One of the originators of the extreme music scene is without a doubt Paul Speckmann himself. Many bands have named one of his bands as an influence, and no one can doubt that the sound this man has crafted over time has been of a big impact. We tried to get the most out of this never-stopping Metaller, who has seen and been in places and situations some of us just dream of… he is the living proof of how a die-hard Metalhead takes his vision against all odds. So here, let the MASTER speak
So, MASTER was created back in 1983 if I am not wrong… that means 25 years of Paul Speckmann creating Heavy Metal… what keeps you going so far? I mean, YOU never stopped or became part of a “revival” which is now common… you never give yourself a break
"I still believe in Metal one-hundred-percent. This is what I live for. There is not turning back for me. I have devoted my life to creating music and living this life. I am not really good at much else. I still enjoy meeting fans and I get a thrilling feeling when I take the stage. Nothing can replace this feeling. In the late nineties I was moving furniture in Arizona and struggling to survive. I certainly realized that this was no life for me. I had to figure a way out, and I did. When you believe in yourself and your music, there is nothing stopping you."
Now, MASTER is a band based on the Czech Republic… why? I mean, MASTER is an underground icon for American extreme Metal music, and then one day Paul Speckmann decided to go to Europe… how it came to this decision?
"This is water under the bridge, although, I will explain this one more time. I was touring in Europe along side Malevolent Creation, and I met a killer support act during this trek. The band called Krabathor and I became great friends. This is to be expected when you’re traveling in an old broken down school bus with a crazy tour manger, driver and crew, in general. We spent 50 days together playing 44 concerts in many crazy places. Skull, the drummer, and I began playing together, just jamming at sound checks, improvising. At the end of the tour we discussed jamming together in a studio. The label at the time called System Shock from Germany agreed with my idea and flew me to Czech. The Krabathor members and I recorded an albums worth of tracks called Martyr, "Murder X The End Of The Game". In the end, the album only sold a few thousand copies, but our friendship grew. Just prior to the recording of this CD the bassist Bruno from Krabathor decided to go solo, and I was asked if I would fill the position as bassist. I of course accepted, because if you believe in your music, you will travel anywhere to continue with your dream. I sold all my belongings, packed up and moved to the Czech Republic, and this certainly was the best decision I have ever made in my life. I have been recording and touring in Europe ever since. America was becoming stagnant for me by this time anyway. All the Master clones were beginning to have success in the USA and this was difficult for me."
MASTER has been related to many of the now “famous” record labels, I mean you received an offer from Combat Records in the heydays, you had your first albums released by Nuclear Blast and instead of being nowadays on a big label, you are almost independent now… how do you see this?
"The bigger labels are only concerned with how many units are selling, they don’t care one bit about the artistic side of things. But in the end some of the independents end up the same way as in the music business the label owners only care about the next big office and house they will be soon buying. Speaking of NBR, they still refuse to pay the thousands of dollars they owe me from the past releases. I have actually begun making a few dollars on the first few releases because Displeased believes in Master and has begun re-releasing the first classic albums. I am just pleased that many people are rediscovering the classic Master stuff once again. They are finally figuring out where the influence of these so-called success stories came from."
For 25 years in music, with all this time and dedication, do you make a living out of music? I have heard that you actually also act as tour manager / merchandise guy from time to time
"I suppose life is working out for me in many ways. I own a house and a flat as well that was paid for from the music business, but I do have to go out on many tours as a merchandiser or a tour manager sometimes to help supplement my income. But on the other hand what’s wrong with this. I get to stay in touch with the fans and also enjoy the music of many other killer underground bands. Sometimes it can be a bit frustrating as many times the support acts can be atrocious, but I always say that you have to start somewhere and in the beginning I am sure we were atrocious as well. Practice makes perfect or at least better to a degree. In the last six years since joining the touring company called Kraft Evention in Germany life has improved considerably and again this was the perfect decision for an ailing rocker."
Many Death Metal bands cite MASTER as an early influence… and MASTER claims to be influenced by bands like Black Sabbath, Venom, MotÖrhead, and also I might add a lot of Punk and traditional Rock & Roll… but then did you ever considered that you were creating a sound or style that was to become popular after on?
"No, we just played always what we felt. The bands Deathstrike and Master have always been influenced by the world around us. It’s a cold cruel world and when the world is in turmoil the best songs are written. I suppose that we created something because generation after generation has copied the style and even sometimes the riffs are quite similar to early Master. I am flattered I suppose to be one of the originators of the genre. I laugh when people say, Master, who? The younger generation is blind to the truth, because they have heard a tenth generation copy of the earlier groups. Today the bands are playing regurgitated riffs for the most part, and originality seems to be a thing of the distant past."
It might be my mind playing a trick, but I kind of remember you being offered a position in a big band, that will probably still be paying a few checks nowadays, but you declined to follow your own path… in any case, what makes Paul to choose the harder way of life, to be dedicated to Metal for so long and never turning back? Were there times when you say, “to hell with this I am going to go for something else”?
"Never, this question has been asked over and over. I have the same answer, music is a way of life for some, and for many it’s only a hobby."
Now, what does someone like Paul Speckmann listen to nowadays? If I go to your car stereo or your abominable iPod (sorry, but I hate those things, even if I use a very old one) what bands I am to find? Any “guilty pleasure” you have as let’s say liking a Pop artist or DJ or something?
"In my car at this moment on my way home from English conversation this morning I was listening to the debut from Angel Witch. If you look through my collection of CDs in the car you will find Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, MotÖrhead, Venom, GBH, Discharge, Accept, Rainbow, the Ramones and many others. I don’t own an IPOD yet. I still listen to CDs, cassettes and vinyl when I can. I am old fashioned at 45 years old I suppose. Technology is ruining the music business for sure. People are stealing music from bands as well as me on the internet every day and it really sucks dick."
I find in the career of MASTER a point where most of the releases were not up to what I was expecting… those releases between 1998 to 2004, were not exactly as good as the earlier releases, at least in my eyes. I think I feel something in those, related with some inconformity or something… because when I listen to the latest album “Slaves Of Society” it does take again the road of such albums as the debut or “When God Created…”
"I suppose it’s hard to agree with you, because I believe in all my releases to a point. I mean they were obviously recorded during different periods in my life. I will admit some are better than others of course, but I certainly put my heart and soul into all releases. Some of course have better productions and bigger budgets as well as better promotion. "The Spirit Of The West", "Four More Years Of Terror" and "Slaves To Society" were recorded with the same lineup and are the best CDs since the first two. Opinions are like assholes anyways and I have one too."
MASTER is Paul Speckmann… so more than a band I see a leader and some guys hired to do the job… but sometimes that’s the way it is supposed to happen… what do you think?
"I never intended to be the leader! I was forced into it in the beginning. The original drummer Schmidt was the unofficial leader, but was left aside when I moved on and took over. Poor Bill was insecure with himself, and his talent was left to stagnate and he disappeared forever. Poor people are still writing me about their gullibility and telling me horror stories about how they gave Schmidt money for drugs and he never paid them back. I know this feeling because I was in the same position in the early eighties before I left the fool. This talented fuck could have started another band, but he chose to remain in his depression and in the minds of many, lost his direction forever."
Nowadays we are drowned with countless releases, most of them of the lowest quality ever heard… and I do not mean the production values, I mean the music and attitude… and that is what makes some difference to me… some bands just became a “plastic” product making the same damn album year by year and selling enough to get a paycheck… on one hand it is a musicians dream… on the other it will end up killing creativity… a hard decision for some
"I am always trying to write a new album, yet in the same vein. It’s called a signature. When you listen to Master you know it is Master. Style would be the key word here. When you hear Lemmy or Tom Araya sing, you immediately know it’s Slayer or MotÖrhead. This is the most important thing in music. Bands and labels today want to make money and retire, and this is understandable to a degree. Some are lucky, and some have to struggle like myself throughout their lives. But Metal is worth it. It’s still cool to go to a festival like the Obscene Extreme Open Air in Czech and brush elbows with Mika, from Impaled Nazarene, Chuck and the rest of Macabre, while speaking briefly with Dan Lilker while getting in for free on the Extreme Noise Terror guest-list, because you’re good friends after working together on several Kraft Evention tours. This is what Metal is really about. It’s a brotherhood among many in every country and this is why it works. The governments of the world could learn a thing or two from Metalheads."
Regarding the aspect of downloading music… how has this affected you? On one hand it can be a good promotional tool, but on the other, cheap bastards can download the full thing and by doing so, damaging the band… real Metal fans do download music, but they buy the thing if they like it… it is a way to support the band
"This has become a problem for all of us. Many artists including myself are continually ripped off. It first began with Nuclear Blast and now it is happening with the general public. You can find my albums available for free all over the web, and I am loosing sustainable income that keeps me alive. People are taking food from the mouths of many musicians. The big successful groups have no fear of this, but underground musicians just barely get by these days as it is. This is what’s called technology, and this is ruining the music industry for sure. What’s next, a roll of toilet paper that plays the songs while you wipe your ass? People are just too cheap to buy the CDs as the governments regulate the currency and no one can afford a pot to piss in."
It seems like vinyl is making a good return after all, but I would like to get the first two albums on vinyl as well as the new one… any info on this?
"I wouldn’t have a problem with this if someone would make an offer to do this. In Europe many people are buying and selling vinyl again. There is nothing like looking at the cover of a vinyl record versus the miniature details on CDs these days. I miss the old days of vinyl myself and am searching for a new needle at the moment for my record player."
One thing that MASTER has never left in the lyrics is a social criticism, an exposition of the lies within modern government and the leaders of the world… I mean I can remember this since listening to 'Pledge Of Allegiance' and up to the new album with the title of “Slaves To Society”… this is not common in many Death or Thrash Metal bands, it goes more akin to let’s say Hardcore or Punk, yet if fits the whole MASTER idea very well… I think that the name of the band is related to this
"The world is a crazy fucked up place and I choose to write about the problems surrounding society and mankind in general. It’s easy to write about Satan and worship this fictitious character and certainly the gullible youth of today will follow this. The people in the world don’t want to discuss the truth, they would rather be lied too and forget the problems. To make changes in society problems must be discussed and solved. The governments of the world are only concerned with the money they can take from the individuals of society for their airplanes, new cars and other worldly possessions. The sooner that the youth of today take a stand against these geriatric patients, the sooner the world will be free. It’s rather ridiculous when you look at the age of most of these politicians in the public offices of the world. Many of the Democrats and Republican senators as they are called are sleeping during their so-called meetings that dictate the rules of the world and the way we all suppose to live in their opinion of course. Young people need to take control of their destinies and start a revolt against these hypocrites."
Also, there has been some anti-religion thing in MASTER… I mean, “What kind of god is simply so cruel” man, that is classic! Anyway, you have touched this subject in a more serious way… many people think that being anti-religious is for the young ones, like a state of rebellion, but then again, many wise men, have found religion to be nothing more that an illusion. How do you see this? Is this also related to the name of the band?
"What a ridiculous question! The religions of today are very well organized and collect money from gullible fools every day, and you see these preachers driving around in new cars and living in a mansion. I guess I chose the wrong profession. God sells, and the religious fervor continues to grow at a startling rate. People need to learn to believe in themselves and destroy the false Gods of the earth. There is no money to be made. If I ever have a child I will push him in the direction of politics, religion or some other moneymaker. Delusional would be a better word for the religions of today. I remember Pastor Bartz in the church I was forced to go to with my parents when I was a child. I smiled when he would pull up in a new white Cadillac in his white cowboy hat and boots and greet everyone at the church functions. I also smiled when at 50 years old, he went to go join his God in hell when he died of cancer."
Now, this last album has been done with the same line-up as the previous two, and I think that it already shows a very compact unity and band. Also this new album reminds me more to the early material in many ways. Maybe it was not exactly the goal you had, but to my ears it sounds like that. What do you think?
"Every album was and is written with the same spirit, just sometimes it is captured in a better way, due to the budget, sometimes the production, and more recently the attitude of the band. This time the album was recorded quickly as to keep the spirit of the music. Some of the tracks I wrote at the last minute a few days before we entered the studio. We recorded the drums and bass in a short 6 hours. The guitar took several days and the mixes were done in two days. In these times the budget is rather small due to the fact that I must pay for the recordings from my own pocket, and I am not a rich man. At least recording in the Czech Republic is still reasonable compared with the rest of the world. Besides, it makes no sense to spend a fortune and pay a high priced producer when we can get what we want right here in Czech."
What’s next for MASTER?
"Master will be touring Europe beginning on January 23rd 2009. We will play 38 concerts followed by another tour of the USA for 20 dates in July. I actually just returned from a successful tour in America this past October. We will be quite busy over the next year, so I hope we can find the time to record a new CD. After all it’s been two years since we recorded "Slaves To Society" already, even though we have been touring the record for the last two years successfully."
I know a US tour is coming. Also, where does a MASTER fan can get a hold of merchandise?
"At www.master-speckmetal.com, www.myspace.com/masterspeckmann."
Have you ever thought of retiring at a certain age?
"Never, after seeing Lemmy, and Dio still at it, I believe I can carry on as well. Why not? I mean do you still see yourself doing the same lifestyle when being 60 years old? Yes, there is nothing stopping true Metal heads in all their glory these days, why should I stop?"
Finally, I would like to thank you for your time and sharing these things with us. Please any final words or advertisement is yours!
"If people are interested in finding music from one of the true originators of the genre they can contact Displeased Records in Holland for the earlier CDs as well as Twilight Vertrieb in Germany and also Ibex Moon in the USA as well as Metal Mind Productions in Poland for the re-releases of the first two Abomination CDs. Buying the CDs supports the musicians like myself and is much appreciated."
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