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01/05/2008 – Interview with PERZONAL WAR

The German Thrash Metal band PERZONAL WAR (official website) evolved from being very much METALLICA-inspired to a band that combines old school and modern influences, now more than ever. This makes the comparisons with IN FLAMES and SOILWORK even stronger, although PERZONAL WAR tries to keep it PERZONAL WAR. A long silence followed after "When Times Turn Red" was released, including the tour with DESTRUCTION and CANDLEMASS, but now the band is back with a new album, "Bloodline", that has been ready for the largest part since the summer of 2007. AFM's schedule at that time was too full for PERZONAL WAR, giving the band the opportunity to ask a few friends to contribute. You can read the review of "Bloodline" at this location.

To know a bit more about this new release and why the band was 'absent' from the scene for so long, I had a phone conversation with mainman/vocalist/guitarist Matthias Zimmer, aka Metti, on the 1st of May. We had a lot of fun, I can assure you and it made think back of the interview with another German Thrash band: ABANDONED.

Perzonal War logo

Before we talk about the new album, I noticed there was a long period of silence between the release of "When Times Turn Red" and "Bloodline", except for the gigs you did for "When Times Turn Red". I know that Martin worked with SQUEALER A.D. and SUIDAKRA, but what about the rest of the band?

Yes, Martin produced SUIDAKRA's album and played with SQUEALER. We recorded the album, "Bloodline", last May (2007) and we planned to release it earlier than now, but AFM's schedule was full, so the release got postponed. So we were forced to take a break, even though we didn't want to. After the many gigs we did, we wanted to slow down, since there was a short period between "Faces" and "When Times Turn Red". Our bassist, Sven, left the band and such musicians are hard to find, so we recorded the new album with Björn, who already helped us out on the tour with DESTRUCTION and CANDLEMASS. The recordings happened very fast and we were done in June/July.

You just answered two questions in a row, hahaha. Speaking of the bass replacement: was it due to musical differences or lack of motivation or ...?

It was a lack of motivation, yes. There were no personal problems. He just didn't want to invest any more energy in recordings, gigs, ... Also because he is active in photography and has his own company, Bass Tank. There was lots he wanted to do, but couldn't because of PERZONAL WAR. He was a really cool guy, so is Björn, but with him there are no schedule problems with his other band, NEWS AT SIX.

Doesn't this form a problem when there are gigs to play?

Maybe. We all have jobs and have to plan everything. There are weeks and months where you can plan. Also, with his other band we have agreed that Björn can swap bands if necessary.

Very recently Sascha, the other guitarist, left the band due to not being motivated anymore. Did you see it coming?

We still had the same line-up like when we started, so this formed long-time relationship. Sascha was honest, he loved the band, but he lost the feeling of gigging - "I just don't want to do this anymore. I feel that my time is over." We were shocked, but we're still good friends.

Have you already started auditions for a new guitarist?

No, no auditions, as we've found a replacement, Daniel, who played with RENISION and was the live guitarist of PAUL DI'ANNO. We've done a few rehearsals so far and we'll play the next gigs with him. If it works, it could be a solution for the future. I don't like to work with hired guns, since unity is important. People realize it if you're a unity or not.

All these changes, do they affect your drive, the will to go on, to keep PERZONAL WAR alive?

It was frustrating when Sven left. I don't know anyone better. I like him a lot. So we thought: "Who can we find who is better?". Same thing with Sascha. What can we do? When we thought of it, PERZONAL WAR had to go on. We knew Björn, since he helped us on the DESTRUCTION/CANDLEMASS tour. We wanted to bring back the fun from the old days. If you look back, why was there a split?, I can only say that with PERZONAL WAR we play on a high level, even though we're not a big name. You don't know if it will bring you forward. You have to keep it fun and plan it with your other occupations like family. You have to be organized to go on.

When you start a band you think you'll be big in ten years. You have to think that way, else you won't go on. You could get bigger, with more support and gigs, but on the other hand you have be grateful for what you have, for what you can do. In our case it's recording well-produced albums, interviews, acquire a fanbase, etc...

The future is uncertain. Whether we grow to be a bigger band or not, it's no problem. For me PERZONAL WAR is an outlet for aggression, aggression I can't vent at my job, hahaha. And that's a privilege not many people have. It's great to have four guys on the same level. And we're gaining more fans by the album.

Talking about the new album, "Bloodline", now. I noticed that you moved away from the METALLICA sound, based on your MySpace samples, to a mix of old school and modern Metal, even entering IN FLAMES territory. Is this a natural evolution or something you really wanted?

I would say it's a natural progression. In the past we were compared to METALLICA. It was a compliment for us, also because like that band. But we wanted to be PERZONAL WAR. So we brainstormed about how not to forget our roots and not be METALLICA II? The comparison was mainly because of my vocals and phrasing, I think. In the previous songs you could hear us get away from the METALLICA sound. On the new album, we did what we wanted to do. If people like it, that's cool. If they don't, fine as well. But I think our new album needs more time than the last one. We've also experimented with samples and melody lines and the result is more unique than our previous releases. There's a good balance between aggression (via the riffs) and melody (hooklines, vocals). It creates a difference between the old school bands like DESTRUCTION and KREATOR and more modern ones like IN FLAMES and SOILWORK. We combine Thrash with the US-style, in a melodic way.

Aren't you heading into the Metalcore direction if you keep 'evolving' like this?

No. I don't even like Metalcore. I'm more a fan of Bay Area bands like TESTAMENT, FORBIDDEN, DEATH ANGEL and more modern ones like IN FLAMES and SOILWORK.

Is every song new?

Totally new. I don't like to work with old ideas, as they don't represent PERZONAL WAR at this time.. With every release you make you say it's the best you did so far. Two years later you might think differently. It's a combination of moods, feelings of a certain period. It's always good to finish an album.

Bloodline coverIs there a certain theme on the album? Are the songs connected to each other or do they stand on themselves?

There is no concept, the songs stand on themselves. We chose "Bloodline", because it sounded like a cool name and it sort of represents Thrashiness. On "When Times Turn Red" we had the skull with the candles and we decided to use the skull on "Bloodline", too, resulting in a logo connection. It fits te raw feeling of the music.

Which subjects did you tackle this time?

I work with personal things in lyrics. Never the fantasy stuff like dragons, wizards, ... It's personal stuff happens around you. When I'm writing lyrics, I never know the end. I can't really tell you what I mean. It's like with other bands who have lyrics that I can't interprete but in my own way. And that's important.

Music or lyrics, which comes first?

I start first with the music, to create a base to work with, like a melody line and then the rest follows.

Was the creative process different than last time or have you always maintained the same way of working?

We worked in the same way, although it was easier than at the time of "When Times Turn Red". No pressure of going in a special direction. With "Faces" we had a video and we were more commercial. Based on the "My Secret" clip, we were asked to have a video for the new album, because it was a successful move. Bullshit, we thought, because we do what we want to do. We'll see. This is PERZONAL WAR anno 2008. "Bloodline" has so far received the best reviews ever.

There are also a few guest appearances on "Bloodline". How did they get involved? Did you just contact them and asked if they would like to contribute?

If we had released the album earlier, there wouldn't have been any guests, or not as many. With the forced break in July, we had only one or two guest appearances. We knew Schmier, also because we toured with him and he likes PERZONAL WAR, and he told us he would like to contribute if ever needed/wanted. So we called him and he recorded his parts. It was great. He was the only one planned.

Gus, from GRIP INC. and also in SQUEALER A.D., is also someone we know, from playing gigs together. He lived in Germany for a time. He liked our music and asked if he could be on the new album. The song is fit for him, as it's sort of Punky-style.

Regarding Victor Smolski, we've known him for 8-9 years now, from his other band MIND ODYSSEY. We also did some gigs together and Martin did some work for RAGE in the past. When Sascha left, Martin asked Victor if he could record a solo and he agreed to do so.

With Manni Schmidt, from GRAVE DIGGER, it's the same thing. We asked him via e-mail and he agreed. Now, with Wiley, from SACRED REICH, it's a little different. We're all big SACRED REICH fans and when we heard they were getting together again for some gigs, we went to their show in Eindhoven, The Netherlands. I mailed Wiley, asking if they would record one or more albums again. He replied and then I asked if he could contribute. Afterwards he sent us some cool things. It's great to work with such great artists.

What do you think of Thrash Metal today? Is it stagnating? I mean, there are bands that keep it old school, while others go for a modern approach. Is that, going more modern, the way to go for Thrash Metal to survive?

A combination of both. During the last year big bands like EXODUS, TESTAMENT, DEATH ANGEL released very good albums. They're old school, but with modern elements. I don't mean old school in a negative way. They transport the 80s to 2008 without forgetting their roots. I like such bands, including MACHINE HEAD, who I think to be the biggest band in modern Metal. They worked with old school melody lines and riffs. There's no big difference anymore without forgetting old school. I don't like modern bands, except for IN FLAMES, SOILWORK, etc... It keeps the scene alive. Kiddies then could go back to the older albums, yet a 15-year old who hasn't known EXODUS, FORBIDDEN, TESTAMENT, and others like we have (from my generation) probably won't go back in time to check the older releases.

About the deal with AFM Records: "Bloodline" is your fourth album for them, if I counted well. How satisfied are you with their work? Do you think they could have done a better promojob for this or that album or the band in general?

It could be better. It's easy to see what you don't get, but you have to see what you DO get. Lots of stuff could have been better, but many bands don't even have a label to support them.

Are you free to compose what you want or does AFM sometimes asks for e.g. something more Thrashy, or songs with more melody or...?

We're completely free in what we do and that's good. I don't like being forced into a certain directaion. If it's a good collaboration, if you talk about it, it's good. Else it wouldn't work.

Perzonal War band picture 2008Any tour plans for "Bloodline"?

The first gig we'll play is the release party in Plato, Helmond, The Netherlands. Some gigs later we hope to go on tour as support for a bigger band. We're in talks, but nothing's arranged yet.

Who would you like to tour with?


Would you choose the same type of bands or go for a varied package?

It may work, but that depends on how you play. When we did the tour with DESTRUCTION and CANDLEMASS, there was another band called DEATHCHAIN. In Germany it didn't work and we sometimes played for 150 people. In other countries, however, it did work and there were many more people. We're from Cologne and every night you have the opportunity to go see a gig. That also means that some people skip the support acts. Nowadays there are too many gigs and festivals, providing a large choice.

How do you deal with criticsm from fans, reviewers, family, ...? Do you take it into account when working on new material or do you go your way, how you feel it should be done?

In general, we do it our own way. You do the stuff you like. If people like it at gigs, then itmight influence your work. In general, it's better to do what YOU like. We're diverse: hard, slow, ballads - even though that's not Metal for some. Some people like the heavy parts, others prefer the ballads, ...

One question that just came to my mind: I noticed there's a live accoustic performance video on your MySpace page. How important is the accoustic guitar in the composition process? And do you try to have your songs fit both, electric and accoustic?

We never planned to play accoustically. We got an offer to do so and it really worked. We did some shows, but it had nothing to do with songs in general. When we get the opportunity to repeat that happening in the future, we'll see which songs are good and which not. In all songs you have hooklines, they are the core, and they can be used for accoustic version. But nothing has been planned, so we'll see.

Ok, then. I'm done. Vielen Dank, Matthias. Es war sehr angenehm. :-) Good luck with the new album.

Thank you very much for the call. :-)

My pleasure, or better, Theo's pleasure, since it's his phone, hahaha. Vielleicht können wir es den nächste Mal auf Deutsch tun.

Genau, hahaha. :-)

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