Chicago’s massively influential Master were one of the first bands to pioneer an exceptionally extreme and original form of music in the early 80’s, that we now know as death metal, and are still going strong to this very day. Frontman Paul Speckmann’s inimitable growl and unwavering dedication to the genre for almost 40 years has lead some to hail him as the ‘Lemmy of death metal’. M3 asked Paul a few questions about touring, the differences between tape trading and file sharing, and the political power of music…
M3 – First of all, could you tell us a bit about yourself, and what it is that you do?
Paul – I am Paul Speckmann from one of the first bands in the genre they eventually called Death Metal. I honestly have always hated this tag as we are just a hard rocking bunch of Metal manics and that pretty much fits the description of Master. I live and breathe Metal, and this pays the bills and allows me to continue on my quest for global domination. For sure we are still stuck in the underground because of several bad business decisions in the beginning of our career, but so be it! I play bass and sing in this band as we tour and play festivals across the globe every year.
What inspired you to form Master?
I and original drummer Bill Schmidt were in a Doom Metal band called Warcry in the early eighties and after hearing Venom, and Slayer, and Motorhead, we decided that we wanted to become a heavier band and both left Warcry to pursue a more aggressive outlet!
What is your own musical background?
I just played in local bands as a singer, and then later a bassist. I am self taught musician. It took many years of playing along with Sabbath and Maiden to get my shit together.
What would be your preferred medium to listen to music (eg. Vinyl, CD, tape, MP3 etc.), and why?
I prefer the warm sound of vinyl personally but on the other hand CDs are also where it’s at for the car etc. I was always a collector of vinyl and I am sorry to say that I lost hundreds of vinyls in the USA when I moved to Europe in 2000!
Do you feel the idea of an album, as a piece of art that people will listen to from start to finish, has been undermined or forgotten about in the digital age?
This is a very accurate statement. What I always liked about vinyl and still do as we are releasing all our stuff on vinyl again, is that you really can grasp the artwork and the concepts of the work! You lose the ideas of course with a digital recording: The words and ideas on an actual vinyl LP are very important when understanding the music in general.
Much has been made of the supposed death of the record store in recent years. Do you believe the digital age has killed the record store, and if so, do you think that this is a necessary part of progression, or a tragic loss?
This is a tragic loss, there is nothing like going into a shop in Holland like Bullet for example and spending an hour or so on a tour looking through the music and purchasing vinyl and CDs for the home collection!
Master are undisputed death metal veterans at this point. Would you say the rise in the internet’s popularity has affected how you operate as a band over the years, and if so, how?
Well actually I get more orders for my products and many people contact Master for more concerts than ever before, many times through Facebook as well as regular Hotmail contact, so yes the internet has been a major help for the future of the band. Back in the day it was done through the post and many times the letters were lost or people took forever to answer.
Many people have claimed that there is no longer any money in record sales, and that touring is the most efficient way to earn an income as a band. How much truth do you think there is in this sentiment?
I still personally make money from sales as well as touring. I mean I have to work hard at this but I enjoy this kind of work. Self promotion is the greatest kind of self flattery!
What would you say are the main differences and/or similarities between the 80s heyday of tape trading, and our current download (or ‘filesharing’) culture?
What I liked about tape-trading was that guys like Bill Steer would write you personally and tell you things! Bill wrote that he quit Napalm Death and was starting a new band called Carcass. Chris Reifert also wrote to buy Abomination stuff back in the day as well. Those days are gone! Things were more personal in letters for sure.
Do you think traditional copyright laws are still enforceable in the digital age, or do you think we will have to rethink the concept of copyright itself?
I lose money on the copyrights of songs all the time. This is a tough question for me really, but I do get checks from time to time from Harry Fox in New York, but they cannot keep tabs on everyone that’s for sure!
What is your take on the recent SOPA/ACTA controversy?
I really haven’t followed this theme much although everyone says it’s an important issue. What I gathered from what I read is that the government is looking to control the internet and free speech will be a thing of the past if the consumers and people in general don’t start an uprising and bring all these corrupt governments down! It’s time to stand up and fight!
The Human Machine
I told you, I warned you clear the path of indescretion
Controlling, they‘ll send you strict campaigns of aggravation
They’ll drill you, until you follow through with their deceptions
Control you, bestow you with their lies and satisfaction
On call for the Human Machine, the lights have all turned green
On call for the Human Machine, it’s simply quite obscene.
It’s frightening, exciting, when you’ve made your own decisions
Empowering, devouring governmental ostricism
Intending, defending freedom is the only answer
Just walk out, there’s no doubt, suicide’s beyond all reason
Break the force of domination, remove the tyrants from their lair
Such sacrifice and indignation, does anybody really care
A world of suffering humans in a climate filled with fear
Determination once removed the end is drawing near
It’s time to discourage this unnatural phase
As science develops new ways to control
It’s time to encourage a revolt of our race
To prolong the inevitable end of our days
Do you feel that music is still capable of bringing about change or influencing political decisions?
I don’t know if this is true, but I personally write anti-governmental themes on every album and hope that someone reads this and starts a revolution against all the severe control the governments have on society and people in general. It’s time to take a stand against this bureaucratic bullshit and be truly free again!
What would you say are the main challenges facing an up-and-coming musician/band in today’s cultural climate?
It’s difficult these days to find a trustworthy label and as the labels grow and grow, many of the smaller beginning bands are left to fall by the wayside, just a tax write-off!
Finally, what does the future hold for Master?
40 European and South American dates are on the horizon, The New Elite vinyl and CD will be released in July, and we will continue to spread our message of hope for mankind! The USA is in the works for March 2013 as well, busy!