“I never felt myself forced just to write about the pirate stuff as it could be too limitating musically”

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!

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”

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”

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”

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”

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.