Can you imagine what should the true face of Thrash Metal look like? An evil grimace of SLAYER? Unholy look of POSSESSED? Heavy armoured appearance of DESTRUCTION? Cunning grin of ANTHRAX? Beer ’em all smirk of TANKARD? An intelligent face of ARTILLERY? Any and none. Any of these and countless others, but none of them might be considered the ultimate, the only one. Wasn’t it exactly this diversity of appearances that made Thrash the leading force in Metal of the mid-eighties?
Now the crowd became more dense but the faces… The faces, as it should be expected, are far less perceptible in it. As if this crowd swallowed them all up, chewed them into homogeneous mass and then spitted them, shaped by the same mould, out. And here they are — faultless, flawless, faceless
Yet, once upon a time, by some lucky accident we are blessed with fleeting vision of some familiar face in the crowd. Because sometimes they come back. Sometimes they can do it again and, here comes the most surprising part, do it with more or less the same class and conviction as before.
But what about people behind this music then, are they still the same? It was Flemming Ronsdorf, the frontman of ARTILLERY and now also the devoted father of the family, who was the chosen one to suffer my curiosity this time.
Nowadays, being ten years older, you’re playing music which is pretty much in the same style as you used to play back in 80’s, but what about your lifestyles apart from music then, did they remain more or less the same as well? Is there much left of those young and wild thrashing devils, hungry for Metal and thirsty for beer, is there much left of them in you these days?
"Lifestyle…?? Hmm, funny question, but my lifestyle hasn’t changed much, if you look apart from the fact that I have a family now. I’m still just an old hippie with a lot of concealed anger against society inside. And naturally I’m older, but not on the inside…!! I still have holes in my jeans if that’s what you mean…:o) But when you’ve got kids, you don’t get to freak out as much, so in that sense, you could say that my life has become more at ease… And by the way, Metal is NOT something I wear… it’s in my heart…!"
Is there anything in your everyday "out of music" life that your participation in ARTILLERY has ever been any good for?
"Hehe… you’ve got the questions… but no, not really… But I still am a musician, always have been, and will be ’till the day I die…! And then on the other hand, man… those were the days… :o)"
Would you mind sharing your experiences of playing in the Soviet Union in 1989? Where exactly were you playing, can you remember? It seems our authorities were aware of what could be expected from you and the fans at your gigs even before that tour started, so you were not allowed to play in the central cities like Leningrad, Minsk, Moscow, etc. Anyway, wasn’t it an unforgettable experience for you to ram through the "iron curtain" and play in front of your Soviet fans?
"Wow, this is going to be a long one… We started our "touring" in the Sovjet by playing two gigs in a town called Alma Ata, close to the Chinese and Mongolian border. The two shows were recieved with a mixture of reactions, from the "get up and get out" attitude for the elder Russians, to the screams from totally wild teenagers ready to rage on the place. It was actually great fun! Next stop was Tashkent, as you probably know, very close to the Afghanistan border, and therefore at the time crowded with military personnel and equipment. The difference was very obvious, and we couldn’t help noticing that things were a bit more serious down there. But we had two gigs in Tashkent as well, and the vision was even more extreme: We were the third of four bands, the first two bands were like a New Wave band, and a Garage Rock-band, so the elder Russians were "sorted" out. When we entered the stage it was as silent as a tomb… totally darkness… and then we let Hell break loose as we usually did, the lights were on… First there was a sort of shock in their faces, and then they started jumping around, heavier and heavier, faster and faster… wow man… then some of them started to enter the stage, but were taken down by officials, but there were only a few of them, and there were a lot of kids, so eventually the kids won and entered the stage in a huge number. Normally we would expect them to stagedive the hell outta there, but not this lot, no, they stayed on the stage, and their number fast increasing, so much that after a short while we (the band) couldn’t see each other, and it was a BIG stage, it was pretty awesome…!! And that was only the first day!!! So we were told that the Politbureau had announced that we were decadent and that we would not be allowed to play in Usbekistan ever again. And the next day we were, instead of going on a plane to fly to our next planned destination, we were put on a train for Moscow. The trip was supposed to take 2 days, but when we woke up on the second day we were travelling in the opposite direction…??? We were actually never told the exact reason for our sudden detour, which brought us to the Trans Siberian line, but the outcome of it all was that we ended up travelling by train for five days…!!! And then, when we got to Moscow, naturally all the gigs we were supposed to play there were cancelled due to the delay… But you’re absolutely right, it was an unforgettable experience… :o)"
Can you remember your sensations while holding "Fear Of Tomorrow" LP in your hands for the first time? What was it like?
"Oh yeah… and I recall that the whole band were at my place, when the doorbell rang, my girlfriend opened the door, and outside was the police for my arrest… Oh yeah, I remember it well, I slept in a cell that night… :o("
What about the same moment with the "B.A.C.K." CD then? Was there much in common between such experiences for the first time in your life and the same after several years break? Wasn’t it like coming back in time?
"No, not when the record was actually there. The sensation of going back in time came when we went to the studio… And no, there’s is not much in common from then, ’till now. I hope I’m able to say that time has made me wiser…!! And a little more at ease, read the above…"
Did the success of your comeB.A.C.K. album make you regret the decision to bury the band back in early 90’s and feel sorry for all those years you have "lost"?
"Success…??? What success??? And no, I don’t feel sorry, ’cause if I had continued at the same speed, I would have been burned out by now…"
Having released 3 outstanding albums of first class Thrash you disappeared from the scene in 1991 without much fuss. The reasons for such a serious decision must be much more convincing than banal problems with the record label, I suppose
"Oh yeah, but that’s all in the past, so let’s leave it there…"
I guess it must be awfully annoying to put all your soul and skills into writing and recording music and then have it boxed up by some dumb businessmen at the record labels. You were unfortunate enough to experience it twice as both your previous labels, Neat and Roadrunner, did almost nothing to promote your stuff in a decent way. So, is it an eternal damnation of an artist to be exploited and sucked by money making bastards?
"Yeah… you could say that. But things are better now, it’s not that easy to ignore people anymore. And we were very young and very easy to push around."
"Hello to Metallica & Slayer, do you remember Copenhagen?", — that’s what one could read on the "Fear Of Tomorrow" cover. I wonder if you’ve kept contact to any of them through all these years? Anyway, why do you think ARTILLERY failed to gain such recognition and commercial success as these bands? What were the reasons to prevent you back then from realizing your huge potential which was at least not less convincing than the one of both METALLICA and SLAYER? Don’t you envy their success in a way?
"No, no contact… The reason we didn’t get anywhere, in my words, would be that we weren’t mainstream enough, we had our totally own way of doing things, and it just didn’t fall into the minds of the big masses like METALLICA and the likes… But envy…?? what a nasty word… no… well, maybe a little :o)"
What about your much talked about joining DESTRUCTION in early 90’s? Was it simply a possibility that never was realized or did you really rehearse or perform with them?
"Well… I’m actually glad that you ask this question, ’cause I have heard some strange rumours ’bout this… But I want to make it clear once and for all: DESTRUCTION called me when I left ARTILLERY, they asked me if I wanted to join them. I said that it was a pretty long way from home, and their answer was that it would be no problem, and that the record company would take care of everything. So their label contacted me, and we made arrangements for me to go down to southern Germany to say hello to the guys, and rehearse and see if things were working out. They had a tour coming up, and were keen on getting a vocalist for that… So the label and I agreed on that it would be cheaper in the end if I drove down there instead of flying, since the plan was that I should go down there a lot… So the label send me some money to help me buying a car. I found an old one, and off to Germany I went. The guys in DESTRUCTION are great guys and we had a lot of fun, we rehearsed and everyone was happy. So the following day I drove back home. Well back in Denmark I started preparing for my departure for the tour… There was only one small matter I had to take care of, my rent… The label had told me that they would pay for my rent for the three months we were supposed to tour, so I called them and asked them to send the money. They said that I would get them when I got down there, I told them no, ’cause I wouldn’t want any trouble what-so-ever with my rent, the risk of not havin’ a home when I got back… no way!! So I didn’t take the flight I was supposed to, ’cause things got really stupid, and that was mostly it. I was pretty sad though, it would’ve been sooo cool to be on tour, but the stakes were too high…!
Carsten Nielsen is said to have something to do with BATHORY, what exactly was his role there?
"Here comes the funny part, I haven’t got the slightest idea… :o)"
Would you mind telling the true story of Jorgen Sandau’s parting ways with ARTILLERY back in 1989? By the way, how come that his name is not even mentioned in your band’s biography at Diehard Music’s web-site while he was one of the founding members and his contribution to the success of both "Fear Of Tomorrow" and "Terror Squad" is quite hard to exaggerate?
"The true story about Jorgen is that he couldn’t stand the sight of Michael Stytzer, that’s it and that’s that…! I don’t know about the biography, I only know that I haven’t written it… hehe… But you’re right, he was a very important part of ARTILLERY…! He’s actually the only one that I have kept contact with for all these years…"
In a way it’s ironical that none of the two founding members of ARTILLERY are taking part in this re-union. Anyway, what are Jorgen and Carsten doing these days, what paths did they take after leaving ARTILLERY in 1989 and 1991 respectively? I heard they had some band together, 4Q or something like that
"Yeah, they had a band together, called themselves 4Q, but they don’t see eachother anymore, some bad vibes lead to a break-up about a year ago…"
Once you’ve said (Oskorei Magazine interview) that nowadays ARTILLERY is "not actually a band" cause your line-up was not complete. But do you really think it’s the complete line-up that makes the band, isn’t it a certain "band spirit" instead? What about ARTILLERY — what is it that binds you all together these days, that makes ARTILLERY the band even despite some vacancies in the line-up?
"I would say that it is the minds behind the band and not so much the number, but if you want to be a band, you have to have the ability to go live, and we don’t normally have that, we’re not a fully membered band, that’s what I meant. The thing that binds us together is the music we used to make, and are now making again. We never have, and never will socialize with one another, we’re not palls so to speak… We’re only together when we make Metal…"
Have you ever considered the idea of coming back before playing in Copenhagen in support of the "Deadly Relics" album in August 1998? Was it exactly that show that changed your views on the subject of re-union and helped to turn it into reality in the end?
"No… And yes, it was the release of "Deadly Relics" and the gig in Copenhagen that did it. Afterwards we were contacted by Die Hard who asked us if we would be interested in making an album, and the rest is obvious…"
Having experienced it yourselves, would you recommend the act of re-union to those "old" bands from the 80’s which might consider the idea of its undertaking?
"If they still burn for the music, they should definitely do so, but if it’s for the fortune and fame, don’t bother… haha"
It’s pretty obvious that your goals and ambitions with ARTILLERY these days differ drastically from what they used to be back in mid-eighties. I wonder how does it affect songwriting then?
"I must admit I hoped that that was obvious, but I am still angry with society. They still fuck our planet, and there’s nothing we can do. So I guess that will always be my favorite story, in whatever form it may come. But I do now, exactly as I did before, I write whatever is on my mind, regardless of time or goals…!"
What is it so attractive for you in classic Thrash Metal that made you come back to it after 7 years spent playing completely different music?
"You seem to be forgetting that I spend most of my youth playing Metal… I didn’t do it for the money…!!! It’s in my heart man…"
Tony Portaro of WHIPLASH was ready to admit that they "frown upon youngsters doing the things we grew up doing". Isn’t it the case with you as well, if I may ask?
"I’ve got three kids, a daughter and two sons… And I do whatever it takes to try to make decent people out of them. So I guess I agree to some extent, that’s the way it must be… But you can never kill the rebel inside, no matter how many kids…"
Oh, I’m sorry for being so loose, the question dealt with the modern musicians trying to play the music of your youth… But nevermind. Why do you think it’s so easy to tell modern bands trying to emulate Thrash bands of the 80’s from the real ones, the originators of the genre? Is anything deadly important lost or overlooked by the modern Thrashers?
"Not in my opinion, but it’s like bands in the 70’s and 80’s trying to sound like THE BEATLES, there are not so many originals. But that doesn’t mean you can’t do this or that, I think it is really cool if modern Thrashers take the Metal of my generation seriously, and we never finished the work, so there’s lots to be done…!"
For me ARTILLERY has always been representing the more thoughtful approach to Thrash, as if being its more intelligent and both musically and lyrically aware face. How do you look upon it yourselves? And may I hope that you’ll stay the same until the day ARTILLERY is over?
"Well, thank you very much…! The complexity of ARTILLERY’s music is an outcome of a (in my eyes) brilliant musician, who is willing to let me put words on his work, and his brother’s sometimes crazy behaviour on a guitar. The words I put on top are my thoughts of this and that, it usually comes all by itself when I hear Morten’s basic idea. And my idea with the lyrics has (almost) always been to write something real. Something that the fans could actually relate to, without having to wear a weapon. Something from their everyday lifes, or from the news on TV. We don’t have to have Hollywood making horror-movies, we just need to turn on the news…!!! And you can be sure, that as long as we release stuff as ARTILLERY, we will stay true to that. Thrash ’till death."
What you’ve just read (hopefully) was one more piece of "Metal we have lost".