In 2021, Dutch black metal act DOODSWENS released their first full-length album, “Lichtvrees,” and had their first European tour. Afterwards, they had a line-up change and decided to take the music in a different direction. It was time to catch up with the band’s founder and drummer, Inge van der Zon, guitarist Stephan De Grauwe, and new bassist and singer Daan Swinnen to see how 2022 had been for them and what we can expect from them in 2023. Read the complete interview here…
Hi there, officially. I’m very happy to have you here on this beautiful touring bus. As you mentioned before, your tour is going to be only 2 weeks with GORGOROTH. So how do you feel about this tour? Even though it’s short?
Inge: We’re content, we feel really satisfied and prepared. I’m looking for the word in English (in Dutch “confidence”) – confident, we’re very confident about this tour, that it will go well, we are well prepared, and we feel like this lineup, both personally and musically, is the best we’ve ever had. We’ll see how that goes.
Is it your first time being one of the headliners?
Inge: The previous tour with MARDUK we also did. I guess it looks a little bit like co-headlining on a bill, but I don’t know if we can get away with saying that. Just like we do the changeover with GORGOROTH.
Nice, so for everyone who hasn’t heard your music, how would you describe it?
Inge: Well, first of all, there’s a big difference between the released music and the live music. Because live, there have been a lot of changes in development and the recordings, it’s still only from the first chapter of the band, which was just me and another girl. So it was like a very primitive raw sound with just the drums and the guitar. And now actually it’s evolving into something more and new, like it’s getting more depth both musically and in the layers, but also in the meanings behind it. New members – new energies.
Stef: I have a completely different style of writing music than the previous guitar player. So it will always be like a new version of DOODSWENS. It will never be the older, it’s a new chapter for those who read the same flame, but it will be slightly different.
Then I want to ask this question: Is Fraukje somehow involved with the band at this moment?
Inge: Well, at the moment, not at all anymore, actually.
Stef: It was just an “in-between” phase. She wasn’t sure yet. So the very first time, I filled in as a session musician with the first MARDUK tour because it was really short notice. But then, in the end, Fraukje made a decision, a personal decision, not to continue with this anymore. And I think Inge and I work pretty well together. So we decided that I would become a permanent member of DOODSWENS.
Inge: She does a lot of photography right now. She did a lot of band pictures like promo shoots and also some live shows. But right now, we haven’t worked together for quite a while. She’s still one of my best friends, so in that way, she will always be involved in some way because she’s in my life. And I think in the future she will always be around at some point, maybe not permanently and every gig, but Fraukje always stays the main photographer.
Stef: Music-wise, she’s not involved in the band, more… supportive of what we do, because in the end, it’s still something that she created, so it’s still a part of her. But as far as music is concerned, or lyrically, it’s something she doesn’t get anything to say. She’s a close friend. If we have new songs, we always send them to her together.
I see, so kind of like ARCH ENEMY and Angela Gossow, where she’s now the manager. I would like to ask you what happened, but if it’s too personal, we can skip it.
Inge: She was also struggling with personal issues and…I’m trying to say it in a very unbiased way without details, but whatever, because of her struggles, I made the decision to play live, being a musician. The direction that I wanted for this band to go: with touring and being on the road, seeing things, doing adventures and random gigs, whatever, also being in special places, and keep on writing albums, I knew that this is the best for my/your life, you know. When it became really clear like this is our path, we go into shows, Fraukje jumped off the train back then, before it was too late. She is more comfortable in her steady life, with a steady job, with a house, and not being on stage mostly, because that’s where a lot of her fears and personal problems came from.
It’s relatable if you’re into creating music, but you don’t want to live the tour life with its rhythm.
Inge: Exactly the rhythm. She chooses a different rhythm in life.
Stef: Also, music-wise Inge is into more of the old school black metal, while Fraukje was into more dreamy, atmospheric kind of music, and I think that also was, well not the issue, but you could feel different types of vision that they had concerning the band. And I think on that point, we quite worked well together because I’m a bit older. I’ve been in bands since I guess 1992. But Inge‘s actually like, we call her an old soul because she gets the vibe of the old way, like, it doesn’t mean necessarily that we have to make old-school black metal, but there’s always going to be an influence into music because that’s my style of writing music as well. And I think that’s more through the path that she wanted to go with. With those songs anyway.
Inge: It all comes naturally. It has never been like, we’re going to make a band and this is what we want it to sound like no, it started to make music and this is what came out. And so it’s never been that way. And for me, it’s like something that’s in your blood, you know, it’s a way of life and a commitment and something that won’t ever go away. It’s just the natural sound and vision that comes out.
Speaking of vision, what is your biggest influence as a musician?
Inge: For me, actually, it’s not necessarily like these big artists that you see on a big stage and then you become a fan. It’s mostly the smaller people that happen to come on your path and they inspire you. At the beginning of discovering black metal and death metal, for me, drumming-wise Dominator from the ex-DARK FUNERAL was the moment where it was like “okay, that’s what I want to do on drums.” You know, I was always still struggling a little bit on drums and trying to find my tempo, like the inner sound and feel. And then, when I saw Dominator and went into the extreme metal drummers and all the blast-beats and shit, I was like, “oh, yeah, I was born for this.” This feels good, you know, and then I just followed it. But as I said, I won’t necessarily have a list of big names and big rock stars or whatever. Like big names that inspire me, it’s mostly the people I meet along the way, it could be from a driver that you have an inspiring conversation with or a light tech that brings something inspirational. For example, when we toured with MARDUK, I had no opinion about them; I was into their music, but I wasn’t, how do you say… starstruck? But then after those tours, actually meeting the people, from there came inspiration, you know?
It’s a real thing especially, for me, it sometimes happens when I meet with people, I meet their art.
Stef: I’m gonna sound old now, but I grew up with records of my dad’s. And it was mostly THE BEATLES and PINK FLOYD and then I discovered the DEEP PURPLE. Then I made a huge leap from that. I wanted to make it so I started to play guitar and then I heard SLAYER and then I started playing drums. They always say never meet your heroes, because, in the end, if you have a picture of somebody and then when you meet them and they’re assholes, it’s disappointing. Musicians can always learn from someone whether it’s a big name or a small man. I can easily enjoy like, local bands. Yeah, and then I had a severe car crash. And I couldn’t play drums anymore because my wrists were broken. So I cannot do the movement anymore for fast drumming. And then luckily, I still could play guitars. So I switched to guitar. That seems to work fine. But I don’t have the hero or the one band that’s the main influence because I listened to so many things, going from old-school rock ‘n’ roll to the most extreme metal. I take things from different types of music that I can incorporate into my music. That’s for me the most important – that you’re open to new things as well.
That’s cool! When I was a teenager, I could say I listened to DARKTHRONE and maybe some Japanese pop music and get a judging stare of disapproval.
Stef: One of my first bands was hardcore. I grew up in Brussels and there is a really big hardcore scene. I’m good friends with bands like LENGTH OF TIME [and] DEVIATE. I grew up actually in the peak of ’90s hardcore and one of my first bands was a local small hardcore band. So I didn’t go straight away to that black metal, but it always became – from THE BEATLES onwards – stronger and more aggressive and faster. So I think it’s a natural way for most people – they start with something and then because of that, they discover something new. And who knows where it will end. I don’t know.
Maybe listening to Sailor Moon music?
Stef :[laughs] I liked manga and anime, but that’s a bridge too far. I’m more of a Fist of the North Star kind of person. I really love that. That’s more hardcore. That Sailor Moon is too nice and colorful.
Daniel: Just big on musicianship. For me, it has been and always will be BLACK SABBATH. Now as a bass player – Geezer Butler. He’s an absolute god. So many bass players came after him and nobody’s ever beaten him in anything. What influenced me, it’s like the ’90s scene, there’s something atmospheric about the scene and everything that was around it, and the people and the stories behind them. That’s what’s interesting, not just copying a path or something, but it’s, I think, the main thing.
Can you describe your music-making process?
Inge: It usually either starts with a riff, a rhythm, or a line. Nowadays, for our current writing process and I guess for the new album, a lot of it starts with riffs.
Stef: And now even just before we left for tour, Dan came with ideas and contributed, but basically that you know, it always starts with either one of those three and then from there. Sometimes it’s like some kind of telepathy, because I send her a riff and then she says, like, “I just made up some text.”
Inge: Yeah, I just came from the forest with lyrics notes, here in my head. And that’s the same way it always went with Fraukje, you know, our focus… 90% of it started with me having some lyrics and the way I heard it in my head and then it came forward.
Stef: For me, it’s also important that things come organically, not by force. Not like each goes to a rehearsal room and is like “okay, now we’re gonna write a song.” That doesn’t work for me. I mean, sometimes, I live close to a forest, I go for a long walk, and then I get some ideas, write them down, and send it to Inge. Then she sends me a drum pattern that she likes and has some kind of melody in her head. We never force each other to make new songs, like “now we have to do a new song,” because for me personally, it has to come naturally.
Inge: And also has to be about something, like it has to be worth sharing. Stop making just to make music to make a new album. Just as long as you still have something to say and something to share, or even in terms of words with feeling or whatever music brings to us and then to the people if it’s worth sharing and feel that people take something from it. So we keep on sharing it.
Are you guys working on something right now?
Inge: We’re both working on something. Oh yeah. We’re currently writing new songs that just came up tonight live. Today, I uploaded on Instagram a sneak preview of the pre-production of one of the new songs, but the next step is a new album, even though I’m saying that we’re not forcing it. But if we end up with something that’s like a book with chapters, then we feel ready to release it into the world.
Stef: We don’t have a specific deadline. So we have to force ourselves to finish, let’s say five or ten songs within a certain period. So we just take our time and we let the music drop. I mean, for example, as a musician, I have no problem dropping a riff. For example, I come up with a riff and then I leave it there, and then a few days later, I listen to it again, as if it’s not that good. So I don’t have that ego to just know it’s my finest, I want to keep it. If she says, “I don’t like it,” or you just feel it doesn’t work, then I would just drop it. And I think that’s a good thing in writing music, being able to also say no, this is not working.
Daniel: Because right now, in this lineup, there’s a ton of chemistry in the band. Like the last month and a half, there was so much inspiration and so much stuff going on. We all agreed constantly and that’s like… the feeling is so good right now. We’re making a new album. It’s everything, coming together with all the ideas, all the energies, it’s just… this feels powerful. And I think we can make something out of it.
Inge: Powerful, I like that, I like to ensure the money has always been a bleak and miserable journey but now it’s also getting into a really powerful age. So that’s cool.
Stef: Also lyrics, so we’ll be different. I mean, I grew up with old school MAYHEM, MARDUK you know, all the old bands [from when] I was a teenager. So, of course, I will be inspired by those bands, even if you don’t want to. I mean, you listen to them. I think that’s the main difference. There’s a whole new approach to writing music. There’s a whole new style, but it will still be DOODSWENS. But yeah, it’s gonna sound more aggressive, I think, because my way of writing riffs is more like the, you know, the heavy mid-tempos in three-quarters or the really fast blasts, whereas Fraukje is more like of the floaty, atmospheric kind of vibe. That doesn’t mean we cannot make more songs like that. But for me, it’s more the other than making music. And if it works, it works. If not, then we’re done.
Nice, I can’t wait to hear the new stuff! The next question I think is more for Inge: did you have any struggles on your path to becoming a black metal musician?
Inge: Honestly, not really, because like I said, it just feels like breathing for me. You know, this feels like everything falls into place. When in the moment that’s clicked, like, this feels right and everything makes sense. Black metal, in a way, sounds very natural. It’s what I’m supposed to do and I’m doing it. Portraying the younger version of myself, that’s what I always think of, like, the 12-14-year-old girl, coming across something like this, seeing something, hearing something, and everything changes, it clicks. And then, when I started doing it myself, that was the idea in the back of my head, “Now I can give back what I once got from it to other people in this way.” And I’m seeing that happens sometimes with this example – the stepdaughter of Steph, the way she gets inspired by this, now that’s the evidence.
Stef: Inge is her big hero. She got dressed as Inge for her school concert.
Inge: She wore the pentagram on her forehead to school, you know, and also because she feels that it means so much to me, and then what does it exactly mean? First of all, she’s still young to go into full depth about all these things, but mainly I tell her it means what you feel like. It feels very powerful because apparently, she associates it with me. At some point, you will find your meaning in this and that’s what it means. You know, it’s something you feel good about and powerful. And then this is a 9-year-old girl example.
The reason I asked is that there’s not much representation of women in black metal. To give you an example, there is MYRKUR, who initially sang pop music. Her music sounds beautiful and she did an amazing job mixing folk with BM; for me it was something new and unique, but yet again, she did struggle with some negativity and criticism. Have you ever faced this kind of problem in the scene?
Inge: She’s a perfect example, I never publicly profiled myself as something else. These are two things that I’m very aware of and how I don’t experience backlash. Also because I don’t focus on it. So maybe it happens but I just don’t see and care about it. Which makes it a lot easier. But also I’ve never publicly appeared or profiled myself. I never made any comments about being a woman in black metal and even so, more like whenever there is a gig and they say like “oh we do female black metal blah blah” I asked them to take it out because I don’t want people to think about it or even be hesitant in their heads when it shouldn’t be what you think about when you’re listening to music.
Stef: At the beginning of DOODSWENS, that’s something I noticed, because I wasn’t in the band. So I went to gigs and I heard these things. Sometimes you get these comments like they only get it in the end. It’s not a gimmick because they stand for what they do. So I think it’s very short-sighted to just say something like that. I mean, if you can do it better go onstage and prove it, but that doesn’t happen.
Inge: Also, people like to profile things like that and it’s very easy to say “oh those girls, the girl band” or whatever.
Stef: I mean if you look at ASAGRAUM, they get a lot of shit, but they’re a hard-working band. We know Hanna personally pretty well. She’s, I wouldn’t say like a close friend but we are [friends] and also she’s a good musician. But you hear sometimes also, like, it’s just successful because it’s five girls. It’s always been a male-dominated scene, I mean, you cannot deny that.
Inge: To be honest, I feel quite comfortable in this man-world. It’s the way it is. The difference is we don’t profile ourselves as a female black metal band, but the others that do and then they fucking own it, so that’s cool. And with us, especially in the beginning, we fought hard to never ever get any label, which now results in not getting much backlash from it. And if you went after a show and people went to you like “wait you’re a girl? I didn’t even see, I didn’t know,” it’s a really big compliment for me because that wasn’t on your mind when you were watching and listening to the show.
Stef: The most important thing is to make music a priority, not if you’re a male or female. It’s about the message and the music. We want to create something for people. I mean, you don’t have to like us, whatever we do, it’s in the first place for ourselves. And if you want to go on at the same rites, you’re welcome to join in. If not, it’s your choice. We’re not going to sleep any less because that’s something I learned. I’ve been doing this for over 25 years now. In the beginning, it’s like yeah, we have all these bands do this and they’re successful, but you learn pretty fast that it doesn’t work that way. You have to play for yourself. I mean, for me personally, I’m good friends with Alan from PRIMORDIAL, I used to live in Ireland and he said once that music comes from the heart, no matter what genre you play, and that’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever heard somebody say. And it’s true what he says, you have to feel the flame burning and put it into your art. Otherwise, you’re just mainstream and doing something to sell. And for me, that’s not the right motivation to play music. Whether we played here for three-four hundred people or tomorrow we play in a small venue for ten or fifteen people, I will always have the same flame because this is something I want to do no matter who’s standing in front of me.
Inge: Yeah, like even everything that happens on the stage from the altar to the paint, if there are zero people at a gig, everything’s still the same because that’s there for me and us first of all.
Stef: In some kind way for me, it’s also a ritual and you can see a completely different person when I’m on stage and just sitting here. For me, writing riffs and music is a translation of how I feel at that moment and that’s always my point of view. Like for example, I have a small room in my house where I have my recording gear, and the view is a forest and fields and sometimes when I get up in the morning, there’s a lot of mist, that’s for me the most ideal setting to make music. You open the window you smell the fog, and then it just comes naturally. I think I can speak for the rest of us as well. It’s something spiritual, with a lot of yourselves into music and I think that’s necessary if you want to be credible and believe your own thing.
This will be a fun question: what is your ultimate festival lineup?
Stef: It’s the hardest one for me. [laughs] It would be the original PINK FLOYD lineup, but that’s not metal. So does it has to be metal?
It can be everything.
Stef: Personally, the original lineup of SLAYER or the dearly departed Jeff.
Inge: Oh, METALLICA. Yes, only “Kill Em All,” at that age in that era, we need a time machine. [laughs]
Stef: If I could bring somebody back from the dead it would be Peter Steele. TYPE O NEGATIVE is one of my all-time favorites. I mean, it’s maybe not the most aggressive music but the way he put feelings into the music sounds so dark, even with a happy melody. For me, that’s genius.
Inge: In terms of like, I’m thinking about earlier, like the people that also inspired me… apart from music, but also because I met them personally and whatever. I’m going through the list of German and Belgian names and black metal bands, WIEGEDOOD from Belgium, DER WEG EINER FREIHEIT from Germany, and… what was the other one I was thinking of? …URFAUST.
Daniel: Everybody will hate me for my lists, but I’ll just do it. I’ll start easy with SEVEN and SLAYER. Those two artists, then, here we go: DUA LIPA. I’ll just say it, she has to be there. I love it. METALLICA, of course, DEEP PURPLE, PANTERA so they can just go oh, that’s crazy and those will be the main event. Oh, and I just forgot the name… FAITH NO MORE as well.
Inge: I got more: WOLVES IN THE THRONE ROOM, A CLOUD FOREST, DIRECT INTO SUNLIGHT, and BATHORY.
Stef: ALICE IN CHAINS with their original singer. I just wanted to say, I grew up in the ’90s. So for me, it’s a mixture of early ’90s black metal and then all the grunge. I’m turning 44 and I know that Inge wasn’t even born, so, I mean, for example, early SLAYER, in the ’90s. What year were you born? In ’96, I was already going to festivals. And actually, to be honest, I also grew up with a lot of new-wave, like NEW ORDER, SISTER OF MERCY, BAUHAUS, oh, actually, my list would be more in that kind of area because that’s music from my childhood and it is maybe a bit floppy, but it’s dark music. I like as well LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT.
Daniel: I would like to add RAINBOW, Ronnie James [Dio] is the best.
You have a very cheerful lineup!
Stef: Also Early Lemmy, I liked HAWKWIND. Perfect. But yeah, I mean, as a kid I listened obviously to QUEEN as well, because it’s music my parents grew up with, so it’s actually a wide range wide array of musical history that I got from my parents. So it goes back from the ’60s to now. Even bands like ATOMIC ROOSTER, there are not a lot of people that know them, but it was actually heavy for that time. I think it was from ’96. Sorry, ’69 I made a mistake. In ’69 I wasn’t born either, but it was pretty heavy for that time. It was one of the most played records of my dad.
Inge: I want to relive MAYHEM‘s “Live in Leipzig” and they don’t have to be at the festival. I just want to have the time machine and go to Leipzig in ’89 for that.
Well, these were all my questions. Thank you!