interview with Beyond Existence

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What’s the name of your band? Beyond Existence

How was the band formed? We started back in high school, in 2004, as a bunch of friends who liked the same music. Then someone came up with the idea to start a band, but the problem was that only one of us actually played an instrument at that time. The rest just started playing whatever instruments were needed for the band, so obviously we weren’t very good back then. We didn’t even have a singer, since none of us could actually sing.

Can you tell about your band? Well, we’re a band from the north-eastern part of the Netherlands (Groningen). We are mostly influenced by the European power metal scene (bands like Sonata Arctica, Hammerfall, Avantasia, Blind Guardian, Stratovarius, Helloween, Freedom Call, etc.), but also by old fashioned hard rock and music from the 80’s. We’ve been through a number of line-up changes over the years and our bassist (Peter) and drummer (me) are currently the only remaining founding members.

Where are all band members from?/Who does what in the band? We all live in different small towns and villages near Groningen, in the Netherlands. Our singer/keyboard player (Frank) recently moved to Amsterdam, which makes it a little difficult for us to still rehearse regularly with the complete band. Johan is our guitarist, and – as mentioned above – Peter and I are the bassist and drummer.

Could you explain your music to someone that haven't heard you? We actually get questions like this fairly regularly, and it’s always surprisingly difficult to describe our style to someone who is not familiar with this kind of music. Our music is not as heavy as what people usually expect when we say that we play metal, but it’s also very different from what people expect when we simply say that we play rock. When we play for crowds that aren’t really familiar with a lot of different metal subgenres, people often end up comparing us to Europe’s “The Final Countdown”. So, perhaps that song gives a very general idea of what our music sounds like.

Where was your first gig? Our first “real” gig was at a party at the field hockey club of our keyboard player, ex-guitarist and ex-singer. I don’t actually remember what year it was, but it must have been somewhere around 2005 or 2006. We still only played covers back then, and we weren’t even really good at that. Still, the crowd had a lot of fun, so we didn’t let that bother us. We actually have some old recordings of that gig and it’s hilarious to watch them every now and then.

Who writes your songs?/Who writes the music who writes lyrics? It’s a collective process, really. Usually, I am the one who comes up with the lyrics and then Frank takes them and writes a vocal melody and a general chord scheme. Then we play around with that as band and we add new parts and change things until we have a proper song.

Who has the best sense of humor in the band? We all have a very similar sense of humor actually, which often leads to some bizarre jokes that no one else understands. Sometimes one of us makes a funny remark and then another band member adds something to that and we keep expanding on one silly idea to create an entire concept of ridiculousness. We can have a lot fun with things like that.

What's good/bad with the band?/What genre do you feel you are? I think our originality is one of our strong points. I never really like it when bands or artists describe their own style as unique or claim that there’s no other band that sounds similar to them, but when people ask us about our music that’s often pretty much what we end up saying as well. We don’t mean to be pretentious when we say those things, but it’s just that most bands that are similar to us are relatively unknown to the general public – so to many people our style really does sound rather unique and we often get positive remarks on that.

Like mentioned above, we like to think that we play power metal, but our music actually lacks a number of distinct power metal characteristics (like speed or high-pitched vocals).

A negative thing about our band is that we have a hard time of keeping a steady line-up. We’ve had a number of different guitarists over the years, and currently our long-time singer/keyboard player is about to leave the band soon (on good terms of course). So, things like that make it difficult to keep on making progress as a band.

Why did you pick that particular style?/What are your songs about? We picked our style because we are all fans of the same kind of music, and we’d all like to try to make music that’s similar to the bands that we love to listen to.

Our songs deal with many different subjects. In fact, I like to write lyrics that can be interpreted by people to be about whatever they’d like to see in it. All our lyrics of course mean something to myself (sometimes even several things), but I often deliberately keep this “actual” meaning a little vague. So, if someone wants to find a different meaning in a certain song, then that’s great. That’s one of the beautiful things about music; it can have different meanings to different people. I like to include metaphors in our lyrics, as well as references to history and mythology. Sometimes a song is about something very concrete, or based on a clear concept, but it will almost always have another meaning that can be found beneath that.

Do you write your own material or mainly covers? We write our own material. Sometimes we like to switch things up and play one or two covers, but that’s mostly for fun and to have something else to do for a change.

Have you made any albums?/If yes what are they? We recorded an EP called “Rising Tide” in 2011, which was released in early 2012. At the time, we were really happy about finally having made an album; but it’s actually not very good and the recording quality is rather poor, so looking back now we’re not really proud of it anymore. It was released in very limited numbers so there aren’t many people out there who own a copy, which is probably a good thing.

Do you have any clips on YouTube? We made a video clip for our song “The Gunman of Willow Grove” in early 2013 that can be found on youtube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MWkajZAO0cE). It was actually filmed at the end of a recording session and we were running rather late, so we had to shoot all the material for the video in fifteen minutes or something. It’s a very low-budget video, but recording it was fun and the result is pretty decent, so we’re happy with that.

In addition to that, we also have bunch of live videos on youtube from the last few years.

How old were you guys when you first stood on stage? Probably around 17/18 years old.

What year was the band started? 2004

Best/worst gig you've played? One gig that wasn’t necessarily good or bad but rather a little funny, was back in 2012. We ware playing at a very artsy festival and there wasn’t a very big crowd, but suddenly this dude dressed in a costume made out of bicycle tires or something steps forward and starts nodding his head to our music. He was carrying a hammer, which he was swinging and kind of twirling around as well. Then after a while another guy with a very big colourful top hat shows up and starts dancing with the hammer-guy until top hat-guy’s hat falls off his head and gets caught up in hammer-guy’s bicycle tire suit and the whole thing turns into some kind of slapstick act where top hat-guy tries to get his hat back and hammer-guy jokingly swings his hammer in top hat-guy’s direction. To top it off, yet another guy showed up later wearing Celtic robes and started dramatically headbanging to a relatively slow song.

Which band is the best you’ve seen? There isn’t really one particular band that I would call “the best”, but I was very positively surprised by Y&T when I saw them live at Wâldrock in 2006. I didn’t know them very well before then, but I’ve been a fan of them ever since. I also really enjoyed seeing Týr live (along with Alestorm, who might not be great musically, but who are definitely very fun live), as well as Firewind during their “Pledge Your Allegiance” tour. Another very good artist that I also like – although in a rather different genre – is a local singer-songwriter called Giulia, who I’ve seen live several times now.

Is it always the same songs live? Yeah, we often play the same songs. We don’t usually get the opportunity to play very long gigs and we don’t have that many songs to choose from anyway, so we often play the ones that most crowds generally seem to like the best.

Have you had any bigger tours from start to now? No, we usually just play at local venues and festivals.

How big crowds do you usually play for? We haven’t played for any really big crowds yet. Usually it’s just a few dozen people.

What are the plans for the rest of the year? Since our singer/keyboard player doesn’t have a lot of time to invest in the band anymore, our first priority now is finding a new singer and keyboard player. Once that is done, we’ll see what the future brings.

What are your goals with your music? Of course it would be great to become famous, but we don’t really have the illusion that that could actually be possible for us. At the moment we just enjoy playing music and our main goal is to simply have fun and play the kind of music that we want to play. One of the things I personally really like is just writing good music and always simply trying to write better songs. I’d like to record an actual professional sounding album at some point and perhaps get some recognition in the online music community.

Is it easier to get your inspiration from older bands or from bands more modern? Both. As mentioned above, we’re all big fans of for example modern power metal, but also of old school (hard) rock and we try to combine aspects of both of those styles (as well as other sources of inspiration) in our music. 

What are your sources of inspiration? For the subjects of our lyrics I draw inspiration from my own feelings and thoughts and from personal situations and things I come across in life, but also from interesting stories I hear and from history, philosophy and literature. Stylistically, the way I write lyrics is influenced quite a lot by the Blue Öyster Cult. I love the choice of words and mysterious atmosphere in many of their songs.

Musically, we mainly draw inspiration from modern power metal and old school hard rock, like I already mentioned in the previous question. But also from very different styles of music. I believe that there is beautiful music in many genres and it’s always good to be open-minded. If you really only like just one or two genres, then that’s ok of course; but many people are missing out on some great music simply because they don’t realize that there may be other things that they could like aside from the music that they are used to. Personally, I sometimes pick up little ideas or bits of inspiration from songs that are very different from our own style as band, but it often works out pretty well when we incorporate things like that in our music anyway or when we try to adept them to our style.

What's the first step when making a new song? Writing the lyrics.

How do you feel about the downloading of music instead of buying albums? I actually really like collecting real albums. I love owning the actual CD with a booklet and perhaps some other extra material. It’s just nice to hold something physical in your hands instead of just having files on your computer. However, CD’s are rather expensive and the last time I bought a CD was probably months ago. I couldn’t possibly afford to buy all the music I like on CD, so I think it’s very understandable that downloading music has become a big thing and to be honest I think that’s good. There’s just so much good music out there that we wouldn’t be able to listen to if we couldn’t download it or stream it online. I think it also helps a lot with letting people discover new music and with spreading the work of more obscure artists that would otherwise remain obscure forever. Many people generally just aren’t inclined to buy albums if they don’t really, really like them; so downloading allows people to listen to more music that they like, but just not enough to buy it. In the end that means that more music will be “out there”, more music will be listened to, more music will circulate among listeners and a greater variety of artists will get a chance to be heard. Of course it’s a problem for the artists that they don’t get any money that way, but we should realize that the vast majority of artists out there hardly make any money anyway. Only the most famous artists and bands make enough to be professional musicians. That may not justify the simple fact that people don’t get paid for their music, but to be honest I would love it if thousands of people downloaded our band’s music and enjoyed it, even if I didn’t get to see one dollar or euro in return.

Besides your own music, what genres and bands do you listen to? I enjoy many different kinds of music, although most of the things I listen to are probably somewhat related to rock music. I believe that almost every genre has something nice, even if it’s just a few artists or a few songs. Some of my favourite bands and artists are the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Dropkick Murphys, Blind Guardian, Blue Öyster Cult, Sonata Arctica, Iron Savior, Reverend Glasseye and his Wooden Legs, Scatman John, Linkin Park and Giulia. Like I’ve already mentioned a couple of times now, I listen to power metal a lot, but also to a lot of punk rock, (irish) folk, 70’s and 80’s rock, country, reggae, rap, singer-songwriter music, etc. Something I also really enjoy is listening to music in languages other than English; somehow another language seems to add a new dimension to music sometimes. The only things that I don’t like at all are really heavy black and death metal, obnoxious electronic music and some crappy Dutch music that I can’t really put a name on for people who don’t know it.

What would be your greatest fears for the future? In regard to music, I really wouldn’t want to damage my hearing any further. I have always used earplugs while playing drums; but apparently that wasn’t sufficient, since last year I developed tinnitus (a constant high-pitched sound in my ears) which is really bothering me. I also have a slightly reduced hearing, which luckily doesn’t really affect me much for now. But I really wouldn’t want any of this to get to a point that I can’t play music anymore, let alone any consequences that are even worse.

What would you do if there was no music? Well, if there had never been any music at all, nobody would realize that it wasn’t there, because we simply wouldn’t know about it. But I would hate it if there was no music while I knew what I was missing.

How often do you rehearse? We try to rehearse once a week.

Name 2 of your own songs you like at the moment? Our newest song is called Sapphire Stone, it still needs a little polishing, but I think it shows a lot of promise. Even the way it is now, it’s already one of my favourite songs at the moment.  Another one that I like at the moment is called Treason Among Us. As far as drums go, it’s probably one of our more interesting songs, so it’s fun for me to play.

What drives a band that isn't all that famous and renowned to try to make a living on their music and to keep playing? The joy of playing. That’s the most important thing in making music. Even if you’re not that great, as long as you’re having fun you can keep going simply because you like doing it.

Do you have any webpages? Our website is www.beyond-existence.co.nr

Any pearls of wisdom for all other bands out there? Protect your hearing! I don’t want to sound pedantic or anything, but seriously, it’s important.

What are the biggest obstacles for a band? That’s different for every band of course, but it helps to stay together and to make sure that everyone has the same ideas about the band and enjoys being a part of it.

What is your favorite crappy instrument? This is a great question, haha! I love strange or unusual instruments and I think it’s great when bands incorporate them in their sound. I don’t know which one I would call my “favourite crappy instrument” though. There’s a video from the 70’s on youtube for a song called Jožin z Bažin that starts with a guy blowing into some kind of shell. I’m not sure what kind of instrument that is, but I think it would be a good answer to this question.

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