Timothy Dovgy on the true face of thrash metal in Artillery
Can you imagine what the true face of Thrash Metal looks like? Slayer's evil grimace? Unholy look Possessed? Army equipment Destruction? Anthrax's insidious grin? Tankard's beer grin? The intelligent face of Artillery? Yes, all of them, and none of them. And wasn't that diversity the driving force behind thrash in the mid-80s?
And now the public has become dumb, and there is nothing to say about faces ... Faces, as one might expect, are less comprehensible. As if the audience swallowed them with bones, turning them into a homogeneous mass, and then spitting them out, covered with a uniform mold. Here they are - innocent, infantile, faceless...
Yes, once, by the will of a happy accident, we managed to see a fleeting vision of a close person in the crowd. Because sometimes they come back. One day they can repeat their exploits, and then the most unexpected comes - they write music of the same class and quality as before. But then what can be said about people who have not been involved in music for a long time, are they the same as before? Artillery frontman and devoted family man, Fleming Rondsdorf was honored to satisfy my curiosity.
In the present tense, having matured ten years, you play music that has hardly changed stylistically compared to the 80s, but what has happened to your life beliefs since then, have they changed or remained the same? Are there many left of those young and wild thrash devils, hungry for metal and thirsty for beer, how much of them remains in you today?
“Life Beliefs??.. Hmm…funny question, but my lifestyle hasn’t really changed much in terms of the fact that I now have a family. I'm still an old hippie with a huge store of hidden anger against society. Outwardly, I have grown older, but not inside!! I still have holes in my jeans, if that's what you mean... But when you have children, you can't go crazy like before, so in this sense, you can say that my life has become a little easier... And by the way, metal is not a thing to wear...it's deep in the heart!”
Is there something in your everyday life outside of music that characterized your participation in Artillery?
“Hehe… well, you have questions… but in principle, no, probably… Still, I’m still a musician, and I always have been and will be until my death! But on the other hand, dude… still those days will never come back…”
Do you mind sharing your experience of playing in the Soviet Union in 1989? Do you remember where exactly you played? It seems that our authorities didn't know what to expect from you and your fans at concerts before the start of the tour, that you weren't allowed to play in big cities like Leningrad, Minsk, Moscow etc. In any case, wasn't it an unforgettable memory to play in front of Soviet fans during the Iron Curtain era?
“Wow, we can talk about this for a long time ... We started the tour of the Soviet Union with two shows in Alma-Ata, near the Sino-Mongolian border. The two concerts were met with a mixed reaction from a sharply negative attitude from the representatives of the older generation of Russians to the screams of absolutely wild teenagers, ready to destroy everything in their path. Actually it was great! The next stop was Tashkent, as you probably know near the Afghan border, which hosted a show crowded with police and security. The difference was very noticeable, we could not help but notice how much more serious things were going on there. However, we played two gigs in Tashkent, and even smarter - we were the third of four bands, the first two played new wave, and also a garage rock band, so the elderly Russians were blown away by the wind. When we got up on stage, there was sepulchral silence…absolute darkness…and then we played Hell Break Loose, which is usually the opening of concerts, the lights came on…At first, there was surprise written on the faces of many, then they started to jump, stronger, stronger, faster and faster …wow, man, and then some fans started to climb on stage, but they were pulled back by the officials, but there were very few of them, unlike the fans, so suddenly the resistance was broken and the teenagers burst onto the stage in huge numbers. We expected them to start stage diving and get the hell out of the stage, but everything turned out differently, they stayed on the stage, and their numbers grew, there were so many of them that soon we (the team) could not distinguish each other, it was such a huge team, so cool!!!.. And it's just the first day!!! Then we were told that the Politburo declared us decadents and forbade us to perform any more in Uzbekistan. The next day, instead of flying to the next destination, we were put on a train to Moscow. The journey was supposed to take two days, but when we woke up the next day, we found ourselves traveling in the opposite direction…??? We were not told anything at all about the reason for the cancellation of the tour, then we ended up on the Trans-Siberian Railway, and in the end we traveled by train for five days!!! Then, when we got to Moscow, the authorities canceled all our scheduled shows… However, you are absolutely right, it is still an unforgettable memory…”
Can you remember what it was like to hold the Fear Of Tomorrow record in your hands for the first time? What was it like?
“Well, yes, of course I remember… It was as if the whole group was in my place, the doorbell rang, my girlfriend opened the door, and the police rushed in to arrest me… Oh, yes, I remember it too well, I spent the whole night in prison…”< br />
And what about the release of B.A.C.K.? Was there much in common between the releases of the first and last disc? Wasn't it like going back in time?
“No, just not when the recording was being recorded. The sensational return in time took place with our arrival in the studio ... And in principle, there was nothing in common from the moment of the first recording to the last. I hope I can say that time has made me wiser…!! And, as I said above, a little easier…”
Did the success of B.A.C.K. regret the decision to bury the team in the early 90s. or mourn the wasted years?
"Success??? What other success? No, I don't feel any regrets, because if I continued at the same speed then, by this point I would have already baked/exhausted myself…”
After releasing three top-notch stunning albums, you quietly disappeared from the scene in 1991. The reasons for such a serious decision should be quite convincing, rather than the banal problems with the record label, I think...
“Of course, but that's all in the past and I don't want to touch it now…”
It must be terribly frustrating to put your soul and skill into writing and recording music and then get kicked out by some oak-headed businessman who runs a record label. You have a bad experience in this part, and doubly so from your previous labels Neat and Roadrunner, who did almost nothing for the quality promotion of your material. So, is it really an eternal curse for a musician to be exploited and dependent on moneybags assholes?
“Yes… you could say that. But now everything is much better, it is no longer so easy to ignore talented people. And we were young and were a tempting lure.”
“Hey Metallica and Slayer, remember Copenhagen?” - words that can be read on the cover of Fear Of Tomorrow. I wonder if you kept in touch with them during all these years? In any case, why do you think Artillery did not manage to receive such honor and commercial success as these teams? What are the reasons that prevented you from realizing your high potential, at least not less than that of Metallica and Slayer? Are you jealous of their success?
“No, no connections… The reason we didn't get anywhere is because we weren't mainstream, we had our own way of making music, and it just didn't get stuck in the minds of the big masses of the population, like, for example, Metallica and the like...But envy?? What a nasty word… no… although there is a little :)”
What can you tell us about your oft-discussed joining Destruction in the early 90s? Was it just an opportunity that never came to fruition or did you actually rehearse or write songs with them?
“Well… actually, I’m glad you asked about it, because I heard some strange rumors about it… I would like to clear things up once and for all: Destruction called me when I left Artillery, they asked me if I didn’t want to whether I join them. I replied that it was still far from home, and they replied that there were no problems in this, and the record company would take care of everything. Then their label contacted me and we made an agreement for me to move to South Germany to say hello to the guys, rehearse and see how things go. They had a tour coming up and they were looking for the right vocalist for it... So the label and I agreed that it would be cheaper if I came to them myself, instead of taking a plane, with the expectation that I would have to often wander back and forth. The label sent me money to buy a car. I looked after one old one, and went straight to Germany. The guys in Destruction are really cool peppers and we had a lot of fun, we rehearsed and everyone was happy. The next day I went home. Upon arrival in Denmark, I began to prepare for the tour. The only reason I had to take care of was my rent. The label told me that I would be paid for the rent i.e. three months on tour, so I called them and asked them to send me the money. They said I'd get them when I arrived, I said no because I didn't want any problems with my rent and there was a risk that I wouldn't have a home when I got back...yeah no way !! That's why I didn't get on the plane that was assigned to me, because everything turned out so shitty, and this was the reason. I was really sorry, because it would be so cool to tour, but the stakes were too high!”
Carsten Nielsen is said to be rehearsing with Bathory, what is he doing there?
“The funny thing is, I have no idea…”
Can you tell the truth about how Artillery and Jorgen Sandau parted ways in 1989? By the way, why isn't his name even mentioned in the band's bio on the DieHard Music website when he is the founding member and his contribution to the success of Fear Of Tomorrow and Terror Squad can't be overestimated?
“The truth about Jorgen's story is that he couldn't stand Michael Stutzer, that's why and why! I don't know about the biography, I only know that I didn't write it…hehe…But you're right, he was the most important part of Artillery! He's actually the only one I've kept in touch with all these years...”
It's funny that neither of the two founders of Artillery is involved in this reunion. In any case, what are Jørgen and Karsten doing today, what did they both do after leaving Artillery in 1989 and 1991, respectively? I heard they had a team, 4Q or something...
“Uh-huh, they had a team called 4Q but they don't see each other anymore, bad relationship led to a breakup about a year ago…”
You once said that (in an interview with Oskorei Magazine) today Artillery is actually not a band, because the line-up is not entirely original. Do you really think that only the original line-up can have the so-called “team spirit”? As for Artillery - what binds you together today, what makes Artillery a team, even with some gaps in the roster?
“I would say it's the minds left behind the team, and it's not about numbers, by and large, but if you want to be a team, you have to have the ability to survive, and we almost don't have that, we don't full team, that's what I'm talking about. What binds us is the music that we used to play and continue to do now. We never really communicated with each other, and we will not do this in the future, we are not friends to chat for nothing. We are only together when we play metal…”
Have you seriously thought about a reunion since playing in Copenhagen for Deadly Relics in August 1998? Was it the show that changed your views on the subject of a reunion and helped bring it to fruition in the end?
“No…Although you are right about the release of Deadly Relics and the show in Copenhagen. Subsequently, we contacted DieHard, who asked us if we would like to write an album, and everything else is already obvious…”
Having experienced it for yourself, would you recommend a reunion to the old bands of the 80s, almost pulling yourself out of the lull of the grave?
“Well, if they still want to make music, they definitely need it, but if it’s just for fame and money, it’s better not to try…haha”
It is quite obvious that your achievements and ambitions in Artillery today are strikingly different from the mid-80s. I wonder how this all influenced the songwriting?
“I must say that I was hoping for this evidence, but I am still angry at society. They are still poisoning our planet with you, and nothing can be done about it. Therefore, I think that such texts will always be food for thought, in whatever form they may be. I write now the same as before, I write what's on my mind, regardless of time and achievements.”
What draws you to classic thrash metal, making you come back after 7 years writing completely different music?
“You seem to be forgetting that I spent most of my youth playing metal. And he didn't do it for the money! He's in my heart, man…”
Whiplash's Tony Portaro admitted that they take a dim view of teenagers doing what they've grown out of. Isn't that your case, what do you say?
“I have three children, a daughter and two sons. And I do everything I can to protect decent people from evil. I think I agree with part of the statement, perhaps that's the way it should be. But you will never kill the rebel in yourself, no matter how many children you have…”
Oh, I'm sorry, of course, but the question was about modern musicians trying to play the music of your youth. But never mind. Why do you think it's so easy to tell the difference between today's bands trying to copy Thrash Metal bands from the 80's and the real founders of the genre? Has something important died or have modern thrashers overlooked something?
“I think not, but it looks like the teams of the 70s and 80s. trying to sound like the Beatles, there aren't that many founders. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't do this or that, I think it's pretty cool if modern thrashers take the metal of my generation seriously, and we never stopped working, there's so much more to do!”
For me, Artillery has always represented a more thoughtful approach to thrash music, being more intelligent and musically and lyrically, which immediately came forward. What do you think? Can I hope you stay the same until Artillery breaks up?
"Thank you very much! The complexity of Artillery's music is due (in my eyes) to a great musician who wants my words to fit into his music, and his brother's sometimes crazy nature is reflected in his guitar playing. The words that I use in the songs are my own thoughts and experiences of this or that event, usually everything goes its own way when I hear Morten's initial ideas. And my ideas for lyrics were almost always about writing something about reality. Sometimes it's something that fans can refer to that will save them from having to carry a gun. Something from everyday life, from the news on TV. We don't need to carry Hollywood horror movies, we just turn on the news...!!! You can be sure that as long as we publish music under the Artillery brand, we will stay true to it. Thrash metal until death.”