A talk with
IVO MAARHUIS (Drums)
(Questionnaire by Sloof)
Totally unknown but with only one mission: bang that head, break that neck and after 37 minutes, this band can be proud on themselves as their mission is accomplished. Neckbreak Nation was formed in 2010 and their debut album was released by Mighty Music from Denmark. It’s time to hook up and have a chat with the guys from Zutphen, Holland.
Q: Well, as I just mentioned, Neckbreak Nation is totally unknown to us, but that’s only a matter of time. Let’s start by telling who plays in the band and what was the initial idea to start a band?
A: Well, NBN is a 5 piece band that consists of Sander (vocals) Jelle (guitar) Pascal (guitar) Angus (bass) and myself, Ivo on drums. The initial idea was mainly to hit the stage and hit it hard. While doing that, developing ourselves as musicians and hit it even harder!
Q: Was it hard to find the right members? Did you encounter a lot of lineup changes, or is the scene in and around Zutphen plentiful talent?
A: Looking back it went pretty easy finding the right guys. After 2 members left Jelle, Angus and myself where looking for a new vocalist and a lead guitar player, but while we were looking they actually found us haha!
Q: Was Neckbreak Nation a result of a bunch of friends that knew each other many years, or is this band formed with the idea, let’s find suitable musicians and conquer the world?
A: Yeah mainly as close friends. At least, Jelle, Angus and me always been close friends since like forever. We knew Sander from school and only Pascal came in later. With both we became very close as well in no time. You kinda have to when you’re lucky to have such a cool bunch of people together.
Q: Who came up with the name of the band? When I heard of it for the first time, it was pretty obvious that the metal would be furious, vehement and fierce!
A: Haha awesome, thanks! I really can’t remember.. I do remember being very wasted while coming up with bandnames..
Q: Shortly after the foundation, the band recorded a first EP, called ‘Warchitects’. Tell us something more about this release! (was it independent, how many songs, is it still available, how was the EP received by fans and press, what was the main reason that you recorded an EP, is the metal on that EP comparable with the new material, or did you evolve through the years)
A: The sole purpose was to have some material, but we wanted to wait with a full length because we knew we had to write more songs and wanted to take our time with that. The material is a little bit more old school, also because our vocalist at that time had a more old school approach and sound. It does contain some of the elements which further evolved into the full length album and yes, it’s still available!
Q: Most bands start with a demo, a kind of tryout for the local fan base, but if you release an EP, then you go for a higher purpose, right?
A: We had too little material for a full length, but we wanted to have something people could actually buy and listen to with a certain degree of pleasure, not some low budget demo. With that little more effort the results were really great!
Q: After the release, you got in touch with a Dutch-based booking agency called TMR Music Promotions. How was the cooperation with TMR, and did they fulfill all expectations?
A: So far everything worked out perfect, but we are still looking for new opportunities and people that could help us to break new grounds.
Q: Did TMR Music Promotions promoted the band only for gigs, or perhaps they were the intermediary with Mighty Music/Target Group from Denmark?
A: They consulted us of course, but we handled everything ourselves with Mighty Music. It went really good, also because they are very transparent and easy people to work with.
Q: How did you score the contract with Mighty Music and is it an 1-album deal only, or do you have options for several albums?
A: We never contacted a lot of people concerning the release of this album, and they were simply with us first. For now we have no feature releases planned with Mighty Music, because we don´t have a binding contract. But who knows what the future will bring! We are always busy writing new material and since we have our own studio, we can record everything we do which is a big bonus when it comes to writing songs.
Q: Was the contract signed after the album recordings, or how did it work out? Perhaps, you original planned to release the album independently, but Mighty Music gave the band a helping hand?
A: Yes, after the recordings. The plan wasn´t initially to release it ourselves, but we also didn´t knew what to except from the present day record labels. That was also the main reason why we didn’t contacted a lot of (major) labels, but took only a handful to get in touch with.
Q: The album is finally available! Title of the album is ‘Stroke of the Devil’s Hour’. What’s the story behind that title?
A: It originally stands for the witching hour, which is when evil spirits are most present and strong. This is also something you can relate to on a personal level, your own “darkest hour” in which everything seems to be turning to shit. We all know those moments right?
Q: I’m really impressed about the album, but there are also a few comments. Let’s start with a few critical points/issues like the front cover artwork. What the hell is this ? Did you participate in a competition to create the ugliest cover in Dutch history?
A: Haha, we actually love the artwork! A lot of reviewers were really impressed by it, so I think that’s a matter of taste. You’ve got to admit, it’s something totally different! A lot of album covers all look alike and we also wanted something to be made by hand especially for us and not some stock photo or whatever just because it looks cool. Anyways, we’re satisfied!
Q: Who can be accountable for this artwork? I couldn’t find his name in the booklet, and perhaps that was a wise decision…
A: That would be Robin Clarijs, and his name is in the booklet. He is a very talented young man who does a lot of assignments for great bands. For the next album we will definitely return to him. But just like I said, probably a matter of taste right? Maybe we will take requests for the next album haha!
Q: The album takes 37 minutes which is an absolute minimum. Why? And please don’t comment that Slayer’ Reign In Blood takes only 29 minutes…
A: I wouldn’t dare to compare our album to one of the greatest classics ever! Haha! We actually had more material, but we wanted to be satisfied with every single song on the album. Some songs just had no business being on this particular album, because it wouldn’t work with the order of the songs and album as we have it now. It was pretty rough deleting some songs since we’ve put a lot of effort in them, but I know for sure it worked out for the better.
Q: On the contrary I commented that I prefer short albums with only high quality tracks instead of some fillers, but somehow that’s only an excuse isn’t it? Why didn’t you add a few covers if you ran out of original own material, or is it all a matter of money?
A: Well, you are kind of making the point we were trying to make haha! You see, when you can record everything you do you turn up having a lot of material, but a lot of material aren’t songs yet right? We had super technical guitar parts with odd time signatures and all kinds of crazy outbursts, but when it has no business in a song why ruin it with something only we can relate to? When it comes to covers, well, just see us live. Maybe we’ve got a little surprise for you.
Q: Well, the artwork and duration are the only issues with a bit of negative criticism, but luckily there are plenty of highlights. For example: the guitars of Jelle Davids and Pascal Schut take a very important part in the songs. They really add some elements and the dueling parts are just awesome. I guess that Neckbreak Nation wants to stand out of the crowd, they want to deliver material that is high above the average. This is not just a thrash metal album, as there is so much more to discover. Do you agree?
A: Thank you very much! Yes, we never intented to be an old school thrash band but we also never wanted to be a modern band which are pretty hyped right now, or any style for that matter. I think just doing what you like and allowing different influences into your music makes a cool album. There are always people that don’t like what you do, but that’s only good. You can’t please everyone. We are still developing, trying new things and practicing hard so the new album is going to be this album times awesome!
Q: How would you describe the music of Neckbreak Nation and what is the goal that you want to achieve?
A: People call it; Thrash/groove metal, modern metal, modern thrash metal, I even heard the term thrash-core. I really don’t care. We don’t play one particular style such as death metal, black metal or even pure thrash metal. We just let critics and reviewers decide. Even though thrash core sounds pretty cool right? Haven’t heard that one before I think..
Q: The album starts with someone who’s changing radio channels and suddenly a scream from Hell yells: ‘Here we go’ followed by a battering ram riff. I guess it’s not easy to decide what song will open the album. How did you work out? How do you decide what song first, and which one next…
A: Well, the original intro of that song was a lot longer, but in the studio we tried some things with sounds just to have some fun and it was clear this would be the perfect start of the album. The way the order of the album was constructed went kind of smooth actually. Everybody had more or less the same idea so luckily no issues there. Of course while writing, arranging and recording you are busy with the songs and in our case, also with the order of the songs. When it came to the final steps of finishing the album we all had a clear idea of how it should be.
Q: ‘Interlude To Inception’ takes 1:50 and is a short instrumental passage. Give us some more info about this track, as there is surely a story to tell…
A: This was the original opener for the album, which should be followed up by Stating Equality. I remember that Pascal didn’t wanted to open with that song, as there is a lot of solo’s in it. He didn’t wanted to focus all the attention on the guitar solo’s, since not in every song there is one. I think it turned out really well in the middle of the album, because it gives you some space and atmosphere before going back to riffing and bashing. We open live with that song though!
Q: After this moment of rest, the album continues nonstop with the song ‘Stating Equality’, which sounds double as hard now. Why did you divide both tracks, why not melting them together as one ?
A: Because for us they are still 2 different songs. It’s an intermezzo really, not an intro. Also, for live purposes we want to be able to switch between songs and not being stuck with a 2 minute intro haha.
Q: The recording took place in the Delta Beats Studio and worked with Pascal Altena to get an ultra-heavy sound. Why this studio and Pascal? How was it to work together?
A: Delta Beats is specialized in drum recordings. Elio Debets is a very cool and mellow guy that really knows how to work his table. Pascal actually did work for us before and long before that he also mixed a Izegrim EP. He knows a lot about mixing and he’s a great guy, so the choice was obvious for us.
Q: Mastering of the album was done by Ivo Statinski, and he seems to be a former DJ and Hip Hop Producer; That needs an explanation!
A: In a way it does, I understand, but also this choice was also obvious for us since he is great at his profession. He uses unlike a lot of modern studios mostly analog equipment, which results in a specific sound we were looking for. I already knew him before this album and because he had a different background it would seem interesting to give it a shot. Which turned out great by the way!
Q: Weren’t you afraid that Ivo would not understand what a Thrash Metal exactly wants, as Hip Hop is totally diverse!
A: Mastering an album is very different from mixing one, and the main sound was already made by Pascal. The finishing touch and highlighting certain aspects was done with the master and we knew he would hear things we as metal folk wouldn’t. I think we will use the same formula for the next album, since we only get positive remarks.
Q: I’m really into the vocals of Sander. He’s taking his voice over the top, but still accurate and precise. When he yells, the song demands it, when he’s rather modest, it’s also because the arrangement demands it. It seems like vocals and music melt together, supporting each other. I guess that you spent a lot of time to ‘fine tune’ the songs, to adjust where necessary?
A: No, not at all! We had pre-recordings with the previous vocalist which went laborious, because the music demanded to much of him at that point. When Sander came to the band everything went really smooth and natural. Funny thing is, he has been doing this for only 3 years maybe, so we hear him progressing all the time. It makes that we are really looking forward to the new album, because we can do all sorts of new things when it comes to vocals.
Q: Drummer Ivo Maarhuis is also a member of Izegrim, a leading Dutch Metal band with the lovely Marloes on vocals! Isn’t it hard to combine two bands?
A: Sometimes when it comes to shows, but it sort of takes care of itself. No big issues ever occurred. We all know each other personally and hang out all the time, so I don’t expect this ever to become a problem. Funny thing is, Jelle will be filling in for Bart on 2 German festivals this summer!
Q: Izegrim participated also on the 70.000 Tons of Metal Cruise in 2014. How was it to embark from Miami on board of The Majesty Of The Seas?
A: Just awesome! It was such an amazing experience with amazing people and we just had the best time ever. 2 great shows with the crowd going crazy, so everything was perfect.
Q: I guess it was the highlight of Izegrim so far!?
A: You can say that, yes!
Q: Well, it guess it would be cool if Neckbreak Nation could participate on this trip in the future as well, isn’t it? How are the gigs going? Are there many gigs planned or is it rather calm right now, as you have to focus to promote the album the best way possible?
A: We are mainly focusing on doing the right shows at the right time. Not just playing random shows that have nothing the contribute to the growth of the band. We have some cool festivals planned, and 2015 has some nice shows for us as well!
Q: How is the reaction of the press so far? Do you have any idea if the album is received well, or is it too soon for that?
A: So far 90% of the people like it big time! We also had a couple of bad reviews, but very very few. I mean, we aren’t the type of band that can satisfy a die hard black metal reviewer haha!
Q: What are the plans for the near future? Writing new material, new songs, perhaps planning a tour, or is it all rather unknown so far?
A: We are very busy developing our music, and making it bigger, better and more bad ass. Of course shows are important as well, so those will be done of course, but touring is too expansive. Bands have to pay to be on tour, and that is just money we don’t have. Therefore we focus on doing the right shows or festivals for the time being.
Q: We know much more about the band and history of the album. Is there something that you want to tell before we end our chat?
A: I think you know almost everything already haha! Anything that anybody needs to know they can just ask ourselves, and we will be happy to reply through our facebook page.
Q: Well, we at Metal To Infinity wish you all the best, keep up the good work and if possible come to Belgium to bring your music live!
A: Thank you very much for this interview and hopefully we will see you guys at a gig soon!