Traitor - Interview
Traitor is one of the great newer German thrash metal bands who put a lot of fresh energy into the scene and who give hope that the whole won't die within the next couple of years when the "big ones" will retire. The quartet has lately released their fourth full-length album "Exiled To The Surface" which is one of the best (German) thrash releases in 2022 (review here). I had a very funny and interesting Zoom session with their bass player Lorenz Kandolf to talk about the band and their latest album. Enjoy reading!
Hi Lorenz, congratulations on the new album. Are you satisfied with the reactions?
Well, it was our first album to reach number 44 in the German album charts and number 27 in the midweek charts on MTV. We were even ahead of Drake and Coldplay. Of course I thought that was especially cool, because "Fuck you Coldplay!" (laughs). That's awesome, although you have to say that it became such a Corona album. We wrote it during the pandemic, couldn't see each other and had to change the whole way of working with sending demos back and forth and stuff. At some point we knew it was going to be very well received, but then how it really was and all the great feedback was then of course great.
Can you introduce the band a little bit more?
Sure. Traitor is an old-school thrash metal band from Baden-Württemberg, more precisely from Balingen, where the "Bang Your Head" festival comes from. The band was already founded in 2004 by Gerd Hery , who is our rhythm guitarist and Andreas Mozer, who is our drummer and singer, but under the name "Meatgrinder". Then the band was called "Patricide", then "Premature Burial" and it was all more death metal and they also had female vocals with Jessica (Metzger; M.) and I joined the band in 2009. Then the band had renamed themselves a few months before and went more into this thrash metal direction, which was then a natural development. In 2013 Matthias Koch, our current lead guitarist, joined and since then we are still in the line-up, have released four albums, two DVDs, one live album and two demos by now. We're also on the road quite a bit, just released Exiled To The Surface via Violent Creek Records and now we're doing interviews (laughs).
In the past you have always had a three year gap between your albums, this time it was four. Did you consciously leave yourselves more time, at the death of your label boss Bauke de Groot, with whom you were also friends, Corona?
It all played into it together. You have to add that we turned 10 in 2019 and released a live album and DVD that we recorded at Wacken, and we would have gone on tour in March 2020. It doesn't seem to us that it took so long with the album because you had this release in between and of course then Corona came along and that our label boss died of cancer. So we had to see how it would continue, because we had contracts and whether it would continue at all. His wife then took over the label and we also work closely with her. With Corona, of course, we had to rearrange everything somehow, but it all didn't seem so long. In the middle of 2020 we started to compose songs for the new album and until we could meet in the rehearsal room it took some time again. On October 21 we were then in the studio, but it was now also not conscious that we wanted to take longer. Those were the overall circumstances and privately there were also some problems and changes and that all contributed to it. But we also wrote a lot more songs and a lot of demo files, we're on it and doing other stuff. I'm also playing in other bands and I've released albums with them as well. Now we're working on a new album by Rezet and we've already written 25 songs for it and it's going on permanently.
I think in any case that the songwriting is much more mature than on the last album and properly kicks ass.
That pleases me! You always want to have an increase and you can also tell me if you think it sucks (laughs). But music is always totally subjective, people can like it or not, it's just like food. If you don't like something, you're not an asshole because you don't eat potatoes or something. With the new album, we also went to a new producer and that added to the overall package. In the production you can also hear - I don't want to throw around any phrases now - that it's a bit clearer than the productions before and that it has a more differentiated sound. That came with the new studio and producers.
Of course, if you're being mischievous, you could be accused of money-making because you already have older songs from "Decade Of Revival" and a re-recording of "Teutonic Storm" on it, so this is more of an EP as far as new songs go.....
Haha, I knew the question was coming! You could also call the album an extended EP, but I said earlier, this box set, which came out at the end of 2019, there were four of the new songs already on there, but that came out 17.12.19 and then we still played a concert in January and had there only 500 units of and then would have gone on tour. Then the fans asked for the vinyl version, but the label didn't press it, because the live album plus the four songs and you would have had to make a double vinyl and that's expensive and we got really bad insults that we didn't have that done. Then I figured that those four songs kind of went under the radar because Corona and everything happened and that would be a shame if those got lost because those are already four pretty strong songs. This time we have vinyl as well and we put them on it. But how you do it, you do it wrong, you know that and I also know that now you will arrive with "Teutonic Storm" because we had that on the "Venomizer" in 2015. But also there the story is very simple why we recorded that one again. We wrote the soundtrack for "Total Thrash" and there is a split vinyl (with Rezet; M.). That's why we actually went into the studio first, because we recorded the title track for the movie. Daniel Hoffmann, the director, used "Teutonic Storm" and "Total Thrash" in the movie. He initially wanted to do the vinyl with just Traitor and we had already recorded the two songs and we didn't want to just remaster that from the 2015 version because on that song we also had Burkhard Schmitt from Hate Squad. We thought about re-recording that and changing a few things. There are different bass lines on it, the drumming is different, and the vocals are different, of course, because Andi sings it alone. These two songs we originally wanted to record, but it worked out so well that we said "fuck it, we'll do some more and see if we can get an album together". Then as I said Daniel came up with the "Total Thrash" story, we had already recorded the songs and then said it would be cool if we did a split. Since I also play with Rezet, we could also do a song with Schmier from Destruction, who is also on there and I personally thought it was cooler, because it was a fan gift for the supporter package of the film, if both bands, which also appear in the film, are on there and not just Traitor. It would have been better for us of course because then we would have been more in focus, but I thought the split with both bands was better because you have one song with Tom Angelripper and one song with Schmier and the two bands. That's the background why the album has "Teutonic Storm 2021" on it.
How did you get Tom as a guest singer on the hook?
We've known Sodom for a few years and we've played a lot of concerts with them and actually it's a funny story because the new guitarist of them, York Segatz, used to be our stagehand. He gave us our guitars and stuff and now he plays with Sodom (laughs)! Of course that's really cool. So we always had contact and Daniel Hoffmann had this idea. He said he thought it would be really cool to have an own song and told me "Hey Lorenz, you play in a thrash metal band, write an own song for the movie". Then he got the idea that it would be cool if one of the big thrash bands was participating on that and there was the contact immediately and he then asked him. Tom then wanted a few demos, which we sent him, he thought they were cool and so he just sang on them. We then wrote him a text and what it's about and oriented ourselves to the film. It's three verses and the movie is divided into three chapters, 80s, 90s and modern times, and so the lyrics are also adapted so that you have a red thread and he liked that, did it and now we have a song with Sodom (laughs).
Speaking of "Total Thrash" - you also play in the documentary of the same name about the German thrash metal scene. How did it come about?
Daniel Hoffmann, the director, comes from the Sauerland, more precisely from Marsberg, makes the "Metal Diver Festival" and makes the magazine "Metal Striker" and he is also my boss, so to speak, because I am a freelance editor for the magazine. He told me about this before at the end of 2018 and asked if I would like to do anything about the German thrash metal scene. This idea became more and more mature and since I'm also pretty well connected in the scene, they also talked about it. It was like with "Some Kind Of Monster", there was always a film crew there and recorded every shit and there would have been a lot more, but then Corona came in between and then you had to work with what you had. That's how we ended up in the film. We had been in contact for years and because he had asked us several times for the "Metal Diver Festival" and he also likes Traitor, it was a natural development.
Are you satisfied with the result?
Well, I'm very satisfied with it, only if you take off the rose-colored glasses a bit, it's almost two hours and there were almost 500 protagonists and you have to break everything down. It's just that this film, like all of them, has the problem that it's very much focused on the 80s. I think it would have been more cool if they had made 10 minutes less of the 80s and concentrated a bit more on the modern times. I don't mean that in a bad way, the film is super classy and if there are 500 people in it, I know about 450 of them personally, it's like looking through an old class book. That's why it's really funny, but I think it would have done the film a lot of good if they had focused a bit more on more recent times. Sure, the '90s were there too, and they were bashed as usual, but I don't think the '90s sucked at all. There was great new stuff, only the thrash metal had a few problems, but that is of course thematically related thing. You could have made the movie much longer, but you don't want to bore people. The DVD is really cool, because there is a lot of bonus material on it and you can see more background, individual conversations and interviews with everyone. On the whole I would give it 9 out of 10 points, because it was well received by the people, it was also a lot of work to make the thing and this is Daniel's very first attempt at big movies and I think it's really not bad for that. But there are certainly still things that could have been expanded.
In this documentary there are a lot of newer thrash bands like Space Chaser, Eradicator, Ravager, Pripjat and so on. Would you say that there is now a new thrash metal scene in Germany, or is everyone cooking their own soup?
This scene has always existed and I wouldn't say that everyone is cooking their own soup. If I take Traitor or the bands you mentioned as a basis - we all know each other personally very well and have played many concerts with each other. We just often have the problem that you don't get paid like you did in the 80s and so most people have their regular jobs and so it's always a bit difficult to combine these tours. But there is no competition and the nice thing we have is that we used to organize concerts ourselves, for example Space Fest. Eugen (Lyubavskyy – guitarist in Pripjat; M.) founded the "Riffing For Tolerance" in 2016, where there are several bands and that all goes against racist shit in the music scene. We will do it for the first time in Cologne (19.11. with Space Chaser, Pripjat, Dust Bolt, Stallion and Bloodspot at Volta Club; M.) a benefit concert for Ukraine, where these bands play. From that point of view it could be a kind of revival, nothing against the old bands, Sodom, Kreator, Tankard, Destruction, Assassin...the guys are all over 50 and that will be exhausting. You're not doing a piano concert, it's very physical music that you play and at some point it gets a little thin there. I guess we're in this new squad and then you climb up there. So well, we are well connected and we have to see how it looks in the next few years. You can still feel the aftermath of the pandemic. The venues are still booked up from 2020 and there's so much overlap because everyone's afraid of the situation in the fall, but maybe next year we can tour a little more if it all works out. Maybe also small weekend tours and that over 10 weeks, always Thursday to Saturday, 3 gigs in the north, then in the south, then sometimes in Belgium, Austria, Switzerland and that organized by yourself, because you are not adequately paid for it and when other companies are involved, who want to get up to 20% of your cake and then just forward you an email and do nothing else.
Musically, where do you see your roots? More with the German Big 4 or with the American ones? Or somewhere else entirely?
Woah, that's really difficult. I think if Andi and Gerd were there, they would go more on the German track, Tankard, Sodom, Kreator....I have more of a broad musical taste, more like 50:50. Matze is an absolute Megadeth fan, I never liked them that much, I rather like Slayer, Exodus, Kreator, Sodom, but also like to listen to Hendrix or The Doors. I think that's a good mix, you can also hear that with us, that sometimes it goes more in this Teutonic direction and then again into the American. It's also always a little bit different from album to album.
Lyrically you have a lot of sci-fi, mystery and gaming influences. This time X-Files and Star Trek served as inspirations and I didn't know that new Metroid games are still coming out. You are all about 30+, so not the usual consumers of these series / movies from the 90s. How did you come up with that?
That's not true (laughs). Our drummer Andi writes the lyrics and is a real nerd and Trekki. He has this uniform, goes to Star Trek conventions and thinks everything is awesome - I think he thought the last 2 or 3 movies sucked. The guys are all a bit older than me, I was born in 92 and the others are from 87 - 85 and insofar one has already seen all this on TV, also X-Files. Also all these children's series like "Zordrak - The Dreamstone"...
I don't know that at all!
You don't? Andi has two little kids and he always shows them old cartoons and if you look at them with the eyes of an adult, they are always totally brutal stories, totally sneaky and evil and that is totally suitable for metal lyrics. And sure, video games we all have, "Metroid" I play myself and that's stuff that used to be fun.
Haha, I still know those old things too. I have a 10-year-old son. I used to watch "Doctor Snuggles" with him and he's really into "The Three Investigators".
Yeah, I don't have kids, but I think if you have kids and you watch stuff with them that you used to think was cool, they kind of think it's cool too, haha!
Is there also some newer stuff that you guys are really into? I'm currently watching "The Manifest" on Netflix, which is a very cool mystery series....
Nah, I haven't watched that yet. The last thing I watched was this "Tekken" anime on Netflix, because I used to play "Tekken 3" on Playstation 1 and thought I'd check it out. It's just so-la-la, though. What would be more modern is "Into The Nightosphere" from "Adventure Time", that's so really whacky. Finn is a human and Jake is the dog and a little yellow thing that can transform. It's super fun and a totally dystopian world. What you might not know is that we had our live intro recorded by Kai Taschner, the (German; M.) voice actor for Rick on "Rick and Morty," Mr. Burns, "Bride Of Chucky" and so on. We watch something like that too, from our student days - you eat pizza and smoke some "broccoli" and watch "Rick and Morty", that's mega-fun.
Where can you be seen live in the near future?
On 19.11. we are in Cologne and at the end of the year (26.12. Bochum and 30.12. Erfurt; M.) we are on tour with Sodom.
Do you already have an offer from ZDF-Fernsehgarten, or have they not heard your version of "Careless Whisper" yet?
No, not that, but the garden show in Balingen has asked if we play. I just don't know yet if this will work, haha!!!
- Beyondition - Abysmal Night - Dec 01
- Varathron - The Crimson Temple - Dec 01
- Helfró - Tálgröf - Dec 01
- Nimrod B.C. - Legacy Of The Dead - Dec 01
- Dethroned - A Bridge To Eternal Darkness - Dec 01
- Walking Corpse - Our Hands, Your Throat - Dec 01
- Axenstar - Chapter VIII - Dec 01
- Aggression - Frozen Aggressors - Dec 01
- Embrace Your Punishment - Made Of Stone - Dec 01
- Hatred Reigns - Awaken The Ancients - Dec 01
- Demoncy - Black Star Gnosis - Dec 01
- Cryptosis - The Silent Call - Dec 01
- Grau - Abseits Des Lichts - Dec 01
- Koldbrann - Den 6. Massedød (Manna Fra En Annen Himmel) - Dec 01
- Yermo - Yermo - Dec 01
- Paradise Lost - Icon 30 - Dec 01
- Abyssal Tomb - Buried - Dec 01
- Heimdalls Wacht - Mystagogie - Lieder Voll Ewigkeit - Dec 01
- RüYYn - Chapter II: The Flames, The Fallen, The Fury - Dec 01
- Isospin - Aftermath Chronicles - Dec 01