You are active in ASGRAUW, MESLAMTAEA, and SAGENLAND. Why did you feel the urge to start another project? What separates SCHAVOT from the other bands? Why solo? Which project is your priority?
When I started MESLAMTAEA in 1998, there were no other Black Metal musicians for miles around. The only choice was to go solo. Sometime later I accidentally met Arjan, who lived a village away. We founded SAGENLAND. Other bands ended in disappointment though, and I lost interest in playing with a band. Until I joined ASGRAUW in 2012. A friendship has developed and the band has a strong drive. ASGRAUW is the only band I play live with at the moment. Meanwhile, MESLAMTAEA has expanded and we are a trio now. Also, SAGENLAND became active again. But there is always a strong need to create music on my own. SCHAVOT is again a solo project like how it all started in 1998.
What drives you to play Black Metal? The need to create/express? The need to channel emotions? What do your family, friends & colleagues think about it? What other form of art would you choose to create if music would not exist? Can/will Black Metal get exhausted? Is any other extreme Metal genre yet to be invented?
Black Metal is a style in which I can express emotions, despair, and anger, but also give voice to a feeling of tranquility. The sound of the forest, whispering trees. That is the beauty of Black Metal. It is diverse. Most family and colleagues do not know that I am active in Black Metal music. Most would not understand.
Every style of music can get exhausted if new generations are not interested. If there is no innovation, there is no progress. That is why I like the current experimental movement with bands like LASTER, GREY AURA, and TEITAN. A movement that I also include my band MESLAMTAEA. On the other hand, I adore the classic albums and new bands that play in the old-school tradition.
What is it that attracts you in the 90s Scandinavian Black Metal which you cannot find in today’s Black Metal?
90’s black metal from Scandinavia, especially Norway, had a special atmosphere and a mysterious vibe that is hard to find in current black metal. It is difficult to reproduce. I cannot keep up with today’s Black Metal and I do not understand most of the hypes. There are several new quality bands though and now and then I am excited about a new release.
How did you shape ‘Galgenbrok’? What higher purpose does it have for you?
The only purpose that my music has, is personal expression. But of course, I think it is great when other people like my music. That is a bonus! As said, SCHAVOT originated from the love for the 2nd wave Scandinavian black metal. Atmospheric bands such as EMPEROR, the first two DIMMU BORGIR albums, OBTAINED ENSLAVEMENT, or ULVER. But also the fast work from SETHERIAL, DARK FUNERAL, and MARDUK. In my attic room, I have access to all kinds of instruments and studio equipment. I record all layers of music from a click track. Guitar, bass, keyboards, drums, and vocals. With SCHAVOT it was a spontaneous process and the music is more stripped-down than I am used to playing.
Is there another reason other than the different media (vinyl/CD…) that ‘Galgenbrok’ is being released on 3 different labels i.e. VOID WANDERER PRODUCTIONS, WAR PRODUCTIONS, and RABAUW? Why not on a label that released material for your other projects?
I have been asked this question more than once. I am in contact with a few befriended labels and have brought SCHAVOT to their attention. I hate to beg for a release and they did not bite. I am okay with that. The scene is saturated and to release a new name is a risk. VOID WANDERER (The Netherlands) on the other hand was immediately enthusiastic! I grabbed a deal with both hands. It is an upcoming label that has some great names on its roster. Void often collaborates with their partner in crime: WAR Productions from Portugal. Together they will release a digipack CD on October 1st. Then Rabauw from Belgium spontaneously applied for a limited vinyl. That was a surprise because there were only a few short sound clips online. This vinyl will probably be released in winter 20/21.
TUIANTI STUDIO took care of analog mastering. It is not the first time you work together. Why is it your obvious go-to?
TUIANTI STUDIO is run by Arjan, with whom I have been doing projects for over twenty years. Arjan has an old skool approach to black metal music and has a clear opinion of how it should sound. For example, he does not participate in the current loudness war. A production should retain some air and dynamics. Mastering is a special profession that I, unfortunately, do not eh… master. I have two engineers at the moment that I work with. But because SCHAVOT had to have that old-school nineties vibe, TUIANTI was the obvious choice. Arjan suggested doing mastering using analog tube equipment instead of digital plug-ins. This turned out to sound perfect!
Did the Covid pandemic have any positive/negative impact on your inspiration & productivity?
I heard a lot of bands complain about the lockdown. Some have even pulled the plug. But if I speak for myself, social isolation had a very positive impact on my music. I got more time to completely lose myself in my music. And I was able to use my home studio very effectively in the lost hours between work. For years we could not finish a Sagenland record. And there suddenly it was! A new MESLAMTAEA album has been recorded as well. Unfortunately, we could not rehearse with ASGRAUW. But the time has effectively been used to record some new tracks. We are currently doing the finishing touches on the upcoming album. After many hours of recording and mixing, I still had the urge to record new material. That is how SCHAVOT was born.
Nowadays more and more bands in the Dutch Black Metal scene opt to write lyrics in the mother tongue. Which of these bands would you recommend? Is there a friendly connection among all those bands? Who would you like to collaborate with? Which Black Metal band would have been the first to introduce Dutch lyrics? What is the response from non-Dutch-speaking countries?
I can express myself better in Dutch than English because it is my mother tongue. Moreover, it leaves to the imagination for Non-Dutch listeners. That is one reason why I do not publish lyrics. Dutch is a rich language. A band like MURW has a great poetic quality. Also, several bands use a local dialect. For example, Kjeld (Frisian, which is a language rather than a dialect) and our project Sagenland (Twents dialect). Bands like Grafjammer are very creative with old and almost forgotten words.
I do not remember the first band I heard with Dutch lyrics. Might be COUNTESS. The Dutch scene is fairly fragmented. I do have contact with some bands and musicians though. We help each other and together we make a stronger scene.
How did you teach yourself all these instruments and when did you start with this? What ignited this? How do you keep motivated? Keyboards are often frowned upon within Black Metal. Do you understand that view?
Due to a lack of fellow musicians to play Black Metal with, I just started playing everything myself in the mid-nineties. Drums are my primary instrument. Then I started playing guitar, (fretless) bass, and keys. Just a matter of plugging in an instrument and see what happens. I am not a mega-talented musician at all. But I am 100% passionate and dedicated about making music and I can play well enough to create what I have in my mind. I understand why keyboards were hated in Black Metal. When used excessively it sounds like kitschy haunted-house music at the fair. But when it is applied subtly, I think it adds much atmosphere. I love to use keys myself.
Johan Prenger painted the cover by hand. How important are the visuals to you? Do you consider it the final piece of the puzzle in achieving an old-school vibe, alongside the analog mastering and the style of Black Metal? Besides being a painter, Johan Prenger also owns Reflection Records. Do you know him personally? How did you get in touch? What kind of instructions did you give him on your expected outcome?
I do not know Johan personally, but I have been following him on social media for a while and his work appeals to me. Cover art has more meaning when it is tailor-made for an album, instead of some Google image. Johan’s work reminds me of KRIS VERWIMP‘s: an artist who has provided covers for many classic albums that I have on the shelves. Johan is familiar with extreme music because of his label. He also listens to black metal himself, so he knows what art such music needs. All the puzzle pieces fell into place and it had to be that Johan would make the cover art. Fortunately, he responded enthusiastically! We discussed some themes and he said he wanted to paint ‘de Jufferboom’. I was surprised by the result!
Out of a limited selection of over 200 bands, MESLAMTAEA is featured with an interview in ADDERGEBROED‘s book ‘2011-2021 and beyond’. Does this kind of recognition make you proud?
You bet I was proud! The ADDERGEBROED website from Belgium is one of the very few that I keep coming back to read honest and sincere interviews and reviews. They go in-depth and have a lot of knowledge. They only deal with bands that they find interesting themselves. That is why it was a big surprise to see a very positive review of MESLAMTAEA‘s latest record ‘Geketend in de Schaduw van het Leven. When an interview request came we felt honored. That is was printed in the ADDERGEBROED book was the icing on the cake! The Belgian scene is flourishing at the moment and there are some great bands, websites, and labels there.
You are heavily into photography. Is this your profession or a hobby?
Editorial freelance photography for magazines is a part-time job alongside my day job. It is difficult to live from photography though. The heyday of magazines is over and many ‘zines I used to work for are gone. The appreciation for printed media seems to be declining, due to the Internet. People want to get information easily and for free. Also, the attention span is getting shorter and shorter. People can no longer read amounts of text. This unfortunately is a parallel I see in the music business.
You are a photographer & writer for several international magazines about motorbikes. Which motorbike(s) do you own? Which is your most memorable motor trip? Which trip are you dreaming of? Already done Norway?
I am just interested in custom build motorcycles like choppers and cafe racers. I also ride custom bikes myself. Unfortunately, my schedule is too full to ride much nowadays. If you ask me, Sweden and England are the places to be for custom-bike fans.
Which is your biggest passion: Black Metal, nature, photography, writing, or motorbikes? Where do these activities come together?
I am interested in too many things and I go far in every passion that I have. Time management is always a major challenge in my life and I often have to slow myself down. What the emphasis is on, varies from moment to moment and it also depends on the season. At the moment, music takes up a lot of time.
I read that you take inspiration from landscapes when composing music. Do you have a house with a view? How do we need to imagine? Are you going for a hike in ‘de Boshuizerbergen’ or so, get home with newborn melodies that were haunting your mind, and then start composing? When you travel, what countries do you go to, do you seek nature abroad too? Do you go hiking or motorbiking? Floods, forest fires, extreme seasons, … are you worried that global warming will take apocalyptic proportions one day?
Nature is a major inspiration for my music. On the one hand, the beauty of nature. And the flip side, mankind is destroying it. The cities, the concrete, ugliness. It sounds boring, but I am not a traveler and I enjoy nature close to home. I like to go fishing at sunset and enjoy the forests and ancient trees that we have here. When the head becomes empty, it is automatically filled with fresh musical ideas. That earth is being destroyed is certain and of course, I am worried about that. The day when there is no turning back is not far ahead.
Legends & Sagas
Where nature inspires your music, your lyrics take influence from legends & sagas, which in their turn might have been inspired by some phenomenons of nature themselves. What do we need to know more about song titles like ‘Witte Juffer’, ‘Galgenbult’ and ‘Droglicht’?
Many folktales have been told to explain natural phenomena. And there is often clear moral in it. Good and evil. Some stories had to frighten people. Maybe to prevent them from doing stupid things. I think they are great stories that say a lot about the people of the past. I delved into folk tales and for this album, I opted entirely for Dutch tales. ‘Witte Juffer’ is about a female ghost figure that lived in a hollow tree. ‘Droglichten’ are will-o’-the-wisps that lured travelers into the swamp at night. And ‘Galgenbult’ is a true story about the most notorious murderer in Twente. He was put in a restraint chair for 114 days, after which he was broken on the wheel alive. In terms of folk tales, I am far from done so who knows, there may be more music from SCHAVOT to come.
What is the future bringing for any of your projects?
I am not consciously planning music and I let it come to me. For now, however, the energy and inspiration are peaking and undoubtedly a lot is going to happen. As mentioned, new albums by Meslamtea and Asgrauw are on the way. I am going to do a project with a very talented guitarist. And with one of my bands, we are planning a split album. I cannot say much about that and we will see!
Anything else you still want to voice?
I am quite blown away by the good response to SCHAVOT and the great support from the scene. I did not expect that and I want to thank fans, the enthusiastic record labels, and DEAD MILL MEDIA for that!
Thanks Floris & SCHAVOT!
SCHAVOT images used with kind permission of DEAD MILL MEDIA