Master interview with Paul Speckmann
Master is the most well-known project of bassist, vocalist, and songwriter Paul Speckmann. They were well known in the early extreme metal underground, being both one of the first death metal bands, and one of the most influential alongside Death in the emerging death metal scene. The band began in 1983, and still exists today, having released several albums with many different lineups.
Paul Speckmann started out as bass player in doom band War Cry, where he met up with drummer Bill Schmidt who was drafted in to replace previous War Cry drummer, Joe Laccino. Together, Speckmann and Schmidt decided to form a more aggressive metal band based around Motörhead, Venom, Slayer (US) and the whole emerging extreme metal movement. Eventually, Schmidt and Speckmann left War Cry, who (after their departure) also got rid of their heaviness. Schmidt had begun writing songs in the thrash vein as early as mid-83, and Speckmann followed suit. They named their band Master, and auditioned 26 guitarists, none of whom were suited to Master. This caused Schmidt to leave Master and join local metal act Mayhem (US). Speckmann decided to start his own band, Death Strike, using songs originally written for Master. He was joined by guitarist Chris Mittlebrun (who had auditioned for Master a year earlier, but was still stuck in the Judas Priest mode) and together they wrote more Death Strike songs. Second guitarist, 16 year old Kirk Miller was brought in, along with drummer John Leprich, who was apparently a drunk.
After Death Strike’s “Fuckin’ Death” demo made an impact on the underground, Bill Schmidt, former Master drummer, begged Speckmann to join the band. As Death Strike drummer John Leprich could barely get the beats down for “Pay To Die”, and was a drunk (according to Speckmann) Speckmann let Schmidt re-join. After kicking out 16 year old guitarist Kirk Miller (who was really just a session musician for Death Strike), the band was re-named Master. Guitarist Chris Mittlebrun was kept in the band, as Schimdt was highly impressed with his songwriting skills.
Anyway, Speckmann’s father had recently passed away and left an inheritance to him, so Speckmann invested the money in paying for these studio recordings, with a promise from Schmidt to sign the first decent deal they received. Master headed into Seagrape Studios, where they recorded these seven tracks. Somehow, rough mixes of the tracks got out, and were traded around the underground (apparently by Shaun Glass (ex-Sindrome, Terminal Death)). Consequently, Master became a HUGE name in the underground.
So why did they never get an album out? Well, they did receive a deal from Combat Records (the same deal that Death signed), but unfortunately they met up with Kim Fowley (manager/producer of everything mainstream) who demanded changes be made to the contract. Combat simply laughed and tore the contract up. Thus, Master never got the chance to produce and release these seven tracks, and they stayed firmly in the underground.
HMA: Thanks for joining Heavy Music Artwork for this interview. This year we see the release of a brand new offering from Master “The New Elite”. Can you tell us how was the record assembled in all its creative parts?
Master: The record was recorded like any other record. I wrote songs on a micro-cassette recorder at my house on the acoustic guitar and brought the compositions to rehearsal. Guitarist Alex Nejezchleba brought a few tracks to the table as well. We went into the studio and recorded the album as always in a few days and the rest is history. When it comes to Master recording is a pretty normal straightforward process. We never change anything. If something is not broken why fix it. I realize many bands spend thousands of euros and several months to record but we just haven’t the time or money to waste, so a few days is sufficient for Master.
HMA: We have two distinctive record covers, can you tell us how this came about? Was one of the sleeves for the “Smile as you’re told”? Was it just a 7’’ release?
Master: No story hear my friend, the Czech company that released the vinyl simply didn’t like the CD artwork and decided to have a new painting done for the vinyl version. I personally like both covers so this worked out well I think.
HMA: …and the “master” designer at work? I struggle to recognize the talent; can you tell us who is the genius responsible?
Master:Mark Bridgeman did the CD and the vinyl was done by Raul Gonzalez Serrano.
HMA: Having worked in a similar sterile environment, I kind of feel the coldness and brutality of “The Human Machine” which by the way is beautifully illustrated on the record cover. Can you argue with this or there is more to it?
Master: Slaves To Society, The Human machine and The New Elite are a sort of continuation of each other. The world is changing every year for the worse and the idiotic new generation just sits down and takes it as all the freedoms of the world are removed. It’s easier to be told when to shit, what to eat, when to eat and when to Smile as you’re told. It’s time to get up and take a stand against these political pigs and remove the power mongers. It’s no longer power to the people, it’s power over the people. The youth need to organize and make changes. The world is a sterile environment, nothing new happens anymore unless maybe jumping or falling through space for fun is a great achievement. When you think about all the starving children that could have eaten from the money spent for the latest space challenge or new world record it makes me sick.
HMA: You originate from Chicago, Illinois, but I believe you are now live in Eastern Europe, am I right?
Master: Concerts and more work, you can find this information in the thousands of interviews I have done over the years. I have lived in the Czech Republic for the past 12 years and have done more festivals, tours and shows then were ever possible in America. I left to jam and all the time I am busy ever since this move. A professional will go anywhere to persue his art my friend.
HMA: What’s the scene like from an American Death Metal band?
Master: Which scene? I only visit the USA for tours. The scene in the USA is small compared to Europe period. In Europe people live and breathe Metal.
HMA: Have the other guys also relocated in Eastern Europe?
Master: Master is a band with a Czech and Slovak member and my self for the last 12 years. The idiots from my past still live in the USA and will die there for sure.
HMA: I remember seeing Masters something like 20 years ago at the legendary Marquee club in London, something you can’t easily forget. Are your live performances still so relentless?
Master: Yes, the band plays over 100 gigs per year across the globe. The shows only get better with age like a fine wine.
HMA: Going back to your cover arts and style, unlike most Death Metal bands, your covers are diverse and often portray unusual themes… for example “For more years of terror”, “The Spirit of the West” and “Slaves to Society” are completely different to one another. How this eclectic mix of style have emerged and still managed to keep the same consistent Master integrity?
Master: The covers speak for themselves and reflect a certain time in my life. I would rather write about things that mean something versus fiction. I realise that fiction sell more records but I read fiction in books. Real life is what I am about. Satan is an important figure in most successful groups but for me it’ a joke.
HMA: Would you say that your music and lyrical subjects has also similar personality?
Master: Sure the music speaks for itself as well as th lyrical themes. You just have to look at the world in a particualr time and you will find a record on the records. This shit is real no nonsense aggressive bruatality at its finest. I have no time for fun and games in this fucked society, so I spread my messages of peace and change and hope that the people of the world understand thi. I f one fucker strives for changes then IO have succeeded and if not th whole society can perish in hell as far as I am concerned.
HMA: Do we get another ferocious live treatment here in the UK for a Master tour? Any plans?
Master: February 9th at Boston Arms in London.
HMA: Thanks for this incredible interview.
Master: Quit downloading Master and support the true underground, you can find available purchases on Facebook under the Speckmann moniker.
Copyright 2012 © Interview with Alex Milazzo, Heavy Music Artwork. All rights reserved.