A Fully Loaded Discharge of Metal
CoC Chats with Schmier from Destruction about the band's first official DVD release, _Live Discharge - 20 Years of Total Destruction_
by: Paul Schwarz
Whatever your opinion on Destruction -- whether you think they started to suck after the _Bestial Invasion of Hell_ demo, _Sentence of Death_ MCD, their _Infernal Overkill_ debut, or even if you think they've never made a bad album (at least with the main original members present...) -- it is undeniable that they have become thrash metal legends. Perhaps it is even appropriate to say metal legends. Thus a packed-to-the-gills DVD from this German institution is far from unwarranted -- and when the DVD is as thoroughly comprehensive as _Live Discharge - 20 Years of Total Destruction_, there's no reason to complain. Centrally composed of an eighteen-song meta-concert pieced together from three live performances by the band -- and interspersed with backstage footage and the like -- the DVD also features a host of extras, including Destruction performances from the Eighties and backstage featurettes. I spoke to Schmier back in March, before I'd had a chance to look at the DVD, to find out all about it and what Destruction had been up to recently. Hope you enjoy the results.

CoC: Destruction have recently been playing shows in Latin America, right?

Schmier: Yeah. It was killer. We played three weeks, mainly in Brazil. We had a show cancelled in Costa Rica because we were getting tight on time -- everybody was getting sick and we had to go back to Germany and continue playing here. So to make it back to Germany we had to cancel the show in Costa Rica, but we hope to go back and make up for it soon.

CoC: So the tour was successful?

S: It was cool. Record sales are improving and the shows had like 1000 people or more every night, so it was pretty cool.

CoC: Coming onto the new DVD: how did that come together?

S: We took the best parts of each show, so it's actually a complete setlist of a normal Destruction gig, but made up mostly of parts from Switzerland -- from the club show -- and, I think, three or four songs from each festival. I think it's a nice mixture, you know. We have the indoor club show, we have the at-night (Full Force) festival performance, and we have the daylight Wacken festival performance. It has all the, you know, different colours, and I think it's much more interesting than just one single show.

CoC: It definitely has the variety: obviously there are only so many minutes you can cram onto a DVD.

S: I think we have almost 4 1/2 hours, everything together. That's a lot, I think. We wanted to put as much as possible. We really had problems to fit everything on the DVD, 'cause it was getting very tight. My brother, who was managing the whole thing, he really had problems to get everything on, so we had to squeeze it a little bit, you know?

CoC: You had to make some tough decisions to cut together the best footage that you could get into a single show, to the maximum amount of time that you had?

S: Yes. It also features a lot of little bits and pieces from the road and also some older stuff. So I think we have the whole variety, and I think for the first DVD we ever did, it's a great job. It's definitely value for money, especially because it also features the Japan-only release live album, _Alive Devastation_.

CoC: This live CD features the entirety of the Wacken 2002 show, featured in part on the DVD itself, right?

S: Yeah. It's the one where we had the big fuck-up at the end where the stage was totally out of power and we had to stop the show. That's all on there, on the DVD.

CoC: Was it hard, getting _Alive Devastation_ [previously only available on import in Europe -- Paul] packaged as a bonus with the -standard- edition of _Live Discharge_?

S: Well, we kicked Nuclear Blast's asses over this. We said: we're gonna release it worldwide as a DVD -with- the bonus CD. First of all they wanted to do just a limited edition of 5000. We said no.

CoC: So you put your foot down?

S: I think it's a cool compromise. This way, everybody that was complaining before that _Alive Devastation_ was a Japan-only release -- that you couldn't get it in Europe -- can get it now for free: just buy the DVD.

CoC: For the actual construction of the DVD, did you look to some of the live videos or live DVDs that had been done by other bands? For example, the format you use -- of concert footage interspersed with interview or backstage material -- reminds me of _Under Siege_ and _Live Intrusion_, from Sepultura and Slayer respectively, and even, going right back, to Combat's _The Ultimate Revenge_ Venom / Slayer / Exodus video.

S: I think of course you need to see what others do, to improve and to make a nice statement. I've been watching a couple of DVDs -- not even Slayer or Sepultura: they have more been like latest releases of other bands, of other big bands. To see, you know, how high the bar is -- 'cause we definitely didn't want to release something that looks cheap. So we tried to do whatever we could to play in the first league with the DVD thing.

CoC: It's a really good thing for a band like you to do. Destruction -- no offence intended -- are a band who stand very much on their reputation, if you see what I mean?

S: Yeah. It's true.

CoC: People know Destruction. Destruction have a classic sort of status. So even if someone were to put out a cheap Destruction bootleg, a lot of people would buy it just 'cause it was Destruction. So you could have taken a very different attitude, and just issued something 'cause you knew people would but it. It's good to see that you took on the challenge of doing something good.

S: For us it was a big challenge because we don't have the twenty years every year. So we felt, therefore, that we also had to prove to people that we're still trying to do our best and, of course, it's a big chance for us to reach those people, also, who never saw Destruction before live -- somebody in Malaysia can now buy a DVD and see what Destruction is all about. The DVD also features a look behind the curtain, a look into the band. That's definitely what I like about the DVD thing: it's not just a plain concert. It's a look into the band, which also gives everybody the chance to see the band.

CoC: So, to beg the question, what -is- Destruction all about? What are people going to -see- on the DVD? What is it about Destruction that comes out of the experience of watching _Live Discharge_?

S: Basically, it's definitely that besides the show we're trying to have a good time because, you know, the world sucks big time. So I try when I'm on the road with the band to live the tour life. You know, sex, drugs and rock n' roll is definitely... still around. I mean, it's a big -party- for us: to go out there, jam with the fans. Also we try as much as possible to have contact with the fans besides the show. You know, just go out there, sign autographs, shake some hands, have some drinks together. That's what's in all the fucking backstage footage. I think you get a nice view that we are a fucking aggressive live band, that we take our music very serious on stage and we are fighting for some recognition and some political statements also, sometimes. But on the other side we're, as much as concerns the band, trying to have -fun- besides that. That's what you can see in the footage: it's not overplayed, it's just real stuff. And I like that, you know.

CoC: Talking about the actual footage, especially from Wacken, was it a difficult process to get the rights to it? Because I've heard rumours that the Wacken organisation makes bands sign contracts to the effect that the Wacken organisation owns the footage.

S: Well, it's not that, but it's like: they bring a film team and then you can... pay the whole thing, you know. That usually means that the record company gets an offer -- they say: we filmed ten bands of yours, and if you want the material you pay this amount of money. It's a kind of... you know, eat it or forget it. You cannot choose. The good thing was that we knew that, so we brought our own film team.

CoC: You managed to get away with that?

S: Well, when they asked us to play we said we wanted to film it on our own, and they told us that was no problem. But when we were there and filming with our own film team, they were like: what the fuck are you doing? Why do you have your own film team? We said: it's in our contract. Don't worry about it. Even when the DVD came out they thought we'd used their footage!

CoC: So because Destruction have a certain amount of clout, you -could- say that because the Wacken people couldn't afford to not have you play?

S: Exactly. That's how it works.

CoC: It's good that you did that: I think that's a bit rich, what the Wacken people do.

S: I guess they all do it. They fucking make money out of that. We tried to put even some more footage on the DVD from other festivals where we couldn't film ourselves because it was in foreign countries; and then they made us the offer: three songs, 10,000 bucks. We were like, "Fuck off! How many DVDs do you think we're gonna sell? 500,000?! What the fuck is that!?" So we didn't put on footage from two other big festivals where we had pretty good footage too, but they just wanted too much money, so we said, "No way".

CoC: What's the possibility of releasing any of the classic Destruction performances, visual or audio? It's something Mercyful Fate and King Diamond are doing, Kreator are looking into it, and it's a market that's clearly rich.

S: You mean the old stuff?

CoC: Yeah, classic shows from the Eighties.

S: There's not that much existing.

CoC: I have a friend who recorded your first show in Frankfurt, when you played at a Tankard record signing which Sodom were performing at...

S: <laughs> I remember. We were there, Sodom were playing and then they were like: Destruction is here! Let's get them on stage and they will play with us. So we jumped on stage and we made some noise, and yeah, that was basically our first show, but it wasn't because it was Desaster. <laughs>

CoC: I've listened to the tape. It's actually quite interesting. There was a rumour that Sodom were upstaged because although you didn't play that -well-, there was something that came out of it. There was some sort of energy that was there, and you can hear it. It comes through the early demos; and in this performance you sort of hear that rough and raw sort of -edge- -- which you then hone, obviously, into the speed metal sound of _Sentence of Death_ and _Infernal Devastation_.

S: For us it was just the first time on stage, you know, at this show. So we were kind of excited about it, but it wasn't the best performance ever because, as you can imagine, the first time we were seventeen or sixteen and a half. I don't even remember. We were young. So we just had a blast to be -invited- to go on stage, because at this time the demo tape was just out for a few weeks. The underground was fucking rising big time. We were really surprised about it. So I guess it was a cool thing, but it was definitely not a great show at this time. Talking about those shows: they are really hard to get in good quality. That's why we have some little pieces of some old performances on the DVD also, but the quality is really bad. We tried to get better quality, but it's really hard to find.

CoC: Have you been reaching out into the underground, asking if people have anything?

S: Yeah. We tried to get some stuff, but the stuff people sent in was -really- bad quality, on VHS tapes. So if you put this into a digital system it's getting worse -- but we're still gonna keep an eye open on that, maybe for a future project we will have the chance one day to do a best of old material, and do like kind of a medley or whatever we can do about it. But it's definitely a problem that it's twenty years ago and the VHS tapes, they're fucking falling apart now. I did just hear that Gary from Tankard -- he told me he has a big collection, so I will come back to him about this, because he told me he's got some stuff from Destruction I never heard of. So maybe, for any future DVDs, if we start collecting now we will have something for the future. There's definitely a couple of songs from old performances on the DVD also.

CoC: How balanced would you say the setlist is these days? Do you like to -- or on the other hand, do you feel that you have to play up the old stuff?

S: Well, I think the old stuff is a big part of Destruction -- so you cannot leave the old stuff behind and play just the new stuff. I think the balance -- if we headline and play a two hour set, the set definitely features a lot of old songs. Especially the classical stuff, from _Infernal Overkill_. I wouldn't say that we're a band that just plays a lot of new stuff. I think the balance has to be there, and it's actually a 50/50 thing. Basically, if we play a one-hour set, it's a 50/50 thing. If we play a longer set, then it's even more old stuff, I think.

CoC: Do you feel like enough of the audience, at least, are -with you- on the new stuff?

S: Oh yeah. We have a couple of new songs that are overtaking the old ones right now. "Nailed to the Cross" and "Thrash 'til Death" have definitely overtaken a lot of the old songs. I think if you were to put a top 5 together right now, first place would definitely be "Curse of the Gods", and second place would be "Nailed to the Cross", I think. Those two songs are top hits live right now. Also, "Thrash 'til Death" is one of the songs that people love, also "Butcher Strikes Back". I think those three new ones are on the same level as "Bestial Invasion", "Mad Butcher" and "Curse of the Gods". Sometimes, live, I'll just stop my wocals and people are singing with me, and you see all the horns and the woices -- you can definitely tell that some of the new songs have reached this point where people don't care if it's from the Eighties or if it's from the year 2000. It's just a classical Destruction song, now.

CoC: Well, it was nice to talk to you: hopefully we'll see you in the UK some time soon...

S: Yeah. A UK tour is still planned. After our last appearance in London we were talking about an English tour and Metalysee had been connecting us with some English promoters, but then, all of a sudden, Metalysee backed up, and I don't know what happened -- really happened; because we never got any confirmation for English dates. There were some strange fuck-ups. Now, our agency is trying to set up something for Autumn or so, some UK tour. I hope it will happen. We will see. I hope so. It's always up to the promoters: we want to play, we just need to find some promoters that are gonna risk their ass on some thrash metal, you know. It's difficult.

CoC: Oh, one little thing: is there any thought of adding "The Ritual" into your setlist? Do you still play that?

S: We were playing "The Ritual", actually, let's say... two years ago, at the headlining shows. So we still have "The Ritual" in the setlist once in a while. Right now we are working on bringing back some classics and exchanging some others. So we have "Deathtrap" back in the setlist now. We have "Thrash Attack" back in the setlist. So I think "The Ritual" is still on the list -- especially because just recently in Brazil, Kisser from Sepultura was playing with us and he was playing the riff of "The Ritual", and he was like, "Yeah, that's my favourite song!" So we were like, "Hey, maybe we should play it again one day." Because we had it in the setlist on the 2001 tour -- we just try to switch it around a little bit. We almost play every song from _Infernal Overkill_, so sometimes it's just nice to kick out "Tormentor" and bring in "The Ritual", or kick out "Invincible Force" and bring in whatever, you know? You cannot play every song on that album. "The Ritual" is definitely a song that we are practicing right now, again, for upcoming shows because we wanna exchange the setlist a little bit. Right now, at some headlining shows, we are just asking the people: what do you want? So if they're screaming for a song, we just play it because we have them all in the setlist in our heads, we just cannot play 2 1/2 hours of thrash or we will die and people will fucking lose their heads! <laughs> But close to a two-hour set is usual right now, so it's cool.

(article submitted 16/7/2004)

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