Space Chaser – Dealing with Dystopia

Thursday, 15th July 2021

Subscribing to a precise thrash mold that takes from more Bay Area influences while not forsaking aspects of punk, hardcore, or extreme metal, Space Chaser have been steadily gaining an underground buzz through their first two albums across their homeland Germany into Europe and beyond. Their latest album Give Us Life sees the group stepping up to the Metal Blade roster, ready to assault a global audience through their style. Pushing sci-fi/dystopian lyrical content and versatile songs that contain plenty of aggressive riffs, gang-like choruses, shredding solos, and catchy mid-tempo melodic transitions, it’s easy to hear the band gaining appeal with those who grew up on a lot of the 80’s thrash movement.

We reached out to drummer Matthias Scheuerer on Skype to learn more about this quintet. You’ll hear how the band signed to Metal Blade, their impressive video work for the new record, thoughts on the German scene and support, best shows/underrated bands, plus hopes for the future when it comes to tours and festivals.

Dead Rhetoric: Give Us Life is the third album for Space Chaser – and your first with Metal Blade Records. Tell us how you gained interest from this label after being on This Charming Man Records for your first two albums – and how you assess the songwriting and performances for this record compared to your previous work?

Matthias Scheuerer: The deal with Metal Blade – we had a friend who told us that she’s friends with one of the guys from Metal Blade. We rather jokingly asked her if she would ask if they were interested in signing us. The pandemic had just broken out and we were kind of sure they wouldn’t be able to sign a small band like us. We forgot about it, and then at one point she called us that she talked about us, and they would like to hear something from us. We told her they could listen to our material on Spotify. She said no, he knows about us but he needs to hear new material. Turns out he had seen us live a couple of times. We quickly recorded four demo songs for him, sent it to him, and after a couple of weeks we had a Skype meeting and he said, he loved our stuff. He pitched us to the upper office in Germany and the bosses in the states – everything worked out and we had our deal with Metal Blade which was totally incredible. Sometimes I still have a hard time believing it, that it worked out that way. The transition from This Charming Man to Metal Blade worked beautifully. Chris who works at This Charming Man was totally cool about it. This Charming Man gets an exclusive vinyl version of our new album, it’s a win-win for everybody I guess.

The songwriting process and production process was pretty much the same as we’ve done it always. We did things a little bit better as songwriters, and just got better at our instruments. We have played so many shows, practiced a little bit more, we just have gotten better at what we are doing.

Dead Rhetoric: The video for “Remnants of Technology” is amazing – almost a mini-movie paying homage to a lot of sci-fi film/television shows of the past. How did the idea and treatment develop – what type of budget did you work with, and do you believe you’ve gotten the type of response you desired from this clip?

Scheuerer: Yes. We had the idea for this video lying around – two or three years almost. The basic idea, I had three years ago. I called our guy Lucas who does our videos from Peregrine Films, he was a guy originally with just a camera and now he has his own production company. He loved it so much, he scripted it and turned it into a treatment. Ever since then we had this script lying around, we tried to do it a couple of years ago when we made a video for “Waves”, which didn’t happen because we needed a lot of people working for us and we never had any budget. This just didn’t happen. Now again, due to the pandemic and the shutdown, all the art people lost their jobs overnight. They didn’t have anything to do, they were open to working on this, even if it didn’t pay money. Everybody loved it, a lot of people helped us, everyone worked for free which was amazing. Over months it really took shape, it became bigger and bigger, more ambitious. In the end we had this amazing crew of more than sixty people working, and everybody pulled their weight to make that happen.

Budget-wise, we are a little band and did not a lot of money. This time we got lucky and got a little funding from the German government, an initiative to support music and you can apply for it. We had a little more money to spend, barely covered the basic costs for everything. It helped us in making this video. The budget we would have needed if everybody got paid, we wouldn’t have had a chance. We got incredibly lucky.

Boy – we were all blown away. We saw it a week before, we had no idea what it was going to look like. It’s going to be video, just a little more professional. We quickly realized, this is a mini-movie. Lucas told us the video effects, and what was supposed to happen. It was hard to imagine, but then it’s so big. I remember in the beginning where you have the spaceship, with the Space Chaser logo, I laughed out loud because it was hard to imagine seeing that. As we saw the finished project, we were blown away. I really can’t believe it, what we’ve done. It’s amazing. I have always wanted to make a movie and I guess we did that.

Dead Rhetoric: Even though your main base is thrash metal, you admit in the background bio that members also have appreciation and love for death metal, hardcore, and punk music. Discuss the importance of taking in these outside influences to your approach – do you believe this helps in creating fresh takes on the genre and avoid a certain sameness that could occur otherwise?

Scheuerer: I’m pretty sure it’s important that you allow other musical influences into your music. The challenge is to stay in our case, thrash – it’s always been clear that we want to make thrash albums. We always try to incorporate whatever we listen to – whether it’s death metal, hardcore, punk, metal. It finds it’s way into our writing. I’m a big fan of Misery Index and Revocation for example – I love the drumming on these bands, and it influences my drumming a little bit in how I write my drum parts. Not to compare myself to any of those guys, but it has its influence. It keeps things fresh, not to regurgitate the old stuff you’ve heard a thousand times before. Try to get a new spin on it. It’s dangerous because that can always backfire, but with the last album I think we succeeded.

Dead Rhetoric: Also as a German band, a lot of your influences are more American/Bay Area-oriented. Was that a conscious decision based on your tastes to include more of the American influences versus the domestic thrash approach?

Scheuerer: Absolutely. We all love Kreator, that’s for sure. But we have always been more into the American thrash side, than over the German thrash side, for our personal tastes. Like Exodus, Testament. We love Sodom and Kreator, but our biggest influences have always been from the Bay Area. We felt it’s just natural to go in that direction.

Dead Rhetoric: When it comes to your vocalist Siegfried Rudzynski, do you think his range opens up your songwriting possibilities because he can deliver melodies differently than a screaming thrash singer?

Scheuerer: Definitely. He is our wild card. We can do whatever we want. We are not limited to having a guy who can do screaming, as you would be limited to the aggressive parts, or a guy who can do clean singing, you are limited to that. He can pull out of his ass whatever he wants, and it makes us go any which way. It gives us the freedom to be really crazy, if you think about it. I’m always amazed … for this record especially. He had a hard time finding his voice early on, because he can quickly sound like a power metal guy. But we are not a power metal band, so we have to be careful with the melodies. With this album he had this pinpoint accuracy of when to do what. The melodic parts are spot on, and when he needs aggressive singing, he does that and he does it perfectly. It all came together in the studio sessions – in two days he was done. It was great, great delivery, he knew exactly where he was going with that.

Dead Rhetoric: As a drummer, how would you describe your style and who have been some of the main influences for your technique and abilities?

Scheuerer: My style? With me… when I started out as a kid I was influenced by my first metal record – Manowar – Battle Hymns. How Donnie Hamzik played the drums – I was 7 or 8 years old at the time. Then I got my first Slayer record, and Dave Lombardo changed the game for me. I really wanted that – but at the same time I was very influenced by a tv show that we have over here in Germany, it was a drumming show in the afternoon. Hosted by Pete York, a British jazz drummer. Nobody in my family listened to jazz before, but I paid attention and it was really great. It made me want to take lessons for a while, a drum teacher in my town I found where I grew up.

Then I started playing in hardcore bands for a long time, a lot of my time comes from hardcore and punk drumming. Where you find your own style, because you don’t feel like you follow the musical rules of the other guys. I was always able to play really fast, that’s why I ended up in these fast bands. What really changed it in 1999 is I was on tour with Malevolent Creation, I sold t-shirts for those guys and Dave Culross played with them. Every day I sat on the merch booth, borrowed sticks from him, and he would come over and show me something. Another trick or rudiment, the first time these things came together. The traditional approach of drumming with the techniques, and the brutal death metal style. I never knew these two things could go together. It made me really serious about drumming. When I got home from that tour I got a teacher, and I started studying music and he’s been my mentor ever since. I studied jazz and contemporary music. From there I got into Space Chaser and I went back into thrash drumming, so things came full circle.

Dead Rhetoric: How has the lyrical content evolved for Space Chaser over the years? Do you believe the band places just as much importance on what you try to convey with your lyrics as the effort put in with the music – and do you receive feedback from your fans when it comes to the topics you discuss?

Scheuerer: The feedback is not so much about the lyrics. Sometimes they will recite them and sing along to them at the shows. To my knowledge, nobody discusses the topics with us. They have changed quite a bit. On the first record we did the typical aliens and party scene, “Loaded to the Top” was about drinking, some zombie lyrics that are quite prominent in thrash I think. Later we developed a strong interest in dystopian, sci-fi stories because there (are) more interesting things to tell. We can have serious sounding subjects which are on the new record. I think it’s a good thing, with the party lyrics you can only go so far.

Dead Rhetoric: How would you describe the live show of Space Chaser in comparison to what people hear on record? What do you try to convey to the audience, and what have been some of the more memorable shows, tours, or festival appearances to date for the group?

Scheuerer: We always try to put up a wild thrash show. The difference is, we are trying to play our songs as perfect as possible but there is always this live element where people screw up. We always give it 100%. We try to have energy radiating on stage and the people going wild. That’s what this music is all about to me.

A couple of shows come to mind when we are talking about good Space Chaser shows. Our first big festival was the Rock Hard Festival in 2015 I believe. We played from the Rock Hard magazine, they invited us to open up the festival. It was incredible, so many people had come to see us, partied with us. There is even on our YouTube channel the first two songs from the set, you can see how much fun the people had on a Friday at noon. That was an amazing experience for us, as we never had played such a big show. Another memorable show, we have our own festival, the Space Fest. We put together in 2016, the first one – that was the original idea, network with friends kind of thing from all over Germany. We did it in Berlin, and it still is around. Year after year, we have invited different bands and good friends on stage, and at one point we thought it would be a good to have a festival in Hamburg. It keeps growing, and those shows are really energetic, wild. The people are coming to see Space Chaser and all our friends. Those are shows that I have always wanted a thrash show to be – slam dancing, stage diving. I can’t wait to once again set up another Space fest.

Dead Rhetoric: After watching your Metal Injection talk about prized thrash t-shirt merchandise, I also noticed an extensive vinyl collection behind you. What do you consider three of your most prized possessions when it comes to thrash vinyl – and who would you say is an overlooked or underrated band in this genre that people need to check out more?

Scheuerer: That’s a good question. I don’t even know, I would have to think a little bit. I have more than just thrash, I have hardcore, punk. The prices on vinyl, it’s a difficult topic. I notice that they have gone crazy high for all kinds of records. When you go to Discogs for example, one of the most prized possessions would be Death – The Sound of Perseverance. It’s a pretty expensive record. I don’t know if you’ve heard of Bastards from Germany – this is a very rare record. I think it’s hard to put a price tag on records. Death records are always pretty expensive. The Motörhead records from the end of the 90’s, Sacrifice and Overnight Sensation, Snake Bite Love, those go for crazy prices as well. Even Anthrax- Stomp 442.

Underrated bands – I think Violator should have more attention. They seem to be a little more underground than they deserve. The Chemical Assault record. Another band that didn’t get enough attention, they aren’t around anymore is Lazarus A.D. The first record by them, is so good. It’s not out on vinyl. That is such a good record. Two more bands that I think didn’t get enough attention: Risk, a forgotten German thrash band. Their Hell’s Animals album is insane. And Holy Moses. Finished With the Dogs and The New Machine of Liechtenstein are some of the best thrash records that have ever come out of Germany.

Dead Rhetoric: Being a part of the German metal scene, how would you assess the movement currently? Do you believe you get proper support considering how strong of a scene you have supporting metal as a genre – or are there areas of improvement that you believe need to be made?

Scheuerer: We get a lot of support from the scene. Even from the beginning, we had a lot of people from the old school who totally got into us from the demo days. I also felt from the younger crowd, I get the feeling that they want and need this trueness. I don’t know if it makes any sense, the truth for their own good. Some people are into this blackened thrash thing that is big in Germany, and they didn’t care too much for Bay Area thrash influenced thrash band like us. The old school guys were on our side and fans of ours, where the younger guys thought of us as too goofy or too cheesy. The term pizza thrash has been thrown around – I don’t know what it exactly means but it’s for those newer thrash bands. I don’t know if it’s derogatory or not, but it has been used at times to describe us.

Dead Rhetoric: As an older musician how have you adapted to the newer methods of promotion and technology with social media and the internet compared to the old school methods of tape trading, demos, letter writing, face to face interaction?

Scheuerer: It took me a while to understand it. When I first came on Facebook and Instagram, the hardest part was understanding what is happening now. Now I’m pretty good about it, most of the guys are younger in our band so I learn through them. It’s a great tool, if you use it smart, to reach a broader audience. Back in the days, we had letters. I remember writing letters and after six months you may hear back from someone, or not. How many bills I sent out for demos and never got anything back? It’s way easier through the internet to discover new bands, and have contact and friends all over the world.

Dead Rhetoric: What’s on the agenda for Space Chaser over the next year or so? Are you hoping to play shows and tour in new territories, including North America?

Scheuerer: Yes, yes and yes. We definitely are working on new material, so it won’t be five years between albums. We want to get on stage again as soon as possible. We have a festival booked in July in Russia, and look forward to do that. I really hope this is going to happen. We moved our September tour dates to March of next year, also we are working on the hope this is going to happen. One thing that needs to happen in the next year is plans to go tour the United States. We get so much email now from people who want to see us. It’s a huge country, maybe there’s enough interest to do that. That would be our biggest dream, to do that finally.

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