INTERVIEWS: Schmier

THE BUTCHER STRIKES BACK...

I was lucky to do my very first interview with the vocalist and bassist of one of the most significant thrash metal bands and one of the very first that exerted influence on the further developement of my (then a 12-year old kid) musical taste... However, so that things were not too wonderful, it took place under a bit stressing circumstances because Dimmu Borgir "accompanied" us for a dozen minutes or so having their practice before the show and efficiently drowning Schmier's words (I only heaved a sigh of relief when I heard the tape at home - it was not so bad at all!). We talked about old days, living a life of a "metalhead to the bone", the new album and a few other things...

JK: Hi, Schmier! It's so good to see you in Poland at last...

Schmier: Finally, yeah, it took a long time...

JK: First I'd like you to take us for a short trip back in time to 1983. How did it all begin? Was "Bestial Invasion Of Hell" your first and only demo tape?

S: Yeah, it was the very first demo. We started as being a bunch of metalheads trying to play music and the scene was very small then. NWOBHM just started and the punk scene was pretty good at that time. So I guess our music was a kind of mixture of both ways - heavy, aggressive, fast stuff and the punk music in all and still keeping the heavy metal vibes; I guess that's what we tried to do at that time...

JK: If you were to compare the scene of the mid-eighties to the nowadays scene - what would be the main diffrences?

S: Of course people were more hungry in the '80s but the scene was smaller and it was very difficult in the 80-s to do anything with heavy metal; nobody got accepted and there was no support from all the big record companies. These days the scene is very big all around the world; we just came back from South America, we played in many countries this year - I think it's a good side of it. Of course some kinds are kind of burnt out or are too out of contest, you know, just too many bands and it's of course killing the scene somehow. But it's not always like this that you say that everything was better in the '80s. Of course it was a great beginning of the scene down there but I still think the scene is very healthy nowadays.

JK: Can you live off your music now or do you need a "real" job?

S: I have a restaurant myself for a long time. I started my own bar in '95. It's good to have something besides music. I'm not very often there because of touring but it's still great - I don't have to hold the pressure of the record companies because I just can tell them: "I don't need you, fuck off!"

JK: What's your opinion on so called "retro-style" and groups that take inspiration from you and many other legendary bands of the 80-s? Do you listen to any of those new ones?

S: Yeah, of course! It's so nice, you know, for us it's an honour to be an influential band. If people take Destruction parts to be influenced by - that's no problem. And some of the retro-bands are very, very good! And I think it's normal that the wheel of time is turning. The '80s were full of heavy metal, thrash metal, then there was a big death metal thing coming, also crossover started in the '90s, and then there was black metal coming and then everything came back and started from the beginning again, so heavy metal is getting big again. In the '90s heavy metal was dead in Germany, "heavy metal" was a bad word for the music, you know. Everybody was like into crossover or death metal but no heavy metal. It was "old-fashioned" and out. These days it's back, the young bands start to listen to Destruction again - the wheel of time has turned and it shows that the scene is growing very strong.

JK: There was a part of Destruction's history shrouded in a gloom for most of your fans... I'm talking about the period after the release of "Cracked Brain" album... I know you've formed Headhunter after "Release From Agony" LP, and recorded 3 albums, and as for Destruction I've heard about one album and 2 EP's but haven't heard the music itself...

S: Yes, I think there was one full album and 2 mini... ("The Least Successful Human Cannonball" '96, "Destruction" EP'94, "Them Not Me" EP'95 - JK). But I call it "near-Destruction area" because it's not the same, it's more proggressive way of thrash metal, they did some good stuff, but you know, it's just not my kind of Destruction thing, it's not so much to do with the original band... They did a piece of good music but it's not Desrtruction...

JK: So Headhunter is no more, right?

S: Yeah, I had no time for that and Jorg (Michael - JK) had no time either. Since a long time Jorg is playing with Stratovarius and I'm very into Destruction. You never know, maybe one day there's gonna be time to do another album but I think right now we're all happy in our bands. We're playing a lot and we're working very hard now.

JK: Fortunately you're back together to devastate the world with the music reminding of your best years and with new killer sound... Would you tell us what made you reunite?

S: I think that was not really our decision, you know, it's the decision of the people around the scene - from magazines like "Rock Hard", "Metal Hammer", from the bands; all of my friends that kept telling me: "Do Destruction again, it's time, people wanna have it". I never really believed it - it was very difficult because Mike and me were separated for a long time, we didn't really talk about it before and then after having a chat we were like: "maybe we should try"... We had also offers from big festivals, "Wacken Open Air" and stuff so we had to practice together and see how it works. And it was so intense for both of us, you know, because we played those songs all over the world before and a lot of memories came back while we played them. And it sounded really good right from the beginning . I think we didn't wanna force anything; it was the decision of the fans also and when we played on big festivals the reaction was so good that we said that we have to do an album because people wanna the new album. We already worked on material but it would make no sense to bring an album out just because we want it - the fans had to like it!

JK: And you've just recorded a new album, right?

S: Yeah! It's already finished, everything's done! It's the best, of course! (laughs) I know, everybody says that , it's stupid... I think we were happy with "All Hell Breaks Loose" but there were some things we didn't like on it. So we tried to make it better, make the sound more thrashy, make it not too modern but powerful; songs are more on a point and straight forward.

JK: Was Peter Tagtgren your producer again?

S: Yes, because we knew right from the beginning what to change, we weren't satisfied with the guitar sound on "All Hell...". We'd already talked about it before we came to studio so it was like a piece of cake to change these things and this time the sound will be a lot better than the last. Even though "All Hell..." sounds alright we wanted to go step forward and didn't want to disappoint anybody. And touring also helped us a lot to write the songs.

JK: Any titles...?

S: Oh, yeah, many titles... "Thrash 'Til Death", then we have "Bullets From Hell", "Nailed To The Cross", "The Heretic", "Meet Your Destiny" is one title... "Strangulated Pride"... The album is called "The Antichrist"and it's about the fucked up world, it's against religion, against the christian rip-off of humanity. I don't write lyrics about specified Satan stuff or something, you know, because if I don't believe in Jesus Christ I cannot believe in Satan as well because it's the same belief. I believe in the bad things on this world; there are of course good things too but life put me down a lot of times... Life is tough, life is hard, many people die every day because of no reasons - many have died because of religion... And that's why we called the album "The Antichrist", because the whole thing's like this. All the lyrics are kind of the same way, you know, it's not a concept album but it's a very aggressive word that fits them all. "Thrash 'Til Death" is the song that I wrote for myself first of all but also for the fans because it's about believing in our music, about standing together. In my life many friends, girlfriends have come and gone, my life has changed a lot of times, I had ups and downs but had my music to stand it all so that's why I wrote "Thrash 'Til Death". It's gonna be a part of me to the end of my life... Other lyrics... It's very difficult to tell exactly the meaning, you have to read them yourself because there are little different meanings in each of them. "Thrash..." is a different one from the rest...

JK: When the album will be out?

S: On 27 of August...

JK: Do you prefer working in studio or rather playing live?

S: I love things live because working in studio is a blood pressure and a lot of boring times also, because on the one side you have to work hard to get the album done and on the other - sometimes you just hang around while the stuff gets mixed so it's just hours of days we just stay there and say "it' s OK" or "it's not OK". Mixing time is the worst but it's nothing to do about it. I love to record an album because it's a creative thing, you're creating something, it's growing up, at first you had like only a couple of riffs and then you put the lyrics and the leads and at the end you have entire song. It's great to see the beginning and the end of the song when it gets the way you want it and sometimes you're surprised at and say "wow! it's better than I thought!" It's a creating thing that we love in the studio. But the live situation is of course very nice because you have the direct response from the people.

JK: Don't you consider it a bit... well, let's say strange that you - a living legend of the 80-s - are playing as a support for quite a young black metal band (no matter how good they might be)? To me - and not only to me - it was a kind of ridiculous idea to put for example Mercyful Fate before Monster Magnet and Apocalyptica as well...

S: Yeah, I think it's a fucking shit business and it walks on record sales, you know, that's how it works. I mean Dimmu Borgir said to us they would love us to play after them but we cannot do that because they have too many fans. It would be very difficult for us every night because they're so big right now that when they had played their fans would leave. And this way we have a chance that Dimmu Borgir fans see Destruction and they like it, you know, a lot of times they say like: "You've blown them away, I'm a DB fan but it was killer!" And it's important for us to reach out people because if we played after DB, they would have left, believe me! The big Destruction fans can feel a little bit embarrassed about the situation but it's alright to me, I don't really worry about it. I would like to play a little longer - we play only for 45 minutes - that's a little bad... But we will come back and the thing is that it's a little appetizer of a next tour...

JK: Would you now recall your best tour or gig ever? Any interesting stories from your road-life?

S: There's many of them of course. It depends what kind of stories you wanna hear; we had many great parties with many great pals, we toured with the best of the best before, we played with Slayer, Motorhead and stuff. Of course there are crazy things happening on the tour, crazy parties, you know, destroying hotel rooms and puking out of the windows on the 10th floor and a lot of "sex, drugs and rock'n'roll"...

JK: Just Destruction...

S: Yeah! I mean it's a part of it. We're not the kind of band that goes on the road and drinks tea and goes to bed early every night. I should because it's not good for my voice to drink and party every night but it has to be some fun, you know..

JK: So what does the "metal life style" mean to you? It's just your life style...?

S: Yes, exactly! It's not the American one that they preach these days: cut your hair and wear baggy pants! It's something that goes back in the 70-s that's where it all comes from. I'm proud of my life, of my destiny. It's something that you have to feel and a lot of people cut their hair, stop listening to metal and stuff. If I cut my hair, I'd die! Yeah, it's very important. For many people it's a trend, I saw many musicians come and go, I saw many big stars dropping down in the last years - being hyped and crushed down. It's a bad thing, it's a bad side of this business but if you have metal in your heart the scene will be there to support you...

JK: Have you ever thought of producing some Destruction home-video?

S: We're working on that for the future now. We're gonna record some stuff in the summer on festivals, we're gonna record the next tour and it will be out maybe in the beginning of the next year, so I guess.

JK: And what are you gonna do when you finish this tour? Are the plans concerning the Thrash-Tour with Krearor and Sodom up to date?

S: Yeah, we're still working on that but it's not so easy. After this tour we're gonna go back for 2 weeks and have some festivals, some open airs... And then we're gonna do the promotion of the new album which is a lot of work and then we'll hopefully have the tour with Kreator and Sodom. I really would love to do it but it's very difficult, it's up to our different record companies and managements too. I just hope that none of the concert agencies or whatever fucks it up because right now we have some problem with the money. I mean I don't have a problem, I don't need so much money to do a tour. I can take a risk and go on but some other people want to have prepaid money and stuff; especially Tom from Sodom who has a family wants to make a lot of money on tour and he has to share with Destruction and Kreator and then of course it's the less for him. Mille from Kreator should do it and we also wanna have Sodom but we'll find out if it's gonna happen. I'm calling them all the time - we have to do this!

JK: I hope so and I can't wait! OK, your last words...

S: Thank you for the great support, I know we have a lot of fans here. I know we got high in the Polish charts, it was really cool because I know that people in Poland don't have so much money to buy the records and stuff. Thank you very much for your support and keep the spirit of thrash metal alive because it will come back. I don't care what other people say because Destruction metal fans are all over the world. Fuck all trends, I don't care!

Warsaw, 19th May 2001
Copyright by: Jowita Kaminska