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

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

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Categories: Interviews, Music

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