When MARTYR announced a new album, the expectations were rather high. The band renewed their old fellowship with Metal Blade and signed a new deal with the well-known metal label of Brian Slagel. Nothing could stop them now and when “Circle Of 8” was presented to the audience in Azotod, De Meern, it all became quite obvious to me. This album marked the return of a band, that actually never went away. It received very high scores by the different press and this made me curious about the whole story behind “Circle Of 8”. What is the drive behind a band, that already rocked the cradle of the Dutch heavy metal scene in the very early eighties? All the answers are given in the following interview, when MARTYR enters the magic ‘circle of 8’.
Congratulations with your new album “Circle Of 8”. How are the reactions on this new album so far?
Rick Bouwman: “Thank You so much! Reactions are awesome so far, press and fans ! And it is good to see that the response comes from all over the world. Which means promotion from the record company is also OK. I think listeners are surprised by this album, the material is stronger and heavier then ever before. Nice to read also, that the experience are quite different. Some compare it with thrash, others with typical eighties metal. We ourselves believe it has the roots of the eighties, but with two feet standing in the present time.”
How did the deal with Metal Blade come about and how did they actually gain interest in MARTYR?
Rick: “Our former record label Rusty Cage Records called it quits during the first studio session where we did our first five songs to be recorded for the new album. But we had to move on.”
Wilfried Broekman: “The material was just that good that we did not doubt for one single moment that we would not find another proper record company to release it.”
Rick: “During recordings we also went back on the road and wrote another six new songs to record as well later on. During the recordings I was adviced by Stefan Riermaier from Pure Steel Records to contact Metal Blade for this new MARTYR album. When I contacted Armin Steiner, he really was into the band. That means he had our old material on vinyl, so he was very familiar with MARTYR. As you know we already release one track on the famous Metal Massacre editions back in the eighties with MARTYR, so, I sent three new songs to Metal Blade. I reckon they were powerful enough to convince him and Brian Slagel to make an agreement so quickly on releasing “Circle Of 8” on Metal blade Records (lol). For us, it is so great to be back with Metal Blade!”
Can you explain the title of the new CD to us?
Rick: “The album title is one of the song titles. And the first new song we wrote after the “Fear” album. The song is about a “to be” victim of a serial killer, where the killer will not rest until his eighth victim. The main character in the song is number “8” while the song starts at number “6”...”
Can you please give us some more background information about the songs on this new album?
Rick: “There is a common denominator on this “Circle Of 8” album. That is because almost every song is about people or society in despair or committing an act while in despair. Some lyrics are written looking through the eyes of the main character in the song , others are written as a victim of the person in despair who gets attacked, so to speak. The artwork, done by Wilfried by the way , represents the despair, with the prison bar , straight jacket and screaming face on it.”
Where did you get the inspiration for the songs on “Circle Of 8”?
Rick: “First of all, let me tell you that we don’t pretend to send out a message to our fans by the lyrics. The lyrics just occur, when Rop and I sit together to work on them. Mostly inspired by what is happening in the world, what we read in the newspapers or on the internet. For example: “Scene Of Hell” is written on the airport in München, where we had to wait several hours after we got back from a show in Athens. We heard about the earthquake of course in Japan and read newspapers about the despair , but at the same time the strength, of the Japanese people. A good subject to write a songs about.”
I think, that ‘horror and fear’ are two of the main topics on the new album and the previous EP “Fear”. Are you big horror freaks yourself or is it just an easy topic to write about, besides that it matching very well to your sound?
Marcel Heesakkers: “As far as I know neither of us is really into horror movies. The lyrics are mostly inspired from the real world. What's happening in the world is frightening enough, isn't it?”
Rick: “Not true, Marcel (lol). I do really love horror movies, but indeed the lyrics are not inspired by these movies.”
Are there any leftovers from the “Circle Of 8” sessions, that didn’t make it on the new album? If yes, what are you about to do with these songs?
Marcel: “Well, there are some leftovers, but not complete songs. This year we'll start to write new songs for a new album which would exceed the songs on the current album “Circle of 8’. That's our goal!”
Where does your musical inspiration and influences come from in general?
Rick: “Unlike lots of people may think we are not influenced by major acts like IRON MAIDEN or METALLICA back in the eighties. No, our influences were the more unknown bands like WARLORD (US), the very early QUEENSRYCHE (US), SATAN JOKERS (France), X-RAY (Jap), to name a few. Great metal bands with very unique styles.”
The sound of the new album is really amazing. You worked again with Jack Nobelen at Jack’s place in Meerle. He did an incredible job here. How did you actually nail him down to record this album (as he’s a very busy man) and did he also do the production of the album?
Wilfried Broekman: “No big deal actually to get him involved. We knock down his front door, not only with MARTYR but before our reunion with several other bands as well, for nearly eighteen years now. So there’s lots of mutual respect and a real safe haven for us to record. Jack tends to record actually the old fashioned way, which makes the album sounds different from most productions released nowadays. As far as production goes, Jack did the engineering for this album.”
Rick: “Besides that, he is next to a great guy also an amazing guitar player, which was helpful for Marcel and me in sorting out guitar parts and getting new inspiration as well.”
Maybe Wilfried can tell us a bit more about the artwork of the album, for which I think he did a marvelous job?!
Wilfried: “Artwork is always a different process and quite difficult. But a real great feeling, when finishing a complete and final product. At first, like halfway through the recording process, I visioned a totally different artwork that I presented to the band. And that's where taste came kicking in. So gathering the ideas and gathering the aggressive feel of the songs and of course the meaning of the lyrics it turned out like what is in front of you now.”
What’s your favorite song on the new album and why? (Mine would be a difficult choice because they are all great songs, but my highlight on the album for sure is “Insensible Scream”. What a killer track that is!! “All Warriors Blood” being second best for me, for the very intense groove in this one).
Wilfried: “Well, here you go. You got your favorite tracks and who am I to tell what is my favorite. I am just looking forward to the new MESHUGGAH album (lol).”
Rick: “Well, I do have a favorite to share with you: “D.I.”, because I think it is a great opener for the album and the different arrangement within the song do complete each other perfectly.”
You added a 2011 version of “Speed Of Samurai” on the album, my all-time favorite MARTYR song, since I first heard it in the very early eighties. Did you also think about reworking other songs, or was it an obvious choice that “Speed Of Samurai” would be on “Circle Of 8” in a new version?
Marcel: “Yes, it was a obvious choice to record one oldie and that oldie just had to be “Speed Of Samurai”. This song is seen worldwide as the ultimate classic MARTYR song and I guess we'll play this song till the end of times. It's never been cut off the set list! Oh and what an honor.... “Speed Of Samurai’ has been covered recently by a Brazilian heavy metal band! So join them in that challenge (lol).”
How did the CD presentation go in De Meern and can you tell us a bit more about how you look back at this evening musically?
Marcel: “The CD presentation went very well. This was the first time for us to play a bunch of the new songs for a live audience, who didn't know the songs yet. And it was a blast..... The Heavy metal Maniacs went wild and we were thrilled by all positive reactions on the new songs.”
Rick: “It was a special night of course first playing these songs live and see the reactions. We had two great supports to complete the event and fortunately, lots of fans showed up to support us. The new songs went down excellent, but how else could they not be, working on them that intensively the last couple of months. The album took about fourteen months in between touring to record.”
Do you have any touring plans for 2012 and if you could go on tour with any band of your choice, with whom would you like to tour then and why?
Marcel: “Yes, there are touring plans in the pipeline. Can’t say anything about it now, but it would be great for us to tour with a any major heavy metal band for full exposure.”
Wilfried: “We are working on Dutch shows first. We did foreign shows immediately after the album came out, but we expect to do a tour hopefully mid 2012 again in Europe.”
You have played with many big names in the hard rock and heavy metal scene. I guess you must have some very nice (juicy or funny) stories about touring or playing with some of them big names. I hope, that you will share some of these stories with us here.
Rick: “Yes, there are a lot of road stories of course. We played with great bands and I must say we became great friends with bands like LIZZY BORDEN , JAGUAR, FLOTSAM & JETSAM, VICIOUS RUMORS. The last even ended up playing on our album as very special guests as well. When touring in Europe with LIZZY BORDEN, I remember that they tried to keep up with us on the drinking behavior. Soon only Chris Sanders seemed to keep up. Ending up in a hotel room in Poland with us discussing politics and all kind of weird stories, we kept on consuming the Red label. When LIZZY BORDEN left the next morning in their bus for the next gig and we in our own bus, we later heard that Chris puked all over the place in that bus (lol). After that, he was no longer allowed to drink with us. Every time we meet each other there is still this story and that we are unbeatable for them in a drinking contests. Also the two new guitar players are already aware of that (lol).”
I bet, that there is a lot of nice old footage available from MARTYR over the years. Any plans for a DVD with an overview of the bands career so far?
Rick: “Yes, there is lots of footage , but mostly we have vids from shows of the latest six years or so. There is old footage on the net and I do have some personally. We have no plans for the short term to release a DVD with an overview of our career. We just started (lol).”
Recently, we have restarted the Holland Heavy Metal Website at www.truemetalfan.org/hollandheavymetal.htm. Do you think, that the bands that are still there, need this kind of promotion or do you feel that everybody knows what they are up to nowadays?
Wilfried: “You promote us for which we are grateful and MARTYR will promote you and what we believe in as well. It is as simple as that. We have to help each other. And for the rest…we only need more global warming for metal (lol).”
Marcel: “This website is very welcome as a portal for Dutch true heavy metal. I'm sure we all need this kind of promotion to 'spread the word of true Dutch heavy metal!”
What’s your favorite Dutch heavy metal band from the early days, besides MARTYR?
Rick: “Mmm, difficult question. I do respect VANDENBERG or rather Adje Vandenberg the most, I guess. I agree it is not metal, but he was one of the guitar players with a recognizable style of playing and was really working on an original style with his band. Besides that, he managed to be a great representative for Dutch rock musicians abroad. On the metal point of view, there were many good bands like, ALLIED FORCES (great band and friends), TOGETHER, DEFENDER, JEWEL, HELLOISE, which whom we played a lot throughout these years…….”
Marcel: “Well, in the early days I think that would be VENGEANCE, because of their very energetic show at that time.”
Can you give us an update about the (musical) activities of the former band members of MARTYR? Are they still active in the music scene, in which band do they play right now or what are they doing these days after leaving the music scene? (Gerard Vangouw, Elias Papadopoulos and maybe I forgot one or two more???)
Rick: “I don’t think Gerard is doing anything musically. Elias is a great tattoo artist nowadays, and I know that he is willing to get back to drumming again with his former band GUM CONTROL or at least he has the idea. Yes, you are forgetting some people, but as far as the albums from the eighties are concerned they are the ones to be associated with the band.”
Is there a latest news flash about MARTYR that you want to share with us?
Rick: “Yes, we are working on our Dutch tour this year where we will do several shows, smaller and large. We will celebrate thirty years of MARTYR this year with a special night on September 8th in Utrecht (Tivoli, de Helling). Although we stopped for seventeen years in between (lol). And we are working on a foreign tour as well. So things will be happening!!”
The world famous last words in this interview are for MARTYR....
Rick: “I really do hope everybody will at least get out there and give our new album “Circle Of 8” a chance to get into your system. What I do hope is that it will be received by as well the old as new fans as a natural development of this band. As quoted before: With the “Fear” album MARTYR was reborn. With “Circle Of 8” the band has grown up again.”
Wilfried: “Also thanks to you and your readers we are still here! We are grateful for the continuous support all these years, so a BIG thanks from MARTYR.”
Marcel: “Keep your head banging and we'll never die!!!”
Interview by: Toine van Poorten, exclusively for Holland Heavy Metal / January 2012.
Visit their official website at: www.martyronline.nl/