Greetings from your northern neighbors in the Low Lands! How are things down south? Enjoying the reception of your debut? How do you feel about the final product?
We couldn’t be happier with the release of our album. We received tons of good reviews and 2017 is looking very promising. Making this album took us a lot of blood, sweat and beers - but we are extremely pleased and proud with the final result. Even now, months after writing, recording, releasing. I’m still listening to the album in my car.
Off The Cross (OTC) is still barely out of the mother’s womb. You have yet to celebrate your first anniversary! So if not in OTC, what is your background in the music business?
We all played in different bands and have different backgrounds. Steven (singer) and I (guitar) have known each other for the past decade. We’ve shared stages countless times and the two of us in a band seems like a match made in heaven. We both have different strengths but share the same ambition. Besides making music, we’re also very active in the music "business". Steven has been organizing shows and festivals for years and I am a music video director. Stef has been playing bass in different projects as well. And he’s by far the best bass player I have ever played with. In December, groove master Servaas joined us on the drums. We are all big fans of his previous band ‘Cloon’ and are honoured he’s providing us with his tight beats. Besides Off The Cross, he’s also hitting stages with nu-metal-cover-party-extravaganza: ‘Bizkit Park’ and the world's greatest RATM tribute band: ‘Bulls On Parade’.
In your biography you mention that you play loud music. And of course, I checked. I was convinced. This is Loud with a capital L. What or who are your main influences when it comes to the style of music you play?
For myself, I listen to a lot of different musical styles, all the way from pop music to death metal. Songwriting-wise, I’m mostly influenced by bands who bring a certain darkness. I love bands such as Mastodon, The Ocean, Behemoth, Gojira, whom can bring very heavy music without being aggressive the entire time. Also bands combining heaviness with orchestrations and theatrical elements have influenced me during the writing of our album. Think of Epica, Ghost, Katatonia, Moonspell. We added some organs, choirs and strings to make our sound bigger. I personally believe that edge is the thing that makes us a bit more unique.
Let’s talk about some of the themes on your debut, ‘Divided Kingdom’. Titles such as ‘Confinement Of Our Souls’, ‘Black Herd’ and of course ‘Divided Kingdom’ seem to refer to some kind of government, the tracks and the album per se seem laden with politics. What is this ‘kingdom’ and how is it divided?
Well, first of all, when I’m writing lyrics (and I think I can speak for Steven as well) we’re not writing about our personal life. It’s just not interesting enough and doesn’t fit with the music we make. We don’t exactly write the my-girlfriend-broke-up-with-me-and-it-sucks kind of music. Most lyrics are very religion-themed. ‘Divided Kingdom’ for instance is a story from the old testament. When writing the lyrics, I reflected that story and symbolism on the world we live in nowadays. People are building walls, dividing countries, left vs. right, religion vs. religion. People are blindly following others who dare to call themselves politicians and leaders. While in fact, they are just idiots who are drunk on power and feel the need to be worshipped. In two other songs, we’re talking about the same topics. ‘Black Herd’ is a song about fear. This is portrayed in the video we shot. Black side versus the white side. If you don’t indulge to one's beliefs and mindset they will just get rid of you. ‘Confinement Of Our Souls’ is about breaking free from all of that. Although our lives are much determined by lineage, financial status and further heavily influenced by media, religion or politics. We still are convinced that each individual is able to make their own choices in life if they really want to.
But beside drawing out the situation, there is also some kind of message. A prophet is introduced. There is a passenger, who experiences the whole turn of events, too. Who are they, and what is your broader message?
In our song ‘Passenger’ we’re talking about being a passenger in someone's mindset, Even if that mind is horrific and sadistic. As long as we’re passengers for long enough, we will eventually start believing those thoughts and opinions and even start cheering for them. Chorus: ‘Walk with me through my thoughts and you’ll see. They deserve nothing less.’ ‘Prophet’ deals with hypocrisy in religion again and people hiding behind those religions to carry out inhuman actions. We don’t really have a ‘broader message’. We’re not any wiser than our fans/listeners. The lyrics and topics are just the stuff that's on our mind. It’s our way of dealing with our frustrations and the darkness we feel inside.
Do you feel like music can (still) influence politics? After some little exposure and frowning eyebrows, music has always slipped back into the background – it has been depoliticized. Punk was and in some cases still is a politically-engaged style of music, but it was declared dead soon after it had become part of the mainstream rock scene or was ignored and not taken seriously. Same story with heavy metal, and particularly black metal, which caused another tiny political shock in Scandinavia. Can and should music be able to influence politics? It seems that you’re at least trying, bringing your raw music “to a fucked up world…”
To be honest, I don’t think music can have a big influence on politics. But it certainly is necessary. Music gives people the opportunity to ventilate their frustrations, feelings, opinions. It’s a way to unite with like-minded people and get people to think about certain stuff.
You are touring the Low Lands as we speak. Have any offers come from the rest of Europe? The rest of the World perhaps? Surely, the invites must be streaming in, as a fresh sound like yours is wanted all around the globe.
Like you said, we are focusing on Belgium and The Netherlands for now. But plans are being made for the rest of Europe as we speak and honestly, I can’t wait. I’m pretty sure the four of us would make a pact with the devil immediately to do this music-thing full time and play five shows a week so we can spread our music throughout the world. That’s what we’ll try to do the next months and years. Can't. Fucking. Wait.
Thank you so much for answering our most burning questions! I’ll be sure to check you guys out during one of the live rituals of utter loudness. Good luck in the future, keep surprising us, and make sure we will never be ready for you!