German Thrash Metal Band Destruction to Headline Bangalore Open Air 2014
The band’s frontman and founding member Marcel Schirmeraka Schirmer says their India experience will definitely “be a part of the next Destruction album”
Marcel Schirmer, better known as Schmier, the vocalist-bassist of German thrash metal band Destruction is taking a break from a mixing session for our Skype chat. Says Schmier, “I’m mixing material from my new project Panzer, which has members from [heavy metal veterans] Accept.” For someone who’s been in the metal scene for the last 31 years, Schmier was excited to join Accept drummer Stefan Schwarzman and guitarist Herman Frank. Says Schmier, “It’s coming out on Nuclear Blast in November. It’s very traditional heavy metal, but with a little extra. There’s a speed metal influence and it’s much more melodic than Destruction and a little heavier than Accept, so it’s interesting.”
Three decades on [and off, when Schmier left Destruction in 1990 and returned to the band only in 1999] with Destruction, Schmier knows how to keep busy as a metal musician. There’s a teenager’s excitement in his voice when he talks about collaborating with Accept, whom he cites as an influence “back when I was a small headbanger.” There are still a lot of goals left for the band, even though they’ve become part of German thrash metal’s very own big four – alongside thrash acts such as Kreator, Sodom and Tankard. Says Schmier, “I think our dream is taking little steps to achieve something bigger. Now, playing in India for the first time, that’s a big goal. We’ve finally come to India and it’s a great thing to do. All the smaller markets are hard to play, but they are opening up now.” Ahead of Destruction’s debut India show at the third edition of annual metal festival Bangalore Open Air, Schmier spike to ROLLING STONE India about the life of a metalhead, plans for new material and whether there will ever be a Big Teutonic 4 Tour with Kreator, Sodom and Tankard.
RS: You mentioned your new project Panzer, with the guys from Accept. How did that come about?
Schmier: It’s so exciting to work on something new. When I had the opportunity to work with two guys from Accept, it’s great. They were my influence when I was a young headbanger. One of my first concerts was [for their 1982 album] Restless and Wild. We know each other for a long time now and we meet here and there. Somehow a friend of ours said, ‘Why don’t you guys do something together? I’m sure it’ll sound great.’ And we were kinda laughing about it at first but then when the time was right, we talked and realized, ‘Hey, this could be excellent.’ We just did it. Sometimes you have to do the spontaneous things in life. This was one of them.
What is your setlist going to be like for Bangalore Open Air?
We’re gonna go deep into the classics in India. We’re going to bring 31 years of thrash metal history to India, so a lot of the old songs. We’ll also do a little wish-list for fans, so people in the front row can scream some songs for us! We can see what people want to hear. It’s going to be a mix of classics and new anthems and a little wishlist. We hope people are going to go home satisfied.
This is going to be your first time here. What have you heard about India?
Actually, I’ve been checking stuff that I could find on the internet, and reading some articles about the [Indian] scene. I actually saw a very nice TV report about the Indian scene and Bangalore Open Air. It was on German national TV, on one of the channels just for documentaries. It was quite interesting to see what influences young bands, especially some who are putting Indian music into metal, and how the scene is growing. I always like to make my own impression when I go somewhere. I like to talk to people and find out myself, but that TV report was quite interesting, because we’ve been playing in a lot of new markets. It’s always exciting.
Destruction has sometimes called itself “pure underground thrash metal.” Where do you think thrash metal is today?
If you consider Metallica thrash metal, then they are the biggest heavy metal band in the world. Actually in reality, if you see thrash metal in general – the heavy and brutal stuff – it’s still an underground scene, but has a distinctive following among young people, who are tired of society. It’s not very commercial. Metallica was the only band which broke through big time. Of course, there’s the other wave of Slayer, Anthrax and Megadeth – they’re also very big. But besides them, I think most of the other thrash bands are underground.
Three decades on, what would you say has changed from that first day of Destruction until the present day?
I don’t think we’ve seen 30 years, because there was a lot of excitement, a lot of ups and downs. I think we never believed we could do this for so long. Going through our difficulties and our split ups, our learnings, but in the end, it’s the greatest gift for a musician to have one band that they can concentrate on. Destruction has kinda become a brand and a unique style of music. This was an achievement we never thought we’d have. I think it’s partly lucky, because we were early, but also some hard work.
For me, the most fantastic thing is that heavy metal scene is stable and rising and spreading worldwide. When we started, people were just laughing at us. They were pointing their fingers and laughing at us. They didn’t take us seriously. 31 years later, I think we’ve proved everybody wrong and that’s the biggest thing about being in this band.
How old were you when you started out?
I was 16 when we played our first gig. I remember I was 17 when we signed our first record deal and my mother had to sign it for me, because I was too young at that time.
What is it like living the life of a metalhead for the last 30 years?
[laughs] Sometimes it’s great and sometimes it’s not so easy, because you have to see people who go to work in the morning and after 6 o’clock, their day is over. Being a heavy metal musician in a professional band, your day is never over. You always work for the band and sometimes you go to bed and you still have thoughts in your head and you can’t sleep, because you have to plan stuff.
Now, I’m in the studio, I have to mix this album, there’s a time schedule for it, then we have to go to India next week. I still don’t have the working commission, I’m waiting for the Embassy to send me back my passport, so there are a lot of things in the hand all the time. There’s a lot to be done, also because we don’t have management. We do everything ourselves. It seems busy, but it’s a great thing to do what you love. To us, heavy metal isn’t just music, it’s a lifestyle. It’s a way of life. It’s a great gift. But I also do a lot of normal stuff, you know? I see my friends, we go out drinking. I love good food, I like playing sports. That’s also the normal side of a heavy metal musician.
31 years on, is there still a lot left for the band to achieve, according to you? Is there still a big dream or goal to focus on?
Yeah, I think our dream is taking little steps to achieve something bigger. Now, playing in India for the first time, that’s a big goal. We’ve finally come to India and it’s a great thing to do. All the smaller markets are hard to play, but they are opening up now. We never thought we’d play in India, but now it’s happening and that’s a big goal.
A lot of times, when I’m, like, standing on top of the temple in Mexico, I’m poking myself and saying, ‘Man, this is amazing. This is the dream’. But on the other side, the next day, I’m stuck at the airport and my plane doesn’t leave for eight hours and I’m down to earth again. It’s an exciting life. You gotta love the adventure. Some musicians get homesick, I’m lucky I love to be on the road.
Is there still a dream band you still want to play with? Or do you feel now other bands should be picking you as the dream band to play with?
[laughs] In the earliest years, we played with a lot of my favorite bands. Motorhead was and still is one of our favorite bands and we did at least five tours with them back in the day. We did the [Slayer’s 1985 album] Hell Awaits tour with Slayer, too. Early on, we had a lot of meetings with famous bands, so I think the only band missing on the list would be Judas Priest. That would be a good band for Panzer to support, actually. [laughs].
Now you’ve got to prioritize between Panzer and Destruction.
It’s a nice hobby. Destruction is obviously my life and my main work and the other thing [Panzer] is a nice extra that you can do besides the main project. The best thing for me is to work with music, now I have another opportunity, which is awesome.
What is the new Destruction material going to sound like?
I think it’s going to sound thrash metal [laughs]. We haven’t started recording yet, but we’ve been collecting riffs and ideas. We’re going to start after India to record our first demo tapes and then we’ll know more. For Destruction, the direction is the same – the older we get, the more brutal and faster we’re going to be. We’re not going to retire and get slower and mellow and stuff. We try to stay while and hungry. This time we’ll put a lot of good experience from the road on the album. So going to India, for example, is a great experience to come back and remember. That’s why we’re still here, because we still see the world. India will be part of the next Destruction album, for sure.
Your 2012 album Spiritual Genocide had collaborations with Tankard frontman Andreas Geremia aka Gerre and Sodom’s Tom Angelripper. Will the next Destruction album also include guests?
I think so. I think it spices the soup of today. It’s great to work with other musicians, to see how other people work and what they sound like. All the collaborations just make you happy,y’know? It’s something we never did in the past, I can’t believe we haven’t done it in the last 20 years. I hope we can continue doing it. It’s great fun for us and an extra spice for the fans.
You did one show last year with the other Big Teutonic 4 of thrash metal. Do you think there will be a Big Teutonic 4 tour at some point?
We did some festivals last year, with all the bands [Kreator, Sodom and Tankard]. It was the first time all the four bands played at the same show. It was very exciting. We’re still waiting for this to happen with a real tour, but it’s not so easy, because everybody has their own schedules and some bands are professionally touring and some others, like Tankard, have day jobs so they’re not touring all around the year. But I won’t give up, hopefully one day that tour will happen.
Destruction performs at Bangalore Open Air on September 13th, 2014 at CounterCulture, Bengaluru. Rotting Christ, Cadaver Mutilator, Kryptos, The Down Troddence, Threinody, Armament and Girish and the Chronicles will also perform. Entry: Rs 2,500 (general) and Rs 2,000 (student). Tickets available here.