Three years after your last time at the Fosh Fest how do you like it?
Why this festival?
R: I think that for folk metal in Italy I think this is one of the big happenings over here in Italy and last time we were here in 2011 we enjoyed it so much. You know its a very open festival. There are alot of nice people. We played over here, we did play before in Italy, I think the first show was in Padova somewhere around 2006. Then we came back because the crowd is so awesome here.
That was my next question – how is the crowd here?
R: We especially enjoy Italy because you got so many enthusiastic people over here and also after the show we went drinking and talking with people and basically was one of the best festivals also as a visitor ever.
Perfect. I’m glad to hear it.
So we need to talk about the album – Velua from 2015. This one is a real concept album. If we compare it to your other album Batavi this album is much slower and more poetic. It seems to be more intimate and meditative somehow. How important are the lyrics in this case?
R: Well, Batavi was also a concept album with a story, with a beginning and an ending. It's more an album about battle songs and Velua is more about local legends and folkloric stories so there is less focus on actual battles and it reflects in the music as well. The music is a little slower and more melodic. It’s about the dark folklore of the part we live in and these stories have a lot of things going on that you cannot describe with fast blastbeats. You have to put a bit of groove in it and a bit of dark mysticism so that is basically why Velua is a bit slower but then again it’s also a bit more folky and we added a lot of new influences in it.
It's also very much contemporary – you talk about pollution and how bad the world is doing.
R: Yes. We tried to put double layers in the lyrics. When I write a lyric it's not only about the tale I tell it's also got a deeper understanding in it.
You sing in Dutch and more and more bands are leaving English in order to sing in their mother tongue. How do you explain this? What do you think about it and why?
R: Well for us in the beginning it was a no-brainer. We were Dutch people and singing about Dutch folklore so we said well OK let’s do this in Dutch. It kind of grew to one of our things to sing in Dutch. This time we also added one lyric in English to it. We like to think that if we do lyrics in English it has to have a meaning you know. We won’t write English songs just for the sake of English songs. This one was for American fans. But I think that Dutch is just the way to go. Maybe commercially it’s not a big seller but we just stupidly do things in Dutch.
No, all the bands are leaving English and singing in their mother tongues so you were one of the first bands to do this.
R: When you think of it everything that has, lyrically, been rhymed and said has been said in English. It's really difficult to write English lyrics without touching any real clichés. So in your own language you can get away with a cliché or two because nobody's heard it before.
I totally agree with you.
R: Lars is all about the clichés.
L: I love cliches
Let’s talk about Lars. Changes in the lineup. Lars instead of Joris. Mark and Reamon left the band.
So what's next? Tell me something new?
R: Well it was back in 2013 when we did the American tour. Joris decided that it was enough. He was a long time with Heidevolk. He was one of the founding members. He wrote a lot of the lyrics but he wanted to explore another kind of music and he has his own band now called Vedehanger 6:56 which is more black metal so we decided to part ways and it was mutual. We're still friends together and we're still drink beer together. Two years later now Mark and Reaman left the band. I think to the outside world it came as some kind of a shock that members who have been really long in the band now, they weren’t founding members but they were really long in the band. I think life caught up with them. Reaman is a teacher and he didn't go on tours since 2009. I think 2008 was his last tour and 2009 he couldn't go on tour any more. He was still a member and a guitar player but he couldn't do the live shows anymore and he said “I don’t think I can do this anymore in the future” and he also grew a bit apart like that. The thing with Mark was that he is a great singer and we love him for it but he had to focus on his job right now. For a long time he had no job so he had to focus on the job now and couldn't get Heidevolk in. So it was either that he said I'm leaving the band or we could not tour anymore. It's a terrible shame but I also like to think that it's a mark in the history of Heidevolk and we have Lars now. We still have Kevin, we still have Joost, me of course and we are working now with two session members and it's a mark in history and we will continue to build. I think Velua is an example of that.
And I think with Lars contribution you are doing even better somehow.
R: I think that’s a big compliment there.
L: I can't agree with that because I will sound stuck up. haha
I wanted to be provocative...
L: I was a fan of Heidevolk of course before I was in it. I was actually really sad that Jooris was leaving but then I thought hey, why not audition.
R: It was a fun story with Lars because we had auditions and we had some really cool rehearsals and we had some really weird people coming in and then Lars came in. First of all he brought a bucket full of beer with ice.
Oh, so that's why you loved him straight away?
R: Well we said, Ok you know, beer is nice but then he opened his throat and we were like, yep, this is the one. He has a very dark and raw voice. Whilst Jooris is a great singer I think you can hear Lars distinguish himself on the album. You can hear the rasp in his voice on the album and we actually love how it turned out. Then he put out some higher registers and it turned out he could sing high as well.
So after so many years in the business no live album yet?
R: And no live DVD. It should be. We've wanted to do a live album for so long now but we are all perfectionists. We recorded some stuff - you know how this goes haha.
L: ahhh I made a mistake over there. Haha. Oh yes I made a mistake - let’s not do it at all.
Oh come on. We want it.
R: Exactly but I think we have a lot of material and we recorded a whole show last Pagan Festival and we will record more shows this year so I promise you, there will be a DVD or whatever internet release soon. By the way, this is new news???
Speaking of playing live, what is your worst live experience?
R: This is a tough question.
I think the Pagan Festival. The first one. The first gig of the Pagan Festival. It was terrible. We had all kinds of technical difficulties. The crowd was great - nothing bad about the crowd just technical problems. I was sitting playing the guitar and I saw Kevin next to me and his guitar got screwed over by a roadie and he was like playing blick blick blick blick. I walked to him and gave him a kiss on the head and he was sobbing and "oh no this sucks". I think that was the worst. In 13 years of Heidevolk history that was the worst gig ever. After that, the whole thing, festival was great.
What would you say to people approaching the folk scene today?
R: I think the best thing is to keep an open mind. Keep an open mind about the music. Try to listen to not only the songs but also the story behind it and find out about what it is about. Because it’s the world gets so much more interesting when you know those stories, when you know what’s going on and when you know what happens everywhere.
L: also drink a lot of mead.
Thank you very much. It was such a big pleasure for me and I'll be there in front of the stage.
Interview by Eir