December 12th, 1666
OCCULT - RAGE TO REVENGE - PAINKILLER
OCCULT - ELEGY FOR THE WEAK - KARMAGEDDON/CANDLELIGHT
If pressed to name one band whose popularity and status falls far short of its deserved position then The Netherlands' Occult would surely receive a top ranking. Having released four albums, the team of singer Maurice Swinkels (a.k.a. Sephiroth), guitarist Richard Ebisch, bassist Twan Fleuren and drummer Erik Fleuren deserve recognition, not necessarily for their longevity, because their art is pure and the purity rooted in the ideals of metal. Ali "The Metallian" was pleased to discuss Occult's latest album, Rage To Revenge, and other details with Swinkels - 05.09.2002
Maurice, thank you for the chance to conduct this interview with you. Let us go back a little. How did you first get into metal? What was the feeling and atmosphere of those days?
Actually my cousin was into metal in the very early 1980's. He was 17 or 18, while I was around 13 or 14. He listened to Venom and early Possessed. Those albums were just released... Slayer and such. My parents always visited them so I, as a child, also went with them and always saw him with long hair and listening to this extreme music. I got interested in it very early. He also took me to a metal bar where they played early Destruction, Sodom, Kreator, Iron Maiden; that kind of stuff. So at the age of 15 or 16 I started to grow my hair and copied tapes from him. That's now 15 years ago. In 1989 I started to write letters in the underground. My first contact was Asphyx and Mayhem's Euronymous. I started to order demo tapes and 7 inch EP's of Samael, Treblinka, Mortem, you name it. I also started tape trading and ended up having 2000 cassettes!
In 1990 I started Bestial Summoning. In 1991 I started Occult. Now in 2002, I am still doing Occult and still listening to metal although I am also into other stuff like gothic such as Devil Doll or Der Blutharsch. I am also a big fan of Soundtracks such as The Fog, Reign Of Fire, From Hell, et cetra.
Didn't you additionally write for several different fanzines once?
(Laughs) you are really informed! I mean only a few people knew that I was doing a magazine. That was in the early nineties. I had a magazine called The Satanic Bitch and a newsletter called The Magic Circle. I never wrote for any magazines, but I had edited those although I never really continued with them.
You have now surpassed your ten-year anniversary. What is the story of Occult so far?
We started in 1991. Our first gig was in 1992 at the Black Flame Festival. In those days we also played cover songs from Samael, Acheron and Sathanas. We were a three-piece band then. Later we got a bass player and played more shows. In 1994 we signed to the Dutch label Foundation 2000 for our first album and did a tour with Immortal and Marduk. In 1996 we recorded our second album which was produced by Harris Johns who is also responsible for production work for Pestilence, Kreator, Assassin, Tankard, Immolation, Krisiun, Voivod, Sodom... all these great bands.
We then switched to Massacre Records around 1998 or 1999 and released our Of Flesh And Blood album. We also recorded a video clip for the song Doomsday Destroyer in 1999. We kicked out our second guitar player Leon Pennings before we went on tour with Morbid Angel. In 2000 we signed to Painkiller Records.
Now and after the Rage To Revenge album our second singer Rachel Heyzer has left the band. So we have eventually gone from six down to four people.
How did the band react to Rachel's departure? In the same context, what is your opinion of Sinister?
Rachel did not exactly leave. We told her it is better to stick with Sinister! Actually I wanted her to be out of the band even before recording Rage To Revenge because I knew then that she had to stop with one of the bands and I didn't want to end up having a CD with a vocalist who is not available later for shows. The rest of the band were skeptical and maybe didn't dare take that step. Eventually I was proven right.
I am into old Sinister - they rule. They are one of the best death metal bands in Holland. Their first album Cross The Styx is truly great.
Incidentally, what was the name of the band Rachel was in prior to Occult?
I think you mean Pathology. She was in that band before Occult. It was a more grinding, death metal band. She was the only Dutch in Pathology as the rest were Belgians.
Were you in any bands other than Occult and Bestial Summoning?
Yes, I was into Fake Slaughter. I also did vocals for both the demo and LP of Deinonychus. I did Appendix Vermi Formis Death Sentence and I did Neophyte, but some of these bands were not really serious. You know how it is starting your own band at an early age? You try and seek!
Did you not also play with Bethlehem?
I never did. They actually asked me and I rehearsed with them once, but that was it. I knew the bass player very well and they also live very close to where I live.
Returning to Occult, how would you describe the band's sound?
It's up to everyone to decide for themselves. I hear so many things: death/thrash, black/thrash, thrash metal, black metal, etc.. Massacre Records even called us death metal. If you ask me I would consider us aggressive death/thrash or black/thrash. Those descriptions would likely fit. I don't think we play pure thrash metal as many people seem to think.
Specifically would you agree that you are influenced by Thanatos and Protector? That is what occurs to me.
Thanatos? no! Protector? Well I have one album of Protector's and they are great, yes! I think our main influences are Kreator, very early Slayer and old Pestilence. Some people do think we are influenced by Protector, it is also mentioned in our biography which someone wrote for us, but in fact I don't even think my other band members know Protector. Our bass payer Twan started with early Slayer and Venom and he kind of stopped at that period. He doesn't know any newer bands after Venom and Slayer (laughs).
On the same topic, my understanding is that you disdain today's black metal scene. Would you care to elaborate?
I used to wear corpse paint in the early days with Occult. That is from 1992 till 1994, but black metal became a trend and I didn't want to be a part of the mass so I stopped.
There are so many black metal bands who think the better their paint is the better they will be accepted. I would show all of them that Occult can still survive and give an aggressive stage show without my using corpse paint.
Is your dismay towards black metal partly because of the famous quotation attributed to Euronymous where he, basically, said you are posers?
No no (laughs again), that was about Bestial Summoning. Euronymous had never heard Occult. We never had a fight or anything. He just didn't like Bestial Summoning. I had contact with him even after Bestial Summoning and Euronymous even sold Bestial Summoning records in his store before his murder. So that has nothing to do with Euronymous. As I said, so many bands, young kids, started wearing corpse paint that I ended up hating it as it had became less serious.
One of the labels with which you have worked is Foundation 2000. Didn't they merge with another label?
At first I thought they merged with Mascot Records, but the guy who ran Foundation 2000 just quit. Occult was its last band. He is into fixing American cars like Dodges. He buys them...
How was your experience with Foundation 2000?
We had a mixed experience with Foundation 2000. We didn't really have any troubles with him, but on the other hand he started to get more and more into his car hobby, so he didn't care for Foundation 2000. That left us with no promotion at all.
Describe your relationship with Massacre Records? What happened with them?
It was pretty short. We only released our third album on that label, then they had a reorganisation period in which they kicked us out along with the promotion department.
You are now on Painkiller Records out of Belgium. How did this come about? This label is even less known than the other two.
Well Painkiller Records is the best we have had so far, although its not a big and better-known label. He does a lot for us. You are not a number compared to being on other major and big record companies.
Given that, how frustrating it is to be such an intense band for so long and have so little popularity? Do you feel angry seeing newer bands come from out of nowhere and do better than you?
I don't give a fuck. We play this kind of metal for twelve years now and we are still around without taking any trendy steps, playing death metal all of a sudden or something else. Furthermore, I think it says a lot that people still respect us and like to see us live although our music is not hyped. I have seen many musical styles cross my path and then sink down the abyss right after. Take black metal, it was hyped several years ago. Then death metal came in again and right now this female metal thing is in, like Nightwish and stuff. I mean we didn't go with any of these trends, but we didn't fall either. We are still alive to crush on stage with our aggressive metal!
This is a good point. For my money, Occult has completely succeeded in upholding metal's original purpose namely intensity. This is something which most contemporary bands have forgotten.
I do agree. Metal must be aggressive and it should make you lose something inside. Remember the old gods? Remember Slayer, Possessed and even early Iron Maiden? They could hit you in the heart. It was true metal.
Right now you have all these bands which try to be aggressive. In my opinion there are even death metal bands that sound more like some wimpy pop metal. It should come straight from the heart. That is the place where metal is given birth!
Further to what metal is all about, Occult manages to coincide speed with heaviness. This seemingly simple concept is elusive to many other bands. Can you, as a musician, explain this?
(Thinks) It is hard to explain. I think it's up to each person. I mean some death metal bands think they are heavy and fast, but fast on a different level; more like a wall of sound. It doesn't do anything for me and in my opinion it sometimes sound like crap. Others think it's cool.
So what heaviness and speed means to you could be completely different to someone else's idea.
. And speaking of which, let's discuss Rage To Revenge.
The concept of the album is about revenge obviously. It is about experiencing things in your life that give you this 'Rage To Revenge,' namely anger, hatred and violence towards someone else in life or society.
With a concept like that, why are the lyrics printed so cryptically?
I don't give a shit if people can read my lyrics or not. I write what I think and about things I like.
I do not need to discuss it with other people. As long as I know what I sing about and can express it on stage then I am satisfied. I never read other bands' lyrics either so why should they read mine? Some bands try to sound as deep as possible and sound intellectual.and respectable, but I mean..., I am sure there are listeners out there who are asking themselves, 'What the hell is he talking about?' My lyrics are clear as hell and even though the lyrics are written in such a hard-to-read style you can (still) hear what I sing.
One sentence that struck me in your lyric sheet was the line, 'Killing for recreation having fun destroying a nation.' What is your philosophy vis-a-vis violence?
The song Killing For Recreation is about a fantasy; something you can discuss with your friends. I was thinking that in the future when the population has grown badly the government may set these rules. Each and every citizen can kill someone they truly hate within the time limit of twenty four hours without punishments or consequences. You have twenty four hours to kill or slaughter someone you have hated all your life. Can you imagine what chaos that would bring and how many dead that would result in? It would be 'killing for recreation.'
(Begins to sing) 'Killing for recreation, having fun destroying a nation, bloodbath, battlefield, dismemberment, taking someone's life, without getting punished by the government.' I think everybody's personality hides a killer, but we are aware of the consequences as well, so we won't do the actual deed. So what if we are allowed to do so for a few hours?
The same album comes in a limited edition packaging. How did the special package come about?
That version is still available, although there are only a few left. They are limited to one thousand copies only. It is a A5 format digipak. Painkiller Records thought it would be great to release something special for our diehard fans after so many years.
Speaking of fans, were you to recommend one unsigned and underground band which would it be?
Flesh Made Sin is a good band. They play Kreator-style of music. I do not know any unknown bands except for them.
Do you like any Canadian bands?
I like old Canadian bands like old Slaughter. I like Sacrifice and Blasphemy has OK songs.
Thank you very much for your time Maurice. Would you like to say anything about the band's future?
Occult will be even more brutal and aggressive than on Rage To Revenge!
I have no idea about future plans otherwise. We will have an album next year which will be our fifth release. That album should be the best album we have ever released. We are working on titles and songs. We have finished six songs. Check out our official website: www.occult.nu to stay on top of our news. Also check out my video production company at www.lowlifemedia.com. I am also a video director and camera man and do metal videos.
In the meanwhile fans can pick up Rage To Revenge through either underground channels or import distributors.