Following the completion of "fire & Damnation" with renowned producer Waldemar Sorychta (Grip Inc., Therion, Sodom, Moonspell, etc.) at the helm, Exumer signed with Metal Blade Records. The bands first album in 24 years will be released on April 10. The 10-track strong, hard-hitting CD Fire & Damnation combines a punishing production with aggressive song writing. EXUMER manages to capture the intensity and feel of the 1980s thrash metal gems and yet sound up to date on their latest output.
The Gauntlet: Hey Mem, what is going on?
Mem: Basically we are just working on the live set. I went back to Germany and reactivated the band basically for some rehearsals after taking off about a year from not playing live. We have been focused on recording and writing. We have been working on getting that live vibe together and basically working on the setlist. It is pretty expanded at this point. For the last three years, we played mainly our older songs and just two of the newer cuts. There was no need to do anything else. Now the live set is expanded and we have I think six new songs from the record worked in. So we are working on that and I am really excited about the South American dates with Artillery. We will be doing some headlining shows so our setlist gets to be a little longer. We are ready though as you can imagine as we have only had material from the 80’s to play up until now. Not to take anything away from those records. We are here for the fans. They want to hear stuff from “Possessed By Fire” so that has been what we’d play.
The Gauntlet: It has gotten you this far.
Mem: That is correct. The cool thing is when the whole reunion thing or one off started we were curious if the old material would hold up. We sound slightly different as we can now actually hold our instruments. The material is still good enough to hold up in today’s world and it sounds fine. We even re-recorded two songs, one from “Possessed By Fire” and one from “Rising From the Sea” and what we did was there are two different singers on the album. We had different singers on each of those albums being myself and Paul [Arakari]. So we did it again with these two songs as well for the fans. We wanted to see how these old songs would sound with a new sound.
The Gauntlet: Why did Exumer disband after only two albums?
Mem: I started the band with Ray [Mensh - guitars] and back then things went fairly quick. We did a demo then got signed, then recorded “Possessed By Fire.” We were little kids then. Like seventeen or eighteen and so full of ourselves. We had a falling out and all quit, then two weeks later we were best friends again. Then something happened. Paul was a military brat and his family wanted to go back to Hawaii. Paul didn’t want to stay in Germany any longer and left the band for GIT in Los Angeles. That kind of changed things. At that point we had two albums with different singers and slightly different vibes. Then the band went through a couple more personnel changes and we were done by 1990. We had three singers, different drummers and bass players and we kinda ran out of ideas too. In 1991 we called it quits. We all remain friends to this day. When we reformed the band, Paul had come over to stay with me in New York from Hawaii in 2007. We were just hanging out and having a great time. I asked him about reforming the band and he said lets go for it. I called up Ray in Germany and he said he was interested. I have known Ray since 1983. It was the same for Bernie our rhythm guitar player.
The Gauntlet: Why didn’t this all come together in 2000 when the band got together to play Wacken?
Mem: At the time I had moved to New York and in 1999 I had started college. I had a new life over here. I was also in a little underground thrash metal band called Sun Descends and basically Bernie and Ray were involved in a rock project in Germany. The Wacken one-off was a response to the fans. At the time it was a popular thing for a band to come out and do a one-off. We got the offer and decided to do that. We were getting some pretty big and crazy offers from labels at the time too. We declined them but did do the one off. It was all about timing really rather than anything else. It was a good thing really for the band. It gave us a chance to get back together after like fifteen years and do that.
The Gauntlet: Okay. I didn’t know if it was one of those things where you got on stage and remembered why you broke up in the first place.
Mem: No, it wasn’t like that. Everybody had different priorities in life. We had some pretty big labels knocking on our door offering re-releases and new album deals with tours. It was just bad timing for me.
The Gauntlet: The new album “Fire & Damnation” was recorded with the band in different continents.
Mem: Yes. I live here and our bass player lives here and the rest are in Germany. This means we had to work on the album in a slightly different fashion. Everybody has to prepare at home. It is not different from how other bands are. The guys from Slayer all live in different neighborhoods and they work on their parts then come together for the album. We have a similar situation. However the beauty of the internet allows me to check out new riffs rather quickly and if I like them write lyrics. It works out really well. For the album we wanted a really organic feel. We had all these ideas that we had been collecting for like three years prior to recording. A few songs were set in stone but the rest would be worked out in the practice room. This was the same way we did the albums when we were kids. We all got together at our rehearsal space for like eight to ten hours a day and just played. We were there for like two or three weeks and that was how this record came about. It isn’t an AC/DC album where everything is so clever and well thought out. We just wanted an explosive type of product and the process helped us get there.
The Gauntlet: The last time you worked on the album was over twenty years ago. Now there are so many tools that can be utilized by bands to ‘assist’ them in the studio. Was it hard not using them in favor of the more organic feel?
Mem: Yeah, but the fans would hear that if we did. At the end of the day, nobody is making money. We just make enough to sustain and operate the band so we do what we need to for the fans. If that means we need to spring for extra plane tickets or more time off work to do it right, that is what we have to do. We are not going to cut corners with the most important thing which is this album. That is what gives us the legitimacy as a thrash band to be around. It would be fatal and a flawed way of thinking. You can cut corners in the very thing that gives a band the reason to exist. I could have recorded my vocals and bass over here and somebody in Germany could have mixed it but that is not the way we operate. We want the record to have an impact. I think we did the right thing. If you got into thrash in the mid eighties, you know what you want to hear in thrash and cutting corners would not be doing any good for us at that point. Our fans don’t expect us to sound like 1986 but they expect a certain level of aggression and energy. Underestimating that would be just careless and stupid.
The Gauntlet: Exumer’s two previous releases have a character in a metal hockey mask on the cover. He is absent from “Fire & Damnation” though.
Mem: What we wanted to establish was to have elements from that. We took the mask from the character as that is what people identify with. One thing that is clear is we are not the same people anymore. We have matured and that has been reflected in our playing ability also. We wanted that to be reflected in the artwork too. the artwork for the first two records was fitting at the time. For “Fire & Damnation” we wanted it to be presentable to who we are and where we are at. We didn’t want skulls and blood. We needed the artwork to reflect the title and be something we can identify with. When we were presented with it, we liked it. It doesn’t have the same comic strip guy but it still incorporates his mask a little bit.
The Gauntlet: When the first two albums came out, a lot of bands had mascots. Was he the bands mascot?
Mem: Yeah, he became that. The same guy did the first and second sleeve. For us, it was subscribed to us. In the 80’s we had different t-shirt designs with the mascot in different situations. The most memorable thing though is his mask and we wanted to keep that going as that is part of the band. I like the updated version. He never officially had a name though like other bands. We called him Jason because he had that Friday the 13th style mask. That is what he resembled.
The Gauntlet: After the Artillery tour, what is next for the band?
Mem: I think we will end up on some festivals this year but we really want to concentrate on South and North America this year. We are getting a few dates here in the States. We really want to do a lot more. We want to do at least five to ten shows in North America with the majority being on the West coast as that is where our following is at. We will probably do a couple on the East coast too. The idea of the band is not quantity. We don’t want to be a band that plays 200 shows a year. We are not twenty years old and don’t want to be packed in a bus. I think the rarer the live show, the more people will want to see it again and again. We won’t be playing New York three or four times a year. That concept has worked really well for us. Metal Blade are cool with that too. We are a cult band and we want to keep that vibe going. It was clear to us that once we had a new album, we had to play South America. We have a huge fanbase there and it has been twenty-four years since we have played there. That type of thinking is what has sustained the band. When we book a show people do show up. It works out well for everyone involved.