The last time Lords Of Metal had a talk with you was around the release of 'An Epiphanic Vomiting Of Blood'. Back then you had a lot of things planned for the near future, including the EP 'For All Slaves.. A Song Of False Hope'. Did everything go according to plan, or did you run into a few surprises?
To be completely honest I don't really remember. I tend to make many plans and usually I execute them pretty rapidly, only to make new plans immediately. When I'm enthusiastic about something then I have to start working on it as fast as possible. Waiting too long causes my attention to drift away, and then plans need to be replaced by new plans. These plans are changing all the time though.
It was a great surprise to me that Gnaw Their Tongues was added to the roster of Candlelight Records. I think you deserve the attention from larger labels such as Candlelight, but let's say Gnaw Their Tongues' music is not that easy to digest, so it's a rather bold move on behalf of the label. How do you perceive this, and how did this collaboration come into existence?
I wasn't sure either if this would turn out to be a good move. I thought it over for a long time: does it fit GTT, aren't you just one out of many at such a big label, etc. I concluded that I have nothing to lose though. Worst case scenario is that the album will be a flop. For now, the deal is for only one year/ one release (with an option for more). So far, all is going well. Communication with the label's A&R man (the one who scouted me) is excellent. Besides, Candlelight have done more weird things in the past (Furze / Blut Aus Nord).
How will this deal with Candlelight affect Gnaw Their Tongues' future? Until now you have released myriad of material in between full-lengths, in the shape of splits, CD-Rs and EPs. Will this new deal, that is likely to be somewhat more complex in terms of conditions, mean that this is about to change?
The deal is limited to full-length stuff. If I would feel like releasing many EPs than that would be possible. I decided to take it easier with GTT, in terms of releases. I've kind of had it with churning out impossible amounts of material.
Let's talk about what's really the most interesting: the music. In comparison to your previous work the new songs are still quite bleak, but in a different way. It all sounds more grand, more epic, as if it's the soundtrack of a very bizarre movie. It's still really harsh, but it seems to have climbed slightly out of the gutter, if you catch my drift. How do you see this, and where does it come from?
This is very deliberate. I've seen my fair share of the gutter now. Enough of all this 'weltschmerz'. Of course it's still inspiring, but for this album I chose a more abstract approach. Not that I can predict what the future holds. Instead of immediately going for the jugular and ripping your head off, the new album slowly rolls over you. I have indeed tried to make it as bombastic as I could.
There seems to be a concept behind 'L'arrivée De La Terne Mort Triomphante'. The album revolves around death, and to be more specific, the death shroud. Could you explain the concept?
The thing with the shroud is not entirely correct. That's the label's poetic interpretation. The album is all about Death. It stems from what the first pieces of music brought to my mind. There simply was no other option. It conjured the image of a white world where death, dressed in a white gown, roams freely, peacefully collecting souls. There are more layers to the concept, but it's mainly a visual thing.
Why a French title? Are the lyrics in French too?
The lyrics are in English. The titles are in French because they sounded somewhat cliché in English. The use of French adds an extra bombastic feel and lends it a 'classical' feeling.
It's striking that the music relies more than ever on elaborate orchestral parts. They play a key role. Do you compose these parts yourself or are they samples you take from somewhere?
The choirs were built from samples. They're chords, which I used to make my own melodies. The piano was played by myself. The cellos were recordings I did myself, but a friend played these parts. I used these parts as well to make new melodies. Basically it's always a mixture of real recordings and samples.
You seem to prefer bass over guitar. Could you explain this choise?
I simply love the bass. Usually I try to fill the range of frequencies occupied by guitars with other instruments (violin/choir/samples, etc.). Obviously the bass also sounds heavy as fuck. I used to be a big fan of Necromantia (they only use bass as well), so that could explain a lot.
You have your own studio, which enables you to work on the material at your own pace. Because you also work alone, I suppose your modus operandi is somewhat different from how most bands work. Could you explain your usual way of composing and recording?
I used to spend every spare hour I have behind my computer, composing and recording. I don't do that anymore, because I did it for far too long. I still spend quite some time at my studio, but substantially less than I have done for the past five years. I don't have a method of working that is set in stone. I simply fuck around with recorded parts, samples and vocals until I like it as a whole. I tend to have an idea of what I want to do, but it always turns out to be somewhat different. I think I enjoy the process of creation the most.
The vocals sound pleasantly insane, and not rarely they are embedded in quite an amount of effects. How do you record them? Are you in a particular state of mind when recording them, how do you process the raw recordings and to what extent are the vocal patterns and lyrics thought out in advance as opposed to filled in spontaneously?
Mostly the lyrics are a bunch of vague notes on paper, or they are brought up on the spot, although they were more elaborated than usual for this album. I tend to record the vocals when I'm quite far into the composition process. It doesn't take a specific state of mind to record them. I simply record them at home and that's it.
What's the deal with Japanese killers? Recently you released the EP 'Tsutomu Miyazaki', and that's the second time you name a release after a Japanse killer, following 'Issei Sagawa'. That one was particularly gnarly because Sagawa's victim/ meal was a Dutch student. Please elaborate!
The label that released 'Tsutomu Miyazaki' asked me to do something special and I thought the time was right to do something different. Half of the music was already finished, so it came together nicely: the idea to follow up 'Issei Sagawa' and the music I had. It's not that I'm particularly fascinated by Japanese killers, but it's Japanese culture in general. Everytime I read something I go 'What the fuck?'. The story of 'Tsutomu Miyazaki' is so unpleasant that it appeared to be an appropriate sequel to 'Issei Sagawa' (by the way, listeners that don't speak any Dutch miss a lot because of those Dutch samples, hahaha). I'm done with the serial killer stuff though. I did it a lot.
The final song on 'For All Slaves.. A Song Of False Hope' was a surprisingly linear, but still really great, black metal song. Where did that one come from, and is this something we can expect more often?
I don't know what the future holds for us. I simply follow my feeling (or at least I try to). That cd just asked for a song like that. The two songs that come before it are really intense, abstract pieces of work. It's really nice when these 'fresh' chords kick in. It's a release of tension built up. Also, I wanted to do something with a chorus.
Speaking of linear black metal: you also contributed to the debut of Fries duo The Beast Of The Apocalypse, helping them out with recording. Could you tell something about this, and is this something we can expect more often?
Just like me, they live around Drachten. I've known them for a while and I heard their recordings. Firstly, they asked me to contribute with an intro, but eventually it became more. I contributed some samples, did they artwork and helped them out a bit with mixing and mastering (their second album is set to appear: it's good!). I also did some things for other bands in the past. I did a lot of artwork (graphic design is actually my main work), but additionally I did some sounds and mastering for Alkerdeel. For Italians Melencolia Estatica I recorded some stuff, and I'm currently working on some collaborations with Nekrasov and Theologian. There was also a remix for Aaron Martin, an American cellist (he did the same thing for me). It is very likely that I will expand this in the future. It's a lot of fun to do.
Besides Gnaw Their Tongues you have another solo-project, called Aderlating. Can you explain how these project relate to one another?
Aderlating was started to play live. Meanwhile I released quite a bit under that name as well though. Aderlating is even more abstract than Gnaw Their Tongues, and it's made up of a lot more drone/noise. GTT is rooted in metal, which is less the case with Aderlating. It's more experimental music. It's not a solo project though; Eric's contributions have been increasing a lot lately.
You played at Roadburn with Aderlating last year. Please tell something about that experience.
We made some nice trips (New York, France) and there is more to come. Since forming the band in early 2009 we have played more or less every month. Sometimes we played for two people at really small venues, but other gigs were quite successful, playing at festivals in the middle of fucking nowhere in France. We also did a show with Integrity in Paris. It's nice to eat a hot dog in Central Park and suddenly realize that we're making this fucking impossible music, but still we're here on someone else's expense. There really isn't a nicer feeling than that. We try to do something special every single time. It's a nice way to travel the world and see the world, without having to pay shitloads of money for it. Aderlating live is one big mindfuck. Loud, heavy, low… it's a storm of sound and screaming, with the additional benefit of me bashing the living daylights out of my drumkit.
It's probably much more difficult to bring Gnaw Their Tongues to life in a live situation, if only because recreating the music without other musicians should be quite impossible. Is it possible, or not?
No, this is precisely why I founded Aderlating. GTT will never (but never say never) play live.
Is there something clear for the near future?
There will certainly be new work from De Magia Veterum and Aderlating and I'm also working on a new GTT album, set for next summer. It will sound completely different yet again. Also, I'm hoping for many shows with Aderlating (especially abroad).
Thanks for the interview. Have you got any words of wisdom to close this dialogue?
Eat your greens, especially broccoli (John Balance). Thanks for the interview! If you like to be massaged violently, both physically and mentally, be sure to check out an Aderlating show.