Interview with Paul Speckmann of Master

Interview with Paul Speckmann of Master

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Hails, Paul! You have been through the path less traveled and witnessed the changes and evolution of Thrash and Death Metal since the 1980’s. It is no secret that your large catalog of works has influenced many other bands. How would you define what Master is?
Master is the main band in my world these days. I admit that I am selling and promoting other projects as well of course, but the main focus is Master. Master is my bread and butter I suppose you could say. The band and concept have taken me across the globe numerous times and of course I am honored and happy that people still support the band. It has been a long journey of course since the days in 1983 when it was only an idea, and a concept.

This is more of a dualistic question. What made you want to start playing heavy music to begin with? By that I mean, what your emotions were, what ran through your mind?
Honestly it all began with the band Yes, I guess. But going back a bit further I have to say that I met this character Dan Neitzel through another neighborhood friend Mike Baker just before entering high school. Dan turned me on too many cool bands after turning me on to my first joint, which suffice to say, did nothing that first time! His father also had a gym in the basement, so we worked out and listened to bands like Rainbow, Black Sabbath, and wide variety of other rock bands like BTO, Styx, and YES. I visited the orientation at the local high school etc, and in the lunchroom there was a concert with a band called Duce, obviously Kiss fans! John Hansen was singing with the band and I was into the bassist as well! They were playing cover songs if I remember correctly, but really with heavy sound for my young ears. I was fascinated by this immediately.

So, as I walked down the hall at school one afternoon, I was singing, All good people from YES, when Ron Cooke heard me and stopped me and said, “Would you like to audition for our band White Cross, and this is really how it began. Ron is still at it with his band Thrust these days so good for him. After the vocal audition there has been no turning back, I taught myself bass as time went on.

On choosing the name Master for the band, please elaborate on how that happened and why the name seemed a keeper.
Rick Mansen from the band Witch slayer came up with the name from the Sabbath song, Lord of this world. The original drummer and he were jamming on and off sometimes before I quit War Cry to jam fulltime Master stuff!

Lemmy Kilmister stated in an interview on Guitar World before passing away that he was born to play the bass. How do you describe your preference for bass playing?
I taught myself how to play bass and like Lemmy, I developed my own style over the years as well.

You mainly perform with Master as a trio. Is this an easier manner to work with both live and in studio? I recall reading a Coroner interview once some years ago and it was said it was preferred to be a three-piece band versus a four piece.
It’s just less bullshit to deal with. A fourth member is usually a pain in the ass. What I like about three, is that during the guitar solos the bassist can play whatever he wished. With a 2nd guitarist you have to follow a pattern. Freedom is the answer my friend!

This year has several new items arising from the Master camp: The Witchhunt demo, a split with Nunslaughter, also, Live in Athens.
The reality is, is that this is how I make my living and when people offer contracts, I get more merch to sell, and this supplements my income. Most of these new releases are merch deals, but it works for them and also for me in the end. The Witchhunt” demo,  in my opinion like most demos of the past, is better than the actual record, because we were looking for a new record contract, and the recording was completed in 1 day, as the albums are usually tracked and recorded in 5 days and then mixed etc. I also feel the same about the Four More Years of Terror demo! “Live in Athens”. was recorded on telephone, and mixed and mastered in a studio in Greece by the bassist in a Greek band called Acid Death. He did a great job, and also the record company was looking for some help to establish his label called Doc Records in Holland, so in the end it worked out for all!

Split with Nunslaughter, again this time it was to help out a Polish label Fatass Records and worked well for both sides.

You have worked with many labels who have released your works. Is it easier to work with so many different people for something like this?
I am looking for people to release stuff all the time, so it works for me, back in the day one label would work, but today I cannot sign to only one. Most labels have too many bands and do not concentrate on one product, so you often get lost in the shuffle, so underground releases work best for me!

Your last two full length releases, Master’s Vindictive Miscreant and your recent collaboration with Rogga Johansson, The Germs of Circumstance bear similar feels but, it seems that the Johansson collaboration is far rooted in sounds I could have heard back in the 1990’s.
Well, you’d have to ask Rogga about it, I only write the lyrics and sing the songs. Rogga writes all the arrangements and play bass and guitar on all of the J-S recordings! As for Vindictive Miscreant, I wrote all arrangements lyrics etc! I honestly don’t hear anything similar, but not angry about it brother. I’ll take that as a compliment!

For these last two records, was anything done differently from past efforts?
No.

In terms of the artwork on Master releases, they connect with many of the context of the songs therewith dealing with a controlling political concept and anti-establishment concepts.
To be honest that last several artwork pieces were just picked out from Mark Cooper Art, it’s a coincidence that they worked. Obviously, I have an eye for art, but then many other covers people didn’t like, or I had nothing to do with either! I never really have a concept for the cover, so I have to search for a fitting piece most of the time!

When you write songs for Master, what engages your mind in this process? What might inspire you?
Life is my inspiration, I suppose you could say that most of the releases from Master are a public record of what is happening at a particular time in the history of my world. Sometimes the songs are about myself, but mostly about others and how the world is affected by the trials and tribulations of mankind!

Were there songs that took longer to compose than others?
Most songs are composed in the same way for me. Acoustic guitar to micro recorder to the rehearsal room to the studio. Not really a special technique in writing brother!

Please describe what you believe are the hardest things in the creation of a full record.
The mixing and mastering always are frustrating as everyone has a different idea of how it should sound! Thankfully, I normally have the last word, at least in the last 20 years!

How’s the chemistry between your current band members compared to those before them?
Hmm… there is no band at the moment. Pat is in California, Ruston is in Florida and I am here. So, this is a difficult question to answer. Things are different with all musicians I work with. All have good qualities and bad qualities, it’s not easy to compare them!

This is why there have been so many lineup changes over the years. The last lineup was together for 16 years and was the longest running lineup ever for Master. But, drugs, alcohol and money grievances cropped up one too many times for me so when they quit, I was actually happy. It was great to have a new younger lineup with energy, quality, talent, etc. Covid put an end to this for the time being! I have no idea what the future will bring. So, I play live concerts in the basement, playing bass and singing with records and previous live shows. It’s a dreadful existence. I am depressed for sure! As for the new band, both members are drummers and guitarists so they also have many ideas to offer, so we will see if and when the government removes these ridiculous rules and things return to normal!

Many bands have a need to change their sound thinking that what they have is not enough. While you have continuously produced steadfast product.
When something’s not broken, there is no need to fix it! We still do everything the same way. I write music I like and hope the world likes it, if not so be it!

Your take on people who think music is full of sparkles and glory but, turn around the other way when the march gets difficult and uphill.
I have to laugh at them! Metal is difficult and can make or break people, I choose to fight on no matter what happens. If I have my health I can continue, knock on wood, but at the moment all seems to be fine! We are currently in the red zone with the virus, lockdown is imminent again!

Your will to brush aside adversity has shown itself. Do you feel that in doing so, you have inspired others?
I only do what I think is right brother, I cannot worry about what others think or do any more. It’s every man for himself or woman of course.

On artwork seen on your releases, ever had a label or distributor not want to carry your work because of liking the cover?
Never.

I want to ask you about your 1991 album, On the Seventh Day God Created… Master. I am from Miami, Florida and to have seen a then local artist, like Paul Masvidal (Cynic) take part in a Master LP was like, wow! What do you remember from the recording sessions of the LP?
Not a whole lot to tell, to be honest. Scott Burns helped arranged Masvidal’s arrival! He was easy to work with, with each song autoplay for an hour and then he recorded a solo. So, it was all done in one day. He was friendly and easy to work with. But it seems today he talks trash about the recording of his solos etc, says they are horrible and the record sucks. 25,000 copies later, I don’t really care my friend. I wish him the best. He was given a great opportunity in my opinion, so be it. John Tardy did backups on two songs for a six-pack of beer! John was and is a class act!

Were there any other recordings with Paul Masvidal or was that just a onetime thing?
Nope! More like a 1-day thing brother!

This one question is totally out of curiosity. Back in 2002, you released “Let’s Start a War” and chose to cover Miss Misery by Nazareth.
I love Nazareth and still listen to this regularly at the gym even today. Great band, great song so I covered it!

Your influences and how they are interpreted do have a generational gap. These last few years have seen a want by newer Metalheads to know about the early days of many bands. What would you suggest for them to listen to in terms of chronology and changes as time went on from the 1970’s and 1980’s.
Motorhead, Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Cromags, GBH, Minor Threat etc.

All the early rock records were killer also in the seventies, then Twisted Sister and the crazy Glam times were interesting also, since I was there watching it develop and thankfully end for many crappy bands.

You have had several live releases. Where do you feel Master’s strength lies- live or studio?
Live seems to be where it is at, but I still enjoy recording in the studio of course. Many bands cannot bring the studio to the live stage with all the studio tricks left in the studio! So, I guess it’s not a bad thing with Master in the end!

Are your bass parts the same as the recording or do you take extra liberties when playing those live?
It depends on the song, most songs are played exactly the same, but occasionally I may change a part to make the singing easier for me, but not very often!

In seeing your live playing, you don’t use picks.
No, I am from the old school. I was there in 1981 when Iron Maiden hit America, also Geezer often used his fingers and Geddy all the time. These were my biggest inspiration!

Many people in America feel that Europe is much more open to more underground and heavier Metal than this country itself. What are the dividing lines in your opinion?
Europeans have always had a better attitude when it comes to unique styles of music. I moved to Europe once I had a chance as Master and my many projects were often overlooked by Americans. I had to move to Europe to get any respect, sad but true!

Do you think that there really is an underground scene the way one would expect it as experienced in years past?
No.

Are the times you have felt that life has become more than you can bear and wanted to throw in the towel with Master?
Never!

Peeling the onion backwards, what are your best memories you have having carried on with Master?
There are too many to tell brother!

Do you think that there are things you would have done differently when starting your band?
No.

What is your opinion in technology driven advances- does it affect Master’s approach on sight and sound?
No.

Your current musical taste in regard to works by other contemporary artists is…
I don’t listen to the style I play at all! I prefer the past bands!

With your close knowledge of the current scene, do you feel it may get mainstreamed? I mean, marketing aggressive music under a guise of harmless, watered down flow cannot be good in terms of exposure to really great aggressive music. I say this in reference to someone like Miley Cyrus covering Metallica songs. Sounds almost ruinous!
Sounds funny to me really, and Metallica will get paid millions, so good for them. Even if it sounds ridiculous, it’s today’s world what can we do! Metallica died after Cliff died!

I’ll have my last question for you. Humanity is borderline with its existence these days. Let’s say everyone and everything is no more. What do you think would happen if Master had its music inside the Voyager 1 and 2 space probes?
Do they really travel in space, I always thought it was and is a hoax?

What’s next for you?
Another J-S album already in the works, and when the world opens up a new Master recording with the US lineup and if not, with another group of musicians!

Paul, thank you very much for your time.

www.speckmetal.net

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