Nico, do you still remember, how and when did you discover music and rock/metal in general?
It began when I became a teenager. My older brother had records from The Beatles and Queen, I also heard bands like Uriah Heep, Pink Floyd, ELO etc.
What were the very first bands, records, songs, that made a huge effect on you?
The first Metal band I liked were Iron Maiden. I had a compact cassette with 45 minutes on each side, 'Iron Maiden' on A and 'Killers' on B. These records made me playing Metal...
How did you end up becoming musician? How did your choice fall on drums?
When I was about 14 I got an old small drumset with a bass drum, one tom tom and a cymbal. I tried out and had fun, so I bought a hihat and a snare and founded the first band at school.
Who were the musicians, that influenced your style? Were you self taught by the way or…?
As mentioned I liked Maiden's first albums and their drummer Clive Burr. First I tried a lot learning by doing, then I had one year of teaching at a musicians school. But the best experience was to work with other drummers, e. g. Albert Eckhardt, the first drummer of Grave Digger who was a friend of mine. I learned a lot from him. When he got a new drum set for he sold me his Ludwig stainless steel and it is still mine, my son plays it with his Trash Metal Band (www.sledge.rocks).
Later (until today!) my favorite band was Metallica. I've been through all stages of life with Metallica since 1983, each album is a part of life for me. Of course Lars Ulrich influenced me as well.
Also Dave Lombardo influenced me. I met him personally during the Slayer gig in 1986 in Bochum, Destruction were their support an our manager got backstage passes for us. Dave seems to be the best Metal drummer in the world and everyone in the scene is probably influenced by him.
Was RIGOR MORTIS the first act, that you were involved in or did you play in several acts prior to this outfit?
The first band I played with was a no name band at school. We only tried out to jam. The first real band was a Deutschrock band called 'Schabernack' (engl. Practical Joke). With this group I had my first gig experiences. When I discovered Iron Maiden and Metal music I had the first Metal Band called 'Savage Beast' with some friends. But it was a short time only and we had no gigs. The Then finally I joined Rigor Mortis.
What about your musical experiences as a whole?
After Rigor Mortis I stopped for many years. When my son Mika began to start playing guitar, I excavated the old Ludwig drumset and played with him. Now we are playing together in a cover band. We play 80s pop songs as Metal versions with a touch of 'tallica, we call it 'RecallicA' (www.recallica.de). It brings a lot of fun!
The band was formed in 1982 in Gelsenkirchen by you on drums, Martin Gersmeier on bass, Peter Hanke and Thorsten Förster on guitars and Andreas Hochhaus vocals, how did you get together?
I knew Jerry (nickname of Thorsten) since he went to school with my girlfriend. Jerry already knew the other guys.
Was it the line up right from the start or did you go thru some line up changes?
This was the first line up I knew, obviously they had a former drummer but I didn't know him. But we had a big change later. I worked only with Jerry for a year since the three other members left RM. Then we found Jörg Przytarski from ex-ATLAIN and another bass guy I don't remember.
Was it hard to find the suitable, experienced members for a speed metal band at this time by the way?
Yes, we were searching for more than a year.
How about the musical background of the other members?
As mentioned Pritze (nickname of Jörg) played at ATLAIN with Peavy Wagner (afterwards RAGE). For several sessions and some gigs André Chapellier from HOLY MOSES joined RM as well, but I guess he was too good for us at that time, so he left us.
Were you aware of the existence of the Texas based band, that was called also RIGOR MORTIS?
During the 80s I did not realize that. There was no internet (can you imagine? Unbelievable...) and new releases made their
way only through fanzines and gigs. Since the Texas' RM did not tour through our area in Germany we had not heard about them.
Later, when our RM was already spread, I discovered this other RM.
Would you say, that you belonged to the first wave of the German thrash/speed scene along with the likes of DESTRUCTION, KREATOR, SODOM, TANKARD, IRON ANGEL, SONS OF SATAN and HOLY MOSES?
Would you have asked me this at that time, I probably answered: of course! But to be honest, we wished to belong to them but all mentioned bands were far away from us. Look what happened with them, the first four bands you mention are still called 'The Teutonic 4' and I believe it's justified!
We belonged to the underground scene, yes. And that was a lot of fun anyway!
At the early/mid ’80s a lot of new heavy/speed metal bands were popping up such as GRAVE DIGGER, HELLOWEEN, AVENGER/RAGE, ATLAIN, RUNNING WILD, LIVING DEATH, WARRANT, WARLOCK, STORMWITCH, STORMWIND, VAMPYR, AXE VICTIMS, BRAINFEVER, STEELER etc. from every part of Germany, all started making a name for themselves, did you keep an eye on what’s going on in the German underground scene at this point or were you only caring of your own things? Were you familiar with these bands at all?
Yes, we knew the bands in our area: Grave Digger, Atlain, RAGE, Kreator etc., sometimes we met at a gig or party or so. These bands represented the Ruhr area, what is an industrial area round Essen, the home of Kreator. We came from a neighborhood town, Gelsenkirchen, as well as Sodom. Of course we considered what was going on at the local scene and we met each other sometimes.
Can be Düsseldorf, Hamburg and the Ruhr area named as the most important parts/areas as for the developing, forming of the German metal scene?
In my opinion the Ruhr area has the most concentrating Metal scene. Of course there are a lot Metal bands in other areas of Germany, but nowhere else is it such concentrated as in the Ruhr area. Maybe it's a result of the anger from the working class in that industrial area.
Do you agree with, that the German heavy/speed outfits were heavily influenced by ACCEPT, especially by their „Fast As A Shark” song, that can be named as one of the first speed metal tracks of all time?
I don't think that Accept was a main influence of the speed Metal scene in Germany. Their stuff was mainly heavy and of course we liked it. But the Bay Area Thrashers were our idols.
With these huge amount of bands that started their career at this point, was the situation in Germany the same as in Britain with the N. W. O. B. H. M. movement? Were you also familiar with the British outfits?
Yes, that might be right. Of course the development in Germany was a decade later, but it went similar. We grew up with bands like Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden and Judas Priest. But they were already unreachable mega bands for us.
In your opinion, were the German bands easily distinguishable from each other in terms of songwriting, producing, sound etc.?
With some of them it was easy to recognize and we sometimes laughed about them. For us the very melodious refrains were typically German, e. g. Running Wild, Helloween etc., their success gave them right but we didn't like it. We preferred German Bands which sounded 'trashy' and American, at least for our ears.
What do you recall of the early RIGOR MORTIS rehearsals? Did you start writing originals right from the start or were you jamming mostly on covers?
No, we did no covers with RM. Mostly one of us came with an idea or a riff and we worked it out to whole songs. Some ideas were results of jam sessions as well, but no covers.
Who was responsible for the lyrics and the music? How were your songs written?
Most of the riff ideas came from Jerry, in the early phase some lyrics from the first singer Andy. Later, when I worked only with Jerry for one year we put together our thoughts an Song ideas but all lyrics except one were from Jerry.
How happened, that you released your demo „First Assault” in 1985, three years after the band was formed? Were you perhaps dissatisfied with your early material, that you had written?
I joined the band in 1984, I guess the former material wasn't enough sophisticated. When I started to work with the guys we had the first good working line up - and we were motivated and hungry.
Do you still remember how was the demo recorded? Was it perhaps your first studio experience?
'First Assault' was recorded at the home studio of our guitarist Peter's friend in Duisburg. This friend was vocalist of a (poser-)band called 'Stryper' and we had special rates on studio hours. Yes, that was our first studio experience. Full analog with 16 tracks on a tape. Again: nowadays unbelievable, isn't it?
Can you give us any details regarding the demo?
As mentioned it was recorded in a kind of home studio. They built it in the cellar of a small house, but it worked. And considering the decade when it happened, it was ok.
Later, with the next line up (with Pritze on git+voc) we recorded the second demo 'Ungeheuerlich' at Franz K. studio in Witten. That was more comfortable and much more professional. Still analog on tape. But we now had 24 tracks.
Did you the demo shop around for getting fans and/or to attract some labels interests? Through which channels did you promote/sell your material?
We shipped the cassettes to all record companies we knew, getting a record deal was the only goal. And we got several offers but did not sign anyone. Reason was the exploitation of bands in these days. Record companies were not very fair to musicians and had only their own goal in mind. We did not want to work with such kind of managements. So we kept on searching, became better and made another demo. This one lead us to one ROADRUNNER release on the TEUTONIC INVASION II sampler. We opened the longplayer with 'Tic Tac Toe'. This was our only release on a record. After that, we spread.
How was it received? Were you perhaps featured in German fanzines?
Yes, not only in German fanzines. Also French, Dutch and several South American fanzines wrote about us.
Do you recall any fanzines from those times, such as Battlefield, Blitzkrieg, Metal Warriors, Shock Power etc. Were you familiar with the fanzine/tapetrading circuit at all?
Some of these German fanzines had requested to write from RM and we also gave some interviews. I only remember Battlefield. We also had very small reviews in the German Magazins Metal Hammer and Rock Hard. We were very proud of it, these reviews had the most feedback and supported our demo selling very much.
By the mid ’80s was the great thrash metal boom and Germany had an important role, a lot of bands came from your country, such as ASSASSIN, VIOLENT FORCE, MEKONG DELTA, VENDETTA, NECRONOMICON, PARADOX, EXUMER, DARKNESS etc., would you say, that DESTRUCTION, KREATOR and SODOM opened the doors for them and influenced somehow their style?
Maybe these three bands opened the doors for the others. But probably they only were the lucky guys who had success at first. It was the time for this kind of bands. DESTRUCTION, KREATOR and SODOM were very busy at that time, they worked a lot and they were touring around Europe (and a little bit America), they were
hard-working and very ambitious, so they earned the first success.
Do you agree with, that these second wave thrash groups weren’t as successful as the big three, but left their mark on the scene, became cult and had their loyal following/fans?
Each band has it's fans but to me the mentioned ones were not really benchmarks, they all had not enough own style, as well as ourselves at RM. Many bands did (and some still do) good music but only a mixture of sounds they like from other (better) bands. Of course they all have the right to exist but they will remain a part of the underground. Anyway, it's a lot of fun being part of it.
You released in 1988 the track „Tic Tac Toe” on the „Teutonic Invasion Pt. 2” sampler by Roadrunner, did it somewhat help the band to push it further or to get more fans? Which bands were still featured besides you on this compilation?
It could have been a step into the next level but unfortunately we split a short time after that. Other bands on the compilation you might know were e. g. CHAINSAW and PESTILENCE and BLOODFEAST.
Did you start writing any material after the release of „First Assault”? How did they sound like compared to the first demo?
We did the already mentioned Demo 'Ungeheuerlich' and it sounded different to 'First Assault'. You can hear it at YouTube (https://youtu.be/Ll8X6H06SXs) , at this channel there is also the 'First Assault' demo and some interesting rehearsal recordings.
What was the line up of the band at this point?
Pritze (git+voc), Jerry (git), Jörg (bass) and me.
Did Roadrunner perhaps offer you a contract?
Not Roadrunner itself but another connected underground label.
How did you view the late ’80s/early ’90s underground scene? Would you say, that the scene started becoming oversaturated at this point?
No I don't think so. Of course there were a lot of bands but there a lot of chances as well. Just like today when the scene gets wind by a resurgence. Again there are many good newcomer bands and also a very good and true fan base.
What did you do after RIGOR MORTIS broke up? When and why did the band split up exactly and what kind of reasons did lead to it?
I stopped as a musician for a long time. I became self-employed and opened several stores. The first shop I opened during the last year of RM and this might have lead to the spread. By the way Mille from KREATOR was a customer at this store I opened in Essen :-)
Did you stop playing music after the demise of the band?
Yes, I only played drums sometimes for my own. I never sold my old drum set.
Did you get out of the music business/underground scene?
As active musician yes. I belonged to the scene as consumer furthermore.
Are you still in touch with your former bandmates? What about them as a whole nowadays?
I only had contact to Pritze some months ago. He works as a professional photo artist and he also does pics of bands an concerts, so he also still belongs to the scene. Unfortunately I know nothing about the other members.
How much and on which way did your life change after you stopped doing music? Tell us please everything about yourself, about your present activities etc.!
At this time in the 80s it was my dream to become a professional musician. I tried to work for the success which is needed to earn enough money to do only music as a job. But we hadn't enough success. I had monetary claims. I wanted a fast car, a nice apartment etc.
And I wanted to be independent. That's the reason why I became self-employed. And that is what I still am. I work as independent management consultant.
Do you still follow what’s going on int he metal scene?
Yes, I still do. Not at least because I restart with RECALLICA.
Are there new bands or records, that made an great effect on you these days or do you rather prefer the old classics?
Oh there are a lot of great new Bands nowadays! I think the most undervalued band is LOST SOCIETY! These guys have the power to get to the top, very talented, so much power! Other bands from the local underground scene I like are e. g. TEUTONIC SLAUGHTER and FINAL DEPRAVITY.
Nico, thanks a lot for your answers, any closing words?
I recommend to all young bands to work hard and not giving up to become professional. The Metal scene is back and became very commercial, headliners fill football arenas and the biggest bands in the world are Metal bands. Everyone has a real chance. Keep on!!
Interview by Leslie David