Reign of the Brutes

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The year is 1991 and the debut album from Netherlands act, Asphyx is released, The Rack. One of the greatest death metal albums of all time that merged doom metal seamlessly into their sound. Only 1 year later, saw the release of Last One on Earth, even heavier than their debut and just as crushing. The band released other scorching albums/eps; Crush the Cenotaph, Asphyx, God Cries, On The Wings of Inferno and their unofficial 1990 debut Embrace the Death. Now while all these other releases had some other members here and there on the releases they were still excellent. Throughout the years this wonderful band has influenced not only numerous bands, but now generations, since the band has been around for over 2 decades.

Their 2009 comeback album Death…The Brutal Way was such an incredible album that saw the band not missing a step at all and whether it was Van Drunen’s continued dominance, as a vocalist, Bagchus’ steady thunderous drumming or Baayens’ summoning the heavy guitar sound of Eric Daniels, the band has been on fire since.  Their Deathhamer album last year showed the world that their heaviness has continued, as well as their exceptional song writing.  Bob Bagchus has been the centerpiece of this band for years and also drums in ex-Asphyx guitarist, Eric Daniel’s band Grand Supreme Blood CourtGSBC released Bow Down Before The Blood Court last year and that is one of the heaviest albums I have heard in a long time.  The fact that it also features Eric Daniels bringing that amazing buzzsaw guitar sound back into the fold is something to behold.  The band is doomier than Asphyx and believe it or not even heavier and just as awesome.

Just recently I was at a local Baltimore, MD show and bumped into Asphyx guitarist Paul Baayens, who was visiting friends in the area.  He and I spoke for a bit and I can say he is really down to earth and a great dude.  I also interviewed Eric Daniels, from GSBC, for all about the rock uk, not too long ago and we exchanged a lot of cool emails back and forth, getting to know each other quite a bit.  Bob and I have been in touch over the last several months, exchanging thoughts on what it’s like to be an old school death metaller, new bands, family life and the impact of Asphyx on the death metal community in general and what’s it’s like being in both Asphyx and GSBC.  One thing is for certain these individuals and these bands care about their fans!  The length of my conversations and emails to each of them shows the time and effort they put into establishing a connection with people and I think that really is a testament to the types of individuals they are and Bob is such a cool person and I look forward to hopefully meeting him some day.  He was able to answer my questions and go in-depth quite a bit.  If you have yet to own an Asphyx album or the Grand Supreme Blood Court debut from last year, than you are really missing out on some of the best doom/death metal the world has to offer.  Crushing heaviness, amazing vocals, lyrics and a punishing drum sound round out both bands and now sit back crack open a cold one and read this interview with Asphyx/Grand Supreme Blood Court drummer, Bob Bagchus.

TeethoftheDivine: OK Bob, let everyone know what/who got you into playing drums and how have you developed your sound/craft over the years?  Do you have any endorsement deals and what goes into getting an endorsement for the gear you use?

Bob: It was Abaddon from Venom, really.I really loved/love his simple straight forward drumming.Drumming from the soul! My other influences are Ron Sumners (Slaughter), Joe Blazer (Necrophagia), Heerh (Messiah), Bruce Day (Hellhammer), Steve Priestly (Celtic Frost). I have an endorsement with Amedia cymbals thanks to Ed from Hail of Bullets. For the rest I don’t have any endorsements.

You were on 2 outstanding releases last year, from your main band, Asphyx-‘Deathhammer’ and the Grand Supreme Blood Court debut album. How do you contribute in ensuring both bands stay separate in sound, since GSBC has several Asphyx members, as well as Martin singing, and his voice is very distinguishable?

Thanks for the compliment! Yes, it has sharing members, but still both bands don’t sound the same, except for the vocals. While Asphyx is very hard to the bone death metal with no compromise, Grand Supreme Blood Court is more lowtuned sludgy death metal. But while the vocalist is the same, people might also think the music is the same, which is not the case here. Also the riffing is a bit different in both bands. But both bands do what they do best, playing brutal old school death metal from the soul.

How do you manage to do both bands, with shows and not have them conflict?  Any touring cycles planned this summer or do the bands just play a few shows at a time?

Well, it does conflict now and then in the schedule since we get offers for both bands but it’s like “who is first… is first”. But I play my last Asphyx live show on 14 September in Milan.  I need more time with my family and Asphyx is very time robbing when it comes to traveling. We have a live drummer already. GSBC is much less intense when it comes to traveling. GSBC will play on the Party San next week and next to that on Summerbreeze. With Asphyx we have 2 more shows this year. But both bands do not tour around. Only separate gigs.

After the ‘Last One on Earth’ Asphyx album you eventually left and was not on the self-titled album in ’94, what lead to your departure and return to the fold then?  When you decided to put the band back together in 2007, how did that come about and why was Eric Daniels not part of the Asphyx reunion, because here you are again working with him on the crushing Grand Supreme Blood Court?

Well, I was really fed up with the business side of things that it took all the fun out of the music at that time. It was during a Grave show here when I decided to quit. I felt I had no control over my own band any longer and that was it for me. It was strange not playing on the self-titled album since Asphyx is my band, but it was my own decision. Eric asked me if he could continue and I agreed, of course. Well, not long after that old original vocalist Theo Loomans (RIP) and I formed Asphyx again in 1995 and recorded God Cries in 1996.We asked Eric, but he was fed up with everything at that time himself, so he said no, unfortunately. Weird times!

I did not decide to get the band back together in 2006, it was the crew of the Party San who phoned me on a Saturday afternoon around 15:00, when I was sitting in the garden with wife and kids. They asked me to reform Asphyx again for the 2007 edition and I said “no”. But they kept calling and they finally got me into it again, although I never stopped listening metal, of course! So I called Martin and he said yes right away, but Eric said no, because of his health at the time. So I also did not want to do it without Eric, but then Martin came up with Paul and we took it from there. Paul really wanted to handle the job and he did/does it perfect! Well, so we did Party San 2007 and got a MASSIVE response. We were surprised! Then three days after the Party San show, Eric phoned me and wanted to be part of the band again, as 2nd guitarist. I was like “Whaaaatt?!!” — well, I don’t know since Paul was the axeman now and Asphyx doesn’t need a 2nd guitarist. We did not do it because it would feel strange to Paul. It was difficult to say no to Eric, my best friend as well, since we made Asphyx back in the day, but it was the way it was. But believe me, I had a hard time saying no to Eric. But Eric wanted to make brutal music again so he asked me to form a new band. So here we are.

How has the reaction been to Asphyx, since coming back to the metal world and how is the band’s popularity at the moment?

It was great! Overwhelming! We never, EVER, expected that Asphyx still had a big name in the scene. Asphyx at this moment is a top five death metal band and is very popular. Deathhammer was in the German album charts as well, which was really weird. Asphyx sells an incredible amount of merchandise. But as we all know, it all can be over in a split second. From hero to zero. That’s the way it is.

Before the Asphyx reunion what were you doing, any side projects?  Do you work, have a family and what do you do in your spare time?

I had a black/death project called Throne and Eric and me had Soulburn as well. But after that is was only work (screen printing). I have two sons and a wife. In my spare time I’m a big horror freak, we go to Formula 1 races and I go fishing with my boys.

You have been around a long time cultivating this specific type of death metal sound that clearly is getting copied all the time. What went into formulating the Asphyx sound and how can you expand on that on future recordings? How do you feel about all these newer acts ‘borrowing’ your sound, do you take it as a compliment?

Hmm. Yes. The Asphyx sound. Back in the days Eric was very busy with finding the right tune for Asphyx. We wanted a heavy crusty chainsaw guitar sound and when recording The Rack we finally got it. Eric has a special set up, but also his playing helps getting that typical sound. With bands borrowing our sound, we take that as a big compliment! But in the end only two guitarists have that special sound and they are named Eric Daniels and Paul Baayens. The two sawmasters.

Are you still strictly into the older types of dm bands or are there some newer bands that you like?  Are you into brutal slam or tech dm bands? What other types of musicians/bands do you listen to that are not necessarily associated with extreme music?

Well, mostly yes, I really am stuck in the ’80s but I also like some newer bands a lot like Necros Christos, Nailgun Massacre, Bodyfarm, Revel in Flesh, Entrapment, Dissect and my fave one, Coffins! I hate slam death metal, since that is no death metal to me at all, and I also hate technical death metal as well. I mean, I do respect those bands since they are awesome musicians and I cannot even stand in their shadows, but it is really not my thing. I only like the simple, catchy stuff. I also listen to old Deep Purple, Alice Cooper, Nine Pound Hammer.

Do you ever see yourself adding a blast beat to an Asphyx song, just to mix some things up a bit?  I mean clearly you don’t need to, since you guys rule, but bear with me for moment.  How do you think it would sound with Asphyx, having a blast beat, then transitioning right into an abrupt slow doomy heavy part, that would be similar to ‘Der Landser’, it could be pretty fuckin vicious, yes or no?

No, never. The only bands I love hearing with blast beats are Repulsion, Napalm Death, Terrorizer and Mayhem. Asphyx is known for its mid-paced death metal with doom in it and we are very conservative. At least I am. But it could be a good idea… in another band [laughs]! I think we once had such a thing on the 1989 Crush the Cenotaph demo, the end part of “Rite of Shades”, that was an early blast beat.

How is Century Media helping your band?  Do they pay for the recordings and band travel?

Century Media is doing a great job with Asphyx. They do all they can and they did an amazing PR on Deathhammer. Yes,they do pay for the recordings, but not for travels. Those are costs the promoter has to pay for. That is all included in the band fee. But CM is fantastic, they all are real fans of the music and that helps a 100%.

Where do you see the state of the music industry right now?  Where do you think it will be in 5-10 years?

I think DM is still doing great at the moment, I mean, people will always love old school, but also a lot of people are just following trends. Just look at the ’90s; death metal was HUGE in the early ’90s but then in 1995 black metal took over and a lot of DM “fans” transformed into BM fans and so did some bands too. Too bad really. Although I love black metal like Mayhem, Immortal, Darkthrone, Dark FuneralWatain and 1349!

How has the scene changed for you and your band over the years, since the late 80’s? Do you enjoy all the social media outlets and has it helped the band?

There are a million more bands and only a few stand out. The scene was a lot smaller in the mid/late ’80s and a lot closer as well. Well, social media, it can be a help for the band indeed — a great help in fact — but I hate the fact that people can bash a band on the Internet as well. The so called “sofa hooligans”… but that is part of the game, unfortunately. Some people think they can do it a lot better than you, if only they were in the band. But social media like Facebook is a great tool to promote your band worldwide and to stay in contact with the people you want to be in contact with.

What else can you do in the music industry?  Are you satisfied with all that you have accomplished and what else can Asphyx conquer?

I did almost everything the last 27 years in the music industry. BUT — Eric and me have a new project called The Company of Undertakers with some old school friends and it’s very downtuned sludgy death metal with Massacre-like vocals.

I am really satisfied of what I have accomplished with Asphyx, especially since we always did what we wanted to do ourselves only. Making simple, catchy, brutal straight forward death/doom metal and we got big with it. For that we are very thankful. I really think that Asphyx has one of the most loyal fanbases a band can wish for. Hails to that!

Take us through the construction of a song, how it begins and ends, relating to music, lyrics vocal patterns etc? What is the concept behind ‘Deathhammer’? Some bands have contracts that state you don’t get as much money if you don’t contribute enough in the writing process, is that how it is with you guys or does everyone do the same amount of work?

Well, regardless if it is Asphyx or GSBC or TCOU, we get riffs by mail, phone a bit, then go into the rehearsal room and start to jam. When it feels right and we like it, it’s a song that’s ready. Just as simple as that. We also still record it with a tape recorder… the same as in 1987. For the money part, we all get an equal share since we all contribute in one way or another. That also keeps the harmony in the band.

Any last thoughts/comments for the readers?

Thanks a lot Frank for this interview. I hope it was worth the wait [laughs]! Thanks a lot to all the Asphyx, GSBC fans everywhere for your support!!!




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