VM-UNDERGROUND

Extreme Metal Fanzine est. 2012

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Interview

Asphyx – “I can understand the purists very much. I’m one myself, you see.”

Through the years, many reunions were or predictable or not as groundbreaking as expected. Of course, Suffocation was a great reunion, but there were so many rumours the year before they reformed that it wasn’t a real surprise anymore. No…for a real big surprise we have to go to the 11th of January 2007. The day Party.San Festival mentioned the band name Asphyx as one of the new acts who will play this next summer. Just out of the blue, one of the best death metal acts of the whole world thought “hell…why not!”! Two years ago Vampire Magazine had a gig with the name “VM Fest” with God Dethroned, Desaster, Officium Triste and Bolthorn. Too bad Bob didn’t took our invitation to headline the fest back then…fortunately for every old school death metal follower, the new reformed Asphyx (with Martin van Drunen on vocals!) have chosen 2007 to come back from the grave. Death metal, the Brutal way! (Ricardo)

The first question will be the one that everybody would ask. An one time happening or….?
Bob: Hmmm, well, it at first was supposed to be a one time only thing. The Party San called me last year and was kind of begging for a reunion gig. At first I said that it was not possible cause of the fact that Eric totally did quit the music scene. But, I still did sent him and Martin a mail. Martin immediately reacted extremely positive. Eric at first did not respond, so I sent him a mail again and he responded to that mail and told me in all honesty that he didn’t want to do it since he has a very busy personal life. Anyway, then I also didn’t want to do it either. BUT, the Part San kept asking and I stayed in touch with Martin. Then all of the sudden Martin told me he talked To Paul Baayens (CREMATION/THANATOS) and said Paul wanted to do the job. I, at first, had to really think about that, but after a week or so I thought “why not? “. So, since Wannes was also a good member of ASPHYX we asked him as well. Anyway, the day after we confirmed the Party San we got several other offers to play on festivals, but The Party San gets the premiere. If we do play on other festivals remains to be seen. First we’ll do that gig. But maybe we’ll do some more…..

If it is more than a one time thing…tell us more, thinking about recording a new album?
Bob: We are certainly not thinking of an album, since people kinda only want to hear stuff from The Rack and The Last One on Earth, and some old demo classics. We cannot top The Rack anyway ,so why bother. No matter what we do, people only are talking of The Rack.

Quite an answer you don’t hear a lot, a band member who thinks the first album is the best one. Normally they always prefer the last one to be the most complete album they have ever made. Still, you will hear the question “….will you record…” a lot from the fans as well. If that’s the case, wouldn’t you reconsider your decision? If Martin and Wannes say “hell Bob, we’re in!” you will still say “No”? What is so special about “The Rack” for you…as the drummer of that album? They way it was recorded within 3 days? You weren’t very fond of the drum sound as it was buried in the mix…
Bob: Yeah, well, anyways, the drum sound is very much buried in the mix since the engineer did a sort of “in-between mix” of the drums and bass guitar, and put that on one track to save other trax, Since it was only recorded on 8 tracks. But, what the fuck, it sounds raw and brutal and is like 75% live in the studio, so who cares anyway! But the only setback then was we couldn’t change anything on the drums or the bass guitar. But, it probably was the way it was supposed to be done then. So…at the end the result is spontaneous and brutal and listening to it now I’m happy with it. The Rack also has a good atmosphere to it and we had lot’s of fun, so only good memories. Also I like the songs the most on that album since most of them were already quite old. The songs are simple but very brutal and in your face. Sure, we are not the best musicians around, but we do what we can do best and that is producing brutal doomy death metal. The songs are catchy (I hate this word, but it describes our music) and have a nice drive to it. But also I like our first unofficial album “Embrace the Death” a lot! Most of the songs on that album also appeared on The Rack.
As far as a new album concerns, we do not know. Really, who gives a fuck anyway these days. People who will come and watch our show just to hear the old tunes and enjoy themselves with some old school brutal death metal from the old days….You see, I watched VENOM in the original line-up in 1996 on Waldrock ,I totally enjoyed the show, the old songs, but I didn’t care about their new album then “Cast in Stone” at all. But, it’s the music scene and anything can happen, I mean, who thought we would play on the Part San in 2007?? Sure as hell I didn’t……

How did everything happen? Did the staff of Party San Fest just mail you with “Hey Bob, we have a great idea…”? Or was the Asphyx reunion a subject that was on your mind for a long time, only waiting for the right time? Which moment persuaded you to say “Yes!”? How did you feel after the agreement, something like “here we go again…” or “we are going to make something special of it!”.
Bob: Like I said, Party San phoned me and they are BIG ASPHYX fans and wanted to do about anything for a reunion. We will do our stinking best, play only our “classics” of the first 2 albums and some demo tunes as well. It won’t be a very big surprise. It’s a surprise already that we will play at all! As we confirmed we got overloaded with mails and offers, and that’s we’re we thought “here we go again…..” An ASPHYX reunion was totally out of the question, but since Party San tried so hard we decided “why not “.

About those mails, did you also got negative mails? If so, what are they about? I’ve read on some message boards that some people aren’t thrilled with yet another reunion without the full line-up of the first album. In a way, can you understand those people? But I also bet it makes you proud to read all those positive emails, that Asphyx is still one of the most important bands in history of death metal! Did you already got some offers from labels, not to sign a contract but keep the contact warm…
Bob: I can understand the purists very much. I’m one myself, you see. And I think they are also right about that. We also preferred the 100% Rack line-up, but you can’t always get what you want, isn’t it. Most of the people are very positive anyway, but I do understand the more negative reactions, and like I said, if one of my old fave bands would consider a reunion I would prefer the original line up as well. But if the “new member” does a great job then it’s ok. But as long as there are people, there are opinions and we have to respect that. No offers, but we are still in close and good contact with Century Media, so………Yes, it makes us proud to read the positive mails. It shows we did something in the past that matters.

Did you already had a line-up in mind? I’m 100% sure a lot of fans are exxxtremely happy with Martin van Drunen on vocals, to hear “The Rack” the way it should sound! Was it easy to got him on board? The link with Wannes was easily made of course, due the fact Wannes was the last vocalist/bassist of Asphyx (and according to my personal opinion, the only one who could follow up Martin van Drunen). How did you got in contact with Paul? Were there other candidates in your mind to complete the line-up if someone declined? Have you contacted Eric Daniels about the reunion? If so, how did he reacted? If not, why not? Personally I wasn’t really surprised that he isn’t in the line-up, due the fact that he sold his guitars and you said in an interview that he lost the feeling to be part of the metal scene….”
Bob: Martin came up with this line up and he already knew Paul. I also know Paul from his old band Cremation. Like said, Eric didn’t want to take part of Asphyx any longer because of his personal life. We wish him all the best anyhow.

Wannes, what were your first thoughts when you heard Bob on the phone to talk about a reunion?
Wannes: Well, when I checked my mail on Monday morning, I saw I got an email from Bob. I read its content and…I had to laugh! I remember I said to myself: “This is typical Asphyx-stuff.” Concerning this kind of situations, Asphyx is a very unpredictable band. So, as usual one can say, receiving Bob’s email just fitted the whole pattern. With Asphyx, it has always been this case and I doubt if it’ll ever change. Anyway, I went to my job, so I had to let it rest a bit. Of course I had to think about the situation that day. What put me off most was a reunion without Eric. His sound and riffing makes up at least 50% of the Asphyx sound and I just couldn’t think about an Asphyx reunion without Eric. It felt like old Venom without Mantas. He is a very, very big part of the Asphyx history. Without Eric, Asphyx would never had such an outstanding style of Death Metal of its own. Original member Tony Brookhuis was very important during the first years as well. He created the foundation for the band, but Eric really expanded it into an entity of its own. I knew Paul would be a fine replacement. He’s a good guitarist and knows how to perform on stage. Don’t forget, he’s a cool fellow as well, but he doesn’t have the same legacy as Eric. But that’s understandable, right? I wasn’t really sure what to make of the situation.
I knew it would be very difficult to get Eric back in the band. This reunion talk isn’t new to me as there have been several attempts to raise the dead before. Eric always was the big X-factor, so to say. Bob wanted to do it. Martin as well, but Eric was kind of… He didn’t know how to make up his mind. So, every time it went up in smoke and the whole matter disappeared from the scene for a while. Except this time. It just didn’t come up in my mind to have a reunion without Eric. That seemed just out of the question.
I called Bob a few days later to talk about the situation. He had the same doubts about the reunion as I had. But it was clear a reunion with Eric wouldn’t be possible. So, if we wanted to do the gig, we needed a new guitarist. As Paul offered Martin to take to spot, we found a suitable replacement for Eric very soon. Both Bob and I thought it would make a very interesting line up. Although without Eric, we would be able to offer the audience a very special line up with the four of us. Both Martin and I already shared stages during several occasions before, but never with Asphyx. It will be a great opportunity for the crowd to witness an Asphyx show with two (former) front men, who (unlike the Asphyx tradition) get along great. Hitting the stage with a coffin pounding Bob has always been a pleasure, while it seems great to have Paul as a guitarist in the band as well. So, after some thinking and talking it felt right for me to enter the vault again…

Did you ever expect to hear that Asphyx would reunite again? And that you would be part of it?
Wannes: For me personally, this reunion is very important for it offers me the opportunity to deal with some unfinished business from the past. Almost seven years ago, when we were supposed to play the Party.san, the band split up. This left a tremendous mark upon all the people involved. It was really very sad what happened, but Asphyx just wasn’t able to do that show. Bob and I talked about it numerous times, but we felt it would have ended in a disaster if we would have played at the Party.san in 2000. So, being given the opportunity to somehow make up for what happened in the past is very important to me. It’s not about the money. It’s about giving the people at the Party.san something they still deserve. Even after all these years. I’m very glad I’m part of it to make this all happen!
Nah, I didn’t really expect this would take place. I thought it was more likely Martin, Bob and Eric would join up again, but it seemed it was meant a bit different, hehehe…

Although Party San Fest is the only gig that is confirmed, the obvious rumours that you would play more festivals and gigs are all over the internet. Could you tell us more about it?
Bob: I did notice it as well, but we’ll do the party san first. But there are always rumours and that’s we’re we thought “here we go again…”

Lot’s of fans would like to see you…not only because you are Asphyx as a band, but also to hear Martin van Drunen. Another question the fans will ask is “how are they going to pull this off without Eric Daniels, the man behind the typical Asphyx riffs?”. Do you think that this reunion will gain a lot of pressure?
Bob: Quite a bit, but our riffs are easy to play, and Paul has also a brutal sound! And after all, you lose something and you gain something. Just give Paul a chance, it’s not easy for him, especially for him.

I think the audience will certainly do that. How will the next months look like for you guys? Practicing 4 times a week as a band? You guys are all living in different parts of The Netherlands…
Bob: We will start practicing in April, and we’ll do a photo shoot next Saturday (21st of January). We, indeed , live very apart from each other, except for Martin and me, we only live 2 miles apart.

What can we expect from an Asphyx gig in 2007? Something special like fireworks or other special effects…or just keeping it simple with an Asphyx logo as backdrop?
Bob: No fireworks or whatsoever. Just the backdrop, as we can find it that is. Just simple and brutal doomy death metal the old way.

You already said you have chosen to create a set list of the first two albums and some demo tracks. Why not something of the “On The Wings of Inferno” album which got a lot of positive reactions as well. Or maybe even 1 track of the Soulburn album. Both you and Wannes participated on those tracks…Or do you think the first 2 albums and the demo tracks are the songs the fans want?
Bob: I really think that the fans (if there are any, that is) want to hear the trax from the first 2 albums and from our 1989 “Crush the Cenotaph” demo. And we only can play one hour so we have to choose. But we’ll see. But still “Waves of Fire” really is an outstanding track…….

Bob said it would be a set list with only tracks of the demo era and the first 2 albums. This means no tracks from the Soulburn or “On the Wings of Inferno” albums, albums you have written the lyrics for and contained some great tracks. Too bad? Or do you understand, as fan you are a fan yourself, that Bob thinks that the audience only want to hear those songs?
Wannes: Haha, all those demos tracks were a suggestion of me. Yes, the “Crush the Cenotaph” demo still rules!
Well, I can’t speak for every Asphyx fan, but face it, the Martin-era made the biggest impression on the scene. When “The Rack” was released, Death Metal was at its peak and this album still remains as the best sold album of the Asphyx catalogue ever. I think most people will refer to “The Rack” as the ultimate Asphyx classic and not “On the Wings of Inferno”, right? Mine will always be “Embrace the Death”, but that’s another case. So, why not give the crowd what they want? I don’t mind playing those classic songs. When I was in Soulburn and Asphyx, it was always a pleasure to crank up some tracks like “Vermin”, “The Sickening Dwell” or “Streams of Ancient Wisdom”. Nothing wrong with playing some Death Metal, the brutal way! Personally, I just think most people want to hear the material of albums like “The Rack” or “Last One on Earth”. I could be wrong of course, but that’s my opinion on this matter. We actually discussed about playing some material of “On the Wings…” as well. In fact, it was even Martin’s idea to add some of its material to the set list. Bob still loves songs like “Waves of Fire”, while I would like to play “Summoning the Storm”. We have to see about this. We have a limited amount of time at the Party.san and you just can’t play every song you want. The set list will contain many classics and I hope everyone will enjoy themselves.
Soulburn? I read people are referring to “Feeding on Angels” as well. Cool. That’s still a great album, but we stopped playing its material when the band changed back into Asphyx. The situation became a bit too confusing for the audience as during the Soulburn era we played Asphyx songs too, while our own material already sounded like a bastard of Asphyx. At a certain point, it just didn’t make sense anymore to call ourselves Soulburn. We were Asphyx under another moniker. I doubt if we’ll ever play Soulburn material live, but as with this whole reunion, you never know…

What have you done in the mean time, after the split of Asphyx back in the end of 2000? Following the scene for a bit? Did you had plans or offers to join a band or project?
Bob: Not that much. Just work, raise a family,I have two kids named Max and Mika. That’s what I am living for. I did not have plans to join some other band since I already did everything with Asphyx. Most of the music today doesn’t really interest me that much since I kinda got stuck in the 80’s anyway. But, new bands like Necro Christos, Coffins, Eroded or Death Breath are really totally brilliant! Also nocturnal vomit is excellent! They still have that old feeling in their music!

Is there any chance that there will be an Asphyx release like a best of, live album, DVD of the Party San fest or old gigs? Maybe the demos on one disc? Re-releases of the albums with bonus tracks?
Bob: Maybe a DVD from the Part San show. They will record that so. As far as re-releases go, Century Media just re-released The Rack with a whole live gig on it, and The Last One on Earth with bonus stuff as well. They sound and look excellent! Thanx Philipp for that!
If the concert is a huge success, lots of positive responses…and you guys will get a great offer to record a new album, maybe even an offer you can’t refuse…would you give Bob a call to give it a shot?
Wannes: It’s not the case of us being given the chance to record another album again. Legally, Bob is still under contract of Century Media and I even believe Martin has to pay his dues, but I could be wrong about that. So, when we would release an album, Century Media would be an obvious choice (if they’re still interested, of course).
It’s more if Asphyx will enter the studio ever again. Bob is a proud father of two sons and I have a family as well. Priorities have changed through the years. I’m still very active with Pentacle and this will always remain my main focus. I just don’t have as much time available anymore as I had before when I didn’t had a job/family and could concentrate on my music for a full 100%. Plus, Eric is not in the band anymore. As I regard him as the musical nucleus of Asphyx (together with Bob), the mere thought of recording an album without him, doesn’t really appeal to me. Would it still sound like Asphyx? Would the overall sound be the same as before? Would the real Asphyx vibe stay alive? I very much doubt this, so I’m not into the thought of recording something new with Asphyx. I don’t know if Paul would be able to contribute to the song writing process in such a degree he would be able to replace Eric. He’s the guitarist of Thanatos and he has another project with Stephan, Martin, Theo and Ed as well, so he has enough to do these days. I can’t say we’ll never record something new again. Let time be the judge about that.
But, this subject is a bit tricky, because at this moment, the band reunited to perform live again and not to record a new album or whatever. New material is no priority at this moment. First, we have get back into a tight unit which is able to perform the old classics on stage with pride and honour again. That’s what we’re working on right now.

Thank you very much Bob and Wannes, for this interview! Although 2007 is only a few days old, the news that Asphyx reformed was already the best news of this year! 5 minutes before you have to go on stage…hundreds Asphyx fans will be watching you, screaming along with all your classick tunes….would you be nervous or enjoying every fuckin’ second of it? Cheers!
Bob: We would be a bit nervous, but we’ll enjoy everything of it!