Interview with vocalist Martin Missy
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: April 28, 2012
When talking about classic German Thrash Metal in general, everybody surely mentions such well-known names as Kreator, Sodom, Destruction and Tankard. These bands could be considered the 'Big 4 of Teutonic Thrash Metal' since they became bigger and more successful than any other German Thrash Metal bands over the past three decades decades, even if there were also a noteworthy bunch out there that were lurking right behind the backs of their 'big brothers'. One of them was definitely Protector, which released one EP and four full-length studio albums during their career. Just like every other band, also these originally Wolfsburg-based German thrashers Protector, had their own ups and downs, which left Protector in some sort of on/off state for many years.
Martin Missy, the original Protector front man and vocalist, opens up about some of the history and present time of Protector in the following interview, telling for example what made him leave the band, then come back to it - and what made him carry on with Protector, with a 'Sweden-nized' line-up in Stockholm, Sweden.
Luxi: How's it going in Sweden, Martin? Still cold, rainy and miserable - as the weather conditions unfortunately often tend to be during spring in the Scandinavian countries...?
Martin: Well, the weather is still quite bad at the moment. A week ago we had snow (again) and yesterday it rained all day long. That's the price you have to pay for living in a beautiful country like Sweden. :-)
Luxi: When did you actually re-locate to Sweden, and what were your uttermost reasons to move from Germany to Sweden in the very first place back in the day?
Martin: I moved to Sweden in 1995 and lived in the south of Sweden (Småland) for the first two years. In 1997 I moved to Stockholm where I've been living since then. The step from Germany to Sweden was quite easy for me to take because my mother is from Sweden. My sister and I grew up bilingual and our familly visited the relatives in Sweden 2-3 times every year. Between 1990 and 1995 I studied and worked at a bank in Wolfsburg. When I decided to do something new I thought it would be a great opportunity to move to Sweden and to see what it is like to live there.
Luxi: Going straight into Protector's early times, the first more or less official Protector recording, in which you appeared as vocalist for the first time, was a 6-track rehearsal demo titled "Kain and Abel" in 1987. Would you tell us something about those times, how you auditioned for their vocalist back then and how much do you remember overall from those session when you put those 6 tracks on tape?
Martin: I was singing in a Speed Metal band called Inzest back then. One day the guitarist of Inzest played a rehearsal room tape to Michael Hasse of Protector. After that, Michael asked me if I wanted to join Protector. I was really excited to be asked to be their new singer, because I had heard their demo from 1986, and liked their brutal kind of Metal very much. The "Kain and Abel" rehearsal was mainly meant for the record company Atom H, so they could listen to some of our new songs, and hear how my voice sounded like. Later on we also sold it to fans, although it has a horrible sound quality (we recorded it ourselves with some borrowed equipment).
Luxi: In 1987, there already was a strong Speed and Thrash Metal scene in Germany - bands like Kreator, Destruction, Sodom, Holy Moses, Living Death, etc. being the better known and leading forces of German Thrash at the time. Can you still remember how Protector was taken among other musicians in some German Speed and Thrash Metal bands during those days? Was there any kind of competition between some bands? Was Protector warmly welcomed to become a part of the big German Thrash family right away, or were there some band members in some other bands that sort of started to envy what Protector were both image as well as music-wise?
Martin: I can't recall that there was any rivalry between the bands in Germany back then. I don't know what it was like in the Ruhrarea, where a lot of German Metal bands came from. I think they had quite a good relationship among each other. We lived in Wolfsburg, a little town that was situated directly at the border to East Germany, so we weren't that informed about what was happening in the rest of the Republic regarding the other German (Thrash) Metal bands.
Luxi: Quite soon things started really happening for Protector in 1987. Protector's first 6-song EP, "Misanthropy", was released on the small German label Atom H. Any unforgettable memories from those recording sessions that you'd like to share with the readers of The Metal Crypt, perhaps?
Martin: The one thing I can remember was from my recording session. I had only heard my voice on rehearsal room tapes, and there it sounded really evil and brutal. But when I stood in the recording room of the studio and started to sing, my voice didn't sound aggressive and brutal at all. I was really shocked, and I also saw the same shock in the face of our drummer Michael through the window of the recording room. I screamed and screamed for about half an hour and then, luckily, my voice sounded as you can hear it on "Misanthropy" today.
Luxi: Back in those days Protector also used to play quite a lot live, especially in your own home country Germany. I kind of accidentally found this live clip of "Agoraphobia", which is from the year 1987 (I suppose?). I don't recognize the t-shirt that you used in that particular show due to a somewhat bad picture quality in it (looks a bit like a Batman tee, he-he!) but my question is that is this live clip from your original hometown, Wolfsburg, in which you performed your first ever gig with this band?
Martin: The "Agoraphobia" clip you are referring to is from the end of 1989. It was recorded at a gig in Düsseldorf, actually my last one with Protector back then. At that concert I had a "Genschman" t-shirt on. Genschman was a parody cartoon of the German satire magazine Titanic. In that cartoon the German foreign minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher fights crime as a Batman-like character called Genschman. Our first gig was in Eupen / Belgium, where we played with Assassin.
Luxi: How easily did Protector get gigs in Germany in the latter half of 80's? What were some of your favorite places to perform live with Protector back then?
Martin: We didn't get that much proposals for gigs back then. I played 13 gigs with Protector between 1987 and 1989. After I left the band, they started playing live more. Back in 'my days' we mainly played at youth and music clubs, not at festivals or on tours.
Luxi: The debut album from Protector, titled "Golem", was released in 1988 - also on Atom H. "Golem" is still considered Protector's finest records to date these days and undoubtedly that record brought Protector on the map of German Thrash. What's your thoughts about that record now in 2012, 24 years after its release? Still felling proud of it, I guess...
Martin: I am proud of all the three EPs / LPs that I recorded with Protector in the 80's. But my personal favourite is our first recording, "Misanthropy", mainly because it's so raw, primitive and aggressive, both regarding the music and the sound.
Luxi: Your vocals were somehow deeper - more Death Metal type of growls especially on "Golem" at that time, compared to many other vocalists in some other German Thrash metal acts back in those days. Did you try to sing intentionally so low on "Golem", just trying to make a difference from the rest of the pack, or what is more or less about your normal way to sing the Protector songs, without even thinking much whether your vocals were so radically different from some other Thrash vocalists from those hey-days of German Thrash?
Martin: My personal favourites among 'extreme' vocalists back then were Jeff Becerra and Tom Warrior. I wanted my voice to be as tough and hard as theirs, and maybe even go a step further. Back then we always tried to be a little bit more extreme than all the other bands. And I also tried to do so with my voice.
Luxi: A song called "Space Cake" out from "Golem", got lots of attention due to a humorous lyrical approach to it. What made you to record that type of song for "Golem" anyway, as it differs so much from the rest of other content on that record? What about Tom Angelripper's (Sodom) involvement in this tune; how come that happened?
Martin: We wanted to write an extreme Metal kind of 'fun-song', so we just played as fast as we could. I thought that "Space Cake" would be a good name for this 'crazy' / different kind of Protector song. We had played in Amsterdam some months before the recording of "Golem", and there I had heard about 'space cakes' for the first time. Michael Hasse had done the Sodom fan club for a while (around the time for "Obssessed by Cruelty"), so he knew Tom personally. I'm not sure whose idea it was that he should do guest vocals, but when we asked him, he said yes right away. He lived only some kilometers away from the studio, so it was no problem for him to come over and record the vocals.
Luxi: You left the band at the beginning of 1989, and your boots in the band were filled by a guy named Oliver Wiebel. However, you returned to Protector in the summer of 1989 and recorded second second album "Urm the Mad" during that same year. What reasons made you part ways with the band at the beginning of 1989?
Martin: In February 1989 I got psychological problems (panic- and anxiety attacks). I felt unable to continue my work with Protector, because I had to focus on my health every day to stay sane. In the summer of the same year I felt better again, returned to Protector, wrote the lyrics for "Urm the Mad" and recorded the vocals for the album.
Luxi: After Protector's gig in Düsseldorf, Germany on November 27th 1989, you left the band again and Olly was called in once again. Would you mind telling us about your reasons for leaving Protector a second time?
Martin: The gig in Düsseldorf in November 1989 was not only my last gig with Protector, but was actually also the only gig I did during my short-lived return to the band. The reason why I was replaced by Olly the second time was that my motivation and commitment wasn't big enough anymore to wholeheartedly continue my work in Protector. The others probably realized that and decided to replace me with Olly for good.
Luxi: Between 1990 and 1993 Protector released one EP ("Leviathan's Desire", 1990) and two full-length studio albums ("A Shedding of Skin", 1991 - and "The Heritage", 1993) with Olly as vocalist. What do you honestly think of those three releases? Do you feel like Protector lost something significant yet soulful when you were no longer a part of this fine German Thrash outfit?
Martin: I like the three recordings I was singing on better than the other three, mainly because the later records contained more kind of Death Metal songs than Thrash Metal songs (which I like more). But I think that all three records that Olly sang on are ok, even though it was no longer the kind of music that Protector started out with.
Luxi: Also, the musical direction Protector took, especially on their couple of last studio albums - "A Shedding of Skin" and "The Heritage" that are), was pretty much more Death Metal-oriented compared to anything the band had released earlier. I suppose you were also kind of curious to hear how post-Martin Missy era Protector sounded like back then on those two releases, so were you either positively or negatively surprised about the band's more brutal and heavier direction on these two albums?
Martin: To be honest I have to admit that I didn't listen to "A Shedding of Skin" that much back then, and I think I listened to "The Heritage" for the first time about ten years after it was released. In the 90's I didn't listen that much to Metal, and the Metal I listened to were my old heroes from the 80's, like Exodus, Celtic Frost, AC/DC, Mercyful Fate and so on. But, as I said earlier, I think the recordings Protector did between 1990 and 1993 are ok. We also played some of the songs from "Shedding" and "Heritage" live with The Protectors.
Luxi: It was said that Protector actually never split up for good but in my opinion if a band loses all of its original members, how it possibly can be the same band, even if a split never took place? Anyways, in 1992 the original Protector line-up lost its last remaining original member when Michael Hasse was replaced by Marco Pape on drums, who tried to keep Protector alive ever since he was involved with the band. In 2003, the story for Protector was - at least practically speaking, over. To keep the legacy alive - thank god (or dog) there was a label like I Hate Records from Sweden that wanted to re-release some of the most classic Protector stuff on their two compilations CDs, "Echoes from the Past (2003)" - and "Ominous Message of Brutality (2005)". What I would like to hear from you is whether there were any problems between any of you original members about any copyright-related matters or anything when you started talking about this between the original members and label (or ex-label, Atom H) - who own the rights for these releases and so forth?
Martin: It is always a difficult question whether or not a band can still possess the right to use the same name, even though there are no original band members left in the band. I think it's ok, if the new line-up has been a part of a 'natural development', which means that band members are replaced one by one. If the band would have broken up let's say in 1991, and would have been reformed some years later by totally new band members, that would not have been ok, I think. Regarding the re-releases of the Protector-albums: The record company (Atom H / Major Records) doesn't exist anymore, so I never asked anyone there for permisson. I usually talk to the former guitarist and founder of Protector Hansi Müller when there is a record company that is interested in doing a (re-)release under the name of Protector.
Luxi: Both of these Protector compilation CD were limited to 1000 copies only, and they were sold out relatively quickly as far as I can remember. Have there been any talk about getting these two compilation CDs available again - like getting them released in a vinyl format - with a few different colors for example? I bet also they would sell out in no time because vinyls seem to popular among (Metal) music collectors again...
Martin:: Releasing them on vinyl would be a cool idea. Maybe I should talk to I Hate Records about that. On the other hand: The first three Protector recordings were recently re-released on vinyl by the Swedish record company To The Death Records, so there would be no need to release the I Hate versions on vinyl.
Luxi: Since you moved to Stockholm, Sweden, you formed "Martin Missy and the Protectors" at the end of 2005, playing Protector cover songs even outside of Sweden. Didn't it feel a bit like a funny situation since you relocated to Sweden and formed this 'Protector cover band' there, you were not allowed to use Protector's name but had to come up with this Martin Missy and the Protectors name instead in order to play some gigs? I mean, did the rights for the Protector name belong to someone else at that time, or what actually were your primary reasons to not touch the name Protector back then and simply go on with this other name?
Martin: We could have called the band Protector right away and skipped the 'cover band part', but I thought that it wouldn't feel right to name the new formed band Protector when there's only one original member in the band. When we decided to start writing own songs, we had been together in the same line-up for more than five years, so I think my band colleagues and I had earned the right to reactivate Protector officially again. I talked to the former guitarist and founder of Protector Hansi Müller about our plans to start using the name Protector, and he said that it was ok for him.
Luxi: How did the Metal fans take it when you were going around under the name of Martin Missy and the Protectors? Did they find it kind of confusing that one of the original members of Protector played Protector songs as 'cover songs' only - while probably at the very same time the Protector name was run by a pack of people who had nothing to do with the original line-up of Protector in the first place?
Martin: At the time we started with The Protectors, the original Protector was no longer active. If I remember it right the guitarist of the original Protector (or the 'Marco Pape version' if you would wish call it like that) left the band around 2001 / 2002, and the bass player just 1-2 years after that. So in 2005 there was no band under the name of Protector around that wrote new songs and played live. If they had still been active, there would have been no need for a cover band. The idea with The Protectors was that old and new fans should get the possibility to experience the old Protector songs live. When we played live, most of the fans referred to us as Protector; not 'Martin Missy and the Protectors', but we still waited until 2011 before we took the step to officially reactivate Protector again.
Luxi: On the 8th of October 2011 you went to perform to Way of Darkness festival as Martin Missy and the Protectors where you made this announcement that you'll continue with the original band name Protector from that day on, which obviously was something that dropped a heavy burden from your shoulders, knowing that it's all legal now to get wrapped around the Protector name again. You recorded a new 4-track demo titled "The Return of Thrash and Madness" with the 'Sweden-ized' Protector line-up and released it on your own for this Way of Darkness festival both as a pro-CD-R as well as a limited cassette. Also Evil Spell Records got interested in it and finally released it officially in February 2012 as a limited 7-inch EP, in three different colors. How happy are you with the songs on it, and would you say that these new Protector songs represent basically the same style Protector had in the very beginning but with just a little 'Swedish twist', ha-ha?
Martin: I am very happy with the songs on "The Return of Thrash and Madness". Our goal was right from the beginning to write old school Thrash Metal songs without any modern influences whatsoever. And I think we managed quite well to achieve that goal. Most of the fans have reacted positively to the rehearsal demo. Hansi, who I had sent a copy to, said that it "sounded like I would play the guitar" and "like the Protector songs somewhere in the Golem / Urm the Mad era". That made me very proud. I was also happy to hear from Marco Pape, who I also had sent a copy to, that he thought the songs sounded "like the old Protector". We will try to continue writing new songs in the same spirit.
Luxi: How did you find these three Swedish guys to complete the Protector line-up?
Martin: The idea came up at an Nifelheim aftershow party in Stockholm in the autumn of 2005. When everybody else had fallen asleep, the ultra-Metalhead Jonas Svensson and I talked about Metal in general and Protector in particular. That was when the idea of the cover band was born. Jonas went back to his hometown Uddevalla, which is about 500 kilometers from Stockholm, and found three musicians (Carl-Gustav Karlsson on drums, Mathias Johansson on bass and Michael Carlsson on guitar) who also loved to play old school Metal. They started rehearsing in Uddevalla in the end of 2005 - and in the beginning of 2006 I visited them, and we rehearsed together for the first time.
Luxi: Cronis from To the Death Records from Sweden, just released a Protector boxset titled "Wolfsburg Edition", which contained some of the early Protector demos and vinyl releases, in addition of this 7-inch EP from Death Attack that was originally a rehearsal demo from 1985. The "Wolfsburg Edition", which was strictly limited to 100 copies, was sold out in pre-orders. What kind of project was it to get all this stuff together in cooperation with Cronis? Did everything happen in good terms also with some other original members of the band as far as making decisions about the chosen stuff for this release was concerned?
Martin: In this particular case I didn't talk to Hansi before the release, which I usually do. I just assumed that he would have no problem with the (limited) release, like he usually never has. If there would be a big record company showing interest in re-releasing our old records in a number of several thousand copies per record, I would of course talk to him, and in that particular case also the other band members of Protector as well, before a decision would be made.
Luxi: Obviously the fire has been fueled enough by now and we, the die-hard Protector fans, can even expect a new Protector album in the coming months, can't we? ;o)
Martin: We are currently writing and recording songs for two split singles (one with Erazor and one with Ungod). After that we will start writing material for an upcoming full-length album, which hopefully will be released in the end of this year, or the beginning of next year. We will have to find a record company first though.
Luxi: How do you overall see this resurrection of Thrash Metal as it truly seems like Thrash Metal has come back to stay - and some of these once disbanded Thrash Metal acts have also made their more or less successful comebacks after being in hiatus for many years (Exumer, Heathen, Sacrifice, Onslaught, Death Angel and so on)?
Martin: I really can't answer that question because I mainly listen to my old records from the 80's, so I have not enough knowledge of what is going on in the Thrash Metal scene today to make a qualified comment.
Luxi: What things, from your point of view, make Protector's new coming worth all the wait?
Martin: The main reason is to give our old and new fans some new Protector songs to headbang to. Hopefully they will like all the new stuff we'll write.
Luxi: I think that was it Martin. I want to thank you from the very bottom of my heart for doing this interview with me, and hopefully it was also fun to do. I also want to wish you all the best with your future endeavors with Protector, so may your road be successful in the coming years. Any last comments, perhaps?
Martin: Thank you for doing this interview with me, Luxi! Everybody is welcome to visit our pages on Facebook (www.facebook.com/Protector.666not777) and Myspace (www.myspace.com/protectorofficial). Stay Metal, everyone!
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