The Curse Continues... Hank Shermann Speaks Out!!!

When you hear the names Michael Denner and Hank Shermann you automatically think of 'Mercyful Fate', as we all know they were the original guitarist's for that band back in the day who had recorded the classic albums 'Melissa' and 'Don't break the Oath', which pretty much inspired Metallica and many more classic bands. After the split King would form 'King Diamond; taking Michael with him & leaving Hank to form the band 'Fate' . Mercyful Fate would reform in the late 90's and record several albums and played such festivals as Dynamo and Wacken to only split later on once again. Now Michael and Hank teamed up together with ex King Diamond drummer Snowy Shaw and U.S. Power Metal singer Sean Peck from the band 'Cage', who have also recorded several incredible albums and bassist Marc Grabowski from the band 'Corruption'. 

It wasn't long before the band would soon record their debut EP 'Satan Tomb' for Metal Blade records, a great introduction to what would soon follow in the form of 'Masters of Evil' album which has just been released also on Metal Blade. Both records would see the band receive some amazing reviews from the press and old school metal heads would also be rejoiced with their music. 

I managed to speak to hank Shermann about this new band, the EP, album and what the future holds for the band. The interview started off when we talked about the debut EP of Mercyful Fate which was recorded in Driffield (UK) and a photo shoot in my home city of Hull. Here is what Hank had to say.

Hey Jason, hope you are well. I hear you are from Hull in England (Ed: Yes that's right!) I guess you know that Mercyful Fate recorded their 1st record  there, a little town called Driffield. (Ed: Yes I know a little about it... you could tell me more!!) Yeah we recorded our 1st single there, I think it was done at 'Slaughthouse Studios'. We had many good times there and I remember we did a photo shoot in Hull at a cemetery that day having pictures near tombstones and we were chased off by the police. It was funny and I shall have to find a picture to send you!! We had some really good memories and we went back to our hotel. Your fanzine now webzine has been around for many years this is something I know about and I have to respect you for that (Ed: Thank you Hank). It's like Michael and myself we are both dedicated to the music and we try to make good songs. We are still trying to make good music."

Looking back to Mercyful Fate day's, do you have a favourite album and why?

"Well I think my personal all time favourite has to be 'Melissa' as we had just signed to Roadrunner and we were very excited about that. I did all the music on that record, and I think the songs are all kick ass songs like 'Curse of the Pharaohs', 'Evil, 'Melissa' are all classic songs. There all good memories for me and it's a great album. With the next album 'Don't break the Oath' it was a great album, had a lot of Judas Priest style riffs on that record, I love Judas Priest and I would say that my playing is a little more directed to that of K.K. Downing, just because of the whammy bar stuff that he and I do, he's a little more wild like me. I love the 70's Judas Priest albums the most."

Did you ever support or meet Judas Priest?

"No we didn't sadly, King had met Rob Halford backstage in the 90's at some festivals, but we as Mercyful Fate never got the chance to meet them."

Why did Mercyful Fate break up the 1st time around?

"Well King wanted to do more concept albums and wanted to do bigger stage shows and the only way he could so that was to form his own band and he took Michael Denner and Timi Hansen with him and hired 2 Swedish guys, Andy LaRocque and Mikkey Dee as drummer and it turned out great for him with a fresh new approach and modern sound and I think the whole mission was fulfilled so I have respect for him. King didn't take me as it would of pretty much been called 'Mercyful Fate', it really didn't make sense. It didn't really bother me that I didn't join King Diamond, I am a song writer and I made all the music for both Mercyful Fate albums. So I formed my own band with 'Fate' who were more melodic and in the middle of the 80's. I was into the Europe style bands so it was a cool challenge in that style. Looking back at that I got it out of my system and we had some great times making 2 albums. I have no regrets. I was involved with the 1st 2 albums and then I had a fight with the producer on the 3rd album and our 1st 2 albums had a lot of success."

In later years Mercyful Fate came back and recorded yet another 5 albums between 93-99, how did this all come about once again?

"Well after I left 'Fate' back in 88 I went back to Michael and he was out of King Diamond so I called him and asked if he wanted to make new band with me, he told me he had a new band with a singer so I joined his band. They were called 'Soser Mec' and we did 1 album and later on King got to hear the 2nd demo we did which had more of my style of writing material and King liked what he heard. I think listening too that song he missed the Mercyful Fate days and I think it was the song he hard that made him think about reforming the band. We signed to metal Blade in 92 and recorded 'In the Shadows' in 93. It was a great 7 yrs of the reunion."

Lets move on and talk about the new band 'Denner Shermann', how did this band come to be? I see you have some good friends of mine on vocals Sean Peck from Cage & Snowy Shaw. Please tell me more...

"The whole idea came about from the days of Mercyful Fate, I had meetings with Michael and Snowy Shaw had meetings about the Mercyful Fate days and we decided to form a new band. We went public with it and Sean Peck got in touch saying he is in a band called 'Cage'. So we checked out Sean and checked out his vocal abilities and we knew he had what we were looking for. Sean had his own identity like Halford, Dickenson, so we knew he would be perfect for the band. I sent him a song and 2 days later it came back already done it was the song 'Satan's Tomb'."

Did you have any other singers in mind? How about Tim Owens?

"Well we had been working with Messiah ex Candlemass on a couple of songs but we wanted to get back in the 80's metal vibe. So we need a high pitch singer who could sing handle the melodic parts, was also good on stage and could handle the press and Sean was the perfect act. He is a fast worker and he gets the ideas back to me with 2 days. We did think about Tim but he is a little too attractive but Sean hasn't really had any success with Cage, so we wanted to give Sean a chance, he's a great singer and Cage are a good band."

Where did you meet bassist Marc Grabowski is from the Denver Colorado and he was in a band called 'Corruption' in the 90's which were groovy metal like Pantera and I lived their in the 90s and we hooked up and became friends. We have been friends for many years. I formed a band called 'Demonica' in 2008 I asked him to join the band, we broke up and I did a solo album called 'Shermann Tank' and Marc was also the singer on that record. 

"We had the put the album on hold as Mike and myself were forming 'Denner Shermann' band and I asked him if he would like to play bass for us, he agreed. He is a great bass player and it shows on this record. I believe we have 5 great musicians in this band, you can tell who's playing the guitar solos in this band."

The band's debut 'Satan's Tomb' was an E.P, why was that? Why not a full length album?

"Well when we started we didn't have a contract with a label so we did a 4 song E.P. just like we did with Mercyful Fate in their early days. We decided to copy that pattern, e wanted to do just 4 songs to see how people would react. We got some great reviews for this e.p. and people treated us as a new band and not like Sean sounded like King. We did have a plan to record an album  with Metal Blade later on and it worked out really well doing the E.P. first."

The E.P was recorded by Arnold Lindberg at 'Sound Industry' studios in Gothenburg (Sweden), why that studio?

"Well Snowy does his drums there, he recommended Arnold to mix the record. Sean does all his vocals at home using pro-tools and I would collect all the files from everybody and Mike and myself would record our parts together and put everybody else's stuff into pro-tools along with Arnold. There is a lot of file transferring, so I sent ghost tracks to Snowy to record his material too. It worked out really well."

Why the title 'Satan's Tomb' for the E.P.? 

"Well the title came from Sean, he had the title for the song already done. The album cover was done by Thomas who has done the album cover in 2001 & I bought it in 2010 as I knew the cover would come in handy in the future. Thomas did the artwork for Mercyful Fate in the early days and we knew he would do a great job. He also did the artwork for 'Masters of Evil' before we recorded the album which made us laugh. The E.P. Sold really well, we were surprised at the sales of the record. This is a new band and we got good reviews for this record & it sold well. Thomas did the artwork for the new album and we knew he would do a great job, and there are some similarities to that of Mercyful Fate in our new artwork."

Did you think that people may think this was just a project and not a band at the beginning?

"Well we thought that some people may think that, yes!! The name certainly may indicate that but we knew this was a band and that is why we chose a cool logo to show that this was a band and not a project. We did a video for the song 'Satan's Tomb', we took a month to record the video and creating it but it worked out really well."

So the album 'Masters of Evil', who came up with the title for the album?

"Well again that was down to Sean, when we talked about titles and lyrics it was Sean that would come up with a few titles and he told us about them. One song that came up was 'Angels Blood', the thought about 'Drinking the Angels Blood' and we thought it was too long, so we shortened the song title. He said we should call it 'Masters of Evil' and Mike liked it and Sean so that was the end title for the album. We also thought it was a great title with our past with Mercyful Fate." 

Does Sean write all the lyrics?

"Yes he does, we leave it to him to do the lyrics and Mike and myself write the music. We like to give people 100% freedom to do what they want and create some really good lyrics. Snowy and Marc do the same we trust each other. Mike and myself have the last word but we would all sit down as disguise which songs would be 1st, last and the video song on the album."

What songs on the album stand out for you and why?

"Well I like the song 'Son of Satan' is a epic and outstanding song for us, Sean did a really amazing job on the song structure and you live and learn with a song like that. It also has a lot of time changes, structures and evil parts that Sean did a great job on. I also like 'The Baroness' is also another great song. I was surprised on how well the song 'Servants of Dagon' turned out, we wrote that song about a year ago and it turned out really well. We did try to do change that song later on as Snowy did some scratch parts for the song and it was raw and Sean's vocals were like early Halford and the riffs were like 70's Sabbath stuff with catchy riffs. There are no 2 songs that are the same on this record. We had 1 song that didn't make the album as we felt that 8 songs were enough for the album which was like the 80's vinyl time of about 42 minutes."

How long did it take to record the album?

"Well the drums took 4 days, Marc used about 5-7 days and the song writing took a little longer with Mike taking a while like me to do the guitar parts. Sean does his take pretty quickly and perfect and it takes us a little longer. I do my guitars about 3 times and it gets boring and I have to follow Snowy .I like the mix and I wanted to have it a different way at 1st but I wanted to do a vintage style and it worked for us, everything was pretty much natural. We could of used Andy Sneap for the album but we didn't want an in your face production, maybe we will use him in the future who knows? We may change our producer in the future... I mean Metallica changed their producer and sold millions of records on the 'Black' album."

Are you doing a promo video and if so for which song?

"Yes we are it is for the song 'Son of Satan', it will be a great video set in an old church, you will have t check it out Jason."

Now that the band have released a EP and full length album, do you intend on doing a tour soon?

"Yes we do, in July we will play the 'Metal Magic' festival in Denmark and on 29th July we play the 'Head Bangers' festival in Hamburg. We hope to tour a European September/ October in Europe and later on a U.S. east side tour if all goes well and the west coast too. It depends on the budget we will have to see how it goes."

Well Hank thanks for the interview, best of luck and hi to the band from me. Do you have anything to say too you're fans?

"Yes thanks for their support, we hope you like the album and we hope to see you all on tour. Thank's for the interview Jason, be great to meet one day."

Thanx for the interview Hank and to Mr T @ Metal Blade.