Heart of Steel: Interviews

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Interview With Katafalk's Guitarist, Christiaan

Interview By Luxi Lahtinen

The Dutch metal scene has always been strong and productive over the years, and in my opinion, that country has produced some of the best Death Metal bands during the last decade or so. Now I´m of course referring to bands like Pestilence, Asphyx, God Dethroned, and Gorefest. One of the better newcomers that should be added to this ever-growing line of very promising Dutch extreme Metal act - Katafalk, whose debut album STORM OF THE HORDE just came out on Cold Blood Industries, and has already gained a lot of positive attention in the media, due to its highly energetic, tight and downright brutal Death/Thrash Metal. I got a chance to talk to the band´s guitarist Christiaan. Let´s just cut this short and let the man do the talking and explain more who they are and when they will come and conquer your peaceful - yet relatively quiet reconnaissance next.


First off, try to remember what are the three latest Death Metal albums you have been listening to lately? (not counting your band´s album) What kind of reasons made you to listen to just those particular albums in the first place?

The albums I have been listening to lately are: The Haunted - ONE KILL WONDER, Defleshed - ROYAL STRAIGHT FLESH and Dissection - LIVE LEGACY. Why? Those albums came out not so long ago, plus they are great albums of course!!



So, how would you compare your album to those aforementioned three releases as far as your music is concerned?

STORM OF THE HORDE contains quite a few similar elements. And no matter what you call it: Death, Thrash or Black - it's all 100% metal!! So if you like those albums check our album out, too.


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Katafalk was started some time around in 1995. When you started this band, did you have a clear vision about Katafalk´s musical direction how you wanted this band to sound? Or would you rather say - due to some natural musical progression within the band - this band´s music turned out a bit different than you originally expected?

Of course I had ideas how we should sound, and some of those "rules" still count. First of all, I wanted it to be metal the way it's supposed to be. Not to be old-fashioned or conservative, but I just hate that MTV crap if you know what I mean. Secondly, the songs should be real songs, not just a bunch of riffs piled together. A song needs killer riffs, good melody lines and strong choruses. This counted for the old material as well as for the new material. But I guess you can say there's always gonna be some kind of progression over the years. You'll never know what to expect right from the beginning.



What bands influenced your music in the beginning, and how much did these   influences & inspirations change for the band in general?

Katafalk always had influences from multiple styles like Death, Thrash, Black, and Traditional Metal. On our first demo you could clearly hear a lot of Heavy Metal influences. After some line-up changes, the general interest of the band members turned into faster and more brutal stuff. Some of my influences came from Iron Maiden, Slayer, Dark Angel, Morbid Angel, Dissection, Emperor etc.



What reasons made you sign a deal with Cold Blood Industries in the first place? What matters made their deal more tempting compared to some other offers you had received from other labels?

Cold Blood Industries is run by Henri Sattler of God Dethroned. We did a little tour with God Dethroned and Henri showed interest. CBI was the first to offer us a decent contract. Before that we had recorded a three track promo which we had sent out to labels, with no real results except for some decent ´thanks, but no thanks´ letters from labels like Relapse and Osmose.


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Was there something specific in your search for an ideal record company that you were looking for before signing a contract with them?

CBI is a quality label with a great distribution worldwide, plus their office is right in our hometown Groningen, so they are perfect for us. They are reliable people who do their work excellently. We also got a plenty promotion from them. We did a lot of interviews and were featured in every respectable metal magazine.



As for the songwriting of Katafalk, could you tell to our readers what are the hardest parts to get both music and lyrics done for the band? To find those two or three main yet killer riffs for songs, or come up with good enough lyrics for them?

The lyrics are always added when the music is finished. Of course they have to be good and fit into the music well. About songwriting, only good riffs are to be used for our songs, and only good songs are to be used for our albums. Since it took some time before we got offered a record deal, there were no worries about not having enough songs.


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Most of your music has been written by Christiaan, and the lyrics by Wokkel. Why don´t other guys contribute both music and lyric writing for the band that much? Wouldn´t be easier for the band if everyone took part in the process?

The others simply don't write that much and I always did. Around the time of the 2001, promo bass player Jurjen wrote songs too, but he left the band cause he wanted to play other kind of music. There are two of his songs on the album and he also helped us out on bass for the album. Our new bass player Henk wrote the music for the song STORM OF THE HORDE.



When you work with a new song for the band, are there any specific things in a song you would like to pay more attention to for some reason or other? In which areas you could say you are very good at when talking about songwriting in general? Could you claim that you have extraordinary sharp ears for killer riffs or chorus parts? What are your best parts in this particular process? Feel free to use any superlatives about your song writing skills along with your answer now.

Yeah, killer riffs and strong choruses - that's what really does it. Also catchy song structures and decent melody lines are important to us. No cheap or boring stuff. Like in any kind of music, any song just has to be a good song. Every part of it has to be both exciting and functional.



What are some songwriters that have been very inspirational and influential for you during all these past years, and that have even influenced what Katafalk is all about nowadays musically? And what about some good lyricists that have had some impact on your style to write lyrics for the band?

I like well-structured songwriting of the classic Heavy Metal bands like Iron Maiden, a riff-laden songwriting and intensity of Thrash bands like Slayer and Dark Angel, the dark melody lines of Morbid Angel and Dissection etc. What I know of Wokkel´s lyrics are that most of them are taken from real life - that's where he gets his inspiration from.


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If you should describe Katafalk to someone in a few words, by what words you would use in this particular description?

Killer Death/Thrash, fast and brutal raging metal or something like that, is what we usually use to describe it. It's funny that everyone seems to label our music differently. Some say it's pure Thrash, others say it's straight Death Metal, while even some others tend to call it Black Metal. I guess there's a bit of everything in it.



Would you describe as a typical Katafalk rehearsal situation? How is it actually like? Lots of intense and hard rehearsing, or just a more tension-free event - basically just a relaxed jamming?

We arrive to our rehearsal place and get our gear ready. Usually, Michiel's drum kit is already set up when we arrive. We tune guitars, check the sound, goof around a bit to play warm and then blast off some songs of our set, currently consisting of our entire debut album. When we have done enough of that we work on new songs.



You are quite an experienced live band already. You have already done a number of gigs with such established names as God Dethroned, Thanatos, Sinister, Hypnosia and Occult. Do you consider Katafalk more as a live band than a studio band? Do you believe your songs actually sound better in a live situation compared to a sound you can create in a studio environment? What are some of your personal favorite songs to play live and why do you like to do them more live than possibly the rest of the songs indeed?

Many people consider Katafalk as a great live band and that's quite flattering to hear. I guess our music is great for both playing and seeing/hearing live. I don't know if the songs sound even better live, but seeing us in a live situation you get our total show which involves a lot of sheer headbanging and thrashing! Actually, we recorded many parts of the album live in the studio which explains the live feel of it. "Cannonfodder" is an overall favorite as it's a great song to play live.


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What are some of the best venues to play in your area where you live? And are these venues mainly specialized to book mostly metal bands, or could you see them more like as ordinary Rock clubs instead?

Where I live (Groningen, NL) there's the famous “Vera” venue. A lot of foreign bands play there - not only metal, but also (mostly) underground Rock bands as well. Other cool places in Holland are venues called “013” in Tilburg and “Baroeg” in Rotterdam.



I was going through your website just recently and noticed that lots of gigs have already been booked this year. Especially playing at quite a few festivals this year. Are there some particular gigs or festivals that you really look forward to participate this year, and can you tell what makes them so special for you in the first place?

All festivals are really special I guess. We will play at the “Noordschok” -festival (NL) with Entombed, then at the “With a Dragon's Blaze” festival (B) with Mörk Gryning, at “Obscene Extreme” (CZ) with Macabre and at “Party San Open Air” (D) with lots of great bands (Malevolent Creation, Marduk, Vader, Behemoth, Naglfar, Dimension Zero etc). But also the small Dutch “Stongehenge” festival is special to us as we often visit it ourselves.



As many surely consider Katafalk as a hard gigging band, I was just wondering how hard it is for you to fit all these gigs into your own personal timetables? Do all of you have your daily jobs? I guess you always cannot accept every gig opportunity that is offered to you. Am I right?

We try to do every possible gig we can get. We even did underpaid gigs far away from our hometown just to get our name to be spred a bit more. That's one of the ways to become more known and successful. Of course we all have our daily jobs and activities, but if necessary we just take a day off in favor of the band.


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What´s the most memorable gig you have done so far and with what band (or bands)? And are there some bands that you´d like to hit the road with some day?

The gig with God Dethroned at the “Vera” venue in our hometown Groningen was really special. It was one of the last gigs of that little tour. We got an offer for the record deal after this gig. Another great gig was our recent CD release party - also in our hometown Groningen, but this time at the “Simplon” club. We entered the stage with the intro of "Empty Life" and had fireworks as high as the ceiling when blasting into the song. That tragical burning accident happened at the gig of The Great White concert in the States only a couple of days later... As for dream tours: An US tour with Slayer would be really great, but touring with a band like Malevolent Creation would also be very cool.



What will you personally expect from yourself in the future as a member of Katafalk? I mean, have you made any goals for yourself that you will try to reach as a musician and a member of this band?

My main goal with Katafalk is to make same damn good metal and spread it!



Talking about expectations a bit more, what kind of expectations or hopes do you have toward Katafalk on the map of Death Metal? Obviously one of your main goals is to establish Katafalk as one of the leading forces here in Europe first, and then trying to become recognized a bit outside of Europe as well, correct?

Well that would be really nice! We haven't been playing abroad until now, but this year we finally will.



Are there some specific countries that you would like to see Katafalk doing some gigs in the future? And do these countries have some following for a band like Katafalk is musically?

We receive fan mail from lots of different countries like Germany, Belgium, France, Portugal, Brazil, Japan, Korea and the U.S.A. . It would be great to be touring all those countries.



Could you tell us something about the new material you have done after the songs on STORM OF THE HORDE? What kind of a musical direction have some of these songs taken when comparing these songs to some of your older stuff? As I suppose, you probably are heading toward more aggressive, more brutal and heavier things all the time with your new compositions.

There's already some stuff written and it's aggressive, melodic, technical and brutal. Maybe we'll do some more epic parts for some of our songs, too. We´ll see…



Holland has always been known for its strong Death Metal scene over the years. Pestilence, Asphyx, God Dethroned, Sinister, Gorefest, Thanatos, Severe Torture, are only a few names off your great Death Metal scene. So, could you give us a reason or two for the fact why you have so many talented and successful, particularly Death Metal bands coming for the Netherlands? You must have something special in your water down there, right? he-he!!

Indeed, we do have something in our water down here! Actually, we call it ´Netherwater´ and it's really special because we live below a sea-level. That's our big secret... Nah, just kiddin'!! We're proud of our strong metal scene and great bands in the past, that's why we do our share and keep the flame burning!



What could be your ultimate goal you would like to achieve with this band in the future, besides this usual ´fame & fortune´ thing, of course, -HA!

To grow as musicians, have a great time and spread the word of metal of course!



I want to sincerely thank you for the time you sacrificed for making this interview happen. Thanks again, and all the best both for you and for the band as well. May the last comments be yours now…

Thanks a lot for this interview and hails to Metal-Rules.com! Listen to STORM OF THE HORDE; drink beer and bang your heads! Visit our shows and check out our website www.katafalk.com for info! Cheers to all!!


Band Website: www.katafalk.com

CD Review:
Katafalk - Storm of the Horde