“Maximum Destruction”, the debut full length from Cleveland, Ohio based Thrashers DESTRUCTOR, has been an alltime favorite of mine ever since it originally came out way back in 1985 via Auburn Records. The material on it has easily stood the test of time and the energy the band sets free throughout the approximately 36 minutes is still incredible to this day. So it was great to see that High Roller Records just released a fantastic 2 CD edition of it, that also features tons of bonus tracks. Reasons enough for us to dedicate the following in-depth interview with the band’s guitarist / vocalist Dave Just, probably better known as Dave Overkill, to this amazing album exclusively. Read on to find out more about this eternal classic…
Greetings Dave, hope you’re doing well and you have a bit of time available to talk about your classic debut album “Maximum Destruction”?
“Of course, I am always happy to talk to you about DESTRUCTOR.”
“Maximum Destruction” was recorded in January 1985 at Suma Recording Studio, Cleveland, Ohio. How long did you stay in the studio, including mix and what exactly made you choose this studio? Had other bands already recorded there before you?
“Suma Recording Studio was THE place to record back in the day. We recorded in the summer of 1985. I think it was July. The decision to go there was a choice made by Auburn Records. Many bands recorded there before DESTRUCTOR. In fact, there were two other bands signed to Auburn Records that made records there who we knew and were friends with. BLACK DEATH and HAVOC to name a few. DESTRUCTOR spent one week in the studio recording the songs for “Maximum Destruction”. Like I mentioned it was summertime. I think we started on a Wednesday and finished on Sunday. It was the first time most of us were in a real recording situation and proved to be a fun and great learning experience for us. We did have a lot of fun making “Maximum Destruction”. There was a lot of secluded property that was conducive for us to hang out and prepare for making a record. Our very first! The studio was owned by a very well-respected audio engineer who is Ken Hamann. Ken had been involved in the music business and was the producer of many gold and platinum artists back in the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s. His brilliant son, Paul, was the audio engineer that captured everything on tape. We found ourselves playing frisbee, drinking beers and smoking pot as well as rehearsing and conversing. Suma Recording Studio is actually an older building set in the countryside in Northeast Ohio and was very relaxing, but also serious business for us. Three of us were the ripe young age of 21 years young, but Matt was eight years older than us and the “sober” member. We did in fact mix it at Suma Recording Studio, but it was decided that it should be remixed, and Bill and I went to Chicago to remix it with his colleague, Denny Nowak, who was employed with Electra Records. The very first mix done at Suma I saved and gave it to Listenable Records in 1999 for the reissue. I figured it too was a time capsule that may be of interest.”
Were you already an experienced and tight live band when you entered the studio? I mean, had you played all of the songs often enough to be able to safe some studio time or did you just rehearse them more often shortly before you started recording?
“We were still wet behind the ears so to speak. I think we had two live shows under our belts at that time before we went in to record “Maximum Destruction”. Our first bassist, Paul Warhead, who helped to write much of the record, including ‘Iron Curtain’, ‘Destructor’, ‘Bring Down The Hammers’, ‘Overdose’ and more, found himself in difficulty to stay in the band and moved on. So, our friend Dave Iannicca (Holocaust) was only in the band for two weeks before we went in to start tracking the songs. Dave was a friend of mine from high school and hung out a lot with us. He was waiting in the wings for his opportunity to join DESTRUCTOR. Dave had a lot of potential but really was only playing bass for about four years at that time, but he worked hard at practicing his instrument and knew that someday he would be in the band.”
Had you already been signed by Auburn Records at that point or was the album self-financed at first and then Auburn stepped into the picture and helped you with the whole business side of it?
“Bill Peters approached us after our very first show. He saw the potential in a young and hungry band in every developing musical landscape. Bill said to us “Would you guys want to make a record?” or something close and we replied “Yes!”. It was only supposed to be an EP at the time and Auburn even put a advertisement out in English Heavy Metal magazines with the title DESTRUCTOR “Pounding Evil” EP.”
How come that “Maximum Destruction” then turned into a full-length album instead of the EP release?
“I think Bill saw there was more to us when he heard the other songs and came to rehearsals often to make sure he wanted to change it to a full-length release. As I mentioned, we were a brand-new act and honestly rough around the edges compared to bands like BREAKER and SHOK PARIS, but we were doing something nobody else was in our scene was doing. People were hungry for this more “thrashing” and faster Heavy Metal. The Metal world was evolving quickly back then, and I think we were seen as being at the front of it in Cleveland Ohio.”
You originally wanted to name the album “Pounding Evil”, but then changed that to “Maximum Destruction”. What’s the story behind that?
“Initially Auburn Records wanted to do an EP and paid for some advertisements in some English Metal magazines using “Pounding Evil” as the working title. We had enough songs for a full length record, but Bill wasn’t sure how much he wanted to commit to the new band DESTRUCTOR. I can tell you that some of the other bands had Bill’s ear and didn’t believe we were ready or good enough to be on Bill’s new record label. The song ‘Maximum Destruction’ was the last piece of music we wrote at the time and I believe when Bill heard that song that was the moment he decided to go for the full length album with us.”
Did you have any other label interest as well at that point? I suppose you went with Auburn because you all already knew Bill very well, didn’t you? But all friendship aside: did you ever regret that decision? Don’t get me wrong, Auburn is a great label, with great bands on its roster and Bill’s doing a great job, but his releases were only available as imports in Europe for quite some time. So, a different company might have had better possibilities to establish DESTRUCTOR internationally, especially in Europe…
“Honestly, it was all we had at the time, and we saw an opportunity to get a record made in 1985. This would be our first step to getting in the game. This is what a young band hopes for and it happened with Auburn. We had nothing to lose and everything to gain from taking the offer.”
Why did Paul “Warhead” Habat leave? I mean he returned to DESTRUCTOR again in 1989 for about a year, so I suppose it wasn’t musical differences, was it?
“After Dave was murdered we wanted to try to bring Paul back, but Paul wasn’t really up to the professional level that we had hopped. He’d had personal issues that I don’t want to go into. Like I touched on earlier, Paul was a big part of the song writing process and was a friend since middle school. When we were all just discovering great music in our teen years, we hung out a lot and discovered many bands together and all started to learn to play guitar at the same time. Paul, Pat, a friend named Greg Kanios and me auditioned for senior talent night in Highschool. Three guitars, drums and no singer. We played ‘Silver And Gold’ by TYGERS OF PAN TANG, ‘Ides Of March’ and ‘Wrathchild’ by IRON MAIDEN and ‘Lean’n’Mean’ by THE BOYZ. Soon after we graduated we were all in different forms trying to form a band that would stick. In 1984 we, Pat, Paul and I played with a very good drummer. We rented a rehearsal hall together. Don Payne was his name but he wasn’t fitting in and we all saw the writing on the wall with a change coming. Then we met Matt. Matt was a friend of the band BREAKER. He had played with Jim and Ian before they were recruited to join BREAKER. That band was named HELLION. Matt was looking for a band to play with and then Ian Shipley introduced us. The very first time Matt came over to our rehearsal hall to listen to our demo he bursted out laughing. We thought to ourselves “what the fuck?” But Matt definitely loved what he was hearing and wanted in the band. We already had the DESTRUCTOR name in 1983 but it wasn’t until we met Matt in the early months of 1984 and started to make music together that our style changed to for the heavier and faster sound. Matt changed the band. Now we are DESTRUCTOR!”
Is there a nice little story connected to your stage names “Overkill”, “Holocaust”, “Rabid” and “Flammable”?
“Yeah. Paul was a big VENOM fan and adopted “Warhead”, Pat was initially named Pat Marshall, but wanted something with more teeth… hence he became “Rabid”. When Dave joined the band a co-worker of mine told me he should be named “Holocaust” and I already had my name from High School. I took some LSD and listened to the MOTÖRHEAD record “Overkill” over and over at a party… soon I was dubbed “Overkill”. Matt on the other hand didn’t have a name yet when he joined the band at first. We rehearsed above a chemical storage company, and they had these big stickers. Hazardous waste, toxic etc. And they gave us some because we thought they were cool. Matt grabbed a couple that read “Flammable” and put it in the front of his bass drums. “Flammable” was born.”
DESTRUCTOR was founded sometime in early 1984 and by the time you recorded the album you already had a lot of great material to choose from, like ‘Bring Down The Hammers’, ‘Black Night’, ‘Storm Of Steel’ and ‘G-Force’… Do you still think that the track list is perfect the way it is nowadays, or would you replace certain songs if you could travel back in time for it?
“I wouldn’t want to change anything. I wished Auburn had put the songs ‘Black Night’ and ‘Bring Down The Hammers’ on the record, but Bill didn’t feel they were as strong as the other songs. Truthfully you could only fit about 17 minutes on each side of a vinyl record back then. So, in this format it is what it is now.”
I suppose you will also have a nice little background story about the origin of the album’s intro ‘Prelude In Sledge-Minor Opus 7 1st Movement’, haven’t you? Who came up with the idea for it, where and how was it recorded and who’s to blame for the incredible title?
“We wanted to make an intro with smashing things. Television sets were big things back then. Lots of wood and tubes. HAVOC had a chainsaw live in the studio when they recorded their record and we thought we have to top that, so we collected TV sets. I believe Matt was a TV repair man back then and he worked with Mark Klein at the time. We had about three smaller televisions and one big console style one. We brought them all to the studio with a couple of sledgehammers and proceeded to smash the shit out of them all. There was a big room at the studio where we recorded that.”
You probably saw this coming, but we also have to mention ‘Hot Wet Leather’ / ‘Bondage’ here… Is the song based on own experiences or personal preferences or what inspired the lyrics for it? The part of Angie Velotta, at the end of the song, can’t be completely heard in the first mix… Did the full version resurface when you remixed the material? By the way, was she a good friend of yours or how did you get her involved in it?
“So, the song didn’t come from any personal experiences per say but one of Dave Iannicca’s sisters had this kinky mail order catalog back in the day named “The pleasure Chest”. It was a wild sex toy catalog, selling things named “The Sensual Fist” and it had bondage items in it as well. Whips, masks and leather outfits and so on. One item for sale was a swing that would be mounted from the ceiling and was intended for bondage. You can see where this is going now? Ha! ANVIL had some songs about sex, and we thought we should do one as well. Yes, they had a song called ‘Bondage’, but we didn’t mind have a song with the same title. ‘Hot Wet Leather’ was about us and then ‘Bondage’ came to life. Angie was the girlfriend of one of our friends, Greg Kanios. As mentioned, Greg played drums with us as teenagers, and we were always still close friends. Greg and Angie were in the studio with us and a couple other close friends all hanging out. When the discussion came about “What if we can get a woman to moan etc. at the end of the song ‘Bondage'”. Angie, being the only female there, was asked “Would you be interested in doing this thing?” It took some time before she agreed, and she was very nervous about doing this in a room full of immature boys, but she did it and we all loved it. By the way, Angie is still a very close friend of mine. I love her dearly. We have had a lot of laughs about that day getting her to record her voice. Angie was probably only 18 or 19 years old at the time we recorded everything for “Maximum Destruction”. I’m sure we realized that we wanted this outro to be prominent and adjusted accordingly for the new mix.”
“Maximum Destruction” originally came out way back in late 1985 via Auburn Records on vinyl and cassette. Why did it take you 13 long years until a first CD edition was released via Listenable Records? And don’t tell me there was no demand for it all those years, because I know there was, hahaha!
“Auburn did license “Maximum Destruction” to the European Record company Roadrunner Records in 1986. By 1990 Auburn Records had seemingly folded their tent or became less involved in producing new records. Maybe not everyone knows this about DESTRUCTOR but on New Year’s Day 1988, at two in the morning, Dave Iannicca was murdered at a party we had at our rehearsal studio by a complete stranger. We were having friends over to celebrate the coming new year and our new record deal with Island Records. Nobody could have seen this coming, and we were devastated. I can’t go into any more details about this. The record deal with Island Records fell through. ANTHRAX was signed to them. It was going to be a big deal for DESTRUCTOR. Then we had the murder trial to go through. It was a very dark time for the band and everyone in Cleveland close to DESTRUCTOR. We tried to keep it all going. We worked for another four years. Our last show was with OVERKILL in 1992 and then that was it. We called it quits. The leather and chains were hung up as a reminder of our past. It wasn’t until 1999. That was when you, Frank, contacted me for an interview for Snakepit Magazine and we soon realized there was still interest in the band overseas and started to have talks about putting DESTRUCTOR getting back together and make some noise. DESTRUCTOR will always owe some gratitude to you for this period in time (glad I could help in getting you guys back – Frank). Keep in mind that when 1990 came around Heavy Metal all but died in the USA. Hair Metal oversaturated the music business and then comes along Grunge. There was little hope for the Metal that we knew and loved to have any sort of life in the ’90s in America. This was the reason for the lapse in time.”
Who was the driving force behind the different version of “Maximum Destruxtion” that Listenable released and how was the response on it in general? Was it well received or did old DESTRUCTOR fans prefer the wellknown mix?
“As I mentioned, the Listenable Records mix was actually the first mix from 1985 at Suma with Paul Hamonn that we all decided that we should to go for another mix at the time. I thought it would be a good idea to have that alternative mix be released. I did have a master tape of that mix. I don’t have any regrets. Now fans can have both. It’s up to them to decide which is best or enjoy both.”
The CD was also released with a completely changed cover and also the running order of the tracks was a bit different… Do you think that was a good decision in retrospect? Was that an exclusive Listenable decision or have you been involved in that? Do you like that new look, or do you prefer the original?
“We didn’t have all of the files for the Auburn release from 1985 and had little contact with Bill Peters from Auburn Records at the time. I had the offer from Listenable Records and decided to go with what we had to offer. We know now that the classic cover and mix is what people have come to know and love but that was then, and this is now.”
In 2014 Listenable Records re-released their re-release version again, but this time as a digipak CD… Is that the only difference to their first version or have other things been changed as well?
“I believe so. Some people don’t like a digipak but it’s really all the same stuff without the breakable plastic CD cases.”
Talking of the album cover… Tell us a bit more about the original cover photo session that you did for the album back in 1985… Where did you shoot those pics and was it planned right from the start, that there would be a band picture on the cover instead of a painting?
“That’s another good question, Frank. So, we knew that we had a leather and chains and an over the top image. As I remember it we wanted to present DESTRUCTOR as such. Paintings are nice and all but a photo of the band in this instance we felt would serve us better. Bill Peters had this idea to shoot the band in wreckage and there was this building being demolished in downtown Cleveland at the time. So, we decided to head down and out on our leather spikes and chains and brought some swords and display rifles and other shit with us to do this band photo. We went behind safety barriers and climbed up to the top of all of this twisted metal, brick and debris to do the shoot. We shot various photos and then we all got the hell out of there. I remember people in cars driving buy seeing us up top of everything honking their horns in approval. This was our attempt or version of the MOTÖRHEAD cover for “Ace Of Spades”.”
Towards the end of the title track the guitar pretty much follows the vocal line (or vice versa)… When and how did you get the idea for that? And what came first, your vocals or the guitar parts?
“That was the easiest way for me to sing and play and it fitted and sounded good. That’s how the chorus evolved for ‘Maximum Destruction’.”
The way you sing “The fighting the burning, the raising of Hell, our mission awaiting tonight, out to crush Satan, his eternal domain, no more torture no pain” in the song ‘Pounding Evil’ reminds me a lot of how Tom Araya was spitting out his lyrics back then (“Show No Mercy” era), while the instrumental middle section of ‘Iron Curtain’ shows a lot of IRON MAIDEN (first album) influences. Were SLAYER and IRON MAIDEN main musical influences on DESTRUCTOR at that time? Any other bands that inspired you?
“Sure, IRON MAIDEN was a big one for us. I was a SLAYER fan as well, but if there’s any connection with Tom’s vocal delivery it was indirect. I was trying to find myself as a vocalist and probably took everything I enjoyed and blended it up and spit it back out. Remembering that SLAYER, METALLICA, ANTHRAX and other bands at the time, like DESTRUCTOR, were all the same age basically and we all just wanted to make some Heavy Metal music that was harder and faster than what influenced us all to want to start playing music in the first place. DESTRUCTOR saw and felt the trend and wanted to be part of it. Sure, bands stole stuff from the bands that came before them and changed it a little and so on and so on. Honestly, I wanted to sing like Dan Dark from TORCH….how he delivered the vocals. I still must think with new DESTRUCTOR songs to go back to my early days when doing vocals.”
Talking of IRON MAIDEN: is that Bruce Dickinson on the album inner sleeve in the top left corner? What’s the story behind that photo?
“In 1982 IRON MAIDEN released “The Number Of The Beast” and went on tour in the United States that summer. They played Cleveland three times that year. One of the times they were playing the Richfield Coliseum and there was a Holiday Inn very close that all of the touring bands stayed at while performing in Richfield. I was an employee of Holiday Inn in a different city and employees were permitted to have an employee discount with other Holiday Inn hotels. I booked a room in hopes of meeting IRON MAIDEN and me and some friends headed to Richfield to spend the night in my hotel room. We bought three cases of beer and emptied the ice machine on our floor into our bathtub and put all the beer in it. After the concert, which was amazing, we went back to the hotel to wait for IRON MAIDEN to show up sure enough they arrived. We were hanging out waiting for a chance to walk over and say hello. We weren’t the only fans who knew bands stayed there. We met the band members in the lobby. Pat and I had our guitars with us and Pat went to the room and brought back his guitar. We ended up in a hallway with Bruce and handed Bruce the guitar he started playing this song on it and was telling us “This is a new song for the next IRON MAIDEN record I am writing and it’s a continuation of the lyrics of the SAMSON song ‘Communion’. ‘Revelations’ was the song. As we talked with Bruce more an employee from the hotel approached us and said we must move on from the hall. It was getting late in the night by this time so we asked Bruce if he would come to our room. Bruce accepted the offer and off we went. Bruce saw all of the beer in the bathtub, remarking about it. Bruce then proceeded to call Steve Harris’ room and said to Steve “You have to come to this room I am in with these fans who want to meet you.” Steve ended up coming to our room and he was with a girl “friend” and Jim Hamar from the band BREAKER, who was friends with Steve and the band. Jim knew of us fans, but we were never introduced prior to this encounter. We all ended up listening to TYGERS OF PAN TANG and other music we had brought with us and talked about many NWOBHM bands. This was a night we all would remember the remainder of our lives.”
And the guy with all the bullet belts and chains, who’s holding a skull and a Flying-V is probably Bill Peters then… Why was he dressed up like that or was that Bill’s regular outfit while he was running his radio show, hahaha?
“Yes, this was Bill wearing all of the stuff we brought with us to his radio show.”
Then I suppose that’s James Hetfield on the pic in the middle, with Pat holding a copy of “Kill ‘Em All”? When was that taken and what kind of event was it?
“Yes, that was another encounter we had with a band we were fans of. As I recall, that was when we went to meet them the first time they played Cleveland. BREAKER opened the show. It was at the original Cleveland Agora. We met METALLICA three times back in the day. James was very friendly every time. I personally didn’t get much time to meet and talk with Cliff and Lars each time we met. There were always a lot of people trying to spend time with band members. For some reason, I ended up with Kirk and James during our encounters.”
High Roller Records just re-released “Maximum Destruction” as a 2 CD edition with lots of extra material, similar (yet different) to the version which already came out in 2019 via Reaper Metal Productions. Who compiled the material for those editions and why was the “Unmixed & Heavy 1985” stuff from the Reaper Metal Productions version replaced with live songs on the High Roller edition now?
“High Roller wanted to have some material that wasn’t on the Reaper Metal version. It’s as simple as that.”
Both editions also include your classic 1984 demo “Smash Your Skulls”, which is great for every die-hard DESTRUCTOR fan of course… I actually never really understood where the expanded title “Smash Your Skulls with Power” came from. Ok, I haven’t seen an original cassette version of it myself, but the picture of it, which was used on Metal Archives, also just shows the short version of the title, so I suppose that’s how it was originally entitled, wasn’t it? When and why was that title changed?
“The “Smash Your Skulls With Power” was ever evolving, as we had new material to present, we added it to the demo. There were probably three or four versions of that demo. I think the name was shortened with no real intention. A lot of people ask about that demo, but it was never mass produced. We would make twenty copies and then circulate it as we added to it.”
Also included on those 2 CD editions is the new version of ‘Pounding Evil’, which you re-recorded for the “Speed Kills II” compilation album in 1986… why have you decided on a re-recording and not just used the original version for that? What did you improve compared to the album version from your own point of view?
“Speed Kills wanted something that wasn’t on the “Maximum Destruction” album and Bill had the idea to give an updated version of our most requested song at the time. It’s simply a different version with an intro we recorded. Nothing more.”
The last of the live bonus tracks, ‘G-Force’, is supposed to be from a local radio… tell us a bit more about that. Did you perform live at that radio station, or did they just broadcast one of your live shows? And by the way: wasn’t it called WRUW instead of WRUF as mentioned on the sleeve?
“The radio station call letters are WRUW. The radio station would have bands play live in the basement and put the stream over the air waves. We have a whole show from that day.”
Talking of possible typos… The instrumental on the album is spelled ‘Instrumetal’ on the 2 CD editions and ‘Instrumental’ on the Listenable edition… So, was that just misspelled on the latter or did you really change that over the years?
“That was a typo. Something got past me with proof reading and / or the label getting it confused in production.”
There are some incredible screams from you throughout the album, like in the beginning of the album’s title track or in its chorus, but also in a bunch of other tracks. Can you still pull them off in the same way nowadays or do you have similar problems as most Metal vocalists from that era, that you can’t do that anymore, simply because you all have become older?
“I can still do some screams like on that record but as I got older, I also have a bit of a different range. I actually have the ability to sing more over time whereas back then I was just learning how to use my voice.”
Have your vocals ever been compared to those of Harry Conklin from JAG PANZER? I think you sound like a Thrash Metal version of him…
Oh really? In reviews or from personal conversations with fans?
“Both. I can see it a little, but Harry probably gets compared to Bruce Dickinson, so I never take anything too seriously.”
Ok Dave, that’s about it. Thanks for taking the time to answer all these questions. It’s great that you guys are still around. Looking forward to hearing some new DESTRUCTOR music sometime soon. I’ll leave the closing words to you.
“Thank you, Frank. We are finishing up our newest album “Blood, Bone And Fire” to be released on Shadow Kingdom Records. With production issues nowadays it most likely will be released sometime next year, Summer time 2023. I want to thank you for all of the support over the years and to the fans, worldwide that have kept the music alive and the band in their hearts. Metal till Death!”