Schmier (bass, lead vocals): “Solidarity is the only way we can save our race on this planet. We need to work together and forget about religion, territory, colour and where you come from and all this bullshit”
Teutonic thrash metal en Destruction. Het zijn twee zaken die onafscheidelijk met elkaar verbonden zijn. Met de regelmaat van de klok heeft het Duitse thrash metal instituut al bijna vier decennia lang van zich laten horen. Ons huidige gesprek met frontman Schmier (zang, bas) staat in het teken van ‘Diabolical’ dat begin april via nieuwe broodheer Napalm Records op de markt geslingerd werd en de volgende natuurlijke stap in de carrière van het opnieuw samengestelde kwartet is.
Vera Matthijssens Ι 26 april 2022
In the Summer of 2021 the shocking news was spread that guitarist Mike, your long time companion in Destruction, left the band. That was a real surprise to me. What happened?
We don’t know, to tell you the truth. There were some complications, we had some disagreements and some stuff, but not super bad. So we don’t really know why he left. He really shocked us all in the band. He didn’t really sort it out with us, he doesn’t talk with us anymore. We talk about some necessary stuff, but not about his departure. We asked why, but he did not want to communicate about that. It was very complicated to communicate with him in these times. We always thought that he might regret it and come back, but no… that never happened. Yeah it was a shock when it happened. But you know, sometimes people change their minds, their opinion, change their lives… I have been doing this job for a long time and it is not easy to keep a band together. The two years of covid-19 have been a huge problem for any musician. It did not make life easier for musicians.
But it is a bit of luck that you have found replacement within your own ranks with new guitarist Martin Furia, isn’t it?
Yes, Martin is working for us since many years as tour manager. So he was very close to the band over the last five, six years. He was always involved in many decisions that we did with the band. So he was a good friend and a close partner for many years before. When we were looking for a guitar player, we kind of asked him to come for an audition and luckily he was well prepared and had the passion. He amazes everybody in the band by playing very well and he came, he saw and he conquered we can say. Of course he is a part of the family since many years. It feels good that we don’t have a real new guy in the band. We have a guy who is with the band for many years.
Did his entrance make a difference for the writing process or did he only joined you later?
I started writing with Damir, the other guitar player and basically I collected all my ideas and went to the studio, recording right away the first demos and we tried to stay positive and let the music do the talking. Martin came a little bit later into the picture, because at that time we were still looking for a guitarist. When he came, most of the songs were already written, but he still contributed to the album. He played a lot of overdubs and solos and harmonies. He came in a bit late, but he contributed his part on the album. He had some great ideas. He is also producer and a very experienced musician, so he also had some good ideas for the album.
Let us shine a light on the lyrics. As always there is a lot of criticism in them – that’s for a reason if we look around – and let us focus on some of them. Firstly we have the song ‘Last Of A Dying Breed’…
That is a song about values. When you grow up with certain values and you see the world today, values start to decay. Therefore I wrote this song about important values that we grew up with and were young. I see it, nowadays, it seems certain values have been forgotten. It is sad to see. I thought it would be good to write a song about those lost values and that is what ‘Last Of A Dying Breed’ basically is. It talks about old school values which made me what I am today. It is kind of pushed back more and more nowadays by the new world, but it is important to keep these values alive.
I can understand. For instance: education was better in our youth…
For sure. Certain things, like being polite, are still important nowadays and they get more and more in the back.
‘State Of Apathy’ deals with mental health issues, a rather heavy topic, but it is reality for many people…
It is. During the pandemic it got worse. My girlfriend at that time – now my ex-girlfriend – she got really bad in Syria and went back home to her country. Many of my friends had also problems with a depression, also some musicians committed suicide last year. It was really sad to see how the pandemic changed the mindset of many people and put them in a very dark place. That is what ‘State Of Apathy’ is all about.
Isolation is a tricky thing. Some people need to be alone to focus on creativity, but other people are really social beasts… It depends on the nature of the person.
And it is still a topic you have to talk about. Most people cannot help themselves. They feel bad, but they are too shy to ask for help or too shy to talk to other people about it. They feel embarrassed. It is important to talk and come out with it and get help. It is still not accepted. Many people are still laughing about mental illness, but it is a serious problem. There are not enough doctors at the moment for all the people who need therapy.
‘No Faith In Humanity’ is the new single and video clip that came out today…
It came out today indeed. Of course it was strange to bring out the single on the day that Russia starts a war. That is a sad coincidence. As a matter of facts, the lyrics are actually not as negative as you would think. The meaning is that we are all made of the same blood, we breathe the same air, we are on the same planet. We need to stick together and the last word of the song is ‘solidarity’, because solidarity is the only way we can save our race on this planet. We need to work together and forget about religion, territory, colour and where you come from and all this bullshit. Who cares about fucking territories? Remember to be united and then we can save the planet, but it is not looking good and what is going on in Russia at the moment is of course in 2022 super sad and unacceptable happening, in the middle of Europe basically.
The last time I felt so messy was with the Yugoslavian war. We have been there often. I guess you toured in Russia as well?
We toured many times in Russia. I am sure that most of the Russian people do not want a war. This war is Putin, not the people of Russia.
Another human aspect is the Destruction sound. De drum sound needs to remain human, not triggered and things like that…Is that a plan or just a feeling to work that way?
We have such a great drummer with Randy (Black – Vera). He said: ‘this time I want to keep the drums as natural as possible and not triggered.’ Normally, when you have recorded the drums, the producer puts the drum on the clicktrack. It is called grit and on this grit you can correct the drums a little bit to the click track, then it is more tight. Little beats that are not 100% on the grit, can get corrected and stuff, but we have such a great drummer in Randy and he has such a great feeling, we don’t want to destroy this. That is why we said we don’t hatch the drums. The drums are really played, the human factor is very important. We did that already on the last album, but on this album we really purified our whole sound. Small mistakes do not matter, because the band is still tight. It is breathing, it is alive! That is very important. Nowadays many productions get too clinical because of the technical circumstances that get used: computers and the grit for the drums is one of the worst things, because every drummer sounds the same afterwards.
What about vocals? Do you prefer a first take if possible, or do you keep on repeating until you have ten versions to choose from?
There are a lot first takes on this album. We recorded it spontaneously and mostly we kept the first take. It is not if you do it over and over and over again, that it gets better. Sometimes you just kill the vibe. The first version is the best version, because it has a certain vibe and atmosphere. It is a very important thing that I learned over the years, that it is important to keep the first takes and not overdo it. Especially for the vocals, there’s actually a lot of ‘first versions’ on this album. You can catch the moment, do not overproduce it.
Your mascot The Mad Butcher is coming back in the video clip of the first track on line ‘Diabolical’. Can you tell a bit more about that?
Well, if you ask the fans, they always want the mad butcher. It has to be on the cover, it must be in the video, they always want him. He is such a trademark for the band. We didn’t use him so much anymore in the last years. The last video we did with ‘the mad butcher’ was actually the ‘Carnivore’ video in 2010, 12 years ago. So we thought it was time to bring back our butcher, because he is our identification figure of Destruction and of the sound of the band. We had this cool idea for the video and of course, this track ‘Diabolical’ was perfectly fitting for bringing him back. We also have this great actor playing the butcher. It is so authentic and he can play him so well that we said: ‘we have to do it this time, we have to bring him back’ and it is a great success. Many fans are really happy to see the butcher back on the screen.
Were you in the middle of touring when the virus hit or were you already slowing down to concentrate on writing a new album around March 2020?
We were on tour when the pandemic started and luckily we had to cancel only one show, the last show in Italy, because Italy was already in the pandemic. We stopped our tour in Switzerland – that was the last show – and then we could not go to Italy. Few days later everything broke down. We were actually one of the last tours that were out there and I remember in Switzerland, the pandemic did not seem so bad. We just wanted to be safe. The Italian promoter wanted to cancel the show and we said okay, we understand. But nobody could foresee that it would become so extreme and that the pandemic would hit so strong. At that time nobody saw this coming. Nobody knew it was such a strong virus that would bring so much suffering to the planet.
‘Hope Dies Last’ was initially chosen as album title and then you switched to ‘Diabolical’. Can you go a bit deeper into that?
‘Hope Dies Last’ was my motto throughout the pandemic. Once I wrote the song, I kept this as my motto to go on, to keep faith during the difficult time of the pandemic. ‘Hope Dies Last’ is a very important song on the album and it is one of the highlights I think. When we finally decided to chose the title, we thought that ‘Diabolical’ would be the catchiest title. ‘Diabolical’ is very international. It is a word that you can say in every language. ‘Hope Dies Last’ is a longer title and thus we changed the title and the name on the cover artwork, but ‘Hope Dies Last’ is still one of my favourite songs on the album. It has a very positive message and it really helped me through the pandemic.
‘Diabolical’ is indeed a straight forward title and more evil sounding than ‘Hope Dies Last’, that goes more about feelings, emotions…
You still have a soft spot for punk, considering the cover of GBH. On the CD with Legacy I found out you also covered a song of The Exploited…
Yes, we had a very extensive title story in the biggest extreme metal magazine in Germany, called Legacy. They made a little introduction EP with two new songs: ‘Diabolical’ and ‘State Of Apathy’ and some covers and also two songs from the latest live album. So it was like an extra for the fans, released before the album comes out. The title story was actually really big, 8 or 10 pages with a lot of history and interviews with former members also and so on, but it was a very nice history report of the band and the CD was a nice extra to have.
How did you get into the punk scene?
When I was a kid, there was no heavy metal yet. Heavy metal just started and many of my friends were punks at that time. All the punks listened to GBH, Exploited, Dead Kennedy’s, English Dogs and so on and I was the only one who listened to metal. But I still love punkrock and punkrock was very important for us. It had a huge influence on Destruction. So when we decided on doing a cover song for this album, we thought we could do a GBH cover, because it is a great song. It is an anthem of my youth and there is an important connection to see that a thrash metal band like Destruction was influenced by such music like GBH. It is a big tribute to one of the originators of our important music genre.
Of course it has the energy and the rebellion of thrash metal in it…
Especially the lyrical content and the energy and speed of punkrock were fascinating for us.
Let us round off with the plans for the near future, if they will happen…
The first tour of this year will start in North America and the US. That is the part of the world where you still can play. In Summer we are coming to Europe for the festivals, because open air festivals in Europe, they will pretty much happen this year I think, all over Europe this summer. I think that is pretty certain. In September we are going back to Latin America, to play a tour there. End of October and November we come finally to Europe for touring. That is in the works right now and I hope we can announce that in March. We also want to do a second half of the European tour early next year and also going to Asia and Australia next year. So there are a lot of concerts awaiting and it looks like the world is opening up now. I look positive to concerts in the future.
Were there things you discovered or new hobbies you got into during the lockdowns?
Not really. I focus on Destruction and music, but I do work outs and sports as much as I can. Now I have so many interviews to do and it is more difficult, but when I am home normally I go out for a work out three, four times a week and that keeps me sane and fit. It is something I did through the whole lockdown. Even when the gyms were closed, I tried to keep on working out and stay fit, because I think it is a basic and important thing when you are a musician; that your body is in good shape. Otherwise you cannot have this physical strength on stage that you need when you play this music. I like cooking. I am a hobby chef, so I do a lot of cooking. We will also release a Destruction cooking video next month. It shows me and my guitar player Damir cooking German food, quite funny.