By Wouter B.
Dutch folk band Heidevolk recently released their latest record Velua. Two of their long time members, Mark (vocals) and Raemon (guitars) have decided to leave the band, after twelve years of playing. Will Heidevolk continue playing dubstep or sing only in English from now on? Read all about it in the interview with Lars Nachtbraecker (vocals) and Rowan Roodbaert (bass), taken at their ‘straalschijfontketenfestijn’ and farewell party for Raemon and Mark, held on May 2nd in the Luxor Live, Arnhem.
ME: The new album ‘Velua’ is well received by both national and international reviews. How did the audience respond to the new songs during your Paganfest tour?
LN: The audience was outrageously enthusiastic and sang along with the song (even if only phonetic). Each day of the tour I was amazed by how many people participated by jumping up and down screaming along. Very cool.
RR: And that on top of quite a particular selection of songs of the new album, Winter Woede, Urth and Drankgelag, people still filled in and even waved their hands on Urth, which was a bit cheesy.
ME: Is there any particular fan response during the tour that stuck?
RR: This was actually the first time in three years since we played a full Paganfest tour, aside from some extended version in between. In these three years, Joris has left the band, replaced by Lars, and we played the tour with replacements for Raemon and Mark, who couldn’t be there due to their work. So all of a sudden, three new faces appear on stage and we released a new cd. What stuck is the reaction of the audience, which was at first a bit questioning: I know this band, but who are these guys? But after two or three minutes playing, they all happily join the party. I think this Paganfest tour had one of the best audience responses as far as I can remember. We haven’t been forgotten and even with a changed line-up we were well received, that really stuck with me.
ME: I remember looking at it you guys in Tilburg, with a mixed feeling, questioning what am I watching?
LN: Heidevolk is a feeling we put down on stage.
RR: Heidevolk is an experience, which is of course not indifferent to the people who perform it, but we didn’t experience big problems with the line-up changes.
ME: During Paganfest you guys have been touring non-stop for 11 days, how did that go? And what about Lars and Jacco, as ‘newbies’? Do you have some kind of initiation ritual?
LN: For me, this was my first tour and it was magnificent. I would have liked it for a couple of more weeks. Sharing the tourbus with Obscurity and Frosttide was also very much fun. We had a party every other day, and used the day in between take care of the hang-over. It was heavy, but good-fun heavy. In itself, this tour has been the initiation ritual
ME: Among yourselves, do you (practically) joke around with each other?
RR: Before Lars joined the band, we took him along on a Heidevolk weekend, to go water ski-ing and to get to know him. Paganfest was only 11 days, with the tours planned, we have to share the bus for a whole month. So we got to know him beforehand and we found him a cool guy.
LN: They actually had to test whether I was a good or bad guy when drunk.
ME: This summer, you will play some of the bigger festivals in Europe, like Graspop (Belgium), Summerbreeze (Germany) and Metalhead Meeting (Romania). Is it correct to assume that you want to reach a bigger audience?
RR: Our new CD, Velua, was actually released a bit too late to be booked for the big summer festivals. In retrospect, we should have released it in February, or even better, December or November, to be able to reach these festivals. This summer we will visit 7 or 8 festivals, but I would have liked to participate in 12 or 14. That is a conscious decision, to play more live. We have also booked a tour to the US, in September.
ME: When listening to Velua and comparing it to the previous albums, the lyrics seem more accessible. The content of the lyrics have definitely shifted, if compared to Batavi. As a concept album, was Batavi a bit of an exception?
RR: Batavi is not really an outsider, although having a timeline and history makes it different from Velua. Velua is a concept album too, but all the songs and lyrics stand for themselves, as well as the music. The lyrical form and content indeed have changed, now that Joris is no longer writing them. I have written a large portion of the songs, together with Mark and Raemon. Kevin has contributed musically on one song. In that sense, the album was written by three people, so the album is a combined effort. That results in somewhat more accessible and different lyrics.
ME: Musically speaking, there is a pronounced difference in the guitars. Less repetitive and rhythmic, more focus on melody and (even epic reverb) solos. Will we see more of that?
RR: I think you hear, especially the solos, the influence of Kevin. He already played parts for Batavi, which had some more melodic parts. Raemon was also ‘unleashed’, as we all wanted a more melodic sound.
LN: The stories told on Velua are also more amendable to more melodic parts. Batavi was about battle and strife, which is audible in the more aggressive parts.
ME: Since 2013, you guys have gone through some restless times: Joris left in 2013 and now Raemon and Mark have decided to leave. Does that mean a new course or will you stick to the current format?
RR: From now on, only a bass guitar and MCs. Heidevolk will continue to play only dubstep.
ME: Maybe I will use that as the article title…
RR: For the direction of the band, the next albums will miss the influence of Raemon and Mark. But the direction we’ve taken is solid, we will not change that. This is what we all wanted and will continue to do.
ME: So the Heidevolk ‘feeling’ will stay, no matter the line up?
RR: We want to keep the current line-up stable for the years to come, if it were up to me until the day we can no longer hit stage.
ME: Until the day comes you need a wheel chair to move around on stage?
ME: With Batavi, you’ve left the studio S&K of Dick Kemper as used for Walhalla Wacht and Uit Oude Grond and choose Studio XPZ and The Abyss studio of Peter Tägtgren. With Velua, you choose for SplitSecondSound studio. Why another change?
For Velua, we actually wanted to make use of Peter again, to mix and master the record. We had a good experience with him during Batavi, and would have liked to maintain that consistent quality. He was however busy on a project together with Till Lindeman (Rammstein). Meanwhile we needed a studio to record the drums, which had to be done in the Netherlands anyway.
ME: Drums are always recorded first?
RR: Yes, that provided the best sound. That way, the rest of the band can respond to the drums instead of the other way around. I remember having talked to Jochem of Split Second Sound and thought: let’s give this guy a call. The drums were recorded there and that went very well. XPZ studio, where we’ve recorded earlier, was also unavailable as Nico (our sound technician) is also tour manager for Alestorm and was on the road back then. So after a sit down with Jochem we decided to do both recording and mixing/mastering at SplitSecondSound, to keep it all in one place. We are actually very happy with the result, which has a different but more appropriate sound.
ME: Peter Tagtgrens sound and production can be a bit pronounced, right?
RR: Yes, which was very good for Batavi, but for Velua we are very happy with Jochems’ input. He understood what we wanted and could think together with us on how to make it.
ME: Will you do more English lyrics? Or will it remain a bonus treat, like you did with Vinland?
RR: The next album will completely be about England, so only English lyrics! Vinland was written for the American fans, so in their language. We’ve always had the philosophy of being a Dutch band, and not ‘Heatherfolk’ as some april fools’ joke might suggest, so we keep it Dutch. However, if a story requires a different language, we could still do it. I would love to go across Europe to look for stories elsewhere and collaborate with other bands, like we did for Arkona. We don’t have any lyrics yet, however.
ME: You are currently contracted by Napalm Records, for how many albums will this be valid?
We still have one CD under Napalm. After that, we will renegotiate with Napalm but also with others, striving for the best deal. The best deal doesn’t mean the best money but the best promotion and distribution. The rest is up to the gods.
ME: So it won’t get you rich?
RR: No, as you’ve seen, we have to work as we can’t live from just touring and selling CDs.
ME: Will you still produce songs about flames, now Raemon has left?
RR: Well, yes, after Vlammenzee and Herboren in Vlammen, we have ‘De Vlammenman’, another one by Raemon. (Zeg ken jij de Vlammenman, de Vlammenman…?). But sure, time will tell.
ME: Last question: Have you ever had any Spinal Tap moments, like getting lost backstage?
Kevin (commenting from the couch): Every day…
RR: Well, as Kevin mentioned: He gets lost every day, without exception. But seriously: yes. During the past tour I jumped on something and broke my foot. I was shortly diagnosed by a medic on location and kept on running and jumping up and down for a week afterwards. That was not such a good idea in retrospect, as I am still walking with a plaster cast around my foot. Another Spinal Tap ‘incident’ was on the 27th in München. Our CD had just been released in Europe and we had a massive party in a local metal club after the show. As Kevin was headbanging, he hit a bottle Joost was holding, and had to go to a hospital to have his eye brow stitched together.