As editors, we consider ourselves very fortunate. Getting to discuss with bands we look up to, and in some cases, the ones that have a really special place in our hearts. For the writer, one of those bands is Destruction! Ever since Schmiers’ return in 1999, Destruction have been consistent by releasing high quality records, doing what they do best: devastating our necks with their brand of thrash. This time, the butchers’ cleaver shines a bit brighter than before. Schmier, bands’ iconic frontman, will explain this, and much more in the interview below. Get your bullet belts ready, we’re under (thrash) attack!
The interview was made 5 days after the release of “Under Attack”
Good afternoon Schmier! It’s been 5 days since “Under Attack” came out. The reviews on the new album have been great. What are your thoughts now that the records’ done and what are the fans’ reactions so far?
It’s always great when a new album gets outstanding reviews. I think this is the best reviews we had since “The Antichrist”, in about 15-16 years. Every album is exciting and every album is a new challenge, and of course when the press reacts great, there’s a high chance that the fans will love it. So far there’s a lot of good reactions on the Facebook pages. So yeah, it looks like the fans dig the album and looking forward to play that stuff live. We’re going on tour again, gonna start next weekend in America.
Since the release of “Spiritual Genocide”, you seemed to be really restless: toured for its promotion with Destruction, did the Panzer side-project with Herman Frank (ex-Accept), Stefan Schwarzmann (ex-Accept), which resulted in the “Send Them All To Hell” record 2 years ago, and came back to write, record and release “Under Attack”. Is this situation as stressful as it seems to us or are you used to the pressure of doing the tour-write-record circle over and over?
As we had no pressure with Destruction, the Panzer was great fun to do! It was something different, and it’s pure heavy metal, something I usually don’t play, so it was a great challenge for me to play with those guys who had so much experience with Accept and other bands, but it was actually very fun. And the other thing is that with Destruction, we’ve been producing so many records in a short amount of time, we were so busy that there was no stress for this album. We knew this would be a very important album for us, and we took our time. It’s actually no stress for me, the stress is now that I have to do the interviews, everything needs to be ready in time, video-clip just got ready, all that timeline for the release. But the writing and recording, was all very smooth. We do recording between the tours, like 1-2 days in the studio then back on tour. So we kept it fresh. It was actually a really relaxed of writing and recording the album.
Speaking of side-projects, you still take part in Headhunter and Bassinvaders. Any thoughts on releasing something with them in the near future?
Actually, Schmuddel, the guitar player of Headhunter, plays a solo on the “Getting Used To The Evil” track on the new Destruction album. So we had a chat, and he came to the studio to record with us. Never say never, you know! For that at the moment I really don’t have time, but Headhunter is something that I see, one day to do another album. We’re just old friends and we love to play together. It’s difficult to continue with the band, because I’m too busy with Destruction, and everyone else has their lives, you know. But it was a fun project so who knows? Maybe one day. The Bassinvaders is actually the project of Markus from Helloween, so you have to ask him (laughs). As I know, it sold really good in Japan and the rest of the world it wasn’t that good. You have to face the fact that it’s only bass players, so guitar players? They’re not going to buy the album (laughs). But it’s important for musicians as you grow older, beside your main band, you have like a hobby. To jam with other musicians, it creates pleasure to play with other musicians. And for me, it is just good for Destruction, cause it inspires me to write new Destruction material. When I came from Panzer, actually, I was in a very great mood to write for Destruction. And I think you can tell by the album, it turned out pretty well I think.
Back to the new album. Apart from the usual sociopolitical themes you’ve always dealt with, you’ve spent time writing lyrics about the internet trolls/haters (“Second To None”). This is something that has gotten out of control in the past few years, be it cyber bullying, be it death threats via social media and so on. Would you say Destruction as individuals and as band members are against these tactics?
As a band, you’re in the middle of it all the time. I had it all, I’ve had stalkers, of course I’ve had the haters. Every band has the haters. It’s not the biggest problem. But of course the bullying, the stalkers and also like death threats and shit like that. Since Dimebag was killed on stage, I take death threats very seriously. We also had some gun point in Mexico, last year. This is metal. For me this is a community of friends, a community of international music lovers, and that’s what it basically is. But at the internet, there’s so much hate, in all those forums. I don’t understand. And that’s why I wrote this song, to scream out a wake-up call to those fuckheads. In this we’re all fuckin’ brothers and sisters. This is metal! But it’s just a reflection of society, because the hate is everywhere. And if the haters are in society, they are in the metal community. It’s usually people who are frustrated in front of their computers. I knew, of course, there would be big hate campaign with it, all the haters will unite against Destruction. But we don’t give a shit, because the majority of the metalheads are friends, and we don’t need those guys in the scene.
Another special song in terms of lyrical content is “Elegant Pigs”, dealing with the bands tend to take the easy way out and fool people who paid for a live performance. Do you think it has to do more with the bands’ years in the scene or with the bands mentality towards music?
Actually, the whole scene was cheating, you know. First, I thought it only was the laptop bands, the new bands that grew up with the way we record now. They have like a laptop on stage and play 20 backing tracks. But not only these bands, there’s a lot of the old bands also. There’s singers who probably can’t do it anymore so well. Or maybe a lot of bands in the more melodic genres that have a lot of voices, high pitched voices and the guy sings it, he sounds really fucked up, and he just plays the vocals from the tape. It’s the easy way to do it nowadays. And all the drummers are using a click-track. And the click-track is connected with a backing track. It’s a very easy technique that works really well. And it’s sad to see. To me rock n roll was always pure, and we were different from the fuckin’ mainstream. We all knew Madonna would sing from tape, you know. But now, there’s a lot of metal singers doing it too, it’s sad. It fucks up the live feeling, if a band sounds too perfect live, they should ask if it was really “live”. Back in my days, the singer has a bad day? So what? He won’t hit the notes 100%, that’s fuckin’ live! That’s the difference from the record. It’s just a sad fact and I don’t like seeing it in rock n roll and heavy metal at all. It was just going on and on and for me it was just extreme aggression like “what the fuck’s going on?”. Of course a lot of my musician friends, won’t like the fact that I’m talking about it, but we have to talk about it. You cheat on your fuckin’ fans man!
Speaking of mentality, what are your thoughts on people being posers, pretending something they’re not? Do you believe those people are trend-followers on other aspects of their everyday lives?
I know a lot of musicians, you know, they don’t like their music. They just play to get paid. And this is horrible. And of course they’re people who pretend to be something they’re not, especially in the more extreme metal scene. There’s a lot of people who pretend to be satanists, and in real life they work at the flower store. It’s a part of the genre. I also think that this is entertainment business, and of course a little bit of story, a little bit of show is important. But of course, there’s certain things that are too much, when some fuckin’ black metal band are fuckin’ right wing. And on the festival they attack other bands. This has just happened in Belgium, with Gorgoroth and some American Nazi black metal band you know. I’ve had fist fights too, with far-right black metal bands. Most of them are cool, most of them are nice guys, most of them are my friends, but there’s also some fuckin’ Nazis and racists and some idiots. And those have nothing to do in the metal scene. It’s a sad thing to see, but as I said before, it’s a reflection of society. If the society’s going that way, we’ll always find idiots in the metal scene too.
As a continuation of the previous questions, I wanted to talk about the loss of Lemmy and the end of Motorhead, a band and a man that represented everything rock ‘n’ roll was about. People tend to be pessimistic and say that guys like Lemmy are the last of a dying breed of rockers. Personally, I see lots of extremely talented bands who take the torch and carry on the legacy of the rock and metal forefathers. But what are your thoughts on that issue?
I see it like you, someone becomes an icon when he’s in the scene for too long. I’ve toured with Lemmy in the 80’s and at the end of the 80’s when Motorhead wasn’t doing so wellm and he wasn’t that much of an icon back then. It became afterwards, when he started becoming who he was. But he was always straightforward. There’s a lot of musicians out there who can carry on the torch. I wouldn’t say the next Lemmy, but there can be a next superstar of heavy metal, you know. All you need is continuation, and good albums, a good mind of course. And maybe, one day. Today we still have those icons, once they’re gone, new gods will rise. I’m not worried about that, I see a lot of talent out there. And a lot of good guys, I meet a lot of bands at festivals, I see a lot of soul and good heart for music, so I’m really not worried.
Which are the top 10 bands that really stand out for you in the modern rock/metal scene?
The bands that influenced me the most in the 80’s. When I go back in the 80’s, Exploited, GBH, Dead Kennedys. The classic metal stuff like Judas Priest, Iron Maiden. The more experimental stuff back in the day, Jaguar, Angelwitch, Raven were also very important. And of course the classic rock bands were really important to me: Uriah Heep, Deep Purple. Everything repeats. Right now we’ve got great young bands like Enforcer, try to recreate the New Wave Of British Heavy metal, which is great that’s why we bring them on tour, because it’s great to see young bands doing something new. And of course, I love to see girls doing metal again, like Nervosa, who will be on tour as well. I’m producing a young band at the moment called Burning Witches, it totally sounds like 80’s hard rock and heavy metal, young girls. It’s fantastic to see the development and that the young kids are picking it up again. And as for the thrash there’s a couple of great new thrash bands, like Havok, Vektor that are more technical, there’s a lot of good stuff coming out at the moment. Suicidal Angels of course, good guys good friends, I didn’t hear the new album yet, but I’ve read some really good reviews. So I’m looking forward to hear it.
Back to Destruction. 34 years in the making, no signs of slowing down like I mentioned before. When bands of your generation are asked about the motive behind the non-stop course the answers include: passion for music, the fans support and so on. What’s the biggest motive for Destruction?
I think that the roots are the most important part. When we started, metal didn’t really exist, it just started to rise. And we had a certain amount of feeling pissed off always in the music. That’s still the motivation, you know. The society didn’t become better in the last 30 years. We’ve become a high tech society, but we didn’t become better humans. I think that’s always a fantastic motivation, for me to write lyrics, to be aggressive. When I write songs, my roots are always the aggressive roots of the 80’s. Even if I like a lot of different bands now, it’s not affecting it because it’s not my roots. The motivation for me, now that I’m older, it’s even stronger than when I was young and wild. I’ve seen so many things in life, and I’m still pissed off and upset. We didn’t learn from history, same mistakes over and over again. And it’s same world domination of money and greed, power and religious bullshit. And if this is still there, it’s always a motivation for me to do this. Music for me is hope, it’s screaming for fuckin’ vengeance, scream for the rights.
I remember when I saw the “A Savage Symphony – The History Of Annihilation” DVD, you said that your departure from Destruction in 1989, was a result of lots of wrong choices and that it eventually was good for you, including everything you did with Headhunter in the 90s. Do you generally regret any of the decisions you’ve made in the past 34 years?
No, I think life is full of challenges. When you make a mistake you have to learn from it. You have to make it different next time. Of course there’s little stuff that you’ve done wrong that you’d like to change, but if I look back, I think I don’t want to change anything. Everything had its good and its bad moments, usually when you do something bad, you learn from it and then you make something good out of it. At least for me it was like this. The split was very difficult, but the comeback was even better than expected. So everything makes sense in the end. The only thing I would change is probably not sign the first record deal without a good lawyer. We were moved in court against people for so many years, so many people try to make money from you and you make nothing in the end. Here’s something that I regret here and there, cause we were young we didn’t know how the industry worked. And that’s something that I can tell every young band: before you sign anything, make sure a good lawyer checks the contract. Yeah, we were fighting to get back the rights for the albums. And from June 2016, we have the rights to all Destruction old albums, it’s actually a fantastic thing. It needed many many years, but finally it happened.
You owned a pizzeria named Barracuda in Istein, but sold it in 2004. What lead you to that decision? Is that something you would every try doing ever again, running a business outside metal?
I loved my time at the restaurant both as a chef and at the bar, with big beer garden. Italian, mediterranean food, but also some German stuff. We had some Greek food too. I’ve been travelling the world, I like good food and good drinks. I tried to do that for my restaurant. It’s very stressful to be a chef and at the bar, I had to make a decision, and I choose music, because the music is more precious. But I would always go back and do this restaurant business, I love good food. Nothing’s better than good friends good food and good drinks and some good music. That’s the essence of life for me. I’m glad I did something else outside of music, it shows you a different face of the world. And what I learned from running my business, is that you can’t do both things at the same time: professional music business and real business together. It’s hard and I didn’t want to get a heart attack that’s why I stopped.
Back to the new album. “Under Attack” comes with two bonus tracks: a cover of the Venom anthem “Black Metal”, and a re-recording of your instrumental off “Infernal Overkill”, “Thrash Attack”. You’re used to either putting re-recordings in your albums or covers of landmark songs as bonus tracks. What’s your approach on covering a classic or re-recording an old obscure track? And which band would you like to cover in the future?
When we do a classic is always a time of appreciation of the song we wanna show the kids what we liked when we were young. I would say that’s not that difficult to cover, I don’t consider us a band that’s good at covering, but it’s also a challenge. We showed people who don’t know Venom (everybody knows Venom now), or stuff like Tank and show our roots, our genuflexion, the bands we like. And it’s always a challenge to make a classic song a Destruction song at the end. But it should have the originality of the original song. Always try to make it sound like Destruction.
As for the re-recording, some of the songs weren’t played that well, some of the songs weren’t recorded that well. And “Thrash Attack” was a song that was demanded for many years, especially from fans. We brought it back into the setlist lately, and we talked about the bonus tracks of the album, it just came to our minds “Thrash Attack!”. It sounded so good in the rehearsals, that we said “rerecord it and see how it sounds. If it sounds good enought we can even use it as a bonus track”. We recorded it, everybody loved it and we put it as a bonus track, and we knew a lot of fans would really like the song. I remember the first reaction the the new album when they saw the running order of the songs, and they said “Yeah fuck yeah! Thrash Attack”.
I’ve read that you would book a few selected shows in celebration of the “Eternal Devastation” 30th anniversary, playing it in its entirety. It’s a common practice these days from classic metal bands, regardless of genre, playing a classic record in its entirety. What are your thoughts on that? And on the subject of those shows, will there be any special guests from Destructions’ history?
Actually we just had that show 3-4 days ago in Rock Hard fest, where we did a special show with “Mad Butcher”, Tommy our first drummer playing that song with us, first time in over 30 years. But I’m not a fan of the idea, playing an album all through. I think the set is better when you have a lot of classics in the set, not just one album. We do some shows in Italy, we’re gonna play a big part of “Eternal Devastation”, and we’re gonna play a big set of classics along with some new songs. I understand the fans like that, but I’m not actually a big fan of that.
“Under Attack” is the third record with Thomas Vaaver behind the kit. In my opinion, he gave Destruction a breath of fresh air, from a songwriting point of view. Taking into account that Destruction have always been unstable in the drummer department, do you think he’s the drummer who will be with Destruction for years to come?
I hope so, he’s a very strong drummer, the best drummer we’ve ever had. And he’s also a very good personality, he fits really good in the band. On the other hand, he’s a father and he lives in Poland. So it’s a little complicated sometimes when stuff comes together for touring. So I don’t know if he’s going to be in the band forever, I really hope so. I think he did his best job ever with us on the new album. We don’t wanna change drummers, it just happens because not everybody is as consistent as we are. A lot of them changed their lives, make decisions they weren’t ready for, had jobs, but you have to accept it. I hope Vaaver stays with us for many more years.
The audience in Greece first came in contact with Destruction and Sodom in 1988 and with Kreator in 1989. Ever since all 3 of you have been the absolute favorites of every Greek thrasher I’ve happened to come across, since you visit our country regularly for shows and other events (like the Bloodbath Over Athens guest for Suicidal Angels). What made this bond between you and the Greek fans so strong after all those years?
I remember the Greek shows very well, because they were so wild. We were touring back in the 80’s everywhere, but when we came to Greece in ’88 was one of the wildest shows we’ve ever had, Thessaloniki and Athens. Actually the band split up, right after the gig in Thessaloniki. So it’s always stained in our minds. When we came back for the reunion, we played ttwo warm up shows, in Athens and in Thessaloniki. The Greek fans are very special, so that was a great warm up to get fan vibes. Ever since then there’s a special connection. I love the Greek food also, I’ve come many times on holidays, love the Greek islands. I love the mentality of the Greek people. And I’m very sad that it’s took so long that we didn’t play in Greece. I think last time was 2014 at Chania Rock Festival. We’re gonna come back to Greece for sure with the new album. We’ve been already talking about it, we’ve been actually talking to many promoters over the years, and it never happened. I guess the crisis hasn’t helped you know. But it’s always a special show, we’re gonna come back for sure!
Destruction are going to embark on a tour with Flotsam And Jetsam, Enforcer and Nervosa. Any other plans for you in the near future?
There’s gonna be hundreds of shows promoting the new album. We’re starting now in South America, we’re coming to Europe, then we’re doing 9 dates in Canada and then next year we’re gonna do an Eastern European tour and also Greece. That’s plans for the beginning of 2017.
That was about it Schmier. Thank you so much for your time, it’s been a honor hosting you on our website. You get to say the final words.
I’m missing fuckin’ Greece, I think I’m going to come this summer for holidays, cause I miss you guys so much! And then of course, 2017 for the fuckin shows! Be there, check out the new album! Geia mas!