TEXTURES – The Future Shape Of Music

TEXTURES – The Future Shape Of Music

(…this article is in English…)

Some musicians are content to listen to their heroes, emulate them, and attempt to convince the public that what they are doing is original, unique and 100% their own. Who are we kidding folks? Many of us know the stream of clones and sound-a-likes that plague the scene in all their forms of mutation- and heavy metal music has been no exception to the rule. Fortunately for us, Dutch band Textures are one such act willing to never accept anything less than striving for a progressive yet original sound.

Since their inception in 2001, Textures have released 3 studio albums and opened up many barriers thought forever closed to artists who could play with such technical prowess. Headlining festivals in India? Check. Commercial respect in their domestic Holland? Sure. Ascending to a new level thanks to an upgrade to Nuclear Blast? Remains to be seen… but based on their fourth album "Dualism" I predict a tsunami-like groundswell of buzz that will translate into more attention, more fingers hitting the computer and text terminals and increasing the already impressive Textures following.

On an early morning drummer Stef Broks called me to handle these questions regarding the band, and his surprisingly clear and deep English skills made this interview one of my favorites in recent times.


Does it feel like 10 years have passed since the inception of Textures?

Does it feel like it? Like 10 years? Actually yeah… but believe it or not no (laughs). I’m 30 years old now, which is not old but not young anymore. These last 10 years seem like we did it in 5 years or so. We have done so much stuff- we’ve had long relationships with the guys. We can survive almost anything, it’s this constant factor that we’ve spent one-third of our lifetime with each other. When we view these last 10 years we’ve done so many things, so many tours, so much hassle business-wise.

Your new album Dualism is the first for Nuclear Blast and your fourth overall. Outside of the new lineup shifts with vocalist Daniel de Jongh and keyboardist Uri Dijk coming in 2010, what changes (if any) do you see in the Textures approach within this new record?

Overall I can say due to the fact that this album took a bit longer to create that was due to two guys leaving the band and two new guys came in, after all I can tell you that there was more air to breathe for us to write the songs. We are not the type of band to write all the songs in a few rehearsals. The songs really take time, we have to reflect, crop the little details over there and it takes a huge amount of time for the songs to grow. Most of the albums previously took 2 years and this one took 3 years to come out- we had more time to reflect and the ingredients are better chosen. The songs as a result have more identity- it’s like cooking when you want to prepare a good dinner, maybe in a fine restaurant, you have to choose your ingredients well and carefully. The wrong ingredients can spoil the whole dinner- and I think with this album we chose not too many ingredients for each song and that’s why the songs have an adult character- a mature character. In songwriting, especially with "Polars" our first album we were experimenting all the time and it was like an explosion of experiments- going from there to there after 5 seconds into a song but now there is some rest. It’s still heavy but the song is there. That’s our way to maturity. It can sound cliché but it’s like that.

You came up with the name Textures based on the Cynic song from "Focus"- and it seems multi-faceted to describe your complex and varied sonic influences and styles of music you incorporate into the band. How long did it take in the early days to come up with the essence of the band’s sound- because you guys manage to make it work very seamlessly?

It took us from the start in 2001 until the finishing of the first record in 2004. This period was such an experimenting time, a lot of new music and movies influenced us. That happens to people in your 20’s, we were entering a new world ourselves, everybody was studying and we heard Meshuggah, Devin Townsend, At The Gates, all these musicians and ideas came together. We rehearsed two times a week from 8 at night until 2 in the morning- without breaks or no stopping. We would go on and on, we had so many ideas and this process of experimenting was going on for 2 and a half years. Then we finished the record and there was time for reflection, like the creation of our first child. We were overwhelmed at first by the heaviness and the production of our album, we only made crappy tape demos before that. Suddenly we realized it was bashing and banging out of our speakers- but we realized this record was so unconventional, it was hard for ourselves to appreciate but in Holland this was a time bomb record. Then it was time to reflect, we created a huge and wide open palate to work with, we used everything possible on that first record as far as influences.


The main difference I notice on Dualism appears to be a more straightforward arrangement framework and exploration of Daniel’s melodic/ clean vocals through these songs- but there’s still plenty of progressive and poly-rhythm parts to keep the long time Textures followers satisfied. Do you ever go in with any particular game plan from album to album or does the writing just evolve organically?

Definitely organically. Like I said this time it came with the situation. You have to imagine we are always writing stuff, writing parts, writing riffs and lyrics, just short parts that could be one minute or half a song suddenly. Bart wrote the last part of "Singularity"- the song we released online the other day- just in one take, but we are constantly writing songs. When we are in the studio even- we don’t feel any pressure. The songs just evolve naturally and the stuff that we write we just have to put out, it’s a reflection of us and this constant factor in our lives. The stuff you hear on "Singularity" is a lot of self-reflection of what we are over the last 3 years since "Silhouettes" came out in 2008. We have to write material that we get goose bumps over- we have to like it first and it would be awesome for the rest of the world to like it as well. It’s our stuff and we have to enjoy it on stage and playing, recognize ourselves in it.

"Reaching Home" appears to me to be a very accessible, addictive first single track that is an immediate standout- not just for its effective clean guitar part that seems to ring in my head for days but also some of Daniel’s best vocal work on this emotional song. What can you tell us about the lyrical concept and your feelings on this song? Do you have any particular favorites on this new album?

Actually it’s a song that Daniel and Erik our former singer worked on together- composing the vocal lines. Everybody in the band writes lyrics but these are Daniel’s lyrics… and I don’t want to explain too much about the concept because the songs are very open to interpretation. We want the listeners to go to the lyrics and not have them come to them- we want the listeners to put the lyrics in their frame of reference and put some effort into it, to see what it can mean for them. Some things are difficult to explain in another language but the lyrical content.. The whole album is about contrasts. We started that with "Polars" our first album, man or machine, about dark and light, nurture and nature, it’s just something that interests us because we see it all the time, in ourselves, in our friends, in movies, in books. We always have to linger in between these things, between rationalism and emotions, and the new album is like that. Every song describes a person dealing with that, searching in the end enlightenment, bliss, beauty- but it often comes through a form of suffering. This song "Reaching Home" is about a guy who wants to go back to his innocence of childhood because he struggles now, there’s too much stuff going on for him. The question for him is he wonders if he can reach home in his veins again- do I have to break through this struggle as I get old or can I find enlightenment by letting it all go? It’s a bit melancholic, that’s the topic of this song.

What do you think you learned most through your three albums with Listenable Records? Did they allow Textures to develop at your own pace and offered the right independence to grow even if the album sales weren’t as large as they could have been?

The label was in fact too small for us- that became clear after "Drawing Circles" but especially with "Silhouettes" but I think in metal, especially with smaller labels- they are not pushing you into a certain direction. You yourself and the band can decide the character of the band, the image of the band. In that way Listenable was great- they always supported the stuff we created even though it was hard, non-commercial but modern and new. I have to give all the credit to Laurent the head of Listenable- he really worked his ass of supporting us financially and business wise. That felt great but we had to let go, the contract was finished and there were too many opportunities to go to bigger labels so we chose Nuclear Blast. As far as learning… that’s a good question. Most things we learn are personal, your band life with your personal life, that’s a hard struggle where we learned most. Coming to the music… it’s I think the thing we learned most is that we don’t have to experiment to get good songs. I have to admit the experimenting phase was done after "Drawing Circles" our second album. We did so much with new sounds, with riff structures, weird rhythms and stuff- it was what Textures was about on the first two records- we realized with the third record it was not necessary anymore to write weird rhythms on purpose, we let it come out the way it comes out. That gave us such a rest it was possible to reflect on the stuff we wrote. Before that we experimented so much that it wasn’t possible to do that- too much information for ourselves in our heads. That’s one of the best things even with the new record, you can write stuff fluidly that comes out progressive at least for ourselves. This is a process of growing to reflect on your own thoughts of what you’ve created. We look back and see what we have done, an overview to put in perspective.


Your former vocalist Eric Kalsbeek along with current bassist Remko Tielemans created the cover art for the new album. Eric mentions on your official website the need for the art to be different but still Textures-like. What do you think of this cover, and how tough is it to come up with something eye-capturing every album?

It’s really hard actually. To make everything, not only the album cover, all the lyrics, all the music, all the drum parts, all the vocal lines, every little detail we try to be new or fresh to ourselves. That’s our struggle, we don’t take anything for granted. We are so thinking about the art itself, Erik has this really fantastic artistic view of how an album could be- it was so cool. Erik left the band but he did it in a respectful way- we still meet up and a few months ago we had sushi together with him and the whole band, it was just fun because our humor and personal touches are still the same. He wanted to add something to the album because it’s still a connection to the band. He is an artwork specialist now for his career- Erik has always been pushing the level of doing something different. We all know what metal is and what we can do with the image but we don’t actually care if our image is metal enough. Erik came up the idea with the new art work- we knew it wasn’t metal, it’s not coming close to a metal image, but this is just Textures. We just want to have a special product and it’s something special.

Back in 2009 you received the chance to play in India co-headlining a festival with Amon Amarth for the first time- and made a return appearance in 2010 in New Delhi. How were these shows for the band- did you see much difference in the promotion, crowd interaction and response than your conventional European touring experiences?

India for us is everything you can imagine dreaming about having a band and having success- these weird experiences being big in another country. It was really mind-blowing and overwhelming, it all started with some guy putting up a flyer on the internet for some imaginary festival that didn’t exist with us as the headliners. There was a huge response to that flyer, a lot of India promoters saw that. We got dozen of offers from there. I wasn’t aware that there was that much of a scene in India for metal. A few weeks later The Rock Street Journal, I think the biggest rock and metal magazine from India, approached us for a cover story, a 6 page article with new photos. They told us we were huge there- then the whole thing exploded. Our first gig in 2009 was the very first underground metal festival there, we performed for 6,000 people and they all went nuts! It was so weird because our album is not being sold in that country. The lyrics… they aren’t easy to sing along but they were going crazy. The second time we came back and played at a university amphitheater for 2,500-3,000 people and it was just as intense. The hype in media, the fans… I have more than 3,000 Facebook friends and more than half of it is Indian! They all want to know more about the band- they are great people, shy but open. India is one of our main markets besides Europe- that amazes me.

You are going to be venturing to North America for the first time in your career on a fall tour with Periphery, The Human Abstract, and The Contortionist. What are your expectations for the shows and is it tough to come up with a set list for an area you’ve never played before?

The last question is true- it’s really hard to come up with a set list. We have four albums out and every song is like five minutes or more- so we will only be able to play 5 or 6 songs and then our time is over. We were struggling with this at our last rehearsal- do people know "Polars" at all? Should we play at least one song off that album? We have to focus on the new album- but people won’t know it very well because it will just be released. So we have to decide what we want to do. We thought in India it would be more like it is in Germany, straightforward , old school fashioned metal. But it wasn’t like that, in India they liked the more progressive stuff and the more modern material, I don’t know how it will work in the United States. Our choice will be to have a different set list every evening and take requests- let’s see what it brings.

That is an aspect I miss- bands willing to veer off a set list and take requests. It bring out more of a jam-mentality where fans will go see bands to multiple shows.

I hope so. I am totally open to this.


How important is fan feedback for Textures? I believe you have a great relationship with your fans as you’ve always been forward thinking in regards to the internet, social media, and giving people insight into the activities of the band.

It’s true we have a good relationship with our fans. I think the fans are on the same level as we are personally. We are an image of our fans and the fans are a mirror of us. That’s a really cool aspect. With this album we created the album we wanted, and the fans seem to like what we do most of the time.

Are there many younger bands within the Dutch metal scene that speak of Textures as being one of their major inspirations to fuel their dreams? What type of advice do you offer the next generation of musicians to keep this style alive and kicking?

We are treated as a big band in our country, we don’t have hit singles but we play at big festivals and we play with bands that are in the charts. So here in Holland, my students they know Textures and they know the music we make. I hope that people in the next generation will bring their own sound- we are a part of a new sound with Periphery, there are a lot of people copying the sound and they do it with the same ingredients. If younger bands want to change it up, that’s great- find your own riffs, find your own style.

Who would you say are you major drum influences growing up and current? How much do you practice on a daily basis- and do you feel like you are constantly learning and growing on your percussive abilities?

I don’t know a lot of drummers- I am more into people themselves and musicians especially. Jeff Buckley for instance, the drummer of Tool, the guitarist from Meshuggah, the singer of Mumford and Sons- that’s what I connect to. The drive that they have, the vision- that is interesting. It doesn’t matter how they exploit it- it has to do with the drive. That comes from all Textures members- we aren’t listening to metal all the time, we listen to the full package. We love Peter Gabriel, Allan Holdsworth, Brian Eno- they have nothing to do with metal, but they have a vision and that’s an interesting thing. About practicing – I don’t practice that much physically, but I am always playing drums in my head. I don’t think you have to practice a lot physically- I am a thinker when I play. It’s more important to know it in your head and internalize this stuff, because the arms can not play drums, they can only do what the brain wants it to do- so you have to train your brain and emotion and put it out in the way you want.

Is it tough balancing the business side of being in a band versus the playing, performing and writing you do? What do you think the average metal fan has a tough time understanding about the musician life?

It is hard. With the first album we did everything ourselves, with the bookings, the merchandise, everything- production. We built our own studio, we have three of them now. We chose to have a manager for the business side- especially because there is so much stuff with the do it yourself mentality with Facebook and setting up webpages for merchandise- there are so many things going on. 15 years ago there was a band who created music, they gave the record to the record label and they did everything. Nowadays we have to do a lot of it ourselves because it’s too expensive to ask other people for it. In 2011 it is the do it yourself way, the music and the fans are close to each other. We can see the struggle in our personal lives. Being a musician is like being a musician all day long- the phone never stops, the e-mails never stop, it’s a continuous thing. Sometimes you can feel like you are getting lost in it. You have to find a certain rest- that’s what the fans don’t see. They see the amount of work but they don’t see the cost of time. We are musicians in a very luxurious position, so I really have no complaints.


What worries you about the world we live in today?

Not much. I think the whole human plan, identity is overrated from the beginning. Every plan that man has or everything we do- it’s a bit pretentious. I care about my people, my friends, band mates, family- and I love a lot of people. People are doing what they do – we have the rational side and emotional rudiments of feeling and we can never stop that. Is there a reason to worry about something- of course. But is that really a reason to put the whole world on your shoulders? There is too much stuff going on with the planet- there is so much crap and all the hassle that you see is coming from pretentious beliefs.

Down the road would you love to be able to tour with a package of non-metal, eclectic acts?

That would be cool- but that’s not how the scene works and how the labels work. Even before a gig, we give the sound guy a CD with the music we would like played. Almost everywhere we play they play this heavy, death metal math metal stuff before we play our set- that’s so cliché and a hassle. We want softer music to offer. Labels and promoters want to match up sound wise and image-wise to make it an easier package to market.

What does the future hold for Textures? Do you see yourselves expanding and developing the sound with every subsequent record?

Textures will always be progressive musically- it’s the basis of our existence as a band. The fact that we can put our expression and our emotions into the band. What it will bring career-wise- I don’t know, we’ll have to see how this album does. We are really curious to see how the single "Reaching Home" will be received and what it will do for the band- maybe opening us up to a wider audience. We have to make new decisions, and until now we’ve always decided to have normal jobs beside being in the band. If the band has a peak right now we may have to think this over again. This upcoming year will be important to our entire lives, because this can be a turning point. I don’t know how it will progress but it will progress, we try to be aware of everything. Keep it coming!