So guys, it’s time to catch up since our last interview we did in 2013 when you decided to reform. Five years later a lot has changed, especially in the line-up. Can you tell a bit more what happened there?
Tom: During the process in making a promo it became clear that Jordy (guitar) was too busy with his work. After playing a gig in Madrid, Maarten (violin) decided it was too much to spend his time properly in studying the new material to a level required to make the recordings a success. I think that it was the same issue with both Gerben (drums) and Patrick (bass). In January 2017 it was clear we could not go on like we did.
You have now returned with a new full-length album. When did you actually decide to start writing new material and was it easy to get the songs together knowing you had all these line-up changes over the years?
Tom: I started writing seriously in July 2015. I gathered some old riffs from 1993 (‘Deformation Of Humanity’), 2006 (‘Eyes On The Prize’) and 2013 (‘Desideratum’). New ideas came easily and within 4 months the guitar riffs, structures and drums were finished. Jordy pre-produced the drum tracks. I sent him the riffs and song structures and he did an amazing job in programming the drum tracks. The changes in line up did not have an effect in writing the material.
The album is released by Hammerheart Records. Was it an easy decision to sign with them as I understood you were talking to Vic Records too a couple of years ago?
Tom: We sent a promo to 40 record companies and a few had interest. After a month we decided to sign a deal with Hammerheart. We thought it was the best for Phlebotomized. It was a good decision. Their promo plan is excellent.
I must say that the album is very cool and it seems you opened all registers when it comes to the compositions. Musically you’ll hear more atmospheric stuff to downright fast and brutal death metal. The one thing that impresses me most is the way you used the keyboards. They are all over the place from piano parts to almost house-like passages. Can you tell a bit more how the compositions came together and if it was a conscious decision to use an instrument like the keyboards like this?
Tom: From the start it was clear that the album had to be diverse in brutality, atmosphere, time changes, instrumentation, emotion etc. The music came natural though. The keys always had an important role in the writing process of Phlebotomized. It is a part of the reason why Phlebotomized sounds different from a lot of other bands. This time more than ever. Rob took a lot of time and hard work in arranging his parts and choosing the right sounds. Take in mind that it took 3 years to make the album, enough time to work on it! He did an amazing job.
Rob: As Tom mentioned, I spent quite some time on the keyboard arrangements. Jordy and Tom gave me the preproduction files (guitar/drums and sometimes vocals) from the songs and in some cases Tom already had ideas for the key arrangements. I wanted to create a mix between (classical) orchestrations and 'poppy/atmospheric' synths. Another important thing I kept in mind was that I actually can play the synth parts in a live situation. So, no backing tracks for me. Choosing the rights sounds was a bit of a challenge, since the sound you use for a melody affects the overall 'feel' of the song a lot. And there are so many sound libraries available nowadays… In some songs I used sounds from the legendary Korg M1, a synthesizer that was used in a lot of music from the 80`s and 90`s. It worked very well to get that retro/vintage vibe.
You have also used some guest musicians. Can you tell a bit more about them and their role as well as the input of former violin player Maarten and guitarist Jordy?
Tom: Barbara (violin) is a colleague of mine. My work as a guitar teacher has given me a lot of contacts with great musicians, all graduated conservatory musicians. Annette is a student of a colleague who teaches classical vocals. I send a demo version of ‘Desideratum’ with a 4 part vocal arrangement and spoken words and my colleague searched for the ‘right’ voice to sing the material. Annette and Barbara did a great job. Nice to know that Annette is a fan of Opeth and Paradise Lost. Maarten wrote the violin parts of ‘My Dear,…’ and Jordy the verse riff of ‘Proclamation Of A Terrified Breed’. His role in recording the promo and pre-producing the drum tracks cannot be underestimated.
I think you recorded most of the album with Jörg Uken at the Soundlodge studio. Can you tell a bit more about the recording sessions and the cooperation with Jörg?
Dennis: We went to Soundlodge in January 2018. We recorded the base of the songs (drums, rhythm guitars and bass) in just 3 days’ time! Nowadays most bands record their parts separately, but we decided to record everything together. It really added something to the recordings. You can hear and feel the synergy you get when you play live together. It gave the album a very natural, almost organic feeling. Working with Jörg was very pleasant. We prepared ourselves as much as possible before we entered the studio and Jörg really knows his stuff, which made it possible to record so much in so little time. Most songs were recorded in just a few takes. And he is a very nice guy, we had lots of fun with him. In March 2018 we recorded the vocals, violin and lead guitars at the Prosound studio with Jan Dekker. In May we went back to Jörg for mixing and mastering everything together. Both Jörg and Jan did a great job, we are very happy with the sound of the album. It turned out exactly the way we wanted it. Brutal, heavy, but still natural sounding.
Prior to the album you did record a demo, but I think this was only used as a promotional tool right? This CD wasn’t for sale I think.
Dennis: That is correct. We took 3 songs from the pre-production Jordy made and used them to create a promotional demo. The songs on this demo are ‘Chambre Ardente’, ‘Descend To Deviance’ and ‘My Dear,…’. They differ in some details from the versions on the new album. We sent them to various labels to see if they had any interest in our new material and in signing Phlebotomized. Our deal with Hammerheart is the result of that demo. We never meant to sell them, perhaps we will sell some copies in about 25 years when we need some extra money for our pensions ;-)
Is there anything to tell about the lyrics on the album? Is there a red thread going on?
Tom: The overall theme of the lyrics is moral decay, written from different perspectives. The 2nd World War and the role the joy division played (‘Proclamation Of A Terrified Breed’), social hysteria, war, oil, deceit, media and marketing strategies, manipulation (‘Eyes On The Prize’), Christianity, profanity, the end of days because we could, can, will not run from ourselves (‘Deformation Of Humanity’), but also the hope for a better future (‘Desideratum’) and the question at the end of our lives: By whom you will be judged? If you will be judged, can you transcend to something you had never dreamed of? (‘Chambre Ardente’). Also the question: What is ‘normal’ behaviour? (‘Descend To Deviance’).
How has Phlebotomized been received by both fans and press since the return and all the reissues of earlier material?
Tom: Our reunion has been received well. The reissues are almost sold out and it is also the reason that we carried on the last few years. The original albums are pretty rare. A lot of people got their chance in buying our material for a ‘normal’ price instead of paying 30 or more euros for an item. But we couldn’t last on this basis. We needed a new album to get really back. You can‘t rely on the past forever…
To finish this interview I’d like to know if you have some bigger plans, like tours, for the near future?
Dennis: Well, 22 years between the new album and the previous album ‘Skycontact’ is a long time, we’ll just have to wait how the new album will be received. On the other hand, we really want to play live shows again. One thing we really are looking forward to is playing on Netherlands Deathfest 2019. That line-up is just insane! Regarding tours and shows in the near future we don’t have concrete plans yet. We’ll see what the future will bring us…