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Jan-Chris De Koeijer (Gorefest)

Interview with Jan-Chris De Koeijer from Gorefest
by David Kaluza at 01 December 2005, 7:23 AM

To say that Gorefest's reunion album review.asp?id=1228 ended up as a rather pleasant surprise would be an understatement. Sure. Of course it was the same band that already released killers like False (1992) and Erase (1995) in their career, but on the other hand, it was also a band that had not been an active part of the Metal scene for almost seven years now. Luckily, La Muerte immediately erased any doubts I might have had about the album or the future of the band. Gorefest are definitely back and set to take no prisoners this time around! Of course this was more than enough for a reason for us to have vocalist / bassist Jan-Chris answer a couple of questions regarding the reunion, the past and the future of the band.

Congratulations with the new album, La Muerte. Before we talk about this album though I have a couple of questions about the reunion in general. First off I would like to know what the reason was for the band splitting up in the first place all those years ago.

Basically two things, the first being the fact that we had been together, and doing the whole recording, touring thing for a long time, and that we were sort of drained musically at the end of 㥪. The other thing was that especially Boudewijn \[Bonebakker - Guitar] and me were not communicating with each other anymore. We were just ignoring each other, which didn’t improve the vibe in the band so to say. It came to a point where I walked into the dressing room at the very last show (supporting Deep Purple at the Brussels Vorst National arena) and thought that I was attending a funeral rather than a Metal show. So by the end of the show I was convinced that I had to turn it into a real funeral and finish it off.

The split came as quite a surprise to a lot of people. Not in the last place myself, since I actually witnessed the band open up for Deep Purple during that show you just mentioned and wasn’t aware of how bad things really were at that time. Somehow it always felt a bit unfinished. No big farewell. No live album to conclude this period in time. How do you look back as a whole on those final days and why was it cut off so suddenly?

As I just explained in the previous answer, it came to a point where it just had to stop. It became so far removed from the whole being in a band and us against the world that I just could not do it anymore. Looking back at that period now, it was just very, very sad. Me and Boudewijn ended up not seeing or talking to each other for about six years.

It also seemed rather odd because the last couple of years before the split Gorefest had evolved from being simply a Death Metal band to being one of the most innovative names in that particular type of music. Especially albums like Soul Survivor (1996) and Chapter 13 (1998) were quite experimental, and to perhaps a few people it seemed the band was lacking a sense of direction. Personally, I especially consider Soul Survivor to be an underrated classic but how do you look back at those albums yourself? Any regrets? Things you would have done differently?

No regrets there, maybe some things (minor) that I would have done differently now. I think I could have done some songs on Soul Survivor better, with more dedication from my part. I think at that time the turning point was reached and that it had become a business more than the band we used to be in the previous years. It’s really funny to see that some people who didn’t like the album when it came out, have rediscovered it now, and think that it is a really good album.

There were no less than six years in between the split and the reunion. Was everyone still active in the music scene during that time? Ed Warby was probably most successful in no small thanks to his work with Aryeon / Star One but how about everyone else? I know that you, Jan-Chris, did something totally different than Metal for example. Tell us a bit about that and what kept everyone busy in all those years prior to the reunion.

I did a project called Cold Pop Culture, which was a bastard Depeche Mode, Joy Division-ish kinda thing, which was really cool to do. For me it made no sense to try and get a Metal band on track since it would never be as cool as Gorefest was (musically). It was really nice to work with someone in a home studio and record every idea directly onto a computer. It also taught me a lot about songwriting and how certain sounds can turn a song into a completely different direction. At that time I was really fed up with playing live and made myself a promise that I would never do so again. But Cold Pop Culture made me enjoy playing (live) music again and after some time I really started to miss the sonic violence that Gorefest produces.

At the same time Boudewijn studied classical guitar and got a degree in it, and Frank \[Harthoorn - guitar] played guitar in a band called The Hollow Men.

I noticed that just recently the older Gorefest albums were re-released, packaging two releases in one set and being accompanied by several bonus tracks. Was the band involved in any of this?

Totally! We were in total control and compiled everything ourselves, the albums and the booklets.

When and how was it decided that Gorefest should reunite? What led up to this reunion and did everyone agree to do this from the very start? How did the fans react to this news? Tell us a bit more about the events leading up to the reunion.

The fact that Transmission Records wanted to buy our back catalog made us all aware that there was such a thing as Gorefest in all our pasts. And after negotiating with that label for a couple of months, I became more and more curious of how Boudewijn was doing, after not seeing him for 6 years. I think that we all had those same feelings, so after Boudewijn and I cleared things up, there was this overall feeling that we had some unfinished business to do. Which we did, but only after very long talks that every one really wanted to do this, and that we all wanted this for the full 100%.

Musically it seems that La Muerte picks off pretty much where Erase left us. Was this done consciously and was the musical course decided upon before the reunion or did it simply happen very spontaneously?

We had never really planned how an album was going to sound. We simply can’t do that and this time it was exactly the same. The only thing we all felt strong about was that we wanted it to be a heavy album, in which we succeeded.

Even the artwork brings back shades from the early days of Gorefest and draws heavily upon for example the artwork for the False album. Whose idea was it and who designed it? Was it by any chance the same artist?

It is done by MID, who also designed the False album cover. We got it in the early 90’s but never used it apart for about 50 T-shirts for a tour. When I recently moved, I stumbled upon it and instantly knew that I wanted to use this for the new album. Apart from the fact that it looks really good, it also stands apart from all the computer animated covers of today.

How did the songs for La Muerte come into existence? Listening to the album it sounds very fresh and spontaneous - almost has a sort of four guys jamming in a garage kind of feel. Tell us a bit about how the songs were written? Did this change much over the years and was the chemistry that made the earlier albums work so well there right from the start or did it take some time for everyone to warm up to the idea of working with each other again?

Half of the album was actually written as a four-guys-in-a-rehearsal-room setting, which was quite a long time ago that we wrote that way. The very first time we met in a rehearsal room after the split, we couldn’t actually play any of the old songs, so we started playing with new ideas from that very moment. Half of the album was written this way and the other half at home since I couldn’t make it to rehearsals because of my job. And that led to the fact that half of the songs weren’t finished when we entered the studio, so there was a lot of creativity involved there as well. Not just recording songs that you already played for a long time but actually making parts up just before recording them and then see if they work or not.

How difficult was it for you personally to switch back to Death Metal mode, vocally? I can imagine that not having grunted for a number of years might have been a bit awkward again at first? Or did you slip right back into that role again?

It was pretty funny the first time in rehearsal when I tried to grunt, the first effort: Nothing, 2nd: Nothing. And then the 3rd time it was there! Recording the vocals was a breeze really, we spent one day getting the right vocal sound by testing various mics and gradually warming up my voice. on the second day I recorded five songs, four on day three and the main vocals were finished in five days.

I take it that since you are the singer of the band, you wrote the lyrics on your own. From titles like for example You Could Make Me Kill and Malicious Intent it seems that there is a lot of anger and aggression going on lyrically and that there is a lot of social criticism on hand.

Indeed, I wrote the lyrics for La Muerte and yes, there is a lot of anger in my words because sometimes there is a lot of anger in me. If I look at today’s world and how fucked up it is at times, and how people no longer seem to care about that, then it’s time to pick up the old pen and write a song like You Could Make me Kill. Keeping that in mind, take your time to read the lyrics and try to make a difference!

La Muerte also heavily benefits from the production, which in my humble opinion might very well be the best the band has had in their career so far. The album was recorded at the Excess Studios and as I gather it, the band itself was responsible for the production. How did you end up working like this and why? In the past the band recorded with Oscar Holleman - was his name ever thrown around for working with you guys this time around as well?

We were going to work with Oscar at his new studio, a beautiful mansion-like building surrounded by trees and completely state of the art, technical wise. But after a few rehearsals that Oscar attended as a pre-producer, we found out that he wasn’t going to be the right person for this album. We also found out that if we were going to record there, we would need an awful lot of money, which we might have come up with but we didn’t want to spend that much. Since the vibe in the band was very good and we knew exactly what sort of album we wanted to make, we decided to produce it ourselves. This proved to be the right decision and a very nice experience! When we were done, the tapes (or hard disk, that is) were sent to Denmark, to Mr. Tue Madsen who gave it his famous Antfarm touch. He was very happy with the recorded sound and I think he did one hell of a job mixing the album. It’s heavy as fuck, yet very clear!

Last year the band did quite a few festivals in Europe - are there any touring plans for the near future and what would the ideal touring situation for you be ? Which bands would you preferably take on tour with you or open up for yourself and do you see the band doing an international tour in the foreseeable future?

We were offered a U.S. tour with Morbid Angel and Obituary, which would have been really fun opening up for, but we had to cancel that because it was straight after our own European headlining tour that runs from February the 16th up till March the 26th.

As for playing live - how hard do you feel it is to come up with a setlist for the shows and what can we expect to be played on stage in the future? Can we actually expect songs from albums like Soul Survivor and Chapter 13 as well? Are there any songs which you personally would really enjoy playing live and are there any songs which the fans react particularly well to?

It’s always rather difficult to come up with a setlist when you have a new album out. Of course we want to play as many new songs as possible but we can’t deny our fans the classics. This time we are rehearsing some 20 plus songs so we can change our set almost on a nightly basis. When you can play for about 90 minutes, we would like to play 30 minutes worth of new stuff and the rest of the songs from our older albums. On this tour there will be quite a few songs from False on the list but we do like to include every album.

Is there any chance a live DVD and CD? Are there any plans already? Were there any shows filmed and recorded in the past or more recently? Would it not be the perfect timing to come up with some sort of live document or perhaps even some sort of retro perspective documenting the years before the split and the eventual reunion on DVD and featuring live material from the entire career of the band?

As you know, there is a DVD included with the album that gives a good insight view of the band as we are today, plus some stuff from the studio session. There is going to be a rather extended Live DVD with some old concerts and stuff that we will be doing on the next tour. We want to include both our early 90’s Dynamo shows, and maybe some stuff from this year’s Wacken show. But be patient, because it takes a lot of work to come up with a DVD that we can be really satisfied with.

Also, there are quite a few bands from the Netherlands who are successful internationally - take for example After Forever, Within Temptation, The Gathering, God Dethroned or even musicians like Arjen Lucassen and his many projects. How would you describe the music scene in the Netherlands as a whole and why do you think that over the past 10 or so years we have seen so many quality releases from your country? Do you feel that perhaps in some way it was bands like Gorefest that paved the road for this to happen?

If that was the case then it would be really cool! I don’t know exactly why but since Holland is such a small country, bands have to come up with a certain amount of originality to be noticed internationally. The aforementioned bands are all really decent people and most of them I know very well. I guess everybody gets along pretty well.

Since I already mentioned the re-releases earlier on - I would like you to take a minute and write a couple of lines about each album separately. How do you look upon them all those years later, any general thoughts instantly pop up into your mind or is there anything specific that you would change about them or anything you were particularly pleased or displeased with?

Mindloss : typical debut. Raw, could have sounded a bit beefier.

False : Everything I ever dreamed of! Everything fell into place with this album, the songs, the production, the vibe in the band and a new label, the then relatively small Nuclear Blast.

Erase : Our biggest album I guess. Could have sounded a bit more live but we wanted to be as tight as possible at that time, and we succeeded! Did a great European headlining tour for this one.

Soul Survivor : Difficult album for me to make. I found it very hard to fit my vocal style into this style of music. Hated by many, loved by as many.

Chapter 13: Great album, I think. Great production and great songs, some experiments that didn’t work out that well but overall very happy with it.

Finally, I would to thank you for taking the time out to answer our questions and I want to wish you all the best in the future with Gorefest - are there any famous last words for our readers you would like to share?

Thanks for taking the time to read my answers! I hope you enjoyed listening to La Muerte as much as we liked making it. And I hope to see you all when we play a gig in a town near you. Think for yourselves and question everything!

…and last, but certainly not least, we would also like to thank Natascha from Studio Mystica for letting us use her awesome pictures to accompany the interview. Be sure to check out the site for more of her high quality work!


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