Life's good for Komatsu. After the release of the 'Manu Armata' debut album extremely positive reviews followed (more on that later on) and we notice that the LP and CD sell very nicely. We gig on a regular basis and we are currently planning a European split-tour which will take us to six countries. In addition, we have released a video clip of the song 'Kamikaze' (see the end of the interview for the link). All in all: we're busy with loads of fun things and have also started writing new material.
Lady and gentlemen, would you like to introduce yourselves and tell something about the band's history?
Komatsu was formed in 2011 by (ex-)band members from various Eindhoven Rock City bands. Drummer Miriam Bekkers and guitarist/vocalist Mo Truijens came from Repomen, vocalist Erik van Schenk Brill from The Goods and bassist Martijn Mansvelders joined later and played in SQY Rocking Team at the time. In 2011 Komatsu started the promo recordings and released a self-titled six track EP. In the meanwhile the band supports Lonely Kamel (NOO) and plays at the official Queens Of The Stone Age after party in De Effenaar. In 2012 the band was selected for the Popronde and a change in the line-up takes place. Vocalist/guitarist Erik van Schenk Brill leaves the band. Guitarist Mo Truijens takes on vocal duties from that point on en a new guitarist is recruited: Stephan Quint (Motorbongo and GodsChosenDealer, among others). At the end of 2012 the band enters the studio to start recording their debut album. This is done under the expert guidance of Theo van Rock (who has worked with, among others, Tool, Rollins Band, RHCP and Ween). And in February 2013 'Manu Armata' is released on CD by Suburban and the new label Lighttown Fidelity from Eindhoven releases the vinyl version. It's an album with splendid artwork (done by Igor van Vijfeyken, Igorism) and eleven heavy, driving and melodic tracks.
Komatsu, an intruiging band name. What does it mean? I primarily come across the name on draglines.
Internationally, the word Komatsu has a couple of meanings. For example, it's a town in Japan but also a kind of tree. The band is named after a Japanese company which manufactures robust excavation machines. The sound we bring forth is overwhelming and pummelling. We want to steamroll the joint with our, at times machine like sounding, songs! One Belgian review called us the 'new Dutch steamroller' and a German review called us a 'Plattwalzmaschine', haha!
You are a young band, but have already released an EP and a full-length album. It all seems to be going quite quickly for you. The EP was self-released and 'Manu Armata' was released by Suburban. Happy with the way everything is going? And what's the reason behind speed of things?
True, it all goes speedy and prosperously. We recorded and produced the EP ourselves and self-released it. The EP was recorded at the (at the time brand new) Pop-Ei studio. Because of the EP and the glowing reviews and feedback it received Suburban noticed us and showed interest. Of course we are very happy with this step forwards. Suburban is a label with great bands on its roster and understands what Komatsu wants and what the band is about.
Even though you somehow sound as a typical Eindhoven Rock City band, you also sound totally different. What do you think is the reason for that?
To be honest, we don't know what a typical Eindhoven Rock City band sounds like. It's become an encompassing term which is used for pop bands but also to describe, for example, metal bands. It doesn't tell us a thing, it's more a sort of a label which is used by people from outside of Eindhoven. Our sound is mostly characterized by the various musical approaches from each individual band member. Our interests focus on rock, metal, sludge and stoner and we all come from riff and guitar oriented (rock) bands. This all combines into the band sound. As far as we know there isn't a single sludge band in Eindhoven that sounds like us.
The album that has just been released is called 'Manu Armata' which translates into 'armed hand' what is the idea behind it?
'Manu Armata' is Latin for 'by force of arms'. The symbolic artwork of the album fits the title of the album. We are armed with our instruments in our hand and with the eleven album tracks we as band go into battle. On the cover of the album you'll see a woman with a grenade in her hand (depicted and corrupted as a forbidden fruit) and eleven arrows (symbolizing the eleven tracks on the album). The cog wheels refer to the artwork of our EP and form a halo. So, all in all: it's artwork with a lot detail which offers a lot to discover.
Not even one and a half year after the EP we already get a full-length album. How did the recording go? Judging from my point of view I would say well-oiled, but how do you look back at it, yourselves?
During the recording process of the promo in 2011 we recorded twelve songs. We eventually used six tracks for the self-titled EP. Of the remaining six we only re-recorded 'Too Rare To Die' for our debut album. We already played this song live for quite some time and it had evolved and we played it a lot a better. So, we wanted to re-record it. The other ten songs are new songs which we started writing and playing immediately after the release of the EP. We showed the songs to producer Theo van Rock and he was enthusiastic. He gave us some pointers and we started recording in December. The basis of the eleven songs was recorded in two days. The co-operation with Theo van Rock was a pleasant one. The atmosphere was relaxed. Theo helped us with the choices to be made at the times when we almost got stuck other than that he just let us go our own way with the things we are good at.mDuring the recording Studio Stuimig followed us with a photo camera and the coverage on Studio Stuimig's website depicts the atmosphere and the entire recording process really well. (Check it out at this location.
What is the biggest difference between the recordings for 'Manu Armata' and the EP?
Especially the period of time within which the songs have been recorded. For the EP we took months of time, also due to start-up problems of the studio equipment. Before we started recording 'Manu Armata' we already had a clear vision of how we wanted the songs to sound. Some of the songs we were already so familiar with that they were recorded in one take and appear on the album as such. In addition we wanted a more open sound so that we would have more room for melody. We wanted to avoid a big mash of sound.
How have both releases been received up to now? With the EP I was of the impression that it was received extremely well over the board, but now with 'Manu Armata' I have come across some less positive ones. Any idea why this would be?
Indeed, the EP got a unanimous positive reception. We were quite startled by these positive reviews. We were pleased with the songs, but that they would be received so well we didn't expect that. Because of those reviews expectations by the press and public were higher this time around. When we released the EP no-one knew Komatsu and we were able to surprise everyone. But with 'Manu Armata' people already knew what Komatsu musically stood for and thus people are more critical towards the new album. This is allowed and also has to be the case, in our opinion. We are very pleased with the album, ourselves. The eleven songs do paint a good picture of what we are. On the EP it was a harder to give a clear picture of what we stand for with only six songs. But also there reviewers asked the question which way we would go: instrumental, more towards rock or metal?
ON 'Many Armata' we did not want to limit ourselves, we wanted it all, as longs as adhered to the 'crude', 'grooving' and 'melodic' criteria.
We are very happy with the reviews of 'Many Armata'. We only came across two reviews which weren't totally positive. All other reviews were extremely positive and full of praise. We were happy with the scores we got from authoritative magazines, newspapers and sites (Aardschok 82/100, Rocktribune 88/100, Powermetal 85/100, Up Magazine 92/100, and Lust For Life and Eindhovens Dagblad four out of five stars). Besides that there were some quotes that left no doubt at all (see here) where Komatsu are considered to belong to the top of the Dutch rock scene and which predict an international breakthrough. Eric Corton was also enthusiastic about our album on Cortonville. We are of the opinion that people will have to purchase the album themselves and listen to it to form their own opinion and image of it. But as band and consumer it is impossible to ignore reviews nowadays. For Komatsu the reviews have actually paid off quite a bit.
What are your plans for the near future? Can we expect any new material? And what about live gigs?
We have, indeed, started writing new songs and have already finished two. We are planning to release new material. Currently, we are orientating ourselves on the format for it to be released on (single or split album). In addition, 'our' booking agency SOZ Concerts is working on a European package tour. Together with an English band we want to visit some six European countries in fall. We're also part of a great line in De Effenaar, The Netherlands on July 2, 2013, we're playing there with Clutch, Red Fang and The Sword and at Geuzenpop with Monster Magnet. So, more than enough plans and when we have enough material we will release the follow-up to 'Manu Armata' But first we want to play a lot in order to promote the album, which we are very proud of.