By Carl Begai
It’s hard to believe that almost 13 years have passed since German thrash veterans DESTRUCTION made their triumphant return with All Hell Breaks Loose. It was a big deal for the fanboys on the BW&BK staff due to vocalist/bassist Schmier's being back up front following a 10 year absence, and we’ve followed the band religiously ever since. An impressive seven studio albums since the reunion including the new slab of violence, Spiritual Genocide, and the naysayers are hard pressed to argue against the claim that Destruction are more vital than ever as elder statesmen in the thrash world.
“It's crazy,” Schmier says of the band's 13 year charge, which shows no sign of slowing down. “It doesn't feel like we've been back that long. We’ve been working constantly since then. Doing new records every two years or so followed by all the touring – plus the live records and the DVDs – we’ve been rather productive (laughs).”
Not everyone was thrilled with Destruction’s return in 2000, however. Many fans complained that All Hell Breaks Loose was, for all its crushing energy, “too modern” to be a considered a worthy follow-up to the band’s early catalogue. Schmier remembers the bitching and moaning but his opinion of the people doing the complaining hasn’t changed over time.
“There are too many people always complaining about something, so if you listen to them all you just stop doing what you love. I think it’s important to do what you do best, and all I can say to all the haters and trolls out there is to get a life. Go do it better than us, motherfuckers (laughs). People bitch about this and that, but what have they achieved in life?”
Spiritual Genocide has surfaced at what some people are calling the perfect time. The record is currently sharing airspace with recently released albums from KREATOR (Phantom Antichrist) and TESTAMENT (Dark Roots Of Earth) on a scene that's been buzzing for months with noise from the likes of ANTHRAX, OVERKILL and DEATH ANGEL.
“There are a lot of great thrash albums out at the moment, which is fantastic for the scene,” says Schmier. “Of course I listened to the new Kreator and Testament albums because I was very curious to hear them. Those guys are old friends and touring partners, so it’s good motivation factor for any of us if the other bands put out a great album. It inspires us. I guess we push each other in a way.”
“We wanted to write a fast and furious record that still had some diversity and groove. Hopefully we managed to do that. The album starts off at high speed, and with Mr. Vaaver (Wawrzyniec Dramowicz) on drums it’s a pleasure to play fast again. He can pull it off and he loves doing it.”
Vaaver has been with the band since 2010, a new face in a long line of Destruction drummers.
“It was better to work with him now that we’ve played more than 200 shows together,” Schmier admits. “It was much easier to write the record with him. The last album (Day Of Reckoning) was great because we knew he could do it, but he didn’t have much time to prepare. We’re much tighter now, so when we wrote the new record we knew what we could accomplish as a group because we knew what he was capable of as a drummer.”
Schmier and guitarist Mike Sifringer have been a songwriting team since 1982, minus a decade for stewing over and finally getting over personal and/or creative differences. Spiritual Genocide finds the duo in a good place both as collaborators and as friends.
“We always try to make the songwriting process better, easier and more comfortable. For the last two albums we’ve recorded our ideas right away, and that really helped to develop even more ideas along the way. In the past we didn’t record stuff, we just kept stuff in mind and tried to remember what we’d come up with. With all the new technology it’s a lot easier to record songs in a good way so that really helps, especially because we’ve been touring a lot. We’re able to nail the songs down quicker and make the arrangements tighter. The writing process used to be a long bubblegum-ish process, but having all this experience has made it much more comfortable. We enjoyed working together on this record.”
“I think it’s easier now, definitely,” says Schmier with regards to the recording process. “We take things seriously but not as seriously as we used to. When you take things too seriously I think you start to cramp up and the enjoyment in making the music gets lost somehow. We’ve learned from the past because the studio work back then was difficult and came with a lot of pressure. We haven’t had that problem for many years. It’s great fun working in the studio nowadays and I always look forward to going in to work on new stuff. It wasn’t always like that.”
“Easier” with regards to the recording process doesn't include using the latest and greatest in digital technology to beef up the band's efforts. Schmier tries to keep things as pure as possible while in the studio with analog thinking.
“Now it’s easier for bad musicians to play well on a record; then you see them live and it’s ‘What the fuck..?’ Nowadays you can cheat so much using a computer that the lousiest drummer in the world can sound fucking amazing. The rule of a successful band working in a studio is Don’t Overdo It. If there are and licks or riffs or leads or vocals that I can’t do, I just don’t do them. If you concentrate on the stuff you can do right and do it to the best of your ability, it’s a powerful thing. That’s a very big push for me, at least. We learned that back in the day when people weren’t cheating yet, and it’s stayed that way. Sometimes it’s easier to fix a mistake, of course, but we don’t cheat in the studio. We still try to make things as authentic as possible.”
Which means kudos go to Schmier for taking care of himself over the years. More often than not thrash is about how successful the guitars/bass/drums are in ripping one's face off first, vocals second. In the case of Spiritual Genocide the vocals take a front seat, with Schmier sounding a hell of a lot younger than he really is.
“Thank you very much. I think all the live playing we’ve done has helped my voice. Over the last 13 years I haven’t lost my voice even once. I have a much better vocal technique now, so it’s learning by doing because I never had any formal voice lessons. It’s a great compliment if after all these years people say ‘Hey man, you’re voice still sounds fresh.' When ‘Cyanide’ was released on the internet I had some feedback saying that my voice sounded great. They were wondering what happened (laughs).”
As for what the band has accomplished as whole since 1982, hiccups and all, Schmier chooses to downplay the success rather than blast the Destruction horn.
“Thirty years is a fantastic achievement, and when I look back it doesn’t seem that long, but I don’t want to make a big deal out of it. What makes us strong is that we live for the moment; thinking ahead too far in the future doesn’t work for me. I put all my energy into the here and now, and my philosophy is that I’m doing the best today for tomorrow. We also try to learn from our mistakes and progress. Everything we’ve achieved over the years is amazing. We never thought we’d come this far.”
“I remember back in 1999 when we announced the reunion, in Metal Hammer someone wrote ‘I hear Destruction is coming back. Why? Who needs thrash metal?’ Look at us now. There’s a whole new thrash scene and it’s a healthy one. It makes me proud.”