There aren’t many (if any!) bands in the German Thrash Metal scene bigger than Destruction! After forming back in 1982, they are considered one of Teutonic Metal’s Big 4 and after 37 years, they’re still going stronger than ever as they release their 15th studio album ‘Born to Perish’ via Nuclear Blast on August 9th.

Getting to speak with founding member and vocalist/bassist Schmier about the upcoming album, the first topic of discussion was the major changes the band had recently gone through, and how it changed getting back into the studio whilst working with V.O Pulver yet again. Schmier pointed out, “Stuff was a little bit different this time because we changed drummers last year, so Randy Black was in the team now. He’d played so many shows with us before writing started, so we felt very prepared. Plus we wanted to record with two guitarists this time, so we recruited Damir (Eskic) as a new Destruction member; having a new guy in the band AND a second guitarist made stuff a little more exciting than normal, due to having more options and not so limited in the writing. As a three-piece, you have to keep calm a little bit because you have to do the stuff live! This time we could compose to the fullest, we were excited and had great spirits together which built a great team, so it was an exciting beginning of the new year for us with the new album.”

Touching further on how Black stepped up and replaced four album veteran Vaaver in the studio for the first time after coming to Australia last year, Schmier explained, “Those shows were a test for Randy and after we came back from tour, we said we wanted to keep him! Randy’s a very experienced and composed guy, so we knew we could totally trust him. We usually compose first with the guitars and then we get ideas from the drummer, but Randy bought in some ideas of his own, as well as making up his own drum patterns and beats we could use for songs. We have two songs on the album starting with drums and building to guitar, so that’s an interesting new way of working for us! Randy as a drummer really tests our limits, as he can play everything basically. He grooves the hell out of everything which really helps when we compose; we usually have a drum pattern in our head when we compose, but it’s always fantastic when a good drummer contributes his own ideas! Although Randy is a very hard hitting drummer who has a good swing when he plays fast, he isn’t just ‘Slayering’ the song; he’s swinging with the band and it really helps. He also came into the band with the right mindset and gave everything he had, fighting like it was the last one and I like that way of approaching it. Right away, he fit into the team and when we carried onto this album, we fully trusted he would do a great job and he did! It was also a challenge for him, because Destruction is the most extreme band he’s played in and he had a lot of high end levels to bring in a lot of shit he’s never done before; he’s actually come out and said this is his masterpiece so far as a drummer!”

Focusing the attention towards the addition of a second guitarist in Eskic, Schmier delivered an in-depth reasoning as he pointed out, “We’ve had a lot of guests on the last albums and whilst it sounds great on record, the problem is you can’t re-produce it live. We’d been looking for people over the last couple of years, but haven’t been able to find the right person. Not only is Damir a good friend, he’s also married to the guitar player of Burning Witches who I manage/produce; I have a lot to do with him and his wife all the time. I knew he was good as I’d been following his career over the years, so I asked if he would join the band and at first he thought I was joking! We knew from the beginning if we bring a guy into Destruction he not only had to be as passionate and good as Damir, it had to be someone we knew and wouldn’t surprisingly turn out to be a psycho. It was important to bring in someone we trusted! He threw down some amazing solos on the album and he’s a fantastic player. You can hear he had an influence and he’s a very strong lead player, which gave a little extra colour to the album.”

Schmier opened up about a common struggle that bands go through whilst looking for a new member, stating, “The biggest problem is you don’t know what you’ll get! When we bought in Randy, we’d already known him for 15 years or so and knew he was a touring professional. People are very flaky, even in the music business; whether they have a new girlfriend or wife, or become a father, their whole life changes and then they quit. As that’s something we’ve faced before, we want to have people in the band who are 100% focused, want to play live and come on tour with us. We’re a band that tours a lot, plays a lot and not everybody likes that. People are always like ‘I want to go on tour,’ but when they’re on tour for weeks and weeks and far away from home, they start to cry. That’s why we wanted to make sure it doesn’t happen this time!”

At the start of March, Destruction headed out on the road with Overkill, so this interviewer was curious whether that time restraint played havoc with the recording process. Schmier delved into some behind the scene logistics and pointed out, “The label wants everything about four months in advance, so we really had to plan it right. I thought we started it early enough to get the album done, but of course at the end it kind of gets tight; it wasn’t a super pressure, but enough pressure to work hard on it. I don’t think it’s good when you have too much time, as you run the risk of starting to overthink and re-record everything, as you get too picky. When you write over a whole year (like we’ve done previously), the songs you wrote at year’s beginning are going to be changed at year’s end, because you no longer like those songs. This means starting from scratch all over again! We made sure to find that nice balance of having enough time, but having some pressure at the end to finish the album. When there’s no pressure, it’s actually also very risky. I don’t think it worked out great when we did it, so we learnt to have a certain time window to work on the album, focus really hard and that works great. I like to call it healthy pressure!”

When asked if there was any problems that arose during recording, Schmier gladly elaborated on how, “We came back from a South American tour in November, arranged to meet up in December and start writing our first songs, before completing everything in March. It was a quick run with no hiccups, a lot of inspiration, good vibes between team members and very amazing to have the option of a second guitar. Plus we used the same studio and the same co-producer with Pulver; never change the winning formula!”

Taking time to break down how important “factoring in the band’s state of mind, as well as whether you’re staying at home or are out on the road a lot” before recording is, Schmier explained, “We found when touring a lot, it wasn’t nice going straight into the studio after returning home. This is why we like recording in Switzerland and as we live near the Germany/Switzerland border, the studio’s only an hour away. We can basically call and say, ‘Hey, we have some new songs and are free next week,’ before heading in, recording and arranging new dates. Working like this means we prevent being in the studio 24/7, which is a great achievement! We can either plan things, or spontaneously make a call when you’re feeling more inspired and the studio is free; plus Pulver is someone we’ve worked with for many years now, who is improving with us alongside improving the band’s sound over the years. We’ve tried a lot together and there’s a lot of trust between us, so even though we’ve recorded in a lot of studios with a lot of producers over the years, we always come back to him because he’s the guy who knows the band the most.”

Taking time to speak to Schmier on a personal level, it was time to pick his brain and find out what is favourite song on ‘Born to Perish’ was. Schmier opened with, “That’s very difficult, as whilst I think the album has a lot of great songs I really like Born to Perish. It was a song we wrote with Randy and one of the first songs we wrote for the album,” before focusing on upcoming new single Betrayal, which is out July 19th. Schmier talked about his “special connection with the song; I remember when I started writing the first riffs and lyrics for the album, it felt great and it turned out to be a great song. The lyrics also show a great dedication to our roots and 80s beginnings, so Betrayal is the one that’s closest to my heart.”

At times the subject matter behind lyrics isn’t always one of a positive moment, and Destruction pay homage to an unfortunate moment during history in Fatal Flight 17:

“This Malaysian Airways plane going from Holland to Australia got shot down over the Ukraine during the Ukrainian war and I actually had a Dutch friend with a friend on board. I got really involved in this and was first of all shocked that in this century, a fucking plane could be shot down in the middle of Europe, but nothing happened basically. Nobody was charged, nobody was accused and 300 people died, one of which was my friend’s best friend who was returning to Australia. The greatest story about it was that he was supposed to be on the flight the day before, but they wanted to go to the Slayer show that day in Holland, so he stayed a day longer. I actually saw all the photos on Facebook, only to have my buddy message me the next day and go, ‘Dude, my friend died on that plane yesterday…’ It all got very personal and gave me the chills, so I stepped into investigations for the last two years and I said I’d write a song about this in tribute to how Gary Moore did it with Murder in the Skies, so this terrible accident never gets forgotten. I pay this tribute to those people that died, those who survived and especially the families, as there will always be a big question mark of, ‘What the fuck happened?’ That’s why I wrote the song, as it’s deep shit and you’ll never discover what’s going on, as there’s too much politics involved. It’s just crazy that this can happen without any consequences! When it’s on a record, it’s a document of time that will never be forgotten; Murder in the Skies was always there for me and I have never forgotten this terrible accident. Unfortunately our mentality is to push away all the evil and forget about it, but some stuff shouldn’t be forgotten as then you can’t change the world! It turned out to be a very good song and now when I listen to Fatal Flight 17 and especially the ending, it gives me the chills; even though I’ve heard it 100 times, the song still gives me the chills… that’s a special one.”

With the release of first visualiser and title track Born to Perish, fans have been making their opinions known, in a positive manner! Schmier approached things with an informed mind, pointing out, “I’ve noticed over the years the Internet creates a lot of diversity, so it’s not good to dive too much into the reactions of people when videos come out.” However, he admitted curiosity got the best of him:

“Of course you’re curious and want to see the first reactions! I actually have to say that the amazing reactions we had to the first visualizer were unexpected and people have been reacting really good to the new song; I can’t remember the last time we had such a positive reaction from fans to a song! If that’s an indicator of how much fans are going to like the album, I’m really looking forward to it. People have also been asking me, ‘How’s the album?’ and, ‘Is this song how the album will sound?’ I think whilst there are a couple of songs that are at least as good, Born to Perish pretty much stands for the rest for the record! It’s an indicator song that shows the direction the album goes, and also rule number one as a musician is put a strong song in the first spot on the record, but not your best song; if you shoot all your powder right on the first song and nothing comes afterwards, people are going to be disappointed. I can tell people that whilst Born to Perish is a great one, there are more great ones on the album!”

Schmier drew the interview to a close very humbly, explaining “I want to say thanks a lot for the great support we’ve received from Australia! When we came back after so many years, we had great reactions from the crowds and people were really happy to see us again. I can promise we will do our very best to return as quickly as possible, bringing the new album and the new four-piece! We love the country and the people, but it’s just a little bit far from where we live so it’s not so easy to come all the time. Having said that, it was great to see the Australian Metal scene has been growing over the years and it’s always been very special to us to come. We’ve been there three times and each time I remember very well because it was a treat; hopefully we can make it a fourth time with the new album!”