Paul Speckmann, Master Talks Old Times and New Projects


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Paul Speckmann is the front man of death metal legends Master. Having just released their latest album The New Elite last year, they’re rocking hard as ever; bringing a new onslaught of discontent and anger with their politically driven lyrics and thrashing riffage. I had the pleasure of speaking to the man himself outside the Oakland Metro before their second tour date in North America to ask him what they’ve been up to.

What was your first band, and what did it sound like?

Paul: My first band was a f–kin cover band, it was called white cross. And uh we were playing like UFO, Black Sabbath, Ted Nugent, Montrose. I was just a singer yo. It was more of a rock band you know, when I was young. I was maybe, 16 in high school.

What are the biggest elements in your life that inspired you to make music like Master, and continue to do so?

Paul: Well life in general man. Life is a struggle for everybody, and I like to bring it to my music you know. It’s like today unfortunately governments have too much control over the people. When I was a young guy like you are, or actually younger, it was like in the 70’s. Back then it was power to the people, and now it’s power over the people. And this is really my biggest influence is real life, yo. I sing about uh life, death, politics, anti-religion, anti-society. You know we’re supposed to be living in a free society, but it’s just full of control. And I’m hoping that you young guys here take a stand and pull down the government and make us into a truly free society again yo.

Do you feel the increase of technology in the metal scene (webzines, downloading music) helps bring the community closer together or does it cause it to fall apart in a sense?

Paul: Well when I grew up it was like we were doing tape trading, writing people hand written letters. Let’s just say it was more intimate in those days, which was cool. But on the other hand technology has helped me in some ways because I get more concerts and tours every year. And it’s much quicker, cause you’re not waitin’ for a letter from somebody. You’re gonna get an email tomorrow, “Hey you wanna do this tour?” so in that sense it’s better. Obviously illegal downloads are killing everybody, including me. But on the other hand there are still genuine fans like you guys, who are still buying the vinyl, and the CDs. So it still works actually. Even though lots of people get the music free. There’s still die-hards who are gonna buy that CD or vinyl anyway. So you still get the support. And on the other hand you know the internet; it gives you more exposure in some ways. So it has it’s ups and downs, yeah? Upsides and downsides.

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What kind of changes have you seen in the death metal scene since the beginnings until now?

Paul: Oh, I would say it’s more technical. There are many more technical bands, but for me it’s a waste of energy cause if I wanna see technical bands I go back and listen to the early Iron Maiden albums, and Rush. For me that’s technical music. It has no place, for me personally, in death metal. For me, straight forward aggression is what death metal was meant to be. And for me that’s what it still is. Okay you know obviously from the first album until now, yeah we’ve progressed. But it’s not over the top towards too technical.

It’s not getting out of hand?

Paul: Yeah, exactly we’ve progressed. You know there’s more difficult changes, and tempo changes; but we’re still playing straight forward death metal; which is what it’s supposed to be, for me anyway. Opinions are like assholes; everyone has one, me too. *laughs*

What non-metal do you like to listen to?

Paul: Oh man I actually don’t listen to metal so much. I listen to old heavy metal. I hate these categories. I guess it’s all still metal. But you know I listen to shit like Thin Lizzy, obviously Motorhead and Angelwitch, you know and Black Sabbath. I’m an old guy I mean I’m gonna be 50 this year. I really don’t listen to much like, super heavy stuff. I grew up on Slayer and Metallica, Judas Priest. Of course I grew up on all those bands. I still listen to them from time to time, but I like this earlier rock n roll stuff you know? Early Judas Priest; people are probably like “oh that mother f–kers’ old,” but so what right? For me it’s better not to listen to all the newer styles of music because then I find myself, copying myself. Copying the sh-t that I influenced, they changed it, and now I’m gonna copy that? No way! I’m gonna keep it fresh and keep it true like it always was and the way I do that is to listen to really early heavy metal as I said and rock n roll yo. That way you don’t uh, copy the new generation. I’m doing my own thing, always.

So you guys relocated to Czechoslovakia, what was the reason behind that?

Paul: I joined a band in uh, 1990. Wait no, no in 2000. Sorry I’m getting older; I’m a little tired today. I joined a band called Krabathor in 2000 in the Czech Republic. I toured and recorded 2 albums with them for 4 years, while still recording albums with the same members from Krabathor with Master. And then when the band split up after several tours and stuff, uh one guy moved to Chicago and I stayed in the Czech Republic, hired two new guys, and we’ve had the same line for 10 years; Czech and Slovak drummer Zdenak and Alex. And uh, I stayed there yo. And I actually left America when Bush came into power, the second Bush. And that was the perfect time to leave, believe me. America was never the same since George Bush.

Has living in the Czech Republic affected the way you write political lyrics at all?

Paul: I’ve been writing political lyrics since the beginning, since the first album, pledge of allegiance; anti-America songs. But on the other hand, you’re right it does influence me in some ways. Because, I’m standing on the outside looking in, as where most of these guys have never left their own backyard. So America’s the greatest. But you go live somewhere else for 12-13 years like me; you have a different opinion because you see from the outside looking in, instead of being trapped in here. But you realize there’s a whole big world out there, and there are better places to live. There’s more freedom in the European continent, period. More freedom in Germany, Czech, Holland; there’s not so many questions when you fly there. Here you know, I left Amsterdam after going through the space machine; a special science uh, super technological, high scan machine, it’s like science fiction come to life. And the same thing here, you know flying you have to go through a time machine, scan your eyes so they know your every move. They don’t need that kind of control over me man, I’m not a terrorist, I’m a musician yeah? And I don’t like that at all man. Years ago, it wasn’t so difficult. The thing is when American musicians go to Europe, they get no questions. When Europeans come here, they wanna know everything. What are you doing here? Are you making money? Are you paying taxes? They don’t care when you go to Europe. Trust me. You walk in there, and they don’t ask you any questions. Here they wanna know what are you doing? You got a work permit? You gonna pay taxes? Where are you staying? What’s your phone number? They’re really nosy here I don’t like that man. That’s not freedom. When I grew up in the 70’s, it was free in America. I loved it, I had a good time man. I used to smoke my marijuana, play my music, argue and fight with my mom and dad; those were good times yo. But today there’s too much government sh-t, they’re too involved in your lives. How would you call that free? America is supposed to be land of the free, but it’s not so free anymore. For your generation it’s difficult I think.

So you keep up with American politics to some extent. Are there any specific issues which especially piss you off?

Paul: I don’t like any politicians. Period.  They’re all making a lot of money, they’re all ripping off poor people; they’re sending people to go out and kill people in Iran, Iraq, wherever, Afghanistan. I know they’re trying to protect the people there, supposedly. They’re just interested in oil dude. Any dumbass can tell you that. Anybody knows that. They’re interested in controlling the world man. They don’t need to control the world. Let them dumbasses kill themselves you know? Great Britain and America were the ones that discovered all that oil in these other countries, and then they gave them the oil rights, and now they want it back. It’s a bit ridiculous man. I wish they would just uh, you know mind their own business man.  That’s just my opinion.

In terms of music, lyrics, vocals, etc, what order do they come in and how they are created; what is the creative process behind a master song?

Paul: Like every year I sit with an acoustic guitar and a little tiny micro cassette recorder, and I actually found out that you can’t find this machine anymore. You can’t get the cassettes in the Czech Republic, I’m gonna actually have to go to digital, which I’m really not happy about! I like the fact that you can rewind the little recorder. But anyway what I normally do is I record for a year or two in my backyard or my bedroom. I’m watching like “48 Hours” with a guitar, I turn the volume down and find a riff, put it down. And then when it’s time to record an album. I go through these hours and hours of rhythms and stuff and I put songs together. And let’s say out of 200 riffs, there may be only 10 good ones in there. One day it sounds great, and two days later, ah it’s crappy. But I always find something that stands out, and I write songs about it. So that’s the creative process. And uh, you know I show the guys in the band, we practice the songs for a while, and then I go home and I start writing lyrics. They just come off the top of my head naturally. It’s a very quick process, I write lyrics in 2 or 3 days for an entire album. I may change a few words here and there, put a word here and there, and then go in the studio and record it, blow it out. We record albums usually in 4 days, complete entire album. We spend 2 days mixing. It’s cheap, quick, and The New Elite’s a good record. But I wanna say that uh, I recorded a new Master demo about two weeks ago. It blows the shit, it blows The New Elite away 100 percent.

Didn’t you say that about The New Elite and the previous album?

Paul: Well now, this new demo is better than both of them records put together. I mean it. People are gonna sh-t a brick.

Has it always been that easy for you, in the early days?

Paul: No. Just like the last ten years I started having explosions of writing on guitar. And I never have a problem writing more songs. I’ve already got songs for the next album as well. And the new album is, it’s already ready to record. I mean there’s so much going on in the world man, I got plenty of inspiration. *laughs* So much bullsh-t you know?

This question was requested by a friend of mine, how long have you been growing your beard out?

Paul: About 18 years. But it don’t really grow anymore. I cut it and it grows back to the same.

That beard is as old as I am.

Paul: Yeah, perfect! The new generation!

I saw in another interview you said you were working on a project with Roger Johansson, do you have any details on that?

Paul: Yeah it’s finished, it’ll be out May 27th. It’s called uh, Sulfur Skies, is the name of the album. It’s called Johansson Speckmann. And it’s a great album. It’s like uh, let’s say it’s sorta like, Slayer, meets Death, meets Autopsy, meets Master, meets Johansson. He wrote a great album, yo. He sent me the music he said, “Paul, will you sing this album?” I went in the studio; he sent me lyrics for 9 songs in no particular order. The lyrics didn’t go with the songs, I had to place ‘em all in there, figure em out, and I wrote the last 3 sets of lyrics myself. Recorded it in 9 hours, and sent it to him. May 27th it comes out. It’s gonna be a groundbreaking album in his career, and mine. I’m certain. It’s fantastic yo, he wrote a great album, and I sang it great because it was so good. Really.

Speaking of which, do you know when that Master demo is coming out?

Paul: Uh, I recorded that demo to find a new record contract. So I don’t know, it won’t really be coming out as a demo. It’s just to get a new album and then we’ll record whole thing.

Do you guys have any particular local bands you guys like to play with in Czechoslovakia?

Paul: Yeah sure uh, Pandemia, Fleshless, of course Root is an old legend. Cool people, good bands, of course.

What is your relationship with (co-headliners) Sacrificial Slaughter?

Paul: Well we did some tours together in Europe, sometimes I did merchandise for the bands and Sacrificial Slaughter. Like I used to work for this agency in Germany, and I’d go on the road as the assistant tour manager and merchandiser. That’s how I met Sacrificial Slaughter. Then Master took Sacrificial Slaughter a few years ago on the road with us in Europe. And we became really great friends, and they asked me to sing on the album. They recorded in my friends’ studio where we record. Then he offered me to do a tour here, and here I am.

That’s all I have, unless you wanna say anything else.

Paul: Keep supporting the underground! Buy the records, and quit illegally downloading them, mother f–kers.

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Check out my interview with Steve Worley of Sacrificial Slaughter.

Listen to the Witching Hour at www.kssu.com

Follow the show at www.facebook.com/witchinghourkssu

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