Legion's of Thrash - Michael Stutzer Hansen speaks out.
Danish Thrash Metal god's 'Artillery' return with their new album 'Legion', which is released on Metal Blade. This band are one of the top Thrash Metal god's to ever come out of Denmark along side Invocator, King Diamond/ Mercyful Fate to name a few... Starting back in the early 80's Artillery have release some fine albums, with their classic debut which was released on Neat titled 'Fear Of Tomorrow' and also 'Terror Squad'. These 2 albums set a new trend for Danish metal. The band have also had their ups and downs. I caught up with guitarist Michael to find out more about the band and the new album. Here is what he had to say. In the mean time why don't you become a Legion of Thrash Metal and buy the new album.
My 1st question is, when did the band form and who formed the band?
"Well Artillery was formed back in 82 when Morten with our original singer Per Onink and myself who came from a band called 'Devils Symphony' , a band which also featured Mercyful Fate's guitarist and original drummers Ole Frausing . We later on met up with Carsten and Joergen who also started to jam together"
Where did you meet to form the band? Was it in school or in the local bars or metal scene in Copenhagen Denmark?
"Well the band was formed back in a local town called 'Tastrup' where we all came from except for Joergen. We all were friends from when Mercyful Fate played their 1st gig in Tastrup back in 81."
Who are the bands musically influences and how do they reflect in you’re music then and now?
"Well Jason, I think we have always had the same influences we have always had, bands like Black Sabbath, Exodus, Jethro Tull, Slayer, Grand Funk Rail Road, Savatage, Metallica, and in the early days Mercyful Fate, Blackmore and Accept. Besides that we also get a lot if inspiration from Middle Eastern Music as you might be able to tell in our music."
So what's it like having you're brother in the band too? Do you fight or do you share the same goals in life? Also why did Morten take over the the guitar when he was the original bassist whilst Jorgen Sandau was the guitarist?
"Well in the beginning we had our disagreements as brothers but now we almost agree on everything. Jorgen did not want to play songs like 'Khomanica' and he left the band prior to our Russian tour and Morten took over as he was a much better guitar player then Jorgen was. We later got Peter in the band to play the bass."
The 1st stages of the band featured Carsten Lohmann as the singer, why did he leave the band and where did you find Flemming?
"Well Carsten left the band in 85 due to his education as a school teacher but we are still friends and we was with us singing some of the songs when we were celebrating 'Fear Of Tomorrow' 25th anniversary some years ago. Flemming was found through a big music store we advertised in."
Besides Flemming what other singers did you audition for the band? Also what other bands was Flemming in before Artillery?
"We tried a lot of singers out including a gril but it was Flemming that was really good enough for the band . He was actually playing in Rock bands before joining us but nothing big at all.
So how many demos did the band record prior to the release of the debut album 'Fear Of Tomorrow'?
"Well we did 3 demo tapes, the 1st was called 'We Are The Dead' in 82 which featured the song 'Mind Of No Return', 'Day Of Doom', 'All For You' and 'We Are The Dead' which with singer Per Onink. The 2nd demo 'Shellshock' was recorded in 84 and featured the songs 'Time Has Come', 'Bitch', 'Blessed Are The Strong' and 'All For You'. The 3rd one 'Seeds Of Darkness' also in 84 featured 'Seeds Of Darkness', 'To Late Too Regret', 'Hey Woman' and 'Deserter' and this one featured singer Carsten Lohmann."
What record labels Michael did you send you're demo's to before you got you're deal with Neat Records? What did you also sign to Neat was it the fact they had bands like Avenger, Venom?
"Well we sent out a lot of demos to various labels and I remember there were 4 labels that showed interest, one was Mausoleum and the other was Neat. We chose Neat because they seemed to be a great label and they did a lot for the bands they like Venom so we knew we had signed to a good label."
So how long did it take to record the debut album? What found memories do you have the recording of that album? Wasn't it produced by Lars O.Christensen & Nils Bogvad , so who else have they wored with and were you happy with the end results?
"The album was produced by Lars who is no longer with us sadly, who worked with bands like D.A.D. and Nils had worked with some very famous Pop group called 'Back To Back' in Denmark. The debut album 'Fear Of Tomorrow' was made in about 8-9 days and at that time we thought the album sounded really heavy."
So who came up with the cover artwork for the album and did you have any other covers in mind?
"Jorgen came up with the cover concept in some old cartoon but we changed it a bit and we never had any other covers in mind for that album."
So for a debut what songs stand out for you and why and how well did the album sell for the band back in the day?
"I think the album sold pretty well and even Neat were happy with the sales, and to this day we still play 'The Almighty' as it is very popular with the fans. We also still play 'Deeds of Darkness' and 'Eternal War' from time to time."
With the album off the ground did you tour much for that album?
"To be honest we didn't tour much, we toured Holland and Belgium and a few shows in Denmark. We also played soem shows with King Diamond and Slayer."
It wasn't long before the band entered the studio to record you're 2nd album 'Terror Squad', how do you see that album as a progression from that of the debut album?
"On the 'Terror Squad' album we saw it as a more thrash metal album which was more headed towards the Exodus style of Thrash Metal. We also became better musicians as well."
Who actually produced that album and were you happy with the end results?
"This album was once again handled by the 2 above mentioned who recorded the 1st album with the help of Freddie Wolf and at that time we were very happy with the end results."
Tell me about the artwork for that album, it's a pretty poor cover to say the least but in my opinion it's you're finest album, the songs speak for themselves. Who's idea was it to do such a poor cover and did you have any other covers in mind?
"The story of the cover came from Neat when they asked us to make a sketch so we did and they said they would make a cover from it. They then decided to use the sketch we gave them and took some of the colours out of the picture. The album was recorded back in 86 and it took Neat Records a year to release it so it didn't come out till 87, which became really frustrating for the band."
OK Mike what other titles did you have in mind for 'Terror Squad' album?
"Well we had one other title in mind which we were going to call the album 'In The Thrash', but 'Terror Squad' sounded better."
So what songs from that album stand out for you and why?
"That's a tough question, but when we play live we always play 'The Challenge', 'Terror Squad' and sometimes 'In The Trash' and 'At War With Science'."
How well did that album sell for the band, it's a great album!
"Well I remember it not selling well at all because people could not get a hold of it. It was due to poor distribution as Neat started to get some financial problems due to the major loss f money whilst the label tried to promote one of Venom's albums. We left the label because of the delays and with that album and they left us in the cold."
After the release of that album the band broke up when Carsten, Flemming and Jorgen left the band. What did the rest of the band do?
"In fact we disbanded for 4 months due to Neat Records and we started getting great reviews for the album but nobody could buy it due to the distribution problems."
I remember you telling me that Metallica use to rehearse next door to you , did you hang out much with them and do you still see them when they tour Denmark?
"Well we knew Metallica because they shared the same rehearsal rooms as us and Mercyful Fate. They rehearsed when they recorded the 'Ride the Lightning' and 'Master of Puppets' albums. The are great guys and we had fun back then."
It was 3 yrs alter when the band reformed and signed to Roadrunner with the 3rd release 'In Heritence' , how did that deal come about and were you happy with the label?
"Well it all started when we got a tour of Russia back in 89and that gave us the lust to go and start up again. Jorgen left the band just before the tour and Peter joined the band. We started to write 3 songs for that tour which were 'Khromanic' , 'Don't Believe' and '7.00 In Tashkent'. After the tour we recorded the songs as a demo and sent them to Roadrunner who signed us right away."
Later on you release the album 'By Inheritance', so why the title and did you have any other covers in mind?
"Flemming came up with the title for the album as anything lies in our genes or our inheritance, and we all liked the title including Roadrunner and we never had any other titles in mind."
So could you tell me about the artwork for that album, who did it and did you have any other covers in mind?
"It was done by a guy called Kent Mathew who did it after our own idea (The Missing Link) and I still think it's a great cover. He had also worked with Forbidden on their covers too."
This was also the 1st time you had worked with Flemming Rasmussen, who had also worked with Metallica. How did you hook up with him and were you happy with the end results?
"Out rehearsal studios was laying just besides 'Sweet Silence' studios so we knew him already , but when Metallica started to record 'Master of Puppets' there we were there a lot watching them recording the album. They also barrowed some of our equipment to record the album and so we just started talkign to Flemming about doing the next album with him."
This album also featured a cover of Nazareth's 'Razamanaz', why did you decide to cover this song and have the band heard you're version of the song? What do they think?
"Well we were missing one song from the album and we liked the song 'Razamanaz' a lot so we decided to make a cover of that song. I don't think that the band have heard our version of the song but if they had I hope they liked it. Nazareth did some great songs back then."
This album also featured new bassist Peter Thorslund, which band was he in before Artillery?
"Peter was in a band called 'Force Majure' and at 1st he did not want to join the band, so we had to almost force him into the band and now he is a big part of the band and he has been with us since 88."
Did that album sell well? Also why did the band break up after that release?
"I had heard that the album sold very well back then but but Flemming did not want to tour when the album was released and everythign that the label had sorted for tours had to be cancelled. In the end Roadrunner dropped us and we broke up."
It was in 99 when the band reformed and released the album 'B.A.C.K', what does that album title mean? Did you have any other titles and did you also have a fan base which wanted you to reform?
"The title was a mean that we were hoping for, we had a lot of fans asking us to reform but sadly it didn't work out the way we were hoping it would. "
This album was released through 'Deie Hard' records, what other labels did you send you're demos to before signing with Die Hard?
"In 98 we released a compilation album titled 'Deadly relics' which featured our demos and played 5 short songs to promote it. The label gave us a deal right away."
It is a great comeback album which is strong and has some great songs on it, didn't you have a new singer for this album?
"The line up for this album was Flemming, Morten, Per Jensen (The Haunted), and me and Morten did most of the bass tracks as Peter was away in the U.S."
Again the band had more bad luck, it took you another 10yrs to release the next album, you came back with the album 'When Death Comes' in 2009 why did it take so long to reform and why did you sign with Metal Mind?
"Well we still had problems with Flemming as he didn't want to tour again, it was more of a project than a band. Peter, Morten and me tried to find another singer and it was hard to find a singer back then as they all wanted to do that Grunge thing, we all hate that. Metal Mind released a box set 'Through The Years', which opened the doors for the band once again. So Morten, Carsten, Peter and me decided and tlaked about starting up professionally and find another singer. We got an offer to play some shows and film a live DVD 'One Foot In The Grave' in Poland and we also released 'WDC' in 2009 ."
At this point were you getting fed with fans getting pissed off with this band a project with break up and reformations? How did you feel about this and did you think the band would ever get back as a real band?
"To be Honest Jason, we were getting fed up with not finding a singer and we almost gave up, but we could not go with playing music. We love to play music so we just had to carry on."
How well did that album sell for the band? Also what songs on that album do you like and where did you find new singer Soren?
"We found Soren through a friend who si also a singer, his name is Torben Askholm who recommended him and we only rehearsed twice and he was in the band. I Think 'WDC' did really well and gave us a lot of good reviews and we really got our spirits back on that album."
In 2011 the band released their next album 'In Blood' through Metal Mind, how do you see this album as a progression from that of the other albums? Also were you happy with the end results?
"I think 'In Blood' is a great album but at that time we knew both Carsten and Soren would leave the band and I think you can hear that."
Which songs from that album stand out for you and why?
"I think there are a lot of great songs on that album, which you can hear. We still play songs like '10.000 Devils, the title track and Rise above it all' from WDC."
So why the title and cover for this album, did you have any others in mind?
"We had a few ideas for the album but we ended up with this which the idea came from my son. We were also thinking of calling the album 'Rise Above it All' as the title, but we didn't in the end."
Now we have covered pretty much the past lets now move on, how did the deal with Metal Blade come about? Who else did you approach for a new record deal? Are you also happy with Metal Blade?
"First of all we are very happy to be signed to metal Blade, its a big step for us. We had 4-5 labels including our previous and AFM but we had no doubt about working with Metal Blade. We did a 2 song demo for the labels, the songs were 'Dies Irae' and 'Anno Requiem' so that the labels could hear the new songs and the new line up. Metal Balde signed us right away and we are very ahppy with thr work they have done so far."
This new album also sees yet another new singer in the band, this time Michael Dahl, why did the other singer leave the band and are you still friends? What is he doing now? Does he still sing in bands? Where did you find Michael and what band was he in before Artillery?
"Well Soren left the band because he was getting more involved with his other band 'Dignity' among others and yes we are still friends. We found Michael when we was playing in his covers band 'Mercyful Diamond' and we were impressed with his vocal range, we knew Soren was leaving so we gave him the chance to audition for us and he got the job right away."
Again a new drummer this time it's Josua Madsen, where di you find him? Also who else did you audition?
"We searched for a new drummer though our site and we found Josua when he sent us a video of him drumming. We had 10 drummers who wanted to join the band but we only auditioned 1 before we hired Josua."
So why the title 'Legion' and did you have any other titles for the album? What about the artwork who did it?
"The title is dedicated to the fans, the fans that had followed us throughout the years the ones who had discovered us and to all the Thrashers out there. The cover was designed by a guitar player called Mircia from the band 'Mnemic'."
So how does the title define the abum?
"Well it's melodic Thrash for headbangers with catchy riffs for all legions out there."
Are the songs on this album wrote as a team effort and does Michael wqrite the lyrics himself?
"Morton and me come up with the riffs, and we all arrange it in our rehearse room and Mike comes up with most of the lyrics."
What are the songs about on the album and which are you're favourites and why?
"I really like all the songs on the album, but at the moment I really like 'Global Flatline' & 'God Feather'. I will tell you about what each song is about, the 1st one is called 'Wardrum Heartbeater' is about what seems destructive is in reality could be very positive and rewarding. It goes out to all those who knows that special feeling in their chest every time a great metal song is put on.
The next song is called 'Dies Irae' and don't let the Latin spook you, this song is about what Artillery is all about. In the past we released albums like 'Fear of Tomorrow' and in the past we had wrote fast and heavy & angry songs, the day of wrath seemed like a great title. The song bares reference to old songs and titles and somewhere takes in regards all that has been and some of the things that might come.
Next is 'Enslaved to the Nether', sometimes we feel, perhaps, never bound. The thought of Darkness and emotions that seem like nothing we know which might suddenly get into you're mind. This is like been described as a nightmare where you find yourself dead but find yourself alive.
"Global Flatline' is about the environmental , perhaps a bit apocalyptic but in these days our world is no longer predictable regarding where we are heading, as we are destroying our own home.
'God Feather', well as seen as Artillery have never been slow to tell people that they should find their own believes instead of seeks their own restrictions of religion. This song is a message to all those people who threatens and points fingers at those who do not follow his or her religion. You do not better yourself by condemning others and you do not go to heaven just because you personally find you should.
Next is 'Chill my Bones', some feeling can cripple you and make you an unmoving zombie . A feeling of inner winter where the sun cannot shine. Spiritual death and the demise of everything you once were.
'Legions' is a warfare ballad if you can call it that haha, In the black grim humorous way the song describes war and warfare as a special kind of music and rhythm. The dark beating heart in the aesthetic of destruction."
So how well is the album selling so far and are you making a promo video for any of the songs from this new album?
"We have made a lyric video for 'Wardrum Heartbeat' and a real video for the title track. Where not sure how well the album is selling, were awaiting a statement from Metal Blade who seem very happy with the album and the band."
So where was the new album recorded and who recorded it? Are you happy with the way it turned out?
"Legion was recorded in Medley studios with producer Soren Andersen who also did the 'When Death Comes' & 'In Blood'. Legion is in my option the best produced album we have ever done and we are happy with Soren's work."
So when will we see the band touring soon? Any UK dates?
"Yes we are playing the UK with Onslaught in July 2014, which we are looking forward to, we play the UK on July 16th to 21st, so please come and check us out if you can."
Well Michael thanks for doing the interview, do you have anything to add before we finish?
"Yes thanks for doing the interview, we hope you can make one of the shows if you can. Thanks to our fans for their support and enjoy the new album 'Legion'."
Thanx to Andy @ Metal Blade and Mike for the interview.