09 May 2021 - Thorsten
Talking to Jeroen Pede, the singer of notoriously unpredictable black metal band Alkerdeel, is like talking to an old friend, because he is always very welcoming, always has a smile on his face and is very easy to talk to. Jeroen is really knows a lot about metal, is highly knowledgeable and loves to talk about music. Every interviewer’s dream! Enjoy this ride into the history of and discussions about Black Metal!
Jeroen let’s start with something simple – what is your role in Alkerdeel? Well, I am the singer and the lyricist. I do the artwork for the records. And I take over all the booking and management duties. Also stuff like organizing and doing interviews like this. But basically we do a lot of things together.
How do you as band go about writing and arranging your songs? Normally we meet on a weekend, because we do not all live in the same area anymore, only two of us live close together – our guitar player and drummer. And then we meet and start jamming along, because you have to remember, that we started out as a jam band, we wanted to do music we liked here in the area where we are from, because back then there were not many bands who played that kind of music. So we started out as a jam band and that is in a way also the way we write our songs. We meet, we have a good time, we drink a few beers and then we jam along, sometimes to find new material, or if we are going to have a concert soon, then we might rehearse the songs we are going to play live. But we also find our new songs in those jams. Very often these are subconscious decisions. Nothing is planned with us.
How would you describe the relationship between the band and your audience? We appreciate them. During my graphic courses there was actually one lecture about it like as an artist how is your relation with the audience or do you work for yourself? Or is it always with an intention? The basic idea behind it was that you always do everything together with a response or a reply. In the end, I didn’t agree with it. I agreed for a huge part but except for music I would still create without needing an audience. With the band, we are four people, that’s something different. We started out as a jam band not with the ambition to release music. Maybe to do gigs, but to do our own thing. Especially because the main motivation was to create music we like and we wanted to hear ourselves because it wasn’t played live in our environment, in Belgium. Of course, the bigger bands came to visit, the bands playing clubs, but on a smaller level, the bands from the region weren’t into this underground, metal, black metal. A death metal band played Cannibal Corpse, but that’s not interesting. A black metal band tried to in some way imitate Emperor but if it’s only that then it’s more copying and [therefore] not interesting. Or it was mostly with keyboards. And then there were lots and lots of these metalcore bands. But we were into Eyehategod, Ildjarn, Darkthrone and nobody was doing these kind of things. So we decided “Let’s mix all of this and do a bit for ourselves!” So to come back to your question: there was no intention behind it, we didn’t have big goals. But then we started to first do some gigs before the idea of releasing music [came along]. And you start to get feedback, so it influences your subconscious idea of your band. And then a friend wanted to release a tape, so it kept on rolling. But we are still the same band from the beginning, of course now we have a huge (at least for us) fan basis; people are interested, especially with the new album, more and more people directly contact us, that’s something really new. It happened before but now it’s overwhelming. And of course we enjoy that, and it’s very stimulating and motivating that people do that. We just got a review, the first one ever, from Indonesia. That someone there likes our music – that is a very positive thing and motivates a lot. We would never ever change our music or the way we create or compose of whatever because of them. Also sometimes I feel, that people own you. Not only fans, but people that try to grab your music and they say “Oh they should do this or I expect they do that for the next album and that is something, not always intentionally, that always pushes in the opposite direction because we like to confuse but we want to avoid being predictable. Everything we do, is like to see where we can get for ourselves. That is also very challenging like “Is this possible if we do another direction? Or integrate these influences? Or turn it that way?” But that’s totally not with the audience in mind…
So is this more like thinking musically – like “Are we able to do this?” For example. But also conceptually. The latter is more individually me but it translates to the band, too. For example, in the beginning we had this basic idea of mixing the aforementioned bands. Mostly it’s like some bands we like. On Lede there are more Death-Metal-parts, more like My Dying Bride. Especially one song, ”Catching Feathers” [from My Dying Bride’s 1995 demo Towards The Sinister] was like a blueprint. Or Immolation was like a guideline to describe what we meant. Nowadays that’s much easier with the internet, you can just play it. But we used that to describe our ideas to the others. Also for influences beyond metal. We used to listen to a lot of noise, like Merzbow…
…like on the Gnaw Your Tongues-collaboration… Yeah, that was a breaking point. Because there we were very into this Doom and Sludgey thing and from then on it was going all-the-way. People say that since then we have gone more “Black Metal”, but I don’t agree with that. Before that [collaboration] it was in my opinion more Black Metal than it is now, because for most people, their idea of what Black Metal is, is based on the Norse thing, the Scandinavian thing, like playing fast and ice-cold. Like fast Enslaved or something. I think, there are other things like Samael or Rotting Christ or Beherith, it’s all Black Metal but slow. They mixed a lot of influences. So I never agree when people say “Your new music is more Black Metal than before”; we were as Black Metal before as we are now. But it was slower. They would be right if they said that we had more Scandinavian influences on the newer albums, then I’d totally agree. I think the genre has evolved so much. Thirty years now. So many generations have come in and add their definitions to it, which is totally fine to me, but the newer generations tend to forget the old stuff. They think of stuff like Deathspell Omega or the fast Norwegian stuff, but there’s far, far more than that.
Yeah, you can’t even number the “wave” we’re in. It’s very easy to say okay we had this first wave of Black Metal and late 80s, early 90s there was the second wave but then we’re at a point when there is not number to it anymore. And the definition is different, and only part of that definition is musically. If I take it right, there is a certain part to your definition of Black Metal but more of it is like attitude towards and mindset, less of an image and effect? No. There are so many definitions. There are musical ones. There are also ideological ones. We come close to the definition of Black Metal as freedom. Do what you want – musically! Of course that is very close to Alaster Crowley. But then we are stepping into the ideological part and then we’re not a Black Metal band. There is this orthodox line, that has always been there since the beginning, growing in the last 10 years, these really satanic values, the satanic philosophy. They say Black Metal should be satanic and that has been there from the beginning. When you read interviews with these orthodox guys you will read something like “We are influenced by Bathory. (which is kinda normal nowadays – and then they say) but also be Sodom and Merciful Fate!” And these bands all have a Satanic message in their lyrics. Interestingly this is something more Heavy Metal, but back in the day these genres were not so clear-cut. These orthodox people will say “You can’t be a Black Metal band musically – it should be by ideology!” And then we are not a Black Metal band, we are atheists. We do not adopt to that definition. We don’t agree with it. There’s so much involved, and it’s very deep; many people however think only of the surface but it goes much deeper than that. Also: Who are they that they claim the right to define this genre? Because the basic – and that is so contradictory – idea is complete freedom but why do they limit it? So we say, we actually don’t care. That’s our main thing. We only use it to give people an idea of what they can expect when listening to our records.
I also like the idea that you talk about Sodom, which is not Black Metal at all, but it was labeled as such, was advertised as such. Because with that label on your record it sold! It sold more than if you said “Okay, this is German thrash!” Well, back in the early days, let’s say at Obsessed By Cruelty or Persecution Mania is was called Black Metal. But then the genres weren’t that big.
So would you say it was labeled Black Metal because we didn’t have a clearer understanding of what Black Metal is or could be? Yeah, think of Possessed, the genre back then were all mixed up. There was Thrash, there was Black, but it was all mixed up. There wasn’t a clear definition for it. That only happened at the end of the 80s, early 90s. But I really have to admit that I only that because of having read interviews with people who were part the scene at that time. Because in 1990 I was eleven years old. So I don’t know how it was in 87.
How much are you interested in the history of “your” music? Not in the 80s, but I started listening to music really early on. When I was 13 or 14 and I quickly got into the trading scene and I read a lot from then. But still now, I am deeply into it and of course, when you’re young it’s more emotional. Now I also want to know more, to make more links. You can also describe with the book Lords Of Chaos. I read it when it came out and like many people, that made my view on what happened back then. But time evolves, and it seems that so many facts and events were different, were the total opposite. And That’s what makes it interesting to me. I consider the genre close to my heart and I keep on reading and so I am still deeply into it but I am still an outsider. Because I do not agree with what the “trve guys” say it is all about or what happened back then. So I am an outsider.
Yeah, for some people you might be, depending on the definition. But that is the paradox with these guys, they demand freedom and at the same time also ask for uniformity. Maybe when there’s a discussion with these guys, it should be a heavy and totally different discussion. Now one just reads stuff and of course there are no replies to what you’re reading, I’m aware of that. For example, Vicotnik [singer of Dødheimsgard and Ved Buens Ende] said on The Thomas Eriksen Podcast [Thomas is the singer and creative mind behind Mork] that when the album 666 International was released in 1998, many people liked it and many people disliked it, and he said: ”it is true, we took some distance from the old idea of Black Metal, because the old idea doesn’t exist anymore, there are too many people involved, there are too many influences, it’s not what it was five to ten years ago.” In 1998! Now we are in 2021! And we are still thinking about that difference?! Yeah, too late! It was already over back then. It was the end of the 90s, that was the death of the old idea of Black Metal.
And in some ways it has a lot to do with the feeling of being relevant. Yeah probably. I’m no psychiatrist, but to me these are really important aspects, especially in this firm, extreme genre.
I see you as somebody who still reads a lot and tries to understand a lot. How should I imagine Jeroen doing that? Are you sitting in front of a laptop and reading a lot of stuff online or buying magazines? Books? I still buy a lot of magazines, I don’t like to read a lot online because I am behind the screen all the time because of my job as a graphic designer. So I really enjoy sitting on the sofa or outside and reading magazines. Also books like the Bardo Methodology, which is a very interesting magazine. Whenever new books are released and look interesting, I gotta read it. For example, there was this book about Rotting Christ, and although I will never be a big Rotting Christ-fan, but I know these guys come from Greece, from a totally different scene, it’s not featured in the media so much. And I read that book and I thought was really interesting and opened my mind to re-discover their early albums and it made me enjoy the music again. And now, even though the band doesn’t interest me any more, Moonspell also has this book and I want to read about the Portuguese scene, too. It’s really interesting and very inspirational, because most of these bands in the beginning did everything themselves. And that is also in some way how we started. I printed our shirts myself, I still do the screening for the special editions now. And that’s what I like about that Portuguese scene because it in return can give you some inspiration, not to copy, but to discover new things. I also read stuff online but more like trying to get my head free; but I am not really making time free to read something online. It’s more something in my “in-between-time”.
I know that you listen to a lot of new stuff, so the obvious question is: What was the last new release that really grabbed your attention? There are a couple. There’s this guy from Sweden, Wagner Ödegård. He has a couple of projects like Wagner Ödegård, Wulkanaz and Karnilapakte. And I think, he’s one of the most interesting figures of the last 10 years. Wulkanaz is like really harsh, weird Black Metal, very original, very well-made. His self-titled project has a more atmospheric side to it and it’s always very weird. And Karnilapakte is like the 70’s band Popol Vuh, who made the soundtrack to Nosferatu, writing Isengard’s Vinterskugge without knowing it. So that guy is really nice. Also lots of the things that Omar from Turia does. I really like what Turia does, we did some shows with them and he has become a good friend. Lots of his projects are really interesting and he does a lot and they are all really interesting. And then, not only because they are friends, but the releases from Moenen Of Xezbeth; it’s this old Samael-style and the album is called Ancient Rites Of Darkness. It’s something I really like and play a lot. Or, not a really new album but from 2015, Harps Of The Ancient Temple by Nocternity from Greece. Many people think his older albums are better, but I think every album he does is good, so it’s a matter of personal taste, but I played it daily since I knew about it, which is only like a month. The sound is just so nice, it has a really authentic, natural sound. I don’t know how it’s been recorded. I am really in love with the sound, even though “beautiful” is not the right word. It doesn’t sound raw, it just sounds good.
How do you listen to music? Do you use something like Spotify? Yeah, I do. If I am working under pressure then I do not like to play vinyls. Mostly I do listen to vinyls, but if I am working I need music, but I can’t be disturbed. I just put on Spotify or to YouTube. It’s a bit of a mix. I still buy a lot vinyls.
Are you a completist? Like do you want to have everything, if you like a band? No. I can come close to a completist. But when I like a band, like Darkthrone, one of my biggest favorites, I still don’t have Arctic Thunder because I didn’t like it, when it came out and I was aware of really buying too much vinyl, and in some weird way I still haven’t bought. I am always wondering “Should I buy it or not?” I am struggling with it. But now I am focusing on buying only the things I really like. Or I already have enough of a band, like Eyehategod. I like the new record, but I already got enough with the things I have. So, I am evolving.
Before finishing this off by reminding our dear readers that you can also find the review for the last Alkerdeel record here on our website (or the embedded album below this interview) I just want to thank Jeroen for being one of the nicest guys who came up with the idea for our logo on very short notice although he didn’t really have time for it. And then he said he might slip it in the next week, but again just a few hours later, he came up with the wonderful logo, that you can now see on every VeilofSound-page. So thank you very much, my friend, for the time you spent with this interview and with the logo! I owe you one or two or three! Ladies and gentleman, and now listen to Alkerdeel!!