About Me

Interview with Destruction

The Thrash Metal Machine from Germany, Destruction, is back with their 3rd live album. We took this opportunity to talk to the legendary Schmier about it. All the aggressiveness and brutality are still present within their hearts even after more than 30 years in the music industry. It’s normal when we think that all this mess with the COVID-19 is a problem on its own. However, not everything is bad, because now we have “Born to Thrash – Live in Germany” to enjoy. Here’s what Schmier had to say about it.

M.I. - Hello, Schmier, thank you so much for granting us this interview, it’s a great privilege to be talking to you. How is it going, especially now that everyone’s in lockdown due to the COVID-19 situation? How are you dealing with all this?

Hi! I think that the worst part is behind us now. It has been pretty horrible and the fact that nobody knew how to react, it was a shock. It was a shock, it was so quick, but now that we went into lockdown it’s easier. People just couldn’t handle the situation because of the jobs and the kids... but I think it’s okay now in German. It’s good that they’re letting people go out again, the restaurants are opening again, the stores are open again, so it’s getting back to normal. I think we can see a bit of light at the end of the tunnel.

M.I. – So, you took the opportunity, now that everyone’s at home, to bring a Destruction show to all the fans. “Born to Thrash – Live in Germany” is the band’s 1st live album with the current lineup and the 3rd live album in a career with more than 30 years old. Is the current situation the main reason to release this album or is there any other reason? How did the idea come up?

The only reason is the COVID-19 situation, actually. We recorded last year’s Partisan Festival basically by accident, because a friend of mine, our sound guy records live shows and he recorded the Partisan Festival for some other bands and he surprised us after the show with the recordings. He basically traded the recordings for some drinks. We checked it and it was a great night and a great show, but we had no plans to release it. In February, beginning of March, we were going into holidays and the COVID came and everything got pushed back and postponed, it was total chaos. I was actually stranded on an island in the Indian Ocean on holidays, without being able to travel to Germany, and there was this low moment where everything was fucked up where I thought “Okay, we have no job, I cannot fly home, everything is basically fucked up, what are we going to do?”. I remember saying to my guys “Considering that we have to stay home, there’s no work, there’s no festivals, we may have no shows for a whole year… why don’t we release this live album?”. We wanted to release this as a digital album first, because we wanted to release it fast. It takes a lot of months to produce a record and the vinyl. So, we wanted to release it fast and it was a good compromise, I think, we’re happy about it, but yes, there would be no album if there was no COVID-19.

M.I. – The album is composed by 10 of the most notorious tracks from the last tour, combining some tracks from the “Born to Perish” album and other Destruction classics. Some of these classics were released more than 10 years ago. What differences can be heard between the old school classics and the tracks from Born to Perish, for example?

I don’t know, between “Curse the Gods” and “Born to Perish” there isn’t too much of a difference, I think. It sounds like Destruction and it’s a good sign that the band has managed to maintain its style and creativity. So, the new songs, they are basically diving into the Destruction trademarks. We also have 4 or 5 new songs live because people reacted really well to the new album, and that’s a great thing to have because the classics will always be the reference, they will always be the thing that people want to hear.

M.I. – Speaking about differences, Gomorra’s shredder Damir Eskic is the most recent addition to the band’s lineup. We actually had the pleasure to interview Damir, due to the fact the Gomorra was, at the time, releasing their first album, with him having said that he was looking forward to go on tour with Destruction as well. What does he bring to the band as a whole and how well is he fitting into Destruction?

We’ve been selecting very carefully. It took us many years to finally bring a second guitar player, because we were waiting for the right guy. And he simply is the right guy because, first of all, he’s a fantastic guitar player, he loves Destruction, he loves Thrash, he has a great background as a musician (he has studied music), he’s also a very good solo player ­– because we were looking for a guy who’s a good rhythm guitar player and a good solo player – so he has all the skills, which is pretty rare. Normally, solo players are not so good on the rhythm guitar and vice-versa. Also, he is a great guy, really funny, he’s always on a good mood and he brought that into the band. I wish we would have thought about him earlier, because we had a really good year last year and I think the band sounds better than ever with him.

M.I. – You and Mike have been in the band since its birth, but Randy Black was another addition to the band in recent years. Was this the fresh blood that Destruction needed to keep on going for many more years to come? Would you consider that they were the missing pieces in the Destruction puzzle?

You know, being in a band is a difficult task, because it’s not very easy to maintain the spirit and keep being motivated for this life, and many people change their lives… they marry, they have kids, they have new priorities, they can’t be on tour all the time, and they have to earn a certain amount of money to maintain their families. There’s not much you can do about it. But Randy, he’s actually a good friend of ours, and he’s one of my favorite drummers since I saw him on different occasions, and I always loved his playing. He helped us on summer a tour when Vaaver wasn’t able to come because of his new child, so since then we’ve kept in touch and when we were looking for a drummer, Randy was available. He’s a fantastic drummer, there’s only a few more drummers like him in the world, he’s completely professional and he’s like a machine on live shows. I’m very glad to have him on the band. Plus, not everybody is able to play with his favorite drummer, it’s amazing.

M.I. – Still on the differences subject, there has been a long debate over the years between the American Thrash Metal vs. the German Thrash Metal, and you seem to be the perfect person to answer this question: what would you say is the biggest difference between the American and the German Thrash Metal?

That’s very easy: the German Thrash Metal never sold out (laughs). The American bands are more successful because they went for a more commercial way. And I say that with total respect, they chose a different path, but not us. We never tried to be a radio band. We tried to be a thrash metal band and to be as extreme as possible, and we knew that not everybody would like it. We’re not playing music for little girls, you know. We’re playing music for wild men that want to freak out and scream it out and have a good time. I think that’s the biggest difference. The European bands are more vicious, more brutal and they stayed like this, while the American bands chose the American way: to make good money; the dollar is an important pride of the capitalism of America. So, I understand that the band can push us in this direction. Obviously, everybody wants to be successful, but I cannot complain, we have a solid fan base, we toured around the world… and look at Kreator, they’re getting bigger nowadays. I think thrash is alive and well.
But yeah, I think the American bands are great, but that’s the difference. Also, if you look at their age, they’re a little bit older than us and that also may have to do with the fact that we’re still a bit more vicious and brutal. 

M.I. – In regards to the live shows, last year, back in September, you had the opportunity to visit our very own country once again. How did it feel to share the stage with Overkill, Flotsam and Jetsam and Rezet? With such a great fanbase here in Portugal, can we expect another show sometime soon once the situation with the COVID-19 has been dealt with?

I think it feels really good to come back to Portugal. We have this tour scheduled for November or December in Lisbon, with Warbringer and Crisix. Until December, hopefully everything is sorted. We were supposed to go in May, but it got postponed to December and, considering that in May we had no tour, no Portuguese dates, I’m very happy that now we can go there on December. 
That tour with Overkill was amazing, we’re all great friends and we had amazing shows. I think they have an amazing concept, a great history, great setlists with all the classics, so for me it was great. Also, Flotsam and Jetsam are some of the best friends we have in the music business, we’ve had many shows with them since 1986.

M.I. – On a personal level, I grew up listening to bands like Kreator, Slayer and Destruction, as well. Thrash Metal was always a constant presence in my life and one that I refuse to let go no matter what. How do you feel when fans approach you? Are you constantly recognized when you walk in the street, for example?

It depends. Sometimes I get recognized in crazy places, at the supermarket or the airport somewhere in the end of the world but, at the end of the day, this is Heavy Metal, so it’s not like you’re not recognized everywhere. But it’s totally okay. Sometimes it’s funny, for example, I’m with my girlfriend and someone just comes to me in a restaurant and says “Hey, I’m a fan from Russia”, and this is a guy in a tie and a suit, looking like a banker. So, I’m like “What the fuck?” (laughs). That shows that Heavy Metal is worldwide, with a great fan base and it’s among all levels. Especially all the fans like us nowadays, they still like the music, they have knowledge of it, they still have the passion for the music and that’s always great to see.

M.I. – Having such a great and prosper career, full of accomplishments, what motivates you to keep on going? How can you keep being so creative after more than 30 years in the business? What’s the secret behind it?

The passion that you get for doing it for so long. My band is my life, it’s not just a job. I do everything with a hot blood, with a passion. So, I think that as long as I have this passion, I’m hoping that Destruction will remain as strong as we are now. I think there’s no real secrecy. Just keep doing what you do with love and a passion. It’s not different than any other job. I think it’s the same with music. This is the best job for me and I’m happy that I can still do this, so even if I have a bad day, I still give my best every time.

M.I. – So far, Destruction has released 16 studio albums and, hopefully, there’s many more coming up. With such a rich and vast discography, if you had to pick one track to name it as the best one you have ever created in your career, what track would that be?

That’s very difficult, because there’s of course a top 10 and there are songs you don’t enjoy so much… But, I think there’s one song that’s always fun to play and that I love to death, which is “Curse the Gods”. It’s a song that I played too many times, but I still love it. It also represents really well the band, it’s a really typical Destruction song, it’s just a rollercoaster of groove and high screams, and I love to play it live.

M.I. -­ Being hailed as one of the masterminds behind the Thrash Machine, alongside names like Kerry King, Lars Ulrich, Dave Mustaine, Mille Petrozza and many, many others, how do you feel about reaching such a legendary status? Have you accomplished everything you wanted in your career with Destruction?

I think you always have more targets to reach. We’re actually working on a Destruction movie nowadays, a professional documentary. It’s a look behind the curtain, a movie that your mother could watch and say “Oh, so this is like Heavy Metal musicians are like” (laughs). Something that older people can understand and see that it’s not just sex, drugs and rock and roll. It’s spirit, love and passion. Hopefully next year it will be finished.
Also, we’re hoping to go on tour with Kreator, Sodom and Tankard, the German Big 4. It’s not going to happen this year and I don’t think it’s going to happen next year, but hopefully one day. And we still never played with Judas Priest, I love Judas Priest. it’s one of my favorite bands. We played with everybody you know, but never with Judas Priest. That would be a big dream.

M.I. ­- On the opposite side of the fence, is there anything you regret? Anything you would like to have done differently?

I accept what happened, I accept the past. It makes you the man you are today. Without the problems and the fuck ups, you wouldn’t be the person that you are today. Maybe I wouldn’t have signed the contracts we have signed when we were 17 years old, with some managers and record labels that we made so damn rich and we didn’t make any money, but I don’t care anymore. We’ve had a lot of luck and travelled the world so many times that I can’t complain. I wouldn’t change many things.

M.I. – Is there anything you would like to address to the fans here in Portugal?

Yeah, I’m really hoping we can do this tour in December because some of the most legendary shows that we had happened in Portugal. Like in 1988 with Motorhead. I still remember it like it was yesterday. It was our first time in Portugal and we parked the bus outside the venue, and there were hundreds and hundreds of fans screaming around and waiting for us and even before the show started, there were thousands out there screaming “Destruction! Destruction! Destruction!” and it was an insane show. It was just crazy, I know it was one of the best shows in the 80’s. So, you know, there’s a lot of history with Portugal, because of that great time in Lisbon. It will always be magical in our heads.

M.I. – Schmier, congratulations on a stunning career, it’s been a hell of a ride so far! Once again, it’s been a huge honor, thank you so much for your time. We wish you all the best and we’re hoping all hoping this terrible situation can go away soon enough so we can enjoy the amazing and electrifying atmosphere of a Destruction show once more!

Thank you! Good luck for Portugal to come back on your feet now. See you in Lisbon, in December!

For Portuguese version, click here

Questions by João Guevara