Interview with Andreas "Lacky" Lakaw
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: April 18, 2015
Back in the 80's the Speed and Thrash Metal scene was booming all over the world. If the Americans had their Bay Area, we in Europe had our own scene known for producing bands like Kreator, Destruction, Celtic Frost, Tankard, Sodom, Violent Force, Exumer, Assassin and many others that mainly came from Germany prompting people to call it "Teutonic Thrash" and rightfully so. The Ruhrgebiet area of Germany was one of the most creative and fruitful areas for Thrash Metal in the 80's, like the Bay Area around San Francisco and it produced, among others, a four-piece act known as Darkness. Darkness recorded three full-length studio albums between 1987 and 1989 before splitting up in 1991. 1999 saw Darkness try to rise again but the attempt was unsuccessful. Another attempt happened in 2004 under the Erbe Euren moniker and featured three former Darkness members.
In December 2012 they played a show for the 25th anniversary of the Death Squad album with some old Darkness members as guests and that turned the tide for these German thrashers. It convinced the guys that Darkness was worth one more try.
Drummer Lacky, who has been in the Darkness line-up since the very beginning, took some time to talk about the reunion and why Darkness split in 1991 and things that happened in between.
Luxi: Darkness has descended once again. What brought about the re-grouping of Darkness?
Lacky: The topic has haunted me for the last 10 years or so. It may sound strange but no matter what we do musically, Thrash always comes to the surface. Maybe it has something to do with our The Evil Curse demo that we recorded back in 1985, hahaha!!!
Luxi: Was it hard to get the troops back together after Darkness split in 1991?
Lacky: It was hard. We tried to bring Darkness back in 1998 the first time with some friends in our rehearsal room but it did not work. No one's heart was in it. After that, the idea grew out of the band Eure Erben, which was Thrash with German lyrics.
Luxi: You and Arnd are the only guys left from the original Darkness line-up. How easy or difficult was it to find the new guys to complete the line-up; Meik Heitkamp on guitar, Dirk Hamilton on bass and Lee on vocals? How did you find them?
Lacky: In December, 2012 we played the Death Squad 25th anniversary show with the Eure Erben line-up and some old members like Bruno, Pierre and Timo. This appearance changed our view of things and we made a break with Eure Erben and moved our energy to the "dark side."
Meik and his band were lodgers in our rehearsal room so we've known him for some time. He is a great guitar player but our friend Bony was in that position so we planned on Meik playing bass. Then Speesy joined us. Darkness has always been a 5-person band so Arnd had to sing. We recorded one new song and everything seemed good. Bony left to play more with his own band Japanische Kampfhörspiele. Speesy then brought Dirk, an old friend of the band, back in case Speesy went on tour with Kreator. For simplicity, Dirk is a permanent member now. As you can see it was not that easy to find a functional line-up but I think we've managed it!
Luxi: Lee was the last addition to the Darkness line-up. I am curious to know how his vocals fit with Darkness and can he be compared to either Oliver or Rolf in terms of how he sings?
Lacky: To replace Bony we tried a couple of guitarists but one of the best was already in the band, namely Arnd. So a singer had to be found! I knew Lee had a band and a powerful voice. Spessy got in touch with him, we met and decided to give it a try. In his other band he is more into growling but that doesn't work for Darkness. We spent eight weeks rehearsing and made a few test recordings and suddenly it worked! The old spirit was back. It's more of the Death Squad/Defenders of Justice style than Conclusion & Revival.
Luxi: Obviously you have some new Darkness material ready so can you give us an idea of what we can expect from you guys in the coming months?
Lacky: Yes, some songs are done. There will be a new album this year! We will not reinvent the wheel but we know how to turn it in the right direction! Some advance stuff will be released in the next few weeks.
Luxi: Have you become more critical of your songwriting over the years? I have to assume you won't want to put out any shitty material with this new Darkness but maintain the same musical quality the band had in the past, right?
Lacky: We will do a good job, I'm sure. Many of the old heroes will no longer dare to record a nice old-school thrash album but we will!
Luxi: How important is it for Darkness to stay true to the original Thrash roots with new songs as I'm sure that's something fans are ultimately expecting?
Lacky: We did not have to search for our roots, they were still there. For me, it's very important to stay true or it will not work. I'm a musician in this band and also the biggest fan of Darkness!
Luxi: You have uploaded two new Darkness demo songs ("L. a.W." and "Hate Is My Engine") to your official Soundcloud page and in my humble opinion you have captured the spirit and feel of old Darkness pretty well, especially with "Hate Is My Engine" a full-blown thrasher. Does "H.I.M.E." represent Darkness' current song direction?
Lacky: Yes, I think that "Hate" leaves a good first impression as to the direction of the new material. "L.a.W." (which stands for "Laughter and Wrath") was just a rehearsal bootleg and sounds much better in its current version. We have all the features of our first two records included in the new material with enough fast parts, some mid-tempo riffs, melodic solo stuff and recognizable shouts and refrains.
Luxi: Are there some other song titles that you would like to reveal to the fans?
Lacky: Some songs are done, including the lyrics, for example "Pay a Man," "Freedom on Parole" and "This Bullet". Others are still being prepared. Some of the working titles are "Mephisto," "Too Much," "Empire of Evil" and "War."
Luxi: Is your intention to make a demo and start shopping it to the labels?
Lacky: Yes, that is part of our plan! A single, mainly for promotion and for booking agents, will be out in April this year. We've gotten some offers but maybe there are some more. We don't want to make the same mistakes we did back in 1987 with Gama Records.
Luxi: Your original vocalist Oliver Fernickel, who sang on the first two Darkness albums, died in February 1988 due to heart failure and Rolf Druschel, who sang on Darkness' third album, Conclusion & Revival, sadly met the same fate as Oliver. Have you ever felt like this band is cursed in some way?
Lacky: For sure this band is cursed! It is not only for singers, though. As some of you know I sang on Darkness' first two demo tapes yet I'm alive, ha ha!!
Luxi: Have you kept in touch with any of the ex-members of Darkness (Detlef Bartfeld, Pierre Danielczyk, Thomas Becker, etc.)?
Lacky: As I mentioned earlier, Pierre, Bruno Detlef and Timo did the anniversary show with us. We are still in contact. We have experienced a lot together and that's definitely a connecting thing. Bruno visited us two weeks ago, heard the new stuff and he liked it.
Luxi: How much do you miss the old times with them and Darkness? Undoubtedly you played live quite a bit, especially around the time of your first two albums, right? Back then you were young, wild and strong and now you are just wild and strong, ha ha... ;o)
Lacky: The times were hard and sometimes evil but we had a lot of fun. We were discoverers of a new world of Metal music and this is the excitement I miss most of all. And it's true, the bones ache today more, hahaha!!!
Luxi: What was it like playing at the "Keep It True" festival back in 2006? Were you well received by the crowd and did this experience leave an impression on you?
Lacky: This event back in 2006 was really special. Before the introduction began the crowd was calling for Darkness. They were unbelievable during the whole show. We did not know until then how popular the band still was. We celebrated the party with the audience until sunrise.
Luxi: The last studio album, Conclusion & Revival, was released in 1989 and is considered a weak spot in the Darkness catalog, not being on par with either Death Squad or Defenders of Justice. Do you remember what happened between Defenders of Justice and Conclusion & Revival? Was the band in some sort of crisis or did you simply want to broaden your sound a little bit?
Lacky: We did not know where the journey was going. The split with the old line-up left its mark on us. Our plan was to invent a new Darkness, more technical and experimental, but still Thrash. It was not the easiest way but I guess we recorded some really good songs. Ray was a great singer but not for a Thrash band. Maybe we should have taken the safe route but that was never our thing!
Luxi: Why did you break up the band in 1991? Did it have something to do with a lack of motivation within Darkness or was it lack of interest from the labels?
Lacky: After Conclusion & Revival we wanted to restart the band. Ray was fired, Bony (as a young boy) joined the band and Arnd was set for guitar and vocals. We rehearsed together for months and were booked for two tours but both were cancelled and that's when our motivation hit its lowest point. Everyone was searching for new ways to make music and the band broke up.
Luxi: What made you and Arnd decide to re-join forces as Eure Erben back in 2004 not just come back as Darkness?
Lacky: Arnd and I are not fans of reunions just for money or similar motives but we wanted to play together again. The idea of Rock or Metal music with German lyrics seemed awesome so we started Eure Erben with no ulterior motives to come back as Darkness some day. While we composed new songs it was still fun to play the old stuff too. Then we had the idea to re-record a Darkness song using German lyrics. We had a lot of fun and step-by-step the new Eure Erben material turned to old school Thrash Metal. This is why the album Terror 2.0 exists; it's a "thank you" to the Darkness fans. We began a Darkness reunion without actually realizing it, ha ha!!
Luxi: You have the Bäääm Festival in Germany coming up at the end of July this year (2015). The line-up looks really interesting; Refuge, Vicious Rumors, Necronomicon, Mystic Prophecy, etc., so you will be in a good company...
Lacky: That's right, we cannot wait to go on stage! That's the main reason why we are still here and making new music.
Luxi: How does 2015 look for Darkness as far as playing live is concerned?
Lacky: All I can say is that we are also booked for more festivals so keep your eyes open! ;o)
Luxi: There's a true Thrash Metal revival that's been going on for many years and several once defunct Thrash Metal bands have made comebacks and are even creating new stuff, which is great. What do you think about this and especially some of the original Teutonic Speed/Thrash bands (Protector, Exumer, Iron Angel, S.D.I. and so on) that have been dug up from their graves?
Lacky: Some are good and some didn't need to be done, I think. I do not know if the scene wanted us back again. Anyway, in January 2016 we will share the stage with S.D.I. in Emden, Germany. I'm looking forward to that one, of course. Let's see what the scene will bring us in the future...
Luxi: Are there some German Speed/Thrash Metal groups that you'd like to see reform?
Lacky: No! All that I want to see and hear is already there!
Luxi: One more question and then I let you go. When can we expect a new Darkness album and what do you expect from this year? Oh, sorry, that was 2 questions, but in any case...
Lacky: Okay, I will answer your question in one sentence; the new Darkness album is planned for autumn and that's realistic for us. A new CD-single will see the light of the day in a few weeks. Some shows will also be played. And the so-called "Big Bang" will come in 2016. Oh sorry, that was four sentences, but in any case... he he heh!!!
Luxi: Thank you for taking some time with my questions Lacky and I want to wish you all the best in the future with Darkness. Thrash on. Any last words?
Lacky: Thank you for your interest. If you want to know what is happening next in the Darkness camp simply visit our homepage www.darkness-thrash.de or make some comments on facebook.com/darknessdeathsquad. We want to keep in touch with each of you. Thrash till death!!!
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