Destruction Frontman Schmier on New Live Album + First Concert After COVID-19

2020-06-24

Destruction – Story by Anne Erickson, courtesy photo by Liné Hammett

Schmier of legendary German thrash metal band Destruction talks with Anne Erickson about the band’s new live set, their upcoming concert after the coronavirus restrictions, the state of metal music and more in this in-depth interview

German heavy metal titans Destruction helped create and define what it is to be a thrash metal band. They’re considered one of the Big Four in German thrash metal, and there’s no denying the European thrash scene wouldn’t be what it is today without their influence.

Destruction recently released a new live set, “Born to Thrash – Live in Germany,” amid the coronavrius (COVID-19) pandemic. With shows and festivals getting canceled or postponed, the collection offered a welcome bit of live music entertainment. The album is currently available digitally and will arrive in physical form on July 17.

Frontamn Schmier was there at the beginning of Destruction’s genesis, and he has helped champion the band’s music into the new millennium. Schmier spoke with Anne Erickson of Audio Ink about “Born to Thrash – Live in Germany,” the current heavy metal scene, the band’s upcoming concert — yes, actual concert — in Switzerland and more. Read the interview below, and listen to the full chat via the Audio Ink podcast on Apple Podcasts here and Spotify here.

Anne Erickson: Great to talk with you, Schmier. I know it’s a busy time right now, with the live album out, “Born to Thrash – Live in Germany,” and your first concert in months coming up in a few weeks.

Yeah, we made this live album for the corona times. We didn’t actually plan this live album, but we were in the lucky position to have a recording we could bring out, and I’m very happy we did it, because it’s good to stay busy and connected with fans these past couple of weeks. It wasn’t an easy time, because we had all the cancellations and all the tours got postponed, and the live album was like a little rock– something positive happens at the moment, and the fans reacted really good to it, also.

We have our first live show coming up in two weeks, already. It feels a little bit surreal. Nobody expected this to come back so quick, but we’re in the lucky position to live on the Swiss border, and Switzerland is far ahead of all the other countries and are doing concerts in two weeks… And there are very little corona cases, so that will be an interesting experience. Of course, a little weird, also, but we’re looking forward.

That is so crazy, because I fee like we’re so far away from that here in the States, having a big concert. What are you most excited about when it comes to this Switzerland show?

I think it’s going to feel weird to go out again. I know already how it is now that the restaurants are back open, and more and more people are on the streets now, and borders are open also everywhere now, again. It feels like of strange because after three months on lockdown, it already feels long to be free again. You get used to the circumstances. I think humans are good at adapting. So, I think it’s going to feel weird to play a show again, because this is the first time in 20 years that we didn’t play a show in three months. It’s the longest time ever. It’s very exciting, of course. We look forward to playing again, but it’s going to feel a little weird, for sure.

I feel that way about going to a show. I think it’s going to feel really weird that first show I go to after things are back.

Yeah, because for three months, we were isolated. We all took good care and tried not to spread anything. And now, all of a sudden, when it’s over, it’s going to be different. But, I think, of course, there’s going to be a little awareness, so people have to keep a sort of distance. Of course, at the show, I don’t know how that’s going to be possible, but we shouldn’t hug each other like we used to do at concerts. It’s going to take a little time to get back to full normal, I think. I think the first shows have to be a little more stiff and people should be a little more careful. You have to go step-by-step. What we’re experiencing now is the first trial of concerts, and Switzerland, also, is far ahead, so the whole world will watch the country and see the developments. So, it’s going to be interesting, and hopefully we’re not going to get hit hard again, but the way things go at the moment, it looks good. Switzerland is open just a couple of weeks, already. In Germany, we’re still wearing masks when we’re going grocery shopping and stuff, but in Switzerland, there’s no masks needed anymore.

Let’s talk about “Born to Thrash – Live in Germany,” the new release. That’s going to have a physical release in July, but it’s already out digitally, correct?

Yes, it’s out digitally, because we wanted it to be out immediately for the fans, and now, the physical release takes time to produce the vinyl, especially. The production time is three months, so that’s coming out on the 17th of July.

Tell me about how it was a spontaneous idea to do a live album. You mentioned it was already in the can, but you weren’t planning on really releasing it right now.

The idea came when corona was hitting hard and all the tours got postponed and canceled and all the festivals got canceled and all the bad news came, there was a time when I said to my guys, “Hey we have this live album in the pocket. Let’s talk to the label.” …It took us a little time to convince the label, but the fact we have a new lineup and a second guitarist in the band now, and that corona will be there for a while that we can have no live shows kind of convinced the label to do the live album. The reactions were great, and the label also agreed on the streaming release first, which was the important part of the concept.

Is Destruction working on the follow-up to “Born to Perish” yet?

No yet, because the album is just 10 months old, and we’re supposed to tour for the album, and the circle is not really closed yet. Normally, we start writing when the tour is over, but now we have a different situation. We will see this summer. We definitely won’t have all those festivals we usually have in the summer, so we’re going to have some time to maybe start writing. So, we’re definitely going to maybe write the first new songs for the new album this summer, but I don’t really see us yet finishing the recording so early, because there’s no time pressure. We want to go back on the road, and the earlier the better. At the moment, we’re re-booking all the tours for next year, so hopefully next year we going be on the road a long a time, and then, at some point, go into the studio and finish the new album. But, it’s actually too early to think about the album yet, I think. So, we might write the first new songs this summer because we’re bored, but we also have to be in the right mood to write. We’ll see what comes out of us. Maybe we’re going to write the whole album this summer and record it already, but on the other side, there’s not pressure.

What are your thoughts on the state of heavy metal music today? Do you think metal is in a good place?

I hear all those interviews with people saying, heavy metal is dead or rock is dead. I’ve been in the scene for almost 40 years, and most of the time, people were talking like this about our music. Now, when we started the music, there was no scene, and the scene was very little. Of course, there were some years in the ’80s, metal was huge for a while, but I didn’t like that so much, because it brought a lot of people into the scene that didn’t belong there. Then in the ’90s, the scene died again, because all the hipsters went to listen to grunge music and techno music, so I think this whole discussion that heavy metal is dying or rock is dying, for me, is not true. I see a lot of heavy metal fans wherever we go. We play all over the world, and nowadays, it’s possible to play a lot of crazy countries where you never through you could go back in the day. I think heavy metal doesn’t need to be the super hit stuff, and I don’t want that to happen, also. I think metal should stay underground, and the scene is healthy… I think we’re in a good position, actually. I think 20 years ago, it looked a lot worse than now.

Is there one metal band out there that you think you can credit for bringing metal to the “masses?” Because I feel like when metal started to emerge, it wasn’t as well known, and then throughout the years, bands like Metallica or Iron Maiden helped introduce your genre of music to the masses.

Yeah, I don’t know if I really want that. I don’t know if I really want that to happen that the masses are listening to my favorite band, because what usually happens is that the band gets more commercial and the band loses the edge, and then it’s not my favorite band anymore. I used to be a big fan of Metallica, and with “The Black Album,” they became a new band, basically. They became much more successful. People always think successful means better, but for me, it’s not all about the money. Sometimes it’s also about integrity and honesty and not selling out just for the money. That’s why I don’t really want metal to become the new hipster thing, because what happens then would be that metal at one point would kind of fall apart again, because trends come and go. I thought that in the ’80s little bit, at the end of the ’80s when metal was really big, and all my friends started to listen to metal all of a sudden, but they became quick– they became metalheads. A couple of years later, they were all gone again, and all cut their hair and listened to the next trend. I don’t think metal needs that. I think, for me, it’s good the way it is. It’s okay that Metallica became more commercial for them. I guess it was their way of doing things. I think in a different way.

I think part of the appeal of metal is that it’s not mainstream. It’s different.

Exactly. Sometimes when I see people talk about popularity, and everything needs to become bigger and bigger, and I don’t think everything needs to become bigger. Also, for festivals here in Europe, as much as I like to play big festivals, I think the smaller festivals are nicer because it’s less commercial, the beer prices are lower and there’s more space, there’s not too many hipsters, and, in general, everything is cooler. So, I don’t want metal to become too big. It’s good the way it is. Hopefully we have a new generation coming. At the moment, it looks good, but of course, we have a whole new thing going on with the Internet. Everyone wants to be a YouTube star nowadays and an influencer and, everything is going in different ways now, so we have to see how the scene will survive things.

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