Interview with Dennie Grondelaers (vocals) and Dries Gaerdelen (keyboards)
August 9th, 2015 @ Bloodstock Open Air Festival
Interview by Melanie Brehaut
Self-described ‘epic black metal’ band Saille hail from Belgium and write grandiose stories about death, destruction and darkness. The band formed in 2009 and have so far released three albums on Code666 Records.
Melanie Brehaut caught up with vocalist Dennie Grondelaers and keyboardist Dries Gaerdelen at this year’s Bloodstock festival to chat about live shows, large versus small music festivals, and an exclusive snippet on the concept of their new album…
Welcome to the UK! You must be looking forward to playing the world famous Bloodstock Festival?
Dennie (vocalist): yes, we are quite happy to be here. It’s a very nice festival.
Dries (keyboards): we are really looking forward to it.
Is this your first time playing?
Dries: yes! We have played several shows in the UK already, and gotten a great response, great crowds. We’re hoping it will be the same when we get onstage here.
I’m sure it will! You describe yourselves as ‘epic black metal’. How does that make you unique in the black metal genre?
Dries: Well I think I can answer that. We started off as symphonic black metal because we have keyboards – I’m the keyboard player – so we had to put a name on it. But I don’t like, myself, bands that call themselves black metal and overuse the keyboards, who have keyboards everywhere. We use keyboards to make our sound bigger, more epic. Not to have all the details and all the leads and other things going through the keyboards.
Dennie: it’s black metal, it’s guitar based, guitars and drums. It doesn’t need to be overly keyboards, keyboards are an extra. That’s why we decided to drop the ‘symphonic’, because people tend to get the wrong idea with that name. We searched for something else: melodic black metal was also a possibility. But as everyone is inventing their own style we just decided that ‘epic black metal’ fits. And I like bands like that, that have the demonic artwork and all that stuff, so we decided to go for it. I hope it’s clear for the people that read ‘epic black metal’, they can have an idea of how we sound.
It definitely paints a mental picture.
Have you bought any of your classical instruments?
Dries: with us today? No. It’s an organisational nightmare!
I was going to say, does that present extra challenges to playing live!
Dries: We do have some organisers…like, we are playing at a festival in Austria at the end of the month which explicitly asks for the violins, so we will be playing that one with the violins. But we need to prepare that well – we need to rehearse, actually.
Dennie: it’s also easier to do it Belgium because of the logistics and stuff.
So will it be a more stripped back sound today?
Dries: no, all will sound the same, just with samples.
Dennie: Most of the instruments are sampled. So you will get the full sound; visually it’s one less person onstage.
Dries: which isn’t too bad with a small stage (laughs).
Where do you get your inspiration from when you create music?
Dries: ooh that’s a difficult one!
Dennie: I think music-wise it’s a bit of everything.
Dries: I think we just make what we like ourselves.
Dennie: I think for instance, people compare us to bands like Dimmu Borgir and stuff, but I really don’t hear it. Then you’ve got stuff like Jonathan (Vanderwal, guitarist) is quite into stuff like Shining, so when he writes it sounds like Shining stuff. Then Renier (Schenk, guitars) and I are into stuff like Pain so in our stuff you can hear that vibe. And Dries is more into melodic stuff, with more keyboards.
Dries: So you just write something, you find something. It can be just looking at a picture. I try to get myself in a quiet mood in the stressed days that everyone is living in, take some time off and hopefully inspiration will just come automatically. I sit behind my piano and just do my thing.
Dennie: lyric-wise we have one main concept, which is the beauty of destruction, and from there we just go on. Every album has a new concept; the first album was apocalyptic events, the second album was about death rites and that sort of thing, third album was a sort of case study into horror literature – Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Edgar Allan Poe was the main concept. The next album will be something else…
I was going to ask, is there any sign of the new album? Is anybody writing?
Dennie: yes, we’ve recently decided more or less what the concept is going to be. It’s going to be, here’s a little surprise, about pain and suffering, that will be the main concept, that’s how it’s going to end up. ‘How’ is for us to know and for you to know in the future (laughs). So we have a couple of shows in the next couple of months and then we will start writing the songs.
Dries: set the mainframe up and start working! We want the songs and the lyrics to relate perfectly. It’ll take some time.
Where are heading next after Bloodstock?
Dennie: the next show is in the Netherlands, Tattoofest, and the week after – the last week in August – we have a show in Austria. Then two more festivals in Holland to finish the season and then we have some unannounced shows and then we have time to write.
(Video courtesy of Martin Newman, posted to the band’s Facebook page)
What are your ambitions for the band? Do you see yourself headlining a festival like Bloodstock one day?
Dennie: I don’t have any real goals. We’ve just got a wave, we’re riding the wave, and we’re trying to get whatever we can get. It’s not like we don’t have any ambitions but we are not “yeah we wanna do that!” and then we’re disappointed in a few years if we didn’t achieve it.
Dries: So yes, it would be cool if we could do ‘that’ or do ‘that’ but it’s not like we’re just branded on doing those things. It would be nice to headline festivals like this one…
Dennie: we’re waiting on the next epic black metal revival to happen (laughs). If it happens, we have a good chance of being on the front line!
Dries: I always think that you should get the maximum out of every opportunity. We started a band, now we need to get as much out of the band as possible. If it’s possible to record albums and do festivals like this then that’s perfect. It means a lot of hard work but you get something in return you know? Like being here on a nice day with some beers and good music…that’s what it’s all about.
And some very non-British weather!
Dennie: apparently it’s been burning my skin all day!
Everyone’s all shiny with sunscreen…usually it’s all wellies and umbrellas!
Dennie: I’ve been pretty brave, I haven’t been using sunscreen!
Dries: we are evil black metal…
Dennie: yeah fuck it! (laughs).
You’ll be red metal soon! Anyway, final question: what’s your ideal festival lineup if you got to choose all the bands?
Dennie: if I had the opportunity it would probably be Watain, Dissection and The Devil’s Blood – too bad – two out of three are impossible…but yeah, that would be my festival.
Headliners, even? Apart from yourselves of course!
Dries: I don’t see ourselves as being a headlining band. I mean, evolving, possibly, but not now. You need much more to be a headlining band. You need much more crew, and visuals and ideas worked out. It takes more than just being a band to be a headlining band, you need a whole team around you . So I dunno…(pauses). I think I’ve seen everyone I’ve wanted to see as a headliner already, I’ve seen Mayhem, we’ve played with Mayhem – that was nice – we’ve seen Dissection, we’ve seen Emperor…I think Emperor would be my headlining band, I think they should start again, touring etc.
Dennie: they played here last year.
Dries: We should have been here. Stupid me! (laughs).
Do you think you would come back here just as a punter, just to watch?
Dries: yeah, now that we’ve seen how the festival is, it’s really great.
Dennie: It’s more relaxed than the European mainland festivals. I’ve been here the entire weekend and it’s been really great. Just really laid back and relaxed.
I’ve been to larger festivals and I think this is a good size. It’s not exhausting walking from one stage to another!
Dennie: me and my friends are staying at the far end of the camping and to walk to the other end is, like, five minutes…if you did something like that at Graspop you’d lose thirty minutes!
Dries: Wacken Open Air you’re losing forty-five minutes!
They are getting very, very big…
Dries: I can understand, as a festival organisation if you’re growing and you’re selling out each year, you need to expand. But at a certain point it just gets…very big.
Dennie: it would be nice if they would just be brave – that’s my personal opinion, just be brave and put on a lineup that would be less popular with big crowds. Less mainstream.
I think that’s what this place (Bloodstock) is.
Dennie: even though it has Trivium and Rob Zombie and Within Temptation, it’s still for some reason less mainstream than events like Limp Bizkit…Graspop last year had Limp Bizkit, where this year it was Judas Priest.
Judas Priest got a big crowd at Download this year…
Dries: they deserve a big crowd. If it wasn’t for Judas Priest bringing in at least fifteen thousand people…
Dennie: That’s the problem with mainstream metal festivals. Obviously they need to spend money on bands but to get the money they need big bands, and to get big bands they need to get a certain amount of people…I don’t know if it can be controlled, and I don’t know if they really want to have this sort of music festival, mainstream but metal. But things are out of their hands at a certain point.
Dries: I think the best thing to do would be to have Download festival on the other side of Britain! Same festival, same size – everyone’s happy.
Have one in Scotland or something!
Dries: yeah! If you don’t have to travel that far, it’s much easier to convince people to go.
Dennie: we have some travelling of our own to do today…twelve hour drive to Dover and then take the boat, and then drive back home and deliver the van. And then working tomorrow!
Oh my goodness! Well thank you very much for your time today.
Dennie: thank you!
Dries: yes, thank you.