Since your comeback in 2006 you have played some festivals here and there and you did some short tours, but you've always said that you were not interested in writing any new material. So, what changed your mind?
The songs. The songs came back. I mean, we just never thought we would have any stuff and you know, for all these years we hadn't. And then one day the songs came back. So, we're like, yay! We're as surprised as everybody, so yeah, it's good.
When you stepped back into the studio after so many years, weren't you overwhelmed by all the new technology available these days?
No... Things are there for you to use or for you to not use and just because things are available doesn't mean you need to use them in studio. You still have to go in and set up, record and play. I think it's easier now than it used to be. But it wasn't overwhelming in any way. I mean, you still put a mike in front of a cabinet or mike up the drums and play your songs. It was a great experience.
Is the material on the album all new, or did you maybe collect some ideas over the years?
All new stuff, yeah, all new material.
So, when you were deciding on how the album should sound like, did you take the old releases as a point of reference?
Well, leading up to it was like, "What do we sound like after all these years? Do we sound like "Ignorance"? Do we sound like "The American Way"? Do we sound like Black Sabbath? Who knows what we sound like?" So, I have a friend, he's a movie director and he said, "You sound like what you play," which was very liberating. We didn't have to worry about it anymore, because ultimately when we play together, it sounds like Sacred Reich, whatever comes out. And you know, we definitely wanted to have some fast and heavy songs to acknowledge all the people that have been with us since the beginning, that have gotten us even the opportunity to record again. And so going into it we knew we wanted some stuff like that, but also we didn't want to force it, we wanted it to be natural. And luckily, it came very naturally.
When your last album was coming out you were in your late 20s and now you're in your early 50s. Do you think "Awakening" would have turned out differently music-wise or lyric-wise if you were still in your late 20s?
Well, obviously. I mean, you can't separate where you are in your life from what is coming out, right? So this is the combination of all these years and everything that we've learned and our life experiences and where we are now. A record is just a snapshot of where you were and if this record came out 20 years ago it would've sounded a lot different because we were in a much different place.
The lyrics on the new record are very positive, which is quite unusual for a thrash metal band...
Yeah... I think there's a lot of turmoil, there's a lot of division, there's a lot of anger, a lot of arguing. So, I don't think we really should add to it, it's plenty. What I think people need is encouragement and a positive message. So that's what we really wanted to do.
You've always liked to voice your political opinions, and again, you've got stuff like that on the album, in "Revolution" and "Divide & Conquer" among others. Do you think some of the metal fans may boycott Sacred Reich because of your political views, which they don't share?
It makes no difference. If people aren't gonna listen to us 'cause they disagree with us, they should go enjoy that.
You've got Dave back on drums. Was he your first choice after Greg left?
Yes. I mean, the question was, "What are we going to do now?" And I just thought, "Let's start at the beginning really. There was one guy that we really like, it was great having him in the band, and when Greg was out of the band last time, it worked out." So, I just sent Dave a message, he gave me a call and I told him Greg's not in the band and he said, "I wanna do it!" and there you go, it was that easy.
Talking about drums, it seems you didn't use any samples or triggers during the recordings which is again quite unusual for a thrash band in 2019...
Yeah, it was funny because Dave was very adamant, he said, "No triggers and no sound replacement" and I go, "What's sound replacement?" and he's like, "Oh, we're going to get along fine." He just wanted natural sound and that's what we wanted too. I mean, I don't think our record sounds very current or modern production-wise and that's by design. I don't think we have songs that sound like everybody else so we didn't want the sound like everybody else. We just wanted to sound like us, for better or for worse.
And how is it working out with your new axeman Joey? I mean, he's almost three decades younger than the rest of you?
Yeah, it's working out great. He's a great guitar player, he's got a ton of energy and he really loves Sacred Reich. He's a fan of that whole era of music. He probably knows more about all that stuff than any of us and it's been really incredible having him in the band.
You did a video-clip for "Manifest Reality" and I've heard it was your video maker who chose a song off the album that he would like to film...
Well, Mark's been a friend of ours since 1993, he did the "Independent" video. He's just a good friend of ours and really incredibly talented filmmaker, and we knew that we wanted to work with him. So, you know, we were talking about the different songs, and he said, "I'm really feeling strongly about this song" and we're like, "Great, because that's one of our favourite songs too." So, he said, "I have this idea," and we said, "Just do whatever you want." In this day and age, it's not like there's an MTV, it's not like there's any of this stuff and when you have a friend that wants to work and has an idea that they wanna do, sometimes it's good just to let go and let other people do what they see. And I think it came out great, it's really unique and different. Not everyone's gonna like it. Some people thought it was incredible, some people thought, "What the fuck is going on?" but you make what you think is best. And to allow a friend of ours to just have a free rein, I think it was cool.
You're back on Metal Blade. Did you consider any other options at all or did you just go straight to Brian?
Yeah, we really didn't think about it. We've always had such a great relationship with Brian and Metal Blade, that it just felt like home.
Before the album was out you released that anti-Trump single. Why wasn't the song included on the album?
The album is a certain way and I don't really think that this song would fit in on the record. When we were gonna go record Tony who's in Iron Reagan said, "Save a song for a split, a 7" with Iron Reagan." So this song came and I thought it would be perfect, you know, like an old punk rock song. But I don't really think it belongs on the record.
I've got a couple of questions about the band's past. I know Jason Newsted was a big fan of yours in the beginning. Was it actually helpful back then, to know a guy like him?
Oh yeah! When he was in Flotsam he ran that band and he always worked incredibly hard and he was a really good role model for us to watch. And then when we were starting he wrote our first bio, he had a mailing list of all the fanzines all across the world and he just gave us his list for us to send demos to and then he would tell everybody about us. So, it was a big help. And he was always telling Metal Blade too, Sacred Reich, Sacred Reich, Sacred Reich. Yeah, he was a big supporter earlier on for us.
You guys slowed down a bit from "Ignorance" to "The American Way" and your style changed over those three years. What factors contributed to that progress?
Well, when we were writing songs for "Ignorance" we were like 16-17 years old and it was really influenced a lot by Slayer and early Metallica. And I think after we did "Ignorance" we thought, "OK, we can play fast," but it wasn't very impressive so much anymore. I think the focus was just more on trying to write the best songs. So, speed was just kind of "an element" instead of "the element".
OK, at the end tell me, why did you actually split after "Heal"? Don't you feel that you have wasted a lot of time as musicians? I mean you could have done quite a few albums over the years...
We split because that's what was happening at that time, our lives were changing. I mean things are the way that they are. There was a creative low, I mean we didn't make a record since we started playing again in 2007, we didn't make a record for another 12 years. So, if we had material we would have made a record somewhere in those 22 years. But we didn't so we can't really say it was a waste. I look at my friends' bands, you know, contemporaries and friends of ours that were active that whole time and I think it's incredible that people can put out so many records and be so creative. But we were talking about Metallica the other day, probably the greatest metal band, you know, more current as opposed to say Black Sabbath and stuff like that, but the greatest metal band and probably the most popular now and when you put out so many records, you're gonna have some duds. Not every record can be the greatest record ever. So maybe it was a good thing that we took that break and we didn't have any crummy records in the meantime. I think all our records are really good. It's funny, I went back several years ago and I was listening to "Heal" which I think by the time "Heal" came out a lot of people were just kind of moved on, but I think the record is pretty underrated, you know? So I encourage everybody to go out and listen to it.
OK, thank you for your time, I'm hoping we won't have to wait for another 23 years for the next release?
No, we already have stuff we're working on, we're gonna make another record and it's gonna be great.