And yet another rather strange interview I’m (partly) responsible for. The story is that Timothy contacted Cleveland’s Thrash heroes DESTRUCTOR for an interview via email which couldn’t be done due to lack of time. But as the band was scheduled for their first appearance in Germany at the Bang Your Head!!! Festival (still my favorite among the big German ones and if you’re into Classic Heavy Metal you should go there at least once in your life I think). I took the opportunity as well as Timothy’s questions and hooked up with Pat Rabid at the WOM club where DESTRUCTOR were doing a smashing warm up gig together with HIRAX (excellent gig) and STORMWITCH (boring, not enough old songs). Timothy obviously had designed the questions for Dave Overkill and Dave actually took over the microphone for the last few questions. You’ll probably realize where I broke the continuity of Timothy’s points as I stuck to his questions rather stubbornly most of the time.
How and when did you realize that the time was right for DESTRUCTOR to come back and strike again? Any external pushes or just something coming straight from the heart for no definite reason?
“Well, something that people don’t understand is that DESTRUCTOR never really went away. We always were pretty much a band in different form. We played occasional gigs in Cleveland. We had the album finished with Dave before he died, then we went in to record another album which didn’t come out and then last year we got invited to play the Classic Metal Festival in Cleveland and then we grabbed Jamie, the bass player. Then we played the festival which was very successful for us and Bill (Peters, Auburn Records) ended up, you know, wanting to do a record again with us and stuff but the band never really went away. It was always functioning.”
Do you think DESTRUCTOR nowadays is strong enough to count not only on a feeling of nostalgia of your old fans, but on the attention of the younger generation of metalheads as well?
“Absolutely. No problem there. We can write the same songs that we wrote, we just stopped there. I mean the music that we write is what we are. Our music is us.”
Are you excited about the prospect of your first ever (!) European appearance this summer? What do you expect of these shows?
“We’re blown away! Germany is great, the fans are great. We think it’s gonna be good.”
The very first DESTRUCTOR line-up consisted of you, Dave Overkill, Paul Warhead and some guy on drums whose name I have no idea of, didn’t it? How and when exactly (was it 1983 or 1984?) was DESTRUCTOR born?
“It was 1983 and Don King (?) was the drummer at that time. And when we met Matt we got really Don right away because Matt was a great guy and he was perfect for DESTRUCTOR and he had a kinda crazy attitude as us and everything. Paul Warhead was a bad drug addict. Unfortunately. He was a great bass player but a bad drug addict and we couldn’t deal with that.”
What were your Metal dreams at the time? How old were you, how devoted and naive?
“We just wrote the music that we thought was good music. There was nothing that we calculated on. We were just playing what we were. We liked ANVIL and we liked MOTÖRHEAD and we liked SAXON and we liked JUDAS PRIEST and we just wanted to play that kind of music. We listened to it, we lived it, we played it.”
Despite being the last one to join the band, it didn’t take long for Dave to become a kind of generator of ideas in DESTRUCTOR. How come? Was he such a type of strong leader by nature?
“Yeah, I’ll tell you something that’s really wild about Dave. Dave really couldn’t play the bass, hardly at all when he joined the band. We recorded “Maximum Destruction” two weeks after he joined the band! That’s kinda talent that we’re talking about. Dave was only getting better and it’s a shame he died before he really had a chance to really show what he was all about. He is missed. Definitely.”
The idea to wear a make-up in the early days – how did it come in the first place and why and when did it have to go?
“Oh, it didn’t last very long it was just one of those phases, we just tried it and decided: hey, we really don’t need to do this. It went fast. The pictures you see did not last for very long.”
Many bands use an over-the-top image in a miserable attempt of concealing their musical impotence, that’s quite natural and obvious, but why the hell did you need it? I believe your music had more than enough to speak for itself, but that too loud image of yours could lead into the wrong direction some of the fans not acquainted with your music yet. I, for example, remember being very skeptical during the period between seeing your band photos and then hearing the music for the first time
“Well, you know, we just wanted to be an extreme band, you know, very intense and obviously, our album was called “Maximum Destruction”, our new album is called “Sonic Bullet” (check the review section – Ramon) Our first songs were ‘Take Command’, ‘Heavy Artillery’, you know, we’re just trying to be an over the top band. It was just something that was there and we just decided to go with it.”
Did you try to approach any bigger labels with the “Smash Your Skull With Power” demo and did you get any serious offers in the end?
“No! The reason we didn’t is because the first gig we played, Bill Peters of Auburn Records came to us and said: “you wanna do an album?” and we said sure! We didn’t have the money to do a record or anything like that.”
From the very first steps of the band (from your first live gig actually, isn’t it?) Auburn Records chief Bill Peters’ input into DESTRUCTOR has been quite hard to exaggerate. Have you ever seen him as a kind of the fifth member of the band?
“Yeah, sure. Absolutely. Bill’s ideas are great for us. Like the “Sonic Bullet” record. That album we really didn’t have an idea where we wanted to go like what direction as far as like a concept for the album. The songs and all together, the cover and everything. A lot of that was Bill who did a lot with us together.”
Where did you record it?
“We recorded it at 609 studios with Don Depew from BREAKER”
Were “Maximum Destruction” actually an EP as it had been initially planned, which songs would it consist of then? I just wonder which ones were “the fillers” on the LP then, as I can’t figure out any?
“None of them was really a filler. The time between Bill approaching us for the record and the time we recorded the record we wrote more songs. ‘Take Command’ was a later one, let’s see… ‘Iron Curtain’ is an old one… really, a lot of the album was already written. The only reason why Bill was gonna do the EP was… I’m not sure why. We don’t consider any of the songs as a filler.”
“Maximum Destruction” was recorded, mixed and mastered in three different studios, so did you get all what you wanted in the end? Did it sound exactly like you had envisioned it to be?
“The first mix is the one that came out on Listenable. (for the CD reissue – Ramon) I particularly don’t care for that mix that much. The second mix is the one that Bill put out. We tried to do something different with Listenable but I don’t think that it works as well. I think the second mix is much better and the reason why the second mix came about is because the first one doesn’t sound as good.”
What do you personally like about “Maximum Destruction”, what does it have to make you proud of being a part of it’s creation? And maybe any details you wish were done differently?
“No, not really because like I said those were songs born out of a lot of partying and a lot of hanging out and a lot of just Metal. That album is all about what we’re about.”
One of the most unique features of DESTRUCTOR was your enviable ability to feel the right balance between power and melody. While having both of them in vast quantities in your music, you never let one of them to suppress the other. Was it just all natural or rather a well thought out formula?
“They’re representing our influences like early SCORPIONS, IRON MAIDEN, you know, not just the straight ahead pounded out chorus, just to have something in there and stuff, you know. Good harmonies and melody. That’s where that came from.”
Do you think your band photo on the album front cover could better represent what DESTRUCTOR was all about than any pictures could?
“Yeah, we are like particular about our covers. Some drawn covers I like and a lot of the drawn covers I think don’t look that good. Some do. Depends on the artist. I like the live approach. I like the new album cover. Doesn’t have a live picture on it… drawings are good sometimes but I think that cover was great.”
Have you ever been confused with famous German Thrashers with a name sounding a bit similar to yours – DESTRUCTION? Any funny stories related to that?
“Oh yeah. Many times. Don’t have any funny stories but we’ve been mistaken a lot of times for DESTRUCTION because after we recorded “Maximum…” and we were just ready to put it on, DESTRUCTION came out with their first EP and I remember walking into the store and seeing it and going: damn, oh my god, you know, this is just like what we are doing. You know, the bullet belts, the name and stuff. One of those things. DESTRUCTION is a great band, I got nothing against it, you know. We don’t care. DESTRUCTOR is a different thing than DESTRUCTION. They’re pretty much all Thrash and stuff. We like to break it up a little bit with a little Power Metal and stuff. I think our influences are a little more wide.”
Have you ever considered the idea of moving to some other area where the scene was much bigger, where it probably would have been more difficult to become such a local hero as you used to be in your area, but where besides the more severe competition were also much more chances to be noticed by big record companies, etc? Haven’t you felt ready for such an adventure at the heydays of DESTRUCTOR?
“Never. Cleveland is our hometown. The fans are great, the whole attitude is just great. The audience is some of the best audience in the whole world. I think you could ask this to a lot of bands and they would tell you that Cleveland is great for concerts.”
To sing about death is one thing, but to be confronted with it, especially in such an early age as you were back in 1987, is an absolutely different one. These days, having lost so many great Metal people lately, we got more or less used to it (at least as much as it’s possible to get used to death at all, of course), but back then a tragedy that took Dave’s life must have been a huge shock for all of you… How did it tell upon on the atmosphere in the band?
“Well, that has a lot to do with why DESTRUCTOR went kinda under the radar and didn’t do anything for a while because we had Brook (Hodges) from BREAKER in the band for a while. You know, Brook is a great bass player but the attitude in the band was to look over and not see Dave’s end and stuff. No bass player had a chance at that time. We weren’t ready to accept the fact. Dave was a much too important part of the band. That’s why for a while DESTRUCTOR really didn’t break up but really wasn’t doing what we could have been doing. Now we got Jamie Boulder on bass. This guy we should have had all along, ever since Dave ever since Dave got killed. Unfortunately we didn’t know him then.”
Have you tried to finish the recording of “Decibel Casualties” after Dave’s murder? Or did it all seem so unimportant compared to that tragedy that you didn’t even want to try and finish it without Dave?
“Indirectly. We could have finished it without Dave but the project couldn’t go any further without Bill and Bill didn’t seem like he was really into finishing the recording for a while. You know we had that album and then we had another album. We’re trying to resurrect those songs, do them over again. A lot of that stuff hasn’t seen the light of day. Some of that is on the new “Sonic Bullet” EP. But Dave’s bass playing… the tapes were lost. The stuff that you hear on the re-release of “Maximum…” is the only stuff that was left.”
Did you consider taking Paul Warhead back in the band in 1988?
“We actually did. But he was too much of a drug addict. A couple of years later we actually did take him back but we could never trust him. So we had to ask him to leave. Unfortunately because he is a brother to us. Tremendous bass player and brother to us but drug addict.”
Contrary to the vivid and full of happenings early years of the band, the period from 1988 up to the end of DESTRUCTOR in 1992 seem to have been very quiet. Except for some shows here and there, did you do anything worth being mentioned during those times?
“We had our SPACECORE project which was a lot like HAWKWIND. We had that project and we played with HAWKWIND a couple of times. That broke up and then there was a band called NUCLEAN for a little while which was kind of a heavy BUDGIE space thing and then we decided: we gotta play this Metal stuff and got back to the Metal. The other stuff was good for what it was, it kept us busy but, you know, the Metal is where our hearts are.”
Had the band already almost died in itself by the time you and Pat decided to call it a day in 1992?
“Well, we didn’t really break up but obviously, the idea was there and stuff, you know. Matt was off doing things, Dave was off doing things but I think we always thought that some day we would do something.”
After DESTRUCTOR’s demise in 1992 all three of you formed the band called SPACECORE. Did the music you were making under that new name have anything to do with what you used to do as DESTRUCTOR? In other words, was it all just a matter of name change or way deeper than that?
“We were drinking and hanging out and we would do these all night space jams. That’s how this whole thing developed. We had an offer to open for HAWKWIND. We love HAWKWIND! We practiced a little bit and wrote a couple of songs together.”
Any recordings from those days?
“Just a cassette. Unfortunately, when I came to Germany I forgot them. I had a whole bunch of them but I forgot them all. Just one cassette.”
Were those four songs on the “Maximum Destruction” re-release all that you managed to save from the “Decibel Casualties” sessions? Yeah, I know that some vocal and guitar parts were finished in 1998, but it doesn’t matter that much anyway. But is there any unreleased stuff from those sessions still laying around? What about a song called ‘Black Night’, for example?
“That’s correct. ‘Black Night’ is on the new “Sonic Bullet” CD.”
Your vocals on “Decibel Casualties” songs sound a bit more tamed and worked on, more professional, of course, but… Hope you see my point and won’t mind an old fan’s expression of his honest opinion. Moreover, I dare to believe I’m not the only one who would like to hear more of those absolutely great wild vocals characteristic of “Maximum Destruction” and hope you’re going to bring them back on your upcoming new stuff. Any comments? (Here Dave Overkill took over the microphone)
“Yeah. After the early days there were many good singers and I always thought: I really need to start singing on… and after all the years passed on the “Sonic Bullet EP” I tried to keep the anger and the hunger from the early days.”
Why did you change the order of tracks on “Maximum destruction” CD re-release?
“That was the original mix. There were some things we didn’t like too much about it, too much hissing on the cymbals. So we went to Chicago and remixed it and that’s the one that came out as “Maximum…”. So when we re-issued it we actually gave the very first mix to Listenable.”
Judging by your recent photos at the Auburn Records web-site, an image still is a very important part of DESTRUCTOR’s game, isn’t it?
“Sure. Metal, leather, spikes and chains.”
How did you manage to carry through the years and keep that passion for destructive Metal in your heart up to this day?
“We can’t change what we are. Many bands for instance in Cleveland asked us: what do you sound like now? Well, we sound just like we always did: DESTRUCTOR! We do like to play other kinds of music but we would not call it DESTRUCTOR then. That would be something different.”
The “old” DESTRUCTOR and the “new” one – is there any sensible difference between them except for your age?
“I don’t believe so. Especially with Jamie in the band. A tremendous bass player and an excellent songwriter. He writes more than probably any other bass player… Holocaust did a lot but Jamie writes just as much.”
Were DESTRUCTOR a knights’ order, what a bearing on its coat of arms would be?
“Haha… to fail is to die!”
(Then some rather drunk German guy urged me to ask the following): Why did you stay alive all those years, why are you still around?
“Never give in! Never lost the dream. Never lost sight of the dream! Danke!”
Interview: Timothy Dovgy / Ramon Claassen
Live pics: Ramon Claassen