Earlier this year, our very own Sebastiaan Spijker, the guy behind http://ikwilookeenvideoclip.nl that records and produces all our video interviews, created the new music video for Sinister. The band has an fantastic new album out called Syncretism. More than enough reason to reach out to the band and have a talk about their latest work. We talked to Toep Duin, the band’s amazing drummer and as it turns out, the band's current lyricist.
Thank you for taking the time to talk to us, how are things in your world?
At the moment we are pretty busy. Next Sunday we’re heading to Finland to play a great festival, Steelfest. We did a few other great festivals last month. A big one in Poland, and after the release of Syncretism we did many shows, so for the band it’s really busy.
Busy times, I understand that. As you just mentioned, you are currently promoting the new album Syncretism. How have the crowds reacted to the new material so far?
The reactions so far have maybe even been better than expected! People are referring to the old days a lot. Even with our previous release people said Sinister is back and they’re making albums as good as in the early days, with this album these compliments are even better. The sound, the song structure, the feeling, the darkness in the songs, I think it all comes together in something people really like.
Was that something that you set out to do, to go back to the roots of the band, sound wise?
No, that was not on purpose. Bastiaan wrote most of the songs and he had his own style of songwriting, and of course I have my style of drumming, Adrie has his typical voice. It was not a setup to make an album like, for example, “Hate”, we just did what we are good at. Of course, we make brutal old school Death Metal, but it’s not like we’re making a second “Cross The Styx” or whatever.
What does the Death Metal genre mean to you personally, what should a Death Metal song be at the very least?
It all depends on my feelings and my emotions. Sometimes it needs to be fast, loud and hard, but sometimes I’m more nostalgic and I want to listen to old school mid tempo Death Metal. It all depends on my mood. Personally, I don’t like very technical Death Metal without real song structures. For us, a Sinister song has to be structured with a head, a middle part, a chorus… For me, that’s Death Metal. Not just making noise and playing as fast as we can play.
There are a lot of bands that do that, they just try to be as fast as they can be and that’s all there’s to it, but I do feel the genre has really grown in the last decade or so. There are a lot of new elements to it.
Oh yeah, there are so many sub-genres, it’s even uncountable, the number of sub-genres we have these days in Metal.
You already mentioned 1995’s “Hate” album. If you had to compare that album to the current release, “Hate” was one of the most iconic albums for Sinister. How much would you say these two releases are still alike?
That’s hard for me to say, because I wasn’t in the band at that time. I know it’s the favorite album of many fans. It has the dark atmosphere and some technical elements, but I find it hard to compare the two. We have a different lineup and the band evolved.
Yeah, you’ve been in the band since 2011, the band was founded in 1988. What were your earliest memories of the band?
Actually, I’ve known Aad pretty much since the beginning. I followed Sinister as I was playing myself in other bands, and we met sometimes at gigs where Sinister was headlining most of those times. We played support shows. All these years I knew Aad, and he sometimes gave me a shirt, a cd or whatever, and we also did a few projects together in the past. So, I’ve always been kind of involved, which is also the reason why Aad approached me to play the drums in Sinister when Edwin left the band.
In 2003 the band was disbanded, to be rebooted in 2005, centered around Adrie, who originally was the drummer. So, if you listen to the early work with him on drums, how does that sound to you?
Of course, we play some old songs off the first two albums, and when we do, I try to drum the same as he did on those albums. I try to be authentic for those songs, no technical or really fast drums, or any other things than he did. He had his own style, with all these accents he played during the polka’s and the blast beats. I think that’s about all I can say about that.
Yeah, you really are two different drummers I think.
Yes, we are different, and you can’t compare these two types of drumming I think.
Could you say who of you two is the better drummer? *laughs*
Aah, maybe it’s not cool to say, but I know what Aad would say, and he’s pretty happy with me in the band. I think that’s a sufficient answer to that question.
Yes, and that’s a good thing as well. Since he was the original drummer, does that also mean he’s more demanding about what the percussion should be like for this band?
No, I would not say that. When Bastiaan makes the songs, he gives me the tempos. He indicates what is fast, what is slow, what is mid tempo. Then I fill it in however I want. With cool fills, or accents, and then sometimes Aad just has good ideas. Things like Toep, why don’t you try the snare on the second or the fourth count. So, he has some ideas, but it’s not critical. He very much likes what I do. He just has good ideas that he shares with us. I try them, and if it fits it great, and if it doesn’t I say Aad, it doesn’t work, and we try something else. There are no issues there.
You already mentioned that Bastiaan writes most of the songs, correct?
Yes, of the last three albums, that’s right.
How big is, for instance, your input in the band, and that of the other members? Who does what creatively?
Bastiaan left the band after the recordings, and he was replaced by Ricardo. That means that from here on out the songwriting will be done by either Ricardo or Ghislain, our new Bass player. The way we work is that these guys make complete songs at home, which they then send to us. We listen to it and try it in the rehearsal room. My input actually for the last few albums, actually were all the lyrics, the album titles…
Yeah. And of course, the drum parts.
You don’t hear that often, that the drummer also does all the lyrics.
Yeah, it just happened! I wrote some lyrics, I had some stories in my head and I just asked Aad if it would be okay if I wrote some lyrics, if he would like that. He said no problem, so I gave him some lyrics and he was very enthusiastic about them. So I asked, would it be okay if I wrote some more lyrics, and he was very open to that.
I understand why, they are great lyrics man!
I write some myself as well, so I always pay attention to the lyrics.
Sometimes they are not that difficult, but there’s always a second layer. If you read the lyrics you can think okay, this is about satanism or whatever, but there’s always a second thought behind the lyrics. But that’s only for me. I don’t care if people don’t know that, I write that for my own idea.
You write for yourself, that’s most important.
Yeah, yeah. Like short poetry, or art. I don’t know.
Where do you usually find your inspiration, when you’re sitting down and writing stuff?
I just go down to the deepest and darkest of my mind, and I think of dark things. Sometimes I have a concept idea. For example, “The Post-Apocalyptic Person” was a concept album set in a thousand years from now, a future where Gods and robots are fighting, and some mutant people are trying to stay alive. In that setting all kinds of adventures happen. So I go to the deepest of my innerself, and I think of dark subjects.
It sounds like you can really visualize all these things as well. Do you have a very imaginative mind?
Yes, that’s right. I visualize everything a lot. I see complete scenarios and landscapes and buildings and people, stuff like that. That’s right.
That’s very cool!
Yes. That’s my creative part. I always like to be creative in the band, to not only play the drums, but to also write lyrics. Aad always thinks about the artwork, and then we talk together about the lyrics and the artwork. Aad is also very creative where it comes to cover art ideas, so that’s completely from his mind.
So, you have several outlets in this band. You have your creative outlet, and you have your energy outlet as well when you’re behind the drums!
That’s right! Also, the last two years I’ve put a lot of energy into the band’s management. We have a cooperation now with a German international mail order company and we did some things to professionalize the band. We are an actual foundation now, stuff like that. That’s why I started this interview by saying it’s very busy. It’s not only playing gigs, it’s the management, it’s the writing, rehearsal, the drum parts…
Can you already make a living off your music, or is that still something that’s hard to do?
If we look at all our options, and touring for the half of the year, then probably we should be able to live off it, maybe, but it won’t be big money. In Death Metal there’s not a lot of money going around. I don’t think it would send my kids to school or enable me to buy a new car or a house or whatever. You would have to live with four or five people in the band, in a small room, and then, maybe. *laughs*
*laughs* Yeah. Is it hard to support a family as you do, being a part of a band?
Sure. You mean how to share your energy?
Yes, exactly. How do you balance it?
Of course it’s difficult, because we get a lot of offers. Sometimes for two weeks, two months, to go to South America or whatever, and then we have to say no. That’s not possible, at least for me it isn’t. Some of the guys could do it, because they don’t have kids, but I have other obligations as well. We try to pick out the great festivals and sometimes a week of touring, things like that.
It’s not like Max Cavalera who can bring his whole family on the road!
No, no. Maybe if I were to play in Sepultura, or in Slayer, things would be different, but as long as you play in a Death Metal band, you have to do it from the heart. And if you can bring the energy, or if you can’t share the energy with family, work, the band, all these obligations, if you don’t have the motivation, then you should quit. That’s also the reason why people join the band and think that’s cool, to be in the band. Then they see how much energy it takes to provide for your family, to go to work, in the evenings rehearsals, in the weekends you play gigs. After a few years they tend to stop, because they don’t see their families, don’t see their friends, they have to bring too many offers, and they leave.
It really does take a toll, yeah.
Yeah! So you can only do this, if it really comes from the heart.
I think many people don’t see that part of the music industry. I read somewhere that Sinister changed its lineup as often as the Dutch weather changes *laughs*.
*laughs* Yes, unfortunately. I don’t think it did the band much good, in the past. Apart from the two new guys in the band, the last six years we’ve had a pretty solid lineup though, with me, Aad and Dennis. I hope that the new guys will also stick around for many years, but it’s a thing that happened to Sinister. As said, most of the time it’s a problem with motivation, energy, other obligations. People get a promotion for a new job, stuff like that. Or a wife is starting to complain *laughs*
*laughs* Yes, that’s all a part of that life.
Yes. So you have to have put in the energy all the time, and when you’re on stage then you know what you’re doing it for. When thousands of people are shouting Sinister! Sinister! And they want autographs and pictures, then you know why you do this. For the people, for the fans.
You can find some pretty cool lyrics in these subjects as well. Dedication and heart, you can really write some cool songs about that.
For sure, yeah. It’s a way of life, and if it’s not your way of life then you may not reach the same as Sinister has.
Where it comes to the new album, Syncretism, what can you tell us about the songs on this release?
For this album we chose to go back to the darker lyrics. They are about satanism, they are about anti-faith. Not just about anti-Christianity but all religion. Syncretism actually means the melting of all religions, all common religions, all accepted religions and faiths. In the past they were all small religions, but over the years they merged into several big religions. I translated this to the black forces, the dark religions. I thought alright, I can use this concept as well on the satanic, voodoo, witchery side. Maybe, in the future they will merge and grow until they are bigger than the now common faith and it overrules the other religions. Then all now common faith will be gone, and with it all the shit in the world will be gone.
I actually think it are two sides of the same coin. Like in Star Wars, it are the dark and the light side.
Yeah, yeah. It’s white and black, and black keeps growing and fades out the white side, which brings nothing more than suffering and war and pain into the world.
There’s plenty of that, so there’s plenty to write about as well.
Do you have a favorite song on the album?
I think “Convulsion of Christ” is a favorite of mine, because it has some drum parts where I can really go free. There are a few bits where I can improvise a bit, so that’s cool for a live setting. Also, “Rite Of The Blood Eagle”, “Neurophobic” which is the opening song, but for me all songs are good. I can’t say this song is lesser than the other songs.
It’s hard to pick a favorite!
Yeah. Sometimes I do have a favorite. For the previous albums I could say “Signs of Prophecy” and “The Masquerade Of An Angel”, but for me the quality on this album is constant.
I was looking through the song titles at first, and titles like “Convulsions Of Christ” really reminded me of a band named “Altar” with their album “Youth Against Christ”, for some reason.
Oh yeah. That must be a coincidence.
The picture just came to mind.
Yeah, that’s cool. A few weeks ago I talked to Edwin Kelder and it was cool to talk about the old days.
Yeah, I bet. You must have some stories!
Yes. We played a lot together, with my previous band Consolation. I played a lot with Altar in the early ‘90s, those were good times.
I actually caught a vinyl record once during their show. Showing my age here! *laughs*
*laughs* Yes we keep getting older, but it are still the oldies who are doing this. I’m wondering what will happen if bands like Sinister and maybe even bigger bands like Suffocation, Deicide, if all these bands quit, would there be a new generation of old school Death Metal bands in the same style? All the new kids, the youngsters, they usually go for Metalcore, Deathcore, Technical Death Metal, Brutal Death Metal, I don’t see young bands, guys in their twenties playing music like the bands I mentioned.
You should start a Death Metal schooling then! Train some youngsters!
If we stop, will the complete genre stop? Will the whole genre be history in one or two decades?
I think that if you don’t carry it on to the younger generations, it might. You recorded a video for this album as well, for the song Neurophobic, how was it to make that video?
That was great! Sebastiaan Spijker and Frank Kaart were the initiators or creators of the video, and we got in contact with them via Ricardo, our new guitarist. They were looking for a band that could use a videoclip for their exposure, for them to become more famous as video makers. It happened that we were looking for someone to make a video for us at that time, so that worked out well. It was very relaxed.
He’s a nice guy to work with, I do a lot of video interviews with Sebastiaan.
Yeah, he was really cool to work with. I think the result is great. They made a complete script, they filmed at several locations like in a swimming pool, things like that.
Did the script come from him, or did you have a lot of input in it as well?
No, he wrote the complete storyboard and the script. We sort of gave him a carte blanche. We were already happy that he wanted to work with us.
Yeah, the result is amazing. Really cool. Also nice to see Shadowrise’s Laura Guldemond in it.
Yes, we liked the video a lot. They did a great job.
Sinister has always stayed true to the Death Metal genre. What is it like to be a drummer in a high speed genre like this?
If you would have asked me this question twenty years ago, I would have had a complete story about it, but I’m 43 now, and I’m just doing what I like to do. I don’t have any competitive feelings anymore to be the fastest or whatever. For me it’s important to be a creative drummer. To be just a fast drummer, to me that’s less important. There are all these new young guys that have their own YouTube, they try and they rehearse like hell with all their techniques, but I’m pretty much still an old school drummer. Just trying to drum old school, and I give it my best. I try to be creative.
How do you keep your tempo as high as you do, and how do you prepare for tours and shows?
Well, in that I’m old school as well. We just rehearse, and when we have a gig I warm up for five minutes and then we go on stage! *laughs*
So you don’t do special things.
No, I don’t do anything special. I’m not the kind of drummer that brings a drum pad and who is tapping it for half an hour backstage. No, I just put some other clothes on, like sports clothes and I just start!
I once even heard of a drummer that put some lead around his legs before the show, so that he could freely drum once he took it off!
Okay, nah, I don’t believe in all that kind of stuff. I don’t know. I also want to have some fun, and I give like 200%, I give everything. I also take some risks sometimes during shows, to do a cool fill or something. I like to be free on stage and just do my best to entertain the crowd. For me that’s pretty much what it’s about.
Does drumming like this take a toll on you, where it comes to your daily life and your physique, stuff like that?
No, I can still handle it pretty well. I’m in good shape, in good condition. Of course sometimes I also drink a beer or something, but still in good shape. I hope I can do this for at least twenty years more.
I hope as well, yeah! What will your year look like, tour wise? Any other festivals planned this summer?
As I said next week is Steelfest in Finland, we play Obscene Extreme, In Flammen, Metaldayz, we have Black Sea, a Metal festival in Bulgaria, and there are a few more. I have to see my schedule first, I don’t recall. Another in Berlin, a few others in Italy, maybe a few shows.
It sounds like you have a busy summer ahead of you!
Yes. We’re also working on three shows in India, so we’re busy with a lot of things!
Cool! I’ll definitely try to catch you somewhere on the road this year!
Yeah, you should! *laughs*
*laughs* I should, absolutely. With that I’ve reached my final question and that’s, do you have any last words for our readers?
Well, I can only say, come visit Sinister, have a drink, have a good party. Find us on Facebook to follow the band. As mentioned, we’re busy with an international mail order deal so all Sinister merchandise will be available all over the world, which is a good thing for fans worldwide.
Thank you very much for your time!