Asphyx - one of the biggest bands in the death metal field return ready to demolish every stage they play. With their new album “Necroceros” and on terrific form, they promise kick ass shows!
Read below answers of frontman Martin van Drunen regarding their 35 years on the music scene, his thoughts on the past, the present and of course the future of death metal, as well as the bands plans.
RockOverdose: First of all, this year marks the 35th anniversary of Asphyx. The band has gone through a lot, what kept it strong and still active no matter the obstacles? How does it feel to be still around while many other bands of your time called it a day?
Martin van Drunen (Asphyx): Indeed Asphyx celebrates its 35th anniversary this year. Who would ever thought that when Bob Bagchus started the band back in 1987? Haha! But Bob has always been with us, even after his departure and he knew we would never abandon the Asphyx spirit and holding the banner high until our last of days. And I guess that is one of the reasons why we are still going so strong. We are all very proud of what we have achieved and to be in Asphyx. We still enjoy to go on stage and rage with the fans and cherish every show. Also we're still metalheads ourselves, so we know exactly what deathsters expect from us and thus we will never let them down. And apart from that, Asphyx is like a brotherhood, we're fully self managed with everybody in the band has his specific task. Which works perfect for us. I suppose that is also one of the reasons why we are still around. We do pick up rumours about other bands that have massive quarrels, problems with certain ego's or the musical direction they want to take. And this makes us laugh, because we don't have to deal with silly issues like that. Asphyx works as a very strong unit, with loyalty, dedication and passion for metal being our main virtues. And as long as we can represent that, we will never fall back. And yes, that feels bloody great!
RockOverdose: We’ve seen the spaces between albums since the reformation taking quite a while. Do you like to let the albums grow inside you and inside listeners? It feels like you have no pressure at all when you are about to write and release new material.
Martin van Drunen (Asphyx): Perhaps we do that unconsciously, but like you say, we do put no pressure on ourselves, we don't need to because we know we will always make another great album thanks to the simple formula that we use. With every release, everything of the puzzle always falls naturally into pieces. Not that it comes easy, it does require a lot of work. But we know what we want, what is expected from us and we will always deliver. Sometimes we do think that there might be too long spaces in between our records, but one has to keep in mind that we perform a lot live every year and the boys have their jobs too, next to the band. And it is not that we think 'Now we need to write new songs' That process is never ending. Myself I collected already a lot of new inspiration for future lyrics and Paul came up with the first fresh shredders, but there is no rush. And who knows, maybe that process wll accelerate all of a sudden and we can have another album next year. It can also take a year longer. And I must say, being still a metalhead myself, I do like to listen to new albums of bands that I like myself over and over again. To get to know the songs and feel the atmosphere. That is why the track-listing of any Asphyx album is something we give extra attention. Any album needs a certain built up to make it an interesting journey. And of course causing severe neck-cramps after!
RockOverdose: What has changed the most between the two eras of the band? I believe competition was stronger up to 2000, while on the other hand, it looks like the band is more estamplished and recognized since “Death… The Brutal Way”.
Martin van Drunen (Asphyx): The biggest change is that nowadays death metal has finaly established itself as a respected metal-genre. Back then, there was hardly a demand for it. Whilst today, there are so many opportunities to play live, may that be in the club-circuit or on one of the countless festivals worldwide. Late 80's, beginning 90's, what people call now old school death metal, never had the chance to really evolve. Suddenly there was this mad competition of who could play the fastest and most technical. But that was never the intention of death metal in the first place. Finally, death metal the way it was meant to be, was dying. Until about a decade ago, when deathsters started to rediscover and appreciate what the pioneers were doing back in those early days. And so 'old school death metal' came to a massive revival. For that reason, competition is now much stronger, but, there is no envy between the bands, like there never was in the death metal scene. Just a bunch of metalheads having a damn good time, enjoying what they do. And for us, just as for any band from that rough past, it is absolutely fantastic and astonishing to get finally recognized. But that is thanks to the ancient albums, where we set standards, wrote some songs that are now considered as 'classics' and in the case of Asphyx, after our return with 'Death... The Brutal Way', we showed the fans that we were able to continue from the point where the band had left the scene in 2000. And we just keep on going ever since.
RockOverdose: “Necroceros” is about to complete two years after its release soon enough. How do you see it as an album nowadays? As a fan, I saw it being quite warmly welcomed by the fans. Are you satisfied with its final result? Would you change anything now that time passed a bit?
Martin van Drunen (Asphyx): We are still very, very pleased with and proud of Necroceros. I guess I speak for the lads as well when I say that we do consider it as the heaviest and best Asphyx album ever recorded. It will be a big challenge for us to top this one! So yeah, we're very satisfed with the final result and considering the sales, the fans are too. Even our label Century Media was incredibly positively surprised. Shortly after the release my phone rang with an unkown number on the display. Since it was my cellphone, that no-one has except for some loved-ones, band and a few important business contacts, I answered. It was Phillipp, label chief of Century Media, who is, also still a big metalhead. He wanted to congratulate me and thus the boys personally for having entered the German charts on position 3. No need to say how pleased I was and how much I appreciated his gesture. After that, we hit chart after chart, mostly not on such high postions, but still, totally unexpected. We never thought we could achieve that with our non-compromising death/doom metal. So in retrospect, no need to change anything on Necroceros. Just looking forward now on how to maintain that success and perhaps even possibly improve it with another brutal future release in, of course, good old Asphyx style & fashion.
RockOverdose: Asphyx always emphasized on heaviness. The riffs were always there, the clarity of sound without being cheesy also. But few bands stood the test of heaviness as you did. Was it a motive for you to go on? I mean not forgetting that metal of all genres has to be heavy anyway?
Martin van Drunen (Asphyx): Yes, heaviness is what Asphyx is all about and sadly, a lot of acts for some weird reason have forgotten that metal has to include bombastic loud screaming guitars, a drilling bass and thunderous drums. That is one important part of the definition. Heaviness is what we live for, why we go on stage for, why we play our metal for in the first place. We have that in our hearts, bones and guts. On stage we usually have our volume incredibly high, annoying any monitor or sound-engineer, but that is how it has to be. And if you cannot take it, then you better leave. Loudness is a kind of drug that keeps the adrenaline going. And so it is only natural that all the Asphyx riffings are fit for that. Just like our main inspirers Motorhead and Venom who made your ears bleed when playing live. Our motive to go on is simply our passion and love for metal and to keep that flame burning now that many of our own heroes tragically pass away or are forced to put an end to their conquest due to their age or heath situation. And hopefully we can inspire others to keep the metal going once we cannot be around no more.
RockOverdose: What most fans love about the band is that it stayed loyal and strong to its principles up to this day. You can see a cover or listen to a riff or a lyric and you say “this is definitely Asphyx”. How easy or difficult is to maintain stability in what you do?
Martin van Drunen (Asphyx): Seems we get buried in compliments here, thank you kindly! But loyalty and our principles are certainly some of the most important issues for us. We all have been 'betrayed' by some of our former heroes and so we know how much that hurts. So that is never going to happen to our dedicated fans. And that makes it easy for us to stick to our morals. May that be an album title, the cover that captures its content, of course the songs and lyrics and finally our merchandise. Even though everything we do comes out spontaneously, there is a plan behind it. Our fans can always identify themselves with our non-compromising, no-nonsense 'image', if you wanna call it like that. But it is actually not difficult at all. We just follow our instincts and while doing so we will always deliver. Our fans know they can count on us and we will never let the trust they put into us down; nor their enormous loyalty. And our gratitude can be experienced on stage or heard on another Asphyx release.
RockOverdose: It would be really interesting to know how the band started, why it split up, how it came back together and what you believe the future holds for you from your perspective. Were the pros more than the cons in all those 35 years?
Martin van Drunen (Asphyx): Uff, my oh my... I'm very sorry, but I'm not gonna write down here all the line up changes, how Asphyx started in 1987 or returned in 2007. That can all be easily found online on various sites containing past interviews or maybe even on one of the many Asphyx re-releases. If you don't mind... So straight on to the future, even if I live more for today, that looks very bright for us. The offers for shows anywhere on this planet never seem to stop coming in, meaning we will be playing a bunch of gigs every year. Next, we will definitely slowly start working on the follow up of Necroceros. But when that one is going to be ready, I cannot tell. The final sum of the pros and cons of 35 years of Asphyx is absolutely in favour of the pros. Actually, there were not that many cons anyway. Looking back, they are not even worth mentioning. Apart from one lowlife, all Asphyx ex-members still get along very well together, as one could see during our special 30-years anniversary show. Not many bands are able to do something similar.
RockOverdose: Another long discussed matter is that after the split of Bolt Thrower, Asphyx somehow seemed to carry the torch of the whole European death metal. You saw the rise of the genre in our continent too, what made it special compared to the Americans and how do you see it evolving nowadays?
Martin van Drunen (Asphyx): Seriously? Please, comparing us to the mighty Bolt Thrower is a bit too much, but I truly do appreciate your words. We try to carry that torch of course, but there are also many others doing the same and doing it right. Strangely enough, it is the European continent which brings the most and best death metal nowadays, where it used to be the US in the beginning. Of course, there are still some great American acts that came back or always continued, like Possessed, Autopsy or Immolation, just to mention a few, but the scene over there has almost fully collapsed. That's why they keep on coming over to Europe, because in their own country, touring is no longer an option, apart from a couple of death metal strongholds throughout the nation. Now there are also some fine new US bands, but compared to what is happening in Europe, that is minor. The European scene has never been as alive as it is at the moment, not only when it comes to acts from all various countries on our continent, but also the fanbase is large and still growing. Personally, I think that is due to the fact that traditionally, one can easily identify him or herself with any death metal band, because most bands are basically metalheads themselves who just enjoy what they are doing and without any rock-starish attitude, which seems to be mostly a US disease. Of course I am not generalizing here since we know a lot of American collegues that remained very nice lads or ladies, despite their success, but I suppose you know what I mean. Both continents do have their different styles though, but in the US, there is a big difference between Florida, California, New York or states on the great plains. Like over here one can easily identify acts from Sweden who absolutely do not sound like bands from NL or the UK. Personally, I think overall the Euro-sound is more filthy, heavier but also more catchy where-as the US sounds more polished, compressed and technical. Finally, I believe there is at last an national awareness rising in Europe. Where fans are proud and supportive of bands from their own country, contrary to the past, when people only seemed to go to shows when it said (US) behind the poster or flyer. Where this will lead to, I have no clue, but for now it is a very positive development.
RockOverdose: The lyrics of “Deathhammer” back then, were a punch in the stomach of everyone trying to play false death metal. Do you see other bands that are true to what death metal stood for? Skeletal Remains is one band that comes to mind in terms of bringing the old-school vibe.
Martin van Drunen (Asphyx): Haha, and they still are! But hey, finally some-one that does actually read our lyrics, cool! Ah yes, I just stated somewhere I believe how positive it nowadays is that so many young bands truly understand what death metal really should be about. And not only Skeletal Remains, who are a bunch of fine lads that we played with in the US, cheerz guys! But so many other youngsters like Outre-Tombe, Cryptic Brood, Necrofagore or your own Necrovorous and Abyssus, just to once more mention a few. In fact I only wanted to express my anger, seeing a lot of utter crap acts on festivals that call themselves metal, who are absolutely not and for some unexplained reason, people eat that shit, so this rubbish becomes big and even gets a damn rotten misplaced dispicable attitude. So no, let us party with Benediction, Dismember, Jungle Rot, Vomitory, Slaughterday and so many others that have honest metal hearts for our cause instead of getting embarrassed by semi-intellectual-goth-fairytale-symphonic-folk-depressed-emo-technical-costume-&-make-up-wearing clowns polluting what we proudly call true fucken metal!
RockOverdose: We know all of you follow the metal scene in general. Bands emerge continuously and some of them can show what they’re made of from the beginning. Do you also believe that the whole scene remains strong, or do you prefer to stick in the old days of grandeur?
Martin van Drunen (Asphyx): It's stronger than ever! Haven't I said that before somewhere? Haha! Nah, look, it is very cool to dig up memories over a beer or two from that good old past with the veterans when we meet again somewhere. Which mostly were hard times, but damn, did we have lots of laughter. And certain classic death metal albums from that era will always remain iconic and deeply embedded in our iron hearts. I'm very proud to have been part of that history. Something no one can ever take away from me. But today is the present. Much has changed, especialy since the introduction of internet and almost total digital submission, but fortunately, fine metal cannot be halted. Never have there been so many talented young bands, so many opportunities to play live or attend to a show and that all with this typical comradly attitude among those bands and fans that do get the picture. Let us all establish some more grandeur.
RockOverdose: Which are your memories from your previous visits in Greece? What should the fans expect from your gig in terms of setlist and duration and what kind of merch will you have available as many people would like to know beforehand?
Martin van Drunen (Asphyx): Greece was always intense, hot, passionate, hospital and delirious to us. Too many memories to write down here, but only very damn good ones! It has been too long and we can't wait to come back to do another killer show, celebrate with our very loyal Greek fans and have a good time. So they can expect to meet us in the streets, at the venue for signatures, selfies or a chat and of course on stage. Since it is a club show, and I have not received any details yet, but I expect that we can play for about 1,5 hours and usually our set will be a mix from old and new Asphyx tracks. Of course we cannot please everybody as we have such a huge catalogue of great songs, but we do our best and I have never heard any-one being disappointed after one of our many shows. Our merchandise at gigs is always exclusive. What one will buy there cannot be obtained anywhere else, or it must be a bootleg, something we have no control over. But there will be items for gents and ladies, probably mainly shirts since we will arrive by plane and we are not allowed to bring a lot of cases next to the guitars and some drum-gear. ( if Amsterdam airport let's us catch our flight in the first place, due to the intolerable chaos there. Until now we still made it, but it has been really damn close a couple of times.. )
RockOverdose: We would like to thank you for this interview. We wish you to go on strong and show everyone that some things remain true no matter how the years have passed. Would you like to add something special or important for the end?
Martin van Drunen (Asphyx): You're very welcome and you too, thanks a lot for your support and the good wishes! No worries, we're never gonna change our ways! And now that I'm here and have that opportunity; I would like to compliment and thank Greek label Floga for those fantastic Asphyx re-releases over the last years. Well done and our copies have all arrived safe and sound here! All of you Greek deathsters can be proud of a label like that! See you all very soon in Athens, let's make it another unforgettable death metal happening! Cheerz to all of you!