German Metal Veterans to kick off their new project
The German Panzer can be somewhat called a supergroup of German heavy metal. German metal legends Schmier (vocals & bass, Destruction), Hermann Frank (guitar, Accept & Victory) and Stefan Schwarzmann (drums, Accept) formed a band without further ado and wrote and recorded the album ‘Send Them All To Hell’ in just two months. This project promises to get a lot of attention as the three have influenced so many bands and musicians around the world over the last 30 years. Schmier gave me the complete run down of why The German Panzer happened and what to expect.
Marc: How did you get involved in The German Panzer? How did the whole project get started? You are all busy with your bands anyway.
Schmier: Yeah, but we are also home for a week here and a week there, sometimes even longer and sometimes I get a little bored. Stefan called me and asked me about his idea to have a band besides his job. He asked me if I was interested. When I heard it’s gonna be Stefan and Hermann of course I was excited about the idea because as every 80ies kids I’ve been growing up on Accept and the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal. Having the opportunity to play straight metal was like pure excitement for me. I was honoured and at the same time it was a little weird feeling why they had chosen me because I’m not a classical heavy metal singer. To found something that is a mixture of Destruction and classical metal Accept-style was a very interesting idea. We met very quickly and talked. We know each other for a long time of course. When we had the first meetings we were sure we had to do it because we get along very well and the musical direction sounded very interesting. Because we didn’t have very much time we had to work on it right away or just leave it. We’ve been working right away on songs, putting stuff together and we had some rehearsals together. Within weeks we had already 50% of the album written. It was very spontaneous but as life sometimes goes, spontaneous things are the best. I think after the first demo recordings we knew we were doing the right thing.
“It is a melting pot for 80ies metal with a pinch of speed and thrash.”
Marc: You never worked together before. How did that affect your song writing?
Schmier: We’ve been through all the different parts of song writing. We did some stuff in the rehearsal room. We wrote some stuff there together. We also wrote some stuff together in the studio and we’ve also been sending ideas back and forth. Hermann sent me a few ideas. We also wrote some songs on our own. I wrote some songs and Hermann wrote some songs. Then we just exchange the songs and said, ‘Hey, what do you think about that?’ Then we made some little adjustment here and there which added to the sound of Panzer. We’ve gone through all these different kind of processes because we’ve been on tour and then we’ve been home again but the time was just tight. We knew if we didn’t do it in these couple of months we would never do it. We’ve kind of been working feverishly on it. The great thing is actually that karma was good for us right away. We got along very well in a musical direction. Even though Hermann and I are far apart from each other song writing wise, at the end we got it together. I really liked his ideas. He is like a riff machine. He just starts playing heavy metal riffs out of the blue. He is amazing. He has heavy metal guitar in his blood. That made it really easy for me to work with him. He also had ideas about the vocals so we could work on some vocal lines together and create this Panzer thing. I wanted to keep my voice Schmier-style but still more melodic but not totally lose it and get too cheesy. We had to find a way of doing it authentically.
Marc: How would you describe the new material on the first The German Panzer album?
Schmier: Basically it is a melting pot for 80ies metal with a pinch of speed and thrash, more like the Motörhead kind of speed, not super fast. It was important for us to make an album that has charisma, moment and melodic choruses without being cheesy. I would describe The German Panzer as a brutal metal band. Most of the riffs are traditional heavy metal but here and there it is just a bit heavier than the classical metal stuff. I’m coming from a different background so we put in some heavier ideas here and there. I think it fits very well. If you like traditional metal you should like it because it has all it needs from the melodic moments to the solos – Hermann played so many solos on that record – and of course there is a good balance of harsh and heavy vocals and nice melodies and catchy moments.
Marc: Who was part of the production crew?
Schmier: Stefan and me. Stefan lives on the Swiss side and I live on the German side of the border in the southwest of Germany. I had the idea to record in Switzerland because a good friend of mine has a studio there. It’s V.O. Pulver. He played in a band called Poltergeist. He is an old friend. He has a studio. I knew if we go to him he would understand the band right away because he is a heavy metal musician and he is very experienced. So we recorded the first demo tapes there. Hermann was a little sceptical in the beginning because he is a producer himself but when he heard the first results from the demo he was also thrilled. That’s why we kept on working there. It was good for me and Stefan because we both live there. Hermann had to travel down from Hannover where he lives or send some files. The whole thing was a little complicated because either I had to go to Hannover or he had to come down. Because we were pretty well prepared we didn’t need that many sessions to write. When we wrote songs and met and recorded we always recorded a whole bunch of songs.
“Of course we want to play live.”
Marc: Are there actually plans to go on tour with the band?
Schmier: Of course we want to play live. That’s basically why we wrote the record. We were bored at home and we said ‘Man, I’m burning, I wanna play again, I’m sitting here for three weeks here and I’m bored.’ That’s how the idea came up. We knew we had to do an album before we could play live. The idea of just playing metal classics and Destruction and Accept songs would have been a little boring. So this is why we formed the band. We want to play live. We’re gonna do some festivals in summer 2015 and then also play a tour. I would love to play a support tour because I think it’s a little bit too early to headline straight away. This will depend the reactions to the album. I think still it would be good for us to do a support tour first. That should be in the second half of 2015.
Marc: That’s a fair way off. What are you gonna do in the meantime?
Schmier: I’m gonna go to Brazil with Destruction next week for about three weeks. Then it’s Christmas and I’m gonna go on holidays. After that were gonna start writing the new Destruction album. So I’m busy right now collecting riffs and new ideas for the new Destruction album that is going to come out in August 2015. Basically we have to record the new Destruction album in April at the latest. So we have a lot of stuff to do. I wanted to finish all the Panzer material first before I start the new Destruction material. That was good timing. Now I can focus on the new Destruction album.
Marc: That sounds like a busy year 2015 for you.
Schmier: Yeah, we have already some festivals confirmed where I will play with Panzer on one day and Destruction the next. It will be interesting to play with two bands on a festival. I never did this before. That’s exciting. For Destruction the Panzer thing is also gonna be a good push because I’ve been working with very experienced musicians so I also gained some new ideas, some new tricks and self-confidence. Everything went really smoothly. I’m looking forward to the song writing with Destruction because I gained experience too.
Marc: On the actual day when one of your records is released what do you actually do? Do you have a routine? Do you hide from the media?
Schmier: (Laughs) Usually I’m home when the record comes out but this time I will be in Brazil playing a show with Destruction in São Paulo. It will be a little weird getting the first reactions. I will check the first reactions online. That’s why we have the new media. I will stay in touch with the fans and the other guys to see what the first reactions will be. It’s always exciting to see how the fans react. We’re also gonna have the actual video clip online that week. So it’s gonna be an exciting week for me. At the same time I will be very busy in Brazil travelling a lot. Being on the other side of the world will be a bit strange. It’s a new experience.
Marc: Talking about the other side of the world. Is there any chance that we are going to see you guys her in Australia, either with The German Panzer or Destruction?
Schmier: I hope so. I mean it took Accept like their whole lifetime to get over there. They are in Australia right now for their first time. I hope this is a good start also for Panzer and for Destruction. We’ve been in Australia twice already. We had a good time and we’re definitely gonna come back. After the new album will be out next year chances are high that we’re gonna be back in Australia. For Panzer it might be a little difficult with the first album but it all depends on the reactions to the album.
Marc: You certainly have the support of Nuclear Blast who are bringing out a lot of their bands to Australia at the moment. How did the collaboration with Nuclear Blast actually happen? Was it a no-brainer for you and Nuclear Blast to get together?
Schmier: We didn’t think that Nuclear Blast would take us because they have so many bands already and this is a new project. Is it gonna sell? Does it make sense to them? I asked them when we started the demo recordings if they were interested. They were like ‘we’re not really sure, we have so many bands’. So they had their excuses and stuff. I just send them my favourite track from the demo and their A&R guy came back to me right away, ‘What the fuck, we want this’. Then I’ve been talking to Nuclear Blast and some another labels. At the end it’s kind of a family thing. I’ve been with Nuclear Blast for many years and I’m very happy there. Accept signed to Nuclear Blast. A lot of people think it’s about money but Nuclear Blast offered us less money than the other labels. I know there I feel home and it is a great place for a band. We didn’t think it would happen but finally we signed there. For us it was the best decision. I can work with the same people, I know all the people there. They really did a good job with all the promotion for Panzer. It is a new band but they are supporting us really well.
Marc: Australia is only a small market for you and in general but Nuclear Blast are really our here promoting their bands.
Schmier: Australia has a very dedicated scene. The market is small but there are a lot of metal fans that are really into it. So it’s also an important market. The problem is Australia is just so far away. The travelling is always the problem to come down under.
Talking about Nuclear Blast, they just invited me to their Christmas party. The boss called me and said, ‘Schmier, you are part of the family. Come to our Christmas party.’ I’m gonna go there on Friday and hang out with all the people there. They are having their Christmas party and have a few bands playing afterwards. That will be a nasty rock’n’roll event. A lot people don’t like Nuclear Blast because they are so big and they have so many bands and they think it’s so commercial and stuff but I’m telling you this is the first label that treats us with respect and that treats us like friends. It’s amazing to be there, seriously. Nobody ever invited me to their Christmas party from a label. It’s just nice to be there.
Marc: You hear that actually from a lot of bands. The people at Nuclear Blast are all metal maniacs. So they understand the music and the bands. That’s probably the biggest difference to the major labels.
Schmier: Exactly. The boss is a little crazy but he is still a metal head. When he likes something he puts all the effort into the band and he is very excited. I don’t know how many of my label bosses invited me for dinner before or had the time come to the office and say hello. He always does that. When I go to the office he always comes out for a drink or for lunch. He respects the bands. Not many label bosses do that. For many other label bosses the bands are just money. The more the better. At Nuclear Blast you don’t feel like being just a piece of the machinery. You feel like people care. That’s very, very rare on the music scene.