No matter if you liked them in the past or not, the importance of GOREFEST on the Dutch Metal scene is undeniable! Ok, their musical experiments on later albums weren’t necessarily fully accepted by their loyal fanbase, but at least up to their "False" album the band always used to be a good address for pure, uncompromising brutal Death Metal! For the 10th anniversary issue of his Mystical Music zine Ralf hooked up with original guitar player Frank Harthoorn to discuss various aspects of GOREFEST’s past and the band’s still rather fresh reunion with him. Unfortunately for a lot of people from around the globe the zine is completely written in German, that’s why we decided to publish the original version on our website. Hope you’ll enjoy it!
Hey Frank what’s up? A big surprise to see my old heroes GOREFEST returning to the scene. What has been the inspiration to reanimate the already rotten corpse GOREFEST?
"A combination of things, really. Ed and Boudewijn were doing their THIN LIZZY tribute band, and really hit it off musically. Boud and JC cleared up some shit between them, and after that it was just a matter of days till we got together in the same room again. We thought, if we can do this, we can try and hammer out some old tunes, see if there’s anything left. We did, and it felt good, so we continued and almost immediately started writing new stuff. Gradually it started making more and more sense, until a few weeks ago when we did our first real shows again…"
Have you all injected some of your Death Metal records again or had the reunions of acts like PUNGENT STENCH, DISHARMONIC ORCHESTRA, MESSIAH, OBITUARY etc also had an impact on your subconcious, for example like let’s go out to kick some ass?
"I don’t think so. I didn’t even know DISHARMONIC or MESSIAH were back together again. If any of us would have had a bad week when we went into rehearsals, we’d probably never have got back together in the first place."
By the way have you followed the scene in the past years by reading magazines or checking bands?
"Yeah sure. I’ve been a Metalhead for most of my life, and I always try and keep up with the more interesting stuff. I’m certainly not the fanatic I used to be, but that doesn’t mean I enjoy listening to new bands anymore!"
Ha! What do you think of cult lyrics like ‘Foetal Carnage’, ‘Tangled In Gore’ or ‘Gorefest’ today?
"Well, that’s what we did, and I’m cool with that. Some funny shit in there. It got boring pretty quick though."
Have you ever shown the coverartwork of the first GOREFEST album and demos to your children ?
"I don’t have children, but if I did, sure I’d show them. We were never that gross in our artwork anyway."
Later on you’ve been the type of guy who tried to avoid Metal cliches, but when I look back in my collection I must say that especially the old brutal tunes and the "False" material are the best face of GOREFEST, or how do you feel about those old days?
"I don’t think it was ever a matter of avoiding Metal cliches, actually I think we perpetuated some of those. We just did what we wanted to do, and sometimes that meant throwing things out, and other things in. We even did that on "False", though strangely it doesn’t get recognized as such. The "Mindloss" songs, that’s basically a different band playing. Sure, I wrote half of them, but those songs sound so much different when played with Ed and Boudewijn. Some of these songs I still enjoy playing, there’s some really heavy shit in there. "False" is a cool album though, definitely our most important one."
I guess you also recognized that the music business turned out to be hard as a rock in terms of sales these days, so don’t you think that it’s crazy that you sold more of both your demos than some bands could fix today with their debut albums?
"Yeah, that is pretty crazy, isn’t it? Music these days seems to be regarded as some sort of throwaway product, a way of selling videos, and thus commercial airtime. I don’t think there’s many people left who want to wait a couple of weeks to receive a demotape. But that’s just a sign of the times I guess."
What do you remember most about the old tape trading days? Did you get a lot of letters back then?
"Tons. The thing I remember most was that alot of time was spent writing letters and copying tapes. Think about how much beer you could have drunk in those hours. It was a cool time, lots of friends were made, and unmade, hahaha."
You know today there’s MP3 filesharing and all that stuff, I guess most kids don’t even know what underground was all about back then… crazy, isn’t it?
"No, probably not. But it’s silly to make more of those days than what they were. These days it’s much easier for people to stay in touch, and trading music has never been easier as well, which is fine by me. Just a few mouseclicks and you’re done. More time left to go see a couple of bands, or hang out with your friends. Or both. Because that is how you really support your underground – by going to shows and see local bands!"
The old t-shirt designs, like the "Voice Your Disgust" or the "Live Misery" 7"EP quite often reach really high prices on ebay. Have you followed that and what do you think about that?
"Someone told me about this a wile ago. Interesting. I’ve never seen our stuff doing anything on ebay, maybe a couple of dollars, but that’s it. I guess that 7" is a collectable, Adwin didn’t print much of them. That’s cool for the collectors."
By the way have you kept the stuff you’ve collected when GOREFEST grew into the scene or have you sold or given it away over the years? Any fave items?
"I keep everything with our bandname printed, scrawled or otherwise on it. Since I never took pictures in the first ten years, I collected everything that looked like it could remind me of something. My fave items are usually the smallest things, like setlists, or weird notes. Anything with a story attached to it."
By the way what do you think about the power of the media in the Metal genre? I remember that there was a lot of talk and trouble even in the media between GOREFEST and German ATROCITY back then? Especially in terms of the DEICIDE tour? What do you think about that today? Was it a kind of behaviour between two envious and hard working bands or just a sensless waste of energy?
"I completely forgot about that, thanks for reminding me. I always thought that letter Alex sent to, Rock Hard was it?, I always thought that was a stupid and childish thing to do. But I guess we all made some mistakes, and I’m sure both Alex and us have better things to do than drag all that shit up."
Did you get upset when people pointed on you as rockstars etc.?
"I get upset when they don’t, hahaha! Seriously, I always find it rather strange when scruffy guys in Death Metal bands get called rockstars, it’s not like we earn tons of money and get to bed with moviestars. Not all of us, anyway. But hey, if you want to call me a rockstar, that’s fine, I’ll make sure to behave like one the next time we meet."
By the way have you ever expected, after your first kind of meeting with Norways Black Metal Mafia on the DEICIDE tour, that Black Metal as a style would become so popular as it turned out in the late 90s?
"Yes, as a matter of fact I did. It was really quite clear this was going to get much bigger. It was an exciting scene, things were happening. The corpsepaint and the spikes, it’s all about escapism, which is what kids latch onto. I’ll even go as far as saying Black Metal is the most important thing to happen to Metal since Thrash in the early eighties. It’s had a huge impact on the whole Metalscene, has been a much bigger influence on countless bands than for instance Death Metal, and it spawned some excellent bands. It’s become much bigger than any of its originators ever wanted of course, and that’s the sign of a real cultural phenomenon."
During the early 90s you did many tours and you’ve shared the stage with really true classic acts in the genre of Death Metal, so I’d like you to comment on the following bands. What kind of memories come to your mind:
DEATH: "I must have seen DEATH about a hundred times, as we did quite a few tours with them. We first met Chuck in my hometown. He swapped his shirt, the skull shirt he wears on the "Leprosy" sleeve, for a GOREFEST shirt with JC. Years later JC gave it back to him. Chuck was so surprised, he’d completely forgotten where he’d left it, hahaha! Anyway, Chuck invited us over to the US to tour with him for "Individual Thought Patterns". Needless to say we got on a plane at once, and proceeded to have a great time with DEATH and SACRIFICE. When I got the news Chuck had died, I called up JC, and we had a couple of beers and dug up old memories. That was the first time I really spoke to JC after GOREFEST had split up. Chuck was one of the people that made me want to make music myself. He was a great guy, a very good musician, and an inspiration."
ASPHYX: "Probably the first real Death Metal band from the Netherlands, or were SEMPITERNAL DEATHREIGN first? Not that it matters much. We did a couple of shows with them before Van Drunen joined. Bob and Erik always were cool with us. I never was a big fan of those first demos, but "The Rack" was something else. The guitarsound and Martin’s vocals really made that album. A classic of sorts, certainly."
PESTILENCE: "With their first three albums, PESTILENCE could not do wrong with me. Mameli is an awesome riffwriter, and has a great sense of melody. "Consuming Impulse" is probably my favorite, those riffs just keep on coming, and Van Drunen’s fucking voice!! They always seemed to have difficulties living up to their promise in a live situation, to me anyway. I’ve seen PESTILENCE quite a few times, and almost everytime they were crap. Hugely influential band though, and years ahead of their time."
CARCASS: "CARCASS are by far my favorite Metalband. We toured with them and DEATH in, ’93? A dream come true, obviously. They played ‘Buried Dreams’, ‘Heartwork’ and ‘This Mortal Coil’ and I think even ‘Death Certificate’ on that tour for the first time, before "Heartwork" came out. Those songs always left me completely in awe. CARCASS played Metal exactly the way I’ve always wanted to, especially on "Heartwork". Strangely, I like "Necroticism" and "Symphonies" even better. Anyway, wonderful band, great guys, fun to hang around with. Ken, you still owe us some money!"
CANNIBAL CORPSE: "Aren’t CANNIBAL CORPSE the biggest selling Death Metal band? Funny lyrics. I liked ’em better with Barnes, though they don’t sound that much different with the guy they have now. Technically quite proficient, but hardly my thing. I heard Jack’s doing something very different these days. He’s a really cool guy."
AUTOPSY: "One of our first real influences. AUTOPSY, to me, always sounded like a European band. US-bands always sounded so polished, AUTOPSY certainly did not. Seen them a couple of times, first time was the best, probably one of the best shows I’ve seen, ever. And in my hometown! Chris is a cool guy, and an awesome drummer."
REVENANT: "Ha, REVENANT! We did our first European tour with these guys. Going on tour, you always hope you’re going to get along with the other band(s). With REVENANT, I think we got drunk right away, hahaha. These guys became real good friends, and musically they were pretty brutal. Funny, I received word from both Hank and Tim just a couple of weeks ago. If you like bands like MORBID ANGEL, you owe it to yourself to check out "Prophecies Of A Dying World"…"
SAMAEL: "We did a couple of tours with SAMAEL. First one when they were still very much a Black Metal band, second during their "Passage" album, which I’m a very big fan of. They’re great guys, who seem to be quite focused in what they do. Mas is funny."
I think you know that there was a lot of criticism back then when former Death Metal bands started to experiment or progress into other realms and many first hour GOREFEST fans already started to complain about "Erase" and got more than upset by the two more Blues inspired follow up albums. Would you do the same kind of musical evolution again?
"Within a heartbeat. Though I don’t know if I would release it under the GOREFEST banner. I cannot sympathise with people who complain about certain albums. If you don’t like it, don’t listen to it. Listen to the first one, or try a different band. There’s thousands. I do recognise "Soul Survivor" as more something of a soloproject by Ed & Boudewijn. In retrospect, it might have been better to release it as such. "Chapter 13", I have no qualms about. It’s a solid album, it’s heavy as fuck, it’s Metal, and it’s mostly put down by people who’ve never heard it and just rank it together with "Soul Survivor"."
I mean you know it’s always a matter of taste, some people call evolution progress, others compromises and both can break your necks, just have a look at the career’s end of PESTILENCE or MORGOTH. Do you still feel proud of that you never repeated yourselves musically or is there something you regret today?
"I think evolution is essential to any band. Bands that put out the same album over and over again because they’re ‘staying true to their roots’ are just pandering to their audience, being very safe and comfortable in their own little niche where they’re sure of at least some income. That, to me, is selling out. AC/DC excepted of course, because they can do whatever the bloody hell they like. Anyway, I have no regrets about anything this band ever did. We’ve always been about heavy guitars and really powerful drums, and you can hear this on every album. If I had to do it all over again, I would probably do these so called ‘style-changes’ even more extreme, just to piss off those whiners who ‘don’t like this’ or ‘don’t agree with that’."
What have you done profession wise after the split-up of GOREFEST?
"I tried sys-op for a year, but that didn’t really work out, so to speak. I now work in a small club / arthouse cinema, which is great, as it’s all about film and music."
Was it a hard way for you to leave the musician’s world behind and starting a real working life again?
"I can’t say I was a happy man, if you know what I mean. Being in a band was pretty much all I had, so I fell in a pretty big void. I tried to fill it with beer, but that just got me a headache. My current job kind of saved me really."
By the way which are the real professions you have learned?
"Boudewijn is a classical guitar teacher. JC can weld ‘n shit. That’s about it, hahaha."
Times have changed a lot and today new bands like GOD DETHRONED, SEVERE TORTURE, DISAWOVED, OCCULT are in rage of the Death Metal throne in Holland, so do you think that there’s still room for the old men of GOREFEST to return successfully?
"Hahaha, that’s funny, ‘the old men of GOREFEST’. I don’t know, that’s not really why we decided to start making music again. You’re absolutely right in saying there’s so many great bands in Holland. We just want to create some frightfully heavy music, and we will. The cool thing about the Dutch scene is that it’s always been very diverse, and qualitywise pretty high. These days there doesn’t seem to be one dominating band, instead there’s a truckload of bands doing cool things. We’ll be doing ours."
Have you already been confronted by people arguing that you’re just doing this reunion to make some easy Euros?
"Of course we have, and I guess that’s fair enough. It’s exactly what I would be saying if it wasn’t my band, and I didn’t know what the hell I was talking about. Honestly, I’m always amused when people just assume we’re making lots of money here. It’s Metal! Do they really think there’s some guy throwing money at us for sitting in a dark and dank rehearsalroom day after day? Get a grip here. Anyway, cynicism be damned. As long as we enjoy what we’re doing, there’s really no point in paying attention to idiots."
Do you feel a lot of pressure when it comes to writing the material for the new album?
"Not at all. The Metal seems to be flowing pretty steady, and heavy at that!"
I mean it will be really hard to satisy all ranks of your fans… for example my wish would be to hear an album again that mixes up “Mindloss” and “False”, but I’m sure other’s might think different…
"It’ll be what it will be. We don’t make music to satisfy other people. We do it to please ourselves, and we hope there’s other people out there who’ll appreciate it as well. If that’s the case, great, we can continue making music!"
There’s a HUGE excitement in the air, so what can we really expect?
"I don’t know about the excitement, but we think we’ve a got a pretty cool set of songs we’re working on. We’re trying to make it as heavy as we can, there’s blastbeats, Metal leads, I’m trying my best on some vintage Bill Steer riffs… Celtic Frost is pretty high on the namecheck list in the rehearsalroom, and we even found use for some shitheavy eighties US Metalbeats. But hey, it’s Gorefest, so this might all sound very different when we finally put it to tape. Or 1’s and 0’s, these days."
Will you use the old logo again etc.?
"I don’t see how this would affect us musically, but I’m very much in favour of using every logo we ever had. That includes the old one."
In the beginning of GOREFEST you’ve been really big horror movie fans, so which have been the last real sort of gorefest films you’ve watched or do you think that you’ve grown out of it?
"Of course not. Ed and I are pretty much the gorehounds here. Don’t know what his last was, but I watched the 2004 "Dawn Of The Dead" last night, and thought it was pretty cool. Before that, I watched "Re-Animator", the Millenium edition, which is awesome! Tonight, I think I might pop in Eric Stanze’s scrapbook. God bless DVD."
Do you feel ashamed of wearing a “Nekromantik” t-shirt on the bandpics, ha?
"Never. I continue, to this day, to wear my Nekromantik shirt with pride!"
Hey, thank you so much for taking the time!!! Feel free to give us some final comments to that interview…
"Well, thank you very much Ralf, for taking an interest in our band. I enjoyed your questions! Cheers!"