The More Things Change...
CoC chats with Phlebotomized
by: Drew Snow
It's been more than two years, but Dutch sextet Phlebotomized have finally returned with their follow-up to the fairly successful debut full-length, _Immense, Intense, Suspense_. The material present on _Skycontact_ ranges from the powerfully emotional, yet still heavy, "Never Lose Hope", to spacier, experimental tracks like "Achin'", but throughout the entire effort the feeling of continuity is always unmistakably audible. Quite a change from the musically intense but ideologically distant _IIS_, _Skycontact_ takes the band in a new direction, ever upward into a hallowed, but scarcely populated region known as Originality and Emotion. I spoke to vocalist Dennis Geestman about _Skycontact_, and other things.

CoC: I guess you must be pretty pleased with _Skycontact_, eh?

Dennis Geestman: Yeah, we're very pleased with the album. I read in your review that you are, too. We, ourselves, believe the songs are much better and more diverse. Also, the album's production is better. We mixed it ourselves this time. It's like you said in the review, we took absolute freedom in writing this album. It is us who make the choices for our music. There are no persons or standards that limit our freedom towards that. And when, in the end, the result sounds the way you wanted it to be, it's logical to be pleased with it, yeah!

CoC: What brought about such a huge change in your sound? Your previous album _Immense, Intense, Suspense_ was, in my opinion, excellent atmospheric death/doom, and some people might think you've "wimped out". Care to explain?

DG: We want to bring a diverse sort of music. _Immense...._, as you say, brought death/doom. This time we wanted to go beyond those borders. That's why the album is called _Skycontact_; it expresses that limitless feeling. Looking beyond those borders was completely natural to us, because we already seemed to have developed more interest in other music than only death metal about 4 years ago. Wimped out? Sure, some grind fanatics might think that we sound too soft, but we're actually taking a lot of risks with this new album. The way I see it, bands who bring the same music every damn album are the ones that wimp out. They play it safe, they don't take any artistic risks.

CoC: Do you think you'll get a backlash from your fans and the media for such an alteration?

DG: Well, it takes some (not much) open-mindedness to like and to understand _Skycontact_. It's very important to listen to it without distraction. Only few people will like this album instantly. Most won't like it right away, because it takes some time to let the album grow into your mind. So, the reactions of fans and media will depend on how often they bothered to listen to it. There are actually some people who turned down an interview, because they didn't like the album. Yet, two weeks later, they phoned again to do the interview, because suddenly, _Skycontact_ had grown to be one of the best albums they'd ever heard. So, to the ones that are shocked by _Skycontact_ in a negative way, I would suggest you'd either listen or smoke more. Best results are obtained with headphones.

CoC: If, with _Skycontact_, you're putting your emotions to music, playing whatever you feel like, what were you doing with your previous work?

DG: Basically the same, because we have always played what we liked. But, the last two years brought a certain emotional devotion towards our music. We have all dealt with some pretty hard stuff and I guess that those emotions found a way out through our music. Our previous work dealt mostly with fictional stuff. This time it's real, it's personal.

CoC: The final song on _Immense..._ seems to be more in the style of your latest material: clean vocals, more emotional feeling, etc. Did you feel when writing this song that it would be your new direction?

DG: No, "Gone" happened spontaneously. Certainly, it does contain clean vocals and more emotion, but one cannot possibly base a new direction on only one riff. It might sound closer to _Skycontact_ because it was the final song we wrote for _Immense..._. It didn't set the controls for the music on _Skycontact_, but maybe the song helped us understand that open-mindedness could be accepted, because a lot of metalheads (generally known for their conservatism) liked "Gone".

CoC: _Skycontact_ still contains some of the heavier, guttural sections, but they are rather sparse. Did you only include them so as to not -completely- abandon your roots?

DG: Look, it's really not that we don't want to play death metal anymore. We just don't feel like playing merely death metal. We want to bring more than that. It would be entirely too silly to abandon our roots, because that would be narrow-mindedness from our side, wouldn't it? It would be fantastic if death metal fans could open their eyes towards other music because of _Skycontact_. But it would be as fantastic if non-death metal fans would start liking death metal because of our album.

CoC: Why on Earth did you name song number 3 "I Lost My Cookies in the Disco"?

DG: Oh, yeah. I'm sorry. There's a mix-up in the track listing on the promo CDs. Song 3 is called "Sometimes" (an instrumental) and "I Lost My Cookies in the Disco" is actually song 4. It's a metaphor to say 'throwing up because of today's society', which is a disco, really. We came up with the title, realized that it would sound really silly, and so we decided to keep it. The title therefore is a joke on the difficult song titles from a lot of death metal bands, including ourselves, in the past. So, the joke's on us, too, but that's typically Dutch, I believe.

CoC: After a release such as _Skycontact_, what can be next for Phlebotomized?

DG: I don't know, we don't know, nobody knows. We're not planning on playing a certain musical style. We never did. We like to surprise you, but also ourselves. We'll see whatever we'll come up with. We do plan on writing some shorter songs in the future, that's a fact.

CoC: What occupies the time of the band members while not doing things for Phlebotomized?

DG: Nothing, really. Phlebotomized occupies all my time. Sure, I go to high school, but when I'm there, I'm still doing interviews and all. I got a girlfriend, but when I'm there, I'm still thinking about the band. Phlebotomized really got into my head, and it is our mission to get that name into yours, too, and keep it there.

CoC: Do the members still maintain their feelings towards Christianity?

DG: Well, yes and no. We still think the same about the hypocrisy of religion, but those frustrations have already been expressed on our previous work. Mushroom trips showed me that there has to be a higher being, a certain cosmic power. It's really too 'earthly' to think of that higher being in terms of a God or a Satan or anything else human-like. We're part of the universe, not the center. If it would exist, it would be something far beyond our imagination. As long as this force doesn't reveal itself to me, I won't devote my life to it. I will stay fascinated, though.

CoC: What do you think of the Dutch metal scene right now?

DG: There are some other open-minded acts, like Celestial Season and The Gathering. Yet, most bands try to fit the trend, playing Korn/Machine Head-like music. I'm really worried about the future of metal. Songs have to be short and catchy. Some bands don't even include guitar solos anymore. The older Metallica and Iron Maiden albums, that's my metal. It was a lot more creative than most metal from the 90s.

CoC: Care to explain the cover artwork?

DG: It is done by a local artist, called Gabriel Gressi. We told him the backgrounds of _Skycontact_, and this is what he came up with. There are a lot of symbolic things in the cover. Have you already noticed the cat? It's hidden somewhere. Which reminds me, there is also a hidden track on the CD. Push 'Play' and then rewind to -7:18. You're in for a surprise! You'll find a song called "Dizz-tanze", at least an instrumental version of it. The lyrics were too personal and therefore could not be spoken out in the studio. We're able to bring it off well, now, so perhaps we'll release it some time later. It just had to be on the album, because its feel was a great influence for the other _Skycontact_ songs. So, we chose to hide it in this way.

CoC: How did the band members collaborate on such an eclectic and diverse work? Was the process comparatively difficult for you?

DG: Well, our songs are never finished. At a certain moment in time, you have to record a song, but it will develop further afterwards. I don't really know if it was more difficult to write the new songs. I suppose they were, but on the other hand, there was much more fun in writing them. The older songs were all written by Tom and Lawrence, but now Ben and I had much more influence on arrangements, too. We all could bring more from ourselves this time, which is why the album is more personal than all previous releases.

CoC: How do you feel about all the copycating and cloning going on in the death and black metal scenes today? Was this one of the reasons you chose to go against all of the trends?

DG: Yeah, the cloning of today is very sad, but it's not just happening in these scenes, there's a low rate of open-mindedness in every scene nowadays. Think of all those 70s and 80s hits that currently get fucked up by 'artists' with a drum computer, but without soul. We would like to bring something new. That takes some inspiration, some innovation. It might allow us to become trend setters ourselves some day. That's what we're aiming for: respect for the fact that we dare to bring this. Let me put it in few words: music is art, but where's the art in cloning?

CoC: Alright, Dennis, that should do it. I appreciate the opportunity!

DG: Well, Drew, thanks very much for this interview. Good luck to you and the Chronicles of Chaos magazine. For the people out there who are interested in Phlebotomized, visit our own home-page: (info, merchandise and e-mail addresses on location). Of course we can also be contacted by snail mail:

Phlebotomized PO Box 1230 3180 AE Rozenburg The Netherlands

(article submitted 7/6/1997)

4/9/1997 D Schinzel 9 Phlebotomized - Skycontact
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