I had the pleasure of catching up with Mem Von Stein, vocalist from Exumer via email for this interview.
1. Prior to Exumer reforming, did Ray approach you or did you approach Ray?
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, and recording new albums and getting signed to a label.
2. To complete the new band line up, how did you find T.Schiavo,H.K and Matthias Kassner?
We found Matthias through Death Squad Management, who knew and recommended him. He immediately fit in and his drumming chops are out of control.
H.K. is an old time Exumer fan and guitar teacher who lives in Ray’s area. He approached Ray after he had heard that we were looking for a new guitarist. He went to Ray’s house- they jammed a bit and a week later Ray gave him a call, asking if he wanted to join.
T. Schiavo, he is my very best friend in NYC, maybe some do not know this but I have been living in NYC for the past 14 years.
3. Did ‘Fire And Damnation’ have much pre-production or was the album written mostly in the studio?
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.
4. Most of the songs are about the 3 minute mark. Was that a conscious effort to make them more “in your face?”.
We just wanted to record the album that we wanted to hear and thought the fans would enjoy the most. Our ideas of great thrash albums include Slayer’s ‘Reign in Blood’, 28-minutes. So, yea we wanted to make it as focused and compact as possible, can’t really do that with 7/8 min. long songs.
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 ‘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.
6. Are there plans for any U.K dates in 2012?
We are eyeballing the possibility to maybe do some dates with Onslaught in the U.K., since they have the same management that looks after us.
7. Have you found many differences in the music business for Exumer between 1985 and now?
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.
Now you get updates via twitter when a band member takes a dump in the tour bus. Kind of lame and not exciting whatsoever but that is the way it is right now, so I better deal with it!
8. What song did you hear that made you want to form a band?
Not one song but Venom’s ‘Black Metal’, Metallica’s ‘Kill em All’, and early Slayer/Exodus all influenced me to form a band.
9. Who is your favourite musician?
10. Who are the best bands you have seen?
Slayer-1985/Hell Awaits Tour,
Exodus 1985-First Euro tour opening for Venom,
Rush-1981/Moving Picture-Exit Stage left tour,
Black Sabbath-1983 Born Again tour/w Ian Gillan and Ozzy 1981 w R. Rhodes!
11. What is your favourite live album and favourite studio album?
Thin Lizzy – Live and Dangerous
Mercyful Fate – Don’t break the oath
My review of Exhumer’s latest album ‘Fire and Damnation’
Mem Von Stein – Vocals
Paul Arakari – Guitar
Ray Mensch – Guitar
His Eminence the Wicked (T. Schiavo) – Bass
J.P. Rapp – Drums