When you conduct an email interview you never know what sort of answers you’re going to get back. Sometimes you get a couple of sentences and have to flesh it out, other times you get huge answers that do my job for me. This is one of those times. My thanks to Rowan Roodbaert and Lars Nachtbraecker of Heidevolk for giving some excellent, in depth answers to the questions below.
How did the writing process for Velua differ from previous records (if there was a difference?)
Rowan: A good Q to start with! For inspiration we took a part of the Netherlands called “de Veluwe”. It is a slice of nature with beautiful heathlands and stunning woodlands. It has a lot of myths and legends that are tied to it. Tales about murderous brigands, luring will o’ wisps, evil-minded goblins, ancient gods and the stunning beauty of nature itself.
For example the tale of Herboren in Vlammen about Gloeiende Gerrit (Glowing Gerrit). Out of jealousy he murders his brother and wife on their wedding night. As punishment Gerrit will never find peace in death but he ignites in flames every night and runs across the heathlands. Then we have the more upbeat songs like Hallen van mijn vaderen that sings the praises of the undying beauty of nature, or Drankgelag, about a tavern where the weary travellers can rest their bones.
We’ve tried to create an atmosphere that carries the listener away to these mythical landscapes and the stories that are tied to it. Velua itself is a storybook that brings you these tales both in music and lyrics. For this we fitted every song to the story while writing. So you get the atmosphere of the story…even if your Dutch sucks hehe.
Production wise we took a different routine as well. With previous albums we stuck to a write-rehearse-record routine that left us always with a feeling songs didn’t reach the level of “real completion.” We always had comments on how things could be better…after it was finished. With Batavi we’ve improved the songwriting and although good, it lacked a bit of the liveliness we are known for onstage. For Velua we had a whole new approach on the album production. We’ve made a demo and a preproduction for every song before entering the studio. I made a home studio where I could record everything but the drums. Even vocals, I’ve build my own vocal booth for that (and to avoid a fight with my neighbours of course). I recorded the basic lines at home, we rehearsed the songs and we added lines and other changes. Then the guitarists, vocalists and drummer came over to my place to work on their lines. We took some time to listen to the songs. We added things, left things out and even rewrote some parts. When we were happy with it we entered the studio.
Video for Winter Woede
How was the release show for the CD?
Lars: It was rather overwhelming. Almost 700 people showed up for this show. Because the album was released a month earlier a lot of them knew the songs and could already sing along. The string ensemble that also joined us on the album also joined us on stage. That was a great addition and something we want to do more often. It was also the last show with Mark and Reamon, so for them it was one final blowout. We made it a big party rather than an emotional goodbye, because that is the Heidevolk style. They both left as friends. Overall it was amazing.
With two members leaving, is there any trepidation about future shows?
Lars: For now we’ll be doing this year’s shows with the Paganfest Line-up with Jacco (from Conoragh) on vocals and Kevin Storm (from Autumn) on guitar. Jacco and Kevin have proven themselves to be amazing live performers plus they’re also all-round great guys to hang out and party with. In the mean time we’ll of course be looking for permanent replacements for Mark and Reamon. I sure hope it doesn’t take too long. I’m already sick of being the new guy, heheh.
Rowan: like Lars said. Consistency is key here. We have only just begun promoting Velua so live-shows are priority nr.1. In the meantime we will search for replacement to become a steady line-up once again.
With the departure coming at the start of Velua’s promotional campaign it would be easy to talk too much about the split instead of Velua so I’ll move on. The album has been out for around a month now, how are you finding the reception to it from the fans compared to Batavi/older albums?
Lars: The reception has been really good. We’ve had mostly good reactions to the album. There are a few people who don’t think the album is hard enough compared to Batavi, but we think the songs have a great atmosphere that fits the stories and legends of Velua. Batavi was mostly a war-inspired album that called for a rougher approach. Velua is thematically different and so is the music. We’re proud to say we were even in the Dutch mainstream album charts for one week, which is not an easy thing to achieve, especially as a metal band.
Is there a song from the album you can imagine making regular appearances in the setlists in years to come?
Lars: The songs from the two new videos (Winter Woede and Urth) of course. But also Drankgelag, which is kind of our new drinking anthem. We did those at the Paganfest tour and they were really fun to play. Herboren in vlammen is also a good option… There are so many good songs on the album, we’ll just have to try them out and see which ones stick most I think.
Rowan: Definitely! We’ve also played Vinland live and. This one turns out to be a headbanger and a sing along! Also de hallen van mijn vaderen and een met de storm are real biters and lets not forget our interpretation of the Rebel Yell. If it would be up to us we would play the whole album live every night!
You’re going to tour America for the second time, how was the first tour and what can the US fans expect from round two?
Rowan: Ah, the first time across the Atlantic, goooood memories. Actually when we got invited we didn’t really know what to expect. Well, we had seen the messages on Facebook and we had quite a few emails but a month of touring is something different than a few invites. The first show we did was in Denver, this was great and we quietly hoped this would be the standard for the tour. After 4 or 5 shows we just couldn’t believe what was going on. Every night the venues were packed and everyone went crazy during the set. It was unreal and mindblowing! So yeah, we had fun.
With shows like Vikings renewing a general interest in mythology, have you found new interest from fans who aren’t typically metal fans lately?
Lars: Interesting thought. I think there might be new non-metalhead fans but I haven’t actually seen a lot of them. Of course I can’t look into people’s minds to see what kind of music they normally listen to.
Rowan: During the years we were invited to quite a few “mainstream viking or celtic teamed” festivals. That is the good thing when you have “something” to sing about. Music and concept can appeal to a listener separately and both can be a reason to visit a concert or to pick up and album. We also had a few interviews about this in newspapers and even with national television. It is nice to share some thoughts with other people about this.
Video for Urth
A lot of bands in this style of music sing in their own language, is this done to give more of a “pagan” appearance to other countries do you think, or is it more a case of being proud of your heritage?
Lars: I think it’s to do with pride. It’s also spreading to other sub-genres nowadays. I think it’s a good thing. Though I don’t mind English lyrics I prefer people singing in their own tongue. It sounds more fresh to me. I especially like black metal in the native language of the bands. There are so many bands who sing in English, almost everything that can be said, has been said in English. Ironically, we’ve just released our first English language song called Vinland.
What does the remainder of 2015 have in store for the band?
Lars: Touring, drinking, writing, playing, … other things that and with -ing haha. We have a lot of shows all over Europe and of course we have the U.S. tour. With Velua we have started a new era with the band and we’ll make further plans from here. I want to assure our fans that whatever we’ll be doing, it’ll be Heidevolk.
Rowan: I don’t think I’ve anything to add to that other than we hope you’ll give Velua a listen and we hope to see you at one of our shows soon!
Velua is out now via Napalm Records.
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