sobota 5. září 2020

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Interview - THANATOS - For album Violent Death Rituals I wanted to bring back the dark, evil atmosphere.

Interview with death/thrash metal legendary band from Netherlands - THANATOS.

Answered Stephan Gebédi, thank you!

Translated Duzl, thank you!

Questions prepared Jakub Asphyx.

Recenze/review - THANATOS - Violent Death Rituals (2020):

Ave THANATOS! Greetings to Holland and I hope you are doing well. Do you know what is interesting? I listen to a lot of bands, I have been following not only the death metal scene for over thirty years and I am still such an enthusiastic fan. You actually release albums only occasionally, when the time is up and you always kick my ass every time! I don't know how you do it, but the new "Violent Death Rituals" is excellent record again! How do you feel about it after some time, what fans say about it? 

Hi Jakub, thanks for your nice words. Obviously it makes me feel good that so many people, fans and press, like our new album and are even saying it’s our best album so far. In fact it’s the only response we’ve been getting because we sadly we cannot go out and play the songs live for our fans…like anyone else of course. Since 2004 or so I try to approach every album like it could be our last one, so better make it a good one, so people will remember us from our last album, haha.

I have to ask why it took THANATOS so long (six years) to release a new album? Was it due to personnel changes? Stephan, you're actually the only original member of the band. Does that mean you're the main composer? And how is Paul involved in composing? Is your approach different in any way from, for example SIEGE OF POWER or as it was in HAIL OF BULLETS? 

First of all, I was never in Siege of Power or any of these other Asphyx-related side projects. The only other band I had apart from Thanatos was of course HAIL OF BULLETS. But let’s get to your question. The first 2 years after the release of our previous album, Global Purification (2014), Paul and I were very busy with Hail of Bullets; we replaced original singer Martin van Drunen with Dave Ingram so a lot of time went into rehearsing the old stuff with Dave and we even started working on new HoB songs. Then in 2017 Hail of Bullets collapsed because of some personal issues. We wanted to concentrate on Thanatos again, but then our drummer started suffering from a foot injury again and had to quit drumming. We found a new drummer, Martin Ooms and started rehearsing with him in September 2017. Early 2018 we started playing live with him. In 2018 we started to work on new songs and 1 year later we were ready to record a new album. So the song writing only took one year actually. Meanwhile we also switched record labels. Normally I write most of the songs. For this album I wrote 5 songs, Paul wrote 3 and Martin wrote 2 songs. Normally we write a rough version of a song individually at home and then we come together to add our own ideas and extra details.

I must say that the sound literally grounded me. You visited Dan Swanö again. I am literally fascinated by how this maniac can always do a different job. There are a huge number of bands who recorded with him, and each has a different, original sound. THANATOS sounds old school, but at the same time perfectly legible, cool and dark. With what feelings and ideas did you go to the studio and what were your requirements? Tell us something about your cooperation. 

As a band we had a really clear vision how we wanted to sound like. As you said we are an old school band but we don’t want an 80’s retro sound or anything like that. We want a heavy, contemporary sound which sounds organic and honest but that can compete with modern productions. We more or less produced the album ourselves and then Dan stepped in for the mix. I have been working with him since the first Hail of Bullets EP in 2007 and it’s always cool and easy to work with him. For Violent Death Rituals I wanted to bring back the dark, ‚evil‘ atmosphere that we had on our 2nd album ‚Realm Of Ecstasy‘ and that was missing on our later album. I think we succeeded and I think Dan did his best job so far on a Thanatos album. The album sounds like we had hoped it would, so no complaints here.

I really like old bands that they don't underestimate the basics, like a good cover. Roberto Toderico did a great job on the new album. I am one of the lunatics who not only collects music media, but also T-shirts. I just need this motive! It reminds me the gate to the underworld! It fits perfectly to the music! How did you get together with Robert and how did you choose the motif? Reminiscent of old covers for death metal records. A beautiful classic. 

Yeah, #MeToo, haha. I like album covers where you can look at and discover new details everytime. We have worked with Roberto Toderico before for a t-shirt design. Last year at Party.San Open Air we drank quite a few beers together and I asked him to do our new album cover. In September 2019 I went to Prague for a few days and I visited some old churches and cathedrals. When I looked at some of the art in those churches, I write liked the detailed wooden panels with multiple detailed sculptures and depictions. I told Roberto I needed something like that with 3 panels depicting scenes from the lyrics; we chose 3 different death rituals that are mentioned in the title song. I think it turned out fuckin awesome! And it looks great on shirts as well.

Stephan, did you write all the lyrics for the new record? When I read them, I think that I would really like to know where you get inspiration for them? They seem really dark to me. Cold and cruel, just like death metal and thrash should be. How did they originate? 

Yeah I wrote them all. They come quite natural as I really hate the world we’re living in right now; people are being manipulated and indoctrinatred by the media, the government and of course organised religion. People are afraid to speak their minds, people are spying on each other on social media and in real life and with all the political correctness going on it’s getting worse and worse. It really pisses me off and even when you try to get away from it and avoid the news, you’re still confronted with all the bullshit every day. Sometimes it seems like one sick game; setting up people against each other; black VS white, left VS right... Like a wise man, Peter Steele, once said; ,,no one wins, we all lose...“

You will probably agree with me that THANATOS were influenced by bands like SLAYER, DEATH, POSSESSED, MERCYFUL FATE in the beginning (and in fact even today). You are one of the oldest bands to start playing this style in Europe. I still remember the time when the album "Emerging from the Netherworlds" (1990) was released. It reached me until a few years later, but it was like a revelation. How do you remember the old days today? Do you have any interesting story for us that you haven't told anyone about the beginnings of THANATOS yet? 

The old days were really exciting; we were all very young and stuff like death and thrash metal was still developing and in an early phase, so all the young bands in 1984, 1985 were creating something new and the 80’s and early 90’s were truly the glory days for thrash and death metal. One story from the early 90’s that only few people seem to know is about me almost joining Gorefest and even playing one show with them… After the release of ‘Emerging from the Netherworlds’ there were some personal and musical problems in Thanatos. In those days I was good friends with Frank and Jan-Chris from Gorefest and when their second guitar player left, they asked me to join their band. Back then it was not normal to be in two bands at the same time, so I had to choose between Thanatos and Gorefest. I took about 6 months to think about it and even played 3 songs with them at a show in Germany in 1991. In the end I decided to continue with my own band and start recording our 2nd album, Realm of Ecstasy. A bit later their drummer also left and I introduced them to a friend of mine, Ed Warby… the rest is history for Gorefest. But no regrets at all; with me as a guitarist they would never have become such a big band, cause there would not have been albums like Erase, Chapter 13 or Soul Survivor. They would probably have stayed a normal death metal band. 

You are definitely not a band that would suffer from overproduction of records. But if you release something, it's worth it. Does this mean that you write down your ideas in a drawer, and when they mature properly, you only go out with them? 

Sometimes we use some riffs that have been lying in the shelf for a while, but most of the time we don’t start writing until we have or want to focus on a new release. I’m not the type of guy that writes riffs all the times or walks through the house with a guitar around my neck every day. There has to be a plan or a purpose to get me into a writing mood. Personally I don’t see the point of bands putting out a new album every year or every two years. Especially not when those albums more or less sound the same as the previous one; most people will play the new album of Band X once or twice, put it in the closet and go back to the first 2 classic albums of that band. I’d rather have people who like our last album just as much as the first 2 ones and who also play the last one a bit more often than only once. I think there’s a lot of mass consumption and people have a short attention span these days.

THANATOS has also been through a lot of musicians, is it important for you to understand from a human point of view? Are THANATOS a band that members go for a beer-meeting together? It seems to me. I can feel the chemistry of each other. And how did newcomers Martin Ooms and Mous Mirer fit into the band? 

Well we have been around for a long time so people come and go in all those years. The line up of Paul, Marco, Yuri and me has been together from 2001-2017 so that was really long. And yes, there has to be some sort of chemistry. We like to go out on a beer meeting after rehearsal or hang out at shows. Next beer meeting is actually planned for October 3rd, so…. 

When you remember for us, who was your role model when you started playing in the eighties? Were you a guitarist like right now? Did you go through classical music education, for example? And please, I searched maybe 50 magazines, read a lot of interviews on the Internet and I didn't find anywhere how THANATOS were actually founded? All I know is that first you were called WHIPLASH. Here most of the bands were founded in the pub. Would you please have an abbreviated story of the band for us? What were the most important moments in your history? 

OK, I think that story has been told a million times and it’s also in the liner notes of our 2019 compilation/anniversary album Thanatology - Terror from the Vault, but OK; I started listening to heavy rock in 1978 and KISS were my first band and idols; I was really a big fan back then and I still love KISS. After KISS I discovered many young British bands like Iron Maiden, Raven, Jaguar, Satan etc. but the band that made me pick up the guitar and start a band was Venom! After hearing ‘Welcome To Hell’ I was hooked and determined to start a band as well. Two years later in 1983, I met a guy at school who liked the same music and we decided to start jamming. Early 1984 we had written our first couple of songs and we found a drummer. I think we called ourselves Whiplash in 1983, but when we found the drummer we changed the name to Thanatos and recorded our first demo tape in 1984. The other guitarist Remco had classical guitar education and I had taken some keyboard lessons when I was 10 years old or so. In the years 1985-1989 there were a lot of line up changes, so we had to start over again and again. In 1989 we got our first record deal which was a big deal of course.

You are actually veterans today who do not have to prove anything to anyone. Still, you release great records. Has your approach to music changed in that long time? I mean now, for example, in the way of composing, we have new technologies, the Internet, a lot of programs that make it easier for musicians to work. Do you follow new trends or are you more of an old-school way lover? 

I always think your latest album should be your best. I understand that you don’t always succeed, but you should try. For me, our 2nd album ‘Realm Of Ecstasy’ was always our best…until ‘Violent Death Rituals’ I think. This is the album where everything fits together better than ever; songs, production, performance and atmosphere. I think VDR is the definite Thanatos album. As far as composing goes, we are still pretty much old school, but we do use recording tools like Cubase or ProTools for preparing demo versions and actual recordings.I would rather go into a studio for 2 weeks and record an album the old school way, but that has become too expensive these days. So we record the drums and vocals in real studios and do the guitars and bass with our home studios. It’s not following a trend but a necessary evil sinc we don’t have 50,000 Euros to spend on production 😉 

The Dutch metal scene seems very strong to me. I get a lot of great young bands to review. Do you have anyone among them that you would recommend to us? Do you follow current events on the stage and enjoy concerts even as a fan? Do you support your colleagues, for example, by going and buying their new record? 

Yeah, the Dutch scene has always been strong. In the 80’s and 90’s with bands like Thanatos, Asphyx, Dead Head, Sinister, Sempiternal Deathreign and God Dethroned to name just a few. Nowadays we have cool bands like Bodyfarm and Graceless; we’re all friends and we support eachother and hang out at shows least we did before the fucking virus and all the bullshit rules…

Now we have a coronavirus here, so touring is hard. There are different rules in each country, big festivals are canceled, but still, aren't you going to tour with new album? I saw that ASPHYX are in the studio, SIEGE OF POWER also recently released an excellent record that would be a great set! Take some young men and come! What are THANATOS planning in the upcoming months? 

Once again, I have nothing to do with Siege of Power, that’s Paul but I have no idea if they’re working on a new stuff. Don’t think so 😉 Most Thanatos shows have been postponed to next year, so we hope the shows will happen then. Not making any new plans because everything is so uncertain right now. Of course we will go out and promote the new album as soon as REAL live shows are allowed again. I don’t think we will do shows for 30 seated people or live streams without an audience; I’m too old school and too old for that shit I guess… I saw live shows are more or less allowed in Czech Republic again? Then maybe we should play there more often. 

Thank you very much for the interview, I really appreciate it. Your new album "Violent Death Rituals" is just playing now for me to get some inspiration. This album is really great. Good luck to it! And of course to even to you. I wish you all the best and I look forward to seeing you at the concert! 

Thank you for the interview. Let’s hope things will be back to normal soon, so we can come over to do proper live shows! Cheers!

Recenze/review - THANATOS - Violent Death Rituals (2020):

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