Descending really deep down into the vaults of German Thrash underground, the vaults where stagnant air is damp and the flame of the torch snatches from darkness obscure silhouettes and strange shadows dancing on the ancient walls, the curious investigator sooner or later is bound to bump into MINOTAUR – raw and wild Thrash force from Hamburg since 1983. Being the incurable maniacs into everything sounding like that we, the ones summoned by voices from the darkside, just couldn’t pass by such band without cornering its musicians and trying to make them tell us the whole truth about their band and everything related. And so we did. That’s where the dark part of the story ends and the amusing one starts, because along with MACABRE one done several years ago, this interview turned out to be the most funny feature I’ve ever done. You see, originally it was put together for the guitarist / vocalist Andreas Richwien, but the latter managed to slip through our fingers somehow, passing the questions on to the drummer Jörg Bock, so it ended up being answered by the guy often mentioned there in the third person. Not bad for the start, isn’t it? Add to that the fact that the band’s story is so confused that… Well, you’d better see the result yourselves. I’d just like to add that even after having this interview finished it didn’t become much clearer to me. At first I was about doing some “smart journalistic tricks” here and there like correcting the questions a bit in order to make the interview running more smoothly and so on, but then I changed my mind (or what’s left of it by now) and decided to leave everything in its primeval form. Somehow it seems to fit MINOTAUR’s music the best, so you’d better comfort yourself with the thought that it’s done in true underground unpolished way and put some MINOTAUR on the turntable for it will surely help you not to stray in the labyrinth of this confused interview.
Do you have anything interesting to tell about the period from MINOTAUR’s birth in 1983 up to the time you joined the band? Jörg Bock (dr), Andreas “Buschi” Babuschkin (voc/guit) and Chris (bass/voc) which was soon replaced by Thomas Labies – was it the first line-up of MINOTAUR? Did they already have anything serious going on by then or was it all more fun oriented in the beginning?
“Think ya are going to mix up a lot things and line ups. In 83 it was me and Andreas in the band plus Ulf Kaiser (gt). Thomas Witte joined in 86 and Buschi in 91 but only as a vocalist, not as a guitarist. Thomas Witte replaced Chris in 82 as a bass player only – the vocals were done through Andreas then. Hope we get it right now!!!”
How and when did you and Tommy Witte join MINOTAUR? Were you well familiar with the band and what they were trying to play before?
“Andreas and Thomas played in the band called RAVAGE before and they just rehearsed a few doors near to the MINOTAUR rehearsal place – so we jammed around a few times and so all the shit happened for both joining MINOTAUR .”
Who did come up with the idea of naming the band MINOTAUR? Was that name the best to reflect a nature of your music from the very beginning?
“In the really early days as Ulf and me started something "like a band" we called it DESTERO, but after a few thoughts of image, music, etc. we decided to change the name into MINOTAUR. Maybe also a little tribute to one of our 80’s faves TYGERS OF PAN TANG (remember “Spellbound” album).”
Sometimes your songs really remind me of a minotaur strayed in his labyrinth – desperate, angry, crashing everything on its way. Way with no definite destination point. I mean once in a while you seem to be unaware of what way you are going. Do you from time to time let the chaos prevail in your music on purpose or is it only me who can’t get into it the right way?
“Maybe during some periods in the band’s history we actually didn´t know where to struggle, that´s right. Sometimes it was Speed Metal, sometimes Black, Thrash, Power combined with lacks of Thrashcore, but I think the one and only roots are real fuckin Thrash Metal. Oldschool 80’s stuff.”
Exactly like it was the case in late 80’s, it took me several attentive listening sessions to get into your music and really appreciate it while preparing this interview. Easy going stuff is not what you are all about, are you?
“Anyway, if we got ya that way to accept / like it, it´s OK. We never thought about becoming major / commercial or so.”
Can you say that the first MINOTAUR releases – demos / EPs “The Oath Of Blood” and “The Slaughter Continues” – did fulfill their mission and promoted the band the way they had been supposed to?
“In the 80’s for sure. The early tapes sold both about 1000 copies during their time of release. I dunno actually how much we sent out worldwide. And these days the re-releases as 7" singles even tops the job.”
What about your deal with Swiss label Crazy Records signed back in 1987? What went wrong with it as there wasn’t any result of that deal either on vinyl or on CD?
“Well, we released the "Power Of Darkness" LP in 88 on Crazy Rec. – but all in all it was a bloody rip off for us. We never saw any money from the deal and even after the re-release on CD I was pretty pissed and I used to force the bastard from Crazy Rec. to the court, but it was impossible cuz Swizz doesn´t belong to the EU. In fact we lost alot of money during that deal.”
Wasn’t Roadrunner interested in continuing working with MINOTAUR after your quite successful participation in their “Teutonic Invasion” compilation?
“RR was interested, but their offer was not really worth looking at. They offered us a contract, but we didn´t accept it the way they offered us – so they choose PARADOX instead of us. Bad taste at all.”
Would it be fair to assume that it was excessive self-confidence that blocked your way to fame and fortune and in a way killed MINOTAUR in the end?
“Yeznoyezno… maybe… dunno… could be… think so…”
Was it indeed such an adventure to release “Power Of Darkness” on your own or were you more or less sure you would be able to sell the album without too much problems?
“As we got the deal offered I was sure it´ll work – but after all… I never expected things like the "horrible" cover artwork, less of distribution, etc, but on the other hand even this makes MINOTAUR and the releases to an underground cult band. This is what counts.”
Were you satisfied with your guitar sound on “Power Of Darkness”? I guess it didn’t sound the way you had envisioned it to
“Sorry – I´m the drummer not the guitar player, but the acoustic one sounded good. Chris de Burgh meets Metal!!!”
It seems that the “not so great” production of your album has hidden many of its good points and in a way killed its atmosphere. Poor production has made absolutely no justice to your rather complicated and interesting music, who was to blame?
“Well, actually I don´t think the production is "not so great". For a Thrash band it is too commercial in my opinion. During that period we used to find something between Thrash and what sounds… but it didn´t work out. So the drums, guitars and all was less produced… just mainstream.”
Why didn’t you do a second pressing of “Power Of Darkness” after the first one in 2500 copies was sold out rather quickly?
“That was the terror with Crazy Rec. as I used to mention before…”
Playing lots of gigs in the end of the 80’s, have you ever felt that MINOTAUR was finally on its way to some big breakthrough or had it always looked more like a dead end road?
“Sometimes we thought now it´s becoming huge, but a few days later we got back on our asses again. But actually no pain at all about the whole situation – we always enjoyed the time / success we had with the band.”
You must be extremely persistent persons to continue playing Thrash being aware that it hasn’t brought you much (if any) success at all. Or were there any moments in your “musical career” that you consider to be a huge success?
“I grew up with the late 70’s / early 80’s stuff and I consumed it. Major acts as BLACK SABBATH, IRON MAIDEN, PRIEST, etc, also as the NWOBHM ANGEL WITCH, DEMON, DEF LEPPARD, etc, German stuff as ACCEPT plus the early US Thrash invasion EXODUS, HIRAX, POSSESSED, EXCITER, HALLOWS EVE, SLAYER, etc, German upcoming stuff DESTRUCTION, KREATOR, SODOM made our / my way. What way to chose? THRASH in any way… The only way to look in the mirror every morning and say: it´s OK what ya doing. Ya never wimped out, never fucked off, never betrayed…”
To tell you the truth, I miss traditional German melodiousness in your music. Not that SCORPIONS kind, of course, but good Thrash often is quite melodic too, even though in its own way. With MINOTAUR it seems to be different, is it done on purpose?
“Well, our faves as I mentioned above are more or less US bands – we never wanted to be a "German" band.”
What’s your definition of Thrash? What qualities should it necessarily have?
“Should be moving ya head and kick ya ass. Albums as "Seven Churches" from POSSESSED, "Heavy Metal Maniac" from EXCITER, "Hallows Eve", "Maniac" from ABATTOIR, "Fistful Of Metal" from ANTHRAX, "Fire In The Brain" from OZ… Listen to these and ya know what I mean.”
What I’ve always liked most of all about MINOTAUR is your great extreme vocals. They seem to be heavily influenced by one of the godfathers of German Thrash, so I wonder how much of an influence on you as a vocalist was certain Mille Petrozza?
“Definitely Andreas is "singing" in the same way as Mille, but as Andreas started his vocal career he never expected it to become so "equal" to Mille. In the early days it was a bad habit for MINOTAUR to be compared to KREATOR but nowadays it´s no problem at all. Andreas met Mille last Wacken Open Air.”
Stupid question perhaps, but I wonder what do you feel when listening to modern “happy Heavy Metal” vocalists? Especially when you hear that it’s what they call “Metal” these days
“Some bands as HAMMERFALL call themselves the rebirth of Heavy Metal. May they do – I dunno.”
Why do you call yourself “Jörg’s slave”? Being the only all time TAUR member, is he a kind of dictator in the band?
“Yeah… everyone under my command. Would be great if this would work… actually no… I´m the one in the band who tries to get it a little bit professional. The only one who´s in the bizz without a break since 83 – so that makes a much more hundreds gigs played, rehearsals done, sessions played etc… I only use to get the guys in one line.”
Why did your bassist Tommy get replaced with Marco Scharfenort before the recordings of the “Death Metal” EP?
“Thomas had the chance to choose a real job or try to earn his living with music – he chose the real job. No way we let him out… and never heard of him…”
Wasn’t the collapse of the “classic” MINOTAUR line-up (Jörg, Tommy and you) the first sign or even the main reason of the band’s split-up later?
“No – the much more longer existing line up was with Marco on bass.”
Did you leave MINOTAUR during its first break-up in 1992 or earlier? Anyway, why did your ways part?
“In May 95 I married my wife and after the marriage the band was just a place for big headed rock stars to produce themselves. I decided to stop this and so I having a break the life of the mighty MINOTAUR.”
Who or what was that Theseus that killed your Minotaur in 1992?
“See question above!”
Were you approached to join Jörg later, when the band was reborn and they were making the second album?
“Andreas and me had no contact during that time at all. Uuuupppss… he supported my gig with TORMENT at Wacken Open Air.”
Was that album, “Welcome To…”, actually released at all? Did it have anything to do with early MINOTAUR stuff? Jörg was working with new guitarists Tomislav Stanic and Jedinko Petrovic at the time, but who was singing then?
“Singing was Andreas “Buschi” Babuschkin. Andreas had nothing to do with the songs, recordings or anything during that period. Both guitarists were friends of old bass player Marco.”
Did you play with any other band afterwards and what were you doing in the 90’s when there was no MINOTAUR in your life any longer?
“I answer this question for Andreas – he just played in DESERT STORM the band of Marco after he quit MINOTAUR. Otherwise he just made a creative break.”
What about your “alcohol and other problems” Jörg mentioned back then? You don’t let stuff like that rule your life anymore, do you?
“I answer this one too… in the late 90’s everyone of the band had problems… so we used to drink too much, took too many pills and did tons of things we better hadn´t done. During the time of departure it was a problem, but these days we have talked about and it´s no problem it all.”
Has the re-release of “Power Of Darkness” on CD had anything to do with the band’s reunion (or vice versa)?
“The re-release of the CD definitely not. We don´t earn anything on that (thanx to Crazy Rec!!!). It was just good for the reunion stuff.”
Who was it to come up with the idea to give it a second try and revive MINOTAUR and how did it work out in the end?
“Andreas and me met at Wacken Open Air and after too much booze we thought it would be a cool idea to start MINOTAUR again. So the idea was born… look for members… Alf… booker for Wacken, so we got a bass. Larz (gt) in STORMWARRIOR… same record-company as TORMENT, so I forced him to play MINOTAUR… and no way…”
To be totally honest with you, it isn’t easy to imagine any new fans getting into your old music these days. Is your upcoming new album going to change the situation? Do you count on attracting any new audience besides the old devoted TAUR fans with it?
“We have a few new songs written and recorded… this is oldschool Thrash like SLAYER, etc… I don´t know if we´ll attract a COLDPLAY, NICKELBACK, MMANSON audience (anyway… I`ll piss on them), MINOTAUR is Thrash – oldschool. If it sells or not!!!!”
Have you ever felt being left on the wayside of the road along which the shining train of Thrash had rumbled away?
“Good guess – it wouldn´t have been bad on having earned my wages on music at all. But I´m not bothered about it anyway. I toured a lot of places, had a lot of fun, met many friends, screwed many cunts, suffered a lot vodka bottles, what else counts????”
It depends on what you are after. Anyway, your logic is rock solid. Thrash on and stay true to what you believe in – sounds not bad at all.
Official website: www.minotaur-thrashers.de