Death Metal singers are like the proverbial sand by the sea. Many sound vocally very similar, but some of them have their own style, which makes them stand out from the mass of growlers and grunts. Besides Chris Reifert, John Tardy and Killjoy, who unfortunately passed away too early, Martin van Drunen (among others ASPHYX) and Dave Ingram (among others BENEDICTION) belong to the most original and independent representatives of their guild. In addition, they are also among the most active Death Metal vocalists and are active in a variety of bands. Interestingly, there are some parallels in their careers as well as in their lives. Both were very open and forthcoming in our in-depth conversation. But read for yourself…
Hello Martin and Dave, thank you very much for taking the time for this interview. Please tell the readers something about yourselves at the beginning.
Dave: “I’m Dave Ingram, singer of BENEDICTION – among many other projects. Although BENEDICTION is my main band, I hope people check out the other bands I work with and listen to the music we make. You never know you might miss something that lights a fire in you. I’m married to a lovely Danish woman, and we have a son. I moved to Denmark in March 1998 and have lived there all that time. It is my home. I have two dogs that I post about a lot on social media, am a huge fan of the television series Doctor Who, and like to drink a beer or two, three or twelve. I was born and raised near Bloxwich in the Midlands, UK, and after a few moves around the country as a kid, my family settled in Birmingham. I started listening to Heavy Metal at the age of 7 when my sister played me the BLACK SABBATH album “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” for the first time. When the first riff sounded, it was a defining, crystallizing moment for me. I knew what my musical path in life would be, even at such a young age. As the years went by, my desire for Metal grew, and I began to take an interest in more extreme music. Punk was the obvious next step, and although it was very much in line with the need for extremes, it wasn’t until the advent of Thrash Metal and then Death Metal that my black heart was fully satisfied. It was then that my desire to make such music began, and my life continued to evolve in a most exciting way.”
Martin: “I actually have no idea why people always think that I live in Germany. I have never lived in Germany and I certainly never will. But yes, I have and still spend a lot of time in Germany playing shows, and our label Century Media is still there as well. I also have a lot of friends there. So officially I still live in the Netherlands, near Enschede, but since my wife works and lives in Paris, I try to be with her as often as possible when my life as a musician allows it. I was born in the city of Uden, which is more in the south of the Netherlands, but I was an unexpected child because I had two sisters who were 10 and 11 years older than me. My mother died when I was about 5 years old, and I don’t have many memories of the time before that, except that our radio was always on and I can remember songs by Hendrix and the riff of ‘Satisfaction’ by THE ROLLING STONES. I’m pretty sure that’s what got me into loud electric music. I have vague impressions of our house and the school I attended, but other than that I don’t remember much about that time. Then my father was transferred to Twente Air Base, as he was in the Dutch Air Force, and we moved to Twente, near Enschede, where I still have an apartment. I must have been 6 or 7 years old, and because I spoke differently and they had a special regional dialect there, I had to constantly defend myself in fights, you know how kids can be. It wasn’t until I got the strongest boy in my class to eat sand while I beat him up that they left me alone. So that part of my youth was pretty dysfunctional because I wasn’t from there and I didn’t have a mother anymore. My dad had several new relationships that didn’t work out. Some of my stepmoms were really cool, and some were not. And so most of the time I was on the streets playing soccer. Until my one sister, who still lived at home, saw a Pop music show and they played KISS ‘Shout It Out Loud’ live with the whole pompous show. And I was hooked forever. Then my oldest sister, who sometimes visited us, gave me KISS “Alive II” for my birthday and that was it. I started taking little jobs, like washing cars or gardening or anything else I could make some money doing, and then I bought “Double Platinum”. I had an old record player that once belonged to my oldest sister, and with the little change I made, I bought album after album. AC/DC was playing on the radio with ‘Whole Lotta Rosie’, or VAN HALEN’s ‘Running With The Devil’, and besides completing my KISS collection, I also bought records by them. I refused to go to the hairdresser, there were heated arguments with my father about that, but he got me a KISS “Destroyer” shirt. My first one. With that and old jeans and sneakers, some families wouldn’t let me in their house, arguing that I was a bad influence on their kids my age. I was about 8, 9 or 10 years old at the time… Sometimes my father would take me to the air base, and all his very nice colleagues loved to have me around when I was a boy. They would take me to the runway where I would watch the NF5 fighters land up close and help them collect the parachutes. One of the most memorable moments was that one day there was a so-called weapons meeting where jet fighters from all over the world gathered. I had the phenomenal experience of seeing and hearing four F-4 Phantom fighter-bombers take off at the same time, and just a few steps away. Every little boy’s dream! Insanity! I refused to wear hearing protection – and still don’t – and sniffed the delicious taste and smell of jet fuel as the earth shook under the heat of the burning engines. To this day, I love the noise and the irreplaceable smell, and the only music that comes close to the deafening roar of jet fighters is, was, and always will be Heavy Metal. So shredding guitars became a kind of substitute for afterbunners for me. I became addicted to sheer noise. At the age of 12 I went to NL High School where things were really bad. I barely attended classes and if I did, I got kicked out. But the older Metalheads quickly accepted me, because I had already discovered stuff like MAIDEN, MOTÖRHEAD and JUDAS PRIEST, and by the time I turned 16, the NWOBHM was already going strong. And soon I was listening to VENOM on a Dutch Metal radio show late at night and the next day I was standing in the record store demanding “Welcome To Hell”. And that was the album that changed everything. Never before had there been a band so loud, heavy, dirty, mean and with such blasphemous lyrics! Argh, it was just too good to be true! Finally, total Armaggeddon on vinyl! It didn’t get any closer to F-4 Fighters! Still today with the follow-up album “Black Metal” my absolute top 2 albums! Now I delivered newspapers every early morning, earned good money for a kid my age and could buy a record every week and get drunk on the weekends. But then the school dismissed me and I had to go to a lower grade for a year, which I finished without even seeing the books. It was a damn cold winter and to keep warm I had to drink liquor during my 5:00 a.m. newspaper round. Scandalous, of course, because I smelled like a distillery when I arrived at class, ha! My old school then refused to take me back, and I was transferred again to another school where, after two years of doing nothing at all, I corrected my totally negative grades in the last exams into positive ones, and proudly received my paper in my full Metal uniform in front of the parents of my classmates who sat there in amazement, with no one to accompany me. When the principal handed it to me, he said, “You’ve done the impossible, Martin” and I replied, “I know”, grabbed the certificate, and walked out. When I got home, I waved to my father with a victorious grin, and his response was, “You lazy bastard.” And so I moved out. I took a cheap room, went down a level from university to become a social worker, but freedom called and I started experimenting with drugs. After a year I realized that this was going nowhere, moved back to my old neighborhood and to my pleasant surprise there were a lot of cool Punks there who occupied a building and hung out there all day, drinking and listening to stuff like DISCHARGE, GBH, EXPLOITED, RAW POWER, CONFLICT, RIPCORD, ELECTRO HIPPIES, but also Crust like HELLBASTARD and AXEGRINDER. They had mohawks and made fun of my long hair Metal look, but in the end we had the same rebellious attitude and rejected everything that represented the establishment. Meanwhile, we also had a nice bunch of Metalheads who would sit for hours listening to HELLHAMMER, EXCITER, CARNIVORE, WARFARE, METALLICA, SLAYER, POSSESSED, EXODUS, etc etc. And so it was a logical step to mix that with Punk and Death Metal. In fact, POSSESSED already paved the way. And then the whole tapetrading scene started. I got to know Bob Bagchus and some of his friends and also came across PESTILENCE rather by accident.”
Dave, have you always been interested in dark subjects like horror, Satanism and occultism? I know you are a priest in the Church of Satan. What does that mean? How did you come into contact with Satanism? What does this ideology mean to you – as a person and as a Metal musician? What do you think about bands that use satanic lyrics but have no idea about satanism and just write (stupid?) devilish lyrics? What do you think about LaVey and Crowley, what about King Diamond?
Dave: “Yes, I am a priest in the Church of Satan and have been a member since 2007. I have nothing but the highest regard and respect for Anton LaVey and the life-encompassing philosophy he created, Satanism. Crowley was nothing more than a crackpot who died a penniless drug addict… which hardly makes him the great magician he foolishly believed himself to be. I’m not here to lecture anyone on Satanic philosophy. So if you want to know more or have questions answered about it, I highly recommend visiting www.churchofsatan.com and reading through the FAQ section. Everything that has been asked so far has already been answered there. However, there is one important point that everyone should remember: “Study, don’t worship”.
You are both involved in so many projects, active in so many bands, can you list them all?
Dave: “The bands I am currently active in are: BENEDICTION, DOWN AMONG THE DEAD MEN, ECHELON, FORMALDEHYDIST, HELLFROST AND FIRE, STYGIAN DARK and URSINNE. I will give a brief description of each band to make things easier… BENEDICTION: OSDM! Obviously. DOWN AMONG THE DEAD MEN: Death Metal Crust, with lyrics that reference Doctor Who. ECHELON: Death Metal, with lyrics about Satanism. FORMALDEHYDIST: Sloppy Death with retarded lyrical themes, mostly about alcohol. Two vocalists, me and Mads, the guitarist from UNDERGANG. HELLFROST AND FIRE: very OSDM, pure CELTIC FROST and HELLHAMMER worship. STYGIAN DARK: fictional serial killer OSDM. URSINNE: Swedish D-Beat Death Metal. There are also a few other projects I’m working on right now, but I can’t talk about them yet. Not until there is something final. As for the “legendary” TROIKADON, that was me, Karl (BOLT THROWER) and Kam Lee from MASSACRE. Unfortunately, our individual schedules got too full, so we had to abandon that project. But maybe we’ll all work together again someday? I have always been involved in the creation of these projects, and they are all very important to me. I am especially proud of the HELLFROST AND FIRE album, which got many good reviews. I think the “worst” review we had gave us a 7 out of 10, which is pretty cool. I recommend people check it out because the whole album can be streamed on YouTube. Also, you should check out all the projects I mentioned here. I’m pretty damn proud of all of them.”
Martin: “I myself don’t think there were that many, considering the time span is over 36 years. And I may even forget a few when I call them up. But here are the most important ones in chronological order. PESTILENCE: my first band and my first attempt as a grunt and the beginning of my career. In this band I perfected my technique and learned what it was like to perform on extended continental tours. It was more of a Thrash / Death band than a real Death Metal band. But we made 2 albums that were highly praised by many Metalheads. This time has made me the professional I still am today. ASPHYX: When my throat was fully developed, I joined ASPHYX after leaving PESTILENCE, after Bob called me and asked me to come. They rehearsed incredibly loud and were more my idea of serious over-the-top Metal. Ultra-heavy Death / Doom. “The Rack” and “Last One…” are still very influential to this day, fans tell me, and I still love playing every song from those albums live. COMECON: A short temp job because LG (RIP, my brother, you will always be remembered and missed) left them to rejoin ENTOMBED and they had a whole album ready to be sung. Since we are label mates, Century Media asked me if I could help the guys out. So I flew in on a Friday, listened to the tracks for the first time, discussed possible vocal lines to the already written lyrics, and left on Sunday after recording everything. Either you’re a professional or you’re not, haha! But Pelle and Rasmus were very nice guys and I had a good time with them. And I liked their punky approach to Swedish Death Metal. SUBMISSION: I think it was Randy Meinhard who approached me to do something together, and the funny thing was that he and Chris Colli were the actual founders of PESTILENCE, just under the name LUCIFERA. Only the official PESTILENCE bio never mentions that, hehe. We jammed a bit and recorded a demo with the intention of getting a deal. And with this melodic style mixing Heavy Metal / Thrash and Death we probably would have achieved that goal, but then I got the call from BOLT THROWER… BOLT THROWER: The reason why BOLT THROWER asked me was that they knew me well as a person because we did two big European tours together with PESTILENCE and ASPHYX and at that time nobody but me could replace Karl for them. We always got along very well, they knew my attitude, my mentality and my similar sense of humor, and that’s why they wanted to try me out. So I had 4 albums on the table to learn all the lyrics, practiced that every day for about 2 months and then went to England to practice properly with the band, where I was introduced to Martin Kearns, who like me was new to the band. They called him Kiddie because he was only 17 at the time (and sadly died way too young. Kid, my brother, RIP, you were such a nice, kind man and became the engine of the mighty BOLT THROWER. We will always remember and miss you…). So there I got the last set, made a flawless rehearsal and the conquest could begin. And it was a great honor for me to be their frontman on the 2 following tours. And even after my somehow tragic departure, we always remained friends. A fantastic band and great, loyal people. DEATH BY DAWN: After BOLT THROWER I decided to leave the Metal band circus for about 5 years and went to work, like everyone else. There, in the warehouse, I met Pippo, who found out about my past, discovered my plague tattoo and asked me to help them. We did some demos, and after the first show (which was a disaster, but we laughed so much) I realized how much I had missed being on stage. And so I was back on stage, only this time we were playing in pretty poor conditions and had to sleep on pool tables or on stages covered in vomit after every show, and we were barely getting paid. But damn, we had a good time. An album saw the light of day, and I’m still proud of that. I never understood why people didn’t like it. It was probably too daring for the time with all the different influences, from Punk to Thrash to Death to melodic Metal. But DEATH BY DAWN was the most enjoyable crazy, chaotic Rock and Roll bunch I’ve ever been in. HAIL OF BULLETS: It was Stephan Gebédi’s initiative to form some kind of NL all-star Death Metal ensemble. When I saw the names and also because DEATH BY DAWN didn’t perform that often, I decided to accept the invitation and get drunk with them in Amersfoort to get to know each other. It clicked, we all got drunk and had a great time. I started composing songs and was able to fulfill a long-held wish: to write a concept about the Eastern Front of World War II, which had fascinated me for a long time. And “…Of Frost And War” was born. A bombastic, gloomy Death Metal album of the old school, with which we pleased a lot of Deathsters and Metalheads. (…and suddenly they called it old school?). ASPHYX (Chapter II): The same night HAIL OF BULLETS met, Paul Baayens and I were in a corner having a beer and he asked me about ASPHYX and said he might be able to take over Eric Daniels’ axe. I informed Bob, with whom I was still in contact, and after some hesitation he agreed to a rehearsal, and before we knew it we were headlining the 2007 Party San festival and even taking ‘Death… The Brutal Way’. ASPHYX was back and in ASPHYX style! And suddenly I found myself in 2 excellent bands that were quite successful. GRAND SUPREME BLOOD COURT: I think the idea came up because Eric Daniels found new joy in brutal shredding and we still had some older tracks on the shelf from a previous project that never saw the light of day. Alwin also missed composing riffs on guitar, so the two of them got together and started writing tracks. I loved it and had this fun, crazy, comic book type image of 5 cruel judges ruling the earth and we called it GRAND SUPREME BLOOD COURT. A very blunt heavy Death Metal record, with some of Eric and Alwin’s best riffs ever. And also one of my best recording sessions. Despite what people think, GRAND SUPREME BLOOD COURT still exists, we’re just not in a hurry. ROTTEN CASKET: It was in the aftermath of the Covid pandemic and we didn’t have much to do except for a few special ASPHYX Corona shows, so Husky asked me to sing for ROTTEN CASKET. I liked the riffs and the Swedish / punky approach, quickly came up with a humorous / gore / splatter zombie concept, typical of Death Metal, and we recorded a 4-track EP. Definitely old school Death, but some fat D-Beats and gritty melodies here and there. It turned out very cool! And no, I’ve never actually started a band or project. I’ve always been asked to join, come to think of it. Actually funny to be a wanted man, haha! But no matter what band, I’m proud of everything I’ve done and stand behind it 100%. I still like every record I’ve been a part of, and I’ve never given up my Metal roots. And the red line between all of the above is that it was and is Metal straight from the gut. Honest and true and loyal to the worldwide Metal community that we all are and have been a part of. Some acts made it, others didn’t. As far as I know, ASPHYX, GRAND SUPREME BLOOD COURT and ROTTEN CASKET are still active in one way or another.”
You have both been with BOLT THROWER and also with HAIL OF BULLETS. Isn’t it strange to alternate twice? Do you know each other privately?
Dave: “That’s wrong. It wasn’t twice. Here’s the reason: Martin left BOLT THROWER. Karl came back and recorded the “Mercenary” album. Karl left. Then I joined BOLT THROWER. So as you can see, I actually replaced Karl. Only with HAIL OF BULLETS, I was there right after Martin. He’s a fantastic singer and a friend to all of BENEDICTION. It’s great that he comes to some of our gigs and drinks our beers, and we do the same with his beers at his shows.”
Martin: “Of course we know each other, we toured together for 5 weeks a long time ago! And we like and respect each other. Dave has a great, deep, special voice and is a very professional performer, besides being a damn nice man with a lot of great humor. And I’m very happy to see him back together with my old crazy buddies from BENEDICTION, and that they are in such a good mood these days. It’s just a funny coincidence that we switched duties, but these things happen, you know. Some bands want and deserve the best, and without wanting to sound arrogant, Dave and I are part of that small elite.”
What was the reason why you left Hail of Bullets, Martin? What do you think about Pestilence today?
Martin: “After a self-analysis of what went wrong with HAIL OF BULLETS, I think my frustration was greatest when Steph, Ed and Theo decided to change my concept title to the miserable “On Divine Winds”. I’ve never forgiven them for that. And to this day, I can’t even see the record, even though it has some great tracks on it. The correct title should have been: “Full Scale War”! So they messed up my concept. I couldn’t do anything, because I had to respect the democratic principle and it was 3 against 2, with Paul being the one who was fully behind me. Even Metal Blade didn’t want to interfere. With that in mind, more little annoyances piled up until one night I was sitting drunk behind my PC and there was a little confusion about a US flight. Now I can be obnoxious as hell when I’ve had a drink, and I have to say I shouldn’t have offended them the way I did. But things weren’t going the way they were supposed to anyway. It was only a matter of time before the bomb would drop. Only this time it was me who was out of control, but I was at peace with it. And no intention of undoing the damage. Unconsciously, I wanted to stop anyway. Today we’re still friends, so it’s all good. PESTILENCE today? That’s more like a brothel, isn’t it? I mean, with the madam behind the desk replacing the prostitutes from time to time. But no, we don’t want to offend the brothels and the hard working ladies. PESTILENCE is a disgrace to what it once was. Please stop and start something under a different name. The live shows are pure boredom and that’s what PESTILENCE was known for in the past – being a very intense live act. But apparently there is money to be made with this name and so it is followed by one release after the other of which I didn’t even get copies, thank you very much gentlemen! Or merchandise with my face or name on it. Was I ever asked for permission? Or Marco? Or Randy? Besides, it’s not Metal made by real Metalheads with love and passion for the music. Just a way to pay bills. Seriously, if I had to be in a band just to pay my rent, I would quit and work in a factory behind an assembly line just to go home at 5pm, have a beer, watch a soccer game and not worry about anything…”
Your life paths are somewhat similar. You both played with BOLT THROWER and HAIL OF BULLETS – and more importantly, you both had a dark time where you had personal / medical problems and left your bands and the Metal scene for a while. Would you talk about those dark times? What made you guys strong and healthy again? What happened that dragged you guys down?
Dave: “For sure. I’ve made my problems public before, and if my storytelling can help other people, then that’s a positive outcome for everyone. But before I get to that, I have to respond to the statement “…left your bands and the Metal scene for a while.” That’s not true either. I did leave BOLT THROWER, but I was still an active part of the scene. I formed a Danish band called DOWNLORD around 2004, which broke up in 2008 after releasing two albums. Immediately after that I started my online show Metal Breakfast Radio, which I still run on a smaller scale, along with the many guest appearances I’ve had on various bands’ releases. Just because my name wasn’t always on sites like Blabbermouth doesn’t mean I was hiding under a rock. People need to stop being sprinkled with news and entertainment and actively seek it out. Visiting sites like Bravewords.com or even following individual musicians on various social media platforms would inform people better than any particularly biased site. And that brings me to my dark cloud from the past… In 2000, my sister committed suicide. This hit me hard and in an unforeseen way that over the next few years created a tsunami of darkness that mentally destroyed me in 2003. I sank into depression, was hospitalized, and lost my memories for a long period of my life. Eventually things calmed down a bit, and I knew I needed refuge with myself. I had to leave BOLT THROWER – the hardest decision I’ve ever made – and focus on my own well-being. It took time, but I managed to reassert myself. There were differences, and I actually became a different person. In truth, the Dave Ingram you see today is a completely different person than he was before 2003. There are times when I don’t recognize myself. But it has become a positive change. For many years, until 2020, I suffered from debilitating depression on and off. After one last attempt with medication and psychological help, I managed to dispel this black cloud. I am now free of all depression. So I would strongly advise anyone who is having problems to talk to a professional. Start with your own doctor, take all the advice he gives you – he knows what is best for you. Sometimes it feels like no one is there for you, but you are not alone!”
Martin: “Yeah, but I don’t think my darker period was as bad as Dave’s. In fact, mine wasn’t that bad compared to what other people have to go through. For example, poor Ukraine or starving children. Or people with leukemia or schizophrenia. And I guess that’s the attitude I’ve always gone on with. It can always get worse. For me, it was when my hair was falling out and BOLT THROWER wanted me to perform at a big festival. As you could read above, my long hair was part of my Metal identity, and I often fought about it as a teenager. So I was unsure about going on stage like that, and we parted ways. After that, a dermatologist explained to me that I had Alopecia Areata, a disease of the immune system that can cause all your hair to fall out, even your eyebrows in extreme cases. There is no real cure, and it can all disappear, but it can also grow back and fall out again. I was offered treatment with certain steroids, but since I wasn’t suffering from a terrible disease that caused unbearable pain, I decided to live with it, see how it developed, and not give my body any poison, because that could have caused terrible side effects, and there was no guarantee that it would work. And within 2 years, all my hair came back. So I found a very cool job in a warehouse and lived like all the other hard working billions. Working class pride. But that sounds easier than it was. I was really down for a while, leaving my whole Metal career behind and wearing a cap to cover the bald spots on my head. And certain assholes who claimed to be good friends suddenly abandoned me too, now that I wasn’t in a band anymore. That was a hard lesson, but also a wise one. But I’ve always been a fighter, I never give up, and even though I was pretty depressed for a few months, I pulled myself together. With that ‘it can always get worse’ attitude. At some point, after a couple of years, I lost my job because I was on a temporary contract and they wouldn’t give me a permanent job. So I was back down to earth and back to square one. Fortunately, at that time DEATH BY DAWN was giving me a lot of joy and helping me through. And all of a sudden HAIL OF BULLETS and ASPHYX came knocking on my door. Kind of sad for the DEATH BY DAWN guys, but it was just impossible to fit all 3 bands under one hat, and I know they understood that. HAIL OF BULLETS has been around for a few years now, but ASPHYX are stronger than ever, with one killer album after another and the phenomenal shows never seem to end. Gig after gig, we give it everything we’ve got. Believe me, I appreciate it every day and am grateful, by all the gods I have!”
We have to talk about BOLT THROWER. That’s really a cult band that almost everyone adores and loves. Was it hard to follow in Karl’s footsteps? Do you know Karl personally? What do you think of MEMORIAM? What was it like to join BOLT THROWER? Are you sad that there is no BOLT THROWER album with you as singer, Martin?
Martin: “Actually, it was the easiest way to handle vocals that I’ve ever done, because Karl hardly had any lyrics! So that part was really a piece of cake for me… sorry Karl, haha! Of course I know Karl personally, we wrote letters to each other back in 1987. And that was also one of the reasons why we were able to set up the tour with BOLT THROWER and AUTOPSY, because we were in contact like that. I met Karl again about a month ago when we both played at the Rude festival, and he’s still good old Karl. So we talked a lot over a beer and I got to see him play with MEMORIAM. And the most important thing was to see him really enjoying himself. And isn’t that the most important thing in the end? Even though MEMORIAM is far from being BOLT THROWER and there are a few riffs here and there that sound a little similar, there are certainly a lot of bands out there that don’t come close to their level. There are no official recordings with me and BOLT THROWER, maybe some soundboard recordings at Baz’s from a few shows, I’m not sure. Sad is not the right word. More like unhappy. But sometimes things are just the way they’re supposed to be. It is what it is.”
Dave: “I’ve known Karl for a long time, since before I was in BENEDICTION. I used to go to gigs in and around Birmingham (name the band, I’ll probably have seen them) and I got to talk to Karl at a couple of early BOLT THROWER shows. I think it was around the time of the second Peel Sessions they did when Karl was first in the band. Since I had known him for so long and followed every BOLT THROWER album they ever put out (yes, I was a big fan), becoming the BOLT THROWER singer wasn’t too difficult. Of course, I had to carry the torch like he would have, but I also had to carry my own identity and form. I think I managed an exact mix of both – regardless of what some people have said since. I’m damn proud of this album… And there are zero effects on the vocals! Being a part of BOLT THROWER is a very precious memory that I will carry in my heart and mind forever. I will tell my son the stories from the tours so he can remember them when I am gone. This is how people are remembered and they live on.”
You are considered a cult singer. I guess you are probably the most important people in ASPHYX / BENEDICTION. After you returned, everyone seems to love your band again. What is it like to be the face of a band? Is it hard for the other guys that most fans think you are the most important guy in the band?
Dave: “I am absolutely not the most important person in the BENEDICTION line-up. The whole band is important, not any one person. Let’s make that clear from the beginning. Dave Hunt is a fantastic guy, a great singer and a brilliant lyricist. I was impressed with what he wrote earlier in the band, and also with the lyrics I adapted for “Scriptures” (I adapted them to my own singing posture and breathing technique), they were amazing. I could see the direction he wanted to go with it, so I kept my changes as respectful as possible. I also love his work in ANAAL NATHRAKH. I also don’t think the fans think I’m the most important thing in the band. They have much more respect than that. I think they see that the three core members from the ’90s are now reunited, and they are happy about it, along with a brilliant new album in the same old school vein. Originally, the return was supposed to be temporary, as Dave Hunt wanted to take some time off to focus on his PhD, but eventually he realized he needed to leave the band permanently. I was asked if I wanted to rejoin full time, so I talked to my wife and son (we’re a team in our house) and they said yes immediately! And here we are today.”
Martin: “Haha, yes, some people actually call me a cult or a legend. Of course that’s very flattering and better than them telling me to my face that I suck, haha! But in the end, I’m just like them. A Metalhead who was incredibly lucky to have that voice and be in the amazing band that ASPHYX is today. Not only with the best bunch of dedicated guys, but also with a wonderful crew that is slowly expanding. The guys know that I don’t put myself above them and that ASPHYX fully functions as a 4-piece unit. And I also don’t like bands that are built around one person. That says something about those egos, in a negative way. Without good bandmates, you’re nothing. Everyone should get the same reward for their work, because you do everything together. And the ASPHYX brothers laugh out loud and turn away with a beer when I have interviews to do, the lazy bastards haha! So for them it’s not hard at all. Apart from that, I’m the band’s spokesperson, and as a self-managed band they have other duties. Paul, for example, takes care of the communication between the band and our fabulous booking agency D-19 and the finances. Alwin makes sure we get our great ASPHYX merchandise from Sevan at Ravenblack, and Husky is the social media addict who makes sure there is direct contact between band and fans on the social platforms. So ASPHYX is more than just the members recording albums and performing on stage. It’s relaxation for us and we do everything for that, with a lot of beer, haha! I already talked about my return above. And of all the other singers, I liked Wannes the most. He was and still is not only a very Metal guy, but he also has a great grunt. Theo (RIP, also gone way too young) was kind of static in his singing, not very inspired if you ask me. And even though I met him, I never got along with him that well, but who knows, maybe he was just a little nervous about me being there. Regardless, he’s done a good job on the records he’s on. Which brings me to that thieving bastard Ron van Pol, give me back my damn bass amp, you thieving anal bastard! And that’s exactly why this asshole wasn’t invited to the ASPHYX 30th anniversary show. Even Eric Daniels agrees that he never should have let this human garbage sing on the self-titled ASPHYX album, which is still a fine effort musically. But for me, “On The Wings Of Inferno” is the best without me on it. Also because of Wannes’ great vocal work.”
Does it feel weird that there is no founding member of ASPHYX playing with you anymore?
Martin: “No, it’s not weird at all not having an original member in ASPHYX anymore, because we’re doing this with founder Bob Bagchus’ blessing. He insisted that we continue without him! And NAPALM DEATH doesn’t have a founding member either, if I may say so, they’re still going strong too. Or PESTILENCE, there is no founder. So we are not the only ones. But to be honest, is that so important? It doesn’t occur to us. What matters most to us is to keep the ASPHYX spirit alive and never disappoint our loyal fans! To keep the banner high and with honor! That’s what it’s all about for us. And we will continue to do that until the end of our days.”
Guys, thank you very much for your time and the partly very personal and honest answers. Would you like to tell our readers something in the end?
Dave: “In a herd of zebras being chased by a lion, the slowest and weakest are killed first. This makes the herd stronger and faster. The same is true when beer kills brain cells. It attacks the slowest first, which is why the more beer you drink, the smarter you get. Or something like that…Thanks for the interview, Olaf! To all the people out there: stay true to the scene, and the scene will stay true to you! If you need help with your mental health, don’t be afraid to reach out to others. Remember, you are not alone!”
Martin: “In fact, why not? This is something that has been on my mind for a while. Still being a Metal fan, I listen to quite a few new albums and watch a lot of bands live. And to my dismay, there’s so much shit polluting the Metal scene these days. Really unbelievable! Artists acting like total assholes, albums that are just junk with unimaginative titles that have been used tons of times, shows that make you fall asleep. Something is really going terribly wrong here! With these words I would like to ask the Metalheads, but also all Metal media, to have a healthy, critical eye and an open ear and not to swallow everything they want to shove down your throat. Give the bands that really deserve it a chance and your support, there are many of them! Keep the true and honest Metal alive! Cheerz Olaf and cheerz to the readers!”
Martin van Drunen color pic: Frank Stöver
Interview: Olaf Brinkmann