Interview with guitarist Tim Matthijs
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: February 25, 2018
Belgium is known for its tasty and delicious chocolate, professional football culture, lame ice hockey and... and... and...yeah, for its decent Metal scene that has produced some quality bands over the past four decades. With this minimal knowledge about Belgium, I feel better cutting the crap right now...
From north-west of East Flanders in a region called Meetjesland comes a band named DevastatiöN that started under the name Black Fuel and playing a style of Metal that was close to Speed/Thrash Metal. After the name change in 2016, the band sharpened their musical focus and became a full-bodied Thrash Metal band.
With two full-length studio albums (Leather Jack Maniac in 2011 and Pussy Juice Blues in 2015), and one EP (Drinking with the Devil in 2017) under their bullet belts, these Belgian thrashers have caused a fuss, helped by support slots for bands like Vicious Rumors and Hobbs Angel of Death.
The Metal Crypt decided to find out who these guys are and what drove them to name one of their albums Pussy Juice Blues, which sounds like the title of a S.O.D. song.
Luxi: For starters, could you tell us why you formed Black Fuel and eventually became DevastatiöN while at the same time changing to a faster type of Metal?
Tim: The musical style was already changing while we were still named Black Fuel. It wasn't until our second guitar player left the band that we decided to change our name as well. I think we always wanted to play fast, but our technical skills at that time stopped us from doing so.
Luxi: Was it easy to find like-minded musicians to play this faster style of Metal?
Tim: The evolution of this band came very naturally. The second guitarist of Black Fuel didn't want to play Thrash Metal and he got the chance to play in a well-known progressive band from our area. The rest of us just stayed together and the road was open for razor-sharp Thrash Metal. If I remember correctly, the changeover and the recording of our demo happened the same year.
WITH THE RIGHT MENTALITY THINGS ARE MEANT TO HAPPEN
Luxi: When you became DevastatiöN around 2006, was the idea to catch the vibe and feeling that many 80s Speed/Thrash Metal bands had?
Tim: It wasn't until we covered Kreator's song "Flag of Hate" that we really knew what direction we were going, so the Teutonic Thrash scene was our greatest influence. We were very young and we all listened to different types of music, but when it all came down to writing music, we understood each other very well. Our only ambition was to blast on the stage, thrash as hard as possible and have a good time while doing that.
Luxi: Your debut album, Leather Jack Maniac, was released in 2011 on Black Cat Productions. Were you confident that this album would put DevastatiöN's name firmly on the map of Speed/Thrash Metal?
Tim: I don't think being confident is the right word, perhaps hopeful is a more suitable word. We had little or no experience in the studio, but the studio was really cheap and we paid for each song separately so that gave us tons of time to get each song right. In the end, we just wanted to record our best songs in the best possible way. If I remember correctly, we were all stoked with the result, not that it was the best record ever, but we were very proud of it. We were lucky that at that time of the release there was a Thrash revival going on, so it did put us on the map for a while. We did a lot of great gigs.
Luxi: It took four years to get your follow-up album, Pussy Juice Blues, recorded. What kind of things caused this relatively long gap and how much do you think this break affected peoples' awareness of the band?
Tim: The biggest issue was money, and the contract with Battle Cat Prods. was simple; they would lend us money so we could record and they would pay the album pressings in advance. So, when we started selling Leather Jack Mania, we owed them a serious amount of money which took us a long time to pay off. If we wanted to make another (better) record, that was going to be even more expensive. The four years in between those two records were a bit long but for us, but it wasn't such a bad thing. We had time to save money, we wrote new songs and took our time. We felt that if a song wasn't that good, we could just throw is away and start over. It was bad for our popularity but that didn't really bother us, as I said before we just wanted to thrash as hard as possible and have fun while doing that.
Luxi: I cannot help laughing but the album name, Pussy Juice Blues, makes me think of something other than a serious Speed/Thrash Metal combo. Does this sort of tongue-in-cheek type of humor play a role in your band? Do you want to just show everyone that even if DevastatiöN sounds like a hard-boiled, violent and hostile Speed/Thrash Metal act, humor is always important?
Tim: Humor used to be a very important thing for us in the early days. I loved writing lyrics that were full of black humor, political issues and obscene sexuality. Today it's much more difficult to come up with these sorts of things and it's hard to be funny. I think we all matured, and more serious music and lyrics came along. The song "Pussy Juice Blues" was based on something that happened to me at Obscene Extreme festival back in 2010 when I was still young and out of my mind. You can really hear the difference on that album; some songs are really dark and evil (our main inspiration today) where our older songs are just humorous and funny and also politically oriented lyrically.
HEADING TOWARDS A DARKER DIRECTION
Luxi: Who is responsible for writing songs?
Tim: I mostly come up with riffs and turn them into a song together with Tom (drums). Maarten (bass) follows the guitar and adds some licks here and there. When the song is finished, I record it and take it home to write suitable lyrics for it. Sometimes Tim or Tom also write some lyrics for the chorus or something but that is rather rare.
Luxi: How important are lyrics, and does music come first?
Tim: We never start with the lyrics when we make a song, so you could say music comes first but that doesn't mean they are less important. It's just the way we write our songs.
Luxi: You have a 5-song EP out titled Drink with the Devil, which was released on Empire Records at the end of November 2017. Does the title have a deeper meaning or is it just a "title"?
Tim: There is no real meaning to it, but it does make for a very different impression than our last album. As I said before we have turned on to a darker, grimmer or more dreadful path (especially lyrics-wise) and the title Drink with the Devil shows that perfectly I think.
Luxi: Musically, the title track "Drink with the Devil" has a pretty strong vibe from Whiplash's Power and Pain album. How highly do you rate that particular album from Whiplash?
Tim: Whiplash has definitely been a great influence on me as a guitar player. I love the first few Whiplash albums! Their Power and Pain album would definitely be the best, but my favorite track from them still is still "The Burning of Atlanta" off their second album, Ticket to Mayhem. It's great to hear the comparison with Whiplash because it's not the first time I have heard this. Most people compare us to Kreator because of the vocal similarities, but we try to put other influences into our music as well.
Luxi: You have been getting rave reviews regarding this EP. How much has all this positive response encouraged you to continue down your chosen path?
Tim: The responses indeed have been very positive! We knew we had delivered a rather good piece of music but not that it would score like it did. This "path" we are on feels like we are finally where we should be. It is as if we were working towards this style of darkened Thrash for ten years without realizing it. It turns out the Metal scene seems to dig it.
Luxi: Do you think this EP represents the band's current style so well that people can safely consider putting their hard-earned money toward your next release?
Tim: Yes, I do. We have written three new songs already and they are in the same vein as the EP. It's like I mentioned earlier, it feels like we finally are where we should be, so we intend to stick around a bit.
F**K X-MAS - THE BADASS REINDEER IS COMING
Luxi: In 2014 you guys recorded your own X-mas song, "Rudolph, The Badass Reindeer". Why haven't you followed the same tradition in the years since? Did someone kill your illusion that Santa really exists or told you he originally comes from Finland instead of Sweden? ;o)
Tim: Haha... I thought Santa was an invention of Coca-Cola. Sometimes when we rehearse our vocalist asks us what our new song should be about, so we said it would be fun to make an "X-mas" single for the new record. The song is about the fact that Rudolph is responsible for all the evil in the world. We even made Christmas single tapes to promote Pussy Juice Blues, but I'm quite sure it will be the first and last time we make a Christmas song... But never say never. ;o)
Luxi: Over the years you have played with such names as Vicious Rumors, Hobbs Angel of Death, Pro-Pain and so on. Do you book your own gigs or do you have someone doing this all for you?
Tim: We try to do everything ourselves. Sometimes we get help from our label or friends, but we don't work with a booking agency. The gig bookers cost a lot of money that we simply don't have. We spend a lot of time on this and don't always get the results we want, but it is what it is. It's not always easy to stand out among a million other bands, but we try our best, that's for sure.
Luxi: How does next year look like for you gigging-wise? Have you already started booking gigs for the band?
Tim: Our first gig of 2018 happened last week and we truly had a blast! We have four shows booked for now; 1st of February, 2nd of March and 1st of April. I hope to get at least four more shows booked for us before the summer, but we will see how that turns out.
BELGIUM CAN ALSO THRASH
Luxi: Belgium has never been considered a country that produces a lot of Speed and Thrash Metal bands, BUT you Belgians do have some hidden potential lurking in the depths of the underground Metal scene, such as now-disbanded names like Cyclone and Black Shepherd as well as newer bands like Evil Invaders. Are you pleased with your country's current state of Speed and Thrash Metal? What's the most popular subgenre of Metal music in Belgium these days?
Tim: Belgium had a lot of good Heavy/Speed/Thrash Metal bands in the 80s, but most of them didn't make it to the 90s. Acid are still one of my favorite Belgian Metal bands. Cyclone, Ostrogoth, Evil Sinner, Black Shepherd, Decadence, Asphyxia, Target and Sixty Nine are just a few of the great bands from the 80s. In the mid of 2000s there was a great Thrash revival with bands like Warbringer, Violator and many others that brought the Belgium Thrash scene back to life again. Bands like Evil Invaders, Incinerate, Warckon, etc. are just some of the products of that great, fertile time.
Today, Black Metal is very popular in Belgium although I still believe there's hope left for the old-school Metal in our country, too.
Luxi: What's your band's philosophy? "Life fast and hard - play even faster and harder," eh?
Tim: "Live fast and hard - play even faster and harder" is a nice philosophy indeed, but perhaps "Live fast and hard - play even faster and harder... And in between bringing up some kids and pay taxes" might be even better and just more fitting philosophy for us nowadays, haha!!
Luxi: Thank you Tim for your time to make this interview possible, and all the best to you and your band DevastatiöN in the future as well. Any last words that you'd like to leave either for the readers of The Metal Crypt?
Tim: Thanks for the support and we'll meet again in front of the stage!! Play and listen to Metal without any compromises!!!
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