Countess (Netherlands) 11/09/2012
Countess is one of those bands which either you’ll love them or hate them. One of the most long-lived bands of the Netherlands, they evolving continuously the twenty years that they are active, but staying loyal to the values of the true Black Metal. Orlok, the mind of Countess, shows, by the interview, that he is as sincere, authentic and traditional as his music.
1. Hello Orlok thanks a lot for the interview. First of all I would like to listen to the story of Countess from 1992 to today. How was your experience into Black Metal all these years? Are you satisfied with what you have achieved so far or there is something you would like to have been done differently?
Orlok: Well, I’d say it’s been a fun ride for the first two decades, haha. In general, I’m quite satisfied with what we have achieved so far. In twenty years, we have released thirteen albums. Some I still like a lot, others less so. Of course there are things we would have done differently but looking back, with the knowledge of today, that’s inevitable. The most obvious thing we would have done differently would be the mix on ‘The Book Of The Heretic’ but there are other things too, of course. We probably shouldn’t have split up the live band at the end of 1997, but these things happen. Like I said, it’s always easy to look back and think what you should have done differently. The biggest change for Countess over the years has been the transformation from being a full band during the band early years to essentially being a one-man project from 1998 onwards, even when several former members still participated in recordings every now and then. Of course, a lot of things have changed over the past twenty years. For underground metal and music in general I guess, the emergence of the internet has probably been the most significant change. Back when we started, bands released demo’s and they became known mostly through tape trading. Nowadays, everything happens online. All that doesn’t change the fact that there are probably just about as many good bands today as there were back then. I also doubt that this whole internet thing has changed the music itself. It has just changed the way the music is being spread. Anyway, it’s hard to keep a distance from the way things have changed over the years and look at those changes objectively, because you have been part of that process yourself.
2. You are not one of the founding members of Countess. Why did you prefer to keep on going under the same banner after the departure of the other members?
Orlok: Well, I really liked the ‘concept’ and style of the band, which is why I joined in the first place. I also thought the name was really cool. When I first heard the ‘Permafrost’ demo I really, really liked it, no matter how bad it was musically. There was just a certain atmosphere about, a certain ‘something’ that I had been aiming at achieving with a lot of my previous bands but never really managed to achieve. Then after we recorded ‘The Gospel’ nothing really happened with the band anymore. There was zero interest from labels to release the album and I got busy with other bands and projects. Until a while later I decided to release the album myself. After that, I thought it would be a good idea to continue with the band. The others didn’t want to participate in that, for various reasons, but they didn’t mind me continuing. In fact, they were satisfied that this way their ‘creation’ carried on, even when they themselves couldn’t or wouldn’t participate.
3. Countess in the first albums give the impression that you don’t have enough knowledge or any big experience in playing especially the guitars and drums. Album after album you’ve been showing so much improvement. At what level were your knowledge back then concerning the instruments mentioned above and did you studied to reach that level?
Orlok: Well, I think that you’re understating the situation. We were really hopeless with our instruments when we started out (some may say we still are). You know, I think this has to do with the times. When I listen to my 70’s records like Heep and Rush, it’s obvious that back then, people first mastered their instruments and then started a band. By the 90’s, in underground metal especially, this was usually done the other way around. Not that I think that’s a bad thing in all instants, mind you. Seasoned musicians could never have recorded anything remotely similar to ‘The Gospel Of The Horned One’. Looking back, I think this lack of musical experience was at least partly instrumental in the whole ‘atmosphere over anything’ thing we were into back then. If you listen to ‘The Gospel’ it’s clear we were all over the place musically, out of time, out of key, and so on. But this all added to the atmosphere we were going for. That being said, from that point on we did try to improve musically. There would have been no point in releasing another album exactly like ‘The Gospel’.
4. Your music in my opinion combines the true raw Black Metal sound of the first days with epic sound met in Bathory, giving a very good result. How do you get inspired to write music? Do you want to describe me the process of composing a new track?
Orlok: I don’t really know ‘how’ I get inspired to write music, the inspiration just comes, or it doesn’t. Every now and then there are a few months when I don’t get any inspiration at all. In those instances, I don’t write anything. Trying to write without inspiration is pointless, I think. Most of the time, though, the inspiration is just there. It’s hard to describe the process of composing a new track, because this process tends to be different for every song. Usually when I have musical ideas I write them down. Sometimes an idea can be a single riff or melody and sometimes it can be a complete song, or anything in between really. Sometimes it’s just a bit of music, other times it’s a bit of lyrics, or both, a chorus for example. When I feel like putting an album together I go through all these notes with ideas that I wrote down since recording the last album and then I see if I can make an album out of these ideas. You know, figure out which ideas fit together to create a song and what songs fit together to create an album.
5. All those years you have dealt with many things in your lyrics. Do you want to tell me what inspired you in each album to write lyrics?
Orlok: Well, that depends. The early lyrics were very much inspired by first-wave BM lyrics, you know, the typical subjects. Later on I began using different subjects too, partly because there’s only so many times you can write what are basically the same lyrics over and over again and partly because there simply were other subjects I wanted to write about as well. However, all lyrics have stayed within the boundaries of what I think are lyrical subjects that fit the music. Basically, that means subject matter dealing with the occult, mythology, history or metal itself. The early albums generally didn’t have any underlying themes, an exception being of course ‘The Book Of The Heretic’ because this was a concept album. Later on, I began using themes on several albums, like ‘Heilig Vuur’ and ‘Burning Scripture’, to make the albums more coherent entities. As for the inspiration for specific lyrics, that can be anything, really. Something I read, or a movie I saw, or random thoughts I was having at a certain point. Sometimes when I have a few riffs I already have an idea of what kind of lyrics should go with these or sometimes I have a few lines of lyrics and a general idea of what kind of music should go with these. Writing the music and lyrics usually happens more or less simultaneously.
6. Since 2000 you have been releasing your albums with Barbarian Wrath. Are you satisfied by them? Now that it is officially closed, have you agreed with another label for your next release? Which one?
Orlok: Well, that has been taken care of more or less, but I can’t go into details about that for the moment. There will probably be an official announcement sometime in the near future.
7. Have you begun composing material for a new release? Could you give me more information about it? When do you plan to release it?
Orlok: We have a new album ready for release. I just finished mixing the album a few weeks ago. The album is called ‘Ancient Lies And Battle Cries’ and it contains nine tracks. More details will be revealed when the release of the album is officially announced, as mentioned in the previous question.
8. How have people and the press reacted to your latest album “On Wings of Defiance”? Are you satisfied?
Orlok: Well, as usual the reactions to the album have been pretty diverse. Some people hate it, other people love it. That goes for reactions from fans as well as for reviews. I’m not too satisfied with the album myself, to be honest. I think it isn’t really up the par with the previous album, ‘Burning Scripture’. There are some good songs on ‘On Wings Of Defiance’ but the production could have been a lot better. As it is, the sound is a bit thin I think and not as powerful as it could and should have been. Nevertheless, it’s an OK album I think. The new one will be a lot better though, but of course that’s what everybody always says about their next album so I guess everybody will just have to judge for themselves.
9. You don’t play live. Not performing in front of a crowed is your personal attitude to Black Metal or you haven’t managed to find live members?
Orlok: Not playing live has nothing to do with a personal attitude or whatever, it’s not a choice. It certainly has nothing to do with some sort of ‘elitism’ as it sometimes seems to be misconstrued. As you may know, we did play live in the band’s early days (1993-1997). After that, however, there never was a full line-up anymore so it wasn’t really possible to play live. We discussed the option of putting together a few shows with session members several times, but that never happened either. Maybe it will in the future, I don’t know. Organizing something like that takes quite a lot of time and trouble.
10. You call your music Orthodox Black Metal. Do you want to tell me what do you mean by that, what it means for you? (I ask you that because many people ask me the same question about the site.) Do you know about the quite new trend-“movement” self-called Orthodox Black Metal? What is your opinion about that?
Orlok: Well, we still mean by ‘Orthodox Black Metal’ what we meant when we first started using the term back in the early ‘90s: black metal loyal in style to the originators. Black metal true to the black metal ‘canon’ so to speak, as established by – first and foremost – Venom, Hellhammer and Bathory. We mean ‘orthodox’ in a literal sense, meaning ‘strict’ and ‘uncompromising’. You know, when we started using the term we mainly did so to set ourselves apart from all the new bands that were everywhere at the time, the so-called ‘second wave’ bands who played music that sounded like grindcore without bass and they called that ‘black metal’. We didn’t think that was black metal. It most definitely wasn’t metal. We were playing black metal the way we felt it should be played, hence the ‘orthodox’. As far as this ‘movement’ you speak of is concerned, I’m not too aware of current trends I have to admit, but I do know that there are now bands who are calling themselves ‘orthodox black metal’ where the ‘orthodox’ applies to the lyrical content and not to the musical style. I don’t have an opinion on that really. I have never heard any of those bands anyway. They can call their music whatever they want, but it does appear they mean something different by ‘orthodox black metal’ than what we originally meant by it.
11. What do you think about the Black Metal scene of the Netherlands? Judging by your big experience, has the underground relations both between bands and fans changed from the 90’ies to today and in what way?
Orlok: I don’t know, to be honest. I haven’t been involved in the Dutch black metal ‘scene’ for years. There wasn’t that much of a scene back in the early ‘90s as far as I remember, but I have no idea what it’s like today. I haven’t heard any Dutch bands for a long time, so I don’t have an opinion about that either.
12. Are there any bands new or old from the underground of Netherlands that you like and you want to suggest me? Are you in contact or share support or cooperate with any other underground musician from the Netherlands?
Orlok: Like I said, I haven’t heard any new Dutch bands in ages. I’m also not in touch with other musicians from the Netherlands.
13. Which bands or music personalities do you think that have influenced your music? What kind of music do you listen to generally?
Orlok: I listen to metal, mostly. A lot of traditional metal but also good extreme metal. In addition, I also listen to Irish music a lot, 70’s rock/metal, Southern rock, classical music, symphonic rock, quite a lot of different stuff really. As for what bands have influenced my music, I guess that’s obvious, at least to some extent. Bathory has been more or less main the influence since the beginning, but we were also heavily influenced by Venom and Hellhammer. In fact, if you listen to ‘The Gospel’ carefully, you’ll hear a lot of Hellhammer underneath the obvious Bathory worship. And even back then, we were already influenced by traditional metal like Manowar and Manilla Road, even when these influences may not be very apparent on the early albums. Of course, you’re influenced as a musician by everything you listen to – even when many of these influences may not be obvious – as well as by everything else you experience in life.
14. What do you do apart from music?
Orlok: I do things apart from music, of course, but I prefer not to talk about that in interviews.
15. Do you want to sum up your near future plans and also if you want, add anything for conclusion?
Orlok: Well, there really aren’t that many plans right now other than the release of the new album but as I mentioned earlier, I can’t say too much about that right now other than that there will be an official announcement sometime in the near future. In the meantime, check out our official pages on the various network sites. On several pages we have otherwise unreleased songs streaming. There are links to all our pages on our blog: http://countessmetal.blogspot.com/. To stay informed of all the latest news you can now also follow us on Twitter. In conclusion, thanks to you for the interview and to everybody reading this: keep the flame of real metal burning! Hail & kill!