Interview with Floris Velthuis of Asgrauw, Meslamtaea, Sageland, Schavot, Stuporous & The Color of Rain.
1. Hey Floris, thank you for letting us ask you some questions. We know you have limited time due to the many projects you are working on. You are sometimes jokingly called ‘the hardest working Dutchman in metal’. Where does this work ethic come from?
Haha, I doubt whether I am the hardest working man: there are many musicians with much more output. But there have been quite a few releases in recent years. Quality is much more important than quantity though. There is an intense fire burning for making music. I dedicate myself 100% to it, can’t do things halfway. I also have other hobbies, a family, a job and a freelance business. All this makes me a busy and a bit chaotic person that is always working on ten things at the same time.
This musical passion has always been there. But current technology helps to work on music – and different projects at the same time – efficiently. In my attic I have a studio with a drum kit and other instruments, which are always ‘ready-to-go’. Whether I’m in the shower or in the car, I’m always ‘working’ on music: brainstorming ideas, rating my latest mixes etc. This is somewhat dependent on the season. The musical fire burns brightest in winter.
2. How do you approach the writing process? We know that you are a real 90s black metal fan, but the music you make often sounds less “old school” or one-way in terms of genre than that crop of music. Do you have an explanation for this?
Although I listen some contemporary extreme metal, I am still kind of stuck in the 90’s. That’s the music I play most of the time. So, contrary to your question, I actually think that my approach to writing music is very old school, because I don’t know another way. That’s almost my only musical reference to be inspired by.
But I listen to a lot of music outside of metal too, such as post-rock and a lot of fusion stuff. These influences will undoubtedly be heard in my music. Especially with Meslamtaea I refuse to limit myself by any musical boxes. For Schavot I stick more to the classic black metal style.
As answered in the previous question, I am always busy with music. I am inspired by anything and everything. Even the ticking of a traffic light can spark a fresh idea. I mumble all brainfarts on a memo recorder. At home it turns out that many ideas were actually not that good. But what does pass the quality control I record on a click-track in Cubase. This expands into complete songs over time through a process of writing, erasing and rewriting. Adding layers of instruments, keys, drums and vocals. Like dominoes, the music often writes itself, one riff leading to another. I have a lot more trouble writing lyrics. I have to push myself hard for that.
3. You work with many different musicians. How do you choose who you want to start a project with? Do you have any collaborations on your wish list?
Well, this is something from recent years. After being in a number of unproductive bands, I started making music on my own. But the right people have crossed my path in the past 10 years. Most of them since the pandemic. It has to click on a personal level. But also I like to work with people that are extremely focused and dedicated. Someone like Ward (Asgrauw, Void Wanderer) is the same like me in this perspective. We both are switched in a higher gear and somewhat impatience.
Following a musical path together from the first note to a physical record in your hands. That’s what it’s about. The Color Of Rain is an excellent example of this. Since this project, we have jumped forward with seven-league boots in terms of knowledge. Both musical skills and production-wise. Other bands benefit from that and together we get better and better together. That’s wat our Zwotte Kring circle is all about. I actually feel complete with all the musical friends around me. I have no other wishes. This sounds almost sentimental, but that’s how I feel sincerely.
4. The Color of Rain, Meslamtaea, Asgrauw, Stuporous, Schavot, Annwfyn. All projects with your name underneath and all incomparable to each other. You have shown that you can work with many styles. Are there any untrodden paths in the woods full of metal genres that you would like to explore someday?
I’m genre-fluid in terms of musical taste. The interest in metal comes in waves and it was gone for a while to be honest. That’s when I started recording Annwfyn. At that time I was mainly listening to God is an Astronaut and bands like Clannad. Within metal I can do anything I want with the projects that we have. Outside of that, I love fusion and I look at the drummers in that genre with great admiration. One day I would like to do something like that, but I don’t have the talent, haha!
5. Besides metal, one of your great passions is photography and in particular photography of Bonsai, plants that you also cut and shape yourself. Are there similarities in design and aesthetics between your music and your photography? Can you compare the approach for both?
That is a good question. Just like in music, I am self-taught as a photographer and have developed my own style. But because I do editorial work for motorcycle magazines I don’t have all the creative freedom. This is different with my bonsai art, in which I am also self-taught. Let me explain first: this is something else that the trees in a pot you find at Ikea. It is an art form with artists who studied for years and have dedicated their lives to it. I have trees that are really old and it is an honour, but also a responsibility, to take care of them and pass it through to the next generation. It is an art form with a history and tradition. Within this art movement there is a large orthodox following with strict rules. And there are a number of artists who follow their own path. This conflicts and it is a scene that is not as peaceful as it seems from the outside. You can guess which movement I follow. For me it is a form of expression, not bound by rules. It’s a synergy between a tree and an artist. From the roots to the apex, such a tree tells a story, with us as artists as storyteller.
This is exactly the same for me as writing music. Expression, without limitation by rules. Though, where music can cause me stress, bonsai can clear my head. I am very impatient as a person. But bonsai teaches me patience. I don’t think in days, but in steps of ten… twenty years.
6. The lyrics and artwork of bands like Stuporous, The Color of Rain and especially Meslamtaea are very dark and paint a tragic and negative picture of the state of humanity. How do you view the current state of our society and the world?
When I watch the news, I always realize that this world is a dead & rotten place and it feels like we’ve already passed the point of no return.
7. How do you view the state of the current Dutch and international black metal scene?
It is impossible to keep up with the enormous amount of releases these days. I notice that many bands struggle to be heard. Also the very good ones. Sometimes you hear a top release from a band that no one knows because they are not media experts. Of course it shouldn’t be that way. Quality should be heard.
The Dutch and Flemish scene is the closest to me to me and I therefore find it the most interesting to follow. Bands like Salacious Gods and Sammath have been around for ages and still make the best records ever. Many younger bands also know what they are doing. Hellevaerder makes exactly the music like in the 90’s. Others, like Teitan, Cthuluminati and Grey Aura, have a very fresh contemporary style that I can also appreciate.
The scene is more vivid than how I remember it from before. In the 90’s it was a lot about image and edginess and there was competition between bands. Some veterans long back to those days, but I think the scene is better now. A lot of bands help each other. Many people are active being reviewers for magazines, run a vlog channel or a radio show. It’s cool to see how it all comes together. Metalheads these days no longer have blinders on and are curious about everything that is released, within different genres. That is awesome.
8.Where does the fascination for old sagas and legends come from that we clearly hear in your work in Asgrauw, Schavot and Sagenland?
The ‘Twente’ region where I grew up was full of mysticism. Every December the midwinter horn sounded all over the village and in the mornings the Witte Wieven (ghost ladies) danced across the land close to where we lived. I was often outside and became fascinated by nature and especially old trees who have lived on the earth for hundreds of years and have seen a whole history. But unfortunately it all feels like something from the past. Mysticism seems to be something that no longer has a place in today’s plastic digital age. Schavot has a nostalgic meaning for me: both musically and lyrically.
9 .An open goal shot, but is there already new work in the pipeline?
Y.E.S.! The best is yet to come and we have made so much progress production-wise that we are super stoked to let you hear all our new music. At the time of this interview we are finishing the mix of a new Asgrauw album that is planned for late 2024. This is being mastered by Devi (from Teitan) with new mastering techniques, that he has already practiced on the The Color Of Rain / Meslamtaea split for 2024. This is the best work yet from both bands! Stuporous has released their debut album in January and in the meantime new material for Schavot is also being recorded. I’ll rest when I’m dead.