Bonn, Germany-based thrash metal unit Fabulous Desaster emerged in 2010 with the release of an EP titled When The Silence’s So Loud, and although the band was inactive for the next three years, they returned and started working on what has become a full-length album Hang ‘Em High. The album, released in 2016, is also available as vinyl edition.
Lead guitarist Matthes spoke for Vinyl Sphere.
Describe the musical vision propelling your full-length debut album Hang ‘Em High.
Matthes: We have been into this kind of Thrash Metal since the ‘90s and that is also the reason why we started to play our instruments. At the time that we started Fabulous Desaster there was no need for discussing about our musical orientation, we all wanted exactly the same from the very beginning. Some may call this kind of Thrash Metal “old school” or “retro” but that’s not quite true for us — for us it’s simply timeless. That is the beauty of Heavy Metal in general. Metal Maniacs listen to new releases as well as to the old ones from the ‘70s and ‘80s. And this is not some kind of nostalgic thing, it’s because it is great music. All these old releases stand side by side with the current releases, all that counts is the music itself and not the release date. Again: that is Heavy Metal! Our music is a perfect example of this and the feedback from fans all over the world confirm that attitude!
What made this the right time to pursue that vision?
Matthes: Even if Fabulous Desaster were founded in 2010, it was 2013 that we re-united and started working on the songs that can now be heard on Hang ‘Em High. After 2 years we thought that we not only had a sufficient number of songs but that these are really killer songs that deliver 100% of our musical vision, the exact kind of music that we love so much!
Tell me about what you’re communicating with the album cover.
Matthes: In the beginning we already agreed on the title Hang ‘Em High but we had no idea what to do with the cover. We contacted the great Mario Lopez and sent him some demo songs with lyrics and let him do whatever he wanted. Then he came up with the first sketch that already had this perspective reminding us of some kind of explosion erupting from a cave that looked like a skull.
Now we knew exactly what we wanted: a cover that shows our musical energy and power as some kind of “unstoppable Thrash Metal blast” heading straight for the viewer!
What was the creative process for Hang ‘Em High like?
Matthes: First it should be stressed that we did not try to create music suited only for this one particular album. Some bands release their debut album in a phase of finding and defining their own style. That is not the case with the music on Hang ‘Em High. This is the exactly the kind of music that we love and that will be found on all future Fabulous Desaster albums as well.
The great thing is that we all 100% agree on this kind of music. No musical compromises need to be made to please each and every one of us because we all have exactly the same vision.
Jan (vocals & guitar) and I write the music for the songs. Then we start rehearsing and occasional modify certain parts to match it better to the whole band performance. Finally Jan comes up with lyrics and depending on the vocals, certain rhythmic elements of the songs may be changed again to harmonize with the vocals.
Speaking of the album’s creative process, provide some insight into it. How did you document the music while it was being formulated?
Matthes: We use tablature software to document the guitar parts, sometimes also including the basic drum rhythms. That is a very convenient way to share new ideas with the rest of the band. Furthermore it allows us to use rehearsal time much more efficiently, because everyone can prepare his own parts before entering the rehearsal room.
When Jan starts working on a new song he already has some idea of how he is going to vocalize certain parts and can already take this into account from the very beginning.
But this is something he obviously cannot do with my songs. So I usually do some extra work and pre-record the guitars, bass and drums (with a drum computer) and share this instrumental demo recording together with the tablature with the rest of the band.
Is the dynamic flow of the pieces carefully architected?
Matthes: The dynamic flow of an individual song actually is very carefully architected. Even with great riffs and parts in a song, that is no guarantee that the song as a whole will be equally great. Sometimes it happens automatically that the individual parts glue together perfectly, but often enough this takes weeks (or even months).
The dynamic flow of the album as a whole (from song to song) is less carefully architected. Every song stands for itself, there is no global concept for the album.
Did the environment in any way influence the vibe the album transcends?
Matthes: Sure! The environment influences anything you do in a certain way. I think for us there two environmental aspects that are most important. First of all we are all doing fine with our private lives, we all have jobs, family and lots of friends.
Of course each of us to deal with some shit from time to time like anyone else, but nothing too serious. We do not hate the world and we do not want to express any destructive anger with our music.
Still our music is very aggressive… but in a positive sense, with pure energy and power! Another factor is that we have a healthy Metal music scene with many concerts, festivals, parties and lots of other Heavy Metal maniacs. That definitely influences our music too.
How do you usually go about creating a new song?
Matthes: First of all, since us both guitar players are writing all songs, it’s all about the guitar riffs! We spent a lot of time working on the riffs, on every single note!
Sometimes it is that one riff idea that leads to a new song, sometimes it’s the idea for a particular song structure. In either case we spent a lot of time finalizing the full song in every detail.
Usually a new song is already worked out for the most part before rehearsing it with the full band. Then, depending on how it harmonizes with the full band, some parts may be slightly modified.
Luke’s drum playing plays also a very important role for that. He not only tries to play along with the guitars but also with the vocals. And then Andi needs to refine his bass parts because he needs to link guitar and drums (instead of simply following the guitars alone). Overall it is a very complex process that involves all band members… and it is so much fun!
Which bands or artists influence your work?
Matthes: Obviously we are strongly influenced by the ‘80s Thrash Metal, but in the end there are too many bands to mention them all. Here some examples of some more popular albums (but far from being complete): Kill ‘Em All (Metallica), Victims Of Deception (Heathen), By Inheritance (Artillery), Violent Restitution (Razor), Power And Pain (Whiplash), Bonded By Blood (Exodus), Show No Mercy (Slayer), Doomsday For The Deceiver (Flotsam And Jetsam), Darkness Descends (Dark Angel), Feel The Fire (Overkill), Tortured Existence (Demolition Hammer), Peace Sells (Megadeth), Seven Churches (Possessed),… and so many more! And then there are also a lot of awesome newer Thrash bands that influence our music, but that list would be equally long!
But aside from those more obvious influences, we are also influenced by many non-Thrash bands.
RAVEN!!! Ever seen these guys live?? That’s the power and energy that we want to reflect with our music. Or bands like Van Halen, and of course Dio, Anvil, Led Zeppelin, Riot, Motorhead, Priest… and even Meat Loaf! We simply take inspiration from any kind of cool music and re-interpret and transform it into our Fabulous Desaster style (that is true for many of our songs).
Do you see your music as serving a purpose beyond music?
Matthes: Definitely. For sure music in general is vital for everyone transporting emotions and enhancing certain moods you are in (in our case this mood would be like: “full of a healthy mixture of coffee, beer and adrenaline, ready to take over the world with bestial POWER!!!”).
Furthermore we meet so many new and awesome people through our music; on live shows, parties, festivals and worldwide via the internet. It’s so cool to see that so many people that you didn’t know before share your musical vision!
And finally, it’s all the hard and dedicated work you have (and want) to put into your passion: the music… that makes the whole thing so much more valuable.
Hang ‘Em High is available as a digital download, a CD and also as vinyl. What in particular made you gravitate towards LP?
Matthes: That was a somewhat tough decision because we had to self-finance all production costs for the CD, LP and merchandise. But after the CD release people kept asking for a vinyl version of the album. It is very interesting to see great demand for vinyl, especially in the Heavy Metal genre. Luckily our producer Armin Rave convinced us to do a special vinyl master of the album as well. Due to the limitations of vinyl the music needs to be less compressed compared to the digital CD content. But nowadays that limitation turns out to be a great benefit for many LP releases because many sound much more dynamic compared to a CD version.
Do you also maintain your personal vinyl collection, and if so when did you start collecting vinyl? How large is your collection?
Matthes: Personally I am not a dedicated vinyl collector, still I do have several LPs at home. I bought most of them in the early/mid ‘90s when I started listening to Metal music. The funny thing at that time was that the LPs of the ‘80s Metal releases were cheaper than the CD versions.
Probably the music industry back then could not imagine that there would still be a demand for LPs 25 years later. Our drummer Luke likes to frame his LP collection to decorate his room. All these great artworks, that’s definitely cooler than hanging up pictures of young kitties or some idyllic landscapes!
With the album out, what else do you have in the pipeline?
Matthes: We are already working on our second release for the end of 2018. Recording Hang ‘Em High was an amazing experience to work together with our producer Armin Rave! So of course he is our one and only choice for the next release as well. He shares our vision and passion for this kind of music 100%, and he is doing an awesome job. We can’t wait to enter his studio again!
As for the music, we are continuing doing what we did on our debut. That is the music that we love, that we always loved and that we will always love!