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Interview

Asphyx – “We just felt we could still deliver some brutal old school death metal the Asphyx way”

When Asphyx announced a new studio album many old metalheads got immense boners which they hadn’t had for years! Well now, “Death… the brutal way” delivers in spades and after Asphyx’ first US appearance it was about fucken time to ask Paul Baayens and Bob Bagchus some questions… (Saldiac)

Lets kick off with recent events! You guys played at the Maryland DeathFest 2009 which marked your first US gig ever. If I’m correct only Martin has been to the US before so how did you like the festival, the fans, the city of Baltimore, the US?
How did this experience compare to Europe and would you consider going back for more gigs?
Bob: Yes, only Martin has been to the US, back in the days with Pestilence. We liked the MDF ALOT and had a great time over there! Also Baltimore is a cool city. But it differs not that much from bigger cities in Europe though. The fans were amazing and we are thankful for that. We might go back in the future.

At MDF Mayhem seemed to have fucked things up a bit for you guys so you had to cut half an hour of your set and couldnt do a decent sound check. I assume youll sue the hell out of them
Paul: No, let’s say we just have had a good talk with these guys. Ha! Ha! Mayhem was back in the days very supportive to Asphyx so because of these credits they are still alive.
But it all was fuck, it felt we had to soundcheck with not our own stuff and had to play quickly before the curfew which really sucked. This is a good reason to return to the States and play a full set to make it up.
Bob: This was very fucked up. They just kept on playing and because of that we had to drop like 4-5 songs from our setlist! Songs like “Pages in Blood”, “Evocation”, “The Last One On Earth”, “Rite of Shades” (sorry Theo). This was a bit like a cold shower.

If Im correct you guys brought 3 different shirt designs to MDF. Did you print any special merch for MDF? How many copies of each design did you bring and did all of them sell out?
Paul: We printed special shirts for this festival. Because we sold out pretty fast, we have printed some more shirts for those who weren’t able to buy them.

Oh, almost forgot the most important question: how did you like the American beers?
Paul: This IS definitely the most important question! Ha! We do like to drink some American beer indeed! This is another very good reason to get our asses back in the States again.  The festival was more than perfectly arranged, but on Saturday there was a long row of people at the VIP/backstage waiting to get some beers. This is a nightmare for every musician I guess!
Bob: American beers are OK. Budweiser is good to drink and so we did all days long, but still Dutch and German beers are the best!

It seems you guys are having quite a bit of fun, the idea to reform for just one gig (Party San was it?) quickly turned into more gigs, an EP and by now even a new full-length album entitled Deaththe brutal way. It seems more old reunited bands follow this path in that they end up recording a new album when it feel right for them.
At what point did you guys feel it felt right for you to do an actual new studio album?
Paul: First of all, we didn’t have any plans making a new album. But after the Party San gig we got overwhelmed by the awesome response of the audience. This wasn’t our best show ever, but certainly one of the most special ones. We played the songs a bit too fast; maybe those were the nerves!
Bob: Well, Paul came up with killer riffs in our rehearsal room and very soon, even that same day, “Scorbutics” was born. From that point on riffs/song structures were coming, one after another. Paul kept sending awesome killer tunes, so Paul, Martin and I went into the rehearsal room and here we are with “Death…The Brutal Way”. We just felt we could still deliver some brutal old school death metal the Asphyx way, especially when Paul came up with all those killer tunes! We just HAD to do it!

A little bird called Ed informed me that Paul wrote the majority of the new Asphyx. Correct me if the little bird was lying! But I was wondering how Paul approached emulating Eric Daniels guitar sound and Erics way of playing/writing?
Paul: Birdy Ed? Ha! Ha! You mean Dirty Ed I guess! Ha! Ha! I do like the first albums of Asphyx myself as a fan. So it’s really cool I got involved with the composing of new Asphyx material. During the writing of the new material I kept looking what I, as a fan, would wanna hear on the new album. It all went very natural, as I was part of Asphyx since many years.
Bob: Paul is the man.

Since the Internet makes life easier for people living far away from each other: did you guys actually rehearse the songs during the song writing process or did you send each other digital music files?
Paul: Mostly I recorded riffs and/or arrangement and sent them to Bob, so he could give his opinion about it. So when we are finally in the rehearsal room to arrange the songs, we all know what we have to do. For us it works fine, also because we aren’t exactly each other’s neighbors.

The new album features 10 tracks, did you guys have more song material or are the album tracks everything you wrote? If you have more material written, in what form will it be released?
Paul:
We only recorded the 10 songs which appear on the new album. We almost have more material ready. Maybe for a mini album, we don’t know yet.
Bob: There are some new killer riffs in store here, and maybe a cover from Trouble (“The Tempter”) or Sempiternal Deathreign…..

Holy fuck, do Sempiternal Deathreign!!

How does Martin approach writing his lyrics? Does he wait until a song is finished or does he start when a songs main structure is chosen?
Paul:
Actually, when we are rehearsing a new song, Martin always come up with a songtitle.

Paul, how do you manage to keep the bands youre in apart when writing new music? Do you consciously write material for each band or do you simply write and decide for what band its going to be used later?
Paul:
Often I feel when a riff has more a Bullets groove or a Asphyx vibe. Riffs where I’m not sure of I’m checking with different tunings; trying to find out which suits the best.
Most of the time I just grab a guitar in the evening, without amplification just plain and clean playing while having some beers. Somehow riffs come up which I record with my (photo) camera. When my camera is full, I listen to the riffs again and put 25% in the trash bin. The other ones I record, sometimes with different drum patterns and in different ways.

Whose idea was it to record the sequel Asphyx II (they died as they marched)? Why did you decide to end the album with the instrumental The saw, the torture, the pain?
Bob: It just came into existence by jamming Paul’s riffs into a song. The instrumental is just a heavy saw soundtrack. Nothing with a special meaning to it. Just heavy shit.

How did the recording process take place? I heard you guys recorded it at Frank Klein Douwels place. Did each of you separately record his parts or was a full band live recording approach used?
Bob: It was indeed recorded at Frank’s studio. In fact, this album was at first a demo…. but it turned out very good so we decided to use it all for the album. Paul and I recorded the basics first, that is drums and guide guitar, then later on Paul did the rest of all the guitars, Wannes did the bass a few weeks after and finally Martin did the vocals.

The album was mixed by Dan Swanö, how many mixing versions did you do before you guys settled with the final mixing version?
Bob: Only 5 mixes. The 5th one was the one we needed. It is a mixture between mix 1 and mix 4. Dan did an awesome job!! Asphyx doesn’t need many mixes, if it sounds raw then we like it. We hate to spend a lot of time on recording/mixing because then the feeling and rawness gets lost. We like it spontaneous.

Who did the cover artwork? What other album did s/he do?
Bob: Mick Koopman did it. He also did the Hail of Bullets cover artwork. We’ve known Mick for a long time and he’s a great guy to work with.

Looking at the scheduled gigs its mostly festivals and single gigs here and there. Do you guys have too many job responsibilities nowadays to do a full tour?
Paul: Yes indeed! We aren’t able to do long tours or so. Most of us have kids and a full time job, so it’s impossible to combine these things for now. We like to keep the Asphyx shows special and unique.
Bob: No tours for us.

Asphyx doesnt have an official website, only a MySpace. Whys that? Is this the sad way more bands will go? I can understand the easiness and comfort of MySpace but an official website has so much more personality.
Paul: Actually, we’re working on a new website besides the www.myspace.com/officialasphyx.  It’s www.asphyx.nl and it will be launched soon.

By the way, will Deaththe brutal way be released on vinyl? If so, will Century Media release it or some other label?
Paul: The new album will be available on vinyl as well. Hey, we like to keep it old school as we like the vinyl as well. The 7 inch EP of 2008 was release by Iron Pegasus, but the whole album release will be done by War Anthem Records.

Heres a question for Bob: did you keep playing drums during the years when Asphyx last dissolved (2000/2001) or did you have to restart to some extent when you reformed in 2007?
Bob: I quit drumming in 2000, when we split up. And I sat behind my kit again in April 2007, just before the reunion.

Another Bob question: I was supposed to see Asphyx in 1995 on the Bolt Thrower tour and in 1996/1997 in the Baroeg with Grave, Krabathor and some other bands.
Both were cancelled, do you remember what the reason was?
Bob: The first gig, the Bolt Thrower one, was in 1993 (Saldiac: no, it really was 1995 haha), but I was out of Asphyx at that time. I don’t know the exact reasons for that. The other one was in 1996-the “God Cries” period-and that was because Theo Loomans had a bad car accident.

Question for Martin: Did you finally see Come and see/Idi i smotriyet? If not then you better go fucken watch this amazing piece of war cinema!
Bob: I have to answer this as well…I will ask him, ok?

Wannes did some backing vocals during the gig at MDF and I hear a bit of backing vocals on the new album. Did you guys consider having a vocal duel between Martin and Wannes for the album?
Bob: No, not really. Wannes did some great backing vocals on “Death…The Brutal Way” indeed, but that was more decided in the last minute, like “oh, maybe this will sound awesome here and there…” Impulsive and spontaneous. It turned out great.

Its rather funny to realize that 3 of the current Asphyx members do excellent vocals. I saw Paul do vocals during Orphaned Lands performance at Progpower 2007 which were much better than Kobis grunts. So I was wondering if Paul doesnt miss doing vocals?
Paul: That Orphaned Land song was cool to do. The very first show we did together was in 2005, when Thanatos performed with them in Greece. I had to learn that song in a short time, so I printed the lyrics and put it on the ground just to be sure.
Oh no, I’m not missing my vocals at all! Finally I get the chance to bang my head off without doing vocals. With my former band Cremation I felt a bit stuck on the microphone. Now I have the chance to walk around and bang like a maniac.

Somewhat related to the previous question: is there any chance of a Cremation discography CD being released at some point?
Paul: HA! HA! Of course not! Why should we? The band split shortly after releasing the CD. So I still have some copies left. Cremation is dead, buried and reduced to ashes. No need to exhume it!

Would a package of Asphyx/Dead Head/Pestilence/Thanatos/Sinister/Gorefest be interesting for you to play or am I being an arse whos living in the past? Heck, even Acrostichon is gonna do a one-gig reunion. How can I resist suggesting such a package!
Bob: Haha,that really is nostalgic! Sounds interesting indeed although Gorefest have split up, unfortunately.

Aight guys, Im sure youre fed up with all these questions so Im letting you off the hook! Feel free to address our readers here and tell them their life isnt complete until they own Death… the brutal way.
Bob: Ok, your life isn’t complete without owning “Death…the Brutal Way”! No, but seriously, you are right! True old school can’t be ignored!