HDK (Hate Death Kill) is a project started by ex-After Forever guitarist Sander Gommans. The debut album 'System Overload' was a spitting, fiery, Metal juggernaut of an album released in 2009.
The follow up, 'Serenades Of The Netherworld', is due for release soon and so I had a chat with Mr Gommans and his partner in crime Amanda Somerville who sings on both HDK albums about 'Serenades' and much else besides.
MT: Thanks very much for taking the time to talk to me. First of all I notice that you have an unusual release strategy for the new album. Can you tell me a bit about that?
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AS: We're all in new territory right now. We were searching for a way we could do this next HDK release and Sander is getting more and more into coaching and producing and doing things for other bands. He decided that he could be a pioneer in the do it yourself music process and test out some things. So we're initially releasing the album one song at a time online.
We've got the whole album done and we're leaking the songs out one at a time at this point. It appeals to me as a strategy and as I'm always so busy I may tweak it for my next solo album and release each song immediately I have it recorded and build up a full album over a period of time. I'd release it at the end with bonus tracks or remixes or something different.
The HDK release is a good try out at least and we're not totally sure at this point that we're going to release EVERY song one at a time. We're probably going to do a few and then release the whole collective thing...
SG: It has to be worth it for the people who are going to buy it, they need to get something special out of it. We had the first 50 people who bought the first track get something extra and if someone buys three tracks or whatever then they need to get some kind of a discount. We're not touring with this so we're not going to be rich, we're not going to sell a huge amount...
AS: Even if we toured we wouldn't get rich! (laughs)
SG: The important thing is that the music gets more chances to be heard instead of releasing an album, promoting it for a week then no one hears anything about it any more. This strategy means the promotion is spread over a longer period.
AS: You'll have seen sometimes that for months and months and months people give out teasers and say the release is coming, it's coming, here's a snippet, guess what the title is and things like that. For me when I follow that process I often get to the point when I'm going shut up already and just give us the freaking album(laughs).
By the time the actual album arrives people are getting so sick of hearing about it they just go next please! Also as we're both do it yourself, unsigned kind of artists we have to do a lot of self promotion and this means we can do some that doesn't involve posting our faces online!
MT: I guess you have to keep putting yourselves out there or it's hard to make any money...
AS: It's about keeping the ball rolling really. It's not necessarily about making money but more about keeping a presence out there as it's so hard to build up a following now but it's so easy to lose it.
MT: it's really hard to get noticed now with so many bands and musicians out there vying for attention but I think both you guys do pretty well!
AS: Thank you! We're trying to be different, so many people jump on bandwagons when they see something working musically or visually or thematically. That's another reason we didn't try crowdfunding with the HDK release as while that's a valid platform to finance a release a lot of people are doing it and we didn't want to feel like we were begging our fans for money. This is a kind of compromise.
MT: So how about the actual music? How does the new album compare to 'System Overload'?
SG: Oh it's quite different! With 'System Overload' I wanted to get as far away from After Forever as possible. I'd been writing music for that band for years and years and I had ideas which were way more extreme that didn't fit with that band. The album was really extreme....
AS: It was extremely different from After Forever!
SG: Instrumentally 'Serenades Of The Netherworld' is a combination between the first HDK album and After Forever so you could say it's still extreme but it's way more melodic. It's also way more experimental in other ways. The vocals on this with Amanda and Geert Kroes who did all the male vocals on this release I can't even compare it and I think it offers way more. It's not that I'm not proud of the first album which was really at the time what I wanted but this has given me more freedom to do whatever I want here and with the next project. Now we have a platform where we can do anything we want which is what I hoped for.
AS: I think this album is more mature and a lot less angry! (laughs)
MT: The first one IS a little angry! (all laugh)
SG: It is a little bit!
AS: That was Sander just spitting out his frustration and that really became the theme for 'System Overload'. This one actually deals with the afterlife and near death experiences! There's a lot of spirituality although there is some anger creeping here and there! You can't get totally away from it with the Gommanster here (laughs)
SG: You have to be angry in metal(laughs). It's great to have a project where nothing is expected from you, you don't have to attract venues full of people. You can make the music for yourself. It was a source of frustration for me that in After Forever the music had to fit a certain genre and I think we proved with this album that you don't have to fit in a certain genre, you can do what you like with the music and what comes out at the end IS a unique style.
MT: You've said you're not going to tour with this album. Does that mean there will never be an HDK live show?
AS: Well I never like saying never. Why limit yourself? There are no plans and Sander has no desire to play live right now but never is a strong word!
SG: When Amanda learns to play drums and guitar as well as sing at the same time then we'll think about it (laughs)
AS: I have played a couple of HDK songs live with my band in the past in Detroit so you never know!
MT: Who played and sang on the album this time round?
SG: We used very good musicians from the Netherlands. The male singer on the album Geert Kroes not only sang but contributed vocal lines, did the artwork and has been a creative power within HDK.
AS: He's an amazing guy, he's really talented, a huge talent! When I heard what he had done with the songs and his vocals I was like, wow! Where has this guy been? He's amazing!
SG: We used two keyboard players Uri Dijk and Erik Van Ittersum who combined to cover the orchestral side and the industrial side so we have different keyboard sounds covered and we also worked with drummer Koen Herfst who sometimes works with Armin Van Buren, a Dutch DJ so brings another completely different scene to the album. Paul Owsinski and Mark Burnash from Trillium also played on a couple of tracks. And of course Ms Somerville here! We really worked more as a band compared to the first album where there were a lot of musicians.
MT: So on the new album most songs are performed by pretty much the same line up?
AS: Yes, very similar.
SG: As Amanda does all the female vocals and Geert does all the male vocals it really feels like a band to me.
MT: I know you're both very busy people and always in demand, what's the next project after this HDK album?
SG: We're working together on some Kiske/Somerville material and some new Trillium material.
AS: Tomorrow I leave for rehearsals for the Rock Meets Classic tour with Alice Cooper and Uriah Heep and so on so that should be fun! It's a bit like Avantasia with loads and loads of singers and a bit crazy. but it should be a blast! After that there's solo stuff and a German tv show that I'm lined up to perform on but the details are still being sorted for that. It's free promotion on German TV so some good exposure but I don't really know how it's going to go for me. I don't need it but I'm looking forward to it and maybe I can make some new contacts. Oh and of course we're getting married in July!!!
MT: Congratulations! From myself and of course everyone at MetalTalk!
SG: The physical CDs are not printed yet but I will send you a preview copy of 'Serenades Of The Netherworld' so you can let Metaltalk readers know what it sounds like and what you think of it.
MT: I look forward to hearing it. Thanks very much for your time and good luck with the album launch, your other projects and of course your wedding!
The MetalTalk review of 'Serenades Of The Netherworld' will follow soon.