Interview with Mats van der Valk (guitar)
Interview conducted by Sargon the Terrible
Date online: June 8, 2009
From their gloomy beginnings back in the 90's, Autumn have evolved into a front runner in the modern wave of snappy, groovy Gothic Metal. With their new album "Altitude" making waves across the world, I was lucky enough to catch a few words from guitarist Mats van der Valk.
Sargon: So what happened between albums? Nienke left, and that must have been a blow, but then you hooked up with Marjan. Tell us how all that came about.
Mats: Yes, Nienke's departure was a setback, but it came as no surprise. It had been in the air since before the release of 'My New Time'. But it was also an opportunity for us to search for someone whose voice, as well as personality, would gel perfectly with the Autumn that had risen with 'My New Time'. We had seen Marjan perform a couple of years before, and we knew then that we had to keep an eye on her. At the audition, she blew everyone away. She blew us away, haha
Sargon: How has Metal Blade been working out? It was a big change for you with My New Time, switching to a new label.
Mats: Well, Metal Blade is actually an indie label in comparison to Sony and Universal, who we were signed to before. But we couldn't have gotten it better. Big labels are very slow machines. There is no straight communication and the bureaucracy is bad enough to make a grown man cry, especially if you are a 'smaller fish'. With Metal Blade it is quite the opposite. There is a direct line of communication, and you'll have your answer within a day.
They work hard for us and let us do our thing. They have confidence in us, and we in them.
Sargon: What was the writing process like for Altitude? Had Marjan already joined when you were writing, or were you without a singer at the time? How did that alter the songwriting?
Mats: For MNT we started writing in a pretty unconventional way. Because we live very far apart, we wrote all the music individually, and we shared everything over the Internet. Mp3 'n stuff.
Everyone would get the skeleton of a song, and add their own little signature to it. This worked so well for us, that we continued and perfected this routine for 'Altitude'.
When Marjan joined, we were already far into the writing process for the new record. She started recording vocal demos right away and sent them back to us. This way we could hear where we needed to change the things, like the pitch or composition. The few songs we wrote after she joined, were sort of custom made for her.
Sargon: Altitude is very polished, even reminding me of Yes in places. Was there any apprehension that older fans would not like a more commercial sound?
Mats: Thank you for that compliment. Especially our bass player Jerome will like that comparison.
Personally, we don't consider 'Altitude' to be more commercial than the previous work. On the contrary, the new songs have more twists and layers and are less one- dimensional. The average length is also longer. It would actually have been much more commercial for us if we had continued writing goth-metal stuff like on 'Summers End', but it wouldn't have satisfied us artistically. The older fans need time to get to know the new stuff. Almost all of them say that it's not an 'easy' record… but after a couple of spins, most of them agree that it's the best album yet. But, as in life, you cannot satisfy everybody!Sargon: Autumn started out as a very moody, Gothic-type band, and the music has steadily become more uptempo and catchy. What led to that evolution?
Mats: I think that the change in song writing is a natural result of changes in the Autumn line-up.
The individual band members have much broader musical tastes and influences than before.
My brother Jens and I write most of the songs, and we try to create good atmospheres and moods… but we especially like to ROCK! Therefore 'Up tempo' and 'Catchy' are sometimes unavoidable!
Sargon: What bands were inspirational for Autumn's music, both in the beginning and now?
Mats: I don't know about the specific influences when the band started out, because I was not in the band back in 1995. I do know that Autumn were among the first to incorporate a female singer and that they were sort of pioneers. Today, there are no specific bands that influence us. We all contribute our own little thing to the autumn songs… like Jerome's seventies bass feel, and Jan Munnik' s proggy layers. No comparison comes to mind.
Sargon: What inspires you isn't always what you listen to day to day, what would we find on your iPod?
Mats: I don't have one. I don't listen to music a lot.
But you are right…There is a big difference between the music I like to listen to and the music I like to make. I would actually be surprised if you would not find influences in Autumn that come from groups like: Karma to burn (first album), Kashmir, Oceansize, Massive Attack, Entombed, Radiohead, etc.Sargon: Do you prefer studio recording or playing live?
Mats: I love making music in general. After playing lots of shows, I am dying to hit the studio… When the new album is done, I curse the studio and long for the stage. Keeps me going, haha. Does that answer your question?
Sargon: What has been the most satisfying, personal thing about the band?Mats: That the band is now 'complete' in every way. We are all equals and friends. I move between them like a fish in the water. For me it is the ideal environment to make killer music and where I can be myself. That is very satisfying indeed.
Sargon: Tell us something you have never been asked about, but always wish you could talk about?
Mats: What a considerate question. Thank you. Regretfully, nothing comes to mind...
Sargon: Well, that's all I have. Thanks!
Mats: Thank you!!
|Other information about Autumn on this site|
|Review: My New Time|
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