When Hardrock and heavy metal were on a real roll in the 80’s they admittedly were merely in the second line in their home country behind the international flagships Scorpions and Accept. Nevertheless, they found acknowledgment and fans beyond the German borders. More than 200,000 albums sold in total explain the significance that the quartet Mass from Regensburg enjoyed in the hard ‘n’ heavy scene for ten years between 1976 and 1986. This one is now also acknowledged appropriately more than two decades later: The LP’s of the group round band leader and bass player Günther V. Radny are now published in a remastered version and enriched by bonus tracks on CD for the first time. “Angel Power” and “Swiss Connection” will be the first releases in March followed by “Metal Fighter” and “War Law” some weeks later in May. These are four out of a total of eight albums which the group has published.
The history of Mass reaches back to the year 1973 when Radny V. (V for Viktor) together with singer Josef Hartl, guitarist Walter Speck and Swiss drummer Charles Frey (today known as the author Akron) formed the band, Black Mass. After Speck had committed suicide by jumping from a window, due to psychic problems, he was replaced by guitarist Gerd Schneider from Saarbrücken, who had previously played with the Scorpions’ drummer Hermann Erbel alias Hermann Rarebell for RS Rindfleisch. However, Schneider departed after one year due to heavy drug problems and was replaced by English guitarist Mick Thackeray (The Meseys), who played with the Slaves and Countdowns in Switzerland and with Abi Ofarim in Munich, who, in addition, brought his Scottish roadie Doug. At the same time Johannes Eder, who came from the English band “I Drive”, replaced drummer Frey, who had been giving books a go, according to Radny. In addition to this, the band name was shortened to “Mass”. With this lineup Mass recorded an album in the Studio 70 in Munich in April 1975, together with Dave Siddle, who used to work with the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, Animals and Deep Purple among others, at the mixer. This album has never been published due to singer Josef Hartl’s drug problems. Unfortunately, these tapes are missing to this day. However, the turbulent times continued and just one year later in 1998, Hartl died (due to drug problems) and Thackeray had to go due alcoholism.
For now the formation had stabilised as a trio in 1976 with the addition of Berlin native, Detlef “Dave” Schreiber, as the new guitarist. “The three of us made two records, “Back to the Music” with United Artists and “Rock ‘n’ Roll Power At 25th Hour” with Hot Stuff – when this had just been recorded Jack E. Burnside joined us as a singer in August 1978”, Radny, who had shared the vocals with Schreiber before then, looks back today. “We had met at a concert by Jimi Hendrix in the museum “Deutsches Museum” in Munich on January 15 in 1969 before Jack went to New York to his American father. After returning to his German mother’s home country he then joined us”, the bassist recalls.
And there is another episode from the beginnings by which the reputation of Mass was further emphasized quite early in the music scene: None other than guitarist Paul Kossoff almost joined the Regensburg band after the end of “Free”: “We had already got to know Alexis Korner, Kossoff’s great mentor, at “Pop & Blues Sunday” at “Sportpalast” in Berlin in June 1971 due to our roadie Doug’s mediation and met him again at the Pop Festival in Würzburg in July 1972. Korner, who Doug had worked for before, then asked if Paul could not join us. He wanted him to get away from London at any cost due to his drug addiction. As some of our band members had drug problems themselves we rejected this however”, Radny justifies why this spectacular accession did not come about. According to his words it was pretty much the same with the Swiss guitarist Tommy Kiefer, who had had success all over the world with “Krokus” and after leaving applied in vain for a job as a second guitarist with Mass. “We had, by the way, an opening act called Krokus for our gig in Chur on January 28 in 1977. They broadly played a set similar to Zappa, but the last song was a bare-knuckle rocker – so I advised the guitarists Fernando from Arb and Tommy Kiefer to concentrate on this division. Some years later, when I listened to their album “Metal Rendezvous” produced by Martin Pearson, my ears nearly fell off: they had done exactly what I had advised them to do.”
The prophet is not appreciated much in his own country. This old wisdom was also true for Mass. The upcoming metal-indie radio stations in England, for example BFBS, Tony Jasper’s Show and The Tommy Vance Show on National Radio 1 (where the band sold a considerable number of records, too), Italian radio also played Mass songs, in Spain the LP’s were published in an extravagant packaging. Also in France there were enthusiastic reviews, in the Benelux countries the records ran also so well that the group made it in the local radio charts and even made promotion trips to radio stations. In Greece the band made fourth spot of the album charts with “Slaughter House” (ahead of Roxy Music). A Greek tour, however, went bust at the last moment (Radny: “We had already been at Munich airport”) because the promised advance did not turn up. During their heyday the band played up to 180 concerts a year, a lot of them abroad: Mass could be seen live in France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Austria and Switzerland. Tours as an opener for Rose Tattoo, Thin Lizzy, UFO, Pretty Things, Golden Earring, Loudness, Omega, Wild Turckey (with Jethro Tull, former Bassist Glenn Cornick and UFO-/Whitesnake-guitarist Bernie Marsden), Spencer Davis Group, or the Edgar Broughton Band brought the band attention, especially in Germany, however. But why was this not sufficient for the big breakthrough? “We were too young and took too many noxious substances. And we let too many people in the music industry tell us what to do, although we were, from the beginning till the end, a classic hardrock band only in quotation marks – loved by our fans and hated by many critics from the modern music press”, Radny looks back searching for an explanation.
Today Radny is most satisfied especially with the four albums that Mass recorded in Switzerland in the New Sound Studio in Pfäffikon and in the Powerplay Studios in Maur from 1982. “We then worked together with Martin Pearson, who had produced Krokus before. He allowed us more freedom to realise our ideas from “Swiss Connection” on.” Radny puts it in a nutshell: “You especially hear the way we wanted it to on “Swiss Connection” and already on “Slaughter House”, too. Then we became a bit harder, but if we had continued in the Rose Tattoo, AC/DC division, it might have been better. However, we have always lived on the music and depended on the good cooperation with the record company.”
In 1986, after releasing the LP “Kick your ass”, the quartet played the last tour with the classic lineup. However, the chapter Mass hadn’t been finished yet. As it had not worked with the regular cast anymore, especially for health reasons, Radny took a last run with a new lineup, including Johannes Eder, singer Ritchie Newton, as well as guitarist Heinz Götz and Bernie Hohenester: “We really had a lot of concert offers and also played a show in the Factory in Regensburg, which was sold out with 800 attendees. Moreover, we recorded demos with the working title “We Rock The Party”, but then I kept my hands off it after all. I was especially worried about Johannes Eder’s health and so a new start could ultimately not be made”, Radny retrospects. “All the more I am pleased that in cooperation with SPV, where our last album “Kick Your Ass” was also published, the old records will finally be released also on CD, digitally remastered and including rare and hitherto unpublished bonus tracks from my archive”, the band leader says.
A touch of tragedy surrounds the band from Regensburg, who has always been on the hop, but then could not make the last step. “A reunion of the classic lineup would not be possible anymore, not even for a million Euros”, Radny regrets, who is especially afflicted by the sad fate of his former fellow campaigners. Those have to pay a high price for ten years of rock ‘n’ roll with plenty of alcohol consumption. “Johannes Eder has been half paralysed after a stroke. Jack Burnside also lives in a care home while Detlef Schreiber has psychologically spaced out and lives on another planet.” Radny is the only one of the classic Mass lineup who is still fit today and also musically active. Besides dealing in antiques he plays in the coverband Mystic Eyes, who he had already been active with in the 60’s. “That is still fun, you make some extra money and I, as an old limelight hog, can still be in front of the audience.”