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Interview conducted June 06 2014
Interview published June 22 2014

June 6th Dutch death/doom titans Asphyx was back on Swedish soil for the first time since 1991 for a gig at Sweden Rock Festival. With all four members (Paul, Stefan, Alwin and Martin) of the Asphyx squad present, and a couple of Sweden's finest Sofiero beer to accompany them, yours truly sat down in the backstage area for a chat about the recent line-up change, the success of their latest two masterpieces, the upcoming activities of the band and their Swedish connections.

~ Photos by Soile Siirtola, extreMMetal.se

Tengan: Let's start with the latest news in the Asphyx camp. Bob Bagchus [one of the founding members of Asphyx] has left, Stefan you entered.

Stefan [Hüskens, drums]: Yes.

Tengan: So, how did you end up as Asphyx's new drummer?

Paul [Baayens, guitars]: We were looking for the worst drummer ever, so that was Stefan. (Stefan:) They had to look to Germany for that (everyone laughs). (Alwin [Zuur, bass]:) And it had to be a German. (Martin [van Drunen, vocals]:) To make a long story short. In the beginning we thought "Bob is quitting, yes it is the end of Asphyx". So me and Alwin were driving, and we really thought it was over. Alwin was driving and I was sitting next to him and he goes "I might know the guy to do the job", and I just "Give me some info on that" and he goes "Hüski!". And I think I did not speak for ten minutes, just thinking, and then I said "You know what, he could be the only one that could do the job and who could fit in". So I kind of more or less pulsed Hüski on if he wanted to do it and, yeah, we started rehearsing and it worked. (Paul:) We needed one person that was with the roots in the metal scene because Bob was the same you know. That's Hüski.

(Martin:) And next to that, I mean, if you want to join Asphyx we don't want you to be the best drummer in the world, you know. We don't want a Pete Sandoval or a Gene Hoglan or whatever. (Alwin:) We had several options from Dutch drummers. (Martin:) Exactly, that were highly skilled. But, we wanted somebody that fit in, you know, with the pride in Asphyx and to really enjoy being in the band, especially that. I think the pride thing, the pride aspect, [someone] who were really proud to be in the band. For us that is more valuable than just the skills. (Paul:) And being a little bit, I think, just a little punk, not everything settles. A little bit chaotic, you know. (Stefan:) A little? (everyone laughs) (Martin:) So now it is Hüski himself who can have a… (Stefan:) I was really shocked when they told me the first [time] that Bob left, because Asphyx was, together with Sodom, my totally favorite band. And they asked [me], I said no because I still wanted to see Asphyx with Bob on stage. But then they told me they had to stop if I [did] not join them and [I knew] all the guys [for] many years now, playing together with my bands. After [that] it took me maybe two minutes and then I said yes (laughs). (Martin:) It's true we know him because of Desaster and you know he is a drummer and I mean Asphyx and Desaster are two hands on one belly. (Stefan:) On my belly! (everyone laughs)

(Martin:) I mean, we are good friends and we always have a good time together. So we knew each other for a long time and luckily for us with that internal Desaster stuff. They wanted to take it a bit more easy, because their guitar player has a baby and all that stuff. So Hüski was "Ey, I just want to fucking play", "Ok, we give you an opportunity then" and he goes "Yeah". (Alwin:) I think an important note is that the reason why Bob quit was, you know, he has a family, he has kids, and all the travelling in the weekends and the family life, working during the week became too much, but he wanted us to go on. (Paul:) Yes, he wanted us to continue. (Alwin:) That is an important thing. (Paul:) Yeah, it's an important note. (Alwin:) Yeah, Stefan is here with [Bob's] approval as well, you know. (Martin:) Yes exactly, when we proposed to Bob "Well there's only one who can replace you and that is Hüski" and he said "Yeah". He totally agreed with that. So you know, all parties involved, because Bob will always be kind of a part, he will always be a part of Asphyx. I mean he is the godfather of the band, he is always there. (Alwin:) He is always hangning above us. (Martin:) We know that he is watching us. (Paul:) And the first thing is that to make a long story short (everyone laughs). (Martin:) They have short stories (everyone laughs).

Tengan: So how have the reactions been from the fans to this change in the band?

Stefan: I think that people who know me they just go "Ah, you play in Asphyx, that fits nice, good" and all people who do not know me they are asking if Bob has a new shampoo (everyone laughs). (Martin:) No, it's good. (Alwin:) I think that is just not a big issue. Of course there are some big Bob fans and they think it's... (Stefan:) And I still try my best to play the Asphyx songs still with the Bob feeling. I am not a good drummer, I'm loud, but I'm not good you know. (Alwin:) But a good drinker (everyone laughs). (Stefan:) But the thing is I want to keep it as original as possible, that is the thing. (Martin:) But I mean overall, honestly, with all due respect to Bob, but if I go to festival, you know this is one of the biggest festivals in Europe and in the world, but also the smaller fests that we've [played] I've never had people come up to me, fans that complain over what happened. That is a compliment for Hüski I guess. I think because we were really clear in the 'how' and 'whys', I think they really understand and they're just really happy that we continue with somebody in the band that represents you know Asphyx as the band is and they are just happy that we are still there. (Alwin:) As brutal as always.

Tengan: In March you posted on Facebook that you are writing new songs.

Paul: Yeah.

Tengan: How is it progressing?

Alwin: He does (points to Paul). (Paul:) Yeah, at this very moment I will say it's not a lot because of Thanatos [where Paul has played since 1999], but already some cool riffs are written and I'm always kind of critical a person, but Alwin was like "Ah, this is amazing". (Alwin:) I've heard some brutal stuff. (Paul:) The cool thing about Asphyx is we always want to top the latest album and it was a little hard for 'Death… The Brutal Way' but we matched it I think with 'Deathhammer'.

Tengan: I agree.

Martin: We sure did. (Paul:) And the next album will be even better, so expect doom/death. Yeah, we are kind of fans of our band ourselves. (Martin:) (laughs) Or else we wouldn't be doing this. (Paul:) Yeah yeah, so far probably like four songs are written, not finished yet, but one song is recorded for a split album with Torture Division. (Martin:) Torture Division of Sweden, good friends of ours. (Paul:) The drums are recorded now, Bob recorded the drums, and in two weeks I will start doing the guitars. We were a little bit slower with things, actually in one and a half years we should be done with the songs. We lie a little bit low. (Alwin:) We delayed it like one and a half year (laughs). (Martin:) But of course I mean, even if it was just a split there's a lot of things that need to happen, because Bob left the band and we were still not sure if he was just quitting the live shows and not the studio stuff. So yeah, he did the drumming in that song but everyone is busy with all those other things you know. Some people go "Oh, it's a bit long for an Asphyx album", but they forget that members are also in other bands, you know me and Alwin did something with the [Grand Supreme] Blood Court, Paul is, as he says, now busy with Thanatos. (Stefan:) You released a Hail of Bullets album. (Martin:) Yeah, a Hail of Bullets album too which you know is a long process on its own. So I mean in a way, I think I'm like average. I release an album a year, which I think is pretty a lot.

(Alwin:) I think it's good to have a… (Paul:) Spread it out a little bit. (Martin:) Spread it out! (Alwin:) …little time between your releases, because there are bands [that] do a release every year and after a while people just are not interested anymore. (Martin:) Yeah, but that's where quantity is more important than quality… (Paul/Alwin:) Yeah. (Martin:) …and I think it's better for a lot of bands, and only this is my opinion, wait a little bit more than just put out some rubbish album that no one wants to buy. (Paul:) And we didn't have the time to promote 'Deathhammer' that much in every country. (Alwin:) That is the job we are doing now. (Paul:) Yeah, to promote in the countries we have been in. Actually this is the first Swedish show since 1991, so. (Martin:) On Swedish ground, if you don't mention the boat. (Alwin:) We did play the boat but it was on neutral? Finnish soil? (Paul:) How Swedish are [the] Finnish by the way? (Martin:) Eh, most like glamrockers (laughs). But it still was funny, it still was cool.

Tengan: Well you mentioned the two latest albums you produced. In my opinion, as a fan, it's a really good take on the classical Asphyx. You got Martin's voice back on the fold and somehow Paul managed to find the guitar sound of Eric Daniel's and kind of put his own identity into it. How difficult was it to actually take the legacy of Asphyx and recreate it?

Paul: Yeah, after a lot of drinks I talked to Martin "Asphyx should [reunite] you know and the guitarist, that should be me you know, I really love Asphyx and if we want to do shows we really can you know, I can do it or someone do it" and I was really overestimating myself. But after a while rehearses had felt way more comfortable every time and the song was huge, big and I started loving it, and you know with Bob's drumming. It was more punkish than before, but you know I was always into punk. It was kind of a responsibility, but especially now I feel a little more stressful too because 'Deathhammer' was such an impact you know. (Alwin:) You've done even more than we expected. (Paul:) Yeah, yeah. (Martin:) Yeah, but hello, I mean you carried the whole bloody thing on your own shoulders when it came to the riffs so you did a fucking fantastic job. (Alwin:) I think that, as the bass player, Paul made Asphyx even bigger than it already was.

Tengan: I think that has been the response from the fans as well.

Alwin: Yeah. (Martin:) Yeah, it's something fantastic to hear, because honestly I mean we're all still following as much as we can, we all try to follow the scene as much as possible with bands, new bands, older bands with new albums. But honestly you know with all due respect, but there are a lot of older bands and their latest albums just don't do it. You know, you always grab back to the classics. Look, take for example Morbid Angel or something you know it's still Altars of Madness which is their best album. Their last, sorry, but to me it was a pile of crap. (Alwin:) Their last five (everyone laughs). (Martin:) So for a band like us there was really... Yeah, the biggest compliment you can get when you after all these years come together with a totally different guitar player than Eric [Daniels, Asphyx member 1989-1995, 1997-2000], writing all the riffs on the album and then the fans go "Fucking hell this is a good album and you don't let us down" and with 'Deathhammer' it wasn't even, yeah it was just a logical kind of a continuation and a follow-up.

(Stefan:) It was just a refreshment, I think you know. So it was still the same feeling and power of Asphyx but more fresh because you can't copy 'The Rack' again. (Martin:) Why should you? (Paul:) The funny thing is, some riffs I wrote, "Yeah it's not Asphyx", but you know what I will send it to them and see what happens. Like for example, 'As the Magma Mammoth Rises', the last song [on 'Deathhammer'] with the battering riff, and they loved it! Some riffs aren't that thrashy but [they] all fit into Asphyx and it's wonderful. So we made our horizon a little bit bigger which I like you know. (Martin:) Yeah, me too. But the thing, the cool thing is that the… You know many people forget that in the beginning all people think that it was Eric who wrote all the riffs, [that]hHe did basically most of the things. 'The Rack' was a scrap an album of all guitarists that were in Asphyx before. It was really old songs, like Tony [Brookhuis], I think Theo [Loomans] did some songs as well and Eric. So there was a kind of a scrap an album, the 'Last One [on Earth]' was the only album that we wrote together as a three-piece at the time. But I still contributed with a lot too, you know. I did write 'Last One on Earth', just for example, I did write 'The Krusher', so it was not only Eric. But in this case with Paul he wrote all the riffs for 'Deathhammer' and 'Death… The Brutal Way'. We completely didn't intervene in anything.

(Alwin:) I wrote one riff. (Martin:) Which one? (Alwin:) I can't remember (everyone laughs) (Paul:) The song we never play (everyone laughs) (Martin:) Was it something on 'The Herald'? (Paul:) I have to mention, the cool thing about Asphyx is the inspiring challenge you know and there's some magic going on, and without that there are no riffs so there will be no Asphyx as well. (Stefan:) I think the most important thing in Asphyx is that the band is not only the band we are still friends you know that make everything more strong (everyone laughs). I feel so, sorry for that. I think that [the guys makes it] easy for me to come in the band, you know. (Alwin:) I can't [say this] for all the bands, but Asphyx is just not a band I think. If I look at the bands I played before this is different the way we go to shows the way we have our e-mail traffic. (Paul:) E-mail traffic? (everyone laughs) (Martin:) The thing is, I mean, people would know that. They call themselves a professional band but they're complete rubbish just walking on stage you know. (Alwin:) We are far from professional, but we love what we do (everyone laughs). (Martin:) Quote for our t-shirts: "Asphyx, we're not at all professionals, but we love what we do." (everyone laughs) (Paul:) Yeah, everybody is you know… We're not good musicians but together it's something going on, some magic and I think that's a unit some bands don't have. (Alwin:) I think so… (Martin:) We're not individuals, we're not… (Stefan:) No, Martin you're an addict (referring to Martin's hand rolled non-filtered cigarette). (Martin:) Oh, fuck off. I can't do my voice without this. (Alwin:) …and even with Stefan that simply continues. But if we've had a younger drummer 25 years old from the Netherlands I don't think the magic would be there, the magic would disappear. (Martin:) It's like wine you know, the older it gets the better it tastes. (Alwin:) Like me (everyone laughs).

Tengan: So as you mentioned earlier you are all in different bands together. Martin and Paul are in Hail of Bullets, Martin and Alwin you are in Grand Supreme Blood Court.

Stefan: Desaster, busy.

Tengan: I think expecially Hail of Bullets and the …Blood Court shares some similarities with Asphyx. What do you believe are the similarities and differences between these outfits and Asphyx?

Martin: Well, to be honest the only similarities between Asphyx and Hail of Bullets is that me and Paul are part of it. I mean musically, when it comes to themes and the subject and everything it's completely different. Apart from my voice I really can't hear any similarities between Asphyx and Hail of Bullets… (Alwin:) No. (Martin:) …except that it's death metal, under that moniker. For the rest I think it's totally different. …Blood Court is maybe another story, but its maybe because there are a lot of riffs from Eric into it. On the other hand Alwin wrote half of the album too. (Alwin:) It's still, it's different. Comparing Asphyx to …Blood Court, we have a lot of harmonic pieces, not a lot of, we have harmonic pieces in …Blood Court, not in Asphyx. There is a different way of writing songs, not the way Paul does. You know I think for most fans, and that is why they get a link very quickly, the voice of Martin, you know there is only one voice like Martin's in the world. So many fans immediately make a link to all three bands just because of Martin. (Martin:) And don't forget they asked me you know. Eric really came up to me and said "I only want one vocalist for this project and that's you" so how can I refuse an old friend and I liked it, I really liked it, I still really like the album. (Alwin:) I think it's a really good album.

(Martin:) But you know sometimes, sometimes I think if we really compare Asphyx [sound] at the moment [it] went its own way. It developed the way it is now and I think, for some strange reason, I think the …Blood Court is more related to the kind of an old Asphyx-sound that we already left behind as Asphyx. (Alwin/Paul/Stefan:) Yeah. (Martin:) I think that is the biggest difference between the two bands. (Alwin:) It was also because you know Eric… (Martin:) It was basically a fun thing. (Alwin:) …you know, when Asphyx reunited Eric wasn't ready to play again so Paul came in the band and three years later Eric was ready to play again but… (Martin:) But you can't say all of a sudden to Paul "Thanks a lot for all the fucking work, and now fuck off, we take Eric back". (Alwin:) No. (Martin:) We can't do that, [it] would be disrespectful to him. He put all this fucking work, and all his time and all his efforts into Asphyx. So it's like, "Sorry Eric it's too late now". (Alwin:) Eric wanted to play especially with [Martin] and Bob again. Also that's why …Blood Court kind of exist you know, to play with his old mates, but you know Asphyx was what is was with Paul at that time and just like Martin said you can't kick [Paul] out and "Eric, you come back", because... (Martin:) Then [Paul] would shoot me, I'll tell you that (laughs).

Tengan: Well, you mentioned your voice, the similarities between your bands being your voice. Me and my mate was listening to 'Last One on Earth' the other day and him being a vocalist he said that "It sounds like he really doesn't uses his stomach when he sings, but he probably does".

Martin: I do.

Tengan: And you got quite a unique voice, how did you develop that kind of voice. I mean it's unique in the…

Paul: Alcohol, alcohol! (Alwin:) Out of his ass! (Paul:) Drinking! (Stefan:) It's deeper than his stomach (everyone laughs). (Paul:) It's the smell. (Martin:) (laughs) Fucking assholes. Ok, this is Asphyx. It goes on the whole day like this. Anyway, to answer your question I just don't know. I tried it with '[Consuming] Impulse' in Pestilence, it's where it all started ok. It was easier to do because in the 80's I was singing really from the head you know, arteries swelling up and then 'Cosuming…'. I never did before [that] the way I did and then later on in life I learnt to control it and honestly when I was doing 'The Rack' and 'Last One on Earth' that was the time when I really got aware of what I was capable of with my voice and then [it] goes on until now. I don't do much you know, I just keep in shape a little bit at home rehearsing at little bit like practicing and then you know give it a little bit of training and that is basically all. You know, I smoke cigarettes, I drink a shitload of beer, I don't run marathons, I don't eh steer airplanes like Bruce Dickinson or something… (Paul:) (laughs) Maybe the Russian airplane. (Stefan:) Vodka, vodka errrr (Martin:) …but then I mean it's nothing apart from that I can particularly do. I think my biggest gift apart from the voice is the way I use rhythm in songs. I mean if [Paul] comes up with a riff, it's one of these little magic things that you have or you don't. I just immediately know when he comes up with a riff if it's fit for my vocals or not and I immediately tell him and I just have this idea on what to do with it. It's not only with Paul I'll have it sometimes to with [Alwin] and the …Blood Court lads as well. Sometimes a lot of singers, I don't know why, they don't think that way.

(Paul:) I think that's for sure, now Martin lyric wise he's really the base thing you know is rhythm and in the lyrics, how you say it… (Martin:) The flow. (Paul:) …exactly - the flow, but as well the communication with the audience. That's really important I think, there's the audience to, they have to watch you. There are a lot of bands just standing there, but it's not just like standing there, you have to give the energy to the people, people give you energy back, that's [where] Martin does a great job. (Alwin:) Very important. I saw Slayer last week. It was in a festival in Holland. They just came on the stage, played the songs, not even announcing one song, then got out, not even a "Thank you", "See you", "Goodbye". I hate that. (Martin:) I mean if you go... I grew up as a kid and when I go to watch bands I wanna be entertained. It's just not the death metal bands or whatever… (Alwin:) You're an entertainer. (Martin:) You wanna have the feeling that you are with that band and when I went out as a kid, people [like] Bruce Dickinson, Chronos or Lemmy they give you the feeling that you were part of them. Just let the audience participate, let the audience be part of the show. And I see so many bands nowadays that… Bloody hell they're really boring, I'm sorry you know but it's not my idea of interacting with the crowd. I loved that as a kid and maybe I just picked that up. (Alwin:) It's very important because you know that without fans you are nothing. And fans pay money for you. Even if there're only ten people here on the field today you should give a hundred percent… (Everyone:) Yeah! (Paul:) Today we will. (Alwin:) …because they paid for a ticket.

Tengan: Looking forward to it. I really do.

Alwin: It's important for us you know, people pay for us. (Stefan:) The thing is, we are still fans of the music so that what we do on stage it's for us as well, but it's also just to give that back that I got when I was watching other bands. (Paul:) Yeah, I don't see any difference between me and the audience you know. (Martin:) We're the same… (Paul:) Except we're on the platform. (Martin:) …we're basically the same, the only difference is that we have the privilege to be there on the stage and give them you know like how we feel like. (Alwin:) I always say I am just a metal fan who tries to make a little bit of music. (Martin laughs) (Paul:) He feels heavy (laughs). Sorry, next question. (Martin:) He's only in the band because he's got long hair (laughs). (Alwin:) And I have a driver's license (everyone laughs). (Paul:) Ah, that's the reason (everyone laughs). (Martin:) And Hüski has a driver's license as well. (Paul:) To answer the first question (everyone laughs).

Tengan: So, first time you're playing on Swedish soil since '91, but you've been working with a Swede on your last two albums. Dan Swanö mixed and mastered them.

Martin: Yeah. (Stefan:) He's living in Germany now. (Alwin:) He's trying to be a German, just like you.

Tengan: He still is a Swede, so I have to ask about him (laughs). Why did you choose him and what's he been like to work with?

Martin: I think the choice was made because we had a very good experience with him with Hail of Bullets at the time, and he offered to do the Hail of Bullets demo and he blew us away and the cooperation was absolutely marvelous. So eh… (Paul:) We didn't have anybody else. (Martin:) Paul and I were eh... Yeah, and next to that we didn't have anybody else so, sorry Dan. (Paul:) Sorry Dan (everybody laughs). (Martin:) No, but we just wanted to try it out if he would do 'Death… The Brutal Way', so we just gave him the album right "Just do what you want, give us…". You know, the thing is with Dan, all you need to do is you send him the raw material and you go "Ok, give it your best shot" and then he sends it back to you and you go "Wow". Basically, he has already 70-80 percent of the job done and then you only have to shape little bit. So everybody was really happy in Asphyx after he did it. (Stefan:) (swinging his beer) Cheers! Beautiful day, what more can you ask (laughs).

(Martin:) (laughs) So, yeah, we tried it out, it was a wonderful cooperation and the thing is, if you have a good working formula you just stick to it. We may do a little side-step for the split, you know, just to see how that would work, because [Peter Tägtgren] offered. Maybe [he] would do a song or two songs on the split album, because we want to see what he's capable of and of course everyone knows that Peter is a fantastic musician and a producer and makes a… (Paul:) And a fan of Asphyx. (Martin:) Yeah, and a fan of Asphyx as well, he supports us a lot, thanks Pete. So yeah, but Dan just worked fantastic for us and on 'Deathhammer' he did an even better job and a good thing with Dan is he keeps up the good things. I mean there is a really, well in my opinion, there is a really big difference between the sound of 'Death… The Brutal Way' and 'Deathhammer'. (Paul:) He feels it.

(Martin:) And he always invests in new sounds and new modules. I mean he's the guy that loves to see that hope in his studio and loves to freak out on all that new stuff that he has, and we are the idiots [that] just like love to go on stage and have a fucking good time with the sound that he made off before that. So, he was fantastic. (Stefan:) And he made one of the best death metal records ever, 'Purgatory Afterglow' [Edge of Sanity's 1994 output]. For me it's one of the best ever. (Alwin:) He's a great guy to work with. You know… (Martin:) He's easy. (Alwin:) …he sends you a mix and of course you have some comments, you write it [to him] and he understands it right away and he fixes it very quickly. (Martin:) Communication's just fantastic with him. (Alwin:) It was perfect working with Dan Swanö. (Paul:) I like because he put bass a little bit down, only guitars so I like that (laughs). (Martin:) So yeah, in fact I mean the fifth member of Asphyx is a Swede.

Tengan: Well now that I got you all here, I want some interesting stories from you.

Paul: You have that time (everyone laughs).

Tengan: What's the weirdest or scariest shit you have ever seen on a stage or in an audience?

Martin: Scariest shit?

Tengan: Or funny, or well…

Paul: Every show is not that funny, apart from Alwin's face (laughs). (Martin:) I've gotta take a piss anyway so I can think about that (Martin then leaves for the gents). (Paul:) Every show is kind of special, last time at Maryland Death Fest. We've been there twice before… (Stefan burps) (Martin:) Do we have anything crazy like with cops or… (Alwin:) I would say with Bob there was actually… (Paul:) Ok, Alwin of course could tell you a hundred thousand stories what chicks do with him in bed (everyone laughs), that just stays in the band. (Alwin:) I always forget the next day you know, I can't remember. (Paul:) Only things like rimming and swaffle-baffle (everyone laughs). I think every show is just marvelous, every show has something special and like I said, last time at Maryland Death Fest there was…The thing was sold out and people came really for Asphyx, that's one o'clock after midnight and people were still going strong and it was really special. (Alwin:) You know we watched the video of 'Deathhammer' from Maryland Death Fest and we recognized what happened in the audience you know they freaked out totally. (Paul:) Yeah. (Alwin:) And you know that's really something special. I think you know we don't have that kind of stories and sometimes it's better not to tell everything (everyone laughs).

Tengan: Ok then, well I was just informed my time is up so…

Martin: (back from the gents) So, what was the stories then? (Alwin:) We don't have any stories. (Martin:) Fuck off, we have tons of them!

Tengan: (Who is already overdue his interview time) Anyway, thanks a lot guys for taking your time to talk to me.

Martin: Thank you very much. (Alwin:) Thank you. (Stefan:) Tack så mycket (Swedish for "Thank you").

Tengan: I look forward seeing you on stage tonight.

See also: review of the gig the same night

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