Vocalist Martin Missy about Protector’s 30 year old album Golem
At the mid 80’s, when the great German thrash boom got start, a lot of acts started popping up and making a name for themselves. Undoubtely Protector from Wolfsburg were one of the most brutal among them and released a classic MLP and two records ’til 1989. This year their second effort Golem celebrates its 30th anniversary, so singer Martin Missy was kind to tell us everything about that period.
Protector was formed in 1986 by Michael Hasse on drums/vocals (R.I.P. – ex-Death Attack), Michael Schnabel on bass and Hansi Müller on guitars. Do you still remember, how did you get together? What about Michael’s and Hansi’s musical past?
As far as I know, they met in the Volkswagen factory, where they all worked back then. Hansi had played in a couple of metal bands before, and Michael had been singing in the speed-thrash band Death Attack. When he left Death Attack, he decided to form a band, that would be even more brutal.
You came from Wolfsburg. How was the metal scene in the town? Which groups were there active? What kind of venues, clubs did start opening their doors for metalheads back in the day?
The metal scene was quite big (maybe about 400/500 people all in all), considering that Wolfsburg is a quite small german town (around 120.000 inhabitants) and back in the 80’s had the border to East Germany in its ”backyard”. There was not many metal concerts in Wolfsburg back then. If we wanted to see more famous metal bands, we often had to go to Hannover or Hamburg, or other bigger cities. We also had no real rock clubs in town back then. Usually we met once a week in a local youth club, where a DJ put on some records. Wolfsburg had a couple of hard rock and metal bands in the early 80’s. The most famous was probably Steeltower, who later became Heaven’s Gate.
What were your views on the German thrash scene at this point, when a lot of newer acts were emerged from every part of Germany, such as Vendetta, Paradox, Mekong Delta, Exumer, Violent Force, Assassin, Darkness etc.?
Most of the thrash metal actions were going on in Nordrhein Westfalen, where the famous Ruhr area is situated. From there came such famous bands as Kreator, Sodom and Violent Force. So when we went to thrash metal concerts, we usually went down to the Ruhr area (Zeche Carl in Essen for instance). They also had a cool rock club down there, that was called Mephisto, where the guys from Kreator and/or Sodom used to hang out. We mostly listened to the bands from the first wave of german thrash metal (Kreator, Sodom, Destruction), not so much the bands that came after that.
A year later you joined as a vocalist and bassist Ede Belichmeier the band. What about your musical past? Why did Michael leave the group?
I had sang in 2-3 underground bands between 1984 and 1987, but I never recorded a demo and never played live before I joined Protector. Ede played guitar in a speed metal band called Anesthesia.
Martin, is it correct that you were born in Saarbrücken?
Yes, I was born in Saarbrücken in 1968.
A demo (Protector of Death) and a rehearsal (Kain and Abel) were released, were these materials shopped around to attract labels interests? Did they help a lot the band to expand its fanbase?
I think Protector already had a little fanbase when we got in contact with the record company Atom H, mostly because of the 2 track demo from 1986. We sold this demo to fans and also sent it to a couple of record companies, and Atom H was the only one that wanted to sign us right away. We recorded the Kain and Abel rehearsal tape by ourselves, in our rehearsal room. We had borrowed a mixing panel, put up the microphones and started recording.The result was sound-wise unfortunately a disaster. We were too unexperienced when it came to get a decent recording. The tape was, if I remember it correctly, mainly intented for Atom H, so they could hear what our new songs (and my voice) sounded like.
At which point did you sign to Atom H Records? Were there other label interest in the band? Were you the first signing of Atom H?
We must have signed to Atom H around April/May 1987, because in the end of June the same year we already entered the White Lines studio in Braunschweig to record our first EP Misanthropy. As far as I know there were no offers from other labels at that time. I’m not sure if we were the first band to sign with Atom H, or if it was Rumble Militia or Accuser.
In 1987 you released the Misanthropy EP, which followed three live materials (Live in Braunschweig, Live in München – both 1987, Live in Wolfsburg – 1988). Does it mean, that you have extensively gigged and played a lot of shows at this time?
Well, to be honest, we didn’t play live that much back then. We did no tours, just single gigs. I think we played just about 10-12 shows between 1987 and 1988, mostly in Germany.
You entered the Phoenix Studio in Bochum in August 1988 and you recorded your debut album Golem (produced by Protector and Jörg Stegert). Were you prepared to record the material?
Yes, we had written and rehearsed all the songs, that we later recorded for the album, before we entered the studio.
How did the songs come together, I mean, how were they written/composed? Was there a main songwriter or did you work on them together?
Hansi used to write the riffs and put the songs together with Michael and Ede. After that I wrote the lyrics to the songs.
What do you recall of the recording sessions as a whole?
It was cool to record in a studio that also had an apartment (upstairs) were you could stay during the studio time. I also liked the atmosphere in the Phoenix studio. Jörg was a quite relaxed guy who guided me professionally through the recording process. I also remember that I had a glass of honey and a couple of bottles of milk in the recording room (for my voice).
Do you think that the music on Golem is not too dissimilar from the music on the Misanthropy, although just a bit slower and heavier? Or was it continued in the vein of Misanthropy being a collection of the heaviest thrash metal with some genuine fast riffs and low growling vocals that often border on death metal?
I think that we on Golem didn’t play as chaotic and aggressive as on the Misanthropy EP. We had progressed as musicians, but still wanted to play brutal and hard thrash metal.
Who came up with the title and what did/does it refer to?
It was me. I had heard about the legend of the Golem (on TV, I think), so I started reading about it, and thought that it would be quite cool to have it as an album title.
Martin, did you sound a lot more deathly than most in the teutonic scene in 1988?
Oh, that is difficult for me to answer. I think it is better if others answer that. I just tried to sound as brutal and aggressive as my heroes when it came to ”hard vocals”: Jeff Becerra and Tom Warrior.
Do you agree with that tracks Protector of Death, Operation Plaga Extremea, Megalomania were among the fastest and most brutal ones in the entire teutonic scene?
Also that question is difficult for me to answer. Of course we always wanted to make the most powerful, fast and violent thrash metal, but I think it’s not easy for myself to compare the music we created with the music of other bands.
Did the drumming add a lot of heft to the music, as well as even more speed?
Of course Michael’s drumming did a lot for the music of Protector. He was both fast and technical, as far as I can tell.
There are some mid-tempo tracks later on, too, but the band were clearly most effective when putting out fast thrashers like Delirium Tremens or Megalomania. How do you explain this?
That is something that you have to ask our fans. It is how they interpret the songs, that make a certain song bigger or less popular than another.
How did Protector of Death end up making on the album? Did you a little bit re-write it or did you simply re-record it?
Hansi and Michael had done a couple of small changes on the song, before we went to the studio, so the version on Golem is a little bit more streamlined than the raw/aggressive version of the demo.
Would you say that Protector did not deliver any throwaway tracks; one got the impression that the band identified completely with their music and perhaps this was the main reason why the quality of the 10 pieces was consistently high?
That is true. We always recorded everything we ever had written. There are no ”lost tracks”. And yes, maybe the reason for that in the end the quality was quite high was that we really focused on the 9-10 songs that we had written for the coming album.
You also have had an own, unique sound, haven’t you?
I think so too, and a quite different one on every record. Misanthropy has a quite raw production, Golem is much cleaner produced and Urm the Mad…well, that has a great production, too, but a very ”special” sound.
Golem remains one of the most intense thrash metal albums and/but it also contains many elements of the future death metal scene that was to rise in the future, correct?
In retrospect I would also say yes. When we recorded Golem for example most of the (Swedish) death metal bands started their careers, and maybe we were one of the bands that inspired them to play their brutal kind of metal. I know that at least the guys from Grotesque and At the Gates listened to Protector back then.
How do you think, is Golem a savage masterpiece from one of the most underrated but nevertheless most important and influential thrash/death outfits from the 80’s? Were you mostly known in Germany or did you have a lot of fans worldwide, too?
Our biggest fanbase was in (West) Germany, but we had a lot of fans in the Eastern Block as well (Poland, East Germany, Czechoslovakia etc.).
Were all of you satisfied with the upshot at the end? Would you something change on the record after 30 years of its release?
As far as I can remember, we were all satisfied with the result. The only thing that Michael and Hansi were disappointed about was the intro to Protector of Death. They wanted it without any soundfilter/effects on it.
Was Protector one of the heaviest bands from Germany during the 80’s?
I don’t know. That is up to the fans to decide.
Were there any shows, tours in support of the record? What about the tour with Wehrmacht?
There was no official Golem tour. We did some single gigs, that’s all. I guess you can call the Wehrmacht-Protector tour an unofficial Golem-tour, although it took place about half a year after the release of Golem.
What can you tell us about the selling? How much support, promotion, help did you get from the label? Did you get on well with Jürgen Engler?
If you think about that Atom H was a small label, the promotion was OK. There were ads and stuff in the big metal magazines back then. As far as I can recall, it was also Atom H who organized the tour for us (I wasn’t a member of the band at that time). We didn’t meet the guys from the record company too often (maybe 3-4 times a year), mainly because Wolfsburg and Düsseldorf are so far apart. I thought Jürgen, Christine and Gabi were nice guys.
Swedish I Hate Records released two proper compilations (Echoes from the Past… – 2003 and Ominous Message of Brutality – 2005), but were you aware of the existence of other compilations (Welcome to Fire – 2006, Kain and Abel – 2010)?
Yes, I was aware of them, because the labels that released the two albums you mentioned, contacted me upfront regarding that.
In 2012 came out the Wolfsburg Edition boxed set and last year saw the light Live ’89 and Apocalyptic Revelations (both by High Roller Records). What can you tell us about them? What kind of goals/purposes did they serve?
The Wolfsburg Edition was released by the Swedish label To the Death Records and the Apocalyptic Revelations box by High Roller. Those two are absolute collectors’ items, because they were only released in a limited edition. The ”Live ’89” album is cool, because Protector never released any official live album in the 80’s/90’s. It is also great because our fans can hear what we sounded like live around that time.
Did Golem stand the test of time? Do you consider it a classic of the late 80’s?
I think that it still is a good album, and we still play a couple of the songs from the album when we play live.
Martin, thanks a lot for the interview! Feel free to add your last thoughts to the end of this feature!
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