A new MASTER album "The Witchhunt" is about to be released on September 27, 2013 via F.D.A. Records. It is another mind blowing statement of real old school Death Metal, not to be missed for sure. With a band doing relentless touring around the world, it is the best time to put your money where your mouth is and support them by buying an album and t-shirt straight from Mr. Paul Speckmann. We had a little chat about what’s going on in the world of MASTER in 2013. Read on…
Hi Paul, how are you?
"Exceptionally well at the moment with the new recordings and the book coming to fruition soon. Things are looking up for MASTER for sure brother. I have my health still so things are fine!"
Have you been playing a lot of gigs this year? Can you mention some gigs / places that stick out?
"Sure we are busy every year to be honest. MASTER has a rigorous touring schedule. Brazil was killer as usual, followed by 34 dates in the USA. This has been a busy year for the fold. The USA always sticks out for me as the scene has grown again and people are regularly visiting the shows on any given day and so in the end it is nice to return for the shows there. By all means I am also ready to leave when the tour is over to get home here in Czech. I certainly do not miss America."
How do you manage to keep up such busy schedule? Do you think touring conditions became better over the time?
"I am online every day of the year searching out new clubs and cities to play my friend. It’s a full time job booking shows and tours and since this is what I live for, I am at it every day. Actually touring conditions rarely improve many promoters are dicks and give a rat’s ass about bands across the globe to be honest. We do meet some great promoters from time to time but this is quite rare unless you are on a bigger tour supporting a bigger act."
OK, let’s get straight to your new album "The Witchhunt". It hasn’t been released officially yet, but it already keeps getting great reviews. This must be flattering, so what was different this time when making it? How long did it take to write and record?
"We approach every record the same way. I write riffs throughout the year and when it’s time I have to sift through them and put songs together. I then go to rehearsals with Zdenek in the mornings and try out the tracks. We make the necessary improvements and then Alex is brought in. Yes, reviews have been exceptionally great this time around, I just hope the fans will buy the record. Downloading is killing MASTER all the time, but thankfully the shows and tours and merch work out in the end for cash. The arranging process was about 1 month. The record was recorded in 5 days and mixed and mastered in two more days. We are very fast always with the recording process because we practice often and make sure we are ready for the studio when the time arrives."
How was the writing split this time? Have you written most of the songs?
"I wrote 10 of the 11 songs this time around. I usually give Alex time to write 2 or three tracks per album, but this time he was working so I took over at the helm and wrote the majority of "The Witchhunt"."
You’ve also signed to F.D.A. Records for this release. Is it a long collaboration? And what’s your take on the time spent on Pulverized Records who released the last two albums?
"We have signed a 1 album deal with F.D.A. and things are working out brilliantly. It always seems that German labels do the best job in the promotion department and this is the most important thing these days. The label and I will have a fruitful career together certainly. Rico, the label owner, believes in his bands and products, this is a fact! As for Pulverised they really didn’t have a grip on things and I found myself waiting all the time for the products as well as the promotion. I mean they tried but they don’t have what it takes to be a contender in the real underground scene."
What do you think about Nuclear Blast these days? Any hard feelings? Do you like their re-release of ABOMINATION in 2011?
"No hard feelings anymore this is water uner the bridge. Label boss Markus and I have come to an understanding and the label did an excellent job on the ABOMINATION re-release I must say. The label was offered "The Witchhunt" first but I never got a response until I read the killer review from Blast Magazine."
Your lyrics always reflect on the dark side of human nature and social injusticies. Where do you get your information from these days? Do you watch many documentaries, read books or basically take it all from travelling / surroudings? What lyricwriters do you like?
"Lyrics come naturally to me from the world around us. I read a great deal of authors, but mostly fiction with occasional non-fiction. We live in a world of turmoil with the super-powers at each others throats. Freedom is quickly becoming a thing of the past with the corrupt politicians and elected officials in general. The time has come for the youth of today to get organized and take the pork bellies from their political throne and live in a truly free society. People are dying in the streets of every country while these assholes wine and dine in the Whitehouse or Buckingham Palace for example. All this fuss about the third in line to be king was pathetic and to think these mindless people were watching and encouraging this fiasco while others are suffering because they weren’t born in a better position. The needy need to be fed."
Let’s get back to your first album made with current and longest standing MASTER line-up: "Spirit Of The West" (2004). Can you tell a bit how it came around?
"Sure, Christopher from KRABATHOR who recorded on "Let’s Start A War" was leaving for the USA. His American dream was to become an American and today he has his green card so be it. I had my wife call Shaark Studios in Bzenec, Czech Republic, where we still record all albums and she told the studio I was in search of a new band. Studio owner Petr Nejezchleba recommended his brother Aleš and also SHAARK drummer Zdenek Pradlovsky. Rehearsals were difficult from the start as both the players spoke zero English. My wife interpreted for 2 practices and then left me to my own devices. I would play the riffs on the guitar for Alex like I still do today and then pick up the bass. The music did the talking for "The Spirit Of The West". Today things are easier as Mr. Pradlovsky picked up english rather quickly with all the touring with english speaking bands over the years and today communication is not a problem."
Was it difficult to record with a new line-up? Did you know the guys before?
"Yes. I met them once during the MARTYR "Murder X – The End Of The Game" recording with Petr Kryštof and Libor Lebonek from KRABATHOR!"
That album and the following "Four More Years Of Terror" have also recently been re-released. Can you tell how and why this idea came about?
"My associate Roger from the MASTER bangers Facebook website found a deal for me with High Roller Records in Germany and I agreed as the original CDs were only released on System Shock in limited quantities of CDs, so this was a chance for others to purchase the reissued CDs also the first ever issued vinyls. I have been re-issuing the entire back catalogue for the same reason, this is a chance for others who missed the original releases to get them at a reasonable price instead of being raped on eBay."
Recently your collaboration album with Rogga Johansson, "Suphur Skies", was released. How did it come about?
"Mr. Johansson contacted me about singing a track for his MEGASCAVENGER 7" a few years back and said he wrote the song specifically for me and after hearing it, I went in and recorded this for him. This year he wrote me and said he has a full album of 12 tracks that needed vocals again and asked if I was interested, and after one listen, I was hooked. He made it a challenge for me as well as he sent lyrics for 9 tracks in no particular order and I was to fit them in the songs that I saw fit. I also wrote lyrics for three tracks myself and he was pleased with these. I recorded three songs per week in two hour increments for four weeks in Bzenec again and the rest is history. We have since begun working on the second release which will follow with a tour next fall."
That is really great news! Are you always interested in doing other projects?
"If a project sounds good I will do it or if a friend asks for help I will usually do this."
On that note, I want to say that your work on three NAILGUN MASSACRE tracks was also very impressive. Do you keep in touch with those guys?
"Yes I am great friends with the fellas and wish them the best. We have known one another since a tour we did in 2002 with their band XENOMORPH. Metal is a brotherhood and my brothers and I keep in touch across the globe thankfully."
You’ve just played as DEATH STRIKE at the Kill Town Death Fest. Do you plan to take it on the road? I’m sure many maniacs would like to see DEATH STRIKE live mayhem!
"This was a one off show and will be continued in Austria on November 22, 2013 once more. I enjoyed myself once again as this is the second time that several of the tracks have ever been played live and this was a blast for me to finally get to re-live these songs live and share them with others as well."
Since you’ve been living in Czech for about 10 years now, but had spend most of your life in USA, can you tell us what the biggest misconception is that Americans have about Eastern Europe that you probably find amusing?
"It’s that we are broke, use newspaper for toilet paper and have no future!"
Besides the new MASTER album, another big news this year is your upcoming book. Can you tell us about it, did you have to leave out lots of stuff, because I read that publishers were afraid to release it?
"Actually the first book in the series is a pictorial book called "Speckmann, Underground Survivor". The actual full text will one day be released as is, I assure you brother."
What’s your view about is the whole free downloading thing going on? Some say it gives you a much wider exposure and true fans still buy the real CDs and LPs. How does it work for MASTER?
"This is an old subject, certainly we lose money ever year from piracy but there is essentially nothing that can be done about this."
Often mistakes are necessary for a person to grow. But is there a mistake regarding MASTER that you wish you hadn’t made? Do you agree that moving to Czech gave the band a second life?
"Sure, not signing the first offer for MASTER from Combat in January 1986 and sitting around waiting for original drummer Bill Schmidt to wake up. If I had just signed the Combat contract and replaced him earlier on things would be different today. But on the other hand the journey has been worth it and I am happy and successful. Unfortunately Schmidt lives under a tunnel in Chicago, homeless. But we have to live with our choices, so be it! Moving to Europe was the best move I ever made, any clever musician will move to where the action is. Absolutely nothing was working for MASTER in America so I had to move to a world that appreciates original Metal."
Judging from your lyrics, you are not the big optimist regarding human race. Do you feel we still have a chance and what’s your opinion about different growing awareness / information movements? Is this just New New Age or something bigger, as it starts to sink in that planet is getting raped beyond belief?
"Let’s face it, there is no hope for the human race unless the kids get off the computers and go out and face the world head on. A revolt is in order for sure. The sooner the next generation makes the right choice then the world will be once again free from the tyranny of the USA. The bully must be reprimanded for sure. The USA has too much control over the world today."
Do you believe in saying, that what goes around comes around? Are we really the sole makers of our own destiny?
"Sure, I believe we create our own destiny. There are particular roads to take and several choices to make. You have to find the best path for yourself. You have to watch yourself because when you treat people disrespectfully you will get it back tenfold in the future. I have learned these values from many mistakes I made in the early days."
Are there any goals that you still wanna reach with MASTER? I mean, you’ve mostly invented the genre with DEATH STRIKE / MASTER but apart from that do you have any ambitions left?
"Sure I wish to play Wacken, With Full Force and some of the other biggest festivals one day. I have done what I was put on this earth to do!"
That’s great, I really hope those festival organizers will finally wake up and put the real Death Metal on their stages! Thank you very much for your answers, it has been a real honour to talk with you. What would be your last message to everybody?
"Support the music scene, go out and buy CDs, vinyl shirts etc. I still purchase CDs from CD Wow all year every year."
Mindaugas ‘Plix’ Lapinskas
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."