They’ve just embarked on the Frak the Gods tour along side Periphery, The Human Abstract and The Contortionist. The follow up to their 2008 album Silhouettes releases in just less than a fortnight, and is one of the most anticipated metal releases this year.
Their new album Dualism hits stores across Europe, South America, Australia and Asia on the 23th of September and will see its release in North America on the 27th of September through Nuclear Blast Records. Drummer Stef Broks discusses the album, his drumming, plans of a gig in India and a lot more in this interview.
ID - Hey Stef!! Lots of press, big tour, a new album of course which from the 2 singles that have been released seem very promising. How’ve you been handling all of this lately?
Stef - We’re going totally over the top. Not sleeping much, eating unhealthy. We’re sitting in the bus at the moment, on our way to the second show of our USA-tour. I slept in the bus to keep an eye of the gear. It’s like a race against the clock to be everywhere right in time. But it pays off in a good way. The crowd went wild yesterday at our first USA-gig in Baltimore. Let’s see what today will bring.
ID - A couple of line up changes after Silhouettes, were there any tracks for Dualism already written when Eric and Richard quit the band?
Stef - Actually it was the idea to start recording the album 4 months after Eric left the band. But of course the departure of the two guys made an end to these plans. By that time we had already written two hours of material. It was not all finished, but some vocal lines that ended on the album were created already by Eric. In the end that made it more easy for new singer Daniel to hop on our bus of new material.
ID - How was the process of jamming along with Daniel and Uri at first? Was there any difficulty in bringing all of the elements together while writing during the initial period?
Stef - Not really, Daniel was and is very aware of the ingredients Textures needs. The former band he’d played in -Cilice- was Daniel’s introduction to this new kind of modern metal. In Textures he is able to do whatever he likes, vocals wise. Screams, low, high and besides that all kinds of clean, soulful vocals.
Eric actually attended us to check out Daniel. He knew him from music school in the south of Holland. According to Eric’s opinion Daniel’s voice stretches even further than his voice. Well, we already found out its true, although it was a hard loss to lose one of our best friends in the band.
ID - From the 2 tracks you’re released so far, there’s a lot of ground being covered musically. You have Singularity on one hand with more of a Textures stamp on it and Reaching Home which is much more melody driven, how do you approach you parts to such varying elements of music?
Stef -Because we all listen to so many different styles, we come up with all kind of different musical ideas. Most of the stuff we listen to is non-metal and so is the stuff we create. The most important thing for us is the story we want to tell in a song and that we do by creating an intense tension span. For the tension span we can use a lot of ingredients. It’s like creating an interesting recipe for a dinner. Every dinner needs its own flavour and therefore needs his own ingredients.
ID - How has the reception been so far to these tracks?
Stef - Great! It takes some time to get into Textures’ songs because most of the time they are not really easy to comprehend or internalise. We released Reaching Home as single on purpose, because we wanted to show them a new vibe in our sound. Textures will never be a band that releases albums with 100% the same sound twice. The band makes progress like we progress personally. Seeing it this way each album is a statement to this very period of creating an album. Dualism = Textures 2011.
ID - The production seems to be a notch higher on Dualism, what was your setup like while tracking drums this time around?
Stef - I chose to use a bigger drum kit than I normally use for live gigs. I just wanted to have a bigger pallet to choose my sounds. Most of the stuff was actually the same as I used on Silhouettes; Evans EC2 on the toms, but the newest series of those. My everlasting Tama Starclassic Performer 10, 12, 14 and 16”. Meinl Soundcaster and MB10 Cymbals. A bit bigger than on Silhouettes because the grooves on Dualism are fatter, groovier and slower. I still use my 16” Stagg China and Pearl Sensitone brass snare by the way. It does not belong to my endorsements, but I just really like them.
ID - How much do you think your drumming has evolved in the time between this record and Silhouettes?
Stef - It sounds stupid but finally I’m able to keep rest in playing. I practised a lot with playing to a click track which meant a breakthrough in the band’s tightness. We play so many notes in such weird time-signatures that it is of the uttermost importance that everything is played tight so that the listen experiences maximum impact.
The second reason why I found more rest is because of the sort of grooves we used for Dualism. They are a bit slower, but have more impact. When I play I see it as my job to convince all the people in the audience, from the front to the back. Even if the rest of the band wasn’t there I must convince them. One of the tricks to do that is with the power of talking. Every note is a statement. And you have to make sure everybody knows what you mean. Like a Martin Luther King speech, you have to make sure that everybody knows what you’re talking about, even if they don’t speak the (polyrhythmic) language.
Sometimes you even can force that people understand your language. I do that by hitting louder than on the former albums. I even fucked up both shoulders doing that. It made me aware once again that as a drummer your whole body has to be in shape to give a good performance.
ID - Looking back at Silhouettes now, is there any moment when you’ve thought that you could’ve maybe changed a drum fill or a certain part?
Stef - Certainly. I’ve always been a drummer that improvises very much. That why I chose to play in fusion-metal band Exivious as well. Textures is a bit more static than the free improvisation fusion songs of Exivious, but there has always been room for new fills and new ideas. Like with Laments of an Icarus we break down the tempo to create more impact.
I don’t consider fills as a static aspect. They are sometimes like the gravy to the potatoes. Some days you need more than on others. And sometimes you need it more spiced up than on others.
ID - Any changes in the live setup this time around?
Stef - Nope, I still play the left handed set up on my Starclassic Performer. But to keep it interesting I sometimes skip a tom or a cymbal right before we start the set. Just to check out if I can play it on a different set up. I did that for the first time on a big festival in Holland where we played with bands like Velvet Revolver, Chemical Brothers and Dillinger Escape Plan. It was quite fun to be so tense and to improvise fills in front of a few thousand people.
ID - Which brands are you currently endorsing?
Meinl Cymbals: Soundcaster and MB10 cymbals
Pro Mark: regular 5A
Evans: EC2 on toms and the Dry Snarehead.
Tama: Starclassic Perfomer
ID - Odd time Signatures! What’s your approach when it comes to tackling parts in odd signatures?
Stef - Sometimes I use this term yes (odd time signatures) but in fact we really don’t know in what signature we play. I mean, I can analyse and write down everything we play if I want to, but most of the time we just have a pulse and a riff. It doesn’t matter what signature it is as long as the pulse is there. The pulse makes the groove and groove only exists when there is a pulse. In fact, that is the strongest ingredient to the riffs that bands like Textures, Meshuggah, Tesseract and Periphery write; it’s the so called syncopated notes (the notes played along the beat and not especially on the beat) that make the presence of the beat/pulse even more pregnant. The more you avoid the pulse, the more it’s there. Wow that quite a contradiction! I want to invite all the listeners to this kind of music to keep looking for this continuous pulse, because it’s really the backbone of our music. And of course a perfect ingredient to bang your head on.
ID - What has been the biggest obstacle you’ve overcome drumming wise over the years?
Stef - Also this answer is a bit ambivalent; to think and drum out of the metal box. Luckily I’ve always been used to that, but this is still my main goal. For some people the core of metal drumming is speed and playing as fast as you can. And that’s exactly what I don’t like about metal. When you play as fast as you can most of the time it loses impact all over. I see it as my job to maintain power, impact and tempo. Consistency might be the strongest job for a drummer, especially in metal. It’s cool that lately there are more drummers that are into that. Like Matt Halpern of Periphery for instance or Tomas Haake of course from Meshuggah.
Both of them also think out of the metal drum box. Creatively I mean. Their creative drums ideas most of the time are not based on things coming out Black Sabbath hard rock or Slayer’s Dave Lombardo, but more on fusion or gospel music. Don’t forget that music like gospel has the same hyped up drive as metal does.
Stef - Do spoons also count as sticks? I was six years when I tried to play along with Sunday Bloody Sunday from U2, but I was 8 when I started playing on a real kit. And I wasn’t a talent. Actually I played so bad that my drums teachers told my parents to try out a different instrument. The whole talent topic is so overrated.
I stopped playing drums until I picked it up again at the age of 14. From then on I didn’t take lessons anymore, but only playing in bands. One of the guys who I met around that time was Bart (Textures’guitarist) who was and is still a 100% match to what I want to do musically.
We shared the same musical background by then, listening to U2, Dire Straits and the upcoming metalbands like Sepultura, Rage Against the Machine. We were very open minded, and we still are. Everything that sounded different and musically interesting caught our intention. Sting, Monstrosity, Meshuggah (already in 1994), Emperor, some African stuff, Pearl Jam, Pat Metheny, Pink Floyd.
ID - Was there a gig you went to which made you decide that music is what you wanted to focus on in life?
Stef - Well, there was a music tape before THE gig. I got a bootleg U2 tape from my uncle. It was a concert of U2′s concert in Rotterdam at the time of the Joshua Tree album. I just turned 6 years old (1987), but the tape made a huge impact. Of course I wasn’t really aware of what attracted me. I think it was the whole package of the intense music, the speeches of Bono and the honesty and open minded view in their music and personal characters.
I read in a booklet that Larry Mullen, the drummer, always tried to be a sincere and quite guy. Well, that was exactly what I tried to be after reading that. I also got the same haircut by the way haha!
By the time I was 8 years old I finally went to my first U2 concert and it really made a big impact. I had to cry at the last song “40”
ID - Speaking of gigs, which was the best gig you’ve been to all your life and which is the best Textures gig you’ve had over the years?
Stef -The best gig of all time? I have a couple of them. The singer/songwriter Damien Rice in 013, Holland. U2 with their ZooTv to in Rotterdam, Holland and the last concert of Australian prog rockers of Karnivool in Amsterdam was also awesome.
ID - What’s your warm up routine like before a show?
Stef - I try to keep my body fit so some running and some arm and leg exercises are good. I also tend to fuck up some details in the songs so before a gig I relax and try to give my mind some peace.
I don’t consider drums for Textures as a circus act, so nailing the stuff is not a matter of life and death. It is organic music and my brains and body have to be in shape. But it’s not like I’m going to run the Olympic 100 meter sprint. So, in that way I’m also not training like that. To keep the drums in Textures interesting it’s not needed to be in ultra-shape for the fasted double bass and snare rolls. We need impact, and therefore I’d rather play less notes but hit them with full force and intellect.
ID - Back to the new album, this album will be out on Nuclear Blast Records, a much bigger distribution network this time. How does it feel to be a part of the Nuclear Blast roster?
Stef - Great. Death, Meshuggah, In Flames, Dimmu Borgir all belong to this roster. Nuclear Blast participated a lot in the creation of the European metal scene. I don’t know if that counts for USA as well, but over here all the big bands belong to NB. Being part of them really feels awesome.
ID - Lyrically, what does Dualism deal with?
Stef - Dualism is the philosophical concept dealing with the body vs the mind.
Stef - The title Dualism is representative for contrasts. In the artwork you can see that. In short the concept of the album is people that search for enlightenment/progression and find themselves meandering and balancing between contrasts of dark and light, nurture and nature, sky and land, mind vs body, man vs machine. All those kind of contrasts interest us since the beginning of Textures. Polars, Drawing Circles and Silhouettes all deal about this topic of contrasts. But on Dualism every song is set up as a small mind view of a person’s behaviour in such a situation.
ID - A huge US tour coming up with The Human Abstract, Periphery and The Contortionist. For a band from Europe how hard is it to get a tour going in the US? Is it right to say that a US tour gauges a European band’s success?
Stef - No, not at all. And by the way, the term ‘success’ is so relative that it doesn’t really mean anything. All of our dreams have become true already so this band is already a success to our opinion. We are 6 friends living a dream. Success to us is not defined by aspects out of the band such as album sales or the amount of visitors at a Textures gig.
But ok, speaking in term of commercial success Textures is also quite a success. More in Europe of course than in USA, because we’ve just started here.
ID - The question a lot of our readers have been waiting for – When are you guys coming back to India?
Stef - As soon as possible. That sounds cliché, we know. But the fact is that we really want to go to India as soon as possible. Compared to Europe it is not so easy to set something up in India, so we have to wait a while. We’re now looking for a gig in December, but I think it will take a bit longer than that.
India offered us probably one of the highlights in our personal life and in Textures’ history. We definitely want to go back again to give the energy back you gave to us. And I can assure you, that’s a lot!
ID - What advice would you give to the young drummers out there?
Stef - You can do everything you want and you are able to do things that your favourite drummers do. But don’t try to learn it to fast. When you built a pyramid, you cannot start at the top. Start at the basis and try to get a good feeling out of this. 90 percent of all the drums played on the radio and in rock music in general consists of basic stuff. But to play that with a cool interpretation takes some time. The bigger the basis is of your pyramid, the higher your pyramid will be in the end.
ID - What are your thoughts of setting up a platform like Indian Drummer? Anything you’d like to say to all your fans in India?
Stef - Setting up Indian Drummer is a great idea. I discovered that people in India can be positively inspired by other drummers. That’s great! Progress in life can be forced by inspiration. So if you are gaining energy by seeing or hearing drums, exploit it. Do that the way you like, and maybe that’s not by drumming but by ….writing lyrics, playing guitar, painting…whatever. Expressing your emotions and intellectual ideas is important to human beings, so try it out!
ID - A few rapid fire questions to wrap this up
Your favourite drummer – Hans Eijkenaar. A drummer from the Netherlands. Always hands on to everything, playing every note with intention, sitting at the tip of his drums chair. He is the most pro active drummer I know.
Favourite rudiment – Left right left left right – I’m left handed haha, play it over 16th notes.
The band/artist getting you’re currently into – Periphery, a djent band from USA. I am not a metal fanatic but this music is made by open minded, friendly and really awesome musicians.
ID - Thanks for doing this interview Stef. It’s been a huge honour for us. We wish you and Textures the best and can’t wait to have you guys back on Indian shores again!
Stef - Thanks to all the Indian people. Hopefully I can come back to India to do some drum clinics as well. You people inspired me a lot. Not only in drumming, but in living in general. Thanks to awesome drummer Hamza Kazi for helping me out with my drums at the Indian gigs.