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Joost & Jacco (Heidevolk)

Interview with Joost & Jacco from Heidevolk
by Erika Kuenstler at 21 April 2018, 7:59 AM

In the three years since the release of their “Velua” album, Dutch Folk/Pagan Metal band HEIDEVOLK  have gone through numerous changes, including a drastic change in line-up, with half of the band being replaced. However, 2018 sees them back, with the release of their new album “Vuur Van Verzet”. Recently, Metal Temple Writer Erika Kuenstler had the chance to chat to drummer Joost and vocalist Jacco during the Leipzig let of their “Folk Metal Superstars” tour along with bands such as KORPIKLAANI, ARKONA, and TROLLFEST among others, and got to hear all about their bombastic new album. If you haven’t had the chance to listen to “Vuur Van Verzet” yet, do yourself the favour of checking out this awesome new album!

It’s been a turbulent couple of years for HEIDEVOLK since the last album came out three years ago. How has that changed HEIDEVOLK?

Joost: Luckily not as much as we feared. I guess that’s the best way we can describe it. It’s really hard to know when you put a group together if it fits. The problem is that we’ve gotten bigger and bigger, so you have to find people who have time. So that’s hard.

Jacco: That’s even besides matching musically. Even though new people always bring new kinds of influences to the band, it was always the set plan to keep HEIDEVOLK on the path that they were on, and to maintain that, even with new members.

The new album roughly translates to fire or passion for resistance or opposition. It seems to reflect the history of HEIDEVOLK. Was that intentional?

Joost: Hell yeah! Actually, most albums do. The main theme is theme is after the Roman Empire. The tribes had to regain themselves and find out where they want to go and how to be themselves again. And that’s exactly what happened with the band.

Jacco: It’s a lot about rediscovering who you were and redefining yourself.

That seems to be quite a relevant topic for modern society, especially with the struggles that countries are going through at the moment. Was that a coincidence?

Joost: Well, partially. Except for “Velua”, we have always been about history, and about opening people’s eyes. So: look around at what happened, don’t make the same mistake. We’re not into politics, but it is an underlying theme.

The way the album was written was quite unique for HEIDEVOLK, with Rowan writing the entire thing and then slotting everyone else in. How did that work? Were there any difficulties?

Joost: (laughing) With six strong personalities, there are always difficulties.

Jacco: Well, speaking for me, seeing as I am the newest addition to the band, it was going to be the first record that I did with HEIDEVOLK. So I obviously had to watch how songs actually get written in the band, and it was a good point for me to be added at the end I think, so at least the HEIDEVOLK sound would be guaranteed. So for me, it was partially a learning experience how things worked in this band.

Joost: For this album.

Jacco: Yeah, for this album.

Joost: Because that varies from album to album too.

Well, the newest one has just been released, so there’s still a while to think about the next one.

Joost: We already have plenty of ideas!

Wow, you really aren’t ones to rest on your laurels, are you?

Jacco: Well, it takes a while from the idea to the final product, so… And of course we had some ideas upfront for this one, but you have to choose. But I think there are a lot of ideas, also new ideas on how to do the next album, because I don’t think it will be done the same way.

Joost: We’ll see; you never know.

Hopefully with more input form the newer members as well?

Joost: Possibly.

Jacco: Hopefully. I mean, you never know. The will is there, and I know the capabilities are there, so we’ll see.

Joost: And we’ve worked long enough together now. Like Jacco stated, we had to guarantee that it would be a HEIDEVOLK album. Now we see after this recording that it’s possible with these people. So like the underline of the CD says, let’s re-find and redefine ourselves, and make a new HEIDEVOLK record.

What was also unique about this album was the increased use of traditional instruments, as well as the use of a 24 piece male choir. How did it come about that these elements were included?

Jacco: When it comes to the choir, I think HEIDEVOLK always had this legacy of being a Viking choir and a Metal band, fit into one. So this might have been the excellent way to bring in the choir.

Joost: It’s the first time we had the opportunity as well. You have to grow to a certain status to get enough time and money to make things happen.

Jacco: It also adds another layer of complexity to the song-writing and the recording.

Joost: On the old albums, we have moments where we would get the people in a bar just to come to the studio and they just had to shout and do whatever. So it’s not really the first time we’re doing this, but it’s the first time we are doing this professionally.

Jacco: And the addition of more folk instruments is something that came from the experiences on the “Velua” album. The strings worked really well; and the more traditional stuff adds folk elements to the kind of Folk Metal that we do.

Joost: And another thing which really has to do with this is that we try to tell a story. That why there is so much diversity among the albums, because we try to tell stories. We have the story first, and then we write the music to it. So if the story calls for something, you have to add it.

Talking about the idea of drawing on elements from older albums, I noticed you’ve returned to the idea of using English lyrics. Why is that?

Jacco: Basically, it’s not a thing that we want to make into a thing, because HEIDEVOLK is and will always be singing in Dutch, first and foremost. But I think that in part of a song and in one other song, the themes of the songs called for it being sung in English, because it was based on an English point of view.

Joost: Basically, we have one and a half English songs on the album. First we have “Wolf in my Heart”, which is written about characters from England, so it’s an English story. One of the parts is about the movement towards Britain. In the first part, it’s the people on the boats singing, and in the second part, it’s the people that stand on the coast and see the boats coming in, and realise “oh, what did we do?” First they are really happy about it, but then they realised they invited their doom to stay. On the other hand, the discussion in the band was: we’re Dutch, we have to sing in Dutch, so we made a Dutch version as well for “Wolf in my Heart”.

Jacco: We had one song on “Velua”, which was a hail to the people we met in America. We can’t sing that in Dutch, so it made more sense that way.

Joost: Mostly, the story has to really refer to the language. Who knows, we might be stubborn enough to do one in German or in Italian. But the story has to refer to it.

The other song where the lyrics are partially in English is “The Alliance”. How did it come about that Alan (A.A. Nemtheanga) from PRIMORDIAL did a guest appearance there?

Joost: Well, we’ve known Alan for a really long time now, and there has always been talk about doing a collaboration. Rowan actually wrote this song with Alan’s voice in his head.  And that was really cool, except for the trouble of Alan being on tour. I believe he recorded it somewhere on the road and sent it to the studio. It was a pretty big hassle to get that done.

Jacco: (laughing) it was logistically a nightmare!

Joost: Yeah, but luckily we managed, because that was stretching it. We had to really really deliver the album to be pressed, and we were still waiting for this one vocal line. (Laughs)

Jacco: We were pushing some boundaries there.

Joost: Yeah, pushing boundaries is a good thing with HEIDEVOLK music!

Yeah, that’s true. At first there was the news that HEIDEVOLK are releasing a new album, and next think you know, it’s already here. How did you manage to pull it off so quickly?

Joost: Well, a lot of planning, a reasonable amount of stress.

Jacco: And the will to deliver in the end.

Joost: Yeah, and also, we took a really long time to do preproduction and to really know how the songs work before we entered the studio. That created the budget, for example for the choir. Usually there’s not enough time in the studio, but this time, there was, because we already knew what we wanted to do.

With everything being so stressful, what was the most enjoyable song to record? Was there one which was like “ah, this feels great to get out”?

Jacco: For me, I must say it would be “Gungnir”. It relates to me because I like the more lyrical stuff. The more theatrical, emotional, maybe even introvert kind of theme in there. So I could really belt out something that I felt for real. So that was good for me to do.

Joost: In the preproduction, I hated the song. I was like “fuck no, what is this?” And then it was finished, and then it was “ah, this works”. For me it was “Britannia”, because I really liked the groove. I instantly remembered the old OLD MAN’S CHILD album, and I knew what drums I’d put on there. So it was really fun to do. But also in the end when I heard “The Alliance” with Alan’s voice, I was crying in my car when I heard it. I was just driving on the road like “Wow”.

So worth the wait.

Jacco: In the end, all pieces fell together and formed a puzzle that you wanted to see.

That’s exactly what it sound like when you were saying how “Gungnir” sounded horrible initially, but all came together at the end.

Jacco: Sometimes you can see upfront that this is going to be good, that it is going to be enjoyable. In other instances, it’s a struggle, and you have to get there, and then it grows on you.

Joost: And trust the people around you that have the vision.

Jacco: Which might even be the hardest part.

Joost: But in the end, every song recorded made it to the album, luckily.

Given all this experience, and HEIDEVOLK’s history spanning 16 years now, what advice would you give to young musicians starting out who look up to you?

Jacco: Don’t expect to become a rock-star.

Joost:  That’s really hard, but basically do what you want, do what’s close to your heart, and stay there. Because if you don’t, you’re never going to make it as long. Your heart has to be in the right place.

Jacco: And keep believing in what you’re doing. Because if you think it’s worth it, then it’s worth it.

Joost: We’re lucky that there are a lot of people who also like what we do. Because otherwise we’d be in a rehearsal room somewhere doing the same thing.

Awesome! Well, thank you very much for taking the time to answer my questions.

Jacco: Thank you!



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