Interview with Schmier of Destruction
Introduction: Iíve been listening to Destruction since about 1986 and have most of their albums. When I spoke to Schmier I had not heard "All Hell Breaks Loose" because it hadnít arrived yetóironically, it arrived the next day. But with my knowledge of their earlier material we were able to have a great conversation. Also, Schmier speaks excellent English.
SCHMIER: Itís so good that so many fans out there have been waiting for this reunion and itís nice the support from the magazines and the crowds. Itís been a great welcome.
CRITICALTOM: Itís good to have you back.
CT: Didnít you have a band called "Headhunter"?
SCHMIER: Yeah, thatís right. But itís never been available in America.
CT: Thatís right because I never could find it.
SCHMIER: Exactly. It was pretty successful in Japan and Europe but the American market was very hard to get into at that time. We played kind of a mixture of Destruction and Judas Priest. But now Iím back with Destruction and Americaís looking pretty good right now.
CT: Thatís good. Youíll [as in Destruction] will be coming over for the Milwaukee Metal Fest wonít you?
SCHMIER: Thatís right. It also looks weíll be playing some other dates, like a three week tour, a couple weeks before and a week after the Metal Fest.
CT: Do you know generally were youíll be playing?
SCHMIER: I saw part of the touring schedule but not all of it has been confirmed yet. Where are you from?
CT: Atlanta. [The place where almost no good metal bands come to!óeditorial note]
SCHMIER: [comment indistinguishable. I think he said something to the effect that he didnít know about a show in Atlanta]
CT: Well, thatís alright. If you come here, Iíll be at the show.
SCHMIER: Itís kind of difficult to play all over the place, you know. We donít wonít to play too much the first time we come over. We just want to check everything out. But we can play some dates around the Metal Fest and let the fans know Destruction is back.
CT: Have you played in America before?
SCHMIER: We played America a couple of times before but it was a long time ago. We did the [indistinguishable word] tour in í88 which was like all over the place. We played for three months. It was too much, you know.
CT: Too much driving!
SCHMIER: Yeah. It was a hell of a drive. I donít know how many thousands of miles we drove. We also flew over for a short tour with Flotsam and Jetsam. We also toured in support of several other bands. But the biggest was the [indistinguishable] tour.
CT: I wanted to hear "All Hell Breaks Loose" but my copy hasnít arrived yet.
SCHMIER: It hasnít arrived yet?
At this point he made a joke about kicking someoneís ass and I had to explain that Iím new to the Nuclear Blast promo/interview crowd and thatís why it happened this way. As stated above, the CD arrived the next day.
SCHMIER: Thatís bad because you didnít hear anything yet. Itís kind of difficult to talk about a new record.
CT: Well, how does it compare to the older material?
SCHMIER: I think itís typical Destruction only itís a little more up to date in the production. And also playing-wise, itís more progressive. The band is really tight. Thereís still a lot of really fast material, the chords are up and down, fast, slow. Itís straight-forward, in your face. Thrash metal with a modern sound.
CT: Right. Kind of like where "Release from Agony" left off?
SCHMIER: Itís a lot more straight-forward than "Release from Agony" is. Itís as technical playing wise, but more in your face. From the songwriting, you know.
CT: Did you guys decide to come back to teach these young [punks] guys how to play real metal?!!
SCHMIER: Exactly! [we both have a good laugh here]
CT: So I guess you guys are a bit older than me. Iím almost 32.
SCHMIER: Yeah, Iím 33 actually. I was 17 on the first album.
CT: Oh, wow! Aside from Coroner [or Kreator], you guys play about the fastest most insane Thrash Metal Iíve ever heard . . . How did you learn to play so well? Or is this something you drove yourselves to?
SCHMIER: Over the years we grew up we were really into music and tried to progress, of course. In those days we worked on stuff a long time . . . Right now weíre strong on just concentrating on what we can do the best. [The new stuff] is obviously like Destruction, and obviously Thrash music. Weíre already writing new songs. Itís going so well, like the band has never been away. There are many people who say, "itís like the band has never been away."
CT: So I guess you have a lot more confidence now.
SCHMIER: Of course, yeah. We know what we want these days. Itís a great thing that you have a great record company that supports you so you can get all your ideas down without any pressure. Itís really cool.
CT: In the early days who were some of the band that influenced you guys?
SCHMIER: In the beginning it was the Punk Metal stuff and the real straight-forward stuff. And on the other hand there was the NWOBHM which was real great like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest. Stuff like that. So we tried to mix those punk ideas with Heavy Metal guitar and thatís how the Destruction sound started. You see the second wave of British Metal bands like Angel Witch and stuff like thatógetting heavier and faster. Itís been kind of an inspiration for us.
CT: It seems to me that most of the German bands are really fast; like Destruction, Coroner [oops, my mistake, theyíre Swiss], even Blind Guardian, Iron Savior, Gamma Ray, groups like that play really fast and technical Metal.
SCHMIER: Yeah, I donít know why. Just groovy stuff hasnít been a trend. In the 80ís the whole thing was formed [with bands like] Helloween, other bands like Sodom and Kreator, Destruction. I donít know. Itís just been a wild time there and I guess it influenced a lot of other bands. I donít know why itís like that, actually.
CT: It seems like a "sound" will develop in an area like Speed Metal in Germany, in Sweden very classic polished Metal.
SCHMIER: Exactly, yeah. Strange . . . like in those days Sweden stands for excellent Death Metal, or Black Metal also. Things changed over the years.
CT: Do you have any other influences today . . . do you feel like you have to prove something, or have something you want to accomplish? [I didnít mean to ask three questions at once!]
SCHMIER: I think, first of all, we want to prove that all the fans are right, that they were supporting us all through the years. And we donít want to look stupid and have people say the young bands are better than Destruction . . .
CT: Thatís not possible! [followed by goofy laughter on my part].
SCHMIER: [continuing] Of course we want to prove that Thrash Metal is still alive. Because over the years itís been difficult to get albums released. And the latest Testament was a big step forwards, you know. I think itís a very good album. But yeah, we have to prove to the young kids Destructionís here for a big reason.
CT: It seems to me that in the music industry the big companies will create and destroy a music scene but with true METAL they havenít been able to destroy it. They try to put it on the back burner or ignore it, but true METAL has persevered.
SCHMIER: Yeah, that shows how strong the Metal scene is today and that we donít need the trendy stuff. Itís also been a sad story for Europe in the middle of the 90ís when everything was just crossing over and Heavy Metal was almost like a bad word. So it was a very sad story here, but it turned out that the underground was getting stronger and stronger again and there was a big Metal explosion about a year ago. Not just Germany, I think all over the world. On websites so many people all over the world writing about those things.
CT: Someone somewhere compared Heavy Metal to Jazz in that it is a style of music with a small but very loyal fan base, great musicians, and itís not something that just anyone can take to.
SCHMIER: Yeah, thatís pretty close. The people like this music can live this music also. They sleep it, they eat it, you know, they drink it. The fans are so faithful and so strong because weíve gone through some bad times but the music is still there. Itís just so good after all those years . . . that the fans are still out there and hungry for the music.
CT: By the way, let me compliment your English. Does everyone in Germany speak English that well?
SCHMIER: No. Usually people say like uh [funny voice] "HELLO, IíM FROM GERMANY AND I SPEAK VERY STRANGE ENGLISH BECAUSE I HAVE ACCENT." I had a Canadian girlfriend for a while . . . Iíve been in the scene for a long time so Iíve been to the States and Canada a couple of times. Of course your learn and develop your English. It took me a while to get back, to get into it again but since Iím doing all the promo stuff for Destruction, my English is getting better every day.
CT: You sound very American, actually, if you donít mind my saying so.
SCHMIER: Yeah, itís like that. We have an English sound guy and he always makes fun about me talking American English.
CT: Thatís okay. Nothing wrong with that! A lot of the subject matter in the older albums . . . songs like "Survive to Die" or "Release from Agony", are these songs that relate to the German people or just songs you write because they make good subject matter?
SCHMIER: First of all I write songs about things around me that bother me . . . Things that piss me off. Itís a very emotional thing, of course. Thereís subjects in there like "Incriminated" talking about the Nazis and the problems we will always have. Even in 5,000 years Germans will be "the bad Nazis". Things like this are all over the place. On the new album we have a lot of stuff about this world and how Destruction sees those things. I try to put aggressive words to aggressive music. I think itís an up-to-date thing . . .
CT: I agree with the words to "Incriminated" and at least Iím a history teacher, so I understand that the Nazis are one group of people and the German people are different. Of course Iím from the South in the United States and Iím white, so a lot of times people may treat me as if Iím prejudiced against blacks, which is a problem.
SCHMIER: I know. Like when we were in the States a long time ago I saw the problems between the races was very big. We have a problem in Germany too because there are a lot of foreign people here, too. But I was really shocked the first time I came to the States, you know, how black people treat white people and how everybody looks at each other. Itís really heavy, you know. I donít know if itíll get better but when we were there it was really strange for us.
CT: Thereís always something to be gained by saying youíre a victim, you know, by saying, "we were treated badly a hundred and fifty years ago, now you owe me something" and itís always been a problem. [understand, gentle reader, that Iím not denying that slavery or segregation ever existed. Nor am I condoning it. But the victim mentality of the Black political community today is bogus and is used for gaining political power, not social equalityóed.]
Are there really people that say the Holocaust never happened and stuff like that?
SCHMIER: Thereís always going to be some to believe shit like that. Especially in East Germany we have problems like unemployment and stuff like. Kids hang around and donít know what to do. And then they see all foreign people that are here to work, they have jobs. So then they get jealous and talk shit like that . . . But just a little percentage of people talk like that. The less jobs they have the more they believe shit like that.
CT: Well I understand that your country has a pretty high standard of living.
SCHMIER: Yeah it has but itís going right now because of high taxes. And itís costing Germany a lot to include the East, you know . . . The people in the middle [class?] are really feeling it right now . . .
CT: Has your songwriting maybe changed a little bit since 1989 [referring to the tearing down of the Berlin Wall] ?
SCHMIER: I think itís more compact, you know. We try to avoid . . . to come directly to the point. Maybe itís changed for me, I like to just write a song more direct . . . but itís all straight-on, you know.
CT: Also, I know a lot of times people see Heavy Metal and think "satanism" but I read some of your lyrics like "Reject Emotions" . . . thereís really a moral foundation to your thinking and writing.
SCHMIER: Of course. We used that devil stuff also and also used some on the new album. And youíve got to keep it a little bit on the ironic side also. Donít take everything too serious. Weíve always been standing straight-forward being against the church, what happened with a lot of things here, in the whole world with the wars and stuff like that . . . Everything that has to do with mistakes in society. Of course, weíre not satanic . . .
CT: I understand. I think one thing America has done rightóand weíve done a lot of things wrongóbut one thing we did right was keeping church and government separate. Itís helped us a lot because I believe any time there is a position of power, whether it be President or Pope, somebody who is dishonest and evil wants to grasp that power and wants to use it for their own advantage. The Bible says one thing but the Pope and his people do something different. Itís a real shame.
SCHMIER: Some things never change, you know, and the christian church and the Pope is a big joke. Like in those days of AIDS and stuff he says you canít use condoms and stuff like this . . .
CT: Do you know much about philosophy?
SCHMIER: What kind of philosophy are you talking about?
CT: Well, let me ask you this: Who do you think is Germanyís greatest philosopher?
SCHMIER: You should talk to Mike about that. Heís really into that . . . Iím not a big book writer [reader?], I base my philosophy on what I see everyday. Iím pretty impressed by stuff like Nostrodamus. Mike is like really into all kinds of those writers of the past.
CT: I was just thinking that there are a lot of really well known, important philosophers from Germany like Leibnitz and Kant, Nietzsche.
SCHMIER: Yeah, Mike is a real big Nietzsche fan.
CT: I really enjoy reading philosophy.
SCHMIER: If you ever meet up with Destruction youíve got to talk with Mike about that. You wonít get away from him. Heís a big reader. And when he doesnít play guitar he smokes and reads.
CT: He seems like the quiet type.
SCHMIER: Yeah, he is. Iím doing all the promo stuff alone.
CT: I think that a personís philosophy comes through in their lyrics, and definitely comes through yours . . . What people believe tends to shape what they write. So I just thought I would ask you that question because there is definitely a belief system that comes through.
SCHMIER: Itís that. I mean, Iím just going through this world with my open eyes and open heart and seeing whatís going on, you know.
CT: Any of you guys married, have children?
SCHMIER: No. It was very important for me that Iím independent. It wouldíve been a real problem for me if I had a whole family to put so much time and everything into.
CT: The reason I ask is because it seems that most bands canít last 15-20 years when they have a family to support.
SCHMIER: Itís like that too. Maybe one day thereís going to be a time for that. But right now I want to concentrate on new music and go on with Destruction . . .
CT: So you said youíre already working on new songs; is that correct?
SCHMIER: Yeah. Thatís correct.
CT: Great. So you just have a real fertile time when youíre writing songs and touring.
SCHMIER: [Schmierís comments here were about making song lists for touring and creating songs in between and just being creative. The sound quality of my tape was bad and I had a hard time deciphering a lot of words here].
CT: It must take you a long time to write a song with all the complex parts.
SCHMIER: Actually, it usually comes pretty fast. At first the song is pretty muddy. It takes a while until everybody is playing their part perfect, you know. But the songwriting process just takes one week usually, or one week just setting up the song. Then it takes maybe two or three weeks before the song is really tight.
CT: You guys are back to a trio . . . Itís Mike, Ollie, and yourself. Is that correct?
SCHMIER: No, itís a new drummer called Sven. Because Ollie is not too much into Metal anymore. And our new drummer is like totally Thrash style, a little bit of modern style but heís playing a lot of fast parts also. He goes for old school influences like Dave Lombardo or Gene Hoglan, stuff like that. Heís a very technical kind of guy. I think heís a lot better than Ollie, though. Ollie was a very good drummer but he was not a Metal guy. So this guy we have now is really into Thrash music. That makes a big difference because the songs are living from the drumming also. You know, a lot of double bass, a lot of fills.
CT: I think the new Venom album benefits from a new drummer also.
SCHMIER: Yeah, the drummer is the background of the band.
CT: Last question: What would you say to someone who has never heard Destruction before?
SCHMIER: I would say itís a quite intense mixture of real outstanding guitarsóchainsaw styleówith really nice picking. Very extreme vocals that are very difficult to describe; no Death Metal . . . The drums are real fast. Itís kind of a roller coaster kind of style. A lot of fast parts, in between slow parts, a lot of groovy stuff. Itís all straight-forward material. Itís difficult to describe your own music.
CT: You did a good job. As a matter-of-fact, I find myself easily bored with Death Metal, and the Norwegian Metal is getting real boring fast . . .
SCHMIER: Thatís true.
CT: But I keep finding myself going back to the old stuff; the Destruction, the Accept. Of course I really like Blind Guardian, theyíre a great band.
SCHMIER: Yeah, very good band from Germany . . . Theyíre very huge here in Europe. Every show they do is to2 or 3 thousand people here in Europe.
Well I really hope youíre going to enjoy the new album. Itís really kicking ass. It has really good production. And a really strong sound like typical Destruction just more up-to-date.
CT: Well Iím really stoked to hear it and Iím sorry I havenít already.
At this point we wound up the conversation.