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Dries Van Damme (After All)

Interview with Dries Van Damme from After All
by Grigoris Chronis at 23 July 2005, 1:32 AM

The evolution of Heavy Metal music can easily be transcribed in the deeds of bands like this excellent act from Belgium. After All deliver (again) a high-quality album with endless 80's Metal roots and tons of up-to-date ingredients. Dries must be the perfect man to drink nonstop beers with and chat 'bout Metal gems on vinyl. It was also really interesting to see what he had to say 'bout our favorite music. One step beyond, please…

Dries, greetings from magazine. Congrats on your latest album, The Vermin Breed!

Greetings to Metal Temple! Thanks a lot for the interest in the band!

Since many readers may not be familiar with After All, can we please have a brief band bio?

Well, in a nutshell: After All is a Belgian band, founded in the late 80’s. So, our roots date from that period: Heavy/Speed/Thrash Metal. Our first 7 EP was released in 1991. After that, we released 5 full albums and 3 more EPs. Over the years, we did quite a lot of shows. Some of the bands we toured with are Anthrax, Overkill, Agent Steel, Prong, Seven Witches, Saxon, Voivod, Paradise Lost, Metal Church, Helstar, Psychotic Waltz, The Gathering, Life Of Agony, Destruction, Angel Witch etc.

It hasn’t been a long time since The Vermin Breed hit the stores but what’s the feedback so far, both from the Press and the After All fans.

Well, I guess it’s our best album so far. Honestly, the response has been really overwhelming, with great reviews from all over the world, especially Germany, Italy and Greece. We also feel a strong response on the new songs when we play live. The audience has really understood the evolution we have been through. I think The Vermin Breed is the perfect follow-up to Mercury Rising.

Before we stick to the music, I’d like to express my pleasure as I saw that the famous Harris Johns was behind the console for The Vermin Breed. The man’s job is (again) brilliant! I guess you’re satisfied too!

Oh yes, absolutely. We also recorded the previous album, Mercury Rising, with him. We really liked his studio and the way he works, so we decided to work with Harris again on The Vermin Breed. He is a really nice guy to work with, very relaxed, and of course he has this enormous experience. Over the last 25 years he has produced more than 300 albums, including top bands like Voivod, Helloween, Kreator, Sodom, Celtic Frost etc, so he really knows how our style of music is supposed to sound.

To the music: I love the way After All mixes its influence (from N.W.o.B.H.M. to Thrash Metal) to come up with a strictly personal sound! I even enjoyed some modern Metal additions - and I can assure you I’m definitely NOT that kinda gu! \[Laughs] Can you tell us some basic key points of After All’s songwriting mode?

There are no key points, just as there are no rules. What I write is what comes naturally to me; straight from the heart. I guess that, from all the guys in the band, I’m the one who’s most influenced by 80’s Metal. I have a huge vinyl collection of all types of 80’s Metal, and I’m listening to it every day… But I also like other stuff, mostly hippie bands from the 60’s and 70’s. I think it’s the mixture of it all that defines our sound, especially when the other guys bring in some of the more modern influences. The trick is that the core of what we do is clearly classic Metal, but that we toy around with some influences from other styles as well. On top of that, Harris has given us a very modern Metal production.

I see. I must confess I like The Vermin Breed a lot more than Mercury Rising (2002). In what terms do you think the After All style has developed over the last three years?

We have a new drummer - Kevin Strubbe - since that time. He used to play in Death Metal bands, so his style is much more double bass drum orientated, much more thrashy and powerful. The drums have brought us a lot more of that Metal edge. At the same time, we did a lot of touring for Mercury Rising. We did 3 European tours with well-known, very experienced bands: 2 tours with Anthrax, 1 tour with Overkill. These guys put the standard really high, so we had to give it our entire energy every single night. You can imagine that we learned a lot from those tours. I guess all of this was reflected in the new songs, with more room for faster and more thrashy songs.

A basic advantage of the band’s style is - in my opinion - that After All can attract both the traditional 80’s Metal fan (who’s in his mid-30’s now) and the current style Metal teenager. What would your opinion be? Was it the scope to sound this way when you started out as After All or was it something that came by rehearsing more and more?

I guess you are right. We have played shows with real old school bands like Angel Witch and Metal Church, and their fans just loved us. At the same time, we have played shows with so called modern bands, like Metalcore and even Nu-Metal bands, and that worked perfect as well. I mean, we played with bands like Shadows Fall and Prong, and their audiences liked us as well. I think we reached our sound in a very natural way. We have never forgotten what our roots are - and they are definitely 80’s Metal - but at the same time, we have never shut ourselves off from the scene and the sounds of today. So, you’ll never hear us make the difference between so called true and false Metal, because that’s just silly. I won’t go as far as saying that we combine the best of both worlds, but at least we are open minded towards the new school, even though our roots are strongly in the old school.

Marko Jacobi was the artist for the album’s cover, so I read. Is he a new partner or has he contributed his art to other After All releases too?

It was the first time we worked with Marko. I think he did a really great job. We wanted a cover that would have a strong Metal feel, without being cliche. Marko came up with these X-ray pictures of insects, which looks very cool indeed.

Really, what does The Vermin Breed mean? Is the title associated - in any way - with the artwork and/or the lyrical concept of some/all the songs?

Vermin is a different word for insects and other creepy little animals. The Vermin Breed can be interpreted as a description for creepy people with bad intentions as well. So, I guess the artwork refers to the insects, whereas the lyrics are about everyday life and how we all have to cope with all sorts of stuff…

One thing I (also) admire in After All is that they seem to care about vinyl maniacs too, apart from the normal CD issues. Will Killer Metal Records release The Vermin Breed on vinyl, as rumored? I know many - if not all - of the band’s previous releases also came out on vinyl (I, too, have some…).

Well, I am a vinyl collector myself, so I find it really nice if we can put out our own stuff on vinyl too. The Vermin Breed LP is out on Killer Metal Records, in a limited and numbered edition of 500 copies in blue vinyl. Our previous album, Mercury Rising, was released on vinyl as well (clear vinyl). Our first 3 albums are on CD only. Maybe one day there will be reissues on vinyl, who knows? Other vinyl releases we have are: Armageddon Come (on 12 inch black vinyl and 12 vinyl), The Bereaved EP (blue 7 inch vinyl), No Recollection (red 7 inch vinyl) and Dusk (black 7 inch vinyl).

I think the LP issue will have a different cover artwork. Mark Jacobi again?

It has a different artwork. It was made by Kris Verwimp, who also designed the artwork for Mercury Rising and Armageddon Come. That is of course the cool thing about LPs: you have a lot of space for the artwork. That’s why we wanted to work with Kris again for the LP version. I think his design of The Vermin Breed is one of the best he ever did.

I have a question out of curiosity: is Dockyard 1 a new record label or is it a new name for an old label? I heard somewhere that it’s based on some ex-Noise/Sanctuary officers…

It is a new label, based in Hamburg, Germany. Although the label is new, the people behind it are not. It’s two people from Sanctuary (Noise Records) and Piet Sielck from Iron Savior who started the label. They got fed up with Sanctuary only investing in old, well-known bands. They wanted a label where they could work with new bands as well, so they started Dockyard 1. After All is the first band they signed…

By the way, are you satisfied with their support so far?

Oh absolutely, they have done an amazing job so far. There have been tons and tons of reviews and interviews. When we were on tour with Agent Steel, they came out to check out our show in Hamburg. Really cool people to work with.

I was thrilled to find out how many bands (legendary or new) you’ve shared the same stage with! It must have been a helluva lesson/experience for you, as a band and for each member individually.

That’s right. As a real metalhead, I am a fan of most of these bands, so - yeah - it was both a privilege and an honor to share the stage with them. I grew up listening to the music of bands like Anthrax, Overkill, Metal Church, Agent Steel, Heathen etc, so it’s really cool to play shows with these bands, as I would have gone to those shows anyway… The coolest thing is that we have become friends with most of these bands. People like Bobby Blitz and Juan Garcia have done quite a lot to support us, to spread the name of After All around. You can imagine that we are really proud of that…

So, are there any further tour plans to promote The Vermin Breed album? Any confirmed dates so far?

In April we toured about 3 weeks with Agent Steel. Most shows were in Holland and Germany. We played two big festivals on that tour - Raise Your Fist in Holland and Keep It True in Germany - where we played with great old school bands like Jaguar, Overlorde and Deadly Blessing. We also went South during the Agent Steel tour, playing in Switzerland, Italy and Slovenija, which was of course an enormous amount of fun. There were plans to play 2 or 3 shows in Greece as well, but unfortunately that didn’t happen.

Just last week we did a couple of shows with Metal Church in Holland. That was great as well, as I always loved that band. Next up are two shows with Heathen, which will be awesome, and some smaller underground festivals here in Belgium and Holland, with bands like Tankard and Blaze. That will be fun too!

After that, we would like to do another European tour in October - November. We are working on that right now.

Good! From 1992 and the self-financed Dusk vinyl EP, to 2005 and The Vermin Breed. Thirteen years that made you more…??? Fill in the gap!

Well, definitely not more mature \[Laughs]. It’s been a long road, but it has been really cool building this band, writing songs, making records, playing shows… That’s what it’s all about in the end. We don’t necessarily have to sell 500.000 copies of our new album. As long as there’s enough money to record the next one, we’re a happy band!

Dries, thanks a lot for your spare time! We wish you all the best for the future!

Thank you Greg. It was a pleasure answering these questions. Best of luck with Metal Temple and thanks again for the support! You rule!!

Links: # After All’s Official Website


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