Jeremie Bezier (bass & vocals), Olve Lomer-Wilbers (guitars & synths) & Peter Verwimp (guitars & drones) – Sunday 18 June 2017
« I don’t like riffs! » – Olve Lomer-Wilbers
How the hell are you guys doing?
Jeremie: I feel pretty good now that the gig is past!
This was your biggest crowd ever right? How did that feel?
Jeremie: It was special because it was in the light and without the projections. We like to play in the darkness usually. So we just took it easily and tried to just feel connected with the horizon and the wind.
Peter: The turnout was awesome. We didn’t expect so many people to be there. It wasn’t totally packed but it was decent!
How does this compare to like Roadburn?
Olve: We feel more connected to Roadburn. That was the perfect festival for us. It’s a different approach to music, it’s more from an alternative viewpoint. The variety is different. Here it’s focused on metal but Roadburn is something special. I have been going for many years. Playing in Het Patronaat was the best for me personally.
What do you think attracts people to Emptiness?
Jeremie: The fact that it’s different and hard to catch. You’re trying to have an answer but it evades you. It’s a way of considering what is life. It’s about trying to find the truth but the more you know the more you’re lost. Everything is moving because what is really going on? It’s not a straight line where you see the end. I think it’s a modest thing to do, to be part of the process.
Your type of music has gotten a lot more popular in the last five years, why do you think that is?
Peter: Once a genre is established like black metal or death metal it gets boring because there’s a thousand bands trying to do that thing. There’s a core though. We start from the core and take it to different levels.
Jeremie: People like honesty. They don’t want you to be pretending things, you’re not like the others. There’s some good things about that. It’s against conformity. This music is supposed to be totally anti conformist but so many people try too hard to be dark! I don’t remember the question now!
Peter: I was thinking that too! (laughter)
There’s a lot to unpack there – your music is dark, where does that come from?
Jeremie: Living in Belgium! (laughter)
I like Belgium!
Olve: It looks nice, like Hobbitland, even in cities we like, like Brussels which is important to the history of the band. But it’s hard to tell, there’s something under the surface. It’s pessimistic thinking. It’s the idea of man not bearing so important in this world. It’s about making people feel small. It’s a way of making people feel this and sense how menacing the world is through music. If you don’t understand you’re not a part of it. That doesn’t mean that it’s the truth but we like to see it this way.
Jeremie: It’s just what comes naturally. It’s personal things for each band member. It’s outside influences that come into it.
Olve: It’s like movies. It’s always good when it’s scary. Yeah it’s not that but it joins what Jeremie said before, it’s about trying to figure out the truth. It’s never finished. This is what we are trying to communicate.
How do you bring that into the songwriting process?
Olve: A lot of experimentation. It’s hard to understand what we are trying to do. For a long time we couldn’t really explain the concept. There was a lot of experimentation. We try and envision the whole story and what is going in the song before we write a single riff. We get the idea then we fill it in. It’s a cerebral thing.
Jeremie: Everything we do comes from concepts and ideas.
Peter: Jeremie has a lot of ideas about stories and philosophies and we have to fit music to that. I’m still learning because I only joined two years ago. One kind of riff makes sense for Emptiness but another kind is just for something else. They have this frustration. There is something catchy in the music but they cut it right before it becomes too catchy. You want it to build into an idea but we don’t give that to you. It always turns into something else.
Olve: We never want it to be easy. It’s a very painful process.
Peter: In a way it is.
Peter was talking about what defines a good Emptiness riff, what defines that for you?
Olve: I don’t like riffs! (laughter) I like when everything comes together. I like it when everyone plays their own small part and it turns into something much greater.
Jeremie: There was some riffing on previous albums but the direction we are going in now is a bit different. We are playing things in different time signatures and it’s the whole thing that makes the mood.
Olve: It’s almost like each musician is in his own dimension and we try to bring the dimensions together within the context of the song. We are crafting a whole but in a very unexpected way.
How do you orchestrate that?
Olve: It’s hard to say. It takes a long time. It takes a lot of rehearsal. When we compose and imagine what the song will be like we compose rhythmically. We understand if the drums will be straight then someone will play one typing riff and someone else will do a different type of riff. It’s sort of like composing techno when you are layering on different rhythms. There’s only four of us so sometimes a part drops out but that’s good.
Jeremie: Sometimes there’s a lot of tension between the different parts but other times it comes together into something that is almost catchy, but never long enough where it could become something people could sing along to. There seems to be this tendency to cut things off and to play with this frustration. We want to exclude the listener in a way. We aren’t doing it for the listener. We are trying to make them feel frustrated.
Olve: We are doing this for ourselves but if people can catch the vibe then that’s cool. Even on stage we do our own thing but if people want to be a part of it then that’s great.
Jeremie: Different bands have different approaches to music but we each have our own specialty. It means that there are so many influences that can be in Emptiness. It gets together.
Peter: We take our time when we are starting to compose in order to collect and sort the maximum number of influences. Then when the album is out we sort of forget about it and go back to our lives so that we can mentally prepare for a new one.
What do you love so much about music?
Jeremie: You get nostalgic feelings you can’t really explain. I don’t know if there is a word for that.
Olve: It’s kind of magical. It’s something that just talks to you.
Peter: It’s a weird interaction between the songs and yourself. You need to see how it interacts with you personally.
Olve: I like when it’s magic and I don’t know why. Sometimes when there are things I really wouldn’t normally like it can still speak to me. I can cry when I listen to music. I love that.
Jeremie: It’s like architecture. You can build a song structure but also build up feelings and emotions.
Peter: It’s the result that is important.
Olve: No matter what you do there are stories too.
Peter: It’s a never ending universe. If you take one song and mix it five different ways each is its own universe. Everything works.
Olve: You just have to do it. You do the thing and having the guts of what it is is worth something. It has inherent value.
Peter: If a genre wants to evolve you have to just do it. Otherwise there would never be jazz or punk or whatever. The way you fit things together has to be new and that is exciting!
Interview: Matt Bacon.