Interview with vocalist Olivier van der Kruijf
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: April 15, 2020
Grindpad is a 5-piece Thrash Metal band from Utrecht, located in the center of The Netherlands. They've been around since 2006 and released their debut album, Violence, on Iron Shield Records on March 21, 2020. The album represents aggressive, in-yer-face and adrenaline-soaked Crossover-tinged Thrash Metal with no compromise, like a sharp yet tender... eh, shark bite on your leg. Sounds tempting, doesn't it?
These Dutch thrashers are one of the better-sounding Thrash Metal bands around these days. They do what they do best and thrash out the hearts of anyone with the guts to come their way.
We here at the headquarters of The Metal Crypt are suckers for his type of manly, testosterone-infused stuff so we decided to learn more about this very promising Dutch Thrash combo by throwing a few questions at band vocalist Olivier, who also kindly took some time to enlighten us on pretty much everything related to the band.
Luxi: How are you, Olivier? How's life in Utrecht, Holland, with the whole world shut down because of this lethal virus pandemic?
Olivier: Still good, healthy, and what about yourself?
Luxi: I'm doing fine, thanks for asking. I'm trying to avoid people as much as I can and leading an isolated life, but that's how it is right now. What can you do?
Olivier: Yes, not much. It gives me time to send out packages on behalf of the band with gifts and CDs and stuff like that.
Luxi: Yeah, during these tough times, you need to have some sort of plan B.
Olivier: Yes, it is what it is. I'm still healthy. I'm in good spirits. I guess that counts as a blessing, right?
Luxi: Yes, I suppose so. Fortunately, we have modern technology available at home that allows us to do different things via the Internet; for example, interviews via Skype.
Olivier: Exactly, exactly...
Luxi: Let's get to the interview, shall we? I heard your debut album, Violence, the other day and was so impressed by it that I was thinking it would be cool to have a bit more in-depth discussion about it.
Olivier: Thank you very much.
Luxi: You guys have been around since 2006 but you joined the band in 2011. How did you join the ranks of Grindpad?
Olivier: Yes, I knew about Grindpad for a while. I didn't really know the guys, but I knew the band was playing. I heard they won the Dutch Metal Battle in 2010, which was pretty cool. Then I heard at some point that they were looking for a new singer. I got the phone number of one of the guitarists and sent him a text. We met up and they told me that they were changing the musical style of the band. They used to be a Death Metal band. They told me, "Well, we're actually changing this style to Thrash Metal, I hope that's not a problem." If I remember correctly, I said something along the lines like, "Fuck yes, that's even better." Actually, I really wanted to play. I've been out of bands for a while at that point and I really wanted to play. When I heard that Grindpad would be playing Thrash Metal instead of Death Metal, it made me so happy because I like that music more. There's more passion, aggression and energy in it, for me at least. That's what happened.
Luxi: Your musical background includes such names as Departure and Judgement Day that are your ex-bands and then you are currently involved with a Dutch Death Metal band called Bloodphemy.
Olivier: Absolutely, yes.
THRASH METAL VS. DEATH METAL
Luxi: Would you say your roots are deeper in Thrash than Death Metal?
Olivier: It's hard to say because I enjoy both bands a lot just in slightly different ways. Obviously, since I was in Judgment Day, which was a pure Death Metal band, I love Death Metal, don't get me wrong. Cannibal Corpse is one of my favorite bands. I think I love both styles of music and also other styles of music. I'm actually pretty broad when it comes to my musical tastes. It's enjoyable on different levels.
With Bloodphemy, we were able to play a lot of cool shows and festivals over the past few years. That is a darker sound and a more grim sort of attitude and stage performance. With Grindpad, we're more going for the straight-up energy and mosh pits, sort of a crazy kind of style.
Luxi: Do you think Bloodphemy, which plays downright heavy and brutal Death Metal, offers another channel for you to express yourself as a metalhead, letting you get more steam out of your system, so to speak?
Olivier: Absolutely. If you are like me, and I think a lot of people are like this, we listen to a lot of different styles of music and Metal. That is awesome. It's awesome to be being able to play different styles. If it were up to me, I'd rather spend all my time making music and do maybe like a lot of cool bands. I'd like to try my hand at some point at more Katatonia like stuff.
Luxi: They play pretty moody, depressive stuff...
Olivier: Exactly. I think with each mood that you have, there is some sort of music that really fits well with that.
Luxi: Anyway, back to Grindpad. The first release that you were a part of with this band was a 5-track EP titled Sharkbite! What was your first experience recording with the band like?
Olivier: Actually, we did a digital only release before that. It's on Spotify. There's an original and a remastered version of it. That was actually a lot of fun because we did two tracks. At that point, we had so much energy, and Axel and Jan Gerard, the guitarists, really wanted to put something out there because they had this moment where the whole band seemed to collapse and the whole thing was falling apart. Then they were able to quickly stabilize, get new musicians in. We decided, you know what? Let's use all this energy that we have right now and just record two tracks.
That was with the drummer we had back then called Jona (Rovers). We went into the studio, recorded the tracks, and I think that was awesome. It was just that feeling of "fuck you, we're doing what we want to do", and that was brilliant. Pretty soon after those songs came out, Jona left the band because of personal reasons. He became a father and he wanted to focus on the family. We all understood that. At that point, we were actually shut down for quite a long time. We continued to write music but without a drummer that was able to play that kind of music properly. It was a no-go for the band, I have to say.
We were still active, but in the background. We were still writing music, we were still having fun. We were still having our regular practice sessions ending in alcohol-induced shenanigans. We kept the spirit alive over the years and we tried out a lot of different drummers. Some of them were able to play but didn't have the time for the band. Then we had some people coming in with the right attitude but not the technical skills. At some point, I thought, you know what? I'm just going to give my old friend, Paul (Beltman) a phone call because we used to play together in Judgment Day. I think I sent him an email or something, and I didn't really expect him to want to play drums with us, but I had to try. I got an email back from him and it was awesome. He said, "Well, that sounds really good because I've always wanted to make a kick ass thrash metal album. Yes, I'll be with you for a year. For a year, I'll help you guys out. We can do some gigs, we can record the EP. After that, I hope you can find a new drummer, because you'll be more active then." Yes, that was awesome. That's what we did. Then we went into the studio and recorded Sharkbite!.
Luxi: You shot a video for the title track of the EP in April 2017. What was it like making this more pro-type of a video? Did Pim Voormeulen from SilverFrame Productions exceed your expectations with the final product?
Olivier: Absolutely. What we did was record some live stuff. Actually, Pim did that as well. He ran the cameras for some live stuff. Then we decided to set up in our practice room and shoot some footage there as well. That's the other footage you see in the video, us hanging around the practice room and playing. We always play in the practice room. We're all having fun. Even when we're just in the practice room, we're having a beer and just having a good time. I think the video really shows that.
I think what Pim did in the end was absolutely brilliant. He sent us the first version of the video and, as a joke he put some shots from shark movies in. He said, "Well, that was just a joke. I'm going to take that out." We all looked at each other like, "No, man. Don't take that out. That is just fucking awesome. That gives it this extra attitude", I don't know what you call it. We were all looking at it like, "No, don't do it. If anything, you need to put in more".
He went back to work and he showed us the video and we're all like, "yes." Everybody can see it's not triple A production, but it captures the spirit of the band so perfectly with the energy and the fun and also the serious attitude about the music. I think we captured that all perfectly, and he did an amazing job.
Luxi: Let's jump a few years forward and talk about your debut full-length, Violence, a little bit. It's out now, released by Iron Shield Records on March 21st. My sincere congratulations on this piece of work. It's an absolutely great sounding Thrash Metal album that bows to eighties Thrash Metal, bringing to mind Exodus and Slayer with a touch of Crossover thrown in for good measure. How satisfied are you with this record?
Olivier: First of all, thank you for your kind and enormous compliment. It makes me happy to hear those kinds of words from you. We're extremely satisfied with this release. It took us a pretty long time to complete this album and we fully realized that we had to get it right. Every aspect needed to be just right because we've made a few splashes with the Sharkbite! EP.
A lot of people ordered CDs of Sharkbite! online and that was something we didn't see coming. We got played on some YouTube channels, and they posted the link to our web shop, and all of a sudden, we were selling CDs and T-shirts. We never expected that to happen. We were able to play some shows outside of Holland as well. We played in the Czech Republic a couple of times, and that was brilliant.
Then, when we were done writing the music for the next album, we knew we had to get it right. There was no chance for a fuck-up. Everything needed to be perfect, so obviously, we wanted Ed Repka for the artwork again because we believe the artwork he did for Sharkbite! really helped us stand out. We joke that if you go to a record store or scroll through an online shop and you see all these covers and then all of a sudden you see this beach with shark and bright lights, it pops out to you. We immediately knew we want that again, not the same thing, but we want to at least work with Ed Repka again and do a similar theme.
That's what we did. We felt very strongly about the music. We had to get the production right. The guitarists, Jan Gerard and Axel, they spent an enormous amount of time perfecting the tune, and I mean, the sound of the guitar, so that it really sounds like it needs to sound for a Metal record. I think they spent hundreds of hours on it, just recording, listening, re-recording, listening on different sorts of speakers and things until they were extremely confident that they had the right sound. That was actually the most difficult part, I think.
All the rest of the stuff was basically recorded at Paul's home studio, our drummer. He has a home studio. That's also where he did the drums and the vocals and then we went to Soundlodge Studios after going over a few different options and getting some samples and we decided to go with Jörg Uken from Soundlodge Studio. I have to say, he did an amazing job. I remember after he did some hours of mixing, we drove up there to listen and to get the final details in, and what we heard just completely blew us away. We knew we made the right choice.
THE COUCH TEST
Luxi: I must admit the album sounds very heavy, aggressive and in-yer-face and I suppose that was also your main purpose with the songs on this album, to bring some violence back to the music. And that's what you did, hence the album title, Violence. Am I correct in my assumption?
Olivier: Yes, that was actually the idea of Jan Gerard, the guitar player, and he's always very focused on what he wants to convey as far as the message, the feeling, the attitude. At some point when we were discussing album names, he just said, "Guys, I think we should just call it Violence," simple, to the point. Then we thought about it and it actually makes a lot of sense because we always talk amongst ourselves that one of the things we don't like about a lot of newer bands is that they miss the violent attitude and the energy of the music. There are so many bands that can play a thousand notes per second or something, but then still it sounds happy. As a metalhead, you listen and you're not impressed by, or you are on a technical level but not on a musical level when somebody can play a thousand snare hits a second or something. Once you start to peel that away, the actual total structure and the music is actually not very interesting or not very aggressive. Not all bands, by the way, but a lot of the bands nowadays, I feel, are like that.
We always joke that we have the couch test, which basically means whenever we write a song, we look at each other and ask, "Does this song make me want to throw my couch through the wall at my neighbors?" If the answer is yes, then it's a good song. If the answer is no, then we need to go back and make it like that.
Luxi: Haha, now that's a good method to see if they work or not.
Olivier: Yes, I know it's a bit of a joke, and obviously we don't really do that, but it is very important for us. In the songwriting process, we take the time to go over songs and play them for a while. If there are parts that we don't like or need more energy or be slowed down a little bit to make the punch later in the song, we keep changing and making improvements until we have something that has everything that we think it needs to have.
WE HAVE SHARKS EVERYWHERE
Luxi: Aright. Can I ask what's so fascinating about sharks, especially the Great White ones? Do you think sharks overall symbolize danger of some sort, which is why you have chosen this shark figure for the mascot of your band?
Olivier: Well, it's a good question. It's funny because when we were without a drummer, we wrote that song. Jan Gerard came into the practice room and said, "Guys, I wrote a new song." We were like, "Cool, let's hear it".
Usually, when we have new music, it's like parts of it and then we start putting things together. He said, "You know what, I've written a complete song," and it was actually 90% finished or 95% finished, and it was "Sharkbite!", and he had the lyrics and everything. We were playing it, and we were just laughing our asses off because it had the exact attitude. It had this dark sense of humor and nice speed going on. It's really like a moshing kind of song, and we were just getting shitfaced drunk and playing the song over and over again.
It already had the title "Sharkbite!", and, at that point, we were looking for a title for the EP. We had some different ideas and we said let's just put a big, fucking shark at the front and call it Sharkbite! We asked Ed Repka to do the art and we weren't really considering making that a mascot, but everybody seemed to love it. Everybody was going crazy about it, and then people, yes, the band with the shark, and then we said, "Fuck it!".
You know what? As a joke, we brought two blow-up sharks to a gig. I think there were about a meter and a half long or something. I think it was just for the release party. We had a big backdrop with the shark on it and we had the plastic blow-up sharks, and we kicked them into the audience and people were going crazy and riding them and trying to crowd surf on them and things like that, and beating each other to shit with them, and we were just looking at that thing. We came off stage, "Dudes, this shark thing, the blow-up sharks, that is something we have to keep doing." It drives people mental, and it's awesome.
At that point we started to bring them to every single show and we haven't played a show without the sharks since. We've got T-shirts with it as well, and then people keep calling us the shark band and people refer to the pit at our shows as the shark pits because we have the sharks hanging.
When we did the new album, we said, "Of course, we're going to continue the shark thing. It would be super stupid not to do that".
Luxi: I think this whole shark concept fits well with your band. It's definitely something unique for a Thrash Metal band to have. Whatever you do in the future, it should have something to do with sharks, on one way or the other.
Olivier: At this moment, absolutely. I don't know where we're going to go with it in the future, at some point, people may get tired of it and we probably will as well, but at this moment, it's working really well for us. I'm still waiting for the moment that we play a show somewhere and people will show up in the audience wearing shark costumes and shit like that. That would be amazing.
Luxi: Oh yeah, you should consider arranging some sort of a beach party with the shark theme. ;o)
Olivier: [*laughs*] That would be amazing, having a beach cocktail, fresh wine, just about everything there really.
THRASHING ONWARDS FOR THE FUTURE
Luxi: Yes, now you have your first studio album out, what would be the next logical step?
Olivier: Well, in the near future, we want to play live as much as we can. The past year has been very, very good for us. We played a number of cool shows in The Netherlands, but we were also able to play in the Czech Republic and we had a really good time. We actually went there twice for a few days. That was amazing going out there and playing for these people and they go totally mental for our Thrash Metal show. The amount of support that they gave us was incredible. That was a really, really amazing experience. For this year, right now everything is shut down, of course, but we really hope that we can continue and get some better shows, maybe some larger shows as well, playing more places and then obviously, at some point, we're going to go back to writing. We're already into a couple of songs. I think we have a couple of songs already lying there that are pretty much done. We're going to continue writing and then focus on the next album, and at the same time, play as many shows as we can and just have a lot of fun.
Luxi: Yes, I guess that's the most important thing, to have good and friendly violent fun in the name of Thrash Metal.
Olivier: That's exactly what we're looking for, just get the party going, get that energy out of your system. That's what we do.
Luxi: Indeed. Are you still on Iron Shield Records and do you think that you are going to stick with them or are you trying to find a bigger label to get a bigger budget?
Olivier: Well, it's hard to say. I think right now, we're very much just focused on promoting this album and getting it out there. I have to say, Thomas and Iron Shield Records are doing an amazing job. Their promotion is really good. The guy, he has his heart in the right place. He loves Metal more than anyone else, I think, in the whole world.
He has his network. We're actually really happy with how things are going. It's too early to say anything about our plans for the next record because that's going to be a while. I don't know yet. If you ask me, are we happy? Yes, we're super happy. Do we know what we're going to do in the future? I honestly can't say.
OF SURVIVAL KITS OVER THE DARK TIMES
Luxi: What matters most is that you are happy with things in this life. Unfortunately, as we all know, the whole world has basically been shut down due to this raging Coronavirus pandemic. What kind of survival plans do Grindpad have for these difficult times? Have you already made your own "survival kit", so to speak?
Olivier: Well, at the moment, as you just said there we're basically shut down, so we cannot really practice. We are in contact with each other, obviously, but we are musicians, so they're probably playing their instruments and maybe coming up with new stuff, we can't really talk about that just yet. At the moment, we're completely shut down, so what I'm trying to do now is be online as much as I can try to promote the band in different online media channels. I have some time to make packages to send out CDs and stuff like that to people. We do what we can. Obviously, it's not great. We were planning a big release party for the album, and obviously that didn't happen.
Very good friends of ours from the Czech Republic, 1000 Bombs, an amazing Thrash band, were supposed to come over and join us for our release party, and obviously all that went to hell when all this thing happened. We have to see. I think we're all in this together. Everyone is losing shit. I have friends who are professional musicians, and they are hurting way more than we are because we're doing this as an aside from our normal day job. We all have jobs, we still are in very good health. I don't think we're complaining.
Luxi: Well, I think that was it for my part. Thanks for your time, Olivier. It was a good conversation with you about some current things with your band and stuff. Try to stay healthy, and remember to wash your hands carefully.
Olivier: [*laughs*] I will. Thank you for supporting our band, and I'd just like to say that from a small-time band like us, the support that we got online and from people around the world has been amazing. It's unbelievable how that took off. I really appreciate that.
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