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Synergy Protocol

A number of months ago I was quite positively surprised by a three-track demo of the Dutch band Synergy Protocol. As I’m always interested in talented new bands, a face-to-face appointment was made with bass player Wim Smits and female singer Laura Guldemond to get some background information about Synergy Protocol. That proved to be much more difficult than originally planned but after several re-schedules, Skype brought the solution and finally we were able to have the conversation.

By: Sjak | Archive under prog / sympho metal

Let’s start with the basics: how and when was Synergy Protocol founded and what was the idea that you had in mind when starting the band?
Wim: There was already a Synergy Protocol version one a very long time ago. After having played with Jewel and Zarathustra I discovered that I enjoyed writing my own material very much. In the Jewel time Henk Bakker wrote all the material and in Zarathustra I was only one of the writing members. When the latter band stopped I started writing my own music and looked for similar minded people to start a new band which became the first version of Synergy Protocol. This band broke up in 2005 and then I decided to go out and look for musicians that were really capable of performing my music. In 2006 I ran into Maarten (Heeringa, guitar player) who was the first one of the current line-up that joined. The next couple of years became a carousel of people that joined and left again and in 2012 we decided to create an arrogant advertisement to find the remaining band members. After that it became awfully quiet until in April of last year Patrick (van Mourik, drummer) responded and joined. He knew a guitar player called Mark Roelofs from a previous band of him, who also became part of the band. Parallel to this, in September of 2012 I had asked Laura to do some vocal parts for our songs, but she didn’t have the time to do this back then because she was in her graduation process. She mentioned however that whenever we needed help in the future, she was very willing to support us because she really liked our music. So later on I gave it another try and in August of 2013 she became our singer.

Did you always had the intention to go for a female singer and specifically for Laura, what attracted you in the music of Synergy Protocol that you decided to join?
Laura: What appealed to me was that the material was very good and the level of the musicianship was very high. Furthermore they had the ambition level needed and really wanted to make the band a success. That was already the case when they approached me for the first time, but it just didn’t feel right to join if I couldn’t really make a contribution. So when I was graduated and they asked me for a second time I didn’t hesitate for a single second.

Wim: Yes, I always wanted to have a female singer for the band, because it proves to be a very refreshing way of making progressive metal. Of course you have a lot of female singers in the gothic scene, but not that many in a true progressive metal band so it gives us kind of a unique sound.

You mentioned that you approached Laura directly, but where did you know her from?
Wim: I met her via the old musicfrom.nl portal, where she had placed an advertisement that she was looking for a progressive metal band to join. As a matter of fact all the band members have met one another via this particular music site, which is unfortunately no longer in existence anymore.

What’s the meaning behind the name Synergy Protocol?
Wim: When looking for a band name we thought that this one reflected best what our music was all about. We are all not real virtuosos on our instrument, but by working together (synergy) and using a certain protocol we’re capable of reaching a higher level together.

Laura, how did you end up in the metal scene?
Laura: Ever since my puberty years I’m a big fan of metal music, especially bands like Within Temptation and Nightwish. Later on I also started to listen to the older metal bands like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest as well, so it was a natural step for me to join a metal band when I started singing.

By the way, I saw in the Dutch newspaper “De Telegraaf” that you also have ambition to become a diet expert. How did you get involved in that?
Laura: Haha….on internet I saw a request that you could fill out with a story how your day looked like with regard to your diet so I thought it was fun to participate. I really tried to get a link to the band site in the article but unfortunately I didn’t succeed in that.

If you look at the song writing process, how does that work for you?
Wim: I think that at this time I’m the only one who can give you a sensible answer on this, because at the moment the music is basically written by me, with the exception of the lyrics and vocal lines which are done by Maarten. However, our intention is that new songs will be written more together in a band situation.

Laura: I just made some minor additions this time, but I’m really looking forward to write the new material more as a band, so that I can participate more in the complete process.

Wim: the next couple of weeks we’re going to try to do this for the very first time as we’re all meeting each other on my vacation address in Switzerland and we will use the evening hours to see how this process will work out.

The first result is the demo that you have released in February of this year. Was this one meant as a first acquaintance for the public or did you want to score a record deal with this?
Wim: it was definitely meant as a first acquaintance for the general public. Nowadays it’s very hard to get a deal when you’re still a relatively unknown band, so we first try to get some recognition before thinking about recording an album via a company. This demo is the first sign of life, the next step is to release a full-length album with a much higher quality.

Laura: Of course we will also try to get some additional help from outside the band to see how that works out in reaching a bigger audience or to get some more attention from the press and the record companies.

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How were the first reactions to the demo, both from the press as well as the music fans?
Wim: Well, the reactions from the press are quite diverse. Some really like it, but some also complain a bit about the quality of the demo, which we fully understand as it is just a demo and of course a possible CD needs to be more of a high-quality affair. From the music fans we get only positive feedback, which becomes most apparent during our live performances where people are very enthusiastic and buy some merchandise afterwards.

You play live quite regularly, so I assume that you have more material than the twenty-one minutes on the demo. Why did you choose for these three songs in particular?
Wim: First of all, we thought that these three songs were long enough in duration, as other songs are even longer. Secondly, the other material was not fully ready yet to be placed onto the demo, also taking into account the short period that we’ve been together before starting the recording process.

How much more material do you have available and how does that compare to the demo-tracks?
Wim: Partly the other material can be compared with the demo-tracks, but another part of it is evolved a bit further in the vein of the last demo-track ‘Final Chaos’ and that’s also the direction that we want to be exploring more in the future.

Are you going to re-use the current material for the first full-length or are you going to use the newly to be written band material for that?
Wim: The intention is to re-use the current material, with a total length of about seventy minutes, onto one CD. The new tracks that we will write as a band will be used for a possible next album thereafter.

Do you already have a plan when you will start the recording for the full-length album, when you want to release it and if you’re going to bring it to market as an independent release?
Wim: We don’t have any concrete plans concerning this yet, but we will definitely discuss these kind of topics when we’re all together next week in Switzerland.

Had the mediocre sound quality of the demo to do with a limited budget, not enough recording time or the wrong production guy and how are you going to avoid that with the full-length CD?
Wim: Well, first of all we’re not going to record the drums ourselves anymore, which we did for this demo. Furthermore, we as a band just don’t have the capabilities to do it right ourselves and therefore we need to get professional help in.

You play live on a regular basis, but what can the people expect from a typical live show of Synergy Protocol?
Laura: First of all we try to have fun at stage and to radiate that to the crowd. Furthermore we have our gimmicks that make a Synergy Protocol show something special and I really don’t want to give away too much about that as you really should come out and look and judge for yourself. We’re not like Dream Theater who play absolutely fantastic, but there’s no real action on the stage as they are so focused on their instruments. We really try to involve the audience and make it one big party. One example of the fun we have on stage is one time when we entered a band competition when Maarten was visiting a guitar clinic of Steve Vai. We made a printed version of Maarten, put his face on a doll on stage and people thought it was really fun. Besides that we also won the competition by the way…

What are the concrete plans for playing live after you return from your holidays?
Wim: We play on August 23rd in Emmen. We also play Scheveningen and Den Haag but for these shows the dates have not been set yet.

The ambition of the band is to grow, but Laura is busy with the Metal Factory, will participate in Ayreon’s rock choir and is doing the lead vocals for Synergy Protocol. How can you combine this?
Laura: Of course it will be a busy period but I think it will not be too difficult to combine all these things. The Metal Factory is during the daytime, so I don’t have too much to do in the evening hours, which makes it relatively easy to make myself available for Synergy Protocol. It will be a lot of hard work, but that’s the only way that you can make progress in my opinion.

What is the ambition level that you and the other band members have with Synergy Protocol? To what level to you think you can grow in the music scene?
Wim: I just want to say one thing to this and that’s a citation from our drummer: world domination! Kind of fun when a guy of just twenty-three years old is having that dream..haha. We have the ambition to become a big band and we’re all willing to work very hard for that. To which level that will bring us remains to be seen.

Laura: We want to be at the same level as the bands that are playing all the big festivals. We would really like to be playing all these festivals like Graspop, Wacken Open Air and such.

Okay Wim and Laura, thanks for your willingness to answer my questions. Is there anything that we didn’t cover that you would still like to mention to our readers?
Wim: For me everything that needed to be said is discussed. I’m very proud of this band and I’m really happy with the fact that things are starting to go into the direction that I had in mind at first.

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