Hi Rick, about a year and a half ago, your most recent long player ‘You Are Next’ saw the light of day. It gained good reviews from press and fans from all over the globe. My colleague Sjak Roks did an extensive interview with you and singer Rop van Haren back then. What happened since the release of the ‘You Are Next’ album?
Yes, I remember the interview and review. That was awesome to have so much positive feedback, not only by Lords Of Metal, but as you said the review and positive response came from everywhere. We mainly spent time promoting ‘You Are Next’ by interviews, radio promotion and doing a lot of live shows here in the Netherlands but also many abroad. We toured Greece, played Portugal next to the obvious countries like Germany and Belgium on a frequent base. Next to headlining shows and festivals we had some awesome support opportunities with Saxon, Trivium, Raven, Vicious Rumors and Manilla Road for example We released the album also in Japan on Edge Trax were it was received very well too, so I think you can say ‘You Are Next’ opened many and new doors for the band.
The main reason for having this chat is Martyr’s 35th anniversary, which means the band started back in 1982. What were your personal highs and lows throughout the years?
Let’s start positive. I think there are many personal highs, more than lows otherwise we wouldn’t still be here right ? Maybe that is the most important thing we achieved in this career. We are still here, stubborn as we are, but 35 years further and still having the time of our lives. Personal highs are the release of the first album ‘For The Universe’ (1985). You know when you are like around average seventeen years old as a band and you have your own album coming out in a time where not that many Dutch metal bands did have albums was quite unique. I remember staring at that album cover for hours being proud as hell. Every release was a stunning moment, also the ‘You Are Next’ release as we worked on that one for quite a long time. Regarding live shows I think I need to mention our reunion shows Keep It True but also out 30th anniversary in Tivoli or the release party of ‘You Are Next’. Damn that was cool.
A lowlight in our career was our split in '87 and mainly the reason why. But we learned from it, don’t let anyone tell you what to do when it comes to song writing but follow your own path. Always do what YOU wanna do. It just doesn’t work when you are not 200% behind it.
The band will be celebrating their anniversary on Friday September 22nd in P60, Amstelveen / Holland during the first day of the Heavy Metal Maniacs Festival. I suppose this show will be a special one, unlike other “genuine” Martyr gigs. What can we expect from this one, Rick?
Of course there will be surprises but we are working on them as we speak, so I cannot tell everything yet. There will be special guests that will perform with us and we will do a mix of new and old classics. It will be a spectacular show but as always we will involve the audience. We will have a film crew with us shooting footage for a MARTYR special which will be on local TV but also on the internet, YouTube, Facebook and other social media. So to everyone that is coming: Let’s Get Crazy !
That really sounds nice! If you’re a metal head you’re either foolish or stupid when you decide not to buy yourself a ticket for this show. On September 22nd, Martyr is supported by Elise and Saber Tiger (Japan). I suppose Elise is already an established name for our Dutch readers, I even interviewed Elise drummer Rieks Vogelzang a few years back, but Saber Tiger might be an unknown force for them. Could you introduce the band to our readers?
Saber Tiger might be Japans best kept secret when it comes to Japanese metal for us Europeans. I know the guys and the band for a while know. They are such damn fine musicians with astonishing skills and excellent song writing. Fantastic guys as well. Saber Tiger is based in Sapporo and played with MARTYR before in June 2016. Shortly after, the band signed with Into The LimeLight Records, finally giving them the chance to present their top quality material to a worldwide audience. That means the rest of the world can finally find out what Japanese metalheads have known for a long time: Saber Tiger might just be the best heavy metal band that Japan has to offer.
Martyr’s record company Into The LimeLight Records has recently released ‘Halos And Glare’, a compilation box set by Saber Tiger. You are A&R manager for the label so could are you willing to tell me more about this particular release?
This release of the compilation box is mainly for Europe. As we want to bring the European metal fans all that Saber Tiger has to offer. Saber Tiger want to get a bigger fanbase here and honestly with so much extremely good material you cannot make a choice in their discography haha. So why not put four albums out at the same time. Next to that this is also again unique for their fan base in Japan. So in that case we immediately have a market over there as well. Call it win–win.
The 35th anniversary show is scheduled on the Friday of the annual Heavy Metal Maniacs festival. The festival was one of the reasons for Martyr to reunite after a few years of absence in 2001. Might I assume the Heavy Metal Maniacs are an important part of the band’s history?
Hell Yes. We are part of the family. In fact MARTYR are also baptized as Heavy Metal Maniacs. The Maniacs are not only loyal and true followers but also friends We see and meet each other also outside our own concerts. But you know that is also something special within MARTYR. We are just also metal freaks and music lovers ourselves so we do visit a lot of shows, festivals ourselves too and drink beer (or Jagermeister) and party with the fans. We find it nothing special, just normal, but we notice that our fans really dig it.
A few days after the Heavy Metal Maniacs Festival, Martyr will travel to Japan to perform with Saber Tiger (among others). Could this be seen as an exchange project between Saber Tiger and Martyr? If so, how did the cooperation start?
It is not really and exchange project, either way I wanted to have them here. And Edge Trax wants us there. Of course for us it is great to play with Saber Tiger as they are well known in Japan so that gives it extra attention. But we also do a festival without them where we are headlining in Tokyo. But yes of course you can say we build up a relationship this way and have a lot of mutual respect. It is difficult for a Japanese band over here without guidance, so me and Harm Kindt (owner of Into The Limelight Records) guides Saber Tiger when they are here and their manager does the other way around.
In Japan, Martyr will play three shows: two of them in Tokyo and one in Sapporo on the Hammer Ball 2017 festival. What are your expectations from this tour?
It is a dream come true. Since I was a teenager my dream was to walk through Tokyo with a guitar case in my hand haha. MARTYR is strongly influenced by Japanese metal in the 80’s. Name bands like of course Loudness, but also X-Ray, Bow Wow, Earthshaker and Anthem. They were our favourites. I also expect an amazing culture shock, maybe not so much with the shows but visiting all that (we think is) crazy stuff that Japan has to offer, like the maid cafes, idols, punctuality, kawaii culture and the extremely amount of superb food that we need to taste haha. The clubs we are playing are real cool metal clubs and I am sure also the Japanese will be surprised by our live show. It might be totally surprising for them as I think they are kind of shy and us being quite interactive with the crowd might be scary hahaha.
Are you going to record the Japanese shows for possible future live audio or video releases?
That is the idea yes. We hope to record the shows and see if we can use it for a future live release. But we will not have that idea of “we are being recorded, so let’s play real good and tight and not move” overrule our show if you know what I mean. We will give 200% and rather make that impression on a great live performance and leave the fans totally amazed than hitting every note the right way.
You once told me, performing in Japan was one of the main objectives to start Martyr way back in the Eighties. You might say: mission accomplished soon! Any new goals for Martyr after returning home?
Oh yes, our focus has been on promoting ‘You Are Next’ last year and a half. Now our focus is the 35th anniversary show and Japan and we have some more very interesting offers. But late 2017, early 2018 I expect me and Rop (vocals) to work on new material. We already started a bit but in a very early phase. We need to get this done too as, as Rob always says, being creative is one of the most pleasurable things of being in a band, being a musician. Working from scratch until the release of a product like a song or an album is a beautiful process.
OK, let’s wrap this one up. Do you have anything to say or add to this interview?
It is obvious that I hope P60 on September 22nd will be packed. That a lot of our fans and friends will join us for this milestone as it is a milestone. How many Dutch metal bands are there that can say the same and still have the majority of the band being original members? It is an honour for us that we have so many loyal fans old and new ones, young and old of age. And the last few years the band is doing better than ever too, so all I can say is a BIG BIG thanks for that continuous support ! So for now, stop this interview and lets drink some Jägermeister! Cheers to y’all!