Thank you both for making time available in your busy schedules to answer some of my questions. I was deeply impressed by your new album ‘Take Me Home’, for me it was even better than your, already great, debut album!
Ruud: Thanks, that’s awesome!
Can you tell me a bit about how the two albums came to life?
Ruud: I think that I started with the first album in 2006, I was part of Within Temptation for some years already, which was and still is really cool, but I noticed that I felt the need to do something musically different. I had already recorded a number of albums that I’m very proud of, but I also wanted to create a solo album, without any concessions. My primary goal was to create the album and my secondary goal was to do it in a way that wouldn’t cost me any money, only time and calories as I say. In 2011 I released the first album and succeeded in both my goals. I remember that we recorded all the drums already in 2009 and that it still took two years for the album to come out. It took some time to finish the album because we were releasing a new album with Within Temptation and, during the same period, I also started with Maiden United, and also because I am not easily satisfied. I’m not sure when exactly we started working on the second album, I think we had some sporadic moments here and there.
Wudstik: One of the songs we had lying around for some time, ‘Some Will’ I believe, we even had recorded a video for it in my old place.
Ruud: Oh, that’s right! I remember that in the Outro it said “2014” (laughing), we were a bit optimistic back then.
Wudstik: I think it was early 2014 when it was clear that we were going to do another album. We are both very busy so it just takes a long time. We had a few songs that were ready for quite some time, like ‘Some Will’ and ‘Fade Away’, and I remember visiting Ruud at some point and he had recorded a lot of new songs from out of nowhere! From 2015 on we started working on the new album more seriously.
What would you say are the biggest differences between the two albums?
Ruud: I think this album is a bit more extreme than the previous one, the softer parts are softer, like ‘Some Will’, the harder songs are harder, like ‘Prophets In Disguise’. On the first record we didn’t have any real riffs, I find it hard to write riffs because with every one of them I would think ‘I’ve heard it before’, but then Wudstik said that a riff can also be there to support the song. I mean, it needs to sound good on its own, but can still serve the song. I will never forget that. So, then I came up with the riff for ‘Prophets In Disguise’.
Wudstik: That was actually the last song we’ve recorded.
You say that the two of you have worked more closely together on Take Me Home compared to the debut album, what does that look like?
Ruud: The first album is mainly written by me, some vocal lines and the first song ‘Blind Me’ were Wudstik’s. I remember listening to that song on Myspace, it was called ‘Net Als Ik’ and had Dutch lyrics, but I really liked it. So, I asked Wudstik if he was doing anything with it and, when he said he wasn’t, I asked if I could have it for the album.
Wudstik: I remember that! It’s a mysterious track that was meant to be on an EP with similar sounding songs, it would be called ‘Deus Ex Machina’, but it never came to life.
Ruud: On this album we worked more closely together because I really enjoyed our collaboration on the first album. Everything was already done then and I noticed that vocal lines didn’t end up the way I had envisioned them, so Wudstik would come up with a different one. With this record, however, I still had ideas about the vocal lines, but I wanted to know his input before I presented him with my ideas. Nine out of ten times we picked his ideas, only on a few occasions I preferred my own ideas.
Wudstik: Yeah, Ruud would leave for a moment and I would try some things out and, when he came back, I would have some ideas. I remember that we were working on ‘We Are The Light’, which didn’t have any lyrics or vocal lines, and I just tried some melodies and sang ‘we are the light’, so we basically wrote the whole lyrics for that song around that one sentence. But most of the time we worked with each other on a distance, because we don’t really live close to each other. Ruud would send me an instrumental demo, without vocals, and he would say ‘just do something’. On my part I had worked on some things as well, like ‘Fade Away’, I came up with the verse and chorus and Ruud wrote the lyrics for it. It’s really great if you can work with someone that you know will get things done right.
The first album wasn’t a conceptual album, but did contain a returning theme, what about this one? I couldn’t figure it out from the lyrics but it has all the signs of one! Conceptual albums usually have songs like ‘overture’, ‘reprise’, etc…..
Wudstik: ‘Breathe- in’, ‘Breathe- Hold’, and ‘Breathe-out’?
(they both start laughing – Ruud and Wudstik are looking at each other for a moment)
Ruud: Well…. I don’t think we can say, with a straight face, that we’ve intentionally created a conceptual album here.
Wudstik: It’s a shame that we didn’t start with the idea though because it does feel like one.. but it isn’t.
Ruud: Yeah, let’s just say that, like the first album, there is a theme, some recurring melodies and even the artwork has references, even to the first album. The terms Breathe-in, breathe-hold and breathe-out are also used in meditation, let’s just say that during the end of last year, when we were writing the lyrics, I was dealing with a small depression. Although it’s cliché, I still think it is, if you’re a ‘tormented artist’ the creative doors just open up. Writing lyrics works therapeutically.
Wudstik: ‘Prophets In Disguise’ is written during the Trump campaign, and I thought about the fact that Trump is the guy who moves mountains and spreads fear by firing blanks. Trump basically came on the news every day and I just wanted to write a song about it. Since we had one more hard song to finish I took the opportunity to write about that. It’s actually the only politically oriented song we’ve done.
Are you trying to avoid writing about political subjects?
Ruud: Yes, I do try to avoid that. It does have to do with the fact that I barely watch the news and don’t read papers, I don’t know what’s going on. The reason why I don’t know what’s going on is because I just get sad about situations that I have no influence on. I’ve had times where I would read the news online while eating breakfast, but even before I finished my meal I’d be sad, and my day still had to start! So, I don’t read any newspapers and I’ve cancelled my TV subscription, I still watch TV but only things like Netflix or I play some video games. Some news I read through Facebook, like the recent terrorist attack in Barcelona. Whether it’s a terrorist attack or if I read about a plane that crashed in Colombia, with so many deaths, it’s just horrible… but I can’t do anything about it. I do vote and follow the elections because I can have influence there. Or so I’ve been told.
Wudstik: I know many artists who use the news as a source of inspiration. I also don’t have a TV subscription anymore.
Is there a song on the album that you like the most?
Ruud: No man, I hear musicians often say that it’s like picking a favorite child and, although it might sound strange, it really feels like that. All songs have their story, all were made with love, there aren’t any fillers on the album. There’s only one song that didn’t make the cut, not because it wasn’t good but because it didn’t fit too well with the other songs on the album, it was an instrumental song that we are now placing on the Japanese edition as a bonus track.
Wudstik: I always listen to the second track and the last one (Breathe out), because I feel that my vocals sound the best there. For example, it took me a long time to agree with the chorus of ‘The Big Wheel’, it felt like I wasn’t sounding aggressive enough. I am now in agreement with everything, but it took me some time.
What did the recording process look like when all the songs were finished?
Ruud: Drums were recorded at the Sandlane Recording Facilities. When I need drums I always go there, I know the owner well. I let Léo fly out from Sweden on a Sunday and we had Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and optionally Thursday to record the drums. On Tuesday around 6pm we only had a few songs left, so Jos, the engineer, proposed to push through and record everything. Léo is such a great drummer to work with, so skilled, and was fine with continuing for a bit longer. By 10pm everything was done and we ordered a ‘kapsalon’. My girlfriend from Finland happened to be in town, so the next day I treated them on a day in the Efteling! That’s actually the only thing that I’ve recorded in a studio, afterwards I recorded all the guitars at my home studio. With the previous record I recorded all the guitars in a studio, with real amps, this time I did it all with Axe-Fx and you really can’t hear the difference. When I was done I sent it all to Kristoffer who recorded all the bass guitar parts at home, piano was recorded at Marco’s studio, Thijs and Wudstik came to me to record their parts. Then we sent it to Tom Sikkers, who mixed the album and he sent it to Jesse Klaasse, a good friend of Tom, who did the mastering.
You have successfully done an Indiegogo campaign, 143% of your set target, to cover for the financial side of making an album, what made you decide to do this?
Ruud: In the past I always felt that it was a bit ‘cheap’ to do crowdfunding. On the other hand I have talked with a lot of people who have also done this, successfully, and it has changed the way I think about crowdfunding. Basically I see it as a form of pre-sale, which I have always done with Maiden United and the first CD, the biggest difference is that you can put together a lot of perks that allow you to offer other things than just the album. As long as you can deliver something of value to the fans I’m happy.
I believe that Marillion also funded their albums that way
Ruud: Yes, Marillion were the ones who started it, I think. Mark Kelly, the pianist, he basically thought ‘why wouldn’t we let our fans fund our music’, he then talked with the guy from Kickstarter and realized it. I recently read this in an interview, funny enough. I could be wrong, but I see a label more as an expensive loan and you can only hope that they give you as much attention as they give to the bigger bands, where they will earn most of their money with. Plus, the promotion, where a label can be interesting for, can also be outsourced or do it yourself, so in that sense I don’t see the value in it, for a group our size.
Can you tell us a bit about the perks that people could choose from on the Indiegogo campaign?
Ruud: We still need to do an acoustic performance, which was sold, that’s really nice to do. Other than that we offered some nice backstage passes of old Within Temptation gigs, handwritten lyrics, a golden record of Within Temptation and an old demo from my first band from around 1991. And of course some CD’s, T-shirts and that sort of stuff.
On the song ‘We Are The Light’ we can hear the beautiful voice of Anneke Van Giersbergen, was it always the intention for that song that she would participate?
Ruud: Not at all, actually it was Wudstik’s idea!
Wudstik: Oh, right, that’s true! I was listening back to the demo I recorded and said to Ruud ‘You know… I can hear Anneke sing this’.
Ruud: On the previous album we had many guests and I didn’t want that for this album, but when he suggested Anneke I thought it was a good idea. Of course we recorded a version with only Wudstik’s vocals, which might be a bonus song somewhere at some point.
The artwork of both albums was designed by Ana Correal, and looks amazing, how did you find out about her work?
Ruud: I once placed a message on my MySpace page that I was working on a solo album and I received some tips from people that say ‘you really need to check out this artist’! So, at one point I got this link to Anna’s portfolio and I really loved her work! Based on lyrics and ideas from me she worked on it and she came up with the artwork, so we did the same for this album. We made some changes along the way, the curtains for example were a different color.
Wudstik, you have recently released a song with Rät N FrikK, “Door Hemel En Hel”, which basically is EDM, how did you roll into that?
Wudstik: I grew up with a lot of those kind guys, so it makes it easier to get in touch with people. Cloud 9, where Rät N FrikK are connected to, is a publisher that I did some work for in the past. At some point your network is big and you get invited to releases, there you sometimes talk with people who will ask you if you’d like to work together at some point in time. Even though we wouldn’t play each other’s music we respect and appreciate the music we make.
What’s next in your agenda’s?
Ruud: Well, we will both be teaching again, we’ll need to work on an acoustic EP, that we promised to make if we reached the stretch goal on indiegogo, and we are also both going to play in Carré with Maiden United on January 27th!
Wudstik: Yeah, I give singing classes in Spakenburg and I also give ‘discipline classes’ at the Herman Brood Academie. I only teach about one day a week so I have a lot of time to write music. Currently I’m working on a fourth solo album where I will go back to my hip-hop roots, no rapping! I’m also writing songs for publishing ends, like Kinderen Voor Kinderen and Sanne Hans, which is really great.