Back from the Dead - Men V Stein speaks out!!

Dead from the dead, German thrasher's Exumer return with a brand new album and new record label. Exumer were a fine band back in the day and I remember see in them with Atomkraft & Nasty Savage back in 87 in the UK, what a fantastic show that was, still own the t shirt. German thrash back in the 80's was pretty much extreme as it came and made most of the U.S. Thrash bands sound like either Poison or Bon Jovi if they were lucky. As we all know Destruction, Sodom, Kreator are the godfathers of German thrash, but there are those bands under them who equality played a big part in the German thrash scene such as Assassin, Deathrow, and Exumer to name a few. Exhumer released their debut album for Disaster Records in the mid 80's with 'Possessed By Fire' & later on 'Rising From The Sea', 2 fine classic albums. Years past and the band returned with original singer Men V Stein (vocals), along with guitarist Ray Mensh with new memebers H.K. (guitars), T Shiavo (bass) and drumer Matthias Kassner. The band soon signed with Metal Blade and recorded 'Fire & Damnation'. I recenely spoke with vocalist Men about the formation of the band, the breaks ups and the reformation of the band. Shame I never got to interview back in the day but this new album is awesome and the band are back and stronger than ever. Sit back, open a beer or 2 and read on metal heads!!!

Well thanks for doing this interview; I would like to ask you when did the band form and who formed the band?

I formed EXUMER in 1985, after meeting Ray Mensch at a Slayer show. I asked Ray if he wanted to play in a thrash meatl band that sounds like a mix of Exodus and Slayer. Tartaros was my first band and that line-up only had Syke besides me in the band. Those two bands were otherwise unrelated. Tatrtaros was formed after my friend Titty from Metal Bastard Magazine suggested to me to start a band. I was playing with the idea for a long time but it was my friend who encouraged me to just go ahead and do it. I knew Syke from my neighborhood and we were friends from when I was about 13 years old. He always played drums and I asked him to join Tartaros after I had secured the rest of the band members. We were basically all childhood friends and I had a vision to make it with a real band. Then we after recording one demo we broke up and I decided to form a new band, which eventually became Exumer.

Up until the debut album has the line up been the same, if not who replaced you?

Bernie replaced Paul Arakaki on guitars, after Paul left the band due to his obligations at High School and not being able to meet my expectations of rehearsing 4 X per week. That’s the only line-up change up to that point.
How did the band get together, did you all know each other back then as school friends or did you meet by hanging out at gigs or were you all in different bands before hand?

I met Ray in 1983, for the first time on the train going to the Monsters of Rock Festival. Bernie and Ray worked together at the same apprenticeship placement.
What bands were you all in before Exhumer formed and how did the music differ from that of Exhumer?
 Syke and myself were in a band as I had mentioned before but not the rest of the band.

As a band who are your early influences and how do they reflect in your music back in the early days? Has you influences changed of recent for the band to reform or are they still the same as they were back in the 80s

Same influences as in the 80s, early Slayer, Exodus, Mercyful Fate, Venom, punk and hardcore, as well as NWOBHM.

I have noticed the band have recorded 2 demos prior to the release of the debut album ‘A Mortal In Black’ in 85, what songs were on that demos and how well did the demo sell? The 2nd demo was called ‘Whips & Chains’ in 89, what songs were on that and how well did the demo sell?

 AMIB featured: AMIB, Scanners and Silent Death. It sold out and is considered a cult demo. I can’t speak for the 2nd demo since I wasn’t involved in that but it wasn’t indeed for sale. Was it the 2nd demo that got you signed to ‘Disaster’ Records? Where you happy with the label back then when you released ‘Possessed by fire’ album back in 86?
The 2nd demo was released after the band cut ties with Disaster Records. DR did everything correctly for the first album, great producer, good promotion etc.
How well did that album sell and what memories do you have of the recording of that album? Did it take long to record and did the album receive positive reviews worldwide?
It took us 2 weeks to record and mixing it and it was a learning process for all of us. It was our first time in a professional studio and we all had to buckle down in order to make it happen. Harris Johns helped a lot and remained focused and driven throughout the entire process. The fans and the press received the album very positively and it was a remarkable feeling to see your own album in the windows of record stores… all at age 18.

What songs from that album stand out for you and why? Where they’re many songs on that album that you didn’t like and why?

We generally liked all the tracks of the album but the title track, Journey to Oblivion and Fallen Saint are the stand out cuts in my opinion.
What was it like to of worked with Harris Johns, a well-known German producer back in the day, was you happy with the production he gave you back then?
Yes totally happy with his work and no nonsense attitude that was what we needed in those days. Now we are a little better about maintaining our focus and setting the goals.
Did you tour much for that release?

We did, toured with Suicidal Tendencies and did a ton of other shows.

Moving on the band released ‘Rising from the Sea’, a classic album and I remember see in you live supporting nasty savage with atomkraft in Huddersfield UK, how was that tour? I was like 17 and I loved the show, shit I still have the tour shirt in perfect condition.
I wasn’t on that tour, Paul sang on that tour.

This album featured Paul Arakaki, wasn’t he half German and half Hawaiian? Why did Mem leave the band after the debut album? Also were did you find Paul and why did he leave in the end?

Paul is 100% from Hawaii. I had left the band due to internal musical and personal differences. Paul’s parents, who were in the military, were ordered to go back to the USA and Paul wanted to attend GIT in Los Angeles, that’s why he left the band for 2nd time.

What songs from that album stand out for you and why? I love that album. What memories do you have from the recording of that album and did you receive positive reviews for that album?

I like Winds of Death and I Dare You. Reviews were mixed but the album sold well regardless.

What about the artwork for that album and ‘Possessed By Fire’, who did the artwork and were you happy with both covers?

Martin Apholt was the illustrator who designed the first two albums and he established the masked character. The mask is now part of our branding and essential for all Exumer related merchandise and artwork. So, yea we are quite happy with the first two album designs.

As the band was getting a great name for themselves you broke up after that album, why? What happened? Was it the fact that your label went bust? What songs from that album do you like and why? Any least favourite songs from that album?

Paul left the band and then the band went to a rather untypical musical direction that the fans were not supportive of. That’s when the band decided to break up.

I also saw the band reform at Wacken 2009, with Mem, Ray, Bernie back in the band, did you have fun playing wacken and was it that festival that may of sparked the band to reform later on in many years to come?

The Wacken Open Air was like a “Thank you”, to all our fans who didn’t have the chance to see Exumer with Ray and myself in the line-up. I founded the band with Ray in 1985, but left the band shortly after “Possessed by Fire”, was released and a lot of people never seen the band with that line-up. We were all there, except the drummer; Syke. It was a lot of fun, many bands were doing one-off reunion shows at the time in Wacken and it definitely was the right place and time to pull off a one-off like that. Like I mentioned, the Wacken show was a one-off, I decided to bring back the band for the 3rd time and for good in late 2007/2008.
So the band reformed in 2009 with the demo ‘Waking the fire’ what songs were on that demo and did they all make it onto the new album? Why didn’t Bernie or Sykes join the band once again if Paul wasn’t asked?

Here is a little background for you. We were getting so much mail over the years and it really did not stop after we played the reunion show at Wacken in 2001. I was playing with the idea of putting the band back together for a while but then in 2007, Paul Arakaki (2nd EXUMER singer/bassist), came to stay with me in NYC over Halloween. We connected in such a profound way that it brought back my initial thoughts about reforming the band. Ray got onboard almost immediately after I had introduced the idea but all this was only possible because the timing was right this around and the idea was not to have a reunion type of format but a working band. That means going on tour, writing new material, recording new albums and getting signed to a label. We toured in 2009 and 2010, played all over the world and recorded a 2-track demo called: Waking the Fire. Paul left the band for a third time after the 5 Nights of Fire tour in 2009, and so Ray and I we got a new line up, which has been the same since 2010.
Where did you find H.K & T Schiavo and Matthias before they joined the band? What bands were they in before joining Exhumer? Did they all play on the demo above-mentioned?

Matthias (Dipsomania) and T (Terror of the Trees/Hemlock), both have been in underground metal bands in Germany and NYC respectively. H.K. has not but is a guitar teacher in the Frankfurt area.

So how did the deal with Metal Blade come about and who else did you approach for a deal?

I’ve been friends with the European office’s staff of MB since 2001, and it was quite natural to ask them if they were interested in releasing the new album after we had finished mixing it. They were, and so were some other labels but Metal Blade is the only logical choice for us, since we need a label that can represent us globally and MB can do that. Metal Blade Records is an awesome match and in line with the demands we have on ourselves and the entire vision of Exumer in 2012, and beyond.

Are you happy with metal blade and how long is the deal for?

It’s essentially for 3 records but we are very comfortable with MB, so it can go on if both parties are happy with each other’s work.

Tell me about the songs on the new album, were they wrote as a team effort and how long did it take to record?

We recorded 10 songs for the new album and I would say that it is by far the best effort in regards to the level and quality of musicianship that this band has ever recorded. You have to remember that we were quite young when we our first two albums dropped and now all our experiences or technical gains have been poured into this record.
Having said that, I think we were able to maintain the spirit of our sound from the 80s with the force of our expertise of today.
The process of writing this album went in steps; we started getting ideas as early as 2008, continued to write through 2009/10, while we were touring and finally took off from playing live in 2011, to complete writing and rehearsing/recording in 2011. We scheduled a 3-week rehearsal session in spring of this year, prior to entering the studio for recording, in order to play and finish writing the new songs in the rehearsal room. This way we sounded like a cohesive unit when went on to record the tracks in the studio and the material got a total “band/rehearsal room” vibe. We then recorded the album in Germany, around the area of Dortmund. The tracking was fairly quick but mixing took 3 months and in phases and with a lot of A/B the material. The end result is what counts and we were all in agreement that we will mix the record until all parties are happy with the end result. It just took a while to incorporate all the elements and everyone’s wishes.
What are the songs about on the new album? Which songs stand out for you and why? Do you have any least favourites? Ok so why the title ‘Fire & Damnation’? What other titles did you have for this album?

The concept around the title “Fire and Damnation” is centered on us as a band and what we had been going through in the past 27 years. The title reflects the way we feel and that we have to through fire to keep the band going, only to be damned coming out on the other side. It’s more a state of mind than anything else and it conjures up some perfect “METAL” imagery.I had no other titles for the album!
What about the artwork, who did it and are you happy with the artwork for this album too?

Our friend Baptiste Treton designed the album cover and we think he did a perfect job! It has all the right elements and fits the title 100%.

The album was produced by Waldermas ex Grip Inc, who’s idea was it to use him as a producer? Who else did you have in mind as a producer?

We liked his work on the latest SODOM album, to be as honest as possible with you but of course we knew his previous work as well and knew that he would be able to bring out the best Exumer out of us, without losing the band’s spirit/vibe. And he did, at least we think so. He definitely brought out good performances out of all of us and was very helpful in the tracking process overall. It’s just really reassuring to have someone with a lot of experience behind the board, who knows how important this next record in the band’s future really is. That was just a good feeling to know about the level of Waldemar’s commitment to the project and likewise his engineer’s commitment.
Are you happy with the end results of the album?

We are very happy with the results, it’s the best album we were able to produce with Waldemar, given all the circumstances and the budget we worked with.

Where there any special guest on the album if so who?

No special guests, maybe next time.

Will the band be doing a promo video if so for which song?

We just recorded a clip for the title track in Sao Paulo/Brazil, during our “South American Damnation” tour.

I have noticed the band rerecorded ‘Fallen Saint’ & ‘I dare you’ why those songs from the band previous songs?

We thought it be a special surprise for all the old school EXUMER fans to hear me sing on a track from our second album (Rising From The Sea, 1987), and Paul Arkaki singing on a track from our first album (Possessed By Fire, 1986). So we switched vocals on those two cuts and I think all our old fans will appreciate these versions of: “Fallen Saint” and “I Dare You”. The rest of the songs are all brand new other than Waking the Fire, which we had put out in a demo version in 2009. So, people will have 8 new cuts and two old songs in brand new versions. We wanted to showcase our old material with today’s sound and prove to us that it still hold up and it doesn’t sound dated.
When will the band be touring and do you have any plans to tour the UK and play any festivals this year?

We just completed touring in Mexico, Germany, Argentina, Chile and Brazil where we filmed our first official video clip (soon to be released). My guess is that we will come to the U.K. next year and appear on several festivals in Europe next summer.

Well thanks for doing the interview, do you have anything to say to the fans reading this?

Thank you for having us and most important thanks to our fans that have been faithful throughout our 27 year long career, in the end all of this means nothing without them!