Thrashing Through Time: An Exclusive Live Interview with Paul Speckmann

"Strike your idols down, And wear the Master's crown"
Paul Speckann performing Master live in Quantic - Bucharest

After Master’s performance that took place on 16th March in Quantic, Bucharest (- spoiler alert:  was a total blast), I had the pleasure of speaking to Paul Speckmann about their performance tonight, his music, his experiences, and many more interesting related topics…

When one says Master or Death Strike, says Paul Speckmann, the prodigy mind behind the two bands that wrote history and inspired many others. His music remains a legacy of the extreme metal scene.
Master has been making waves in the death/thrash metal scene since their first release in 85’. With their distinctive sound and mesmerizing live performances, this band is a true reference point for any fan of death/thrash metal, standing the test of time. So, without further ado, let’s dive into the conversation:

  • For us, the crowd, your performance was a total blast. How was the show for you?

As I said earlier, before we started the interview, stood up. It’s a family atmosphere here. From the minute I got here, I felt welcome. Very important. And when you feel welcome, when you come to a venue, and the people are nice and friendly and stuff, you’re gonna do a good show. Which is very important in my opinion.

 I enjoyed the show. I really had a great time on stage. I felt the energy from the crowd and it made me smile a few times.
I know you know metal guys aren’t supposed to smile, but when you’re sixty years old, you smile, you don’t give a shit. Oh, so?! I m metal, I’m smiling because I’m having a good time. So some guys, I know, they’re so tough they can’t smile, whatever, I don’t care. That shows the emotions that I’m feeling on stage. I’m not pretending to be somebody else.

  •  Do you have a favorite part of the performance?

 I enjoyed the whole performance, it was great. Wherever we actually played an extra song and almost certainly put in extra time because the crowd was so crazy. I had to. We played for over an hour already but I would (still) play another one.

  • How is the tour so far?

It’s a short tour, it’s only six shows: 4 shows in Romania and two in Slovakia. Sasha put it together. He tried to take on Ukraine but obviously, that’s not happening, but before the war and before COVID there was a tour that would have been longer, but life goes on. I’m still happy that he managed to get Romania and Slovakia straight.

We’re getting more busy, you know quite a few shows this year and quite a few more coming. I’m happy to be back on the road. Now this COVID thing finally went away; whatever that was I don’t know, but I’m just happy that we’re all playing again.

  • Do you have any rituals or routines you follow before taking the stage?

Normally I do the merchandise, that’s my routine.

I let know the merchandise guy that I was over there helping him, bring his company stuff out. I told him: I’m not the merchant police I’m not watching it. I m here to help you a little bit and I was. He did a great job with the merch.  

My routine is just to have a drink or two before the show, get my things ready set up my shit and play. Not really much of a routine I mean I’m not jumping up and down, I’m not meditating or anything, I’m usually doing merch and then I get on stage while the other guys were laying down the whole time relaxing, having fun, I’m working but it’s okay. 

I realized that since I’m working all the time this was keeping me young, trust me. This is why I’m doing the merch and why I’m booking the shows and writing the albums, and so on. I do it all and that’s what’s keeping me young. And of course, metal is keeping me young and we know that. That’s even more important to say. That is a way of life and some people join and do it and live their life and other people don’t.

Some bands are just in it for the money and the glory and the fame. I’m in it as a life of a lifer.
I’ve been doing it my whole life. Sometimes we have good shows, and sometimes there’s nobody there, but we still play a good show anyway, because, for me, it’s a way of life.

  • I know you’re playing since you were 17 years old?!

 Yes and we got some good times and some bad times but I never give up because I don’t care. You know, if there’s one person who comes to the show, I’m gonna do my best to impress them and hopefully make them happy. 

I m not Cannibal Corpse, although I wish, but whatever, it was making the point, saying that I wish we were that popular. We’re not but doesn’t matter. I’m still kicking ass and I’m still building my way back up. And all the guys and all these underground bands, they all know who I am.

Okay, so some put their nose up and pretend that they didn’t know me, but they know me because we are the originators of their whole scene. 

We played at that festival in Viborg (Denmark) with I’m Morbid and David Vincent and the drummer did not even say “hello” to me – And that’s just so gay.
They played in the band called Terrorizer there’s a Master song, you don’t think I know that?! They know that too.
 I went back to eat dinner and saw the guys and they didn’t even acknowledge me there, then in the morning I went to have breakfast and walked past them and I didn’t even get a “hello” from them either. Was really strange to me because guys, I don’t care how famous you are, I was there first, fuck you; some respect, you know?!

But guys from other famous bands come up and say hello to me. Big-time guys that come and say “hello”, because they are not dickheads.
Martin van Drunen comes up and says “hello”. He’s wearing sometimes a Master t-shirt at these huge festivals around Europe. That’s respect and we’re good friends. We see each other only a few times a year at a festival, we hang around, have a beer, and smoke a cigarette together, because we’re friends and we respect each other. 

I was really disappointed on I am morbid. I didn’t understand it, I really thought a “hello” would have been okay, but it really doesn’t matter.

  • How does performing live compare to recording in the studio? Which do you prefer?

 Is night and day. I prefer live of course, but I still like recording. We just recorded the drums and the bass last week for the full new album ( the first one in five years) and we’ll start the guitars on Wednesday next week.

I put together a US  lineup and we played for a year a bunch of shows around Europe, America everywhere a
nd then COVID came and they didn’t want to stay in Europe and they went home and that’s two years ago.
Luckily, Alex came back from a line-up from before, and he said – well if you need help, I’m interested-. I know it was about the money too, but doesn’t matter, I’m glad he came back.

The drummer, Peter, whom we have now played with the band 11 years ago, when the drummer before, got an offer from a bigger heavy metal band, so he left the band for a year – Peter filled in.
Peter saw what I said on the internet that I’m looking for people, he wrote right away, Alex wrote right away, and a year later here we are still together and everything’s fine, it’s working.

We’re trying to make a better practice and more and more, it’s gonna still get better, it’s improving. You got to play live, you got to keep practicing. There’s a lot involved in a band.

  • You lived in both US and Europe. According to your experience are there differences between the American scene and the European one?

 The European one is for me, they’re more into Master. In America, they don’t care so much. This is part of the reason why I moved. I joined the band Krabathor for only three years, was to get out and enjoy the European scene. And I never left because I found out that people are into Master and they were in the crowd tour, still going on and here I am 23 years later and still happening.

Yes, we have some shitty shows sometimes, like yesterday, but whatever, you live with it, it doesn’t matter. You have a great show like today and who knows what tomorrow is gonna be, but today was great. Tonight, I’m gonna go to bed smiling and sleep well, I’m sure.
Yesterday, I was like – you know, could have been better- but today it’d be smiling. You win some, lose some.

  • I personally find your lyrics to be quite poetic, which is not always the norm in the scene, where people often focus more on the music or having a good band. How do you see your use of lyrics contributing to your overall sound and impact on listeners?

I think this is a rotten fucking place and I like to call it food for thought. I like to write about what’s going on at a particular time in history and the history of the world and the history of my own life, and I’m hoping that some people maybe they’re enlightened by something that I say.

  • Your lyrics on “The Truth” (Master) reference “Society’s crimes”. Which do you believe are the most significant crimes committed by society as a whole?

When the government’s in their bullshit controlling their lies, and deceit with everybody. Facing problems, governments are all the power, they all have the money, the banks have all the money. They’re criminals, of course, and there’s nothing we can do about it. We live in a world controlled by a few people, and it’s ridiculous.

  • What do you believe are some of the ways in which society is failing us?

 I hope that somebody is strong enough, these younger people, and they grade an uprising in every city. I can only hope, I’ve been saying this for 20 years and it’s not happening, but I’m really hoping that there’s an uprising of all the young people that’ll pull down these people and stop this bullshit control.
I’m not going to be the leader of that of course, all I can do is singing my songs, I m old, but I’m sure there are some young guys out there that can organize the world and make a change. I can only hope. It s the same for 20 years, we’re still in the same shithole, but I have hope. This is my opinion. Probably won’t happen in my lifetime but maybe in the future, maybe when I’m dead and buried, youth will get together, get off their computers, get out there, and fight.

  • So you believe there is still hope (left) for the future?

It’s always hope. You have to believe in hope or roll over and die. I still believe there’s hope in society, I really do. I see all this crap on the internet about what’s going on here, what’s going on there,  is so much propaganda, and there are so many lies on the internet. (Yet) I still believe there’s hope for a future. Without hope, what else do we have?!

  • How about society’s emphasis on superficial appearance; from where do you believe this “lack of authenticity”  comes in music?

Oh, that’s a problem. Okay, I’ll give you an example of authenticity. There are lots of black metal bands and I don’t know if they’re authentic, but I will say one band is authentic: Erik from Watain; he is authentic.

I was a roadie for two weeks or so on a tour for Watain and Dissection many years ago, obviously, when Jon (Nödtveidt) was still alive. I was on the tour bus with the two bands and they were authentic. There was a guy that was causing problems at the merch stand. Erik grabbed the guy by the face and brought him down by the neck to a cigarette. He didn’t burn him. He could have because it was that close, but Eric let him go. My point is that guy’s really intense.
He’s my friend; when he sees me, he walks up to me and hugs me with his crappy blood. Used to be smoking and hugging me with the blood and then I smelled like a pig for my own show.
That’s an authentic band: Watain. But some of these (* black metal) bands I don’t think they are and that’s crappy because I live this music. I m authentic, it’s not a fantasy game or whatever and that’s what I like about Watain: is intense and those guys are a bit crazy but I respect them.

  •  You play since you were 17 years old. In all these years of work, what are the things you are more proud of as an artist?

 Well, I was proud that I’m making a living in music. I don’t have another job. I know that there are a lot of bands out there and no disrespect to them, that they have to work.
The only thing I have to do is three days a week I have to go to the post office. Sometimes five days a week but it’s not such a bad thing. I have to make packages, I do it all myself, that’s my job: Merchandise; my merchandise. And I go out on tour and have fun and make money on tours. Well, we’re gonna say that our real job is merchandise, and not everybody can turn their music into a career, to a life, and for me, I turned it into my way of life.
I noticed other bands that are rich and way better than me, I know that (but) the point is that I still made it into my own life and it works.
I think not everybody can do it and I m not bragging either, I respect everybody.

  •  Is there one thing you wish more people knew about your music?

Yeah, that we were one of the first ones to start, and a lot of the younger people have no clue. I wish more people would understand that.
We started earlier than most of the people and a lot of the bigger bands want to forget that they ever heard of us, not all, but I find that strange.
It’d be like me saying that I don’t like Black Sabbath and Motorhead. I met Lemmy three times and I worshipped him. He was buying me shots of Jack because he had the money at the shows but whatever,  I respected him and he respected me and that was very cool.

That’s why I was getting back to the story earlier.
Lemmy knew that people at that time were saying Master is the Motorhead of Death Metal. He knew that and he said that to my face. That’s really cool. But my point is, should I say I’ve never heard of Motorhead or had never heard of Black Sabbath, and I never heard of GBH, or never heard of Exploited or Slayer?! These men influenced me and I’m the first one to admit that.

You get these snob guys in these bands because they’re making more money than me, pretend like they never heard of me. That’s a sad joke and that’s all I’m saying.

  •  So do you believe it can be underground by choice?

Yeah sure, but I wish we were more popular, but we’re still in the underground, not by choice but the way it happened, (yet) I’m still happy. I ll be underground until I die and seems fine. People always remember me and it’s great. It’s important that people remember – the crazy old bastard with the big beard was a nutcase but he made some really good music.

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