Metal Maniac

An Interview with Paul Speckmann…

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Paul, thank you very much for taking your time to answer this interview. We’ll be covering several aspects of the band and the new abum. Let’s just start with something about you. The first memories you have concerning music. Simply music. Tell us what bands/ artists made you enjoy music.

 

To be honest after listening to the Sabbath Bloody Sabbath record in the basement in my brother’s room at my parent’s house, life for me was forever changed. Obviously I was a teenager in my freshman year when things began to change. This same year I watched a band at my local high school, called Duce!

 

Duce were a huge influence on my life at this time for sure, the singer John Hansen had his shit together in my young eyes as well as the band in general. They played Sabbath covers as well as Led Zeppelin and other hip stuff at the time. As time went on I became a singer in a local band called White Cross obviously named after speed, fellow guitarist Ron Cooke and I began are journey into Rock ‘n’ Roll! I was soon exposed to bands like Thin Lizzy, Yes, and Judas Priest in no time. These early influences were a great inspiration for me. After discovering the first Iron Maiden album things began to progress in the bass playing department for me. I think I was a better bass player when I was younger, but I can still hold my own.

 

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I know that some answers might have been answered before, but I want to have an extensive conversation with you. Tell us about your first contact with music when it comes to playing and practising. How did you get started?

 

Actually after joining the band Whitecross as a singer, we were meeting at the drummer Brendan’s parent’s house a few miles from where I grew up. The guys invited me over for an audition originally. I had to learn the lyrics from a few tracks from Montrose, Sabbath and Zeppelin as well as Ted Nugent and a few other seventies bands. This band was basically a cover band, but in the end this was a great learning experience for me and at least brought me in front of my first audiences and this is important for anyone who wants to be in the recording industry!

 

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I was going to ask you a bit ahead about some advices when it comes to being in the recording industry, getting a contract, being able to play to audiences around the world, but, since you mentioned it on your previous answer, I guess we can talk a bit about this and then return to your roots. We know it is hard work, it’s not all “flowers” and parties, so, what suggestions do you have for the younger bands that truly want to get their music out, to tour and how to keep their fan base. I believe some words of advice from you would be highly appreciated.

 

Well, let’s face it, I struggled for many years after the breakup of the original Master lineup after we got as far as recording the demos which were mostly financed by the death of my father! I never gave up regardless and pushed on with Funeral Bitch, followed by the success of Abomination in 1987-1992, while also recording and touring with Master as well with a new lineup!

 

Younger bands must keep up the good fight and play as often as possible. The original drummer of Master, Bill Schmidt, was afraid of his own shadow and played maybe 3 concerts with me in his entire career with the band. He believed that 1 show a year was enough, which is not the case, more shows obviously, more exposure. The new generation also have the internet to share their music and videos as they progress.

 

All we had was the underground postal network, sharing tapes with one another and discovering each other via the US postal service. Somehow this was cool and worked out, but in today’s world, I find more concerts to play, as well as festivals and more importantly for me, labels that continually re-issue my many projects and keep my bank accounts full!

 

For the younger generation, my advice is to play and share your music as often as possible, even if it’s free in the beginning as people need to get the hype and get interested. Also keep practicing, the most important thing to me is to be ready to play the live shows with little or no fuck-ups! Of course as my drummer says, we are not machines and this is most certainly true, but practice makes perfect or at least close to it.

 

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But that is the reason why you are called a legend and survivor of the underground. I have read many interviews in which you stated that you don’t really to be called a legend, but, not being an ass-kisser at all, I truly believe that. You have talked about playing live, let’s stay on this subject for now, which is considered a major source of income for bands. How do you feel about promoters charging bands for selling their merchandise? Just the other, Behemoth’s bassist Orion was complaining how unfair this is for the band and the fans. What are your views on this matter?

 

I am not a fan of any Black Metal band except Venom of course, but I understand his feelings for sure, after all, he and I are just trying to survive. Obviously that band is on a greater level without a doubt as fiction sells. I prefer to read fiction in books. We get a chance to play the bigger fests every few years or so and I don’t even bring out my merchandise at some of them after speaking about the percentages they want. Festivals these days are political and also so many greedy bastards are involved in the scene in Europe period. Obviously I have to smile when I read some of the offers they make for Master these days. Several fests are still offering the money we were paid ten years ago.

 

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That is, in my opinion, very disrespectful to the musician, and, unfortunately, many aren’t aware of this problem. Still on the previous subject and looking at the past, comparing to the present day, which would be the main differences, if any when it comes to how bands are treated. Do you feel that there is more, for the lack of a better word, respect from the fans and the promoters for the bands, in terms of truly supporting their music?

 

Again this is a difficult question. The smaller clubs and the bigger fests do treat bands like Master well, but to get on the bigger fests we are offered small money from the promoters most of the time, and as Behemoth’s bassist said they want a piece of your merchandise, but the difference for an underground band like Master is much greater.  But on the other hand, fans are supporting the band Master in a big way on tour as well as at home by ordering merchandise directly from me! There will always be die-hard fans for this underground genre, and at least the fans are not all selling out like many of the so-called bigger bands and their fans are! For Master in the past the audiences were much bigger before the metal explosion of the many copy-cats across the globe. In the early eighties and even the late eighties there was some truly original music coming out across the globe, but shortly afterward like anything in this world copy-cats began and every Tom, Dick and Harry had a band playing this style.

 

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Yes, I understand and do you think that there’s a correlation with the easy accessibility of music nowadays? I mean, everything related to music, even full-length albums, is in a click away. Legally or illegally. It was a band member that stated that, I’m sorry I can’t remember which one. He believes that, in these days, all that matters are the first thirty seconds impression because people do not give themselves enough time to discover music. As I always like to discuss on my interviews, it’s a subject that I believe it is interesting to know the musicians’ opinions.  What are your views on this subject?

 

I suppose you can look at this in various ways, because people can share their music faster these days in some ways! If you would have asked this question a few years ago, I would have complained about all the illegal downloading, but as I have gotten a little older my thoughts on the subject have changed. First of all it’s bit of nonsense when the bigger bands complain about this subject, because a real fan will buy the actual physical CD or vinyl and when bands are so huge, there is no question of this fact. I even sell merchandise at home nearly every day of the week, so I am making my living at home and on tour, and this is all I do. There is no other crappy job anymore. I have turned my so-called hobby into a full time enterprise. I guess we must be doing alright with the thirty second stigma, because the reviews and sales of Epiphany of hate continue at this very moment!

 

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That is great to know, Paul. Working hard pays off. I wanted to talk a bit more about some of your views and opinions, but, perhaps, we can re-take these subjects. As you mentioned the new album, please, let’s talk about An Epiphany of Hate now. I have heard the album and was impressed. I have read the reviews and indeed they are very positive. The recording quality is also to be praised. This is, and I admit it, quite a standard question, but I wanted to know if could you share yours concerning this release? When it comes to the songwriting process, was there anything different about it in regards to the previous works? What were the main intentions and goals you had when recording An Epiphany of Hate?

 

There is never anything different with my writing process, it never changes. This is why the music is always continuously coming to me. I pick up the acoustic from time time over the year, really never making myself play guitar. I find that playing guitar when I feel like it makes for better results. My brother in law and sister in law have made my life a bit easier as a few years ago they bought me a digital hand-held recorder, up until this time I had been using the micro-cassette recorder with the small digital tapes that my wife bought 15 years ago!

 

So I obviously record parts, riffs and sometimes complete songs on the recorder and when it is time for a new album I search and put riffs and ideas together. As always I write all the lyrics for a particular album in two days tops, and go from there. No one hears the lyrics myself included until they are recorded in the studio! So there is no secret to this really. After I am ready with songs I bring them to the rehearsal studio and show them to the drummer Zdenek Pradlovsky and we go from there. Some songs are complete immediately and some tracks we discuss and work out the amount of times for vocals, solos etc. It’s a rather simple process as we are prepared. So after this is worked out Alex Nejezchleba comes in and I teach him the guitar parts, pick up my bass and go. On most records Alex will bring in a track or two as in the case with, Just Take My Right Arm,” one of my favorites on the Epiphany of hate album!

 

My intentions are always the same. Food for thought. I like to share my ideas and opinions about what is going on in this god forsaken world and hope for change! Master recordings are like a public record of a particular time in history as seen in my eyes. All I can hope for is that some young person discovers the message and tries to change this world for the better! Let’s face it, the world is being controlled by a small amount of rich bastards with their own agenda. Governments, politicians and teachers rule the world, and any kind of independent thinking is looked down upon by the norm!

 

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Completely unrelated to music, Paul, but this is something that I always think about and it, somewhat related to your lyrics. We indeed live in a world that is, in your words, god-forsaken. Sometimes I wonder if we have hopes at all. With all that is going on, war, famine, corruption, terrorism, ignorance, do you have any hopes for the future of humankind? I don’t know if it’s because information is more available to us all, but every single day, it all seems to get worse and worse. I know this is such a broad question, but, as you are an independent thinker, how do you see this?

 

There is always hope my friend, but in reality it’s up to the people to remove the so-called gods from power. In the sixties and early seventies it seemed that people fought for many changes, today people just roll over and play dead. Wars are brought on by greedy power mongers of course. The sooner the people learn to get along in this world, the better. The youth of today surely out number the old people, change must be fought for. It’s time to put away the lab-tops, and smart phones and get organized. I am obviously too old to lead the stampede, but some young person will hopefully figure it out one day.

 

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Age is just a number, nothing more than that, Paul. And this is indeed a very positive and yet realistic way to see the world. Well, somewhat related to this, I would like to ask you how do you feel when you get to know that a person identifies himself or herself with your music that it has actually helped them though the terrible dark times that we all go at periods of our lives. So much that, for a moment, they forget about the rough moments that they are facing. How do you feel about this? Are there any stories concerning this that you could share with us?

 

Funny you should mention this, actually I met a fan in Poland that finally repaired his relationship with his father after hearing a song I wrote called, We never spoke, on the Martyr-Murder X, end of the game album with the guys from Krabathor. This was clearly a track about my father’s and my relationship which was non-existent really. Growing up, I never really knew my father although he was right there in the house. I guess it was a different generation because we never spoke about personal things other than school, job etc. When we finally began speaking on a more personal level it was too late as he died after an aneurysm in his brain exploded. So obviously I write songs with messages in them and hope people actually read the lyrics, because unlike many bands I write lyrics about things that really happen not only fantasy lyrics.

 

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I understand. I had a very close person of mine that ended up committing suicide. Until today, I don’t know the reason and I think that actually I never really got to know her because of what happened. It is terrible, we think about the time we lost and that we could have done. So, in a way, I can relate to you. And indeed, I find that lyrics are very important to the music, especially when it comes to the ones like yours. But I guess we can’t digress, even though this topic might be very important to some readers, well, just a little advise, there’s always hope, no matter what, please, remember that. Anyways, again on a personal level, most of us, Master fans, people that follow your career, know the reasons why you moved to Czech Republic; that is the reason I won’t ask you why. Rather, how much did you take to get used to living in a different culture, in a smaller town, with a completely different language… how hard was it for you? I find it a very beautiful nation, but moving abroad is not always easy. Do you feel like Czech Republic is your home now?

 

It was very difficult 16 years ago for sure. At that point no one spoke English or really understood it. Unfortunate for me in some ways my wife spoke perfect English from the get go, so I was lazy and wasn’t really trying very hard to learn the Czech language. Today I can get around and understand the language fairly well, but it’s still difficult sometimes in certain situations.

 

As for the culture itself, I made the right choice. I pretty much left the USA when Bush junior took power and the problems really began in America. Over here it’s still the old world, people are laid back and have a different mentality. Back in America everyone is in such a hurry, there is no longer time to make the wine, slivovice or plant the potatoes in the garden! I have found the time to have a garden every year. When the tours are finished, I come back and relax in the garden with the dogs, or ride my bicycle in the forest. I never had time for this stuff in the USA, I was always too busy trying to make ends meet. I mean no one’s life is perfect and without problems, but I have learned to make the best of my situation over here, and only visit the USA for tours, which will occur again in August. I admit I enjoy visiting the USA and seeing my brothers of course and my aunt and her husband, but this is home here in Czech for me, and I will never return to the chaotic life I led in the past over there!

 

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I can understand that. And you took the chances. It is better that way. I can see that you live a much better life now. Sometimes I do think about moving as well, for the same reasons, but I am always worried about the cultural barriers, language, etc., even though many encourage me to move to their countries. Well, I think it is better to regret something you have tried to, rather than never taking the chance. I was going to ask you something more about your tours, which dates are planned and where. I know this is kind of usual, but as you mentioned it on the previous question, I guess it’s fair to be asked. Besides that, share some of the best and some of the worst moments you have lived so far touring. I know about the young musicians that died drowned in a beach in Brazil whose band was opening for you. I can imagine how terrible it must have been…

 

The last question is to general really, I’ve had many great and may shitty experiences but those I will share for the book one day. As for the 2010 Brazilian tour it’s a whole chapter.

 

Let’s just say that I personally think that many people think touring is some sort of holiday and a glorified party so to speak. I suppose it can be these things sometimes, but sometimes also tragedy strikes! We were on a Bulkans tour in 2014 in Cluj, Romania the last time this happened. It was about 3:31 am when I woke up in the front seat strapped in my seat belt luckily in the van, the last thing I remember was screaming at Dan look out, as he was headed for a huge piece of concrete in the middle of the roadwork area.. Luckily for us he swerved just in time, but regardless, I woke up a few minutes later in the van. We slid off the highway and fell 4 meters into a ravine. I got out in shock and proceeded to climb up to the road and subsequently fell down again and slid one more time into the van! Thankfully some people stopped to help and called the police, ambulance etc. We managed to play a few more shows and fly home. Alex the guitarist for Master was not so lucky. After arriving home he realized something was wrong and went to the doctor. He had cracked several vertebrae in his back, and after 3 or 4 months had no permanent damage. The drummer from the band Dehuman also had a swollen, black and blue knee, but he also survived with no permanent injuries, so all is well that ends well.

 

“Epiphany of Hate” U.S. TOUR

Fri. 8/19 Los Angeles, CA

Sat. 8/20 Oakland, CA

Sun. 8/21 Portland, OR

Mon. 8/22 Seattle, WA

Tues. 8/23 Boise, I’D

Wed. 8/24 SLC, UT

Thur. 8/25 Denver, CO

Fri. 8/26 Kansas City, MO

Sat. 8/27 -Full Terror Assault-

Sun. 8/28 Chicago, IL

Tue. 8/30 New York, NY

Wed. 8/31 Raleigh, NC

Thur. 9/1 Tampa, FL

Fri. 9/2 Atlanta, GA

Sat. 9/3 New Orleans, LA

Sun. 9/4 Dallas, TX

Mon. 9/5 San Antonio, TX

Tue. 9/6 El Paso, TX

Wed. 9/7 Albuquerque, NM

Thur. 9/8 Tucson, AZ

Fri. 9/9 Phoenix, AZ

Sat. 9/10 Santa Ana, CA

 

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I can imagine how horrible that must have been. I have been in an accident pretty much like this one, but the car overturned and ended up hitting a tree. If I were driving fast, I would have died. People helped as well. I obviously haven’t been in any tours, not a musician, but I have heard the same from many bands, about the stress, the dangers, etc., it’s not “simply party”, and it’s also work as well. But I am glad that, in the end, all was well. There were many other questions I wanted to ask, some subjects to get into with more details, but this is not your book, we have to end it someday, hehe. Well, Paul, we have talked a lot about yourself, so, let us know a bit more about you, the man behind the music, what you enjoy doing in your spare time, your favourite movies or books, if you have any hobbies, which goals do you still feel like achieving in your musical career. Whatever you want to share with us.

 

I spend time riding my bicycle in the forest when weather permits, and practice on Tuesdays and Thursdays with the band. I go mushroom hunting whenever possible in the fall usually. I have to visit the post office a few times a week to ship out all the regular orders for Master merchandise. Life is alright, like any musician I spend a great deal of time on the computer looking for more concerts, tours and festivals to play. I read regularly everything from Westerns to Science Fiction to police novels. Variety is still the spice of life in my eyes. I spend time cooking as well every week. I guess you could say I lead a normal existence, my only work is the band and the various other music related projects that come up like Cadaveric Poison, or the third Johansson-Speckmann album at the moment.

 

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So, Paul, thank you very, very much for your time, your patience, your answers and, most of all, your music. I sincerely and wholeheartedly wish you nothing but the best in your personal and professional lives. I hope you enjoyed the interview and so the readers. Again, thank you very much. Do you have any last words for our readers?

 

Thanks also Markus my friend for taking the time to come up with these thought provoking answers. If anyone would like more information regarding Master, they can visit master-speckmetal.net.

 

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March 25, 2016

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