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De Nederlandse formatie Asrai kende eindelijk een doorbraak met het vorige album 'Touch In The Dark'. Na vele concerten boog de band zich over het schrijven van nieuw materiaal en kwam met het uitstekende 'Pearls In Dirt' op de proppen. In een krachtige productie van Sascha Paeth toont de band hier haar vele gezichten en leert ons dat het begrip “gothic” heel breed kan zijn, zeker als de invloeden teruggaan tot in de jaren tachtig. Het was dan ook hoog tijd om met de band te praten over alles wat er gebeurd is sinds ons vorige gesprek in 2004.

Door: Vera | Archiveer onder gothic metal

band imageWhen you read this you just did an acoustic gig in Belgium. I guess that's quite a different experience. Was it a nice one?
It felt like standing butt-naked on stage. It was the first time that we did something like an acoustic set. We had to do it our own way. So 'Restless' was totally acoustic, but some electricity had to be involved. The rest of the set we played, back to basic “Tune Down”. Although it felt good to be back to basic, we had to make the conclusion that we're not an acoustic band... It has to Rock!

Your previous album 'Touch In The Dark' was released in 2004. What were the most important things you achieved since then?
We love doing our gigs and tours. Especially the tour we did in Mexico was great. It deepens the unity in a way of playing together with all ups and downs. (play-wise and mentally). Further on winning the Essent Award of Dutch bands in 2005. And of course getting signed by Season of Mist and recording and releasing our next album: 'Pearls in Dirt'.

What were the highlights on the live front during the latest years?
Getting to different places like the UK, Spain, France, Germany, Mexico. Discovering that every country had his own identity and charm on the metal and gothic scene. Every gig is a highlight when there's an enthusiastic audience. Working with a good crew and when the other bands, playing that evening are great. It's important to have a good time with each other. You can notice the reflection of that energy on the audience. Like the gigs we had in Germany: Dutch Gothic Metal Night, Belgium: Metal Female Voices Fest 3, Mexico: The Grand Forum. And so on.

Then it was time to write some new songs, eventually resulting in the 'Pearls In Dirt' album. When did you start writing and are there significant differences in the writing process this time?
After doing a lot of gigs it became time to think about recording a next album. We had some ideas and we worked on it. We can't recall the exact time when we started writing the songs. It is a while ago, with in mind that at first we would release the album at our former label. 'Touch In The Dark' was the first album we recorded with a producer. It opened our eyes for approaching and making music in a different way. The songs on 'Pearls In Dirt' therefore sound more mature. 'Touch In The Dark' gave us steady bases for creating new songs. Working on 'Pearls In Dirt' with Sascha Paeth as a producer was very good and inspiring. This time we did a pre-production. That was a big difference regarding recording 'Touch In The Dark'.

I want to emphasize again that you are not a typical gothic band, but you are rooted in new wave and eighties rock/punk. Do you attract the usual gothic crowd or is the audience quite diverse?
The audience is quite diverse (also in ages). Asrai isn't a typical metal, rock or whatever band. It seems to suit everybody in a way.

Can you tell a bit more about the lyrics this time?
The lyrics are about every day's life. The sorrow and the joy... Explaining a bit more about the lyrics of our single 'Sour Ground': it has been written after the Tsunami, realizing the loss of everything and how to go on after a disaster like that, nation wise. Moved by a comment of a little boy, who was so sad that the sea what he loved the most, took the most.

On November, 5th the album will be preceded by a single 'Sour Ground'. Why did you choose this one and can you tell a bit about the making of the video clip if any is planned?
From the beginning 'Sour Ground' felt like a good song for a single. In the end it became more difficult to choose one because more songs could be a single. In the end we made a mutual decision with our producer Sascha Paeth and our label Season of Mist... it had to be 'Sour Ground'! We did make some plans for shooting a video clip. Marcel de Jong wanted to do so, we just heard that due circumstances he can't do the clip. So at the moment we're looking for an artist.

What music do you like to listen to nowadays? Are there new bands which impressed you?
Still we like our old time favourites. It's nice to notice that there are more and more bands coming up with good music. We discovered some by touring, bands like Skunk DF (Spain, we didn't had the chance to see them live), we were playing at the same evening in almost the same venue, separate by a tin wall. The rest of the tour their album didn't leave our CD player. In Mexico we met and played together with the Canadian band The Birthday Massacre. They are very nice people who make catchy music, with a very energetic live show. Also though our booker Henk from Vain Productions we discovered some good bands like: Kill The Thrill (Also on Season Of Mist) and Angtoria. And of course the internet sites like myspace add a lot of new bands to our favourites like Dopestars Inc., Deathstars, Scream Silence, and Death Stars Assembly, etc. And not to forget, through magazines we get curious to bands like Dragons, really good music. Recently we saw them live and were touched by their music and live performance.

A European tour will follow. Do you have any details on this?
The upcoming two months we will do several shows in Holland, Belgium and Germany. 'Pearls In Dirt' will be released in thirty-six countries. So there are several options to go to. At the moment we're working on a tour in February. We can't give you all the details yet, but we're planning to come to: France, Spain and Switzerland. So check our website: for all dates.

You changed label from Transmission Records to Season Of Mist. Can you tell the story behind this?
At first we wanted to release our album at Transmission Records. Plans were made and songs been written. And we started with the pre-production. Sadly enough it became clear that Transmission Records wasn't sure to be able to release our next album. So we decided that it was time to start looking for a new record company. We had several companies in mind and contacted some of them. One of them was Season Of Mist. At a festival we met our former label mate Sander. He mentioned that Season Of Mist was a good label and maybe suitable for us. (He was right). We deepened our contact with Season Of Mist, resulting in a deal and the release of 'Pearls In Dirt'.

The album was produced by Sascha Paeth. This was another new experience for you. Please tell me about the recordings of 'Pearls In Dirt'?
We met Sascha trough Transmission Records. They worked close with Sascha Paeth and Amanda Somerville. We got to know them well, while working on 'Touch In The Dark'. We were very pleased what he did in the final mix for 'Touch In The Dark'. By the time that we wanted to work on new material, Sascha was our first choice for doing the production. Although Sascha is very busy, he wanted to work with us again. When we did our show at Paradiso, Sascha saw us playing live. He felt the live energy of the band and wanted to translate that to our new album. So plans were made and we started with the pre-production. Right before we wanted to book the studio it became clear that Transmission wasn't able to do release the album. When we're signed by Season Of Mist we got all the possibilities to do the recording that we had in mind. And we were very lucky with that, although they were very busy and had a demanding agenda; everybody did their best to get us scheduled. So as with the recording of 'Touch In The Dark”, we went to Excess studio in Rotterdam. Most of the recording was done by Hans Pieters. We also went to the Gate Studio in Germany to record some additional stuff. Amanda and Sascha are a great team together, working hard and having a good time. That sure had a positive reflection on the band. While mixing 'Touch In The Dark' it became clear to us that Sascha really felt the meaning of our music. That's a great value in working together. It's not easy to describe what we mean without sounding mushy. But he's a great person, working hard and with a great taste in music. Pretty demanding and not afraid getting you to sweat! So we did, and again learning a lot from his approach to our music. We worked very close together and therefore the album became very intense and personal. As it should be.

Who did the artwork and can you go into details?
Our personal “Burning Heart Tattoo Haarlem” artist Beer Delsman did the artwork of 'Pearls In Dirt'. He also did the cover art of our first album 'As Voices Speak'. We wanted a mixture between gothic lifestyle, tattoo art with a twist of humour. Roses have a long history in tattoo art. It also stands for spirituality. And on this cover it's a link to our former album 'Touch In The Dark' as well. We like roses, especially mixed with the new school skulls (some sweet aggression). The cover of our single 'Sour Ground' was made by Marcel de Jong, who also did our video clips: 'Pale Light' and 'In Front Of Me”.

What are the plans for the near future?
Being on stage a lot!

What is your biggest wish for the upcoming period?
We'd like to reach and touch people by our music.

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