During the nineteen eighties two thrash metal scenes emerged simultaneously from within the US, namely San Francisco, and in Europe, namely Germany. Both scenes produced amazing material and bands that are still around today, some thirty years later, whose releases stand as strong and identifiably independent pieces of music. I am a huge fan of these scenes and the metallic masterpieces from both sides of the Atlantic; however, I have always been perplexed by the fact that internationally, the US scene has attracted the most attention, and historically the most respect. Take the Metal Evilution Series, the definitive heavy metal historical documentary, with a whole episode devoted to the thrash genre, but no real focus on Europe. Maybe it is because the supposed father of thrash, and one of the biggest bands of all time, Metallica, hailed from the US, but I am ultimately unsure. However, what I am aware of is that the European movement, had a different sound and a complexity that in many respects out played the majority of the US scene, but ultimately, I guess this is the observation that I own.
So to Destruction, a founding “father” of the European scene, formed in 1982, with its debut album Infernal Overkill released in 1985, and thirty one years later, the band is set to release its fourteenth studio album, Under Attack, on May thirteen. I recently caught up with bass guitarist, vocalist and founding member, Schmier, to talk about the new release and the history of Destruction.
Schmier, the new album was recorded very differently than your previous releases. Can you please talk us through this and why you took a different approach?
“We talk about artists and sometimes this is what we are, so it is good to change the procedure for how you create at times and this is what we did. We took more time, we kept our playing schedule and we opened up on how we create and think of our songs. We could still play all of our festival gigs during the recording so we were constantly fresh and in tune with playing. This experience was enjoyable as we weren’t trapped in a studio for months. This is definitely how we are going to work in the future and you can hear this on the album I think.”
The production on the album is extremely heavy but also very clear, with a lot separation between the instruments, was this due to the new approach to recording?
“Yeah it was important for us to hear every instrument on this album. Mike has a very clean guitar tone and his delivery of every note is important to hear especially, due to his technique of riffing. We didn’t want it to be muddy as in the past we have had too much distortion on the guitar and so a lot of the colour of the songs and character is lost. This time around we have gotten this right and this gives the sound of the album so much separation.”
Songs such as the title track, ‘Under Attack’, and ‘Second to None’, are nothing short of a brutal wall of thrash metal. Where has the ferocity of the new material come from?
“Actually when we started to write we kind of made sure we had different topics and we found a tune to suit the topics and then we focussed on speed. And, we did not want them in the same vein, and this way we kept the album interesting. Speed is very important in Destruction’s music, but it is important to have groovy parts and this time we have a good mix of this. It is more of what really represents what we are about. So yeah a lot of aggression and speed but you can still tap your foot to it!”
As mentioned earlier Destruction has enjoyed a long career so I wanted to take Schmier back to the beginning for a few questions. What was the metal scene like in Germany when Infernal Overkill was released in 1985?
“It was the wakeup call in Germany in 1985. We had the first big metal magazine Metal Hammer established around this year and from here labels really started to promote metal bands and music. We were in Berlin recording this album and we were in the magazine as an award for best newcomers and instrumentalists and I remember this totally. It was some recognition of metal in Germany and this helped to establish the scene, in bringing the bands together. We are in the Black Forest area in Germany and we were the first metal band in that area and this was a type of change at this time, very special. I love thinking back on this time as an era in metal was born at this point in Europe.”
Was there much direct connection between the bands in the thrash scenes in Europe and the US during the eighties? And early on were you aware of each other?
“We did not have connection as there was only one magazine that was international and that was Kerrang. But then we got a letter from Hirax in the US, and they were the first band that we heard of there and we wrote to each other. They sent the first US metal stuff to us Metallica’s first demo, Agent Steel’s, Slayer’s and the Metal Massacre Compilation. It was just letters so it was difficult and slow. We were surprised when it was happening at the same time really. At this point Tormentor, later to become Kreator, hearing them was fantastic, we were excited that at this time another band was doing the same thing here in Germany. When the first Slayer album came out we had been recording our demo, with two songs with the same name as on the Slayer album, Tormentor and Antichrist. We were surprised that we had similar song titles at this time but it didn’t worry us. Knowing what I know now, we had the same roots and we listened to a lot of the British punk and mixed it with heavy metal and we were in to the same imagery. It was a fantastic time really. ”
What thrash bands from the US grabbed your attention during the eighties?
“The US were far ahead if us because in America there were people recording their music already and producing the sounds. We couldn’t find a studio who would record and mix us. In Europe everyone was too conservative to record us and they didn’t know how to handle our sound. So we looked up to the US scene and saw them as older brothers as in terms of producing a product they were ahead of us.”
Destruction are a part of the Big Teutonic 4 Nuclear Blast initiative, with the release of two Eps (2013 and 2015) but could there ever be any plans to tour as this package extensively? I would live to see this line-up in Australia.
“That would be great. To Mille from Kreator, I have said that we are ready to do it anytime anywhere! So I am hoping for him to call me one time and we go for it. Before we had different labels and management, but now we are on the same label and Destruction would love to just go for it. We are all hungry and can still do this and blow people away, so I would like to do this soon and do it properly. So yes anywhere and anytime.”
Over the years Schmier you have done a number of side projects and guest appearances but Panzer, who released its debut Send Them All To Hell in 2014, seems a more serious, or established venture, are there further plans to record with this band? Or are there any other projects in the pipeline?
“If I did anything other than Destruction it is Panzer. I loved this experience but over the next few years it will be Destruction with promoting the new album and touring. But I am sure that in 2017 or 2018 we will do more material. I love playing that style of flat out solid heavy metal.”
To finish up Schmier I personally would like to know, are there any plans to tour Australia in support of Under Attack?
“Yeah we have to come it has been too long. We have been trying to hook up with connections but it hasn’t happened, but we are talking at the moment and it is looking at end of this year or early next year. A lot of dates are already confirmed but hopefully in this time we can lock in Australia. We are looking forward to coming back, we have not forgotten you and we love it down there.”S
Schmier is a musician who has been active in the scene for over 34 years, however he thankfully has contained any form of ego or arrogance, and therefore, has kept his class. A nice bloke heading one of the most underrated thrash outfits world-wide. The new album is bursting with energy with a heavy yet clear sound and sincerity. Destruction are just as relevant now as they were in the mid to late eighties, and considering the resurgence of thrash over the last five to ten years, maybe even more so today. Under Attack is released on May 13 and it won’t disappoint any Destruction, thrash or metal head. I just hope they get down to Australia to tour the album.
Interview By Mark Sneddon