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vrijdag 29 mei 2009
After All: Belgian Thrash Metal in the hands of Dan Swanö

Interview with guitarist Dries Van Damme of After All by Vera in May 2009

After working hard for many years, After All has become an established band in the thrash metal scène. Recently album number seven hit the shops, called ‘Cult Of Sin’ and it has turned into a stunner, graced with a mix of maestro Dan Swanö. While the band looks forward to the gigs with Forbidden, we had an extensive conversation with founding member, guitarist and composer Dries Van Damme about all the things that happened since the previous album ‘This Violent Decline’ (2006), about contacts in the metal scene and about his respect for Dio.

You just played a couple of shows with Testament. What about this experience?
Very nice. Good shows with lots of people. For them these were small shows because they were touring with Judas Priest and when Judas Priest had some days off, Testament kept playing their own shows in Germany. These were the ones we supported. Club shows as headliner. In the course of time we have played with many bands from the San Francisco and Bay Area like Exodus, Heathen, soon Forbidden, Laaz Rocket. Testament was still to come and we are happy to join them at last. I am also happy to tell you that these guys are very professional but at the same time very friendly and approachable. We were very welcome and they shared their equipment. They came to see our show and the management invited us to come to the Brussels show when they joined Judas Priest again. They were relax and down-to-earth.

Late April you had a release party at the Biebob club. Can you tell about this evening?
The absent ones were wrong because it was a great evening. The show went very well. We were invited by Abattoir, due to Juan Garcia who also plays in Agent Steel as well as in Abattoir. Agent Steel are good friends since we toured with them. Juan also plays on our CD. When Abattoir decided to come to Belgium, they asked us and we decided to consider it as our release party for the new album ‘Cult Of Sin’. Patriarch, also friends, opened the evening. It was an enjoyable night.

There are some eminent guests on the album, like Juan Garcia and Bernie Versailles (Agent Steel), Andy LaRocque (King Diamond), Joey Vera (Armored Saint) and James Rivera (Helstar). How did you manage to do this?
All these contacts were made while touring or playing gigs with them. It went surprisingly easy. When we should had planned that ten or fifteen years ago, we would have a problem, but nowadays everything is digital. We sent files and in one second it is coming from the other side of the world and back. Literally. In that way one can eliminate every distance and that’s fine. In the end you can hear the work done in five or six different studios on one album. One studio here with our mate Dee J, two in Sweden, two or three in California, one in Texas. But we all know these guys from touring and it was great to hear that they were interesting in doing that. For instance, Andy LaRocque plays in King Diamond but he also has his work as producer in his studio. He was just in the middle of the recording sessions with HammerFall and he was very busy. It is very sympathetic that he chose to spend a few hours to record a solo for us in between all his busy work. It was last minute, but we appreciate it. James Rivera was the only one without a studio of his own, but he was so friendly to book a couple of hours at a friend’s studio in Texas. Juan Garcia has recorded at the well-known Skull7 Studio in Los Angeles with Bill Metoyer as sound engineer and that’s the man who used to record all the Metal Blade stuff in the past. ‘Hell Awaits’ from Slayer and the first Trouble albums and Flotsam & Jetsam. All the bands I grew up with!

You work together with Dragon Productions. On which level?
That is a booking agency in Germany, in Hamburg. We work with them for a long time, since one of the first tours we ever did. We have done two tours with Anthrax and with Overkill and Seven Witches that same year (2003-2004). Those were through Dragon and that’s how we got in contact with them. We do not only gigs with them, but we regularly do bookings through them, especially festivals abroad and European tours, like the one with Agent Steel and the one with Destruction/Candlemass. When we did larger festivals in Switzerland or Italy, it is all via them.

I found out something on the web: in August 2006 you did a split CD with RAM. Never heard of that…
That is something very obscure, not that much people know about it. It is a kind of bizarre story. The recordings one can find on it engendered from a kind of preproduction we did in 2002 for the album ‘Mercury Rising’ which we eventually recorded with Harris Johns in Berlin. All was prepared to the max, we were ready with the preproduction but we had two days left in the studio. We decided to use that time in a positive sense. We recorded a cover of Cyclone and some loose ideas we had for a song in the making. We put it on the shelf for a while. The guy from Metal Coven follows us since quite a while and he is involved in releasing split CD’s. Very limited and underground. RAM is traditional heavy/power metal from Sweden, a bit Judas Priest style. (They are going to release the album ‘Lightbringer’ on AFM Records pretty soon – Vera) They put a cover of Venom and a self-written track on it. It is a funny gadget, nothing less and nothing more.

Now that we are talking about playing covers: the Dio cover ‘Holy Diver’ is amazing in your version!
Thank you! Last years it is usual that we always play a cover towards the end of the gig, but we often change the choice of the cover. Most of the time, we choose something within our style, like Anthrax or Slayer or Mercyful Fate. When the gig at Graspop was confirmed, we decided to play something new and less expected. Everyone in the band loves Dio of course. When we were rehearsing for the Graspop gig, we were already occupied with the recordings of ‘Cult Of Sin’. That song was rehearsed pretty well, so when we were in the studio we recorded it straight away. At that time it was not sure whether we should put it on the album or not, but in the end we did. The response is very well! Of course there are always people who say: is this needful to cover? Of course it is not necessary, I know that the original is impossible to surpass or even match, but well, it is an amazing song and it was fun to do. We only put it on the CD when we were sure and found out that Piet was able to sing it in a meritorious way. I have another funny story about that. Testament’s manager has been tour manager for Dio for many years. We did not know that when we did the gigs with Testament. We played ‘Holy Diver’ and I saw him watching our cover-version with more than usual attention. Afterwards he came up to us to congratulate us, while informing us he has been tour manager of Dio for so long. This was a surprise and we felt very happy with it!

One of the most conspicuous songs on the album is the lengthy ‘Release’…
It is one of the last songs we wrote for this album. We were almost finished, then this one came out. We were happy with it because we were in need of such a track: we needed a kind of “huge final song” to complete this album. We put a lot of effort into the flow of this album. The song started as a four-minute track, later the second part came into being. Originally that was a part from another song. We changed it a little and then it worked to use it as an outro. I know it has some Pink Floyd influences. The music goes to the background to give room to the acoustic guitars. I am a huge fan from Pink Floyd. That acoustic guitar you hear is a Martin from the sixties, a vintage thing from a friend who collects guitars. Later he told me the price, well… I will never dare to play on it again (laughs).

Do you still use vintage equipment or is it all upgraded new stuff concerning instruments and gear?
It’s a mix of both worlds. Christophe, our other guitarist, always wants the newest stuff, amplifiers as well as guitars, but I prefer a mix of both. For a long time I only wanted vintage stuff, for example I have played on very old Marshall Amplifiers from the sixties; Marshall cabinets and speakers, these are from the late seventies and I still use them. I have interest in vintage stuff like Orange and Big Muff but nowadays I do not use it live anymore, only sometimes in the studio. Last years I switched to PV51/50 amplifier who was designed by Eddie Van Halen and I use that since five or six years. That’s a modern amplifier. I am very satisfied with it. The guitars I use are classic ones like Flying V (I have an endorsement by Gibson, that says enough), but the electronics inside are upgraded of course. I am the vintage guy who is updated by Christophe from time to time.

The mix is done by Dan Swanö, he is a well-respected producer. Congratulations!
Thanks! The former record ‘This Violent Decline’ was mixed by Fredrik Nordström and mastered by Tue Madsen. We wondered who we should take for this one. It was an option to go back or take a risk and go to someone else. The result is amazing! Dan is very involved in the end result and he’s a friendly guy. He put a lot of efforts into it. The plan was to do it in two weeks, but finally he worked on the mix for six weeks.

What are the plans for the near future?
Soon there will be a couple of shows with Forbidden in the Netherlands and the UK. For the rest we will try to play as much as possible and let’s hope that a fine tour will come up in autumn, we are looking for possibilities.

Geplaatst door Vera op vrijdag 29 mei 2009 - 15:52:21
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