Squealer is a band founded long ago – all the way in to the heart of the kooky 1980s. Probably you have never heard of them before, probably you have and thought they’ve split ages ago or maybe you’ve seen them rocking the Caribbean cruise never knowing the long miles they’ve come. We, Raisa and Katja, met Lars for an interview and whole the band backstage on their anniversary gig – for which they invited the bands the local colleagues TonTourismus and the Czech friends Sebastien to share stage with them.
Squealer – 35 years of metal
“Lars, 35 years – that is a long way to come. How do you feel about your anniversary gig?”
“Actually, it is a gig like many others, but we currently have a first-class cast and want to show our quality in front of the home audience. We still can do it well. After that 35 years. In addition, there are titles in program that we don´t play on other locations or we never had played before. There is already a certain tension, but that certainly belongs to it.” Lars seems comfy in this exciting mix of emotions.
SQUEALER 2019 – that is Sebastian Werner (voc), Manuel Roth (bass), Martin Winter (drums) plus Michael Schiel and Lars Döring (guitars). Their anniversary gig is scheduled in a venue we haven’t been before – a former sawmill – sounds promising regarding the atmosphere and that it is. Old timber roof construction opens in the center and offers a cozy gallery opposite of the stage. The stage is perhaps not the largest and such is the space for the audience. But then we are in a remote countryside place that might not be the beating heart of the German metal scene, and consequently the potential crowd limited in numbers. But it’s Squealer’s home base and Lars just revealed that there is more to it than hits the eye:
“Could you give us a short timeline of the band history with the most essential gigs, lineup changes or whatever was important for the band.”
“The band was founded in 1984 as a school band and the guys started with a small Hardrock based program with their own songs and some Metal cover songs. When the first EP was recorded and released in 1989, the band was already clearly focused on metal. Shortly after publication, I joined the band because Andreas ‘Henner’ Allendörfer wanted to focus more on the lead vocals and with the increasingly complex riffs plus his vocals, he just did not reach the level he set himself. Still a good decision, I think”, he says laughing. “From then on, various recordings followed, which were released with the label founded by Henner named AFM Records. At that time Tobias Exxel played the bass and we had a lot of fun together. When Edguy was about to go through, Tobi Sammet also decided, like Henner, not to hit the strings and Tobias Exxel moved on to Edguy. From then on, a time began with frequently changing instrumentations, especially on the drums we had no fixed band members over a period and so it happened that we played in the year 2000 with Mike Terrana on the Wacken Open Air or a short time later with Felix Bohnke at Bang Your Head Festival occurred. Felix helped us out many years later. Among other things also in the tour 2002 as support in Germany and Paris for Judas Priest with a total of nine shows. In 2005, Henner died in a car accident and the band had to decide how to continue. In 2006 we entered the stage with Gus Chambers and recorded the ‘Confrontation Street‘ album. It’s not a typical Squealer album, but it’s still an important milestone in the band’s history. Unfortunately, it did not work very long with Gus and with a new vocalist we resumed our course in the well maintained style.” His eyes brighten quickly: “With the current line-up, we made the leap over the ocean in 2016 and were on board with the 70,000 Tons of Metal. An absolute highlight in our career.”
Later in the backstage Martin, Michael and Sebastian join in for a moment. Sebastian recalls meeting HM Rock back last summer at the Rock Am Stück festival not too far away from here. While Sebastian keeps running in and out Martin and Michael take some minutes for us.
Martin gives Katja a summary of his personal band biography. He was in during the early days, left as job and family required to move further away and rejoined a couple of years back. We quickly get into some drumming topics. How about other drummers? So much has changed since you guys began. And Martin tells Katja he is very fond of Kerim Lechner (Septicflesh) and his incredible speed. But back to Lars and the actual interview:
Let’s go back in time: How has it all begun? What story got Squealer started and how did you come up with this name?
“Andreas ‘Henner’ Allendörfer, Axel Fischer and a few others knew each other from the school and from the surrounding area. Everyone was in a mood to play in a band and Henner was just a “doer” who knew how to communicate with people and bring people together. A rehearsal room was organized very quickly and the band starts to run. The first performances took place in the area, mostly in pubs on improvised stages and Henner started pyrotechnics in the hubcaps of his VW Jetta, which he put back on his car after the show. In addition, we invited bands from other regions to make different contacts.” He takes a short break and adds: “The impetus for the band name was a song of the same name by AC/DC. Last but not least, the band and the concerts were also there to celebrate parties properly and make girls ready to rock. Anyone who claims otherwise is a liar.” Lars says laughing out loudly.
The venue – Right next to the entrance and thereby right in front of the backstage door is the merch stall. All bands offer their shirts, vinyls and CDs, stickers and patches. Spouses and friends help with the entrance and selling the merch. Those of the audience who have arrived already seem to know the band members quite well. An evening with friends, apparently, which gives an extra personal touch.
Backstage here is one rather small room serving all purposes at once and is crowded with the musicians’ bags, a table with ale benches, a set of worn-out couches and the most important feature: a fridge well filled with beer and soft drinks. A small back door opens to the stage and the small passage between stage and backstage opening to the audience area is blocked from a tower of gear boxes.
The historical ambient gets us into the mood to explore how things worked before internet, social media and mobile communications took over.
“And how did you find your audience before there was internet to promote your doing?”
“Of course, we had a lot of contacts with the local metal scene and just made it public by word of mouth. In addition, there was a good fanzine in the area Schwalmstadt and Marburg called ‘Evil Message‘, we could place interviews, concert, reports and ads in it. Later there were contacts to larger magazines. Henner also managed it to be present with Squealer, so we always had a certain amount of attention. For publications also classic advertising was placed in the magazines and displays were booked in the CD shops. Since we were always present on stages, the fan base was gradually bigger. Nowadays, although there is internet and everything seems easier, but everything is available in abundance. It is at least as difficult to reach potential fans and to attract attention.”
When TonTourismus open the program the numbers are little and we leave backstage to shoot and follow the gig. There is no pit, of course, but plenty of good spots. The crowd is a bit shy in showing their passion which encourages TonTourismus only to show even more dedication. The band comes from similarly remote area not too far away from the venue but a younger generation. Still they might have faced similar difficulties but then back in the 1980’s being limited to traditional communication means.
How did you get PR, deals and all? And where did you find your role models, idols and influences? It’s not that we cannot remember. But most of our readers … And then it is different in each country and even region. Where did you find your music and influences literally? Radio? TV? Library? Record Shops? Friends? And how did you get your gear? Quite specific for small places to buy and Otto would perhaps not supply you with it?
Lars sighs. “I really can’t remember every detail, but without the internet it was all about “meeting the right person at the right place”. First of all, to meet the right friend with the right music tape at the schoolyard, then meet the right persons to start a schoolband with, meet the right musician for lessons and maybe for help regarding Equipment… a.s.o.”
It’s getting busy in the backstage again as TonTourismus pack and Sebastien set up the stage. The crowd is growing as is the number of media representatives. We sit backstage and take some photos.
At the brink of the 1980s to the 1990s lots of new and cheaper gear, like personal computers and applications for them changed composing and arranging of music essentially. Professional recording equipment was rare back in the days. Nowadays bands often record in their home studios and make only very selectively or for very carefully defined purposes use of the expensive, professional studios as Michael tells Raisa. And the good point of home studios is, that they can fine tune everything as long as it takes, like polish guitars.
“But how have all these new options affected it the band dynamics?”, we asked Lars.
“Not very much. I still collect my first ideas for riffs and songs on a cassette recorder from the 80ies. For me its easier to find them back when I like to work more on the songs. Maybe Kirk Hammet should also work like this.” Lars says laughing as it is way harder to lose a heavy, old cassette recorder than an iPhone …
Shifting the focus slightly we wonder, “The metal scene has changed also within the last decades. How do you see the Squealer in your genre and that in the nowadays so very diverse metal scene?”
“Squealer is a traditionally-based metal band, but with some different flavors to it here and there, we would say. If you listen to our albums over the years you find some thrashier ones, some more melodic ones and everything in between. We don’t feel the need to jump on every new thing that might be new and hip in the metal scene, but we’re open to the different tastes and influences that each of our band members have. This results in some pretty cool songs with interesting twists. A good example is the song „M:O:T:M“ from our recent album „Behind Closed Doors“ which is really different from all our previous ones. We just write the songs that feel right to us at the time and bring us the most joy when we enter the studio. “
Finally, stage time for Squealer approaching and leaving us only few minutes. Be sure it is certainly worth the while and each mile we’ve come to meet and see them. They’re loud, energetic, precise and very, very obviously they burn to play on stage. A new line up often enough refreshes the spirits of the whole band and perhaps all the more if this latest newby happens to be a good deal younger than the rest. Vocalist Sebastian, called ‘Basti’ by his bandmates, has proven to be a perfect fit. He has the infectious smile, the charming appearance, the impactful voice and most importantly the sparkling passion that inspires within the band and moves to crowds.
“Mid 1980s many things were different than today. But Schwalmstadt has never been the pulsating heart of the German metal scene, right? So what was it back then to be a metal head in the remote countryside?”
“Maybe that was one of the reasons why Squealer did not really get a really big player in business. But I don´t want to reduce our success. We have achieved what we want to and everything is good as it is. For me personally, the 1980s were a very shitty time. My puberty did not go the way you would like it as a teenager. Somehow well protected and with a normal CV but I was due to some health conditions. I was not in the field of many other young people. So you look for your niche, where you attract some attention, even if it is with a deterrent effect. In addition, I found the music and fashion of the 1980s absolutely terrible. The Heavy Metal scene had much more to offer. Shrill types, girls in tight clothes and music that touched me emotionally. This has remained so until today and was also a reason to pick up the guitar. And I also found the openness and community in this scene was very good. Here at the countryside were a lot of opportunities to organize places for boisterous parties. And for visiting big concerts, the metal heads organized a bus. It was easy like that. The rural population simply take matters into their own hands and do not wait for ready-made offers.”
Just doing things – this is perhaps the one feature that has remained as important as it has always been throughout the time and all the technical, stylistic, communications and whatnot changes.
“There were several ups and downs in Squealer’s band history. Certainly there were moments in which it all made no sense anymore. As you’re still around, you went on apparently. But what drove you to go on in the darkest moments?”
“It seems somehow that when Sebastian joined things have become easier and working again. So if you compare this with earlier periods when the band was on a rise: what is different?” He looks up, his question echoing in our minds for a moment.
“We consider Squealer as our pearl, our baby. You do not just throw it away and look for something else. There is also a certain reputation behind it and a fanbase. And after all, we want to make music, our own music.” Lars’ tone somehow makes us think that they never really were about to quit with their ‘pearl’. “There is so much emotionality and creative work inside, that has a very high value for us. Michael and I were never really at the point to hang up the band. We have always looked forward. In the past, of course, Henner was the driving force, and as the boss of AFM Records, he put a lot of time and energy into Squealer. All others could concentrate on composing and making music. When he was no longer there, we had to learn to take things into our own hands and Michael and I had come to our limits. It is easier again in the current cast. Sebastian is 100% present and also cares about the concerns of the band. With Manuel, we also got a younger colleague who takes care of social media. Personally, that is rather difficult for me and I am glad that he takes over. Yes, it works.”
Squealer define themselves as a Thrash- and Speed Metal band. Then again ‘younger’ and/or foreign Thrash metal bands appear to be different, like Lost Society or Stam1na. Why so?
“There is a huge amount of great and talented metal bands out there these days. In my opinion everything that makes a band more unique and different to all the others helps to catch the attention of the listeners. So it’s always good if you have your own style as a band.”
This leaves only one question to be asked:
“What is metal to you?”
“For me and for the band, Heavy Metal is an essential part of our life. Without it, it isn´t really at all and I think Heavy Metal has shaped our life and our way of life very strongly. Friends, partners, life planning, somehow everything is also connected with the band Squealer and ultimately Heavy Metal!”
They live metal, they breathe metal (ok, tonight also a bit of dust from the sawmill’s original function as well) and they love to play metal on stage. Quite often, our interviewees see way more than just a music genre in metal. Life style, inspiration and for Squealer we’re tempted to add: a source of energy to kick off and keep the fire burning always ready to win the next challenge!
Thank you Squealer, thank you all for the show and the insights and all the fun we had!
Interview and photos by Raisa Krogerus & Katja Gessner (aka Ms Cesar Little)