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Hunter's David Walgrave: "I don't remember why exactly but the first thing we tried was an Elvis tribute band. Don't ask me why. We thought it'd be cool, Heavy Metal Elvis..."

Interview with David Walgrave from Hunter
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 28 June 2019, 2:08 PM

Dreams can come true apparently. Such a cliché kind of saying, but you never know, you might experience it eventually. The Belgian Heavy Metal band, Hunter, became a reality after being a dream, and now with a debut album under its bullet belt, the vision continues. Steinmetal had a talk with the band's vocalist, David Walgrave, about the new album, going forward, Elvis, promotion and Metal

Hello David, thank you for taking the time for this interview for Metal Temple online magazine, what have you been up to lately?

I have just returned from the biggest Belgian metal festival Graspop. The line-up was amazing with both new and old bands. Not many underground bands, not many up and coming discoveries, but safe, old, big hitters.

I did a little light reading of your bio, and I noticed that you guys haven’t been perfect strangers, but rather partners in several bands. What kickstarted you to start a band together? Why not years ago? Was it to wait for the right timing or simply there was a recent spark?

We've been in bands before, indeed, but never in this line-up. There was always something else going on. At one point I dreamt of playing with these guys, and I knew it'd be killer, but it was forbidden fruit back then, because they were already in a band, like I was. It would have been like cheating on your wife with your best friend's girlfriend. We've all been there!

So we finally joined forces when everyone was like "come on you know this has to happen". And I don't remember why exactly but the first thing we tried was an Elvis tribute band. Don't ask me why. We thought it'd be cool, heavy metal Elvis. It kind of was cool, but it was also very apparent that it was going to be hard and a lot of work, "just" for a tribute band.

So then we said, "by the time we rewrite this entire arrangement, we could have written our own song! Why not try that?" It was new for most of us, so probably the scariest thing ever. Not our comfort zone. But we did it anyway. Because you have to do things that scare you so that you grow and evolve!

Earlier I received the promo of your band Hunter’s self-titled debut, it pretty much summarizes the golden age of Metal music of the 80s, with twists of traditional Doom Metal, whether of the American or British sorts. How do you feel about the new album?

We feel good enough about it to call it an album and release it, and do promo for it! I wasn't worried about the songs or anything, just about the quality of the recordings.

We really just wanted to record a demo to get some gigs so we booked a studio for 2 days. On the first day we recorded the music live, and on the second day, we recorded the vocals and overdubbed some solos.

The result was a lot better than we expected, and honestly capturing the band live is probably the best way to approach recording Hunter. After this experience, I'm very afraid of recording everything one by one. We will always strive to capture the live sound we have. It's rawer and natural.

Is “Hunter” is spawn of years of songwriting, breathing life into material that was left behind years back, or maybe in other bands, or is it a fresh out of the oven kind?

It's fresh out of the oven. We've been together for a couple of years only and had to find something that works for everyone. We are trying to give everyone an equally big role when writing songs and we don't want to force anyone to do anything they don't like. It's not easy because we have very different tastes sometimes, but we all do like certain bands the same, so those are our guiding lights. So yeah, no, we're not using old and moldy stuff. This was written over the course of the last 2 years. That does sound like a long time to write songs, but when everyone has a job and a family, and you want to write songs as a band, things take time.

Who has been the band’s main songwriter or there is more than one? Is the end result of “Hunter” is what you expected when you entered the studio to record?

Like I said, it's more than one songwriter. Riffs have come from both guitarists, songs have been proposed by Jeroen the bass player, I had a love song called "Then Comes The Night" before everyone flopped it around and turned it into a metal song about a serial killer.  Probably for the best! Then the voice of reason, the drummer, also kicks in, and we are building a song.

Everyone gets an equal say. It's working out for us. It does mean we are not as productive as we could be, but we like it this way. It's very organic and gratifying. It's like we all are important parts of the machine, instead of disposable pawns.

The only thing that is unique, are the lyrics, because I'm the only one who writes those. Sometimes I do it based on a riff, sometimes I write something and we build a song around it. Like I said, anything still goes at this time.

Guitarist Joost set me up with new lyrics and a new theme for "Then Comes the Night" because I was stuck, because it was an entirely different song before, and then it's hard to re-write lyrics. But I like writing my own lyrics, because I know what they mean, and I know what's coming, and I know what they have to feel like.

Since its release, how has it been welcomed by the band’s fanbase, your local Metal scene and beyond?

We had some CD presentation shows in Belgium, and by the third show, the audience had grown so that it was really satisfying to be back on stage. After shows, people come talk to us, compare us to amazing bands, and want autographs, and buy CDs and shirts… And it's not about selling stuff, but it's a lot of fun seeing that they understand and appreciate our metal and that they are willing to support us. We attract both old and young, and for the former we are a ghost of the past, and for the latter, we are something special because we play new stuff but it sounds so old. That's funny!

Beyond Belgium is a bit harder, because we're not really doing promo there. We don't know where to start. We do get some orders from all over the planet, mostly via Bandcamp, and we did get some attention from abroad thanks to a YouTube metal channel called "New Wave of Traditional Heavy Metal Full Albums".

For an album that was supposed to be a demo, and that was recorded in 2 days, we're not doing bad. Most reviews are also very positive, and if they're not, it's about production or the fact that "we're not doing anything new". We know that, but we're not going to try and be innovative just because. We play what comes out. We can't force it to be funky or jazzy or something. So if it is old-school, then that is what we do. But we do want to make sure the next album is better, because I don't think you should ever stand still. Campers die eventually :)

Certainly Hunter has been one of the traditional Metal bands that its essence is protecting the burning flame of the music, yet, do you believe that the band is bringing something else to the table? Perhaps an approach that is just starting out its baby steps only to become a monster later?

We're honestly still learning how to write songs as a band, and figuring out how to work together. It's a lot of fun, and there is no real process and maybe we shouldn't try finding one. But I do believe that we can get better by practice. If you start learning how to draw, you need to practice, it won't be pretty the first time. I think songwriting and Hunter is the same: we are evolving. Once we feel confident about ourselves, we will take it to the next step and experiment with something new, or learn what works.

I think for instance that you can tell that the song "Knight of the Black Rose" is one of our later songs because it has a lot more atmosphere and there's a lot more going on there. I like experimenting with different voices but I don't know how far I can take it. And that's something the actual musicians in the band also do: learn, try out new things.

Are we bringing something else to the table? It's been said before that we are not innovative, but at least you know we're going to give you pure heavy metal with riffs and screams and solos.

I see “Hunter” as a promising Heavy Metal release, why not try to find a label to endorse it and probably offer additional promotion?

Thanks! We're interested in talking to labels and this was a good learning experience before we actually do. Thanks to the internet, you can self-publish, and only then do you start appreciating all the work a label does on the side, so it's a possibility if anyone's interested.

I am positive that you are all for the album’s songs, yet, I am also sure there is that one track that is regarded by you as the best there is. Which of the list? Please explain your pick

This is different every day. I can sometimes hear the tanks rolling in "No Man's Land". I can sometimes hear a Dokken song in "Infiltrator". I can sometimes see the fog over London in "Then Comes the Night".

But I guess I can really totally get into "The Knight of the Black Rose", it has some sort of hypnotizing effect on me, where I feel the agony of the Knight in the solo, but freaking out on stage is not always a good idea :)

With the ongoing advancement in music promotion these days, which of the platforms do you find most beneficial? Do you think that a newcomer band or a revamped band can do better in the present market’s promotion options in comparison to the old days?

YouTube. But you need a specific channel that caters to your niche audience. I think Spotify and Bandcamp can be really interesting too, but again you need to be on the right playlist that gathers all the specific sub-sub-genre songs together. That's the best way to get started. That is also why magazines/webzines are important, and for a band like ours, the smaller the better. Because those smaller zines at least still have a following that is interested in underground music. Don't try to aim for big audiences before you have converted the real fans of your niche genre.

Truth be told, we used to be on old channels, back in the day, like IRC and newsgroups and forums, before Facebook and Twitter came, and it seemed to be easier to get in touch with your target audience.

Now all of those seem to have been replaced by one centralized hub like Facebook and we have no idea what to do or who to talk to. We have a promotor for that. We're dial-up type internet people, we need young savvy folk to help us with social media. I don't think metal lives on Twitter, but it does on Instagram, but I have no idea how to use it, haha. I think YouTube and Bandcamp are interesting and we might not be using them to their full potential.

There have been various articles in the last five years arguing the listening Heavy Metal can make you calmer, a more soothing person. What is your standpoint about that? Is there logic in that theory?

For a lot of people, heavy metal is a solution to a problem. Listening to metal is a cure for many. So yes, I believe it can be therapeutic. But it can also energize a person, and make them feel confident or better about themselves. I'm just speaking for myself here, though. Whatever works!

Any plans to support “Hunter” this coming year and the next?

We're talking to every single organizer that asks us, and are working together with other bands to get some things going. We've been on stage five or six times this year and we don't mind doing more concerts. However, Belgium is small. We want to get out there and be heard, but we also don't want to over-expose ourselves. We're still small though, so every gig there's someone new. The cool thing is that we already have some regulars that will just show up no matter what.

David, I would like to thank you for the interview, much appreciated. You have a good basis to go forward, and I hope that you will do your best. Cheers mate!

Thank YOU for the interview and being on the forefront of spreading the Word!
 



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