Interview with guitarist Erik Sprooten and drummer Wim Van Der Valk
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: June 7, 2015
I am sure few remember the hysterical-sounding Dutch Death/Thrash patrol Inquisitor (who went by Desultory from 1990 to 1992) whose only album, Walpurgis - Sabbath of Lust, was originally released by Belgium's Shiver Records back in 1996. A year after that album came out the band ceased to be and the members continued with other bands (guitarist Erik Sprooten in Ancient Rites and drummer Wim Van Der Valk in Centurian).
In October 2014 they returned to the underground Metal circles after nearly two decades away. At nearly the same time Dutch cult label Hammerheart Records re-released the band's infamous debut album as a 2-disc affair, completely re-mastered, with the band's two demos as bonuses. The label also released a 12-inch vinyl containing the demos the same year.
What was behind the decision to bring back Inquisitor? The answer should come from Sprooten and Van Der Valk and as you are undoubtedly as curious to know more about them as I, I will let Erik and Win tell us about the driving forces behind Inquisitor.
Luxi: So, what are the reasons that made you decide to reform Inquisitor after 19 years?
Erik: One of the key factors in reforming Inquisitor with the original line-up is that Hammerheart Records wanted to re-release our album Walpurgis – Sabbath of Lust, which was released in 1996 by Shiver Records but only on CD. This re-release brought the band back together, more or less. Last year, right after the re-mastering, I met Wim again for the first time in a while and we discussed the idea of playing some Inquisitor songs together in a rehearsal room, just for the fun. We later asked original bass player and founding member Alex Bakker if he felt like joining us. At some point we were asked to perform at a small local festival, which we agreed to do, and that gave us the opportunity to do a "try-out" gig but we didn't know who was going to do the vocals as we'd lost contact with our original singer. In the end the first rehearsal we did was in September of last year with the original line-up but without a singer. After that rehearsal, I went to Germany for two weeks to record Laguz with Ancient Rites. During my stay in Germany we received an offer to play live on the 25th of July at a great Dutch Metal festival called Stonehenge, which we of course agreed to do. Right after I returned home from recording with Ancient Rites, we got a message that our singer Alex Wesdijk wanted to return to Inquisitor. I went to visit him and a few days later we did our first rehearsal with the complete original line-up. From then on we've been back together and that was only a few weeks prior to the re-release. We only rehearsed three times with the complete original line-up before the warm-up gig in November. We are enjoying playing together again, which is, above all, the right reason for this reformation.
Wim: I was itching to start playing again after I stopped playing the drums suddenly in 2003. I didn't want to start anything new so the re-release that led to the reunion came at the exact right time for me. Because of the long hiatus I was/am very motivated and it felt very good from the start.
Luxi: Do you feel fortunate that you were able to get all the original Inquisitor members together again? I mean, 20 years is a long time and anything could have happened in that time...
Erik: Of course we feel fortunate to be playing with the original line-up again. We didn't expect this to happen and it's remarkable that it happened after such a long period of absence. During such an absence peoples' lives can change dramatically for better or for worse.
Wim: Lots of things happened to all of us but reuniting Inquisitor was only an option with the four original members. If one of us didn't make it this probably wouldn't have happened.
Luxi: As said earlier, being away almost two decades is a long time. What has changed the most since the old days?
Erik: What has changed the most are the lives of the individual members. Everyone has matured a little I guess (or should I say I hope, ha ha ha!!!) but we are still the same characters enjoying being part of Inquisitor again. What also has changed is technology. We still build, test and arrange new songs together in the rehearsal room but nowadays we also use recording software and cloud storage as tools for new sonic creations. The way some ideas are created has changed a bit too. For instance, Alex Bakker has been coming to my place almost every Friday evening for the last few weeks and we experiment a little with some of the new ideas we have and more new ideas are created out of this as well. This is something that we didn't do in the early days but we both enjoy it.
Wim: Most obvious changes since 1996; something with hair!!
Luxi: When you got back together did you find the same chemistry that you had two decades earlier? Were you all basically in line with what your goals with Inquisitor would be from that day on?
Erik: This may sound like a cliché but yes, the chemistry between the four of us was still there as if it never disappeared. It's hard to explain but even during our first rehearsal with the complete original line-up, we sounded like Inquisitor. You could say that Inquisitor is the sum of its four original individual members. And I think we probably agree about the goals we have for Inquisitor.
Wim: The first rehearsal took about 15 minutes before it started going well. It felt like the previous time was only a week in the past. Learning to play all the songs again is another thing of course.
Luxi: Now that you are back, you obviously intend to create some new material with this band versus warming over old Inquisitor songs for gigs and stuff, right?
Erik: Of course we really enjoy playing most of the old Inquisitor classic songs and those will be played at forthcoming gigs and we might throw in an occasional cover tune as well, but we are definitely writing new songs. It feels really good to create new material together. We will stick to our guns when it comes to our style but we also will make some progress as well. Next to some very interesting new ideas we also might use some ideas from old unreleased songs we created in 1995/1996 after the recordings of Walpurgis – Sabbath of Lust.
Luxi: Inquisitor played their first gig at the 2-day indoor festival called Veneration of the Dead in Holland on April 4th, 2015. How was this experience for you guys? Was it what you expected it to be and what was the mix of new and old faces like?
Erik: Besides our try-out gig last November this gig was definitely the first real return of Inquisitor to the live circuit. Our performance was well received and it was what I kind of what I expected it to be. There were definitely old faces back from our demo days and we also reached a younger audience. We played very well I think although I was a bit dissatisfied with my own playing but my performance didn't really suffer and still I enjoyed it a lot.
Wim: I also had a great time on stage with a good sound and a decent kit. The crowd loved it and the whole band received very good reviews afterwards. Our set consists of a mixture of old demo songs, newer songs from our CD and some nice covers.
Luxi: As we already touched on a little bit, Hammerheart Records released Inquisitor's two demos on CD/vinyl, both fully remastered, and also re-released your debut album Walpurgis - Sabbath of Lust with a full remastering. How did you come in contact with them and arrange to get all this stuff out to the metal maniacs?
Erik: I already knew Hammerheart Records because they released Dim Carcosa and And the Hordes stood as One from Ancient Rites. In 2012 Guido from Hammerheart Records contacted me to see if I was interested in re-releasing Walpurgis – Sabbath of Lust. Of course I was interested and Guido offered to not only re-release Walpurgis – Sabbath of Lust but also to release our demos both on CD and vinyl. Guido also opted to go for a proper remastering, which has been handled by JB v/d Wal who is best known as the bass player for Aborted. For the Inquisitor metal maniacs out there we wanted to offer something special which has become the Die Hard Bundle.
Wim: The Die Hard Bundle was a nice surprise for us, as Erik mentioned. It has all our releases on CD and LP with great posters and a limited T-shirt.
Luxi: Did the reissues turn out the way you hoped or is there still room for improvement?
Erik: I'm very satisfied with the outcome of the re-release(s). The cooperation between Hammerheart and Inquisitor was very good. We were very much involved in the process of making this re-release possible. We supplied everything including artwork, photos, etc. anything what was needed to make for the best result possible.
Wim: The entire album, as well as the bonus material, has been remastered by JB v/d Wal (Herder, Suffering Quota, Ortega, etc.) and he managed to get an even better sound out of the old recordings. We are very pleased with the results.
Luxi: Alex Wesdijk; what an insane-sounding maniac. His hysterical and absolutely insane vocal delivery has always been one of the most important trademarks of the whole Inquisitor sound. Is he still capable of pulling off his crazy vocals now that he's 19 years older?
Erik: For the most part, Alex is still capable of pulling off the vocals like he did in the past and he still sounds insane. The extremely high-pitched notes are a little bit difficult to reach but with a bit more rehearsing Alex might reach them again. Alex himself is sometimes surprised at how he managed to record those insane vocals back in the day.
Wim: I also think it is only a matter of time before he's back into his unique shape. He hasn't sung for about 18 years so we can't expect him to be 100% in a couple a months. He will get there, I am sure about that.
Luxi: What were some of the driving forces that inspired you to form Inquisitor back in 1991? Did you want to break records as the fastest Metal band on earth or maybe get a reputation as the infamous band that ran out of nails while re-crucifying Jesus Christ on his slimy and blood-soaked cross? Ha ha!!
Erik: The idea of forming a new band, which shortly became Inquisitor, initially started after a Desultory gig in the former East Germany. Some members of Desultory were apparently not satisfied after that gig, wanted to form a new band and asked me to play guitar. We kind of liked the of style Desultory but we wanted to take that style to a higher and more challenging level musically and to make it more extreme. First and foremost, the music is and has always been the most important factor in Inquisitor but we liked the idea of adding not-so-Christian-friendly lyrics to our music due to the area where we still live. Maybe one of our driving forces was to become one of the most extreme Thrash Metal bands ever but all in all we just did we wanted to do musically. Oh, and by the way, we found some more nails, ha ha!!
Luxi: Should local religious groups be on their tiptoes now that Inquisitor has returned?
Erik: If those religious groups are smart then they won't give us "free" exposure again. In 1993 an article about Inquisitor appeared in a local newspaper after a successful gig in our hometown. I don't know what the aim of this article was but I guess it kind of backfired because it did us more good than harm and even helped us gain a reputation in the Metal scene during the rise of the so-called second wave of Black Metal. Right after its appearance I started including it with my self-made Inquisitor writing paper and it spread through the Metal scene.
Anyway, we will probably do a gig in our hometown again in November and we'll see what happens then. By the way, I think that the local religious people do not really need to go back on their tiptoes again.
Luxi: What were some of your personal influences back in the day?
Erik: Inquisitor has/had a few more influences compared to Desultory I guess. One obvious influence might be Sadus. Furthermore I can say Inquisitor is influenced by Celtic Frost, Sabbat (UK), Mercyful Fate, Holy Terror, Dark Angel, Slayer and some influences from other Metal styles like Death and Black Metal. We also have a little Heavy Metal influence in the guitar solos.
Wim: In the Desultory days in the late 80's most of our influences came from the German Teutonic Thrash bands like Kreator, Destruction, Protector, Holy Moses and so on, as well as loads of others that we liked. We were not only in to Thrash but also Death, Black and even Heavy Metal.
Luxi: The area where Inquisitor is originally from was known for its strong Christian values. What impact did this have when you decided to fight against all those values and norms?
Erik: I can't express this in numbers but in a way I guess we felt limited in living and enjoying part of our lives the way we wanted in this area to due to those relatively strong Christian values. It definitely had some impact on us and inspired us to write some lyrics against it.
Luxi: Has the religious climate in that particular area changed for better or worse over the years? Does it bother you when religious beliefs are mixed up with cultural activities? There should be freedom of speech and everyone should be entitled to express him/herself freely without getting burned at the stake.
Erik: In the town of Harderwijk where Alex Bakker and I live, the religious climate has become a bit more relaxed compared to 20 years ago. You don't really need to offend religious people but there certainly should be freedom of speech and an ability to express yourself the way you want without being stigmatized. If there is anything that bothers me it's that religion is sometimes mixed up with politics.
Luxi: Are there religious fundamentalists in Holland, and your area in particular, that have crossed the line between what's legal and what isn't as far as absurd and mindless actions are concerned? Does this have an affect on daily life in modern-day Holland?
Erik: I can't speak for other people but possible mindless actions will have zero effect on my daily life. I'm not aware of any absurd illegal actions from the few religious fundamentalists in my area and I don't really think that they cross a certain line, at least not that I'm informed about. I certainly do not relate to any form of religious fundamentalism. I prefer to live a more balanced life based on my own experiences. Therefore I will never live my life accordance with any sanctified man-written book, which can be interpreted many different ways but is still considered holy by many people. I also don't feel the need to live by any other spiritual or philosophical writings whatsoever.
Luxi: Enough with the religious bullshit and back to the music. Besides Inquisitor, Erik keeps busy in Ancient Rites plus a Hard Rock cover band with Alex Bakker. Do you feel like playing in these very different sounding bands gives you optimal opportunity to carry out your musical ambitions as you are not limited to certain music styles?
Erik: I'm not very fond of religious or political bullshit anyway. I prefer to speak about music. It's great to play in these bands with each having a different style. From a creative point of view, Inquisitor and Ancient Rites are the most rewarding but playing in Hard Rock cover band Plusminus with Alex Bakker is also fun. Plusminus tries to get close to the originals, which is not always that easy to achieve but is rewarding in some way. I grew up listening to Hard Rock so it's nice to play Hard Rock classics with this band. Anyway, at home I mainly listen to everything from (Hard) Rock to Black Metal so for me it feels good to be able to play guitar in different bands within that range. I don't feel limited at all but I mainly consider myself as a Rock/Metal guitarist. Sometimes I listen to other styles or artists outside of my regular range of music and I sure have an interest in studying and practicing guitar techniques used in other styles of music besides Metal. Some of these techniques I may put into practice in new sonic creations.
Luxi: Wim, you formed Centurian in 1997 out of the ashes of Inquisitor along with guitarist Rob Oorthuis. Did you have some sort of musical scheme pictured in your head as to how you wanted Centurian to sound?
Wim: At first I just wanted to continue Inquisitor with new members and Rob was one of them. After we played for a time the sound and style changed so much that we understood it didn't sound like Inquisitor anymore so we started as a new band, Centurian. In spite of the great things I achieved with Inquisitor I of course wanted to do even better with Centurian and I think we reached that. The style change wasn't a problem for me. I always liked fast music, albeit Thrash, Death or whatever. In Inquisitor we already had lots of Death and Black Metal influences, so the Death Metal of Centurian fit like a glove. With Centurian I made some great records and Liber Zar Zax is the one on which I played my personal best. I played shows in Europe and in the US and had a great time with Centurian. We had some line-up problems a few years later, which led to the break-up in 2003, but I now only have good memories of that period. In additions to my stint with Centurian I also played in Judgement Day for two years when they did not have a drummer from 1996 till 1998 and I played in Occult during their shows on the Sons of Northern Darkness tour in 1994 as support for Marduk and Immortal.
Luxi: As you mentioned Erik, Ancient Rites just released a new album titled Laguz on Germany's Massacre Records, the band's sixth album in nine years. Keeping in mind Ancient Rites has a brand new album, is it easy to share your time between that band and the reformed Inquisitor?
Erik: Even with Laguz out now I don't experience serious problems sharing time between the bands I play in. My life has always been about music for the most part so as long as I can do this, I will continue to do so. It's just a matter of organizing.
Luxi: On May 24th of this year (2015) Inquisitor was confirmed to play at the Doomsday Celebration festival with British occult metallers Hell one of the headliners. Are you feeling excited about playing at this festival?
Erik: Everyone in the band is excited to play that indoor festival. We are definitely looking forward to it. It's great to share the stage with a great band like Hell and Soulburn is a great old school Death Metal band from The Netherlands that we are definitely looking forward to seeing.
Wim: The venue where this festival takes place is a new one in Holland. It has two great stages and a good capacity. We're thrilled to play there and will play some full-throttle Inquisitor goddamned Metal!! Other bands playing there are Countess, Funeral Winds, Hell Militia, Heretic, Crever and Hekte Zaren.
Luxi: What else do you have in store when it comes to playing live with Inquisitor? You must be aiming to get some slots at summer metal festivals around Europe and, who knows, even further...?
Erik: We will play at the Stonehenge festival in The Netherlands but I'm not sure if we will play at summer festivals outside of The Netherlands. Of course we would like to do a few summer festivals and indoor gigs anywhere in Europe, that's for sure. We do get interesting offers from promoters from The Netherlands, which is great.
Wim: From 1991 until 1997 we played lots of gigs and drove hundreds of miles to play small shows as well. Because of our busy personal lives now we have decided not to play too many shows but only take the icing on the cake and play the most interesting shows. Next to Veneration of the Dead festival in April comes the Doomsday Celebration in May. We will also play at the Stonehenge Festival in July and we already have been asked to play more festivals in the months to come. More about this at our Facebook page, Twitter account and website, which will be ready in a few weeks (www.InquisitorXtremeThrash.nl).
Luxi: As the year 2015 progresses what kind of things do you hope to accomplish with Inquisitor? Have you set any goals being it recording a new Inquisitor album or simply move forward with the band without that pressure?
Erik: We definitely want to record new material this year, if possible. Hammerheart showed interest in releasing new material so I expect we will follow that path. For now we are satisfied with the gigs we will do this year in The Netherlands. But it would definitely be great if we could also do a few gigs outside of The Netherlands this year. In the past we've played gigs in Belgium and Germany and I don't see any reason why we shouldn't play those places again but that's up to promoters. We definitely have to make a name ourselves again and we will do whatever it takes within our (limited) reach to do that. Everybody in the band is very motivated and we would like to keep it that way without too much pressure.
Luxi: I guess that was it so thank you Erik and Wim for taking your time with my questions. I want to sincerely wish you all the best with your future endeavors with Inquisitor. Thanks to both of you again. If you feel like throwing some last words to conclude this chat properly enough, feel free to do so...
Erik: Since a lot has already been said in the words above, I have not much to add other than to say; "Luxi, kiitos for this killer interview!" And to those who haven't heard us yet, check us out if you dare. Inquisitor is back!
Wim: Also a big "thank you" for firing all these questions at us. Enough said now; it's time to play some Inquisitor fucking Metal... cheerz!!!
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