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Interview conducted June 11 2022
Interview published July 11 2022

"If you have to depend on judgment of others, then you completely lose contact with what you're doing."

Metal Covenant talked with Within Temptation's lead guitarist
Ruud Jolie and keyboarder Martijn Spierenburg at Sweden Rock Festival.

Tobbe: It has been almost three and a half years since your last album, Resist, was out, but my instinct tells me that you already have a new album done, but you guys will tour this year out before that record comes out.

Ruud: That's absolutely false. [Laughs] (Martijn:) Yes. Still work in progress. (Ruud:) We are working on one song at a time, and we release that. For instance, on July 8th we will be releasing a new song, Don't Pray For Me. So, you know, we've released three songs so far and this will be the 4th one, and we will do song by song and eventually it will be an album. But when that will be released, that's not clear yet.

Tobbe: Why could it work for Within Temptation, as a rock band, to release separate singles? Rock bands are usually album bands, you know.

Ruud: Hmm, I don't know. Maybe we're still a little bit in the experimental phase with that. (Martijn:) I think by doing like this you can have both once the album is released. Fans would have a real album and it will also be on Spotify. The good thing about it is that normally we would have, like, a 3- or 4-year period between two albums, and between that there was no new music.

But now you can feed fans with new material. You know, you can give them something in between those 4 years that, of course it's not a big surprise anymore, will be on the album once it's released. Maybe some albums had bonus tracks or extra material that wasn't released previously. But at least you can do stuff. Give the fans new stuff to listen to. And play new songs live, which is also interesting for us as a band.

So I think you can get the best of both worlds maybe. And like Ruud said, it's also a matter of experimenting, and, like you said, rock bands are album bands originally, so how to do it the best way is something we're still looking into.

Tobbe: Tell me about the Asking Alexandria collaboration.

Ruud: We have no idea. It says, "Featuring Within Temptation", but it's basically just Sharon [den Adel, vocals]. So I think it was a PR kind of thing to put on the band's name. But we were not involved, at all.

Tobbe: From where do these ideas come from? Is it, like, management to management? And do you get a lot of offers to do stuff?

Ruud: Usually it is, yes. Yeah, and we all do some session work as well. Almost all of us have a studio in their house, or behind their house, or whatever, and you do lots of writing for other people. Writing there and you do your productions, so.

(Martijn:) Yeah, so we all do it. We have our own separate stuff besides the Within Temptation stuff. And regarding your question: Mostly it's, like you said, management to management, but maybe also one of the bandmembers alone, like "Let's have a feature. Maybe we should ask Sharon.", or whatever.

But if they check that with Sharon, it mostly goes through the management or directly to her, so we don't get those requests.

Tobbe: But what is so fascinating for a musician to use a guest artist?

Martijn: Sometimes it's interesting and you try a different flavor or something. (Ruud:) Yeah. And I can only speak for myself, but I really like to work with different people, because I would hang myself if I would have to play with Martijn all my life. No, I'm kidding, but... No, if we would only have to do Within Temptation stuff, I wouldn't be happy. So it's great that most of us do other things besides the band.

(Martijn:) And for all you know, you are suddenly working. (Ruud:) And, you know, we all have our stuff. Stefan [Helleblad], our other guitar player, produces and mixes a lot of other things. It keeps us fresh.

Tobbe: About those singles you have released in 2020 and in 2021. I read some reviews of those singles and it was everything from "Excellent" to "Utter shite". There were very different opinions, and to what extent do you look at what fans want to have when you are about to start working on a record?

Martijn: No, I think that's the worst thing to do, to check what the fans want. Because I think you should be very close to yourself while making music. The only one that can judge is you. If you have to depend on judgment of others, then you completely lose contact with what you're doing.

And also I think it's very good that the ratio of reviews, from 0 stars to 5 for example, is so broad, because then at least a direction is chosen. You hate it or you like it. It would have been worse if everyone would have said "Well, it's nice. It's not great, but it's nice.". That's my personal opinion. (Ruud:) I agree. Which artist said that, that if everybody likes your art, then you're doing something wrong? I don't remember who it was. But, yeah, I think that also goes for music.

Tobbe: With pretty much every record you explore new territories for the band, and how come this progress is so important to you?

Ruud: Well, you know, if you look at a band like AC/DC, who has done gazillions of albums with pretty much the same… Of course it's nuanced, right? But I'm happy that we take chances, in that sense, and that we try to do different things. And that's also the reason why some people really hate our new stuff and some people really dig it. And yeah, that's the thing. But we always stay close to ourselves, and I think that that's the most important thing.

Tobbe: What would a Within Temptation record sound like today, if you would only please the fans' wishes?

Ruud: You know, we've been around for a very long time and I think that The Silent Force, from 2004, is considered our classic album. Almost 20 years ago, you know. So people can add the nostalgic factor into it when listening to the music, if you know what I mean?

I don't look at the internet for those kinds of comments, but sometimes you come across those things, like "Oh, I wish you would release songs that sound familiar to The Silent Force era.". So in that sense, to answer your question, if we would have to serve our fans it would be a bit more like that again.

Tobbe: It's a blessing too, but it's still a curse for bands, because most fans, especially when they get older, actually tend to look back at the early days no matter what bands do.

Ruud: That's what I do with Maiden, you know. You know, I like the Senjetsu, or the Senjutsi, Jiu-jitsu album, but... (Martijn:) What is it called? (Ruud:) Senjit… Senjitsu.

Tobbe: Senjutsu.

Ruud: Yeah. It's a cool album, but I miss that nostalgic element, and for me that's a very important thing when listening to music.

Tobbe: You have strayed away a bit from metal more or less in the beginning to coming closer to being more a rock band. Is it so easy as it seems to kind of evolve and change that music style a little bit all the time?

Martijn: There's actually a lot of trying. What I experienced a lot of times was that there's an idea in the beginning, like some point on the horizon, and we try to work towards that, and then along the way you decide, like, "Well, maybe we should…", you know. Or by accident sometimes as well, like, "Oh, wait! This is much cooler. Way cooler than actually the stuff that we're doing now.".

So the plans are a constantly evolving process. It's just a matter of trying, and writing, and investing a lot of time in it, because you have to make sure that there's a lot of ideas written so you can choose. And the combination of ideas also dictates a certain direction in the end. So that's why it's constantly evolving, because in the beginning you don't know exactly what comes out.

Tobbe: Do you guys have any plans whatsoever to celebrate an anniversary for a record in the future?

Ruud: No, we have no plans. But it would be fun to play one album in its entirety. As long as it's not the debut album [Enter 1997] I'm fine. (Martijn:) Yeah, exactly. [Laughs] I think Robert [Westerholt] would agree to that, 'cause he has to do the grunting as well.

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