Interview Marcel "Schmier" Schirmer (face to face)
Hi Schmier, we’re Aux Portes du Metal which translates into At Metal’s Gates, a French Webzine. We’re into metal from Rainbow, Black Sabbath up to Cannibal Corpse and beyond.
Aux Portes du Metal, Gates of Metal (all in French, Schmier understood it before I translated it in English).
You just released "Under Attack". How did you come up with this name? What’s the concept behind it?
It’s all about the tension in the world right now. When I googled the title, I was surprised that it was never used before. There’s no record out with that name. Of course, it’s very intense. Of course, after the attacks in Paris, that came to my mind. I was writing lyrics about it and it just kept on going. The whole album turned out to be like intense lyrics about the world situation. I thought "Under Attack" was the perfect name because we’re not just under terrorist attack but also... This world nowadays is under such tension. The whole Middle East is unstable and it’s just sad that the world is going like this. We’re a thrash metal band so it’s a topic that we can write about.
You don’t want to write about rainbows and teddy bears?
Not really, others do that better.
Where did you record your last album? What value does it add?
We recorded one part in Switzerland and one part in Germany. One studio had a bigger room for drums so we were able to do without triggers and sample sounds. The other one in Switzerland belongs to a friend of ours. We worked there many times. That’s where we mixed the album. We need somebody we can trust. We worked with a lot of big producers in the past years. This time, we wanted to go back to basics and make the band sound more organic. This time we had more control over the sound, the mix and the end result. It was a criticism for some past albums, so this one is not over produced. I understand the concerns of the fans when they criticize the sound. In the end, we make music for ourselves, to begin with, so we have to like it.
So this new album, how does it stand up to the stuff that you’ve done in the past? What’s better, would you say?
Music wise, it’s back to basics, harmonies and chords, and guitar stuff, it’s more based on Destruction from the beginning. Later on, we tried to be a bit more progressive and used diminished guitar scales and even more crazy stuff. This album has a lot more of the classic metal harmonies. We tried to make it a little bit more classical this time because this is how we started. Our first albums have this very classic metal influences from the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. So I guess it’s the biggest difference from the latest albums. It has a lot on the natural heavy metal resolutions.
I guess the line up didn’t change
No, no. We’re eight years stable. The drummer is the problem along the way. Thrash is so physical, drummers, after a certain age, they go down. You have to train every day otherwise you lack the stamina.
Not everybody is Dave Lombardo.
No, you’re right, if the drummer stops playing two to four months, then it’s over, he has to start back and build his physical ability from scratch again.
How have the new songs been received so far on stage?
Good. We’re playing four new songs. We try to play the best sounding songs. Some sound great in the studio, even in the rehearsal room but not so much on stage.
We’re gonna hear some old stuff also?
Yes of course, we’ve got a lot of classics. Our setlist is full of very traditional songs from the 80s.
What is your favourite track from the album and why?
I like "Dethroned" a lot. It’s a very fast song, it has a groovy chorus, it’s pretty steady and catchy. It’s a 230 bpm song. It’s the edge of playing tight.
You are quite an established band. What is your challenge nowadays?
As long as you love what you do, as long as you can tour, it’s a great thing because not so many bands are able to play and see the world, live from their music, meet new people, see new countries. We did play in France, in this part of France a long time ago. We’re trying to reach new people. Yesterday we played Marseille. I believe it was the first time since the 80s. We used to play Paris and Strasbourg, maybe Nancy, but never in the South. It’s always a challenge to come back to a place where you’ve not been for a long time or to go somewhere you've never played. We were offered to play a metal fest in the Himalayas in Katmandou Metal Fest. They had a big metal fest but then they had a big earthquake a couple of years ago in Nepal.
What bands from Germany would you recommend aside from Tokyo Hotel?
(Schmier laughs…) Oh man it’s a shame… I would say Scorpions, Accept, Kreator, Sodom, Helloween, Rage are good friends that we’ve been around for more than 30 years. Germany has the metal queen Doro Pesch. For the upcoming bands, not a single band is beyond any other. Dust Bolt is coming with us on tour.
Yes, actually Dust Bolt played here with Obituary last year.
Well, guys thank you very much for your time, is there anything you might want to add?
We would have liked to come earlier to the South of France. But it was difficult for a while. The thing is now with Hellfest it concentrates the focus of many bands and tour managers, so we’re lucky to get the opportunity to tour elsewhere in France. Fans are happy to see us just like yesterday in Marseille. They saw us for the first time in 1988 with Motörhead and now again twenty-eight years later. It’s crazy.