The Black Planet had the opportunity t exchange a few words with Lief Jensen, the only remaining founding member of Dew Scented, and Marvin Vriesde, one of the guitar players of the group. The interview took place a few hours before their show on Mosher Fest.
- You started this band more than 20 years ago (23 to be exact). What has changed since?
[Leif]: It’s easier to talk about what hasn’t changed. Regarding that, what has not changed after all these years, is our music style itself, you know. Although it were very different times when we started, when I first joined the band, they had maybe 2 and half songs written, and were just a group of local friends coming out of school. I was 15 at the time the band started, so it was a different feeling and approach to it. So eventually, the music grew with time and experience. So I must say that this is maybe the 3rd chapter of the band’s existence in a way. Not because of age or time passed, but due to line-up changes, and some possibilities that came out through the ages. But yeah, generally, time flies and I don’t often think about it at all. I’m 39 years old and the band has been around for almost 25 years now, at least on paper, it blows my mind and the feeling of excitement remains the same. I’m really looking forward for the show tonight, to be traveling with some good friends and playing music. It’s been a long fun ride.
- What were the biggest obstacles you had to overcome?
[Leif]: I don’t know, maybe people or business. You know, obstacles are something to master, and to learn from, and I think they belong to life. Line-up changes suck, because they’ll throw you back a bit, and cost a lot of energy, but sometimes you also get something good out of that. So basically, I have no idea what those obstacles were. I’ve always had a lot of support from friends, family, and from the scene, and even people from other bands I’ve met along the way. I don’t think I can complain nor see a lot of negatives. This is what keeps us moving and growing.
- Did you ever thought you’d get this far? How does it make you feel?
[Leif]: No. But it’s a very good feeling, you know? We are having a good time, and it’s cool to see how that has opened a few doors for the band, and things keep moving forward. So every time we make a new album or go on tour it always looks like it’s the first time, so you always try to do your best possible, considering the options you have. Well I have no habit of evaluating the band to see in which point we are, so I just try and cherish the moment, so I can have a really good time. So now, were here, and we haven’t played in Portugal in 5 years, so it’s the first time we came here with this new line-up, and we had a great show last night, so hopefully tonight will be a lot of fun as well.
- This new formation, of which you are the only remaining founding member, has been steady for the past 3 years now. Was this the new chapter you were describing earlier?
[Leif]: Yeah, in a way it feels like that. It’s one band, one style, one history, but it feels like all of us have grown a lot together in the past 3 years. We’ve spent a lot of time playing, practicing, rehearsing, writing, recording and touring… so yes, in a way it really feels like a new chapter and beginning in our book, and that the band is, and has been showing, that we are strong as it gets. We’ve had some great shows, so everybody feels re-energized. There were some dark times for me and the band in 2011, and that’s when Marvin took over the musical and writing side of the band and became a member. Afterwards the line-up of the band became the one we have now, so it’s an entirely new entity to work in the future. I don’t like nostalgia nor am I fond to look back into the band and think that we used to be good and want to go back to that. I like to think that the best is yet to come otherwise it is pointless to write new songs and keep going.
[Marvin]: I’ve always liked the band, and I have a long history with them, because I started playing with them off and on since 1996, when we were both young guys, and I’ve always been a fan. So when Leif approached me to write new songs, I saw to it in a different point of view, in a way of what I would like to hear from the band in the future, how I’d like to see them and their sound evolve and progress. So that was basically what I had in mind when I wrote the songs from the previous record. I gave my contribution to “Intermination”, while having in mind what Dew Scented is and what it was, and took that into the next level.
- Earlier this year you released your 10th studio album, “Intermination”, how was the public reaction to it?
[Leif]: To be honest, I don’t really like to have expectations about what people think of our music. I just try to be happy myself (and ourselves for that matter) with the result, but yeah, I believe that the response has been pretty good, considering what we saw on the reviews, or what people that like the band and are familiar with our work perceived and expressed about the new songs. They get that it’s a step forward, rather than being a safe throwback record. It would be easy to copy ourselves, but we prefer to do new music and new albums. From playing live, I got the idea that these new ones have been well received and jam together very well with our older songs, and some have even established themselves as good live songs, so at the end of the day, that’s what matters the most. I would be very happy if in ten years we would be playing some of these songs live, it means that they would’ve stand the test of time. This was all to say that it’s been only like 4 or 5 months since the album came out, so it’s an OK feeling about it.
[Marvin]: What we were going for was to make the strongest Dew Scented in the catalog that was our goal. So, in my perspective, I am very pleased with the final result, I think that it’s a very strong Dew Scented album. The style that people have grown accustomed to was taken into the next level, and in a very successful way, at least according with the reviews and feedback we’ve been getting. So yes, we were successful in that. And what Leif said, also. It has a lot of tracks we want to play live, and everything seems to connect nicely with the older songs and with the audience.
- How would you describe (musically speaking) your new record to someone who wasn’t listen it or isn’t familiar with the band’s work?
[Leif]: To be honest that is a hard question. It’s not always easy to explain yourself and your music to others. But I guess you can say that it’s some kind of extreme metal that mixes a lot of different styles with some nuances and technical details. Mostly we try to write catchy songs, and although I like to see ourselves as simple band, I also believe that we may sound simple, but our music is much more than that. I’m not a musician, I’m a singer and front man in a band, I don’t pay any instruments, so that’s how I perceive everything. I will, however, recommend that everyone who likes extreme metal to go and listen to our music because there are a lot of different things to discover on our songs. People should give it a listen they might like, but keeping in mind that is extreme metal and not everybody likes that. I never seen everybody was able to self-promote themselves very good, and I’m not an exception, starting with the band name (laughs), but people should go see us live and let the music speak for itself.
[Marvin]: In a way, I would describe it from a musical point of view, the goal is to keep it simple, it’s pure thrash/death metal, just plain that. And that’s our approach. We’re all from a thrash and death metal generation, and when we write new songs those are the influences we have.
- Do you have a favourite track from the album? Which one is it?
[Leif]: Good thing that I have a few. One of which is “Scars Of Creation”, that we are playing live. I really like the track where we have a guest vocalist on, “Reborn” as well. Although we can never play it live, it’s a really cool song. It was the last one Marvin wrote for the record, so that’s a good indication that there are some interesting tracks, with different vibes on the record. Our other guitar player, Rory, wrote three of the songs, and they’re pretty good. It was the first time we wrote some songs for us. Our bassist, Joost, wrote a couple of tracks too. This was the first time they actively participated on the making and the writing of a record; I see that as a step, and a feeling of moving forward because now we are more integrated with each other and all at the same page.
[Marvin]: As far as me, one of my personal favourites is “Means To An End”. I also would have to go with “Ode to Extinction”, because it’s a very new and fresh song and takes the band in slightly different direction. It’s a cool feature on the album.
- Is there any particular reason the name of all your records start with the letter “I”?
[Leif]: Yes there is, but I will not tell you, we do not know each other that well (laughs). Maybe at the end of night I’ll tell you, after you see the show and tell us it was incredible (laughs). Alright, well, I honestly don’t know, but it eventually kind of became a theme for the band you know. It’s like our trade mark now. Originally, on our first album, there was no intention about it, and when we released the second one, “Innoscent”, that is a word play, because people were giving us shit about the band name, and that basically put the two records together. At the time we were a young band with only two records, and at the time we thought we might split up eventually, when your that young you never see things that far into the future. So, here we are now, 24 years later, with 10 albums in, and a thread with the album titles. I think that it eventually became part of the band, a very weird part, none the less, but by now it is hard to find new names for the records, or even differentiate them when talking among ourselves. So yeah, as you can see I don’t really have a precise answer (laughs).
- You’ve been with Metal Blade for 5 years, correct? How do you analyze that partnership?
[Leif]: It’s cool and very relaxed. They know what we’re all about and they understand perfectly what we want, the history and the character of the band, so they do their job very well. It’s one of the most established traditional labels in metal, and we have friends there that have been following us and our work since we were a demo band basically. This is an affair on which we’re all on the same level and seeing eye to eye, we’re continuing with them. Record labels are supposed to promote, market and sell your music, and that is exactly what they’re doing and we’re very happy with that. On the other hand, bands are suppose to keep writing new and good music, and they seem very happy with that too.
[Marvin]: I can’t add anything besides that, because I’m really far away from the business side of things. I’m just the guy that writes music and doesn’t do business.
[Leif]: But I told them that we’re very happy with them (laughs).
[Marvin]: Yes and I believed him. I only have social talks with the people from the label, but it all seems to work out fine.
[Leif]: I used to say at some point that I didn’t care about labels or what logo our CDs had in the back, but now it’s a lie. I really care about it, because labels are an important part of the process of how people can gain access to our music worldwide. So you obviously want to work with some nice people and are doing it for the right reasons, because there are a lot of assholes in the business as well. We’ve been around for a while now and we’ve managed to go around those people and try to work with the good ones. So that’s why Metal Blade is our label in Europe. For US we have Prosthetic Records, but is pretty much the same story, and we know they’re all doing good jobs.
- What are/were your main musical influences?
[Leif]: Wow, that is a very long list, and since I’m not an instrumentalist and I don’t write the songs, it’s kind of hard for me to answer that. As I said before, when I first joined the band all those years ago they only had like 2 songs written and they were a combination of death/thrash/hardcore and even doom kind of sound, and I thought I sounded very cool and interesting the fact that they were mixing everything and trying to be different. They were into Slayer, Voivod, Prong, Bad Brains, Discharge, just to name a few, they had a lot of influences and were into a lot of different music from different bands and scenes. That helped shaping our sound and making different songs. At the time there weren’t many bands doing it, and now there aren’t much either, and when I try to think about it, there aren’t many bands which I can compare us with. Our sound, thrash metal rooted with extreme death metal isn’t very common, so there aren’t many others out there, it’s not a very fashionable genre I suppose. I personally have always been a fan of bands like At The Gates, Slayer (all the Bay Area Thrash really), Violence, Exodus, Testament, etc. Putting that sound into a german europen approach made the sound of the band. I don’t know how to explain it better than that. Marvin has some little bit different influences and he writes the songs, so…
[Marvin]: Yes, there a bit different, but at the same time almost comparable. My musical influences are better explained in eras. It started out with the late 80s thrash bands (Forbidden, Violence, Exodus) and the early 90s death metal bands like Morbid Angel, Death, Deicide, Obituary; and after that the Swedish death metal scene, for example Edge Of Sanity, Entombed, Carnage, At The Gates, Dark Tranquillity (older stuff mostly). Of course that after that I keep finding bands that influence me, but the main musical foundation lies in those.
- You’ve spent most of last month on tour with Angelus Apatrida (a band very well known and liked here in Portugal), No Return and Heboidophenie. How was it? Did it go well?
[Marvin]: It was probably one of the most relaxing tours I’ve ever done, probably because the bands were all nice, very relaxed, and good guys to hang out with. We all had very good shows. Angelus Apatrida and No Return are some really cool bands live to watch, and that gave us an extra kick in the ass to perform better every night.
[Leif]: And it’s old friends and companions that share an history outside of the mainstream, bands that have been growing on their own hard work and became better and better with time. That’s awesome, I like that! It’s basically a group of people who get along, plus good musicians and good live bands. I had a great time, specially with Angelus guys, they are super cool people and hopefully our ways will cross in the future again.
- Do you have any particular story or episode of that tour that you’d like to share?
[Leif]: What happens on the bus, stays on the bus (laughs).
[Marvin]: Yes, let’s go with that. All the cool things I could say might be bad for other people (laughs).
[Leif]: I’m not going to mention any names, but do you know that old story about someone setting their farts on fire? Well for the first time in 24 years I finally saw it, there’s a musician that can do that (laughs).
[Marvin]: And I saw one that can drink an entire bottle of wine at once.
[Leif]: I’ll just finish saying that there’s always a downside to touring, but all of this I said is part of the upside.
- What can we expect from tonight’s show?
[Leif]: Well I don’t you just tell us afterwards if we met your expectation. But basically we’re just a straight forward band that plays thrash/death metal and we like to play it as intense as possible, hopefully we’ll have an open minded audience and people will have a good time. The more energy we have in the room, the better for the performance. But judging from last night, we are a in a fine shape and it has everything to be a great show. It’s our first time in Coimbra, and we haven’t been to Portugal in 5 years, which is also one of my favourite places to play live in, because we’ve always had some great shows in here, and we happen to know some really nice people from here, so, if they say it will be great, I’ll trust their word.
- Yes, the crowd in here is the best, sometimes a little insane and excited, specially on a good day…
[Leif]: It’s pure energy, I like that a lot! It’s all about getting rid of your frustrations and bad vibes. A form of release, a healthy one, from the bad things in life. It’s because of that feeling that I go to shows and love so much to play live
[Marvin]: On that energy aspect, I see it like this: We give the energy to crowd when we play the music because we like doing it so, and when the people on the other side like our music they gives the energy back. We feed of each other’s energy, and that is what makes the shows intense and provides the best evenings.
- What are your plans for the near future?
[Leif]: We’re gonna hop on a plane tomorrow to go back home and we’re going to take a little winter break. We had an intense year on various levels, we recorded and release and album, after which we went on tour, and now we are sitting down for a while. Next year we’ll see if we have any fresh ideas and start writing new songs, and see how that turns out. We’ll definitely play live somewhere, because I see Dew Scented mostly as a live band, that is how and where we’re the better version of ourselves.
[Marvin]: Writing new music and thinking of new concepts and incorporate new ideas on thoughts we had. That’s how next year is going to start.
- Do you want to leave a message for our readers?
[Leif]: We want to thank them for taking the time to read this, reading is under appreciated these days, a lot of people don’t read these days, they just post and like stuff, or whatever. So thank you for showing interest in the band, and hopefully you’ll go check our music and let it do the next talking, instead of our words. We’ve always had a good time in Portugal, met nice people who support the band, and like our music. So let’s hope it won’t take us again 5 years to return.
[Marvin]: Keep supporting the scene and extreme metal!