Interview with guitarist Michael Stützer
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: October 26, 2013
Artillery, Denmark's long-running Thrash Metal patrol, have come a long way since the band's debut album, Fear of Tomorrow, was released back in 1985. Artillery's follow-up, Terror Squad, released in 1987, is considered their real breakthrough album and their third album, By Inheritance, propelled the band to an even bigger stage.
Not long after By Inheritance, the winds of change hit Artillery and they broke up in 1991. After years of silence, Artillery decided to reform in 1998. They managed to get their fourth album released, B.A.C.K., before breaking up again in 2000. In 2007 they collected the troops together for a second time and have released two more albums thus far; When Death Comes, in 2009, and My Blood, in 2011, both on Poland's Metal Mind Productions.
2013 will see Artillery's seventh studio album, Legions, which will be released by their new label, Metal Blade Records, on November 22nd in Europe.
Guitarist Michael Stützer, one of Artillery's founding members, wanted to share some of his thoughts about the band's new album and talk about Artillery's future plans regarding tours in both the USA and Canada. Plus, he shares some trivia, both good and bad, about Artillery's past when they had just started to make a name for the band.
Luxi: How's it going Michael? Are you looking forward to playing at Romania's Thrash Metal Fest, 2nd Edition (which took place October 12th, 2013) as well as touring South American legendary British Thrash Metal act Onslaught?
Michael: We always love to go new places and going to Romania for the first time will definitely be great. I'm sure the Romanian headbangers will be amazing. We just played in Ukraine and that was really good and I imagine that Romania will be just as good! I am also looking forward to seeing Bucharest in the company of Christina, a good friend from Romania!
As for the South America tour with Onslaught I'm sure it will be devastating for many reasons. It will be our second tour of SouthAmerica and you can imagine how amazing and crazy the crowds are! This time we will visit countries like Peru, Bolivia and Mexico in addition to the countries we visited last time (Brazil, Chile and Argentina). Touring with a great band like Onslaught will be cool!
Luxi: What do you expect from that tour? South American fans are said to be quite crazy and fanatical and I have heard some wild stories about them...
Michael: As I said earlier, this will be our second time in South America. The first time we played three shows in Brazil, one in Argentina and one in Chile, all with German thrashers Exumer!
The South American fans are, without a doubt, among the craziest fans we have ever played for (and there have been a lot of great headbangers through the years). All we have to do is play the intro for a song like "When Death Comes" and the crowd will go totally crazy, singing with the guitar intro! They are so into the songs that you can easily spend an hour after the shows signing albums, taking pictures and talking with the fans. The atmosphere is great! You have to see it to believe it!!
Luxi: How was your performance at Hellbound Fest in Copenhagen on October 21st (2013)? Were you well received by the fans?
Michael: It was a great night, one of our best shows in Copenhagen for a long time. There were a lot of people there and we played almost 2 hours. We played songs we hadn't played for a very long time, Like "Don't Believe" and "Razamanaz" from By Inheritance. We also played two songs from the new album, Legions, and they were well received! Beside the great support from the fans, it was also a well-organized show by the nice people from Hellbound!
Luxi: Talking a bit more about, Legions, Artillery's seventh album, you have said before that it is raw, heavy and has the best production ever on an Artillery record. Would you enlighten us as to what Legions is going to it be like?
Michael: I think it has all the classic Artillery elements; fast Thrash, Eastern influences and melodic songs. All the trademarks from our old albums are there! Our two new members have contributed a lot of energy and great work. Josh has delivered some amazing drum work and Michael has delivered some damn good vocals. He closes the gap between our last singer Søren and our first singer Flemming. He has a great vocal range and he delivered some great lyrics.
With Legions, we managed to put some progressive elements into some of the songs. I really think this album has some of the best songs we have ever recorded, with the best production ever!
Luxi: You also re-recorded a couple of songs that appeared on Artillery's debut album, Fear of Tomorrow. How did they turn out and was it a unanimous decision by the band member which songs from this classic Artillery record would be covered, or did you have to vote?
Michael: We wanted to re-record two of the songs we still play live so the fans could hear the songs with the line-up that plays them live. Also, it was a chance to record them with a better production. Plus, as you know, it's always good to have some bonus tracks.
Luxi: Do you feel the change of vocalist (from Søren Nico Adamsen to Michael Bastholm Dahl) and drummer (from Carsten Nielsen to Josua Madsen) brought something vital into the band that gave new vibe for your songs?
Michael: Yeah definitely, in the studio, live and in the rehearsal room, they came in with a lot of energy, passion for Artillery's name and an eagerness to please the fans. Besides that, they are both very positive about the way Artillery works and very down to earth people, like the rest of us! We really have a great time now and lot of fun, rehearsing, touring and recording.
Luxi: You found your new singer in a cover band that played Mercyful Fate and King Diamond songs. I am thinking the guy must have an incredible vocal range in order to sound convincing enough to sing stuff from M.F. or K.D. Did you take full advantage of Michel's vocal capabilities on the new album?
Michael: Yes, I think so. We are really happy to have his vocals on this record and I'm sure he will get a good response from our fans, even those who were skeptic about him at first, once they hear how well he sings on Legions. As for the old Artillery songs he sings them the way our first singer did.
Luxi: How would you compare Legions to your previous two albums, When Death Comes (2009) and My Blood (2011)? Will be there any drastic changes, song-wise, between Legions and those albums?
Michael: I think there are elements from all our albums in Legions and the change in drumming and singing have, of course, resulted in new input for our songs so we are now sounding stronger than ever! I don't think people will feel it's a drastic change because it still has the Artillery trademarks, but there are a few surprises on this new record, in a more progressive way. The songwriting and the production are even stronger than our previous albums, in my opinion. The lyrics also go much deeper into certain topics than what When Death Comes and My Blood did.
Luxi: Søren Andersen produced Legions, the same guy who produced the last two albums. Do you believe he understands how Artillery should sound to the point where you won't even consider anyone else? Flemming Rasmussen, for instance, did a great job with By Inheritance some 23 years ago...
Michael: You know, it's always a pleasure to work with Søren. Besides being a very nice guy and a good producer, he really enjoys making Artillery albums and always comes up with some great input for us. He is also a very good guitar player and plays with people like Glen Hughes (ex-Deep Purple), among others, so he knows how a guitar sounds.
Luxi: How much did the band influence the production on Legions?
Michael: We have a lot to say and we listen to what Søren comes up with but we never do anything we don't agree with. There were no problems at all and both parties are very happy with the production and the way the songs turned out on Legions.
Luxi: Out of my own curiosity, what's your very favorite Artillery album? I am sure you have things you like from every album but if you had to choose, which one would it be?
Michael: Wow, that's a tough question because recording albums is a very emotional thing. Fear of Tomorrow was our debut and Terror Squad our "breakthrough" in Thrash circles. By Inheritance was our first record on a big label and B.A.C.K. was our comeback album during a very tough period. When Death Comes was our second album since the comeback, but when I think about it, it was our true comeback and so was My Blood, because we promised not to take 8 years between albums again, and we kept that promise!
At the moment, I would choose our newest effort, Legions, because it's so close to the release date and I'm so happy with the way it has turned out. Fear of Tomorrow, By Inheritance and When Death Comes are the closest I can come up with regarding some earlier Artillery albums.
Luxi: Legions will be released on Metal Blade Records in Europe on November 22nd, 2013. How did you end up signing to Metal Blade anyway and why did you leave Metal Mind Productions?
Michael: Metal Blade is a legendary label that released Metallica's first song ever, on a compilation album, Slayer's first two albums, Trouble and Mercyful Fate/King Diamond, among others. So when they showed interest in signing us we did not really question it at all. They heard two of the new songs, "Dies Irae" and "Anno Requiem," and the deal was done right after that. I really think this will be a major step for Artillery because of their big PR department. When it comes to our previous label, Metal Mind Productions, it was not easy to leave because they always treated us well, especially Agneiszka, and they also gave us a good offer for releasing the new album.
But moving to Metal Blade will open new doors for Artillery and the record should be easier for the fans to get a hold of.
Luxi: Besides Metal Mind Productions, was Metal Blade the only other label that showed interest in signing Artillery or were there other labels that made decent offers?
Michael: Metal Blade was the label that showed the most interest in signing us. There were two or three other labels that were talking with our manager about a new deal, but we were really keen on making a deal with Metal Blade.
Luxi: Are there any plans to shoot a video for one of the songs from Legions to get the album promoted a bit better for the fans?
Michael: We already shot a lyric video for the song "Wardrum Heartbeat" and will record a real video for another song in mid October, I believe.
Luxi: How much can you still remember about the demo days when you were searching for a label for Artillery? I wonder if you might have a few juicy stories to share with the readers of The Metal Crypt, perhaps.
Michael: That's a long way back! In 1982, we rehearsed in a small room which we were sharing with Mercyful Fate and, besides having a lot of fun, hanging out, playing soccer, etc. there are a few funny stories to tell from those early days. When we recorded our first demo, the guy who drove us to the studio with our equipment was King Diamond. So our first roadie was King Diamond!!
Our demos Shell Shock and Deeds of Darkness were recorded in a studio that was owned by a keyboard player who used to be very famous in Denmark for playing instrumental Pop classics and he was kind of headbanging when he heard one of our songs.
When we played our first concerts back then, nobody had ever heard the term "Thrash Metal," so people tended to call us "punky Motörhead!"
At our second concert in our hometown, the place was torn up by some troublemakers who were on parole from prison. It took us a long time to shake the reputation that we got during that unfortunate night. We were being accused of drawing violent people to our concerts despite the fact that the REAL troublemakers were not into Metal at all, but just wanted to tear the whole place up.
Luxi: Legendary Neat Records (also home of Atomkraft, Venom, Raven, Warfare, etc. back in the day) decided to add Artillery to their roster and the result was your debut studio album, Fear of Tomorrow. How do you feel about that album today and how well do you think it has stood the test of time?
Michael: As a debut album, I still think it stands up well and it's still the favorite Artillery album of many old-school, die-hard fans. It also brings back a lot of good memories. In that period we supported King Diamond and Slayer, among others. We still try to play one or two songs from that album when performing live. Songs like "The Almighty," "Eternal War," "Deeds of Darkness" and "Into the Universe" are often included in our set lists.
Luxi: One of my personal favorite Danish Metal bands ever, Samhain/DesExult, were a really popular act in the underground tape trading scene in the early/mid eighties but, unlike Artillery, they never made it big. I assume you got to know those guys when you still were kids and wanted to play Metal more than anything else. Do you know what happened to them and why they eventually decided to call it quits?
Michael: Yeah, I still talk to Esben on Facebook from time to time. You know, they also did the Metal mag called Blackthorn at that time. I think they kept going for some years and joined bands like Barcode and Grope. I really don't know anything about the reasons why they split up.
Luxi: What memories do you have from your crazy and restless youth with Artillery, when you started to get some name recognition and became a popular Danish Thrash Metal act?
Michael: I guess it was very similar to many headbangers from those days; partying, going to concerts, practicing on my guitar and trying to write songs, chasing girls and just enjoying playing and listening to Metal!!
Luxi: How do see 2014 unfolding for Artillery? Obviously, there will be touring and summer festivals to be done, but what else? What does your crystal ball tell you when you look at it?
Michael: Yes, there will be a lot of shows, festivals, etc. including a rescheduled American/Canadian tour from 2013.
To be honest I really feel this will be our best year up to date because of the following things:
Number one: I think we have recorded some of our best songs ever!
Number two: it is the best production for an Artillery album ever!
Number three: it is our strongest line-up since the early days
Number four: we are on a great label now and that will give us a great boost
Number five: we are a real touring band now; we able to tour the USA, etc.
Number six: we have still got the hunger for playing Thrash Metal
So 2014 looks really cool for Artillery, I think.
Luxi: Your previous label, Metal Mind Productions, released a DVD, titled One Foot in the Grave, the Other One in the Trash, in 2008, featuring your full concert at Metal Mania festival in 2008, along with some bonuses. Do you have any new DVD plans for the near future, or do you think you are done for time being?
Michael: Yeah, we still want to do another DVD with this line-up, even if there are a lot of DVDs getting published nowadays. But let's see...
Luxi: You are 53 now but it's been proved many times that getting older is just numbers, really. As long as you feel like doing the shit you like, nothing should stop you from doing it. Do you feel like you are living your youth for the second time these days, although you don't necessarily break your guitars or set them on fire at the end of each Artillery set anymore, ha-ha!!
Michael: To be honest, I really don't feel old at all, even if my girlfriend sometimes says "remember you're not in your twenties anymore." I still love this type of music, still love to play live, still love to record, still love doing interviews and stuff, so there's no reason to stop when I feel the way I do these days. It's the music that keeps you young and when the day comes when it's not fun anymore, I will stop. So maybe I will stop in 2030 or something, ha ha!
We still have a lot of ambitions and dreams for Artillery and, who knows, maybe all this will come true for us during the next year.
Luxi: That's it for now Michael. Thank you for your time and all the best for your forthcoming South American tour this November with Onslaught. Feel like throwing out some last comments to conclude this interview properly?
Michael: Thanks a lot for your support Luxi! And to all the Canadian thrashers and readers, look out we will come your way in 2014! Support Artillery, buy our new album Legions and come and see us live in 2014 and let's have a party! CHEERS!!!!!
|Other information about Artillery on this site|
|Review: By Inheritance|
|Review: One Foot In The Grave, the Other One In The Trash|
|Review: When Death Comes|
|Review: When Death Comes|
|Review: Penalty by Perception|
|Review: The Face of Fear|
|Interview with Søren Nico Adamsen (vocals) on January 17, 2009 (Interviewed by Daniel DGYDP Guerrero)|
|Video: 10.000 Devils|
|Video: Warrior Blood|
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