Interviewed by Mark Dean (Journalist/Writer/Contributor) Myglobalmind Webzine
Artillery have been operating as a band since 1982,but have never previously played in Ireland. I caught up with original band member and guitarist Michael Stutzer when they played Belfast as special guests to Onslaught.
The band have been around for quite some time, with various personnel. Though you have split up on two occasions how do you explain the longevity of Artillery, and also why thrash music as a musical genre has endured over the years?
Michael”I think that one of the main reasons is that we have made some songs that people remember-I hope that is the reason. There are a lot of good thrash bands .The strongest of them will always survive because they still have the melody in the music. Of course it has to be heavy and stuff like that but if you don’t have the melody then people forget you. They may say”oh that’s a good riff”,but they don’t remember the songs. I think it is a very honest way to play music/thrash metal because it will have come from the heart.”
A lot of those “classic” thrash bands are still around, Slayer, Testament, Overkill etc..
Michael”Yes a lot of the bands from that time ,they have strong melodies and as I say people remember the songs.
You have been playing with Morten your brother for quite some time in Artillery…..
Michael”Yes,but he is not with us today because my brother has gone through some surgery. He has not been allowed to travel for quite a long time. He will join us when we play in Slovenia on the last gig.”
I did wonder looking at the band earlier at the sound check…
Michael”Yes he does look a little bit like him, but it is not him.”
My question can still be asked. Does it make for a strange combination to have a family member playing with you in Artillery?Does that situation help or maybe hinder?
Michael(laughing)”To be honest at the start of Artillery we had a lot of differences and stuff like that. Over the years there has been no problems at all. At the start of a band you always have a lot of ideas,but today we are very similar in the way we create the riffs in the songs.”
As you get to know each other both musically and personally?
Michael”Playing with your brother has some good things and also some bad things.”
The band have split on two separate ocassions. There seems to be a pattern you split up,after seven years you get back together. The second time that you split up,again after seven years you get back together. Are you familiar in Germany with the expression”Seven year itch”that usually pertains to marriage relationships?
Michael”Yes I am aware of that saying. This was not done on purpose of course. If you look at the band, since 2007 we have been more together now than we have been in the past. Many of the difficulties previously had come from the fact that our old singer did not want to play live. Every time we had got a tour set up, and booked he cancelled it.”
That is unusual that a singer just wants to go and record songs in a studio and not play live. Surely on a live stage is where songs can grow.?
Michael”yes, the rest of the guys in the band want to play live. That is fun.”
Also Artillery fans would want to see the band out, about and playing live the songs of your albums also.
Michael”I think if you make a good album, people can enjoy it, but you still have to play live.”
Michael Bastholm Dahl your singer joined a couple of years ago. What has he brought into Artillery as a band in terms if ideas?
Michael”He wrote most of the lyrics, and he is also very much into the melody lines. There is a good cooperation there. Usually Morten or I would come up with the riffs, Michael with the lyrics and put all five of us together in a rehearsal room. Both Peter, and Joshua also -it is very important-the band is really a unit. If you compare this band now with current line-up and the old one it has become more co-operative. It is easier to work.”
Outside of what you do within Artillery,are there any other genres and styles of music that would surprise people that you listen to?
Michael”hmm, I also listen a lot to old seventies bands. This hasn’t really changed so much as I have always liked that style and era of music. Bands like Zeppelin,Purple and Uriah Heep. I also really love Grand Funk Railroad and some blues things also. People like Johnny Winter, but I also really like thrash metal. We don’t just play it for the sake of it. We like to play it. I still listen to bands like Exodus, Overkill and Annihilator”
No surprises musically then?
Michael”No, not really “
Looking back over the Artillery history-what have been the stand out lows and highs for you and the band?
Michael”In recent years there have been many high points. We have gained so much-we have signed a contract with Metal Blade who have been really good for us with really good support. Some of the lows have been when we couldn’t go out and tour and we had to split the band after really good reviews that was really bad.”
What would have been your greatest regret?
Michael”To be honest we should have reunited the band with another singer back in the early days. He was a good singer but again if you don’t want to go out tour and play live….you cant do anything. Its like having a lot of money in the bank but you cannot find your card to take it out.”
What in your life are you most proud of…either musically or perhaps personally?
Michael”With Artillery I am really proud of the last album because the difference is that it is really a unit working. It is the strongest line-up that we have ever had because all five guys are dedicated to what they are doing. We love to go out and play. When I got a new offer to play in Belgium, Brazil or wherever-I asked the guys and they were all”lets go”We love doing that.”
Good and bad things about being in Artillery?
Michael”The good thing of course is the support from the fans,from the media and also our label now. The bad thing of course is that we travel a lot, but you get over that when you step on stage. People don’t fully realize how much waiting around that you do. We often say if you could be paid for every minute that you are waiting around then you would be very rich indeed. Music is not about being rich s but about having fun”
Major changes have occurred within the music industry since the band started-have these been for the better or worse?
Michael”Its better in the way that people had a lot of bands to choose from. Of course that is also the best thing because people can really choose what they want to hear. It is much easier to make records today than it was in the old days. Many of those bands are starting to sound similar. Back then you had Salyer, Metallica and they all had their own unique style. It is difficult today, of course there are still very good bands ,Evile or Bonded by Blood for example. A lot of bands have something to offer now, but there are many others that just sound alike.”
Finally I assume your plans for the rest of the year are to tour the album constantly? Any new countries that you will be visiting for the first time?
Michael”Yes we will be playing our first complete USA tour. Also we will be playing Canada with Onslaught. Right after that we are off to South America for the third time. It is really a pleasure to play everywhere .We have also been really looking forward to playing our first shows in Ireland for example. Yesterday we played in Dublin and it was really good despite it being an early show due to the World Cup Football Final. There was a lot of people and we had great fun.”
Thanks for chatting Michael, have a great show tonight.
Michael”I hope so, we are looking forward to it”