Michael „Micky” Wehner is about Vendetta’s Brain Damage
The popularity of thrash metal arose in the mid 80’s, but at a certain point the thrash bands started copying the forerunners such as Metallica, Slayer, Anthrax etc. without showing any originality. Germany played also an important role in the forming of thrash metal (Destruction, Sodom, Kreator), but at the mid 80’s appeared a second generation that started playing something unique and varied. One of them was the mighty Vendetta from Schweinfurt. Their second effort Brain Damage was released 30 years ago. Guitarist/vocalist Michael „Micky” Wehner shared us his views about that masterpiece.
So Micky, how and when did Vendetta form exactly? How did you get together?
I met Samson (Andreas Samonil – drums) in 1983 through a friend. At the beginning of 1984 Voss was joined by a friend of Samson and Vendetta was born. At first the program consisted of cover songs (Motörhead, Saxon, Savage Grace, Iron Maiden), but also own material (including On the Road).
How about your musical background? What were your influences as a whole?
Motörhead, Iron Maiden, Saxon, Rush, Judas Priest, Thin Lizzy… later came Metallica and Slayer.
Was Vendetta the first act that you were involved in?
No, I already had two bands before. My first band Rank Xerox was a cover band (Motörhead, Ramones, Police, Neil Young etc.). My second band was called Maniac (with Charly and Axel from Paradox) and with this band the direction was born, which we continued afterwards. With Maniac we also played a mixed program of covers and own material.
How did you view the first generation of German thrash metal such as Kreator, Sodom, Destruction, Tankard, Living Death, Necronomicon, Iron Angel, Holy Moses etc.? Did they open the door for the bands that emerged later on?
These bands did not affect us at all. In the end, these bands were only 1-2 years ahead and our roots were more the late 70’s and early 80’s…
You released three demos (System of Death, Vendetta Metal War – 1985, Suicidal Lunacy – 1986); how would you sum up these recordings? Were they your first studio experiences by the way.
Actually, there were only two demos: Systems of Death and Suicidal Lunacy. Both were each recorded with 8-track tape machines, but by people who had nothing to do with this kind of music. 🙂 For us, it was a big step back then, because we could bring our music to the people. I had previously worked with 4-track cassettes, but tonally that was more for their own use.
What was your the goal with the demos? Were they spread around in the tapetrading circuit? Did you send them to labels to attract any interest in signing the band etc.?
I was sitting for days at home and made copies (cassette!). The covers in DIN A4 format duplicated in the copy shop, aged and then put into the cassette covers – it was a lot of work. 🙂 In that time there was no Internet, so we had to send our tapes to magazines. From their side came only positive feedback! We also sent labels but only standard cancellations – the funny thing is that we also got one from our later label Noise. 🙂 The deal with Noise was provided by our former manager and scribbler Jan Michael Dix.
Did you manage to make a name for the band with the help of the demos?
At least in the local scene (Schweinfurt, Bamberg) the demo helped us. But there were also many orders throughout Germany due to the positive resonance in the fanzines.
Would you say that Vendetta belonged to the second wave of German thrash metal along with the likes of Violent Force, Darkness, Exumer, Paradox, Mekong Delta, Deathrow, Grinder etc.? What were your views on it? How deeply were you involved in the scene at all?
We were there in any case! There were also many stylistic similarities. I think that we were known in the German metal scene back then or are still today!
At which point and how were you signed by Noise? What kind of contract did they offer you?
Our manager Jan Michael Dix had good contact with the labels as an editor and thus he was in direct contact with Noise. The deal came off shortly after the second demo and ran for over 5 years.
Were there other label interests in the band besides Noise by the way?
Yes, Roadrunner was interested. Before the noise deal, we recorded Traitor’s Fate for a sampler. A short time later we got the deal with Noise and thus the story with Roadrunner had died… especially because the conditions at Roadrunner were much worse than at Noise. 🙂
Do you think that your first album Go and Live…Stay and Die was a successful record and became a cult, classic later on?
We could hardly judge that at the time. For us it was definitely an unforgettable experience to work in a professional studio with a professional (Harris Johns)!!! Unfortunately, the cult came after our grit. 🙂
In June 1988 you entered the Music Lab Studios to cut your second album Brain Damage. Were you prepared to record the material? How did the recording sessions go?
With Brain Damage we were much better prepared than with Go and Live…! Harris had moved into his new studio at that time, in which there was also an apartment (in the Go and Live… recordings we had to walk about 10 minutes from the hotel). 🙂 It was a great atmosphere!
Did you have a decent budget?
The Noise International was very generous! We had 4 weeks for the discs each! At Roadrunner we would have got 7 days…
A split 7” flexi disc (with Sabbat) was released before the album came out. What can you tell us about it?
This action (certainly financed by Noise) was a very good advertisement for us! The flexi was included in the Rock Hard magazine.
Did Brain Damage continue in the same style that was established on the debut release – quite fresh sounding thrash metal with some nice details thrown in –, or did you tep up your music in a big way on Brain Damage?
In my view, the band has evolved, has matured. Due to the better preparation, we were also able to bring in more variety.
Is Brain Damage far more technical and progressive than the debut, with some awesome riffs and creative song structures?
Brain Damage is more versatile! This is shown by songs like Precious Existence, Love Song or Fade to Insanity… Also in terms of sound, BD a step forward – where Go and Live… also included great songs!
Did Brain Damage show significant maturity in songwriting while still retaining the crunchy sound that was a trademark of yours? Is the record catchy and full of energy?
For songs, it’s like wine: the longer it matures, the better it gets! 🙂 The songs were already 1-2 years and older and so we could let them mature. It was certainly catcher than Go and Live…
Do you agree with that there’s some additional variety in songs like the title track, Precious Existence, Fade to Insanity or Love Song?
In the 70’s and 80’s there were many influences in instrumental music and ballads (for example, Iron Maiden, Scorpions, Deep Purple). We wanted to be more varied with the second album and that’s what I’m going through with my new band Brain Damage. 🙂
Were the divided vocalparts also Vendetta’s trademarks? How did you divide them among you and Daxx (Achim Hömerlein – vocals, guitar), by the way?
There were few bands that had two singers at the start. In a sense, we were in this respect one of a few bands. The division was mostly after the songwriting. From the principle, I was responsible for the melodic parts and Daxx for the harder parts.
How do you view, that there are two things that separate your work on Brain Damage from the many other thrash acts of the earlier 80’s who had a similar sound. The first and most obvious contrast is the lyrical content, and the second one are the slightly progressive tendencies in the music?
It was just our style! Socially critical, we still think that is right! That’s why I’m proud that Daxx still writes lyrics for Brain Damage today.
Did bassist Klaus „Heiner” Ullrich do well to distinguish his style from the guitarists in the band? Is he to Vendetta what Cliff Burton was to Metallica and Steve Harris is to Iron Maiden?
Heiner has basically only played what we have given him rhythmically. Sure, there were a couple of spots where he built his own few runs, but I would not see that comparison to Burton and Harris! Heiner was a good team player, but not a leader…
Did you guys help pioneering the German thrash movement back in the mid 80’s with both your debut and this major step up, Brain Damage?
I do not think so… We certainly influenced the younger generation a bit, but nothing more. There were some bands at this time (Mekong Delta, Sieges Even, Deathrow etc.) that were similar to us…
Are Brain Damage and Go and Live… Stay and Die both essential documents of 80’s speed metal from Germany?
Surely we have set a scent mark with it, but if it was essential, only the fans can judge.
Did the two albums prove that the band not only were quite skillful but also managed to create some interesting music in the crowded scene?
The first generation (Sodom, Destruction, Kreator) was easier from the songwriting ago, maybe it was good for the fans, to get some variety. 🙂
By the way, do you think that the thrash scene started becoming oversaturated at this point and most of the bands tried to copy Metallica?
Metallica has characterized the fast music and it is quite normal that automatically develop borrow. However, each band develops over time and so the influences disappear…
Were there any shows or tours in support of the record?
Yes, we had a 4-day tour with Tankard, Dimple Minds and Helstar (Stuttgart, Frankfurt, Dusseldorf and Switzerland). After that we played 10 shows in Germany and Netherlands with Helstar – it was awesome!
How much did Noise help you to push the band further? Were they supportive of Vendetta?
Looking at the time we got for the recordings, it was fine! Except for the usual ads in the relevant magazines but ran not really much, but which was certainly synonymous with us. 🙂 Nevertheless, Noise International was ideal for us!
What do you mind, are Vendetta probably the best example of a very promising band that released two excellent albums in 1987 and 1988, and then disappeared just as quickly as they arrived?
After all, it was 6 years, but Daxx’s departure was the beginning of the end! The chemistry of the band was broken… It’s a pity, because I think we could have achieved a lot. That’s how it is at a young age: you make mistakes…
What kind of reasons did lead to the demise of the band back in the day?
From Vendetta two new bands emerged: Poke (Groovemetal, Daxx, Heiner and Samson) and Shine (Micky, Guido, Ulli and Jens). Both projects were not very popular in terms of labels and so we decided in 1995 to reunify ourselves. There were a few songs that did not have much to do with the original power of Vendetta… We played some shows that were really great, but the spirit of the 80’s did not come back musically… In 2002 I got out again to take care of my family (3 sons). Daxx got out 2 years later for health reasons…
Did you remain friends by the way? Did all of you keep an eye what’s going on in the metal scene after Vendetta’s split?
We live about 70 kilometers apart and you do not see that so often. If that works, we treat each other respectfully. I have more contact with Daxx, we write regularly. I’ve only met Samson twice since the last split – he has a very big health problem…
Please, give us some details about the present! What about you and the other Vendetta members these days?
Vendetta has released an audible CD with the last disc The 5th, but it still far from the old material! This is a bit different with my new band Brain Damage – the influences are much bigger than with the „new” Vendetta’s!
Micky, thanks a lot for your answers! Please, share your final thoughts for the Hungarian readers!
I thank you that I could revel in the old times again! I would be glad if you would listen to my new band Brain Damage and give me your opinion. THANX & stay clean!