Interview with Rick Bouwman of Martyr

 

 Having made a distinct mark on the eighties before disbanding in 1987, Dutch rockers Martyr have completed their return with their brand new album Circle of 8 via Metal Blade Records. Eager to find out about the Martyr’s past and present we had the chance and pleasure to talk with guitarist Rick Bouwman, who gave us the background to the band and the new release.

A warm welcome to The Ringmaster Review and thank you for taking time to talk about the band and the new album with us.

Firstly would you for people not aware of the band introduce the members and give some background to Martyr?

Martyr is:

·         Rick Bouwman- Guitars

·         Marcel Heesakkers – Guitars

·         Rop van Haren – Vocals

·         Toine van der Linden – Bass

·         Wilfried Broekman – Drums

This story about MARTYR is going to be a long answer. Well let me start here:
Originally MARTYR is a cult classic metal band established in the early 80’s During the five years that Martyr was alive and kicking back then (1982-1987), the band released two albums that are considered cult in the Metal scene today. ‘For The Universe’ (1985) and ‘Darkness At Time’s Edge’ (1986) are classic Metal. Our style is described as a delight for those who love strong melodies, speedy riffs and a high level of technicality.
When MARTYR started average age was only about 17 years old, but still the band was immediately searching for and implementing their own style. With the urgent wish to be different than the already established Dutch Metal bands like for instance Picture and Vengeance.

Also in  those years, Martyr appeared on compilation albums from Roadrunner (Dutch Steel) where we participated with “Snow & Fire” and Metal Blade (Metal Massacre VI) where we participated with the song “En Masse (Stand Or Die) “ . In Holland MARTYR was voted best new Metal band in Aardschok magazine, and toured with several international acts. MARTYR also appeared on Sky Channel’s Monsters Of Rock and rapidly the band became a bigger name in the international metal scene.

We disbanded in 1987, but reunited in 2001 to play the Heavy Metal Maniacs festival. After being asked by the Dutch fanatic fans that could not forget about the band.
Four years later, the band revived almost the complete 1982 line up to play the  Keep It True and Headbangers Open Air festivals. It was the KIT reunion show that is still very important for us as it woke up the flame again. There were so many fans from all over Europe that knew all about the band and the old material , that gave the band such a great response and interaction which was almost unbelievable !
The flame has been burning again since these festivals and the band continued to play live ever since. December 2008 MARTYR supported US Shock Rockers Lizzy Borden on their European tour. But also in the years after that MARTYR kept on hitting the European stages supporting great acts like Flotsam & Jetsam , Vicious Rumors, Jaguar, Evergrey a.o.
Meanwhile in 2004 we rereleased our 2 albums on CD on High Vaultage Records. Additional bonus tracks were added ad well.

In 2009 the first new Martyr record in almost 25 years has been released . That’s when the new EP ‘Fear’ was coupled with again a  re-release of the classic ‘For The Universe’ album as a double digipack entitled ‘Fear The Universe’ on Rusty Cage Records (RCR0017).  When RCR asked us to do the rerelease for the For The Universe album at first MARTYR said “No”. Because it was already out on High Vaultage at that time. After a few years when RCR kept on asking we agreed but with extra and new bonus material which resulted not in 1 song, but in 5 brand new songs to appear on the Fear CD.

In 2010 and 2011 Martyr re-entered the studio between the live shows,  by working on the successor for ‘Fear’.
That is the complete new album called “Circle Of 8”, which is released by Metal Blade Records in November 2011 worldwide. You bet this will be a significant impulse in Martyr’s revival.  And by signing with Metal Blade again : “We Are Back Home”…….

Can we first talk about the band in the 80’s? You gathered strong acclaim through your music, live shows, and two albums, what was the metal scene like back then for you?

When you talk about the Dutch Metal scene  : There were not many bands playing in the style that we did when we started. In fact that is WHY we started, we wanted to sound like something else. The other Dutch metal bands at that time were considered more straight forward heavy rock, we wanted more technicality and speedy riffs with strange notes or different measure types or rhythms in it.
I think we managed to do so, afterwards you noticed more bands willing to play that style as well in Holland. What is great about that time and the Dutch Metal Scene is that because the country is small everybody knew each other.

When we released our albums they were strongly recognizable by our own sound, in that way we really stood out.

What were the influences that flavoured your music?

In contradiction to what most people think our influences are not the great bands like Iron Maiden or Metallica but mostly the very early Queensryche (Queen Of The Ryche EP) , underground metal bands like Warlord, Satan Jokers (France) and Jap metal like X Ray, Loudness, Earthshaker at that time. Already then we were trying to find new music or bands that were ahead of the traditional scene. I think that’s why we also were a few steps ahead in the Dutch Metal scene as well. Great metal bands with unique styles.

Martyr disbanded in 1987 what was the reason?

The split up was mainly because of the pressure of finding a new record company for a new release. And the way the company (a major company)  forced us , ignorant as we were these days as youngsters (imagine that we were average not even 17 years of age when we started with MARTYR)  , to write into a new artistic direction. We tried but just could not do that. We could not write in a different style just because someone else wanted us to do so. MARTYR has always been MARTYR, whether you liked it or not, but has always , as we do now, done what we wanted to do ourselves and what we wanted to sound like ourselves. So don’t ask us to write a hit single on command…..because that’s what happened.
We were close in signing that major deal, but were not even happy as a band……and  when the major deal did not happen as well……the curtain fell. That is mainly the reason the band fell apart…….
The lesson we learned is that never we will write songs outside our own style commissioned by somebody else again. We only will write what we want to write ourselves.

What were you doing from that point to reuniting in 2001?

Every MARTYR member continued in the music business in all kinds of (metal) bands. Results of these projects or bands can be also heard as bonus tracks by the way on the High Vaultage reissues from “For The Universe” and “Darkness At Times Edge”

The band came back together for the Heavy Metal Maniacs festival of that year, was this the only reason for reforming?

Yes it was, It was a one of a kind thing at that time. It was great by the way. But it was supposed to be 1 show only just for the Dutch Heavy Metal Maniacs Fanclub.

What happened to inspire you all to make the reunion a permanent and forward looking situation?

So the first reunion was 2001 for the Dutch Metal fanclub: The Heavy Metal Maniacs.  They organise a great festival every year. When we rehearsed for that one it felt like we never stopped. Things just went natural.
But the real decision of MARTYR’s come back was about 4 or 5 years later. The band revived almost the complete 1982 line up to play the Keep It True and Headbangers Open Air festivals. It was the KIT reunion show that is still very important for MARTYR as it woke up the flame again. There were so many fans from all over Europe that knew all about the band and the old material, that gave us  such a great response and interaction which was almost unbelievable ! The flame has been burning again since these festivals and MARTYR continued to play live ever since.

Is there a big difference you found from the times in the 80’s to being a band now? Not so much for yourselves but the scene you have come back into.

Not especially the metal scene but within the music industry in general it is hard nowadays for a band to get records sold as we all know.  And besides that, the offer of releases is even then still tremendous. Every band can release a CD, compared to the eighties where a band with a record deal or a record out was something unique. On the other side, with internet , social media ecetera you can do large promotion activities and reach many people. But then again it is a challenge not to “get lost” in the amount of news and information fans are receiving nowadays.
So there are pros and cons but as a band MARTYR has to be satisfied with the way things are going now and were going back then.

You have just released Circle of 8 your new album, though you previously released your Fear EP in 2009 how does it feel to be back with a new release and material? 

The Circle Of 8 album is again a big step forward , being on Metal Blade Records, having done several European tours, and again having gained more studio and live experience. I think this  has resulted in just being a better and tighter MARTYR than ever before.
What was a great thing i experienced in the studio was  this vibe we all felt that was going on and growing stronger and stronger as the recording sessions were going along. Not only we noticed this but also our producer and master engineer. Also our friends from Vicious Rumors who participated on some songs on the “CO8”.album felt it as well. There was something remarkable going on. I hope this vibe and this joy of making this record will be heard on the album by our fans as well. And after that : hopefully we will meet as many fans as we can on the road to promote the new album!

Did you have to change your approach the album especially recording wise from your previous albums?

No, we do it the way we want to do it.  But….for the writing we took more time, also because we were on the road a lot. In the studio we were very much more experienced of course after all these years. But what is do think also has not changed with the way we approached our previous albums is that you still can feel and hear the energy and atmosphere we have in the studio.  I think even especially on this “CO8” album that is captured during the recordings.
For the writing we took more time as well as for the recording part , also because we were on the road a lot. The whole process took 14 months. There was no time pressure. In between recordings our record company at that time Rusty age Records even called it quits. That sucked but we had to move on . Fortunately, after hearing 3 brand new songs , Metal Blade Records decided to release the new album on their label , which of course we are very proud of.

We are an 80’s band of course  but we are also 25 years further. After MARTYR split up in 1987 and all of us continued their music careers we have all learned a lot during those years, have become better musicians and have been listening to also lots of other bands that may have influenced us as well.
So we took these influences with us as a natural thing . But at the same time we never will forget where we came from , so the 80’s style is still in there as well and that is what you hear on the “CO8” album as far as i am concerned.
Songs like “Insensible Scream” are in the 80’s style, and of course we have the re recording of “Speed” on it. The spirit is still there, the enthusiasm has never disappeared, maybe even better than ever before . That is also visible when you come to see MARTYR live.

Importantly you have brought your sound right up to date in power and intensity without losing your original sound and flair. Was this something that naturally happened or did you have to work at fusing the two?

This was a natural thing to be honest. We play and write the way we want to . We have the 80’s influences but are also 25 years further. Did a lot of live shows, played with very interesting bands, listened to lots of great metal bands, all things that may have influenced and made us a better band than we were already.  We took these influences with us as a natural thing . But at the same time we never will forget where we came from , so the 80’s style is still in there as well.  And that is what you hear on the “CO8” album as far as i am concerned. The 80’s  style is strongly connected or represented to the our current style

What was the major difference in the studio that you found?

We recorded quite traditionally, not with pro tools or stuff like that. Big difference was the amount of equipment especially guitars and amps we had available to work with and to find the best sound we needed with. That was great !
We do work much quicker now than 25 years ago  with hard disk technology  instead of a 24 track tape recorder. But still we record live and are not setting things up note by note.

Did the album match or exceed your expectations and hopes going in to recording it?

The spirit is there, the enthusiasm has never disappeared, maybe even better than ever before . That is what you hear on the Circle Of 8. It is by far much better than what we expected when we started the process.
What was a great thing i experienced in the studio was  this vibe we all felt that was going on and growing stronger and stronger as the recording sessions were going along. Not only we noticed this but also our producer and master engineer. Also our friends from Vicious Rumors who participated on some songs on the “CO8”.album felt it as well. There was something remarkable going on. I hope this vibe and this joy of making this record will be heard on the album by our fans as well.

Returning must have been ripe with exciting and new things after such a long gap but is there a negative that was unexpected that you have found?

No , nothing at all. Everything seems to be going so smoothly and the way reactions are being received for this new album CO8 is really overwhelming.  Ever since our return it has been nothing but fun , joy and great response. And that is why we do it for the main reason really. Would not want it any other way.

What music or bands were you listening to in between the band’s first life and now that has touched or inspired your new sound in some way?

Oh well,  i listened to Pantera a  lot, i really dig Dimebag of course. But olden goldies like Van Halen I were and still are in my cd player regularly as well. But inspiration can come from all kind of bands, also the bands we toured with like Lizzy Borden or Flotsam & Jetsam. The latest Flotsam album is one of the greatest albums from last year !

Have you found already a rekindled interest in your previous releases from a new breed of fan?

Oh yes, that is remarkable that we see our old fans but also new fans at our shows and the young fans are re- discovering our early stuff. I think we just did something good back then haha. These youngsters often really are into the 80’s and love our old songs, like Speed Of Samurai , which has now become MARTYR greatest hit haha.

What is next for Martyr?

First do live promotion for this album. We are working on more dates to come but will do shows nationally and internationally . We started on Nov 4th in Holland with a great release party and will play Benelux , UK and Switzerland to start with in Nov and Dec. Plans are being made for more club shows 2012 and the festivals after May 2012.
But i think soon we will start writing new material already again as well !

A great many thanks for sparing time to talk with us. Good luck with Circle of 8. Is there a last thought or comment you would like to leave us with?

Yes, first of all thanks to Ringmaster for the support . But also a very big THANKS to all MARTYR fans that supported us continuously throughout all these years.  Hope to meet you all on the road soon ! Rock On !

Circle of 8 is available now via Metal Blade Records. For more info go to http://www.metalblade.com/english/artists/martyr/bio.php

 

Read the Circle of 8 Review @ https://ringmasterreviewintroduces.wordpress.com/2011/11/08/martyr-%E2%80%93-circle-of-8/

RingMaster 16/11/2011

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