Interview with Mem V. Stein of Exumer

This year has seen the very welcome return of German thrashers Exumer with a brand new album in Fire & Damnation. Their first release since reforming fully in 2008 and a gap of 25 years to its predecessor Exumer show they are not just another band simply reforming but return as a band fuelled up with energy, intensity, great songs, and most of all bone crushing rock n roll. We had the chance and pleasure to ask one of the band founders, vocalist and bassist Mem V. Stein about the album, the band, and their return.

Welcome Mem and thank you for taking time to talk with us here at The RingMaster Review.

Firstly how does it feel being back with a new album in Fire & Damnation?

Feels most awesome! It feels right to have a working band AGAIN and to be active since 2008. We have been through a lot in our career and people who follow the band know that. However, we are grateful always to include our fans in our decision making, meaning that it is all geared toward making them happy, whether with killer live shows or great records. 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. The main objective was to come back and record the best third album a band can possibly record after putting out their last album 25 years ago. The same goes with the live shows, we only want to play the most furious shows that you can imagine. There are so many fans who were either born in the 1980s or after, and who have never seen the band play live. Just go on you tube or some other medium and you will find a lot of people wondering if they could ever see EXUMER live.

It must feel a long time since you were in this position, well it has been haha.

25 years to be precise!

Is there an extra excitement and drive surrounding Fire & Damnation because it has been so long that maybe there was not with your first two albums back in the mid eighties?

Of course there is the thing that you have to live up to everyone’s expectations but we set a pretty high bar for ourselves and are aware that the fans want to hear a certain amount of energy so we kind of had to rise to the occasion. In a pretty serious and no BS fashion that is…

The new album is impressive, sheer unadulterated thrash rock n roll, how easy was it to write new songs with the Exumer sound but bring them up to date.

We just wanted to record the best possible album that we could, with the band’s traits that you and so many of our fans are familiar with. The mission was to create a worthwhile follow up to our records from the 1980s, incorporating the aggression and energy of our youth with the musicianship that we have acquired over the past decades. It is the most honest and passion filled effort of our career and we hope that the fans hear this approach in the music. 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.

You have been writing and making music between the first and second periods in the life of Exumer?

After leaving EXUMER in late 1986, I moved to the U.S. for the first time and played in a band in New York but we broke up the project, due to financial problems. Then I formed Phobic Instinct in 1988, which broke up in 1990. I formed Of Rytes and then played in Humungous Fungus with Ray and Bernie of EXUMER. I formed Sun Descends after my 2nd move to New York in 2000, and then finally reformed EXUMER with Ray and Paul. Bernie and Ray played in a rock band for a few years in the 2000s, which Ray left and Bernie is still involved in.

We loved the album but thought it was too short, what have you to say in your defence haha?

We wanted to record an album that is short, precise, focused and to the point. An album that we wanted to hear and knew the fans would enjoy as well. 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.

You have reworked a couple of songs from your earlier albums on Fire & Damnation which we will ask about shortly, so were the other songs written since the band returned in 2008?

It’s all new material except two songs from our records from the 1980s. 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.

Why the choice of Fallen Saint and I Dare You over all of your other great older material?

Those two felt right and those were the ones that Paul and I picked to re-work

What was the major difference recording Fire & Damnation compared to its predecessor Rising From The Sea?

The main differences I would say can be found in the maturity of the live shows, new album material and the overall presentation. Meaning the proficiency of how everyone plays their instrument. The basic formula of energy and aggression is maintained and not much different than from our earlier work from the 1980s. We were all 17/18 years old when we recorded our first album, obviously we are not the same exact people mentally or physically but the passion for the music remained and that’s the most important thing of all.

From being  involved in music on the recording side since the band dissolved originally there were no surprises in the studio for you technology wise after the long gap for the band?

Yea, it was not a shock and we felt at home rather quickly.

How would you say your music has actually changed between the albums?

Like I mentioned above, it is the same in some regards like passion and energy or aggression but we definitely evolved as musicians and are a lot more focused than we were in the 1980s.

Was there any particular point on the album, or whilst recording it where you had that ‘yeah we are back with both barrels blazing’ feeling inside?

That was when we started putting together the songs in the rehearsal room and felt that the energy and brazenness of the new material was all there.

Can we touch on the early days of the band and ask what first inspired you to start the band?

I wanted to start a band that would incorporate the stuff I was listening to, bands like Slayer, Exodus and all the great other metal, punk/HC of the 1980s, to be quite honest.

You had a widespread appeal far beyond Germany which today with the internet is almost a given in some ways, but in the eighties that was a formidable accomplishment. How did the likes of Poland, other parts of Europe of course and countries like Brazil take to your music that maybe other places like the UK failed to grasp as much?

All the places you mentioned were hot spots for in the 80s and still are.  It’s all a matter of time, we think we can reach a U.K. audience now and it doesn’t matter if you have more people in some countries than others because it’s all about the fans. That means playing in front of a small or big audience, as long as the fans want to hear and see you we will try to come through for them.

After your two albums of Possessed by Fire and Rising from the Sea, which received strong acclaim and your live shows and tours taking you to stronger attention etc the band split, may we ask the main reason for that?

The band just ran out of ideas and it was just too much with the personnel changes, especially having had 3 different singers throughout the band’s lifespan.

Was this a moment you saw coming so you could look ahead or was it a sudden stop in your musical worlds?

No, that was in the making and the line-up changes didn’t help.

You returned for a gig in 2001 and then returned fully as a band in 2008, What was firstly the persuasion that worked for the first event and the inspiration and drive that led to a full comeback 7 years later?

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. 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.

As you have with the two covers of your older tunes on Fire & Damnation did you rework the older material for your live shows to bridge the eighteen years between them and the current sound and fan taste at the time of reforming?

Not really that much, it’s all pretty much in its original state. We trimmed the “fat” here and there but nothing crazy and kept it all to its original content.

There is the whole new generation of younger fans who know us as a cult band from the 1980s but we hope we can reach a whole lot more people with the new album who never heard of the band as well.

You brought in Waldemar Sorychta (Grip Inc., Therion, Sodom, Moonspell, etc.) to produce the album, why did you choose him?

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.

How do you feel about current thrash bands or more how the genre is compared to when you started out? 

I think the advent of the internet and the connectivity of fans and bands played a huge role in how Metal has evolved since the 1980s. A lot more people are involved in playing in bands, blogging or in any form one could imagine. I think that is a good thing, it resembles a little the DIY spirit of the 1980s tape trader and fanzine days. However, I also think a lot of the mystique is also gone. I didn’t know what kind of ordinary lives my heroes from back in the day were leading. Especially bands like Venom or Mercyful Fate. So, having said all of this, metal or thrash metal bands are still growing strong! Just listen to Fueled by Fire or Toxic Holocaust.

Are there any newer bands that light up your fires and give you food for thought?

I like all kind of bands, Ghost, High on Fire the list goes on. However, I light my own fire most of the time!

What has Exumer in mind for the rest of 2012?

There will be a lot of touring, starting with a few warm up shows in Mexico and Europe, followed by a South American tour and then hopefully a few dates in the U.S. in the fall. We will keep busy after taking an entire year off from touring last year.

Once more big thanks for talking with us and good luck with Fire & Damnation.

Thanks for having us and we sure will be back whenever you like us back!

Would you like to leave us with some final words Exumer style?

Thanks for your support over the past 27 years… SPREAD THE FUCKI’ FIRE!

Read the review of Fire & Damnation @ https://ringmasterreviewintroduces.wordpress.com/2012/04/02/exumer-fire-damnation/

The RingMaster Review 13/04/2012

Copyright Pete RingMaster 13/04/2011 (My Free Copyright)

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