Monday, 7 September 2015

Interview; Schmier (Destruction, The German Panzer)

“They called me up and said ‘Hey, we wanna do a project and we need a singer’ and I said ‘Why did you call me?’” He laughs, “‘We need a singer and a bass player! We want to do something fun and we’ve got some time right now’ and I said yes because I’ve known the guys a long time, I’ve been a big Accept fan in the past. It was an interesting offer for something new. After that we met and we wrote songs really quick after we talked about the direction of the band. We wanted to go more with British heavy metal; Motorhead, Priest meets Accept, a little German here and there. It was exciting because we only had a time slot for four or five months before we all go back on tour, so we’ve been writing the whole time and recording right away. It was a fast process and we’re enthusiastic. There was a lot of great ideas, so the songwriting was very smooth. We love how it turned out in the end.”

Schmier, known worldwide to metal fans as the frontman for the thrash metal band Destruction is speaking about the new supergroup, The German Panzer and his enthusiasm for the band is audible in his voice. Germany is a country well known for producing some of the all-time great bands in metal’s long history, including Destruction, Kreator, Sodom, Accept, Helloween and Running Wild. So the news of this trio, completed by Herman Frank and Stefan Schwarzmann of Accept, should have any metal fan foaming at the mouth. The band’s upcoming debut album ‘Send Them All To Hell’ is a speed metal beast, all riffs, good pacing and very easy to bang your head to. However, this is more than a simple throwback project, as the song ‘Panzer’ shows, standing out easily from the record. The frontman explains;

“Songwriting sometimes works out of the blue, out of the feel. We wanted to write one more song that was like a steamrolling panzer, with the beat and everything. Stefan started with the beat and we put some guitars and bass on top of it. The song has a different vibe because we wrote it together as a song for the name of the band. Some of the other stuff sounds more traditional but we have a good mix of everything.”

The last few years have seen the formation of many a supergroup, and it’s no exaggeration to say that most of these bands don’t turn out as good as the list of people involved. The music often sounds forced, and ultimately forgettable. We needn’t worry though, as Schmier has already taken this under consideration in his approach, wanting Panzer to sound organic and honest;

“We’re all experienced and we’re doing something that we like.” He says simply. “I have also been a little bit concerned about all those bands forming right now, supergroups as you say, with this and that guy, and their stuff is really nothing special. We were aware that we needed to do a record that is ass-kicking. We’re all professionals and we put a lot of effort into the process of writing, studio and everything. And I think it pays off if you know where you want to go, and we all had the same idea behind it, it turns out well. I think it’s a really good constellation of people, otherwise it wouldn’t have worked out that way. There’s a certain magic in the air as it works.”

As stated earlier; it’s an easy record to get along with, but will we be able to experience it in the live setting? After all, all three members have their commitments with their respective bands to keep.

“We will definitely tour in the future, but it’s just that right now we need to start off slowly because both bands are touring. So with Panzer it’s possibly next year, definitely festivals if possible and maybe some more. We don’t know yet because we don’t know the schedule for both bands. I mean; we definitely want to play live, that’s really why we formed the band, so there will be shows coming up sooner or later.”

Good news then for those who fall in love with this album. As we were sat on his tour bus outside the Glasgow venue that he’s playing with Destruction very shortly, and since I am one of many Destruction fans present, I couldn’t pass up the chance to ask the Teutonic thrash titan what the future holds for Destruction;

“Our plans are basically to go to the places we’ve never played before. Even if it’s just Bristol, like yesterday!” He jokes, “Of course it’s more interesting when you play more exotic places that you’re playing for the first time. It’s adventurous. So we want to find new places to play. We played in India for the first time, and it was cool; a lot of new, young metal fans. The scene is small and growing, but it was very interesting. We want to play one day in an Arabian country, there’s a lot of metal fans there. We’re going to do an album next year, August could be possible. We’re going to write and record demos at the end of this year, and record at the beginning of next year.”

Speaking of 2015; any die-hard Destruction fan is going to realise that next year will mark the 30th anniversary of Destruction’s debut album ‘Infernal Overkill’, which has long been hailed as a classic of the thrash metal genre. Even now in 2014, it still stands as such.

“It’s crazy, you know? Because the fans still demand those songs all the time, so we always pick them up and put them back in the setlist. We’ve been playing those songs back and forth all the time. Of course, next year with the anniversary we’re gonna do some shows with some extra ‘Infernal Overkill’ material. It feels fantastic of course, the album is so, so old and it still has such an impact on the audience. I never thought it would be that way.”

That debut showcased a hungry young band determined to make their mark on an extreme metal scene that in its infancy back then. However, fast forward to the band’s most recent albums; 2011’s ‘Day Of Reckoning’ and 2012’s ‘Spiritual Genocide’ and all the aggression is still as potent as ever. When asked what keeps the thrash metal fury burning within him 30 years after the initial album, Schmier had some choice words about the effects of the passing years on thrash metal bands;

“I think a lot of bands make the mistake when they grow older of settling down, getting slower, but we’re a thrash metal band, you know? We want to compete with the young and wild bands, we’re one of the godfathers of thrash, so you have to be a role model. We’re the living proof that a band, when it grows older can still go full speed ahead and write albums that sound fresh and sound young. We don’t wanna sound like an old band. What happens a lot of times is bands get a certain age, they slow down and they kind of get more melodic or whatever. Destruction; we have a quality name and our fans expect something wild from us and to keep on kicking your ass. The live shows keep us bound with the fans, and when you don’t play it’s more difficult to adjust for an album but we play a lot, so we’re all still in shape and we know what the fans like.”

As it happens, Destruction’s opening bands included two fresh faces on the thrash metal scene; Finland’s rebels Lost Society and the UK’s own Shrapnel. Schmier remains very optimistic about the state of the thrash scene in the present day;

“It’s great to see all these young bands playing thrash metal again because I remember when Destruction came back with me in 1999, there was no thrash bands, no young thrash bands, none! Name me one? There was none! Then the first albums came out and interviewers kept asking me ‘Where does thrash go?’ ‘What is its future?’ blah, blah. I said; ‘I don’t care, we’re here, we’re back with me and we’ll try to write good music, we’ll see what happens. Then somehow, all the other thrash bands also all came back around the same time with new albums, Kreator, Sodom, and somehow there was a new feeling for thrash in the young generation. All of a sudden, out of the death metal dust there was a lot of young bands forming at the beginning of the 2000s. It’s great to see them, they remind me of when we were young; we also didn’t clean up the tour bus!” He laughs heartily, “There’s a whole new young and wild generation and it’s great to see.”

Since the man himself mentioned Kreator and Sodom, two of the other three bands that join Destruction as The Big Teutonic Four of thrash metal (The fourth being Tankard), I couldn’t resist the opportunity to ask about the potential for the four bands to tour the same way that the American Big Four have done. Over the years it has been spoken about, and the rumours have flown around the internet time and time again, but is there any chance?

“Yeah, I hope so! We’re ready for it. The other bands just have to let us know when it’s gonna happen and we’re ready to go. Hopefully in the next years, we’ve already talked about it already back and forth last year but it’s not easy with time schedules and you know the fans put a lot of pressure on everybody, so we have to do it. Every interviewer asks me about it and all I can say is Destruction is sitting on the luggage and is waiting for the bus to pick us up for the tour! We’re ready to go!”

It goes without saying that thrash metal is a very physical genre as far as live performance is concerned, and at 47 years old, Schmier knows all too well the dangers of too much time on the road;

“We’re touring a lot but we also take little breaks in between. On the road for some weeks, at home for some days, we try to rest and get some energy. Touring is important to stay in shape, just don’t overdo it. You overdo it, it can break the band. You can lose interest and lose the fun. The way we do it; we play a lot but we still have our breaks and gaps where we can be at home and have some privacy. So it works well, you know? No rest for the wicked. We like to play, we like to see the world and it’s still a great opportunity after 30 years of doing this. It’s fantastic.”

To another 30 years, then?

“Ahh…If it’s possible, but it could be very tight! But you know, Motörhead are still playing, Black Sabbath are playing. So that means for us there’s at least twenty years. It sounds ridiculous when I think about it but it’s possible. Seeing how fast the last fifteen years have gone after I came back to the band, it is crazy fast but; so far so good. We’re all still in health to do this and one day. So hopefully for another fifteen or twenty years.”
Panzer’s debut album is out now on Nuclear Blast.


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