How easily can a band convince you? Quite easy when it comes to Hollowtone. The band (project would be a more appropriate term though) around mastermind Kristof Vandebeek releasded its debut album “Dead Man’s End” after months of hard work. No first demo, no gigs, no hype – Just a damn good album able to convince al non-believers. “Dead Man’s End” got the same quality as old school Gothenburg releases like “Slaughter Of The Soul”, “Mirrorworlds” and “Voice Of Harmony”. Today many have forgotten the great legacy often abused by the new melodic “metalcore” bands – Thus not Hollowtone making a legacy themselves. Here’s the man himself telling his part of the story. (FilipD)
It took quite some time to fully record and finish “Dead Man’s End”. Now the album is out for some days, how do you feel about it? Satisfied this time?
Yes, it did take some time to fully record and finish our first album. The first idea was to release a MCD, but soon I discovered that there was a need for more than just 4 or 5 songs. A need from my side, that was. The idea of a full-length album was born, and here we are now, an album that lasts longer than 45 minutes, with 11 songs on it that all match on the CD. I’m happy with “Dead Man’s End”, just like any band would be happy after their first, or their latest release. After all it is like giving birth to something that came from my very own mind. I must admit that this is the first time that I really enjoy listening to an album that I created, mixed, produced and mastered myself. Two weeks before the release of the album I was really bored with the songs and I promised myself and other people that I would probably never listen to the album again after its release. Seems I was wrong, and seems that all the efforts that I’ve put into the “Dead Man’s End” album in the last 10 months now finally pay off, in an emotional way that is. It has been a very busy period of writing music, assembling the different parts of the songs, programming the drums, thinking of lyrics, indicating what the artwork should be like etc. When I now listen to the album, I can hear the small details again of which I, during the creation of the album, thought that they would add to the value of the songs. It are these little things that I enjoy when I listen to “Dead Man’s End”. Probably no one else will notice them, but that does not matter. On the question if I’m satisfied, I must give you a mixed answer: there’s a yes and a no. Yes, I’m satisfied with the songs and their compositions, the feelings and all the memories they did bring alive again. I must however admit that I’m not that satisfied with the global sound, the final version of the artwork, and the use of the triggered drums. But, at least I’ve learned quite a bit of the production process of a music CD, and this will certainly be of use for a next release. One must also know that I had a very little budget for the release. As a one-man-band without a label you must think very carefully before spending your budget. I understand quite well that a mass-promotion is necessary to regain every euro that we’ve spent. Luckily, internet and e-mail are a handy feature for this nowadays. I think it would have been impossible about 15 years back to release an album like this with the same budget, not only regarding promotion, but also with the ease of home-recording at a semi-professional level. I can only admire those who did it in the past.
Most melodic death metal bands use screams as main vocal input. Hollowtone however, solely focuses on deeper death metal grunts. Why this, let’s say, uncommon choice?
I think you are right that it is an uncommon choice of using grunts on a melodic death metal album. You must however admit that the grunts are not too deep, in other words: you can’t compare them with the grunts you would hear on albums of brutal death metal bands. A first reason for the use of grunts, is that Bart has a very pronounced voice, and since he articulates very well, the lyrics are easy to understand. In my eyes, that is a big surplus. My focus on music has always been on the guitar. This album had to have a little focus on everything, and I understood from many people that their focus, when listening to any album, went to the vocals. This is especially true for the so many people out there that do not play an instrument. A second reason for hiring Bart is that he has always been a close friend, and that I’ve worked with Bart in the past. I knew, even before starting the recordings of the “Dead Man’s End”-album, what Bart’s capabilities were, so these were a deciding factor as well. Before recording the vocals, I already knew how the album was going to sound vocal-wise, and Bart didn’t disappoint me at all. And as far as I know, we’ve only had great comments on the vocals, of course there’s always someone out there who would have been more pleased if we added more screams, but it’s just a matter of choices I guess. Seems that we’ve maybe done something good by choosing grunts instead of screams.
Before recording “Dead Man’s End” you were searching a shitload of singers willing to participate. In the end Bart Goffinghs did all vocals. How come plan A was thrown in the dustbin?
We didn’t use them because it just didn’t feel right on the album. It’s nothing personal against all the singers that we’ve contacted, but the album sounded so complete without all these guest-vocals. Maybe we will use some clean vocals on our next release, which Bart of course cannot provide. So here you go: do you know any singers that have a really nice and clean voice to sing some catchy choruses, just send them over!
Hollowtone is my new drug, though I had down some little remarks about more variation in the drums and vocals lines, when writing the review. How do you look at this?
I think your remarks were correct regarding the drums. But since I’m a guitar player and not a real drummer, I think the job was done quite good. I’m afraid I’m not satisfied with your remarks on the vocals. We didn’t need more variation on “Dead Man’s End”. Bart produced grunts just as I had them in my mind. I guess it’s a personal taste, and maybe your need for variation is fed by the fact that you mostly heard similar bands that used screams on their album (FilipD: I meant the vocal lines and not the sound in particular). By the way, do you know there are three types of vocals on the CD? On our Eucharist cover you actually have a variation with the grunts and the screams.
Eucharist may not be the most famous band around, but don’t you fear people will blame you for listening bit too much to them? The “Wounded And Alone” cover is an obvious choice.
There aren’t many bands out there that are not linked to one or another band, music-wise. So I can accept the fact that we were inspired by bands as At The Gates, Eucharist, In Flames, Arch Enemy, Excretion and so many others coming from Scandinavia. It were all bands which I grew up with in the early 1990’s, and it still are the bands that I listen to nowadays. Anyone who’s got the hots for one of these bands should definitely check our album, since we had to get the inspiration from somewhere! “Wounded And Alone” is one of these songs that will forever stick in my memory, it was released on the “WAR Compilation Volume 1” a long time ago. I don’t know why, but it’s one of the best songs in the genre I’ve ever heard! And I guess it’s just good to have a cover on your CD when you’re new in town, people can then identify your band with the bands you cover and make a link with your music easier.
It brings up the next question: why the infamous “Come Die With Me” cover from your old demo band Last Funeral?
It just felt right to have it on the album. There’s no real other explanation for it. But, if you want a little side-story on this: the original version had a little mistake in the guitar solo, and in the new version I had a chance to play it again correctly. And so I did. I’m quite happy with the new version: it sounds fat and full! Although I must admit that I did not include all the original parts of the song in it, which some people will blame me for. But it’s 2007, and the original ideas of the song back in the year 2000 were altered, but not much.
Besides “Demon In Your Dreams”, the rather short instrumental “Forever Closed Eyes” is one of my favorites. It must be the original use of synths that makes this one special. Is this a prelude of what to expect of further Hollowtone releases?
I must first say that “Forever Closed Eyes” is not instrumental, since it contains a whispering voice. Yes, you can expect synths in one of our following releases. I’m just starting to get the hang of the synths. Everybody thinks it is quite simple to play some keyboard-lines on an album, but in fact it isn’t. Once I’ve got the technique and the knowledge, I will certainly use it more. But: don’t expect synths in the veins of Within Temptation or similar bands. The keyboards we will use will certainly be more into the “Soilwork” or “Dan Swanö”-style! The synths on the “Dead Man’s End”-album only appear in one song. It was just a try-out that turned into something that really fitted the music. I think the synths have a real “goa trance”-effect, but just without the beat of that particular style of music.
What’s the ultimate goal when it comes to Hollowtone? I have the feeling this could be more than just a low profile project. Wasn’t Vic Records interested in releasing something?
The ultimate goal? To compose songs at home for about half a year, to rehearse the songs together with some really good musicians, to enter a studio for more than one month and release a killer album that will blow everybody away. And after that, a big record deal that takes all the costs that we’ve made for that killer album combined with a very good distribution. But that’s just the ultimate goal. Being a one-man-band doesn’t make that easy, unless your name is Dan Swanö. “Vic Records” was not really interested, we had some contacts for a record deal, but Roel van Reijmersdal had signed more bands than he expected for 2007, so I guess he had to keep his own budget under control. No hard feelings against “Vic Records”, Roel is a nice guy and maybe I should contact him again for a next release.
On your website you already stating the next album will be entitled “Misery Loves Company” and will be released in 2008. How’s the writing process doing? It seems like it’s pretty much in a final state when you post such news.
It is far from a final state. And I have no idea yet whether the album will be a full-length again, or a mini-CD with 5 or 6 songs. The fact is that I’m now trying to compose some good songs. The first song is as good as finished and it contains a very catchy chorus. I think the songs will all be similar to the ones you can find on “Dead Man’s End”, except for the fact that I plan to use some clean voices in the choruses. At least, that’s what I have in mind. The album should definitely be the next step in the existence of Hollowtone. I won’t be satisfied with a lesser quality or lesser sound. Maybe it will be finished very soon, on the other hand, it might take some months again before I think it is good enough to be released on the market. Fact is that we’ll most probably book a decent studio to record the guitars and the drums. We’ll go for the killer sound on the next album.
You’re quite cryptic when it comes to playing live. A quote from your website: “the band can currently not predict whether it will hit the stage in the future”. I know you personally don’t aim to hit the stage – But don’t you think a band’s best promotion comes through doing gigs? What keeps you away from live performances?
It is true that I personally do not aim to hit the stages. I’m more into “writing music” and “recording” than playing live. Maybe I want to do a one-time-gig with the band, but then it has to be perfect: well-rehearsed, good musicians, good sound, everything balanced and with a lot of motivation and fun in everything that has to do with all of the aforementioned. A band’s best promotion lies indeed in the fact that they can present their songs to a larger audience by performing. But I think it’s all about the “buzz”. With my other band, Mahlstrom, we sold 100 copies in a few months without performing. All advertising was done on the internet, and the “hype” or the “buzz” was really big, since many people thought of us as the new “Dissection”. In my case, it’s a quite personal decision not to go on-stage. I have been suffering from a disease in my balance-system the past 5 years. I’m now rehabilitating from that, and I hope to recover from it within the next year. The disease did not only bring me a disbalance on every stage that I hit with Mahlstrom, it also gave me a fear on an irregular and unpredictable basis, which I recently conquered by the help of some great people in the medical world. Next question, please.
And if so: why not creating a live line up with only people from your previous band the Quiescent? I’m sure their bass player would love to handle the guitar this time, hehehe,…
I don’t know if that would be such a good idea, haha. If I would start a live-band I would definitely need a guitar player that can handle the leads on the CD, since the leads on the next CD will only be more present than on this one!
There’s also written Hollowtone will work with another drummer for the next album. Are you changing your Drumkit From Hell samples or are you talking about a drummer of flesh and blood? Please explain.
I’d rather give no details on this, as long as nothing is confirmed.
When reading the lyrics I can only conclude one thing: why the obsession for taking your own life?
The album is not about taking MY own life. The album just gives an overview on how one can die by his own means. Of course there are some personal elements in the lyrics, but I’m enjoying life more than ever at this particular moment, in such a way that suicide would still be the last option to kneel for if any troubles should arise in my personal life. No, it was just a topic that really matched with the music to be found on the CD, and it also gave inspiration for our artwork.
Harbinger Design did the artwork for “Dead Man’s End” and the result is pretty good. But why didn’t you create it yourself? Come on, you’re a Photoshop expert yourself!
I can’t deny that I’m good in working with Photoshop. But I wanted to outsource this to Harbinger Design as I’m really satisfied with the work that Dirk did for the album, and with the work that he did for other bands in the past. You can’t even imagine how many designs I’ve seen before the final “Dead Man’s End” design was made. For all the lyrics on the album, Dirk made a separate graphical composition that simply matched. I would never have the ideas to match the graphics with the lyrics. He just did it, and it was a good cooperation. The bad thing is that the printing company (for the booklets) fucked the booklet a little bit, causing it to be a little darker than expected. But that’s life I guess!
I know you for a long, long time ago. And every band or project you wrote songs for (Last Funeral, Deceived, Mahlstrom, the Quiescent, Hollowtone and probably some more) has got your typical trademark – which clearly refers to Gothenburg, Sweden. Why the fascination for this sound? Don’t you think you’ve had it all by now?
It’s just damn good music! And I think I will keep on producing this kind of music for the next 10 years. It just has all the ingredients: good guitar riffs, nice guitar solos, great lyrics. You name it, it’s in there. You can’t need more than that? And I’m very pleased that you call it my “trademark”, since that means a lot of people will again love the music I’ve made in the last couple of months, and thus the “Dead Man’s End” album.
I remember our chief Ricardo being ecstatic about Mahlstrom’s demo “Nordlys”. What’s the status of that band actually? It has been a while there was some news.
Mahlstrom is in the fridge, although there were plans to release an album in 2008. But since my focus lies more on Hollowtone nowadays, I guess Mahlstrom will be something for 2009, or 2010, or…
Thanks for your time. Good luck with your hollow tones.
Thank you for the interview, and thanks to the readers of this interview. I hope they turn into “believers” after reading this rather long story!