DESTRUCTION (Schmier) INTERVIEW
The first Thrash Metal show I ever attended was at the tender age of fifteen, when back in 1989 the German Thrashers Destruction decided to grace Athens with their presence for what turned out to be the last ever show of the band’s first and, admittedly so, “classic” period. Many, many years later not only do I find myself once again attending a Destruction show, this time on UK soil, but also interviewing the band’s frontman Marcel “Schmier” Schirmer. Did we have anything interesting to talk about? I certainly believe so, since not only did the band recently release one of the best albums of their later career, namely “Day Of Reckoning”, but I was also given the opportunity to ask Schmier a question of a more specialist nature – the answer to which left me quite hungry.
By Yiannis (John) Stefanis.
• Schmier, thanks a lot for talking the time to talk amidst all this madness here backstage.
Schmier: Today is the first day of the tour and everything is chaotic. We just arrived and nothing is working, plus we have a very tight schedule to go by. The first day is always the worst, you know?
• And that is exactly why I really appreciate you taking the time to do this interview!
Schmier: No problem, no problem!
• Schmier I have to say that the new album is absolutely sensational! I have loved your work throughout your long career and I have followed you as a fan even though I may not have always agreed with you on certain musical endeavours but that’s how things ought to be amongst artists and fans. The artist always has to be free to express himself…
Schmier: that is exactly how things ought to be….
• …and I agree, however I do believe and, according to what I have read so far in both magazines and on the Internet many others agree, that this is one of the best Destruction albums ever recorded!
Schmier: Yeah, I guess that people say that this is the case. I mean, we are proud of the album. We wanted to make an album that goes back to the roots of Thrash and which would follow all those typical Destruction trademarks but, at the same time, without copying ourselves, you know? I still like this album which has been recorded since the summer which is something like eight months now and I still play it when I am in the car, so I guess you can say that this is a good sign. The songs also work pretty good live, so we are looking forward to playing them live too. This will make the choice of a set list even more difficult but it is great how, after all those years, we are still able to write an album like this one. It was not very difficult – it was really great fun to do and a natural process which brought us back to our roots sort to say. Our previous album (note: “D.E.V.O.L.U.T.I.O.N”) was more experimental but that is something that bands need to have sometimes, you know? With this new album we are the kind of band that we are supposed to be.
• Now, this is what I find to be quite interesting; though you made a return to earlier forms you did not go “all the way back” and that is a credit to you. You chose to create an album that is obviously typically Destruction by obeying certain rules which in a sense make you who you are and which is very respectful of the band’s past. What you did not do, however, was to simply recordin another “Infernal Overkill”, choosing instead to sound as you ought to in the year 2011! That is quite an achievement really.
Schmier: Yeah, I agree and that has been difficult to achieve in a way. Of course there are people that are asking for a second “Infernal Overkill” but that album was unique and we couldn’t recorder it again – even if we wanted to we would most probably fail! That is why we never even think of trying to copy ourselves. We are aware of that fact and we try to create something new that is not boring but which still has the speed and the variety that makes an album sound interesting. I believe that this is a pretty difficult thing to do and, yeah – it’s definitely one of our better ones, so…check it out folks (laughs).
• Of the three Teutonic giants of the scene, meaning of course yourselves, Sodom and Kreator, you were always the most daring in comparison. You were far more technical as a band and you always tried to push the boundaries with every new album. This is something I get as a fan when I think of all your previous releases in succession; you do not come across as being content with simply relying on one simple melody and a catchy chorus in order to create a song. It sounds to me like you are trying to prove to the world that you can incorporate a variety of different elements in a song. Is it possible that, with regards the new album, you kind of took a step back from that approach and said “ok, let’s allow the melody this time to kind of dictate where it is that things are going to go”?
Schmier: Yeah, but it always depends on the song writing process. This time we definitely tried to keep the song writing process slimmer and to focus on some really cool riffs and have my vocals hit harder with the main bit and the riff. Sometimes you obviously feel the need, even though we have been doing this for many years, to prove yourself, you know? This time, I think, we managed to make the album a bit slimmer and tighter but there are still quite a few moments where you will come across some really surprising ideas and stuff. I believe that it is a very important thing that, when you hear the album, there are moments when you will say “oh wow – what was that”? At the end of the day, though, this song has to be catchy enough so that people will remember it and that they will feel that they will want to play that again! That is the most difficult part; there is no recipe for writing a Thrash anthem, you know? You have to…there are no rules for that – it either happens or it doesn’t happen! There are some really good songs on this album that I am sure that we will be able to play for the years to come!
• Do you believe that, in general, the fans of the band have been understanding of what it is that you guys have been trying to achieve throughout the years? The reason why I am asking this question is because I believe that it is very easy for someone like me to sit back and be critical over something whereas for you, looking things from afar must be very difficult as you have been involved in the creative process, right?
Schmier: Yes, of course it is difficult! Again, our focus was to look back to our roots which is exactly what we did; however, sometimes you may ask too much of yourself and that also applies to the fans of the band. I do believe, however, that most of our fans are appreciative of what we do – even of our most daring attempts. These, of course, did not move too far away from our roots so you can say that most of our fans have grown together with the band. I believe that the reason why the new album has been received so well is because it is more Thrash, more basic and more in your face! What people want from Destruction is the speed and the aggression and they simply want to Thrash! I always say as a joke that most Metal musicians when they grow older, they start thinking about playing the Blues (laughs)…
• Now, that is an interesting thought…
Schmier: We are not there yet! It feels good to know that our new album is the most aggressive that we have recorded in the last ten years, you know?
• Well, Destruction has a new member in its line up! Can you elaborate on how this new guy became member of Destruction?
Schmier: Yeah, Vaaver was quite friendly with the guys from Behemoth and Vader and members from both bands recommended that we try him out as he is known as being one of the best drummers in Poland for our kind of music. Polish metal heads love their Death Metal, but he is more of a classical metal drummer. He is also playing with the Warsaw symphonic orchestra, so you can say that he is a studied musician. He also happens to be a very nice guy. We received his recommendations, we checked a few other drummers and he was amongst the best and in the end, his personality helped us in making our decision. He was the most likely person to fit well with us and, as he is from Poland, he knows how to drink also and that is a very important thing (laughs). He did a very good album as it was written when he came into the band and his style is very tight – he is a very precise player. His drumming helped the album reach the next level that we were aiming at and I do believe that the drums in “Day Of Reckoning” are the best drums that we have ever had on a Destruction record.
• You and Mike (note: Sifringer/guitars) have been very close for many years and there is a clear chemistry amongst you so any drummer that decides to join the band will have to blend with a duet that has known each other very well. Now, that I believe is a pretty daunting task, right?
Schmier: Yes, I guess it is but achieving that is not as difficult as it may seem, you know? What we do want from our drummer is one hundred per cent dedication and that is the reason why all of our ex drummers left the band – because they could not commit one hundred per cent. Some people think that they can simply live the dream, become a rock star, make a lot of money, fu*k a lot of girls and party a lot but what they fail to realise is that there is a lot of work being in a band and at the end you may not end up getting the money that you want. Sometimes certain people are disillusioned and there comes the time that they will either have to go because that is the time that they may start harming the band, you know? They may not want to tour anymore or play fast songs anymore – maybe start playing the Blues (laughs). That is something that nobody wants for this band, of course, so at that point people have to leave. It is difficult to have to find a good drummer for Destruction so change in that respect is not something that we really want, but whoever gets this job will need to have the balls and dedication required to work with us.
• Tonight you are going to perform the first show of the European tour for the promotion of “Day Of Reckoning” and I know already that there are several other live dates coming up after that. Now, for a band like Destruction, coming up with a set list in the year 2011 must be pretty daunting. I understand that there will be a certain need to promote the new album, so how many songs from there are you going to play for us tonight?
Schmier: Coming up with a set list was very difficult especially as we have a guest slot tonight, opening for Overkill. We are given between forty five and fifty minutes which are indeed not enough so we came up with a ‘best of’ set list consisting of classics and old songs and we have to skip some important stuff. Having said that, we are going to play a few headline shows later this year in the States and in Latin America and there we will be able to play one and a half hours. In this tour things are difficult so we skipped some songs that we have been performing live for many years…it is not the worst thing because then people will demand that we put them back on our set, so the list will undoubtedly change again at some point. It is ten songs that we will have to play each night of this tour.
• For somebody like me who attended your anniversary show in Wacken with all the past members and the extras, being content with such a short set is “mission impossible”.
Schmier: I know what you mean, however, you will be happy to know that this show will include only hits so that is something, I guess. There will be no fillers here – just killers (laughs). We are only going to play one songs from the new album, but when we do our headlining shows we will add another two and make them in total three of four. We will see how the album is going to be received and also how these songs are going to sound live and we will make our decision.
• When listening to the new album, I do get the impression that each song was written with the purpose of one day being performed in a live environment.
Schmier: Yes, that’s right. We tried to approach things in such a way. Sometimes you may not think of a live situation and then when you decide to do that you realise that songs cannot be performed live. On this album we consciously tried to write songs that will potentially work well when played live. We had already tried a few things in the practice room and it will take, of course, a few days before everything sounds perfect but I believe that the end result will be good.
• This is a question that I have first posed to Mike a year and a half ago when doing an interview with him over the phone, and I will also make it to you now. The first time I saw Destruction live you had two guitar players in the band, however you became a trio again following the reunion back in 2000. Were you guys never tempted to add a second guitar player in the band again? I am asking as I believe that it would massively strengthen your sound live!
Schmier: We have thought about it and there is one guy that we know who would fit really well in the band and that is Ol Drake from Evile. His playing style and his personality would make him an ideal candidate for Destruction but he is very busy with his band and that makes it very difficult to happen. I don’t want to go out there and find somebody that will end up disappointing us again, you know? We are working really good as a three piece, as three people translates to less trouble, and…I don’t know – at some point we may have a second guitar player again, you never know! Never say never.
• For the next couple of months you have planned quite a few live dates, covering places like South America, according to your website, and also performing in a few summer festivals, one of which being the quite prestigious Summer Breeze and also in Hellfest which I will also be attending this year. Apart from that, are there any other plans with regards the promotion of “Day Of Reckoning” or will you be done for the year?
Schmier: No, there’s more to come! We are going to visit Russia in September, right after the summer festivals, and then we will focus on doing some shows on Eastern Europe and also places like Australia. We are also hoping to do a few more European shows because on this tour now we are only playing a handful of countries and we are not playing places like Greece, Spain or Finland. Those will be the countries in which we will hopefully be appearing in the second part of 2011.
• Ok, last question to sum up this quite delightful interview as an ex restaurateur and a man who really likes a good bottle of wine, if you were to recommend one dish from your home country which would that be?
Schmier: I would recommend to people to try a German version of noodles, dumpling noodles from our region, which are called Spaetzle. You serve them as a pasta side dish and they taste like these rice noodles that you guys have in Greece, you know? (note: Schmier is referring to a Greek speciality called “Youvarlakia” – recommended!). I would serve them with a very good piece of meat that I would cook in the oven with its own gravy for about one and a half to two hours and I would present it with a nice red wine sauce. I would, of course, serve it with a nice bottle of German wine…we may not have the best red wines in the world, but we do have some good pinot noir wines which are called Spätburgunder. These are great if you happen to have them sitting in a barrel for a few years as they get a certain strawberry flavour, they are nice and dry and great to taste…there you go!
• Schmier, you definitely got me drooling here! Thank you very much for your time – it has been thoroughly enjoyable talking to you.
Schmier: Thank you very much!
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