Interview with Heidevolk
Heidevolk has Returned
After five years since their much-acclaimed album ‘Vuur van Verzet’, Dutch folk metal collective Heidevolk return with their seventh studio album via Napalm Records, continuing to keep the pagan flame burning! Ever since their impressive 2005 debut, De strijdlust is geboren, Heidevolk has taken the heavy music scene by storm, conquering stages throughout the world with their very own brand of folk metal. With dual clean vocals, irresistibly catchy songs, traditional instruments and fast metal riffing all fueled by their folkloric fire and pagan pride, Heidevolk delivers for an uncompromising sound and musical adventure. Their new masterpiece, ‘Wederkeer’, makes no exception, and proves why the Arnhem-based five-piece is one of the best, unrivaled and most exciting bands of their genre and beyond!
First of all, thank you for the opportunity to ask some questions of you and the band. Congratulations on the new release “Wederkeer’ which will we be reviewing on Folk-Metal.nl. I would like to start off with some background on the band from a musical and personal perspective.
What made you want to become a musician(s) was it a record you heard, a performance you saw or some other event that made you say, this is what I want to do?
Jacco: “I grew up in a family where music was the life and blood of everyone, basically.
Both my parents, my brother and sister, and even some aunts are all musicians by trade or as a hobby.
My mom was literally in the final stages of her pregnancy with me whilst performing shows on a regular basis, so in fact, there was no escaping and I have no regrets whatsoever!
Then, when some good friends in my very early childhood played some Kiss, Iron Maiden, and Mercyful Fate to me, I was hooked on Heavy Metal. Still eternally grateful (you know who you are, if you read his haha).”
How did you come up with the name for the band, was there a previous name and if so what was it?
“The name of the band was a logical choice, it is a combination of “Heide” (eng: Heather) a typical landscape in our region and “Volk” (eng: People or Folk). So it is rooted in our region and when you’re here and you see it, you know why.”
How would you describe the music that you typically create?
Jacco: “Heidevolk are tellers of stories. In all music we play, we want to tell about something that is either directly based in history, or is in another way a telling. Like in the old bard’s tradition, we tell stories that have their roots in history, and sometimes with a firm grasp on the present.”
How do you feel the Internet has impacted the music business?
Jacco: “As most consumption of music has shifted to the realm of the digital age, we are embracing the new media as we do the more traditional forms of physical media.
The added benefit of being so much more easily visible and audible on streaming services comes with the cost of it being a little fleeting at times. This is a contradiction that we have to navigate; more people are able to find pieces of what we do, while we still very much aim for making albums that stand as a whole. Artwork on the sleeves and booklets, the order and sequence of the songs on them, the whole package. But in fairness, there is a way to enjoy the music for everyone in their own way.”
What band or type of music are you currently listening to?
Jacco: “I am quite deep into traditional folk music, from Scandinavia, Georgia, or the Balkans.
Something completely different maybe from what we do, but I find inspiration in a lot of different places.
That includes folk, classical, EDM, rock & metal, you name it.”
Do you have any hobbies or interests outside of music? And as a follow up how do spend time when not creating or performing?
Jacco: “I am an avid flight simmer, and have a strong love for computers of yore (think 80’s stuff).
I am also an organ builder, and by that I mean mechanical pipe organs.”
The Creative Process and Current Release
Describe your creative process when you write new music.
Jacco: “For ‘Wederkeer’, we had the strong wish to write it together, in our rehearsal space, and with as much collaboration as possible. We started off by defining a basic starting point and went from there; this turned out to be the runes, and more specifically, the quality of the runes, what they could stand for, what they convey, and how you could interpret them.
From there on, we all threw ideas in the mix to flesh out each other’s basic ideas and thus arrive at a finished song.
The moment we decided that this was the plan, a certain virus hit the world, greatly increasing the difficulties of coming together physically… Yet we kept in close contact with each other and formed pairs, sent files to and fro, and as soon as we were able, gathered in our rehearsal room to continue working on them. This resulted in an album where you can hear a bit of everyone’s influence throughout every song on it, I believe.”
Do you approach the song writing process with a defined style in mind, adding elements of folk, black or death metal or do you just compose based on your frame of mind at the time? Do you add any of the mentioned elements after you come up with the basic composition?
Jacco: “We do talk sometimes about things like: “I’d like to do a bit more this or that”, but we never really have an idea for a specific direction we want to move in. I think we all are pretty much on the same page of what the Heidevolk-sound is, and we add to that our own musical personalities. This creates a sound that is both “traditional” in a way, but also dynamic and personal at the same time.”
Are there any musicians who inspire you? What qualities do you admire about them?
Jacco: “Of course I do have my personal heroes. I guess everyone has, so that will most certainly have an influence on what you do as a musician. The trick with this is, though, to not become an exact copy of said hero, but take what you admire from them and make it your own. Not an easy task, but worth looking into. From mine, I take the lyricism, theatricals, energy and perseverance. And I am not naming any names ;)”
How has the experience been working with Napalm Records?
“Well, we’re still there after 6 releases so it must be good haha. But jokes aside I think it is important that Napalm is evolving, growing and looking towards what the future of music holds. The industry has been changing since we signed in 2007 and Napalm never fails to keep up and update us on what the current market is like so we can effectively release and promote an album. It is a longstanding relationship and I think trust, fresh ideas and a great team do the trick album after album.”
How do you feel about the recording process, do you find it exciting or burdensome?
Jacco: “I remember that I told Joost van den Broek, our producer for ‘Wederkeer’, to go ahead and drag the best out of me, by not letting me cut any corners and work me over. Well… I should have been careful what I wished for. (haha!) It took quite a lot out of my patience (and his for that matter), willpower and perseverance to get to the point where we both were satisfied with the result. We didn’t go the “fix-it-in-the-mix”-route, there was no pitch correction at any point in time, and we just did take after take if needed to get what we had envisioned. Also, mind you, we tracked both lead vocals at the same time, all the time. This implies that both Daniël and I had to nail it for a take to be good, either one of us fudged it up… we’d do it again, and again. This added, however, to the coherence and timing that we were after, along with the amalgamation of two singers that sound as one, while remaining distinct. Absolutely a process I’d recommend doing again next time.”
Have you ever had any guest musicians on any of your releases, if so, who?
Jacco: “Oh yes, we tend to do that quite often on our previous records as well as on this one.
We had Tim Elfring and Stan Eimers on percussion, Hanna van Gorcum on Nyckelharpa and some vocal additions, Faber Horbach on several unusual instruments, Fabi’s Tunes on flute. We had a great string ensemble, Sander de Heer did a narration, a full men’s choir and we even included a kid’s choir at some point!”
Heidevolk plays acoustic and hard and heavy. Do you prefer one style over the other and if so, why?
Jacco: “I do not prefer one over the other. Frankly, I do like combining the two. They can each convey their own emotions, while at the same time, amplify each other’s quality. I mean, no-one’s life is only full-on or full-off either; light exists by the virtue of darkness, and the other way around. I like having the contrast that adds to the dynamic.”
It has been five years since you released ‘Vuur van Verzet’, why such a gap between releases?
Jacco: “It was never the plan to leave such a big gap… It was supposed to be 3 years or so at the most, but, you know, stuff happened in the world. The moment we started writing the way we wanted to write, we were stopped dead in our tracks by some human malware.
Besides that, we had some changes in the band’s line-up. For several reasons, two important people left and we had to go find equally important and suitable replacements. That sent us into the process of auditions which, to be honest, are not my favourite things to do, They also take a lot of time to do properly, you can’t just go and pick the first person that comes around, since you are making a solid commitment to one another for a substantial period (and amount) of time.
This all took more time than we planned for, but since we were already going for the long haul, we figured best do it properly and take our time for it.”
‘Wederkeer’ translates to ‘Again’, why did you choose this for the name of the album.
Jacco: “To just translate it to “Again” will not do it justice. It is better translated to something like “Return”. In my opinion, the strongpoint of a title that is deliberately somewhat vague is that everyone can attack their own connotation to it. I like to think of it as the phoenix rising from the ashes after a difficult time, or, especially on a personal level, the return to one’s belief of “self”.
After a time of self-reflection, one can look back and rediscover who you are, where you came from, where you go to, and what is important in life. A return to oneself.”
Overall, are you pleased with the outcome of your latest release?
Jacco: “In one word: Yes. We are very proud of what we did on this album. I think I can speak for all of us in the band that we are all stoked to get it out into the world and play the songs for a live crowd as soon as possible!”
How do you feel about playing festivals?
Jacco: “I LOVE playing festivals! Especially, the outdoors ones. The feeling of the breeze though your hair, the outlook of the skies above a heated crowd enjoying the sun (hopefully) or enduring the rain and sludge together, is unsurpassed! Keep ’em coming.”
In 2018, you played Wacken Open Air, what was it like to play at the “Holy Land”?
Jacco: “It was over before I properly realized we made it to this point…! For years I had this on my bucket list (duh!) and now it’s done. Hopefully we can do it again, and again. Even though it is a major milestone in one’s career as a metal musician, it is far from the end goal for me though. I like to update my bucket list from time to time and shift expectations and horizons as I go.”
In 2020 you did a tour in the United States opening for Tyr. How well received was the band in the U.S. compared to Europe?
“Well, sadly COVID got in the way and this tour didn’t happen. In 2013 and 2015 we did tour the US and it was a madhouse, absolutely amazing, night after night.”
What’s the best piece of advice another musician ever given you?
Jacco: “”Don’t do it. Oh fuck it, DO IT! And don’t stop.” – That’s basically it. In Dutch we say “Vechten tegen de bierkaai”, which loosely translates to “going on against all odds”; this is what it feels like a lot of the times, but once on stage, it is worth it all the way.”
Describe a typical Heidevolk live show for those who haven’t seen you play live.
“For this I would like to take you to the shows we have been doing since 2018. Our headlines shows are much like our albums, a musical journey. We’ll blow you away with fast raging metal riffs and drums, we’ll make you shake fists and sing along to epic anthems. Halfway the venue will transform into an intimate, campfire style setting where we will perform an acoustic set, often accompanied by a storyteller that brings you tales from Germanic mythology. This gives you a moment to relax, fill up your horns, close your eyes and dream away…because after this we will take back the stage by storm and carry you through the highs of fast paced songs and irresistible sing-alongs that make you raise your horns. We aim to deliver the show that is needed for the evening and in roughly 90 to 120 minutes we will take you through the entire Heidevolk history and create an intense show where we transcend the barrier between performer and audience.”
What would you do if your audience looked tired or bored during your performance?
Jacco: “A live show is always a game of give and take. If you see bored people, that means we should entertain more. If they are tired, it could mean we might have worn them out, haha!
Usually a good bout of audience participation brings back the spark and we can start bouncing off of each other again. We are all in it for the fun in the end.”
What would you do if you made a mistake during a performance?
Jacco: “Laugh it off and continue. It is only rock ‘n roll and we are all human! Don’t be too uptight about it. It helps to think that no-one is there to see you fail, but we are all there to have a good time.”
Do you follow a process or ritual before a performance to get rid of nerves or performance anxiety?
Jacco: “The main ritual we do right before a show is to bring a toast to the show with prosecco.
The bubbles make you sparkle and the sugar gets you going! Oh, and it makes you burp… Sorry, I usually just nip and let it stand until after the show.”
If you could go open a show for any artist who would it be?
Jacco: “(Please let it be Iron Maiden…)”
What is your favorite song to perform?
Jacco: “Off of the previous albums? “Gungnir” or “Velua”. Off of the new album? Let’s find out, shall we?”
All over the world there are different music scenes, what country or where have you had the best music scene experience?
Jacco: “For some reason I always feel a strong connection with the English. I seem to connect with them easily. Maybe it’s the language, I don’t know. But in all honesty, I do like the diversity of people we play in front of, and meet afterwards, all the same. It is these differences, and the same time the similarities that make it interesting.”
Over the years there have been many line-up changes; do you feel the band is stable at this point?
Jacco: “We feel we are very much a unit. Especially since we were all very engaged in making ‘Wederkeer’ together, forged us together, and hopefully will stay that way for a long time to come.
We are very aware that we are all people, and we all have different phases in our lifetimes we go through, and that comes with some tough decisions at times, but right now, we are firing on all cylinders to get back on the road and rock the hell out of this album!”
What is one message you would give to your fans?
Jacco: “After a time, in which we were forced to be apart, let’s tear down the walls we threw up and overcome the harsh polarizations that we face, to reunite again and -see- each other again.
Let music be the binding factor and let’s meet up.”
What’s next for the band?
Jacco: “Tour, play, enjoy, start writing on the next album and enjoy our time together.
There are some festivals planned for the coming summer, and, who knows? Maybe a tour in the making.
Too early for details as of now, but we will make sure to keep you posted.”
Summary: Again, thanks for taking time to answer my questions. I wish you great success in 2023 with the new album and playing live.
Jacco: “You are most welcome and thank you so much! We are very much looking forward to it.”