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Grendel - Interview

  by Peter Allison

published: 13 / 1 / 2010

Grendel - Interview


One of the leading acts in the EBM genre, Grendel has been playing to expanding popularity both at home in the Netherlands and also across Europe. Peter Allison speaks to founding member[VLRK]about his group's industrial dance sound and his approach both to music and the music industry

If you ask someone who Grendel is, the majority will answer it is the name of the monster from the Beowulf saga, but some will also add that Grendel is also one of the finest EBM (Electronic Body Music, otherwise known as Industrial Dance) bands in existence today. Suffice to say, Grendel holds an interesting position within the music industry. The Netherlands based Grendel is highly regarded within the EBM and Industrial scenes, as the one of the premier forms of Aggrotech in existence today. Although Grendel’s gigs fill nightclubs throughout Europe, despite this popularity and success Grendel is rarely played outside of these circles. Change is in the air however, as Grendel band t-shirts and clothing are becoming increasingly worn across the country, mirroring the band's expanding popularity. Grendel's music is noted as being an intense and powerful experience, with heavy use of voice distortion. He regularly samples music from a plethora of different movies, as well as using imagery from movies as themes and subjects for his music. Grendel is perhaps most widely known for his cover of Zombie Nation's “Kernkraft 400”. Unlike many bands that explode onto the scene before fading into obscurity, Grendel has gradually built a legion of loyal fans over the past decade, which is still growing to this day. Much of this is from Grendel constantly pushing musical boundaries and expanding upon each previous album. Grendel‘s latest EP, 'Chemicals + Circuitry', is well noted for being quite different from the début release. Despite playing live as a band, I was surprised to learn that Grendel should in fact be considered as one person. I) was able to meet [VLRK], the frontman and founder of Grendel, shortly before he went on stage in Sheffield's Corporation nightclub. During the interview, I was surprised to find that despite the intensity of his music, [VLRK] was a thoughtful individual with a philosophical approach to his music, and to the music industry overall. PB: I first saw you in 2006 when you played Sheffield's Corporation, so how does it feel to be here again? [VLRK]: It's fantastic. We have a full house, and they've moved us in to the big room, so we've a really good crowd tonight. Keep in mind what it was like last time, so we're expecting a really good show, especially considering we have such a large fan base in Sheffield. When we were shopping earlier, we walked into a game shop and the girl behind the counter understood we were in a band. So she asked where we were playing tonight, to which I answered we were playing The Corporation. When I answered her question about which band we were in, she turned to me saying, “What, you're Grendel?? Me and my friends are huge fans of yours, and we have all of your albums and your hoodies!” They've even got them working in the shops here! Pictures were taken and guest list noted. It is always great to have experiences like these! PB: When you last played Sheffield, didn't you manage to sell-out the venue? [VLRK]: Yes, you're right. They even opened up the room into the rest of the venue, but of course you cannot see the stage from there. PB: When did Grendel first form? [VLRK]: Grendel is officially a solo project. At least that is how it started out in 1997, when I was working with trackers and mod-trackers, before quickly moving on to Cubase & now Logic. From there I just thought about what I wanted to do and just did it, and that is why I think Grendel has been a success. By not fucking around, and just doing it. PB: What first inspired you to sit down and create music? [VLRK]: In the early days? Pent up frustration ... I was quite young, only seventeen or eighteen when I wrote the first album/demo in 1999. There was a lot of built up frustration, which is normal at that age. People often say that Grendel is now totally different to what it was back then, but that only makes sense considering I am quite a different person these days. My music tastes have changed over the years and that inevitably influences the music I write. You can keep on doing the same thing again and again, but if you are not feeling that connection what you're making, and just playing safe, then people will notice this. I am doing what I want to do, and that is what I have always done - following my heart. PB: Did you ever anticipate the success Grendel would have? [VLRK]: It has always been my goal to reach the next level, constantly raising the bar for myself. However, in the early days, I don't think I ever quite anticipated this level of success. Like just recently we played on stage to a crowd of more than four thousand people at Mera Luna, who were going absolutely nuts, front to back. If I could see where I am now back then, I'd be absolutely stunned. PB: On the subject of touring different countries, do you find some countries have different reactions than others? [VLRK]: Absolutely, and it can even be different within a country. In one country they will go absolutely apeshit and others they will be more observant. But it's pretty much always been good for us, as long as there's some kind of energy going on between the audience and us on stage. PB: Where does the inspiration for your music come from? [VLRK]: When you are young, you are angry at the injustice of the world you live in. Everything pisses you off and you want to rebel against it. I feel that 'Harsh Generation' was a step away from all that, celebrating through music the technology and cyberpunk culture, taking influences and making references to related movies and literature. Most notable are William Gibson's writings, such as 'Burning Chrome' and 'Neuromancer'. They have been a huge influence for the 'Harsh Generation' album and those who've read them will understand what I'm getting at with the 'Chemicals + Circuitry' EP: exploring the link between cyberpunk culture and psycho-active chemicals. A lot of people claim I am simply referring to this subject matter for the hell of it, yet they are common themes in cyberpunk literature and culture itself. It's a shame people don't notice this connection. My music is also going in a more personal direction as well, focusing more on personal experiences rather than fiction. PB: You mentioned 'Neuromancer'. Have you read much William Gibson? [VLRK]: Up till now I've read his major titles, such as 'Burning Chrome', 'Neuromancer' and 'Count Zero'. They've pretty much formed the backbone for what Grendel is today, thematically. PB: You mentioned sampling movies. Is 'New Flesh' a reference to David Cronenberg’s film 'Videodrome'? [VLRK]: Absolutely, and I even sampled from the movie itself. Thematically 'New Flesh' is about contemporary 'cyberspace', and that “raging kernel” of people voicing their opinion on the internet. A whole parallel reality is building on the internet. When people come home, they don't go out to see friends as much as they might have done. These days they sit behind a computer and chat or communicate through forums. Web 2.0 could be considered the “new flesh”. The internet has become so available that anybody can access this technology now. Hence "low-life, high-tech" . An example of this could be the gang-related activity on YouTube. I was interested to learn rival gangs were threatening each other via Youtube. In a sense it is like a virtual form of gang graffiti, threatening to take a person out. Even in the poorest parts of our community and internet use, in general, is changing the whole world around us. I find this very intriguing. PB: 'Soil Bleed' was a fantastic EP, which had Zombie Nation (v2.k5), but where did the inspiration to cover Kernkraft 400 come from? [VLRK]: We started playing it during live shows, and we noticed the crowd were going nuts. So at that point we realised that we had to release it. I won't go into the reasons behind why we had to liquidate the original version of the release, containing that track, but all I will say is that it was not our fault. The track is still circulating on the internet though, so people can still download it through the familiar networks. PB: You are one of the forerunners of the Agrotech scene, but what bands do you listen to? [VLRK]: In general I don't really listen much to that kind of music anymore, but I do respect and appreciate what quite a few bands are doing, such as Fractured, Dym, GenCab, Aesthetic Perfection, Nachtmahr and Kommor Kommando, to mention a few. But I do also feel there's a lot of stagnation going on in this genre, due to people not being as open towards new ideas and wanting everything to be 'extreme'. You can only go so far before extremes become dead ends, so it's vital to take a step back and let the music breath a bit. As for music I do listen to a lot, for the most part I'm really into techno, tech/electro-house, minimal, progressive trance, dubstep and indie styles. But I do also spin the EBM/Industrial music that's influenced or impressed me over the years. Those never get old for me. PB: Can you tell me a bit more about the writing process? [VLRK]: It differs a lot. It can start with a groove, a rhythm, a lead line, or a pad line. It can be anything. Something will spark off, and I will work around it, so this whole track will evolve, and I might later change the melody line. That is the nice thing about electronic music, is that you can start from any point and add/deduct from there. So it is hard to really say “this is how I create music”. I find these days, when it comes to how I work in the studio, I usually stay up for a day or two and lose myself in the music. Like I'm thinking “It’s 2.00 AM, maybe I should get some sleep..”, “Whoops it’s 4.00AM..”, “Now it’s 8.00AM.. 10.00 AM..”, and just go on like that. It's great, even though it's a wrecker haha! One of the things I had to pick up again, following the release of 'Harsh Generation' and due to a lot of touring, was tapping back into that mindset. So I started listening to a lot of different styles of music, really broadening my horizons. This can clearly be heard on 'Chemicals + Circuitry', taking rather bold steps on that one, taking some new elements to quite a length. I find these days, after the EP, that I am fully back into the groove, and merging the familiar harsher elements with the new. Basically balancing it out again, which I also did after the 'End of Ages' EP in 2003/2004. In a nutshell, It'll be the true follow up to 'Harsh Generation'. PB: This leads me nicely into my next question, which is what does the future hold? It sounds like a new album is coming out, but do you have any other projects coming up? [VLRK]: Right now I am mainly focused on completing the new album and planning a full tour for mainland Europe later in the year. Apart from that, there is new merchandise on its way, both street and cyber style; because we know we have fans across the spectrum, we want to give them something they can wear to a club, but also wear to work. Keep it stylish. Oh yeah, and finish this UK tour, alive haha! PBM: How is the tour going so far? [VLRK]: Very, very good. We’ve played Glasgow, Birmingham, Sunderland, and now Sheffield. It's been absolutely fantastic, with great and enthusiastic crowds. Glasgow was also quite special, considering I was born there. And now we're looking forward to the show tonight, which will undoubtedly be wicked. PBM: Grendel, thank you. The photographs that accompany this article were taken by Jacquie James.

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live reviews

Corporation, Sheffield, 12/12/2009
At a show at the Sheffield Corporation, Peter Allison sees Netherlands-based musician Grendel, one of the leading exponents of the Electronic Body Music genre, put on an electrifying performance of hard-edged industrial/dance rock

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