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MARTYR - Interview with Rick Bouwman
By Wojtek Gabriel,
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Martyr metal band
The Dutch metallers from Martyr, who celebrated their 35th birthday last year, were one of many bands from the '80s boom in heavy metal era for whom the things did not work out the desired way. Unhappy with the way the music business operated, Martyr broke up, leaving two decent heavy/speed LPs behind them. They re-surfaced in 2006 and two years ago they dropped a new album called "You Are Next". We haven't spoken to the guys back then, so that release was the first subject we touched on in this talk with the band's co-founder and guitarist Rick Bouwman.
"You Are Next" can still be labelled as traditional heavy metal, but it sounds definitely more modern than your '80s releases. It seems you didn't want to follow the retro path like many other bands did?
That is correct. We developed in all these years that followed after we split up in 1987. When we reunited at first it was of course playing the old stuff, but when we started composing new material we wanted, as we always do, write the material that we like to write. And that included new influences and of course as musicians we grew as well too.
I think you recorded the album the old-school way, in studio, without any samples, triggers or home recordings?
Yes, we write and compose at our home studio but when we record the album we go back to the studio and record it in a traditional way. That means all instruments are played live.
You've got quite a few guest musicians on the album, doing backing vocals in various songs. Are they all your friends?
All of our guest musicians are from the music bizz. We did this also on "Circle of 8", where our friends from Vicious Rumors joined us. For "You Are Next" we invited Marloes from Izegrim, Nick from VR and Powerized, Gert Nijboer from Highway Chile and August Life, Andres "Lippi" Lipinski from Wolfen, John Cuypers from Praying Mantis and Ayreon and some more guests. All had a certain specific part and quality what we needed as extra in the songs.
You shot a video-clip for "The Darkest of All Realms" where you invited a bunch of guys to take part in it. Are they like a local Martyr fan-club?
Martyr is a member of the Heavy Metal Maniacs fanclub Netherlands. So, there were quite some of them banging around. But also other friends and friends from friends came to participate. We shot the video in our rehearsal room with the intention to get a metal family feeling. I think it succeeded very well. It was the very first time the guests heard "Into the Darkest of All Realms" but they immediately knew how to bang their heads to it.
I think it was the Heavy Metal Maniacs fan-club, that actually brought Martyr back to life?
Oh yeah, you are right, it was our 1st reunion in 2001. A few years later Martyr was also baptized and all members are part of the club. The club is still going strong, having their festival every year and other initiatives they set up.
How would you compare your today's song-writing process to your approach in the '80s? Do you still follow the same recipes?
No, we changed that. Back in the '80s I mainly wrote the songs jamming them in the rehearsal room. Nowadays we, that's me and Rop (vocals) write at home in our home studio. Then the song is ready and we take it to the guys (transfer it so they can rehearse at home etc.) and then get to the rehearsal room. It is sort of complete, the guys can fill in their parts but the structure is sort of decided. Nowadays the technique has developed so much further to easily share everything.
Your previous album was out on Metal Blade. Were they not interested in the new material?
They were and they were the first that heard the material. But they told me immediately after hearing it that Pure Steel would be a better company for this material. Before the CO8 album was released I wanted Pure Steel to release it at first. So, we went back to Pure Steel with "You Are Next" and they wanted to release it but only had a release slot late December 2016. And we were already working such a long time on the record we didn't have that much patience. So, we made a deal with Into The Limelight Records and Pure Steel together for an earlier release March 2016 which was best of both worlds for us. We had the promotion and distro of Pure Steel, the label and management on Into The Limelight and closer contacts.
I'm sure you've heard this question a million times... You released two albums in the '80s, you had a song on the famous Metal Blade's "Metal Massacre" compilation, everything seemed to be going well. So, why didn't you take it further?
Yes, a question much asked and I sometimes ask myself even the same question. The reason is we were so young when we started in the '80s and things went quickly. Big record companies knocked at our doors and wanted to change us. We were too unexperienced at those days and listened to them, that broke us up really when all the big expectations and promises did not work out and we kinda lost track of our own identity. A lesson well learned though. I will never do that again and always will do what we wanna do, write and play.
What's the one thing from the '80s you miss the most?
It is probably the pioneering, experiencing everything for the first time, you know? I remember holding "For the Universe" LP in my hands when it came out, and there weren't too many metal bands in the Netherlands with an album those days. I could look at it for hours. A release was way more special then than it is now. Now everybody can bring out an album or release their songs, good or bad. So, there is too much crap as well these days.
What's your view on today's traditional metal scene and the young bands, that keep the spirit of old-school metal alive?
I think it is very cool for the youngsters. They hear the true heavy metal but by young bands. For myself, I must confess I have a lot of deja-vus, if you know what I mean. That's not a problem though, because it brings young fans to the festivals, shows, which is a good thing. I only hope, but that's personal, that a band always tries to have something of their own at least.
I remember reading a story from your visit to Poland with Lizzy Borden, something about Lizzy fans wearing Martyr T-shirts?
The story is that more fans wore Martyr shirts than Lizzy Borden shirts in Poland. The real story is we gave a lot of shirts away as an extra when buying the album ha-ha, but the Lizzy Borden management had no clue and wondered what went wrong as Martyr seemed to have sold so many more shirts than Lizzy Borden. We knew the economy in Poland was not so great at those times and fans had little money to spend, so as a gift for being so good for us and responding so well on the music we gave it a little extra. Poland has been very good for us, we would love to go there again.
If you were given a million Euro to invest into the band, what would you do?
Probably setup a better studio at home, where we can work all day and night. Do some extra travelling with the band, invest in new promo material and stage setups.
It's been over two years since "You Are Next" was out so, are you working on any new songs?
Hell yeah, we have been writing for a while now, but slowly. A new release was to be expected end of 2018, but I think it will be postponed. We changed the line-up a bit and also were on the road and will be again in Belgium, Germany, Holland and plans for US, Brazil, Greece. So, it takes time, but there definitely will be new Martyr songs to be dropped!
Interview by Wojtek Gabriel

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Tags: Martyr, heavy metal, Rick Bouwman
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© 1997-2019 Wojtek Gabriel. All rights reserved.
Unauthorised use of any works published on this website is prohibited.
Materials may not be reproduced in whole or in part by persons, organisations
or corporations without the prior written permission.