Master - Windy City Warlords

By Dr. Abner Mality

"Master" is certainly the best name for any project involving Chicago native Paul Speckmann. Because Paul is absolutely "master" of his own destiny and his own musical vision. One of the earliest progenitors of the genre we now know as "death metal", Speckmann has never allowed music labels, managers or anybody else to dictate what he should do. The result: Master remains absolutely true to the conception Paul has maintained for it, but true recognition has been obscure.

Further demonstrating his independence, Paul now lives in the Czech Republic (NOT Czechoslovakia, as we as at pains to tell me) and has embraced the life of an American ex-patriate. He is still 100% involved with the metal scene not only as part of Master but at the grass roots level, working as a tour manager with other bands and lending the gift of over 20 years experience in the metal scene to others.

As you'll discover in the following interview, Paul pulls punchs on NOTHING and calls it the way he sees it. This is one guy whom the mainstream will never contaminate and I can sure relate!!!

WORMWOOD CHRONICLES: Paul, I understand you are now based in Czechoslovakia. How did this come about and how much of an adjustment was this?

PAUL SPECKMANN: Actually the country is now called the Czech Republic, and I have been living here since 2000. I toured with Malevolent Creation, Master and the support act Krabathor in 1999. During this 44-city European tour, I was discussing a possible project with Krabathor drummer Skull, and guitarist Christopher. We became fast friends on this insane tour in an old German schoolbus. I did several sound-checks playing along with the Krabathor drummer, and improvising like I used to in the early Master days with Bill Schmidt. The original bassist from Krabathor left the band during rehearsals for our new project called Martyr, and Christopher offered the position of bassist in Krabathor to me. Of course, as always, I was looking for a challenge, and I took up the position. I went back to Arizona, sold all my stuff and relocated to the Czech Republic. I admit at first the adjustment was a bit difficult, but I am a professional, and after a time all was acceptable. I mean, the first tour was in Japan two weeks after my arrival. It’s a silly joke when people ask questions about the things we have here in this country. I can get nearly all American products in Czech now, so all is well. Since joining the European Union, the gates have really opened up.

WC: Who is in Master with you now and how does this line-up compare to past versions of Master?

PS: Zdenék Pradlovsky plays drums and Aleš Nejezchleba plays guitar. This is the best lineup I’ve had since the second CD. The latest CD, Four More Years of Terror has been compared to the second album, with the exception that the sound is much better. Obviously technology has improved since the recording of the earlier records. This lineup has been touring Europe for the last three years. We toured as co-headliner with Obituary, as well as Impaled Nazarene and many others. So needless to say, the band is in full stride these days. I have played more shows and festivals in the last three years, than I ever had in my entire career. The original players were just a couple of lazy fucks, afraid of their own shadows.

WC: Let's go back in time to the Chicago scene of the early 80's. How exciting was that time and who were some of the major players besides yourself?

PS: These were great times. In the early years, the great bands like Trouble, Zoetrope, Znowhite, Thrust and some of the poser bands like Paradox and Hammeron ruled the clubs. Being in the band Warcry was killer at that time. There was a killer comradeship between all the bands. We hung-out and went to each other’s shows. The Chicago scene was really booming at this time. I have to say my days of youth were quite killer. Everyone had parties, and we all hung-out at the old Thirsty Whale. Many legendary bands came through Chicago and played the Whale. I often still laugh about it. That shit band ManOWar played to forty people at the Whale and here in Czech they play nearly every year to twenty-thousand or more fans! There’s no accounting for taste.(I guess not...I'm a Manowar fan myself--Sheepish Mality) I was sad to hear the news of the passing of my hero Barry Stern. This guy was a leader of the scene back in the day.

WC: How is it that Chicago produced so many great bands like War Cry,Devastation, Aftermath and Sindrome and yet none of them ever really broke through? The Chi-town scene was more diverse and better than the San Fran thrash scene. Was it just that no record companies were headquartered there?

PS: As you said, the scene was killer in Chicago. I think maybe the scene and its players lacked the knowledge. The water from Lake Michigan is responsible for the great bands in my opinion. If someone would have had a record company in the city, they would have made a fortune if they capitalized on this scene. I mean, Smashing Pumpkins is one of the biggest Chicago stories, but this isn’t what I would call metal. At least Trouble still continues to play, as well as the mighty Macabre, which I toured Europe with earlier this year as their merchandiser. It was really killer to see my old Chicago buddies and hang with them for a month. Chuck is a legend! Let’s face it, Chicago has produced many killer bands over the years, but maybe the location has proved a problem for some.

WC: Do you miss the old tape trading and paper zine days? I didn't trade that much but I loved old zines like "Kick Ass",
"Deathrasher" and "Headbanger". These things were so instrumental in getting a band's name out!

PS: Without tape trading, Master never would have become the underground success it has. I mean, even Napalm Death covered the song Master a few years back as a tribute to the good-old tape-trading days. I still have many copies of the old paper fanzines, and as you said these are real metal. It’s a real shame for some, that when Schmidt was in charge of sending the tapes I paid to produce, he often just kept the money and never sent the tapes. I must apologize for him. He was and always will be a loser. Even today, the guy is still hooked on dope, and living with his mother. Hell, he must be 45-years-old already. I heard this fool cut his hair, dyed it blonde and joined Diamond Rexx. What's this silly shit I hear about Soil???????? Sounds like a sell-out to me. Weren’t these guys from Sindrome at one time? (Opressor,too...they're a far cry from that now--Mality)

WC: When did you realize you were creating something that would be called "death metal" as opposed to just thrash or heavy metal?

PS: I have to say these categories are silly. I always just played what was in my soul. It’s just Metal. I don’t really know why it was called Death Metal. Maybe the name Deathstrike had more of an impact than I thought. Many people were influenced by this demo, and later again by Master. In the beginning of this time, people just assumed they were listening to Master, but many times it was the Deathstrike "Fuckin' Death" demo that was created by Mittelbrun and I. Bill Schmidt had nothing to do with this original Deathstrike demo. Absolutely nothing. At this time he was jamming with the legendary Louie Svitek in Mayhem Inc, as they now call it.Their demo was also killer, if you were a fan of Iron Maiden, as I was at the time. The first few records from Maiden were absolutely brilliant.

WC: Explain something of the differences between Deathstrike and Master and how it was that Master became the dominant band.

PS: Rick Martinez from a band called Witchslayer came up with the name Master. Rich Rozek from Warcry wanted to point this out in his last Warcry interview. I actually gave Rick the credit many years ago when I wrote my biography for several interviews. I have just finished my autobiographical account on this subject in my book called "Speckmann:Surviving The Underground". I need to find a publisher for that.

The truth will set you free. Schmidt begged and pleaded with us to let him into our band Deathstrike and we had our first rehearsal with Schmidt in Deathstrike back on July 4th 1985. Mittlebrun and I made the mistake of letting him join Deathstrike. This was the beginning of the end for them both. We fired Miller on guitar and changed the name to Master again. I think we believed that the name Master was stronger. I wouldn’t find out that it was the Deathstrike demo that had everyone enthralled, until many years later. Deathstrike should have been the one, but we believed Schmidt and his silly lies. All you have to do is look now. I am the only one still surviving. I am still touring and playing every year and successfully releasing CDs as well. I heard that my old buddy Chris Mittelbrun is Mick Mars in a Motley Crue cover band.

What happened to all these Chicago legends?????????? I guess they gave up!!!!!!!!!! As for the real difference, the Deathstrike demo was more aggressive than the Master demos.I just listened to a pack of lies back in the day, and didn’t know any better. Hindsight is 20/20.

WC: Were you satisfied with the Nuclear Blast release "On the Seventh Day..."? I thought the music was awesome but the production was kind of thin and the drums were tinny?

PS: That’s hard to say. The sales were over 20,000, so I guess people liked it. But, I think this was another shit Scott Burns production. This guy was only about money when we entered the studio. By this time, I think he was already burnt out, like burnt toast. There’s no doubt that Mr. Burns produced many great records, just not our record. People still search for this record and bother me about it even today. So I guess the record stands for something. The critics still think that was the best record ever recorded by Master, and that the silly guitarist Masvidal was some kind of genius. I’ll never forget that girly handshake from Paul Masvidal. I laughed in a recent interview as he said his leads weren’t all that great on my simplistic record. Many people in the world said that Master was his best work.

WC: I know you have always been outspoken politically. Was politics part of why you left the States?

PS: Not really, but I laugh now when I see your silly president trying to succeed in taking over the world. I suppose he is nearly succeeding. I mean, how can you believe in a guy that’s trying to force his so-called democracy on a shitty part of the world that’s not interested in this. Bush is the number one terrorist in my eyes. Anyone with half an ounce of integrity knows that Bush is only in it for his own agenda. He wants to keep his own oil wealth in check. He and his father are perfect for America. Things didn’t appear to be so bad when I was there. But you cannot see the greater picture when you are trapped in America. Standing on the outside looking in, is a better way to get a clearer picture. Many Americans cannot see outside of their own backyard. This maybe is better for the majority of voters. Maybe Bush can change the constitution, and run for another term.

WC: Do you think the human race has any hope at all or are we approaching the last days?

PS: We are nearing the end of humanity. These crazy leaders are all drunk with power. The people are merely puppets in a broad scale of reality. This nuclear arms race will never go away. Someone will push the button and fire the rockets at America soon. We will all perish due to the arrogance of fools. It doesn’t matter who runs the house in America. Democrats,Republicans, what a joke. These fools are all over sixty, and even some in their late seventies, and they're running the country. This is terrifying.

WC: Since you've been in both the American and European death metal scenes, how would you compare them?

PS: There is more support for Master in Europe. I have played some of the biggest festivals in Europe over the last few years. And there is an overwhelming support for Metal of all genres. On any given weekend in the summer, there are two or three festivals in Czech for example, and there will be from 1000 to 20,000 people at each festival on the same weekend. Europe in general supports Metal. I will say that I haven’t been to these latest American festivals, so maybe the support is great there too. I am not sure this is a fair answer, as I haven’t been to the USA in three or four years. The last really great festival for me was the US Festival in San Bernadino, California in 1983.

WC: Through all the setbacks, was there ever a time you considered giving up metal?

PS: Never. Metal is my way of life. I have been working as a tour-manager or a merchandiser with the likes of Testament,
Vital Remains, Dismember and Benediction to name a few. I have and always will work in the scene until I no longer can walk. I realize that 90 percent of the old Chicago scene gave up. This just shows how weak they were. I will never give up. I have many tours on the horizon. Master will tour with Deranged in April 2007, and 50 concerts with Broken Hope in October 2007, if all goes as planned. I will be going on tour on Tuesday supporting five Black Metal bands as their merchandiser. I will treat them as professionals as this is my job.

WC: I've heard that you are part of a reformed War Cry! Tell us about how this happened.

PS: No, not me. The only member is Rich Rozek, and the rest are all new players. This is a joke. The band was formed by Ahlers, Fitzgerald, and myself in the early eighties. Apparently, Rich has re-recorded the famous demo, and it’s a joke. But, whatever, good luck. Richy. Anyone looking for the original demo can get it for free at, .I decided to put it on the MySpace because the original is best, and it’s free.

WC: What would you say is your favorite Master effort? A lot of people who have heard it still hold that first unreleased album in a lot of reverence.

PS: Yes, of course that release kills, but the newer recordings are more energetic and the productions are better. "The Spirit of the West" and "Four More Years of Terror" are the best, and can be ordered from me at my address for 15 USD postage included.

WC: What's your view of black metal? Is that a kind of extremity you are interested in?

PS: I believe that music is the Art Of The Soul, and if you believe in it and put your heart and soul into it, it must be good.

WC: Are there any plans afoot to make your material more accessible in America?

PS: Twilight-Vertrieb.De handles all my stuff. Word on the street is that the records will soon be more available in the States and this is a blessing in disguise. So I hope this works.

WC: What was the last CD you checked out just because you wanted to?

PS: Motorhead "We are Motorhead" and Anvil "Forged in Fire".

WC: What was the last gig you saw for your own entertainment?

PS: Gorgoroth in Uherske Hradiíste at Klub Mir

WC: Is there any "Spinal Tap" moment in the history of Master that you'd like to share with us?

PS: Every moment in Master has been a Spinal Tap moment. I was on stage in Honduras in 1998 and playing "Mangled Dehumanization", as one fan was swinging a board around the pit and blood was spilling everywhere. Someone tapped me on my shoulder. I turned around to an AK 47, and the entire stage was covered with police. I said, “Uno momento, Por Favor, Senor.” He smiled, and we finished the song and were put in cabs and whisked away as the riot broke out.

WC: Any last words or messages for the fans?

PS: Anyone interested in merchandise can go to Support the true underground. This has been one of the greatest interviews in many years. Thanks for the thought provoking questions. Maybe one day I will return to the land of the free and home of the brave. See you there!