Fuelblooded and the importance of recognition

Since 2002 Fuelblooded has been bringing their intense blend of melodic death metal and thrash to the masses. Now out with their second release Off the Face of the Earth, they show no signs of slowing down. I had the opportunity to speak to Michel Steenbekkers (bassguitar) about the band and the new album.

First of all, I want to congratulate you on the release of Off the Face of the Earth. It's a great album and the reviews it's getting are excellent.
Thanks for the compliment, we really appreciate it! Response has been pretty good so far, yes. We're happy people seem to like the album!

I'd like to talk for a moment about how you got started in music. Was there a particular defining moment when you said to yourself, "That's what I want to do... I want to be in a rock band, I want to be a musician"?
Yeah, when I was 18 years old I became friends with a really good guitarplayer. After several first meetings at his place where he
was always busy playing guitar, I asked him if he could theach me how to play. He advised me to play the bassguitar because of the fact that there weren't that many bassplayers around in our town. So that's when I bought a bassguitar and amp and he learned me some basic skills.

You guys are talented rock artists. Has anyone in the band had any special musical training or lessons?
I myself haven't had much lessons, just a few, I learned playing through listening and playing along with songs from bands like Metallica, Slayer, Iron Maiden, etc….
As for the rest of the band, I don't know exactly. Probably they all had some lessons in the past, but probably self taught for a large part. Danny is definitely the most 'schooled' musician in the band.

The band as a whole has great chemistry together. How did you all meet and form the band? How long have you been together?
I have been friends with Michiel Rutten since I was 19 years old and joined the band he played in (Sacramental Sachem) somewhere in 1996 after their former bassplayer had left the band. We met with our drummer Norbert when our former drummer Luciano left the band sometime around the end of 2001. He was playing drums right nextdoor from our rehearsal room and we asked him to join us. And so he did. In 2003 our former guitarplayer Michiel Stekelenburg left us and we started searching for a replacement.
This was an intensive search for the right person and after trying several guys we stumbled upon Danny Tunker, who was recommended by one of the guys we tried. He joined the band at the end of 2005. We had known our singer Peter Brinkman for years from the local scene, and after we parted ways with our former singer Vital Welten, we immediately contacted Peter and asked him he to be our singer. We had some shows planned at that time and he had around three weeks to learn all the vocals before his first time on stage with us. Since then we have been together in this line up. Probably the longest time for us without a line up change, come to think of it.

Many people would love to be in a rock band. What's your favorite part about being in the band? Do you enjoy the recognition, parties, girls... all of the above?
All of the above of course, hahahaha!! The recognition is one of the important parts, it is just a cool experiencee to watch people actually enjoy the music you play. The partying is cool and all, but is not the reason we do this - we can party anytime anywhere without being in a band. The most important thing is playing the music we love so much and having a good time doing it.

What does it feel like to be up on stage when playing live? Do you enjoy that most or would you rather be recording an album, making a video, or something else?
I enjoy all three things, it gives me satisfaction creating and playing the music I love and grew up on; whether that's on stage, in the studio, or recording a video doesn't really matter - it is all cool to do! Personally, I really love to play live. For me it's an escape from the daily slumber I sometimes get in (work, etc.).

So you're a Dutch band. Everyone knows what Amsterdam has to offer... but many don't know what the Netherlands has to offer as far as the metal scene goes. Can you tell us what the metal scene is like over there?
We have a very active metal scene here, many gigs to go to every week, metal bars in almost every big town. All the big bands come here to play. We have a copuple of cool summer festivals too, and Germany and Belgium are really close, so we can easily visit the big festivals over there as well. The scene is pretty small, since Holland is a small country. Most bands and metalheads know eachother. It Is pretty cool since you meet a lot of familiar faces everywhere you go. We got a lot of good bands too, but interest in Dutch bands does not seem to be so big right now. Maybe there are too many bands actually, and not enough crowd for all of them.

You have a great heavy sound and have managed to find your own original sound in the rock scene. Who are your influences?
Thanks, that is cool to hear. We work hard to try to create something special, not something that sounds like something else. Every band has to learn their chops from listening to other bands. I guess old school thrash bands like Megadeth, Testament and Exodus have their influence on Fuelblooded. But death metal, especially the melodic style, also have a part in the Fuelblooded sound. Bands like Carcass, At the Gates, Soilwork and such. Among my personal influences are bands like Death, Iron Maiden, Nevermore, Megadeth and Testament. All of us have a very wide variety of musical taste, from Rush to Bloodbath, from Whitesnake to Nile.
Even non-metalbands are among our favorites.

The band has fused melodic death metal with thrash to create a unique and intense sound. Who is the mastermind behind the songwriting?
That would be Michiel. He brings almost completely worked out songs to us and from there we all work together to make the song into its final version. We might rearrange, if necessary, we add our own parts (bass, drums, vocals) and add the leads if there is room for those. That process goes on until we're all completely satisfied.

What are the influences for the songs? Do you draw on personal experience or is there something more?
As for the lyrics, we use a wide variety of subjects. Some are based on actual things we read or hear about In the news, some are based on personal views, experiences or opinions, and some are completely fictional. The End Starts Here for example, is just a story, a bit like a movie script - not based on any real experience.
As for the music, you actually should ask Michiel. I really do not know what goes on in his mind when he gets ideas for these awesome riffs! But as long as he keeps them coming, I'm happy!

The album "Off The Face Of The Earth" has a good variety of songs, great production, and it thrashes while being melodic. How long did it take to record the album? Were there any challenges to overcome?
We started recording in the beginning of 2008. We recorded the basic guitars ourselves, at home basically. Then we recorded the drums in the studio, recorded the bass at home again, and went to the studio again to record all the vocals. Basically, we worked in the weekends, so we took until the end of April to record everything. Last thing to record were all the leads and extra meodies. After that, we sent all the rough material to Jonas Kjellgren in Sweden and he started working on the mix. We joined him for a couple of days, told him what we wanted and he got the job done nicely. We think the album sounds great, even after almost two years. It’s a good challenge to top this one next time!

The challenge we seek while recording an album, is to raise our level of playing so that we reach a new level on the final album. We push ourselves to the max and it takes dedication, persistence and a lot of sweat to make sure every note that ends up on the album is good and that the whole thing is just as heavy as possible! Not saying we reached perfection, but we’re getting a little closer every time – and the album came out nice and heavy haha. Hopefully, we can get even closer on the next attempt!

The first official video for the song "The End Starts Here" is the opening track on the album. Again, a unique and great idea. Who was responsible for that?
Well, we were thinking about doing something special to maybe try tyo push the album a little more and try to get it noticed by the crowd. We thought the best idea to invest our money in was making a video. The idea came from Michiel. He knew this producer through a friend of his and he wanted to record a video with us. The concept is pretty basic, but the video itself was shot with a great camera and a professional crew. The recording was done by the filmcrew of Max Maloney. He did a great job ! Even though it is a pretty basic 'live' video, it looks really great and we're really happy about it. It is also watched pretty well on the internet, much more than any other of our videos and clips. We worked on some ideas for the video collectively, which was a nice process. In the end we had limited time so a lot of ideas we couldn´t even try. We´ll save those up for next time.

What was it like making the video? Anything in particular that stands out in your mind? "Off The Face Of The Earth" is very heavy, very fast, very melodic, and very professionally done. What are your thoughts about the album?
This was the first time Fuelblooded recorded a professional video, so the experience was new to us. I enjoyed it a lot! "Let's do another one" I thought after we finished recording. It was a great day of filming, playing the song like 5 million times, and have a great group of friends and fans who joined us in the recording. They had to be very patient and they all put their maximum effort into this. The video turned out so well due to their participation. Good to know we have a couple of friends in the scene haha.

I am very satisfied with the whole album. It just thrashes the hell out of me! I have to say I really love the song "Demonized". It comes on strong, heavy, and fast. I love the vocals, the melody and harmony blends nicely, and the lyrics are great. What are a couple of your favorite songs off the album?
The title track is among my favorites, I also have a slight preference for "Demonized" for the same reasons as you just mentioned. But I get bursting energy from all songs on the album, each one has its own charm to it. We write every song with the intention of recording it for the album. So we really work hard to avoid recording any "filler" material. That way, you don´t stop working on a song until It Is absolutely perfect In our opinion. It takes a while, but It Is great In the end. The cool thing Is that you see the effect. Everyone has their own favorite song(s), in every review you read something else about whichh songs are best on the album. "The End Starts Here" and "When Passion Dies" are songs that seem to do very well overall, but all songs are mentioned now and then.

What does Fuelblooded have planned for the future? Is there a tour in the works?
We want to promote this album live on stage as much as possible. Also, we want to focus on the countries around us first. Not saying we don´t want to play in Holland, of course we will do that too. But if we get a good oppourtunity to go on tour or do a couple of gigs outside of Holland, we will jump at it! Every offer we get we will take into consideration. So if there are any promotors who'd like to book us for a show, please contact us through our MySpace site (www.myspace.com/fuelblooded) or via bookings@fuelblooded.com. Also, we´re looking for a booking agency to take care of (most of) our bookings. We just don´t have the time to do that ourselves in a good way. Also, at this moment we are busy writing new songs for the next album.

In closing, I'd like to say thanks for taking the time to interview... it's been a pleasure. I wish you much success in the future.
You're very welcome, the pleasure was all mine! Thanks a lot!

Photo credits: Pepalaje Photography (www.pepalaje.nl)
Interviewer: SweetSinz
Mar 7, 2010

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