Interview with Martin van Drunen (Asphyx, Hail Of Bullets)

25 years of kicking ass and taking names is the business that Asphyx has been in from the very beginning.  Nobody knows this more than iconic death metal front-man Martin van Drunen, who has appeared on their four highest-regarded recordings, including “The Rack,” “Crushing the Cenotaph,” “Last One On Earth,” and “Death… The Brutal Way.”  Martin is on the eve of Asphyx‘s new album, “Deathhammer,” being released on February 27th, 2012, for all of the death metal maniacs that crave their barbaric and destructive metallic force.  We were fortunate enough for Martin van Drunen to be able to speak with us on behalf of his band-mates in Asphyx in regards to the new album, the concept behind it, his thoughts on touring, why he loves microphone stands, and what he believes to be the true essence of heavy metal in general.  So, without further ado:

Metal Blast: Just to start things off a bit slow, for those people who are unfamiliar with Asphyx, could you tell us in your own words what people are to expect from your music?
Martin van Drunen
: It’s just really brutal, very old-school death metal.  When it all started at the end of the ’80s it was very loud, no blastbeats, many slow parts also in it, and when we play live it’s very intense, there’s a lot of action going on on-stage, very loud volume.  That’s what Asphyx is, really.  No compromising, no bullshit, no nothing; what you see is what you get.

MB: Yeah, that’s definitely what I like to hear.  From my experience with Asphyx over the years I have been a big fan for a long time and that is exactly what I have always heard, just straight to the point old-school death and doom metal.  That’s what we like to hear.  I personally know the reasoning behind why the band has chosen to name the new album “Deathhammer,” but for those that don’t, could you explain why that’s the name?
MvD:
Yeah.  First of all, if I look for album names, I always want to have something that is really gripping, one that draws attention, not a stupid name nobody can remember.  At the time “Deathhammer” was just something, boom, that hits hard like a hammer exactly.  When I came with the name the boys were like, “fuck, that’s really good, we like it a lot.”  I took it from a book from the Inquisition called “The Witch Hammer,” which was a guidance on how to detect witches and heretics.  “Deathhammer” is fictional, it’s a non-existing word, of course, but it’s supposed to be a book in which the rules of how to play and perform death metal the proper way is explained, and the album shows it for itself as well, because there’s too many bands right now, not just me, but people all over the world that have a heart for the death metal that we play and they think the same, that too many bands don’t know what it’s all about.

MB: Absolutely, you can put me in that exact same camp as the rest of you guys.  Let me talk about your last album, “Death… The Brutal Way” really quick.  This was your first album back once Asphyx got back together after a 7 or 8 year hiatus, and it was met with an overwhelming amount of positive feedback.  It was a very heavy and visceral comeback album.  Did you guys happen to use the fans reaction to that last album to push a different way to create something more earth-shattering on “Deathhammer?”
MvD: Well, no, not really.  The case is with us is if we like the songs we write ourselves, then we know the fans would like it, because we’re fans of the genre in the first place.  I can say that when I hear an album and it’s a different vocalist, because I don’t listen to myself, I’m not a megalomaniac or anything, but if there were to be a different vocalist with the same kind of style, then I would love the album myself.  See, that’s the whole point behind what we’re doing.  The thing with “Death… The Brutal Way” at the time is when Eric [Daniels; guitars] wasn’t in the band we knew the fans would be skeptic, especially against Paul [Bayaans; guitars], you know, “is he able to replace Eric like we expect him to replace him?”  We wouldn’t have been Asphyx if we didn’t know that.  But, after the reaction of the fans to “Death… The Brutal Way” then we knew we did something good for them, and they liked it.  When we played songs live, ‘Death… The Brutal Way,’ ‘Scorbutics,’ or ‘Eisenbahnmörser,’ they like it.  They go as nuts as they do for ‘The Rack,’ ‘Vermin,’ or ‘M.S. Bismarck’ so we knew we did a good thing and we didn’t disappoint our fans, and for any band that is the most important thing.  From then on we are trying to perfect the type of style we have, and that’s what the difference is between “Deathhammer” and “Death… The Brutal Way,” we are more perfected and becoming better.  Now with Alwin [Zuur; bass] in it he fits right in; very enthusiastic and proud to be in the band, and he’s been a metalhead for years and knows how to play his bass and gives us an extra boost, too.  It’s never been better for us as a line-up right now, and you can hear that on the album, too.  It wasn’t just done with the hunger for brutality in the way that we are, but also it was played with a lot of fun, too, just enjoying ourselves and having a good time.  Many bands consider recording an album to be a big stressful problem, but for us it was “okay, let’s do this one,” you know, just really relaxed and laid back.

MB: From the musicians that I have talked to over the years, they say that once they started treating recording an album or even playing music as a job rather than something that they loved, then they felt the musical process was beginning to suffer a little bit.  Do you think that is a very apt thing to say?
MvD:  Yeah, but the difference is these days is that you don’t need to go into a studio for a couple weeks and then start working.  That’s what Paul and me discovered when we were working with Eddie [Warby] from Hail Of Bullets, that it is possible to set up a house studio and record your guitars there, and of course the guitars are always the most important thing when you talk about death metal.  For Asphyx, the drums are not such a big thing because Bob [Bagchus; drums] is doing pretty basic stuff, and right now he’s like a little clockwork and he does that stuff really quickly, and he goes “Okay, nice one, I did this one, I’m happy with this,” there’s not much to do with all that technical crap.  We took our time, and I said “Okay, I have the lyrics ready adn I know the type of vocals I’m going to do,” and I would go to Harry [Wijering; engineer] in the studio and sing them in whenever I can and he has time.  It was really relaxing; we didn’t have any blocks or inspiration problems at all.

MB: That’s very good to hear.  Century Media was gracious enough to give me a copy of “Deathhammer,” and it is really, really good.  Sorry to kiss ass a little bit, but it is, I very much enjoyed it.  I found it very similar to “Death… The Brutal Way” but honestly that’s what I liked, just hearing that raw old-school sound and that raw old-school emotion.
MvD:  Thanks a lot.  Really.

MB: No problem.  Actually, speaking of fans and again your music, last month Asphyx released an EP titled “Reign of The Brute” that features that track and ‘Der Landser,’ which both appear on “Deathhammer.”  You also released the title-track of “Deathhammer,” as well.  Have you heard any feedback from the fans about those songs?
MvD: The special part about the EP is that it is the German version of ‘Der Landser,’ so I sing in German for the first time in my life, because when I had the idea of the songs, the lads were already asking me, “Martin, could you try and do it in German lyrics,” which was really hard because I’ve got it in English in my head, then you need to switch over to German.  I speak the language very well, but it’s different if you write the lyric and try to rhyme certain things.  With help with someone from Century Media, Stephan, he translated it for me as well as the rhymes, so it was done very well and it’s a special one, so it’s not just that we released an EP for the EP, it’s for the fans.  The damn thing was sold out within the first day as soon as it was online, it was gone.  That shows us that a lot of fans are chasing it, and luckily we have a few copies left for friends and some really die hard people that we know, give it to them as a present.  It was really overwhelming and the fans like it, we were pleased to hear that.

MB: That’s great, if it sold out within the first day or even the second then that just attests to the music that you guys have; that’s how good your song-writing abilities are.
MvD: Yeah, probably, but for us it was a surprise, as well.  Century Media just put it online and it was gone.  Funny story behind that is that there were some special ones on red and blue vinyl.  Unfortunately, someone made a mistake and forgot to save us a few copies of those, they are gone.  We only have the black ones for ourselves and not the special collection ones.  Someone gave me a link to eBay and someone is trying to sell it already for 100 Euros, which is ridiculous.

MB: Oh wow.  I’m sure there are some days where you wake up and are thinking “do I want to play the blue or the red one?  Ahhh crap, I’ve only got the black one!”
MvD: [Laughs]

MB: If you had to choose, what songs would you say are your favorites from “Deathhammer”?
MvD: I like them all, really.  I could play them  all live and get a lot of pleasure; really, all of them.  But if I had to…

MB: Yeah, say there’s a gun to your head and you need to.
MvD: Well, I like the title-track very much because it’s very strong and catchy.  Strange thing is that I don’t think I’ve ever sang on a song that is so catchy than this one; it’s even more catchier than ‘Death… The Brutal Way’ was which already had the catchy chorus.  We were looking at each other when we played it and we were like, “Hmmm… is this it,” because we expected a song like the title-track, ‘Deathhammer’ to be a 10 minute epic, and then we ended with not even three minutes [Laughs].  I do like ‘Der Landser’ too, and the last track, ‘As The Magma Mammoth Rises.’  Yeah, it’s just your typical Asphyx, but it has this killer riff that keeps dragging on, I asked Paul to do that because I wanted to use it as a vocal part, and then there’s ‘Reign Of The Brute’.  I like them all really, but maybe those three are really outstanding.

MB: What’s funny is that you actually picked out my three favorite tracks [laughs].
MvD:  Really? [Laughs]

MB: Absolutely.  Sometimes it’s very odd to see that you feel that same way and it absolutely shows on those three tracks.  I don’t know if I’m spoiling anything here, but the last track as you said, ‘As The Magma Mammoth Rises,’ the song title basically spells out exactly what it is; it’s almost an eight minute crushing death metal and doom metal song; it’s probably one of the best ending tracks I’ve heard in a very long time.
MvD: Thanks a lot for that one. There was a countryman of yours that we did a radio show with, and he asked “how much weed did you guys smoke to come up with titles like that?”  I was like, “we are a non-weed smoking band so that’s probably why it also sounds heavy because we’re not laying in the corner being stoned, you know.”

MB: Yeah, you’re not trying to be out there, it was just something that regularly comes to you.
MvD:  Yeah, yeah, it does, it does.

MB: You guys have always had very interesting song titles; ‘Into The Timewastes,’ ‘Of Days When Blades Turned Blunt,’ ‘We Doom You To Death.’
MvD: [Laughs] Yeah, it was just the fun of it.  The thing is that we were trying to be original in the song titles, but also so you know what it deals with.  ‘Into The Timewastes’ is non-existing, it’s like science fiction more-or-less.  That’s what the song says, too.  It’s about a bunch of robot mercenaries that travel throughout the galaxy and are constantly at war with all kinds of creatures, and they dive into this thing called the ‘Timewaste’ where time meets death and that is the end of the universe if they don’t fix that problem.  That’s the idea behind it; I read too many comics sometimes, I guess.

MB: If that’s not a death metal idea, then I don’t know what is.
MvD: [Laughs]

MB: Asphyx are slated to play a handful of shows and festivals, such as ExtremeFest, Obscene Extreme, Summerbreeze, and the Neurotic Deathfest.  Besides those, does the band plan on doing any extensive touring in support of “Deathhammer?”
MvD: No, not really.  We are more-or-less a non-touring band, but the thing is with touring, it’s all about you show your face and people are able to see you and you promote the album on stage.  It really doesn’t matter if you do that 20 days in a row and play three weeks of shows throughout Europe, or if you play 20 shows every weekend of the year and you’re somewhere else.  It’s basically the same.  But, there’s two reasons why we cannot tour.  First is because of Bob with his boys, his sons, he just doesn’t want to leave them for several days or weeks behind, next to that it’s impossible because his wife works, as well.  All of the lads have jobs, and especially for Paul who’s a teacher, he can only have days off when the kids have days off or on holiday so it’s really hard to come by, in fact it’s impossible, so that’s why we do it this way.  We play as much as possible; I think last year we did 15 shows with Asphyx and I think 30 or something with Hail Of Bullets, which is still quite a lot.  For me it was like every weekend I was gone, it would be easier personally for me if we did a three or four week tour and we didn’t have to do anything else for the rest of the year [laughs].  But in this way it’s nice, you fly somewhere and go to all kinds of different countries.  I mean this year with Asphyx we play in Greece, Romania for the first time, Portugal for the first time, Czech Republic, we go to
Finland.  We show our faces everywhere basically, and people can come and watch out there, and that’s what it is all about.  The only problem, of course, is the United States because we showed our faces over in Maryland [Deathfest] two times.  The thing is that it’s really hard, not just because of the regulations to come into the country as a band, but also because death metal is a really small kind of scene, it’s very difficult for bands first to get offers for touring, and then after that they would barely have an audience.  I think Grave had to break off from their tour because there was lack of interest, really.

MB: That’s really awful to hear, because I absolutely do understand what you’re saying and as I’ve said, I do live here in the States and that is something I’ve experienced first-hand, and not to mention that every time I see a tour come up that has a bunch of bands that I would really love to see, and then I see they are playing Europe only, not playing in the U.S.  We just get a bunch of tours where it’s nothing but big names who tend to play nothing but the same songs, same melodies, same song-structures, everything.  There’s just not a whole lot of variation when it comes to extreme metal over here in the States, so my heart just sank a little bit.
MvD: Unfortunately, it has been completely different since one-and-a-half decades ago, but I don’t know exactly what has changed.  There is a market for it, but it’s more-or-less a bunch of really die-hard and dedicated death metal fans, and you see it in the labels, too.  They are more into this metalcore, nu-metal, deathcore or whatever they want to call that shit, that seems to be pretty big at the moment.  For us, the style of metal that we play it’s really hard.  In L.A. there’s a nice festival called Gathering Of The Vestigial Region every year, which I’d like to play there just to be on the west coast for a while, and maybe play a show in San Francisco and quickly go to Mexico and do something there.  But, for the rest of the country it’s very, very hard.  Maybe one in Chicago, but, there you have it.

MB: Yeah, believe me, us old-school die-hard metal fans are still here supporting you.  We may be a little harder to find, but we’re still here.
MvD:  I know, I know, because we get many reactions from them.  “Death… The Brutal Way” at the time was not released by Century Media itself anyways, it was done by Ibex Moon, it was the best-selling independent small label album of the whole last year.  For that kind of label we sold a lot.  With all the downloading going on these days it was a really good sign.  But that’s the thing with metalheads; they don’t download they always buy albums that they like.

MB: Yeah, we always love to have those physical copies and look through the sleeves, and it feels like it has a whole other atmosphere when you’re holding a disc in your hand and not just clicking ‘play’ on an application somewhere.
MvD: Yeah, exactly.

MB: Speaking of the longevity of Asphyx and seeing how things have changed, over your career you guys have always had a very consistent mid-paced and crushing sound.  Have any of you ever thought of wanting to go in a different direction?
MvD:  No, never.  Not with this band, that’s not even a discussion.  No, because I know the lads, everything we do and everybody likes to do.  The thing is if people could see us how we write songs in the practice room, it goes with Paul having a couple of riffs, and we use the modern techniques of him plugging his guitar into a PC and records the riff with a basic drum tempo behind it, and then he sends it to us with a question of “do you like it or not,” so we can listen to it and then all of a sudden there’s more riffs coming, and we think, “hey, we have 10 or 20 now, why not go and jam a little bit with that shit,” so we make an appointment all together, meet each other, and see what we can do with all these riffs.  How many times you can play them, what riffs go together, and if we get a song from any of them we completely freak out.  You can just see that we like the sound then we start banging, screaming, grab extra beers, or buy new ones because all the others are finished, then we go, “yeah, this is the one,” then we go to record it on an old-school fucking tape recorder, which is I think 30 or 40 years old, and then I put that one on PC so the lads can have it for themselves to listen to back again on how the song-structure exactly goes and just to have the rehearsals for ourselves, really.  That’s how it goes, and that’s how you can see that we are really into what we’re doing.  Sometimes it’s not even a thing of thinking, if Paul comes up with a certain riff, we don’t even have to ask Bob what kind of tempo he has in mind, he just starts to drum and that’s it.  “Okay, this is what I have in mind,” then we go, “yup, that’s it Bob, you got it.”  I mean, he hates to blast, it’s not because he doesn’t want to, but he just hates it.  “Yeah, I don’t like blastbeats,” he goes.  We never do blastbeats.  A lot of other bands just start out blasting and we go, “fucking hell, the riff sounds way heavier if they quit the blast!”

MB: [Laughs] That’s just the Asphyx way, I suppose.
MvD: [Laughs]

MB: Speaking of Paul sending you tracks and you guys examining it and listening to it, as you mentioned earlier, you and Paul play in a band that is World War II-themed called Hail Of Bullets.  Do you think that both of your involvement in that project may crossover into Asphyx territory?
MvD: Not really.  The only thing maybe is the sound of my voice, but I do on purpose to do it more low in Hail Of Bullets, and with Asphyx I can do some hysterical screams and funny things in between sometimes, like the laughter or something, but with Hail Of Bullets it doesn’t work because the theme is very serious.  You can’t just make a joke out of it if 300,000 soldiers die in Stalingard; you can’t just have a laugh in that song.  Of course, the way I have my lyrics are much different because they work off of a concept which is difficult, but it’s always really hard.  Paul knows exactly if he has a certain riff that would fit better with Hail Of Bullets or Asphyx.  He says, “okay I have this riff here,” and we would say whether one works better in one project than the other, or put it on the side.  I don’t know what it is, it just goes really natural.  From the moment we did the first album with Hail Of Bullets we knew what kind of style and difference there was from Asphyx, and it came natural in the way we feel it and work with it, as well.  There are people who will say “oh, well, they both sound the same” and blah blah blah, so be it, you know.

MB: To me it’s not that they sounded the same, but that Hail Of Bullets tends to use more melodic leads in the music while Asphyx they still have a little bit of melody in them, but not to the point you think that this is what you’re going to get all the time, when instead you’re also going to get that extremely healthy dose of old-school death and doom metal, too.
MvD: Yes!  Definitely, with Hail Of Bullets you can put way more things in it because the songs have this kind of atmosphere with the concept you have, and certain leads or melodies fit really well into it, so you can do a little more than just that.  Of course, Stephan [Gebédi] and Paul both do melodic parts.  Paul is more of a rhythm and melodic player, while Stephan is more aggressive solo guy, he likes to do certain things too.  There’s all these little differences, and of course you have Ed Warby [drums], you know, who is completely different.  Bob always considers himself to be, “I’m a crap drummer, I don’t care, all I need to do is keep the pace,” and he does that beautifully, he’s fucking amazing, like clockwork.

MB: [Laughs]
MvD: But Eddie, he’s something else.  He’s a world-class drummer.  Not just a drummer, but as a musician, I mean he’s a perfectionist.  That’s a big difference when working together.  I don’t mean it in a negative way, the fun thing with Eddie is that he’s such a perfectionist that I learn from him in certain ways, and after so many years it’s really a pleasure, you think, “Oh, indeed, I never thought of using my voice in that rhythm,” and it’s a great thing.

MB: Speaking of Hail Of Bullets, everybody in there has been in legendary bands that spans throughout the entire heavy metal world, and lately there has been a large resurgence of classic bands that were broken up for some time reforming and doing reunion tours, and even new albums.  Do you have any thoughts on this trend?
MvD: To think about that and then say something, in the end with Asphyx I did the same.  For me what’s really important is that many people told me after we came back with “Death… The Brutal Way” they said “well, at least you’re one of the very few bands that reformed again and came with a good album,” so apparently most bands who do the same don’t come out with good albums.  I don’t know if that’s the case because at the moment I don’t really have any examples in my head about that.  The most important thing is if bands do so, please don’t do it for bloody money, but do it for the fun of it and to show your fans that you’re back there and want to give them a good time, and to let them revive all the good times of the past, and provide them with some fucking killer classics, and not just go on stage and play all that crap from your latest album, you just can’t do that.  Autopsy is a great example of a band that did it just as we do.  We met them fortunately again, it was a really nice thing of seeing them again after so many years, because we have had contact from the very beginning, I mean Asphyx and Autopsy were always friends, I was already with them when I played in Pestilence, but it was just so great to see them, and we just want to play live together and have a good time.  When they are on stage the stage you see them laughing and having a good time, and they are enjoying themselves.  Luckily for them, because back in the day they didn’t have any success at all, same with us, we were just really in the underground and only those people knew your name and now all of a sudden people book you at big festivals and come up with a little bit of money, at least.  The fun is still the most important thing, and you see the same with Autopsy and their last album was really good.  That’s an example of a band that has come back and sounds really good, but apparently there are many who came back and it makes you go, “why the hell did they reform again?”  I mean this was a thrash band, I remember when I played with Hail Of Bullets and Asphyx in Finland a couple of years ago, there was this German band called Paradox, I don’t know if you remember them.

MB: It’s not ringing a bell.
MvD: Well, they were around 1988 or something like that.  They weren’t bad, but they were bloody gobbin’ all the time, “oh the crowd doesn’t do anything or this and that,” and I say, “yeah, well, no one remembers you, man.  If you stand there in front of 50 people because of the rest get drunk, then you bore them to death so you’re doing something wrong.  Do yourselves a favor and go back to the wife and kids and start your job again.  Quit with the reformation of your band, it just isn’t going to work,” you know?  That’s just an example.

MB: That’s just the way of the world, I suppose.
MvD: [Laughs]

MB: This may be a little off-topic, but I’ve noticed you’re among one of the last vocalists in death metal who like to utilize a microphone stand when you perform live.  Is there any particular reason you prefer to have the stand there?
MvD:  Really?  Yeah, I just like it. [Laughs]  I like it also from certain singers that I liked from the past, not just death metal singers, you know.  Paul Rodgers was doing it when he was in Free, but that was in a very long time ago.  While he wasn’t the best kind of singer I knew, I liked how David Copperfield did it with his microphone too, you know?  To me I just stand the damn thing there, and sometimes I grab it, sometimes I do things with it, it’s never intentional, it’s just goes on instinct.  Sometimes in the middle of the show I’ll put it away somewhere and just use the microphone in my hand, but I just like the stand.  Maybe it’s also because I used to be a bass player and a singer, so maybe I think it’s about empty hands, I don’t know.  On the other hand I find it very convenient where I have a song that has a shitload of lyrics, like ‘Death… The Brutal Way’ or ‘Deathhammer,’ which is just singing all the time, then it’s nice to just lean on the microphone on the stand to bend over a little bit to press more on the belly.  It just kind of helps a little bit for some strange reason.

MB: That’s definitely a good reason.  Hell, if anything it makes your live appearances more energetic, just to see you go nuts with a microphone stand.
MvD: Sometimes I do really crazy things with it, where in the heat of the moment you get this adrenaline rush and you break the damn thing in two.  You got all these angry stage people looking at you like, “you just broke our microphone stand, you bastard,” yeah, I’m very sorry afterwards and you give them some money for it afterwards to buy a new one.  Those things can happen. [Laughs]

MB: [Laughs] You mention that you also played bass a lot, because we can remember your performances on “Crush the Cenotaph” and “The Rack.”  Do you still pick up the bass guitar at all and help write some grooves for any of the music?
MvD: No.  I haven’t touched it in quite a while really, because I’m so busy with writing all the lyrics, and I would only do that if everybody would have a block in their head and nothing would come up, then I’ll say maybe I can help out and do it.  But for now it’s really nice just to focus on mainly the lyrics and vocals for both the bands; it feels very comfortable to do that.

MB: Plus, nobody can say that you aren’t doing a good job on just the vocals because you’re tearing it up in whatever the hell you record.
MvD: Yeah, people forget a little bit and I need to keep up with all kinds of things to provide all the topics.  Like right now working on a whole new concept for Hail Of Bullets, I need to read a whole new pile of books, not only in my own language, but in German and English, apart from the pleasure in reading and learning, it’s also very difficult because you’re working with all kinds of different languages and when it comes to concentrating it’s pretty hard, and if I was still doing bass and all that it would be difficult to find the time to do all of that.

MB: Yeah, you would definitely have to process all of that information because we all know how much there really is to still learn about the events of World War II, especially on the European side.
MvD: Yeah.

MB: You actually just said something, maybe you can give me a little bit of information on this, but that you’re beginning to research stuff for a new Hail Of Bullets album.  Do you guys have any plans soon to start recording?
MvD: No, not really recording, but writing songs.  We start writing this year.

MB: That’s excellent to hear.
MvD: After now everybody can imagine with “Deathhammer” coming out, it would be ridiculous right now to all of a sudden start working on Hail Of Bullets songs, so you need a little bit of peace on that side, and as soon as Asphyx is in calmer waters we can start on that.  I already have the concept in my head, so that’s already done.  I have all the information as well, so I just need to pick out events that are useful for songs and see what the lads can do with it.

MB: Especially since there’s less than two weeks left until “Deathhammer” is released for public consumption.  We saw 2011 end just over a month ago, and I’m curious as to what you have been listening to throughout the last year.  What have been some of your favorite releases, whether it’s metal or pop, I really don’t care.  I want to know what Martin van Drunen listens to.
MvD: Jesus, it’s really hard because I never really keep up with releases that come out in a year.  I don’t do that, like “okay, it’s 2011, what came out,” I just discover something and then I start to like it.  For now all of a sudden I started to really like The Cramps.  They are kind of like a horror rocker psychobilly thing.  They are pretty good; the singer already died a long time ago, but that’s the thing with me is I discover them when I can never see them live.  The lyrics are really sick and the music in a kind of way, too.  It’s a different kind of influence that you pick up along the path.  There’s a German band called Blizzard that I really like a lot.  There’s good Dutch bands, too, we invite them many times when we do Dutch shows and when we are able to pick up the support we like, and there’s some good rising of old-school death metal bands in the Netherlands with really young kids, but they’re doing it with full enthusiasm and it’s really nice to see that the style we play has been taken over by the youngsters, it’s really cool.  There’s bands like Bodyfarm, Nailgun Massacre, Entrapment, or Funeral Whore and I really like them all.  I listen to that stuff, too.

MB: I’m also sure they are going to be happy as hell to hear you speak their names in this interview. [Laughs]
MvD: Probably they will, but I’ve met the lads, well, Funeral Whore also has a girl, but this is funny, it’s a nice story.  I return from a Christmas holiday, Bob and Eric [Daniels], we are still friends and we do things here or there, and says “how about we go to Hoogeveen where Entrapment, Funeral Whore and Nailgun Massacre are playing.”  I said, “yeah, why not?  Let’s go have a beer!”; and then there was a guy named Hank we knew standing outside, and when me, Bob, and Eric walk out of the car says, “do I believe my eyes,” and I say, “what,” and he says, “here’s the fucking ‘Rack‘ line-up walking in,” and I go, “oh yeah, now that you mention it…”  So those bands were like “what the fuck are they doing here,” and we just say “we were here to watch you guys,” and they were really honored and pleased, really happy, so we had a few drinks, except Bob who had to drive.  But yeah, if we have time we like to do that, it also shows that we still have interest in what’s going on.  These bands are more from the region we come from, apart from Funeral Whore, and we always support that in way.

MB: Support the local scene, absolutely.  Well, unfortunately that’s all I have for you, it’s just very interesting to talk to such an influential person throughout the years, since it seems you’ve been at it for well over 20 years at this point.
MvD: Actually, the fun thing with “Deathhammer” too, if I may add this, is not only have we returned to Axel’s, who did “The Rack” and “Crush the Cenotaph,” as well as the DVD, but we also got back to Harry for some recordings, and I realized I started everything in 1987, so I have been at it for 25 years, the name Asphyx is 25 years old, and then when you have 25 years with this shit, you release an album like “Deathhammer,” so that makes it even more pleasing.  Put together with all these people who were at it from the very start.  It’s a very special album for us, not because we think it’s very good, but because of all these small little coincidences that are there.  It’s very nice really just to think of it that way.

MB: Yeah, like I said, “Deathhammer” has that great classic Asphyx feel and has a lot of modern production to it which makes it sound absolutely crushing.  Just make sure you don’t play it too loud or else you’re going to blow out some speakers.
MvD: It does, it does.  It was the first time in my life where I had to take a break from listening to that mix, because it felt like there was a knife from one ear to the other, and then I told the lads that I’m going to take a break for a day because it just hurts right now, and I hardly say that. [Laughs]

MB: [Laughs] I think that should just attest to how crushing “Deathhammer” really is, and I really think a lot of people are going to enjoy it.
MvD:  I hope so, and I hope we can enjoy it live.  We will, and also to the people who attend the shows.  I’m really looking forward to that, really.

MB: I want to very much thank you again for taking the time to speak to us today.
MvD: No problem, thank you very much.  It was very interesting and was a pleasure.