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Mathijs Tieken (The Charm The Fury)

Interview with Mathijs Tieken from The Charm The Fury
by Antov Sanatov at 22 February 2017, 7:41 AM

Sometimes you have to strip things down to make a statement. In this world of rampant consumerism and political instability some have no patience for garish values and auxiliary frills. That is what Amsterdam Metalcore thoroughbreds, THE CHARM THE FURY, certainly seem to think, and in the wake of their upcoming sophomore effort, “The Sick, Dumb and Happy”, the band’s skins man, Mathijs Tieken, took some time to speak with Metal Temple about the inspiration behind their new record, the place of politics in music, and the virtues of a raw Metal sound.

Hi Mathijs, thank you for taking the time to speak with us. I’m a big fan; really loved the first record.

Hey! Thank you, happy to do it.

Would you like to get started?


So tell me, who are the “Sick, Dumb and Happy”?

That’s a good question. I think that is the overall arching theme of the record. It’s basically about the sort of people that sit behind their TV and feed into this image that’s spread by the media, the sort of people that tend not to think for themselves and be lazy in life, looking for the quick answer and a quick fix of pleasure; and I believe that there’s more of these people than you would imagine. So I think that the main theme of the “Sick, Dumb and Happy” are those people that don’t have big goals in life, that don’t look at the greater problems in the world but are instead self-serving, short-term thinkers, and I think that it is that kind of people that are stopping human intellectual progress as a whole. It’s about having a more active approach to life, the world and the problems in the world, and taking personal responsibility for it; and the Sick, Dumb and Happy are the opposite of those, they are lazy and are content with being that way.

Now your previous record “A Shade Of Former Self” had also possessed quite a lot of socially-conscious undertones, would you say that this album is even more so, or are there any new themes that you are exploring?

I think that there are some new themes on there but I would say that on a whole this record is even more socially and politically engaged; but just in a different sense. The theme of the album sort of evolves together with how you are feeling at that particular moment, and I think that during “A Shade Of My Former Self” that overarching feeling was one of looking at the problems of the world and seeing what you can do about them, and I would say that during this album we darker outlook in that regard. I think that most of the band were going through a bit of a darker period in their lives and that really made it onto the record. So it is politically engaged but it doesn’t serve up answers. There isn’t always this positive outlook in the end. You see the problems but there are no easy fixes or instant solutions. Overall it’s pretty political, but there are personal songs at some points of it as well, so it’s kind of a mixed bag.

Do you consider yourselves to be a political band and do you think that music should be political?

Personally, I’m very political. I’m very interested in politics and I think that it is one of the most important things out there. I’m not a big fan of politicians but I think that politics in itself is very important.  I think it’s a shame that politics are done by politicians (chuckles), if you know what I mean, or the people that you want least to be in control of running the world, but in terms of whether music should be political, I think that it is a personal choice for each band. There are a lot of bands that I listen to that are very political and I tend to really enjoy them; because when you make music it is an easy platform to reach a lot of people, and you can really spread a message, thus why not do it if you can; yet at the same time I think that if all music were to be political it would very boring. I mean, I enjoy listening to other stuff like Michael Jackson too, or a good happy song or an angry song or a love song, I don’t mind. I don’t think that all music should be political because that would get boring after a while.

So what is your writing process like, and was there anything different to it this time around?

It sort of differs, but usually it starts at the computer. Sometimes we do jam in the rehearsal room but I think that after a couple of years we found that it was much easier for us to just start with Logic or ProTools - just recording some riff ideas, then throwing some drums on there. The great thing with a computer is that you can record tons of things and you always have it at your fingertips so that you can move around and try new things, and with jam sessions, you’re sort of stuck in a kind of vice. With computers it’s really easy to records something, then listen back to it and re-evaluate it, and then maybe try something completely different. So that’s usually how it starts out. Then once we get a riff going we can decide where do we go from here - perhaps do a cool chorus or try something very melodic, maybe something really heavy. So it’s basically a step-by-step process; like Lego building blocks, you just try to get them together and see what works, and try different combinations. That’s usually how we approach it.

And was it pretty much the same this time around?

Well, there were some differences because this was the first time that we had actually worked with some songwriters outside the band. One of them was Daniel Gibson (Swedish Producer/Songwriter) and the other was Robert Westrholt (WITHIN TEMPTATION), so that was a bit different. Most of the songs would start out with us but then we will work together with them and they would bring in some really fresh ideas and get us outside of our comfort zone. They really encouraged us to try different things on different songs and sometimes it wouldn’t work at all, but at other times they would suggest a really melodic part at a certain point in the song or maybe a pop chord progression where you would least expect it, and sometimes that would turn out really great. It’s different when the band is in control of the whole process and does everything themselves, but it’s nice to get an outside opinion and some fresh ideas in there.

You have a very aggressive, very rebellious sound that comes across very compellingly in your recordings; how do you manage to channel that energy and emotion in the confines of studio?

That’s a great question. I think that getting that aspect across is the biggest challenge of recording any album; I’m really happy to hear that you got that side from it, that’s great. I think that it boils down to the decisions that you make sonically during the recording process. I noticed that with all the classic bands that I really enjoy listening to and that most of the band really enjoy listening to - guys like METALLICA and PANTERA - what they really have done with their art is to garner an individual sound, like a guitar sound, and make it extremely distinctive and different sounding than the other ones, in additions to keeping it very expressive; and that is something that we really worked on lot on. We had actually recorded all of the guitar parts for this album and when we went into mixing we decided to throw away those parts and redo the whole thing because it didn’t have the necessary energy; we actually redid all of them in a new studio with new amps and different guitars in order to get that raw aggression in there. The second time around we took longer – a couple of days – of experimenting with the sounds, and it really pieced itself together, and there was this really aggressive, scratchy guitar sound that we really enjoyed, one that maybe sounds different from other bands out there. It was a longer process but I guess that it paid off.

Tell us about the first single “Down On The Ropes”.

Well, “Down On The Ropes” was one of the earlier songs that we’d written for album. I think we actually wrote it really quickly; we had the main riff very early on and it had a certain groove, and from there it just went really quickly. I guess lyrically it is one of the most relatable to the main theme of the album. For example the first verse comes from the perspective of this person sitting in front of this TV being totally apathetic and not thinking for themselves and the second verse is actually written from the perspective of say a big corporation or a media conglomerate which is aware that such people are out there and that they can take advantage of them in order to make money, reducing human beings to consumers. I think that’s the theme of that particular song and those sick, dumb and happy are basically saying: “please feed me the image that I want, feed me my personal preferences and don’t tell me anything else, I’m at your beck and call”. So it’s basically a spin on that type of person. That is also what we tried to get across in the video; with this big fat guy slobbering all over burgers while watching TV and not doing much else.

As you’ve mentioned previously, there are definitely some strong PANTERA grooves on the song, and I’ve also read that you have in fact decided to pursue that classic, stripped down Heavy Metal sound on this album. Is that indeed something that you were going for?

Yes, definitely. It’s not that every song on the record is like that, but I think that overall this album is pretty barebones. Throughout it you’ll typically just hear a bass guitar, guitar left, guitar right, drums and vocals; so just really aggressive with no frills. It’s a pretty big break from what we did on our previous material. Back then we were trying to fill everything up with lots of additional elements and atmospheric stuff. It is sort of where we see ourselves at the moment, and whilst we still think it is cool to fill songs up with a variety of components, when you strip a song down to its bare bones and it still holds, that to me is the pinnacle of good song writing; when it’s stripped down and it’s still working and it’s still aggressive and energetic. I think what we tried to do with Down on the Ropes is forgo filling it with too many additional components and technical things just for the sake of it, and just strip it down to its bare bones and work it from there.

So do think that when you strip a song down it then frees you up to focus on the substance at the core of it?

Yes exactly. Once you strip it down and the guitar riff is not 100%, you notice it immediately and realise that you need to work on it. At that point you can do one of two things: you can add stuff until you’re at a point where you think that “ok, this is cool” or you can rework it and perhaps opt for a different riff because that one isn’t good enough. That was the constant obstacle that we had with this whole record, for when you do it barebones, you need to make sure that you do it right, and that for me, it was a really enjoyable challenge.

Are there any influences on the record that are perhaps somewhat surprising and unusual that helped shape this album?

Absolutely. I guess that the most obvious one would be PANTERA. SLIPKNOT, I think, is also a major influence on this; which was something that we would never have expected to happen, for that is a band that I used to listen to when I was like 13-14 years old and was pretty much the way that I got into Metal in the first place. I haven’t really checked that band out in quite some time and I sort of rediscovered it in the last couple of years. I thought that we really need to do something with this, because to me that was always that type of band that was really barebones in their approach, with really simple song writing and really dramatic, distorted things that I really liked. I thought that we should really work with that because it is really very much the opposite of the modern, polished glossy Metal, and has a more raw, garage sound with no frills to it, and we thought that was really cool. So that’s one influence that I would definitely mention. I also think that DEFTONES is another one that would be surprising for some people; and they were a really big influence as well. They’re another band that has a really organic sound and a different approach to heavy music, and I guess a different approach to the way most bands are working with Metal. In the last couple of years they have been an inspiration that drove us to push and achieve something different.

Would you say that your desire to strip your record came from your time on the road, given that when you’re on stage everything is stripped down to just you and your instruments?

Definitely. We’ve noticed that the songs that work best in the rehearsal studio are the songs that people respond to live, as a rule, so that was one of the factors for sure. And as we’ve been trying out some of the new songs in live settings, before the record is released, and we’ve noticed that some of the more stripped down songs get a really great response, because they’re simple and catch on very easily. So yes, that definitely played a role.

Are there any records besides yours that you are really looking forward to this year?

(Pauses) Ohhh…that’s a difficult one. I still have to catch up with a few things. I’m not really sure about what’s coming out. I knew about the new Metallica last year, but other than that I’m always surprised to see some band put out a record that I didn’t know they had coming. Hmmm…I’m thinking…who’s coming out with new stuff?

Well, the one I’m personally really waiting for – and I’ve read that you have some sort of connection with them – is While She Sleeps’ new album.

Oh yea, yea! That’s a good one. I’m especially curious about that one because they did it in their own studio this time. I think that they’ve actually built their own studio in the UK and then recorded there, which, to me, is really awesome, (that they try to do it that way.) Because the way that most bands do it is they go to this big established studio with a big producer and just do it that way, and for them to create their own studio and try to do it themselves, I think that’s a ballsy move and I can’t wait to see how it turns out.

And are you going to be spending a lot of time on the road this year?

Yes. We’re working on a lot of different things right now. We’re doing a small European tour at the beginning of April - I think that will be mostly Germany - and later in April - we’re actually in the states right now- we’ll head back here to do three more festival shows, and that’s really awesome; I think we’re playing Carolina Rebellion, Northern Invasion and another that I cannot recall. So three big US festivals; which is a first for us, because when we played in the US before it was in this tiny bar for some music industry professionals and a mere few people, and now we’ll do these huge festivals and it is truly amazing, and after that we’re doing this big festival run with spots at Download, Grasspop and other big European festivals. So we’re really looking forward to that.

Cool. Just one last question; once again in regard to the record. Given that this is your sophomore effort, did you feel a lot of pressure? Given that you now have a considerable following of fans, did you feel a lot of responsibility to deliver a solid offering?

Definitely. It’s a very different feeling the first time around. Before it was like a blank canvas and you could do anything and you didn’t have a fan base that expected a certain thing. I think that’s what fans expect you to do, they expect a rework of what you’ve been doing on the previous record and we’ve made a conscious decision to do something new, so that’s always a gamble; it’s a very different feeling from doing something for the first time. In addition to that, this time around we have a label (Nuclear Blast) and we had a team of people working with the band, and that changes everything. Now that you’re not just doing it for yourself, but working in a team, you really want to deliver. I think that it really does up the ante a bit.

Well I truly can’t wait to hear the new album, I’m really looking for to it a lot, and I want to thank you immensely for taking the time to do this.

Yea, no problem, it was a good interview.

Thank you very much and good luck with the album and the touring – hopefully I get to see you this year. Thanks again.

“The Sick, Dumb and Happy” comes out on March 17th via Nuclear Blast


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