Some time ago Dutch death/thrash metal outfit Izegrim really delivered the goods with their latest album, entitled “Congress Of The Insane”. TINAS scribe Raymond Westland caught with up guitarists Bart and Jeroen in their home town of Zutphen, the Netherlands. They discussed the creational process, the growth of the band over the years and their future ambitions..
“Congress Of The Insane” was conceived in a 1.5 year timespan. Can you describe the whole process for us?
Jeroen: Sure! Indeed, the whole process took 1.5 years from start to finish. I think that’s a fairly reasonable time to come up with a new album for any given (semi) professional metal band. We did a ridiculous amount of live gigs in support of our previous album.
The first ideas for new songs came into life fairly soon after the release of “Code Of Consequences”. We’re still very proud of that album, but some of the tracks on that album didn’t translate that well in a live situation.
Above anything else Izegrim is a live band and we really feed off the energy that the interplay between the audience and the band. The new songs should really facilitate that process even more. The new songs are really written to be played in a live setting. That’s something you can also hear on the new album. The overall production is a bit grittier and dirtier.
That’s true, the songs on “Congress Of The Insane” do have that live feel to it…
Jeroen: That’s exactly what we set out to do. Two months into the writing process and all the gigs we played in between really made it to clear to us that this way to proceed with the new material. Bart writes the vast majority of the music within Izegrim and he’s a technically more accomplished guitarist than I am. That’s not something I’m ashamed for to admit. It’s a basic fact really. All the slower and more doomy parts come from my hand. This combination of different styles gives Izegrim its character so to speak.
Bart: It’s that merging of styles that makes the band sounds like it does. Did it really take us 1.5 years to put “Congress Of The Insane” together?
Jeroen: There’s roughly 1.5 years between the release of “Code Of Consequences” and our new album, so yes. We have the luxury of having our own studio, so we can work on new material whenever we feel like it. Our drummer, Ivo, is a full time musician and drum teacher, so he owns the place. We spend a lot of time on pre-production, which enables the song material to mature a bit and we can alter certain parts when its needed. Ivo really knows his stuff musical-wise, so he usually comes up with a lot of ideas and suggestions to spice things up a bit. In that regard he’s very involved in the creative process as well.
To which extent did resigning with Listenable Records help things along?
Jeroen: There were weeks that we spent 7 evenings per week to work on the new material. We don’t mind doing that, because it’s a lot of fun. Sometimes it became a burden, but we managed to pull through nonetheless. Another thing that helped the whole process along was the fact that we extended our deal with Listenable Records, so we had to come up with a new album sooner or later. At the time we only signed for one album, which was “Code Of Consequences”. We sent them a couple of samples of our new material and they were truly over the moon after hearing it. That was our cue to really start working on our new album.
Bart: Listenable Records gave us a deadline when we should a new album ready, so that really helped us getting focussed and to make sure we had a whole new album ready within that time span. It was a lot of hard work, but we managed to get the job done in time.
You guys have the luxury of having your own studio, so why did you decide to record the whole album at Soundlodge studios in Germany?
Jeroen: Our own studio doesn’t have the type of professional equipment like Soundlodge. That would cost us a fortune.
Bart: Jörg Uken is a professional studio engineer and producer, so he really knows what he is doing. He does this for a living. He’s a true pro and he is very efficient in the way he goes about things.
Jeroen: His studio is just perfect for a band like us. We don’t have to worry about things, so that we can solely concentrate on recording the album. As for our own studio its good enough to record rough sketches and to use it for preproduction, but it’s not something we want our audience to hear.
This is the second time you guys with Jörg Uken. What makes working with him so special?
Bart: He really gives feedback on the music and he comes up with his own suggestions to improve the overall quality. That’s something I don’t expect a producer to do to be completely honest. It’s not that he completely overhauls the song material or something, but just small little details which can really make the difference between a good songs and a great one.
Jeroen: That’s true. In this regard his role is very similar to what Ivo does during pre production. Sometimes when you’re so deeply involved with the music you tend to forget or ignore small details and that’s where someone like Jörg Uken can be really be of value. We also worked with him on our previous album. We had such a great time working with him that it was a no brainer to let him produce our new record as well. Never change a winning team.
“Congress Of The Insane” is not a concept record in the classical sense, but it has a central theme that connect all the songs. Can you explain?
Jeroen: It doesn’t have anything to do with politics as many people may think. Izegrim isn’t a political band and we want to stay clear of that as far as we can. The album is about human insanity on a daily basis and all the different ways it manifests itself. It ranges from people that have the urge to share their daily lives on Twitter and Facebook and shove that through everyone’s throat to criminally insane people like Breivik and his deluded political ideas. The whole idea evolved as Marloes (singer/bassist) brought in more lyrics and we suddenly noticed there was a central theme. We used the early 20th century phenomenon of the so-called freakshow as a metaphor to sum up the central theme behind the album. The whole idea of a travelling circus freakshow is also what the album artwork is centered around.
The album artwork is simply phenomenal. How did you acquire it?
Jeroen: As we went with the whole idea of the traveling freak show it would be great if we could find a picture that would encapsulate that whole concept. I’m really done with the usual cliche metal artwork, so I was looking for something different. After four days of searching I came across this picture which we used on the album cover. I was totally blown away by it and I informed our label that I found the perfect album cover. Within 5 minutes they replied that I should buy that picture come hell or high water. The artist turned out to be this young kid from Argentina. We had to contend with language barriers and different time zones, so I basically didn’t sleep three nights in order to purchase the artwork, but in the end it’s all worth it. The picture itself was never designed to be used as artwork for any album and it has been around for some years, so it’s already been used for tattoos and it has paint brushed on this big truck as well. I mean, how cool is that?
Izegrim is fairly active on the livefront. How do you combine this with your private life and daily jobs?
Bart: My girlfriend doesn’t mind when I’m on the road. In fact, she loves to have some time on her own.
Jeroen: I have a full time job and I’m able to actually buy some additional free time when its needed. That’s one of the perks of being a civil servant. It’s really expensive but it’s something I gladly do in order to help the band forward. I hardly go on any holiday, so that’s where I save money too.
Bart: We usually play shows only during the weekends and that’s when no one in the band has to work. I really like playing shows in the weekend, because that’s when the venues are really packed. Playing for a really small crowd in a big venue isn’t really motivating. The band is basically our social life. It may sound corny but besides being bandmates we’re really great friends as well. When we don’t have to play ourselves we’ll go to gigs ourselves. We’re very tight knit group of people.
Some years ago the band has some lineup changes, but after that things went quite fast…
Jeroen: I’m one the founding members of the band and in our formative years we just fooled around and we didn’t the whole band thing too seriously. At some point some we started to experience differences in the level of ambition and the general outlook on the band. We did this European tour with Flotsam And Jetsam and that proved to be the breaking point. Things became too serious for some (ex) members and they subsequently left. Ivo joined the band and Marloes become our frontwoman. She worked her ass off to lean all the vocal lines and do those old songs justice. We did a lot of shows, we signed this deal with Listenable Records, Roman from TMR Productions took us under his wing and things took off. That’s how our current lineup came into being and we haven’t look back since as they say.
Finally, what if a bigger label like Nuclear Blast or Metal Blade comes along and they want to have you on their roster, but this would include more touring and a bigger strain on your private life. Would you sign that deal?
Bart: I certainly would, depending on the conditions of course.
Jeroen: I would be flattered, but I would like to hear the conditions first before I sign anything. I would love playing live every weekend, but I’m sure as hell not going to quit my current job. In truth, the musical industry is in a very bad shape nowadays and Izegrim is still a very small player on the metal market so to speak. We’re doing this for fun and that’s exactly what keeps things fresh for us. I would love to play on major festivals like Wacken and Graspop, but I won’t quit my job any day soon.