First of all: congratulations on your new album 'The Undercurrent'! I have listened to it a few times now and I must say that it sounds quite different from your previous album 'Irradiant' (2004), much darker and heavier. Would you agree? What are other important differences between the two albums according to you?
Thank you! I agree with your description. Where 'Irradiant' was a little more straightforward and catchy, 'The Undercurrent' is dark, complex and innovative. On a musical level, this is simply how the songs evolved after we worked on them for almost a year. It was in no way a planned process, but rather a natural flow that dictated the way this album turned out. Production-wise, we made a conscious decision to move away from the almost chirurgical sound of 'Irradiant' towards something more organic that would represent our live sound better. So we decided to record all guitars and bass at home with the help of our live sound engineer Mattias Nilsson, and let our longtime producer Daniel Bergstrand handle drum, vocal and mixing duties. Overall, 'The Undercurrent' perfectly represents Scarve anno 2007!
What do your other vocalists think of your choice to record a lot with Lawrence Mackrory (ex-Darkane) instead of them?
Lawrence replaced Guillaume who left the band, so we weren't replacing anybody against their will. But I know that both Pierrick and Guillaume are very happy with Lawrence's work on 'The Undercurrent'. The rest of the band feels the same. great on all levels, and to me, Lawrence's hard work and creativity definitely saved this album.
What will you do with Lawrence's vocal parts on tour?
Sadly enough, Lawrence is currently unavailable for live dates due to his busy personal schedule, but both he and we are open to working together in the future if possible. Our friend Arno Strobl (Carnival In Coal) will be filling in on the upcoming shows.
On 'Irradiant', the song 'Asphyxiate' was for obvious reasons already very much influenced by Meshuggah. After the tour you did with last year, it seems as if they have had an even bigger influence on your song writing for 'The Undercurrent'. Is this true?
No. I honestly don't think we sound anything like Meshuggah. Don't get me wrong, they're an amazing, unique band and a big example for Scarve on many levels. But when we write our music, we're doing our own thing. To us, 'The Undercurrent' is clearly our most accomplished album to date and one hundred percent Scarve! As for 'Asphyxiate', that song was born when Sylvain and I were jamming one day. It's built on a blues shuffle beat that we twisted into a 4/4 measure. I can see the polyrhythmic feel of the intro being somewhat reminiscent of Meshuggah, but we didn't write the song with anything special in mind; as a matter of fact, when Fredrik Thordendal agreed to record a solo for us, it just seemed like a good choice because of the groovy aspect and the long end section, and not because it sounds like Meshuggah.
Going back to that tour with Meshuggah, what was the most extreme moment on it?
That tour in itself was an extreme moment for us, haha… But I think the most intense was playing Wâldrock. We were supposed to have a day off, so we partied quite intensely the previous night. At 10am, we got a call from Tjerk Maas (our agent at Loud Noise) telling us that Black Label Society cancelled their show and that if we made it in time, we could replace them on the main stage! So we raced to Bergum, set up our stuff in ten minutes and blasted our way through our set. It was a great show, so unexpected! Then we got to hang out with some of our idols like Devin Townsend and Gene Hoglan, and to top it off I played with Soilwork an hour later… Quite an insane day, really.
I read in an interview that you guys did with us at the end of 2005 that you were actually thinking about going into the studio then for a new album. Do you remember what your plans were back then? What caused the delay?
In fact, we did go into the studio shortly after that, because I recorded my drum tracks in February 2006. The initial plan was to release 'The Undercurrent' in September of that same year, but Guillaume left the band mere weeks before the scheduled vocal recordings. To his defence, he didn't really have the choice, but of course the timing was crappy and it took us a few months to bring Lawrence in and reschedule everything. All in all, the whole process ended up pushing back the album for six months.
How important is producer Daniel Bergstrand for Scarve? You have been working with him for a long time now, have you ever thought of working with someone else? Or do you guys feel more like 'never change a winning team'?
Daniel is a fan of the band since the beginning, and that truly shows in his endless efforts for Scarve. He's become a good friend of ours too, which makes working together an enjoyable experience time and time again. We know that Daniel will always push us to deliver our best performance, and his incredible qualities as a producer definitely help in shaping the Scarve sound. When it comes to obtaining a natural, powerful, modern drum sound, no-one quite comes close to Daniel. I don't know what we'll be doing in the future, but for now, it ain't broke so we ain't fixing it!
Scarve is of course known as a very technical band, musically you guys do very interesting things to say the least. I always wonder: how important is the vocal and lyrical part for a technical band like Scarve?
Vocal lines are absolutely essential. They can make or break a song. Even though we do usually write the music first, vocals become a main focus in the studio. We spend a lot of time working out good melodies and rhythms and finding the perfect vocal placements. It's usually the singers' domain, but on our most recent albums, Daniel has put a lot of effort in helping us with that aspect. As for the lyrics, obviously we do our best to write stuff we think is good, but I assume that most people care about the music most as it is usually the case with metal. Every now and then, people will express how my lyrics have affected them, which is always a satisfying feeling.
What kind of topics do you guys address in the lyrics?
I find it essential to touch upon themes that affect me in some way or another. Some of our lyrics are futuristic and fictional, but I've also written about ecological awareness on each of our albums. Other songs are purely personal and metaphoric. In general, writing allows me to release some of my negative thoughts and moods, and I assume it's the same for Pierrick. This doesn't mean all of our lyrics are negative though. Songs like 'Senseless', 'Asphyxiate' and 'Rebirth' carry a lot of motivation to overcome some of the difficulties we face in life.
In song writing, what is according to Scarve the utmost important ingredient for a song?
We strive for each song to be a unique, inventive and memorable piece on its own. A lot of bands more or less rely on a formula that partly represents their sound. People could possibly detect that in some Scarve tracks as well, but we systematically discard anything that doesn't have an exciting new melody, hook or rhythm. Those are usually the starting points for a good Scarve song. We want our albums to twist and turn through a myriad of atmospheres and emotions, so each song has to be different from the previous one. That's at least what we try to achieve.
As said before, Scarve play very technical, not so easy to categorise, metal. How important is the technical part for a band like Scarve? What do you think of other kinds of extreme music that are maybe a bit less difficult to play (for instance true black metal, or grindcore)?
I don't believe music has to be original or difficult to play in order to be good. I totally enjoy 'basic' death metal, black metal, grindcore and the like; in fact that's what I grew up listening to. This being said, Scarve has always been a little different. When we first started out, bands like Coroner, Loudblast, Atheist, Cynic, Sepultura, Fear Factory, Death, Emperor and Morbid Angel were some of our musical references. The technical aspect isn't something we think about. We just play how we play. We like our parts to be challenging I guess… Being in Scarve has pushed me a lot as a drummer, because it allows me to express all the crazy, fast and over-the-top ideas I may stumble across. I can see why people find us technical, but as I said earlier, writing good songs is what we truly strive for.
You have been a session drummer for a very, very, long list of other bands, has this ever interfered with your work for or even dedication to Scarve?
So far, it has worked out pretty well. I co-formed Scarve fourteen years ago so we've obviously been through a lot together, and I'm very proud of the music we've created. Scarve has always been a priority in my heart and the other bands I worked with were aware of that. Recently though, I had to make a choice in regards to Soilwork. I was their session drummer for two years, and they're touring almost constantly. Both bands' schedules combined surprisingly well during that period of time, but I was constantly on the road and it just became too exhausting on a personal level. I'm not nineteen anymore, and I have a family life too, you know… I finally decided to become Soilwork's official drummer in December 2005. Since I don't want to be an obstacle for Scarve's touring plans when the new Soilwork album comes out, I won't be playing the upcoming Scarve shows; my friend Gilles Delecroix (Gronibard, ex-Aborted) will fill in for me. In my heart I'm still very dedicated to Scarve, there's no doubt about that. But sometimes you have to make a choice, no matter how difficult it is.
On a more personal level, I always wondered about your background, since Verbeuren is not your typical French surname. Do you have a Belgian or maybe even Dutch background?
You're right! I'm Belgian. I was born in Antwerp and lived there until I was twelve. Then my parents moved to Paris and that's how I ended up forming a band in France. It's a beautiful country, and even though it wasn't necessarily easy back then, I'm glad I ended up moving there.
Ok, well I think most of my curiosity has been satisfied by now, last thing I want to ask you: what are the short term plans for Scarve? Lots of touring ahead of you?
Hell yeah! 'The Undercurrent' was meant to be played live, and we'll most definitely be touring and playing a lot of new songs. A three-week European stint is in the works for September/October, and this Spring we'll appear at several festivals including Graspop (Belgium), No Mercy (in Tilburg and Antwerp), and Killer Fest & Hellfest (France). We'll do our very best to play wherever we can!
Well thanks a lot for your time and hope to see you soon somewhere near!
Thanks a lot for the in-depth interview! Make sure to check out 'The Undercurrent' and come have a blast with us on stage!