One of the most devastating and crushing albums lately certainly was VIU DRAKH’s "Take No Prisoners, Grind Them All And Leave This Hell"! These four German guys easily managed to combine the thrashing rawness and intensity of vintage SLAYER, added the best trademarks of TERRORIZER and mixed everything with some Crust elements. Ever since I got the album, it constantly gets played on my stereo and turned me into a die hard VIU DRAKH addict. Here’s a little interview that was done with the whole band shortly after…
It’s really weird – even though you already have been around since 1993, I didn’t come across your band until the latest album "Take No Prisoners, Grind Them All And Leave This Hell" got released… Haven’t you promoted the band in the Metal scene that much or was I simply too stupid to discover you?
"In the past few years we mainly concentrated on gigs in East-Germany. There was no promotion or advertising for our CD’s, because we had no serious label that could afford to pay for some promo activities."
You originally started out as TINPANALLEY and even released a studio- and a live-record in those years. As I never managed to get my hands on them, I was wondering if you could give us a short description of the material in comparison to what you later released under the VIU DRAKH moniker?!
"TINPANALLEY was more a Punk / HC band. At that time we used to play not as fast as today and the songs were dominated by drums. By the years we started to concentrate more on the guitars, more on heavy riffing."
It’s pretty unusual to release a live album so early in a band’s career, so what was the intention behind it and where did you record it?
"After the first TINPANALLEY CD we changed the line-up. We wanted to release some songs with the new members and, regarding our financial possibilities, we decided to record live on 16 tracks instead of using a studio. For all participants this session was an experiment. Today we would call this album our worst (so far)."
What were some of your earlier influences and what lead to the evolution towards a more thrashier Metal sound over the years?
"Yes. But besides our Crust faves like WARCOLLAPSE, STATE OF FEAR or DRILLERKILLER our favorites have always been bands like MORBID ANGEL, SLAYER or NAPALM DEATH. During the first few years after re-unification no border between Metal and Punk like today existed in East Germany. On every concert you could find a funny mix of Metalheads and Punx. Throughout the years our skills developed to a more "technical" level. And we were also influenced by all the heavy Death-Underground-bands like KRABATHOR or our local heroes PURGATORY. In the first four years of the existence of the band we were only playing in squats and Punk-clubs. People there often considered our music Metal rather than Punk. Today we think they were right. Hehe."
Do you follow a certain concept when it comes to the lyrical side of the band?
"No. First of all we try to describe situations, which we consider remarkable and then write a story about that, stretching from everyday life (on tour) till fantasy."
Has your line-up been the same since you started out?
"We’ve been playing in a steady line-up since 1996. Before that TINPANALLEY was a three-piece band with Fish (vocals, bass), Björn (guitar) and a drummer, who left the band in 1996. Today we’re something like a big community. Normally we meet everyday in our rehearsal room and our life and that of our families is completely devoted to VIU DRAKH."
I’m totally unfamiliar with both your old labels (Halb 7 Records and Karokiller Records), so could you tell us more about them and how important they were in developing the band’s career?
"Halb 7 Records is a label in Dessau / Germany that in the last few years only released some Oi-shit. They paid for our first CD, that is sold out. Karokiller was a joke. It was our own big, megaselling record-company. Hehe. Looking back at it nowadays, it probably was a mistake as some interested parties considered us being signed already and therefore didn’t approach us with their offers."
You’ve always been a pretty active live act, even in your early days – so, are there any cool or annoying tour memories you can recall?
"VIU DRAKH is a live-band. Until today we played nearly 300 gigs (we hope to reach our "on the half way to hell-anniversary" 333 next year), so it is difficult to remember some special situations. Maybe the concert, where some Metalheads and Punx celebrated our show with our backdrop, that they had stolen two years before; the perverse bastards of customs officers at the Austrian-Slovenian border (finger fuckers)-captured in "Fields Of Repulsion"; our first Italy-tour in 1993 (with GENERATOR); the fantastic Mini-Tour with the mighty ASPHYX last year…"
In 1998 you had to change your name from TINPANALLEY to VIU DRAKH to avoid legal actions from a Blues band of the same name. How did those guys actually hear about you?
"All this happened really fast. We got a call from a Blues band, complaining about our usage of their name. They’d used the name longer and their lawyers would sue us. Maybe they had seen one of our posters or a flyer somewhere. At that time we were ready to release the "Back To The Chaos" album and decided to change the name of the band to avoid problems with sales. Today we’re happy that we changed the name to VIU DRAKH."
Both names, TINPANALLEY as well as VIU DRAKH, are pretty unusual, so would you mind telling us a bit more about their origin?
"TINPANALLEY is actually a blues term. It got something to do with FRANK SINATRA, DORIS DAY and the lot. Nowadays none of us can remember, why we chose that stupid name. In the scene we were called T.P.A. anyhow. VIU DRAKH is the result of spiritual bicycle-tour of Fish with his daughter. It means something like "fighting dragon"."
The first release as VIU DRAKH was the "Back To The Chaos" album – how do you judge this release in retrospect nowadays? Are you still satisfied with it?
"The "Back to the chaos"-album was really important for us. It was our first step towards music we really wanted to play. The songwriting and recording was something like a "sketch" for the "Take No Prisoners…" album. All the Crust and Death influences were already present, but we sometimes didn’t know how to handle it. Today we think it is an interesting piece of music, though it is not a "killer" album. We still love to play some of those songs live."
What really impresses me a lot about VIU DRAKH is the raw energy and tightness on one hand and the effective and well executed songwriting on the other. Everything just sounds so highly experienced already… So, when did you start out to write music? Have you been working in projects before TINPANALLEY already?
"Thanx a lot. Fish and Björn founded the band in 1993 as real newies. From the very beginning we have been interested in all the rough and heavy kinds of music and tried to turn our ideas into as brutal as possible tunes. But only in the last three years we learned enough to call our crew a serious band."
"Back To Chaos" was once again released on Karokiller Records, while your latest album "Take No Prisoners, Grind Them All And Leave This Hell" came out on Moonstorm Records. So, was your contract finished with Karokiller or what made you sign with Moonstorm?
"Yes. After "Back To The Chaos" we fired ourselves from the label – took all the profit ($ 17.30) and killed it in only one night. But seriously: we were looking for a deal for many years. Moonstorm was the first label that seemed to have faith in us the way we were and what we’re doing. Today we are really happy that we signed to Moonstorm because of their friendly way of working with us and backing us up."
You also recorded a 4-track demo ("Rebellion") in between those releases… Did you mainly do that to shop around for a new deal? Which songs appeared on it and what kind of reactions did you receive from the labels?
"In fact, we recorded the "Rebellion" tape to find someone willing to support us. The tape contains early versions of ’12 Inch God’, ‘Rebellion’, ‘Essential Doubts’ and ‘Emperor’s Soldiers’. It is funny that we didn’t achieve anything with that tape. The deal with Moonstorm is a result of our reputation to be a hardworking live-band."
To me personally "Take No Prisoners, Grind Them All And Leave This Hell" is one of the most refreshing extreme albums that came out lately. But it seems that you are still not really appealing to the mainstream crowd with it (which shouldn’t be a goal anyway…). For example, you ended up on a ridiculous 66th position (out of 70) in the German HEAVY, ODER WAS?! magazine. Does stuff like that bother you in any way if you notice what kind of crap gets praised all the time?
"Hehe. What do you think: how would Metal sound today, if it would’ve been made only for the chart listings of some magazines? Next time we’re shooting for position 666." (good attitude, hehe… – Frank)
How has the overall response from the underground been on it so far? Do you recognize a stronger interest in the band already?
"We are proud of the reception VIU DRAKH has received in the Metal underground. Since the "Take No Prisoners…" album we have been getting a lot of positive response from the people. By the time developed a lot of friendships and contacts with other bands, that inspires us enormously."
Would you agree that TERRORIZER and older SLAYER were playing a big role in the songwriting for "Take No Prisoners, Grind Them All And Leave This Hell"?
"Of course, especially because of its rough intensity SLAYER is one of our influences. And if you play a sound like we (try to), you can’t ignore TERRORIZER. Both bands at their time mixed the heaviest varieties from Metal and Punk to a new sound. We see our music in this tradition. If you listen to those bands one thing is for sure: their attitude is blood, sweat and fun. And whenever people can tell the band’s having fun they’ll enjoy themselves, too. That is important for us."
Even though I’m really enthusiastic about VIU DRAKH, I gotta tell you that the packaging of your albums doesn’t really do justice to the quality of the material. It probably even resulted in poorer sales. So, was it your decision to go for those sleeves?
"Till the "Take No Prisoners…" album we used to do everything ourselves, from production up to the artwork. Sure, we try to give the people as much as possible for their money, but we’re probably better at playing music than doing layout. Hehe. Shit happens. For the next CD we’ll hopefully have the budget to hire professionals to do the cover. Do you think that is responsible for position 66?" (no, but a better packaging certainly results in a stronger interest of an album… in the end it’s always the music that matters… – Frank)
What are the next planned steps in the band’s career? As far as I know you already have played another tour by the time this comes out, right?
"First of all we’ll enjoy a lot of open-air shows in summer. We hope to go on tour in autumn supporting a bigger band, but there is nothing really sure yet. We’ll record a 7 inch EP as a side project with members of bands we are friends with. Besides we record ideas and arrangements for the next VIU DRAKH release and hope to experience lots of strange situations to write lyrics about. The next album is planned for summer of 2001."
Anything else you’d like to add here? Any closing comments?
"Thanx for your interest in VIU DRAKH. We want to send our regards to all the fans, clubs and bands who believe in us. We would be nothing without you!"
VIU DRAKH Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Interview: Frank Stöver
Live Pics: Hacker