Liberation Through Progression: A conversation with Levy Seynaeve of Wiegedood
The Belgian underground scene has always glistened bright with a panoply of great artists and bands over the years and a name that has been propelling a lot of new and exciting names in that very scene are none other than Amenra themselves. In 2005, the band led by Colin H. van Eeckhout founded the Church of Ra, a collective of likeminded individuals that share artistic philosophies, aesthetic visions and a DIY work ethic, whose membership includes groups such as Oathbreaker, Hessian, Treha Sektori and Wiegedood, the latter being our focal point today. Formed in 2014 by members of the aforementioned Oathbreaker and Hessian, as well as the now defunct Rise and Fall, Wiegedood have taken the world by storm ever since the release of their De doden hebben het goed trilogy. Opting to explore the vast world of black metal, the trio of vocalist/guitarist Levy Seynaeve, guitarist Gilles Demolder and drummer Wim Coppers pushed the traditional boundaries of the genre, freeing themselves of unnecesary anachronisms and delving deep into concepts of fatalism, nihilism and death – what results is a monolithic sound that is incredibly atmospheric, tremendously polished and absolutely crushing.
Earlier this year, Wiegedood released their fourth record, There’s Always Blood at the End of the Road, and they are currently promoting that very record on an European tour that will cross Portugal at the end of this week. In lue of their impending return to Portugal, we spoke with Levy Seynaeve about the creation of Wiegedood and the development of their initial trilogy of records, as well as the creative and recording process behind There’s Always Blood at the End of the Road, and how the morale of the band has been since the return of live shows..
What was your first contact with music and what was about it that made you decide to invest in a career in it?
Well, for that, I guess we have to go back to when I was about thirteen or fourteen years old. I was always a bit of an outsider at school because everybody was into techno and stuff like that; that was kind of the hype going on in high school when I was growing up, but I didn’t really connect with that. [laughs] I was starting to listen to the classic hard rock stuff like AC/DC and then getting into Iron Maiden and stuff like that, until a guy arrived at my school, who introduced me to punk hardcore. He took me to a couple of shows, and he introduced me to that whole scene. And that’s kind of where everything started, where I really felt at home for the first time, you know? Where I thought I was amongst people like me who had the same interests. And not long after that, I was already playing a bit of guitar, trying to mimic AC/DC and stuff like that. But getting introduced to the hardcore, I realized I didn’t have to be a crazy solo guitar player or very schooled to make music; with a certain attitude you could go places as well, if you invest a lot of time and you try hard. If you just go for it, you might get somewhere with it. And that’s how it started growing, you know? My first band was a really shitty hardcore band, where I didn’t even play guitar, I was just the singer. But then I started playing in a local band called Black Haven and then I started my own band, Hessian. That was the first band where I did some actual touring with and we played outside of Belgium a couple of times; you know, getting introduced to the concept of touring. Yeah, that’s how the ball started rolling a bit.
Tell me a bit about the creation of Wiegedood – how did you guys meet, where did the decision to form a band come from and how was it recording your first record, De Doden Hebben Het Goed, being that you were still somewhat inexperienced in the genre?
That’s true because all three of us come from a punk hardcore background, so, black metal was definitely something new for us. I’ve known Gilles [Demolder] from the days with Hessian. We did a lot of shows together with Oathbreaker, his band back then, which I joined later on as a bass player and I replaced the guitarist a couple of times on some tours. So yeah, I’ve known Giles since I was sixteen or seventeen, I think. And doing Hessian and Oathbreaker, we played a couple of shows with Rise and Fall, whom Wim [Coppers] was the drummer for, so that’s kind of where we got to know him. Progressively, our interest in music, I mean, we were all into punk hardcore but, you know, you start to look into some other genres and you try to expand your musical knowledge a bit. And I guess, at the same time, me and Gilles were getting into some black metal stuff and we kind of wanted to do something like that. And that was around the time we met Wim, and we were like, “hey, maybe we should ask that guy to do drums, he is pretty good”. [laughs] And he was instantly down to do it.
Our first rehearsal was just me and Gilles exchanging some riffs and basic ideas, and from then on, we started rehearsing with Wim. And I think it all went pretty fast to write the first album because we were thinking about it for a longer period already before actually doing it. So, we already had a lot of material, I think in maybe ten rehearsals we had the first record, or at least the first part of the trilogy ready, and we went in the studio and recorded it. So, everything went pretty smoothly in the beginning, but it always has been. It took off pretty naturally, we all have a good connection musically. And besides music as well, we are really good friends. Yeah, everything just kind of fell into place really easily.
“We already had a lot of material, I think in maybe ten rehearsals we had the first record, or at least the first part of the trilogy ready, and we went in the studio and recorded it. So, everything went pretty smoothly in the beginning, but it always has been.”
Back then, was there a main conceptual idea behind that record that eventually turned it into a trilogy or was it just a natural progression of events that led to that?
The moment we started rehearsing, we brainstormed a bit about what the concept of the band should be or what we could do with it to make it something special or make it something that represented ourselves. And the fact we were a three-piece, we kind of wanted to do a trilogy. And then the idea started flowing, of doing the cover art in each of our hometowns with our sigil planted in the ground. Around that time, sadly, one of Wim’s best friends passed away; he got in a traffic accident, and Wim wanted to dedicate these albums to him and that’s how the De Doden kind of became the concept for the trilogy. Something for us to deal with the loss and also, just making something that other people who were dealing with similar stuff could relate to, you know?
Do you feel like having a main concept throughout those three records restricted the band in a creative sense?
At the time, no because it was easy for us that we had this kind of blueprint already. We were going to do the exact same record three times, you know, not in the sense that we were going to copy the music, but just the concept of having four songs and having one title-track. So, you know what you’re working on very specifically and you know what the end result should be. At the time, it was fun working like that and everything was very direct, but when we finished the trilogy, it was also kind of liberating all of a sudden to not have that. I think three records was the perfect amount to work according to that blueprint that we created, but after the third one, we were like, “this is finished now, and we kind of have a fresh start now, we are not limited to having the four songs”. You know, you put limitations on yourself in some way that you want to make a full record, but it only has four songs, so you have to make sure that songs are long enough and stuff like that. You have to keep that into account and you have to make sure to work around that. While now, with the new record, we kind of had a fresh start, you know, we could do whatever we wanted. Like a blank piece of paper, you can just start writing whatever you want on it, instead of an Excel sheet you have to fill in. [laughs]
Going into There’s Always Blood at the End of the Road, how was the creative and writing process like for this new record in comparison with the trilogy? What were some ideas and themes you guys wanted to explore this time around that you hadn’t been able to in previous records?
The process itself was a lot longer and more in-depth. With the trilogy, we always worked pretty fast and I think part of that is because I used to write big chunks of music. Like, I wouldn’t come to a rehearsal or we wouldn’t start rehearsing if we had one riff; we would start rehearsing if I had like five or six riffs, or a song. And then, we would start building the structure and everything, but you already have a big chunk of music ready, so it doesn’t take a lot of time to rearrange everything; it all becomes pretty obvious pretty fast of how we were supposed to create everything and finish it. So, that always went pretty fast. I think in the trilogy, we never spent more than fifteen rehearsals on a record before we went in the studio. While with this new one, and also because the pandemic hit and we were all in lockdown, we had an infinite amount of time at that point. So, we were like, yeah, let’s use this time to maybe go into detail a bit more, and really try to take it to the next level and not rush it; not that we rushed it, but just really take our time, and sometimes write a song and leave it there for a month, a month and a half, and then look at it again, and maybe we can do it better, maybe we can’t. There was no time pressure; we were going to work on this until we are very much happy with the result. And we can clearly say that we all have the same feeling that, okay, this is finished, we can’t do anything better than what we have right now. And having more time, it also gave us some space to experiment more with other aspects of music that we hadn’t explored before, like the samples that are on the record, the vocal parts are a bit more in-depth as well, you know? So, all of that, made for a different record, I think, and also, the fact that if I had one riff, I would take it to rehearsal and we would work on it together from there. You know, it would be a slower process, but it would be more of a group effort than before.
Recording duties were once again handled by Christophe Dexters. How is it working with Dexters and what do you feel he brings to the table in terms of recording and production?
The basic atmosphere of working with him is really nice and relaxing, and I think that’s very important. I mean, he doesn’t have the craziest studio in the world with the craziest audio gear ever made per se, but it’s basically like we are hanging out with one of our best friends and we were recording our new album in the meantime. There’s no time pressure as well; it’s not like we booked his studio for a set amount of time and we had to finish everything by then, you know? He’s a really good friend, so it was like, if you’re short just a couple of days for vocals, we can schedule it in there or then. And just that aspect of it, it almost didn’t feel like being in the studio, it felt like being at a friend’s house and recording an album at the same time.
You are currently touring Europe in support of There’s Always Blood at the End of the Road and next week, you will be returning to Portugal for two shows. How has the morale of the band been with the return of live shows and touring? What are you most excited about performing again in Portugal?
The morale is really good since the fact that we are actually able to play again and able to play the new record because we recorded it a long time ago and we postponed the release a bit to have it somewhere closer to a period where we would actually be able to play the songs live and go on the road. For us, that’s the center of being in a band and that’s why we do it; to play live shows and to be on the road. That’s just a really liberating thing to be able to do that again coming out of a period where it sometimes seemed like it was never going to happen again and that the world had changed forever. So, it’s nice to feel that there is normality possible in life. And yeah, we’ve always liked playing in Portugal; I think we played Amplifest one time, which was way in the beginning of the band, which was nice. And then we played Porto as well when we toured with Yob, which was a great experience. And yeah, André, who sets up the shows for us there, he has been kind to us since day one, with all our bands. Like, he had been the one taking Oathbreaker there as well. Yeah, he is the man! [laughs] And it’s just very exciting to be back there.
“For us, that’s the center of being in a band and that’s why we do it; to play live shows and to be on the road. That’s just a really liberating thing to be able to do that again coming out of a period where it sometimes seemed like it was never going to happen again and that the world had changed forever.”
Interview by Filipe Silva
Photo courtesy of Wiegedood