Interview with Headhunter-guitarist Uwe „Schmuddel” Hoffmann – Part II
How did you write the songs that appeared on Parody of Life? Is it correct that all of the songs were written by you and Schmier?
Yes, that’s correct – apart of the little cover-gimicks we did on the album.
In June-July of 1990 you entered the Karo Studios (Brackel, Germany). How did the recording sessions go?
So you can not really talk about a session. The belief that bands compose their songs without time pressure in the studio may apply to the very big of the genre. We always had our material well prepared. Of course there were a few passages that were rearranged or changed. But overall, we knew exactly what we were doing there. That’s the only way to record such a cool CD as the Parody… within a week.
Parody of Life arrived the same year as Cracked Brain, only with far better music. Do you agree with it?
Yes :-). But please don’t make the mistake to compare Destruction with Headhunter, that’s not really possible. Two different bands with two different sounds, songs and two different ways to play metal. So when I say „yes, I agree” then only just because the songs we wrote were – naturally – much more my music than the Destruction songs.
Do you think that the title track, Ease My Pain or Force of Habit are some very hard-hitting thrashers that do not pale in comparison to even Destruction’s achievements?
To me those tracks are more speed- than thrash metal songs. If you listen close you have really melodies in those songs. The funny thing is that Schmier was very happy those days, that we made our music more melodic. And I remember the time when I was sitting behind the mixing-console when Schmier did the vocals. With the talk-back-button we arranged the melodies together and even some vocal harmonies.
What did the title of the album refer to? What can you tell us about the cover artwork as well?
Well, Schmier is a singer with a message. And he writes lyrics about all kinds of social problems and injustices. And the parody of life is that people become the most powerful who are completely indifferent to social justice. On the cover you can see a shrunken head, which by the way is in the original in a museum in Berlin. This head was signed off and finished with a pinch of „metal”. The tied mouth is to be understood as a sign. Not everyone is allowed to say what they think and what is actually matter. This „footprint ban” is very popular in Germany again. Anyone who has a different opinion from the one represented by the government will be silenced. So the parody of life is very topical even today…
Would you say that the best means to describe Headhunter is classical Destruction with a firmer grasp of melody in Schmier’s vocals, and a lot more influence from traditional hard rock and metal, which manifests in a warmer, more positive atmosphere through the lyrics and guitars?
Another question that I could answer with „yes!”. But it’s not as easy as it may sound. The first fact is that Schmier’s vocal is the main reason that Headhunter may sound a bit like Destruction. That’s the same thing why Black Sabbath with Ronnie James Dio sounded a lot like Dio. You know what I mean. But to come to the musically side: Headhunter created the songs in a very simple way. Schmier played his riff-ideas on the bass and I tried to do some heavy chording around it, then I played my new riffs and Schmier tried to put some thrash-bass around it. Schmier’s riffs always sounded like thrash metal, mine are always after heavy metal. With no real intentions, we’ve created another kind of metal that I personally always called power metal. Powerful, sometimes very fast, somehow melodic and hard metal. Of course that was tough stuff for the fans as well. The classic Destruction fans may have been a bit disappointed with the music because it was more forward, more transparent and straighter. But we also got a big crowd of new fans, who always found Destruction a bit too bumpy to be obscure and too untight. I always compare everything in life with sex or food. If you combine chicken with sweet fruits and chilli, this will not be enough for any chilli fan. However, this food may taste good to those who do not like chilli.
Did you play an important role in that Headhunter turned into a more melodic direction compared to Destruction?
Yes, indeed. Because I left the verse-screaming up to Schmier, but at the chorus, I always tried to kick him up a little more. And sometimes Schmier was surprised that he sang some harmony-vocals with his typical voice. The producer and I realized that you can still demand more from Schmier. And then he suddenly sang stuff that he did not know he could do.
Was the vocal performance a clear step forward for Schmier without leaving his comfort zone?
Overall, Schmier’s singing has changed little. Even today he sings on Destruction records as then. But he knows he can do it differently. He shows this, for example, with the band Pänzer. I think it’s always good when musicians even move away from their own style and gain new insights. Just as if you mix chilli with sweet fruits. 🙂
In your opinion, did throughout the album an awesome blend of classic heavy metal riffs, thrash-edged attacks, and powerish elements combine to form one seriously heavy and catchy debut album?
Yes – that is exactly what happend. And for we didn’t change much in the way our music was written, we kept on doing it that way on the second, third and even the forth album from 2007 (Parasite of Society).
Did you manage to write catchy and memorable songs? Did the album showcase a talented band with their own unique rough power metal sound?
Puh…memorable…I don’t know. As I said, I think that our „little success”, especally in Japan was founded on our mixery of styles. But – and I say this also again – we didn’t plan that. It just happened, because we came from different corners of rock music and that fact made our special sound. Hey, let’s try to mix pálinka with orange lemonade – maybe we create a real good taste…
How did you find the record under 1990’s standards? Do you think that 1990 was the last year for thrash metal with materials, such as Better Off Dead, Coma of Souls, Seasons in the Abyss, Twisted into Form, Souls of Black, Rust in Peace or Lights…Camera…Revolution!?
That’s a very difficult question. Your question is actually aimed at the music as a whole. Because today is nothing like it used to be. I’m not saying that in the past everything was better, but different. We did not have the opportunity to send files back and forth. Previously you could not edit dirty riffs and beats. Bands in the 90’s just had to play together, rehearsing. I think that’s why the bands somehow always had their own sound. Unfortunately, that’s different today. Everyone can use almost the same plug-ins. Everything that used to be unclean and that is why the typical sound of a band has been identified, is being corrected today. Today there are no bands like Rolling Stones or The Ramones. They would sound really boring today „error free” and „ironed out”. For me, thrash metal has always been a kind of punk. And thrash metal and punk – even rock music generally – comes from the gut. Not out of your head! And this „out of the gut” has indeed fallen by the end of the 90’s. You in Hungary know best that a decent goulash belongs in the kettle and has to cook for a long time. But today most people cook their goulash with Maggi Fix within 40 minutes…
The band’s sound present on this debut is great and quickly shot you to a high status in the underground, right?
I think the real thrash underground didn’t like us that much. But that was no problem to me. As you said, our sound was really present and powerful. I still like it today.
How did you and Kalle Trapp becoming the producers of the album? Did you get on well with him?
Kalle was the owner of this beautiful studio and a very nice guy. He did all the „day-recording”. But he had a family those days and left the studio daily around seven or eight in the evening. So at night we worked with another guy. We needed someone who could stand it when you stood in the control room at full volume and tried again and again one solo at a time. That would not have endured Kalle. Sometimes when it got a bit later with Schmier and me, the door suddenly opened. Kalle came in and shouted „good morning!”. And we were not even in bed. Oh yes, these were wonderful times!
How happened that a major label Virgin Records picked up the band? How did you get in touch with them at all?
I really can’t answer that question. That was the work of our manager Reiner Hänsel. He made the business. We were very happy that we had that major deal in the beginning. But sometimes I think that a little label helps you a lot more. Big companies wanna make big money. Big and quickly. If you don’t sell, they kick your ass…
How much did the label help you in terms of promotion, advertisement in magazines, organising interviews etc.?
Less then you might think… As I said, big companies are working for you if you make a lot of money for them. That means: putting the record into the stores. If it sells good, they work for you to sell even more. If you don’t fulfill their financial plan, they don’t manage that much for you. Ultimately we also wanted to have a worldwide distribution but that did not exist with Virgin. That has never been a real metal label. So we changed to AFM Records.
Were there any shows/tours in support of the record? Can you give us any details regarding on the early Headhunter gigs?
Believe it or not, but our first show was a gig in front of around 2,000 people in Tokyo on our Japan tour. Before it we rehearsed in an old factory in Upper Franconia in thick snow and minus degrees. So at least we couldn’t move our fingers. We had bought a big construction site blower. That was loud but we were louder. The only downside was that we always stank of fuel oil.
Are you still proud of the record? Did it stand the test of time?
But clearly. POF has ushered in a new era in my personal career. I still love the record. It is spontaneous and incredibly energetic. Many musicians speak badly about their old recordings. They say today I would do this and that very differently. Not me. There are great songs on it and I’m grateful for the incredibly hot experiences I had with Schmier and Jörg.
Schmuddel, thanks a lot for the interview! Any final thoughts for the Hungarian fans?
What should I say? You have a great country, great food, very beautiful women. I would like to play a show again in Hungary. And now the old rocker’s message: live your life! Here and now. Do not look forward to Friday on Monday. Do not rejoice the summer in January. Do not rejoice the pension while you are working. Show those you love that you love them. And make those who want you evil realize that you do not like it. Live your life, listen to your music. Be yourself! Is that enough as a particularly clever chatter? No offense. 🙂 …