Hi Remco, let’s kick off this interview with some historical facts. I think three out of the four members of Graceless have been in bands together for quite some time and if I’m correct Marc (drums), Jasper (Bass) and you first started working together in 1994 when you formed Xenomorph, right? What is the current status of Xenomorph by the way?
That is almost correct. Xenomorph was formed by Ciro Palma in 1993. Me, Marc and Jasper all came in after that. The Xenomorph chapter closed in 2009.
After Xenomorph you formed Nailgun Massacre. That band also included you 3 as well as Xenomorph vocalist Peter, next to “new” guitarist Casper. Once again what is the status of that band? And in addition you left yourself in 2015. Why was that? Anything to do with your involvement in Soulburn perhaps?
I started Nailgun in 2011. The new wave of blasting death metal just didn’t suit me no more. I like to listen to it, but I don’t like to play it as much as I do old school death metal. So Nailgun Massacre was born, I finally felt home again. We made two great albums, but we split up for the same reasons Xenomorph died earlier, two captains who want to go into opposite directions. It had nothing to do with Soulburn. Soulburn came to me just as I left Nailgun, perfect timing.
So, in 2016 you decided to form Graceless. Can you tell a bit more about the formation and the idea behind it? And how would you say it is a different band compared to Nailgun Massacre?
First of all, I never stopped writing new songs, because that’s just what I do. But this time I waited till I had a complete album before I let my friends (Jasper and Marc) listen to it. The main difference to Nailgun is that Graceless is 100% no compromise; not in song writing, not in sound, not in lyrics, not in anything. It is totally what I had in mind what I think Graceless should sound like. 2nd, Nailgun was more in de vein of Autopsy / Death, and Graceless is way slower. I think it has more to do with Bolt Thrower, Obituary, (old) Paradise Lost, Black Sabbath and Asphyx. So that is a whole different approach.
Besides Marc, Jasper and you, you have also added guitarist Björn to your ranks. Can you tell a bit more about his musical past and how you got hold of him?
Of all of my former bands, and also from the guys in Soulburn, I learned that the most important thing for band is that you have to get along very well. You spend so many times together, it is like a fucking marriage. Being a good and suitable musician comes second to that. Marc heard Bjorn play several times in his former bands so he knew he could play but it wasn’t until we hung out at Graspop Metal Meeting before we got to know each other. His dedication to extreme music is exactly like ours and so is his filthy humour, so we asked him to join the horde…and he did! Listen to the leads on ‘Shadowlands’, his style fits the band perfectly.
Now your first album ‘Shadowlands’ is out and it seems you haven’t recorded any demos. At least no demos that were publically available. So, did you actually record any demos or did you go straight for a full-length recording?
Straight full length. I did not see the need for a demo.
Where did you actually record the album and did it take long to finish everything?
All recordings are done by Jan Willem van Voorst. He is the sound engineer of Soulburn (and many other bands like Asphyx, God Dethroned, Bodyfarm, Bleeding Gods etc.). He offered to do it, and I know his skills, so we went for it! And he is a great guy to work with, and that makes everything lot more easy. Drums where recorded in our studio in Leiden, the rest in the home studio of JW. It took ages because everybody went on a holiday after the drum recordings in June. And I was very busy with Soulburn. It wasn’t before September that we could work on it again. We just finished the damn monster at November 11th.
”Shadowlands” is released by the fairly new Dutch label Raw Skull Recordz. They focus on old school death metal, so you could say it’s a match made in hell. How did you get in touch with them? I assume you came to an agreement before you actually recorded anything right?
Raw Skull Recordz offered us a deal before he heard a single note! How is that for confidence?! Rai is such an enthusiastic guy, and I need that around me. I rather have small label dedicated to what I love (death metal!), than to be last in line at a major. So fuck yeah, that is a match made in hell!
Listening to the album it is clear it’s classic style death metal and you can hear influences of bands such as Bolt Thrower or Gorefest. It seems you don’t care too much about originality and you simply want to write killer death metal songs. Can you tell a bit more about the idea behind Graceless and what bands inspired you to begin with?
That is spot on. Trying to re-invent metal is not my cup of tea, never was. It is all about the music I love. And I love Black Sabbath, Bolt Thrower, Paradise Lost, Obituary, Coffins, Asphyx etc. Primitive (death) metal bands that are all about atmosphere and writing killer songs, not killer sweeps and acrobatic beats. I want our fans to bang their heads or start a fucking mosh pit, not admire my skills or my fancy outfit. Fuck that shit!
You have done quite a few shows already even without any music available. I think you decided to do a couple of try-out shows to get things started but it seems people started to talk about you guys fairly quickly resulting in more gigs. How do you look back on this first run of shows?
I wanted us to feel how the songs would sound as a band, and you have to do that live. I told my brothers that probably no one would show up, and that’s okay, because we knew the cause and the goal…..but it was fucking packed most of the times! It worked out great, we got very good responses. Almost every gig led to another one, and we had a lot of fun playing the new songs.
I first saw you guys at Baroeg in Rotterdam, which was your third show if I’m correct. It was an impressive gig I must say and I was overwhelmed by your vocals. As far as I know you haven’t done vocals before, so what made you decide to take on this role within Graceless?
Thank for very much for the compliment. That was our third gig yes. I am still a little shy when it comes to the vocal part. I’m just not a natural born frontman / vocalist. Like my buddy Twan in Soulburn for example. In the early 90s I started in a band called Abscess. I was the vocalist there as well, and I did backing vocals in Xenomorph, but other than that no…never. So it was more like a try out, and I let Marc and Jasper decide if it was good enough. Luckily I passed the test.
The artwork on “Shadowlands” is pretty fucking cool too. It was done by Mark Cooper. Can you tell a bit more about the cooperation with him?
I loved his artwork for a very long time. He is so talented and has a unique style. There hangs an old school vibe around this painting that we really loved. A bit in the vein of the legends of the past; Entombed, Dismember, Morbid Angel.
I think I covered everything here. Anything else you might want to add?
I want to thank you and Lords of Metal for the interview and the interest in Graceless. We hope every old school death metal maniac will find his, or her, way to our debut album. See you on the road!!! Cheers, Kreft