DEFENDER have become immortal for some of us, when they released their cult album ‘City Ad Morits” in 1987. Before that, they’d already released a demo tape. With the release of the compilation CD “Remaining Tales”, we want to write down the memories of these ‘Dutch defenders of the faith’! So Snakepit got in touch with bass player Harm van Noort (also known as Count August of GODDESS OF DESIRE) and drummerRemco Bouwens (who now plays in MAC-11). Both former DEFENDER members answered all our questions separately from each other and that’s when we discovered some major differences in opinions sometimes. Find out all there is to say about DEFENDER and more in the following interview.
DEFENDER becomes a band in 1984. How did you guys meet each other and did you play in any other bands before you joined DEFENDER? Have you got any idea perhaps why founder member Bart van Rixel left HAMMERHAWK to form DEFENDER?
Harm: "I was asked by Bart in the local Boothill metal cafe/bar. He was told I played bassguitar. When I joined the band, Remco (drums), Simon (vocals) and Bart (guitar) already had gathered. I guess Bart left HAMMERHAWK due to musical differences."
Remco: "The first time I met Bart was, when I remember it well, at a concert of DIO and QUEENSRYCHE in Amsterdam. He just left HAMMERHAWK together with Jack (our 6th member and roadie) and we decided to start a new band. At the same time we asked Simon to join us. I saw him perform live with his former band DEATHWISH and was very impressed by his voice and performance (at that time he had a broken leg, due to a motor-accident, but still played live). Harm reacted after placing an advertisement in Aardschok magazine. I still see him entering my parents home (where I lived at that time) with his jacket full of nails, etc. With this line-up we made the first demo “Tales Of The Unexpected” and just after finishing these recordings Jos joined the band."
Your first gig was with MARTYR in Alkmaar, in the summer of 1985. What can you remember of this gig and which songs did you play next to the songs that were on your first demo tape “Tales Of The Unexpected”? Did you play any covers at that time too?
Harm: "Hey, my memory is not that good. I know absolutely nothing myself, but last DEFENDER meeting I heard the story that Bart (the most experienced member among us) had told us not to be nervous. You had to see his hands shaking, while he tried to put a battery into his guitareffect!! And I remember Jos had an accident with his car on his way to Alkmaar and came much to late in the club, but he still was relaxed. Probably because he was glad to be still alive. Renco: I remember well, that Bart told us that we would be nervous and he wouldn’t be, because it was our first gig and he had more experience in playing live. Half an hour before the gig, everybody was pretty cool, except for Bart: He was so nervous, that he couldn’t manage to put a battery in his effect-gear!! At that time we had written more songs, but I can’t remember all songs we had. One of the songs I can remember is “Master Of Pain”. The covers we played at that time were “Don’t Need Your Money” (RAVEN) and “This Town Knows How To Rock”(SAXON)."
In 1986 you played with CYCLONE and AGENT STEEL in a club “Scum” in Katwijk. Was this the first gig you played with foreign bands? And how was this experience?
Harm: "If it was the first gig with foreign bands I can’t tell you, but I still know it sucked. Although I was very proud to be opening for the mighty AGENT STEEL I remember the audience didn’t care much about my band. We were to much a poser band for the speed/thrash oriented audience. We played outside (open air) and it was hot so everybody enjoyed the sun with a beer but supporting DEFENDER was not the case."
Remco: "Yeah, the first time with foreign bands!!! I remember we played like shit, because the sound was terrible, but maybe it wasn’t that bad, because the gig was received very well by the audience and magazines. The contact with CYCLONE was good, but with AGENT STEEL, it wasn’t: I think nobody had any kind of contact with the band (especially the singer)."
Who wrote the lyrics of the band and where are they about? Are they fiction or true told stories?
Harm: "Simon was the main lyric writer and he took several topics, both personal and non personal. I never was interested in the lyrics as long as they sounded allright."
Remco: "Except for “The Redeemer”, which I wrote, all of the lyrics are written by Simon. As far as I know all lyrics are fiction or at least fiction based on true told stories."
How would you describe the music that DEFENDER played?
Harm: "Speed Metal, and later more progressive speed metal."
Remco: "Metal from the heart. I mean we just played what we liked to play instead of playing what was hot at that time (bands like STRYPER, MOTLEY CRUE, POISON, etc.)."
Which bands were your biggest influences?
Harm: "VENOM, SLAYER, BLACK SABBATH, KISS, eighties thrash bands."
Remco: "In the beginning bands like IRON MAIDEN, JUDAS PRIEST and METAL CHURCH were big influences. Later on the more technical speed metal bands came in the picture: WILD DOGS, MARTY FRIEDMAN, CITIES, WARLORD and a lot more."
Why did Bart and Jos leave the band, pretty soon after each other. Can you tell us what they did after they’d left DEFENDER?
Harm: "Jos didn’t fit to the team and had to leave. He was replaced by Stef. After Stef joined the band Bart had to make the choice between taking over the firm of his father and a musical career. I think it’s no surprise he choose for his fathers flower (tulip) bulb’s firm."
Remco: "Bart left the band, because he couldn’t combine the band with his work anymore, so he had to make a choice. Jos left the band, because we asked him to leave. He didn’t fit in the band. As you probably know a band is like a marriage, so when it doesn’t work out you have to quit. After this split Jos started to play in bands, which played more popular music (the well-known party and wedding bands)."
“City Ad Mortis” is your most well-known masterpiece, I believe. How many copies were printed of this EP?
Remco: "I think it was about two thousand copies. Five hundred of them were shipped to Spain. CBS Spain was the only department, who believed in our music."
What do you think of the fact that people are paying up to 150 guilders to have this EP in their record collection?
Harm: "That’s stupid!! I remember that a few years after the release it was sold at the records stores in the old LP section for five (!!) guilders. It’s stupid to pay that much it’s not worth it, and the only one who laughs about it is the handler/salesman, who sells it with 1000% profit."
Remco: "Well, I think it says something about us as a band and we are flattered about the fact they want to pay a lot of money. On the other side I think it’s too much money for five songs. That’s why we wanted to put everything on cd, so that everybody who likes our music, but don’t have hundred and fifty guilders to spend, is able to hear our music."
How did you get in touch with Henk Verheul and Stef Köhler, who replaced Bart and Jos?
Remco: "Stef was a friend of our 6th member Jack and after Jos left the band, we asked him to join us for a rehearsal evening. At that time he was fifteen years old, but played very very good, so he could stay immediately. I saw Henk play in his former band ANGANTYR and thought he was the person, who fit in perfectly. We asked him and he joined us."
Did they play in other bands before they joined DEFENDER?
Remco: "Stef didn’t play in a band before DEFENDER; Henk played in ANGANTYR."
Who made the drawings for the “City Ad Mortis” sleeve. They look very cool!
Remco: "It was a friend of the sister of my girlfriend (can you still follow it?). It was a big drawing he made for us. When we first saw it as a sleeve, we didn’t like it at all. At this moment I still don’t like it very much."
Have you ever thought about re-releasing “City Ad Mortis” on vinyl, or as a picture disc for all the fans of DEFENDER that don’t have a copy of this much wanted item. I think it would sell very well, because there are a lot of people that are still searching for this item?
Harm: "No, and I don’t agree that a lot of people will buy such an item, because it’s not the original. And now we have this CD so why vinyl? It’s simply not worth the investment, my guess is we would sell like a hundred copies and that’s not enough. We’d rather make a new CD with never released songs!"
Remco: "At this moment we don’t have plans to do so. Maybe when we find a suitable label for our next cd they want to do that, but only when we can place it on the market for a “normal” price!"
You also played a live gig that was broadcasted on the Dutch National Radio. What can you remember of this gig? I think you played there with JEWEL and HAMMERHAWK, if I remember it well.
Harm: "My rememberance was that it was pretty stressy that evening but when I heard the recordings on radio it sounded very good. (hear the “Moloch” song on the “Remaining Tales” CD). This was a big promotional step forward for DEFENDER. Remco: Yeah, we played with the two bands you mentioned and it was fun to do. Off course we knew all the guys very well and after that gig we played a lot with JEWEL. I remembered Henk Westbroek very well, we did a couple of interviews with him and he appeared on stage before the last number to announce it in his particular way. It was fun!"
Why was “Moloch”, that is recorded here as a live track on this CD, never released on any of the other items that were released by DEFENDER?
Harm: "Because other songs were… It was a band decision which songs had to be on the EP and “Moloch” didn’t made it."
Remco: "It was a choice we had to make on “City Ad mortis” . We only had money to finance a 5-track album and “Moloch” didn’t make it at that time. I have to tell you that the version you heard on “Remaining Tales” was different comparing to the same one before “City Ad Mortis”. This track will be on our next CD!!"
One year after the recording of “City Ad Mortis”, Harm left the band. Why was that?
Harm: "I was kicked out, because the other members thought they would increase the chance on succes with another technical better bassplayer."
What do you think of your replacement Arwin Vergers? Do you think he was a suitable replacement for you?
Harm: "I think he was capable enough but the music changed into a more progressive technical way; not really my cup of tea I must say. I like the old DEFENDER better."
If I look very carefully at the beautiful CD booklet, I see that Arwin is pictured with the same bass guitar that you played while you were in DEFENDER. Were the instruments that you used property of the band instead of your own property or something like that?
Harm: "Well, I had the DEFENDER logo painted on my bassguitar and I had another handmade bass with an impression of the “City Ad Mortis” cover airbrushed on it. That was my main bass, the bass with the logo I sold to Arwin."
How many copies were printed of the “Journey To The Unexpected” CD single?
Harm: "No idea, it was only made for promotion so not to much I guess."
Remco: "There were five hundred copies printed of this single CD. It was never released, because it was a promo single for record-companies. We only sold it at our gigs."
What did you think of this single?
Harm: "Good single, but not really my style."
Remco: "I like the solo of “Tales Of The Unexpected” a lot. It shows the skills of our guitarists. “The Journey” is a well-balanced number, but I’m not satisfied about the production of this single (again a cost issue, we only had two days to make it)."
The last gig that DEFENDER did was with TOXIK in January 1990. Did you see it, Harm? And how did you feel, when you heard, they had disbanded?
Harm: "No, I didn’t see it. I wasn’t following the band that much. It was a totally different band and I was into other stuff. It didn’t really hurt me to hear DEFENDER disbanded. What hurted was that my friends kicked me out, because of someone else (that’s the way I at least see it), it was like losing the girlfriend you love. I stayed loyal to DEFENDER until Arwin replaced me completely. I learned him the parts I had been playing all these years and told him that’s the way I play those songs now see for yourself if you like these parts or if you want to re-write them. That was all I could do at that moment."
Do you have any idea why DEFENDER disbanded in 1990?
Harm: "Because of the lack of success. The band was ambitious, but didn’t make it.'
Remco: "In six years we only experienced an increasing line in musical skills and reactions worldwide, but you really need a good management and/or a record-company at your side. After trying to get a record-deal for over a year we asked ourselves the following question: Do we want to continue with the chance to become frustrated musicians after a couple of years or do we want to quit and look back to six years of fun and good music? We chose for the latter."
Do you know what happened to all the other band members of DEFENDER after they split up. I only know that Arwin played with JEWEL after this? And you formed GODDESS OF DESIRE after the split. But what happened to Remco, Simon, Henk and Stef?
Harm: "I formed QUESTIONMARK after DEFENDER with an old HAMMERHAWK guitarplayer, After QUESTIONMARK I joined a death metal band GUTWRENCH and after that I formed GODDESS OF DESIRE. Simon later came back with a band called X-HAUSTED, which was a kind of PANTERA like band. Henk later had a top-40 band and Arwin did something like that, too. I guess they thought fuck heavy metal; let’s earn some buck’s by playing soulless radio crap for teenage girls. Stef and Remco didn’t do anything with metal and/or bands, but recently Remco started to play again. He now pounds the drums with MAC-11."
Remco: "Simon started a band together with members of L.W.S. Inc., EN MASSE and later he played in a band called X-HAUSTED. Stef, Henk and I played together for a while, but it didn’t work out. After that Henk joined some top 40 bands. Stef stopped playing metal and started playing more melodramatic, slower music. I stopped playing drums after my project with Stef and Henk. I started to play again last year in MAC-11 [website: http://www.mac-11.nl]. It’s a power metal band with members of JEWEL (Rick Ambrose - vocals), L.W.S. Inc. (Manfred van Zadelhoff - bass) and IRON FIST (John Stam- guitars). I also play drums in the new band of Stef, called NOVEMBER."
What is your favourite DEFENDER song and why?
Harm: " “The Redeemer” and “Moloch”, because those songs are songs with a soul. They are pretty catchy."
Remco: "My favourite song is “Labour Liberates”. This is a song contains speed, power, melody and good lyrics. It’s a song from the later period of DEFENDER and will be the first song we record for the new CD (rehearsal drum-recording of this song will be this weekend!!)."
Are there any particular gigs that you have fond memories about? Maybe you can share some funny or juicy stories about one or two memorable gigs that you played with DEFENDER. I guess that there will be some stories in your mind that you will never forget about!
Harm: "Not really. I kind of forgotten about my DEFENDER period, because for me it pretty much sucked. It was not a band you would like to be part of. So my memories are mostly negative and at the moment I can’t think of anything funny. Remco: I liked the tour with TOXIC very much. Their guitarist and drummer were very nice guys. One concert was on a Friday and we had to leave after finishing work. That day the weather was very bad (almost a hurricane) We had a gig in Hengelo and from the first moment we entered the highway all traffic was jammed. After a three hour drive and seeing a lot of broken cars and flying traffic signs etc., we were still not even halfway and decided to eat somewhere, so we left the highway and entered a village were we couldn’t find a telephone (even the snackbar only had a fax and no phone: ever saw a snackbar without a phone?). When we entered the highway again, all traffic was disappeared! When I look back at this, it looks like a science fiction movie. I really don’t know how it’s possible, that in half an hour all those cars can disappear! Well, we were much too late, so that night TOXIC played as support for DEFENDER! After the show Jack (our 6th member) lost the keys of the car and Simon and I had to pick-up some spare keys at home. From Hengelo to his home we didn’t see one car on the road, this was the first and last time I experienced something like that."
You played with bands like AGENT STEEL, ICE AGE and PARIAH, to name a few. Is there anything that you’ve learned from one of these bands?
Remco: "The most important thing you learn from playing with these bands is that they are only musicians like we were. So, don’t look up to them and have fun with playing together."
You recently told me that the new GODDESS OF DESIRE CD (working title “Conquerors Divine”) is finished, but you don’t have a record label that wants to bring it out. What’s the status at this moment and when can the G.O.D. fans expect to hear the new CD?
Harm: "I think we will sign up with Perverted Taste soon and the CD/LP would be out in October 2001, if everything goes well. We have some mp3’s on our homepage (http://www.goddess-of-desirre.com) for those who are interested."
What can we expect from the new material, and are there also plans for another picture disc format?
Harm: "The new material will be more melodic and technical better because of the coming of a 2nd guitarplayer Lord Arydon and the new drummer Der Knüppelmeister, who replaced Master Blaster. I think the LP artwork will be nothing special, but it will have different songs on it as the CD. I want to do a special LP myself later, which should contain some rare stuff."
You do three songs with G.O.D. on the Motorhead tribute “Motormorphösis” (“Death Or Glory”, “We Are Motörhead” and “Dead Men Tell No Tales”) released by Remedy Records. Did you choose these three songs yourself and why did you pick them?
Harm: "We picked them ourselves and because we were one of the last bands that could pick songs (the most well-know already had been chosen by other bands) we had some difficulties but we picked out three songs out of different era’s of the MOTöRHEAD history."
You also appeared on a compilation CD for “Unbroken Metal”, with a cover of the MERCYFUL FATE song “Nuns Have No Fun”. Are there any more compilation or tribute CD’s that you appear on with GODDESS OF DESIRE?
Harm: "Yes, we are on the “Tribute to Kreator” with “Under The Guillotine” on Full Moon Productions and we are with “Bombenhagel” on the latest SODOM “Code Red” CD and in October we will be playing on a Chuck Schuldiner benefit concert in Tilburg / NL and there will be made recordings for a benefit sampler which sould come out on Hammerheart. We picked “Living Monstrosity” for that one."
What was the main reason that you released the “Remaining Tales” CD?
Harm: "Because people paid enormous piles of money for it, and because I became well known with GODDESS OF DESIRE and that put a renewed focus on DEFENDER too and because most of the material never was released on CD."
Is this all the material that DEFENDER has recorded or are there more DEFENDER songs that we don’t know of (yet)? And do you have any plans to release these songs in the future, if there are any.
Harm: "There’s more. We intend to record another CD, but only if the quality will be good enough. So we first start to record and mix one song and if the output satisfies us, we record another nine songs or so."
Remco: " “Remaining Tales” doesn’t contain all material we’ve made. We do have a lot more songs. Next weekend we start rehearsal recordings for the next CD. We start with “Labour Liberates”, a song covering the horrors happened in WW 2. It’s an up tempo song in the same style as “Tales Of The Unexpected”. Other possible songs are: “Moloch”, “The Lady Vanished”, “Gabriel”, “Mum’s The Word”, “Pessante Assai”, “Electric Lies”, “May The Road Rise”, “Willow The Wisp”, “Heaven On Your Mind”."
What’s your best memory about being in DEFENDER? And your worst memory?
Harm: "To learn a lot about being in a band, and how a band shouldn’t be managed. The worst was of course the kicking out."
Remco: "The best memory is working for six years with great guys! The worst memory is that besides playing music, you also have to put a lot of time in managing etc. and when it doesn’t work out the way you hoped, it is very frustrating."
Will this CD release also result in a reunion of DEFENDER for some time or is this wishful thinking?
Harm: "That will be wishful thinking."
Remco: "Never say never, but at this time we all put a lot of time in other things and it’s not our intention to make new numbers and go on the road again. Maybe when there’s an opportunity to play at a festival we will do that."
DEFENDER also has its own website at www.defender-music.com. Who’s the initiator of this site and what can people find there if they’re connected to the Internet?
Harm: "Remco is the man behind all this. It’s a site were you can find pictures and mp3‘s of DEFENDER also the merchandise (shirts) are there to see. Remco: After we heard from Harm that our music was much wanted, we decided to make a new CD with all our recorded work. Because we wanted to keep the price as low as possible, we distribute this CD ourselves and via mailorder companies. The website (which I made) is a good communication tool for us and everybody who likes our music. You will find an interactive website which provides everybody with our history and also with news about the present. As often as possible we put mp3-files with live numbers on this site (we have a lot) and you also can download all our recorded work. In the near future I want to put clips of live registrations online. So…. Check it out!!!!"
Did you do many interviews for DEFENDER after the release of “Remaining Tales” and what was the reaction of the press on this CD?
Harm: "No, this is the first interview actually. The reactions in the reviews are good to very good."
Remco: "We did a couple of interviews and the reaction of the press was very, very good. All reviews I saw were ranked between 8 and 10, so that’s not bad at all."
Please tell me your future plans for DEFENDER (if there are any) and for GODDESS OF DESIRE.
Harm: "Well, with DEFENDER we’ll probably will make a second CD. If everything goes as I have planned, it will be released by the new Dutch Steelhunter Records label. For GODDESS OF DESIRE my future plans are the release of our third album “Conquerors Divine” and after that hopefully a European tour with a suitable headliner."
You are also a member of the Dutch Heavy Metal Maniacs Fanclub. What does this club mean for you? And are you also member of more metal clubs, in Germany perhaps? After all you have a big following in Germany with GODDESS OF DESIRE. If you are a member of a fanclub there as well, do you see any big differences between the Dutch and the German fanclub then?
Harm: "The Dutch Maniacs Club means a few good nights each year with lots of metal and beer. It also brings more contacts in the Dutch scene. I’m not so much into the club anymore, so that’s basically it. I’m a member of the German Metalheads (RIP) fanclub and I have some contacts with other clubs. There are differences, but it’s mainly all about the same; metal and party (beer). The sharing of a feeling of unity between metal fans."
What’s the latest good joke you heard?
Remco: "There’s a man in a bar who says to the bartender: “Give me one whiskey, give those folks over there a whiskey and take one yourselve!” This happens a couple of times that evening and after two hours the bartender says: “Sorry Sir, I don’t want to be rude, but I don’t know you that well, so I want to be paid know!”. The man replied with: “If I had any money I would pay you, but I don’t have any”. The angry bartender takes the man outside and after a couple of minutes they enter the bar again. The man sits down with a broken nose and a face full of blood and says to the bartender: “Give me one whiskey, give those folks over there a whiskey, but you don’t get one anymore, because you get aggressive!”."
Have you got any personal messages?
Remco: "Thanks for taking the time to read this interview (and the rest of this magazine of course) and bring us a visit at www.defender-music.com. Keep on supporting music made from the heart and not for the masses!"
Is there anything you’d like to add to this interview?
Harm: "Are you kiddin’?!?? After so many questions????"
Remco: "Toine, you did a very good job here, so I don’t have anything to add!"
Interview by: Toine van Poorten
(originally appeared in SNAKEPIT, issue #10, 2001)