Singer Frank Von Scheidt tells the Chainsaw story
After the commercial success of German bands such as Warlock, Running Wild, Helloween etc. at the mid 80’s the German market became quickly oversaturated. A lot of bands were popping up, that vanished from sight, disbanded and/or faded into obscurity after releasing one or two records. Stormwind, Warrant, Vampyr, Metal Sword – the list goes on. There was also Chainsaw from Essen, that belonged to this movement and singer Frank Von Scheidt told us the entire story about this obscure, not so well-known act.
Frank, do you still remember how did you turn into the hard rock/heavy metal scene? What did you find so exciting in this music?
As a young boy I listened every day and night to German radio stations and discovered early T. Rex, Slade and Sweet. Later I heard songs from bands like Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Uriah Heep and Black Sabbath. I remember one night I first heard the song Fireball from Deep Purple. I think that was the moment I was totally into Heavy Metal/Hard Rock.
At the early/mid 80’s a lot of new heavy/speed metal bands were popping up such as Grave Digger, Helloween, Running Wild Avenger/Rage, Atlain, Warlock, Stormwind, Stormwitch, Vampyr, Axe Victims, Brainfever, Steeler etc. from every part of Germany, 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? Were you familiar with these bands at all?
We were friends with Kreator, Holy Moses, Tankard, Crypt, Fact (later Crossroads) and helped each other getting gigs in other towns. But now I live in North-Germany, Friesland and have no more contact to other bands or members except Dirk, our latest bass player.
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? Did you like the N.W.O.B.H.M. groups?
N.W.O.B.H.M. was the right time for me and my friends. We were 18-20 years old and knew most of the bands that appeared every week. Every month we drove to the Dynamo in Eindhoven to see new bands coming from all over the world. It was a great time.
How and when did Chainsaw get together exactly? Was the band established by you on vocals, Gerd Gutsche on bass, Arndt Kremer on drums, Burkhardt Rautenberg and Andreas Klimowitsch on guitars?
The very first Chainsaw line-up was Andreas Roth (vocals), Burkhardt Rautenberg (guitar), Arndt Kremer (drums) and another guitar player called Michael (I don‘t know the rest of his name). A few weeks later Andreas and Michael left the band and Andreas Klimowitsch, Gerd Gutsche and me joined Chainsaw. I really don‘t know the year exactly! It must be about 1984.
Did you know each other earlier?
Yes, we know each other from school and Metal concerts except Arndt, the youngest member. He was a neighbour of Burkhardt and heard every day that great music. So they came together and Chainsaw was founded.
Was Chainsaw the very first band for all of you or did you have any musical experiences prior to it?
Chainsaw was the first band for all of us and everyone had no experiences.
What were the bands that influenced you, that inspire you to form a metal band?
Our influences were Judas Priest, Metallica and a lot of N.W.O.B.H.M. bands like Jaguar, early Iron Maiden and Tank.
Who came up with the moniker with?
The name of the band was my idea, because I‘m a great horror fan and the Texas Chainsaw Massacre was a very disturbing movie at that time.
You came from Essen, from the Ruhr area; did the scene try its wings at this point that became very influential later on?
We didn‘t really recognize that there was an influence growing up and is still there. All we all want was to party, having fun and drinking lots of beer, haha.
How was your relationship with bands such as Sodom, Kreator, Darkness, Angel Dust etc.? How deeply were you involved in the scene at this point?
All these people and band members – Sodom, Kreator, Angel Dust and others – were not involved! We were the scene!!! Especially in the Ruhrpott, NRW.
What were the most important clubs that started opening their doors for the metal fans?
At that time we had no big clubs that play Metal. Some youth centers played at certain times Metal, and there was of course the Dynamo.
01/12/1984: Sodom, Destruction and Iron Angel shared the stage at the Jugendhaus, in Altenessen. Did you see that event?
Yes, I saw them and it was awful!
What can you tell us about your early rehearsals? Did you start writing originals or were you mostly jamming on covers?
We first started writing our own songs, which was a bad decision. We were too young and too unexperienced. It would‘ve been better to play some cover songs first.
In 1985 you released two demos (Chainsaw and Demo 1985 with four tracks on each of them). How were they recorded? How did they sound like?
The tracks on the demos were recorded somewhere in Essen in a garage of a friend who had a small recording equipment. They took one day and a lot of beer! The sound was ok, but you are never satisfied.
Did these materials really represent what you wanted to achieve Chainsaw with?
We didn‘t exactly know, what sound we create. But it had to be brutal and fast.
Were they shopped around to attract labels’ interests? Did you spread them in the tapetrading/fanzine network that had a very big importance around those times?
We sent the tapes around the whole world and get answers even from Australia! We took the addresses from the backside of CD‘s of other bands and sent them our tape. Back then fanzines were very important.
Do you still remember how were you signed by Bonebreaker Records?
Axel – the owner of Aaaargh Records (later Bonebreaker) – had a small record shop with all that unknown, upcoming bands. At the beginning we were just normal customers until he asked us wether we are making music. So we gave him our tape and then we had a deal!
It was a very small label such as Wishbone, Disaster, Atom-H, isn’t it?
I think it was one of the smallest labels, haha. They had Steeler, Living Death, Fact and Chainsaw at that time.
When did you start writing the material for your debut album Hell’s Burnin’ Up?
I wrote the material on my work, at home and in the session room when I had an idea of a good verse or story. First Andreas Klimowitsch and Arndt Kremer made the backbone and then I put my lyrics into the song. Everytime it was exciting to watch, where the song would flow.
How did the recording sessions go that took place at the Wahn Studios in Bochum, during July 1985?
The sessions at Wahn Studios didn‘t go very well. As I said, we were too unexperienced and I think they were, too.
Did you have a decent budget to record the album?
I have no idea about the budget. We had 5 days time, including the mixing, which took 2 days.
How would you characterize it?
Raw and immature!
In your opinion, is it characterized by the heavy guitars and the very masculine vocals? Is your singing expressive and vigorous?
Yes, I would say, it is still! Like an old wine, it became better and more mature, haha! Somewhere between Joe Cocker, Chuck Billy and Lemmy.
Did the guitarists deliver permanently punchy riffs, while the rhythm section is powerful?
Andreas Klimowisch came every day with a new, punchy riff into the session room. He delivered the most material for us. And the others filled it up.
Do you think that songs such as the title track, Rage and Revenge, Midnight Hunter or Born to Kill really embodied what German speed metal was about back in those times?
The songs on Hell‘s Burnin‘ Up were not speed metal at all, I think. At that time other bands played faster. It was some kind of fast and raw Heavy Metal in my opinion.
Would you say that Chainsaw belonged to the second wave of the German speed metal movement and if the album would have came out earlier, would have been the band bigger, more popular?
Some years before with some more support – maybe…
Why did the release of the album delay compared to the recording sessions?
After releasing the debut Hell’s Burnin’ Up, we found how naive and immature our work was. So what was to do? At first for us it meant to practice, practice, practice! Furthermore we wrote new songs. The new stuff was a little bit different to the older one and the result you can hear as bonus tracks on the CD Permanent Menace. However, over time, unfortunately, for various reasons, some members remained on the track. The search for new, talented and matching musicians in the band structure seemed to be extremely difficult. Some time passed. In the meantime we continued to develop our style, wrote new songs and played some concerts with other bands. In this difficult time befriended musicians often helped us. When finally Chainsaw was completed, it doesn‘t take long for someone to pay attention on us.
This “someone” was a former employer of Noise Records and wanted to found his own record company. The second Chainsaw album should be released there. We spent a very nice time at the studio of Detlef Mohrmann and recorded the 8 tracks you find on the CD, which – I think – are significant different to the debut. But then this “someone” disappeared overnight and left a lot of unpaid bills! Now we had no producer and no record company and had again to start from the beginning. After this failures we sadly decided to dissolve the band. But I didn‘t give up hope that these songs will be released some day and sent every year some demo CDs to different companies. And – as you see – I had luck someday.
Were there any shows in support of the record?
No, there were no shows.
How much help, support did you get from the label, by the way?
No help, no support!
Another demo was recorded in 1987. Can you tell us more about this stuff?
That demo was produced by ourselves and we first met Detlef Mohrmann, a very nice and very experienced person. We recorded the tracks in his studio and he helped us finding our own style.
How did the song Reinheitsgebot end up making on the Teutonic Invasion Part Two compilation (released by Roadrunner, 1988)? Did it somewhat help to draw the fans’ attention to the band?
I think, Axel of Bonebreaker took Reinheitsgebot from an old demo and put it on the compilation. By the way, you can hear me on the CD Herzensbrecher (a.b.s. Records) on 4 songs. It was produced by Axel and Detlef Mohrmann and made a lot of fun.
Why and when did Chainsaw’s story come to the end? What have all of you done after the break up?
Andreas Klimowitsch made music with some friends. They called themselves Fake Dealer and played only cover songs. Sadly he died 3 years ago. The the other members make no more music.
Metalizer Records released Permanent Menace in 2011, that consisted of materials from 1989 and some demo tracks. Were you aware of it? Were all of you involved in this project?
No one was involved except me and they were all very surprised when I sent them some copies of Permanent Menace.
How about you and your former bandmates these days?
I will meet with Manuel and Dirk in June this year. They will visit me and we will have a lot of fun and drink a lot of beer, hehe. I don‘t know what the others do.
Do you still follow what’s going on in the metal scene?
I‘m still a great metal fan and listen everyday to all this new and old stuff.
Are you into the known/established acts or did you prefer the underground ones?
I prefer both. I love Rammstein, Volbeat, Testament, Mustasch, Pretty Maids, Ghost, Flotsam & Jetsam etc.
Frank, thank you for your answers! Any closing words?
Keep the spirit alive!!! Without Metal & Beer – I would die…