I first encountered SiMÓN on recommendation from my fellow doom metal lover Sander. To be honest Sander has never sent me a bad recommendation and these lads were no exception. A transcendental assembly of songs in the form of “The Inner Traveller” left me wanting more, so I got the chance to catch up with SiMÓN and talk more about this dynamic release.
So tell us a little about SiMÓN?
Ilja: The band started in 2005, Bart and me became friends when I was on tour with Face Tomorrow as their sound engineer. Bart’s old band Dreadlock Pussy had a self-built studio in the south called Cell3 where he did a lot of engineering. There we spent a lot of time listening to music, watching movies, etc.
Bart: Eventually we started jamming and recorded demos. Our idea was to put together a band that only played heavy riffs and find extremes we never had used in our previous bands. Our first songs we’re mostly Will Haven style songs, not that much dynamics. But we slowly evolved more into the more dynamic approach of song writing. Still focusing on heavy riffs, the heavy metal side of it. Also trying to create more depth by adding more layers of melodies and using electronics.Later in 2007 we called up our friends Sjoerd, Tijs & Theun, to hang out and we played them the demos for Slices Of You (2009). That’s when we officially became a band.
I hear you are all in different bands that span different genres can you tell us about them?
Ilja: We have been playing and have worked with many bands in the Dutch Scene over the last 2 decades. Sjoerd and me used to play in a thrash metal band called Dead By Dawn. Sjoerd and Tijs both played in the well-known emo-hardcore band Face Tomorrow, I was their FOH sound engineer. Then was their tourmanager and still is doing mostly productional work for bands and venues. I am doing sound engineering as a profession for all kinds of bands from pop, dance to metal. Bart was involved in Dreadlock Pussy as a turntablist and is recently doing a lot of recording for all kinds of bands. He also plays guitar in a band called Joshua Woods, with Sjoerd on drums.
Why choose this proggy, death metal, almost doomish sound given the history of your other styles?
Ilja: Of course we take most of our influences from Post Metal, Post Hardcore bands and ’90 rock. And we all love bands like Deftones, TOOL, Neurosis, Radiohead. I am also a huge fan of Hydrahead bands… It’s quit obvious I guess.
But for me, as a songwriter I don’t sit down and think like I have to choose between styles or make it proggy or over complicated. All the stuff that was written for “The Inner Traveller” is really based on the emotional state of mind I was in during the time of writing it. It’s like I’ve mentioned before about our earlier material, we just didn’t use that much dynamics. Back then we just rushed the whole writing process, because we didn’t exactly knew where we wanted to go with our music.
We’ve changed a lot, because we write in a certain way nowadays. Mostly I’ll come up with this idea and we complete the song as a band to flavor things up and take it to another level. It can also be Bart or Tijs having the initial idea. But someone has to be in charge of that starting process. It saves a lot of time and avoids unnecessary arguments.
Bart: For this album we started giving the songs more space and didn’t care for typical song structures. And most important we aren’t concerned about the length of a piece. Is all about the emotion and finding the right sounds and structures for it. We really want to put a lot of depth in our songs. And in the end we also have to respect our individual capabilities.
Where did you get your inspiration for this album?
Ilja: I got a lot of inspiration for the lyrics from this book called Ecplise from a Dutch author called J. Bernlef. It’s about memory loss of the main character and his struggle to find his personality back. Also I was really interested in the book The Road, written by Cormac Mccarthy. That also describes a lot of memory type situations in a post apocalyptic scenery. Very mysterious book, I love that writer.
Is this a concept album, the tracks seem to mesh so well it could be?
Ilja: I don’t want people to think we wrote this as a conceptual album. Therefore it’s too fragmental. The thing I would like, is that our listeners do see it as a journey or a dream. Good or bad dream? Well, that’s their interpretation. I don’t want to decide for others.
It’s not just some random songs stacked together. When producing and mixing this album, there was a lot of focus on detail and keeping things as natural as possible. And in the mastering process Jochem Jacobs (Textures) helped us out with putting all loose ends together.
Can you talk specifically about the title track any special meaning, hidden themes?
Ilja: This song is probably the most intense. I don’t want to talk specifically about the meaning of it. All I can tell you that it is about struggling with the frustration of not being able to help someone who is very ill or about to pass away. You can only witness…
Which track are you as a band most proud of on this release?
Ilja: Honestly I don’t have a favorite track. I am just very happy that we were able to pull it off as a whole. Especially being so deeply involved in the production and mixing, forces me to see it as one piece with it’s ups and downs.
Bart: That’s the beauty of not trying to squeeze your music into some standard timeframe. You can really let parts lead themselves and evolve, have different stories and emotions within the same track. I am just proud of what we pulled off with limited resources and the fact that these limitations didn’t interfere with what we had in mind.
This album took quite a while to finish and you employed some interesting processes during the recording can you enlighten us to the process and what about those huge drum sounds?
Ilja: I am very excited about the recording process, but indeed it took a long time. We created a battle plan to do this all by ourselves. Me and Bart were talking one night about doing another recording for SiMÓN. We got to a point where we had enough material to start demoing, so we did. And suddenly it popped to me. “Let’s record in a theatre, Deep Purple-Machine Head style!”. I am working part time in a theatre called De Leidseschouwburg. It’s a 300plus year old building and it is well known for it’s spooky ambiance and has this really authentic atmosphere. I was able to pull off two weeks access to the place to record our album. We built a control room and we looked for the sweet spots in the building for each recording. Especially tracking drums and guitars was a very cool experience. We just put all these mics all over the place. Even micing the walls and halls. The first take we did, was an instant “high five”. WE GOT IT!!!!!!!
Oh don’t ever spend the night alone in that place, it’s haunted as fuck!
Bart: Since we do everything ourselves at this point, that means a lot of figuring stuff out. So we applied a lot of different recording techniques, just to make sure we have enough options. Turns out that having a lot of options isn’t making your workflow any faster…at all. Lesson learned.
Ilja: Lesson learned indeed. I claimed the task of mixing this beast. Sometimes running 150 tracks at the same time. Next time we will use only a 4-track, ain’t that right Bart?
So what are the future plans for SiMÓN?
Ilja: We really want to gain more strength as a live band. So we are aiming for more gigs. And very importantly, we will release “The Inner Traveller” on vinyl! Hopefully in the first few months of 2014.
Bart: We just finished a new song, which we might want to use for a split with some cool band… and continue writing, that’s what we love to do!
Any hopes of a US tour in the near future?
Ilja: If there is an audience and the right kind of circumstances, we would love to do that.
How’s the Dutch metal scene, quite a few notables come out there, who are you listening to in the metal world?
Ilja: I am a huge fan of Textures. Also I sometimes work for them as a sound engineer, which is pretty awesome. Also I love bands like Death Letters, John Coffey, IZAH and Herder. Of course our Belgium friends from Steak Number Eight. But honestly I don’t really listen to that much metal music from Netherlands.
Bart: I really like a band from Amsterdam called Fire Walk With Us and a new band from the South of the Netherlands called From Earth.
Time for the last question, any predictions on the World Cup?
Ilja: Netherlands? I would love to see that happen. It’s always nice to celebrate a victory on Brazil or Germany! But we all knew what happened last edition of the World Cup…
Bart: I don’t care about soccer.