The Frankfurt-based band was formed when Ray and Mem met at a 1985 Slayer show where they were both working. Oscillating between Slayer and Exodus, the German thrashers had attracted a good buzz within the underground before abruptly disappearing. The band had signed to SPV sub-label Disaster on the strength of the A Mortal In Black demo tape. The debut was recorded by Harris Johns at Musiclab and featured Turkish singer Von Stein. His replacement, Hawaiian Arakari who had in the early days been the band's other guitarist and whose father was stationed in Germany with the US Army, recorded the second album and the band opened for Nasty Savage and Atomkraft. In the meanwhile, the band was barred from opening for Atomkraft in the UK because Arakari did not possess a work permit. The singer and drummer (who became Q Squad's singer!) left the band with Exumer subsequently throwing in the towel in early 1991 or so. The two guitarists and Von Stein later reunited to rap and hop in Humungous Fungus. High Vaultage Records' re-release of Possessed By Fire featured the band's only demo.
Exumer (with Von Stein) reunited for a one-off show at Wacken 2001. The group reformed in 2008 and intended to record a new album and tour in 2009. The band’s original albums were also to be re-released. Frontman Mem V. Stein would continue with his band, Sun Descends whose album The Entropy Formula was due in October. The thrashers were to headline a festival on May 29th in Los Angeles, California alongside bands like Fueled By Fire and Devastator. The band was working on a comeback album. The band, which was playing its reunion shows in Greece and Germany in April of 2009, had completed its line-up with the addition of a German drummer called J.P. Rapp. The band’s affairs were being managed by Sodom’s people.
German thrash metal band Exumer released its first new song in 23 years, titled Waking The fire, featuring founding member Mem V. Stein on vocals in the autumn of 2009. The song was taken from the new 2-track demo, which was recorded in Hawaii and Germany during the band's last tour earlier in 2009. The band was still seeking a label. In the meantime, the reformed Exumer was booked for 2010’s MRF Festival in Oberhausen in Germany on April 4th. Other bands playing included Exciter, Sodom and Living Death. Reformed thrashers Exumer were next confirmed to play in Sofia, Bulgaria on April 1st 2010. Exumer would co-headline the Thrash Attack Festival in Sofia with Savage Grace. Exumer announced the departure of guitarist and second vocalist Paul Arakaki, as well as session drummer J.P. Rapp in June of 2010. Guitarist H.K. and drummer Matthias Kassner, who were both recruited for Exumer’s last European tour, replaced Arakaki and Rapp as permanent additions to the band’s roster. Some 25 years after last recording the reunited Exumer was recording an album in Germany in 2011 with producer Waldemar Sorychta. Only Mem Stein and Ray Mensh were holdovers from the ‘80s. A label was being sought.
The returning Exumer signed with Metal Blade Records at the end of 2011. The band's first album since the ‘80s, Fire & Damnation, would be released in April. The album was recorded with producer Waldemar Sorychta. Exumer and Artillery were touring South America in May and June of 2012.
Anyone who hung around the metal underground in the mid-'80s remembers the band Exumer. The band issued the Possessed By Fire album in 1986 and followed it up with 1987's Rising From The Sea, which featured a new singer. The German thrashers were reviewed in fanzines, magazines and even managed a couple of tours before seemingly disappearing. The truth is that the band persevered for a few years before the members moved on to other endeavours. Ali "The Metallian" recently had the opportunity to catch up with Mem Von Stein who fronted the band's aforementioned debut and is now in Sun Descends. Read on as the singer begins with the early days before fast forwarding to 2006. - 16.04.2006
METALLIAN: Mem, thank you for speaking with Metallian. How about beginning with the early days? How did you get into metal, for example?
MEM: I was born in Istanbul, Turkey. My parents moved to Germany when I was two and a half-years old. My dad worked with the American Forces in Germany at the time and I grew up speaking Turkish, German and English at the same time. I grew up in a very musical home and was exposed to everything from John Coltrane to Led Zeppelin. By the time I was 12 years old I began exploring Punk, Frank Zappa and the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. That's how it all started and it has stuck with me since then.
I started listening to metal and punk in 1980. I formed my first musical project in 1984 and recorded my first demo in the same year. I finally formed Exumer in the summer of 1985. I have been active in metal and metal-related music ever since.
METALLIAN: Tell us about the bands you were in before Exumer. How do you view the atmosphere back then?
MEM: The first band I started was called Tartaros. It was in 1984. We recorded a demo, but split up shortly thereafter. However, the drummer who played on that demo later became the Exumer drummer. I was involved in a project called Mayhem, in early 1985. It was basically me singing and playing bass and the old president of Hellhammer and Celtic Frost's Necromantic Union, Metal Mike Blim, on guitar and drum machine. The times were extremely exciting. It felt like we were all part of something really big and new. It was the golden age for metal, thrash and anything that was related to it.
METALLIAN: What was the name of the Tartaros demo?
MEM: The demo was self-titled and is currently waiting to be released as bonus material on a CD that might be distributed by Marquee/Khaosmaster.
METALLIAN: Where you ever a Celtic Frost or Hellhammer fan?
MEM: I really got into Hellhammer when I first heard their demos in 1983. I also liked everything from Frost until Into The Pandemonium. I met Tom, Martin and Reed on their very first tour and we hung out for three days. That was late Spring of 1985.
METALLIAN: Mem, let's talk about Exumer.
MEM: Sure, I basically met guitarist Ray Mensch at a Slayer show in 1985 and asked if he would be interested in forming a band. He stated that he would and we met up for rehearsals at my parent's car junkyard where my dad had built a studio for me. We started looking for musicians and Ray brought in Paul Arakari who later replaced me on bass and vocals. I brought in Syke on drums. Paul was very young at the time and his parents would not let him rehearse as often as I liked and one day I told Ray that we needed to replace Paul if we wanted to get ahead with Exumer. Ray then asked Bernie Siedler, whom he knew from work, to come and try out. Bernie ultimately replaced Paul. That was the line-up for the classic A Mortal In Black demo and later for the Possessed By Fire LP.
METALLIAN: What was Paul doing in the band in those early days?
MEM: Paul was playing guitar at the time.
METALLIAN: He was an American, right?
MEM: Yes, he was and his parents were in the military.
METALLIAN: What are some of the memories of your time with the band?
MEM: Well, like I said we used to practice at my dad's junkyard and it was always quite a riot. My parents were very supportive and even left me money for beer whenever we decided to have parties after rehearsals. The band and all our friends would periodically show up and we would record fake live shows in the rehearsal room. One of these shows is now on a CD along with Sun Descend's two EPs. One thing that many people won't know is that the name Exumer was spawned out of my dad's imagination! He even suggested spelling it without the 'h' so it would be more original.
METALLIAN: That is interesting. What were the band's intentions and what was the sound you were after?
MEM: We just wanted to play thrash metal. We loved the first Exodus LP, early Slayer and all the other cool bands of the time. They were all original bands and had a huge influence on us. We were a product of the era itself though and I think that we sounded like us after all. However, Exodus was the main influence when we recorded Possessed By Fire, but you can also hear some Nasty Savage, Slayer and others in there.
METALLIAN: The album was repeatedly and often compared to Exodus.
MEM: Good, it's true. The first Exodus album, Bonded By Blood, is my favourite thrash album of all time.
METALLIAN: What do you think of Exodus' subsequent work?
MEM: They are OK, but I think that their best work was with Paul Baloff on vocals. However, I'm glad that they are still around these days.
METALLIAN: What was the figure on the cover? Did have a name and was he inspired by a film?
MEM: It was actually the illustrator's idea and concept. I wanted to call the album The Mortal Returns, but it was deemed too close to Celtic Frost's Emperor's Return so we ditched that title and called the album Possessed By Fire instead. The guy who drew the cover came up with the concept and we went with it.
METALLIAN: You were soon out of the band. What happened?
MEM: I had a huge ego, was partying a lot and basically told everyone to fuck off. I was 18 years old and thought that I had achieved everything I wanted and could do it all over again if I wanted to. It was just youthful arrogance, but Ray and Bernie remained my brothers to this day and I love them both dearly.
METALLIAN: What do you think of the band's work after your departure and What happened to the band eventually?
MEM: I think that they did the best they could after having to look for a new singer. The vocals are such a huge part of a band's identity that it's almost impossible to replace singers. They had to deal with the problem and there were only a few choices. Fans were expecting my vocal style though and had a hard time dealing with Paul's Slayer style vocals. The production and the song writing for the second album weren't as strong as for Possessed By Fire. All these factors played a role in the band not doing as well in the end. They did what they could at the time and that's the truth.
METALLIAN: What did you do afterwards? I also notice that you were in a band with a fellow Exumer member.
MEM: I formed Phobic Instinct in 1989, recorded an album for No Remorse Records and then formed Of Rytes after the Phobic Instinct record wasn't released and that band broke up. Then Ray, Bernie and I formed Humungous Fungus in 1993, which was a rap metal outfit. We recorded 3 CDs for Noise and Sony music.
METALLIAN: Why was Phobic Instinct's album not released?
MEM: The label just shelved the album due to financial problems. It might be released through Marquee and Khaosmaster along with the Tartaros and Mayhem demos as part of my early works though.
METALLIAN: Talk about the brief reformation. Was there any chance of new Exumer recordings at that point?
MEM: I was asked to put the band together for a reunion show after a visit to the Wacken Festival in 2000. I called Ray and Bernie and told them that this could be a cool thing for us and the old fans that didn't see the band back in 1985 and 1986. They agreed to do it and I arranged to have the first two Exumer CDs re-released by the time we played Wacken in 2001. We had substantial offers from big metal labels for a new Exumer CD, but turned them down. We just didn't think that it was right to fly the Exumer banner anymore. I live in New York City, while Ray and Bernie were in Germany. I play thrash metal and they play rock. It just would have been a huge, untruthful mess and would have spoiled the Exumer name and legacy.
METALLIAN: How did you end up in America?
MEM; I have family here and they were very supportive when I decided to go to college. So I moved over here in late 1998 and went to school.
METALLIAN: You are now in another band. What motivates you to keep going?
MEM: Well, I formed Sun Descends in New York City in September of 2000. The idea was and still is to play the most honest thrash metal without the notion of commerce or false pretense. I had many line-up changes but found guitarist Sam Awry and bassist Jillian LaBoy in 2004. They have been with me ever since. Drummer Chris Torre entered the band in October 2005, and has been our drummer since then. We recorded a 3-track EP in 2001 and another EP in 2004. Both of the EPs were re-released through Marquee records and Khaosmaster productions. We finally released our full-length album Incinerating The Meek this year. The motives are always the same, namely my never-ending love and passion for metal. But this time it's solely for the love of the music and not for any monetary reasons.
METALLIAN: You have managed to get distribution and a tour. How did those come about?
MEM: We were picked up by Twilight Distribution in Germany, which had released Incinerating The Meek worldwide and put us on a European tour with Impaled Nazarene. The Twilight guys were and are old Exumer fans and loved the Sun Descends material. They offered us a good deal after hearing Incinerating The Meek and the rest just fell into place. There are still many old fans who remember me from back in the '80s and the CD is selling well.
METALLIAN: Out of curiosity, how do you see the metal scene in 2006?
MEM: There is a lot of change; some good and some not so good. The bands back in the '80s all sounded different especially until 1987 and 1988. Then it kind of fell apart but it was all very original until 1988. That is a little different now. Bands find a sub-genre these days that they want to be a part of and then they sound like that genre. For example, black, death or neo thrash. It's kind of strange but that's how I feel about it. The internet gave people many possibilities and took away a lot of the excitement and mysticism of the early days of metal. We had to wait for tapes or records for a long time and were dependent on the postal service. Now you can have access to any kind of information in an instant. It also shrinks everyone's attention span and things get boring faster. I love vinyl and that is the only format I collect. I have CDs but I don't like any burnt CDRs without artwork. Kids these days don't care about artwork anymore because they didn't grow up with it. It's not their fault but that's what I see. I also see many younger fans using the web to research older metal, buying vinyl and supporting the traditional bands. It all has its pros and cons but I would not trade the '80s for the '90s or 2000s. It's not who I am but I'm happy to be around and still be able to make some noise that matters.
METALLIAN: Mem, what is your latest news and what should the readers be aware of?
MEM: Be sure to check www.sundescends.com and www.myspace.com/sundescends for updates on the band and expect a killer album for 2007. Also, try to come to a Sun Descends live show. I guarantee that you will have a good time if you are into traditional thrash metal.
METALLIAN: And finally the most important question of all, Mem. Why is Metallian the world's best source of metal?
MEM: Because you take the time to investigate all true metal… thanks for the support and all the best in the future to you and the readers. Thrash NYC!