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Interviews Destruction

Interview with vocalist and bassist Schmier

Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen

Date online: February 19, 2017


Live photos by Luxi Lahtinen
Thanks to Silke Yli-Sirniö from Tough Enough Promotion for setting up the interview

Long-running German Thrash veterans Destruction released their 13th full-length album Under Attack on Nuclear Blast Records in May 2016 and it seemed to go down very well among fans of the band. In many ways it felt like Destruction wanted to renew their sound a bit, one that was fresh and had more of a Rock 'n' Roll vibe in the songs.

Destruction's Europe Under Attack 2017 tour started in Freiburg, Germany, on January 11th and the band arrived in Helsinki, Finland, on January 18th with all-female Brazilian thrashers Nervosa and Switzerland's (Power) Metallers Gonoreas. Yours truly managed to meet up with Destruction's always polite frontman Schmier with the purpose of discussing the current comings and goings of the band plus how the world sucks nowadays.

Luxi: First off, welcome to Finland again Schmier. What do you remember of your last visit here?

Schmier: I remember the festivals not so long ago. We played at one outdoor festival in Oulu, Finland, some years ago which was located somewhere up there in the north.

Luxi: You must mean Jalometalli festival, I assume...

Schmier: Jalometalli, yes. We've been here a couple of times but not in the big cities. The last time we played was 2008, I think. The last time we played in Helsinki was 2008. It's not a Thrash Metal market in Finland. They like either the melodic music or a lot of Korpiklaani, how was that called, Pagan Folk Metal or something...

Luxi: Yes, perhaps closer to "Humppa" Metal, haha!

Schmier: Yes. For Thrash bands, it's difficult to come to Finland. I'm glad we're back.

Luxi: I'm glad too.

Schmier: It's about time. I am hoping to play the festival again, like the Tuska festival.

EUROPE UNDER ATTACK

Luxi: How has the Europe Under Attack tour started for you guys? You have played six shows so far with 19 shows coming up, including this show here in Helsinki, Finland...

Schmier: We had a good start. Yesterday was a little rough. Tampere was on Tuesday, so it was little difficult to do but it was still a good show in the end. Most importantly, we're getting along with all the bands very well. They've toured with us before so we already knew them, which, of course, is very nice. We have a good atmosphere in the bus. And then, you know, if you have a good crew, you can go through everything. So far, we haven't had any problems.

On the last tour, we had bus breakdowns and all kinds of things. So far, knock-on-wood, everything is going smoothly and we have had some fun. The best show on this tour that we have done so far, I would say happened in Stockholm, Sweden. Stockholm was wild and we had been looking forward to playing there for a while. It was a good turn out and really, for the Swedish people, a crazy crowd. Everybody is like, "Oh, what's happening to those Swedes today?" They were like wild. It was nice.

Luxi: I agree. In Sweden they seem to pull good crowds for Thrash Metal gigs.

Schmier: Yes. We played there last year, too. We played two festivals in Sweden and realized there were a lot of thrashers in the mosh pit. It was nice to see.

Luxi: Very cool! As you mentioned, you have Brazi's female thrashers Nervosa and Switzerland's Gonoreas on the first part of the tour supporting you and young German thrashers Rezet will join later on. How did you end up getting these names on the same tour?

Schmier: Damir (Eskic), the guitar player of Gonoreas, he's actually the husband of one of the girls that I manage in a band called Burning Witches. It's an all-girl outfit and when we were going on tour, they asked me, "What about the opening slot?" They heard that the opening slot was free and we talked about it. Basically, I recommend the bands write us and I'll see what I like, what I don't like and we choose then our booking agent deals with them, you know.

Basically, it's a mixture of the usual management stuff and preferring to bring somebody that you know or that you like or that you like the music of, like Rezet. That band is on the other half of the tour. They are a young Thrash band, doing the old school stuff and are kids in their 20's so that's always fun to have.

That's something that our fans will like. The Swiss guys in Gonoreas are more like a Power Metal type of band. For them, it was a little bit more difficult but actually they had a good turn out. They said it was a little rough for them to play in Tampere yesterday. I mean, after their gig yesterday, they were a little disappointed but that happens, of course!

Luxi: Exactly. And if you play in the middle of the week, these things can happen to almost any band every now and then...

Schmier: Yes, people show up late and they come for the headliner and then, of course, if they want to buy merchandise, they're going to buy Nervosa's because Nervosa is here for the first time and people that come to these shows will support the Thrash bands because it's more like a Thrash code, you know.

Luxi: Under Attack is Destruction's 13th studio album (counting Cracked Brain, which Schmier wasn't involved with, plus Thrash Anthems which mostly contained rerecorded Destruction songs) and I have to admit that it is a very strong album and most of the Destruction the world over seem to agree. When you started the songwriting process for Under Attack did you have a fertile pool of great ideas for the record?  

Schmier: I think a good preparation for me for this album was writing the Panzer album. This Panzer project I did was really great fun and the writing was easy and the studio worked out perfectly. When I started writing for Destruction, I had momentum from Panzer I just kept on going. I wasn't afraid I was going to interrupt or something because I wrote a totally different material for Destruction.

For me, the Panzer album was a great change that gave me a lot of good energy and positive vibes for writing this Destruction album. Sometimes you just have a good flow, sometimes you start writing and nothing comes out. I had those periods that I couldn't write shit and I asked Mike, "have you got some good ideas?" because I don't have shit. For this album, though, I had a lot of great ideas and it was great fun to do. Sometimes, you just have a good flow you know.

Luxi: As for the album's title, it's very easy to get the message; we are under attack all the time in this world. All sorts of terrorist attacks seem to be a part of our daily life these days, plus we can never get rid of all the wars as history has proven already...

Schmier: When we recorded the album it wasn't as bad as it is now, so I don't know if I would've called the album Under Attack if all the terror attacks had happened out of respect to those people who died. It's kind of tough to see what's going on at the moment. I've been written about stuff like that and people weren't aware this kind of thing could really happen.

Now we know everything is possible even in Sweden or in Finland, who knows. I've always written about that kind of stuff because we get to see the world; we travel and talk to people. You see the changes, you see what happens everywhere. For me, it's a release to write about that stuff and as a Thrash Metal band, it's in our veins to talk about things that bother us, basically.

Luxi: You get the message through your lyrics easily with Destruction...

Schmier: Of course, with aggressive music it just fits you know. Not everybody wants to hear the truth, sometimes in funky times like now people would rather sing about rainbows and unicorns just to forget what the reality is. They don't want to see the reality but the Thrash bands are pointing the finger at it. That's a part of our game. Maybe it's frustrating but for me it's like therapy. If I will see all this shit on TV and I write about it, at least I get the anger out.

Luxi: Writing about those bad things and wrapping them up with some aggressive and brutal music is your personal way to release the burden from your mind...

Schmier: Yes, when I start to write lyrics I don't force myself to write about anything specific. I see something and then I sit down and write some ideas. When I started writing a song later on, I pick up the ideas and then I write lyrics about the ideas. That's why our new album Under Attack has some different stuff, like all the "playback bands" nowadays; I mean those bands that use backing tracks all the way.

It's something you see on festivals and you are like, "What the fuck, what is wrong with the bands nowadays? Why is nobody playing live anymore and everybody is using backing tracks?" And not just backing vocals, but also guitars and keyboards and all kinds of stuff. It's kind of something that bothers me so much that I felt like writing about it and, of course, nobody wants to talk about it.

I talked to the main guy in the Sweden Rock some days ago and he said, "thank you for writing about it because nobody is talking about it." Everybody is trying to hide it, even the young bands nowadays, even if they play old-school music. For the backing vocals and keyboards, they use backing tracks and I don't think it's necessary.

GETTING USED TO EVIL

Luxi: I noticed that not only the title track of your new album deals with the destruction of human kind but you have many other lyrically similar songs that deal with the evil nature of human kind; songs like "Generation Nevermore", "Dethroned" and "Getting Used to the Evil". It all sounds like you are genuinely afraid of people's brutal actions toward each other...

Schmier: Just look at history, it's always been like this. We have had some very peaceful years, like in our generation, at least. But yes, the song "Getting Used to the Evil" for example, is something that I wrote after all the bad news. It's just bad news everywhere and you know making...

Luxi: ... making the headlines?

Schmier: Yes, making the headlines, making people feel bad about everything. Sometimes it's done just to get more quotes and more people watching this shit. After I saw so much shit, I had to write lyrics because I felt like all th blood here, headless people there, everybody's dying and I'm not shocked anymore. I'm getting used to the evil. Then my girlfriend said, "That's a great title; Getting Used to the Evil".

Luxi: Shocking news is something we seem to see and hear every day and we are getting used to it.

Schmier: It's true. That's how usually ideas come up.

Luxi: Since the world has changed so much with all these terrorist attacks and wars in different places do you consider in advance which countries you can go to, and which you can't?

Schmier: Of course! You think about where you go but basically, most countries, like the whole Middle East, are taboo. Years ago there was the Dubai Rock Fest but it does not exist anymore, I believe. Even Turkey, I don't know if I would play there at the moment. We played many times in Turkey before but now it's dangerous. Even at the airport, we've hung around for eight hours when we missed a plane in Istanbul and two weeks later a bomb went off there.

The same happened when we were at the airport in Belgium some days before the terrorists came in and killed a bunch of people there. As for different countries, I guess we play everywhere we feel safe and we played some countries back in the day when people told us not go there. For example we played in Colombia where they had some dangerous stuff going on back then. People said, "Don't go to Colombia," and we still played there. Of course, sometimes there's a risk, but if you want to see the world and play around for all those people, then you have to take some risks, of course. Going out to play is not like a holiday, you know, but pretty hard work. That's what all my friends thought, back in the day, "Ah, he is going on holiday again."

Luxi: Now this reminds me of this song from the Dead Kennedys, "Holiday in Cambodia."

[laughs]

Schmier: Actually, we covered this one for Thrash Anthems - Part Two, like the best-of record with old 80s Destruction songs that we will re-record. We're doing it without Nuclear Blast. First of all, we're doing a crowdfunding PledgeMusic campaign where the fans can contribute to the album. We do the album and then we do like a first edition for those fans that contributed. Then, later on, we might release it. Nuclear Blast wants to do the vinyls. We will see if we do the CD but first we're going to release the album for those who contributed to the record.

Not everybody likes those best-of albums that we rerecorded so we thought why not make it on our own and the fans that want to have it, they can contribute, get something special. If it's a success, then you can still release it later. Everybody who doesn't like it, doesn't have to buy it. It's just a good thing for us also, for getting those songs alive again.

Also, some of the songs you would never play live because the old versions are a little stiff and a little weird. But now that we re-record them, we bring them back to life and it's actually some great material that we forgot, basically. We have to relearn all those songs, so it was a lot of stuff like, "Wow, we did this back in the day. Interesting." It refreshes the memory and should be fun.

Luxi: Yes, I'm sure. What was it like making the video for "Under Attack"? Who came up with the story line for what happens in the video?

Schmier: Yes, we thought about provoking and it would have been easier to do the same thing with an Arabian guy but that would have been too obvious you know. Now with a Christian guy doing it, we just want to show the Christians are not much better than the Arabs. We have contributed a lot to the war down there and basically destabilized the whole Middle East as the Americans did, the Russians did. The whole thing is against a religious background and a lot of money, of course. We knew that some people on YouTube would write, "Oh my God. It's the wrong way! It has to be an Arab that does this." We have a lot of dirt on our Christian hands, too you know.

Luxi: Exactly. At the end of the day it does not matter which religious beliefs and background one has; every religion has its own sick-minded individuals...

Schmier: Yes, life would be easier if all those idiots had nothing to believe in to anymore. Imagine, if the news was like, "Oh, we're sorry to tell you, religions are bullshit. It's all fake." It's a big fake. People would tumble out of windows and commit suicide because they have nothing besides stupid religion.

Luxi: All so true. Plus, you can always cloak yourself with hypocritical religious beliefs and pretend to be a saint for people around you even if the truth is the complete the opposite...

Schmier: That's what they all do basically. They all misuse religion. If it was George W. Bush or if it's all those Eastern leaders; they all misuse their religious beliefs and take the money and take control of all the power at the end of the day. That's what they really want, to misuse religion for power trips. But it's always been like this, if you look at history. Come on, it's nothing new. I find it pretty crazy that after all mankind has learned, all the history, all we have achieved that we still live in those medieval times. Look at Poland or countries like that, they are super conservative Catholic. Then, the new government is like Catholic Nazis, basically. That's what they are.

Luxi: How many songs have you played off the new album on this tour? I am sure you want to promote it a little bit by playing some of the new songs...

Schmier: Yes, at the moment, we're playing four new tracks of the album. I think that's like the maximum we can do because we have to also keep an eye on the whole 33-34 years of Destruction's history. We have classics that we have to play and it's not so easy to choose and to fulfill everybody's expectations. We would have to play for two hours but I think that is too exhausting for the crowd and also for us. You play one and a half hours and it's perfect, I think.

Luxi: Yes. It does the trick.

Schmier: Yes, it does. It does, yes. We've been switching around the setlist so we have some songs with us that I think we never played in Finland before. There are some older classics that we reanimated for the setlist.

THE WORLD UNDER DESTRUCTION IN 2017

Luxi: After this tour in Europe are you going to start concentrating on festival shows during the summer and after perhaps head out to do a tour in the States in the fall?

Schmier: We go to the States in May, yes.

Luxi: Doing a headlining tour?

Schmier: Headlining tour yes, but we will just do a three, or maximum four-weeks tour there, concentrating on major and important markets as we want to avoid to burnout in America. You can tour as long as you want in the States, as that's a huge country. We do that and then there's also a summer festival season coming up of course. The good thing is actually now the festivals start in January. 70,000 Tons of Metal is arranged for February again. We'll do a festival show (Hammerfest) in England in March this year and then one (Heavy Scotland Festival) in Scotland in April. After the summer we really want to go back to Australia and Asia. Both continents are very strong markets for us.

Luxi: You have been in Australia with Destruction?

Schmier: Twice.

Luxi: Twice?

Schmier: Twice, yes. The Australian market is not so big but my friends are very dedicated and the country is just beautiful.

Luxi: Of course, yes. The nature is just amazing there.

Schmier: Yes, that's why we would really like to go back and maybe we can do like a little Asian trip. We did it before; we went over to Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia and Singapore. We could do it again and then maybe go down to Australia at the end of the tour. That would be nice.

Luxi: Have you guys already started writing for your next album?

Schmier: I'm actually writing new stuff for the next Panzer record at the moment.

Luxi: I did not know that. That's cool. So Panzer wasn't one album project, eh?

Schmier: No, no. It's a nice hobby. It's a nice hobby when I'm home. After being at home for like two weeks, I always start feeling fucking bored so I must start playing again. I mean, I have already written some songs for the next Panzer album and am hoping to get it out on vinyl. But we will see, it's got to be done before the summer for sure. We will see when it comes out.

For Destruction, I think we have to take our time like we're doing with the Thrash Anthems Part 2. It's going to take time and it should be coming up before the summer on this PledgeMusic campaign. Then we have a plan to do new releases for all the old albums because we finally got the rights back from SPV and then we're going to think about a new album for 2018 maybe, we'll see.

Once we start writing the actual process can be quite fast but you have to be inspired and do all the other stuff beforehand. And since we have so many records in the past, a new one isn't needed anymore. I mean, we don't always need to have a new record out to tour you know. We can also tour without a new album.

It's nice to have of course, and if we're inspired we will put a new record out but on the other side if you push yourself too much, it's not going to be that good. So we will just wait and see what will happen. I believe 2018 should maybe be possible or us to write a new album. We'd like to do some more for sure.

Luxi: Do you honestly believe the fans won't have to wait another four years to get a new Destruction album, which was the gap between Spiritual Genocide and Under Attack?

Schmier: No, I don't think four years but it's going to take three, I guess. That's because back in the day we recorded every year or every second year and you can do this for a while when you are young and hungry. Nowadays it's harder. If you want to make a quality record, it's better to wait a year and then record a quality album.

Luxi: Yes. That's so true.

Schmier: Also, our setlist is full, there's no space for more stuff.

[laughter]

Luxi: Have you noticed it becoming harder and harder to please yourself when you are coming up with new stuff for the band?

Schmier: I like to challenge myself. I think it's a nice challenge to write new stuff and we still try to create different stuff that we haven't done before. This new album has a more old-school flair but also a lot more Rock 'n' Roll to it, I would say, it's more like how we used to work back in the day - less diminished scales, more classical Heavy Metal/Rock chords and licks. It gives the album a little more, let's say, ease of listening. When you have too many diminished scales and oriental stuff, it's sometimes a little hard to follow - and this album has a lot more Rock 'n' Roll spirit to it, I think.

Luxi: All these tiny Rock 'n' Roll elements make the songs flow better, I suppose?

Schmier: Yes, that's something that we just tried again and it worked fine. You can never say you're satisfied with the last album when you only repeat the same things over and over again. You should always try to contribute something new. We always try to prove to all young bands that are playing Thrash Metal that we can still deliver at this age and at the same time show the kids how it's done right. That's a challenge. If you get lazy, it's not good because the kids can take your so-called "Thrash throne" away from you and...

Luxi: ... try to put the old guys to shame. But you know, you can always show them that the old guys can still do it way better, just watch and see.

[laughter]

Schmier: Exactly and sometimes the young bands are just copycatting a lot of stuff that has been done before and those of us that are the originators, we can expand those borders much more easily than they can because we are the founders of the genre. It doesn't mean that we're going to use keyboards and write Blues songs but we can cross lines that the kids wouldn't you know. It's a good thing for music in general when you're a little more open-minded and we are still as fast and brutal as before, you know, it's just a normal progression as a band and as a musician.

Luxi: All true. When Destruction was formed back in 1982 did you ever think you would still be making music under the Destruction moniker 35 years later?

Schmier: No. Actually, when we started we just wanted to play some shows and drink some beers and we never thought we would go anywhere. We were kind of surprised at how popular we became as a band and it's crazy if you look back, of course! I remember planning our demo tapes and stuff, we had no expectations. We just wanted to hear how it sounded to have a record and our career in Destruction back in the day, of course, happened quite fast.

We also had our downs and ups and the split of the band and all that of course. There also was als a period when I never thought I could do this again. For me, to come back in '99 was a miracle in itself actually, and now it's already been 18 years since then, which feels crazy when i think back.

RELEASED FROM AGONY 30 YEARS AGO

Luxi: Looking back in time this year is going to be 30 years since Release from Agony was released and I happen to know it's one of Destruction's most popular albums ever. This makes me wonder if you have plans to do some special shows this year in which you would play Release from Agony from start to finish?

Schmier: We might do some stuff in the festivals this summer. We actually did have the song "Release from Agony" in the setlist all last year; that's why we took it off for this tour so we don't have it in the setlist tonight. But we definitely played it a lot and are also going to do some songs off that record at the festivals this summer. We did a similar thing with Eternal Devastation last year like playing four songs from the Eternal Devastation record. So yeah, we probably may do the same for Release from Agony this summer.

Luxi: You won't consider doing the whole album from start to finish?

Schmier: The whole album is written for two guitars so it's kind of difficult for us as a trio to really play those songs the way they should be played and we would need a second player to pull it off the right way. We chose those songs that we could do well as a three piece, which were "Release from Agony", "Sign of Fear", and "Unconscious Ruins". The rest of the songs are difficult to play with just one guitar. But we will see, maybe we will hire a second guitar player for some songs.

Luxi: That might work, so why not?

Schmier: We'll see.

THE BIG TEUTONIC 4 TOUR – IMPOSSIBLE POSSIBLITY?

Luxi: It's a possibility. Anyway, sticking to the old times a bit longer, back in 2012 Destruction did this triple-Teutonic Thrash tour called "Hell Comes to Your Town" with Kreator and Sodom. Now there's this concept called "The Big Teutonic 4" from your label Nuclear Blast, so do you believe all four of you (including Tankard) might hit on the road together someday in the future or do you think this kind of a tour would be very difficult to organize due to your jobs and families and stuff?

Schmier: Mille (Kreator) said something in some interview and nobody knows about it, he didn't call me. Mille's like, "Oh, I don't know, I have no time and we want to go on our own and blah blah," and now he's saying in the interview,"Hey, the tour is coming," I'm like, "Hey, really?" That, of course, would be great though.

Luxi: It could be amazing to see such a tour hitting on the road for sure.

Schmier: I agree. I've been ready for this for years but Mille hasn't called me yet so I'm still waiting. It's been funny because everybody's asking me this for years and I'm like "We're sitting on the top of our luggage and waiting until somebody calls, we're ready to go." Arranging this type of tour won't be easy because the guys in both Sodom and Tankard have their day jobs and stuff so it has to be planned right and definitely during holidays. A tour like this would be something very super special and I'm sure they could use some of their holidays for such a special tour and stuff, you know.

Luxi: Trying to pull off a tour lik this off during weekends might be too expensive due to all the costs related to nightliners, flights, etc.?

Schmier: It definitely would. If you did a tour like this, just playing the weekends, that would mean everybody always has to fly-in, etc., i.e. the running costs would be totally absurd and intense. As for renting a nightliner for a tour like this, the good thing about the tour bus is everybody's here and the costs would be much lower because we could just play every day and travel together in one bus. But you should plan it right though. I would rather not play everywhere: just choose some important cities all over the world then go out for two weeks here, two weeks there. You could do two weeks in some major European cities, then you do maybe some shows in the Asian, do some shows in some Latin American countries; a tour that would not last more than two weeks and the same goes for America. If you plan to do a tour like this in the major markets, just make two to three weeks maximum. I assume it's also possible to do a shorter tour but then it needs to be planned right, with all smooth logistics and stuff, you know.

Luxi: The fact is that fans are talking all about this, the Big Teutonic 4, hoping to see such a thing on tour someday too. Now that would be really something...

Schmier: Only Mille knows, let's call him.

[laughter]

Luxi: I guess we just should do that next: let's call Mille! Anyways, it was pleasure to talking to you again, thank ou for your time Schmier.

Schmier: My pleasure, good to see you again.

Other information about Destruction on this site
Review: The Antichrist
Review: Whiplash
Review: All Hell Breaks Loose
Review: Metal Discharge
Review: Cracked Brain
Review: Live Discharge
Review: Mad Butcher
Review: Infernal Overkill
Review: Eternal Devastation
Review: Day of Reckoning
Review: Spiritual Genocide
Review: Under Attack




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