- Hello, Frank! Let's get back in time and recall the very origins of the band. How and where did you meet each other? How old were you when you started the band?
- Gorefest started out like most other bands. A couple of guys having regular beers and discussions about music, quickly figuring out it might be a cool idea to start a band together, getting out some creative urges and trying to get out of the 9-to-5. Which is exactly what happened with JC and me. I was 19, JC a couple of years older. We started out by jamming along to Sodom's Obsessed By Cruelty, and when we'd figured that one out we thought it was time to get a full line-up going. Alex was a friend of JC's who'd been around the local scene of Goes for some time, and was known for his love of Slayer and Celtic Frost, so we asked him to join, which he did. Marc was introduced to us by JC's then girlfriend. He was a hard-hitting drummer who dug some of the bands we threw at him, and that was it, Gorefest mk1.
- Who came up with the name? Did you consider any other names as well? Do you remember your first rehearsal place? How difficult was it to get all the necessary equipment and gear?
- We tried out a couple of names, like Leprosy, Abhorrence, or the quite wonderful Condemned Heretics, before I threw Gorefest in there. We all agreed it was catchy and it fit the lyrics and music at the time, so that was that. Our earliest rehearsals took place in the attic of the building where JC had his apartment. We were in the middle of the city and totally not sound proofed, so we had to try and find a way to get our ideas together without getting JC kicked out of his pad. We more or less wrote Decomposed and Tangled In Gore there, with just two guitars through some old tube radios, JC trying out some vocal patterns and Marc figuring out the drums on a few cushions I think. Once we had those two songs we started rehearsing with a full backline in local club 't Beest, which was the meeting place in town for the alternative scene - metalheads, punks, goths, the odd reggae band. I still work at that place as a local promotor. Nothing much changes in Goes.
- In 1989 you released your first demo, "Tangled in Gore". What do you remember about this experience recording in the studio? Was it your first time? How many copies of that record did you produce?
- It was certainly MY first time. JC had already done some demoing with hardcore band Sjolmord. Alex, being a few years older and playing in bands for 5 or 6 years, was way more experienced than any of us. I think Marc may have had some hours in a studio as well, but for me it was a whole new thing. To my recollection it went quite well. There was the usual headbutting over levels, but in the end I think we got it down just the way we wanted it. JC nailed his vocals, he sounded so brutal on those songs. We were all really proud of that tape, and I think we captured something that struck a chord with a lot of people in the dutch death metal scene. It might have been the catchiness of the tunes, which in turn came from the bare and basic song structures and our primal musical skills - we didn't do anything we would not be able to reproduce as a live unit, and kept the experimenting to a minimum. But those bare essentials forcibly gave us a clear framework on which we could build, and that in turn built us as a band I guess.
- At that time, what was your local underground like? How could you describe your metal scene in general? What were your favourite bands? How often did you play live? Do you remember any of your first gigs?
- We were based in the country, outside of the major cities, so there wasn't much regular sparring or exchanging ideas with other bands. But the Netherlands aren't that big of an area, so you could argue the whole country was actually a local scene and we were all just operating in the looming shadow of Pestilence! Actually, our very first gig ever was supporting Pestilence far outside our hometown on the other side of the country, which kind of illustrates that situation. That show took place in the Dingus club in Venraij on april 6th, 1990. Those were the days death metal was starting to become the main attraction in the Dutch clubs and bars, and soon we were basically playing every other weekend. The Dutch club circuit was - and indeed still is - for a large part community funded, which gave a lot of bands the opportunities to get support slots in the bigger venues one or two times a month, on top of cutting their teeth in the smaller clubs and bars.
We used to do a lot of shows together with Acrostichon, who were based an hour from where we lived and who were more or less playing the same field. We'd run into Asphyx, Thanatos, Sinister or Dead Head every so often, and I also remember bands like Dead End, Pyathrosis, Dissect, Morthra, Korsakov, Bluuurgh and Eternal Solstice. There were many more of course, but these names spring to mind.
- When did you actually sign the contract with Foundation 2000? Did you receive any other offers as well? And instead of rushing with your full-length, you decided to release another demo, how could you comment on it?
- I think we signed with Mark Fritsma sometime during the summer of 1990. There was some early interest from Nuclear Blast, but that never got off the ground until late '91. Mark was really into the band, he kept in touch regularly, he had both feet on the ground and like us was just finding his way doing something he believed in and enjoyed doing. It felt good signing with him, and I think it was the right decision at the time. We did feel we needed some more rooting in the scene, so instead of doing a record right away we kept things in our own hands by doing a second tape by ourselves and securing shows by our own means. Again, the right decision I think.
- In 1990 you supported Carcass at some shows in Holland and Belgium. How did it go? Do you remember your feelings and impressions of that tour? Did any funny story took place on the road?
- Those shows were really important for us. Not just because Carcass were my favorite metal band, but those shows got us noticed by pretty much everyone we wanted to get noticed by. It was our first time playing these kind of venues, and it gave us the confidence we could handle ourselves on these bigger stages. It felt really good playing our songs to a large appreciative audience, and even though those songs technically probably didn't make much sense, we made up for that with sheer determination and fire. I don't think much happened that's worth mentioning, outside of my huge enjoyment watching Carcass doing a Best Of off Reek and Symphonies every night and getting very drunk afterwards. Does hurting my back stagediving during Exhume To Consume at the penultimate show count? I think JC considered kicking me out of the band for endangering the last show.
- In 1991 you recorded your classic debut "Mindloss" LP. The choice of Colin Richardson was inspired by the fellas from Carcass or did you have your own reasons?
- Symphonies of Sickness was certainly a huge reason, but so was his work on Bolt Thrower's Warmaster and Napalm Death's Mentally Murdered EP. Those three releases really nailed it for us, soundwise, so we were over the moon when Mark told us Colin was actually available to us.
- Tell us a bit about the recording sessions. How much time did you spend in the studio? Did you record all the material as it was planned or did you make any changes and adjustments at the last moment?
- Obviously, for a certain amount of money, you get a certain amount of studio time. We put in the longest days possible, went overtime every other day, and recorded and mixed the whole thing in the 12 days Foundation 2000 initially gave us. It sounded huge to us, well, to JC and me anyway. Mark Fritsma had executive rights, and he thought it wasn't up to scratch. Alex felt the same way, and 3 days were spent with Colin at Axis in Sheffield to, in their words, 'save the mix'. Both me and JC never were happy with what happened to that mix, and only played the tape with the original mix for many months after, vowing we'd never ever not have final cut again.
- Lupo was in charge of the cover. Could you shed the light on that person and the work you did together? How did you come up with the general art-concept? Do I understand it correctly that there are also 2 Coca-Cola bottles?
- Well, yeah, they're pretty obvious to spot, aren't they. Lupo worked sound for the club where we rehearsed, and was just starting out with a t-shirt printing business. Right from Gorefest's start JC and I went to him with our ideas for shirts. He could always complement our ideas with his, and between the three of us we got all our merch and artwork going. We were all really into Giger at the time, and that's certainly something that reflects in the Objet d'Art you see on the Mindloss cover. Lupo told us he had some ideas to create something that fit the lyrics to the only new song on the album, Mental Misery, and thought he could do something that stood out and was different to the generic artwork that you would find on all the albums that were coming out around that time. We kind of gave him free reign, and I'm happy we did, because it did turn out to be quite different to what our peers where doing. Kerrang! thought it was the only redeeming feature of the whole album, calling it 'a vaguely interesting cover concept', haha. I'm sure Lupo wasn't the first to come up with anything like this, but I have come across a few artists since then doing work which reminds me so much of the Mindloss cover artwork and I like to think Lupo had at least some part in their inspirations. He's still around by the way, his business is doing really well and he still has the Mindloss artwork stored, untouched throughout the years..
- How did your tour with Revenant go? What can you say about sudden replacement of Alex by Boudewijn?
- Alex had a pretty high-profile job at a nearby power plant, and was finding it more difficult by the month to fully commit himself to the busy Gorefest-schedule that was starting to unfold. I think he'd told himself he wanted to at least be part of the Mindloss album since he did write some of it's more important songs in Mental Misery and Confessions Of A Serial Killer, and after that he'd leave and we'd either drag on playing pubs or just dissappear up our own arses. I think Alex never really understood the amount of time, work and dedication both JC and I had put into Gorefest up until then. That, coupled with mounting tensions after all the stuff that went on with the second Mindloss mix, made us feel quite relieved when he left. We thought about finding a replacement in the metal scene, but JC, who didn't really have a very metal background himself, thought it might be a better idea to check out this other guy he knew in the local music scene called Boudewijn Bonebakker. Boudewijn's only goal in life was to make music, and knowing him as I do it probably still is. He played in these really clanky noisebands, and listened to stuff like The Jesus Lizard, Swans, Rapeman, The Birthday Party and Big Black. He brought those influences along with him which gave our sound an edge that was perhaps hard to put your finger on but it was there and it made us sound just that little different to bands that religiously followed the metal idiom. I actually got to experience Swans live for the first time a while ago, and was really struck at the way some of these jackhammer chord changes and repetitions made me think of some of the material Boudewijn used to come up with for Gorefest. Funny how that works. You'd probably never pinpoint those things in our songs if you take them at face value, but having not listened to much Gorefest the last ten years it became very clear to me during that Swans show.
Boudewijn joined just in time for him to learn our songs and jump on the bus for our first European tour with Revenant. I think it was their first proper tour as well, certainly in Europe. There's always some trepidation about the dynamics at the start of a new tour, but thankfully we all got along rather splendidly and a great time was had by all. Maybe not so much by Marc who was having some real trouble adjusting to life on the road. Some stuff happened that made JC and me realize that we weren't going to be able to move forward with Marc, and it really was a choice between splitting up or replacing Marc. JC and I had too much vested in this band to just give up, so out went Marc and in came Ed, who was introduced to us by Stephan Gebedy from Thanatos. Stephan had actually been thinking about starting a new band with Ed, which eventually did happen 15 years later with Hail of Bullets of course. Ed had been playing in a band called Elegy when he heard one of our tapes. On a musical scale the differences between the two bands were almost grotesque, but I think he was struck by the primal brutalism some of our songs carried out and he was really interested to be part of that and see what he could do with it.
- By 1992 you moved to Nuclear Blast, got new drummer and released your 2d album, "False". With updated line-up, solid label and new material, what was the atmosphere within the band while the recordings? What was your main goal with that new album?
- Boudewijn and Ed's addition to the band brought about a huge creative spell where we felt quite free to just write the stuff we wanted to hear. A lot of the False material was written really quickly, when Boudewijn had just joined we put together 4 of those songs within a matter of days. He's always been a torrent of music, and Ed proved to be really good at arranging the stuff Boudewijn and me came up with. Having rehearsed these songs pretty thoroughly we went into the studio well prepared. Or so we thought. It turned out that playing with a drummer like Ed meant the other guys, myself in particular, really had to step up to get anywhere near the level he was at so the songs didn't sound completely out of whack. Somehow, with a lot of coaching from Colin and between ourselves, we kind of got it together. The studio was located very close to the beach, so that helped us relax every now and then, relieving some of these pressures somewhat, positive as though they were.
This might sound as if False was a difficult album, but that really wasn't the case. I think we knew we were really creating something of ourselves, something that belonged to us, and we were enjoying ourselves immensely doing it. I don't think it's my favorite Gorefest album, that would be Chapter 13, but if there's one album Gorefest will be remembered for it would be this one. Well, this one and Soul Survivor, probably. But False opened up a lot of doors for us, and I'd say that time was the best time to be in that band. Great memories from those days.
- To support that release you went on European Tour together with Deicide and Atrocity. How did it go? Do you still remember any particular show? What can you say about Glen?
- That tour was something else. Deicide were making waves with Legion. Benton had made some controversial statements in various magazines, and I don't think that band since has attracted more people than around that time. Some serious nutjobs came to see them, and it really felt like the circus was coming to town every day. Not so strange in retrospect, since I thought Benton was part clown and part businessman. I think he mostly enjoyed that, just by being the obnoxious musician abroad, he was providing for his family back home. When you got him to talking he came across as fairly intelligent, as did Steve. Those two guitarist-brothers didn't appear all too bright, but that might have been the steroids they were consuming by the bucket.
I remember most of those shows for one reason or another, but the big one has to be The One Where We Got Bombed. The tour has hit Stockholm, and we're playing this large sportshall somewhere on the 3rd floor of this huge building called the Fryshuset. Therion's been added to the bill and half the audience is made up of Swedish death metal bands. The other half are all beautiful blonde Swedish girls. We're on second after Therion, and we're about 5 songs into our set when this huge BANG!! just hits us from seemingly everywhere. We all think it's fireworks, JC mouths 'Keep playing!' and we finish our set, having no idea what's going on behind the stage. We get off stage, Quorthon's there giving us the thumbs up - he was working security for the show - and right behind him this massive emergency exitdoor has been blown from the wall. There's firemen and police arriving and pushing people away from backstage, TM Adam is running around shouting stuff about towels at no one in particular - truely one of the most surreal moments of my life. Atrocity's show gets cancelled, and the crowd is getting really worked up, fearing they have paid so much just to see Therion and Gorefest, so they let Deicide play a short set - with full house lights - so as not to start a full scale riot. It took us a while that night to get out of there, but we did get an extended police escort - two cars in front, three following us - for at least four hours just so we could make it to Copenhagen in time.
We never did find out who was behind it. Norwegian black metal dudes hating on Therion but getting the running order wrong, or animal rights activist people hating on Benton for some stupid shit he said (and getting the running order wrong). Maybe it was Swedish housewives hating on Atrocity for bringing the most vile repulsive German scat porno movies - or 'Home videos' as they called 'em - into the country (and getting the running order wrong). Maybe it was Norwegian black metal dudes hating on US and getting the running order completely right! JC and B had met Euronymous the night before in Oslo, and had a chat with the little caped avenger about threats he'd made to Gorefest in some publication. Didn't have much to say for himself, but some of his small pack of followers had just about reached the right age to get a drivers license and travel to Stockholm overnight. I myself to this day think it was tour manager Adam, in cohoots with the insane bus driver, stirring up shit for even more publicity. And it worked, because if the places weren't fully packed at the start of that tour 5 days before, they sure were after that night.
- Of course I can't help asking about your NA tour with Death. Was it your first time meeting with Chuck? What were your impressions of his person and their performance as a band? And how did American metalheads meet you and react on your music?
- We'd met Chuck as far back as '89 when he toured Europe for the first time. He'd just released Leprosy, and the promotor at 't Beest had actually managed to secure a Death show there. You wouldn't believe how drunk we got when we heard about that. We'd been playing Leprosy for weeks non-stop, and now Death were coming to our living room, so to speak. The gig itself turned out to be legendary, doubly so for us since it was somewhere around that date (26-02-89) JC and I actually started talking about forming a band.
Throughout the following years we met up with Chuck whenever Death came to Europe, and we usually played support for a couple of their shows. During the Full Of Hate festivaltour in '93 we often found him on the side of the stage watching Ed play his drums. I think that's how he got to kind of dig our tunes, at least enough to invite us over to the States to support Death on the first leg of their Individual Thought Patterns tour.
I can hardly describe the feeling I had when arriving there. The guys from Resurrection did us a huge favor by picking us up from the airport and getting us to a motel. First time abroad, middle of a heatwave in Florida, about to go on a 30-date US tour supporting Death - I think I only started to be able to sleep about 4 days in! Some of my fondest Gorefest-memories are from that tour. We got to travel along on the Death-bus, and they and fellow supports Sacrifice were really cool to us. We all knew the stories about Chuck being a bit of a moody chap from his early touring days, but we never got that from him. I think by that time he'd managed to gather around him some really professional and music-minded people like himself, and created an environment around him where he could just be his laid-back, dogs- great food- and metal-worshipping self. It was always friendly and easy-going being around his band, I think that had become one of his prerequisites for being on tour.
We did pretty well on that tour, the Death-fans seemed to dig, or at least tolerate, us. I think one of our shared regrets in Gorefest is that we never got to go back there, somehow those plans always fell through. Or maybe the US metal fans just didn't dig us THAT much, that's certainly a very real possibility.
- Starting from "Erase" you begun exploring your musical limits, working with different producers, experimenting with the sound and melodies. How could you describe this journey? What influenced your decisions? And do you think you managed to achieve what you've planned?
- Oh we started doing that as soon as Boudewijn joined, there's quite a bit of experimenting going on with False. Especially for '92, and certainly more than on Erase. That album never quite gelled for me. I think the only real experiment on Erase lies with the production. Eddie started and did his drumtracks without any guides, which was almost unheard of at that time, two or three weeks before we went to Germany. There Boudewijn did all the rhythms, and all of that, combined with the really dry sound, give that album an very clinical feel. I like some parts of Erase, mainly because they work well melodically, but it remains my least favorite Gorefest album. It's our biggest selling album, but I think that had more to do with it riding the coattails of False and the relentless touring we did those two years then anything else.
From Erase on, I think we just hit the typical pitfalls every other band hits. You know, one album gets written and worked at too quickly, one album gets done thinking everyone that liked your first albums is still on the same page as you when in reality your classic rock trip won't be relevant for another 15 years. One too many shows is done playing way too much new songs, while you really need to play some songs people know and want to hear, if you want them to keep coming back so you can keep on touring, just stuff like that really. Besides, we were already kind of drifting apart personally, developing very different motivations for being where we were. Which wasn't nearly as far as we thought we were.
- How did you handle your fans' reaction? Was the feedback the way you expected it to be? Was there any extreme reaction on your new material?
- It certainly seemed the more people hated our stuff, the more we started writing in that direction. Especially Soul Survivor, some people took that one as a personal insult. That did kind of hurt sometimes, people just shitting on something which was actually a meticulously written and painstakingly put together album by a band that could have taken a much more obvious route but instead tried to do something different. Quite bravely too, I think, especially in JC's case. He just didn't have the voice that those songs called for, but he did go through with it as best as he saw fit and just went for it, and that takes balls.
We got quite a few people comparing Soul Survivor to stuff that Entombed or Carcass were doing. Sure enough, they were feeling their ways into similar territory, but Soul Survivor was way, WAY more explicitly 70's hard rock than either of those bands ever went. It also almost broke up Gorefest. We were encountering such animosity that it started taking the enjoyment out of our shows and more importantly the friendship between ourselves. We more or less found each other again in the pleasure of just playing music by doing some tribute shows playing songs from Black Sabbath, Deep Purple and AC/DC. Again, a move a lot of people hated us for, but just rehearsing those songs and doing those shows by ourselves without any crew, did a great deal for us as a band and it resulted in my favorite Gorefest album. Chapter 13 was conceived and written much in the way we wrote False, and I personally can hear a lot of that '92 spirit in that album, certainly by way of experimentation and the way we all added to the songwriting. Also, Chapter 13 probably has the best flow of any Gorefest album. We've always taken great care of the track order and trying to make that part of the album's identity, and with this one everything just fell into place. That's the one Gorefest album I can't imagine having any other structure.
Musically, we learnt a great deal on both Soul Survivor and Chapter 13, things that we only really got to use properly on the first reunion album La Muerte. It might not be obvious to outsiders, but I can hear those albums in almost every song on La Muerte.
- However, the band split-up in 1998. What was the reason for it? What did you do all the time up to your re-union in 2005? And who was the main initiator of your comeback?
- We'd just come back from supporting Judas Priest doing their European tour for Jugulator - their somewhat buried Ripper years. They were playing 6 to 8000-seaters which was basically small potatoes to them but HUGE for us, haha. We had nothing to lose and everything to gain on that tour. We figured the Priest crowds were never going to enjoy, let alone be familiar with our early stuff so we just did recent songs, and most nights we got away with that pretty well. Now, any band would get a huge boost from a tour like that, if not commercial than most certainly personal, but for us it kind of went the other way. Gorefest just fell apart after that. Somehow, getting together and doing what we were supposed to enjoy felt empty and soulless. In short, we'd become spoilt, jaded and in no way worthy of being in a position every other band would kill for. So thankfully, we stopped being a band. We all went our separate ways, doing our own stuff. Ed and Boudewijn had their Thin Lizzy tribute band Live & Dangerous. Ed worked on several projects, most notably Arjen Lucassen's Star One. JC flirted with the 80's in Coldpop Culture, and I tagged along with local heavy rockers The Hollow Men. It wasn't until 2004 when JC and Boudewijn got to talking again, and from there plans were laid for a friendly get together to catch up on each other and get drunk.
- "La Muerte" was a really solid and interesting album. How long did you work on the new songs? Was your return to rather rough and brutal sound intentional or was it your natural call to the roots, let's say?
- So we found ourselves in the same room together again in late summer 2004. Some personal stuff got dealt with and we figured we'd been through too much together to not at least try and see if there was something left for us to say, musically. We got together, jammed some old songs and pretty quickly came up with some stuff that got us going real good. It might have been the six year stretch during which at least three of us had not actually played anything remotely metal - EVERYTHING will sound huge to your re-sensitized ears after that - but it honestly felt really good and right to be there in the old hangout making some noise between the four of us. So after a couple of beers we decided Gorefest should reunite. Which we did.
La Muerte was written much in the way False and Chapter 13 were. High spirits, inspired, playful, and reverential of old and new masters. We've always put nods, winks and little tributes to bands or songs we dig into our songs, really just to enjoy ourselves. La Muerte is filled with them - from Led Zeppelin to Metal Church to Jeff Wayne's War Of The Worlds to Danzig to Enslaved, and heaps more. It was written relatively quickly though. As always Boudewijn was very productive, but during the six years off, Ed had taught himself to play guitar, and had started writing riffs and coming up with cool stuff as well. Adding my own ideas and songs we had plenty of material. It shows in the length of the album, we kind of threw everything we had at it and that resulted in an album which was maybe a bit too long. I still like it a lot though, I listened to it a couple of times recently and I kept finding bits 'n bobs I'd forgotten about but are really really cool - at least to me anyway, haha. Listening to this album can make me feel really proud of having been a part of this band.
- At that time, how was the album received by your fans? Was the feedback as you expected it to be? How could you comment on such unusual tracks as "Rogue State" and instrumental "La Muerte"?
- I think it was received quite well, or at least as far as reunion albums go. You get thrown on the reunion cash-in pile pretty easily, and deservedly so considering you threw away most of your claims to any respect when you split up as jaded as Gorefest did years before. Still, I think our commitment to the songs did shine through and the people that gave it more than one listen picked up on that.
I can't think of Rogue State as very unusual for Gorefest, but I guess you're referring to the chorus - I think that was just something JC wanted to try out and it kind of stuck. It's Pink Floyd of course, though I don't think that was intentional. JC is not much of a Floyd fan, but Ed and me are, so it might have wormed itself into JC's brain subconsciously somehow.
La Muerte's titlesong was entirely conceived and written by Boudewijn. It's been played only once in it's existence, by all of us separately. We all learned the song while recording it with Boudewijn talking us through it from A to Z. It's very much a 'headphones' kind of piece, a nine minute listening experience. We all thought it was the perfect way to end the album, and I still think it is. It's our Call of Ktulu I guess, haha.
- Sadly, the following album, "Rise to Ruin" became your last one. Why did you split up for the second time? Do you think that at that point you reached everything you wanted to say with Gorefest or is there still a chance to see you on the road once again?
- Rise To Ruin brought us full circle back to our death metal roots. Together with Mindloss and its demos those recordings are the most death metal Gorefest ever got. Even False got lambasted for not being death metal enough, and Erase was nothing of the sort of course. Rise To Ruin is, compositionally, a collaboration between Boudewijn and Ed. They worked quite hard on it, and both being very stubborn and convinced of themselves, tensions rose pretty high from what I understand. So high that something snapped which was never resolved. That wasn't the direct motivation for splitting up a second time but it certainly left its mark.
We did about a hundred shows during our second run. Though it all started off fine, along the way old habits, gripes and grievances have a way of creeping up. You can't really help it, they just do. And before you know it, you arrive at a point where all talking ceases and once again you become this spoilt, rigid entity that fails to appreciate the situation it's in. So this time, we decided we'd just kill and bury it for good. Which we did.
Having said that, I do think those two albums rounded off and completed our body of work really well. Especially considering Gorefest has only been active as a band for about 13 years.