Well, I had already sent some questions to Bob Bagchus, the almighty skin torturer of ASPHYX, in October / November 2002, but he had lost them. Still, when I sent him the first issue of MUTILATING PROCESS zine in the second half of 2003, and when he knew that I also had an interview with Martin Van Drunen on the way, he kindly showed the desire to be featured in the same issue, so that the ASPHYX maniacs might have quite an intensive and exciting reading session with these two interviews. Moreover, Bob gave here some really entertaining answers. Yeah, ASPHYX exists no longer and definitely seem to be buried by time and dust, but through this interview I want to show that the legacy of this cult band lives forever in our somber souls! All hails go to Bob Bagchus for having answered this interview in the good old way… He wrote ten pages of answers (front and back) with a pen, which caused him a little hand sore in the end, haha! "It happens in many different disguises, but in the end the result is always the same… DEATH, THE BRUTAL WAY!!!"
Hello Bob! So, how are you? Ready to answer this interview on paper, like in the good old times? Hope you are in a good mood to answer this interview, ‘cos it shall be an intensive one!!!
"Hi Nathaniel! Yep, I’m ready."
How did you get to hear a Metal record for the first time, and what motivated you to keep on digging in this scene? How old were you at that time? How did you first get involved in the really small underground universe, and with which bands did you start to write and eventually trade some tapes?
"When I was 7-8 years old… Then I heard KISS for the first time on the radio and I liked it right away. Also I liked ALICE COOPER and VAN HALEN a lot! So when those bands were on the radio I quickly taped them. Later on, when I started to get some “pocket money” from my parents I bought a 7” from ALICE COOPER and VAN HALEN. Then, when I was like 12-13 years old, I once visited my uncle and he played DEEP PURPLE for me, so I lend his album, taped it and did not stop listening to it. Also I was totally into JUDAS PRIEST and IRON MAIDEN. Then when I first heard METALLICA’s “Kill ’Em All” I thought it was a bit too fast and brutal for me. I taped it anyway but didn’t listen to it ‘til 2 months or so after. I know I sat in my bedroom playing with that “Technical Lego”, you know, with those hydraulic systems etc, and I listened to a tape with some JUDAS PRIEST stuff on it on side A. Anyway, the side A ended and I played side B! On that side was METALLICA’s “Kill ‘Em All”. And then I thought: “this is brilliant!” All of a sudden I liked the real heavy brutal stuff. So when it was the 5th of December ’85 or so, I got the “Kill’ Em All” LP on “Sinterklaas” evening! I got it from my Grandma! Real cool! Then I bought “Ride The Lightning” and went from there to “Hell Awaits”, “Seven Churches” etc. And of course VENOM’s “Black Metal”. Then it all went fast because I also read the Aardschock which featured bands who got more brutal then the bands before. Anyway, in 1987 I started ASPHYX with Tonny Brookhuis and in that year I ordered “Deathcrush” from the almighty MAYHEM! I told Euronymous that I started a Death Metal band. Euronymous sent me the “Deathcrush” mini and the demo and told me he was interested in ASPHYX and that he already started to make promotion for us. And indeed, a few weeks after I got a letter from Metalion from the mighty SLAYER mag, telling that he wanted to hear ASPHYX and do an interview. Also I got a letter from MORBID mag, etc. Then I got some underground mags and started to write with OBSCURITY, MORBID ANGEL, NIHILIST, SATAN’S HOLOCAUST, etc. But the first band was MAYHEM and thanks to Euronymous we got introduced in the underground scene! He really did a lot for ASPHYX and we are still very grateful for that! Thanks mate! R.I.P."
Were you involved in other bands before ASPHYX? How did you meet with Christian Colli, Tonny Brookhuis and later with Eric Daniels? What are they doing now?
"A project called EMBRYO which was the worst noise there was! Terrible! We just got our instruments… Patrick Mameli (PESTILENCE) introduced me to Christian Colli ‘coz I told him we needed a singer. That was in 1988, at a gig from the Belgian Speed band TYFOON, or was it at a gig, also in Atak Enschede, from Dutch Deathsters SEMPITERNAL DEATHREIGN… I don’t know exactly, but it was in 1988 in Atak at one of those two gigs. Tonny was a friend of mine since 1986 and Eric Daniels joined in March 1989. I know Eric from a bass player, Benno Kremers, who joined us after Christian left. Benno told me if we needed a second guitarist and I said “why not”. So once Eric came along with Benno, and Eric fitted just perfectly! Then Benno left, but luckily, Eric stayed and put his life into ASPHYX! I don’t know what Christian or Tonny are doing now. Eric and me are still in touch, but not so much anymore. He has a very busy job, has a family (so have I), but is no longer involved in the Metal scene as it is. Eric sold some of his equipment, except for his B.C.Rich guitar and side effects. That’s his choice and we have to respect that."
ASPHYX formed in 1987, so you have witnessed the emerging of the Death Metal boom in the beginning of the 90’s really well. How did you react to the sound that all these upcoming bands were bringing back then, keeping in sight that you were more in the direction of the prime Death and Black Metal bands like VENOM, SLAUGHTER, POSSESSED, DEATH and MAYHEM (the true), for instance?
"I liked that sound, of course. Bands like NIHILIST, NECROVORE, INCUBUS, AUTOPSY, OBSCURITY, MAJESTY were excellent! Very raw and brutal! They all had that very special underground feeling back then. Also it was a special feeling to write and trade demos with most of them. It was a real unity back then. And most of those bands also sounded like the old gods like SLAUGHTER or DEATH or even POSSESSED, so that was cool anyway."
You guys worked quite quickly in the first days of ASPHYX, ‘cos only for the year 1989, you already had two demos released. Ok, “Enter The Domain” was more a rehearsal and “Crush The Cenotaph” was more of a real demo, but how comes that you went that fast in composing songs and injecting them in the underground?
"We had tons of inspiration then. Also we all were unemployed so we had enough time. We watched gore movies all day, listened to brutal Death Metal, got inspired and wrote heavy deadly tunes. Also we were very proud of our sound and songs so that we wanted to release them as quickly as possible to the worldwide audience."
How were the reactions to these demos? I think every VENOM fan who got in touch with those tapes might have worshipped you from the first song they heard. Had you a concept with ASPHYX at this period? How and when exactly did you come up with the motto “DEATH THE BRUTAL WAY”?
"The reactions on “Enter The domain” were from average to very good. The sound was quite horrible, it was a rehearsal. Some liked it, some didn’t. But then we released the studio demo “Crush The Cenotaph” and that one got excellent response! It seemed that almost everybody was shocked by its heaviness and the deadly brutality of those 4 tunes. The sound was good and the 4 tracks were dark and extremely heavy Death Metal. Euronymous from MAYHEM / Deathlike Silence Productions wanted to do an album with us. “Crush The Cenotaph” sold almost 5000 copies worldwide. We were featured in almost every underground magazine there was, and got like 40 letters a day! No shit! Even the local mailman in De Lutte was surprised by the amount of mail he had to deliver each day at my home address. He even asked my mom (who was working in the garden when the mailman arrived) if ASPHYX was a business company, ‘coz he never delivered so much mail to a normal home address. That was cool! The concept of ASPHYX was to create dark doomy and brutal Death Metal as raw as possible without compromises! The ASPHYX songs had to be diverse and at the same time very catchy and easy to remember, just like VENOM or CELTIC FROST and SLAUGHTER, DEATH. No technical shit from us! Just plain and simple! The motto “DEATH THE BRUTAL WAY” was made up by Jon Metalion from SLAYER mag. It fits the ASPHYX sound just perfectly."
In 1990 you released the collector EP called “Mutilating Process” on the young German label Nuclear Blast, and you also recorded the “Embrace The Death” album, which was at last released in 1996 by Century Media, ‘cos the label which was supposed to release it had problems. Please tell us how you got in touch with all these labels and if the name of ASPHYX already managed to create a following despite all these problems you had with the release of “Embrace The Death”?
"I had already contact with Slatko Dolic from Gore Records (a sub label of Nuclear Blast Records) in 1989 and then he and Markus (from NBR) asked us if we wanted to do an EP for Gore Records. So we did and right after that Nuclear Blast offered us a record deal which we refused. Also we had contact with CMFT from the UK at that time and they were interested as well in releasing an ASPHYX album. First they wanted to release the “Crush The Cenotaph” demo on vinyl, so we sent him (Daryl Turner that is) the master tape, but nothing happened. He still has to return that tape… Motherfucker! Anyway, in the meantime we entered the studio to record “Embrace The Death”, thinking CMFT was going to release it. In those days, in the studio, we found out that CMFT was no longer! But we were in the middle of the “Embrace…” recordings, so we didn’t tell the studio owner of course. After the recordings, the raw sessions that is, ‘coz since CMFT ceased to exist we didn’t have the time to mix the damn’ thing, we asked the studio owner if he could tape the still unmixed album for us, so we could listen to it at home, so we knew then what things to change if we got back to mix it. He taped it for us, we went home as quickly as possible and we never went back to mix it properly. Also the Deathlike Silence label from Euronymous wanted to release an ASPHYX album, but we wanted to look further. We sent the unmixed audiotape to various record companies and Century Media did us the best offer for a worldwide deal. They wanted to contact us anyway because of the “Mutilating Process” EP they had at the office. And because of the fact that they noticed (in magazines and fanzines) that SPHYX had a big underground following, especially due to “Crush The Cenotaph” and the “Mutilating Process” EP which was sold out in no time. Even PARADISE LOST was our support act in 1990 in Hardenberg Holland. Always cool to say!"
Did you use to play live often to support your demos and the album? How did the fans react to the songs taken from “Embrace The Death” when you played them live, as nobody could get the album?
"We played live, but not so very much. In those demo days we played already in Germany, Denmark, Belgium and France. The reactions to the “Embrace…” songs were very good since they were typical ASPHYX tunes. People knew what to expect, and got it. No surprises! We also didn’t want to play that much live, just to keep it a bit exclusive. We didn’t want the people to say: “Oh no, not again, we saw them last week also!”."
If I am not wrong, it’s at that time that some line-up changes came in sight. Tonny left and Eric was there to be the main riff man of ASPHYX. Did these line-up changes cause trouble in the process of the composition of the songs? How did you proceed to compose the songs in ASPHYX? Was Theo also writing riffs?
"Yes, that all was right after the recordings for the “Mutilating Process” EP. Tonny wanted to progress, we didn’t! Tonny’s view of progressing was to get more technical with more guitar solos and loops and so on, while we, Eric, Theo and myself, wanted to get even more heavy and dark! Of course we wanted to play tighter as well, but also to make the song more catchy! Tonny’s view on Death Metal was not our view anymore, so he left the band? This was the best thing for ASPHYX otherwise we would lose our identity. All heads must point to the same direction, if not, one head has to roll, for the sake of the band. While Tonny was still in the band, we had quite a lot of arguments composing songs. After he left, everything went smooth and natural again! Eric, Theo and myself, had the same ambition. Composing songs in ASPHYX was like this: Eric or Theo or Tonny (when he was still in) came up with a riff, played it to me, I came up with a certain drumbeat, we started jamming and out of that jam session (which we recorded) existed a song. Mostly Eric and me did the arrangements like: that part 4x, that one 2, part one 4x, different tune and so on. You know, put things in logical order. Also Eric and me watched tons of gore movies and they inspired us as well to make creepy tunes. Theo, for instance, wrote the track ‘Eternity’s Depths’."
It seems that Theo was quite involved in the occult things. In the beginning, ASPHYX had a much more “satanic” image, or let’s say an “occult” image than on “The Rack” and its followers. How big was the interest of all of you in the occult? Please tell us about this gig when Theo burnt a DEAD HEAD t-shirt in order to dedicate it to Satan, which lead to some misunderstandings from the crowd
"We all were very interested in the occult stuff. The darker side of life is always very attractive. Also it fits the musical thoughts and style perfectly. When you are in a Death Metal band you must be attracted to the satanic and occult / gore stuff anyway, ‘coz that is what the music / lyrics is all about. If not, then it’s better to play in some kind of Power Thrash band. I cannot describe it, it’s a feeling you have or have not. We, ASPHYX, had that occult feeling and you can hear that on our demos, EP and the “Embrace The Death” album. Totally dark DeathMetal and above all, very true! The lyrics on “The Rack” were less satanic, but still they had the dark occult / horror approach. The thing was that Martin was our new vocalist and he had to sing some of Theo’s lyrics as well, since “The Rack” featured lots of old ASPHYX songs. Martin did not like Theo’s lyrics at all, so he changed them to his likes, which was good. Martin was the singer, so he had to do what he felt was best for him. A singer has to sing about topics he believes in, so he can put his heart and mind in it. And that shows, as well as on CD as live. We cannot tell a singer what to sing, we can disagree of course, but that’s it. But I think the lyrics on “The Rack” are excellent and fit the album perfectly! Dark, heavy and brutal! Especially the lyrics of the title track are brilliant! The lyrics on the “Last One On Earth” are not occult anymore, except for ‘Streams Of Ancient Wisdom’ since that is an old ASPHYX track. At that time I was quite pissed when I saw the lyrics, ‘coz that was not what ASPHYX stood for. But as I said, I cannot tell a singer what to sing, except for disagree. But Martin was the singer, he had to sing in something he believed in, so end of discussion. But I must say I like the lyrics of ‘M.S. Bismarck’, ‘The Last One On Earth’, ‘The Krusher’ and ‘Asphyx, Forgotten War’. Those are good lyrics. The “Last One On Earth” is a good brutal album and still is one of the heaviest albums around. About the DEADHEAD shirt, it was a burnt offering to Satan, just to shock some people who didn’t understand what real Death Metal was all about!"
How were your relationships with the other Dutch maniacs like THANATOS, GOREFEST, SINISTER, ACHROSTICHON, DELIRIUM and so many more from these times? Was it a certain respect between bands, or more a competition spirit?
"We had good contacts with SINISTER, GOREFEST and ACHROSTICHON, but also with DEADHEAD and GOD DETHRONED! We did support each other and that was good! Those are great bands and we can be proud of them. There was a lot of respect and that’s the way it should be."
When and where did you play abroad for the first time with ASPHYX? I have a poster of the 1991 tour you did with ENTOMBED in Germany and Switzerland. How comes that you played with the Death Metal gods only 3 years after you had founded the band? Was it a good tour?
"That was in April 1989 in Belgium, in Laakdal. That was on the birthday of Wim Baelus. That was a cool gig, but messy as hell. Theo and Eric and Benno joined us just some weeks before and so we had to rehearse and rehearse. The other thing was also that we only had 3 songs, so we played each song 2 times! But the response was very good, so what the heck! About the tour with Swedish Gods ENTOMBED, that was 4 years after forming ASPHYX. ASPHYX was founded in 1987! (sorry, I have always problems in maths, hahaha – Nathaniel) It was easy, ASPHYX had a very big underground following, we and ENTOMBED knew each other already for some years when they were still NIHILIST, and “The Rack” was just about being released, so it was only natural. It was a great tour! We and ENTOMBED got along excellent, since we also were old scene pals, the audience was excellent and it’s one of my best memories of ASPHYX. The whole atmosphere was just great! ENTOMBED rules! By the way, do you have a copy of that poster left? (sorry dude, but no, I was already amazed to get it, but there was only this one and only poster that a friend offered to me! – Nathaniel)."
On the “Crush The Cenotaph” EP (not to be confounded with the demo of the same name), there are two live tracks with Martin Van Drunen taken in Sweden. How many gigs did you play in this country at that time? How did the audience welcome you coming from the Netherlands, as people from there were quite used to see some of the biggest Death Metal bands performing in Stockholm?
"We only played once in Sweden. The audience was GREAT! They welcomed us like we were VENOM! The whole crowd went like “ASPHYX! ASPHYX! ASPHYX!”. But to be honest, that was no surprise since we had a very big following in Sweden since 1989. That was also one of our best gigs anyway! It was also great to meet most of the people we wrote with! The Swedish audience rules!"
How did you part ways with Theo and how did Martin come in sight, he who was already wellknown worldwide with his past in PESTILENCE? How comes you decided to play together in ASPHYX?
"I think our egos went too big and so tensions surrounded ASPHYX. Everyone is to blame here. Me, Theo and Eric. I already knew Martin from high school, traded tapes with him and so on, and when I heard he left PESTILENCE I called him up. It was quite a surprise actually since Eric and me sometimes fantasised of Martin being the frontman of ASPHYX. It had nothing to do with him being in PESTILENCE! We couldn’t care less, since we had a very big and strong underground following ourselves. We just liked his voice and stage performance a lot! Martin was / is one of the best frontmen ever, I still think. Also during our rehearsals Martin totally gave 100%! He was totally enthusiastic and was banging like a madman! (Yeah, he told me about his past headbanging sessions! The guy did it too much and too hard, so that nowadays he can hardly bang his head without fearing for his cervicals, hahaha! Come on, hate me Martin! Hahah!!!! – Nathaniel). Eric and me were like: “Wow this guy is over the top”! Excellent! There was a certain chemistry between the 3 of us! We had exactly the same view on how Death Metal should sound like! Raw, uncomplicated, catchy and deadly to the bone! And so “The Rack” was born…"
Where did you record the promo tape with Martin before “The Rack”? I know he wrote the first riff of the song ‘The Rack’, and he changed some lyrics of Theo in order to improve them. Did the integration of Martin into ASPHYX changed your way to compose the songs?
"In the Harrow studio! Just being an 8 track studio. The first riff of ‘The Rack’ is a classic one, and yes Martin wrote it. The way of composing songs always stayed the same, mostly by jamming. That way also ‘Vermin’ came to life. It just went natural. It all was part of the chemistry of ASPHYX."
How did you get in touch with Harry Wijering, who became the man responsible for the production of each ASPHYX album from “The Rack” until “On The Wings Of Inferno”? Is it him who influenced the typical ASPHYX sound, or was it more due to the rack effects used by Eric Daniels (the guitarist)?
"I know Harry right from the start of the Harrow studio, in 1988 that was. We were, apart from his own band, the first band who came to rehearse over there. When Tonny and me came in, Harry was still painting the place. So Harry knew our sound right from the beginning, and knew what ASPHYX stood for. The typical raw ASPHYX sound is Eric’s very own guitar sound, thanks to some very special effects imported from Denmark. Eric searched for years to get a sound like that, and he finally found it. Harry had to make sure it all recorded well. I think, also the combination of Eric and Harry working together on that typical crushing guitar sound lead to the ultimate result."
About your sound and the way you played in ASPHYX, I can’t help thinking that SLAUGHTER is really the biggest influence you had. Did you use to cover this band in rehearsal? What kind of tunes did you like to cover for yourself? Have you already played covers on stage?
"SLAUGHTER was a very important influence indeed! We had the same riff structures as SLAUGHTER! I still think those are the ultimate riffs in Death Metal! We sometimes covered ‘Tales Of The Macabre’ in the rehearsal room. Other covers we did are: VENOM’s ‘Countess Bathory’, HELLHAMMER’s ‘Massacra’, CELTIC FROST ‘Return To The Eve’, ‘Procreation Of The Wicked’ and ‘Nocturnal Fear’. We played VENOM’s ‘Countess Bathory’ live once."
With the arriving of Martin into the line-up, and also with the killer production you got in the Harrow studio, one can say that ASPHYX went a huge step further. You told me that at a certain period, you were selling more albums than BOLT THROWER!!! From 1988 to 1991, it’s a short period of time, and you already had all these line-up changes… So, how was the state of mind in the ASPHYX camp? Did you always feel that you had to prove yourself all the time, or were you quite relaxed by the sudden tremendous support your band got?
"Yes we improved quite a bit, but that’s natural of course. I don’ think, by the way, that “The Rack” has a killer production. The guitar and vocals are good, but the drumsound and bass are a bit buried in the mix ‘coz it was only on 8 tracks. I hope that Century Media will remix the thing sometime… But then again it was only recorded in 3 days, it’s a not finished and still under construction 8 track studio demo and costed only 1500$ US! So with that in mind “The Rack” sounds killer! Anyhow, I’m still VERY proud of “The Rack” since it also became a sort of Death Metal classic now. Also the rawness and intense brutality is still awesome! No we didn’t sell more albums than BOLT THROWER, we sold more merchandise on the BOLT THROWER / BENEDICTION / ASPHYX tour in 1992! That’s what I meant. (Sorry again, I got it wrong! – Nathaniel). Those line-up changes were necessary somehow. I don’t know, it just happened. The core in ASPHYX stayed the same, most of the time, consisting of Eric and me. We didn’t had the urge to prove ourselves at all! Our fans always knew what to expect: raw, catchy, heavy, uncomplicated true Death Metal. ASPHYX never was known for its superb technical skills, complicated song structures… HELL NO! ASPHYX was known for its heavy raw brutality!!! We knew our limitations and used them to create ultimate heaviness. We stayed cool!"
1991 is the period when you began to tour quite much all over Europe. How was life during the tours? With which other bands had you a good relationship? Were you quite a bunch of party freaks, or more quiet people. I know Martin was / is the kind of guy who’s “Rock’n’Roll” to the bone in his behaviour, but what about you?
"Life was brilliant on the ENTOMBED tour in 1991! We lived the life, sort of spek. We had a great nightliner with video / tv etc, lots of food and drinks! A great atmosphere and so on! The shows were excellent, the crowd ruled! Great! Life on the BOLT THROWER tour was a bit harder ‘coz we only had travel campers (Eric had to drive most of the time), we almost didn’t get any money, so we had to steal food at gas stations! The only decent food we got was in the venues we had to play at night! But looking back, it was a good experience and helped us a lot in growing up and not taking things for granted! I’m glad we did it! The only too sad thing on the BOLT THROWER / BENEDICTION tour was that a great roadie died in a car crash while driving to Spain that night. The most bizarre thing was that we drove past the place were he, Spike, died the night he drove off to Spain, saw things which looked like a guitar body beside the road, but didn’t wonder what the hell that was at all! We found out the next day that it was our backline van who crashed there and that Spike (R.I.P.) died. Karl (Willets) of BOLT THROWER came into our camper, cried and was in shock and told us the sad news… Anyway, we did finish the tour and dedicated those gigs to Spike. Eric and me were not so much of party freaks, but we got along great with Karl of BOLT THROWER and especially with the guys of BENEDICTION!"
Then came the “Last One On Earth album”… I must say the quality of this album always let me speechless. Still, I read somewhere that you don’t like this album that much… Why is it? Because of the sound, or more because of the memory of the degradation of the relations between you and Martin? If I am not wrong, Martin only sang on this album, and it was already Ron Van Pol who played the bass on it.
"Well, I have mixed feelings listening to that album. The sound is brilliant, the songs are great, but it was recorded in a period when Martin and us already separated. We were not a unity any longer. Eric and me recorded the music, Ron van Pol did the bass parts, and Martin did the vocals, but we actually never met in the studio. Ron was also supposed to do the vocals on “Last One On earth”, but when we went to the studio Harry told us that Martin just left 10 minutes before we came and already did the vocals… A strange situation indeed! At that time we were really pissed at each other. We said stupid things in the press which overshadowed the album. But looking back now, I like “Last One Earth” a lot, and I’m very proud of it! The sound is excellent, brutal and extremely heavy! But still, it could have been better if we still were a unity then, Martin, Eric and me. That album had a great potential!"
Then you decided to leave the band, apparently fed up with the scene and the way things were going in ASPHYX. I think you never managed to earn your money from ASPHYX. Wasn’t it too hard to combine your job and your investment in the scene? Are you still interested by what’s happening in the scene? Have you heard of bands like KAAMOS, REPUGNANT, THRONEUM for example?
"I left the band in 1993 ‘coz the chemistry was gone! I was the one who let Ron van Pol in the band, but he wasn’t 3% of what Martin was. Ron was a good musician, but was very lazy and didn’t have the right feeling! Ron got arrogant ‘coz he now played in ASPHYX, but he never managed to get something together on his own. He wasn’t the right man for the job, but then again, who was?!!?! Nobody could replace Martin as a frontman! Also the new ASPHYX material sounded too much the same, but with no chemistry or heart. Let’s say the feeling was totally gone. We managed to make a small living out of ASPHYX in 1991 and 1992. That was good! We didn’t had any jobs, just music and gigs, back then. We lived 100% ASPHYX, day and night! ASPHYX was the blood which ran through our veins! The worst thing was that we splitted up, never gave each other the chance to clear things up. Perhaps if we had done that we could have done even greater things! But that’s easy to say looking back afterwards! Wisdom comes with age, they say! That’s true! I’m not interested in what’s happening in the scene nowadays, I am honest! I don’t give a shit! Bands do what they got to do, but I’m not impressed. Bands don’t get any better than SLAUGHTER, POSSESSED, MASSACRE, DEATH or NECROPHAGIA! In those days when a new album came out it was like: “Oh this can’t be happening! How can it get more brutal?!?”. When SODOM’s “In The Sign Of Evil” came out, I thought it was the most brutal thing ever! Each album which got released then made a huge impression on me, ‘coz it wasn’t done before. I think today’s bands (most of them anyway) are just copying CANNIBAL CORPSE and CARCASS, but fail anyhow. All using so called “shocking” band names and album covers, just to be that “over the top band”, as they wish to be called. They seem to forget that it’s done before, A LOT BETTER, in a time it also mattered. Nobody can top CARCASS, no matter how hard they try! CARCASS was the first and the last. Nowadays it all becomes quite ridiculous. But still there are some good bands around like NUNSLAUGHTER, PENTACLE (are you sure? Hehehe! – Nathaniel), HOUWITSER, DESASTER… Yes, I know REPUGNANT from an OBSCURITY cover ‘Mortal Remains’ they did on a 7” with PENTACLE! Cool band. I’m stuck in the 80’s with bands like POSSESSED, SLAUGHTER, MASACRE, INCUBUS, NECROVORE, INFERNÄL MÄJESTY, VENOM, etc. And that’s because I grew up with those bands. When I listen to these bands it reminds me of high school, the good old days! Speaking of today’s bands however, I totally miss every kind of excitement or feeling. To me, today’s Metal has no soul or heart. Even the older bands that still exist like SLAYER or METALLICA, or even DEICIDE can’t give me that special feeling they gave me in the good old days. They don’t seem to know when to quit. It all sounds soulless to me. I rather listen to “Strappado”, an all time classic!"
What do you think of the “Asphyx” album where only Eric Daniels remain from the classic duet of the band? I heard that Ron (bass / vox) began to behave more and more like a rockstar, and people seemed also to lose a bit their interest in the band, except for the maniacs.
"It’s a good typical ASPHYX album. But still it sounds a bit strange to me, ‘coz I’m not playing on that album. But Eric did a good job. Ron was behaving like a total numskull after I left. Ron Van Pol was the boy next door, a good talented musician, but with no charisma or personality at all. A face in the crowd…"
In 1996, your very first album “Embrace The Death” is finally released by Century Media. How did you feel when this archaeological piece got exhumed and presented to the mass? Actually not everybody had the luck to hear the releases from the beginning of the band. A lot of people are still thinking that “The Rack” is your first album. At that time, ASPHYX was not at its best anymore, and a lot of people might have forgotten you. But how did maniacs react to this release?
"I felt happy, ‘coz it’s originally the first ASPHYX album, and it’s probably the most dark album we ever made. The ASPHYX fans were very happy to see “Embrace The Death” finally being released! It’s a piece of important history of ASPHYX."
Then it’s the turn of Eric to quit it all, and strangely enough, you decide to keep the legacy of ASPHYX alive by working again with Theo Loomans (first singer of the band), and you recorded the “God Cries” album…. This one is really different from the rest, ‘cos it was Theo who was in charge of the composition. I think you must have displeased or at least surprised a lot of your die hard fans with this record. How comes that Theo was interested to play with you for this album again? After all these years, what do you think of this album?
"Most of the fans like the “God Cries” album, some of the real die-hard fans even thought it was the best ASPHYX album ever! But also some didn’t like the album ‘coz it was not typical ASPHYX… Maybe they were right, but I’m still proud of that album. Theo and me always stayed kinda “in touch”, we talked about the old ASPHYX days and one thing lead to another. I still think “God Cries” is a great album. The sound is a bit different, but still it’s very dark and heavy Death Metal. But maybe the feeling is a bit less ‘coz it was just the 2 of us recording the album. It maybe would sound better and “more right” when Eric joined on the album as well."
How did Eric react when you decided to call the quits after the “God Cries” album? You also played in another band if I am not wrong. Please tell us more about it.
"I don’t think Eric was very surprised. We both were fed up with the scene and its freaky business. Also that so called “Black Metal” ruled the scene and totally overshadowed the good Death Metal bands. There was lots of bandwagon jumping at that time… The scene lost its real feeling, intensity and heart. I played in a project called THRONE, in the HELLHAMMER / BATHORY / MESSIAH / CANDLEMASS style. We made one demo."
Two years later, in 1998, Theo Loomans died in his car that had been struck by a train. Nobody will ever know if it’s a suicide or an accident, and it’s also the year when you decided to play Metal with Eric again. This time you changed the name of your band and called yourself SOULBURN, a band with which you released only a promo tape and an album (also available on picture vinyl). The vocal and bass duties are now taken by a really great guy, which plays with the excellent band PENTACLE, namely Wannes Gubbels. How would you describe the differences between ASPHYX and SOULBURN to our reader?
"There is no difference. The music sounds exactly the same. With SOULBURN we got back to the roots of ASPHYX. With SOULBURN we had no pressure since nobody ever heard of it. It all was very relaxed, but then we started to play old ASPHYX tunes again, of course… The rest is history…"
During the SOULBURN gigs, did you also play songs from ASPHYX? And if yes, which ones? How did people react to this kind of “comeback”? If you’re not an ASPHYX fan, it might be difficult sometimes to follow your history, with all the line up changes and quits.
"We played ‘The Sickened Dwell’ and ‘Abomination Echoes’ I think… I’m not sure anymore. We got great response and it was a good thing to do."
Wannes was in touch with you since the days of the first demo of ASPHYX. How come you stayed in touch during all these years, and you gave a die hard ASPHYX fan the chance to join your band? He’s living quite far from your home (about 300km) and he was totally involved in his own band PENTACLE during the time he played with you. How comes that it all worked so well for the rehearsals, gigs, recordings, etc?
"I think we just “connected”. Wannes was / is really dedicated to the music and seemed to be the right person for SOULBURN. It all went so well, he later became a member of ASPHYX. Wannes put all his heart and mind to it, and we had that chemistry again that we lost for such a long time! It finally felt right again with Wannes, Eric and myself. And when the feeling is right, you can make it work. Our gigs and rehearsals were on different days than PENTACLE’s, so that was ok. A matter of thinking ahead."
Then you ended the rise of ASPHYX by taking this name again and releasing the very last album “On The Wings Of Inferno” with Wannes and Eric again. This is really a nice farewell to the fans. But this time it seems that Eric’s private life and musical life could not collide anymore… A pity if you ask me. I know that Wannes was a bit bitter about the way it all ended, quite abruptly. You were also thinking of recording a NECROVORE song for a NECROVORE tribute, with ASPHYX. But sadly it will never be done. Now that the ASPHYX chapter is closed in your life, how do you react when people are still showing interest in this band? You told me that you are not really involved into the scene anymore and you also have a really heavy professional life. But do you still go to see some gigs from time to time? Are you often in contact with Eric and Wannes?
"Eric had some stuff going on in his personal life and also felt he was not part of the Metal scene anymore. Eric lost the feeling more and more and had to straight things out for himself. Too bad, but we have to respect that. But then again, we would have split up anyway in the end of 2000. I already told Wannes in March 2000 that I was going to split up ASPHYX at the end of the year. “On The Wings Of Inferno” is a brilliant farewell album. The NECROVORE cover never happened. Too bad! I feel proud when people are still interested in ASPHYX. People still show a lot of interest in ASPHYX and that feels good! Sometimes I still go to local gigs and then people ask me what’s up with ASPHYX and how much they liked it. That makes me proud. It shows that ASPHYX still lives on, even when it’s dead. Wannes and me are still in good contact! We meet so now and then, talk on the phone, etc. I don’t see Eric that much anymore, but we are still connected and always will be. We sent each other postcards so now and then."
Another part of the ASPHYX trademark are the covers of your albums drawn by Axel Hermann. How did you get in touch with him? Is he also a fan of Metal? Which artwork that he painted for ASPHYX do you prefer?
"He was working for Century Media. He is also a Metal fan and a really nice guy and a great artist! I prefer the “Last One…” and the “Crush The Cenotaph” artworks."
Would you like to ask me a question?
"Do you like long interviews?"(Me? No I don’t think so. Why do you ask? Hahahaha!!! – Nathaniel)
Well Bob, the torture is over now. Hope it was not too boring to crush the cenotaph of ASPHYX and to re-examinate its corpse!!!! A big thank you for all your great support, and for making this interview a kind of dream coming true. Shall you do interviews again for ASPHYX, or was this one the last one on earth? DEATH: THE BRUTAL WAY!!!!
"Thanks for doing this interview and for your support! I don’t think this was the last interview, but it sure was the longest! But I really enjoyed doing it! Thanks and good luck with your band and zine!"