„We just wanted to do some bloody fuckin’ metal together”

Interview with Headhunter-guitarist Uwe „Schmuddel” Hoffmann – Part I

To the biggest surprise of the thrash metal fans Destruction sacked their frontman Schmier at the end of the 80’s. But within a few months he was back again joined by him guitarist Uwe „Schmuddel” Hoffmann (ex-Talon) and drummer Jörg Michael (ex-Avenger, Rage, Mekong Delta, Laos) with a new band Headhunter. While Destruction ruined everything what they did before with Cracked Brain, Headhunter offered an excellent record with Parody of Life. Since it’s one of my favourite albums, I asked Schmuddel to tell us the entire story considering this masterpiece.

Schmuddel, do you still remember, how and when did you discover music and rock/metal in general? What were the very first bands, records, songs that made a huge effect on you?

Well, to my 11th birthday (I was playing guitar since I was 8), my parents bought me a record-player and some singles. On those singles there was a british band called Sweet with their new single: Action. I heard the song and I heard the guitar-sound and thought: „Fuckin’ hell – that’s the way I wanna play guitar!”. From that time on, I just bought rock and metal LPs such as Sammy Hagar, Status Quo… and then there was this spring-day in 1978… I bought the Van Halen I record.

First I was a little frustrated, because I thought, I was already a good guitar-player at those days. As I listened to this record, I first decided to put the guitar into the corner and concentrate more to a soccer-career… :-). So this was the LP that influenced me personally. From that day on I knew I wanna be a rock musician… A couple of years later I took part at the N.W.O.B.H.M. scene. I discoverd Judas Priest as my all-time-fav.-band… and it still is.

How did you end up becoming musician? How did your choice fall on guitars?

Well a guitar was one of my biggest wishes I had as a child. My first acoustic guitar was a present from my parents for my 8th birthday. Four weeks later, at Christmas 1972 – I was playing some Christmas carols under the tree – without having any lessons or books. My mother said at those days: „Either he never learns that or he will play like the devil once in a time.”

Who were the musicians that influenced your style? Were you self taught by the way or…?

As I said I started to learn guitar in January 1973. I had four years of regular lessons with an old and really excellent teatcher, then I had another two years of classic-guitar lessons. We played a couple of classical „shows” in retirement homes and Christian clubs as a duo… Then one day my teachter (Erich Kastner from the Richard Wagner-City Bayreuth) said: „Sorry, there is nothing more I can teach you. Go and find your own style to play!”.

Schmuddel

Was Talon the first act that you were involved in or did you play in several acts prior to Talon? What about your musical experiences as a whole?

I founded my first band in January 1979, it was a teeny-band called Railroad. Later on we had some changes in the line-up and changes in names as well. From Railroad to Pudet Rex, then I founded with other metal-heads the band Charger. This was the band that was later called Talon when we have been discovered as a support act for the american metal band Rough Cutt (a band produced by Ronnie James Dio and with Jake E. Lee in a later line-up).

About my experiences I must say that I played different instruments like violin, accordion, a little bit of drums, bass and a little bit of piano. So I played very different styles of music in my youth. When I was around 18 years old I also played the fiddle and the bass in a country band called Country Family. We just played at the NCO-Clubs at the barracks of the American army that was present at those days all over southern Germany.

At the early/mid 80’s a lot of new heavy/speed metal bands were popping up such as Grave Digger, Helloween, Avenger/Rage, Atlain, Running Wild, Living Death, Warrant, Stormwitch, Stormwind, Vampyr, Axe Victims, Warlock, Brainfever, Steeler, Tyran’ Pace etc. from every part of Germany and all started making a name for themselves. Did you keep an eye on what’s going on in the German underground scene at this point or were you only caring of your own things? Were you familiar with these bands at all?

Sorry that I have to say this… I never was interested in other German bands at all, because we were the kind of N.W.O.B.H.M. band. We (Talon) just wanted to be like Judas Priest! Of course later, when we were on tour and hung up in several clubs and studios, I met most of the „important” musicians of the German bands of those days.

Can be Düsseldorf, Hamburg and the Ruhr area named as the most important parts/areas as for the developing, forming of the German metal scene?

Simply yes! I think there are areas around the world where people have to work harder for their money. That used to be the case in the Ruhr-area – as was Black County in England. From these regions came the toughest and best metal bands. Bands whose music is bursting with aggressiveness and rebellion.

Do you agree with that the German heavy/speed outfits were heavily influenced by Accept, especially by their Fast As a Shark song, that can be named as one of the first speed metal tracks of all time?

I don’t think that Accept had that big influence to new german speed metal bands like Destruction, the German thrash and speed dinosaur. Accept was more a heavy metal band and even Fast As a Shark is a heavy metal song. A very fast one – especially for those days – but still a metal song with the typical Accept melody line.

With these huge amount of bands that started their career at this point, was the situation in Germany the same as in Britain with the N.W.O.B.H.M. movement? Were you also familiar with the British outfits?

It was not really the same situation, simply because most of the German bands tried to copy the N.W.O.B.H.M. bands in one or another way. But it was very good for all these musicians in the cellars and garages. Now heavy metal music had a bigger audience, there were suddenly magazines and even a TV show. I always prefered the British bands. That was – to me – the sound of heavy metal at its best. Later, in my own career I had the big luck to support such bands as Motörhead, Saxon, Mercyful Fate, Helix, Girlschool, Lee Aaron, Nazareth, Magnum etc.. So some friendships from those days still exist…

In your opinion, were the German bands easily distinguishable from each other in terms of songwriting, producing, sound etc.?

Yes and no… hard to answer. Of course each band had its own sound. Even the way you play guitar can greatly influence the overall sound of a band. There are so many facts that influence the overall-impression a band makes. These facts ultimately determine whether a band stands out from the crowd or not. On the other hand, a lot of young bands those days wanted to sound like their own idols. Unfortunately, it is always bad to want to imitate someone. After all, there is already a better version of the music that you make. But in general, German bands of that time were easy distinguishable, because we didn’t have that kind of „sound-factory”, like in the USA, where all bands from the same genre sound the same.

On August 25th 2017 Talon played their first show in about 30 years at Trveheim Festival Vol. 2 (Hallbergmoos near Munich, Germany). How was it as a whole?

Holy metal god… that was so cool! 30 years after our last show we rocked the stage again. Finally playing the old Talon classics in a modern fat and heavy sound. With the experience we made over the years in different bands we are now much more cooler… the songs – as the „old Talon-fans” said – never sounded better. Best of all, in front of the stage there were people in the age from 15 to 20 years. Believe it or not, sometimes they knew the song-lyrics better than me :-). I’m so happy that we brought the band together! We’ll do some more shows this year. Next is in Nürnberg, Germany 20th of April. And – that much advertising has to be – our new page will be online soon. Meanwhile you can also check our Facebook-page: www.facebook.com/TALONOFFICIAL where you can find some video stuff as well. By the way, one of the greatest Talon shows was in Budapest in 1986, at the Kisstadion. And I will never forget the night in Budapest, where I hired a taxidriver. I had to pay no money for the whole night. The only condition was: I took him in every bar and club I went in and bought him a beer or a drink. What a bizzare tour we had…!

So, you joined Headhunter, that were founded in 1989 after Schmier was fired from Destruction. How did you get in the picture exactly? Did you and drummer Jörg Michael get in the band at the same time?

The birth of Headhunter happened indeed after Schmier was fired by his own band. Destruction and Talon had the same management those days. And as Talon also split up, the manager (Reiner Hänsel) brought us together. To be honest, before Schmier came into my little studio in my house, I never heard a single note of Destruction at all. But we had great fun at this evening and during Hänsel was drinking coffee with my parents (they became friends over the years), we wrote the song Parody of Live between potato salad and beer. We found out that the mixing of my „Judas-Priest-like” songwriting and his thrash metal background was working fine.

Jörg Michael joined the band during the recording of the Parody of Live album in Brackel/Hamburg. At first the german drummer Alex Holzwarth played the drums, but then there were some business troubles with his record company or publishing company (can’t remember exactly), so we had to find a drummer who was able to play the drums again, although we finished recording of bass, guitars and vocals already. That’s not easy, but Jörg Michael did an excellent job. From that day on, Jörg was „on board”.

Jörg Michael

Was it about only one guitarist or was it perhaps in Schmier’s mind to recruit another guitarist too?

We never talked about a second guitar player. Headhunter was a classical 3-peace-band right from the start. And there is nothing better for a guitar player than being in such a formation. 🙂

Was Schmier angry or disappointed because he was fired from Destruction? What kind of plans, goals did he have with Headhunter?

Well sure he was very upset. That’s quite normal if a band that you have founded is firing you. I think if that would have been happened years later, when Schmier had more experience as a musician, that would have never been possible. That is legally not so easy, because Schmier was the founder. We didn’t have special goals for Headhunter. We just wanted to do some bloody fuckin’ metal together. Soon we found out that Schmier and me had the same imaginations of being a rock musician. So it fitted perfect in that way…

Were you a thrash fan by the way? Have you ever showed an interest in the thrash metal scene?

To make a long story short: no.

How did you view/like the second wave of German thrash – mid 80’s -, when a lot of bands were formed, such as Exumer, Vendetta, Violent Force, Assorted Heap, Deathrow, Assassin, S. D. I., Despair etc.?

Honest again? I never heard a note of them… Sorry, folks… not my kinda music.

What was the reason of that most of them disbanded after the releasing of one or two albums? Would you say that the thrash market became oversaturated?

The reason of many bands end up after one or two albums is easy but that’s just my opinion. Many of these bands were not really good at first, but they made a cool music. Over time, however, their own demands on their music increase. The result: the music suddenly sounds different and many fans are disappointed. The problem we had with Talon in a way as well. Although we were technically perfect from the first album, we wanted to record „even better songs”. And that went backwards… It happens when a band sounds too different than before.

(to be continued)

Headhunter: Jörg Michael, Schmier és Schmuddel
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