Martin Van Drunen of Asphyx Talks About "Deathhammer"
Since the 1980s, Asphyx has been a force in the realm of death metal, releasing album after album of crushing music. But through the decades, the band was inundated with problems from members leaving to entire breakups. But, after reforming in the 2000s, Asphyx seems stronger than ever and about to release a sure classic "Deathhammer." I was able to talk to vocalist Martin van Drunen about the album, the challenges the band has weathered, and what like-minded band he plans on spending time with in the States.
Buick McKane: How are you doing today?
Martin Van Drunen: I’m fine, thank you.
Buick: Great, well you’ve got a new album coming out called “Deathhammer,” and you’ve been streaming the title track for a little while now. How have your fans reacted to the song so far?
Martin: Very good. We absolutely cannot complain. Everybody really seems to like it, not just the track, but the people that already have the album, especially press, the reactions are really overwhelming. So it’s really nice to hear all that. Absolutely flattering.
Buick: That’s great, and another flattering piece of news is that your previous album “Death…the Brutal Way” was one of your distributer’s best sellers. Do you think this album will do the same?
Martin: Well, honestly I mean, every band will say that the latest album is their best, more or less. But for us it really feels that way. It’s not just because the way we worked on it was different than “Death…the Brutal Way,” basically due to that Alwin [Zuur] is new in the band. His enthusiasm is contagious, you know. Not that we never had enthusiasm; it’s the most important thing in Asphyx. But with Alwin, yeah, it’s just marvelous to work all together on the whole thing. For us, the composition and the level of production and everything; we think it’s better than “Death…the Brutal Way.” That was a good album, we were pleased with it, everybody was, but in total, I think this one is slightly a bit more better.
Buick: And you took a good amount of time to make it. Do you think that helped with working it out so perfectly?
Martin: Yeah, definitely. But it’s not that we lock ourselves into some kind of studio, you know; like other bands will stay there quite a while. That’s not working for us. The drum tracks were actually done a year ago or something. So, it was just because we could do the guitar at Paul [Baayens]’s place because he built, more or less, his own little studio at home. And so he was able to record the guitar tracks whenever he wanted. So if you have a bad day, just leave it. If you’re really busy with other things than that, yeah, you can just leave it and take another day to do it. So for me, it was, more or less, just waiting until he had all the guitars fixed. Then I made an appointment to record at the studio around the corner and I just sang my part. That just took me two afternoons. I’m basically pretty quick with all that. Yeah, we took our time like you said and that was really fine, really. Also that Century Media was not breathing down our necks, like, “When are you guys going to be done and finished, blah, blah…” Not like that. When we tell them, “Okay, everything is done,” they know what to do and set a real deadline of when to put your album out.
Buick: That’s really cool. And as far as touring in support of the album, you have a few festival dates scheduled, like Extremefest, but do you have plans for a longer tour yet?
Martin: No, we like to call ourselves a non-tour band because, first, is basically impossible to plan for that because of the jobs of the lads. Paul, he’s a teacher and he’s completely depending on when the kids have their holiday, and I think it’s in every country, it’s the same. And the others, they only have holidays in the summer for two or three weeks, so it’s so difficult to plan. And like Paul, you know, he wants to go with his family on vacation during the summer because it’s the only time of year they can. So that’s one thing, and next to that is touring right now is really expensive. The buses, the prices are really exorbitant, so you really need more bands in it. And sometimes that doesn’t work out. But some of it’s cool, I mean, what we do is we take as much shows as we can on the weekend. So we show our faces and people are able to catch us live, and I think that’s the main thing. I mean, it doesn’t really matter if you go on tour and play twenty shows in a row or play twenty shows spread out through the whole year. It’s basically the same. I mean, we do play Greece, we do play Portugal, we do play Finland, Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland, Austria, all these places. So it’s pretty much that same that you cover when you go on tour.
Buick: Right, and this band has been around since, probably twenty five years or so. It’s been around longer than I’ve been alive actually.
Martin: That’s funny.
Buick: You’ve been through a lot of line-up changes and a few breakups. But you’ve been pretty much solid since 2007, except for changing the bass player. How confident are you about staying together and recording for years to come with this line-up?
Martin: Very confident because we all feel that this is the best line-up, really, that we ever had, and not just because of the musical chemistry there is between us, but also purely personally. We’re all friends, not just only in this band, but we like the same kind of music which is also very important if you are in Asphyx; you need to have the same kind of metal influences that we have. Maybe a few little side-jumps here or there, but that’s not a big thing, but mainly the influences that we all have. But, yeah, I mean, it’s so much fun to play and hang out together. And we already said if something’s happening now and one in the line-up has to quit or even worse, I don’t want to think about that, but then it’s probably the end of the band. This is just the best line-up that we ever had; the way it feels for me, it’s almost like, you could say, the band has a soul together. It may sound stupid, but it’s the way that we feel. So, you know, for me first we recorded “Deathhammer” with this line-up for which we think is the strongest album that we ever made, but it’s, of course, very different if you compare it to the old stuff from “The Rack” to the last one; you can’t compare it together, it’s still the same style, but…Paul, he’s, like, a different guitar player although he still thinks the same, but still, he’s different. And he has his own style, and back in those days, it was almost difficult to produce and stuff; to engineer albums. So you cannot compare it. But, for my feeling, it’s the best album we ever made. And we just can’t wait to make more and maybe even better albums, if that’s possible. I don’t know, but we’re going to try. It’s a challenge.
Buick: Do you think that your next album would come out faster, or would you take a longer time on it as well?
Martin: Maybe two or three. It’s also due to the fact that I’ve got other bands rolling as well, like when I focus on Hail of Bullets, I focus on Hail of Bullets and there’s no time for Asphyx so that consumes extra time as well. But funny enough, Paul already said he’s got new riffs, and I’ve got already ideas for topics on songs as well, so if we feel like it, I think we’re going to jam, I don’t know, maybe after his holiday because he’s visiting his girlfriend who’s down with the family in Florida. I think when he’s back and he’s all fresh and feels good, we’re probably going to jam and see if we can come up with some new songs. Which is funny because the album is just out. Not even.
Buick: A lot of bands do that I find; somebody just keeps writing music, they have all this material built up they use for albums for years.
Martin: Yeah, some do that. But the thing is, of course, Paul is collecting everything that comes to his mind. As soon as he has an idea…he even told me, it’s really funny, he has a guitar back in the class where he’s teaching his kids and he told me one time he was standing in front of the class and all of the sudden he had an idea in his head, and he told the kids, “Give me a minute please, boys and girls.” And he went in the back room and took an acoustic guitar and he quickly recorded it on his cell phone. And then he went back to the class and said, “Where were we?” It’s really funny. So he’s got tons of material, but the thing is that sometimes we’re really picky on which songs go; if we have a little bit of doubt on whatever riff, we skip it. We say, “No, no, for us it has to be like RAAAHH, you know, like that.” It has to be really good. So we get picky on that one. Sometimes it’s not easy to have all the riffs that fit really well with Asphyx. Yeah, he doesn’t have that much riffs. I mean, he has riffs in stock I may say so. But of course, then you need to work with them as well. They have to fit in certain song, that’s also a thing you have to find. So it works that way.
Buick: I see. Is there anything else you would like to say?
Martin: What we really hope this year is that we can do some shows in the U.S. I mean, like I said we’re not a touring band, but if there are any offers for little festivals or maybe something on the East Coast or something or on the West Coast side, that would be really nice and hang out with Autopsy in San Francisco. So we really hope to come and we can convince people what we can do live and what we’re capable of, and promote the album there too. It’s something that I really look forward to if that’s going to happen because basically, we’ve always played in Europe. You need to play the U.S. as well, but let’s just hope and see what happens.
Emily is an avid supporter of the New Orleans scene, often filming shows and conducting interviews with local bands to help promote their music. She also runs her own site dedicated to the New Orleans scene, Crescent City Chaos.
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