Walpurgisnacht – Interview

kampfartour6Originally conducted via the Internet in 2007 before we went on hiatus, this interview with Heer Halewyn, guitarist for Holland’s Walpurgisnacht, has been sitting idle for entirely too long. Regardless of the fact that “Die Derwaert Gaen En Keeren Niet” has been available since 2005, it doesn’t diminish the fact that Walpurgisnacht are still relevant and the masters at sculpting blistering speeds and soaring melodies within a core black metal aesthetic for an entire album full of essential, Swedish influenced blackness. Read on to delve farther into the candid workings of this excellent band. -Marty

Could you give our readers a glimpse into Walpurgisnacht’s story… it’s hard to imagine that such passionate black metal could arise from a band that began playing covers… most bands like that tend to fade away before they ever get started.

And that’s exactly what happened to our band, which was not yet called Walpurgisnacht in those days. I’m even reluctant to call it a band at all. Houtekiet, Marchosias, and I just came together occasionally to play some of our favorite black metal songs. There were no plans to perform live. For Houtekiet and me, having started playing guitar only a year before, it was a nice way to practice our skills. Later we parted with our drummer and Marchosias moved from the guitar and bass to the drum kit. He also wrote a few riffs, which we rehearsed for a while, but eventually the band died. It was resurrected in 2002, when Houtekiet introduced me and Marchosias to the songs that he had written in the mean time. We were so impressed that we immediately started rehearsing. Only then did we take the name Walpurgisnacht. Finding a singer and a bassist was easy. We already knew Mor de Naere and Malcus; we asked them to join us and they fit in perfectly.

The complex level of melodic development on “Die Derwaert Gaen En Keeren Niet” is quite inspired and it seems the band is very much united, from the playing all the way down to the realization of this band’s concept. It sounds as though you really spent a lot of time writing and re-writing this material before unleashing it on the masses. How long was your debut CD in the works and what sort of intense scrutiny does material such as this go through? I can only imagine the quantity of worthy riffs the band threw away as you strived for a clear musical vision…

Houtekiet comes up with the first ideas and combines them into basic song structures, arranged for two guitars. Some riffs are thrown away in this process. But a song only grows after the rest of us have become involved. Marchosias works out the drum rhythms. Malcus writes the bass lines. I add details to some of the riffs, mostly in my own part but sometimes in those of Houtekiet and Malcus as well. We take our ideas to rehearsals and try out different options. In the end we always agree on what is the best solution. If you listen to our demo and to “Die Derwaert Gaen En Keeren Niet”, you can hear how the old material evolved in two years. The same thing happened to the newer songs on the album. The lyrics are mainly written by Houtekiet and me, but the demo song “Dood, Verderf en Ellende” (“Death, Ruin and Misery”), of which a new version will appear on our second album, has lyrics written by Mor de Naere. We all have a different style of writing, but we share the same vision about Walpurgisnacht’s lyrical concept.

Could you explain the connection Walpurgisnacht has to De Peel? How has this area inspired your music and your lives? Is this sense of nature something that is shared by all people in The Netherlands, or do you feel this is an isolated phenomenon? What other elements (literature, personal experience, etc) does the band pull from before composing music/lyrics that eventually becomes the body of Walpurgisnacht? Do you feel that on “Die Derwaert Gaen En Keeren Niet” you have accomplished the feelings and concept you were striving to achieve?

De Peel is one of the most beautiful areas of nature in The Netherlands. From ancient maps, historical writings, and modern geology we know that it used to consist of one overwhelmingly large swamp. This eerie and hazardous environment inspired a lot of dark folkloric tales. It has been fragmented due to large-scale peat cutting in the second half of the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth century, and due to agriculture in the second half of the twentieth century. Nowadays preservation of nature has a higher priority than in the past. We love to visit the national park De Groote Peel, where one can still experience the gloomy atmosphere of old. This is one of our two main sources of inspiration. The other one is the folklore of the south-eastern Netherlands. Two songs have a unique theme: “De Kluizenaar” (“The Recluse”) expresses the desire to live outside of modern society and “Bochbroch” is based on a story about a misanthropic gnome, written by a Dutch fantasy author. Both lyrics still fit in the concept of Walpurgisnacht. Our next album will also contain a few historical themes: the coming of the Black Death to De Peel, the persecution of heretics, and the miserable lives of the peat cutters in De Peel.

I haven’t heard any of your releases before this CD came into my possession, but I was very much blown away by the strong harmonies and amazing structure found on the track, “Myn Dierbaer Peellant”. Would you agree that this song most perfectly embodies the spirit of what Walpurgisnacht has to offer? Dissonance and melody unite seamlessly in your music… what is it that you feel sets your band apart from so many others striving for a similar style of black metal?

In my opinion “Myn Dierbaer Peellant” (“My Beloved Land of the Peel”) is perhaps musically, but certainly lyrically, our most melancholic song. It is a lament for the diminution of an enchanting piece of nature. The first riff is a good example of one of the most important elements of our music: the atmosphere created by the harmonizing guitars. I think we managed to create a melodic style of black metal that’s still aggressive. Moreover there’s enough variety within each song and throughout the album to prevent it from getting boring.

Continuing further on this topic, Walpurgisnacht possesses a very old style of black metal personality, both in execution and overall atmosphere. What is it you find more appealing about the earlier years of this musical genre and what do you think sets it apart from the more modern characteristics so often used these days? Are you pleased with the current direction of black metal? Does it even maintain the same aura of creativity/mysticism anymore?

There was a mystic aura around black metal in the early nineties. In my heart I still long for those days, but in my mind I know that, if the same bands would still be making the same music today, it would have lost its impact. Bands like Enslaved, Emperor, Abigor, Satyricon… They explored new terrain, pushing the boundaries of black metal ever further, and for that they deserve praise. In ten years I don’t want to be playing the same kind of black metal anymore either. Although our music has a traditional atmosphere, I think we already have our own distinctive style. Either this will be developed further or Walpurgisnacht will cease to exist.

walp_band_photoI’m curious as to how black metal is accepted in your country. It seems that during the early 90’s during the rise of Norwegian black metal and its attack on people’s spiritual fears both in words and action, public outcry quickly spread throughout Scandinavia and the rest of Europe denouncing this music and the actions that have been known to coincide with it. Have you experienced any lingering hostility against the style of music you believe in, in your personal life? Maybe how you are treated in public? Has there been any opposition to your band playing live in your area? Is there any consequence to supporting black metal in your town in 2007, or has the public’s exposure to the music, or choice to ignore it, diffused their fear?

We haven’t experienced such problems. Of course our personal contempt for organized religions doesn’t show up in Walpurgisnacht very clearly, since the lyrics focus more on nature and folklore, but in general there isn’t much hostility towards black metal in The Netherlands. There are some fundamentalist Christian communities in The Netherlands, but these are small and mostly isolated from the rest of society. I don’t know whether they are aware of the existence of black metal. In normal towns, Christian politicians sometimes protest, but as far as I know they have never succeeded in getting a show canceled. Most mainstream people I know have got only a vague idea about what black metal is. The memories of the incidents in Norway in the early nineties have only been kept alive within the scene. So be it. In my opinion the church burnings were in vain anyway. Violence is not the way to support your ideals. It makes people denounce them without thinking. I prefer inspiring people to think and to question their own beliefs.

Walpurgisnacht further sets themselves apart from the current trend of bedroom black metal “bands”, by actually getting out in the trenches and making it a point to play live/tour. With the convenience of the internet bringing any form of promotion or music into potential fans’ homes, how important do you feel playing live is these days?

I don’t think you gain a lot of fans by recording music at home and putting it on the internet. There are so many other black metal bands doing that. Even if you get noticed, people base their judgment on the first impression because they want to check out as many bands as possible. But some albums, including in my opinion “Die Derwaert Gaen En Keeren Niet”, have to be heard more often to fully appreciate them. Playing live is a more efficient way of promoting your band. There are fewer people, but at least they all hear you. Instead of uploading home recordings, I would recommend sending them to record labels. That’s how we got a deal with Folter Records, which resulted in a great sounding album. That’s still the best possible promotion.

Have you noticed how, if at all, playing in front of a crowd affects the outcome/direction of your music? Do you feel playing live has changed the band or the music at all over the years? Like perhaps, album #2 could take on more of a brutal attack with less melody because the material would translate better to a room full of heathens?

Our music reflects our personal taste. With fewer melodic elements, listening to it as well as playing it would become less interesting to us. I don’t expect that Walpurgisnacht will lose melody in favor of brutality. But people change; who knows what will happen in the future?

From personal experience, I feel that seeing a BM band live, detracts a lot of the “mystical”, otherworldly qualities away from the true atmosphere of the music. Whether this is from a poor performance, or a terrible PA system, I have often come away from a concert feeling that the whole experience was simply too “human”. Thinking about the whole, anti-life, anti-human concept expressed by some BM bands both in their music and in their words, is black metal even suitable for playing live? Is this even a concern?

Listening to a black metal album or seeing the same band live, those are completely different experiences. A concert is often fucked up by the local sound technician, because he has no clue how to mix a black metal band. Too often the guitars get lost in a kind of drum & bass sound. The annoying thing is: you don’t always notice it on stage. But I’ve seen a few excellent black metal concerts where all pieces (the music, the performance, the sound) fell into place. In general I don’t like to see bands with a misanthropic concept live. If they’re enthusiastic, that’s in contradiction with their concept. If they’re acting all misanthropic on stage, I wonder why they didn’t just stay at home, away from other people.

Knowing that Walpurgisnacht is comprised of people who are also actively involved with other bands, what sort of strain does this put on writing and live duties? Are there conflicts? Is there ever any fear of these other bands beginning to sound like the music you have created for this band? What sort of a scene is active in your area and how does your band fit into the grand scheme of it? Any other bands that we should maybe look out for?

Sometimes it’s difficult to plan rehearsals and gigs. Especially Marchosias has a busy schedule. His main band is Cirith Gorgor. Furthermore he’s involved in Grimm, Zwartketterij, and Weemoed. I also take part in Weemoed; Mor de Naere and I form Volc Vermaledide. Concerning songwriting, the only possible source of conflict is Houtekiet, since he’s not only the main composer of Walpurgisnacht, but also of Inverted Cross and Weemoed. But the styles of these bands are different enough for him to know which ideas to use for which band. To complete the “Peel” black metal scene, Urfaust is another name I’d like to mention.

With almost 2 years now behind you and the material found on “Die Derwaert Gaen En Keeren Niet”, has the band begun looking towards the future and creating new music? How would you describe the progression in the new songs and will you continue to explore the same concept lyrically?

The material for the next album is still going through the process of rewriting. Nevertheless I think it already equals “Die Derwaert Gaen En Keeren Niet” in musical quality and in atmosphere. The style will be essentially the same. The lyrics are again concerned with nature, local folklore and history. So it will be a typical Walpurgisnacht album!

Thanks a lot for taking the time to sift through this interview. As a new fan of your music, I am honored to have the opportunity to bring your words to our readership and wish Walpurgisnacht even more victories in battle! The closing words are yours!

Thank you Marty & Worm Gear. Keep supporting the underground! To those who haven’t heard our album yet: check out the samples at www.walpurgisnacht.nl.

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~ by martyworm on January 18, 2009.

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