Persistense - Meeting A Dutch Pride
On a cloudy Saturday, around seven o’ clock, I enter the basement of the third oldest building in the Netherlands that I’m very familiar with. The bar is called Plein’79 and just recently, I started working there as a manager. However, not tonight, because tonight I’m about to interview Persistense, a local metal band from Den Bosch of whom the lead singer Stefan is a recognized person in the pub. As I enter the building, I see all the band members cozily pulling their cigarettes in the smoke cabin and I get to hear that Gerard from Deity Down Records will keep us company during the interview. Off we go.
So, for how long have you been together in this line-up?
Stefan: Well, I think that we’ve been together for a little more than a year now. When having a look at the past, you could say that Persistense started back in the year 2000. Back then, I started to look for a band that was able to make an aggressive form of metal, with influences from bands like Machine Head and Pantera. Slowly but steadily, I was able to gather a group of musicians until finally the line-up was complete. However, that is now considered as the old version of Persistense.
And that line-up stayed together until 2004?
Stefan: Yes, that is correct. And during those years we recorded our first demo and, played something around 30 shows. So, that’s when the story of the new version starts.
So after the first line-up broke up, how did you get to meet these guys?
Ralf: Well, actually it was pretty simplistic. Stefan saw me once at the W2 venue and asked if I was interested in playing in a new band. ‘Well, all right’ I said, when he told me it was Persistense we were talking about. And one by one, the other musicians were found.
Jacques: Stefan knew me from one of my previous bands, called Respite. He regularly visited our rehearsals philosophing about what a band should be while drinking all our beer. A year or two after we split up he called me up telling me that he was looking for a guitar player for Persistense and I never doubted his plans and gave it a try.
Stefan: We found Bram due to an advertisement on a website, we called him up and he was in too. All that was left was a bass player and Mark, who’s a colleague of one of us fell for the job. And my goal for this band was to create a group of people with the right kind of motivation for the job. Often, musicians underestimate the work that you have to put into a band to make it all work properly, especially considering the fact that there are a lot of personal differences.
Jacques: We all have been in different bands throughout the years but that was basically all on a low profile. And right now we feel like we could take it to a next level and start being a bit more serious in creating music. Of course without loosing the other main goal of Persistense: Having fun!
But why did you decide to continue under the name Persistense?
Stefan: The reason for that came from myself because I’m the only original band member left. In the past, we had a pretty number of gigs and at that time I started my own booking agency which resulted in the fact that I could arrange quite some shows, one with Dimension Seven for instance. And I think that every band needs someone to stand up and arrange those kind of things. Merely a solid record won’t help you out. Of course, I’m talking about the process of being in a band for three or four years when it gets harder to arrange the same number of gigs as in the beginning.
When you play live, will there be a mixture of old and new songs?
Stefan: We’re actually a whole new band so when we have enough material with this line-up we won't play songs from the past anymore.
Ralf: The more songs we’ll write, the more old songs will disappear. And right now, there are just a few oldies left.
Stefan: Eventually, there will be a time in which the new songs will be placed more and more on the foreground. The new band actually moves on where the old band stopped and I think it’s a natural process that a band puts the emphasis on the new songs.
Gerard: Music wise, the new Persistense simply makes better music that is very hard to compare to the old version of Persistense.
Ralf: Plus, the old songs don’t really fit in with the new songs anymore. When we play the new material in our set, the old songs feel like a misfit.
On the website, it says that Persistense aims for ‘A decent structure, meaningful lyrics and most of all, a song has to be recognizable’. However, when listening to the songs on your MySpace I get the impression that there are a lot of different styles in the songs. ‘Sick World’ has both the death metal riffs, the hardcore vocals and the metalcore breakdowns for instance, which makes it a little chaotic.
Jacques: We accidentally talked about this yesterday and we concluded that 'Sick World' was the one song that is a well structured song and easy to listen to.
Ralf: Well, these days there are so many bands that record a couple of songs that could well have been one instead. In my opinion, a single song has to be unique and Persistense should not be one of those bands that’ll bore you after the third song.
Stefan: I think I understand what you’re trying to say. When we write our songs, we approach our music from different angles. You just mentioned the fact that there are different styles to be recognized, yet I don’t think that it’s easy to describe what Persistense is in three or four words. And hopefully, people will think positively about the way we come up with our songs and remember it because of that.
Is it a goal then to look for the boundaries of heavy music and combine them in your own way?
Ralf: Well, I’m the one who writes most of the songs and that’s something I’m not thinking of at all. It just happens that little pieces come together as a song. First I start with the guitar and make a structure out of the riffs. And then everyone is allowed to come up with their own parts of the song.
Stefan: Everything in metal has already been done by everyone; nothing is unique anymore. I believe that as long as a band will do their own ‘thing’, there’s a chance to succeed.
Ralf: In my opinion, there are too many extreme metal bands that are combining too many different styles into one chaotic experience. Our songs seem to be pretty recognizable.
Stefan: What I actually was trying to say was this. For instance in Holland we have so many thirteen in a dozen death metal bands that release their CDs, reviews are written, shows are played. It’s all on a decent level and ok, but I’d like to have a distinguished sound, especially on the long term.
Jacques: Well, I think that the reason for so many death metal bands is the fact that a lot of people just like those blastbeats. The more, the better you know. However, that’s not us. We just like good music.
But then again, you just signed with the label and there will be needs to sell the band in some form; how would you describe the band in two or three sentences?
Gerard: Yesterday we came close to something such as ‘intense, grooving metal without boundaries’.
Jacques: It will always hard to describe your own style, because nothing will be that precise in telling others what your ideas are. Sometimes you read the description of a band that consists of ten sentences and you think: ‘Wow, that’s gotta be the bomb’.
Stefan: In our band name, we combine ‘to persist’ and 'intense' into one word and perhaps that’s the best way to describe our music. I’ve hoped for the situation we’re in for a long time. Throughout the years, Persistense has been working hard and I feel that right now it was very important to get a deal with a record company. A while ago, I got to meet Gerard for the first time through my booking agency and we kept in contact. For him, it then was the question whether Persistense was able to come up with something good because in the end, the band is responsible for the final product. Then comes the fact that you’ve got to gather a group of musicians with the same intensity and passion for music as yourself. I can do a lot on my own, but it’s of course way better to have a band with the same ambition and motivation. When I look back to the past years, I’m glad that I was able to wait just enough to get the right people on the right spot.
Now that you have deal, when can we expect the album to be released?
Ralf: Probably at the end of this year. Right now we’re in the writing mode with a lot of material already being finished.
Jacques: For the rest, we’ve just started to make a schedule for all the work that needs to be done. Right now, we’re able to make a start with the guitars and we’re negotiating with the recording studio about the exact dates. If it was up to us, we’d start in the summer but we’ll have to wait and see.
And where will you be recording the album?
Jacques: The recordings will take place in the Excess (Sinister et al, CS) studios in Rotterdam.
Stefan: And with the help from Gerard, we hope that the snowball effect will only get bigger.
My next question is about your lyrics. They seem to be very personal and critical towards society. Is that something that comes only out of you Stefan, or do the other guys have some input on that?
Stefan: Well, I’m an open book so the other men know what I’m writing about; Gerard as well. And the lyrics are genuine Stefan so anyone who’s interested in me should take a close look at the lyrics. Sometimes it’s indeed about society and I try to have a critical look on how we as a communion interact with each other and sometimes it’s really personal. I’m someone who operates a lot through emotions and one of the songs from the previous CD was about the death of my grandfather. For new songs I also got some inspirations out of personal experiences when I had some hard times. So that’s basically it, I’m a thinker and consider lyrics in metal as important as in any other music style. The death metal lyrics these days; it’s all about Satan and evil; we’ve all heard it and as long as it’s the thing you’re looking for that’s ok, but I prefer lyrics that tell you something about the writer.
Are the lyrics also an outlet?
Stefan: Certainly. I think that without my music, I wouldn’t have been here anymore. Music has helped me throughout the years and without it, metal in particular, I would not have been the person I am today. It gives you rest in some way. It is also some kind of pride. When I’m the singer of a band and finish my lyrics, I want other people to read it and ask themselves what’s behind the lines. And if there is a chance that it will touch someone, then that’s what it’s all about. Intense music deserves intense lyrics.
Jacques: Plus; I think that music is a way to release our energy for all of us. We’re all participating in this sick society but if it was up to us, we’d just be making music. Just writing material and go on stage.
Ralf: I believe that our strength lies exactly there; on stage. That’s something I miss a lot these days.
I haven’t been able to see you live yet. The only thing I did see was the clip on your MySpace from the Boschkilde gig and that went pretty wild.
Gerard: To be honest; I was there, visiting that show and I was really impressed by their performance. I actually came to see what Persistense is able to do live on stage. I didn’t know what to expect but I couldn’t find a single aspect to be critical about.
So then you definitely decided to work together?
Gerard: Yes, although I already knew Stefan and we had chatted a few times before until he finally visited me once and brought the first Persistense recordings with the old line-up. I listened to it and thought it was pretty good; not that impressive but decent. Then the new line-up was formed and Stefan brought me their first material. And as we chatted throughout the night I found myself busy pushing the repeat button of my CD-player. The quality of the songs was way better as well as the sound, despite the fact that the people who have been cooperating on the production weren’t that renowned. From there on, my interest grew more and more and I decided to visit the band at a live gig because for me it is really important to see what a band can do in a live situation. A band needs to do something more than pulling out all the tricks that are available in a recording studio and show that they master their instruments. So, I went to the W2 venue and the rest is history.
Ok, thanks a lot you guys. Do you feel like we’ve missed out on something?
Gerard: Well, as an outsider I see that Persistense is a firm group of people. Not often do you get to see a band that’s able to cooperate that smoothly and productive as I’ve seen Persistense doing.
Jacques: Despite the fact that we have our differences and little problems, I feel that our strength is that we always work things out.
Stefan: That is so important. And I also feel that we and Gerard are thinking in the same direction when it comes to the future of Persistense.
Then I wish you all the fortune for the recording guys; but right now I have to get to work.
That night, I had to work in the same cafe and saw all the members ordering their rounds one by one, walking from the smoking area to the bar and back again. And from my perspective, that was a good thing to watch.