabolical actually was the last song we wrote for the album and it turned out great. And I had this idea that we could use the chorus, the harmonies of the chorus and transcripts on acoustic guitars and make it like an atmospheric opener and actually Damir transcribed on guitar. And it turned out great. And I think it’s going to be a great opener for the next year to come on the live situation.
When you released the latest video “no phase of humanity” you wrote on Facebook that this is the shitty moment to release the video. But I wrote that these songs and titles tell everything what we live in nowadays ; terrorism, pandemic, and now we are close to nuclear war. So I guess even though you would say hope dies last – you are still optimistic.
You have to be. Otherwise you can just commit suicide. I think it’s important to stay optimistic and that’s why I’m writing lyrics. All the lyrics to me are like a therapy to write about bad things and try to turn them into positive things. It’s a big way of my therapy because when you read my lyrics, you see I’m always close to focus on what’s going on in the world. And of course, this is sometimes a big punishment. Some people don’t watch the news. I watch the news. And since I started the band, I’m doing this that I write about topics that are scary and that are threatening sometimes. It’s crazy now, of course, a lot of people wrote me when the war started and said, “Dude, your lyrics, they are like lost to damage.” And they brought me some stuff out of the last couple of albums, some stuff I wrote. But yeah, it’s scary. And I wish I wouldn’t write lyrics like this and things would come true. But this is the thing that we also long time coming. The development of the world is a scary one. And I try to not lose hope, but I also see reality. And that’s why the lyrics also have a positive message at the end. The song like, “No Faith In Humanity”, if you listen to the lyrics, it says we all are of the same blood, or it said also at the end of the song, it’s solidarity because solidarity is the key to humanity to survive and it’s not borders and territorial fights about the country and about old stubborn leaders that want more power. If you want to save humanity we need to stick together and forget all this bullshit and it’s just scary to see for me that we have leaders that live in the middle ages and they’re egomaniacs. Yeah. We will see how we– I don’t think we’re actually going to face nuclear war because that’s not going to happen, I think but we will have difficulties economically. And when Russia is out of the game and we have no more Russian gas and all the aftermath of the pandemic it will give a world crisis to our economies worldwide…
And the food crisis.
Yeah, yeah, food crisis, gas crisis, people will lose their jobs, people will starve for their lives. And this will come if we don’t fucking stand together. And this world is so rich and everything and still people will have to suffer and that’s actually a scary thing that I see coming. And this is unavoidable if you don’t stand together.
We never learn from history.
We never, we never. We must be the stupidest beings on the planet seriously.
Last time when we talked that you were looking for a new drummer but Randy Black joined the band. He’s a beast on the album that blasts the drums. He has a really great feeling and stamina on the album.
Yeah, yeah. The first time I saw Randy was, I don’t know, 12, 14 years ago with Annihilator. And when I saw him I was like, “This must be the best drummer I ever saw alive.” He was so impressive, so tight, so precise, and also so energetic and powerful to look at. So I was like, “Wow, this is one of the best drummers I ever saw.” And he reminded me of the first time I saw Dave Lombardo a little bit because he has this swing also. He has a certain swing when he plays fast also. So yeah, when we became friends and Destruction was looking for a drummer many years ago we already talked about it and yeah, it finally happened when Vaaver left. And it’s of course great to have one of your favorite drummers in the band. And on this album, he could really express himself . He had a lot of space and a lot of time also to think about his drum parts and drum patterns and I think it’s his masterpiece. In all of his long career, I think this is definitely the album he plays the craziest stuff and has a lot of fantastic drum moments. And all the drums are actually real. It’s no fake bullshit. Nowadays a lot of drums are corrected on the grid and now people put it in the computer and then they shift around the bass drums and correct everything. It’s called beat detector, shit like that. We don’t use that. It’s really Randy Black and every hit is his real brain and there’s no sample bullshit going on also. So it’s real drums. And sometimes you hear that the guitars and drums are not 100% super tight but they’re tight enough. But it’s the feeling of rock and roll is still on the album that it’s a real band playing, it’s not a machine. And I really like that. The album is breathing rock and roll still.
Did he record all the drum parts in some old bunker?
Yeah, yeah, he did that. He had his drum equipment in a second world war bunker in Hanover. And it just moved over from Berlin to Hanover and he was like, “Dude, I have this great room, and can I record my drums here and stuff? And I was like, “Let’s do some samples and see if it sounds good enough.” And then he sent us some stuff and he added some new toms (15:44) and he was really inspired and he said, “Hey, let’s do it.” [We call it?] [inaudible]. It’s kind of a cool story behind it also to do that.
As for the lineup and Martin Furia because I guess it was easy to ask him to be part of Destruction because he has worked for you.
Yeah, but we forgot him first of all because I made a list of guitar players and he wasn’t on the list. And then one time in the middle of the night I woke up like, “Martin, fucking Furia fucking Furia! And I wrote a message in the middle of the night to my guys in the chat and I said, “Hey, listen, what about Furia Because he’s a tour manager and our sound guy for many years and he’s a great guitar player. He’s a songwriter, he’s a producer. Why don’t we ask him?” And the reaction from the guys was right away, “Oh, my God, of course, Martin. He would be the best choice because he’s part of the family.” And yeah, and then we asked him and we were just afraid that we had to basically turn him down. And imagine he comes to rehearsal room and he’s a good friend and he’s a part of the family and then he plays the songs and don’t sound good. And you’re like, “Oh, dude, sorry, but you can’t do it. You’re not good enough.” So we were a little bit afraid of that moment because we’ve heard him playing and he was great but Destruction songs sometimes they are a little tricky to play – a lot of right hand and a lot of weird harmonies. But he came so well prepared. I think he had like 12 songs in the pocket. He said to me he said to me, “For the last two weeks, I only practiced guitar 24 hours.” And that’s how he performed. He came, he delivered, he got the job, and we were all happy that he came from, football speaking, from the bench into the main team. And not so much changed for us in that point because he’s a family member. And we lost Mike, which was difficult. On the other side, we didn’t have to involve anybody new that maybe doesn’t fit into the team or so. So that was a great thing.
Mike Sifenger has been your wingman for your lifetime. So was it easy for you to adjust yourself playing with Martin Furia?
It was really cool, actually. For me, I’m the person that I can draw the line. When something is over, I really try to refocus and I draw the line and then I move on. I’m not somebody that lives in the past and thinks about it was so much better in the past. No, today I create my future for tomorrow. That’s my thing. Once Mike was out, we actually waited for him for a couple of months to change his mind. And after he didn’t change his mind, we were moving ahead. And from that point on, I focused on the new strengths of the band and I focused on the new team. And then when Martin was announced, I was 100% sure that he could do it. Also, he had a certain amount of respect for Mike’s playing and Mike’s style. That when he overtook his parts, he really played them with a certain tribute and with a certain respect and with a certain finesse also. So that was really cool to see. And that gave me also the convincing power to say, “Hey, it’s all good. We’re doing the right thing.”
Besides the new member, you got a new label, Napalm Records. I wasn’t surprised that you signed a deal with Napalm Records, because when you left that, I somehow expected that you’re going to Napalm because several bands who left Nuclear Blast went to the Atomic Fire or Napalm.
Yeah, there’s not so many global metal big players. There’s a few of them, and we’ve been for 20 years, we’ve been with the best. I saw the rise of Nuclear Blast from close. I was there. I was a part of this huge family, and it felt great to be there. At one point, everything changed. The company got sold, new people came in, and basically out of the family was a new company. And for us, it was then time to move on and say, “Hey, this doesn’t feel the same anymore. Let’s move on and look for something new.” Sometimes it’s good to have a new team around. There’s this German saying, it means in English a new room, sweeps clean. Which means new team, there’s new inspiration, there’s new powers, and it’s also good for the band sometimes to just have a refreshment of everything you do. That was always my experience. Routine is a great thing, but also sometimes you need to kill the routine to go for the next level. And that’s what we did. And the spirit that Napalm has nowadays paid the spirit of nuclear blast 20 years ago.
It has this lot of young people and great team, and everybody’s inspired and focused, and there’s a lot of metal heads working there, and the family is growing. Yeah, and also when you have a problem, you can call the boss. That’s also something I think is important, even if it’s a huge company. When there’s a problem, let’s say the promoter is sick or doesn’t do a good job and you see something missing, and then you just call the boss and say, “Hey, boss, what can we do here?” And then that’s something I like about Nuclear Blast all the time. That Marcus Striker, the old boss, he was always there for the band, and that’s a great thing. That’s a great thing. Even if it’s a big company, you see that the boss cares about the band, and that’s what differs. A big industrial record company like Universal or Sony, when nobody gives a fuck about the band, really, just about the sales, or about the metal label that has a lot of big bands. But the boss still cares about his band.
You got the three videos; “Diabolic”, “No Faith In Humanity” and “State Of Apathy”. Do you think that the videos are still an essential part of the promotion of new albums? You have got 150K and it’s really good. But you have to share them on all kinds of social media to have the people watch them. But do you think that making videos pay more attention to having the people?
Yeah, I think nowadays people have become so visual, it’s all about Instagram and stuff, and so people are much more visual, and videos are the big thing, nobody’s really reading anymore. People want to see videos, and that’s what we actually did on this album was on the campaign we said right away, “Let’s improve our quality of the videos for this album and let’s do enough videos also.” And we have one more video to come for the song [inaudible] scenes. This Friday the trailer will come out and next week the video, before the release of the album, and yeah, we tried to invest some more money in the video because we still believe that it’s very important. People see the videos on the social. There’s a high attraction on the social for the videos, plus the clicks on YouTube you get. And at the end, when the video is a couple of months old, you have at least 500,000 people that saw the video, which is a big amount of people that you reach because, as an example, on Facebook, we have almost 600,000 followers. But Facebook is not allowing us to reach followers anymore.
I have noticed that same problem.
Because of the algorithm, yeah. So we have to find new ways to reach our fans. And I think the videos are definitely a good approach because when the videos are nicely done, you get the energy of the song also, and the fans worldwide can see what’s coming up. So I think videos are– even though there’s no more videos on TV, at least here in Europe, but the internet is still a very important tool, yeah.
You mentioned that you have a new way to promote the videos. How do you do that? Because Facebook sucks nowadays because they don’t allow– I have noticed the same problem with our Facebook, Instagram.
Yeah. There’s several ways you can try to promote and try to kind of trick the algorithm. Of course, one is you don’t put the video link into the actual post. That means you put the link into the comments. That means you put a picture up and say, “Hey, we have a new video out. Please check it out.” Don’t say the word YouTube because as soon as Facebook detects YouTube, the algorithm will cut the post. So say something like, “We have a new clip out. Check it out.” And then the link of the video in the comments. And you can also– what you also can do is put a smart link up. It’s like a smart link that goes to a sales site, which has the links to Spotify and also to the physical products and also to the video, because the worst enemy from Facebook is YouTube. So as soon as Facebook detects YouTube, anything from YouTube, it will cut the algorithm to the minimum. And also another option is to put up a Facebook video, of course, of the clip and also add the link underneath in the comments. We did that too. We tried all the options, and the options that have the least clicks is always the direct Facebook link preview.
There’s also a difference between if you put the link with the preview on the wall or if you put the link without the preview. Let’s say the preview of the video is just a picture. Then that also gets more clicks. The worst thing you can do is basically put the video in full glory as a preview. And the worst thing is– and then share this, and then nobody sees it anymore. If I share this on my timeline, on my personal profile, I get like 50 likes and–
Yeah, I noticed that.
And normally, I get 500,000 likes or at least 500 for a normal post on my personal page. But when I share a YouTube link from our Facebook, nobody sees it anymore. And even if I go on Facebook and have an interesting post on YouTube or somewhere and I want to share it, it doesn’t have to be my own band’s music, just an article or some news or something. Nobody sees it anymore. It’s really sad. Facebook is so much of fucking restrictions nowadays. But it’s their own laws, of course. Nothing you can do about it. But if you all depend on the player– it feels a little bit like Russia. We all knew Russia one day would fuck us back. But we still took the oil from Russia. We let Russia install their news medias everywhere. Russia today was spreading fake news everywhere. Russian bots was spreading fake news all over the internet for many years. But Russia never allows freedom in their own country. And it’s a little bit like this with Facebook. Facebook is having their own rules. It’s only letting their Facebook rules accepted. And we depend on Facebook. And there’s no other options for us to spread our news anymore for the bands, also. Facebook is connected with Instagram, and it’s the same shitty company – Meta. So one day this all would blow up, and we have no options. It’s kind of stupid.
Last time concluded the interview by talking about the sport. But now I kind of ask about your sport because I have noticed on your Instagram that you are going gym and biking, and especially you are doing homemade foods. So how much do you train to to be in good shape? But I guess sport is an important thing in your life nowadays.
Sport was always important. But I think when you age, it gets more important. So I think I started working out. I was a football player. I was biking when I was young also. So I was playing handball for a while when I was young. When the music came, I kind of did less sports. But one time I came back into it, and then in the ’90s, I started– early ’90s, I started going to the gym. And that’s already now also 30 years or so. So I never really stopped doing sports. But sometimes I was lazier; sometimes I was more inspired. But now at my high age, I get more inspired because I can feel that my body really likes it and also for my mental state. Sport is such a great thing to do. It gives you endorphins. You’re more happy. You can feel your body better. My back pain goes away. So I think sports and also good food, healthy food, a healthy diet that makes you feel fulfilled. It’s very important for me at my age because I think food is something that you put into your own body. And if you put shit into your body, shit will give you a shit. So if you give to your body healthy food and sport, your body will maintain longer and will stay fit. And I want to go on stage and give a good performance. And therefore, I became kind of a little bit more controllable about that. And I drink a lot of less alcohol. I stopped doing drugs many years ago. And I live more healthy nowadays, more focused and more conscious also. I love to drink a beer. And I love to drink a glass of wine. But I just don’t kill myself anymore on booze and shit like that. It doesn’t make sense. When you’re older, you become wiser.
Exactly. When you go to Switzerland next time, try cross country skiing.
Yeah. That’s actually very famous in Scandinavia. Right?
Yeah. Because I’m trying to ski four or five times a week about 10 or 20 kilometers.
Wow. Yeah. Of course, in Finland, there’s a lot of space and a lot of tradition for that. Right? So I’m just not a good skier. I sucked in skiing. But actually cross country is different. And it’s very funny you mentioned because [Laurisa?], the guitar player from Burning Bridges, the female metal band that I manage, she actually became a cross country freak this year. She kind of developed new skills. And she went all every weekend to do cross country. And she’s really fit also. And it’s her new hobby. And she also tried to convince me. But I’m not a good skier. So I don’t like stuff underneath my heels. I don’t like rollerblades. I don’t like ice skating. All the stuff that I’m not on the ground, it kind of freaks me out. I like to stand on ground. So I’ve never been a skier or ice skater or roller blader. So it’s kind of difficult. I like biking. Biking was always my fun sports. Yeah.
Thank you for your time doing this short interview. But I hope to see you. I will definitely see you somewhere in any way.
Always a pleasure. Always a pleasure. And hopefully, we can make it back to Finland. I guess this year it would be difficult. But hopefully next year and with a new album on the tour, you can hopefully return.
Okay. Thank you,
Thanks a lot. Stay healthy, my friend.
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