Interview with vocalist and guitarist Schmier
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: December 15, 2019
One of the Big Four of German Thrash Metal, Destruction formed in 1982 and have traveled a long road from their earliest days. Many studio albums and world tours later, they are still here playing their uncompromising Teutonic Thrash, staying loyal to their roots and pushing forward with all guns blazing. The band's 12th Schmier-era studio album, Born to Perish, brought the band back to being a four-piece again, introducing guitarist Damir Eskić and drummer Randy Black to the band's recording lineup. The album was welcomed with open arms, living up to fan expectations with many stating Born to Perish is these legendary thrashers' best album in many years.
The band was booked to Steelchaos Festival, which took place at the soon-to-be-dismantled Nosturi venue in the capital of Finland, Helsinki, on November 8 and 9, 2019. Destruction shared the stage with Barathrum, Behexen, Mgla, etc., on the first day of the event.
The Metal Crypt met the always friendly Schmier just a couple of hours prior to showtime, and in the following interview many topics, including the new lineup, new album, future touring plans, change of music industry, etc., were covered.
Luxi: Welcome back to freezing Finland, Schmier!
Schmier: Haha... It's great to be back! This is actually my favorite club here. This is where we had the best shows in Finland. It's a place with a lot of Rock and Roll history. I heard this place will be dismantled soon so it will be the last time we play here.
Luxi: I know. It's sad this place will be gone soon.
Schmier: Yes, as it's the very last time we will play here, it's a special show for sure.
Luxi: Yes. It's going to be great. As you may know, the event is sold out tonight.
Schmier: Yes. That sounds great, of course!
BACK TO FOUR-PIECE AGAIN
Luxi: Let's talk about your new four-piece lineup for starters, shall we? When you added Damir Eskić to the band's lineup, how did he change the dynamics of the band? Did he make things a bit easier for you, songwriting and live-wise, knowing how good he is as a musician? You have two guitarists in the band nowadays, does that make things easier, especially in a live situation?
Schmier: Sharing is caring, you know? [*laughs*]
It's a good thing to have two guitarists in the band. First of all, we have a great chemistry in the band. He's a great guy. We have known each other for many years. He and Mike get along really well. For Mike, it's a little relief that he can finally share everything he does as there was a bit of pressure on him, not to mention Damir is a great backup for him. On the other side, it's double guitar power for the band. It's a win-win situation. For me, I was worried in the beginning how we're going to manage the stage together because our three-piece lineup was well oiled, running for many years. Actually, it worked really well because Damir is also a very professional guy. He saw right away what's needed in the band, how to move and he has lots of stage experience. He became a great team member pretty quick. It was much easier than I thought, and if we would have found him earlier, we would have had him in the band 20 years ago because it feels really comfortable.
Luxi: Did you find him through his other band, Gonereas (now Gomorra)?
Schmier: Actually, he played with us in Finland many years ago. They supported us at some shows and he's also the husband of the guitar player from Burning Witches, which is a band I manage. We have known each other for a long time. We worked together closely on those things for a while, especially with Burning Witches at the studio and everything, and then Damir played some solos on the last album on Under Attack. He played two leads.
It was the time to finally take this step (adding a second guitarist) because for many years, Mike and I have talked about bringing in a second guitar player. We talked to Ol Drake from Evile for a while but then Evile split up, Ol Drake retired for a while. He had a baby, just normal things that musicians go through, you know, this family thing and stuff. Ol Drake was out of the race for the job and then we put the second guitar plans away again.
I was looking at our career, how much time we have left and thought if we don't do it now, we might never do it. I talked to Mike, I said, "Mike, come on! I know the right guy." It was actually Mille from Kreator who said to me, "What's about the second guitar now? You've talked about it for years, but it never happens." I said, "Yes because we can't find the right guy." I explained the story, then he's like, "Yes, but Damir, he's your best friend and an amazing player, why don't you get him into the band?" And I was like, "Yes, that's a good question." Then we talked and then things went quick and now he's a part of the band.
Luxi: I guess you feel lucky to have him in the band now, right?
Schmier: Sometimes stuff that's too close seems far away. But I'm glad we did it and it's never too late for a change in the band. A lineup change can be a nice refresher. That is something also we saw with Randy, when he came into the band. He's such a motivated musician. It's good to have some new vibes, some fresh blood, people that are hungry for music. When you do this for a long time, you can get tired and fed up with the business and everything. That's always the risk of being a musician for too long. With new guys, we have brought in some fresh blood that really works really well for the band.
TWO RULES IN ROCK 'N' ROLL BUSINESS THAT YOU SHOULD NOT BREAK
Luxi: Your new drummer Randy Black joined the band in 2018 and he's quite an animal behind his drum kit, obviously bringing a lot of energy into Destruction. Randy has quite a respectable career in many bands, playing in Primal Fear, Annihilator, W.A.S.P., and so on. How did he become available for Destruction in the first place?
Schmier: In 2010 or '11, I think it was '11, we were looking for a drummer. I talked to Randy but he was playing with Primal Fear and they are a German band, friends of ours. I was like, "If I steal Randy from Primal Fear, it's going to bad. It's going to bad vibes, bad karma." I don't like that shit. You don't do this. You don't steal musicians from other bands and you don't fuck your friend's girlfriend. Two rules in Rock and Roll.
We talked to Randy and he was very interested in Destruction back then. In 2015, I think, our drummer, Vaaver had a second baby and he couldn't come with us to America on tour. We did a seven-week tour with several stops around the States and Randy came in. He jumped in. He was available at the time and since then we kept in contact. When Vaaver said he was leaving the band, we talked to Randy first and said, "Hey, we need your help. We have a lot of shows and no drummer at the end of the year when Vaaver stops."
Randy did a lot of shows with us and it was like a test run. He played a tour in Latin America, a tour in Asia, all the festivals. We asked him to stay because we tested one more drummer, another very good German drummer, but Randy was so much into the songs already. He was very motivated. I like when I see the motivation somebody has, and then we kept him in the band.
Luxi: He really isn't considered a Thrash Metal drummer but I guess that doesn't really matter because an experienced drummer is always an experienced drummer so when he decided to join Destruction, he obviously knew that he will jump into a true and uncompromising Thrash Metal game this time around, right?
Schmier: Yes. Annihilator plays pretty fast stuff too, but, of course, Destruction is more work for him.
Luxi: Yes, I believe it is. Playing in Destruction must be like a workout for him.
Schmier: Haha... He's a very fit guy. Of course, Thrash Metal is very physical, but he's a very fit person. It was a challenge for him. He said, "This is my biggest challenge as a drummer so far." Destruction has a lot of fast songs, it's a very physical, and also some technical stuff. But he took the challenge, and this way he stays young.
Luxi: When both Randy and Damir were in the band, did it feel like a fresh start for Destruction from your point of view?
Schmier: There's some bands that change the style, which is something we would never do for Destruction. We try to stay true to our roots. We try to do what we can do best, which is Thrash Metal and it's very silly to change what you are. When Randy came into the band, of course, it was a new kick. Also, musically, Randy contributed to songs on this album which was great because I told him, "Hey, bring me some beats. When I'm writing songs, I would love to hear some beats. Bring me some beats, then we can use your beats for the songs that we write." That's what we did on two songs, and one was the title track, "Born to Perish" and I think it turned out really good. Without his drum contribution, it wouldn't be the same song.
It definitely brought us some new inspiration but that's the great thing about working with different musicians. I really enjoyed it. That's why I'm also working with Burning Witches at the studio as a manager. That's why I did Panzer besides Destruction for a while. That's the biggest gift you have as a musician, to share what you have, the experience, the style and I really enjoy that. With the two new guys now, hopefully, we're going to have many more good albums to come because the band is inspired again, and we have a great time together.
... WITH TWIN GUITAR ATTACK, ALL GUNS BLAZING
Luxi: With this lineup, you recorded the band's new album, Born to Perish, which is a very powerful and energetic Destruction release, maintaining all those trademark ingredients that make it sound like a Destruction album. How important is it for you to stay loyal to your roots and not make too many compromises within the band's well-recognized sound? You, of course, are the main filter in the band to say, "Okay, we can use this and we can use that, but I don't want to stretch our sound too much in order to stay focused on our original Desyruction roots."
Schmier: Refreshing the sound was always an option. It's been 20 years since the reunion. Twenty-five years we've been limiting ourselves with one guitar. There was always a question in the studio, "How much do we do in the studio? How far do we go?" And we always try to keep it simple in the studio because of the fact that we only have one guitar. Now with two guitars, for the first time we could shoot with all guns blazing because I knew how I'd use the two guitars. I had two guitars with Panzer, I had two guitars with Destruction back in the day. It's great to work with two guitars and for Thrash Metal especially. For us, it had to be the right guy; the right guy that really fits in the band and has the skills and the personality.
Luxi: There's one song on this new album called "Butchered for Life" that introduces a different side of Destruction, perhaps being an atypical Destruction track with a more mellow mood and soundscape. How did this song come about anyway?
Schmier: Yes, it has the same background. We wrote a song called "Reject Emotions" back in the day when we had two guitars. For an acoustic song like this, you need two guitars to perform it live. Some fans always ask for "Reject Emotions", especially live. We didn't play it for many years and I said to Mike, "Now we can play 'Reject Emotions' again with two guitars because it's a cool song and it marked this two-guitar phase for us, or we could even write a new song like 'Reject Emotions'."
Then Mike said, "Let's do it" and we wrote "Reject Emotions" part two. Basically, we wanted to try it out and we said, "If it's good enough we will put it on the album and let's see how it turns out." But it was great fun to do something different because I think the album is very dark and heavy and brutal and this song stands out in a different way. It was funny to see the first reactions on the record. When you ask people, "What's your favorite song and what's your highlight of the album? Many people say, "Butchered for Life" is the song I like because it stands out." We are thinking about next year when we do the world tour that we may put it into live set. We'll see... Definitely it was a nice challenge to try something like this again. I remember when we did "Reject Emotions" back in the day, it was a big challenge for us because it's something new that we did, and not everybody liked it. On the other side, now thirty years later, we do what we want. We don't do what the fans want us to do. We do what we like. It always gives the best results.
Luxi: You have songs like "Tyrants of the Netherworld" and the album's title track that are straightforward, hard-pounding Thrash numbers. Does this aggression connect with the strange syndrome, the older you get, the angrier you become?
Schmier: Yes. I always say when people get old in this business as musicians, they usually start to play either Blues or Jazz. This is not going to happen to me.
Luxi: Yes indeed, one can say so when they get to hear those songs themselves... ;o)
Schmier: Yes. I think it's a motivation that you do get older and stay angry. Of course, for us, the inspiration is the world. For me, lyric-wise, I still have content to write about. But also it's important as a band that you don't slow down. We have to defend what we once started. There's a lot of examples in the business where bands can start to slow down, start to change the style when they get older, like, "Oh, I'm older, I take it easy." Yes, but then you lose your identity. I think that we're well aware of that. Some people call us boring because we do what we can best, but I call this our own style, and I call this a distinctive sound.
That's something you have to achieve. Once you have it, it's stupid to give it away. That's why people call Judas Priest and AC/DC boring, too, or Rush. I think we're happy that we have reached a point where we have our own sound and if somebody hears a Destruction song, you can tell right away that's us and I think that's a big achievement.
ROOTS THRASHY ROOTS
Luxi: Yes it's very important to stay focused and stick to your roots to a certain extent at least. There are a plenty of Destruction fans out there who actually appreciate this factor in your music and I think that's also the reason you kept your fans close for all these years.
Schmier: Yes, thank you. I think it's an important thing. Of course, I think the new album also proves that this lineup is very functional and we're still able to write good songs. When you get older, it's easy to maintain the same and I think we managed to write some good songs that will stand out in our set list hopefully as new Thrash anthems of the future.
Luxi: Whose idea was it to cover Tygers of Pan Tang's "Hellbound"?
Schmier: We're huge fans since we're little boys. Tygers of Pan Tang was '81, one of the first Metal albums that I loved from England. I became a big fan back in the day, and the Spellbound album was the highlight of their career. After that, the band went more towards American Rock and lost a little bit of the spark. It's actually an example of the thing we just talked about, when you grow older and you lose your style.
But I still love those albums and they're big inspiration. Kreator covered "Gangland" many years ago. That's why we never covered Tygers because Kreator did, and then I said this time, "Hey, why don't we cover Tygers?"
John Deverill was an amazing singer. You need some self-confidence to perform their song as a singer. I was like, "Let's try it." For me, it's a total classic of the new wave of British Heavy Metal. I still like Tygers actually. The last album was not so bad actually. They have a new one right now. I saw the video yesterday, and the last album had some really good songs. They're still around and they could be our grandfathers, basically. It's the first generation before us that started Heavy Metal basically.
LIVE WITHOUT SENSE – PART TWO?
Luxi: As you know, it's been 30 years since Destruction's first live album, Live Without Sense, was released in 1989. Have you ever thought of doing another live album as it's been "a while" since your last live albums came out, some thirty years ago...
Schmier: We could. People are starting now to ask for a live album again. I think this is something we might think about next year. Maybe do a live album, maybe do a DVD again or something that direction. The music world is changing nowadays. I see it everywhere, so we don't know what's next year is going to be, if we're still going to be able to do a DVD even because nowadays everything is digitalized.
I'm totally open to stuff like this and I think you will hear tonight that Destruction sounds strong in 2019 and that's why we made those shirts. It says, "Stronger than ever," because some fans actually came with those shirts to the show, made these Destruction shirts, "Stronger than ever 2019." We were like, "Hey... Yes, cool shit!" We bootlegged our own shirt from the fans, but let's see what next year will bring, but hopefully this new lineup will have a lot of shows. We have a lot of offers for concerts next year, so it's going to be a busy one.
Luxi: The songs on that live album were chosen from when you were doing your Release from Agony tour in 1987-88. How much can you still remember from that tour? I can imagine they probably were some of the best times with Destruction that you'll always remember in your life. You even did this Heavy Sound Festival in Belgium in 1988, playing together with Sodom, Tankard, and Rage.
Schmier: Yes. The Release from Agony tour was the biggest tour we did back then, especially recording a live record. We did our very first big American tours with Cro-Mags, and we toured two and a half months in the States. It almost killed the band because it was two and a half months in a van. But we had a lot of experience and this was, of course, the highlight to us. We did tour before with Motörhead also; we toured with Motörhead and King Diamond. I had some really big shows at the time. Those were the highlight of the Destruction years. People think Sentence of Death and Infernal Overkill were the highlights, but the highlight for us was basically that time when we had two guitars when we played the live shows with Motörhead. We played at least 200 shows with Motörhead at that time. We did those very successful American tours and those were the amazing times. Then the band split up afterwards, of course, but this was the highlight of the band's career back in the day.
FUTURE – WHAT WILL BE ON THE TABLE?
Luxi: Obviously you have some very good memories from that tour, right?
Schmier: Yes I remember quite a lot actually from back in the day. I started writing some memoirs last year and I was like, "Wow. I remember so much." You have to be quick. Who knows in five years it might gone.
Luxi: You should write a book about them as obviously you have some great stories to tell.
Schmier: Yes I should. I'm now collecting ideas about it, and then maybe going to talk to somebody that is more experienced about this and we'll see. It would be interesting, something new to do for me.
Luxi: Talking about the future, you have this Thrash Alliance European tour coming up in February 2020 with Legion of the Damned, Suicidal Angels and Final Breath. After that, do you take a little break before this summer festival season comes around?
Schmier: No Scandinavia and no Finland yet.
Luxi: Yes, I did notice that. So, my question is when?
Schmier: We're planning to do Scandinavian and Finland after this tour because Legion of the Damned only had February to do this tour. We will restructure our tour in three European legs. One is the one we do it now. That's the announced Thrash Alliance. Then the next part will be Scandinavia and Nordic countries and East Europe, and then we want to do one with South European countries like Italy, Spain, Greece, Portugal and England together, I think, maybe.
Luxi: I guess it's logistically more demanding to arrange a tour up here in the north part of Europe due to the winter season and stuff.
Schmier: It's difficult, yes. It's kind of complicated. It's a lot of traveling and circumstances in winter are very difficult. You cannot really tour Scandinavia in December or January. We did before and it was a disaster. We also did the same thing in East Europe. We toured East Europe three years ago in January, February and it was the coldest weeks of my life, because many venues there didn't have proper heat and even the bus was freezing inside. It was -25 degrees outside and stuff. We were like "Fuck that."
Luxi: It must have been quite tough touring in those conditions...
Schmier: Yes, but now we have experienced that, we are wiser, haha!
Luxi: What do you have on the drawing board for next year? You have the summer festival season coming up but what about after? Have you been talking about going to Australia, Asia, etc.?
Schmier: After the summer festival season, which we will, of course, do, we have made some other touring plans already. We're going to do Australia, hopefully with Asia together. We're going to do, for sure, the United States and Canada in the second part of the year and then we will go back to Latin America. That is also all planned after summer, and before summer we do the whole European part, I think. That's the plan at the moment.
Luxi: And after the touring cycle you start working with new stuff again...
Schmier: Then we hopefully have a lot of great ideas for a new album. Maybe next year we can cut our time for life more, so that will be interesting. We just don't know what's going to happen because all the labels are changing now, too, with the politics of releasing stuff. Streaming music is becoming more popular and who knows? Maybe one day albums are just going to come out special editions, CDs and vinyl and the main part will be streaming. That's actually the future, I guess. We will see how we're going to work that out with the label in the future.
Luxi: How do you feel about Nuclear Blast as the label has become a dominant label amongst all the other Metal labels? There's no denying their roster of bands is pretty unbeatable these days...
Schmier: We'll see how that goes because Nuclear Blast's owner has sold the ownership.
Luxi: That certainly doesn't sound good...
Schmier: I'm not a fan of these kinds of things, of big fusions and all that when bigger companies eat smaller companies. That happened to Nuclear Blast now, too. I had almost 20 years on this label. It was the best years I ever had with a label. Now it's a new era, we'll see how it goes. A lot of stuff will change because the industry changes, and I'm staying positive. I hope we can continue working with Nuclear Blast in the future, but, of course, they will have a lot of changes too.
As I said, of course, they have a lot of bands but I don't know if it's going to stay like this, because bigger companies have expectations of how the future will go. The company that bought Nuclear Blast is Belief. It's a French label that just does digital. I heard, on the other hand, they will also be sold to a bigger internet company, which I can't name yet. We'll have to see. I cannot spread rumors now here in interviews.
Luxi: Curious people have this option to google around a bit to kill their own curiosity...
Schmier: Exactly. At one point everything is going to be Google and Sony and McDonald's.
Luxi: A cool thing about Destruction is that when we're strictly talking about promotion, it's the Destruction name itself that does a big part of the promotion for you. I mean, you have your loyal followers all around the world, thousands and thousands of them, and so as long as they are there for you, you know the band is still doing some things right...
Schmier: I hope so. I mean, a good thing is nowadays we can also do promotional sales on the internet. We have more than half a million people on Facebook that follow us. We have a lot of people on Instagram, too. Instagram is growing so quickly. We've got 1,000 new followers on Instagram every week at the moment. I think one day we won't need a label anymore maybe. That's the next thing.
Luxi: Promoting things in general through social media sites is the future of promotion, no doubt. Alright, I think I'm going to cut this here now because this place is getting a bit too noisy...
Schmier: Okay...it's getting wild here.
Luxi: Thank you for your time Schmier and all the best for your show tonight as well!
Schmier: Always a pleasure meeting you, thanks for coming over!
|Other information about Destruction on this site|
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|Review: Eternal Devastation|
|Review: Day of Reckoning|
|Review: Spiritual Genocide|
|Review: Under Attack|
|Review: Thrash Anthems II|
|Review: Born to Perish|
|Review: Born to Perish|
|Interview with vocalist and bassist Schmier on February 19, 2017 (Interviewed by Luxi Lahtinen)|
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