Interview with guitarist V.O. Pulver
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: November 27, 2016
Swiss thrashers Poltergeist reunited in 2013 after a 20-year break up. During the band's first incarnation from 1986 to 1994, Poltergeist released three well-received studio albums and played a good number of shows around Europe with such names as Destruction, Watchtower, Coroner, Despair and so on. On New Year's Eve 2013, something unexpected happened when two original Poltergeist members, André Grieder and V.O. Pulver, started talking about the old days. They thought it would a great idea to give Poltergeist another shot and things started rolling from that moment on
Poltergeist are back to haunt us again and this interview with the band's original guitarist V.O. Pulver covers Poltergeist's new life and the reasons behind it, the new album Back to Haunt and, of course, Poltergeist's old days couldn't be ignored... Read on!
Luxi: First off, congrats on the reunion and new album, Back to Haunt.
V.O.: Thank you! We are very happy with the new record, I must say!
Luxi: Was it an easy decision to bring Poltergeist back with André? The band had been away from the scene for almost 20 years and the music world has changed quite a bit since Poltergeist decided to call it quits in 1994...
V.O.: Well, it was not really planned or a thought-out decision to bring Poltergeist back. André, Marek and I met at my place New Year's Eve 2012/2013 and fooled around with an old vinyl album from Poltergeist and even posed with it for a picture. My wife posted it on Facebook and people started a massive demand for a Poltergeist reunion. Our old friend Sven (ex-Destruction) asked if he could take over the drums and after being a bit skeptical about the whole thing, we decided to meet for a session. During this session, we noticed how much fun it was to play the old stuff and thought we could give it a try...
Of course, the music business has been going downhill for the last few years but we didn't reunite to make lots of money (it's very hard anyways with this kind of music), but instead we just did it for the fun!
Luxi: Your bassist Marek Felis was involved with the reunion of Poltergeist in the fall of 2013 but decided to step aside in April 2016 due to personal reasons. His place was taken by Ralf Winzer Garcia. How did you find Ralf? Did you arrange auditions?
V.O.: Marek decided to leave the band this year due to burnout from his job and he wasn't really into the whole Metal thing anymore so we thought of another old friend as a replacement and that was Ralf. He's a great bass player and a really great person. After the first rehearsal, it was clear that he's the perfect replacement for Marek so there was no need for an audition.
Luxi: What are some of Ralf's best assets that he has brought into the band? Obviously, he's a great bassist due to his experience in bands like Requiem, Wolf Counsel, Piranha and so on...
V.O.: He's about the same age as us and grew up with the same music/bands as we did so it was an easy decision to ask him. He is also a good songwriter and singer, so in the future he will certainly be involved in the songwriting for the next album. Back to Haunt was already finished when he joined the band.
Luxi: Back to Haunt is the fourth Poltergeist album and is scheduled to be released by Pure Steel Records on October 21st, 2016. How did you end up on Pure Steel Records? Were there other labels that were interested in signing Poltergeist?
V.O.: When Back to Haunt was finished, we were looking for a label to release the record. We didn't get much response and I didn't want to release it on my own small label (LC Records) as I don't have time to give it proper attention. I am very busy with my recording studio (Little Creek) and the other three bands I'm currently playing with. Other than one other label, Pure Steel's was the only proper offer we received and fortunately, they really like the album and are specialized in "old-school Metal". I think this will work out nicely with them.
Luxi: What can you tell us about both the songwriting and the recording process for Back to Haunt? Was it smoother than you originally expected and is the final result better than you dreamed?
V.O.: I don't know; the songwriting wasn't that hard. I just tried to set my mind in the right mood to write a follow-up to our 1993 album Nothing Lasts Forever. I have a certain style of playing guitar/riffs and don't think too much about it. I just play until it sounds "right" to me. ;-). With the vocals, the first question was if André could still sing like in the old days but after the first vocal session it was clear that he could do everything we used to do back in the day. The recordings took place in many different sessions because my studio was quite booked the whole year. We just fired up the machines when we were ready and had already written a couple of new songs. Overall I would say the whole process went pretty smoothly for us.
Luxi: How many songs did you take into the recording studio with you? Was it just the 11 songs that ended up on the album?
V.O.: Actually, it was 12 songs. I think all of them will appear on the vinyl version of Back to Haunt. I don't know when this will be out as the pressing plants are really booked and the wait for vinyl is taking longer and longer.
Luxi: You recorded Back to Haunt at Little Creek Studio in Gelterkinden, Switzerland. How did you end up choosing this particular studio?
V.O.: As I already mentioned, this is my own studio and I have been working there since 2002. I have done a lot of albums and demos there over the years including Destruction, Pro-Pain, Panzer, etc. and, of course, my other bands like GurD or Pulver. Because recording/producing is my profession it was clear we would do it there and it also cut studio costs. ;-)
Luxi: Do you believe you managed to catch the same vibe and feeling for this new album that you had on your previous albums like Behind My Mask and Nothing Last Forever so that people will recognize it as Poltergeist?
V.O.: I hope so! To be honest, when you're involved in something that deeply it is easy to lose objectivity. Most people who hear Back to Haunt for the first time tell me it totally sounds like Poltergeist. I mean you've got André's voice and my style of playing guitar so it obviously sounds like Poltergeist. ;-) But everybody is free to check the album out and form their own opinion, of course!
Luxi: Are there any songs on this new Poltergeist album that may surprise some of the Poltergeist fans due to sounding a bit "different" than what fans have been used to hearing from you guys in the past?
V.O.: Yeah, probably "Beyond the Realms of Time" and some of the songs that Chasper has written ("And so It Has Begun" or "Shell Beach"). In some of those songs we tried out some unique ideas that we hadn't done before. We also included some twin guitars à la Maiden and since we have two guitars live nowadays we can also deliver these twin guitar parts on stage as well, which is simply great!
Luxi: Do you have any tour plans in the works for when Back to Haunt is out or will it mostly be weekend shows/festivals due to your jobs, families, etc.?
V.O.: We will see... As I already said, the music business is not what it used to be and we all are quite a bit older now and have our families to feed. If we manage to do a tour, it will have to make sense money-wise. The fact is that we simply cannot afford to go out on tour and lose a lot of money, so I guess it will come down to the weekend/festival thing mostly. That said we can't wait to hit the stage as much as possible!
Luxi: You did the 70,000 Tons of Metal cruise in 2014. How was the cruise for you and would you consider doing it again?
V.O.: That was amazing!!! Actually, the two shows on board the ship were the very first shows after the reunion. We would definitely do it again if they invited us! Let's cross our fingers...!
Luxi: If you look back in time to the first era of Poltergeist, how much would you say the music industry/scene has changed? The Internet revolution and all free downloads and shit changed many things for sure, collapsing record sales and so on but some people think that something good has undoubtedly come out of all this as well. What are your thoughts about this?
V.O.: That's a tough question. I think the Internet/downloading has for sure destroyed a lot of things in the music business. I mean there has always been piracy. Back in the 80s we recorded our friend's albums on tapes or from the radio. BUT in the end, when we liked something, we went to a record shop and bought the real thing. Nowadays, most of the young people don't give a fuck anymore about paying for something. Why should they pay for something that they can have completely for free? The music industry is also guilty for this whole disaster as they totally ignored the digital revolution for too long and instead of bringing the prices of CDs and LPs down, they priced them higher and higher and tried to avoid coming up with a proper way to legally obtain digital copies of albums. As it started to backfire, they just put their heads in the sand and started to sue a few teenagers instead of finding a clever solution.
These days, with the rise of streaming services like Spotify or Apple Music it's even worse. I mean, it's great to have access to almost every album ever made for a small amount of money per month, but for the artist it's a nightmare. 4-5 million streams per month earn only like $2000-$3000 dollars in a month for the whole band. How on earth do you pay the studio? The rent? Food? Let alone feed a family? It's all just totally fucked up! Unless you're a big act and can go out on tour to earn some money from shows and merchandise, you just lose money all the way. It's really frustrating and will have a big impact on the whole music business. The whole Heavy Metal/Hard Rock community was long left out of this mess because Metal fans tend to be loyal to the bands they like but I think these "old-school" people will go extinct over time and then it will be the same as all the other music genres. The other thing is that music does not have the same importance that it did back in the 60/70/80/90s. Nowadays you now have YouTube, computer games, Blu-rays, etc. and people are willing to pay big money for a cup of ugly Starbucks coffee but not one dollar for a song they like. We will see how all this is going to end, the ugly way, I am afraid.
Luxi: Poltergeist existed as Carrion from 1983-86 and even managed to release one full-length album on SriLanca Records (a sub-label of GAMA International) in 1986. That album is, of course, Evil Is There! which has gained a reputation as one of the more obscure and cult Metal albums. How proud are you of that record and what about all the make-up you used to boost Carrion's image back in the day?
V.O.: Ha ha hah...!! Proud may be the wrong word. Back then I was 15/16 years old we just wanted to play music which was new (Speed Metal as it was called at that time) and somehow we managed to gain a record deal. We did the record and had absolutely no influence on the mix, the cover or even the logo. We went to the recording studio, recorded the album and were sent home. After a while we received the finished album in the mail, which felt great, of course!
The make-up, fur and sword combination was the influence from other bands back in those days. When you look at pics from early Slayer, Venom, Hellhammer/Celtic Frost, Destruction, Mercyful Fate, etc. they all wore the typical stuff of those days; leather jackets, jeans, bullet belts, white top sneakers; the "Heavy Metal uniform." ;-)
Luxi: When you decided to change the band name from Carrion to Poltergeist back in 1986 and took on a whole new image, do you believe people in the music business took the band more seriously? Of course, at the very same time your musical skills developed and became more technical and professional...
V.O.: The main reason for the name change was the addition of André to the band. He was really able to sing, whereas I was just screaming/barking into the microphone. The other thing was we were disappointed by our label‚ GAMA Records. They had the option for another album so we just decided to rename ourselves and start a "new" band. Also V.C., the other guitar player, left Carrion and we were writing completely new songs with André so it basically WAS a new band.
Luxi: What are some of your most memorable shows or tours from the first period of Poltergeist's existence, 1986-1994?
V.O.: Hmmm... I would say there were some really cool shows that we were lucky enough to do back then. For example, we did some shows with Coroner and Watchtower in Germany and after our show the guys from Watchtower went to the merch booth and bought a Poltergeist shirt, which they wore during the show. We were totally stoked about this!
Also, the legendary show with Despair and Hades here in Switzerland was great. After that gig, Robert Kampf, who was still the singer for Despair at that time, offered us a deal on his newfound label Century Media because we got such a great response from the crowd. There were also some magical shows that we did with both Destruction and Kreator as far as I can remember - just way too many to remember all of them.
Luxi: Back to the current times with the last couple of questions. Once your comeback album, Back to Haunt, has officially been released how do you believe people will welcome it? Are you confident that fans of the band that dug Poltergeist back in the old days will also love this new album?
V.O.: To be honest with you, I have no idea. We will just release it and see what happens after that. Like I said, with the current state of the music business I don't have high expectations. And there's always a bunch of guys that think everything except the first album sucks anyway, so... ;-) The thing is you cannot make everybody happy so we just tried to make US happy with our new album, Back to Haunt.
Luxi: If you look into the future, how long do you believe Poltergeist will be in existence this time around? Do you believe that you have enough motivation, drive and heart put into this band that people can expect even more albums from Poltergeist in the future?
V.O.: I can't look into the future; I don't have any holes in my hands... ;-) I think it's relatively pointless to make predictions about the future because you just never know what's going to happen, you know.
Luxi: That's all I had in mind for this conversation, thanks a lot for your time and all the best both to you and Poltergeist in the future. May those famous last be yours...
V.O.: Thanx a lot for the interview and POLTER 'TIL DEATH!!! Cheerz! V.O.
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