“We’re not gonna fall by the wayside when heavy metal becomes untrendy” – Steve Ramsey (Satan)

Interview with Steve Ramsey from Satan

Interview for Metalegion Magazine by Estelle on the 1st of October 2018

Hi Steve! Thanks a lot for taking the time and doing the interview with Metalegion! First I’d like to ask, if you could go back in time, would you change anything career-wise?

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Satan in 1983

We probably wouldn’t have parted ways with Brian (Ross, vocalist ed.). It’s just one of those things. We were very young when we made the first album and we listened to the press that we were getting at the time. The two main places we were playing, it was in the Netherlands and in England. And both of the main magazines gave us a bad review. One of them the Kerrang! magazine in England. In the one in Holland where we’ve been doing so well gig-wise, the review was very mediocre and it made us think we were doing something wrong. I wish we’d stuck to our guns.

So did this point made you do things in a different way later?

You know, you’re influenced when you’re young, you’re influenced by what you can see. Foolishly we took that information as we needed a change in what we were doing. Really, we should have just stuck to what we were doing.

About your name: I figure you’re not satanists but find the subject of evil and injustice in our world interesting and like to write about that. To what extent do bands like you with more provocative names have to deal with more criticism than the average metal band?

We for sure got a lot of criticism. When we thought of that name  I think I thought of the name and the logo when I was 15 at school I didn’t have a good time back then and at 15 I thought it was a really cool name for a metal band. Brian still believes that it’s the best name for any metal band ever. But of course black metal and death metal and all that became genres of the music and we were instantly classed in those genres even though we were nothing like that. That’s one of the reasons why we changed things in the early days. Now it doesn’t seem to matter because there are a lot of bands doing a lot worse than us (laughs).

Do you have any outstanding, funny or weird stories about people associating something with you that you don’t represent?

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Steve Ramsey in 1983

We did this support tour with Running Wild in Germany, in 1985. One of the shows was in a country-sort of village-town and a lot of Christians turned up at the church and stopped their kids going to see Satan (laughs). I remember standing outside the show trying to explain them that we have nothing to do with devil culture or anything like that, that was just strange. After that we changed our name to Blind Fury and we’ve had that through the 80s. It was a bit of a trouble being called Satan.

I can imagine!
It’s funny because as you probably know many comeback albums of old heavy metal bands don’t manage to bring the stuff to people that they’d expected. It’s different with you, in my personal opinion your new album “Cruel Magic” is once again amazing! How is the feedback so far?

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Satan – Cruel Magic (2018)

“Cruel Magic” was charted in Germany a couple of weeks ago when it was released. If we were in the 80s and it would have been charted Nr 28 in the charts, we would have been quite well off. Now we’re saying “yeah right, whatever, we’re in the charts” (laughs). But we think it’s a fantastic album and people like it too so we’re happy.

Is the reason for your music still kicking that you stayed not far away from the metal scene even in times when it seemed to be dead?

I’ve got no idea (laughs). We actually saw the pitfalls of doing this and we had no intention of ever doing another album. But we decided to do a couple of shows and the reaction especially when we saw that there was a lot of young people at the shows , we thought “wow, this is a scene that we’re not gonna get back again”. And just rehearsing for some of the shows or festivals it was obvious that one of us is gonna come up with a riff on a rehearsal. We just started writing songs and didn’t think much of it, then we’ve listened to what we’ve done, we made a demo and said to ourselves “if we don’t think it’s great, then we’re not gonna pursue it”. But it was working out great. So we did the first demo and then sent it around all the labels and no one was interested apart from High Roller Records and Listenable. Those were the only two that got back to us. So obviously we met up with Listenable at the show we did in Belgium and it was great. With Listenable, we had a great time over there. They believed in us but obviously none of the bigger labels at the time believed that it would be success to do another album. Like you said, lot of bands get back together and try to do that and it just doesn’t work. But I think we knew in rehearsal that we still had the same chemistry with each other that we had back in the 80s; just playing together we knew we had that. And I think all those years apart, we had a lot of ideas that we may have put in if if we had stayed together, and they were all still there. So it seems easy to us to do it.

Looking at you it does seem easy to do it!
“Cruel Magic” is more noticeably melodic than the albums before it. Did you want to achieve something different this time than with your other albums from the newer era?

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Satan – Life Sentence (2013)

We were sort of looking back at the older albums, thinking what was good about that one and what we like about that album… And we were thinking about that when we made the next one. We thought, on “Life Sentence”, that album was written really as a follow-up to “Court in the Act”, so we wrote the songs like we would be 20 year old. We didn’t use all of the musical skills and talent that we have now. We tried to imagine being young again and that there would be things that we wouldn’t know about certain scales and melodies and harmony, we didn’t use any of that on “Life Sentence”. And then when we’ve done that and it was successful, then we decided to move on and put a bit more of our technical ability in on “Atom by Atom”. I think these two albums are different because “Life Sentence” is a little more catchy, the songs are more accessible straight away. “Atom by Atom” takes it a bit more forth when you’re listening to what we’re doing, it’s a bit more complex. And on “Cruel Magic” we tried to keep the catchy melodies and stuff and still made the music kind of complicated. I think that’s what we’ve done this time, we took the best qualities of the best two albums and put them together. That’s what we’ve tried to do anyway (laughs).

Could you tell me about your most beloved song on the album? I’d love to hear your vision of the song, of the lyrics, some instrumental passages or a story in connection with its creation.

We all have different favorites. The main favorite in the band in general is ‘Ophidian’. It’s so different to the rest of the material, it’s a slow song. We don’t tend to play much slow, and it’s the slowest song on the album. And it’s got a very strange feel about it and the riff is great. The lyrics are about snakes and genesis in the Old Testament from the Bible, the story of Adam and Eve. ‘Ophidian’ is about rising up. They want revenge for humans and for being sentenced by God as punishment for Adam and Eve, there weren’t snakes before that happened. It’s them getting revenge on humankind. It’s a crazy story. That’s the main favorite but my personal one is ‘Cruel Magic’, the title track. I think again it’s a bit different from what we normally produce and it’s a bit more rock ‘n’ roll. It’s a very 70s feeling main riff that Russ (Tippins, guitarist – ed.) came up with and a great catchy chorus. It’s a departure from a lot of the lyrics we write, it’s actually about revenge too. Using black magic as a tool of revenge against someone and telling you to be aware of doing that because you might not see the outcome in the end. And once you’ve started it, you can’t stop it.

Does any of you guys have a connection to mysticism, sort of black magic books or anything in connection with it?

No, it’s just a general thing. Obviously we read books about all sorts of different subjects, that was just one that we hadn’t done any song about yet. Like Voodoo, people using Voodoo as a method of exacting revenge which is an injustice-kind of thing. When there was injustice done to them, this is a path to take to write that. That was a different way of writing what we read about.

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Stephen King (writing as Richard Bachman) – Thinner (1984)

Do you have a personal favorite book?

My favorite books when I was younger were horror stories. Lots of Stephen King. The first one I read was “Thinner”, I love that book. I think they may have a movie about it but I haven’t seen it. The book was one of my favorite ones ever.

You are going on tour in the USA soon. Is there any place where you’ve still never been and you would love to go there? Maybe even in the whole world.

We’ve covered most of the USA but we haven’t been to Florida yet. We’re sadly not doing that this time either. It’s like the leg at the end of the bottom of the country it’s difficult to get down there and get back. So we’re missing it out because of the travelling. But eventually I’d love to do that. We’ve been planning to play in Mexico a few times but haven’t been there yet, so maybe next year finally. I’d love to go back to Japan, we’ve only been once. Maybe Australia and New Zealand. We keep doing a lot of press in Australia and New Zealand (radio stations, magazines) but we never get to go there.

How are your views on the future of Satan, how long can we still expect stuff from you coming?

We’re gonna keep going as long as we can. As long as we’re enjoying it. If any of the other bands think it’s sort of a bubble that’s gonna burst like with other old NWOBHM bands and no one’s gonna listen to heavy metal again; I don’t think that’s gonna happen. Not for us anyway. I think for a band like us all that’s doing is help us come back and we’re gonna stay. We’re not gonna fall by the wayside when it becomes untrendy. I think by then we have secured ourselves a good fanbase again so I don’t really think about the future being bleak, I think it looks very good.

That sounds pretty good Steve!
Could you tell me a bit about your 3 most favorite albums?

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Black Sabbath – Black Sabbath (1970)

First off would be Black Sabbath’s first album, “Black Sabbath”. I just love the darkness about the songs, just look at the cover on the B side of the album. It’s so good. For me, I can really hear that the guys are really being into what they are doing. The performance, the songwriting, everything. I think it was very very before its time. We’ve always tried to be a little bit like that, be different from all the other bands. I think when Black Sabbath wrote that album, there was nothing like that around.

In the late 70s we got into a lot of live albums because some of the bands that we became fans of had been around for a long time. We couldn’t afford to go back and buy the whole back catalogues. It’s great for the kids nowadays because they can just download everything for free. But we would have to go and buy the records. So live albums were a great way of getting a best-of of bands. And there were some great live albums like our favorite one, “Unleashed in the East” by Judas Priest. I remember us buying that and sitting down and learning every note of every song. We could play the whole album.

And stuff like Thin Lizzy, UFO and one of our big favorite, “Tokyo Tapes” from Scorpions. They were one of the first bands we went to see when we were kids. Scorpions kinda got me into heavy metal, I listened to a lot of pop music before I heard them. They just released “Lovedrive” and they were playing some tracks off that in a record shop and I just had to know who it was. I bought the record and I remember how that was kicking me off with heavy metal.

You said you’d be able to play the whole “Unleashed in the East”. Is there any chance you are going to?

We’ve kind of almost done that in the past. But we wouldn’t do that now. We’re still being asked all the time to play songs from “Suspended Sentence” and we haven’t even done that yet, so our own songs come first before doing the Judas Priest ones (laughs).

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Steve Ramsey at Blastfest 2015 [Photo: Jarle H. Moe]

Sure, makes sense (laughs)! What’s a subject that you aren’t often asked about but you would like to talk more about it?

We aren’t really asked about the lyrics even though the lyrics are quite important to us. That’s the main thing that I think is disappointing when I do an interview myself. Our lyrics aren’t rock ‘n’ roll lyrics, they’re not about burning churches down, all this shit you know. We spend a lot of time and lot of research on some of the songs that we do, because they are interesting subjects that we think people might be interested in.

I also think lyrics are underrated in the metal scene. Thanks for the advice, gonna put more effort and lyrical research into my future questions too! So Steve, thank you very much for your time and have a good night!

Thank you very much! Good night Estelle!

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“I’m a chill and happy fellow, but I will always have the anxiety of the destruction of this planet” – Away (Voivod)

Interview with drummer Away from Voivod

Interview for Metalegion Magazine by Estelle & her friend Kristof on the 15th of September 2018

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Away and Estelle – Voivod concert, 15.09.2018, Budapest

Estelle: Hi Away, thank you very much for taking the time and doing the interview for Metalegion! You surely experienced it yourself that the metal scene has changed a lot since you started with Voivod. What has been the biggest change in your opinion?

The physical products, that we are selling a little less. There is a compensation with all the downloads but then it’s counterbalanced by the streaming scenario that’s happening right now. So that things are changing so fast, that’s the main difference. All through the 80s and 90s it was pretty much the same except for maybe a very small period when grunge was so popular, where the metal had a downfall in North America. But in Europe it was always healthy so we just kept doing the festivals and all that. I think the main change is just selling a little less of CDs in general, although we are selling tons of them at the merch.

E: Would you actually like to go back to the 80s considering the atmosphere?

Not really because the crowd hasn’t changed that much. I mean Voivod has sort of a steady crowd – not a huge crowd but at least Voivod’s fans are really supportive and loyal. So I wouldn’t really go back to the 80s and 90s and so on. It’s also that the chemistry in the band right now is so amazing that there’s no way I would go back to older lineups.

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Voivod (from left to right: Rocky, Chewy, Away, Snake)

Kristof: About the lineup, is it true that Daniel (Chewy) is the most _musician_ musician in the band ever? The most educated one out of all?

Yeah, because he studied music in high school and in college. Chewy is also teaching music in college so he’s very educated, that’s why he’s able to do the tab books. So we have Voivod tab books among the merch. And Rocky is very educated as well. The interaction between the two is sort of fusion metal. You have to be more aware of what’s going on and very cautious.

K: You’re more cautious?

Yes. Because it makes me play more in a progressive rock way, makes me a bit less punk-thrash and more prog rock, psychedelic. So I’m more focused.

K: And does this take away any harsh and coming-from-the-heart energy?

In my opinion no. Especially live not. But it’s possible that with the advanced technology in the studio we can put more layers of music and the sound is bigger and better. It probably doesn’t have the punk energy of “Rrröööaaarrr” or “War and Pain” which costed couple of thousands of dollars to record. So maybe now we have a style that’s more psychedelic but the roots are still thrash metal. So we try to keep the double kick happening and the thrash metal happening, try to keep the energy going, but of course it’s not raw like in ‘84-’85.

K: There’s certainly more thrash metal than in “Angel Rat”, right? I love it though.

Yes, “Angel Rat” was a controversial album. It’s a lot different so it’s strange but now it has become some people’s favorite album. We are really proud of “Angel Rat”, that’s where we were at this time. I wouldn’t remix it or anything like that, it’s like “Rrröööaaarrr”. “Rrröööaaarrr” I wouldn’t touch. It sounds like the band is going down the stairway, but it was meant to be that.

K: One more question about Rocky. Was Rocky Chewy’s recruitment?

Yes. Rocky is Chewy’s childhood friend and Snake is my childhood friend so it’s a very good team right now. When we parted ways with Blacky, Chewy said that he knows somebody and we were like “sure, he can do it”. We did an audition and it was perfect.

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Voivod – The Wake (2018)

E: Of course I’m gonna ask you about your new album right now, you know? (laughs) “Target Earth” was released in 2013, it’s kind of a long pause in between that and “The Wake”. What was the longest or hardest part of recording the new album?

It’s just that since Rocky has been in the band, we toured a lot. And so we were able to release 7 inch and split singles with Napalm Death, At the Gates and Entombed A.D. and finally we compounded everything into the Post Society EP. But when we decided to write “The Wake”, Snake immediately said he’d like to write a long story and then Chewy decided to do something like Dimension Hatröss where certain musical parts would come back but rearranged. And then we decided to put tons of layers of music and then we decided to put intros, outros, interludes… Since we were touring a lot, we had to write in the bus or backstage with a computer and we demod the album on the road. Finally it turned out to be quite a puzzle, it took one or two years. We started recording after the last Europe tour last fall. We recorded over the winter and ended the recordings in the spring. It was a lot of work. But the album is super and we are really proud of the extra work that we put into it. Chewy was responsible for a lot of that, it’s like his masterpiece. We are really happy that we have Chewy in the team.

E: In which way is it actually a concept album? How did you build it up thematically?

Snake wrote the lyrics as we were writing the album, so we did everything together. With The Wake everybody was involved – this is also part of the fact that it took a long while. The lyrics had to fit the music and then I also tried to represent it visually that the lyrics and the music are connected. So as we were mixing, I was asking Snake about the lyrics, doing sketches… We wanted everything to be very coherent. That was the main goal.

E: What about the music video of the song ‘Iconspiracy’ being released just yesterday (14.09.2018)? Was it you who worked on that as you do with Voivod’s artworks?

No, it was Carsten (Drescher – ed.) from Romania, he did a lot of work for Napalm Death and At the Gates and Century Media. He also made a poster for us for the Roadburn festival in 2012 and he’s a super talented artist. We were fully confident when we asked him to make the video, we just gave him some art I did for the new album and the lyrics, and he worked on his own and did amazing amount of work, we are blown away. In one day the video had more than 20.000 views so for Voivod it’s amazing. 

E: Is there any song on The Wake which is personally really important for you?

I think the new song that we just released, ‘Iconspiracy’, I think it’s my favorite. Not because of the lyrics, because Chewy had the brilliant idea of writing a piece for string quartet and when I hear it, it reminds me of The Beatles which was my favorite band since I was a kid. It’s my first band. And so I have something for that song.

E: This is completely a different question but it just came to mind: I read somewhere that Béla Bartók was among your influences. He was a Hungarian composer and I was just curious how that comes.

Piggy was a huge fan of his. For me, it’s mainly when I heard the music from the Shining, it has music from Bartók and (György – ed.) Ligeti. These composers were very important for Piggy and he was the one who introduced us to them. Bartók is my favorite of all them.

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Piggy back in the day

E: I don’t know if you like to talk about Piggy but I was about to ask about him as well. Til the album “Infini” you were using the riffs of Piggy on the albums and also songs that you recorded with him, and from the “Target Earth” you started to write completely new material. How did the songwriting process and the feeling of the whole recording differ from the times when you used Piggy’s material?

Kristof: You were talking about the chemistry in the band.

Except for “Infini” and “Katorz” which we recorded after Piggy’s unfortunate passing, the process was exactly the same. Quite often we improvise material and we record everything and pick the best parts, and then Chewy will rearrange it. It’s sort of what we did with Piggy. Also, Piggy came often with full compositions already done that we adapted, and Chewy does the same sometimes. He has a full song that we sometimes involve into Voivod. So basically it’s kind of the same process.

K: So with both guitar masters it can happen that you just jam together from zero?

Oh yeah, from zero. And even Snake, it’s not necessarily with lyrics, he just improvises sounds. Being French you can’t really improvise in English – he’s just like “whaablawhaba” (laughs). He builds melodies around all that. And quite often if Chewy does a riff, I will think “normally I would do that on the drums, let’s do the opposite, backwards”. And then it will surprise everybody but after getting used to it, it makes sense. I learned that from a band called Van Der Graaf Generator, where the drummer quite often plays the backward-beat. So I copied it.

K: I’m always curious about Snake’s personality. There’s something about his on-stage presence that is very different from that of other frontmen. He’s like a goofy sci-fi shaman or something like that I can’t describe it but you must have something in your mind about a sort of role he has in the band.

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Snake – then and now

He’s also different than other thrash metal singers because he’s very into Johnny Rotten, Iggy Pop and Jello Biafra so he brought this side to Voivod, some punkish, snarly side. He has a very unique vocal style and he’s very theatrical. That’s what we were looking for when we started the band. He was in an improvisational theatre so we knew that he could be theatrical on stage. On the audition, we first asked him “Can you sing?” and he was like “I can try, I don’t know” and then I asked him to learn ‘The Ripper’ from Judas Priest. He was like “Oookay” because he was more into punk and when he came to the jam space and started the song, he sounded with the Judas Priest song like Sex Pistols. We thought that was interesting. So from the start he gave Voivod a strange punky signature.

K: So it’s a different interpretation of it, that’s interesting! We were talking about the “Angel Rat” era. What my musician friends love about it is that it’s still the panels that you invented but it was simplified into rock structures. Was it a forced simplification or were you craving for it?

We were just heading this way. The songs got shorter, the music got more psychedelic. We went in the direction of Rush so it was a different approach and unfortunately nobody really understood it and it didn’t sell that much. So we were a bit crushed. Also, it’s a strange period because Blacky left while we were mixing the album. So it was sort of a weird period for Voivod but now it has got to be many people’s favorite album.

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Today is the Day/Voivod/Neurosis/VHK concert in Budapest, 1999

E: You’re touring so much. Do you have any memorable or crazy stories from all the tours?

K: Do you remember your Hungarian gig in 1999 for example? Do you like VHK, the band that played with you? I wish I have been there but I was too young.

Yes, there was a lot of traffic around the border so we were running late. There was nothing, everything was closed between the border and the venue and we couldn’t eat. It was hours without eating, I remember that. But we were really excited to play with this legendary band, it was a wonderful gig, I’ll always remember that. And what I remember the most is going to the street and watching the buildings. There was nothing like that on earth. This afternoon today when we came into town we had this flashback, we do every time, of so many years ago. It’s a really beautiful city. Prague and Budapest are my favorite cities on earth.

K: Monarchy architecture (laughs).

E: I remember seeing you opening for or playing with so many bands from so many directions and genres of metal. There is no band like you.

That’s right, I mean we opened for Rush and Faith No More and then we toured with Kreator, Destruction, Possessed, Celtic Frost… We can do it with anybody. It’s wonderful for us. But look at today’s opening band Maggot Heart, this band is amazing, they’re very different but the people into Voivod are very open-minded so I think it will go very well.

E: Are you actually still nervous before going onto stage or before an interview for example?

I’m still a bit nervous. Sometimes more – like last year we played with Metallica and a 100.000 people showed up. But the next day we did a surprise show in the street and I was more nervous there the next day because they were standing right there. It took me a couple of songs before I could look at them in the eye. When it’s 100.000 people, it becomes a big blurry mass and I forget about it. And when we opened for Rush in 1990, I was super nervous. Also, I have seen Rush playing and the opening bands were getting usually booed off the stage because people wanted to see Rush, so we were afraid, but it went very well and when we played Astronomy Domine which was a video that was playing a lot on MTV, the crowd was louder than the music so I was like “huhhh” (laughs).

E: Could you select up to 5 albums that you consider your all time favorites and share why they are special to you?

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Iron Maiden – Iron Maiden (1980)

The first Iron Maiden album. When I saw the cover in the store, I was like 16, they were immediately my favorite band. I had no idea how they sounded like, I grabbed the album and I was like “this is my favorite band”. And when I got home, I played it, it started with ‘Prowler’, and they sounded exactly like I wanted them to sound. Like punk-metal-gothic. When I came to doing the “War and Pain” cover, I remembered the first Iron Maiden album, the power of attraction of the covers and I tied to capture that as well. Something that would stick out among other covers. So the first Iron Maiden album is like my ultimate favorite.

I like Broken Bones’ “Dem Bones”, and I like Van der Graaf Generator – “H to He”, the Sex Pistols – “Never Mind the Bollocks”, it will always be one of my favorites. I even looked like Sid Vicious back then. My mother was really pissed that I cut my hair. And then “No Sleep Til Hammersmith” by Motörhead. I could say “Ace of Spades” but it’s just that I hitchhiked hundreds of kilometers to go and see them in Montreal because we were way up North in Quebec. When I saw them, it’s where I decided to become a professional drummer and that’s where I reached out to Piggy. It sort of started from that show, No Sleep Til Hammersmith. Fantastic album.

E: Could you please talk a little bit more about your world views that are captured in Voivod songs?

We try talk about world views a lot in the songs, even though they are sci-fi in a way, we still try to get our message out. To me, my world view, even though I’m a pretty positive person, I find that we are living a recurring nightmare. In the 80s because of the Cold War I was afraid of nuclear war. And I’m still afraid of it. Back then we were freaked out by Chernobyl and Hiroshima, and now we are freaked out by the ozone layer and the global warming, so to me it’s just a constant state of anxiety. But I myself live my life the happiest way ever. I’m really a chill and happy fellow. But I will always have this anxiety of the destruction of this planet, that’s a point of no return.

E, K: Thank you very much for your time and honesty Away!

Thanks a lot for the interview. See you after the show!

“This might be our catchiest, heaviest, most brutal work” – Paul Mazurkiewitz (Cannibal Corpse)

Interview with drummer Paul Mazurkiewitz from Cannibal Corpse

Interview for Metalegion Magazine by Estelle on the 19th of October 2017

Hi Paul, thanks a lot for being down for the interview! Could you tell me a bit about your 3 most favorite albums?

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Slayer – Reign in Blood (1986)

That’s a tough one, a one-day answer. There are a lot of influential albums of course. But if we’re gonna stick with the heavier stuff, the bands that really got me wanting to play this kind of music, I’d say my Nr. 1 would be Slayer – Reign in Blood. Probably most people say that (laughs). But it was such a big influence for us, unbelievable. Especially that album in particular. Hearing Dave Lombardo’s drumming, that’s what made me wanna play like that. We were already fans of Slayer with their previous works, but hearing Reign in Blood just took it to a whole another level and it made me wanna try to emulate that. So that is probably the most important album in my career. Nr. 2 would probably be Metallica – Ride the Lightning. That was such a very influential album as well. It came a little earlier that Reign in Blood but when we were getting into music and Metallica was a new band and we were hearing this as teenagers for the first time, it took us to another dimension. “Whoah, what is this?!” So of course we were fans of Kill ‘Em All but then again, Ride the Lightning took it to another level. I remember hearing the song Creeping Death for the first time, it was playing on the radio and we didn’t know what this was, we got to know they were Metallica, the new album comes out, “wow we gotta see them”. Just very influential. And Nr 3 would be Sacrifice – Forward to Termination. It was such a great thrash album every time I hear it to this day, it gets me going.

Red Before Black is your 14th full-length album. What was your main goal you wanted to achieve? What do you think distinguishes this record from the other 13?

The main goal is always just releasing the music, really. We were just excited to create new stuff and get it out to the people. It’s the way we’ve done things and the way out mentality goes: We’re just writing the next batch of songs. There’s no big skin behind it other than we wanna do good and a little better than the last time. That’s what we’re always striving for and trying to do. So that was our goal, to write the next better song. To keep going forward in our songwriting, in our musicianship and all that. And I feel we have.

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Cannibal Corpse – Red Before Black (2017)

I know I worked extra hard on this record, more than on any other so far and I work hard on all! For some reason this time around my mentality was “no rest whatsoever, go go go, double time, triple time” – I just wanted to do better than I ever have personally. The other guys are writing most of the riffs and the songs and when we’ve got three great songwriters spreading it all around… I mean we’ve got some diverse stuff and those guys write some amazing material. But I think on this record, to me it’s just a combination of what we’ve been doing our whole career. I listen to the songs and the whole definitely has more of an old school vibe to it, a little more of a thrashier vibe than our previous releases. So I look at it as a full circle. I tend to look at it as the best of all Cannibal. From the beginning to the 13th album, put it together, work hard, write some great songs and then you’ve got Red Before Black. I think it just stands out because the songs are so tight and precise, great brutal riffs. So I think this might be our best work – our catchiest, heaviest, most brutal work with a great guitar sound.

You even stated in the promo material that this album has got the rawest sound you’ve ever had. And I agree, it does totally sound old school!
Could you tell me about your most beloved song on the album? I’d love to hear your vision of the song, of the lyrics, some instrumental passages or a story in connection with its creation.

I guess the one that stands out to me in particular is Destroyed Without a Trace. That was the song that I had the most hand in. If you know much about the band you might have noticed the last few releases I ended up having myself more of a song that I wrote; if you see the credit it’s usually me and Rob or me by myself. So Destroyed was the one that I came up with. And the way I wrote that song was very interesting: I collaborated with Rob but this is the first time I ever wrote a song (or any of us for that matter) just by playing the drums. I had everything in my head, I wrote the arrangement, the riffs basically in my head, and I was able to play the whole song with nobody (laughs). Cause I wrote it by myself just on the drums. I worked on it for a couple of weeks by myself and then I just said “hey Rob, I wrote a song, I just need you to fill in the blanks here”. We went piece by piece and I showed them how I meant it and in couple of days we had the song done. Very interesting. But I’m so glad the way it turned out: Starting from the skeleton, just me playing a drum beat, to building the guitars and solos and putting the lyrics over the top. It turned out really good, I’m really proud of this song. But I love all these songs, all of them were fun to play and I just worked hard on all of them. Shedding My Human Skin is another one of my favorites, it’s such a great groove. The first one, Only One Will Die is another one that was so much fun to play.

It’s no surprise that the imagery of this album consists again of brutality, aggressivity, death, blood, gore, torture etc. Do you have any limit or border when it comes to lyrical themes or imagery?

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Cannibal Corpse (2017)

I don’t know, we just do what we do I guess. We really don’t touch on religion of course I mean we dabbled very little on one or two songs a few years back but that’s so minor. We don’t talk politics either. To me it’s all open if it needs to happen though. Personally, I am a father, I don’t wanna talk about murdering children, but at the same time it’s all fiction and it’s Cannibal Corpse. If I look at a song like Remaimed from the new album that Pat wrote and then I sat down and wrote the lyrics (I actually wrote the lyrics for six of the songs), I end up writing a pretty brutal story here. That’s talking about things exactly that I’m not very thrilled about personally. But like I said, it’s fictional gore, fictional horror, it’s not made to be serious so I think it’s okay. But yeah, it’s tough. In-your-face, completely brunt brutal lyrics, there’s nothing to mask and nothing to hide – we still have those but I think we like to be a little bit more of a horrific and read-between-the-lines kind of thing. But I would think pretty much nothing is out of context. It’s Cannibal Corpse, we just write what we write. I’ll just move onto the next question.

Some bands really take in into consideration what kind of a message they convey not only through their music but also through their press statements. Do you guys have a “press-plan”, do you negotiate between yourselves before the release of a new album or in a doubtful situation about what you will tell us about it?

That’s done through the record label and a third party, a guy that does an interview and then he pieces together what you read in the PR release for a new album. Of course we have the say what’s gonna go out to the public, if we’re unhappy with something we say it of course. And yeah, maybe some things we’re not gonna touch on. Some things don’t need to be mentioned I guess. We get the basics out what we feel the people need to know and if they don’t need to know, we won’t tell them.

After your first Demo “Cannibal Corpse” you have always been at Metal Blade. Did you ever receive requests from other labels and if yes, what makes you stay at Metal Blade?

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Cannibal Corpse (1989)

Metal Blade was the only label that showed interest in us. When we were formed and made our demo tape, we had a guy helping us out back in the early days in Buffalo, New York. He wasn’t our manager or anything but he was running a record store and knew some people. And who did he know? He knew people at Metal Blade because the president at Metal Blade is from Buffalo as well! So he had a connection, we had our guy that knew a guy at Metal Blade through the whole city. I think we sent our tape to ten labels or something, mainly smaller independent ones plus Relapse and maybe Roadrunner. But I know this for a fact, the response we got back was from Metal Blade wanting to sign us. So what do you do? As a young band that’s hungry and ready to make music, you get an offer and you take it. You take it because this could be the only opportunity to get your foot in the door. Luckily Brian Slagel at Metal Blade liked the demo and we got through some red tape there that was all we needed. As time went on: “Hm, we’re a small death metal band. We’re starting to do well. Metal Blade behind us, okay.” They’ve given us complete creative control, they were not interfering with anything we do musically and that’s what we needed. So if it isn’t broke, why fix it? That’s what we’ve been dealing with out whole career. It turned out to be more of a friendship than a business relation I guess. So I think it worked out well.

You are in the band since the very beginnings. Can you please tell me about your personal favorite and most unfavorable moments in the band throughout your whole career?

Almost everything has been a positive for us, beyond-our-wildest-dreams kind of a thing, so just the fact that we are still here after 30 years being arguably the biggest death metal band in the world, that’s enough right there. That’s amazing. We never even thought of any of that. So everything that has happened from day one to now is just remarkable, unbelievable and incredible (laughs).

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Paul Mazurkiewicz

Not many negatives, luckily. There were only some personal negatives and I guess the biggest one for me is being on tour about 20 years ago and getting stabbed with a key after the show in my abdomen. That wasn’t very fun. That’s probably one of the craziest things that have ever happened to me. It was back in ‘94 I guess, we just started a tour with 3 other bands, we were second show in, we just finished the show in Holland. It was a little town, 2 in the morning, everything’s completely dead, everyone left. And all of a sudden there’s a fight outside our bus. It happens to be a couple of guys from our band and our crew fighting some people. We’re like “what the hell is going on here?”. It ended up being five or six drunk guys looking for trouble basically. And they started with the wrong people, it was 25 of us. I’m not a fighter, I didn’t need to be involved in this, I was a bystander watching what’s going on. There was a bunch of yelling, a couple of crew guys involved… The next thing I remember, those guys are coming at me and all of a sudden I see blood and my side hurts. “I just got stabbed, I’m gonna die”. Five seconds go by and I realize it hurts and bleeds but I’m gonna live. Ambulance comes, gotta go to the hospital. This was the second show of the tour and we had like 30 more to go. But luckily everything turned out well, the tour went on and I was able to play. But yeah, that was probably the worst thing that happened to me. Not fun.

Which other band in the genre do you look up to? Is there also a band you have any stress or tension with?

Well I love Slayer, I mean that’s my influence, so how can I not look up to Slayer at all times? But any other bands, bands that came out around us, we know them and they’re friends. You can have that friendship and camaraderie and all that bands like Suffocation, Obituary or Morbid Angel; bands that have been around for 30 years that gives us some positive thoughts. I don’t even listen to any new bands at all though. It’s cool there are bands that were influenced by us I’m glad, I feel happy but I just don’t listen to a lot of that. So the bands that I still look up to are my “hero bands” that I grew up with. If we’re gonna play at a festival or share a stage with a band like Iron Maiden, man it’s Iron Maiden! I don’t look at them as peers, they’re above me. That’s the way I think. But yeah, it’s really cool that we’ve still got bands going after 30 years, keeping the old school alive, keeping the death metal going.

You are touring very actively promoting Red Before Black, from November in the USA and from February in Europe. What are the most satisfying moments while on tour?

Playing the show. It’s always cool going to places and different cities and everything but we’re there to perform and play for the people. That’s the most important thing. Once you’re up on stage and you’re seeing the fans and their reactions: that’s why you’re there. A lot of them are going to be new fans. Seeing the excitement on the face of new fans that never saw you before, that’s always gonna make you feel good. Just making people happy. If we can make anybody happy in a positive way, how can that not make you feel like you’ve accomplished something in life? So that’s what it’s all about.

What about your further future plans?

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Paul Mazurkiewicz

We will be touring pretty much all of 2018. If you look at how our cycles have gone, we tour for almost two years after an album. I can see that happening, that’s out immediate future. And that’s all you can really do at this point. I mean, I think we take it day by day now. We’re 30 years in, we’re not a new band looking ahead to the future, the future’s here. Now it’s like “how long have we got?”. Who knows? We’re all feeling healthy and we’re still all mentally on the same page so why can’t we just keep going and doing it for another 20 or 30 years who knows, right? We’ll see. But right, at this point in our career we gotta just take it day by day now. We’ll do these tours and more than likely the plan will be doing the tour, starting the record and doing it again. Just like we’ve been doing our whole career.

Paul, thank you very much for the interview and for your time. I wish you all the best reactions to Red Before Black!

Thank you and have a good night! I’m sure we’ll talk again soon.

“We do what we like and that’s why we decided to do Thrash Anthems II even without Nuclear Blast” – Schmier (Destruction)

Interview with vocalist Marcel (Schmier) Schirmer from Destruction

Interview for Metalegion Magazine by Estelle on the 2nd of October 2017

Hi Schmier, thanks a lot for agreeing to the interview and for your time in advance! How are you?

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Schmier

I’m a little bit stressed because we are having the video clip launched today with Pänzer and everything is a bit last minute, so hopefully no mistakes are going to happen while I’m doing the interview.

That sounds stressful for sure.

It wasn’t planned that the Destruction and the Pänzer releases come so close together but I have no choice because the Pänzer release got pushed back, it was going to come out in September originally. For the Destruction release, we didn’t even know that Nuclear Blast would release the album because first they didn’t know if they wanted it, then they declined and now that the album is finally done they want to release it. I was surprised that they wanted to do it already in November, I expected it to be the beginning of next year or so. But on the other hand I am happy that I’ve made two albums that I really like and can promote them now. So I shouldn’t complain, it’s just that it’s a lot of work right now. In between the live shows… I also broke my arm lately which didn’t help for the good time schedule. But it’s getting better, I got surgery right away and now I will just have to get some therapy and it will hopefully get back to normal soon.

I wish you all the best on that, get better soon! Right to Thrash Anthems II: According to the Pledge Music page, the new Destruction album was supposed to be a self-release, but it will be released in an alternative version via Nuclear Blast. How did Nuclear Blast get involved in the release in the end?

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Destruction – Thrash Anthems II (2017)

First of all, for them a best of-album didn’t sound good enough. They said they didn’t want to do this, that they were not interested. So we decided to do it ourselves and I guess they were surprised that we decided for Pledge Music, that we were confident to do it by ourselves and finance basically the whole album on Pledge Music. We were like “we’re gonna see what happens”. We did the production too and when the album finally was done and Nuclear Blast asked me to listen to it, they were like “oh my God, it’s great, we would like to do it” and I was like “come on guys, first no then yes”, but on the other side I’m happy that they do it because Pledge was already there to finance the album. Because of all the money for the production and everything, Pledge gave the fans a special edition and very limited edition also. They did 50 vinyls only, only 130 t-shirts and only about 600 CDs. It’s the smallest Destruction first edition that ever came out of any album. But of course it’s nice to bring out the album afterwards, it consists of a classic thrash setlist, and that’s one of the reasons why we did the Thrash Anthems II. Because of course a lot of fans were asking for a second part but also for us it’s nice to have a thrash setlist with classic songs through which young fans can get into the old songs again. That was the plan.

The old classic thrash songs are paired with a more modern, more polished production on Thrash Anthems II. How do you expect the reactions to be?

I think the production is pretty rough, it’s a little bit hard and we have a lot of young fans that like the new songs of Destruction. We’ve been doing this one bonus track in 1999, one bonus track on the Destruction album which is an old song. And we re-recorded the old song. And it’s gotten great reactions. On our last album, Under Attack from 2016 we put Thrash Attack, the remake again and the reactions went like “oh my god Thrash Attack, best track of the album”. I think young fans will dig this, older fans will dig this and to of those fans who don’t like it, you don’t have to buy it. It’s not a must if you don’t like re-recorded songs. First of all we do music for ourselves. We started Destruction because WE wanted to play this kind of music. The music wasn’t famous when we played it and this kind of music will never be as famous as you think it would be. We do what we like and that’s why we decided to do thrash anthems even without Nuclear Blast on the first place. I like this album a lot, I think it was a good decision that we did it. If you like older albums, you listen to older albums but if you’re open for a more brutal sound, listen to the new one.

Destruction wrote on the band’s Facebook Page that “the band itself never ever has put more work in an album as in this one”. What was the hardest part of working on the record and what differs it from the previous ones?

When you go into the studio, it of course all costs money and when you do a Pledge campaign, it only pays at the end after the album came out. But until then you don’t get any money. We had to keep this whole thing alive: We had to pay the studio, the production, all the vinyl and the CDs that are being manufactured, and of course we did all those videos.

We did those video clips that showed the band and the production, which is a lot of work. You have to film it, cut it, edit it, upload it and stuff… I’m not a computer engineer so we had to hire somebody. It was all in all the effort that we put into it that made it so hard.

Sounds like a lot of work indeed!

One other thing, we had to go back to the roots and relearn some songs. Some songs didn’t even have the lyrics anymore because they were so old. 90% of the Destruction lyrics from the old albums on lyrics pages from uploaded by fans were all wrong. Tommy [Sandmann – ed.], our first drummer found some original lyrics again so we could recreate the songs. On the first albums the vocals were really noisy so that you cannot hear every word, some are impossible to understand. It was a long fight to get the lyrics but we got them together and I was very happy in the end. Until we had the final sound, the remixing took a couple of weeks because we wanted to have a very impressive guitar tone on the album. So it was a couple of months of work in between the tours, after the American tour we came together and finalized the Thrash Anthems II. It was a lot more work than we thought it would be in the beginning. We thought it would be easier but at the end we were doing all the record label work and the pre-financing.

Now at the end of the Pledge campaign we have to ship the CDs worldwide, we cannot just do it ourselves because that’s not so easy. We ship some CDs from England and some of those still didn’t arrive in South America. Those CDs were shipped two months ago. So it’s kind of complicated to make everybody happy in this campaign and of course when your audience doesn’t get what they ordered they get impatient and they blame the band. In the end it’s not our fault, it’s the fault of the fucking postal services in South America.

destruc016pr.jpgDid you learn something from working on an album all alone?

It was a big lesson in world trade and manufacturing. We usually do only the production and the artwork and give the rest to the label, and yes now we had to learn a lot about all the stuff in between. So thank you very much but we’ll never do it again, not if we have Nuclear Blast. We are at the best record label of the world so I’m glad to have them. I can recommend this kind of thing to young bands though. If you have no money but some fans who can finance your album, this is the first step not to make a big loss. Most bands are pre-financing their albums and then have a couple of thousands of euros minus on their bank account. That will maybe never recover. So it’s not so easy. But I’m happy we had a lot of fans help us to finance the album and not coming like “blah blah blah”, even though sometimes they were like “oh no, I thought it was only a Pledge campaign and would never come out at Nuclear Blast” but we never said that. Blast declined the album and then at the end they wanted to have it – I would be stupid if I wouldn’t give it to them. It’s a great album.

Which old song was the most enjoyable for you to play again for the record?

A lot of them we didn’t play live back in the day so I can only think of The Antichrist. It’s the only song of all those songs that we played frequently. We also played Black Death in the last years, it was also a big challenge because it’s a seven minutes long song. It was a challenge to redo the song.  A lot of the old songs we had to relearn to get the feeling back: From those songs I like Black Mass a lot and Confused Mind also.

Can we expect you to play these live in the future?

We really want to do that. I think we maybe wanna see the result how the fans like them to find some of the new favorite tracks of this album and then we can put them into the setlist. We don’t want to kick out others songs, though, we don’t want people going like “oh my God you didn’t play Total Desaster”. About this record, it will create some remembrance of the old stuff and a new face of the old songs. I want to play Confused Mind, Black Death and Black Mass live. I like United by Hatred a lot too, it’s a song we didn’t play since ‘87.
First it would be cool to see how the reactions are to the album. So far we only have the reactions from the Pledgers, which is a couple of hundreds of people. The whole process of recording and we could choose the songs also. We learned some new tricks of producing. It’s a never-ending learning process and it was interesting also for me to redo the vocals.

What about your future plans? Do you maybe already have material done for the next album?

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Pänzer – Fatal Command (2017)

Actually not, we did Thrash Anthems II and it was hard work – if you do something like that, you don’t really want to focus on something else. I was also writing on the Pänzer album right before Thrash Anthems II and I didn’t wanna make everything too much. Also, for Destruction we saw in the last few years that it’s better for us if we don’t do too much albums in a row. We did that since ‘99, we did albums every 2 years it’s easy to have no more fun at writing songs like that. The new album is going to be recorded maybe at the end of 2018 and released maybe 2019. That’s what I would say is possible. But maybe next week I start writing new songs and then the album is done earlier, but you have to be in the right mood for that.

What would you tell about the new album of your other band Pänzer to those who don’t know the band yet?

It’s a tribute to the original heavy metal style, to the NWOBHM. If you like the good old 80s’ sound, you might like Pänzer because it has all the classic elements like up-tempo in the way of Judas Priest and Angel Witch and so on. My vocals are a little bit more melodic and catchy. It’s classic heavy metal with a pinch of thrash in there. We really enjoy doing this, it’s something besides my main band. I’m glad I found some guys I can make music with besides Destruction. Something like this refreshes your musical inspiration.

ALL TIME FAVORITES
What are your three favorite albums of all time? Can you tell us a few words about them and about why you like them so much?

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Judas Priest – Unleashed in the East (1979)

Number one has to be Unleashed in the East from Judas Priest. When I was a kid, I saw the cover and listened to the album for the first time and it was the definition of heavy metal for me from this point. It was heavier than anything else – the looks, the sound… It changed my life completely in many ways. Another really important album is Kill ‘Em All from Metallica. It was the first real speed metal album that came out in 1983. The stuff they did back in the day was exactly what we started half a year later with Destruction. When we wrote the first songs for Destruction we already knew that Metallica would be very special. So their first album Kill ‘Em All was groundbreaking for me, something new, ‘cause it kind of mixed punk rock and heavy metal together. And to name a punk rock band as well, I would name Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables From the Dead Kennedys. Dead Kennedys were a part of my life because they wrote really critical lyrics. They were criticising the government and the society and as a young person, it was really important for me back then. Most of my friends didn’t care about the political situation etc but I did, and Dead Kennedys was my favorite punk band for America. I listened to a lot of English punk too but Dead Kennedys was very special to me.

I can see you even covered a Dead Kennedys song, Holiday in Cambodia on Thrash Anthems II! If you could go back to any point in your career and you could say, now I’ll change something, what would it be?

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Destruction – Release from Agony era (Steamhammer/SPV promo)

I don’t think it’s good to change the past. I am where I am now because stuff happened. When Destruction kicked me out in ‘89, I was on the worst point of my life. I had to relearn a lot of stuff, “rethink” my friends. I learned that fame comes fast and goes fast also. But I also learned a lot of things about my own confidence and I put a lot of effort in my future music-wise. I think without those breaks, problems and fights I had in the past I wouldn’t be the same person. I wouldn’t change stuff I think: life goes the way it goes and my inspiration is what I do today, I do it right for a better tomorrow. It’s ridiculous to think about things you regret because I am so glad I can still do music and Destruction has brought me around the world several times. I wouldn’t want to change a single thing I think. I’m a lucky guy.

What’s the funniest question you’ve ever heard?

There was rumours that I did porn movies back in the day when I was out of Destruction. I said “no I didn’t know I would have been a porn star, but interesting that you ask” (laughs).
Otherwise, I’ve already talked about basically every aspect of my life in interviews. I would say 15 years ago not everything was talked about, especially when Destruction split up there were a lot of questions, for example “Why did you leave the band?”. I just answered “I didn’t leave the band, I got kicked out”. I just wonder how come interviewers don’t know this because this is a big part of the history of Destruction. Sometimes people still ask me this.

Is it stressful sometimes that you have to talk about yourself so much?

No, it’s a part of the job. I like to talk to people. But at the end of the day when everybody asks the same questions, it develops into a weird circle of repeating yourself. Sometimes you just think about how many times you’ve said this specific thing today. But sometimes people have cooler questions or are curious about details. I just hate starting questions like “Okay, can you tell us how Destruction started?”. Dude, it was 35 years ago, go on Wikipedia and read it yourself. If you put your heart into your job, into doing interviews, you prepare yourself, right? Some people are just doing the job and asking irrelevant stuff, that’s what I can’t understand. But I’m a musician and not a journalist, and I think everyone should do what he/she can do best.

You are right. Okay, thanks a lot for your time Schmier! I wish you all the best with the launching video today and with both of your bands!

It was a pleasure. I wish you all the best too!

“A lot of the lyrics on this new album are all very reflective of the world that we live in” – Karl Willetts (ex-Bolt Thrower, Memoriam)

Interview with vocalist Karl Willetts from Memoriam

Interview for Metalegion Magazine by Estelle on the 19th of February 2018

Hi Karl! First of all thanks a lot for being down to talk to me even at this late hour! My first question would be, what would you say is the most satisfying thing you’ve ever achieved along your career?

That’s a really good question, interesting. I haven’t been asked that one. It’s been lots, along the way through my 30 years of working within this industry. There’s been a lot of things that I consider to be high points. Those are quite genuinely often the firsts. The first time you’re doing anything is when you really achieve something, a milestone in the career. That’s what I always remember the most. So for me, even before I was in the band Bolt Thrower, I heard their music in the radio: That was a really big deal, my best mates’ band playing on the radio. But for me personally, I think recording the first album, that was a phenomenal experience.

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Bloodbrother Tour (1990) [Photo from Tshirtslayer]

Also doing my first show, I remember doing my very first European tour which was back in the 80s-early 90s with Autopsy and Pestilence. The first time beyond our little island in the UK. That was a massive game- and life-changing experience, to realize there was such a big potential and big market for what we were doing. Such a lot of people enjoyed what we were doing beyond our small environment. So these were some of the early highlights of my career.

And gig-wise, when we finally got to Australia with Bolt Thrower. That was in about 1993-94, I was standing on the beach in Perth watching the waves crashing in and I thought “Well, this is quite strange. We actually got to the other side of the world playing this extreme kind of strange music and we’re even getting paid for doing this, this is amazing”. So yeah, those were the biggest highlights that come to mind. But at this point of my career doing Memoriam, everything is a big highlight. It’s an amazing experience. I’m very lucky to be able to do this at this stage of our lives. It feels like a privilege, to be able to do what we’re doing. And that’s really down to the support we get from the people, the fans, the followers, however you wanna call them. So we do appreciate they give us the opportunity to do this. And every day is a highlight at this point – it sounds cheesy but that’s the way it is.

ALL TIME HIGHLIGHTS…

Could you select up to 3 albums (it can be less or more, it’s up to you) from any genre that you consider your all-time favorites and tell me why you consider them personal highlights?

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Antisect – In Darkness, There Is No Choice (1983)

In the late 80s, that’s when I started getting into extreme music. And what was happening in the UK back in those days was the kind of old anarcho crust grind scene. That’s really where my sphere of influence developed. It was a starting point for me in my career and my interest in extreme music. So I have to point to an album from a band called Antisect and their album called In Darkness There Is No Choice. That was a massive influence to me. It really set me on my road to my political point of view. This was also the time in which the whole tape-trading was going on, the precursor to the internet in many respects, global sharing of information on cassette tapes.

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Sacrilege

Also, back then I used to go to gigs regularly at a local pub. One of the bands back then that were really influential to me is Sacrilege, with Lynda “Tam” Simpson as the main vocalist and Damian Thompson as guitarist. Those two were an absolute massive influence to me musically. I was at a Sacrilege gig in around ‘87 and it was one of those lightbulb-moments when I was watching them: “I want to do this. I would love to be a band up there on a stage, doing what Tam’s doing.” I think that was one of the main catalysts for me wanting to be in a band. So I definitely have to name Behind the Realms of Madness from Sacrilege. One of my all time favorite albums.

 

And of course Slayer! When I heard the first offerings that they put out on Show No Mercy and Haunting the Chapel, those were the albums that were really influential. Specifically Haunting the Chapel had a massive effect on me. So those were the 3 protagonists. I think I’d probably have to include the Black Sabbath – Black Sabbath album, it has to be in the top 4-5 as well. They are the legends from my hometown and I am very proud of their musical heritage here in Birmingham.

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Memoriam – The Silent Vigil (2018)

Now let’s talk about your new album coming out at the end of March, “The Silent Vigil”. It’s a pretty awesome one! This record is a lot less affected by sadness compared to “For the Fallen”, instead you’ve become more aggressive and raw. What did you have in mind?

Very perceptive of you. Definitely, I think as you noticed the first album that we released was a document of the time. As all albums are kind of recording the emotions that are going through your life at that point. And the first album was written as a tribute to our lives’ tragic loss of Martin (Kearns, drummer of Bolt Thrower from 1994-97 and 1999-2015 ed.). He’s the catalyst of why the band got together in the first place. The first album is almost a tribute to him directly. And that’s what all the actual songs contained. All the elements that are in there, they are written from a place of mourning, grief and sorrow. Sadness. That was the aspect of For the Fallen. And this new album reflects the way we feel again, it’s almost like a journey, a grieving process, effective by time. Time’s the thing that makes it easier ironically. And things change.

Could you try to describe the album’s identity?

This album I think goes onto the next stage of the mourning process. It’s a part where you’ve lost all the initial shock and the sadness and the sorrow, and you’ve got to get a bit more angry about the situation. So I think there’s a lot more bitterness and anger in this album, it’s a lot rawer as you say. Maybe even more emotional in some respects. There’s a different kind of raw emotion to this one, it’s a lot angrier.

The new album is moving into a new era lyrically as well, with themes that are a lot more reflective about the world that we live in. Lyrics about the real world, things that I think are important to talk about. War has been the center theme, that’s what I’ve written about. There might be a sub-context to the lyrical content involved but the main interest has always been about war. On the first album I did a couple of songs that were moving away from that area but with this new album, The Silent Vigil the lyrics are very different. They are beyond the formulas I’ve been writing in the past. There are songs on there that are based on real theories, real things that are happening in the world around us right now. By that I mean, there are songs on there that have a large amount of social-political comments about the world. They are very concerned about the global rise of the right wing and the fascist ideology which seems to be gaining a massive voice across the planet that we live in. And that really scares me.

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Karl Willetts [Photo: Vivien Varga]

I think voice needs to be raised against it, we can’t just turn away and ignore what’s happening all over the world. As an artist, as a vocalist and as a lyrical writer I think it’s my position to stand up and say something about that. It’s important to me. And I enjoy that challenge of writing lyrics that are not specifically in my comfort zone. It’s quite good to be able to break free of these chains and have that kind of creative freedom, to be able to write about things I think are important. So along with the songs that have large elements of social-political content which are about equality, freedom, racism and all those issues, there are also songs on there which are about transition, about moving forward, about trying to create a new future. These things are very reflective of what the band is trying to achieve as well. That’s how I feel about what’s happening in my life. That’s what we’re doing with Memoriam, we’re moving from the past and trying to develop a new identity, our own band, our own thing.

Could you select a special song from The Silent Vigil and share your vision on it?

There’s a song on there that is about my personal experiences with my mother. Nothing Remains, that’s about the issues of dementia, a mental illness, which is a massive growing issue in the world within our aging population. That happened with my mother about a year ago and it’s been a devastating experience, not just for her but for me and my whole family. A massive impact. So I’d say a lot of the lyrics on this new album are all very reflective of the world that we live in: They are all based on real issues that are important to me.

That’s totally understandable.

But that’s just the lyrics, of course musically there is also a big difference to the first album: There’s lots of tones and textures and new ideas on this new album. I think the first album is great and as I said a document of the time but we were very much aware of the expectations on us to a certain extent; people were quite interested to hear what we are gonna do. There was a certain level of expectation on us so we wanted to say “Hold on. We’re not gonna be doing a Bolt Thrower Nr. 2 or a Benediction Nr. 2; we wanna do our own thing, we wanna create our own identity”. But at the same time, we were still kind of in the shadows and the chains of the past on the first album.

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Memoriam (Karl Willetts, Frank Healy, Andrew Whale, Scott Fairfax)


So The Silent Vigil is moving forward – I think we’ve managed to come out of these shadows and create something that is more Memoriam-ish.
We are more comfortable with our own identity as a band right now and that’s expressed in different tones and structures of the songs. There’s lots of different varieties on there. The overall production is a lot warmer as well, we’ve used the studio this time with real amps in it. We feel the last album is great but certain elements are too overcompressed and maybe too digitalized in many respects, we’ve used quite a few samples on there. But we move free from those with the new album. The album has got a lot more warmth and depth to it. I think the reals amps enhance the rawness, the warmth and the depth of the music. That’s really been a big difference for us and we are very happy about the way it has come together. That was a long answer, wasn’t it? (laughs)

It was, but you answered some other questions of mine as well so I guess it’s a win-win situation!
Okay so I just love the album cover, it’s a typical mesmerising Dan Seagrave artwork with lots of details, beautiful colors and an old school death vibe. As far as I know with Bolt Thrower you’ve never worked with Seagrave, how did the idea come this time?

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Some of Dan Seagrave’s works

That’s right, we’ve never worked with Seagrave with Bolt Thrower. There’s a little story about why we were using Dan Seagrave and it’s basically because we are trying to recreate that old school vibe with Memoriam. Call it a midlife crisis if you want but we are trying to recreate the feelings of energy, creativity and joy in how we felt when we were in a band for the first time. That’s the bottom line of what we’re trying to do with Memoriam. And I think we’ve achieved that by the book at this point. However, the reason we used Dan was because when we first got together as a band, we all sat down before we went into the rehearsal room and we thought “Right, let’s see what we all wanna get out of this band. What would be the greatest thing we could actually get from doing Memoriam?” I said I wanted to play at certain places in the world where I haven’t played before. I think (Andrew) Whale(, drummer – ed.) mentioned a few festivals he wanted to do; Frank (Healy, bassist – ed.) he wanted to record at certain studios… And Scott (Fairfax, guitarist – ed.) came along with the fact that before he dies, he wants to record an album which features a Dan Seagrave cover. So we managed to tick that box quite successfully, twice now. But yeah, we approached him and gave him a very brief idea of what to do and that’s how he came up with the first album cover which is absolutely amazing. And you may have noticed on the second album cover, following the theme of the actual contextual idea of the album – grief –, the album cover reflects that as well. On the first album cover the coffin is being paraded across the battleground – funeral procession. The album cover of The Silent Vigil shows the coffin in the center of focus, lying in state with all the minions and supporters, followers standing there and watching, paying homage to the fallen leader (whatever you wanna call him, whatever’s in there). So yeah, we’ve got an idea what we’re doing with this. So I’d say the album cover’s theme just reflects the process of grief.

Do you already have any plans in mind for the future?

We are all ready at the point where we are starting to work on Memoriam’s next album. We work in an incredibly fast pace. We have a trilogy in mind for Memoriam: We’ve already engaged Dan’s services and we’ll team up for the next album cover, too. We’ve got other ideas beyond these three albums as well but our intention is to move forward and get another album out at some point in 2019. To complete the trilogy.

That sound really good Karl! Looking forward to it.  

Yes, exciting times for us here in Memoriam! We’ve got a lot of gigs as well, doing a lot in between. We’re just enjoying every moment for what it is ‘cause we’ve realized that life is short and you don’t know what’s around the corner. So you have to take everything you can, roll with it and enjoy life. That’s what you have, just enjoy life to the maximum and have as much as you can, while you can. And we’re doing that.

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Karl Willetts

Nice words, I’m happy for all of you guys! Some other subject now, as far as I know you have a Cultural Studies degree from the Birmingham University. It’s clear from all your lyrics and previous interviews that you have an interest in discussing about ideologies, ethnicities, globalization, and in general, politically engaged cultural issues.

Cultural Studies was the only school of thought in the 70s and it closed down ironically a year after I finished my degree course. I think they just realized it was kind of developing a lot of critical cultural thinkers and critical theorists. Which wasn’t doing the system any good, really. But yeah, I had a great time at Birmingham University. I did that because I left school with no real qualifications. When Bolt Thrower first started and was getting quite popular, I did a lot of A levels and my qualifications. And then when I left the band, I really wanted to go to university and experience that life. So doing that course was fantastic, it almost kind of contextualized the ideas and lyrics I’ve been writing previously. And made sense of them for me. It was a good grounding for me to get all these different ideas of social theory as well. There was lots of postmodern theory, classical social theory. I’ve also spent a year doing a bit of Russian culture, African studies and things like that. Issues of gender and race. So I think that’s really how it formulated my mindset and developed my ideas and maybe gave me the confidence to write the way that I do.

Did you ever think about working in a different field connected to your studies?

The ironic thing about Cultural Studies was that there was such a lot of deconstruction involved in what we did. I came away from the course thinking that academia generally is just a lot of self-justifying bullshit (laughs). Writing things about stuff and not really engaging with real life. That’s what I generally got from my degree course. So I never really wanted to pursue my academic career any further than what I did: I think the three years at university were more than enough for me. And I’ve taken away those ideas and applied them in a much wider context and I feel like that’s a better way forward.

For the end: What do you think is your most spoken sentence?

(Laughs) It has got to be a wrong word really, or like “War Master” or “World Eater” (laughs). I think my personal favorite line is the two lines in Powder Burns “Psychological technique / Invincible no pain”. Psychological technique, I really like that line for some reason. That’s one of my favorite lines I’ve ever written.

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Lynda “Tam” Simpson of Sacrilege

I’m also particularly proud of the song Last Words on For the Fallen from Memoriam, which we did with Tam from Sacrilege. She came with the idea and that was a kind of crowning highlight moment. A highlight moment of my career that I forgot to mention! It was great to get her involved because she was the reason I wanted to do this in the first place. There are some lines in that song that are quite touching as well.

Thank you very much for your extensive answers and your time Karl. I wish you all the best on your way forward with Memoriam and have a good night!

It’s been really a pleasure! Thanks for you time and your support. Good night Estelle!

“My aim is to stay healthy and to keep my whole environment positive” – Bernemann (ex-Sodom)

Interview with Bernd Kost (“Bernemann”) from ex-Sodom

Interview by Estelle for Metalegion Magazine on the 7th of September 2016

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Bernemann – then and now

Hi Bernemann, thanks a lot for taking time for our interview with Metalegion Magazine! At first I would like to ask, looking back at your career in Sodom since 1996, do you think you could have done anything differently or in a better way?

It’s a difficult question. I guess after so many years you will find a couple of things that you maybe could have done better but finally everything has happened as it has and with that I am very happy today. I am satisfied with where we are right now with the band and I guess I don’t want to think about what I could have done better (laughs)I am happy with my life and I guess next time I would also do everything in the same way.

That is for sure great to hear.
If you could describe it in 5 words what you would like to express with the general image of Sodom especially regarding themes in connection with war and aggressivity, what would you say?

Tom is doing the lyrics and so he is mostly writing them about war. It’s a very heavy subject for me: I was born in this generation but my parents and grandparents lived and survived during the war and in my family besides them many people died who served as soldiers. When I was a child, I grew up with stories about the war. My parents and grandparents told me about everything that happened during the war time as they were children. I was always very impressed – this doesn’t mean that I like war though. If you read Tom’s lyrics, very quick you will understand that we hate war. I guess that Tom wants to remind people with his lyrics like in Ausgebombt: “don’t forget about how violent and cruel war actually is”. Just never forget it. And so in this meaning, I can live with it as we are not a band that glorifies war or violence.

ALL TIME HIGHLIGHTS…
Could you select up to 3 albums (it can be less or more, it’s up to you) from any genre that you consider your all-time favorites and tell me why you consider them personal highlights?

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Queen – A Day at the Races (1976)

Today I am just listening to heavy metal but in the past I did listen to other genres, I grew up for example with glam rock in the 70s. I was always very impressed by music, I bought my first vinyl when I was 9 years old: a very different music genre, I guess it was from the glam band The Sweet in the 70s. Later I loved Queen, they were very important for me being a musician, and the record that especially impressed me was “A Day at the Races”. But since many years I’m only listening to hard rock and heavy metal music. Of course Slayer – “Reign in Blood” was a milestone for me and an also really important favorite of mine is the record “Parallels” from Fates Warning.

You are in the band since ‘Til Death Do Us Unite came out. This particular album wasn’t the most popular one among old school fans of Sodom – do you think this also formed the picture in the fans’ heads about you yourself?

I was actually very happy with this CD. Of course when we recorded ‘Til Death Do Us Unite, the album was not sold so successfully like Agent Orange or many others before in the 80s. But before, after the years Sodom was calming down a little bit with Masquerade in Blood or Get What You Deserve. I guess with this Sodom was on a very difficult path and for me personally there were too many other influences this time. They also lost some fans, especially when they released Masquerade in Blood. And I know when Bobby [Konrad “Bobby” Schottkowski, drummer of Sodom 1996-2010 – ed.] and me came into Sodom and recorded ‘Til Death Do Us Unite, slowly we had to build up the fan-base again. And I remember very well that many people told me that after the release of the album that they became interested in us again. So I was actually happy with ‘Til Death Do Us Unite, even if I know it didn’t sell that well. I guess it was a sign for the fans that Sodom is a band again and now slowly we will come back.

Do you also feel that after this more difficult period that you described you did manage to get back on track?

Absolutely. Today as we are going to shows and walking to the rehearsal room, I feel now Sodom is again a unit, and a very strong one. Especially now with Makka [drummer since 2010 – ed.] – I know him for a very long time, he’s not only a drummer but also a friend. So we do have a good relationship to each other, we work very hard and I guess that’s what makes Sodom to have a very strong line-up even today.

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Sodom – Decision Day (2016)

BERNEMANN UNVEILS… “Decision Day”
Your new album, Decision Day came out at the 26th of August 2016 at Steamhammer records. Could you select a special song from the new record and share your vision on it, or maybe explain the lyrics, refer to some instrumental parts or tell me about the creation of the track?

I guess one of the last songs that I recorded was Belligerence. This song is my fave from the CD even though we all have lots of favorites from the album (laughs). We have a big problem figuring out the songs we wanted to play from the album because we just love all of them. This is not always the case, but this time especially. So we are really happy with all the material. For me Belligerence was an excellent song to record, because there are some nice acoustic mixed with some very fast parts, just a furious song. I remember I had the idea for the opening riff; one day I was back here in my small home-studio and was just jamming and as the idea for the riff came I immediately got goosebumps. In the first moment I thought I maybe remember this from another band because I like it so much, and I was like “wow Berni this is just a cool riff”. That riff is my highlight from the CD.

Was it like that with the songwriting process of Decision Day as well that Tom wrote most of the lyrics or did you guys collaborate too?

Usually, most of the time the song starts with the guitar. I have an idea for the guitars and then I meet with Makka, our drummer in the rehearsal room and we are working on the basics. We collect all the ideas and make the structure of the songs, we jam a little bit and then if we have the idea for the song more or less ready, then we come to Tom and play together in the rehearsal room and Tom thinks over the lyrics. Tom is always doing the lyrics alone and he always comes up with them after the song is done, so we always start with the music.

sodom.jpegI always had the feeling Tom was the one who always lead the the band and decided about a group of things. Have you ever thought of maybe wanting to have more attention  regarding the fact that Tom is getting the largest part of it?

Thank God I don’t get most of it! (laughs) The point is, Makka and me have regular jobs, I personally work in a factory. If I had more attention I wouldn’t have the time to pay attention myself to all the things surrounding me. Now that we are talking for example, I came back half an hour ago from my work and now I am giving an interview. If I could do all the interviews and all the promotion stuff that Tom is doing, I wouldn’t have the time for myself. Tom just lives from the music and so he does have enough time, and he’s the face of the band since many years – I don’t have a problem with that. I love to be the ‘man behind’ who is responsible for the guitars and I see myself also as a songwriter. Even if I never wrote any of the lyrics this is enough and absolutely okay for me, we never had a problem about this in the band.

That is great to hear if there is a balance in the band with regard to this question.
A bit of a different subject now: You collaborated with famous German schlager singer/actor Roberto Blanco in 2011, making a commercial intended to raise awareness of Alzheimer’s disease. As far as i know he also joined you on stage at various gigs (including Wacken 2011) for a metal rendition of his song ‘Ein bisschen Spaß muss sein’. How did the idea of making the commercial come and what is your opinion on it, looking back to it?

First of all we were really surprised when the management of the singer Roberto Blanco asked us if we want to work together. I know him since I was a child, he is very popular in Germany so I was really surprised when we got this offer to make this video clip together with him. We liked the idea very much, we didn’t get anything for making the video so this had nothing to do with the money, it was funny to do the job and it was for good reason.

At this time my mom also got Alzheimer’s disease so I know what it means if old people have this sickness. This was also one of the reasons why I liked this idea, and especially together with Blanco doing this funny clip, we enjoyed it very much.

Do you have any more fresh ideas in connection with Sodom that have never been done or applied before but you still keep them in mind?

In general no, I was very happy with the way we were working in the last years. We had a bit more time for writing the songs, that was very important. Maybe we should pay a bit more attention to the arrangement of the songs. Now we are able with the modern recording equipment, so we can prepare many many ideas at home and then simply meet in the rehearsal room to play together. But sometimes in the past I had so many ideas that I wasn’t able to record right away so they got lost. In the last years everybody has got a PC and is able to record right away if an idea comes – this makes life a bit easier.

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Bernemann in 2009 – Photo: Baconmusic

I hope that we can still find the time in the future for the songwriting. I guess you cannot actually plan for the future but the most important thing for me is to have good ideas, to stay inspired, to have a good mood everywhere what’s surrounding you, to have a good life with your family and no problems with your job. My life is much more than only making music, and if everything around me turns out good then I am also able to write good songs. This is of course wavering, in the last years I had many problems with losing my job for example. But as long as you yourself are in a good mood – and that’s the secret – and are happy with your life, you can keep on going further and writing songs that fans like. This is my aim, to stay healthy and to keep my whole environment positive and then everything will happen by itself.

For the end: Did you think about what would have been becoming of you if you wouldn’t have started out with playing music?

One day after a live show of Sodom in Bulgaria someone among my friends asked me this question and I told them that I think I would be a really good tourmaker. And everybody was laughing “Oh Bernemann, sure, tourmaker” but I am actually already a tourmaker, for sure not a full-time musician. I would do that gladly.

Thank you very much for your time Bernemann, I wish you all the best with Sodom’s new album Decision Day but especially with the tours you will be making! Have a great time in Italy as well!

Estelle, thank you very much, I appreciate it.

MERCILESS (Swe) video interview

I’m incredibly happy I got the chance to interview Merciless (Swe) at the Fall of Summer festival 2017 – check the result here! Topics include: Euronymous, Deathlike Silence, Morbid’s Dead, bad decisions, Fredrik Karlén, the ending of something and Kate Winslet. Enjoy!

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“Everyday was bitter cold” – Christopher Bailey (Infernäl Mäjesty)

Here you can read my interview done with Infernäl Mäjesty vocalist Chris Bailey revealing background information for my first video album review, concentrating on the band’s first cult album ‘None Shall Defy’. In case you missed it, watch the album video review here!

Interview with vocalist Christopher Bailey from Infernäl Mäjesty

Interview for Darkness Unseen by Estelle on the 20th of July 2017

11200889_1417535335231992_3281858844037743033_nHi Chris, thanks a ton for doing the interview for Darkness Unseen! You were a confident standout band from the Canadian scene back then besides the big thrash(/speed) bands like Exciter, Razor, Anvil, Voivod or Sacrifice on account of your more brutal sound and salient engagement with satanic themes. Did you guys know any other band nearby with a similarly more violent approach as yours that you could even share ideas or jam together with?

Back then when we started writing the music for None Shall Defy we were really isolated. Our rehearsal space was out in the North West corner of the city and we met there regularly to rehearse and write music. Everyday was bitter cold. We had friends in other heavy bands but we never jammed together. Before I joined Infernal I used to go see all the bands you mentioned play live at clubs, they were a big influence on me. Steve and Kenny used to play in a band with (Sheep Dog) before he joined Razor but other than that we never really hung out with other bands in the area. The atmosphere back then in Toronto was competitive.

Even if it happened 30 years ago, can you recall any interesting, memorable or funny stories from the time of the recordings of None Shall Defy? Could you just describe the feeling that surrounded you every time you got together and the goal you had in front of your eyes with the music you were creating?

InfernalMajesty_liveOne of the most memorable experiences recording the album was walking through the front door into the lobby of Metal Works Recording Studio in Mississauga, Ontario owned by the great Canadian Heavy Metal band Triumph. It was a combination of elation and nervousness. I had never played in a band before Infernal and now we were in the studio with a lot of people expecting results. It seemed like one minute you’re answering an ad in the Toronto Star Classifieds, then the next minute you’re standing in a state of the art vocal booth. It was a world I had never seen before. My world until then was a smoke filled rehearsal space, the walls lined with egg cartons, recording on a 4 track portable studio while we jammed, which we did a lot. We also met regularly to discuss band business and shit. We all had the same common goal and worked well together. That’s why to this day its still a mystery as to why Psyco and Nemes just disappeared shortly after the release of the album. Before I finish writing the book [about the story of Infernäl Mäjesty] I’ve started I hope to have more insights into this.

Did you notice any band(s) that formed after your release ‘None Shall Defy’ that might have got either their music or their habits/practices influenced by you guys? For example I’m thinking of them also doing frequent readings of the Satanic Bible, taking over elements from your imagery, etc.

Over the years we have been humbled and grateful  to hear the great tributes from the album. We hope that the younger generations of metal maniacs discovering their call for the first time are influenced by our works and inspired to write music. Like those before us we are driven by the same instinctive passion and creative nature that leans to the dark side of life. To be inspired in each owns unique way from the gift of our forefathers. We are creatures of the world we live in and exposed to. I was 17 when I joined Infernal Majesty. I was influenced by many of the greats back then in their infancy. Slayer, Venom, Manowar, Exciter, Bathory, I can go on and on. This was already embedded in my brain when I added my contribution into the creation of None Shall Defy. Satan has always been a powerful subject that fascinates me today as much as back then. Now it’s a historical exploration that keeps me up reading at night.

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Christopher Bailey (Infernäl Mäjesty)


Your lyrical themes are based on satanic imagery, occultism and horror (films) and they all convey a strong message against the vision of God. You also stated in one of your earlier interviews for example, “
I believe that until all religion is abolished or reduced to small pockets of insignificance, there is no future for mankind”. How old were you when you first discovered you possess these views and what made you start thinking this way, if I may ask?

I’ve always been a big fan of science and nature. It is just natural to me to ask why. At a young age I began to question the existence of a god. Through my late teens I was Agnostic which lasted until my late 20’s when I realized this is all cookoo bananas. I became a believer of nothing but the physics of the natural world. I don’t believe there is a god of the bible. It requires a complete separation from reality and common sense to believe in its words. Leviticus seems to have conveniently been ignored. It’s all illogical. There has not been any ocean’s parting lately or video of bushes spontaneously combusting. It seems in biblical times this was a normal thing, but now god decides to keep his great powers on the down low. Good grief. There has never been a time more important than now to focus on preventing people from dying.

How important is it for you that fans of your music identify themselves with the views Infernäl Mäjesty is spreading in their lyrics?

It’s a bonus if they can relate to our lyrics but it’s more important they just like the songs. We spend a lot of time and energy agonizing over lyrics so it would be cool if people like the message, but not mandatory. We are into getting out and having a good time, bottom line.

bandphoto2.jpgAs we can notice from your band photos from your early period and also on your tour in 1998; besides the spikes, chains and bullets you had such hairstyles that can remind us of glam, causing an interesting contrast between the music you played and the way you looked like. Do you think an explanation is necessary for the hairstyles or did you not purposely want to deliver us a message with your looks at all?

I think it’s a reflection of the era. We wanted to stand out and let our personalities shine. Kiss was the flame when it came to our appearance. When you 10 years old listening to the Love Gun album, staring at the cover for hours it has a lasting impression.  We came from different musical backgrounds but all under the Heavy Metal tent. We had a common goal at the time to write the heaviest, satanic thrash metal music known to humankind.

If anything, probably the only aspect that got a little critique about ‘None Shall Defy’ was the album cover and we can’t deny it surely catches one’s eye; in my personal opinion to the band’s advantage. What is your own opinion on it?

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None Shall Defy (1987)

You are exactly right, it catches the eye. This was the intention. We wanted it to stand out. When we commissioned the artwork we described to the artist, Fred Fivish, that we wanted an image of Satan tearing through the fabric of space revealing hells inferno on the other side. Everyone really liked it. Admittedly I was a little disappointed, but overtime I began to change my opinion. Looking back now I wouldn’t have changed a thing.

How satisfied are you with the reactions on your new album released this year, ‘No God’ so far?

We are thrilled with the reaction its receiving. The reviews have been excellent. Honestly we did not expect this strong of a reaction. We anticipated the worst and hoped for the best. It’s so difficult to know what will happen with reviews.  We didn’t try and break any new ground, we just wanted to bring back some of our roots into the music and focus on a dark heavy atmosphere and flow.  Its out now on High Roller Records. They are awesome to say the least. We new we were in good hands when they chose Good Friday to release the album worldwide.

If I know it correctly you had your last live concert in 2011 in Canada, performing ‘None Shall Defy’ in its entirety with Corpsegrider from Cannibal Corpse. Now that the new album is already out I’d like to ask, is there ANY chance of us being able to see you guys somewhere in the near future?

Its one of our highest priorities. We are working everyday trying to get things figured out, to bring our show on the road. I will have some major announcements soon. Everything we do is up on our Twitter feed, Facebook Page and Instagram or you can sign up to our newsletter for the latest info. Now you mentioned Cannibal Corpse, yes indeed the Corpsegrinder showing up to do a set with us was phenomenal. There is lots of video up on YouTube if anyone hasn’t seen it yet and the entire show will be up on our YouTube Channel soon.

Is there anything else you would like to tell me about?

Just to say thank you, I really enjoyed this and a shout out to Hungary. When we toured with Malevolent Creation and Vader in 97 we fell in love with you. We can’t wait to return.

“I never felt myself forced just to write about the pirate stuff as it could be too limitating musically” – Rolf Kasparek (Running Wild)

Interview with Rolf Kasparek from Running Wild

Interview for Metalegion Magazine by Estelle on the 26th of August 2016


Hi Rolf, first of all thanks a lot for taking the time and doing the interview with me for Metalegion Magazine, much appreciated!

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Death or Glory (1989)

Which album of Running Wild do you think was the most crucial or significant one in your personal career and/or in the fans’ opinion?

I would say Death or Glory – we had a lot better conditions concerning distribution, that was the next step for us as we sold pretty much more than we ever sold before. It was a very big step forward for Running Wild. And Blazon Stoned was the next step, it was the best sold album of my career. It was a truly important album that made the status of Running Wild.

Rolf, you are the only so to say “old” member in the current lineup of Running Wild. To what degree does this affect the songwriting process for the newer albums?

This time we had pretty much more time to write and to collect the ideas than I had for the albums before. It happened not intentionally, I just broke my shoulder so I was “knocked out” from the world for one year and that is why I could really make up my mind about the cover and the lyrics; I really could collect everything that was coming up to me.

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Rolf Kasparek (1989)

When I was doing the record and writing the songs back then when my shoulder was again moveable and I could finally play guitar, it turned out to be a great situation because I could pick out 11 songs from all these ideas (I had about 30-35 basic song ideas) which are still all different from each other. Every song should gain something to the album that the others couldn’t, in order to have a wide range of style. I had the time to work on the small bits of pieces and the arrangement of the songs.

Rapid Foray is more complex in a way than the earlier albums by reason of the basic ideas. Also, I haven’t used studio before we started out with the record. It was a pretty much relaxed working situation even if it was hard work to achieve all that we finally did with the album. But it was a great situation for me to have the time to work out the bits of pieces, the details of the songs.

You mentioned that you broke your shoulder in the beginning of 2014. As far as I know you also needed surgery in Germany from one of the best doctors to repair it – During that period, have it ever crossed your mind that your career as a guitarist could be in danger?

No, because it was totally cured as I reached to the point back then to play guitar in the proper way again. In the first place it was the best doctor that I could get. It was just a coincidence that I landed there in this hospital but he was the best doctor to work on a shoulder in whole Germany (laughs). And I just told him that I’m a guitar player, I’m a musician and I need to use my shoulder. And he did a really great job then, the operation went well.

It took me about half a year just to get to working on Rapid Foray again because of having to have a second operation half a year later. I could already play guitar but not in a proper way, I couldn’t work for hours: 3-4 hours a day was not possible, in the beginning it was like half an hour here and there… I simply worked on the ideas and was picking out songs for the record.

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Rapid Foray (2016)

ROLF UNVEILS… RAPID FORAY

This section of our magazine would basically mean a song by song explanation or just an explanation of one song, focusing more on the lyrical and instrumental side of the song(s).
Could you share your vision of a song, explain the lyrics, refer to some instrumental passages or tell how the song was created…? It’s up to you.

I was interested in doing the last song on the record, the Last of the Mohicans. It was a really important one mainly because of the idea of doing a song about the novel from James Fenimore Cooper. I already had the idea in 2000 while writing the Victory album but it was not coming down, it was not the quality I wanted to have and that’s why I put it down again and again. And when I started out with the Shadowmaker from 2012 I had the idea to the song again, but on the other hand I had another song called Dracula which finally made it onto the album. On Resilient from 2013 it happened in the same way, I had the idea to write the Last of the Mohicans but there, as the last song, Bloody Island made it onto the album.

While writing Rapid Foray I finally did have the time to do the song, I figured out very early a lot of ideas for it concerning my working situation because of my shoulder.

And the story it tells – I know the story since I was a kid, had to see it in Germany, we had this kind of tradition in the 60s and early 70s. Before Christmas we had these 4-piece movies about a certain adventure topic that was sold by German TV to French TV, so different TV stations got this together. There was one film called the Hawkeye Movie and another one was the Last of the Mohicans, which is one of the stories of this book.

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James Fenimore Cooper – The Last of the Mohicans (1826)

I was really impressed by the story because it was a battle on the one hand, and on the other hand it’s a very adventurous case. I must have been around 9-10 years old when I saw it for the first time and I was simply impressed. There were a lot of movies coming up with the story but telling it from a different kind of view, a different kind of perspective.

I wanted to do this song and I figured out that the story is too complex to tell it in just in 5 verses or so. I just had to figure out what was the main point to me from the story and this is the loss of Chingachgook [one of the three frontiersmen, among the main figures of the film – ed.]. He not only lost his son but he lost his culture, he lost his present, he lost his future, he lost everything. His pride… Everything that was important to him that made up his life so far; he had to start at a new point from then on.

And that was the point I had my focus on while writing the lyrics and telling the story. I also had to tell it musically and that’s why it turned to be such a long song because it’s such a complex story.

Now it’s understandable why it is the largest song on the album with a running time of around 11 minutes. The song, as you also mentioned, was clearly influenced by the 19th century novel written by James Fenimore Cooper. What lead you to adapt this particular novel into a Running Wild song and also, do you think it fits entirely into the Running Wild pirate image you built up over the years?

rw5I always brought in different kinds of ideas on the albums because I never felt myself forced just to write about the pirate stuff as it could be too limitating musically. Also, if you only write about that kind of certain topic just have certain melodies in your head and certain musical ideas. Back on Death or Glory we had a song called Battle Waterloo which also was a part of history. From time to time I’m just doing different stuff because there were also some songs on the album just like Victory of Guns which is just a normal rock ‘n’ roll song. So I never felt myself forced to just go ahead for this kind of image stuff.

The story of the Last of the Mohicans takes place in the 18th century, but the pirate stuff did too. So it fits in that case as it is a part of the story and so it is a part of what happened then. The indians were pretty much in the same kind of situation as the pirates were. They had to fight for their lives and for the right and had to see how they pull through this. The first place there was a war between England and France about North America, they just wanted to keep their hand on that, so that was the basic story back then.

We can notice that the lyrics after your 1987 album Under Jolly Roger were intensely researched. Where did you get the inspiration and especially the information for the lyrics?
What does the whole pirate image mean to you and how did you get yourself into it?

Everything started with the song Under Jolly Roger. I was watching TV when I came around with the idea of the song, there was this advertisement for the movie called Pirates (1986) written by Roman Polanski. And there was this scene where the flag was rising up and I found it beautiful. “Wow Under Jolly Roger, a great title for a track!” – It started with that. I became especially interested in this stuff when I was writing for Port Royal. And I just love books about that. Totally different kinds of books about different pirates, about history, about theories, about shit, about everything that had something to do with the life in the 18th century. It was all about that pirate stuff on the Caribbian. And I had a lot of books where I could pick the stories from, stories that all come from reality. Just as our song called Calico Jack.

rw-jollyrogerAnd sometimes our songs are coming up with imagination about the topic. If you have a look on the new album a song like Black Skies, Red Flag has nothing to do in the first case with the reality, just has this kind of red flag as a symbol for the pirates that they will show no mercy at all. We have the real pirate flag in our minds with a skull and crossbones. But actually every pirate had his own flag back then.

So there’s totally different stuff that comes from that. And sometimes I’m coming back to that, I had all the ideas for the new album and one of them turned out into a song called Black Bart, which is a song about Bartholomew Roberts who was the most famous and the most successful pirate of all time. He was mentioned in the story of Treasure Island and he was real. It was not just imagination, he actually existed and was a very strong character; there were a lot of different things in his character that were not at all usual for that time. He was never drinking alcohol – what a weird situation for a pirate (laughs)! He was always sober, all the time. And he was gay, for the 18th century he was gay! He was very very open, he didn’t hide it, he was never hiding. And it was very strange for the 18th century to do that. The crew was really onto him, he was also relentless, a really tough guy. And so that was the story I was coming back to, I was just going for the books again and I found a story about which I haven’t had a song written yet, I figured he would be a great character to do a song about.

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Running Wild (Death or Glory era)

Rapid Foray also brings back some of the memories from the classic Running Wild period. Your previous two albums (Resilient, but especially Shadowmaker) didn’t convince entirely many older fans of yours. Was this something you were looking for this time, to make peace with the older fans?

No, not really. When I was going through all the ideas I had for the album, I figured out that there were some parts that had some more trademarks from the late eighties-early nineties. But I was not heading down when I was writing the songs, when I was collecting the ideas. I never said to myself “you have to write songs like back then” – that simply wouldn’t work. If you try to do a copy of a song from 25 years ago, there would not be coming any good song from that. If I got a great idea that sounds like that and I got this feeling and I got this kind of spiritual thing going around what you feel about the pirate stuff or the metal that you consider to be classic for Running Wild… It’s great when it’s there. You really can rock on that and you can go and work on the bits of pieces to make it to be a great track. And that’s what I did. But I never said to myself that I had to write songs like that. I don’t think that would really be ending up as a great record. The record was just the way I was feeling when I was writing and collecting the ideas and when I was picking the songs for the album. I figured out very early when I was working on the tracks themselves that a lot of songs had trademarks from the classic stuff.

I agree with you on that that you couldn’t simply copy a song from back then because it wouldn’t work out the same way.
As you also mentioned earlier, you had more than 30 songs completed for Rapid Foray. If I can ask do you sometimes use portions or complete songs that were not featured on the previous album(s)?

This was the first time that I had so many ideas for an album. If you have a look back into the early days Death or Glory etc. – those were really the songs I had that I put on the album. I couldn’t pick from such a big “pool” from which I have the possibility to do that today. There were a lot of ideas I had to put down because they didn’t fit to these 11 songs. But that doesn’t mean they are not great songs. Meanwhile I was writing the material and was working on the production itself, I had a lot more ideas for the next album that I had to put down and force myself to forget them. This is a kind of pool of creativity I have in the last 2-3 years which I never had before in my life. There are a lot of things going on, a lot of ideas are just coming and I really can’t stop it (laughs). It’s totally different because before, I put down Running Wild as it was really hard for me to write the songs and get the proper ideas for a good track. It was really hard work, but today it’s just coming like a river.

That’s for sure great for us fans to hear!

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Running Wild at Wacken Open Air 2015 [Photo: apesmetal.com]

About “putting down” Running Wild as you said, the last time you played live was on Wacken Open Air in 2015. Was it because your last show in 2009 also happened to be on Wacken? Also, do you plan to give concerts anywhere else seeing that so many fans are kind of dying for you?

I was just starting out working on the new album and we got the idea from the Wacken guys to do a show there in 2015, festival headlining. We felt like it was a great idea to do that but we had to find 2 new members for the band as it was just P.J. [Peter Jordan guitarist – ed.] and me at the time. We figured it out but after that I had to go back to the album to finish the recording.

About concerts, we are not doing touring but we will play on a lot of festivals the next year. So we just get all the offers and we sit down and consider all of them and see what we can do, what festival is suitable for us concerning the fees and the possibilities. We plan to bring a full set from Running Wild on the stage. This is all planned for the next year. It is also the plan maybe to do 2-3 shows around the next Christmas, 2017. This is the next plan and now we are working on that. Now we are pretty much involved in interviews and the promotion for the new album. We will just sit down and see what we can do about 20 different offers from festivals all over Europe.

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 A fan’s Running Wild-themed leather vest

That’s awesome to hear that there is a chance of seeing you!

You guys are also really active on your Facebook-site when it comes to marketing, for example you have an album where you upload fans’ pictures with their Running Wild tattoos and reliquia. What was the most surprising way of a fan showing his respect towards Running Wild that you’ve experienced?

The fans are so loyal to Running Wild, even if we talk about 32 years now because it was in 1984 the first album which was revealed for the public. I see so many people getting tattoos from Running Wild, some of them even more than a dozen. It’s a statement that Running Wild means a lot to them and it is a big part of their lives and makes me proud. Also if you take a look at how many musicians claim to be influenced by Running Wild, even if they are fans you never came across with because they are doing different music themselves. In Flames for example, they have grown up with my music – they are making totally different music themselves but are saying “you were a milestone for us because you’re the reason we started out making music”. It makes me proud to see the next generation rising. Or Sabaton, they also claim to be great Running Wild fans and have grown up with my music. Handing over the fire to the next generation – I am really proud of that.

rw6About fans and about being proud of fans being so loyal: Do you feel like you ever disappointed either your fans or yourself with any of Running Wild’s records?

You know the fans are a big part of Running Wild, we would be nothing without them. That is for sure: they bought the records, they bought the tickets… They made the band great and this is what it’s all about. You always have to have the focus on that these people were loyal to the band through the good and though the bad times, and it makes me proud to be a part of their lives. For example once we got a letter from an American soldier who was fighting in Iraq and he said what brought him through all these evil things going on there was to listen to Running Wild all day long. And this means a lot to me to be the help for people through situations, to feel better, to make it through.

All time highlights…

For the end could you select up to 3 albums that you consider your all-time favorites and tell me something about each one? (For instance when you have heard it for the first time, why you consider it a highlight or some sort of memories when hearing it.)

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Judas Priest – Unleashed in the East (1979)

Firstly Unleashed in the East from Judas Priest: Priest is a starting point for me for heavy metal in the reality. When this album came out, everything started and one year after that all the NWOBHM started. We are called since then a heavy metal band because we were called before some kind of a hard rock band. Listening to KISS and AC/DC…

What also was really important for me is British Steel. It’s an all-time classic for me, THE most heavy metal album of all time. It just sums up everything that heavy metal means to me.

Thank you very much for all the interesting things you told me Rolf, all the best to you in the future and looking forward to seeing you sometime in 2017!

Thanks for the support. Have a nice day!

“As long as you’re challenging yourself, you’re going to get better results” – Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth (Overkill)

Interview with Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth from Overkill

Interview for Metalegion Magazine by Estelle on the 11th of August 2014

Hi Bobby, thank you very much for doing this interview for Metalegion Magazine! Firstly I would like to ask, are you satisfied with what you have done throughout the years? What do you think could have gone better?

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Bobby Blitz – then and now

I suppose now Overkill is getting a lot of attention, chart positions have shown that we have a popularity of the scene in thrash, not just for us but for many of the other bands. It’s something that is very special in the current day. So I think that there’s obviously a little bit of a difference; in the early days we were getting attention based on the genre’s newnessand creation at that time as the scene was developing, but now I think we are probably getting as much if not more attention based on its longevity, and let’s say value in the current day.

This is a thing I’ve done as an adult – my whole adult life. It’s over a 30-year period now that I’ve been playing in Overkill. I never really think about what could we have done better, I think the key here is that if we felt that there was a mistake, we would comb upon that mistake the next time. This wasn’t a band that sticks terribly to that one way describedas unpopular, this was something that you didn’t want to do, and we always found ways to make that happen. The drive was the popularity of the scene, so I think that the choice was made, the dice was cast, it was really simple for us: this is what we wanna do, so I don’t really look at it as what we could have done better, I just kinda look at it as we’ve always tried to count what we can improve on what we would like to do, and I think that someone there might say that is the key of our personal success.

You guys are extremely hard-working – the band puts out the new albums every 2 or 3 years, tours like mad, you also run a chocolate shop with your wife – and despite all these you never stopped thrashing. What do you feel was the worst period to exist as a thrash metal band?

You know, just the fact that you’re here this is a great thing. I think there was a period in the nineties when it was harder to retain a record field and harder to keep it growing. Not ’94, ’95, ’96, because there was still a great underground popularity of the scene, but then grunge came in and put a big dirty footprint on the metal scene – it became unpopular and went back to the underground, so it was a little bit harder than when its creation happened and what now happens.

168_photo.jpgBut when I think back of those times, just because it was harder it doesn’t mean it was unsatisfying. To some degree, it was more satisfying because of the new methods we looked to put into it; still there were record deals, still there were tours – we never stopped touring, we never stopped recording records and we never were without a record deal. And this was due to our own work, we were writers in the band and we also self-managed during this period of time. So we made good moves, they were hard moves at the time but when I think back on them, I think of them as the most satisfying days based on the fact that a lot of people couldn’t do this, but obviously we could.

Some vocalists who I interviewed so far said that they don’t really consider themselves or feel like musicians. Do you?

Obviously there’s music here because I write the melodies to the popular music, so each vocal has a melody. Now what’s telling the correctness what to sing, it’s more how I interpret that, so sure, that becomes my musical input to it, therefore of course I’m one of the musicians in the band to complete the formula.

Besides singing, you also play the bass. Did you ever consider really playing in a band as a bassist?

I did for a while. I was in university or high school at the time, watched the others bass and I loved the bass gear, and played in cover bands. When I was in university, it was because we were trying to meet girls. It’s really simple, it’s something to do on the weekends. When I was in high school, it was because it was cool, it wasn’t anything, it was just fun. But I wasn’t just playing the bass, I was singing tunes like a ZZ-Top song, we were playing music that was popular at the time. So yeah, I had played as a bassist in those bands.

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Overkill – White Devil Armory (2014)

Your new album, White Devil Armory is close to being as energetic and dynamic as you were back in the eighties, similarly to the past few albums of yours such as The Electric Age or Ironbound. In one of your earlier interviews you said that The Electric Age is something like two-dimensional – it has the speed and it has the aggressiveness, but it doesn’t have the groove. Did you plan White Devil Armory to be similar in this aspect?

I think that when I gave that answer, that was for sure my commitment to add a certain groove to what I am to it, not the groove, the vocals in between that the other guys were doing. So for sure I did, and I think Overkill is made up with different elements, and even though I’ve highlighted The Electric Age as a two-dimensional record, I do feel it’s a great thrash record, I really think that it was really something special for 2012. So sure, I instilled groove in that.

There’s not a lot of talking when it comes to Overkill’s planning for a new record: I think as long as you’re challenging yourself, you’re going to get better results. And I even think that White Devil Armory contains more of that groove coming with the thrash than The Electric Age did.

What was the newest thing you guys added to the recording of White Devil Armory?

67-og.jpgWe have a formula, and I do think that when the formula works that’s something that we stick to, let’s say maybe trying to improve upon it – I find that when I record demos along with touring, on the tour bus, then I get really good results. That’s something I’ve been doing for a few records now, I just like to have something I can record with. There’s an energy you can’t fake when you come on stage. I’m coming on stage in San Antonio, on the Overkill/Kreator tour, and two hours later I’m in the back of the bus and I’m recording down some demo vocals to the song ‘Pig’. It’s going to come out with a live energy, because that’s the last thing I did on Overkill’s live show. So I think that’s probably the newest thing that I personally add to this: that I like to record several demos when I’m doing live shows.

You have two new clips recorded for the songs ‘Armorist’ and ‘Bitter Pill.’ Could you tell me a few words about the making of them?

We recorded them in New Jersey with Kevin J. Custler (Hatebreed, Testament, Suffocation. He previously worked with Overkill on the “Electric Rattlesnake” and “Bring Me The Night” clips – ed). We shot ‘Armorist’ in a really old factory with big windows and with a lot of natural light. On the same day we did ‘Bitter Pill’ in the bowels of a separate section of the complex, in which the walls were actually carved out of the bedrock.

Is there anything that you do not like to do when it comes to making a new album?

I can’t say it specifically. As time goes on, it becomes easier, but then at other times, it becomes harder and I think the hardest part is non-repetition. Writing a song or my part of the song like ‘Freedom Rings’, let’s say “oh, it shouldn’t be minutes,” because that’s what I would have done in 1990. I don’t like thinking in it, I’m just trying to push myself out of the box. And that becomes a little bit harder, and sometimes it becomes something I don’t want to do in that particular time because it would be easy to put 1990 into ‘Freedom Rings.’So I think the idea is that the satisfaction comes when you still push yourself. And when you pull it through, it seems like this is a harder test than doing it the natural way as in 1990.

As far as I’m concerned, your early covers (especially the ones done under the name Virgin Killer) were mostly punk songs, including selections by the Ramones and The Dead Boys. Did punk music stay with you in any way?

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Early days of Overkill

It’s funny because with the whole Virgin Killer thing, I think there was one gig that we ever did under that name. I think Virgin Killer lasted as a name for this band for about 36 hours. (laughs)
I do think that the punk stays with it, I think that this band back in that era when even the name Virgin Killer was around was a fan of NWOBHM, and some punk rock stuff. And we were kind of the child of those two genres, we were into the Tygers of Pan Tang, or Europe, also Tank and we were also into the Sex Pistols or The Damned. The result is Overkill between those two kind of genres, and I think we surely carried with it. So when I hear songs like ‘Pig’ off the new record I hear that punk word, so I hear “it’s all yours,” I hear kind of an odd groove that is still there. So for sure I think that punk would stay with us for the duration of our career.

Not long ago you said that you like this modern vibe to your newer albums, and I also read you are usually a fan of new school thrash metal bands and this whole new scene going on nowadays. Is there anything you miss from the old times? Can the feeling be the same for you nowadays?

Good question. I do like most of the new stuff that comes out, I like it obviously because it’s reflective of us and reflective of the a scene that was from the past, and something that I was a part of, so it’s obviously easy for me to like it – it’s not something that I had to search for, it showed up and I was like “wow I know that!,” and that’s where my attraction leads to. What’s different is that it was created in another time, if it was from 1985 or 1987, whether it be Overkill or Megadeth or Death Angel, it was being created then. I think that becomes the main difference, the thing that it’s probably missed. It’s more of a reflection to me, which is cool to me, but what was being created, there was a certain danger, risk, excitement that went along with it, that was unexplainable.

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Overkill – The Electric Age (2012)

Would you ever consider taking a fresh face, a young guy in the band?

Right now the youngest guy is like 46 (laughs), and it’s funny, I would call him the ‘kid.’ But what we are sure about is that this line-up jams pretty well and I think the evidence is there in White Devil Armory, The Electric Age and Ironbound. This line-up is probably the strongest Overkill line-up, today. When The Electric Age was created, we figured out how to keep it loaded. And at some degree that’s more important even than its creation, at this particular point in our career. In a way it was necessary, I don’t see why not, I don’t think it’s a wrong thing to have the right guys, specifically in the right place.

After overcoming cancer, a stroke and 34 years, is there anything you can think of that could stop you from thrashing and going on with Overkill?

Well, I haven’t had a heart attack yet. (laughs hard)
You know, I had a really unique time, a dirty cancer period I went through, and now I’m over 15 years cancer-free. I was a sober individual at the time, I hadn’t drunk in many years or taken any drugs. It was a cool time for me because my head was clear during this episode. I didn’t tell I had cancer, I was just sitting in the bar and enjoying my time, I was a person that was hanging out with guys from motorcycle clubs who were also sober guys. I remember sitting with this guy, we were sitting in a bar with our bikes behind, both having cigarettes and he said to me, first, “You shouldn’t be smoking if you have cancer,” and, second, “It’s not the problem, it’s getting through the problem.” And it was like I was hit with a word of light: right, it has nothing to do with the problem, it’s getting around the fucking problem, going through it, going over it. It gives another side, I mean I’d like to be put on the other side of the problem, but I have to be able to get through it.

bobbyblitz3.jpgAnd it gave me a real good perspective on where I am with regard to lives and I think it was a great lesson for me to learn because I knew from that moment that it had nothing to do with the problem, it had to with me getting through to the problem. I don’t think that there is anything that could stop me with regard to if I can physically do it, I will do it. I love Overkill, this is my drug, this gets me high. So if I can get through my problems, then I won’t be stopped by something.

Is there anything that you would still like to say about White Devil Armory?

Somebody asked me “Could you tell us why people should listen to White Devil Armory?” and the only thing I could come up with was “Because I said so.” (laughs)

Thank you very much for this honour and for your time Bobby. I wish all the best to Overkill, keep thrashing!

Thanks for the support!

Announcements and announcements

Reasons for not being active pt. #a lot.

So dear everyone, first of all I would like to apologize for being completely passive when it came to posting in the last months. The main thing is that at the beginning of April I moved from Budapest, Hungary to Leipzig, Germany and as you can imagine unfortunately the main point before my eyes was not moving forward with my blog and getting stuff in connection with my hobbies done but adjusting to a different country and doing all the administration required for it, trying to get used to my new job, new language and all the people I keep getting to know day by day. I kind of would be able to feel settled already but I just moved again into another apartment with some of my friends inside Leipzig so I don’t – also what makes the whole thing harder is that I’m doing a night job and even though I do enjoy it (just like everything else) so far, I definitely have to practice a lot of time management in case I even wanna have social life or get any stuff done, let that be administration or handling anything I care about, including reviews/interviews.

Being happy in Leipzig. Such a perfect city

I do have a feeling that this will change soon tho, as I feel like writing stuff again already especially becaaaause…:

The first issue of Metalegion Magazine I’ve been doing interviews for in 2014-15 is finally out and available for free download, featuring my interviews made with John & Donald Tardy from Obituary, Bobby Blitz from Overkill, Andreas “Gerre” Geremia from Tankard and Marc Grewe from ex-Morgoth along with a few reviews written under the name of Estelle. HERE you can find it – in case you like what you read & see, I would be happy about having the word spread. :)

I also got a few more names already with whom I will surely do an interview as we are planning the 2nd edition of the magazine: Sodom, Running Wild and Destruction, plus a lot of more band and festival ideas among which a lot will probably be sorted out. Couldn’t be more excited. :D

Soo hopefully I won’t disappear for months again and will be able to put some energy in writing, I love doing it and wouldn’t like seeing something I’ve done slipping away. :) Until then!

“The different types of music I’ve played have had satisfied different aspects of why I like playing extreme metal” – Dan Lilker (Nuclear Assault, ex-Anthrax, ex-S.O.D, ex-Brutal Truth)

Interview with Dan Lilker (Nuclear Assault, ex-Anthrax, ex-S.O.D, ex-Brutal Truth)

Interview by Estelle at Brutal Assault on the 5th of August 2015 

Hey Dan, first of all thank you so much for doing this interview with me! First I’d like to ask, if you could go back to the very beginning of your metal career, would you do anything differently?

Dan: Maybe making decisions about signing to certain labels, but not artistically. I’m completely satisfied with the paths I have taken even though I could have maybe sold out and made money or something; but I couldn’t really do this, it would go against my heart. So now I can’t think of too much I would do different as far as a musician. Maybe some business decisions, but not as an artist.

Out of all the bands you were involved in, which one was the most fun to work with?

Dan: This is a difficult question because the different bands I’ve played with have satisfied different feelings inside me: thrash metal is fun, you’re drinking beer and smoking weed; if you’re playing black metal it makes your hair stand up (this is such a special feeling), or if you’re palying grindcore, it’s like there’s lightning in the air. So the different types of music I’ve played have had satisfied different aspects of why I like playing extreme metal. As far as having fun, it’s difficult to have fun playing black metal because you must stay in a very serious vibe – and it’s hard to because sometimes something happens and you have to laugh, something falls over or I don’t know. (laughs)

I’ve read that you are still kind of satisfied with how your first record with Nuclear Assault, Game Over sounds – as I’ve noticed that is not something common among musicians. Do you want to recreate the same vibe and sound both on an album and live or can you accept the fact that we don’t live in those times anymore?

Nuclear Assault – Game Over (1986)

Dan: Honestly, I think the guitar sound on Game Over is not distorted enough. But this was the analog days – and now we live in a digital world. We accept the fact that the old process of recording is different now, but we have technological advantages; it’s much easier to fix a mistake immediately instead of having to start from the beginning. The sound of analog recordings had a special real warm sound to them that’s hard to recreate digitally, but there are ways to imitate this.

John Conelly (vocalist of Nuclear Assault who just sat down next to us): How hard is it?

Dan: What’s hard?

John: Well, to recreate the sound of old recordings. How hard is it Dan?

Dan: Are you being perverted? I’m talking to a woman, have some taste for Christ’s sake! (John’s laughing)

[To John who was hoping that I’d do the interview with him instead of Dan:] Aren’t there any conflicts in Nuclear Assault because of Dan being the center figure?

John: Nah, no problems.

Dan: Nobody wants the attention, I just have to take it.

[To Dan:] Seeing the huge success of and interest around Anthrax counting right from Fistful of Metal, don’t you ever feel awkward for being fired from the band in ’84? Didn’t you ever think about going back?

Dan: I was asked to leave Anthrax – I didn’t have the opportunity to continue with them, they told me to go. So it doesn’t matter. I called up John and said “we have to start a band” and that’s how Nuclear Assault came. Anthrax’s music went to a more commercial direction than I think I would have enjoyed playing; but it’s all okay, everything happens for a reason – that’s what they say.

Daniel Lilker

Daniel Lilker

I’ve read in one of your earlier interviews when a guy asked you about your further plans with S.O.D. that you said “the more we do, the less special it becomes”. Is this a general view of yours or does it only apply to S.O.D.?

Dan: Absolutely. S.O.D. was kind of a weird thing where we just didn’t have any idea it was going to get popular, we just said “oh, we’re just gonna play some pop-rock songs and record them” and the more you try to recreate that, it would become less. We had a surprise attack at the time, you can never repeat that. So just forget it, just be happy with that and don’t try to milk the cow too much.

It’s clear that you do not like today’s metal – still, have you found any new bands (let it be thrash or anything else) recently that did surprise you or gave you something you haven’t really heard before?

Dan: I can’t think of anything in the recent past that I’ve heard that was totally original, but it’s understandable because people playing thrash metal in 2015 have a lot of influences. When we started, we did our own thing to get things from hardcore and maybe a couple of Slayer riffs or whatever, or maybe more Venom, Hellhammer or Discharge. The point being, it’s harder to be original 30 years later.

Nuclear Assault (1986)

Nuclear Assault (1986)

[To both of them:] What is the thing that you mostly miss from the old days when it comes to music?

Dan: I’m not sure I miss anything from the old days. Maybe just the fact that back then everybody knew each other. There was a community, and now it clearly is exploited.

John: We got to play with Exodus on a fairly regular basis. We saw the guys in Testament often too, great guys, fun to be around.

[To Dan:] You are not only a bassist but a really diverse talent as you also play the guitars, piano, drums and you’re a vocalist as well. Where does all this come from?

Dan: It’s the same source. I played piano when I was five years old and heavy just came in later. But playing music – whatever you’re doing –, it’s all from the same well. It depends on what instrument you are using at the time and of course I’m not the best guitarist or anything, I’m a bassist. But I write songs on guitar because it’s easier to explain to the other guys.

John: The nice thing is that we both have a qualification in classical music, we speak the same language. So if I tell Dan “do you need something in E-minor and 6/8 time signature?”, he knows what I’m talking about. A lot of people don’t even know what E-minor is – it’s odd because they are really good musicians. For Dan and I it’s like common vocabulary.

Do you want me to ask a particular thing from you?

Dan: “Why are you guys so handsome?” – I don’t know! Or: “Why do you do what you do?” – Because we don’t give a fuck.

Okay guys, thanks for taking the time and doing a quick interview, also thank you for your nice show!

Dan: Thank you!

“Asphyx will always be Asphyx – what you see is what you get” – Martin van Drunen (Asphyx, Hail of Bullets, ex-Pestilence)

Interview with Martin van Drunen (Asphyx, Hail of Bullets, Grand Supreme Blood Court, ex-Pestilence)

Interview by Estelle at Brutal Assault on the 6th of August 2015

vandrunen1Hi Martin, thank you very much for giving the chance and doing the interview for Darkness Unseen! First I’d like to ask, in which band and in which period do you think you were on the highlight of your career?

Asphyx, right now in this very moment. I just came off stage and we agree with the guys that this was one of our best shows in like half a year. Everybody’s like “fuckin’ hell!”. Even if it was really hot, so we had to kind of dose our energy but it was a fuckin’ good show. We just walked off stage and we all came along to each other like “wow that was good, compliments guys!”. So it’s easy to say, it is right now.

Would you give any advice to your younger self if you could go back to where you started?

Wow. I think I would say “let go a bit of your pride”.

I read in one of your earlier interviews that you tried playing the guitar at first, and then Patrick (Mameli) from Pestilence forced you to start learning bass because Pestilence needed a bass player. When did you realize that vocals were rather your thing?

It’s really weird: I actually met Patrick in a hardrock-metal cover band from some guys that I knew. They were practicing and I was a kid so I just said “okay you guys practice then I come along and drink a few beers”. But their singer, lots of times he was not showing up being drunk or something, and then Patrick joined them and played stuff like Slayer with them. And they asked “who knows the lines?” and I was like “I know the fuckin’ lyrics!” – “okay, try then!”. So that was my first effort, just for fun.

Martin Van Drunen – Photo: Nando Harmsen

Martin Van Drunen – Photo: Nando Harmsen

And a few years later when I met Patrick again, I asked “what are you guys doing now?” and he goes “I have another band, we’re looking for a singer”. Then he asked “and what are you doing now?” I go like “I’m a singer looking for a band” – well I was not, I just had a big mouth. But that’s how it happened with Pestilence, I never thought to be a singer, I just wanted to be in a band. (laughs)

Asphyx is one of the death metal bands that really sticks to the roots of old and ‘true’ style of death metal. Was there always an agreement on this matter between the members of Asphyx? Was there anyone who would have liked trying new ways?

No, this is something which we know THIS is Asphyx. As soon as we start experimenting with new shit, it’s not Asphyx anymore. This is probably safer than to say “let’s do something else” but I don’t feel the need for it, I just don’t like it. I like what we do with Asphyx now, this is the style that I prefer, this is the style that’s inside of me. And this is the same with the guys. So Asphyx will always be Asphyx – what you see is what you get. We never disappoint any people by changing our style, we would kill ourselves.

Even though you were not in the band most of these times, do you know why Asphyx split up so many times so far?

Asphyx (1991-92)

Asphyx (1991-92)

I don’t know it exactly, but actually if you don’t know Bob (Bagchus; founder drummer of Asphyx – ed.), he’s not the easiest guy to handle. I think it also had a lot to do with the relation of Bob and Eric (Daniels; guitarist of Asphyx from 1989-95 and 1997-2000): even nowadays as they do Soulburn together, they are really close friends, they’re like brothers. You just can’t get in between. Even if I really do like them as friends and as collegues in metal, even for me it’s really hard to get in between them. And I think that was the problem, that they were together and somebody else inside – and all of a sudden there was something happening and they just said “okay fuck off, you just don’t fit in”. I think that’s the main thing why so many lineup changes and ‘split-ups’ happened.
And don’t forget the Asphyx – Asphyx album (from 1994) that Eric did basically alone – that was a lineup that had nothing to do with anything else, he just found a few guys. It was like a new band.

Kind of a different subject: You were the vocalist of Bolt Thrower and did two tours with them from 1994 to ’97. Why did you have to replace Karl Willetts (the original singer of Bolt Thrower) live?

They asked me and you know if a band like Bolt Thrower asks you, you don’t say no! (laughs) We were good friends, I knew them because we toured with them with Asphyx, we were on the road for 5 or 6 weeks. They lost call, they didn’t want to do it anymore and they were like “who can do this?”. Then they found out there was something going on with Asphyx and they called me, so I was just like “fuckin’ A, I’m on it!”.

How is your relation with them nowadays?

Nowadays it’s still really good, there’s a lot of respect. We still meet each other, making the good old jokes, so it’s really fine and I’m happy with them. Karl is back and they do fantastic – Bolt Thrower deserves that. It’s a fucking good band, it’s a machine, one of the bests around the world.

You also play in Hail of Bullets and came to give an excellent show last year at Brutal Assault. Which one of your bands do you consider the more important one for you at the moment?

There is a No.1. in between them, I mean if I focus on one band, the focus is the same. I just really enjoy both, to be on stage, to have fun with the guys.

Pestilence (1989)

Pestilence (1989)

Only one question about Pestilence because I know you hate answering these:
Since you said in so many interviews that Pestilence was your life, Pestilence was the band that meant the world for you, don’t you ever feel like you made the wrong decision when leaving? Or that the albums the guys released after you left would have been “better” if you were still in the band? (As we know you don’t like Testimony or Spheres at all)

That’s why I said in the beginning when you asked me if I would have changed things that maybe I should have lost a bit of my pride; because I was a proud little bastard back in those days. If you give everything that you have and you put it into a band and someone tells you that your performance is a crap… When you know that you are just growing all the time… I knew my voice was getting better, at the US shows that we gave we left nothing of Carcass and Death, we blew them away every night on stage completely; they had no chance and they knew it. So we were really, really good. I think if Pestilence continued that way, if I wouldn’t have left the band it would have been probably one of the biggest bands around on Earth. So yeah, in a way you regret that.

But from what I hear, from what Patrick is now as a person, he hasn’t changed. He didn’t grow up. He’s my age now but he’s still acting like a little kid. Very frustrated, feels very attacked, agitated, not happy at all. So even if I would have said okay, it would never work again. I can’t just work with a fellow like that. I do regret it because I know we worked hard and we deserved it, but one day the bomb would blow up, again. It’s not like with Asphyx where we are friends and have a good time, having a few drinks, listening to the same music – I don’t want to sit in Patrick’s house and listen to fuckin’ technical jazz. That’s just not me.

What do you miss the most from the old days when it comes to music?

It’s a French word: camaraderie (a feeling of good friendship among people in a group – ed.). I like being camarades and collegues, this is what I miss a lot. I mean we still are good friends with the bands we were, for example Autopsy or Bolt Thrower to name a few, but when we were touring at the time, we were just helping each other out, it was good fun. And now I see a lot of bands envying each other.
But it’s also because at the moment the scene is so big, there are so many bands, we lose the overview. Back then there were just a few bands that were really good, now it went too big. I miss that kind of intimity.

Asphyx (1991-92)

Asphyx (1991-92)

For the end: Is there any question that no one asked you before and you would still like someone to ask it from you?

It’s one of those questions where probably later on when you’re driving to the hotel you’re like “oh yeah, you could’ve asked me that”! Maybe something like what do I think of people writing lyrics nowadays – would I write that, am I interested in that…

Are you?

Mostly no. I think most lyrics nowadays are just completely shit. Rubbish, it’s sad. They don’t rhyme, it’s all done before, it’s not original, it’s really sad to hear. And that’s why a lot of things I don’t listen to, because I open the CD and I hear the singer and I’m like “what the fuck?”. I mean it was not bad in the past with French bands, if you don’t speak English that well, okay we forgive you. But come on, if you’re a Swedish band from nowadays you should speak your English and be able to write the lyrics. I think magazines and stuff don’t pay attention to the lyrics at all. I’d say if the lyrics are shit then the album is shit as well. Point.
I think lyrics should be given a lot more credits – but that’s because I’m a lyric writer. I put a lot of effort into it, I’m really working hard trying to be original, rhyming, having a good pace with the vocals; so it’s a lot of work but I enjoy it. Sometimes it just doesn’t pay off, no one notices.

Seems like it really does grind your gears! Okay Martin, thank you so much for being this straight and outspoken, I wish you a lot more gigs like this one at Brutal Assault both with Asphyx and Hail of Bullets!

Thank you for the support and the surprising questions – take care!

“I hope we are all getting old together” – Andreas “Gerre” Geremia (Tankard)

I realized that I still haven’t published my phone interview made with Tankard’s Gerre in September, so here you go people! It clearly shows he’s an easy-going and easily likable guy.

Interview with Andreas “Gerre” Geremia (Tankard)

Interview for Metalegion Magazine by Estelle on the 4th of September 2014

tankardHi Gerre, first of all thank you for doing the interview for Metalegion Magazine! If you had to describe the work of Tankard over all the years in three words, what would you say?

Thrash, fun and beer. (laughs) 

In what aspect do you think you are different from the other old school thrash metal bands?

I think the main difference is that we had a lot of humour from the very beginning of Tankard. We called our second demo just ‘Alcoholic Metal’ because at the time there were a lot of new metal styles, black metal and speed metal, and posers against all the others… And you know, we never took ourselves too seriously, we always had a lot of fun and I think it wouldn’t really fit for us to have an evil kind of image or something like that.
We have a lot of serious lyrics, a good combination of funny stuff and serious stuff, but we still have a lot fun in playing that kind of music. I think this is the biggest difference between us and some other bands.

In one of your earlier interviews when someone asked you how many albums the band plans to do, you said that in a case of beer there is space for twenty bottles. You just released your sixteenth album, R.I.B. (Rest in Beer) – are you still determined about doing four more?

At the moment it looks like it. (laughs) We still have a lot of fun, we still have good things happening, we keep going now for 32 years and I can’t see the end with the band, I could not imagine my life without Tankard – so I guess the case will be full some day!

Tankard – R.I.B. (2014)

Tankard – R.I.B. (2014)

How much work and time does it take for you to record one new album? You seem to go pretty easily with it, even besides the fact that none of you is a full-time musician.

This is a very hard period for us, but it’s actually not planned to put out a new album every two years. I mean I think it’s cool releasing a new album two or three years in between, but now R.I.B. is out, we’ll see what we’ll do with the next album. I think it will take another ten or twelve years to keep Tankard alive for the 20th studio album to get the case full.

How is it different to work with Nuclear Blast from how it was when you were at Noise, Century Media or AFM Records?

Nuclear Blast is the biggest one among the heavy metal labels, they have a lot of power, so I think this was really another step forward for Tankard. They do a lot of promotion stuff and it was really a kick for Tankard, we are very very satisfied and hope that we can stay much longer with Nuclear Blast.

1623

Tankard – Chemical Invasion (1987)

The cover of R.I.B. is kind of an obvious reference or ‘recommitment’ to your classic album Chemical Invasion, as well as the continuation of some of the lyrics and the insane professor character. Is this a sign of the fact that you are not willing to distance yourselves from your roots, from the simple and primitive thrash metal?

No, we never distance ourselves from our roots. You know, it was a funny idea to bring the mad professor back on a cover, but I think this album sounds different than Chemical Invasion. The story is totally weird because the professor failed in ’87 to stop the chemical invasion and now he’s back to take revenge on mankind and poison everybody with free beer. I actually really like the stuff that we did back in the eighties, but I’d never do that again in these days because a lot of things have changed with the sound and everything. Tankard is a band that never forgets about its roots, we always play a lot of old songs live, yet we always try to do a good mixture of old and new stuff.

Could you choose one song from the new album and describe what it means to you?

This is a very personal song on this album, it’s called ‘Hope Can’t Die’ – it’s one of my fave songs on the record. I lost a very good friend two years ago, at that time you have this confusion of feelings, anger and sadness and hope, “what did go wrong?”, “could I have helped?” – something like that – a mixture of emotions I had two years ago when I lost that very good friend of mine.

In the song ‘No One Hit Wonder’, you are asking “Where the hell did we go wrong” and saying “We played our asses off for more than thirty years, but now our patience’s gone, we want cash, keep the beer!” – is this just a fun track again, or do you (to some degree) mean what you are saying with the song?

Noo, this is a totally fun track again. That was my idea, because it’s really interesting to see that there are some musicians who only had one song in their lives and they can live all their lives from the money for it because the track is always played in the radio. And of course, Tankard will never do a ‘one-hit wonder’ song, because we played that long, so the idea was born to call this song ‘No One Hit Wonder’ and of course the lyrics are totally funny.

Tankard (Chemical Invasion era, 1987)

Tankard (Chemical Invasion era, 1987)

Besides the funny lyrics, you have some serious stuff going on in the lyrics again, for example in ‘War Cry’, ‘Hope Can’t Die’ or ‘Clockwise to Deadline’. Do you want or try to prove the fans that you also have this more mature side of songwriting? Or do you think that if they still haven’t noticed that Tankard is not Tankard only because of the beer, it doesn’t even matter?

We had that kind of beer-image since Chemical Invasion, we did everything for it, but later on we wanted to get rid of it – we totally failed in the nineties of course. Nowadays we do a lot of jokes about our own image, we see it with lot of parody and stuff like that. Since Chemical Invasion we always had a good mixture of serious lyrics and funny lyrics – if you watch the news every night and if you walk in the world with open eyes, then it’s not only fun, there are a lot of bad things happening on this planet.
We will always write also some serious stuff – first of all we are a band with a lot of humour and a lot of fun, but we are also a band that can play serious songs on stage while having fun. But we would never do an album only with fun lyrics.

As you said with your album Two-Faced from 1994, you began to try getting rid of this concept, of this image that the band built around beer, still, nowadays you accepted that it probably became the largest characteristic of the band.
In general, do you guys usually stick to the key things that seem to work for you, or do you still have the desire to try something new?

We never have a plan when we start the songwriting, about which direction it goes. For example if we did the next album totally seriously, nobody would believe that it’s Tankard. Somehow the old Tankard is reduced only to this beer stuff and we did everything at the beginning for it, but now we have to live with it, and as I told you before, nowadays we make a lot of jokes about our own image, so of course nobody has to take it so seriously. We really can live with that Tankard is sometimes just reduced to this kind of beer image, but we still keep on going, writing good songs, trying to do the best and hoping that the fans like it and expect Tankard to continue the music.

How seriously do you guys take yourselves when it comes to writing and recording a new album? Do you just have fun during the recording, or are you rather the hard-working types?

The songwriting and the recording stuff is very very hard and needs a lot of work, of course sometimes we have the moments in the studio when we are laughing and having a little bit of fun but it’s 95% totally hard work, you really have to concentrate on it. To tell you an example, I don’t drink any alcohol in the studio. I just open my first beer when we finished, when we are in the last minutes of finishing the last song.

tankardd

Tankard (current lineup)

Now that’s dedication!
Counting from 2000, the lineup of your albums are always the same. Have you ever thought about having some kind of a refreshment?

We are now together since 1998, especially with our guitar player Andy, he wrote most of the songs on the last couple of albums. I could not imagine to play with another member in Tankard, so I hope we are all getting old together.

I read that you are working as a social worker together with drug addicted people, can be an interesting situation for you day by day! Can you draw influence from the happenings at work for the lyrics of the band?

No, I would never do a song about that because this is my normal work and Tankard is a totally different world and I don’t really want to mix that. 

In the end I’d like to know: Is there any question that no one asked you before, and you would like someone to ask it from you?

(laughs) This is a really good question. I did so many interviews and now I had to think this over for a moment. Nobody asked me, actually nobody knows that I was a really good football player when I was young, and I really wanted to become a professional player. And nobody asked me about that! When I was getting older around 15-16, the partying started and then my career as a football player was over.
But concerning the music and singing, I think if you asked me that question at the moment, I would have to call you back in two hours maybe. (both laughing)

Thank you very much for the interview Gerre, have a good time with Tankard and put out some more albums because we are curious about you!

We will, thank you very much! Just so you know, we hope to go back to Hungary one day. Thanks for the support and have a nice evening!

A little piece of the interview made with Donald Tardy

Here’s an audible answer of my Obituary interview made with Donald in January 2015 [read the full interview here].
The reason why I wanted you guys to hear how he speaks is that I guess he is one of the best interviewees any journalist could get: I didn’t have to stop for a minute thinking about any section of the interview or word he mentioned as he speaks in such an understandable and composed way. Listening to the recording and just writing continuously, it’s like the dream of an interviewer, I was done within 2 hours. So enjoy!

“We kept it very true to what we used to do back in the day” – Donald Tardy (Obituary, Tardy Brothers)

Interview with Donald Tardy (Obituary, Tardy Brothers) on Obituary’s new album ‘Inked in Blood’

Interview for Metalegion Magazine by Estelle on the 21st of January 2015 

obi1Hello Donald, thank you so much for doing the interview for the magazine!
Could you select 3 albums that you either consider your all-time favourites or that had an impact on you for some reason?

Sure. Holy Diver would be the first one because it’s the best album in the world. It is the best drumming record I have ever experienced, it is still my favorite drum album. Another one would be Led Zeppelin II because of John Bonham – as I was a child John Bonham really showed me how rock ‘n’ roll music or heavy metal doesn’t need to be the most technical as long as the drummer plays very solid – and John Bonham was just one of the best drummers in the world.
And then, I guess Psycroptic’s latest album (The Inherited Repression, 2012 – ed.). I think they are an incredible band that is so technical and the drummer does things that I could only dream of doing because he’s so fast. (laughs)

If you could start your whole career in Obituary again, would you do anything differently?

No. (emphatically)

Obituary – Inked in Blood (2014)

Your new album, Inked in Blood was released in October 2014. What was the main goal you wanted to achieve with releasing it?

The main thing we wanted to do is make sure that it sounded like Obituary and that the songs were written in the Obituary style – and that’s an obvious answer, but that was the main goal, to make sure that it was a true Obituary album. And then along with that came making sure that when we recorded the album we stayed true to what recording albums used to be and kept it very old school. We did not use too much modern technology with the recording, we only used microphones and instruments so we did not do any sound replacing or triggering of bass drums or anything, we kept it very very true to what we used to do back in the day – so those were the two main goals.

You recorded the album in your own studio called RedNeck. How was the recording or writing session different from any of your previous albums’?

The main thing was that it was relaxing and it was enjoyable. In my career I’ve always experienced that sometimes the studio can be a bit intimidating and a bit nerve-racking for band members. And because we practiced at the studio, we would live at the studio, we were always there – it made things very easy-going and it made it actually fun. It’s not often you can use the word ‘fun’ while recording songs because sometimes it really is nerve-racking, but the own studio made it very enjoyable for the band members.

Some people still seem to be quite suspicious in connection with your Kickstarter campaign and the fact that you were planning to put the album out completely yourselves and when it came to distributing it, you made a partnership with Relapse. What would you say to these people?

Well, if people are confused they can simply see how much money was raised and the amount of awards that Obituary had, because everybody that contributed got what they wanted which was the t-shirts, the hats and the albums and everything we gave. So it is very obvious how much money was spent on all the material, to buy all the hats and the t-shirts; along with the amount of money that we needed to actually record, mix, produce, master the record – we got the album cover paid for at the same time, so that was just a portion of the amount of money that is needed to actually release an album on your own. Hundreds of thousands of dollars go into marketing campaigns and to literally print the vinyl and print the CDs and distribute them around the world. It’s hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars; with the amount of money we raised we were able to record the entire album AND pay for the material needed for the Kickstarter campaign. But if anyone does research they can look at how expensive it is to truly do an album on your own. To get a distribution deal with the company and the thing that you are going to put it in every record store in the world takes much much more money than what Obituary raised. We tried to do it, we looked into it but it simply was too expensive to actually pull it off. That’s why we partnered with a record label – we simply used the record label to distribute and to print the actual physical CDs and that’s what Relapse did for us.

Donald Tardy – Photo: ricky-adrien.com

Donald Tardy – Photo: ricky-adrien.com

Could you choose one or two songs from Inked in Blood and explain what they mean to you, how they were made or what they are about?

I’m super proud of every song so I could talk about any of the songs on the album but a couple little stories are: The first song on Inked in Blood was one of the last ones we wrote for the album and when I recorded it drum-wise, I’m proud to say I did it in one try. One take, we call it. You know usually you can get almost through a song and you mess up, you have to back up a little bit and the engineer can fix the end of the song with you – and on the first song on the album I did it in my first try. (raises his hands, looks around proudly then laughs) I’m very proud of that.

Also, Inked in Blood is the title track, it’s one of those songs where when we first wrote it, I didn’t know if the song was complete, I didn’t know how good of a song it was until it was recorded and now that we’re playing it live it’s one of my favorite songs on the album. So it went from my least favorite to almost my favorite song. 

‘Visions in My Head’ was the first track to be released from the new album in August. Do you think it was the catchiest one?

Yeah, it was. It was an obvious choice. At the minute we wrote it, it only took me and Trevor maybe five or ten minutes and we knew that the song was going to be the first one released. There was a strange feeling we had, we knew it was very catchy and very simple. When we recorded it, all the record label people, all my friends, everyone that came in contact with ‘Visions’ – we knew that was the one that stuck out. And so we knew to grab the world’s attention we wanted to grab a catchy song that isn’t the heaviest song on the album, but it definitely grabs your attention and it has all the pieces to a good song. It has a middle part, it has a great solo and it has a terrific ending.

Obituary (Slowly We Rot era)

Obituary (Slowly We Rot era)

I’ve read in some of your recent interviews that you guys were listening to Obituary’s old albums in order to get the same kind of sound and vibe for Inked in Blood as for the earlier ones. Is it because you didn’t really want to risk much and didn’t want to distance yourselves from something that seems to work?

Actually we didn’t listen to the old albums to try and get the sound, we were in the process of writing the new album for many years. We took three or four years writing the new songs and at the same time we were invited to play a classic setlist. So when we were recording, we took a break from recording the new songs and we had to listen to the old songs to re-learn them because we had an offer to come and play at a festival, but they wanted songs only off of the first three. So I had to go back and listen to the old ones to re-learn the songs, not the production but I had to go and really re-learn because they were twenty years old. (laughs) So I think what happened was, we went and played at the festival and played all the old songs and when we came home we kept writing new material – and I think whether we knew it or not, re-learning the old songs gave us some really cool ideas that brought back that old Obituary sound. And we didn’t deliberately do that but there was definitely some influence from the old stuff by having to re-learn some of the old ones while writing new songs.

Do you bother reading critics on the new album or Obituary in general? 

I don’t mind reading, I know you’ll never make everybody happy. I think Obituary fans love the new album and that’s all I care about. If you read everything you’re going to find people that cry and complain and bitch about things – and they’re allowed to, it’s freedom of speech.

Obituary (2014)

If we can talk about a next album, do you plan to record and distribute it in the same way as Inked in Blood?

I think the partnership that we have right now with Relapse makes a lot of sense because the band is able now with their fan support to record albums completely on our own – and nobody does that. In the history of rock ‘n’ roll bands write records and they tell the record label “we’re finished writing the album, we need to borrow money to go into the studio and record”, and the record label says “okay, here’s X amount of money, we will pay ourselves back when the album comes out before the band sees any money”. This time with Obituary we actually did it on our own with the support of our fans so it is a really good chemistry and solution that we found here because the band pays for the album, the record label pays for the printing of the CDs and the distribution around the world and the marketing campaign. So we both put the same amount of effort and time into the recording and then we’re a partnership so we split the profit – so it’s working out very well for Obituary right now. We’re very happy.

What was your greatest fear in connection with Obituary throughout all the years?

God, there was never fear. You’re always going to get fans that will listen to your music and compare you, whether they think it’s great or they are okay with it or they think it should be something different or that’s just not what they want. But I never let that bring fear into me because I have a very good ability of playing drums, I know what I do well and I know that I’m doing the right thing for Obituary’s style of music. So I don’t bring fear into it, because again I think there are many, many, many metalheads that love Obituary and love my drumming; and that’s enough for me, I don’t need to win everyone’s heart. (laughs)

obi5In which aspect do you think that Obituary will change the most in five or ten years’ time? 

Or bodies, because we’re getting old so the only thing that’s going to change is maybe the tempo of songs in the future because I can no longer play fast. But seriously, Obituary is so solid right now and I’m very proud to say that with the addition of Kenny Andrews and Terry Butler in the band we are a very tight band right now. We’re very close friends, there’s a hundred percent respect with and for each other and we are having so much fun. That’s what is amazing about it, I know there are bands that are successful and can do it for a living but not all the band members get along – but they make it work because it’s a business and they can go and make money. Obituary right now is very lucky because we’re making a living doing it but we love each other, we are having so much damn fun on stage every night. It’s a wonderful feeling. So that’s the main thing that I’m very proud to see in the future. I know for a fact, this is a very tight band right now and we’re best of friends. 

You’re like a family, literally.

We are, yeah. (laughs) I’ve known Trevor since I was eleven years old so he’s like a brother to me as well. We’re just very excited about the future and it’s very exciting for Obituary fans too because more music is being created and the future is looking really bright now for all of us. 

That’s great to hear. Okay Donald, thank you so much for the interview, I’m also really excited about the show tonight!

It will be a treat tonight! We also learned songs tonight, a couple for this tour especially that we had to go back and re-learn. We also brought some now in from the “Don’t Care” album because we want to play other stuff. It sounds really good. So yeah, I’m very excited about it too.

“I don’t think you can go out and say ‘I want to be different’, because if you try to set that goal, you are never going to get anything done” – John Tardy (Obituary, Tardy Brothers)

Interview with John Tardy (Obituary, Tardy Brothers)

Interview for Metalegion Magazine by Estelle on Brutal Assault XIX, on the 7th of August 2014

Hello John, first of all thank you very much for doing this interview for Metalegion Magazine! What do you think is the main reason of Obituary’s success?

I guess we just like what we are doing. It’s pretty much it. It’s important just to have fun in what you are doing – if it becomes a job, it becomes work and it sucks, then don’t do it. Just go out, have a good time and do what you do.

Could you tell me about some of the highlights of your career in metal that you are the most proud of or mostly like to think back of?

Out of all the albums that we’ve done I can remember where I was when I got the first copy of Slowly We Rot, and was very proud of it. We also got to see a lot of the world, we’ve been to lots of different countries, got to meet a lot of cool people – to me it’s the best part of it, to get to see all the different cultures around the world.

How did it affect your relationship with your brother, Donald throughout the years that you had to work together in Obituary? Did you have any massive misunderstanding in connection with music?

Not really, we get along pretty good actually. We have a studio at my house and he’s pretty much there seven days a week – not that we never argue, but nothing serious, we get along really great. I think the good thing that works so well is that we just talk things out. We talk it out, we argue it out, and then we make a decision.

Obituary is one of the most fan-based and active metal bands out there – you run your own websites as well as the facebook page – you actually interact with the fans. In terms of your upcoming album, Inked in Blood, why did the band decide that you would “make the music for the fans instead of a label”? Did you have any bad experiences so far that made you do this?

We’ve been a band for thirty years, we’ve been at multiple labels, and even years back we’ve just been always wanting to do it ourselves. We finally said “you know what, let’s go ahead and TRY to do this ourselves”. Not that we expect to put CDs in the back of our car and drive around the world to sell them on our own, I mean, you just still need help from somebody because there are distribution companies, there are multiple countries and lots of problems.
We met the Relapse people, and the guys at Relapse are super cool. We got to get the album ourselves, it’s our album, we just got to kind of use their engine to get it out to the fans, and it really worked out good for us. There are all those Roadrunner records of ours, but we don’t own those things, we couldn’t even do anything with them even if we wanted to. So the cool thing about this is that it’s our music, it’s our album, we get to do what we want to do, and we get Relapse to help us to get it out to the people.

What is your opinion about the fact that some people say you “begged” for money to do this album?

Actually, it’s just about as much money as we got to now go ahead and send everybody everything that they ordered – so that rumour was a little bit weird. We have a lot of work to do, there’s just so much stuff now that we owe fans. The amount of money that we’ll see after the fact, it’s not going to be very much.
It was very cool though, to see this fan support and all the people who did what they did, and as soon as we get home we’re going to start going through that and sending all the merchandise out to the fans.

Obituary – Cause of Death (1990)

As far as I know, the artwork of your classic album from 1990, Cause of Death was supposed to be the cover of Sepultura’s record Beneath the Remains from 1989. Why did Roadrunner let Obituary use the Michael Whelan cover first?

It was not our decision. There were actually two albums coming out at the same time, they had two pieces of artwork, and Roadrunner was the one that made that decision, it really didn’t have anything to do with us.

So you didn’t communicate with Sepultura at all on this matter?

No.

Was there any tension between the two bands as a consequence of Obituary using the artwork? As far as I know, you also worked as a guest on Sepultura’s Beneath the Remains (you helped with the vocals in song ‘Stronger Than Hate’).

I don’t know, it’s kind of odd, they once asked me that question so long ago, so I kind of heard that Sepultura wanted to use that artwork – at the time I had no idea, I didn’t even see the other artwork, I just knew that we got stuck with what we got.

Obituary (Cause of Death era)

Obituary (Cause of Death era)

No tension, I mean it was way before. The album was actually recorded in Brazil, Max (Cavalera, Sepultura – ed.) sang, he did the lyrics and he mixed the album at Morrisound (recording studio – ed.) in Tampa. That was the first time I met them. Max didn’t speak good English at the time, he stayed at our house, we hung out, the whole time he was doing that while I sang them some lyrics of the album. That was awesome, we were taken motocross races and monster trucks and all kinds of crazy shit. That was pretty funny.

You mentioned in some of your earlier interviews that you were influenced by Savatage and Nasty Savage, because even though they were not as heavy as Obituary, they were different from the traditional metal styles at the time they made their music. Did you always have the desire to just be different and unmistakable, or do you just do your thing and don’t think about it?

I don’t think you can go out and say “I want to be different”, or “I wanna be fast”, or “I wanna be this, I wanna be that” because I think if you try to set that goal, you are never going to get anything done. We met Nasty Savage and Savatage, they were young, we were even younger, we were still back in high school. Riding our bikes on the street and hearing them jam in their garage, and we kept running back and forth hoping that they would come outside. It’s cool because like you said Nasty Savage and Savatage – nobody sounds like those two bands. Nobody. Most of music that I like, that’s what I like to see, I like a band like the AC/DC, or Lynyrd Skynyrd – they are who they are, there’s nobody else like them. But you can’t practice that, you can’t work at that, it’s just what happens.

John Tardy (Germany, 1991)

For the end: If you could change one thing on any of your previous works with Obituary, what would it be?

Obviously our early albums, we were still in high school when we recorded Slowly We Rot – so if you go back and listen to the productions throughout the years, there are always things you wish you could re-change or re-do. On our earlier albums, we just wrote the songs and then recorded them. With the new album Inked in Blood we really took our time, like three years of writing the songs and then jamming the songs, and giving yourself the chance to hear them, make changes, let your mind really fill the song out – so we really had the luxury with this album, we’ve really taken our time, and let the natural progression of our writing.
There are always things you can change, but at the same time you listen back and there are different points in your life, different times in your life… after all I wouldn’t change anything, even though I’m not happy with any of our albums played. (laughs) I don’t think I would ever be, nor would anybody in the band, there is always going to be stuff that you don’t like, that you wish you could do again or do better.

Okay John, thank you very much for your time, and enjoy the Slayer show!

Thanks for the support, take care!

“We let it become whatever it becomes” – Robert Andersson (Morbus Chron)

Interview with vocalist Robert Andersson and bassist Dag Landin from Morbus Chron

Interview by Estelle on the 18th of October 2014 on Live Evil festival in London

Photo: Joakim Andersson

The Swedish death metallers Morbus Chron – whose name comes from a kind of illness also known as Crohn’s disease – have proven to be one outstanding, unique band of their genre. Their debut, the mainly Autopsy-inspired, old school sounding Sleepers in the Rift [read my review of the album here] got them into and determined their place in the scene; followed by the exceptional, more mature Sweven (title is an old English word for ‘dream’ or ‘vision’) that took them to a next level.
As frontman Robert Andersson stated, the reason of the drastical change was the fact that they stopped caring about sticking to a certain formula or writing a specific kind of riff, ignored other bands and let their own voices speak the loudest.

I had the chance to ask a few questions from vocalist Robert Andersson (Robba) and bassist Dag Landin while leisurely sitting on the street at some doorway after Antichrist’s show on Live Evil festival in London.

Hello guys, first of all thank you very much for doing the interview with me! Firstly I would like to ask, do you think there is a point where you can find the style that fits and defines Morbus Chron and that you can stay with, or will you always have the desire to change or vary all the time?

Robert: For the next album, I don’t think it will be the same sort of transformation as between Sleepers and Sweven, I don’t think the change will be as drastic. But still, we’re doing this because we want to stay inspired, we want to change. If we just kept doing the same thing it wouldn’t be inspiring and the music would sound awful. But we have sort of reached the point where we feel really comfortable with the sound of Sweven and where we are right now.

Dag: Each of our releases are different, but all of the changes have come very spontaenously yet organically. There have never been decisions to say we’re going to change our style, it’s just the stuff that we come up with. It’s kind of hard to tell where we are going. We don’t really like to decide on a path to go on, so far it has just happened.

Do you think you can have constant or permanent fans even with the changing style?

Robba – Photo: Erik Stenbacka

Robert: We talked about that when we played here (Live Evil, London) in 2011, and compared to this time the crowd is reacting in a totally different way. In 2011 we just played songs from Sleepers and people were going crazy – we sound different now, and the people’s reactions are really different as well. I think we might have angered some fans that liked us before but I don’t think that’s the case with most people, I think they kind of appreciate this side of us too. 

Dag: Yeah, we’ve probably lost some fans but also gained a bunch of new ones.

Are you trying to meet the expectations of anyone (let it be a particular audience or a label) or do you plan to continue doing everything in your own way?

We certainly do everything on our own way.

Do you think it was essential to record and release Sleepers in the Rift in 2011 to reach the stage where you are now with the completely different Sweven?

Robert: Yeah, we all have to start from somewhere. Sleepers was the album that we wanted to write back then, and two years later we were going to write Sweven. We would have never written Sweven if we didn’t write Sleepers in the Rift, but they don’t connect.

That’s right, with Sweven you went from one extreme to another not just in case of the music, but also the appearance and the lyrics. Sweven has 3 instrumental songs already and I remember you (Robba) saying that you’re starting to find yourself not needing to express anything in words anymore. Would you consider making a completely instrumental Morbus Chron album?

Robert: I hope one day I’ll reach some point where I can express everything in the music, but I don’t see it coming, I don’t see the vocals disappearing completely any time soon. The screams are still a big part of the band, especially live. I wouldn’t mind writing instrumental music, I’d do that – but in case of Morbus Chron there will always be some vocals.

(To Dag:) How big role do you guys usually have in the band besides Robert? With how many ideas do you contribute to the making of an album?

Dag – Photo: Erik Stenbacka

Dag – Photo: Erik Stenbacka

Dag: In our case Robert is pretty much the mastermind of the band, he wrote both of our full-lenghts all by himself except for one song on each album that Adam wrote. And he writes very extensively, he comes up with drum patterns and stuff. He has got a very clear idea of what he wants but that idea always changes a little bit when we start rehearsing. For example Adam is a drummer, the drum patterns that Robba is thinking of don’t always add up, so we always change a bit. There’s some input from us, like the arrangement of songs or the bass lines. So usually Robba writes the blueprints and we add our own dimensions to it, just by the way we like it.

Robert: If you could compare the early recorded demos of the songs to the final versions, it goes from sounding like something that I did to sounding like Morbus Chron.

Dag: The riffs and arrangement changed a bit along the way, the rehearsal project is pretty long lasting so there’s always time for changes within the songs. It’s based on more ideas, every guy has his part in it.

Both of your albums has a really definite sound and atmosphere since you knew exactly what you wanted to achieve with the band in both cases. Can you imagine the making of an album where you don’t have a certain idea about how the final product should sound like or take form?

Robert: Actually that’s what we did on both albums I think. After a while when we had a couple of songs we started to see what it becomes but we didn’t set off that we have to go this way, this is how it’s going to sound etc., it’s the opposite. We let it become whatever it becomes, we didn’t have a clue about it.

Okay guys, thank you very much again for the awesome show and for doing this short interview, it really was a special experience! Wish you all the best.

Robert: Thank you for the support!

“We basically just do the stuff that we want to do” – Marc Grewe (Morgoth, Insidious Disease)

Interview with Marc Grewe (Morgoth, Insidious Disease)

Interview by Estelle on the 25th of September 2014

Hi Marc, first of all thank you very much for doing this interview! Firstly I would like to ask, in which period do you think Morgoth was on the highlight of its career, creativity or composing capability?

It’s hard to say, of course in the very early stage when we were really young and all that new metal influenced us very much, when the first death metal bands showed up and also bands like Bathory that inspired us to form our own band back in 1987. We had a lot of creativity even the early days, then it took us to the ‘Cursed’ album, and after that creativity was getting into different directions too, because to us it got boring to “cover ourselves” so we tried something different. Industrial bands influenced us and that lead us to ‘Odium’, and after that to ‘Feel Sorry for the Fanatic’ which was even more drastic – a lot of people don’t like that album, but on a creativity base I would say it’s still a creative album. After that we kind of lost the belief in it and we had a pause for a long time; but now the creativity is back, we are writing and we have written new stuff and the new album is almost ready, we’re going to record it in November.

Which industrial bands do you think of when you say they influenced you?

Godflesh for example, also a band like Atari Teenage Riot, or some early Ministry stuff.

You talked about people not liking ‘Feel Sorry for the Fanatic’ – personally, do you care about fans’ opinions on the album? Do you or would you ever regret releasing it?

No no, we don’t regret anything. It’s just that at that certain point of time it was exactly what we were able to do and what we wanted to do. At that time fans were disappointed becuase it wasn’t something they expected from us, it was different – but we don’t regret anything. Of course we listen to the fans, but on the other hand we are not a band that would say “people expect something from us so we’ll do it”, we basically just do the stuff that we want to do.

Morgoth – Cursed / Odium era

Back in those days there wasn’t really a death metal scene in Germany, we can say you were one of the pioneers of the genre in your country. How did the crowd firstly react to this brutal style of music and appearance back in the day?

When we showed up, there was no internet and there was a lot of tape trading going on. The reaction was actually really good. It was a small scene, there wasn’t too many people who were into that certain extreme style of music, the shows we booked were all ‘do it yourself’ kind of shows. Most of the shows were great, even if they were way smaller than nowadays. Nowadays we play in venues like this (Arena, Wien) which can give place to 800-2000 people, and back in the day it was only maybe 150 or 200 people coming to the shows. But they were also very into that stuff, and then those fans developed the scene by getting the message that there is an extreme style of music. Especially Germany was really thrash influenced – Kreator, Sodom, Destruction; these kinds of bands – so it was something new to the thrash scene as well. Some people wanted to get even more into the extreme style and they liked what came out of Morgoth in the early days.

This is your first proper tour for 17 years. What are the things which are new for you after being ‘Isolated’ (haha) from this kind of lifestlye for a long time?

There is nothing new on the tour, it’s like the same as our last tour. Of course it’s great to be on the road with Bolt Thrower – I’ve been on the road with Bolt Thrower before with my other band called Power of Expression, it’s more of a hardcore band, we’ve been touring with Bolt Thrower back then. When I got the call from the guys if we wanted to join them on the tour, it was a great honour and of course I knew that this tour would be great for us. It’s a perfect timing for us as well because we just have new songs written, we have a 7″ out (‘God is Evil’), it’s like a collector’s item, and in February-March the album (‘Ungod’) will be out. We’re going to play two new songs tonight as well.

morg4And can we expect the same style on ‘Ungod’ as on the single ‘God is Evil’?

Pretty much, yes. I mean, I hope the songs that we are going to record will be even more brutal, but let’s see.

In what aspect is it different to release or work on an album in our days than how it was when you were working on the last one, ‘Feel Sorry …’?

We recorded the ‘Feel Sorry …’ album in a huge studio and now we went back to a smaller one because the budget isn’t there anymore for bands to record, and also the recording equipment is way more affordable than back in the nineties. A mixing board for example, that was hundreds or thousands of Euros sometimes, and nowadays you can get a good mixing board for half of the price.
The studio we found now is a studio where we come from, where we grew up. We are from the countryside and before that we always recorded in a studio in the city, and this time we chose going back to the roots and going back to our own hometown and record there. I think it’s even sounding better than in the nineties. The sound is more massive, and we have two new members in the band which is also a reason why it does sound differently.

I read that you only had 2 days to record ‘God is Evil’ this year. How did you manage to work so quickly together?

We practiced a lot before and knew what we wanted to sound like. We actually recorded three songs but only two made it on the record. We had one day for recording and one day for mixing which is a very short period of time. I hope it’s going to be like that for the album as well.
We started to record the album last year, the first recordings were already done in the studio where we are now, we booked the studio to check it out if they were able to record our songs. We wrote the first tracks last year, in the summer of 2013. We actually went to that studio just to rehearse there, we recorded stuff but it never meant to be on an album, we just recorded those for us. Anyway, we’re glad we’re here, the studio is good and we have the basis for upcoming tracks. Then the guitar players wrote riffs and they attached it to riffs from before, so it all went kind of naturally.

What advice would you give to your younger self who just started to write the ‘Pits of Utumno’ demo or the first EP ‘Resurrection Absurd’?

(thinks) It’s hard to say, but well when we were really young and recorded that early stuff, we didn’t have a clue about anything about studios. The old one was a really shitty studio, nowadays you probably wouldn’t go into a studio like that anymore – but you know, as I already mentioned we are from the countryside, there was no internet, we didn’t have any connections, there was only us five in our world that were interested in metal, we didn’t know anybody else because there was no scene existing then, especially where we lived. So we just looked into the Rock Hard magazine and there was some advertisement for little studios sometimes, and we picked one which wasn’t too far away. It was a basement of a guy and he didn’t have a clue about how to record this brutal sound, he never heard that before and I’m sure he didn’t like it (laughs). But hey, he had to record it.
So, I guess nowadays I would just go to a better studio and spend a bit more money on good equipment.

morg5Is there any question that you would like me to ask from you?

… That’s a question that actually a lot of people ask, but there is also a long story to it: why we took so long to come back.

We are close friends too, we know each other since we were 9-10 years old, and when the band got to an end in 1998, it was a bad split for us. There was a shitty tour we did, something was always wrong, it was long and totally shit, so it was a bad ending for the band. And nobody said we were ending the band, it was never spoken out as a sentence, but everybody was just so sure that it was like “that’s it, no more”. But back then, after that, after 3-4-5-6 years, we all in the band had the feeling like we would probably like to do some gigs more, maybe another album… But we knew that two other members of the former band wouldn’t be into it – and we accepted that too. Harry the guitar player and myself, we are two of the founding members, and the other guy Sebastian came into the band in 1990, so we are the three of the old core of Morgoth. We said “us three wanna do it”, then it was a democratic decision, 3 against 2, and they said “okay, we don’t care, you can do it” and that was also clear – but we are still friends with them anyway.

This wasn’t really a question right now, but well if you want me to say a question that would somehow embarrass me, that would totally not be something I would answer. (laughs) 

Okay Marc, thank you very much for your time and for being awesome! Looking forward to the show and also the new album.

Thanks for the support Estelle, enjoy the show!

“Playing all those styles to me is just different branches of the same tree” – Steve DiGiorgio (ex-Death, Sadus)

Interview with Steve DiGiorgio [ex-Death, Sadus, Testament, ex-Control Denied, ex-Autopsy (guest), ex-Obituary (live)]

Interview by Estelle on the 25th of June 2014

steve1Hello Steve, first of all thank you very much for doing this interview with me! Firstly I would like to ask, what is or what was your greatest fear in connection with your career? 

Greatest fear? ‘Fear’ is kind of a strong word, I guess we are always concerned with being able to live, make a living from being a musician. And metal music is underground, so it is a struggle. But it’s not so much of a fear, because I do it anyway.

What was the worst thing that happened to you in any of your current or previous bands, and if you could do anything differently, what would it be?

I guess I’ve been kinda lucky, I didn’t have many bad experiences. I guess I would really just try to encourage other people just to be more different. It’s not really something which is the worst that happened, but the worst thing I’ve seen is just so much reputation and non-originality. I’ve been trying to keep myself as different from everybody as I can. Once again ‘worst’ is kind of a strong word, but if I could change something I would focus more on just being unique.

You are practised and proficient in many styles of metal – you tried yourself in different styles such as thrash, death, progressive metal or rock, power metal, also some jazz – what’s the most joyful and the hardest genre for you to play?

The stuff I tend to play is stuff that has melodic basslines, maybe some technical involved stuff. That’s what I favor, so the hardest stuff is sometimes playing some of the simple or more basic songs and staying focused on that. Sometimes I tend to wonder, lose the purpose of the songs. I had to really train myself to ‘put on the hat’ of that specific style that calls for it. That’s probably the biggest difficulty. Like you pointed it out, I really love to keep variety in life, so playing all those styles to me is just different branches of the same tree. It’s just music. When we look at it all together, it’s not that different.

It’s already 8 years since your last album with Sadus, Out for Blood – are you planning to release a new Sadus album? I read somewhere that you said that Sadus is really good at taking breaks and doing nothing, is this going on right now, or will something happen in the future?

I hope you noticed that it’s kind of a sarcastic comment (laughs), I mean it’s true, we’ve been a band for so many years but I’ve done so little compared to other bands that have the same amount of time to work together. But I’ve learned with Sadus either way, because in the past we thought we were done and we would never do another album, and then we got together and made a new album. So if I say ‘no’, or ‘we might’, or if I say ‘yes, definitely’, maybe it will never happen, I don’t know. I just know I can’t do it alone. I would love to do a new Sadus album, but it takes a group effort and I don’t know if everybody in the group is on the same page about doing it. Maybe it comes around in the future, we’ll leave it open.

steveeYou are one of the few bands who did not have any member changes (besides the leaving of Rob Moore). Did you guys have any massive misunderstanding or argument through the years since high school?

Yes, of course, we’re humans, we’re normal people. But the fortunate thing is that the three of us – Darren, Jon and myself – that stuck together, we never had really big disagreements. It seems like the big problems were with Rob. And when he decided to leave, it seemed like any potential of a big problem just went away with him. So we’re pretty lucky, and I think the reason why we stayed as a band without doing any new song is because we are mainly friends, and then a band. Sometimes band members don’t ever hang out after the tour is over, they just know each other musically – we’d say it’s the opposite, we are like a family that just happened to have some music to do once in a while. I think the thing that helped us to exist as a band is that we knew that when we were going home we would see each other the next day, and everyday, because we are so close. We are pretty lucky.

Would you mind saying a few words about why Rob Moore isn’t with the band since 1994?

Well, he was in the band for ten years. We did three albums with him, and those three albums are important to the band’s history because they helped us to ‘get on the road’, they helped to find things. But as those years went on, we felt something was wrong, and by the end it turned out that Rob just couldn’t do it anymore. I don’t have any dirt to say, I mean it happened really fast, we felt it gradually over the years, but when it came to the time for him to leave, one day he was like ‘that’s it, I’m done’.
We tried to replace him because we used to be in four piece, but after being so close friends for so long, inviting someone in was just not right. Darren decided to do the guitar by himself, that made the bass a more important part of the music, and we just carried on in three piece. It seemed to work pretty good, we definitely got a lot better without him.

Do you have any really good memory, maybe some stories about Chuck Schuldiner? I would love to hear some.

I met Chuck because he came out to California when he was a teenager. He discovered the Sadus demo, D.T.P. (Death to Posers), he was a fan so he contacted us. He lived really close to us, so we just started hanging out with him – this was the time when he was doing the Mutilation demo. So I’ve known him from those days, until his last days.

death-humanI have a million stories, it’s always hard to pick one, we had many good times when we hung out. He was really ‘into the outdoors’, we would go to the river and go canoeing, we barbecued a lot in his backyard. He loved animals and he loved his sisters, his little nephew, he was a warm, family guy. He was kind of a nerd in his private life and when he would do an interview on TV or when we would go out and play, he put on a public persona, a little more serious persona. He really liked to convey a message with his music but when we were doing the music, he was a pretty goofy guy; we laughed so much. He loved ridiculous and funny things and he was always making silly stuff, he was on a really young level of humour (laughs). He was really young at heart, silly guy. A lot of serious stuff happened in his life, and I think he just felt more at home when we were being complete idiots. Laughing and making each other laugh, we did some crazy stuff together.

How did you get to know about his death? 

His sister called me. Like I said me and Chuck stayed in contact since he was seventeen or eighteen until he died, so I knew his family. We kinda knew it was coming, he was very very sick. He fought his disease for two and a half years and it was inevitable, we knew it was coming. So when his sister called and said he passed, it felt something like ‘okay, it was time’ – he knew he wasn’t get any better. It sucks but it’s a part of life, you know. He was so young, he was 33 years old. I would love to sit here with him now because we were born in the same year, we were virtually the same exact age, it would be cool to see how he would look like in his mid-fourties. He’s frozen in time at 33. I miss him as a buddy, but it’s cool doing this touring because he’s not here, but… close. We have the guys together, all knew him in the past, we sit down and tell stories all the time, he is talked about so much. And during our show we play a little bit of a movie, it’s about five minutes long, I think it’s great, I think it’s close to having him here as we can get because people see him and they hear his voice.

Did you stop working with Death after Individual Thought Patterns?

I didn’t. I worked on basically every album with Chuck except for Leprosy and Spiritual Healing. I went to Florida and he was there for the finalization of the songwriting process, Gene was there and we recorded really early versions of the Symbolic songs, it’s called pre-production. It’s like you do a practise recording and it helps you decide that if it’s good and you keep it or maybe make some changes. So we worked on this recording, but then I went back to California because I was having my first child. The timing to go and stay in Florida and work on music just wasn’t right for me because I had to go and stay with my family. So we didn’t continue working on the album. But we always stayed in contact and for the next album, The Sound of Perseverance, he called me again to come and do the album, and I went several times and worked on the songs and did practise recordings and demos, but when the band was getting ready to go to the studio to record the album, they had a lot of tour offers, big tour plans. And I couldn’t commit to all that. I told Chuck I could do some of it but not all of it, and he said he wanted somebody to just be there the whole time. You know, we talked on the phone all the time, he wanted me there and it felt great but I just couldn’t do it. Luckily after the Sound of Perseverance tour was over he called me back again to go to do the Control Denied record.
Steve4So we stayed in touch and we worked on music together for all over the years. And to verify that, like you asked if I was there after Individual, the re-release of Symbolic has bonus tracks of those recordings I told you about that we did at his house, and you’ll see my name there, you’ll see I’m not lying! (laughs)

Back then we would have a conversation and I would say ‘okay, well that’s not gonna work out this time’, but now in the future it’s like ‘what an idiot’, I mean I should have found a way because those albums are classics. I know Chuck always knew that I was a part of it and it felt great to be that close to him, but I wish I found a way to make this happen too. But well, now it sounds like I’m talking down about the guys that played on the records, no no, they deserve to be there too. I had the chance, it was my choice first.

On the albums Human and Individual, how big role did the others besides Chuck have? As far as I’m concerned Chuck did almost everything in connection with the albums, he wrote the songs, he wrote the lyrics, he was also the producer – could you guys do anything like that?

Yeah, he had the songs written for guitar. But it’s maybe like an art class in school – the teacher tells you: ‘We’re gonna paint a bridge’, but he wants you to paint a bridge in your own way. And that’s what it was like when we played the songs, we could play what we wanted, what we felt, what enhanced the song. He brought us there for our personality in music, but obviously everybody had to be consistent with his vision for the song. So everybody had a big role in the sound of the songs – Chuck was the ultimate quality control, like ‘yes that’s great’ or ‘no, change that’ – but everybody was called upon to bring something to the band that made it better.

As some kind of a veteran of the metal scene, what’s your opinion about this new school thrash metal madness going on in the past few years, these young people who all start a band and try to live like people in the eighties?

steveeeKinda like a retro thing, well that happens all the time, with every style of music. I think it’s getting harder and harder to find good music and good bands, because there’s just so much to look through. It’s like too many. It’s too easy to make a band and get your music out there. There’s a lot of bad quality stuff, and getting away a lot of good stuff that exists out there. But I guess it’s cool to some people because everybody finds something that they like. It’s not my call to say if it’s good or bad for somebody else but I just know that when I was young, we had to go find the music, and now it’s instantly available for everybody. I would like to see bands trying to be a little more original, not playing the same thing all the time.

A little different subject now: Paul and Sean are both admittedly homosexual. Did YOU ever have a problem with that? How did this fact affect your work together through the years, in the sense of how the crowd welcomed your music etc.?

I’ve known those two guys since they were nineteen years old, they’re only about four years younger than me. Until you know somebody, you always think you’re gonna react a certain way, but when it happens to you, it’s different. In this case it’s so easy because they’re my friends. What they do is their business, it’s kind of sad to see people that have something negative to say because it’s really not their business.

You don’t know this about me – okay actually I told you I had my first child in the ’90s (laughs) – but if you didn’t know, maybe you would never find it out because I’m not telling you. But like you said when homosexuals come out, they’re putting themselves in the line of fire for negative criticism. Because they’re telling everybody. But I think in the homosexual community it’s important for those people to let it be known, so that they feel comfortable about themselves, I don’t know, I don’t understand it because it’s not who I am, I would never understand what they’re going through, but this is what I think. I understand as their friend but not from their point of view. It’s easy for me because they’ve always been my friends. It seems normal, it fits their personality. I never had a problem with it.
The fans that come to our shows are overwhelmingly positive and supportive because they’re buying the ticket and coming to enjoy themselves. We don’t really put ourselves in places to hear too much negativity, though I’m sure there are people that have negative things to say about it. Rob Halford from Judas Priest, he was a big part of standing on the ground and saying who he was; but it goes back even farther than that, how many people can you think of? Elton John, Freddie Mercury… it’s more common than you think. And if people just stop and think about that, you could release all your worries about that, just let people be who they are. Also, it doesn’t affect the music at all. Paul’s a vegetarian and Sean eats meat every day – does that affect the music? No, not at all. So you know, they can be different in that regard. No big deal is what I’m saying, right?

steve2For the end: Is there any question that you have never been asked about, and you would like someone to ask it from you?

Yes! I always wanted to share my recipe for the perfect Carbonara. And nobody asked me how to make the special DiGiorgio Carbonara! I also make a very very nice Braciola Involtini, it’s like a flat steak with ingredients, a stuff that’s rolled, and you cook it in the sauce all day long. It’s excellent. Remember the key to a good Carbonara: use five eggs, no ham, no bacon, spaghetti – or even better: it’s called guanciale, salty flavoured meat, you cut it in tiny cubes and cook it in the oil. That’s beautiful. So thank you for letting me say that! I’ve been waiting for my whole life to tell people about my Carbonara. (laughs)

Okay Steve, thank you very much for this honour and for taking some time of yours and doing this interview, I’m looking forward to the amazing show!

Thanks, it was really nice talking to you. Thank you so much for the support!