interview with Countess

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Have any of you played in other bands? Yes. I myself haven’t played in other bands for more than two decades, though. Our drummer still plays in a few other bands.
How is it that you started playing music? We were just a bunch of young people who loved metal and wanted to play metal ourselves as well; like so many others I guess.
What are your names? / Who plays what? / How old are you?
Orlok, vocals & bass
Zagan, guitars
Mortüüm, drums
Häxa, keyboards
Have you had other previous members? Yes, but not really that many. We’ve been around for 25 years by now so there have been some line-up changes every now and then.
Did you make music even when you were young? Don’t really remember exactly, but I think we all started in our teens.
Where are you from? Rotterdam, the Netherlands.
What year did the band form? 1992.
What's your style of genre? Heavy/Black Metal. Or, in a few more words: Metal characterized by an uncompromising loyalty to the old Heavy Metal and Black Metal traditions.
What inspires you? Inspiration comes from everywhere, really: books I’ve read, movies I’ve seen, but also my experiences in life and thoughts about life in general.
How often and where do you reherse? Once a week, usually. We have a regular place where we always rehearse.
How have you developed since you started with the music?We started out as a really primitive Black Metal band, but gradually our music has incorporated more traditional influences. By now, I’d say we play Heavy/Black Metal. Our music is characterized by an uncompromising loyalty to the old Heavy Metal and Black Metal traditions. To put it another way: our music sounds like Bathory might have sounded if that band had been formed in Newcastle in 1980.
Are you looking for a booking agency, and what are your thoughts around that? Not really, but if a serious booking agency would make us a decent offer we would certainly consider it.
Are you looking for a label, and what are your thoughts around that? No, it’s not really necessary anymore these days to have a label and we prefer to do everything ourselves anyway. We had several offers from labels to release our latest album, but we turned them all down.
What made you decide to make this music? We didn’t rally decide to play the style of music we play, it’s simply the music we enjoy listening to and enjoy playing too.
What are your songs about? Our songs are about different subjects, but always subjects that fit the music. The early lyrics were very much inspired by first-wave Black Metal lyrics, you know, the typical subjects. Later on we began using different subjects too, partly because there’s only so many times you can write what are basically the same lyrics over and over again and partly because there simply were other subjects we wanted to write about as well. However, all lyrics have stayed within the boundaries of what we think are lyrical subjects that fit the music. Basically, that means subject matter dealing with the occult, mythology, history or metal itself.
Who does the composing and writes the lyrics? Most of the music and almost all the lyrics are written by Orlok. Zagan also contributes music and has written lyrics occasionally.
Do you start with the music or the lyrics? I prefer to write music and lyrics more or less at the same time; that way you generally get a better synthesis between music and lyrics. Occasionally, I have music and then write lyrics or the other way around, but I prefer to do them simultaneously. Sometimes it starts with a riff or a few riffs, sometimes with a lyrical idea or a few vocal lines. Writing the music and lyrics usually happens more or less simultaneously. Sometimes when I have a few riffs I already have an idea of what kind of lyrics should go with these or sometimes I have a few lines of lyrics and a general idea of what kind of music should go with these.
Do you compose in a certain inviroment? Well, usually I compose at home.
Have you done any covers live? Occasionally, but not very often.
What language do you sing in? Mostly English. We have quite a few songs in Dutch as well, and one album entirely in Dutch (‘Heilig Vuur’ released in 2004). We also have occasionally used German and Latin. Maybe there will be songs in more different languages in the future.
What are the least and most people to attend one of your gigs? We’ve played in pubs in front of some 40 or 50 people and also at festivals in front of some 1000 people.
What ages are most of your concert attendants? Don’t really know, but if I would have to guess I’d say anywhere between 15 and 45.
Do you always play the same songs live, or do you vary? We hardly ever play the exact same set twice. We like to do a different set every time we play. And of course you can’t always play for the same amount of time at every show. At festivals, you usually get some 45 minutes but when you do a headliner show you get something like 80 minutes.
Do you have a regular place you play live often? No, not really. The place we played most often is probably Baroeg in our home town where we played four times if I remember correctly (1996, 1997, 2014, 2015).
What was your first gig like? That was December 26, 1993 in Volkel, the Netherlands at the ‘Black Christmas’ festival. It was pretty chaotic. We had a drummer back then who was 15 at the time and it was his first ever show. He was so nervous he puked all over his kit. One of our guitarists we had then was on drugs . . . it was kind of a mess, but cool anyway.
What was your latest gig? That was at Willemeen, Arnhem, the Netherlands on February 26, 2017. Last show of a short tour we did with Blackdeath from Russia and Barathrum from Finland. It was pretty cool.
Have you had to cancel a gig? Not that I recall.
Where have you played live this year? France, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands.
Where do you plan to gig the comming year? We’ll probably do more shows this year, but nothing is definitive yet, so I can’t really say anything about that.
When did you start to sell merchandise, and what do you have for sale? We started to sell merch probably when we started the band. Currently, we have quite some stuff available like CD’s, LP’s, lighters, patches, buttons and quite a few different T-shirts of course.
Where can people buy your merchandise?
At shows and from our official Bandcamp site: http://countessmetal.bandcamp.com/merch
A lot of our music is also available digitally on iTunes, Spotify, etcetera.
What do you think about people downloading music instead of buying records now a days? That’s a complicated issue. Of course, online piracy is in fact stealing, but there’s more to it. It has positive sides as well: your music is spread to more people. And it’s not like every single illegal download equates to a lost sale, as record executives would like us to believe. Most people who illegally download probably wouldn’t buy it if they couldn’t download it. Maybe it means a loss of income for really big artists and labels, who would sell millions of records a few decades ago and now sell thousands instead. But for small bands, who wouldn’t sell that many records anyway (due to lack of distribution, promotion, touring, etcetera) the detrimental effect may be outweighed by the additional exposure gained through illegal downloads. And there isn’t much you can do against it anyway.
How do you think the music industry have changed because of this? The music industry has always sucked. The music industry is about making money, not about music. The downloading phenomena hasn’t necessarily changed the music industry all that much, I think. It has just made it even harder to make any money than it already was.
What do you think of my work? I have to admit I’m not really familiar with your work.
How do you think and know that this interview will help you in the music business? Interviews are always a chance to tell people about your music and perhaps help in exposing more people to your music.
Do you have any role models or idols? Well, I wouldn’t say I have role models or idols. I prefer to be myself. I do have influences, of course, and people whose work I admire.
Is it easier to find inspiration from older bands, or bands that are more active today? Older bands; I don’t really listen to a lot of newer bands.
What have been your biggest obstacles? Probably keeping a stable line-up.
What advice would you give other bands or artists? Stay true to yourself and your artistic vision. Don’t compromise, it’s not worth it. Especially if you’re a metal band.
How do you get psyched for a gig? We don’t do anything special, really. We just tune our instruments, warm up a bit, put our stage gear and go on stage.
Do you have any new material? We have just started working on new material. Currently, we are planning to write our new album this year and record and release it next year.
What are your web sites?
There’s more, but these are probably the most relevant ones.
How can people reach you? Most people contact us through Facebook these days, but we also have contact forms on several websites.
What are your plans for the future? Write more music, release more albums and play more shows.
Do you have something to add? Thanks to you for the interview. Keep the flame of real metal burning!!!
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