Originally published in ‘zine issue #2, 1991
Holland’s death metal band Asphyx signed to Century Media Records, which released The Rack, for which Martin van Drunen did phoners all day long. Martin had a lot to say about the subjects we covered when he called me for the interview in the late afternoon.
D.U.: Do you think death metal is bigger in Holland or here in the U.S.?
Martin: I think in the U.S. it’s bigger. Actually, I cannot really say, ‘cause if I take an area which is as big as Holland, [which] is about 15 times as small as Texas, and if you do about 7 shows all over the country, every hall is packed with four or five hundred people. So I dunno. I cannot answer the question, actually, a hundred percent, but I guess if you take the whole population, then maybe in Holland it’s bigger. It’s really hard to compare. Holland is so small, you know? It’s like a fly compared to America. [laugh]
How is the underground scene in Holland right now?
It’s as big as in Sweden. There’s so many good young Dutch bands coming up. It’s incredible. Um, Acrostichon is really good. A girl as a singer. She’s really awesome. And then we have Gorefest, have put an album out. Dead Head is pretty good. We have Sinister and Dead End. In our area there’s a band called at this moment Psycho Terror, but they’re real young talented dudes. I mean, there’s a lot more. I can’t find the names right now. It’s really incredible for a small country like Holland and that the scene is so good. And you know, every band is getting along real well with each other. There’s absolutely no quarrel, there’s no jealousy, there’s just fun and respect for each other.
Is there some sort of climate in Holland that’s breeding all these death metal bands?
No, the typical is, the social security system in Holland is probably the best in the world. And we are allowed to smoke weed and everything, so everything is really free. But I don’t really know where the whole boom comes from. But I can only, um, speculate on this one that, I mean, I think people are bored with the whole circumstances of everything at this moment. Everybody’s satisfied about life, about whatever, and they are looking for something else. And prob’ly that will be death metal. I dunno. They looking for something maybe to shock, maybe to, you know, just get rid of their aggression or frustration because there’s nothing really to do. There’s no action. I think people are looking for action and maybe death metal is giving that.
Do you agree with the United States’ foreign policy towards Holland or the European Community?
[flatly] Absolutely not. I think they interfere way too much in other peoples’ business. Well, before I start talking, you should know that, actually, I am against any kind of form of political systems, you know? It’s not that I’m an anarchist. Well, maybe in a kind of way that is, but, um, I just disagree with all kinds of political systems. I mean, in Holland we have a real good democracy system, but still there’s all kinds of things which are totally wrong. ‘Cause, you know, you got this power struggle all the time. Everybody’s fighting for more power than the other one has.
And my opinion about humanity, mankind or whatever, is that people make business out of things what actually belongs to the Earth, you know? [That] belongs to all mankind and stuff like that. So, you know, it’s kind of a weird opinion.
So you haven’t found a system that you agree with? One that works?
Yeah, well, in Holland it works, but still the politicians are corrupt. You still hear things that they do which they are not allowed to do, and because they are politicians they don’t get into jail. They just get for a, uh, how you call it, parliamentary commission, something like that. And then they get some kind of a warning, but they put 30 millions in their pocket. And that’s what bothering me. And other people, you know, they scratch bread from the gutter, and they get busted for stealing from the supermarket a pack of cigarettes. So, I mean, something is terribly wrong. But it’s better to live in Holland, in a so-called democracy, than living in China where they call it a communist regime, and it’s totally dictatorship, if you know what I mean. It’s a bit hard to explain it in another language, actually. [laugh] But seeing it for myself, I’m against any political system. Just like the Earth belongs to mankind, and mankind should share what they get and not making business out of it.
It’s not that I’m against U.S. politics or whatever. My dad, for example, or I am very grateful that they helped us out in the war, you know. If they didn’t show up, we still would be suffering under the German regime, Adolf Hitler or whatever. I mean, that’s okay, but they get mixed up in for example the E.C. I can imagine that the American economy, whatever, is pretty scared of that, because then Europe is a strong force then, you know? All the countries are then together, and they don’t have all these tax problems that don’t work as small countries. But then, you know, about the whole continent works then together, and then the whole economical force is a lot bigger than it is now. So I think that what the Americans are trying to do is, um [pause] yeah, well, how do I explain this? I think that they’re trying to stop a bit of the whole E.C. process that is going on right now, because they are scared of the country. They trying to interfere, actually, in things, and they still have Europe under control in somehow, economical or, well—
More powerful in trade and stuff like that.
Yeah, in trade and everything. They don’t have any fear for Europe, y’know? In things like, uh, shit, what will you have? Well, things like gas or oil. There are all kinds of high economical valued stuff, if you know what I mean. [laugh] This is the first question that I get [like] this today, you know? It’s hard to explain. You have to explain, you know, some things in Dutch that it is really hard to find a real word or sentence or whatever. [laughs]
“They are fuckin’ politicians and they always manage to get themselves out of trouble.”
When you came to the U.S., when you were still in Pestilence, what impression of the people here did you get?
Friendly. Really friendly. Actually the South, I expected it to have a lot of racism and rednecks and all kinds of stuff, and people who have something against guys with long hair, you know, like cops or people in supermarkets, but everybody was treating us really friendly.
And then if you speak about fans, I mean, all over the world they are the same, you know? They hunt for autographs, they try to talk to you and have a good time. But I thought Texas was more violent than anywhere else in the U.S. Especially the Houston gig was pretty violent. A pretty violent crowd was there. That’s why Death didn’t play. And it ended up as a big riot and 20 police cars were there and helicopters and everything. It was a real mess. But the fans were really great, and the gigs that we played were great gigs. We really had a great time.
Do you think that a lot of Pestilence fans discovered Asphyx when you left Pestilence and joined Asphyx? Did a lot of fans follow you and become Asphyx fans?
Yeah, I think so. Well, that’s something that just happens. I mean, just another example, it’s the same kind of thing if Steve Vai leaves Whitesnake. You know, he takes a lot of fans with him. Maybe that’s not a good—
It’s the same principle.
Yeah, it’s the same principle. Yeah, that’s what I mean. I think because of my performances, of course, on the tour, which were, you know, if I go with all the people’s reactions and everything, everybody seemed to like it. So, I mean, they like then my voice, and they like the way I do on the stage, so I always take a lot of fans with me. So then I guess so, which is inevitable.
How did the Asphyx fans from the Crush the Cenotaph days react to you when you joined?
Well, most of the time, [of] all the mail we get, let’s say that 95 percent, they like it a lot that I joined Asphyx. Everybody says, like, it’s a lot better for Asphyx. The voice is a lot better than it was. And, you know, there are maybe five percent die hard underground freaks, I dunno, and they go, like, “Well, who is this guy?” and “We like Theo* a lot more.” But I think they are those guys that always, as soon as a band has a record out, they don’t consider it as an underground band anymore, you know? And these guys, they always trying to stay in this underground, and if some band they liked made a CD, even if it’s independent, then they still looking for another demo band which they can say, “Well, this is great.” I mean, actually, I think it’s pretty dumb in some way. But most of the reaction is totally positive. Overwhelming, actually.
Since you went from a band with a record deal to a band that still had demos—
No, Asphyx had already the deal with Century Media before I joined. That’s a mistake that a lot of people make. [But] everything turned out to be just great.
By the way, we recorded these [Crush the Cenotaph] songs on an EP, so two songs off that demo are now on an EP and I sing on this. It comes out in August, I hope. We can bring it in Europe as a 12”, but for America we have to do or a tape or a CD, because, you know, records almost don’t sell here. So we try to maybe record or another song or we do maybe a couple of live tracks, on just a mini CD maybe. It’s one new song and it’s two old songs.
And it’s not because, um, we wanted to make more money. It’s actually because a lot of people write us, “Why are the songs from Crush the Cenotaph not on the album?” Well, at that time we had all these new songs, and we had enough songs to fill an album with. And Bob [drums] and Eric [guitar] told me, like, “We don’t want these demo songs, ‘cause the other songs are better.” And [the EP is] totally different, actually, from the tape, with my vocals on it and the whole production is really good.
Do you like the production on The Rack?
Oh, I still love it. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with structure of the songs and all. I’m still standing a hundred percent behind The Rack, but it is probably the cheapest album ever recorded. It only cost a thousand dollars, the whole recordings. So it’s an eight-track album, and, you know, it’s about the cheapest way to get one. So now for that EP we got an offer from Century Media to do it in a better-equipped studio. And now the guitars and everything is so much better and brighter than on The Rack.
Well, that’s all the questions I have. Thank you very much for calling, and I thought that you had really great answers for the questions I asked you.
Okay, thank you very much. I enjoyed it, ‘cause, you know, it was really different from the rest of the interviews. But I gotta set one thing straight. Um, what I said about the Dutch government. The stuff is corrupt, right? But, I mean, in America is the same way, I guess. There are corrupt politicians here as well. There are a couple affairs in the past that happened. And what I meant to say is that every government in this world is corrupt, you know? Nobody is doing it a hundred percent really good. They all try to be putting more in their pocket that they actually earn or that they actually deserve, whatever. Everybody wanted to make more money than another.
What I’m trying to say is that it’s not that we have a dictator or whatever, but he was at one time, he did something corrupt and he didn’t get punished to that, and that’s what, you know, it’s annoying me. But they don’t get punished for that because they are fuckin’ politicians. And they always manage to get themselves out of trouble. But, I mean, the normal guy, whatever, who is unemployed, if he steals a bread, he gets punished for that. “You bad guy. You fuckin’ asshole. You should be in jail. You should be punished for this.” And then they complain about the high criminality rates. It’s all so irrational, so stupid.
Very. Are you gonna write a song about it?
“The Krusher” on the new one is actually about that. On that one I convict actually the Earth. It’s a really doomy song, but it’s the first time I expressed my feelings on paper. I try to make a real brutal lyric, but with myself into it. If you read the lyrics, you should imagine a kind of celestial force that watches down the Earth, and he’s the prosecutor, he’s the witness, he’s the judge and the executioner at the same time. So at first he sees the whole history of the Earth and the history of mankind and all these wars going on, and still in a couple of thousands years, nothing has changed. But in the early days, the wars that went on were just with axes and swords and everything, but right now they have nuclear weapons and they can totally destroy the whole Earth. And they still don’t seem to learn anyway. So what I do is that, you know, mankind has never learned in the whole past and everything, from all the wars and all the bullshit that went on. And the force that looks on the planet then says, like, “Okay, this is enough. We tried hard. Now they got nuclear weapons. Now they got all this stuff. Why shouldn’t I just destroy this Earth before they themselves do it?” So that’s what the song is mainly about, and it’s also my own opinion, actually. ‘Cause I don’t see this going on for about more than a hundred years with all these weapons. It’s really hard to explain it.
Okay, thanks for your interest in everything. ■
*Theo Loomans, the former bassist/vocalist