How are you doing today Paul?
I am actually great, just returned from a vacation in Croatia with my old lady and rehearsing has begun for the newest Master CD. I also received news of the 7-inch release of the original Funeral Bitch demos from 1986 coming up soon. So things are looking up. No rest for the wicked I say.
Dark Descent Records has just reissued the death metal classic "Fuckin Death" by Death Strike, one of the oldest death metal albums in the history of the genre. Take us back to the mid-eighties and where your head was at musically speaking at that time, there couldn't have been a lot of other bands as extreme as Death Strike during this time period. What was it like to be a death metal pioneer?
Well, at the time you speak of I was just trying to get my life together. After auditioning many guitarists in and around Chicago original Master drummer Schmidt became disillusioned with the band and Master never really got off the ground. Bill joined a band called Mayhem from Chicago and began rehearsals for a demo with these guys.
My father passed away in the fall of 1984 and I was left along in his house until the house was sold. I was playing bass in the basement one afternoon when the riffs came to me for a song called The Truth. I felt like I was surrounded by mannequins and society was a complete farce. This song would forever change my life. I began auditions for a guitarist myself after being left alone to my own devices. Chris Mittelbrun came along as well as Scott from a band called Natas later Not Us. Anyways, Scott broke his leg and never returned to practice after a few rehearsals, so my girlfriend’s brother Kirk Miller came in and a drunken maniac called John Leprich. We began rehearsing in the basement and after a few weeks we went to record "Fuckin Death". Problems arose when Leprich had trouble with "Pay To Die".
The 3 songs were recorded on the first day and thankfully John pulled off, just barely, Pay To Die on the second day. We mixed on the second day. So needless to say this was done really quickly which is still my favourite way of recording and we still record quickly today. I was listening obviously to Venom and Slayer at this time and visitng concerts of these killer bands, but the obvious inspiration for the demo came from bands like GBH, MDC, The Exploited and Discharge.
I never really thought of it as death metal, for me and the guys in the band it was just plain metal. All these silly categories came later on in the music scene.
Now this isn't the first time that "Fuckin Death" has been re-issued, Nuclear Blast released this classic back in 1991 but what makes this current reissue unique is the addition of four previously unreleased rehearsal tracks. I'm sure your fans would like to hear your thoughts on these rare rehearsal tracks and I'd like to know if there is any other unreleased Death Strike material in the vaults that might ever see the light of day?
These are just original rehearsal tracks that some kids made back in the day on a tape recorder and they are aggressive as fuck so it’s cool for the people to see what things sounded like in a storage unit back in the day. I mean by listening to these rehearsal tracks you can tell that these young cats were onto something. These original demos would go on to influence a generation of bands for sure.
I suppose there are a couple others for a future release as bonus tracks. I laughed when I read some Italian review yesterday that said the bonus tracks were shitty sounding. It was rehearsal after all and they are still brutal as fuck so whatever.
You have been recording and touring a great deal with Master steadily building momentum these last several years, does this leave any possibility to temporarily shift your focus into staging a platform for a Death Strike reunion? Maybe a series of festival shows this summer to commemorate the reissue?
We’ll see, I’ve had one offer so far at the moment. As far a reunion this will never happen because the guys are all lazy fuckers that have no interest in touring or playing concerts. I will have a different lineup if I ever tour with the band.
Speaking of reunions, you are set to perform live for a string of European concerts with your 1990's band Abomination this coming November. How did that reunion come about? Had you remained in touch with your former band members through all of these years?
Again the original members are long gone, it’s been twenty years since we toured. Unfortunately guitarist Dean Chioles passes away from ALS many years ago and the drummer Aaron Nickeas runs his own pizza places. There will be a new lineup for Abomination, but it really doesn’t matter as I am the front man and main writer of all these bands.
Is there any archival footage of the early concerts of the band lying around somewhere ? Any chance fans could hope to see that kind of content unearthed eventually?
We never played a concert with Deathstrike so no.
Last year you released your tenth full length album with Master entitled "The Human Machine" that was well received by both the press and your fans alike. Then before a scheduled performance in Tel Aviv, Israel you issued a statement proclaiming that for the time being Master was being put on hold after some hired gun band members exited the band's lineup. I'm sure everyone reading would like to know the current status of the band, have you had the time to find some adequate replacements to get Master back in action?
This statement was actually misinterpreted by the press, the guys never left the band or were fired. Everything is still normal. The drummer just refused to play the show in Israel and I had to pay the promoter 1000 Euros back for the flights because I am metal and felt bad about leaving the guys holding the bag, so I paid them. The promoters read a bit more into the statement I made than what was really true.
You have stated in the past that you have found "more freedom in the Czech Republic" than you "ever did in the USA". What are the greatest benefits, in your opinion, being based out of the Czech Republic? Is there a strong death metal scene where you live?
Freedom is the strongest benefit in this country. Police look the other way when I walk the streets, they’re not interested in who I am or what I am doing. Some of the most beautiful women in the world live here. The food is great and the village I live in is small and quiet.
Outside of the Czech Republic, where would you say are your favorite countries to tour and perform in and why?
I enjoy Italy for the food and the crazy fans across that country. Holland is by far one of my favourites as again, freedom exists there. You can choose what you wish without government intervention. The Netherlands have their own set of rules I guess, but freedom is at the forefront. Brazil was excellent in 2010 as well.
In a 2007 interview with a German webzine, you made a very bold statement that "Drugs are great. Experimentation is awesome." Although it is somewhat rare for a musician to publicly endorse using drugs it is also very intriguing. What is your drug(s) of choice and does drug usage ever play a role in composing your music?
Any seasoned musician will tell you that he had experiences with drugs. Drugs can be enlightening sometimes. I don’t really experiment with drugs anymore, but I am an advocate of freedom of choice. I enjoyed smoking pot and hashish when I was growing up and it helped me become the person I am today. I indulged in mushrooms and acid and tried cocaine for a while, but I am really now only addicted to Marlboros and Jack Daniels, the latter only on tour. Actually I wrote some killer bass-lines while stoned back in the day!
A number of years ago the grind metal pioneers Napalm Death paid tribute to Master by covering the song "Master". If you were to ever return the favor and choose to record a Napalm Death cover, what song from their illustrious, seemingly never ending back catalogue would you choose?
I don’t know. Really my friend... Sorry for this answer!
Where would you say your lyrical ideas primarily spring from? A lot of your recent lyrical output deals with your take on the current state of society, do you stay current with politics and the news?
All lyrics from all my records were inspired by personal tragedy and the society we live in for sure. Governments of the world have too much control over what the population does and should be brought down and executed for their crimes against humanity.
Tell me your thoughts on the current state of death metal. A lot of the tried and true greats of the genre have recently tried there hand at crossover commercial success, but at what cost? How do you feel about this? Is death metal strictly for a chosen few, namely the underground? Do you see anything wrong with death metal becoming more and more accepted by the mainstream?
Many bands have sold out for sure which is ridiculous, but I guess they have to eat maybe. I have always stuck to my true beliefs when it comes to my music. I will never sell out!
Money is not as important for me as integrity. In the end you have to live with the music you create.
Who would you say originally inspired you to learn how to play the bass guitar?
A band called Duce at my high school really planted the seed so to speak after I watched a few shows.
I began as a singer in a cover band called White Cross at school and then realised playing bass would be better for me. I practiced my ass off until I could play. Then I met Steve Harris and my world changed. After discovering Geezer Butler I really began a rigorous regiment of practice.
Tell me about how you first discovered metal music. Was there a specific band that lured you in? I'd be interested to hear about your memories of that...
Actually I discovered a record called "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath" among my older brother’s Disco collection. After listening to this and Aerosmith’s "Draw The Line" I was hooked.
I plugged my cheap Epiphone bass into my brother’s stereo when he was at work and began jamming along with the records and discovered I could actually play these tracks by ear. It took years to get really good though. It wasn’t an easy journey but in the end it was well worth it.
What should fans expect from Paul Speckmann for the remainder of 2011? What's next?
More shows across the globe for sure. Mexico is coming up I believe and several festivals here in Europe and the Abomination tour of course.
A big thank you from Pest webzine and XMG Venezuela for taking the time to do this interview for your fans. Any last words Paul?
Yes thanks for the killer interview and people can purchase some rareties from many entities if they are interested. DeathStrike Fucking Death from Dark Descent Records also The Human Machine is available on vinyl at Doomentia Records in Czech.
For more info people can go to master-speckmetal.com
Answers by: Paul Speckman
Interviewed by: Osiris Stefanelli and Robert Williams