HEIDEVOLK INTERVIEW WITH LARS AND ROWAN ABOUT 'VELUA', PAGANFEST AND MUCH MORE...
Heidevolk's new album 'Velua' (reviewed here) was released in England late in March and after many, many listens, I had a lot of questions to put to bass player Rowan and vocalist Lars...
With 'Velua' you've moved towards a more harder Metal sound and not used folk instruments as much as on your earlier albums. Was this a conscious transition?
Rowan: With 'Batavi' we already moved into a more "in your face" approach when it comes to the Metal sound. I think 'Batavi' was our most extreme album so far. With 'Velua' we took what we've learned from 'Batavi' and combined it with the more "traditional" Heidevolk songwriting.
"Although we are still satisfied with the earlier albums we felt that the songs never reached the state of being "completed".
"With 'Velua' we took a different approach. We had a clear vision, we had to create a piece of music that sounds organic yet would stick but not bore, something you can listen to over and over again. For this we've spent a lot of time on pre-productions before we went to the studio.
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"We recorded the songs in my home studio, rehearsed them in the rehearsal room, re-wrote them to get the groove right and re-recorded them. Then we worked on the melodic layers and vocals and for this I've build a sound-booth (also to avoid any trouble with my neighbours) where Mark and Lars could record vocal demos and find the right vocal lines.
"During this I worked on the string parts with a real string quartet to add extra atmosphere to the songs. It was a nice challenge to balance the songs so they would sound organic and not overloaded with instruments and vocals. It involved adding layer and a lot of leaving things out since often the raw idea is the best idea."
You're fresh from your first gigs of the year, Paganfest in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. How did the tour go?
Lars: "It went great! The crowds were absolutely fantastic! For me it was the first tour I ever did and it didn't disappoint. The new songs work great live."
Rowan: "I was actually both curious and anxious of this tour. There were many places we didn't visit for about three years and we played with a new line-up for the first time. It was Lars' first tour and we had to replace Mark (vox) and Reamon (guitars) for this tour because of their day jobs.
"The very first show of this tour was horrible! Everything went wrong, technical difficulties, malfunctioning equipment aaaaaaahhh!!! It sucked! The next day though we got the Heidevolk live machine rolling, we played and everything went great. Luckily we kept it going for the whole tour. It was awesome and crowd was loud and they loved it."
What happened to Kevin Vruchtbaert (guitar player)? Seems like he was hospitalised in the middle of these dates?
Lars: "Kevin Vruchtbaert had a little accident while partying which involved a beer bottle and his face. The bottle hit his face purely by accident, he went to the hospital, he got stitches and was back on the tour."
Rowan: "Yeah, as well as that there was another accident during the tour involving a band member and that would be me. I broke my foot during the tour. Although it hurt quite badly I didn't think it was broken but just badly bruised. When I was home I went to the doctor who confirmed it was broken... so now I'm at home, feet up. Well, at least I finished the tour running and jumping on stage ha ha ha."
Have you got plans for a fullscale headline tour this year? When can we expect to see you in England?
Rowan: "England is definitely in the planning for this year. Since we all work day jobs it is hard to do more than one big tour a year so we will have to find a suitable weekend in October or November for three to four shows across the UK. We already did a few shows in England a few years ago, also with Heidenfest in 2010. It is a shame that Paganfest didn't hit London this year. I know we have a lot of fans in England. We'll find a way to get there this year!"
You're on at Graspop and Summer Breeze this year. That's a big opportunity to get your music out to potentially thousands more new fans.
Lars: "I'm really excited to play those festivals, especially Graspop! I've visited Graspop for twelve years now and only missed it once. I was there when Heidevolk totally filled up the Metal Dome and people were watching from outside the tent. That was a huge party. The crowd went nuts! So it's kind of a big thing for me to be on stage at Graspop."
Rowan: "Ha ha ha yes, back then Lars was not a part of Heidevolk so he saw us play there. It was indeed an awesome show. We cannot wait to play these festivals again!
"The best thing about festivals is (next to the sun and cold drinks) is that there are many people who wouldn't listen to folk Metal normally will take a peek and listen at a festival show. They tend to think folk Metal is all "humpa humpa" music. Then they discover us, not your average folk Metal but a melodic Metal band with folky influences. We gain a lot of new fans on these occasions."
You stand out as a band who sing primarily in your native language of Dutch. Do you think this has hindered your "commercial success", as I pointed out in my review of 'Velua'? Big respect to you for sticking to your guns on that, by the way...
Lars: "I personally think it's part of why we stand out. Heidevolk was (for me) the first Dutch-language Metal band I ever heard. I do like the trend that many more Metal bands are singing in their own native language.
"As for "commercial success": I think we're about making the music we like, the way we like it. If people like it and buy it: great! But we don't change what we do to highten our commercial potential."
Rowan: "I agree with Lars here. It is our trademark to write our lyrics in our native tongue. I do understand though that there are a lot of people who would like to understand our lyrics without translating them first. To help the listener we include English liner notes in the CD booklet and these notes contain background information about the lyrics.
"On 'Velua' we've also premiered 'Vinland', our very first English song. As it is a tribute to our North American and other English speaking fans we decided to use English lyrics. These lyrics are, unlike other lyrics on 'Velua', pretty straightforward. We would like to do another English song but the language must fit the story. As far as "commercial success" goes, if we would pursue that, we wouldn't be making Metal ha ha ha ha."
And are some of your songs sung in "Olde Dutch" or a more traditional rather than the contemporary form of the language?
Lars: "They're in what I call "Poetic Dutch", which is not really "Olde Dutch", because we have difficulty reading and understanding actual old Dutch. It's contemporary Dutch but with some old-fashioned words in them because the contemporary speaking language is pretty harsh and doesn't lend itself well to writing lyrics in."
And your multi-vocalling technique and unique backing vocals also give you a different sound to other bands. Did this just naturally evolve?
Rowan: "This is indeed one of the key features of Heidevolk. It was always the intention to us broad choir vocals. We actually started the band with four vocalists. Mark and me we're the third and fourth vocalists. Eventually we went on with two vocalists. Personally I really like the choices in harmonies we can make when writing vocal lines. We can make it thick and gloomy or leave it open and powerful."
What happens in 'In het diepst der nacht'? I had trouble deciphering all the Dutch lyrics, as I'm sure most of our readers did too.
Lars: "It's about the legend of De Aardman (literally: The Earth-man) which is about a goblin like creature who wreaks havoc 'in the depth of night' (hence the title)."
Rowan: "Nasty little creature. Don't want to come across him at night. The theme in this song is that the Goblin is driven by its nature. It doesn't know why he is being such a pain in the ass. He just is. Lurking in the shadows, working on some scheme to scare men and beast."
And who are the weird sisters?
Lars: "De Witte Wieven are fog/myst-spectors who dance gracefully while they enchant and lure their prey."
Who is/was 'Herboren in vlammen' (Reborn In Flames)?
Lars: "'Herboren in vlammen' is a song about a guy called Gloeiende Gerrit (Glowing Gary). In a fit of jealousy he burned down the barn where a wedding party was going on. As a punishment he's now cursed to run around ablaze every night."
And can you tell us about 'Urth', which I translated as 'Earth'.
Lars: "She's a Deity called a Norn (one of the fates in Germanic mythology). She lives at the roots of the tree of life and weaves the threads of life, meaning she's the one that descides the course of the lives of man and God. She's the one who decides who lives or dies."
Rowan: "It is an intriguing story and I've always wanted to write about it. Although I believe that I am solely responsible for the course of my life it is a great way to think about life.
"Threads are being spun and woven in the loom that represents the big play, life itself. Threads cross each other like we cross each other, sometimes they just cross, sometimes they intertwine or form a pattern like we form a band. Sometimes they are cut and the person connected to it dies. We've made a video about this which will be released soon!"
Moving away from 'Velua', I have always wondered who Vulgaris Magistralis is, who created him and how he came into being. Can you enlighten us.
Lars: "'Vulgaris Magistralis' is actually a cover. The original was written by a Dutch rock band called Normaal. It's a funny story from the point of view of a caveman who's still alive to this day and he lives in De Achterhoek (a region near Germany). He's kind of like a big-foot like creature: people try to catch and/or film him but nobody succeeds in doing so.
And finally, what plans do you have for the rest of 2015 and going into 2016?
Rowan: "Touring as much as we can, writing new music and enjoying the aftermath of 'Velua'! We hope to see you all soon in England!
And literally within an hour of the answeers to my questions arriving back, the aforementioned video for 'Urth' was released and here it is:
You can see Heidevolk at:
27.04.2015 DE - Munich / Backstage
02.05.2015 NL - Arnhem / Luxor Live
06.06.2015 CZ - Plzen / Metalfest Open Air Czechia
12.06.2015 DE - Kursdorf / Brann Open Air
19.06.2015 BE - Dessel / Graspop Metal Meeting
13.08. - 15.08.2015 DE - Dinkelsbühl / Summerbreeze Festival