Interview with Paul Speckmann (Vocals, bass)
Interview conducted by Michel Renaud
Date online: December 14, 2008
Master was one of the very first Death Metal bands back in the 80s. What motivated you to push the "limits of the extreme" at the time?
After spending several years in the Doom band called Warcry, Schmidt and I decided it was time for a change of direction. The real push was when Warcry drummer Bill Schmidt, and guitarist Marty Fitzgerald had an altercation on stage at a show. One of the two fucked up the end of the song Black Sabbath and there was a discussion live on stage and shortly afterward Schmidt was fired. After continually listening to tracks from Motorhead, Venom and the first Sodom, we decided to form a new group together called Master. I finished the last few gigs with Warcry, and Schmidt and I began our search for a guitarist. We auditioned everyone that was worth anything in Chicago and never really settled on anyone. So the project was left to stagnate. When we were together we were just trying to be the heaviest band in Chicago and played our hearts out to prove this.
How long was the band called Death Strike, and why the name change?
This is a frequently asked question. As I said previously, the band Master never succeeded in finding a guitar player and drummer Schmidt joined Louie Svitek in a local band called Mayhem. Svitek would later reach fame playing in bands like Zoetrope, MOD, Mind Funk, and Ministry before quitting and opening a studio and producing Rap artists around Chicago. I became increasingly frustrated and had time on my hands. My father recently passed on at this time, and I was left in my father's house to hang out until the house was finally sold several months later.
While alone in my basement depressed and often disorientated I began to write a song called The Truth, which the band Death would ultimately cover on the first Death US tour. This information is courtesy of Terry Butler (Death, Massacre, and now in Six Feet Under.) I began to search the local trade paper called the Illinois Entertainer, still in existence today, and found a guitar player by the name of Chris Mittelbrun. Chris had originally auditioned for Master previously but was more interested in the sounds of Judas Priest and Maiden at that time. Nevertheless, he had discovered heavier bands by this time and was quite excited about this new project we called Deathstrike. We recruited one of Chris's friends John Leprich, a drunk with a bull terrier and a pair of sticks, and my girlfriend at the times, younger brother, Kirk Miler. We began rehearsals in the basement of the house and wrote a few tracks together. Mittelbrun had really great ideas and combined with mine, we managed enough tracks to record a demo. The demo would go on to be widely distributed all across the globe. We would split up in this incarnation never realizing this fact. Many of the successful bands of the genre were influenced by this Fuckin Death demo, but many would think it was Master.
After hearing this Deathstrike demo, Schmidt begged and pleaded with Chris and I to join this band and on July 4th, 1985 we finally auditioned Bill. He was accepted and we once again called the band Master. This would be the first mistake of my career. Schmidt took over the band as leader and made mistake after mistake and because of this crappy leadership, I have struggled ever since.
Seven years passed from formation to your first release in 1990. Do you think Master would be better known if you had beat Possessed to the punch?
Well certainly we would have had a better chance if we would've signed the Combat contract we received just before the band Death received and signed the same contract. Chuck certainly made a better decision, RIP. We should have signed this, but hindsight is 20/20. Schmidt and his mother were convinced that we should get a million dollars and we were only offered a few thousand dollars for the first record. Death Metal as it was to be labeled, had just begun and it was risky to say the least for the smaller labels at this time. Combat Records were still relatively new to this genre, and were nervous I am sure about taking such a big risk early on.
Actually, the first Master record was released in 1989, and it was far too late to be honest. Many of the clones of Master were already rising to great heights in the genre. As for Possessed, I saw this killer entity in Chicago while they were on tour with Dark Angel, and both these bands were certainly a different style than Master, so this really means nothing.
They were successful because of there originality of course.
What's the deal with that "Unreleased 1985 Album" which was finally released in 2003? That's been bugging me for a while, and I haven't read much, if anything, behind that story yet... And what name was originally planned for it?
The Unreleased Album tracks are the original demo recordings for Combat Records. This is the demo that landed us the ill-fated deal that screwed up the beginning of my career. I felt it was a pity to let these demo tracks that were copied 10,000 times in the tape-trading network in 1985 and 1986 from the original cassette, to remain on the shelf, so I re-released them in CD form on Displeased Records for all the dedicated motherfuckers who have always supported Master since the beginning.
Have you ever thought of moving back to the U.S.? In a recent interview I got the feeling that you really like the Czech Republic, but do you sometimes get home sick?
What a silly question! Every single day, of course I want to live in country that is controlled by the police and the government. I miss the geriatric patients that tell you what to do with your lives every day. As I tell everyone over here, I really enjoy visiting America, but I wouldn't want to live there. I am certainly worried about what's next for the USA. I think a revolution is in the works and time will tell. I will be watching carefully.
In the beginning I missed some things and people of course, but that was nine years ago. I love this country I live in, but I will always be an American first and foremost. I was born and raised in the so-called greatest country in the world and it will always have its benefits.
How difficult was it to pick up the language? Still got an American accent? :)
I don't speak the language very well at all, and don't care about this either. Speak English or die! This is and was one of the greatest tracks ever written for Metal. I am often criticized for statements such as these, but English is the language that people around the world understand, so it's best to learn it.
Since its inception, Death Metal has branched into many directions - satanic, gore, political, ecological, satiric, you name it. Some slow, some pushing the human speed limits. As a pioneer of the genre, what do you like and dislike in this wide genre that Death Metal has become?
Categories suck anyway. It's all Metal to me in any way, shape or form. And honestly I don't like all these new sub branches. I am neither judge nor jury. If a person believes in the music he writes and it comes for his or her soul, then it must be good.
Slaves to Society was released recently in North America, last year in Europe. How has it been received so far? Are you satisfied with the feedback you've received?
The reviews speak for themselves. You can find many killer reviews by even the most famous of writers all over the internet, but on the other hand, opinions are like assholes, everyone has one.
People are certainly buying the CDs and visiting the concerts across the globe, so I guess the album is ok.
Tour-wise, how are things going/have gone?
I just returned from a successful tour of the USA and will return there in July of 2009 after the South and Central American trek. Master will tour in Europe for 38 concerts beginning on January 23rd in Germany. So I suppose I should say that things are going alright brother.
What's the current line-up situation? You used a couple of guest musicians for the U.S. tour - is it that some members couldn't make it across the border, or simply that there's currently no one filling those positions on a permanent basis?
Mr. Bush made a deal with the Czech government and promised the Czech citizens that they would no longer need visas to travel abroad. The special radar system to protect the USA has been approved and the visa situation has now changed. Now you can go to the US Embassy and if they don't like the color of your hair, the way you smell or your reason for going to the USA, they can still refuse you. So nothing really has changed. So I felt it would be easier to hire American musicians and so I will repeat this in July 2009. I have a lineup that has been playing with me since 2004 and we have recorded three successful albums together, and this should continue. This lineup with Pradlovsky, Nejezchleba and I will continue to play festivals and tour the European countries for many years to come.
I've read in an interview that you are still very much old school (you won't hear me whine about that.) Still, there have to be a few "recent" bands that you consider worthy of a ride in your car's CD player?
I have to be honest, in my car you will only find the classics such as GBH, Discharge, The Ramones, Motorhead, Extreme Noise Terror, Angel Witch and Deep Purple. I guess I am old. I still listen to old Heavy Metal like Judas Priest, Saxon and Twisted Sister as well.
You'll probably hate me for this but... If you had to pick a favorite Master album, which one would it be, and why?
I cannot pick one. There were many great albums, just some had better productions, better budgets or better producers. I put the same effort and energy into each and every record I have ever recorded, just some were favored more than others. I would have too say, that Slaves To Society and the first are among my favorites. Slaves to Society is one of the best because it's fresh and still ancient sounding, but with more energy than on some of the previous CDs. The original Master was killer because it was recorded in my youth and at this time there weren't many problems or responsibilities such as you have when you get older. When you are young and carefree, nothing else matters.
Thanks for your time, Paul, and keep those albums coming! Any last words for our readers?
Yes, check out the new CD Slaves To Society, and if you haven't yet heard the first two Master releases, you should go out and buy them from Displeased records, because you will learn where the beginning of the genre came from. For Thrash fans, Abomination and the second release called Tragedy Strikes are available on Metal Mind Productions in Poland.
|Other information about Master on this site|
|Review: Slaves to Society|
|Review: On The Seventh Day God Created…Master|
|Review: Unreleased 1985 Album|
|Review: The Human Machine|
|Video: The Final Skull|
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