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Black Knight's Ron Heikens: "“Road To Victory” is our present, the road that we walk today in our real lives. To bring our music to everyone. We try not to look back too much. (Only when drinking beers!)"

Interview with Ron Heikens & David Marcelis from Black Knight
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 30 May 2020, 6:41 PM

They were always there, never really left, just waiting for the right time to return, to strike, and right at the edge of the face. The Dutch Metal scene was probably not ready to receive an echo from the not too far past, yet bounded by the scene's legacy. Similar to the veterans of the scene, Black Knight had its way in various versions. However, recently, they made an impact with a stellar lineup that could easily take them to the front of the scene's classic Metal spirit. With the coming of the new album, "Road To Victory", Steinmetal had a chance to chat with Bassist, Ron Heikens, and vocalist David Marcelis, about the regrouping, newfound spirit in the songwriting, what is the road to victory, songs and more…

Hello guys, it is a pleasure to have you for this interview for Metal Temple online Magazine, how have you been doing in these rather unbelievable times?

Ron: Hello Lior, many thanks for your interest in Black Knight. It is always a privilege to get the opportunity to address the band to all the metal fans out there. Yes, these are challenging times. Although Covid-19 puts our lives upside down, we believe there is no time to waist. If you have a keen eye you will find opportunities to go ahead. So, under the circumstances, we have been doing great actually.

The road taken of Black Knight over the years, appears to be with various bumps and stomping grounds. As if the continuance of the band was dependent on merely the will to go on. After thirteen years, the band suddenly appears. What were the reasons for the comeback this time around?

Ron: Admittedly, it has been a long time since Black Knight’s previous release “The Beast Inside” in 2007, but actually we never stopped really. Indeed, there were some bumps and stomping grounds, so to speak, but the will to go on, to be on the road, has never faltered. “No rest for the wicked”! We are being rewarded for our efforts now things come together around “Road To Victory”.

Returning to a slightly different Metal scene, what is your viewpoint on what has been going on in the Metal scene in The Netherlands? Do you believe that Black Knight has something to prove within the variety that has taken its toll on the Dutch market, and to be honest, on every market worldwide?

Ron: The Dutch metal scene just needs more warriors to keep the metal alive. The ones that are out there are of a true kind. Black Knight is all about old school metal which is exactly what we will be playing as long as we can. Straight from the heart. We know metal never dies!

Returning with Black Knight back in 2012, brought yet another series of changes to the band’s lineup. Eventually, in the last couple of years, you made an impact by recruiting one of the local scene’s top vocalists, David Marcelis, which I remember quite well on Lord Volture and Methusalem. How does it feel to have such a powerful front for Black Knight? How do you observe the way Marcelis’ voice pattern fits the spirit of the band?

Ron: A wonderful question this is, Lior. For a start we were absolutely thrilled that David said yes to our invitation to join Black Knight. We feel very fortunate. It is the cherry on top that completes our proud line-up. We continued with a full belief that “now” we can achieve the extra mile for Black Knight. We shared our new material with David and before we knew our compositions in the making were completed and given lyrics and song melodies. David teams up wonderful, in person, on stage and in his blend in the music we bring. It all just fits like charm in our believe.

David: From my side it also worked out very well. The timing was perfect as Lord Volture had just finished 5 years of very intensive touring. I was ready for something new. I knew and liked Black Knight’s music already and I had been in contact with some of the band members on a number of occasions, so I knew what I was getting into. The musical blend, of which “Road To Victory” is the result, is seamless. The instrumental parts were all very well prepared and contain many rich elements that made it easy for me to write vocal lines and lyrics to. Moreover, Black Knight is a really tight group where the “band atmosphere” is ever present. All in all, I was honored to be asked for this position and very eager to get on board.

Black Knight’s new album was titled, “Road To Victory”. This is quite a title that can easily open up discussions mainly on why. I see it as a sort of an expectancy, from here on out, it is going to be nothing but glorious or I might argue that you found the way that you could go forward with the right settings, under your own condition. What is your perception of these notions?

Ron: For me, the meaning of “Road To Victory” is that you need to reflect on what you want from life, and then unconditionally pursue these goals. It is all about the will and power to accomplish your freedom and dreams in a safe world. This is a theme that comes back in more songs on the album, such as “Legend” and “Crossing The Rubicon”.

What is your so-called Road To Victory? Have you been looking back on the road that you have been taking along with the Black Knight moniker? Where do you see yourself heading?

Ron: “Road To Victory” is our present, the road that we walk today in our real lives. To bring our music to everyone. We try not to look back too much. (Only when drinking beers!). As for the future, we are heading for the full Monty!

Going over the tracklist, trying to come up with an overall assessment on what it is all about, I pretty much hit a wall. What kind of message, or messages, are laid hidden within “Road To Victory”?

David: There is an overall meaning to the “Road To Victory” and I think Ron already expressed it pretty well. What I’d like to add, is that an important aspect of being successful on the “Road To Victory” means that you need to work together with other like-minded people. There are few things in life that you can achieve on your own. Together you are stronger, but it is also more rewarding to walk the road with someone else and share the rewards that lie at its end. To quote the chorus of the title track of the album: “United we will be on the Road To Victory”.

Musically, “Road To Victory” is a record of a variety of faces, looks and feels. Certainly one of the album’s chief elements is its closeness to 80s born and bred US Metal, reminding some of that Metal scene’s strongest names such as Malice and Obsession for instance. However, there is an extra vigor to the songs. Looking back and into the process of creating “Road To Victory”, what is your input regarding the band’s musical progress?

Ron: We believe it is a blend of elements. You can compare it with the ingredients you choose to make up a nice dish. Strong melodies, riffs, grooves, power and dedication to get things in a proportional balance without making things too complex.

What would you say were the prime influences while writing the music for “Road To Victory”?

Ron: There weren’t any particular or conscience influences. It was more a matter of the synergy between the band members. The ideas that were created by either one us were adapted like a natural thing. All that was left to do is putting them together into a finished composition. We love 80s metal though. So clearly you can find an old school vibe captured into Black Knight's classic metal.

Through “Road To Victory” you were able to put up several outstanding numbers that show a songwriting process that celebrated straight up hitters. What can you tell of the album’s songwriting period? What early lessons of the past do you believe that the band implemented with the new record?

David: What contributed a lot to the song writing process, is that we focused on the skeletons of the songs rather than on the details. Surely, some parts of the songs were developed by individual band members from home. But mostly the songs were put together and arranged in the rehearsal room. We wanted the songs to sound great with a minimum of musical instruments so that each song would also be convincing in a live set without the need to play along a backing track or use samples. Yes, on the studio recordings we added some additional backing vocals or guitar tracks, but only after we were convinced that the songs stood out on their own. Perhaps this approach was chosen due to Black Knight’s near 40-year lifespan. It seems typical of many more modern bands to hide relatively poor song writing behind a thick layer of orchestrations and effects.

One of the album’s toughest crackers might be “Legend”, which is an immense heavy dozer, yet the one that took me on was, and still is, “My Beautiful Daughters”. The song’s title sounds so innocent to be honest, yet when the music starts kicking, and the haunting chorus hits, some heads are going to roll. What can you tell about this songs’ creation and your personal input about it?

David: Yeah, I agree that “My Beautiful Daughters” turned out to be a really powerful song. The basis for the song was written by our guitarist Ruben Raadschelders and then further developed by the band as a whole. Musically, it is a song with many faces (a “Thousand Faces” perhaps?). And like you said, the title of the song may also be misleading because of its apparent innocence. Nothing is less true though because it is actually a song about the artillery of the armies of Napoleon Bonaparte. Before he became a general, first consul and emperor, Napoleon served as an artillery officer. Some historians claim that Napoleon used to refer to his cannons with “mes belle filles”, which can be freely translated to “my beautiful daughters”. On the battlefield, Napoleon often relied heavily on his artillery, but even his beautiful daughters could not prevent his final defeat at Waterloo.

The next in line, “Crossing The Rubicon”, is a different facade, taking the shape of a semi-balladry, going epic upon its length. It sounds quite personal, to be frank. What can you share regarding the essence of this track and its personal meaning to you?

David: In 49 BC Julius Caesar needed to make a choice. Was he to obey the summons of the Roman Senate and return to Rome to be punished for overextending his authority as a provincial governor, or would he take his battle-hardened legions into Italy and defy the Senate? To do the former would mean surrendering his political power and perhaps even his life. To do the latter would mean open rebellion and civil war. He chose war and led the 13th legion across the river Rubicon into Italy, which would eventually result in the end of the Roman Republic and the rise of the Roman Empire. Of course, it wasn’t so simple as that and a long a bitter struggle ensued. It is very easy to imagine that Caesar must have experienced many moments of doubt whether he should not have surrendered himself to the Senate and avoid the loss of lives in the Roman Civil War. But he must also have known that once he committed himself there would be no turning back.

“Crossing The Rubicon”' story is applicable to many situations and most of us will someday have to make difficult choices that we may live to regret. The message I intend to convey with the lyrics of this song is that it does you no good to ponder whether you made the right choice and to live in regrets. Sure, learn from your mistakes and make better choices in the future. But do not lose yourself into self-doubt.

With the Covid-19 out there, bands and artists have been looking for ways in order to promote themselves. Currently, it is still unknown when live shows would eventually return, therefore, promoting albums through other means might as well be crucial. How does Black Knight do it? Have you tried connecting with your fans through live streams for instance?

David: Due to the corona measures we were forced to cancel a few concerts so far, but most of these have already been postponed to a new date in 2021. Together with our label Pure Steel Records we are currently promoting the new “Road To Victory” album. Most of this takes place online. We have not done any live streams yet, but we have some surprises in store to celebrate the album’s release on 26th June.

With “Road To Victory” soon to be out there in the option for all to listen. Do you expect that it might take a decade for Black Knight to write a new release?

Ron: As we speak, we are busy writing new material. Covid-19 leaves us all time now to start ahead on this process. We do not want to wait and sit still. It does not make sense to waist our precious time on this planet. So, no, with the current line-up a decade seems way too much :)Where do you see Black Knight going in the coming year? Where do you see the band in 2021?

David: Due to the Covid-19 situation and the subsequent cancellations of concerts and festivals in 2020 we have to postpone most of our promotion tour for “Road To Victory” to 2021. We already have confirmations for the Zeeltje Rock festival in the Netherlands and the M.I.S.E. Open Air in Germany. More will surely follow. Moreover, with all the extra time on our hands right now we may be able to hit the recording studio for the next album already in late 2021… who knows?

Guys, it was great for me to have you for this interview for Metal Temple, certainly, you came back with vengeance and made quite the effort with the new release

Ron: Much obliged, Lior. It was great to have this opportunity for us at Metal Temple.

David: Cheers, Lior. Keep up the good work! Stay safe you all. Keep the Metal Faith!


 



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Edited 19 October 2021
 

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