Fear of Tomorrow was the band’s first album. What was the mood of the band going into the studio, beyond the obvious excitement of that situation? “We started the band in 1982, with the main ambition of putting a record out; In 1985 we made a demo which we sent to a lot of record companies, of whom I think six responded. We chose Neat Records because at that time they had Venom, Tygers of Pan Tang, Tank… some of the bands we really liked! So that was the main reason we chose them. We had done two tracks for (Hellion vocalist Ann Boleyn’s label) New Renaissance Records, Hey Woman and Deeds of Darkness, which appeared on two of their compilation albums, and they wanted to sign us, which was a kind of a big deal, but yes, we were very excited to sign a deal with Neat”.
And when it was presented to the world, it’s a very much ‘of its time’ thrash metal record. Today, if a genre doesn’t exist the internet finds, say, a ‘metalcore’ band, they become a success, and within three months there are a thousand metalcore bands… How did you, in Denmark, in the early eighties, come up with a sound similar to bands in England, Germany, South and North America before the internet? We just had magazines like Kerrang! And Metal Forces and tape trading. So how do those bands grow separately across the globe? Is it just the impulse of young people to try and be faster and heavier than the bands they know and love? “We started definitely with that in mind. When we began we played more of the Black Sabbath and Deep Purple style, but then we heard (fellow Danes) Mercyful Fate and we decided that, like them (punches fist) we had to have more power. Fast As a Shark by Accept was a very important song for us, as was Exciter by Judas Priest. We started to play like that, then in 1984 at a festival we saw Metallica, and they played thrash metal – OK! We had the feeling that that was the way we wanted to go, because bands we loved like Rainbow were starting to go in a more ‘pop’ direction, and we knew we had to go the other way. We also loved bands like Angel Witch who came a bit before us, so we tried to write songs that combined all of this”.
Okay, let’s talk about the album – the first track is Time Has Come. “It was basically a song I wrote. Some of the basic riffs came from around 1980, or around that time, but we did them a little bit faster, it’s a song we still play live sometimes. It’s a really important song for us because people were really fond of that song at the time”.
How old were you when you were writing that track? “Around twenty five, I think”.
Track two is called The Almighty. “Yes. That was Morten (Stützer, the band’s bassist and Michael’s brother who sadly passed away last year)’s idea, but I also contributed some riffing to it. The lyric is an ironic look at how religion can actually be evil”.
Show Your Hate is next. “Show Your Hate was a song that I wrote the music and lyrics for. It was written during a time when a lot of things were making me angry and I wanted to show that”.
Next up is one of my favourites – King Thy Name Is Slayer. “I wrote the lyrics and most of that, although Morten contributed the middle part. It was written about the Ayatollah Khomeini, though some people thought it was about Slayer. It’s not! It’s interesting because at the time there was some doubt about whether the track should go on the album. But a lot of people really liked it. It’s a cool song”.
The last song on side one was Out of the Sky. “Out of the Sky was a song Morten wrote both the music and the lyrics for. It’s a song about those things that take you by surprise – what happened? It came out of the sky… It’s a very good live song, we played it a lot when the album came out”.
Was there much of a scene in Denmark when the album came out? Could you play live a lot or did you have to move further afield to get shows? “It was very difficult to play live at that time. On the heavy side the biggest acts were Mercyful Fate and Pretty Maids, and then there were the underground acts like us. In our first three years we only played thirty shows in all. So it was difficult for a time. After the album came out we were able to play eighty to a hundred shows a year”.
My absolute favourite track on the album kicked off side two – Into The Universe. ‘We also still play that song sometimes. It was basically a song that Morten wrote, although Fleming (Rönsdorf, vocals) wrote his first set of lyrics for that one”.
Next was and is The Eternal War. “Another one we’ve played live a lot. It’s still one of my favourites. I remember that both Cliff Burton and James Hetfield from Metallica really liked that song and had it on their playlists at the time, which was really cool… It’s a good song and it’s actually the last song we wrote for the album. I think if you listen you can already hear some touches of the next album (1987’s Terror Squad)”.
How much did you have written when you sent out your demos? Was most of this album already written? “Most of the demo songs were ready, we remixed Time Has Come, The Almighty, Show Your Hate, King Thy Name is Slayer, Into The Universe and Fear of Tomorrow. The rest of the songs on the album were new recordings”.
How much time did Neat give you in the studio when you signed? Most bands recorded at Neat’s Impulse Studios in England, didn’t they? But you stayed in Denmark. ‘One of the reasons I think they wanted to sign us was because we already had seven songs recorded! (laughs). I remember (Belgian label) Mausoleum were very interested too, as well as a couple of other labels. An exciting time!”
It was a good time for heavy metal, especially European heavy metal. ‘It was, and it was especially good for us because not many bands from Denmark had put records out”.
I was around seventeen at this time, and as a fan you certainly do follow some labels once they’ve put out a few records you like. “Yes, which as I said is why we went to Neat. And on the first album they were good, but after that less so because they’d lost a lot of money on Venom’s At War With Satan. It led to a lot of delays for us, over a year to get the second album out. It was meant to come out 1986 but didn’t appear until mid 1987, by which time Master of Puppets and a whole load of other good thrash albums had come out”.
It got good reviews when it came out. “It did, and people who had heard it were saying ‘it’s a very good album you’ve done, when can we get it?’ (laughs) and of course we couldn’t play live either until it came out”.
We’ve got sidetracked. The title track is next. “That’s a song I wrote the music and the lyrics for. The song is about fear. It’s much the same today! For example here the bushfires… there were and are a lot of things to afraid of. In those days nuclear war the big fear”.
And hence very good subject matter for thrash metal songs! “that’s true (more laughter)”.
The last song on the album is one you’ve already mentioned, Deeds of Darkness. “Another one of my favourite songs. It was one of Lars Ulrich’s favourite songs. At the time he even talked about doing it with Metallica, but it never happened, sadly”.
Michael gives me a rueful smile while I chuckle, perhaps a little cruelly. “It would have been great. He really loved it! Morten wrote most of the music and I did the lyrics with him and Carsten (Nielsen, drummer). We were watching a lot of horror films and then we wrote this crazy song. We used to say it was about going to the graveyard and doing many… crazy things! It’s a good song and people obviously like to hear it, so that’s cool”.
Do you look back at that time with fondness? Was the time around the recording of the album a good time for Artillery? “Of course, I think if we were from England or Germany or the USA we’d have perhaps been more successful – people would say ‘Denmark? Where’s that?’ But of course it’s a time of fondness because it was so hard to get an album out, and of course people still seem to like it, which is cool”.
Do you still see a link from Fear of Tomorrow to the Artillery today? Or has the band moved on? “I still think we do the basic kind of riffs – that’s Artillery. But of course we grow better as musicians and have a different singer now. Even the title of our first album, Fear of Tomorrow, and our most recent – Face of Fear – show a link! Except then we were fearing the day after. Today we fear the now! But when I write a riff I still want it to have that Artillery feel to it. And I don’t think that will ever change too much. And I think that’s why people are still enjoying our music, because you can hear that. And that’s important”.