Germany’s best underground act Desaster managed to sign to Metal Blade around 2004, but before they already had four albums out. Undoubtely Hellfire’s Dominion is their best work from those times and the record celebrates its 20th anniversary these years. Answers we given by guitarist Infernal, bassist Odin and drummer Tormentor. (Note: the interview was done way before Tormentor left the band!)
So, the band was formed in 1988. How was the line up at the start and was Desaster the very first for all of you, that you were involved in?
Infernal: Yes, Desaster was my first band. Creator Cassie (v & b) and me (g) had the idea to form a band already at the end of 1988 and when we got our instruments together we also wrote some first songs, but it took until 1989 since we found a drummer to do some „real” rehearsals and write more songs. We already planed our first live gig in June 1989 which then marked the official beginning of the band. So Desaster will celebrate its 30th birthday in 2019!
The moniker was taken from the Destruction song Total Desaster, wasn’t it?
I.: Yes, that’s true! We always said: „Let’s go to the city an make some Total Desaster” and when we were looking for a suitable band name I said: „Hey, why we don’t call us Desaster?!” which really fitted our chaotic personalities, hehe!
How did you view the scene at this point? Would you say that is started becoming oversaturated?
I.: Well, at the end of the 80’s we lived in our own little world. We recognized that Metal was becoming mainstream, I think because of the huge success of Metallica. And we absolutely didn’t like that suddenly every goddamn trendy asshole was listenening to our unholy music! It was also the time when a lot of former „evil” bands tried to get rid of their satanic image and started to write lyrics about social problems. This was also something we didn’t like at all in that time because we still loved all that was evil! From the view of today I wouldn’t say the scene was oversaturated because there were still a lot of good records coming out and the Death Metal boom has just started. But back then we were pissed off and preferred underground music.
What was your goal with the band? How did you choose the style that you wanted to play?
I.: Well, the only goal we had with the band when we started was to play the music we love! We never thought that any bigger audience would like the music we played because in the beginning it also wasn´t very good, haha! And it was also clear from the beginning that Desaster’s music had to be evil! We were still in the old bands like Hellhammer, Venom etc. and wanted to follow their path!
Is it correct that from the first period of the band (1988-1990) several rehearsal tapes exist but none of them were officially released? Did you start writing originals right from the start or were you jamming mostly on covers by the way?
I.: Well, we were too bad to play some covers, haha! We started to write simple but original songs on our own since the beginning. If I remember correct the only cover we played and recorded in the early time was Messiah from Hellhammer. Yes, we had some rehearsal tapes with copied covers which we gave to a few friends. But I think not more than 20-30 tapes were spread back then because nobody was interested in our noise and we also didn’t know that tapetrading is existing in those years!
A short break happened in 1990: did you split up or did the band go on hiatus temporarily?
I.: Well, the paths of my companion Creator Cassie and me seperated in 1990 and also our session drummer Alex had no time or interest in rehearsing any longer, so the band was on hold. I was constantly writing songs and looking for new members to continue with the band, but that happened in 1992.
Did you regroup in 1992? What about the rebeginning?
I.: The first rehearsal with the new formation (Okkulto, v and b & Luggie, d and me, g) took place on April 1st 1992. Odin, b joined the band some months later. This time it wasn´t as chaotic like in the beginning and soon we become better and better, so that the first demo „The Fog of Avalon” could be released in 1993.
Drummer Tormentor joined in 1996 after the releasing of the debut album A Touch of Medieval Darkness. How did he get in the picture exactly? Was he your first choice?
I.: Yes, Thorim, the drummer on the debut album unfortunately quit the job soon. So we had to find another drummer again. In that time Tormentor was hanging around with the band very often and supported us on gigs in the audiance and also did stage-hand-jobs. He also wrote „Desaster road crew” on his leather jacket, haha! He already played drums in a local Thrash band and he also helped us out in the past on 3-4 shows when our drummer couldn’t perform. But he wasn’t our first choice when Thorim quit because Thorim was much better than Tormentor! So we were looking for a skilled drummer who could play Thorim’s stuff but couldn’t find one. So we tried it with Tormentor and after a while he managed to play the stuff quite well so that we were glad that we had him in the band.
Tormentor, what about your musical background?
Tormentor: Hell-o! My musical background was back in time more slim than nowadays! Ha! I really like everything from Gary Moore Blues to Napalm Death Scum! At the moment I really like The Night Flight Orchestra for example! But all depends my basics are in the Death and Thrash Metal of the 80’s/90’s mostly. Nowadays I really miss the „real” sounds of bands… most of all sound like they were all recording in the same recording studio!
Did the band’s line up become strong and stabile after Tormentor joined the band?
I: Yes, it did! For the first time we found a drummer who was totally dedicated to metal and to the band. Tormentor wasn´t the best drummer in the beginning and had to work hard to learn the songs, but with his energy and enthusiasm he brought the band a big step further. He also helped me with a lot of business shit like doing interviews and stuff like this.
At the mid/late 90’s a lot of German bands popped up from every part of the country such as Ungod, Moonblood, Impending Doom, Divine Genocide, Fatal Embrace, Kadath, Mental Aberration, Human Waste (Trier), Profanity or Despondency. What were your views on it? How familiar were you with these outfits?
T.: I had a small fanzine in the beginning of the 90’s, so I was in touch with many bands. Desaster-wise we had a lot of beers with Ungod, Impending Doom, Fatal Embrace and more… was good fun and that time was really intense. Will not miss any second!
Was Desaster a kind of driving force/leading act considering this movement? I mean, you were the most talented group at this point…
T.: Honestly I really don’t care. We just made our thing. We never had in mind being a driving force or a leading act etc. but thanks for the kind words!
When did you start to prepare the new material as a whole? When did you start to write the new tracks?
T.: After we finished our recordings for the „Burning Crosses“ pic 7“. We started writing songs for the „Hellfire’s“ album. At this time we already played a lot of shows in and around Germany. What was good for the writing process because we became more and more a strong union within the band.
How were the songs written? I mean, who was responsible for the music and the lyrics?
T.: This is the same as always. Infernal came up with riffs, me and him build the main structure before lyrics, vokill lines and bass was added! So all songs are written by Infernal and most of all lyrics by Okkulto!
During 1998 you entered the Arthouse Studios, Velbert. How did the recording sessions go? Did you have a decent budget to record the album?
T.: Yes, Merciless Records gave us a budget and we tried out the first time a „real“ studio. Tried different things soundwise, recordingswise and had Atomic Steif (drummer of Living Death, Assassin, Holy Moses etc.) with us, who was our host, guard and friend! Haha… many liters of beer we drunk at his place and listened to many great stories of the glorious ruhrpott-80’s! Hahaha!
How long did the recording sessions take?
T.: Can’t remember… maybe 10 days all in all.
Would you say that the Stormbringer EP already adumbrated what the fans can expect regarding about the new album? Was it a logical decision or a natural progression/developement?
I.: „Stormbringer“ was in my opinion a kinda fist in your face to that „keyboards“ and „symphonic black metal“ – scene, which started to get big in that time. We showed them that you can make athmosphere also with these traditional „heavy metal“ instruments… That EP was my first recordings with Desaster and is still something really special for me. We released it on Pic LP and Digipack that time which was not really standard that days. Everything in Desaster is a natural progression! Nothing is planned, we just do what we want!
Did you radically change your sound/approach compared to the A Touch of Medieval Darkness album? Was it a clear improvement from A Touch of Medieval Darkness?
T.: I am not on that album, but every Desaster record is a step forward.
Do you agree with that it is remarkable that each and every song shows its own approach?
I.: Yes, absolute!
From its beginnings, Desaster always commuted in a skillful manner between thrash, traditional heavy and black metal, correct?
I.: Yes, it is! We play what we like!
Do you think that it managed to reinterpret the teutonic thrash of Sodom (early stuff), Destruction (Infernal Overkill), Kreator (Pleasure to Kill) and Exumer (Possessed by Fire)?
T. : This influences are part of our history…
How did Toto (Thorsten Bergmann, Living Death), Lemmy (Violent Force) and Wannes Gubbels end up performing in Metalized Blood?
I.: Well, it was our idea to unite one of our favourite singers in this special song „Metalized Blood” and we were lucky to get the okay from all the three outstanding performers! In that time we got in contact with the Heavy Metal Fan Club Velbert which united some of the musicians of Violent Force and Living Death. Especially Atomic Steif helped us a lot to contact Toto of Living Death who had retired from the music business. Especially his performance at the end of the song makes it a real special one, hehe! And by the way: all singers appeared at the studio in person and sang their part, it was before the age of filesharing!
Teutonic Steel – along with Metalized Blood – can be named a kind of underground hit or anthem. Didn’t you think about to release them – or at least – one of them as a single?
Odin: You’re right, they are underground hits. But they are still released on LP, so there’s no reason to release them as a single. That’s my opinion. Hellfire’s will be re-released soon, that’s enough. You get these 2 songs with lots of more great songs!
I remember getting the album from Infernal on tape and it included a cover version of Proselytism Real from Sodom. Did it appeared on the vinyl version?
I.: No, it didn’t. It was just for you, hehehe… It appeared on the Sodom’s Code Red CD version which included a cover CD!
By the way, did you have any material written that didn’t make up on the record?
O.: No, we always writing songs only for one record. Not more. Maybe Infernal has some ideas on tape, but no complete songs. It’s hard enough writing a full album, hahaha…
Is Hellfire’s Dominion the best representation of early Desaster? I mean, the Occulto era…
O.: Yes, I think so. Hellfire’s Dominion is the best release of Occulto’s era. I still like this record! It has all Desaster trademarks, a good sound. Many fans say that Hellfire’s Dominion is the best LP we ever did. Not in my opinion, I like all our stuff, hahaha…
Where there any shows or tours in support of the record?
O.: We had some shows after recording Hellfire´s, but not really to support the album. Only normal shows, nothing special.
What about labelswise? How much support, promotion, help etc. did you get from Merciless Records?
O.: Merciless tried to do their very best. We got a sufficient budget. The support, the promotional work etc. was absolutely OK for such a small label. You know that Merciless is a one man show, right?
What kind of reasons did lead to Occulto’s departure in 2001? Are you still friends with him? Do you follow what he is doing in the ranks of Eurynomos these days?
O.: Oh, I don´t know…we never talked about his departure. He also never did. Maybe he had his own personal reasons. But yes, we´re still friends. We don´t meet very often, but when we do it´s always great. I have all Eurynomos singles at home and saw a show at Detze Open Air last year. I like their sound.
So guys, thanks a lot for your answers! Any closing words for our readers?
I.: Thank you David for your support over the years! Thanks to all maniacs out there who feel the same Metalized Blood pounding in their veins like we do! Bang or be banged!!!!