The essence of greatness: an interview with Franky De Smet Van Damme of Channel Zero

CZ Franky

The recent release of Kill All Kings, the new album from Channel Zero, comes after one of the most tragic and devastating times a band or anyone can experience. The death of drummer Phil Baheux left not only the Brussels band but metal itself distraught. After time to recover the band decided to continue and to record the album Phil was set to record with them. What emerged is an encounter which makes for a thoroughly enterprising engagement and makes a fitting tribute to their friend. We had the pleasure to talk with vocalist Franky De Smet Van Damme who kindly shared memories of Phil, as well as telling us about the impact of his sad passing, the new album, approaches to recording and much more…

Hello Franky and thanks so much for sharing your time with us.

You have just released your new album, the irresistibly enjoyable Kill All Kings; it must be an exciting yet also a sad moment for the bad with the album the first release since the loss of colleague and friend Phil Baheux. What are the feelings as the album makes its first steps into the world?

Well it’s a hard step … when you see how much pos vibes we have for that new album … Phil should have been here with us … sometimes it’s hard to get what life brings you … happiness and sadness can be so close together …

 

Phil

Phil

Can we briefly talk about Phil before concentrating on the album. He was a well-loved and rigorously respected musician and man by fans and the metal world, and of course a brother to you guys. Could you give us some insight into the man and his craft?

Well first of all he was a tall man …6 foot …a giant with a heart of gold … when he had it for you… he would have died for you … he had that comic thing in him … he was an 24/7 entertainer … when he was around us we were always hearing him goof around with everybody … it’s so quiet now in studio and on shows … we really miss him so much as a friend, there was no way you missed him when he was there … it’s still hard to get …

It must have been touch and go whether the band continued after his passing. What gave you the strength to continue and push the band on again, which we all know is what he would have wanted?

Well at first it was a hard time, we were so much in shock because he was really in such good shape … and then the next moment you can hardly believe what’s going on … his son of 5 years was always there with us … so much drama. I was out of options … we were about to record the new album 2 days later and as most of you know … that always starts with drums … so we were devastated. One month later we still didn’t know what now … we were still in that hanging phase where we didn’t really knew what, when or where … meanwhile we had had a message through a Belgian fan that met Lars Ulrich who made his condolences to us … and he also said … what happened was so tragic but please move on … Phil would have never want you to stop here … and pretty soon after that we also got that reaching hand from Roy Mayorga (Mikey’s good friend from in Soulfly ) who said if you want to make the album in memory of Phil I want to help you guys out, I’d be happy to do this for you …so we decided to make the album and see from there on, since there was no intention at all that Roy would play drums in Channel Zero. That’s how we got back on the rails.

As mentioned you have just released Kill All Kings, a fiery contagion of thrash and groove infested melodic metal. For us the album sits somewhere between modern thrash and its origins whilst adding its own individual twists. How would you describe its potency?

I think it’s got that look back and respect for the metal machine build-up of riffs and power and at the same time I’m always the guy that looks forward … that combination of Mikey and my pulling forward in ideas works well. It’s the second album now and we start to make things really work together … the music match is also very strong between Mikey and me, so it’s all about vibe and hard work.

I’m always concerned about … what is now … what should be the vibe now … 2014/2015 … I’m not the kind of person who looks back to much …

It is a fair old time since the band’s formation in 1990 of course, a time which included a decade or so long break, so how would you say your sound has most powerfully evolved since those early times and Kill All Kings? Channel Zero - Kill All Kings

That new impact comes from Mikey … he was highly needed in pos vibe and power to make this happen … so I found a music soul mate and a brother at the same time, destiny I think … sometimes things happen without a reason … this had to happen … I call it Channel Zero 2.0 😉

Did you have reservations going into the album’s writing let alone recording because there was no Phil to drive the rhythmic provocation?

Well this album was already there before Phil passed away so the songs were created with Phil’s impact … in demo writing we use drum computers to write since we don’t have budgets to record whole demos in studio. What happens is that when songs come together, Phil always kinda followed the drum tracks so we were sure it was something he could go for … it would have been crazy to try to program things that we could not play later on live. So here we were totally there, all songs were chosen to record with Phil …

There was a deeper personal element to songs, lyrically and musically, than ever before on a release this time for you?

Well the impact of Heart Stopped, the song that was kinda of rewritten in „ Angel „ acoustic, was a hard one … Brothers Keeper too … these songs now refer so hard to what happened so that’s really emotional … on the other side I have always written lyrics that have a deep impact or feeling to me …

I have that thing where I want to wake up people’s conscious … always been my intention in writing lyrics.

The recording must have been very hard especially but it sounds on songs that emotion rife in the studio went into a stirring and anthemic passion which soaks the release. Do you feel that too?

Well we want to make songs that kind of stick to the brain … we wrote about 40 of them and when you write more songs you always have more good ones in the end … that’s a thing that probably made all the ones on the album have a certain strength … which they should have.

Impact and dedication … lyric wise and song wise …

Tell us about the songs on the album, Phil’s involvement if at all, and the inspiration for the majority of their themes.

All songs are written by Mikey musically and then I come into the game with feelings … vocal lines … and that is where it moves on … sometimes it falls really fast together, sometimes it goes slow in writing. When things start to pop up at the surface it means it sticks to the brain … so we learned to take time …

We must admit we expected to feel or hear something missing in the rhythmic part of the album, no disrespect to Roy Mayorga who joined you in the studio, but the man nailed it in a different way to Phil but as potently…

I think that’s normal … Roy really listened hard to the demos and he wanted to put his heart and soul into it but off course Phil and Roy have both different playing styles We tried to find that sweet spot with Roy in the studio … to make it work in such a way that Phil would have loved it … we really worked hard in that vibe or direction and it was not easy for Roy to step into someone else’s shoes but he really did such amazing job and impact … all in the memory of Phil … we can’t thank him enough for that …

Having been one of the most notable driving forces of European thrash in the nineties have you felt the need to twist your sound to bring it ‘up to date’ with modern sounds within the genre or has it organically simply evolved for the new album and its predecessor Feed ‘Em with a Brick?

The change was obvious … we had a new guitarist and automatically we moved on to something different but the impact we wanted to give was still a metal impact and sound so Mikey was a dream scenario, even if we didn’t have many things in mind when he joined. The new album has evolved to better songs and also we thought about it way more that F W A Brick … I think that’s an evolution you owe to your fans and yourself also…

There seems to be two camps in regard to modern thrash and its varied flavoursome design, old school fans who hate it and those who devour it eagerly. How have you found responses with a sound which embraces both aspects?

Well as I said before, Mikey embraces that old school metal vibe which he understands really well as a metal guitarist … and on the other side I’m always open for new things …and the mix was important too, I made some decisions that had to be done and I think we made a move that kinda made it work … I mean by work it gets accepted really well so I hope we can surprise people with our 2014 album ….

Channel Zero - Band Photo 2014 #3 - Photo Credit Tim TronckoeWith plenty of albums under your belt, have expectations over the way you approach recording new records changed over time?

Yes it has … bands have less and less budget and ways to record without making any comments on the downloading thing …

With no income anymore for most bands out of the fact their music gets copied … it gets more and more complicated to bring it on.

I always say … if you have 3 months time or 3 weeks time to build a house … which house will be the most finished? Working on music still brings in the fact it will probably be stronger as a song …

I still believe that producers make a big difference also, their knowledge is inevitable but who can still pay a decent producer and pre-producer so all these things matter. The band has to have a certain strength but on the other side the people that work on your music also have their talents and qualities so I still believe in the strength of working together … not in making an album in your living room and selling it on your own. A couple of exceptions out of the world-wide market maybe make it work like that but 98% of the majority of the bands they only work like that …

Do you still get the same buzz?

Well if you write good songs you hopefully get good reviews etc. … if the music talks the rest walks, I still believe in that…

You released Electronic Cocaine as the first single from the album, strong bait to the album for sure; tell us about its background and creation.

Its lyrical content is about the addiction we all have on the social media and internet … it’s a American term for people being hooked on internet and the fact that our brain needs the dopamine of getting tickled, when we receive less messages our brain is disappointed … it’s a typical human reaction but we can’t live anymore without the net and that’s where that lyric goes all about, about the fact we all are hooked without realizing it anymore. For me the song has that strong verse pre-chorus chorus impact … I really love that song personally, it is a favorite for me …

Roy Mayorga was only involved in the recording of the album, so what is ahead in the rhythm department for the band?

We are not going to replace Phil … we will play with drummers that will take his seat; we are not ready to have a fixed drummer on Phil’s seat. It’s too emotional ….same for band pictures with someone new … it’s a bit more complicated than you should think

And for the band as a whole, live shows?

Well in the meantime … Seven Antonopoulos plays drums live and he is making a great job helping us out. He is a great drummer and awesome person, we are so grateful he is there for the moment. We hope we can get on tour any time soon with Kill All Kings; we get really great reviews everywhere so when we are getting the possibility to tour … we will get on that bus…

Thanks again so much for chatting with us, any last thought you would like to add?

Thank you for checking us out and thank you for taking a spin on our new album … and if we convince you, come to a show to see Channel Zero live … and thank you for all your messages of respect for Phil .

Looking back at the writing and making of Kill All Kings, is there one overriding aspect or emotion which marks its moment in time for you?

Phil’s passing should not have been there … life is precious … keep that in mind, live your life to the fullest because it can be over before your realize. Happily Phil lived his life at 200 M/Hour … I’m happy he did, he was a great person and awesome brother.

Read the review of Kill All Kings @ https://ringmasterreviewintroduces.wordpress.com/2014/06/25/channel-zero-kill-all-kings/

www.channel-zero.be

Pete RingMaster

The RingMaster Review 23/07/2014

Copyright RingMaster: MyFreeCopyright

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King of Asgard – Karg

King of Asgard 2014

With their new album our introduction to King of Asgard, expectations of Karg were bred from the influence and suggestion of others. The band’s third album follows the widely acclaimed debut Fi’mbulvintr of 2010 and the similarly well-received …to North two years later. The former especially is mentioned in lustful voices so hopes and anticipation for the bands new full-length was keenly high. What emerged is a release which initially did not completely convince. Certainly the band’s raw blackened death metal impressed in weight, craft, and malevolence yet it lay relatively dormant in the passions. As with all releases though the first couple of ventures were mere suggestions and subsequent listens began revealing a much broader and inventive proposition. It would be wrong to say that the album has managed to light a fire in our imagination and passions yet but it has become one tenaciously compelling protagonist over time. How it sits against the previous King of Asgard albums we will have to let others say for now but Karg is definitely an album worth a decent perusal.

The Swedish band was formed in 2008 by vocalist/guitarist Karl Beckman alongside drummer Karsten Larsson, the pair having played together in Viking metallers Mithotyn. Drawing on Norse heritage lyrically, the band released the demo Prince of Märings in 2009 before being joined that same year by bassist Jonas Albrektsson, once of Thy Primordial. The demo drew strong attention from labels and by the December of the same year King of Asgard has signed with Metal Blade Records. Fi’mbulvintr caused a big stir in the metal scene with its release the following year. Recorded with Andy LaRocque, as both the subsequent albums, it strongly thrust the band onto the folk/extreme metal map. Second guitarist Lars Tängmark was then recruited as the band hit the live side of things across 2010/11 before the band settled down to work on and create sophomore album …to North.

The dark and harshly lit soundscape of Karg is the next confrontation for ears and emotions from the band, its title meaning barren in English which is a perfect description of the stark atmosphere it carries, and to be honest of that first initial persuasion. As with all things closer inspection reveals creative nooks and crannies though; the unpredictable elements which breathe and tempt below the surface, and it is undeniable that Karg has a wealth of those lures.

The distant portentous storm of what feels like a brewing battle front makes way for the wonderfully nagging riffery of The Runes of Hel, the guitars calling invitingly from within the still rumbling scenery. Swiftly rampant rhythms are King of Asgard - Kargin league with the inciting guitars, as are soon after the gravelly growls of Beckman. There is virulence to the eventual charge of the track which has attention and appetite recruited keenly, more so as it expands its creative and lyrical narrative. Persistently guided by that niggle of a toxic groove which set it in motion, the track continues to enthral and impress with its at times subtle twists and caustic melodies within the overall intimidation of the song, making for an open attraction to greedily devour.

It is a mighty start which has hopes licking their lips for what is to follow. The Trickster comes next, striding in on imposing riffs to which shards of sonic enticement blazes. It is a magnetic entrance, especially with the group vocal calls, but despite prowling energetically loses its impetus. The grooving lures and crisp rhythms make a forcible draw whilst riffs and vocals roar pleasingly but the track feeds more than defies expectations, missing the inventive colouring of its predecessor. There are engaging twists within it to keep interest and satisfaction high though and make it an encounter you want to explore more, just like its successor Highland Rebellion. Aggression and antagonism is high from its first breath, the call to arms rhythmically and in atmosphere a potent coaxing within and around the menacing textures and attitude of the track. Again though, it lacks the spark to ignite the passions which disappoints, even if ears and imagination are admittedly quite content.

Remnant of the Past marks a shift in the strength of the album, the track returning its appeal to the levels of the first track with adventure and raw enterprise. Its coarse wind of riffs and punchy rhythms makes an intriguing beckoning but it is when the storm drops and the bass takes centre stage with its sinister tone as Beckman’s equally noir lilted vocals snarl out the lyrical bait, that there is a new potency to track and release. The song continues to stalk ears with roaming riffs and concussive rhythms but reined in by that threatening air. The song persistently surprises to incite a new hunger for the release, its winding melodic tempting and group vocals adding extra taste to the richly appetising proposition. It is soon left in the shade of the outstanding Omma though. From an elegant piano crafted caress the track builds a brooding dusty squall of sonic and rhythmic intimidation. It is not hostile but certainly warlike which is accentuated by the great vocal drone which comes in, its primal chant like a meditative tribal coming together in preparation for battle. That intensity erupts with warring rhythms and vocal causticity but bound again by delicious melodic straps of enterprise and emotively atmospheric textures. Ultimately barbarous in its intent there is also a seduction to the song which leaves thoughts and passions basking.

Both The Heritage Throne and Huldran keep things at a heightened level, the first especially contagious in its creative suasion. The track strolls in with rhythmic muscles poised and confident swaggering riffs. The bass finds a gutsier growl too which only adds to the captivating and bruising rapacity of the song. It is another track unafraid to explore different avenues, arguably too few of the songs doing so upon Karg. With slow moves into clean harmonies over melodic respites and equally restrained crawls of heavy weight predation veined by majestic sonic hues, the song is an enthralling offering. Its successor is pure vitriol in sound and presence, a furious rabidity but veined by irresistible grooves and intrigue clad ideation. Many of the songs on the album are slow burners in persuasion, this more than most but it evolves into one of the most eagerly digested incitements over time.

The album is concluded by firstly Rising, a brutally imposing and exciting encounter which also takes time to permeate thoughts and feelings but does so with a tenacity and tempest of sound and imagination which leads to a stealing of full praise, and lastly a brilliant cover of Bathory’s Total Destruction. I know this will upset a great many but with its punk/thrash fuel and urgency, and outright inhospitable infectiousness, the track takes the original to another level and along with Omma is the pinnacle of the album.

Karg has still not lit a fire in the belly but with each and every listen just grows and brings a stronger persuading and is easy to whole heartedly recommend.

Karg is available via Metal Blade Records now @ http://www.metalblade.com/kingofasgard/

http://www.kingofasgard.com/

8/10

RingMaster 23/07/2014

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That Massive Bereavement – Sugar for the Masses

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The last time we heard from That Massive Bereavement it was with their raw and dirty Eat The Rich EP, a release which grated upon and pleasured ears in equal fashion. It was caustic and uncompromising but suggested a healthy future for the UK band which has been more than reinforced by its successor, the outstanding Sugar for the Masses. The new seven track release finds the band strapping on a maturity and creative mischief which was merely hinted at on the previous encounter. It is a brawling proposition which again fuses grunge, punk rock, garage rock and plenty of other filthy essences, but the band and release has become a whole new proposition now. The EP not only realises their early promise but has nurtured it into a thoroughly captivating and incendiary riot of thankfully still unpolished but feverishly riveting rock ‘n’ roll.

Hailing from the Medway, That Massive Bereavement draw on inspirations which include the likes of The Fall, Therapy?, The Replacements, Wire, The Pixies, Sonic Youth, Pavement, Swell Maps, and Joy Division. Plenty of those are often open spices in songs but only as colouring to their striking abrasive sound and enterprise. Eat The Rich was a release which you could see rubbing as many people up the wrong way as it recruited ardour clad fans such its uncompromising and in comparison to Sugar for the Masses, naïve presence. Sugar for the Masses though is an incitement you can only see recruiting eager attention and hunger for the band, the quartet of vocalist/guitarist Aidan Hehir, lead guitarist James Feist, bassist Peter Bevan, and Colin Antilife Jervis on drums breeding all the qualities of their debut into a broader contagious and skilfully delivered bait.

The release sets off after the passions with Colin Farmer (Will Have His Revenge On Lancashire), a grisly bass riff bringing the opener instant attention. Its lure is soon added to by a feisty rhythmic provocation and a sonic wash of a1016014884_2acidic enticement. The track already has senses and appetite in its fiery hands, its emerging rapacious stroll antagonistic rock ‘n’ roll with a flush of The Stooges, Rocket from the Crypt, and even a touch of Lemmy. Hooks litter the thrilling confrontation as well as jagged riffs and lust searching grooves, it all combining for an insatiable tempest of attitude with persistent spills of sonic secretions and punk irreverence.

The outstanding start is followed by the brief endeavour of Jellied Eels. A track which reminds straight away of the seventies and bands like Swell Maps and Television Personalities, it strides with a big grin on its chords and rhythms whilst the lyrical tempting is loose in its seriousness but just as magnetic as the roar of an explosive intensity and aggression which also spears the excellent slice of revelry.

The imposingly impressive start to the EP is kept up with Bullet, its body a stalking prowl of caustic submission and seemingly defeatist passion. It is only a suggestive shade to a track which is unrelentingly defiant in sound and confrontational in its aggressive provocation. Guitars spill venom and rhythms swing unchecked punches to explode in the ears, but it is the raw reflection of the vocals and a sonic enterprise which sears the senses that loads the song with a vibrancy its premise defies. It is a compelling slab of incitement which is weighty in sound and presence and a total contrast to the punk devilment of Rupert Murdoch’s Death Wank. The track strides with adrenaline fuelled ferocious riffs and stabbing rhythms led by the individually brawling tones of Aiden, but interrupts that charge with staccato sculpted breaks in its gait and sonically swirling guitar imagination. It is two minutes of garage punk addictiveness to lay further enthused emotions upon.

Nine Toed Woman again has a broad smile and lustful appetite given in return for its hook laden punk temptation and lyrical ‘insight’. Thoughts of early Damned and The Adicts spring to mind but again it is a song with a presence which carries familiar traits without definition ensuring it is a fresh and ridiculously infectious slavery for ears and passions. There is no doubting that That Massive Bereavement has also honed their ability to sculpt hooks and lures which instinctively find a home in the listener and probably on Sugar For The Masses in no more potent way than right here, though the following title track might differ. One minute of sheer hostile punk rock with another hook which lends to addictive behaviour whilst merely two lines lyrically help cast an irresistible anthemic bait, the track is punk/roll in raw and gripping form.

The release closes with the post punk brilliance of Desolate, a track unmistakeably bred from a Joy Division influence but bound in a rich melodic ribboning which seduces the imagination. It is merely one aspect of the almost seven minute treat though as within its repetitive minimalistic coaxing it explodes with the rawest grunge infused explosions of sound. Coldly and hauntingly seductive in one breath and bordering on corrosive in another, the track is a fascinating and enthralling proposition which makes powerful suggestions about the direction the band is heading.

High hopes for Sugar for the Masses were left looking lightweight by the end of its incitement of ears, the release nothing but evidence showing That Massive Bereavement has grown from a promising band into a dramatically impressive protagonist with still plenty of potential to be realised you feel.

Sugar For The Masses is available now @ http://thatmassive-bereavement.bandcamp.com/album/sugar-for-the-masses

https://www.facebook.com/MassiveBereavement

9/10

RingMaster 23/07/2014

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Listen to the best independent music and artists on The RingMaster Review Radio Show and The Bone Orchard from

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