Metal Mofos’ Isaac Sauers dives into some questions with Dutch metal band Slechtvalk’s founder Shamgar.
Metal Mofos: When you first formed Slechtvalk it was just you. Did you play all the instruments on your first album? How did you end up finding other members?
Shamgar: After several failed attempts to form a band, I decided to focus on just writing songs. I programmed the drums, because that’s one instrument I can’t play. I also programmed the keyboards and bass, because it was more convenient for me during the songwriting process, so I could focus on the song compositions, instead of fixing my own mistakes. I was looking into the cost of publishing a demo on tape when I chatted with Jeff Dereszynski and that he might know a label that could be interested in releasing it to CD. Meanwhile I also talked with Raffi Trapman, who ran a local mail-order called Fear Dark and when I told him about my plans, he offered me the same opportunity. I decided to work with Fear Dark and after some re-recordings of the guitars and vocals, they had it mixed in a studio and release Slechtvalk’s first album on CD.
Through Raffi, I came in contact with Grimbold, who played drums in his old band. Later, Grimbold met Ohtar at a concert and they talked about Slechtvalk’s debut album and that I was looking for bandmembers and friends from the band NATAN introduced me to Premnath. The remaining members of the line-up I met through an internet community. Before the debut-album I couldn’t find the bandmembers I needed, but after it went pretty smoothly.
MM: Each of your albums sounds different than the one before which is a fun thing. How do you keep Slechtvalk’s sound fresh?
Shamgar:I get bored rather quickly. My album collection mostly consists of single albums of many different bands, instead of several albums of a few bands, because often I get the impression bands are re-using riffs from older albums or try to keep writing the same kind of album that got them famous. Some people love that, but I tend to get bored. So through the years I listen to a lot of different bands & styles and I tend to cherry pick an aspect that appeals to me most, to see if I can use something similar in the songs I write. The result is that each Slechtvalk song is a little different from the other and we believe that we’re still progressing musically so each album sounds more mature.
MM: Does the design of your logo with the bird have a meaning?
Shamgar:’Slechtvalk’ is the dutch name for ‘Peregrine Falcon’. During the first 10 years we had an unreadable blackmetal logo, but it was not even symmetric and seemed rather amateuristic to us, while we believed that the album we were working on (A Forlorn Throne – 2010) was much more professional and warranted a more mature logo. We asked Raymond Swanland (who designed the cover artwork for that album) to design a logo for us and a falcon-crest.
MM: Who are some of your biggest influences in music or some of your all time favorite bands?
Shamgar:I think the biggest influences for our new album ‘Where Wandering Shadows and Mists Collide’ would be bands like ‘Immortal’, ‘Amon Amarth’, ‘As I Lay Dying’, ‘Opeth’, ‘Empyrium’, ‘Ensiferum’, ‘Naglfar’ and ‘Borknagar’. Of these, I’d think only Immortal and Empyrium would be some of my all time favorites. Other all time favorites, which still have influence on our music, would probably include ‘Drottnar’, ‘Dawn’ & ‘Dark Funeral’. Depending on my mood, my most favorite band would probably be ‘Summoning’, but I reserve my highly Summoning-influenced musical themes for one of my side-projects.
MM: What’s the secret to being a successful extreme metal vocalist? How does your voice last through a whole performance?
Shamgar:I heard there are whole Youtube-video lessons about the best techniques, but I probably wouldn’t know how exactly I do it. It’s the result of 20 years of Trial and Error: Whenever I try something different either it hurts real fast (and I quit doing it) or it seems to be going alright, after which I try the same thing more often until it actually starts to sound better. For instance grunts: When Ohtar (who did the grunting) decided to quit playing live, I had to take over his parts. At first it either sounded horrible or it would leave me voiceless rather quick. I decided to focus on the thing I did that sounded horrible, but didn’t hurt my voice, and over time the sound of my grunts improved. After getting used to grunting a bit, I would experiment and discovered that the other technique that left me speechless, wasn’t as damaging anymore.
Anyway during gigs (due to the adrenaline rush it gives me) I like to experiment , but there is always a danger there. If my voice is tired, I fall back to the styles I’m most familiar with, but if I’m full of energy it’s much easier to do that new thing I’m working on.
MM:Could you please tell me about the writing and recording process for your new album, Where Wandering Shadows and Mists Collide?
Shamgar:I’m the most productive songwriter in Slechtvalk (although Seraph and Premnath also come up with cool riffs) and generally I try to create a full song by myself, before I present it to the others. However sometimes I come up with a new riff during rehearsals and when the drummer joins in the rest comes up naturally, until inspiration runs dry and then it’s best to do something else. My main advice to other aspiring songwriters is to never force yourself to finish a song. If you get stuck and can’t seem to come up with that great bridge or killer-ending, just leave the song as it is and focus on other songs. When you pick it up months later, that riff you were looking for just pops up naturally.
During each album-recording we learn something new. We weren’t that well prepared when we recorded our previous album ‘A Forlorn Throne’. We thought we would have plenty of time to think of a good solo or something in the studio, but unfortunately we didn’t. When preparing for ‘Where Wandering Shadows and Mists Collide’, we decided to record a demo-version a few months before the actual studio recordings. By listening to the demo-version, we often came up with new ideas (effects, another lead-guitar or atmospheric 2nd melody) that would add to a song’s atmosphere or that it was already too crowded. When recording the new album in the studio, we actually had time left to try out different ideas we had.
MM: Do you write all the lyrics? Is there a theme or inspiration that comes to you when writing a song?
Shamgar:I’ve written all the lyrics of the new album and generally base them upon things I’ve experienced or struggled with. For example many songs from our previous album ‘A Forlorn Throne’ are based upon my struggle with suicide and my own shortcomings and I wrote the lyrics as a way to deal with it. For the new album, I’ve let myself be inspired by the things that bother me in today’s society. ‘We Are’ deals with the injustice in this world and the two-faced attitude we have, while ‘Wandering Shadows’ is about the dangers of escapism (lose your self in entertainment/drugs, because you can’t cope with the real world) that cause people to neglect their relationships and even their own body. ‘Betrayed’ is about the increasing polarization between groups of people to the point people become hostile over a minor dispute, even though they have the same end-goals.
MM: What is being depicted in the cover art?
Shamgar:The cover art depicts the background story of the song ‘Wandering Shadows’, which is a tale of the city of Falaren, known for its wealth, that slowly fell to ruin after its inhabitants chose to lose themselves in lucid dreams, because they could not face the problems in the world around them. Whem a scout (who originally came from Falaren) investigated what happened to the city, he tried to warn them, but noone heeded his advice and when he tried waking them, they killed him, for they rather kept living in the lie of a dream world than to face the truth of the real world. This story is symbolic of the escapism in this world, where people rather lose themselves in entertainment than living a more balanced life. I was inspired to write this tale after reading some news reports of people killing each other, because of things that happened in a game, or parents who neglected their infant child because of their gaming addiction, and having met someone whose body was visibly deteriorating, because she skipped meals and sleep, just in order to keep playing some MMORPG.
MM: I came to know of Slechtvalk through Christian Metal groups on Facebook. There’s an opinion out there that says Christianity and metal cannot mix and Christian metal is horrible. How do you think this opinion can be changed? There are obviously a lot of talented musicians like yourself putting out great music.
Shamgar:I can understand that people who have been emotionally damaged by Christians that were not really Jesus-like in their approach, would have a lot of reservations listening to music made by Christians. However most people just seem to go with the flow and copy arguments, yet have no clue what Christianity is about and in the process they become just like the institutionalized form of Christianity they say they oppose. If such people are so in favor of free choice and hate Christians for telling them what they can or cannot do, they should stop telling me what I can or cannot do.
If someone doesn’t like our music, just because we are Christians (even though we try to remain respectful towards those with other viewpoints), yet has no problems with listening to bands that preach hatred and disrespect, I think that person should take a look in a mirror and open his eyes to his own imperfections first.
MM: What are your five most favorite Slechtvalk song?
Shamgar:I’d say: ‘My Last Call’, ‘Forsaken’, ‘Enthroned’, ‘Homebound’ and ‘We Are’.
checkbout the lyric video for the song “We Are”.
Purchase Slechtvalk’s music through the link HERE
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