Thank you for taking the time to talk to us! How are things in your world?
Well, the pleasure is all mine. How things are in my world? Just easy going, and I’m busy with my daily job. Besides that, I’m busy with music.
So you still can’t make a full time living with your music?
No, that’s not possible. Perhaps if we were to play every weekend or so. No, we all have our steady jobs next to our music, but that’s okay.
Most bands do, yeah.
It’s very important that you have steady income, you know? But sometimes it’s very busy, with both the job and the music and all that comes with it. But we manage, and that’s okay.
That’s all good. You are about to release your third studio album, Earthless Pagan Spirit. It’s a very interesting title! How did you come up with that?
Actually Twan writes the lyrics. He did all the lyrical parts of the whole album and all the connections between the songs. And all the songs connected make Earthless Pagan Spirit. Earthless as in earthly, we all live on earth. It’s a very steady title; for being on this earth. Pagan is beyond God, you know? The spiritual issue. And spirit, soul, all things in the mind and all things experienced. That’s also in the lyrics. They all have like a psychological influence, with a touch of the darker things and the more satanic things.
So it really fits the band in that way!
Yeah, it reflects how we play the music that we play, and it’s an expression and sort of a proclamation. We say that we don’t perform when we play live; we proclaim. We give the music more feeling through the lyrics. So when you look at all of it together, the music and the lyrics, it’s one big part of what we want to give to people.
Lyrically, are all the songs really connected with each other to tell one big story, or are they separate parts that just have the same theme?
They are separate parts, all the songs have their own subjects, but all the subjects are connected. Basically it are experiences in life and how to deal with them. Mostly, people want to see happy things in life, lucky things in life, but there’s also a darker side of life and that’s what we reflect on in the lyrics.
Of course every life has plenty of darkness. You wouldn’t say if you listen to some people though *laughs*
Yeah, true *laughs*
On one of the promo photo’s that came with the new album there’s a banner or something that says “Hell is just a surface”. Is that one of your lyrics?
No, that’s not one of our lyrics, it’s sort of a band liner note, a lyrical mascot. We also used it as a backprint of a t-shirt, we used it in an official videoclip on the Tarot cards. We don’t use it often, we just use it when we like to use it. It’s our band slogan.
Alright, cool slogan! I like it, I saw it and it really made me think. I didn’t notice it before. I’ve given the new album several plays over the last few weeks and I must say I’m impressed with the total feel of it. What did you set out to do when you were writing this album and do you feel that you achieved it?
First of all, we’ve been busy with this album for almost a year from the start of making the songs until the master mix. The whole process took place in a relaxed way, that’s something we like to do. It’s not like we have to come up with eight or nine songs and crunch them out. For this one we had in mind from the start that we wanted to play a bit longer songs. The songs are more expanded. For the feeling it’s nice to know upfront that you want to make a song seven or eight minutes, but we don’t play for minutes. We just collect the riffs, gather them and we set the basis for the songs. I compose the riffs and when I find a good riff, I record it at home. I send that to Bob and if we are both excited about it then we make an appointment to go into the rehearsal room. We always go into the rehearsal room at midnight. We never make songs together in the afternoon or midday, we always start at midnight. Just for the feeling. When we enter the rehearsal room at night, and when we leave, all is quiet. That’s a big inspiration for us.
It’s sort of our process. We collect the riffs and we have ideas about how we want to structure the songs. We really think about this, but we never sit down and say well, we have to make a riff. It’s always spontaneous inspiration. Then we bring shape to it and set the base. Later Twan and Remco fill it in, in their way and the songs are going to be lifted. I like that part most of all as a musician, the whole process of making songs.
You just let the magic of the witching hour happen and see where the songs take you. I like that.
Yeah. Bob and I are both very susceptible to certain influences like seeing movies or certain atmospheres. We can be very influenced by things like that. It’s not just listening to music that guides our creative decisions, it’s also about atmospheric inspiration. It goes from the person, out into the music. The same goes for Twan and Remco. The whole band has the right feeling to do this.
Do you have any examples of what influenced you for this specific album?
We like to watch old horror movies, you know? Like The Beyond, Fantasm, the older movies. We like to see those. They have an atmosphere we really like in music as well. Most good horror movies have this dark atmosphere.
You mentioned The Beyond, that’s a very nice example. It’s this really creepy movie and it has this dark feel to it.
Yes, but it’s also serious about serial killers and stuff like that. For example, when we started with Asphyx we had that as well. We were very movie addicted. The atmosphere, to us it’s connected. Of course we listen to music, we really like those early eighties Black Metal, Extreme Metal acts. We really like that feeling. It’s all connected to each other. I always say that making an album, writing songs, we are not consuming. It’s not a consuming product. It’s art. You have to be on the right time, in the right place to make it. You can’t force it, try to do it right now. That’s not how it works for us.
I get that. To me, when I listen to the album, it really reminds me of the old Death- and Black Metal stuff I used to listen to. There is some simplicity in the riffs, but they also carry a lot of power in them.
Okay! Thank you, yes. That’s how we like to play, you know? We don’t like to play the very technical stuff. There are way better musicians out there, I know that. But the most magic is just playing together and letting the feeling go. That’s more important to us than trying to be the best musician and getting very technical and so on. It’s a style of music we like. Stuff like the old Bathory, the old Venom and so on. It’s so intense. Most people say it’s simplistic, okay, but there’s this dimension behind it. That’s really what we like and it’s really what we want to let people hear. What you had in the eighties, we just bring it back in the year 2016, of course with all the advantages of modern technology that wasn’t available in those days, but it’s okay for us to use it.
Like a remastered classic! With simplicity I meant that the riff itself isn’t that complex, but it’s catchy and it really sticks with you. I think that’s the real power in the music that you write.
We have sort of an idea about that. If we have a good riff that we like very much, we don’t hesitate to repeat it four, five, six times. You could play it two times and then switch to another riff and so on, but to us it’s sort of a vibe. It’s a vibe we hang into. Also when playing live, we can see people going into that vibe that we want to play. And that’s really awesome, a really nice experience.
I think you have the right term there. You get into the vibe with this music.
Yeah! That’s pretty important. We just like it. We rather just do four good riffs in one song than to make ten or eleven and only have three good ones. That’s how we think about it.
How would you describe the overall sound on the new album?
We decided on that sort of accidentally. We drove to a show in Poland two years ago and Twan had the latest album by Marduk with him: Frontschwein. We listened to it in the van and we were blown away by the production. It was really cool. We tracked down who engineered it and we thought it was by some other guy in Sweden. Since Marduk is also on Century Media Records, so we asked our manager at CM, who told us it was done by Davo from Marduk. We told him it would be awesome if he could also work on Soulburn with us, so we asked him and he said yes. We did tell him we did not work with Dan Swanö. In our opinion there are too many bands going to Dan Swanö and the risk you have is that sound wise you start sounding the same, and we want to go more in another direction. And it was awesome. It was a really nice experience. Bob and I went to Sweden for a long weekend, to his studio, the Endarker Studio. When we arrived there, he had a rough mix for us and it sounded great. What we had in mind when we started with this album, was something that you don’t see very often, a certain production, how it had to sound. The end result was exactly what we had in mind. We are very happy, so very happy with what Davo did for us.
I get that, it sounds amazing.
If you look at your musical journey with Soulburn, where 1997’s debut was still very much rooted in the Asphyx sound, over the years, how much do you feel has changed and what is still the same?
The feeling is still the same, the feeling of making the music. I can also say it’s more intense. Of course we are getting older, and I believe that as you get older, you experience things more intensely than twenty years ago, or sixteen years ago. So that’s a difference. The biggest difference for me, I can’t speak for the other guys, but I get a lot more pleasure from making music nowadays. I enjoyed myself back then as well, but now it feels more complete. The things I do now are much more focussed. I want to do this. It’s a big difference. Another big difference is that our shows and everything are much more professional than back then. That’s a great development.
Would you say that you enjoy making music more these days because you discovered more about who you are as a musician, and what your capabilities are?
It’s like, the feeling that you are still growing. I think that as a musician you can never say, this is it. This is what I can do, I can’t do anything more. You have to be open minded to things. You have to be in love with the instrument you are playing. For me personally, the experience is to really become one with your guitar, to really become one with your instrument. That’s how you can let people hear who you are, what you like and what you can do.
I must also say we really do things more relaxed now. When we told Century Media that we wanted to do an album, they never told us we had to do an album before a certain point in time. We just said we wanted to do an album, they got excited that we wanted to do that. It’s a great influence, if you don’t have that pressure. I really experienced that these days we don’t feel pressure to make songs, or make an album. Back in the old days it was like we have to make a new album and let’s hope it’s similar to the previous one or even better. Now when we’re ready for a new album it’s just, let’s go.
Not bound by deadlines or expectations.
No deadlines. Well, you do get deadlines once you start the actual work on the album of course, once you get closer to a release. More like a planning, but that’s the process once you already started. But there are no deadlines on periods between albums and so on. And we really like to make a fourth album, of course, but that’s for the future.
Exactly. I also really liked the female vocals in “Withering Nights”, who did those?
Those were done by Lisette van den Berg, she and Twan know each other. Lisette also did some vocals for Ayreon, the project by Arjen Lucassen. She’s a classically schooled vocalist. She also did some work on the Suffocating Darkness. She wasn’t as present as she is now, but we really wanted to use her again on this album, and she and Twan decided together which part she could do. The result is really amazing.
Yes, it’s a nice addition to your sound, absolutely.
I have to say that I got questions like, is this an experiment you wish to pursue further? And I said you have to see this as a sort of effect, an attachment for certain passages of the song. It just gives it an atmospherical touch with the female vocals, that’s just what we chose for this song. Perhaps she will return on our fourth album. We are really happy with how she is doing this, it’s done very well. We like it!
If you look at the record, which song do you think will be the most fun to play live?
We started to play the opening track live, “Splendid corpses”, we already had that in our setlist. We will be adding “WIthering Nights” and we also really like to play “Spirited Asunder” as the last song, just for the vibe, for the end of the show. We just need to arrange the setlist for when the album is released on the 18th of November. Then we will decide which songs we’re going to play live.
The song that you did already play live, how was the crowd's reaction to it?
Very good! They were really excited, and the responses were very good. I had the feeling that people were really picking it up well, like this is a new song, we have to really listen to it. They even went crazy on that song as well, so that’s really nice to experience.
It’s a catchy one! I thought it was a great opening track for the album.
Yeah. We really asked ourselves which song do we want as a teaser song, and we picked this one almost right away. A fun fact by the way, the track order of the songs on the album, is exactly the order in which we composed the songs. That’s really strange, something that never happened before, that we record the songs and decide on a track order that’s the same as the order in which they were created.
So it’s your first chronological album!
Yes! And it even has “logical” in it. On the other hand, it would not have been an issue if it had another tracking order, it’s just…
It’s a nice idea.
Yes. It’s a cool coincidence that it worked out that way. We said, we have two songs connected with the upcoming grunts. The Torch. That’s an idea we had from the start when we started to compose that song. There are lots of tracks that start with one guitar, lots of tracks that start with a bass guitar, we said we’d like to start with upcoming grunts for a change. Just some new ideas.
Even though you had a long break with the band, Soulburn celebrated it’s 20th anniversary this year. Did you have any special events or celebrations?
No, we haven’t! *laughs* We never thought about it! How many years did you say?
Twenty! Did you forget your birthday? *laughs*
Twenty? Okay, that’s right, since 1996. In that year we were founded. Okay.
Yeah, that’s two decades man!
Yeah, but with a lot of space in between, you know?
As I said, you had a long break, but still!
We had a six years break , so… but I never thought about it. I think, okay, the band exists for twenty years but there wasn’t continuity. There was just the first album, then six years nothing, then came the second and the third one. I think it’s a bit like art, you know? People only knew the previous one and see this as a reunion.
I just noticed and thought well, that’s an impressive number.
We can use it in the shows perhaps! Just to let the audience know we’re not a band from 2013. That our roots go way back. I don’t even know if there are other bands with a similar history, doing nothing for so long and then just continuing. It’s not very common I think.
No, maybe not. But that just makes it more special.
Yes, and that’s what we like. The more special it is, the more we like it.
Your singer, Twan van Geel is currently in two bands, since he’s also still an active member in “Legion of the Damned”. Is it hard to combine those two projects?
No, it’s not hard. From the start, when Twan joined us, we agreed that important shows for Legion always have priority. We just manage to combine that. We don’t get in each other’s way, we have a very good understanding with each other and there are solid agreements in place. That’s all really okay.
So there’s never been a conflict there?
No, never! From the beginning, Twan explained things to us and we said that’s all okay. Even musically we’re not in each other’s crossing. If he has shows planned and those were planned before we want to set a date, then we just postpone. We have a very good understanding about this.
That’s only good, yeah. Good musicians can make this work, I’m sure.
Yes, but we are also adults, we’re not into childish stuff. We handle those things in a professional way. All cool!
Very good. You already mentioned that you enjoy making music more these days, but how big a role does Metal play in your life, what does it mean to you?
A lot. I have to say, it’s a way of living. For me, it makes my life complete, you know? Like plants need water, I need metal in my life. Playing metal, and feeling metal. It’s not something you can fake, it has to be in your veins. And when it’s in your veins, it’s a way of life. To me it’s very important, and for the other guys as well. It makes life complete.
The reason I ask is because I can really tell that from listening to your latest record. It’s deeply rooted in Metal.
Alright, thank you! Yes. It’s a cliche perhaps to say that we breathe Metal, it’s just the pure love we have for this kind of music. You have to look at it like a marriage of sorts. If they would take away my guitars for instance, I’d become very depressed. I’d be a very different person. That says enough. I just need to play my guitar everyday. Even if it’s just for half an hour or fifteen minutes, I have to feel it. If I can feel it around my neck and play, it’s okay. I think in their very core all real musicians feel the same. It doesn’t matter which kind of music you play. If you have love for your music and love for all that breaths metal, then it becomes a very important part of your life.
I think a lot of people will recognize themselves in this, you know?
Yeah, I definitely do. It’s a part of life, for me and for many others.
For example, I also listen to other kinds of music. I listen to many different kinds of music, but at a certain point I miss the screaming guitars, I miss the pounding drums, I miss the very nasty vocals. What I want to say is that as a musician I can listen to all kinds of music, but there’s just one thing you really like, that when you don’t hear it, you miss it. As I said, it’s in your veins.
Yeah, absolutely. Where it comes to music, are there bands out there that you think more people should listen to? Bands that are under appreciated?
Yes. I really like “The Committee”, that’s a band you don’t hear a lot about, or read a lot about, but I really like them. They have a demo tape and I’ve heard the band consists of Dutch and Russian people, but I’m not sure about that. But I like them a lot. There are a lot of bands I appreciate, there’s so much stuff. I really dig all my cd’s, but most of the time I listen to the older stuff. I grew up with Heavy Metal, you know? The classic Metal albums, the big Metal artists. I still like to hear that music. Of course I listen to new music, but when I really want to enjoy some music I always turn to the older stuff.
Of course, the old favorites, keep coming back.
Yes. For instance, I like “Primordial” a lot, but also the old “Mayhem”, the old “Burzum”, the old “Bathory”, and so on. Those are still great to listen to. But from nowadays… there’s a lot of older kinds of things. What I really like where it comes to Death Metal is “Coffins”. When I see them or hear them, they sound most brutal to me. I really appreciate the real feeling, you know? Music has to be real to me. If I don’t feel that a band is real, then I can’t really listen to it.
Exactly. I’ll definitely check out “The Committee”. Russian and Dutch is a good combination, I write lyrics for the Russian band “Dissector” myself.
You can Google them! They have one song that I really like, “Katherine’s Chant”.
So it’s catchy stuff, I’ll check them out! Where it comes to touring, where can we see you in the coming months?
We are not a very touring band. We tour for four or five days maximum because we have obligations and so on, but we like to play the single shows. We have a number of shows coming up. We play about one show a month, at least. We have a few shows planned in Holland, a few in Germany and next year we go to Denmark. So, there’s something going on tourwise.
So we have some chances to see you live, that’s good.
For sure, for sure. We’ve not a band that plays a lot, we don’t see use in it to play too many shows. We just want to have it in a sort of special way, not over play. We want to prevent that. When we give a show, we give you all that is Soulburn.
So that’s a good shout out to our readers, that they should definitely not miss out on those shows *laughs*
Yeah. We give all. Every show we give all we have. We don’t do things on automatic pilot. We can’t do that.
Where it comes to our readers, I’ve reached my last question and that’s always, do you have any last words for our readers?
To the readers of Metal On Loud I will say, just dig up our new album and I really hope you like it. If you like it a lot, we will see you out there and we will give you the best of Soulburn.
Thank you so much for this interview! Metal On Loud!