Uwe „Schmuddel” Hoffmann is about his Talon years
If we look back, 1984 was the year of the big German heavy/speed explodation. A lot of German bands released their debut album in that year, and the majority of them managed to make a name for themselves. Their records are labelled today as classics, such as Warlock, Running Wild, Grave Digger etc. But, there were a ton of others, who played excellent music, but vanished into obscurity (Stormwind, Fact, Atlain, Brainfever etc.) without leaving their mark on the scene. I think so, Talon belonged to the latted category, so this time guitarist/vocalist Uwe „Schmuddel” Hoffmann told me about the band, because their debut album Neutralized celebrates its 35th anniversary this year.
So Schmuddel, Talon was formed in 1982, in Bayreuth. How was the metal scene in your town, at the region/surroundings of Bayreuth?
In Bayreuth we didn’t have that big metal scene at those days. There were only a few people, who met in several pubs and clubs, to hear this kind of music. There were some old-school fans, listening to Black Sabbath, Cream, Deep Purple and those bands…and us, they were young and wild, listening to the new wave of british heavy metal.
Did the band’s line up consist of you on guitars/vocals, Henny Wolter on guitars, Ole Hempelmann on bass and Ernst Frattermann on drums, when the band came into being? How did you get together?
No, in the beginning we were playing with me (guitar/vocals), Steve Hohenberger (guitar), Andre Hammon (bass) and Hubert Wattenbach (drums). The name Henny Wolter is total new to me – never heard about him… Ole Hempelmann (former Thunderhead) just joined us in the late days of the band, after the album „Vicious Games”. At those days we play with Tommy Resch (drums), Peter Hader (vocals), me and Ole Hampelmann (bass). Ernst Fratermann just played drums on our very first album in the studio, because the producer claimed, that our original drummer might not be tight enough. Those were the days you had to play everything live, without editing someting…
Was Talon the very first act for all of you or did you acquire of any experiences as musicians before?
No, everybody in the first line-up played in a band before. My first band started on 19th of January 1979, called Railroad…
Did you start writing own material or were you jamming mostly on covers?
As soon as Talon was founded, we only played our own material. I was the songwriter and Hubert „Buddha” Wattenbach was doing those excellent metal lyrics for the songs.
In 1983 there were several line up changes: guitarist Steve Hohenberger, bassist Andy Hammon and drummer Hubert Wattenbach joined the band. What was the reason of it?
That’s a false information. The guys you named are part of the very first formation.
What about their musical past?
They have played in local bands around Bayreuth. But sorry – I don’t know the names of those bands… 🙂
Have you recorded any demos to attract any labels attention?
No, we used to go to the Hemmerleinhalle near Nürnberg, a place where all the big metal bands played. I can’t remember what band played that faceful day, but we decided to put flyers of our own concerts under the windscreen-whiper of all the cars at the parking lot. The local promoter, who did the managing for the band was very surprised, that an unknown band like us, can put that much advertising. As he searched a support band for an american band called Rough Cutt (which was produced from Ronnie James Dio those days), he gave us a call, if we would do that without any money. Of course we did it and directly after the show he offered us a record deal, because we „destroyed the US superstars” with our show…
Do you still remember, how were you signed by Bellaphone? Were there other labels interests in the band by the way?
As I wrote, our manager Rainer Hänsel, who died last year, had good connections to Bellaphone. So we got the deal.
During 1984 you entered the Studio Bär and Studio Hiltpoltstein. What do you recall of the recording sessions? Were you prepared to record the material?
At those days a young band like us made no sessions in a studio. That was far too expensive. So everything we recorded was well prepared, every single note, every word. And the first two albums were recorded within a week including the mix!!!
Do you think that just about everything on here is short and to the point, embracing the streamlined songwriting approach that was expected for radio play at this point in history of metal?
Well, we didn’t think about airplay on the radio. The metal scene was a very seperated group of people and everybody was kind of proud when his music hasn’t been played at the radio. 🙂
In your opinion, are Gale Warnings, Neutralized, Victims of Suicide and Overlords Supreme all examples of solid songwriting that seeks a multifaceted approach to getting laid?
Puhhh…what a question. If you are young and addicted to metal music, you don’t think about those things… I wrote the music, I liked and so I still do. Some of the songs I wrote were „shortened” by the producer in the studio; but that was due to the fact, that the music was published on records. So you had to have quite an equal playtime on the A- and B-side of the record…
Do you think that it was a fault to put Time Could Not Heal on the album?
No!!! This song was written for a friend who died in a motorcycle accident. Time Could Not Heal is one of the rare Talon songs with a real story behind it. And as we played that ballad on our shows 2017 and 2018, the people went crazy…
Did the album become quite effectively? Was the potential of the band pretty obvious?
In the beginning, we were one of only a few real metal bands from Germany. We did a couple of shows, sold a real good amount of records. But we made a mistake with the third album. We changed the line-up, we changed the clothes and we thought that a little more „American style” would be good for success. The opposite happened: Talon fans didn’t buy the album, because that wasn’t the same band they liked.
Was the album on the same level in terms of songwriting, sound, tracks with the debut records of your fellow countryman such as Running Wild, Grave Digger, Gravestone, Steeler etc.?
Well, to be honest, no. Those bands had the better studios, the better engineers and producers. But: we were too young to realize that there is something going wrong. Anyway…what happened, happened. Now we are back and started even the writing of new songs.
What kind of goals did the Hatred Grows Slowly single serve? Who urged the release of the single?
That was the decision of Bellaphon Records. A very good decision, because Hatred Grows Slowly is such a might song, if you here it in our days live…with modern sound and a little bit more laid back. I still love this track and so are the fans.
How was the album received back in the day? Were all of you satisfied with it?
In 1984, we all were very happy with it. I remember, I had tears in my eyes when I held the record in my hands in the living room of Rainer Hänsel in Nürnberg. Of course, if you listen to it today, it was surely not the best sound :-)… But, gone is gone. If you hear these songs now live, they smash you down…
Were there any shows, tours in support of the record?
Before the first record, we only did some local shows on our own bill…which sometimes had costed us a lot of money. After the release of Neutralized, we played a lot of support tours throughout Europe. We supported bands like Motörhead, King Diamond, Helix, Girlschool, Nazareth, Magnum, Saxon…and so on.
Would you say that 1984 was the breakthrough of the German metal scene, with releases such as Walpurgis Night (Stormwitch), Gates to Purgatory (Running Wild), Vengeance from Hell (Living Death), Burning the Witches (Warlock), Heavy Metal Breakdown (Grave Digger) – and the list goes on – that put Germany on the map of the heavy metal?
Simply yes…those were the days my friend… 🙂 A lot of bands were founded between 1980 and 1990. Some of them were/are excellent, others not. But as you said, in the early 90’s the german metal scene started to grow fast and succsessful.
Did the (German) heavy/speed market get quickly oversaturated after this invasion?
No, not really. Because – like always – there is a natural separation. But the situation helped a lot that more and more people were listening to heavy/speed/ thrash metal. And that was the best that it could happen on the whole scene.
Then you recorded further two albums, Never Look Back (1985) and Vicious Game (1986). Can you tell us any details from these records?
If I look back right now, I must say that the Neutralized album was the only real typical Talon record. With Never Look Back we tried to change a lot. Less guitar tracks, more melodies…that was definitely a fault. But the management told us to do that – and we just listened to them… With Vicious Games we did surely a brilliant album. But, that wasn’t Talon anymore. As I said, we changed the leather clothes for some fancy American style; we even made a video with a cover of Lady in Black (Uriah Heep). We thought that this track could help us, to be played in discos, like the Kiss track I Was Made for Lovin You… We lost the spirit that we had in the beginning. And with this loss, we lost most of our fans… But now we’re back…and we only play the tracks of our first years and write new tracks in that style we love… Old school? Yes! Heavy Metal? Definitely!!!
What kind of memories do you have as a member of Talon? Did these three albums help you a lot to join Headhunter later on?
The story of Headhunter and Talon is very easy to understand, if you know that we had the same manager. And as Schmier (still a very good friend of mine) was kicked out from his own band, those days, the manager brought us together in my little studio in my house. We met the first time and wrote the track Parody of Life within an hour. We, the management and the record company loved that mixure of Schmier’s speed metal and my heavy metal… So within 2 month we wrote the whole album and had a lot of success, mainly in Japan.
Schmuddel, thanks a lot for your answers! Any closing words for the Hungarian readers?
Well, I would like to invite you all to our show this summer in „Pyras”, Germany, where we play with bands like Rose Tattoo, UFO and others on the 27th of July. But the show is already sold out… But maybe we come along with a new album. And my closing word to everybody: EARTH IS FLAT, people. Rock on, celebrate your life – it runs so fast… Be happy and love each other. Maradj hű magadhoz! Nem számít, hogy mások mit gondolnak vagy mit várnak tőled.