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Home » » Interview - ASPHYX - One of the few simple philosophies in this business is that if you don't appreciate your fans as a band, you have no right to exist at all.

Interview - ASPHYX - One of the few simple philosophies in this business is that if you don't appreciate your fans as a band, you have no right to exist at all.

Interview with legendary death metal band from Netherlands - ASPHYX.

Answered Martin van Drunen.

Translated by Duzl and Markéta, thank you!

Recenze/review - ASPHYX - Incoming Death (2016)

Ave ASPHYX! The first question is obvious. You released your last album “Incoming Death” two years ago. When can we enjoy another one? Do you have any new material done? Do you compose? 

__Hey Jakub, cheerz for having us in your Deadly Storm. Well, to start off immediately, i can't exactly tell when another album will be released, but i do have plenty of ideas for the lyrics, song-titles and an album-title and so me and Paul have to get together to see how many riffs he has up his sleeve and start putting all the existing material together. We´re gonna try and have a new one out by the end of this year, but you have to excuse me if it will be a bit later. Sometimes the process goes fast, but at other times there can always be the struggle to find that last outstanding piece that finishes the puzzle really off. But yeah, we do compose and personally, i'm always in search for new original topics to write about, may that be conscious or subconscious. 

The first time I listened to your music was in 1992 when you released your album “Last One on Earth”. For our group of metal fans in a small Czech town you were a cult. And you are even now. Do you remember composing your fist album? How did you compose it and how did you record? 

__Nice to hear we still have a kind of cult status, thanks! I assume you know that Last One was not our first album. The debut was The Rack and i do remember how that one was composed. Actually, lots of material from the demo-days was already written, by all kinds of former members. But as i didn't like most of the vocal lines or the song-arrangements, we re-arranged a lot and i re-wrote basically all the lyrics and changed the song-titles. The only tracks me, Bob and Eric composed as a three piece were Vermin and The Rack. And those songs were written during rehearsal jams. One can say that The Rack was a kind of scrap up from many older tunes and some new additions. Finally, we made the decision to record everything in our own practice room as engineer Harry Wijering just built a studio there (as the whole complex was his) and we felt comfortable and wanted to tape it all live. And so in 3 days The Rack was recorded and mixed. Still love the way we did it and how it turned out to be. 

But that is us, old veterans. Not that long ago we still wrote letters to get some demo records, were waiting in front of a store to get new CDs. Today, the world is different. Thanks to the internet you only have to click a few time to have a new CD at home. I do not know if it is good or bad, the time will show, but the truth is that thanks to the internet many young people can listen to your music. How do you feel about this modern issue as musicians? Did it bring you any new young fans? Do you feel the change at concerts? 

__Hahaha, you're absolutely right. But aren't we all having great memories from the good old days? It's true though that nowadays the kids have easy access to all kinds of music and therefore can try a lot out with just a click. When i was an adolescent, we had to wait a whole bloody week for another Headbangers Ball show on tv, desperately hoping for perhaps only one Venom video between all the Ratt, Motley Crue, Cinderella and other poser rubbish. And lots of broadcasts didn't bring anything at all! Haha! I can't recall the many times i wanted to throw the tv set out of the window! So it's a good thing the kids can click on a Youtube video and see what they want to see. Of course, there's a lot of downloading going on, but didn't we tape stuff ourselves back in those days? As a youngster, you don't exactly have a lot of money to spend eh? But i've heard stories that they do buy an album they like a lot after they downloaded it and also, some come to our shows and then obtain a shirt. I'm fine with that. If they can't afford a cd or lp, but do get some of our merchandise at gigs, that's a fair deal in my opinion. Besides, metalheads are known to buy records of their favorite bands. The artists who suffer most from it are those who are in the charts anyways. And we all know that's utter crap, so i can't be bothered if that part of the business goes down the drain. And as Asphyx, we do see that very positive development that there's a lot of kids in the front row of our shows. So we do see the change and we do notice we gain lots of new young fans. Something we are really proud of and grateful for. It means we have a future as a band and our metal still is accessible to all ages. Absolutely magnificent and we cherish that enormously. 

I have always been fascinated by the rough, raw, original sound of your albums. What does Harry Wijering who did a lot of ASPHYX´s albums do now? He also did “Deathammer”. The last album was mixed by Dan Swano. Why did do this change? I really like his work on “Death…the Brutal Way” but “Incoming Death” is not that “hard and booming”. Am I right? 

__You hit the hammer on the nail as we always try to maintain our raw, rough and loud sound. Without it, Asphyx has no heart, guts, bones and soul. And our fans would lynch us if we would change that. Something we're very, very aware of. Of course we looove our sound and always play as loud as possible. As high ear-drum-ripping volume is one of the essences of metal. However, i must correct you as Dan Swano has mixed us since Death... The Brutal Way, because we can work with him marvelously and he understands what Asphyx is all about. At Harry's we only recorded drums and my vocals. Guitars, Paul and Alwin did at Paul's Moerser home-studio. It doesn't really matter where you record, as long as you know the primary settings and thus making the mixing process go smoother and become successful. Harry is retiring by the way. He doesn't record anymore, so no matter what, we had to go to another studio and Tom Meier is a friend of one of our beloved soundmen who recommended him and we felt very comfortable working in his studio. Honestly, i think that Incoming Death has a monstrous Asphyx sound. It is definitely my favorite album. Song-wise and when it comes to sound. What's also fantastic about it that finally Alwin managed to get the bass-sound he preferred. And that gives the guitars that extra boost as well. On stage it sounds even more brutal. The whole band is very damn happy about how Incoming Death turned out to be. And considering the reactions of our fans, of whom most agree that this one is our best, we did a great job. And their opinion means the most to us. Of course we were absolutely delighted that the international metal-press collectively highly praised the album as a masterpiece, but in the end, it's our fans who have the last word. Without their appreciation and massive support, we are nothing. So no, you're wrong haha. 

Since 2009 when you came back with your album “Death…the Brutal Way”, you were considered (and I agree) one of the best death metal bands toady. Your music is not only rough and raw but also it has many doom elements. Do you like doom metal? Are there any bands which inspire you? 

__Thanks for that compliment Jakub, highly appreciated! And yes, we do like doom-metal. We always call ourselves a death/doom band. And let's not forget, the old school of death metal had since it started many doom elements in it. Just listen to Autopsy, Massacre, Slaughter, Necrophagia or even older Hellhammer and you'll hear what i mean. From the beginning, Asphyx has had doom-influences in its metal like Black Sabbath, Winter, Trouble, Candlemass or Saint Vitus, maybe even early Judas Priest, which was pretty doomy as well in the days of Sad Wings of Destiny or Stained Class. I think there you have a few bands mentioned that inspired us a lot when it comes to doom. However, there's doom and doom. It can be really smashing but also very boring if you play it not the appropriate way. I've heard and seen some bands of nowadays that really bored the shit out of me. The kind of "I'm so depressed and on Haldol, look how cool i am being all doom" if you know what i mean. That's not our style. You can play doom and still krush and be brutal without losing a melancholic atmospheric touch, depends also on what the lyrics are about. That's the way we integrate it with the death metal we play. 

On the album “Incoming Death” the drummer was Stefan Hüskens. I really like his drumming with DESASTER. But I found out that he is also engaged in SODOM. He is a great drummer and I understand that he is very popular in the musician scene but I wonder what will you do when each band has a show to play and it will overlap? Which band would take precedence over the others? And by the way, when he plays live it is incredibly killing! 

__It's pretty actual news that Husky (as everybody calls Stefan by this nickname) is also in Sodom since about two months. For him, his dreams came true as he's now playing in his two favorite bands of all time. And me, Alwin and Paul are really happy for him as he's a fantastic dedicated brother, metalhead and drummer and if any-one deserves it, it is definitely him. It must also be said that we were not so pleased that Tom asked Husky for Sodom, knowing he was already playing in a successful and busy band that Asphyx is. Especially as we get along very well with Sodom and normally you don't approach drummers (or any other kind of musician) from colleague bands you respect and appreciate. Unless you inform them before about any intentions and then perhaps a compromising solution can be found. Personally, i'm sure Tom also took advantage of the fact that he knew Sodom was one of Husky's favorite bands and thus it would be very hard for him to refuse an offer like that. On the other hand, Paul and me were also able to combine Hail of Bullets with Asphyx and that band had a full agenda also and it worked well. So, in good communication with Sodom, it should not be a problem we cannot overcome. Of course, there will always be overlaps, but those will be rarities. For Husky though, Asphyx is his band number one as he assured us. Simply as we are a band of brothers, in every way. And haha, yes, he's a live animal, just like we all are in Asphyx, that's why we all feel so fantastic when performing. 4 beasts raging, like it was meant to be in metal. 

Well in general, ASPHYX as a band is very original. Martin has an interesting and unusual voice, Paul delivers great riffs and your rhythmic section is amazing. You are just a group of very talented musicians. How do you compose new songs? Do you fight sometimes about it? Can you “supress” your egos so everything is calm and works? Your results are great but I would like to know if there is someone who can have the last comments about anything? Someone who is responsible for everything? How ASPHYX compose a new song? 

__Well, haha, we try to be original and we definitely created our own recognizable style of which we are damn proud of course. I'm not so sure how talented we all are as individuals. We're not exactly the best skilled musicians on this planet haha. But our strength is that we work as a unit; we're a team that's fully assimilated; a collective that functions like a perfect machinery. With everything we do. We call that 4 in 1. Our ego is Asphyx. Whatever we do is for the sake of the band. So when we compose, or record, everybody is involved and ever-one can have his opinion, ideas or adds to any track. If it's an improvement we'll take it, if not, we all hear that immediately and we leave it. And if all are satisfied and pleased with the end-result, that's when we are 100% convinced it's worthy of Asphyx. The fundament though is Paul's riffings and my lyrics. Usually, i come with working titles and by that time, Paul already has enough shredders on the shelves. Sometimes it works the other way 'round, that Paul's output inspires me to take on a certain subject on a particular piece. Once we have plenty of riffs, we start to arrange. Meaning to match those riffs that fit along with each-other in a tune. And for how long they should be played. I'll choose the vocal-parts and decide on how many times a section should be repeated. I think my main talent is my rhythmical vocal-instinct. I feel and know instantaneously which riff is perfect for vocals and how the lines should be sung. The fella's are very aware of that and there's never any discussion. Simply as my instinct is always right. Just as Paul's riff-instinct is. With killer-riffs, we all bang our heads and freak out and we know it's a murderer. But if we all are in doubt, we go "naaah" and we let it be. A true blessing is that we all think and feel the same. Once a song is finished, the whole band plays it over and over again, because we bloody dig it and as said, if we do, our fans will do to. We never fight, we can have discussions, but only constructive ones, and those hardly take place. Finally, when recording, there's always suggestions to try some different drum-fills, basslines, chords or vocal lines/screams. Some work marvelously, others are just ideas to hear what it sounds like and are never taken. But one will never know if something is never tried out right? Basically, it's like this: riffs Paul (on rare occasions Alwin as well ), lyrics/vox me, arrangements Asphyx. So the whole band takes part in the process. Last comments: Asphyx. 

On the stage you are like beasts released from the cage. People can tell that playing live is very enjoyable for you. How do you feel about performing on the stage? Do you get nervous before shows? Many musicians talk about how they pump energy from the audience because they can feel that it is in the air. What do you feel during your shows? 

__Your description is exactly the way we feel when being on stage. It's what we are doing it all for. Metal was and is meant to be played live. I think i can speak for the guys if i say that it's an addiction. To explain how we feel on stage is something only fellow musicians like ourselves will understand, of which there's not really many left. Most perform standing a bit around like statues, staring at their shoes or hiding behind ridiculous make-up. Once we go on stage, we let the metal beast loose that's deep inside of us. And we have ourselves a ball. It feels like we were born for it. We make jokes, we break our necks, we sweat, we drool, we drink, we spit, we bleed, we laugh. And once you get off stage, it feels like you had multiple orgasms. All energy completely drained out. But damn satisfied. Of course we get nervous, but that's positive nervousness. Like top-sporters pump themselves up for a major contest. You just want to krush all your opponents and leave them in ruins. For us that means, any other band will regret to have shared the same stage as us and the crowd will go home as exhausted as we are. We have never experienced nerves as a kind of stage-fright. On the contrary, we can't wait to go on haha! Once we walk on, it's a homecoming. We always give everything we got, and beyond. We always want to be the best and Asphyx live is a 100% guarantee value for your money. 

You have always had great lyrics. Many death metal band underestimates them. They say that people do not even understand them while the music is playing. I personally think that it is not true and many fans like to read the lyrics and what the song is about. One thing is that the lyrics must bring some idea, some thought. The other thing is how to connect the lyrics with the music. How does it work with ASPHYX? 

__I'm damn chuffed that you like my lyrics as i don't get that much feedback about them from writers in particular and i do spend a lot of time in finding original ideas, research and the actual writing with the necessary rhymes. So yes, we try to integrate the lyrics into the music. A very simple example, a melancholic doom track like Grand Denial, cannot contain a topic like the Candiru. It just doesn't fit. And for example with Feeder, it was a funny idea we had for a while, but then Paul came with this bulldozing sluggish riff with ponderous tempo and i went: "That's 'The Feeder' guys" You can imagine this mount of a woman getting fed by her obsessed lover and then explode. Just one of our funny gore-stories when it comes to lyrics. One of the big advantages being a songwriter in a band like Asphyx is that you can write about anything as every track has a different tempo or atmosphere. And so one can do fun-horror, war/tragedy, real-time disasters, history, or actual events and tons more. It's a never drying out source for inspiration. To your question above about the composing process, i already mentioned that sometimes Paul's riffs inspire me to write lyrics, on other occasions he gets triggered by my lyrics to write music to. That's just the fine chemistry between us. But we always try to find that balance between music and lyrics. Which is not always easy. And then of course there is the challenge of always trying to come up with something new and fresh, something that has not been done before. We don't want to be a band that uses "Sacrifice" for the 11.372nd time as a song- or album title. That just shows you have no inspiration, nor a drive to be unique. Or you completely don't give a shit about lyrics and then you don’t belong. 

The last time I saw you was in Ostrava when MALIGNANT TUMOUR celebrated their anniversary. You stayed after the concert and you were there with fans, talked and gave autographs. For me, these are the things which make the bonus which distinguishes you from the big (well I mean big for us, the fans) bands from the smaller ones. How do you feel about meeting your fans as musicians? By the way, musically and vocally your performance in Ostrava was absolutely amazing thing, thank you! 

__One of the few simple philosophies in this business is that if you don't appreciate your fans as a band, you have no right to exist at all. Without the people that buy your records, that come to your shows and that have supported you during your whole career and will support you of what's still yet to come, you're nothing. Asphyx considers it as an obligation to give their fans the opportunity to meet us. And that way, we can say thank you to them. You know, where-ever we go, we always try and walk into the crowd, give people the chance to meet us. Unfortunately we can't do that every time. Sometimes we arrive short before stage-time and after a driver with a shuttle-van has to bring us straight to the hotel as we have an early flight back or another scenario. That truly saddens us, but what can we do? But if we have the chance, we're there for the fans. Besides, it's damn good fun too! Talking to folks from a total different culture and having a drink. Usually we're not even talking about Asphyx, but other issues, like the local habits, humor, food etc. It's educative too, next to being very enjoyable! And cheerz once more! It was a memorable event and that is what Malignant Tumour fully deserved. Thanks to their incredible hospitality and superb organization we were able to give an outstanding performance. That has to be said also. They're true brothers for life, a damn great band and i hope one day they will conquer the world. 

My friend is telling me now to ask you about some funny stories from the history of ASPHYX. Do you have any? What about your first underground concerts? What about fan-girls? 

__Pff some funny stories?? This whole band is one funny story haha! Well, maybe as you ask about the first concerts this one is quite memorable. So after i left Pestilence and joined Asphyx, they had already booked a show, perhaps it was in Cottbus, former Eastern Germany, shortly after the disintegration of the iron curtain, near the Polish border. So i came with them, to do my first appearance with Asphyx. As i didn't know all songs as it was too short time to practice the whole repertoire, they introduced me halfway the set as their new vocalist. So i wanted to walk easy on stage, letting people cheer and so on. But i stumbled and fell over a bunch of cables and hit the stage-floor, haha! Some entrance that was... Another pretty funny one was when we were flying to a festival near the airport of Sofia, Bulgaria, our first show ever there. The flight was already exciting as Slayer was also in that plane, but when the stewardesses came with the drinks, the plane got into turbulence and a pack of apple-juice fell straight into our drummer Bob's groin. And as it was bloody hot weather, wasps circled around him all day. Best was, as he had to work next day, he had a flight straight after the show, so we landed, then almost immediately had to hit the stage and then he had to catch his flight back right after the show. So he had no spare pants and went with that same apple-sugar stained pants in the plane back. Haha! That whole day was unforgettable, meeting Slayer and their very nice crew, Slayer being just great and kind men. Then it was so damn hot we couldn't even perform normal. 40 degrees and the sun shining right on the stage and of course we had to go on at the hottest time around 16.00 o'clock. We came off stage and it looked like we had a shower with clothes on. But all in all, it was a wonderful festival, great people and fans. I think afterwards we were just sitting in underpants drinking beer in the shade haha. Fangirls or women? Now, those stories remain between the sheets. All of us now have steady girlfriends for a while, and Paul is a married man, so were loyal fella's to our missesses. But yeah, there were plenty of women, in all sizes, ages and colors (except minors of course). I speak purely of myself now. Can't say i regret anything, it was a privilege to have met all these wonderful ladies. Treat them with respect and dignity and the pleasure will come from both sides. And i've found my rock n roll woman a few years ago. 

Six years ago my friends convinced me to write about music and I started to support death metal this way, they told me to have a nickname. And I had 2 ideas in my head – ASPHYX and VADER. Finally, you “won”. I have to say that thanks to writing about music many of my fan dreams have come true. Do you have any dreams as a band? You are famous, not only in the scene of your style, you sell out concerts, you have great tours…do you want to reach any goals? 

__Hahaha, so now you're nickname is Asphyx? But, if you're having children, you may as well change that into Vader, as Vader in Dutch literally means "father" Haha, Anyways, great band and damn nice fella's as well. We had a few drinks together on some occasions. But to get to your question. We're not that 'famous' really. But we do certainly have goals or dreams we wanna make come true. Like playing in countries like Japan or China, the African continent, or other places we've never been, like Hungary, Serbia, Ukraine, Kazachstan, you name it all. Still many things to achieve and places to play in. For me, it would be the ultimate dream if we can have that one selling album, so that Alwin, Husk and Paul can quit their jobs and we can fully focus on Asphyx. You know, like having your own practice room, studio, band-house etc. So we can play, jam and record whenever we want and have nothing to deal with or worry about. It's pretty unrealistic as it will never happen as we will never compromise when it comes to our metal, but, you asked for a dream, well, there you have mine. 

This year you will be in the Czech Republic at the OBSCENE EXTREME FESTIVAL. Correct me if I am wrong but the last time you played here was in 2012. Do you remember how you did like the Czech Republic? This festival is different, crazy and independent. Are you looking forward to that? 

__Actually, we've been there on more occasions. Not only Obscene Extreme, but also Brutal Assault and of course the short but incredible stint with Malignant Tumour, playing Ostrava, Praha and Bratislava in Slovakia. We always have a great time in the Czech Republic. Next to that, you have the best beer in the world! But it's as said always a pleasure to return. And so we're looking very much forward to play Obscene Extreme again. Curby is a damn nice and great guy and i think he thinks the same about me, so yeah, it will be cool to see him again on his own festival and to hang around there as i usually do. It's a cool festival to walk amongst the crowd as i experienced in other years, so hopefuly we arrive in time and can meet people after our performance. But we will have meat though haha! 

So this is the end of our interview. I want to say thank you for your music because it companies my whole metal live not only as a fan. I wish you many sold out concerts, many good ideas. I also wish you luck in your personal life! ASPHYX FOREVER! 

__Thank you very much for this interview and all the best wishes. Very great to hear our music pleases you the way it does and so you're very welcome! Hopefully we can keep that up in the future. All the best and good luck to you as well! 

Cheerz, Martin

Photos - MALIGNANT TUMOUR, ASPHYX, AGATHOCLES, TENDR - Ostrava - 19. 11. 2016
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