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About five years ago the reunion album ‘Circle of 8’ of the Dutch metal band Martyr was released, which proved to be a very well-succeeded combination of eighties metal with modern influences. By the end of March of this year the successor of that record will be brought to market under the title ‘You Are Next’ and also this new one truly is a great album. All the more reason to catch up with guitar player Rick Bouwman and singer Rop van Haren and while enjoying a drink in pub De Griffel in De Bilt, we go through the latest developments within the band…

By: Sjak | Archive under heavy / power metal

Hi guys, the last time Lords Of Metal spoke with Martyr was for the 2011 release ‘Circle Of 8’. What did that album mean for the band both from an artistic as well as a commercial perspective?
Of course it first of all meant that we got back to the label where we as a band started out, with the release of our song ‘En Masse’ on the Metal Blade ‘Metal Massacre V’ compilation. So for us the closed the circle again, which fitted perfectly with the title of the album ‘Circle Of 8’. Since Metal Blade is a big label in the metal scene, from a promotional perspective we were able to piggyback on the larger bands on the label and that really helped us. Besides the promotion also the distribution was well taken care of because the album was available everywhere. The downside of being on such a big label is that the flexibility is limited, they take care of a lot of things for you but you kind of lose control and insight in what’s really happening. Furthermore we were one of the smaller bands on the label and that maybe the reason why we’re no longer with them for this new record. They wanted to see bigger sales numbers and that is every difficult, especially in today’s market situation. Our new label Into The Limelight/Pure Steel really showed confidence in the new album and therefore we decided to sign with them. Since Into The Limelight is run by a good friend of ours and because of the fact that they were really eager to sign us, they came up with a good offer which made us go for them. Also Pure Steel wanted to sign us, but they only had room in their release schedule at the end of 2016 and therefore we made the deal to release the album on Into The Limelight and make use of the promotional capabilities and distribution network of Pure Steel, so we had a bit the best of both worlds.

In 2013 bass player Toine van der Linden decided to leave the band. What were his reasons for doing so and how did you get teamed up with your new bass player Jeffrey Bryan Rijnsburger?
At that time Toine had another band next to Martyr, with which he was more eager to continue than with Martyr. One night at a band meeting he announced that he wanted to step out of the band and as a result of that we had to start the search for a replacement. Rob and I had already ran into Jeffrey at a gig in Almere and we immediately saw that he was a great bass player without given it any further thought. When we were looking for a bass player, he came to audition and the moment he plugged in his bass we knew this was the right person for Martyr. Furthermore also as a person he fits perfectly with us, because although he’s quite a bit younger than us, he’s definitely an eighties guy and he has the same attitude towards music as we have.

It took you about five years to come up with a successor for ‘Circle Of 8’. What have you been up to during that period and why did it take so long before your new album ‘You Are Next’ saw the light of day?
Playing live! All the band members have a full-time job next to Martyr and when you play quite a lot in the weekends you don’t have too much time left to devote to writing new songs. Time flies when in this way and before you know it five years have passed before a new record is released.

During the period between the two latest Martyr albums, you were one of the bands featured on the ‘Dutch Steel’ compilation of Robert Haagsma. How did you get on that one and what do you think of the actual end result?
We didn’t really have to do anything for this as we were asked to participate in this project since Martyr had been quite influential in the eighties period in the Dutch metal scene. So we were placed on the compilation and were asked to play the special ‘Dutch Steel’ festival that was organized in Hedon in Zwolle, which was truly a great experience. Not only from a musical perspective, but it was also very nice to see a lot of people from that period again which you hadn’t seen for a very long time. Great way to catch up and to talk about that great period in Dutch metal history. Also playing with Jack Nobelen as a guest on the Savage song ‘Starbreaker’ was a great experience, so all in all that festival proved to be an awesome party for us.

When did you start with the song writing for ‘You Are Next’ and did this process differ from the song writing for ‘Circle Of 8’? If so, in what way?
I think that the writing of the song material took us about a year or a year and a half and the recording process including pre-production started at the beginning of 2014 and was finished in August of 2015. It looks like a very long time, but as stated earlier time flies when you have a full-time job and when you need to practice the new material. The two of us are still responsible for the song writing and it takes a few iterations before the songs are actually finished. Then we still have to go through all the material with the band which makes the whole process quite time-consuming. Next to that we aren’t satisfied that easily as we want to write truly great songs only, so there’s a lot of fine-tuning done after the core of the song has been written.

What was the game plan that you had in mind when you started writing for this new album? What did you want to change and/or improve in comparison to its predecessor?
As a band Martyr doesn’t really have a fixed game plan but the recording process was done a bit differently compared to ‘Circle Of 8’, which was completely written on acoustic guitars. This time we used Protools so we recorded quite a lot at home before taking the material to the band. They could then feedback their ideas as long as these remained within the atmosphere of the song. When this process was finished we recorded the material in the studio.

The material on ‘You Are Next’ is in my opinion a bit more trash metal oriented that what you used to do in the past. Do you agree with this statement and if so, was this a natural progression or a deliberate choice?
We agree that the record is a bit more trashy than the previous one and that’s because you also get influenced by the bands that you play with on stage. In general a lot of the bands take a somewhat heavier direction, which you then start to like and which really inspires you. This phenomenon is automatically an input for the writing process of our own material and therefore the material on ‘You Are Next’ has become somewhat heavier and more trashy than the songs on ‘Circle Of 8’.

Besides the heavier approach, there’s also a lot of variety to be found in the songs on the new album. Is that something that you are deliberately looking for?
I think that you can say that we’re really looking for that as long as it isn’t a forced effort. It’s not that we need a slow tune per se when it’s not on the album, but in our writing process there’s definitely the urge to come up with lots of variety in our material. The ultimate criterion for us is that we have to really like the songs ourselves and when that’s the case, we of course hope that many people will like it as much as we do.

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The album opens with the very aggressive ‘Into The Darkness Of All Realms’, in my opinion one of the best tunes on the entire album. Is that also the reason why you decided to start the album with this one?
This track was the very first song that we wrote for this new album and we thought that it would be the perfect opener for it. It’s aggressive and trashy and it set the right tone for the rest of the material.

Who’s taking care of the little girl’s voice in the intro and the outro parts of the song?
This is the daughter of the record label manager and, although she’s just nine years old, she’s a real talent in our opinion. You’ll be surprised when you come to the album presentation on April 29th in Tivoli De Helling, because she’s going to do this live as well.

You’re also shot a video clip for this track. Why did you choose this track to create the video and how important do you think a video is still nowadays for a metal band?
A video clip is still a very important promotional tool for your album. It was a conscious choice to publish this clip about three months before the actual release of the record to start the promotional campaign for ‘You Are Next’. We believe that it’s a very representative song for the album, but we could have chosen another song for the clip as well, but this one was more or less unanimously chosen.

There are a lot of familiar faces from the metal scene featured in the clip. What was the idea behind that?
The very first idea was to have the band with as many other people as possible in a caravan, which would then at the end explode. But as we are in Holland and still very dependent on the weather, we decided to record a clip inside. There was no script whatsoever and what you’ll see in the video is the spontaneity of the people on that day. We have a very close connection to our fans and the fans are just as important as the band, there is no difference in our opinion. So we just asked them to do what they would do normally during a show and that makes the video a very spontaneous affair, a thing that’s very much represents who we are as a band.

What are in your opinion the strongest tracks on the album and why?
There’s the five of us in the band and all of us think a bit different about that! Jeffrey would definitely go for ‘Inch By Inch’, Rop’s favorite is probably ‘Souls Breathe’ and mine is ‘Monster’, because I was immediately completely overwhelmed by it from the writing process onwards. It has a very strong riff and the feeling during this song is just spot-on.

The album closer is a great cover of the Raven classic ‘Don’t Need Your Money’. Why did you decide to record a cover in the first place and why this particular one? What do you think about the end result yourself?
We were asked to provide a track for an official Raven tribute album, which will probably appear within a couple of months although the release has been postponed several times already. So we had recorded this track already for that Raven tribute, without at first having the intention to place it on ‘You Are Next’. The end result was of such a high quality level, and also John and Mark Gallagher were very pleased with our version, that we decided to add it as kind of an extra on the ‘You Are Next’ album.

Who was responsible for the album cover and what do you want to express with it?
Our previous album cover for ‘Circle Of 8’ was quite dark and mysterious, so the two of us thought we had to do something completely different and surprising for this one. Therefore we went for a more colorful artwork and we came up with this idea. Next we went looking for an artist who could do this and via an acquaintance of Rop we came in contact with Vince Ruares, who’s a comic artist, and he was responsible for the drawing of the album cover.

Why did you decide to name the album ‘You Are Next’ as there is no song with that title to be found on the record?
Last time we had a song on the album that became the title of the record, so this time we had to do it different in that area as well…haha. The title is the result of some brainstorm sessions where Jeffrey came up with the basic idea and we changed it to ‘You Are Next’.

For the production side of things you again worked with Jack Nobelen. Was this a matter of “never change a winning team”?
We can give you a very short answer on this one: yes! He’s just a great guy and also a great guitarist who’s able to help us in many ways during the recording process.

The album release show will be held in Tivoli De Helling on April 29th. What can we expect from that special show? Who can we welcome as guests during that evening?
Several of the guest performers that we have had on the album will also join us during the album release show and we’re working on putting a very attractive program together with the support acts. The first band that we have announced for that evening is Sad Iron, who have just released a great album as well. Be sure that we’re going to make a hell of a party that evening!

Martyr has been active already for a very long time, so how much fuel’s still left in the tank? What keeps you going and how do you keep your motivation up to keep the band alive?
You don’t know how we look like in the dressing room when we’ve just completed a show…haha! It all has to do with passion for the music and try to deliver everything you got to the people that visit your gigs, even when the crowd is small. People came out to see you and they deserve a good show. Furthermore we still like very much what we’re doing, we’re very passionate about that and that’s the starting point for keeping as motivated as we still are.

As stated, you’ve been around for a very long time in the Dutch scene already and are truly one of the few survivors from the early days, but what ambition level do you still have with the band?
Ambition is for us not the most important thing. Of course you have to have a certain ambition, but what’s truly important is that you have to love what you do. It’s not about sales figures, it’s not about becoming a bigger band, it’s all about having fun in what you’re doing. Keeping that attitude is our ambition…

Rick and Rop, I would like to thank you for your willingness to answer my questions. Is there any topic that we didn’t cover and that you would like to share with our readers?
Thanks for the interview and we hope that a lot of people will visit our CD release show on April 29th in Tivoli De Helling! As said it’s going to be a hell of a party…

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