Our questions were answered by Michael Stützer, guitarist of Danish THRASH METAL legend!
So Michael, when and how did you get in touch with the metal music? What did you find so captivating in this music?
One of the first tracks with speed who made Artillery wanna play faster was Accepts Fast As A Shark combinated with punk bands like GBH Discharge etc, then came Metallica, Exodus and Slayer.
Did you start immediately listening to thrash metal or…?
Me and Mortens First Concert was with the hard rockers Slade when we was kids and then came bands like Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Grand Funk Railroad Later on Iron Maiden, Judas Priest etc and all the Thrash metal. I still listen to all from Jethro Tull to Slayer etc.
Were you into bigger known bands or into smaller ones or was it like equal for you?
I Always like good bands ,i don´t care if they are big or small as long they are original.
At which point did you pick up playing guitar and how did your choice fall on this instrument?
I Started to play guitar when i was 13 year and Morten started to play bass and guitar when he was 11. I think seeing Jimi Hendrix playing guitar in the televission made me wanna be a guitar player.
What were your influences to become guitarist? Were you self taught or…?
I´ve only had one guitar lession in my life so both Morten and me learn to play in our first attemp to make a Heavy band called Silvercross , then we played with good friends in different bands makin´a lot of covers who really gave us our first expierence making music.
ARTILLERY was formed in 1982, what was the line up at this point and how did you hook up with each other exactly?
Carsten and Jorgen was tying to start a band together and they already got the name Artillery from a Tank song called Heavy Artillery and Morten and me was playin´ in a band called The Devil´s Symphony with Singer Per Onink, and a guy called Ole frausing and who played drums in Mercyfull fate and he knew Carsten and one day Carsten was out to see us rehearse and then we start to play together.
What about your musical backgrounds? Would you say, that you were experienced musicians or…?
No not at that moment , we started to know that it was hard work to play that kind of style when we did Fear Of Tomorrow and the process was important later on to be a better musician.
Was it easy to find the suitable members for the band that were sharing the same musical interest? Did you know each other earlier?
At that time it was very difficult to find other musicians but Carsten, Morten and me all came from the same town called Tastrup so i guess we were lucky we knew who each others were.
Who came up with the name of the band and who did the logo?
I think it was Jorgen Sandau who did it.
What about the Danish scene at this point? Would you say, that MERCYFUL FATE, ARTILLERY and PRETTY MAIDS were the bands that tried to make a name for themselves in the scene?
The Scene in Denmark at that moment was starting to move fast with bands like Maltese falcon, Evil, Waysted, Witchcross and Dorian Gray so Mercyfull fate, Pretty Maids and us was making our names with different styles , so it was a very funny time.
What about your early rehearsals? Did you start writing originals right from the start or were you mostly jamming on covers?
Jřrgen and Carsten had some riffs they were jamming and Morten and i came with some tracks from D. S like Mind Of No Return and All For You Who was on Artillery`s first Demo We Are The Dead.
You cut your first demo „We are the dead” in 1982, do you still remember how was the demo recorded which was probably your first experience?
It was recorded on a small mobile studio in the basement of our rehearsel room and it was very hard at that point cos we had done that before.
Were these tracks your very first written originals or did you have more material as well?
We already had several tracks ready at that point (Hey Woman, Desserter, Time has come,and Bitch who was intended to be on our first demo, but we had to drop to finished it,due to time limmits.) Imaging Bitch being released in 1982!
How big promotion did you make for this tape? Did you feel that this demo is strong enough to be spread around?
At that point we thougt it was ok , but today it is only for the fans and releasing it then really started it all for Artillery. We knew a guy who send the demo out and Mercyfull fate help us a lot with ditributing the demo.
Around June 1983, Per Willem Onink was asked to leave because ARTILLERY were searching for a vocalist with a different type of voice, why did you fire him? Were you dissatisfied with his achievement or were there other problems with him as well?
Per was a good friend of the band but he was not a singer who was what Artillery needed and there was no hard feelings and we still talks from time to time.
Around September 1983, the band duly employed Carsten Lohmann, how did he get in the picture exactly? Was he the first choice of the band? What about his musical past?
Carsten was a very good guy who later became a schoolteacher . We were spreading the world around that we were seeking a new singer and we kind of steal him from a blues band called Bangs blues band. He is still into playing music .
You did your second demo, which was recorded and mixed at Ole Erlings Lydstudio, July 1984, produced by the band, what do you recall from the recording sessions of this tape? Did it sound closer to what you want to achieve with ARTILLERY?
Yeah definatly and people really started to support the bandand we already had learn some tricks according to the recordings. So it was a very good time for the band. And recording it in a studio who was into Keyboard music was funny.
A few months later you entered the Lydstudio again to record the „Deeds of darkness” demo, can you give us details on this demo?
The songs were gettin´ better and better recorded and played so it was a very positive period.
Did these demos help to spread better and on a larger scale the name of the band? Was it a better representation of the band?
Those demos really gave Artillery a kind of a underground breakthrough especcially cos Mercyfull Fate had them on tour in United States and in Europe. And many magazines was very positive about Artillery.
Was it spread through the fanzine/tapetrading circuit as well? Were you involved in the tapetrading scene at all?
Yeah Artillery was suported very well in this tapetrading circiut, and this was the first time we heard Metallicas first demo and other stuff like this.
Things didn't work out with Lohmann, though, and ARTILLERY began search for a new frontman and among them were Mickey Finn, what went wrong with Carsten and did you record some tunes with Mickey?
Carsten was never really into this kind of music and he lived nearly 100 km from the rest of us so it did work. Mickey Finn was only rehearsing with us a few times but we already had decided that Flemming would be the new singer, later on in 1992 Mickey finn was returning in the last days before Artillery dispanded for almost 7 years.
You tried out female vocalists as well, is that correct?
Yeah just to see if she was good lookin,it was never seriously to do it for real.
ARTILLERY eventually found the perfect member in Flemming Ronsdorf whose raunchy vocals provided the band with the right identity, in which bands was he earlier involved? Would you say, that his voice allowed you to explore new horizons?
Yes Flemming was a far better singer and he really could sing our new songs as we wanted , so it was a big move for the band.
Around this time, Jörgen Sandau decided to assume a position as rhythm-guitarist, leaving it up to Michael to handle all leads, why did it happen?
It was more a band decission and jřrgen still play some solos on F.O.T ,but he was more into playin´ rhythm guitar.
In January 1985, ARTILLERY entered the El Sound Studio, Copenhagen, Denmark and cut the demo „Fear of Tomorrow” with producer Freddie Wolf and the product was released in March, was it a kind of pre-production tape for the first full length record just to check out how the new material sounds like in studio situation or…?
At first it was meant to only being a demo , but Neat records wanted to use it except for three tracks, which we later recorded again + some new songs.
The band also was featured on the „Speed Metal Hell” compilation album in 1985 with the song „Hey Woman”, why did make up this demo song on the album instead of putting up a new one on the record? Was the song sung by Flemming or did you use the old version?
Hey Woman was the first song we recorded with Flemming and it was recorded at the demo session of F.O.T. We already had signet with new Renaissance Records with Hey Woman on Speed Metal Hell, and a Different Version of Deeds Of Darkness on Satan´s Revenge . Thats was the main reason it never ended up on F.O.T.
Did this song make some promotion for you in the States?
Yes it gave the band even more publicity than our 2 demos Shellschock and Deeds of Darkness did.
The compilation was released by New Renaissance Records, what was a relatively young label back then, did they eventually start interesting in the band and signing you or…?
If i remember things right ,we were some of the first bands to sign with them.
Were you familiar with New Renaissance Records’ stuffs at all? Did you like their bands?
We did know them all, but bands like At War,Whiplash and Danish Anger was bands that we had listen to. Some of them were good.
Your first full length album „Fear of tomorrow” was recorded and mixed at El Sound Studio, Copenhagen, Denmark, May-July 1985 again and produced by Lars O. Christensen, Nils Bogvad and ARTILLERY, what about the recording sessions?
It was our first recordings in a real proffesional studio with real producers even if they did knew anything about the style .Both producers still learned the band a lot of the rutines and workin´procedure. They both make it big in the Danish music scene later on (Lars C. produce among others Danish hard rockers D.A.D ).
Did you have a decent budget to record the material?
No as i said we used a lot of the demo songs on the F.O.T album.
In your opinion ARTILLERY were a band with a certain special status due to your pioneer position in the European speed/thrash metal scene?
Yeah i think so, cos many of those who supported us back then is still supporting the band today, and have spread the word of Artillery to even very young teenagers, who write and told us they are gettin´into the band. So we really apriciated this support from both old and new supporters.
Would you say, that „Fear Of Tomorrow”, has a little rough sound when compared to the band’s later releases, but it is already a solid representation of your customary style?
I think most of the heavyness in the sound has to due with the time we had to record it, and the equpment we used at that time. I think we already was starting to devolment our sound at that point.
One of the most distinguishable features in the typical ARTILLERY sound was the dramatic, relatively high-pitched vocals of Flemming Ronsdorf who was not quite the stereotypical shouter, do you agree with that?
Yes , Flemming was not the typical singer for this kind of music, and i remember he said that the way we where making the song structure, forced him to sing this way.
On this debut release the music is already quite intense, even somewhat original though also slightly unrefined and a little tedious at times, the massive, rolling „Out Of The Sky” is probably the most coherent track on this album though the rest of the material has its moments, too, what do you think about it? Were you satisfied with the result back then?
At that time we was very sastisfied with the album , but looking back we would have done a lot of things different, but i still think it turned out to be a good debut album. There are still many people who think this is the best album and we still play a lot of songs from it live.
Were you happy with Lars O. Christensen’s and Nils Bogvad’s work, as far as the sound?
Yeah as i said they did a good job and we learned a lot.
The record was released by Neat Records, how did you get in touch with them? Weren’t any bigger labels interests in the band those times?
Neat Records contacted us and we knew them by their work with a lot of bands like Venom , Tank and Tygers of pantang, and out of 6 or 7 offers we choose Neat.
During the summer of 1985 the band headlined a successful tour in Belgium and Holland, and even played at the famed Dynamo Festival in Eindhoven, before indulging yourselves in support slots for SLAYER and KING DIAMOND in the end of the year, what do you recall from these shows?
The Tour in Holland and Belgium was our first real tour and was a great experience for the band with a lot of support from the local headbangers. The two support slots with King Diamond and Slayer made 1985 to one of the best moments for the band according to the support from the fans . We knew King Diamond very well ,so it was nice to play together and according to Slayer it was really good to play with them cos we listen to them a lot.They were very nice guys and i remember Tom Aray Said some very nice words about Artillery.
Would you say that ARTILLERY was the biggest hope for the thrash scene those days and the aforementioned gigs opened the doors for the band?
I think there was a lot of great bands at that moment especially Exodus ,but surrely the doors oppend up for us after them
Quorthon (R. I. P.)wrote drummer Carsten Nielsen in the summer of 1986, asking him if he'd be interested in joining BATHORY, but he replied that he figured his band ARTILLERY would be ten times bigger than BATHORY, and thus kindly but firmly turned the offer down, can you tell us more about it? How did Qourthon’s choice fall on Carsten at all?
He had heard our demos and like what he heard and Carsten show us the letter and told us that he would not leave a band he really like to play in and has started from the bottom.
As I as know, he tried out Chris Witchhunter of SODOM as well, is that correct?
I really don´t know.
Were all of you familiar with BATHORY’s material or was it too brutal for you?
Yes we all knew Bathory and was´nt into the style and image , we were more into Exodus, Slayer, Anthrax and Metallica at that time.
Originally you entered the El Sound Studio during September-October 1986 to record the second effort „Terror squad”, how did the recording sessions go with this album?
It was a lot eassier cos we had learn much more and was being far better musician.
In your opinion, did the record mark a certain improvement over the debut?
Yes according to the response from the media there was a lot of very astunning words for the T.S.
The sound of this second release is clearly tighter and more refined than on its predecessor, how do you view it?
We were a lot better musicians and the songs were gettin´better structured and many things were easier at this recording.
Is still „Terror Squad” unarguably ARTILLERY’s best album from the classic period of thrash?
I still like this album a lot especially the challenge and the title track, and i know there´s a lot of people who really are into it , so i guess so.
The ultra-heavy „The Challenge” opens the album with a blast and you band sport tons of mosh beats, great thrash riffs, plenty of speedy solos, and unique vocals that are an equal mix of growl and melody, what do you think about it?
The Challenge is still one of my favorite Artillery songs and we always play that song live.
Do you think, that „Terror Squad” is, much like its successor „By Inheritance”, a prime example of the quality that can result when technical thrash and melody collide, the musicianship displayed on this album is astounding, and an apt demonstration of the sheer talent that resides in Artillery?
In many ways Terror Squad is my own favorit cos our goal was to make the song as heavy as possible and still with the melody , we did´nt think so much about if its easy or difficult to play , we just try to create our own style
Perhaps the first thing one notices when the opener, “The Challenge”, starts is the great, crisp production that this album possesses, how do you see it?
I know many people has told me that , and we work hard to create that crispy and heavy sound , and the producers was wery good to listen to our goals.
The riffs are constant and catchy, supporting the speedy leads, even on the slower songs, such as the title track, the guitars maintain a good crunchy rhythm, perfect for the headbanging frenzy that this album is sure to induce, is that correct? Flemming Rönsdorf’s vocals are quite good as well, especially when he belts out the high notes, as in the chorus of „Terror Squad”, overall, he does a good job of keeping up with the rapid guitar assault, though his vocals do deviate from his otherwise consistent performance on a few tracks, what’s your opinion about it?
You know the most importent thing, is to write songs you could headbang till by yourself , so it´s easier to get people to headbang also. I think Flemming was doing a great job on most of the songs, and he was trying hard to develop his own style.
The tracks themselves are all pretty solid, „The Challenge” is a suitable opener, „Terror Squad” truly does itself great justice as the title track, and „Let There Be Sin”, „At War with Science” and „Decapitation of Deviants” are all top-notch, is that correct?
My personal favorits is The challenge and Terror Squad and both songs are still in our live set together with At war with science , so i quess that those songs still ring a bell among the thrashers , and we are really proud about that.
Each member is performing more or less at their peak here, Jörgen Sandau maintains good, pounding rhythms, which mingle with your impressively skillful, blisteringly intense leads in a symphony of intricate guitar work, the bass is well done, with the occasional solo and the drums are suitable for the music, Flemming Ronsdorf performs admirably on most of the material, adding icing to the cake and all in all, these elements come together to make an excellent album, showcasing the rawer side of Artillery, what do you think about it?
When we recorded Terror Squad we was really workin as a unit , and i think you can hear that on the album. After recording TS it took almost a year, before it was released so it was hard for the band , cos we was very sastified by the result.
Would you say, that Artillery was a European thrash band with the technical flair of Coroner and a great sense of melody and you don’t belong to any particular thrash scene, you were rather a style on their own?
It´s dificult for me to say , i know Coroner but i never had any of their albums, i always like a band like Exodus but i don´t think we sound like them.
You were a true bridge between good old American technicality, melodic usage, and instrumental skill with German heaviness and brutallity, right?
Yeah i guess ou can say that ,cos we listen at that time a lot to Early Metallica and Exodus , and living in Denmark made us do it our way . There was not a big Thrash scene in Denmark at that moment
The guitarists (you and Morten Stützer) are pretty dang amazing, the riffs and harmonies you churn out are all great, incredibly tight, heavy, and definitely thrash metal while being catchy and unique and real good examples of this are, well, every single song, how do you see it?
Morten is the mastermind behind most of the harmonies and it´s really easy to play together and trying to make the songs original.
Unfortunately the album was delayed beyond reason, and frustration within the band grew when tour offers, among others with EXODUS, were turned down since the album wasn't released, what ahppened exactly?
As we were told Neat was loosing a lot of money at the time on Venom so that was the main reason for the delay. It was a very frustratting time for the band, cos we got tons of letters from people who had heard the album, and did´nt understand why it havent been released. So we couldn’t do anything, only wait and it ended gettin´the band split. And when the record at last was released Neat rec. Had removed a lot of the original colours from the cover.
The thrash metal scene was getting bigger as everyday pased with bands, such as EXUMER, VIOLENT FORCE, ONSLAUGHT, MERCILESS and a ton of others, all trying to put their mark on the scene, how did you view it? Were you familiar with them?
We knew Exhumer and Onslaught and a lot of other bands so the scene was very strong at the moment.
Did thrash metal have a strong background and fanbase in Danemark at all? Were the Danish fans supportive for the band and for the whole thrash scene?
Around 1986 the danish scene were gettin bigger and biger with bands like invocator and desexult etc and i remember the thrashers were supportuing Artillery very much.
I have heard a lot of positive opinions and read great reviews about the material and I have draw the lesson from it: „Terror squad” was the best European thrash record in 1987, did it help you to expand the band’s popularity?
Yes, but if we didn´t had to wait a year i´m sure that we were doing much better, but still there was a lot of trust in Artillery.
I would say, that the band didn't get more noetiety at the time, you did never got that acknowledgement what you would have deserved, you seemed to be an underrated band, how do you view it? What were the reasons of it?
Two things in my openion was the main reason. Living in Denmark and the delay of Terror Squad.
As I as know, at this point you parted ways with Neat Records, is that correct?
After waiting for nearly a year for the release of Terror Squad we dispanded the band in 8 months, and when Neat try to make us do one more album. We told them we did´nt want to work with them again and the contract was running out.
Did you regret being signed to them? How much support did they give for the band at all? How much did they care of ARTILLERY?
When we signed with Neat it seems like they were going in the right direction, and on Fear of Tomorrow there was a fair support , but everything turn out bad when they released Terror Squad. First They Used a sketch of an idea for the cover, then the album was delayed almost a year, so i quess at that point we was very disapointed , cos we could´t play ,we could only wait for the album to be released and we dispanded Artillery for almost a year
Carsten Nielsen eventually lost faith in the band that played with drummer Henrik Quaade for three weeks and the increasing frustration, unfortunately, led to the split-up up of ARTILLERY; your brother and Quaade subsequently formed FURIOUS TRAUMA, and Quaade later appeared in HELLFIELD and CONSPIRAZY, can you tell us more about those times? What did the other ARTILLERY members do during this dark period?
Flemming and Jřrgen also left fast after Carsten, and Morten and me try to carry on with Quade, then i left to play with some old friends in an early line-up of Missing Link. After a year we got the opportunity to play together again to make a tour in Russia and this was a start of a new beginning.
Roadracer Records released at this point a best of/compilation record which contained the first two albums, did you have knowledge about it? Were you deeply involved into the making of this material or…?
Yes the released it after we were reunited and allready had signed with Roadracer for a new album.
In 1988, ARTILLERY was offered to play at the Next Stop Soviet programme, being one of the first outside rock acts to perform in the Soviet Union, alongside fellow Danes SORT SOL, how did it happen? How did the whole tour go respectively what kind of experiences did you gain during the show?
The offer came as a change for Danish bands to play in Russia , and Russian bands to play in Denmark and they needed a metal band to play in Russia. And looking back it was a very strange experience , but the russian headbangers was great and supported Artillery fantastic, until the millitary police stop it and throw us out of the country.