KREATOR – Extreme Pain, Endless Pleasure
July 4, 2017, a year ago
For over 30 years, Kreator have been regarded as one of Germany's strongest and most volatile bands on a scene that has influenced metal bands the world over. Sure, there have been a few albums the fans would generally like to forget, but 2017 finds the veteran thrash band at full strength. Their latest album, Gods Of Violence, unexpectedly soared to the top of the German charts upon release and landed at #1, speaking volumes on Kreator's maximum appeal amongst the metal faithful. Now, their resurrected former label Noise Records has stepped up for a series of remastered reissues, unleashing Kreator's first four albums - Endless Pain (1985), Pleasure To Kill (1986), Terrible Certainty (1987) and Extreme Aggression (1989) - complete with bonus material. At first glance the move seems like a label cash grab, as Noise is slowly getting back in its feet after being relaunched last year, but Kreator frontman/founder Mille Petrozza's involvement in assembling the remastered albums and stepping up to do press says otherwise. BraveWords caught up with Petrozza a few days after the reissues were made available to the fans.
BraveWords: Since we're looking back on Kreator's history, did you ever tease yourself with the idea back in the day of coming so far as to have an album hit #1 on the charts? Given the type of music that it is, Gods Of Violence debuting at #1 is a huge accomplishment.
Petrozza: "When you start a band you don't really think about those kinds of things. If you play music that's not the intention, or at least it shouldn't be. When I release something I want to make sure it's up to the standards that I've set for myself and that we as Kreator have set for the band. So no, I never thought anything about Kreator being on the German charts. And hitting #1? That's a huge compliment."
BraveWords: I hadn't listened to Endless Pain in years. The first thing that came to mind when I gave the reissue a spin was Metallica's recording of "Hit The Lights" on the Metal Massacre compilation. When was that, '81 or '82?
Petrozza: "That's a very good comparison because when we were writing the first album we were big fans of Metallica, the Kill 'Em All era. And yeah, I think Endless Pain does sound more like those Metal Massacre recordings. When I listen to the first record - and I've made my peace with it now - I remember us sitting there complaining about all the mistakes on the record when we got out of the studio. The thing was, we worked with a producer who basically just watched us play and recorded us. He was more of an engineer. From a present day point of view, Endless Pain is very rough and has that essence of a live metal recording. I wish the producer for Endless Pain would have been Harris Johns, who worked with us on (second album)Pleasure To Kill, because he helped us a lot. But, the first album is a part of our history and I'm happy we're able to reissue it.
"I think the first album was very much influenced by Exodus also. If you listen to Endless Pain, we ripped off so many of their riffs (laughs). I told Gary (Holt) this and he's so nice; he said 'Are you sure we didn't rip off your stuff?' and I told him 'No, we definitely ripped you off...' (laughs). Kreator and Exodus have a lifelong friendship, and yesterday when I presented an award to them at the Metal Hammer Awards, it brought back so many great memories and I had this feeling of 'Wow, this is my life.' You don't normally think about those kinds of things but in that moment I realized Kreator has been doing this as long as Exodus, and it's amazing that we're still here talking about the things that influenced us 30 years ago."
BraveWords: Revisiting the old recordings, do they conjure up any specific memories of the early days of Kreator?
Petrozza: "I'm the type of guy that never listens to his own music unless I have to go back and re-learn something. But, it's fun to listen to the old stuff if I put it in the context of where we came from. There are so many memories. We're older, we're all reflecting on what's important about this music, what influenced us. I remember seeing Iron Maiden for the first time and thinking 'I wish that one day my band can have a stage like that.' Now, we go and play on a stage at Hellfest that's as big as a Maiden stage. Sometimes I can't believe we've come this far."
BraveWords: What do you remember about getting the deal with Noise Records?
Petrozza: "I remember when our manager at the time came to the rehearsal room and showed us the letter from Noise Records saying 'We want to sign your band.' The first thing that came to my mind was 'We're not ready yet, the songs aren't good enough.' I think the one thing that has always been present in Kreator is that we're all very self-critical. By our musical standards, we went to be the best as we can possibly be. When we recorded Endless Pain we thought we only had three or four songs that were good enough to be on the record. In the two or three weeks before we entered the studio we tried to write six more songs. We managed to do it, including the title track, and that made the whole experience very exciting."
BraveWords: You've always been very hands-on with everything involving Kreator. Did you oversee the bonus material that was chosen for each of the four reissues?
Petrozza: "I collected as much as I could and we tried to make the bonus material as exciting as possible for the fans, but we also wanted to have the quality. Sometimes the quality wasn't there and we didn't want to release bonus material just for the sake of it. I'm happy with it all, but there's always something that could have been done better."
BraveWords: The bonus concert on the Extreme Aggression was released previously as Live In East Berlin in 1990, but as I understand it, never in audio format.
Petrozza: "That material was released before on VHS and then as a re-release in 2004. That's a remix of the old VHS audio. I'm really happy with it because I know a lot of fans don't have that material. Quality-wise that's some of the best bonus material we have for the reissues."
BraveWords: Considering the material was shot/recorded while Germany was moving towards reunification (in 1989), the live recording is very special in that it was recorded in East Berlin at that time.
Petrozza: "Absolutely, because it was at a very historical time in Germany and we were in the middle of it. Any time I listen to those tracks or see the video, I remember that we weren't really aware of the significance of playing in East Berlin. I remember Tankard being on the bill and wanting to party with them afterwards (laughs)."
BraveWords: Listening to the reissues, do you ever wish you could go back and capture that gritty analogue sound for the albums Kreator are putting out now?
Petrozza: "I read in an interview once - it was Geezer Butler - and they were talking about new bands coming out with that retro sound. He said something really clever; 'all these new bands are buying the old amps and old gear to try and get that vintage sound, but I'm so glad we don't have to deal with all that old equipment anymore....' (laughs). You have to look at it this way: I love the fact we were there at that time but nowadays things are so much easier. There are ways of recording that attitude and feel from back then without using the old equipment. Yes, that old sound was exciting at the time but you have to understand that most of the things you think and I think are really cool from back then, especially the '70s stuff like Black Sabbath and T-Rex, it wasn't the equipment that was responsible for the vibe and the attitude. It was the songwriting and the music. It was new and exciting at the time, and the bands had that enthusiasm. We were able to capture that emotion and the vibe. The gear was irrelevant."
BraveWords: There are two more Kreator albums in the Noise archives, Coma Of Souls (1990) and Renewal (1992). Are they going to be given the reissue treatment?
Petrozza: "There are going to be more reissues, yes. We're doing a lot of research and the thing is, chasing down these old recordings from back in the day for bonus material was kind of hard. There was stuff on YouTube that we didn't use, some really cool stuff like me yelling at our drummer (laughs), but the quality wasn't there. I think the bonus material is really cool, but I think the best thing we've done is a concert we played in 1991 that was never released. That's going to be the bonus album for the Coma Of Souls reissue that's coming up some time in early 2018. It was great to find that stuff because it was a really cool show, a good recording. It was supposed to be a live video release but that never happened because the lights weren't bright enough, but we have the audio. It's going to be cool."