Finally have time again so I decided to design some things for my new room. Making a wallpainting came in mind, then how much I love the eye motive on album covers, then how difficult it would be to try painting Morbus Chron`s artwork Sleepers in the Rift, so at the end I went with Symbolic which is among my fave Death albums and was a pioneer for me in many ways. Worked a lot on it but finally it turned out striking, happy :)
Interview with Martin van Drunen (Asphyx, Hail of Bullets, Grand Supreme Blood Court, ex-Pestilence)
Interview by Estelle at Brutal Assault on the 6th of August 2015
Hi Martin, thank you very much for giving the chance and doing the interview for Darkness Unseen! First I’d like to ask, in which band and in which period do you think you were on the highlight of your career?
Asphyx, right now in this very moment. I just came off stage and we agree with the guys that this was one of our best shows in like half a year. Everybody’s like “fuckin’ hell!”. Even if it was really hot, so we had to kind of dose our energy but it was a fuckin’ good show. We just walked off stage and we all came along to each other like “wow that was good, compliments guys!”. So it’s easy to say, it is right now.
Would you give any advice to your younger self if you could go back to where you started?
Wow. I think I would say “let go a bit of your pride”.
I read in one of your earlier interviews that you tried playing the guitar at first, and then Patrick (Mameli) from Pestilence forced you to start learning bass because Pestilence needed a bass player. When did you realize that vocals were rather your thing?
It’s really weird: I actually met Patrick in a hardrock-metal cover band from some guys that I knew. They were practicing and I was a kid so I just said “okay you guys practice then I come along and drink a few beers”. But their singer, lots of times he was not showing up being drunk or something, and then Patrick joined them and played stuff like Slayer with them. And they asked “who knows the lines?” and I was like “I know the fuckin’ lyrics!” – “okay, try then!”. So that was my first effort, just for fun.
And a few years later when I met Patrick again, I asked “what are you guys doing now?” and he goes “I have another band, we’re looking for a singer”. Then he asked “and what are you doing now?” I go like “I’m a singer looking for a band” – well I was not, I just had a big mouth. But that’s how it happened with Pestilence, I never thought to be a singer, I just wanted to be in a band. (laughs)
Asphyx is one of the death metal bands that really sticks to the roots of old and ‘true’ style of death metal. Was there always an agreement on this matter between the members of Asphyx? Was there anyone who would have liked trying new ways?
No, this is something which we know THIS is Asphyx. As soon as we start experimenting with new shit, it’s not Asphyx anymore. This is probably safer than to say “let’s do something else” but I don’t feel the need for it, I just don’t like it. I like what we do with Asphyx now, this is the style that I prefer, this is the style that’s inside of me. And this is the same with the guys. So Asphyx will always be Asphyx – what you see is what you get. We never disappoint any people by changing our style, we would kill ourselves.
Even though you were not in the band most of these times, do you know why Asphyx split up so many times so far?
I don’t know it exactly, but actually if you don’t know Bob (Bagchus; founder drummer of Asphyx – ed.), he’s not the easiest guy to handle. I think it also had a lot to do with the relation of Bob and Eric (Daniels; guitarist of Asphyx from 1989-95 and 1997-2000): even nowadays as they do Soulburn together, they are really close friends, they’re like brothers. You just can’t get in between. Even if I really do like them as friends and as collegues in metal, even for me it’s really hard to get in between them. And I think that was the problem, that they were together and somebody else inside – and all of a sudden there was something happening and they just said “okay fuck off, you just don’t fit in”. I think that’s the main thing why so many lineup changes and ‘split-ups’ happened.
And don’t forget the Asphyx – Asphyx album (from 1994) that Eric did basically alone – that was a lineup that had nothing to do with anything else, he just found a few guys. It was like a new band.
Kind of a different subject: You were the vocalist of Bolt Thrower and did two tours with them from 1994 to ’97. Why did you have to replace Karl Willetts (the original singer of Bolt Thrower) live?
They asked me and you know if a band like Bolt Thrower asks you, you don’t say no! (laughs) We were good friends, I knew them because we toured with them with Asphyx, we were on the road for 5 or 6 weeks. They lost call, they didn’t want to do it anymore and they were like “who can do this?”. Then they found out there was something going on with Asphyx and they called me, so I was just like “fuckin’ A, I’m on it!”.
How is your relation with them nowadays?
Nowadays it’s still really good, there’s a lot of respect. We still meet each other, making the good old jokes, so it’s really fine and I’m happy with them. Karl is back and they do fantastic – Bolt Thrower deserves that. It’s a fucking good band, it’s a machine, one of the bests around the world.
You also play in Hail of Bullets and came to give an excellent show last year at Brutal Assault. Which one of your bands do you consider the more important one for you at the moment?
There is a No.1. in between them, I mean if I focus on one band, the focus is the same. I just really enjoy both, to be on stage, to have fun with the guys.
Only one question about Pestilence because I know you hate answering these:
Since you said in so many interviews that Pestilence was your life, Pestilence was the band that meant the world for you, don’t you ever feel like you made the wrong decision when leaving? Or that the albums the guys released after you left would have been “better” if you were still in the band? (As we know you don’t like Testimony or Spheres at all)
That’s why I said in the beginning when you asked me if I would have changed things that maybe I should have lost a bit of my pride; because I was a proud little bastard back in those days. If you give everything that you have and you put it into a band and someone tells you that your performance is a crap… When you know that you are just growing all the time… I knew my voice was getting better, at the US shows that we gave we left nothing of Carcass and Death, we blew them away every night on stage completely; they had no chance and they knew it. So we were really, really good. I think if Pestilence continued that way, if I wouldn’t have left the band it would have been probably one of the biggest bands around on Earth. So yeah, in a way you regret that.
But from what I hear, from what Patrick is now as a person, he hasn’t changed. He didn’t grow up. He’s my age now but he’s still acting like a little kid. Very frustrated, feels very attacked, agitated, not happy at all. So even if I would have said okay, it would never work again. I can’t just work with a fellow like that. I do regret it because I know we worked hard and we deserved it, but one day the bomb would blow up, again. It’s not like with Asphyx where we are friends and have a good time, having a few drinks, listening to the same music – I don’t want to sit in Patrick’s house and listen to fuckin’ technical jazz. That’s just not me.
What do you miss the most from the old days when it comes to music?
It’s a French word: camaraderie (a feeling of good friendship among people in a group – ed.). I like being camarades and collegues, this is what I miss a lot. I mean we still are good friends with the bands we were, for example Autopsy or Bolt Thrower to name a few, but when we were touring at the time, we were just helping each other out, it was good fun. And now I see a lot of bands envying each other.
But it’s also because at the moment the scene is so big, there are so many bands, we lose the overview. Back then there were just a few bands that were really good, now it went too big. I miss that kind of intimity.
For the end: Is there any question that no one asked you before and you would still like someone to ask it from you?
It’s one of those questions where probably later on when you’re driving to the hotel you’re like “oh yeah, you could’ve asked me that”! Maybe something like what do I think of people writing lyrics nowadays – would I write that, am I interested in that…
Mostly no. I think most lyrics nowadays are just completely shit. Rubbish, it’s sad. They don’t rhyme, it’s all done before, it’s not original, it’s really sad to hear. And that’s why a lot of things I don’t listen to, because I open the CD and I hear the singer and I’m like “what the fuck?”. I mean it was not bad in the past with French bands, if you don’t speak English that well, okay we forgive you. But come on, if you’re a Swedish band from nowadays you should speak your English and be able to write the lyrics. I think magazines and stuff don’t pay attention to the lyrics at all. I’d say if the lyrics are shit then the album is shit as well. Point.
I think lyrics should be given a lot more credits – but that’s because I’m a lyric writer. I put a lot of effort into it, I’m really working hard trying to be original, rhyming, having a good pace with the vocals; so it’s a lot of work but I enjoy it. Sometimes it just doesn’t pay off, no one notices.
Seems like it really does grind your gears! Okay Martin, thank you so much for being this straight and outspoken, I wish you a lot more gigs like this one at Brutal Assault both with Asphyx and Hail of Bullets!
Thank you for the support and the surprising questions – take care!
Here’s an audible answer of my Obituary interview made with Donald in January 2015 [read the full interview here].
The reason why I wanted you guys to hear how he speaks is that I guess he is one of the best interviewees any journalist could get: I didn’t have to stop for a minute thinking about any section of the interview or word he mentioned as he speaks in such an understandable and composed way. Listening to the recording and just writing continuously, it’s like the dream of an interviewer, I was done within 2 hours. So enjoy!
Making lists has never been my cup of tea but let’s try. (Including EPs)
1. Morbus Chron – Sweven
At first the Swedish Morbus Chron’s second album didn’t convince me but I can’t describe how much the record grew on me a few months after the first listening – I got to the point where I consider it to be no doubt one of the most unique death metal stuff existing out there. Completely dissimilar to their first one yet just as excellent in a different way.
Morbus Chron – Towards a Dark Sky
2. Bölzer – Soma
The black/death Bölzer set the standards high with their first EP ‘Aura’ [read my review of the record here] and even though ‘Soma’ needed more listenings to reach up to its level, the two-piece Swiss band did not disappoint. Very much looking forward to the album!
Bölzer – Labyrinthian Graves
3. Midnight – No Mercy for Mayhem
Similarly to Bölzer, if Midnight’s Athenar wants to reach up to the level of his early works and first album Satanic Royalty, he probably has to put plenty of effort in it. ‘No Mercy for Mayhem’ is a little bit slower as a whole than any of his earlier works but is still really intense and among the very best of 2014.
Midnight – Woman of Flame
4. Vampire – Vampire
The evergreen Swedish death metal scene shows once again what the Swedes are capable of. One of nowadays’ best old school-styled death metal album for sure!
Vampire – The Fen
5. Ranger – Shock Skull
Finnish old school speed metallers with crushing live performances. If you don’t understand the hype around them, listen to Shock Skull and afterwards you most likely will.
Ranger – Shock Skull
6. Accept – Blind Rage
Nice to see the German heavy metal veterans being still as strong and enthusiastic as ever. It really is a delight listening to Blind Rage!
Accept – Final Journey
7. Nocturnal Witch – Summoning Hell
Bestial German black/thrashers rising with their first album. I’d say it is worth buying.
Nocturnal Witch – Black Star
8. Riot – Unleash the Fire
Awesome to hear the old guys still in such a good condition. Aand… Johnny the seal is back in one of his funniest forms ever.
Riot – Metal Warrior
9. Portrait – Crossroads
With their third album in 2014, the Swedish heavy group well-known among quite a few Mercyful Fate-follower bands in the country came up with a record fulfilling every expectation and beating out many other competitors.
Portrait – In Time
10. Nocturnal – Storming Evil
Even though I personally liked both of Nocturnal’s earlier albums better, ‘Storming Evil’ was still a great album worth mentioning amongst the top ones from 2014. One of my favorite female vocalists, all hail
Nocturnal – Rising Demons
Interview with Donald Tardy (Obituary, Tardy Brothers) on Obituary’s new album ‘Inked in Blood’
Interview for Metalegion Magazine by Estelle on the 21st of January 2015
Sure. Holy Diver would be the first one because it’s the best album in the world. It is the best drumming record I have ever experienced, it is still my favorite drum album. Another one would be Led Zeppelin II because of John Bonham – as I was a child John Bonham really showed me how rock ‘n’ roll music or heavy metal doesn’t need to be the most technical as long as the drummer plays very solid – and John Bonham was just one of the best drummers in the world.
And then, I guess Psycroptic’s latest album (The Inherited Repression, 2012 – ed.). I think they are an incredible band that is so technical and the drummer does things that I could only dream of doing because he’s so fast. (laughs)
If you could start your whole career in Obituary again, would you do anything differently?
Your new album, Inked in Blood was released in October 2014. What was the main goal you wanted to achieve with releasing it?
The main thing we wanted to do is make sure that it sounded like Obituary and that the songs were written in the Obituary style – and that’s an obvious answer, but that was the main goal, to make sure that it was a true Obituary album. And then along with that came making sure that when we recorded the album we stayed true to what recording albums used to be and kept it very old school. We did not use too much modern technology with the recording, we only used microphones and instruments so we did not do any sound replacing or triggering of bass drums or anything, we kept it very very true to what we used to do back in the day – so those were the two main goals.
You recorded the album in your own studio called RedNeck. How was the recording or writing session different from any of your previous albums’?
The main thing was that it was relaxing and it was enjoyable. In my career I’ve always experienced that sometimes the studio can be a bit intimidating and a bit nerve-racking for band members. And because we practiced at the studio, we would live at the studio, we were always there – it made things very easy-going and it made it actually fun. It’s not often you can use the word ‘fun’ while recording songs because sometimes it really is nerve-racking, but the own studio made it very enjoyable for the band members.
Some people still seem to be quite suspicious in connection with your Kickstarter campaign and the fact that you were planning to put the album out completely yourselves and when it came to distributing it, you made a partnership with Relapse. What would you say to these people?
Well, if people are confused they can simply see how much money was raised and the amount of awards that Obituary had, because everybody that contributed got what they wanted which was the t-shirts, the hats and the albums and everything we gave. So it is very obvious how much money was spent on all the material, to buy all the hats and the t-shirts; along with the amount of money that we needed to actually record, mix, produce, master the record – we got the album cover paid for at the same time, so that was just a portion of the amount of money that is needed to actually release an album on your own. Hundreds of thousands of dollars go into marketing campaigns and to literally print the vinyl and print the CDs and distribute them around the world. It’s hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars; with the amount of money we raised we were able to record the entire album AND pay for the material needed for the Kickstarter campaign. But if anyone does research they can look at how expensive it is to truly do an album on your own. To get a distribution deal with the company and the thing that you are going to put it in every record store in the world takes much much more money than what Obituary raised. We tried to do it, we looked into it but it simply was too expensive to actually pull it off. That’s why we partnered with a record label – we simply used the record label to distribute and to print the actual physical CDs and that’s what Relapse did for us.
Could you choose one or two songs from Inked in Blood and explain what they mean to you, how they were made or what they are about?
I’m super proud of every song so I could talk about any of the songs on the album but a couple little stories are: The first song on Inked in Blood was one of the last ones we wrote for the album and when I recorded it drum-wise, I’m proud to say I did it in one try. One take, we call it. You know usually you can get almost through a song and you mess up, you have to back up a little bit and the engineer can fix the end of the song with you – and on the first song on the album I did it in my first try. (raises his hands, looks around proudly then laughs) I’m very proud of that.
Also, Inked in Blood is the title track, it’s one of those songs where when we first wrote it, I didn’t know if the song was complete, I didn’t know how good of a song it was until it was recorded and now that we’re playing it live it’s one of my favorite songs on the album. So it went from my least favorite to almost my favorite song.
‘Visions in My Head’ was the first track to be released from the new album in August. Do you think it was the catchiest one?
Yeah, it was. It was an obvious choice. At the minute we wrote it, it only took me and Trevor maybe five or ten minutes and we knew that the song was going to be the first one released. There was a strange feeling we had, we knew it was very catchy and very simple. When we recorded it, all the record label people, all my friends, everyone that came in contact with ‘Visions’ – we knew that was the one that stuck out. And so we knew to grab the world’s attention we wanted to grab a catchy song that isn’t the heaviest song on the album, but it definitely grabs your attention and it has all the pieces to a good song. It has a middle part, it has a great solo and it has a terrific ending.
I’ve read in some of your recent interviews that you guys were listening to Obituary’s old albums in order to get the same kind of sound and vibe for Inked in Blood as for the earlier ones. Is it because you didn’t really want to risk much and didn’t want to distance yourselves from something that seems to work?
Actually we didn’t listen to the old albums to try and get the sound, we were in the process of writing the new album for many years. We took three or four years writing the new songs and at the same time we were invited to play a classic setlist. So when we were recording, we took a break from recording the new songs and we had to listen to the old songs to re-learn them because we had an offer to come and play at a festival, but they wanted songs only off of the first three. So I had to go back and listen to the old ones to re-learn the songs, not the production but I had to go and really re-learn because they were twenty years old. (laughs) So I think what happened was, we went and played at the festival and played all the old songs and when we came home we kept writing new material – and I think whether we knew it or not, re-learning the old songs gave us some really cool ideas that brought back that old Obituary sound. And we didn’t deliberately do that but there was definitely some influence from the old stuff by having to re-learn some of the old ones while writing new songs.
Do you bother reading critics on the new album or Obituary in general?
I don’t mind reading, I know you’ll never make everybody happy. I think Obituary fans love the new album and that’s all I care about. If you read everything you’re going to find people that cry and complain and bitch about things – and they’re allowed to, it’s freedom of speech.
If we can talk about a next album, do you plan to record and distribute it in the same way as Inked in Blood?
I think the partnership that we have right now with Relapse makes a lot of sense because the band is able now with their fan support to record albums completely on our own – and nobody does that. In the history of rock ‘n’ roll bands write records and they tell the record label “we’re finished writing the album, we need to borrow money to go into the studio and record”, and the record label says “okay, here’s X amount of money, we will pay ourselves back when the album comes out before the band sees any money”. This time with Obituary we actually did it on our own with the support of our fans so it is a really good chemistry and solution that we found here because the band pays for the album, the record label pays for the printing of the CDs and the distribution around the world and the marketing campaign. So we both put the same amount of effort and time into the recording and then we’re a partnership so we split the profit – so it’s working out very well for Obituary right now. We’re very happy.
What was your greatest fear in connection with Obituary throughout all the years?
God, there was never fear. You’re always going to get fans that will listen to your music and compare you, whether they think it’s great or they are okay with it or they think it should be something different or that’s just not what they want. But I never let that bring fear into me because I have a very good ability of playing drums, I know what I do well and I know that I’m doing the right thing for Obituary’s style of music. So I don’t bring fear into it, because again I think there are many, many, many metalheads that love Obituary and love my drumming; and that’s enough for me, I don’t need to win everyone’s heart. (laughs)
Or bodies, because we’re getting old so the only thing that’s going to change is maybe the tempo of songs in the future because I can no longer play fast. But seriously, Obituary is so solid right now and I’m very proud to say that with the addition of Kenny Andrews and Terry Butler in the band we are a very tight band right now. We’re very close friends, there’s a hundred percent respect with and for each other and we are having so much fun. That’s what is amazing about it, I know there are bands that are successful and can do it for a living but not all the band members get along – but they make it work because it’s a business and they can go and make money. Obituary right now is very lucky because we’re making a living doing it but we love each other, we are having so much damn fun on stage every night. It’s a wonderful feeling. So that’s the main thing that I’m very proud to see in the future. I know for a fact, this is a very tight band right now and we’re best of friends.
You’re like a family, literally.
We are, yeah. (laughs) I’ve known Trevor since I was eleven years old so he’s like a brother to me as well. We’re just very excited about the future and it’s very exciting for Obituary fans too because more music is being created and the future is looking really bright now for all of us.
That’s great to hear. Okay Donald, thank you so much for the interview, I’m also really excited about the show tonight!
It will be a treat tonight! We also learned songs tonight, a couple for this tour especially that we had to go back and re-learn. We also brought some now in from the “Don’t Care” album because we want to play other stuff. It sounds really good. So yeah, I’m very excited about it too.
Interview with John Tardy (Obituary, Tardy Brothers)
Interview for Metalegion Magazine by Estelle on Brutal Assault XIX, on the 7th of August 2014
I guess we just like what we are doing. It’s pretty much it. It’s important just to have fun in what you are doing – if it becomes a job, it becomes work and it sucks, then don’t do it. Just go out, have a good time and do what you do.
Could you tell me about some of the highlights of your career in metal that you are the most proud of or mostly like to think back of?
Out of all the albums that we’ve done I can remember where I was when I got the first copy of Slowly We Rot, and was very proud of it. We also got to see a lot of the world, we’ve been to lots of different countries, got to meet a lot of cool people – to me it’s the best part of it, to get to see all the different cultures around the world.
How did it affect your relationship with your brother, Donald throughout the years that you had to work together in Obituary? Did you have any massive misunderstanding in connection with music?
Not really, we get along pretty good actually. We have a studio at my house and he’s pretty much there seven days a week – not that we never argue, but nothing serious, we get along really great. I think the good thing that works so well is that we just talk things out. We talk it out, we argue it out, and then we make a decision.
Obituary is one of the most fan-based and active metal bands out there – you run your own websites as well as the facebook page – you actually interact with the fans. In terms of your upcoming album, Inked in Blood, why did the band decide that you would “make the music for the fans instead of a label”? Did you have any bad experiences so far that made you do this?
We’ve been a band for thirty years, we’ve been at multiple labels, and even years back we’ve just been always wanting to do it ourselves. We finally said “you know what, let’s go ahead and TRY to do this ourselves”. Not that we expect to put CDs in the back of our car and drive around the world to sell them on our own, I mean, you just still need help from somebody because there are distribution companies, there are multiple countries and lots of problems.
We met the Relapse people, and the guys at Relapse are super cool. We got to get the album ourselves, it’s our album, we just got to kind of use their engine to get it out to the fans, and it really worked out good for us. There are all those Roadrunner records of ours, but we don’t own those things, we couldn’t even do anything with them even if we wanted to. So the cool thing about this is that it’s our music, it’s our album, we get to do what we want to do, and we get Relapse to help us to get it out to the people.
What is your opinion about the fact that some people say you “begged” for money to do this album?
Actually, it’s just about as much money as we got to now go ahead and send everybody everything that they ordered – so that rumour was a little bit weird. We have a lot of work to do, there’s just so much stuff now that we owe fans. The amount of money that we’ll see after the fact, it’s not going to be very much.
It was very cool though, to see this fan support and all the people who did what they did, and as soon as we get home we’re going to start going through that and sending all the merchandise out to the fans.
As far as I know, the artwork of your classic album from 1990, Cause of Death was supposed to be the cover of Sepultura’s record Beneath the Remains from 1989. Why did Roadrunner let Obituary use the Michael Whelan cover first?
It was not our decision. There were actually two albums coming out at the same time, they had two pieces of artwork, and Roadrunner was the one that made that decision, it really didn’t have anything to do with us.
So you didn’t communicate with Sepultura at all on this matter?
Was there any tension between the two bands as a consequence of Obituary using the artwork? As far as I know, you also worked as a guest on Sepultura’s Beneath the Remains (you helped with the vocals in song ‘Stronger Than Hate’).
I don’t know, it’s kind of odd, they once asked me that question so long ago, so I kind of heard that Sepultura wanted to use that artwork – at the time I had no idea, I didn’t even see the other artwork, I just knew that we got stuck with what we got.
No tension, I mean it was way before. The album was actually recorded in Brazil, Max (Cavalera, Sepultura – ed.) sang, he did the lyrics and he mixed the album at Morrisound (recording studio – ed.) in Tampa. That was the first time I met them. Max didn’t speak good English at the time, he stayed at our house, we hung out, the whole time he was doing that while I sang them some lyrics of the album. That was awesome, we were taken motocross races and monster trucks and all kinds of crazy shit. That was pretty funny.
You mentioned in some of your earlier interviews that you were influenced by Savatage and Nasty Savage, because even though they were not as heavy as Obituary, they were different from the traditional metal styles at the time they made their music. Did you always have the desire to just be different and unmistakable, or do you just do your thing and don’t think about it?
I don’t think you can go out and say “I want to be different”, or “I wanna be fast”, or “I wanna be this, I wanna be that” because I think if you try to set that goal, you are never going to get anything done. We met Nasty Savage and Savatage, they were young, we were even younger, we were still back in high school. Riding our bikes on the street and hearing them jam in their garage, and we kept running back and forth hoping that they would come outside. It’s cool because like you said Nasty Savage and Savatage – nobody sounds like those two bands. Nobody. Most of music that I like, that’s what I like to see, I like a band like the AC/DC, or Lynyrd Skynyrd – they are who they are, there’s nobody else like them. But you can’t practice that, you can’t work at that, it’s just what happens.
For the end: If you could change one thing on any of your previous works with Obituary, what would it be?
Obviously our early albums, we were still in high school when we recorded Slowly We Rot – so if you go back and listen to the productions throughout the years, there are always things you wish you could re-change or re-do. On our earlier albums, we just wrote the songs and then recorded them. With the new album Inked in Blood we really took our time, like three years of writing the songs and then jamming the songs, and giving yourself the chance to hear them, make changes, let your mind really fill the song out – so we really had the luxury with this album, we’ve really taken our time, and let the natural progression of our writing.
There are always things you can change, but at the same time you listen back and there are different points in your life, different times in your life… after all I wouldn’t change anything, even though I’m not happy with any of our albums played. (laughs) I don’t think I would ever be, nor would anybody in the band, there is always going to be stuff that you don’t like, that you wish you could do again or do better.
Okay John, thank you very much for your time, and enjoy the Slayer show!
Thanks for the support, take care!