interview with River of Souls

What are your names? / Who plays what? / How old are you?Paul : Bart is our vocalist, Benjamin plays bass, Ingmar plays lead guitar, I play rhythm and lead guitar. We don't have a drummer yet. Our average age is somewhere between 30 and 40, I am the oldest one: 40.

Where are you from?The Netherlands.

What year did the band form? 2014

Have any of you played in other bands?Paul : Ingmar is the only one who's currently playing in more than one band, and River of Souls is more of a sideproject for Ingmar than a band he plays in. His other bands are Codex and Skeletor, but he has also played in Scrotum and Warchitect. Bart has been the vocalist of World Funeral. I've played drums in Sinister for a couple of years and I’ve also played drums in Judgement Day, for which I was the main composer at that time. Furthermore, I have played as session drummer on albums for Infinited Hate, Weapons to Hunt, FondleCorpse and Supreme Pain. Currently I'm also helping out the Dutch thrashband Grindpad on a temporary basis.  River of Souls is the first band Benjamin plays in, and he doesn't have another band on the side.

How is it that you started playing music?

Paul: When I had discovered  Iron Maiden in '87, I just knew I had to be a musician.

Bart: Same here! When I heard the soundtrack of Conan the Barbarian by Basil Pouledouris in ’88 followed by Maiden’s “Somewhere in time” album, which was the first metal album I bought in ’89, I knew this was going to have an impact.

Did you make music even when you were young?

Bart: As a kid of 12, one of my friends, who had a tape recorder and could play guitar a bit, made metal songs about teachers we didn’t like. I sang the lyrics (which were totally bat crazy), so that was my first interaction in a band-like setting ;). (Un)fortunately, the tapes got lost in the maelstrom of time.

Paul : I started playing in bands at the age of 16, and played my first live show at age 17. I still have that gig on tape. Horrible, hahaha.

What's your style of genre?Paul: We decided to call it Deathdoom. For the lack of a better word actually, because there are many more styles incorporated in the music. Metaldoomprognumathblackheavyspeedalternativedeathrock doesn't sound very …… well….. like anything. Metal and Doommetal are the main ingredients, accompanied by deathgrowl and raw vocals, so we thought Deathdoom would be the best choice to describe the music.

What inspires you?

Paul: Musically, just about anything.

Bart: Musically, I don’t really care about genres and can get inspired by anything as long as it oozes atmosphere, preferably a gloomy one. Taking multi-day hikes in the wilderness does the trick too.

How often and where do you rehearse?

Paul: We don't rehearse on a regular basis yet. We have rehearsed a couple of times prior to recording the first CD, in Nijmegen. Now we will start rehearsing again so we're able to finetune the new tracks before recording the next chapter.

Bart: We don't have a drummer yet, so we don't play live yet. As soon as we find a drummer we will start rehearsing for playing live shows, and put our asses to work ;). Looking forward to that!

How have you developed since you started with the music?

Bart: Since you get a better understanding between people musically by playing together and discussing music in general, I find that there has been development in each song compared to where it started. This will have an even greater effect on our newest songs which keeps everything interesting for all involved.

Paul : I totally agree. Nowadays, when I come up with new material, the first thoughts that go through my mind, is how Bart and Benjamin would respond to the new stuff. They are to me the most important audience for the new works. Their remarks about riffs or certain parts sometimes results in a bit of re-arrangement, or sometimes riffs or parts get omitted. That being said, I think I know fairly well what they like, what they don't, and I also can predict how the vocalparts will be laid unto the track by Bart.

When I started writing material for this band, there were no other bandmembers, so I had nothing and nobody to reflect the music to. The new material is much more like a custom made suit : It fits the band (almost) naturally. And the vocal parts are vice-versa : Bart knows very well how I and Benjamin I will respond when he fills in the vocal parts. We don't need that much re-arranging anymore, we kinda know how to make it right from the start. So, even though Bart writes all the lyrics, and I write and produce the music, the music of River of Souls is still the result of all of its members.

Are you looking for a booking agency, and what are your thoughts around that?Paul: Well, we can't play live yet. We're currently working on an EP and a second full length, we hope to be able to start playing live after we release the second full length. But yes, bands need to have a booking agency on their side. Or at least somebody who takes care of the booking stuff.

Are you looking for a label, and what are your thoughts around that?Paul: We're currently looking for a label. We'll need a label on our side for multiple reasons. Finances are one, but a good label also contributes to get the band bigger, reach more people, give a band more focus.

What made you decide to make this music?Paul: Well, after playing drums in deathmetal bands for years and years, I felt the time had come to write stuff that I listen to but don't play, and to switch to guitar. That kinda evolved into the musical style River of Souls currently plays. Which doesn't mean that I won't play deathmetal anymore, because I still like to listen to deathmetal, and I still play drums.

What are your songs about?Bart: I will not elaborate on this too much, because I believe our lyrics are open for personal interpretation and should be digested as such to have the most enjoyable and useful effect. They revolve around fate and cycles like life and death. Sometimes you have to let the darkness in to see the light, so to say.

Who does the composing and writes the lyrics?Paul: Bart writes all the lyrics, I write all the music. Although I have plans to ask a few talented friends in the future if they're willing to co-write a few tracks, people that play a different style of music than River of Souls usually does. That might give a few interesting new twists to the music. Although I usually have goals of my own when writing a new track.  So far , all of our songs have a new idea for a track regarding style or way of composing, or sometimes a riff with a different “feel” or style, on which the song evolves. And I have few more ideas which I'd like to implement in the new tracks. Some are experiments that turn out great, other experiments suck and get omitted.

Do you start with the music or the lyrics? Paul: I start with the music and the arrangement , Bart fills in the lyrics, and after that I often re-arrange things musically, together with Bart, Benjamin and Ingmar.

Do you compose in a certain environment?Paul: Usually in the living room with the guitar on my lap, without amplification. Sometimes just fiddling on the guitar while watching TV, until something cool and (to me) new sounding stuff comes up. and then I write down what just came up. But sometimes also with the guitar amplified in the studio. It's quite funny though, I come up with entirely different riffs when playing amplified, than when I'm playing without amplification….

Where can people buy your merchandise?Paul: We expect to have some items for sale on our website somewhere in 2017.

What do you think about people downloading music instead of buying records now a days?Paul: Well, downloading is fine as long as music listeners pay for at least 60%. In the era before the internet, there were a lot of tapetraders, and I also had a large collection of copied albums on tape. But I also had an even larger collection of original records and cds.The internet killed a lot of good bands that made a living by making music, but on the other hand it is a very powerful tool for new bands to reach people.

How do you think the music industry has changed because of this? Paul:  Of course. And in many aspects. Most recordshops had to close their business or change to selling games and other stuff. And the budgets for recording have decreased significantly. Fortunately, recording has got a lot cheaper as well, but still, it costs a lot of money to produce an album.

What do you think of my work?Paul : Eh well, I don't speak Scandinavian, but the site's looking cool to me. It's always nice when people reach out to help bands!

How do you think and know that this interview will help you in the music business? Paul : All exposure is good and helps the band.

Do you have any role models or idols?

Paul: No, not really. There are a lot of people and musicians I respect greatly, but “idols”… All known idols are people as well, not gods.

Bart: Agreed, people are their own god if you ask me. If any, I would name the philosopher Nietzsche, who taught me to rely on instincts and take care of oneself before focusing on others. Anyone who comes up with a quote like “When you look into the abyss, the abyss also looks into you” is godlike anyway ;).

Why do you think that they exist?

Paul: Because people like to be important, but behave like sheep at the same time.

Bart: Indeed, such a pity. From early age on most people are taught to look up at role models which always are products of masses who think alike, through religion, media or governments, instead of learning to try to think different.

Is it easier to find inspiration from older bands, or bands that are more active today?

Paul: Older bands already have left their mark on my music- They formed my way of writing riffs and composition. So to say they “inspire” me would be a bit exaggerated. But these bands definitely have put their stamp to how I write music and how I like it to sound. But I'm almost constantly looking for music that inspires me to write new music. I can get inspiration from anything, from 60's and 70's rock to poprock to doom/heavy/speed/thrash/death/nu/prog/black metal, and more modern mathcore, shoegaze and djenty stuff.. Sometimes I also get inspired by music from tv-series and movies, as well as regular commercial pop music. Also strange chords and intervals can inspire me. It has more to do with different approaches on how to compose, the sound and atmospheres, than an actual riff or musical style. But I think that when people listen to our music, they'll mainly hear a lot of influences of 80's and 90's metal.

What have been your biggest obstacles?

Paul: To find the right people for this band. Fortunately this came out great, although we're still in need of a drummer.

What advice would you give other bands or artists?

Paul: Get clear what your band, as a whole, wants to do with the band: Want to play live a lot? Then spend a lot of time on getting gigs. Make sure you all share the same vision for the band and make sure you are all willing to sacrifice time to get there.

Bart: Don’t focus on details too much, but focus on the atmosphere, the emotions you want send and pull. Keep shit flowing. And when playing live: work on stage presence and try to create that atmosphere I mentioned earlier. Don’t make it look like a rehearsal. It is wondrous what some smoke and dimmed lights can do for example.

How do you get psyched for a gig?

Paul : I don't. Just make sure you have the stuff you need, and then just do it. Well… At least , when performing as a drummer that´s the way I do this. Being a guitarplayer in a band is new to me.

Bart: If I get enough interaction with the audience, it happens automatically for me. And seeing a gig as a show, a performance, and enjoy playing your role in it, also helps. If all that fails, then there is always the prospect of the soul cleansing afterparty…

Paul  :  Hahahaha.

Do you have any new material?

Paul: Yes, we currently have 50 to 55 minutes of new material ready, but no lyrics yet. This means that the songs might need a bit of re-arranging, like I mentioned before.

What are your web sites?

How can people reach you?

Via the address on the website, or via Facebook.

What are your plans for the future?

Paul: First we'll be looking for a record deal to be able to release our first cd “The Well of Urd”, but aside that, our next goal is recording an EP or a single. Personally, I hope to be able to release something on vinyl.  After that, we will start working on our second full length album.

Do you have something to add?

Paul :  First of course : thank you for the interview ! But also, please check our website, there are a few songs from our upcoming album available for download, for free of course !


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