Schavot - Interview
Dutch one-man project Schavot is in my opinion one of the biggest surprises in the black metal scene in the last few years. Though mastermind Floris is engaged in some other projects, too (e.g. Asgrauw or Sagenland), this release came straight out of nothing and hit like a bomb (at least in my living room). "Galgenbrok" (read review here) combines all the great features that the Scandinavian black metal scene used to play in the golden 90s when Norway and Sweden were the epitome of that style. I asked Floris some questions about his band and influences and out came a very interesting and detailed interview.
Hi Floris, how are you doing?
It's going great! Musically, there are some hectic months behind us. All the energy that has been put into different projects is now finally starting to pay off with an amazing response! Schavot gets ridiculously good reviews! That really surprised me, and I didn't expect it, because a lot of my music doesn't get so much attention. I'm enjoying it to the fullest.
You are going to release a new album with a new band Schavot in the beginning of October. Why did you think it was a good reason to start a new band and not to release the music under the banner of Sagenland or Asgrauw?
Every band or project in which I am involved has a different style and fulfills a different need. Sagenland is pure Ulver-worship ("Bergtatt" and "Kveldssanger" era) while Asgrauw goes more towards Emperor with a bit of punk attitude. That's why some make the comparison with Darkthrone. Meslamtaea, on the other hand, is experimental, jazzy and psychedelic through the use of unusual instruments such as saxophone, trumpet, vocoder and tongue drum. Schavot may be leaning towards Asgrauw in terms of sound. But I didn't want to release it under the Asgrauw banner, for the simple reason that Schavot is a solo thing, while Asgrauw is written and recorded by the whole band. I felt the need to work solo again, just like I used to with Meslamtaea in the early days. I find one-man black metal an interesting phenomenon: one person who is in charge of all aspects of the music. Including lyrics, production and artwork. Every now and then there are some one-man gems to be discovered, like Helleruin, Afvallige or Teitan.
Stylistically you dive deep into the spirit of the Scandinavian black metal scene of the mid-90s. What was the reason for that?
In the mid-nineties I discovered black metal. I was specifically interested in a certain atmospheric style that only a small number of bands - that I knew about - performed at the time. Mostly Scandinavian bands, especially from Norway. It was probably Ulver's "Bergtatt" that really got me hooked on black metal. We didn't have internet at the time, so it was not easy to discover such bands via samplers, trading, the local CD shop or concerts. It was a special era and so I like to think back to it and not without melancholy. We now are a quarter of a century further. The world has totally changed. Just like my metal haircut, that turned into something short, gray and a bit bald, haha! But the music of that time still has a special place. So, I like to listen and play such music out of pure nostalgia. Moreover, it is the appropriate form of music for expression.
For me, it is a wonderful experience to be reminded of these days. Is it the intention that you had with it - to give the listener some nostalgic feelings?
Absolutely! In terms of black metal, I kind of stuck in that 90's era. Most post-millennium black metal interests me less than the old stuff. However? I really love the current experimental wave of black metal! Anyway... The albums from the 90's era had something special that's hard to reproduce. Many contemporary bands try to play the style, but it doesn't feel the same. Because I have listened to the 2nd wave classics for so long, Schavot captures the original sound quite a bit, I guess. If not? I don't care. I just make the music that I like myself. I'm a self-taught musician and music became a big part of my life. That music is positively received by listeners is of course a bonus. But a listener's opinion is never a consideration when writing music.
What do the lyrics deal with? It is quite hard to understand because they are on Dutch and there is no booklet in it.
As the cover art already reveals, the lyrics are about Dutch folk tales. These are stories that were passed on from word of mouth and from generation to generation. The stories tell a lot about the people of the past. There's often a moral in it. The stories also respond to fear and are often about the supernatural. I find this topic very interesting.
Why did you decide to go without a booklet? I always like to read the lyrics and some more information about the release…
Less is more. Graphically, I like a minimalist layout with good photography and art. I prefer to use paper space for pictures rather than text. I actually have never published my lyrics and prefer to leave the interpretation to the imagination of the listener.
What would you say were the major influences on this album?
As mentioned, back in the days I was looking for bands with a specific mystical and atmospheric sound. Music with a visual impact, so to say. I want a movie to play before my eyes when I hear music. Some music takes you to a dark forest or an ice cold white snowy mountain. Other bands leave me with a dark emotion, an unbearable heavy stone on the stomach. To name a few bands that inspired Schavot: Ulver, Emperor, Dodheimsgard, early Dimmu Borgir, Enslaved, Satyricon, Helheim, Dark Funeral, Setherial, Mactatus, Ancient... These are not very obscure bands, but simply the classics which have a cult status for a reason!
In 'Witte Juffer' there is a huge part in the track that reminds me of Zyklon B - the controversial all-star band (because of its name) from Norway which only released the "Blood Must Be Shed" EP. I am sure that I know these keyboards from one of the tracks, am I right?
You heard that right! The initial riff for 'Witte Juffer' didn't only sound like the Zyklon-B riff, it had become the exactly the same! Such things happen unconsciously. After listening back, the song I got this Deja-vu feeling: "where did I hear this bloody riff before?" I have read through the entire music collection to find out why, what and who. Then I ended up with "Blood Must Be Shed", which is a fantastic EP by the way. Because I have no intention of committing plagiarism, the riff was changed, turned upside down. But the intended atmosphere of the riff and the recognizable keyboard sound have remained. Are you familiar with Niden Div. 187 by the way?
The album cover was created by Johan Prenger - a cool Dutch painter who worked a lot in the music industry but, when I got it right, wanted to resume from that scene to focus more onto conventional painting. How did you have him to create the cover for you?
I come from pre-Internet era, when vinyl records or CDs were bought based only on cool cover art. With art by Necrolord, an album can hardly be shit, right? I also liked the art by Kris Verwimp. which has a slightly rougher hand-painted style. Johan Prenger's work reminds me most of Verwimp's. While Schavot began to take on more and more serious forms, I decided that the artwork could not be some random Google image. For all my bands we have commissioned artwork and Schavot should be no exception. Johan Prenger's art started to attract me more and more and so it happened that I contacted him for commissioned work. I think an artist should have artistic freedom and personal input in their art. So, I only gave Johan some themes and said he could do whatever he wanted. He chose the 'Witte Juffer', that one of the tracks is about. It's a folk tale about a female tree spirit that one could hear spinning on the spinning wheel at night. You can say that I was totally over the moon with the end result. It has that 90's vibe all over!
Do you have further plans with Schavot or will there only be one album?
I'm far from done! As long as there is inspiration, music will be made. Making Galgenbrok was a cool experience. The process happened naturally. I had to pull less on it than with some other projects. And that felt good. The debut will certainly not be the last record. However, the limited time has to be divided between different bands and projects. The coming cold winter months will produce new material from one or another project for sure. I'm excited about everything I do and I'm not going to prioritize. I don't plan anything, and we'll see how things go.
Besides, do you know the German black metal band "Schafott"? Do you have any doubts that there will be some problems concerning the name?
I'm not familiar with the German band and I'll check them out. But there will undoubtedly be about a hundred bands called 'Scaffold', whether or not translated into the bands mother-tongue. It's just an obvious name for a traditional black metal band, right? With the band name I will not win an originality prize... But there is no language in which 'Schavot' sounds as nasty as in my 'Twents’ dialect! The consonants 'S', 'G' and 'T' are really spit out when we say it and that's why I choose this name. When we talk, you have to put a mop on the floor, haha! That is why the Dutch language is also extremely suitable for black metal. It sounds dirty and aggressive.
What about some concerts if the situation will allow this?
Schavot remains a solo project and that makes it impossible to perform live. It takes too much time and energy to form a full live band. My priority and passion is also more in the studio. With Asgrauw, however, we are ready to be on stage. We haven't played for far too long so I'm afraid stages are really going to be demolished by us this winter. If you value your roof? Don't book us!
You've released albums with all of your other bands this or last year - do you have any news about them, too?
Absolutely! As mentioned, music wise, the lockdown was almost a blessing! Time has been used effectively to make new music. Halfway through the recording of our new Meslamtaea album, the band was expanded with a third member - Izzy from Belgium - who plays Flugelhorn. So, the new record sounds more experimental than ever before, with many prog and fusion jazz influences. It is also the darkest and heaviest album so far in terms of atmosphere. I can't wait until this album is out! We hope to have it released around February next year. The moment I do this interview, the finishing touches are being put on a new Asgrauw album. There's a lot of intensity and frustration expressed on this album. It's our best so far! There will also be a new project with a virtuoso guitarist named Gerhans. I can't tell you much about that at the moment, except that it's going to be atmospheric black-ish metal with a very creative, experimental twist. I'm really looking forward to this too!
Which five albums were the last you purchased and why?
1. Teitan - "Vákuum"! Teitan is one of the best Dutch experimental projects at the moment, it's so good that it's hard to believe it's a solo project. Teitan is on Void Wanderer Records, which also releases Schavot. Everyone should give this EP a chance. This EP is a nice bridge to the next album that I've bought, because Teitan is extremely inspired by that!
2. Dodheimsgard - "A Umbra Omega". The crème de la crème of the experimental Avant Garde black metal. To my great shame, I didn't have the album on the shelves yet.
3. Dodheimsgard - "Kronet Til Konge". A timeless classic that inspired me for my bass sound in Sagenland. This album also lacked in my collection, and it was purchased together with "A Umbra Omega".
4. Iron Maiden - "No Prayer For The Dying". This album got me hooked on metal. According to the purists, it's their worst album, but to me it's a special and dark masterpiece. Pure nostalgia! I used to have a cassette of it that I've lost sight of. To complement the collection, this classic was recently purchased.
5. Sammath - "Across The Rhine Is Only Death". When it comes to extreme black metal, this is the ultimate Dutch band. It sounds like a sonic assault, and it will leave you half-dead. Tracks of Conqueror and Revenge are lullabies compared to this, haha! Proost Jan!
Finally, the last words are up to you!
Thanks for your time and the interview, it's really appreciated! Shoutout to the labels Void Wanderer Productions, War Productions and Rabauw for making this album possible and huge thanks to Wouter of Dead Mill Media. Support the scene!
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