Interview: Paul Speckmann of Master

Things have been going pretty well for me lately in Moshville Times, culminating in the honour of interviewing one of the stalwarts and truest member of the scene, namely Paul Speckmann of Master. To be enlightened by someone who has been there from the beginning and to some extent does not get the recognition that he and his band truly deserve. This was probably the hardest interview for me to have conducted due to the fact that, well,  how can you ask someone like Paul Speckmann a question that he has not had to answer a hundred times before? I thank him for being the ultimate professional in answering my questions more or less instantly and I wish Paul and his band all the success in the future.

You have released your last two albums with German label F.D.A Records. How has the support been so far from the label in terms of your releases?

I think the label did an excellent job on the releases of course, but let’s face it, these smaller companies have very little distribution as well as promotion. People think that a band like Master will sell on the name alone, and this is not the truth! In order to sell records you need the promotion of a label like Nuclear Blast Records, but in the end there is still no guarantee that the record will sell there either. Today, there are a million bands to compete with and competition is fierce. It also surprises me how many shitty bands are supported by the fans of Germany for example!

interviewed Rogga Johansson recently and know that he is always generating riffs, hence the three albums in four years with the Johansson and Speckmann project. Is there anything new on the horizon between you two and how do you agree on what goes into each song?

Yes, the guy is a riff machine for sure! Actually, Rogga and I have just finished the fourth installment of the Johansson-Speckmann series! As for the riffing and songs, Rogga writes a whole album of songs and sends them along as the songs are completed in the drummer’s studio! I write the lyrics and when ready, we go to the studio and record them. I also usually send 2-3 tracks at a time completed, and we go from there. We really don’t discuss much when it comes to this project, other than the volume of the vocals sometimes as I like them to be louder in the mixes. This time I was on tour with Master during the final mixes and gave my OK rather quickly, so hopefully in the end the mixes will be satisfactory!

What kind of things do you appreciate in Czech more than the US?

Freedom, what else? The USA is a police state in every sense of the word. I found more freedom here in Czech. I have lived here with no questions or real difficulties for more than 17 years. So I suppose the history speaks for itself. No country is perfect and corruption runs rampant among the politicians as well as in every country, but the sense of freedom still exists here in Europe. I don’t mind visiting the USA for tours as I do every so often, but I have no plans of a permanent return ever!

What was it that attracted you to playing bass as a musician when starting out and who would you say influenced you at that time?

A band called Duce from high school is where it all began for me. I went and saw this freaky cover band and decided I wanted to play rock’n’roll. I was approached by a later on to-be-famous guy named Ron Cooke from a future band called Thrust. I was walking the halls at school singing “All Good People” by the band Yes and the rest is history as they say. Ron and his band Whitecross was searching for a new singer and that’s where I came in. Shortly after, in 1979, I began teaching myself the bass. By 1982, I was playing bass in a doom band as they call it today, called Warcry. Steve Harris, Geezer Butler, and Chris Squire were my biggest influences at this time.

Some people may know that the Speckmann Project album in 1991 originally was supposed to be the Master debut full length on Nuclear Blast and that the label refused to release it under the Master moniker. How do you feel about this today or did you let this go many years ago?

Boriv Krgin said in Kerrang! that this was a more mature version of the Master songs but NBR disagreed and shelved the album for a bit. It’s water under the bridge now, I couldn’t care less as I have had a long and fruitful career and without these crazy beginnings at Nuclear Blast, I wouldn’t be here today. They were responsible along with Joe Caper, and Mitch Harris for the second coming of Master and Deathstrike!

Since 2003, Master has had a stable line up which has existed now for 14 years. What is the difference to earlier line ups for you and why do you think it’s been steady for such a long time?

Obviously earlier line-ups were never really serious about the band. They wanted to go for a ride on the train but never get to the stops along the way. Believe me, we have played many shows over the years in many countries and have a had a blast for the most part, but it has been a difficult journey and the old members were more about stability and home, family, or living under a bridge like the original drummer. Drugs and alcohol were the most important thing in Bill’s life and I believe nothing has changed since then for him, sorry to say!

Is there a part of your life that you are most proud of or wish you could relive again?

Hindsight is 20/20. I do not ever look back. So yes, things have proceeded as planned and I continue to share my music and chase my dreams even today. Still trying to get to Australia and New Zealand!

Is there anything from bands today that you find exciting music-wise? One thing I always wonder is why do bands like Obituary, Autopsy or Entombed for example abandon their sound and not release albums like their early days anymore?

It’s called progress, right? Why would anyone want to stick to the original sound and format when music has changed so much over the years? Let’s just say that I have always been true to the music and myself. If something is not broken, there is no need to fix it! Some of these bands are rich and let’s just say that I am comfortable.

Where do you see death metal going in the next few years? Back to its roots or do you see it evolving more and having bands progress it even further?

Everyone always goes back to the roots. I never left them! I rarely experience anything new brother, every band sounds like, and plays like the original greats these days. Originality is a thing of the past in my opinion, sorry to say!

How do you compare the Master sound of almost thirty years ago to that of today? Do you feel that with each album it is a natural progression from the last whilst always maintaining your  roots?

Sure, in some ways, you are correct, but to be honest I only write songs that I like and go with it. If it works, great. If not, so be it. I haven’t the time or energy to waste worrying what others think of me. I write the way I always have and hope for the best! All Master tracks are written on an acoustic guitar in my bedroom-office, and then brought to electric guitar at the rehearsal studio, and then I decide if they will work or not. Zdenek and I get together and try the songs out usually first as Alex is very busy with life sometimes.

How often are you and the band able to get together and rehearse?

We try for twice a week but as I said earlier, the guys are busy with life most of the time and do not have time for practice!

What are the facilities like in Czech for studios and recording your music?

We are lucky in this aspect. Alex’s brother Peter and friend Pavel have a studio upstairs from where we rehearse, so we record there. So the facilities are great for us! We still practice the old school way, with a small electric heater running in the winter, so life goes on. I usually arrive 15 minutes early to heat the place up a but the energy of the band is the real heater of course.

How are the songs developed in the studio? Is it mainly yourself that does the songwriting or do Zdenek and Alex also come with their own ideas?

On several albums Alex has had a song or two, as for this latest CD we will begin recording in a few weeks. I have written all the tracks like in the beginning with the guys. Zdenek writes the drum parts of course or we discuss a few things that I would like a certain way and then Alex comes in and learns the songs and we go from there. The songs are developed before the studio with hard practices on those few days a week, next week 3 days was discussed, but we’ll see. We begin recording on December 15th, 2017, so in the next two weeks.

Will 2018 have a new full length from Master or are you going to take more time before another full length?

Yes the album will be released in 2018, but as always, other stuff is also coming; J-S 4, as well as a new Master live album from Barosellas Fest in Portugal from 2017 and Deathstrike live from Japan on CD. So no rest for the wicked!

I have recently reviewed the latest split EP between yourselves and support on your recent European tour, Dehuman. How did the tour go and how were the Dehuman guys to play alongside with?

We have been touring on and off with Dehuman for nearly 5 years already so this is nothing new and they are a great band for sure. We played 24 dates together successfully and it was a crazy journey in a van but we made it.

What advice would you give them and any young band looking to start out?

Keep recording and touring if you wish to be successful of course. Dehuman play a different style than we do but they kick real ass every night so catch them on tour or at a fest if you get the chance. You won’t be disappointed, that’s for sure.

Paul, every musician and fan in extreme metal have so much respect for you and for what you have done for the scene. What is it that motivates you to keep on going for a scene that has thrown obstacles in your face throughout your career?

Life is my motivation. All the crazy things going on in the world motivate me to write and spread my message of change as well as peace, and the idea of bringing down the politicians and living in a truly freer world. There are a few assholes with too much money and power that need to be removed and things will improve for all!

Do you have any regrets? A friend wants to know if you regret turning down the chance to play in the band Trouble?

No, I would have had to give up Master, but looking back I have to say the auditions were a blast and jamming with Oly Olson, Eric, Bruce, and Rick was a blast for sure. There was a special vibe in that room in those days and I really enjoyed the opportunity to jam with Trouble! Maybe fucking up the first contract with Combat is a regret as history would have been written differently, but why change history? I am still alive and many aren’t.

Thank you for your time, Paul. A fun question to end this interview. If you were a DJ and were allowed to bring 5 CDs to the party, what would they be?

  • Rainbow – Rising
  • Thin Lizzy – Jailbreak
  • Celtic Frost – Morbid Tales
  • Motörhead – No Sleep ‘Til Hammersmith
  • Black Sabbath – Sabbath Bloody Sabbath

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