What is Starve?
Starve is a band. Not a 'collective', not an 'idea'. Starve is a rock n' roll band, and our rock n' roll happens to sound like a scratched record being played at 16rpm.
How did this scratched record at 16rpm-playing “happen”? Compared with Starve you played in the past in many other rock'n'roll band which played their rock 'n' roll band more like 300 miles per hour. Why the shift towards filthy, doomish sludge, which is, generally speaking, dominated by thirty-plus fatsos from New Orleans and not by an educated, slim (well…) guy in his twentieth, living in the most wealthy big city of Holland? Do you have an old mind in a young body that is born on the wrong continent?
I have a pretty broad taste in music, so I like to try different things. Based on my taste in music and movies I would say that, yes, I was probably born too late. Not as slim as I used to be either.
So the obvious and cliché question will be: in what era would you like to be born (that will suit your musical and cinematographic taste more properly), or are the last three decades not so bad after all?
The last two decades have been pretty terrible. I thought it was a pretty damn difficult task to grow up in the nineties and still develop a decent taste in music, but the “zeroes” have been even worse. The eighties were actually quite good for movies, and there was some decent music too. I guess I should have been born in the fifties to be old enough to appreciate the great music of the late sixties and the seventies.
Are there at this moment also other different things you're trying out? Or are your mind, lungs and bile at this moment fully focused on Starve? For instance Karel Anker & De Joden was a one-off shoot, I suppose?
Karel Anker is my cousin, I have nothing to do with that band other than releasing the 7” on my label.
I am working on some other projects, but nothing too time-consuming for now.
You released your first album on Badger. The album is only available on vinyl and official download. Is this a big finger to the CD consumer, who aren't hardly there anymore anyway? Or will there be a CD version in the future?
There are no plans for a CD version right now, but if somebody feels compelled to do a CD version they can get in touch with us or Erik Badger. Personally, I do not even buy CDs anymore because I never listen to them, and some of the guys in the band feel the same way.
Is this the reason that your first release, which was a limited four-track promo CD, is reissued on cassette(!)? Damn, you definitely ARE born too late… Why on tape, you romantic, nostalgic old soul?
A dude we knew through one of our old bands offered to release the demo on tape, in a special stamped and numbered cardboard sleeve, with a huge lyric sheet/poster. We thought it was a pretty good idea.
The album is now out a couple of months. Also as an official download. Do people find (and use) the download button yet, and/or is it still possible to get a copy of the vinyl version?
Yes, we still get downloads on a daily basis. I think our label still has some records left so if anyone is interested they can contact Badger Records. We only have a handful left to sell at shows.
Are you satisfied by the way by the results of the album? And I'm not an audiophile, but I've been told that the sound of the download version slightly differs from the vinyl version. If so, why?
That is because different masters were made. One for digital media and one for vinyl. We are satisfied with the way the record turned out, but there will always be things that we could have done differently in hindsight. I doubt any band will ever release a record that they are still 100% satisfied with a few years down the road.
You are also planning (and at this very moment recording?) to release a 7 inch. Tell me more about that, because I heard rumors about a special “thematic” idea behind it.
The new 7” is going to be called 'Black Sludge, White Sludge', inspired by a certain Pam Grier movie. While the artwork will express our love for Pam Grier and 70s movies in general, the lyrics of the two songs ('Black Sludge' and 'White Sludge') deal with the BP oil spill and white supremacists respectively.
The album is appropriately titled 'Wasteland'. The long title song (seven-plus minutes) is however the only song that doesn't have that gritty, slow-grooving filth like the other songs. Does this song have a different background/inspiration than the other songs, or has it just come out this way and are there no special thoughts behind it?
The music for that song was not written with a special intent, but I had a set of lyrics that fit the song structure and atmosphere perfectly. The first time I heard the song I instantly knew what set of lyrics to match it to.
No offense to your own compositions, but my personal highlight was your take on 'Strange Fruit', an old jazz-standard from 1938 dealing about anti-racism and lynching a negro, immortalized by Billie Holiday and Nina Simone. The suffocated desperation in your twisted interpretation is utterly brilliant. Where/when did you get the idea to do this?
Actually, the original poem is from 1936, the same year that Albert Fish was executed, Pavlov died and the Berlin Summer Olympics were held. Quite an eventful year, apparently. We were looking for a truly badass song to record and the further back we looked, the more raw, intense and heartfelt the music became. If you listen to artists like Blind Willie Johnson or Lead Belly their music is actually a lot harder than a lot of metal bands. The atmosphere and intensity of those old blues and jazz songs is fueled by hundreds of years of poverty, oppression and inequality. You can hear that, and you can feel that. Which makes a world of difference compared to metal bands that sing about fucking decapitated corpses but ask if everyone is having a good time when they are on stage.
Ever thought of doing more vocal (jazz) standards the Starve way? I don't know other jazz standards by heart who deal with such dark matters as 'Strange Fruit', but I have a couple personal favorites like Peggy Lee ('Fever'!), Duke Ellington ('Solitude', also done by Holiday & Simone), Sarah Vaughan, Dinah Washington, Anita O'Day, Ella Fitzgerald ('Mack The Knife'), Edith Piaf (Les feuilles mortes'/'The Dead (Autumn) Leaves') or of course that famous 'Summertime', which I actually loathe and find the most overrated song in history, but in Starve's vision possibly gets the definitive take I would like ('Wintertime'). Or do you think that it will become a gimmick then?
Personally, I think the most overrated song in history is 'Für Elise'. Who knows what else we might do in the future. I think that if you milked the idea out too much, all the songs would start to sound the same, thus taking away any sense in doing it.
You sing now for more than years (and still far away from your thirtieth birthday), so you have quite experienced lungs. But in all bands you scream, growl, vomit, shriek and turn your stomach inside out. To my surprise you also take singing lessons. Is this to use your growling-voice properly (and doesn't grow polyps on your vocal chords like Frans Bauer, Jan Smit and Caro Emerald?), or do you take these lessons to become a clean vocalist in the future? Or… both?
Both. Like I said, I have a pretty broad taste in music, and I like to try different things. It helps me develop new ideas of what to do with my voice next. Anything is better than the disease that is autotune.
This is the second time you mention that you have a broad taste. I think most people who are into music say that about himself – I don't meet a lot of people who say of themselves they have a narrow minded, small taste - so that doesn't say much. So what genres are you into, and… what do you think of, let's say something odd, Herman van Veen?
Herman van Veen wrote a musical called Alfred Jodocus Kwak that should be part of any decent upbringing. Apart from that, I have little interest in his work. Lately I have been venturing into the world of folk music and 'Americana' a lot, which is great because there are still so many artists in that genre that I do not know. And ever since we started delving into those old blues songs because we were starved for inspiration I have been listening to that more and more. I have a lot of love for any music with real emotion, whether it is anger, joy, fear, depression, hope or anything else. I do not believe in any higher power whatsoever but a good, heartfelt gospel song can send shivers down my spine. I saw Tom Jones perform songs from his latest, gospel-influenced, album last year and that man has an amazing voice. He hardly needed a microphone. One of the best shows I have seen in 2010.
I really need to make time to travel to Las Vegas to see Barry Manilow and Cher perform there, and hopefully catch some revue there. I love show tunes, they really tell the story of the human condition.
Some other artists I enjoy listening to are Judas Priest, Fear, G.I.S.M., Immortal, Dean Martin, Bathory, Infest, Bad Brains, Rainbow, Amy Winehouse, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Sam Cooke, Alice in Chains, Queen, Manowar, Otis Redding, Neil Diamond, Thin Lizzy, Shocking Blue and the two best bands in the world: Black Sabbath and Creedence Clearwater Revival. The list could go on and on. The guy that mastered our record (and who, incidentally, recorded the first Mercyful Fate EP and the first Gorefest LP) was shocked and appalled when he found out that we knew the words to some classic Anita & Ed tunes by heart [so are we from Lords Of Metal! – EDS], because he had recorded with them too. We got an Anita & Ed bumper sticker out of it.
The lyrics deal with depravation, misery, destruction and more of that prettiness. Is this just to suit the music and therefore a part of the image of the music and you're a happy man yourself, or is it the real deal of your own life/mindset/global view?
I am not good at writing positive lyrics. Things that do not unnerve me in some way or the other also do not give me the itch to write about them. Especially not when there are so many things left that piss me off.
Somehow, I think you're slightly avoiding my question by only partly affirming it. Can you tell me a little more about this, otherwise I have to call you the Maxine Verhagen of sludge (a Dutch politician, regarded by many as the most unclear and unreliable politician from Holland). You're a positive man, but with a very critical global view, is that it?
Actually, it's Maxime and not Maxine. Personally, I prefer Maxim Hartman as a politician, because Maxime will sell his own mother for the price of an ice cream cone. I would not call myself a positive man. I know what I like and I know what I dislike, and can be pretty vocal about both. I do have a very critical global view, but that probably comes from a combination of high standards and low expectations concerning my fellow members of the human race. So yes, those lyrics are the real deal.
Lyrically, the song 'Starve' differs from the others. While the other songs tell more or less about pain, frustration and torture in the first person, 'Starve' is a about blaming something to someone else, and is a more direct accusation to someone('s behavior). Who/what is it about?
The song Starve is about eating disorders, and in particular the way they are induced by peer pressure. I think I can count the number of females that I have met that have not at one time in their lives suffered from an eating disorder on one hand. I like eating, I would recommend eating as a hobby to anyone, and I like curvy women. Therefore the promotion of eating disorders is a direct assault on things that I enjoy.
The artwork perfectly fits the desolateness and coldness of the music. I thought that Starve had hired a good internet librarian to find an appropriate picture for the sleeve, but you told me before that you actually took the picture yourself. Where and when did you take this pic?
I took the picture in Braddock, Pennsylvania. It used to have a booming steel industry, but when that industry collapsed in the 1970s and 80s a lot of people lost their jobs and moved away or got hooked on crack cocaine. Because of this the population was decimated and now all these abandoned buildings stand there like huge tombstones that give a glimpse into a foreseeable future where mankind is wiped off the face of the planet. The whole atmosphere in that town, and the pictures I took there were a big contribution to the overall theme of the album.
The first 100 albums also have an extra sleeve with Mad Max on it. Another example of your love for 70s movies. Why this one in particular, besides the fact it looks just plain cool.
Mad Max has a post-apocalyptic setting. I guess you could say our album has a pre-apocalyptic theme, so 'Wasteland' can be seen as a prequel to Mad Max. You see the Mad Max cover, a desolated and barren world and think 'How could anyone let this happen?'. Peel back the limited cover and find out…
I've only seen you one and a half time live on stage. The second time was supporting Shrinebuilder at Tivoli, Utrecht. I suppose your most lucrative show so far, and although sharing the stage with is a load of exaggerated bollocks (what's the big deal?), it least it must have been an awesome experience to share the backstage with Wino and the guys from Melvins, Sleep (Om) and Neurosis, innit? Or you didn't the see the guys at all?
They are just dudes that play in a band, just like us. I remember after the show, some dude was talking to Dale Crover and it seemed like he was trying to give him a mental blowjob. Maybe it is me, but I just do not understand the need to put someone on a pedestal like that. I have very few heroes, so to say, and I know all of them are or were normal human beings.
Even if you saw Glenn Danzig in front of you? Of course he has to take a regular piss and shit once and a while too, but I'll bet that there must be at least a little increase of your hear rate when you have the Jerommeke of metal in front of you. And what other artists, performers or non-musical persons do you consider to be one of your few heroes? Tom Waits, Slash, Integrity's Dwid or Cro-Mags' John Joseph for instance?
I have a lot of respect for Glenn Danzig because he wrote so many great songs, and worked very hard to keep everything under his control. I also like artists that are a bit eccentric but I would not consider all of them heroes. The people you mention all created music that had a huge impact on my life, but I am not sure if I should call them heroes because of that. Growing up, my heroes were Eddie Murphy and Harrison Ford. That dude was Han Solo and Indiana Jones, nobody could be cooler than that. Right now I could not tell you who my real heroes are, because I do not know.
Last January, I went to Godspeed You! Black Emperor's reunion gig in Paradiso, Amsterdam. They played 160 minutes long, and it sounded actually like one, extremely long marathon-like song, divided into several parts, just to give the audience some breath. The same experience I had with your show in Tivoli. You played your songs like it was one, long song. I liked that. What's the idea behind it and since you didn't do this in ACU (Utrecht) a couple of weeks before at your album-release show: is this a new “thought” in executing your songs live?
Well, perhaps the sound in the ACU was not as good as at the other show, because we always make our set one long barrage of sound instead of just a collection of snippets. Or perhaps you were drunk on of the occasions. I guess you could say another one of the reasons we do it is so I do not have to speak in between songs. I do not really feel the need to talk to a bunch of people I do not know.
I liked your performance with Shrinebuilder, but I was also a bit disappointed on two aspects. First, you didn't play Billie Holiday's 'Strange Fruit'. I've heard that you never play this song live. Why? Come on, don't be an asshole and play it!
No, you are right, we are assholes.
Okay asshole, why don't you try not being an asshole and play that song live? Be nice to me, and a lot of others, because I see in several other reviews it's a favorite one.
Like Walt Disney once said: “Always leave them wanting more”.
Hehe… Second, Starve also didn't play slide guitar on stage on songs like 'This Town Is Dead', something I really enjoyed on the studio versions. Why not?
Well, if you check the credits on the LP you will see that the slide guitar bits are credited to Jaromir Fernig, who is not an actual member of the band.
No, you're not getting away that easy. Why didn't Jaromir even play on your LP release party? And also: aren't you guys able to be play slide guitar yourself? It can't be that difficult, can it? I thought that you were one of those sincere bands that play studio versions in a way you are able to play live as well.
Whoever told you that we were sincere? Lies I tell you, lies. Journalists always lie. It takes years of practice to be able to play the slide guitar. Apart from that, what you hear on the LP is actually a lap steel guitar, not a slide. Jaromir could not make it to our release party, he had to attend a funeral.
With your previous bands you played several times in foreign countries. How's it going with Starve? Do countries like Germany, UK, France and The States want you?
What would a rock n' roll band do in France? That would be like sending a Klezmer band to a Nazi party. So far we've played shows in Belgium, Germany and the UK to mixed responses. We are looking into the possibility of doing some shows in Scandinavia later this year, and who knows what else is in store for this year.
Haha, that'll teach Johnny Halliday and Les Thugs! Well, good luck shopping for stages in Scandinavia and to conclude this chat, does the heirs of Russ Meyer know that you steal stills of his movies to put it on your merchandise?
They heard we like curvy women, so they asked us to use an image from an old movie poster. We respectfully complied.