Space Chaser - Interview
Space Chaser from the German capital of Berlin have released their third album "Give Us Life" in July. Not only more heaviness and an aged appearance on the cover are significant but also the change to a major label with this CD. For me this album is one of the thrash highlights of 2021 and this is reason enough to ask drummer Matthias Scheuerer via Zoom (and two more questions via mail) about the reasons for that and many more. Just read it on your own, have fun!
Hi Matthias how are you?
Good, everything is going wonderfully and there is little to complain about. Except for the fact that there are no concerts, everything is like from a storybook.
You released your third album "Give Us Life" in July. This is the first release through Metal Blade. How did you get the deal?
This happened with a bit of luck and coincidence. A good friend of ours, who is now also our booker, Christin, said in a conversation that she knew someone from Metal Blade. We told her more as a joke that she should ask if Metal Blade would like to sign us. That was also the big wish, if we end up with a big label, to get signed there. She really asked and the guy from Metal Blade also knew and liked us and said that we should send him some new material. So, we recorded a demo without further ado, sent it to him, he liked it and recommended us to his bosses in the US and the rest is history (laughs).
What are the expectations regarding the new album from you and the label?
What Metal Blade's expectations are, frankly, I don't really know. I can imagine that they have a plan of how a release has to perform in order for this to go forward, but no one has given us a plan of how it has to go, it's more of a friendly relationship. There is communication with us all the time and if something is wrong, then a solution is found immediately. It's all very family-like.
Our own expectation is something else. I'm afraid that we want too much...okay like actually every band after their release. But for us, for the first time, it looks like something is really happening. We're getting a lot of reactions from all over the world right now, whether it's a mail from South America or a video of someone covering one of our songs on guitar. We're also getting a lot of mails and merchandise orders from the US, that's increased fivefold in the last month. Also, the reviews the new album is getting are all good to very good. I read two that said the album is okay, but not a really bad review. We hope of course that we can take the next step, that we can do bigger tours and maybe play outside of Europe. That would be the next step towards becoming a big band, which is what every band wants to do. The metal scene is a very competitive market, it's very compact and there are a lot of fans, but most of them buy shirts and CDs from well-known bands and the further you move towards the underground, the less that becomes. Fans are in high demand, and everyone is courting them, so it's good to get a push like that. We are very grateful and happy about that.
The first reviews I read are all very enthusiastic. Maybe too enthusiastic in your eyes?
I don't think so. I think that we have delivered a good album. We ourselves are always overly critical of what we produce and most of the time I don't like the stuff when it's released. When I come from the studio, I still find everything great, but after the release it's usually the case that I've discovered so many weak points that I don't even like it anymore. That's not the case with this record. It's been recorded since December and even the mistakes I'm aware of make it a little better. We are very happy, and we would love to play every single song live because they all fit well. Otherwise, we've always had songs where we've said they're not live songs. But in this case, all of them are written for the stage and you can hear that.
Musically you have definitely increased the heaviness; partly you drift into death metal realms in terms of riffing. Why did you do that? Is that the biggest difference to the old albums or what would you call the certain something that makes the new album?
That's the biggest difference besides the fact that Siggi's vocals are a bit more aggressive. But the vocals also fit in well. It was a conscious decision. On Dead Sun Rising there were a lot of classic, melodic heavy metal elements, but also a lot of aggressive thrash, and we felt like we had to decide what we wanted. We noticed that we only play the heavier songs live and that we only really enjoy the more brutal songs. Since Leo and I write most of the music, we also listen to mostly hard music - I personally listen to a lot more death metal than thrash - it turned out that way. We dared to do a few things, for example a Dismember riff once. We thought about that in the past, but never dared to do it. And we still play with a normal tuned instrument, which means we don't have any drop tuning, but play in classic tuning and then of course you don't know if the riff will still sound good. However, it turned out that it sounds good, so we did that. We are all Black Breath fans, and they have these Dismember riffs quite often and we wanted to do that once. It works and for example it works great for 'A:O:A' and fits perfectly to this sound.
You have always dealt with science fiction themes. This time is no different. What is it about this time? Do you have a common thread?
There are quite different themes. Each song stands on its own, although a lot of people think the album is a concept album because the cover and the title go well together. It's all these dystopian dark sci-fi stories, of course, which sometimes drift into horror-like. That's because these are themes that completely fascinate Siggi. On the one hand it's scientific topics, astrophysics and stuff like that, and on the other hand it's the movies you watch. That's the easiest for him and if we would start to say that we write political songs, it would be much more difficult because these topics are not so close to us.
It wouldn't really fit to your band name.
Exactly, although on 'Antidote To Order' we touch so lightly on socially critical topics. But otherwise, we decided to go for sci-fi themes again.
The title track is about the creation of new life through the decay of stars. Here you have been inspired above all by Carl Sagan. You have not only grown up a bit musically, but also thematically it is more serious than before. What are your influences that led to the lyrics?
On the one hand it is really Carl Sagan, he published a series "Cosmos" and wrote books like "Science as a candle in the dark" or "A pale blue dot". This has influenced Siggi a lot and these are fascinating topics, where you could write 1000 albums about it and it still doesn't get boring. On the other side are the sci-fi stuff from movies and series. For 'Cryoshock' we were inspired by the series "Altered Carbon" and 'Signals' is about "2001 - A Space Odyssey". That's a pretty dark movie and a cinematic masterpiece and the mood in that movie is also great. 'Dark Descent' is about humanity figuring out how to leave its solar system, visiting other solar systems and finding a Dyson Sphere built around a planet, the civilization that built that but has long since died out. As the pilot's approach and crash, they discover why the civilization is extinct, namely because they have opened a gateway to another dimension.
The two pre-release songs, for which you have also produced videos, are great. I think the two videos are excellently done. Even though you can't deny certain parallels to Star Wars and The X-Files. Can you tell a bit about the story behind the making of these videos?
We already had the story for the video of 'Remnants Of Technology' in 2018 when we made the video for 'Waves', but at that time we had no chance to even begin to realize such a huge project. We always made a bit funnier video with Lucas (Fiederling; M.) until then, and it was always just the five of us with someone with the camera. We went into the forest or somewhere and for 'Waves' we borrowed a tank and there we also had someone directing the recording for the first time. That was the first bigger video, which was a bit more cinematic, because we had a shotlist that we had to work through. By then the script for 'Remnants...' already existed, but we didn't have a chance to shoot a proper video yet. I went to a mask store and got some latex to make masks myself, but it was all a sad endeavor, really bad. But we left no stone unturned, and it wasn't until just before we started shooting 'Waves' that we said we had to do something else. We couldn't do it because we also only had 2000€ for the video. 2 years later with the new album (Give Us Life; M.) we asked Lukas again if he would shoot a video with us or if he is too busy because he also shoots movies in the meantime. He agreed directly and we also had a bigger budget because we got funding through the "Initiative Musik". We got the script out and agreed that we wanted to make the Cantina video. Lucas already had an idea for it and started to activate all his friends for it and everyone was into it. Everyone liked it, sci-fi and a metal band, although none of them were metal fans, and because of Corona no one had a job and they had to choose between doing nothing and getting no money or being in our video and getting no money. It all became a no-brainer and quickly became quite unmanageable and we as a band didn't have a clear view of what was going on until two weeks before the shooting started. At some point we got an Excel spreadsheet with people working on it, costumes, extras and so on. Our eyes got so big because there were 60 people listed and then we realized that the whole thing was getting a little out of control. A few days before we started shooting, the location fell through. We had found a bar and after a long time of begging they finally agreed and then it became a Corona test center. Of course, we couldn't keep up with that and we searched and searched until we found this cellar hole. There was nothing in there, no bar, nothing. Then we still had to build everything within a week. We had two set design teams, one that I helped with built the walls and the second built the bar. A third team built the shuffleboard, which you can see, especially for the shoot. It all got so big and so crazy, and when I tell you about it now in retrospect, it seems really funny to me. We spent two days setting up, two days shooting the video and one day taking everything down again. I don't think anyone slept for a whole week (laughs). Lucas didn't sleep for two months. After the shoot, it went into editing, so he also sweated blood for another month. It was all ultra-tight. We almost didn't get the video done in time for the release date. We turned it in 24 hours before the release. Metal Blade kept asking what was going on. Usually, they have a deadline 10 days before the release. I sent Bart from Metal Blade a rough cut and he knew right away what we were planning and then sorted it out for us. On the second video ('The Immortals') we were able to reuse all the costumes again and some of the people helped out again as well. The video is more manageable and smaller, but it still looks pretty good, I think.
Also, the cover, designed by Mario Lopez, is much different this time than on the previous ones. How did it come about? I feel reminded of Star Trek meets Terminator.
That was also a logical development. If you compare all of our releases, you always see a progression. On the first record (Watch The Skies!; M.) the cover was super comic-like and the songs were about zombies and alcohol, on the second album (Dead Sun Rising; M.) the cover was much darker and a bit more sci-fi and this was the next step. We had this split CD with Distillator, for which Mario Lopez also did the cover and there was already this "Terminator". There was already this more serious theme and we told him that we would like to develop this story further. What if these characters that are an artificial intelligence and the civilization is completely extinct and the planet has become completely uninhabitable, populate this planet forever? Therefore, the album title is also very appropriate, because at some point these intelligences would call themselves the life on the planet, although according to our definition they are not living. I think the cover is successful. On one side we have this tree representing the past biological life and these cyborgs on the right side and in the background, you can see the still active city, but where nobody lives anymore.
What do you think, is there life outside the earth? The researches with Enceladus and Co. sound very promising.
For sure there is life outside the earth. That there is no further life except on our planet I do not hope. Because that would mean that the Christians are right, and I don't give them that. And if one finds life with us in the solar system then that would mean not only that there is life but that it is even quite usual. Just to be clear: bacterial life, single-celled organisms, that kind of thing. We are mostly made of hydrogen, oxygen, carbon and nitrogen. Those are among the 5 major constituents of the universe, so we're anything but special. But most think intelligent life, of course? Of course, that should actually exist, the sheer size of the universe alone actually rules out us being the only ones. Even if in our own Milky Way, as the Nottingham study once showed, more than 30 civilizations live (this is of course all based on estimates and assumptions and none of the numbers has hand and foot), these are on average every 20,000 light years one that means until they receive our signals it still takes about 19,900 years. If the next neighbors would have a suitable telescope, they would see how just a few monkeys with wooden sticks populate Europe. Besides, we probably do not even recognize the alien life as such. If they differ only 3% from our DNA, they can do as much with us as if we would find a planet, on which there are any microbes or perhaps worms. Besides, these are distances that no biological life can cover within its given lifetime (they would be subject to the same laws of nature as we are...) so at best we would meet an AI if it would reach us. And I don't think that would end well. So summarized life in any case - aliens rather not.
The US recently opened their military files on UFOs and admitted that there are some things that can't be explained. Do you have a theory on this?
Oh - unidentified objects just means that the person evaluating the material doesn't know what he's looking at. We are talking about infrared images of fighter pilots, correct? First EVERY earthly solution we know would have to be excluded, as long as the opposing states have secrets from each other, this is really improbable. Then still phenomena come from those we know yet nothing in addition. There are all kinds of that we know nothing. So also, there will be nothing. I love Sci-Fi movies as much as most people, but we will have to make ourselves comfortable here. The universe and all the rest are exciting enough.
You are also politically active and clearly position yourselves against the right. You also play with the punk band ZSK. What do you think about the current situation, in which the focus is put more and more on the alleged danger from the left? Current examples are the squat in Berlin (in connection with an expert opinion) or the demand of a former head of the Federal Intelligence Service for an attitude check of newscasters....
It is very worrying to see how much acceptance is given to the right. I don't think everything the left does is great either; you can find plenty to criticize. But the fact is that zero people have died as a result of attacks by the left, and on the right, it looks quite different (since 1990 until November 2020, 187 deaths in Germany: M.). You don't have to be left or right to see where the danger comes from. What is also worrying is all the right-wing groups that are popping up in the police or the military. That's where you see how dangerous it all is right now, and no one can foresee what kind of proportions it's going to take. I think it's more important than ever to take a clear stand and fight against it, even if we are always apolitical on our albums. It's already a bit dark times at the moment and Corona has fueled it all even more. Publicly always squatters or leftist chaos are denounced, although quite often these actions do not come from them. Of course, there are the rioters and as a normal person who has nothing to do with it, you certainly do not find it so nice when there are stones flying. They are angry and want to draw attention to themselves because it's time to make their presence felt and because it's time to do something. And when you're only listened to like this, and here in Berlin there's also the fact that all the retreats for everyone are simply being cleared out, then such a reaction is clear. Berlin is just ceasing to exist. The city as it once was is almost gone. All the pubs, trendy hangouts, bars, everything is just disappearing and being bought up by investors. People are angry, everyone is afraid, and for all these things going on, surprisingly little is happening. I think there should be more serious action against the right.
Where do you see the world in 10 years? Politically, economically and ecologically....
That's difficult to assess. Climate change is the most worrying issue worldwide. I think that is the biggest problem we are facing. In contrast, all the left/right talk seems ridiculous when you realize that we are facing a completely different challenge. The fact that climate scientists are the profession with the most suicides doesn't let you breathe easy either. On the other hand, if I observe myself, I don't do much about it either. It's really difficult and scary, and I'm excited to see where this goes. After all, there are some promising solutions, like genetically modified food or meat from the test tube, that could already be implemented. But all that is being held back by industry and business, because that would mean a paradigm shift that they're all afraid of. And that is also a problem, that something like that is more important than the continued existence of mankind. But I probably also don't understand enough about everything. Nevertheless, you can see that there are problems in all corners and ends and that there are problems in all countries, and on the other hand, there is this incredible progress. Technical innovations are coming all the time, this whole A.I. is just overtaking us. I think we are a few decades away from the digital revolution. As a comparison, in the industrial revolution, probably every horse trader thought it was all bullshit and a few years later they didn't exist. We are all horse traders. It's all so unclear and it always makes me feel a bit stupid because I understand so little about things.
Let's get back to the musical side of things. What are your biggest influences on Space Chaser?
From the older bands Demolition Hammer, Solstice (US), also with newer bands there are a few, Black Breath, Revocation. My biggest influence in the last 10 years is Misery Index. I could never play like that because it would ruin our songs, but the way they approach songwriting, it's phenomenal. I've tried to translate that into thrash.
Finally - which albums must every metal fan have at home?
"Reign In Blood", "South Of Heaven", "Extreme Aggression", "Bonded By Blood", "Among The Living", "World Downfall", "Symphonies Of Sickness" and "Horrified".
The last words are yours!!!
I would like to express the utmost gratitude from all of us to everyone who has listened to our songs and watched our videos. Your time is even more valuable than the money and when someone sits down and listens to our stuff - that is the very greatest thing you can achieve as a band. This may sound a bit pathetic, but we are completely floored when we see, for example, someone release a playthrough video of 'Remnants...' two days after it was released. He wrote us that he practiced six hours for it. Six hours you sit down and listen to that stuff. That's unbelievable and we're crazy grateful for that.
Give Us Life
Distillator / Space Chaser
Dead Sun Rising
Watch The Skies!
- Ekrom - Uten Nådigst Formildelse - Jun 06
- Pyrexia - System Of The Animal 25 - Jun 06
- Slow Fall - Obsidian Waves - Jun 09
- The Bleeding - Monokrator - Jun 09
- Scar Symmetry - The Singularity (Phase II: Xenotaph) - Jun 09
- Burial Hordes - Ruins - Jun 09
- Vortex - The Future Remains In Oblivion - Jun 09
- Claustrum - Claustrum - Jun 09
- All Life Ends - Miscreation - Jun 09
- The Arcane Order - Distortions From Cosmogony - Jun 09
- Kaksonen - Universumin Kuningas - Jun 09
- Apocalypse - Retaliation - Jun 09
- Aodon - Portraits - Jun 09
- Pile Of Death - Introducing Our Impending Doom - Jun 10
- Cavern Deep - Part II - Breach - Jun 10
- Ascendency - A Manifest Of Imperious Destiny - Jun 14
- Invocatio - The Detonation Of The Cosmos - Jun 15
- Altar Of Oblivion - Burning Memories - Jun 16
- Sammath - Grebbeberg - Jun 16
- Wonders - Beyond The Mirage - Jun 16