Low frequencies from Holland with Toner Low
Toner Low in my opinion are the leading Stoner Doom outfit from Holland, their hypnotizing low-frequency riffing is hard to beat. Their albums are landmark recordings in heavy psychedelic soundscapes and the band has played live shows in Holland, Germany, Belgium, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, France, Sweden, Denmark, the United Kingdom and they have played the Roadburn Festival. Here is a interview I did with Daan (guitar/vox).
Hello, thanks for this interview. How's life been for you guys lately?
Quiet, since we decided to do no gigs or rehearsals from November 2009 until March 2010. We did about 35 gigs since November 2008, when our second cd/lp got released, and toured and played in Holland, Germany, Austria, Croatia, France, Belgium, Sweden, Denmark and Norway. By November one of our bandmembers needed some time off and we all thought it was a good idea, also to give our (or at least my) tinnitus-ridden ears some much deserved rest.
One thing I haven't read much about is what you all did before Toner Low. Can you tell the readers about your musical upbringing?
The three members which TL consists of today all grew up (musically) in the (mid-)eighties metal scene. I played in my first metal-band in 1984, the others started playing in bands in 1986/1987. We were in local thrash metal-bands until late 1992, and after that got involved in other music styles, such as grind, punk and alternative rockbands that people outside our region never heard about (maybe except for grindband Sexorcist). Concerning my musical upbringing, my parents’ 45 RPM-7-inch collection consisted of Fats Domino and Jim Reeves. I got into alternative music in 1977, when David Bowie was in the charts with Heroes, Iggy Pop with Lust For Life and The Stranglers with No More Heroes. My older brother attended highschool, got in touch with certain highschool kids and then he introduced me to this new craze called ‘hard rock-music’. So when I was eleven years old I already liked Ted Nugent, Thin Lizzy, Scorpions, Rainbow, Rush, Journey and such. A few years later I was very much into Accept, Exciter and Raven, and so it went on to Slayer, Mercyful Fate and Manowar in 1984, and later Hallows Eve, Savage Grace, Leatherwolf, Agent Steel, Exodus, Possessed, Dark Angel, Kreator, Trouble, Holy Terror et cetera. After that I got into bands like Macabre, Sadus, Rigor Mortis, Autopsy, Cathedral and Entombed. When death metal became too popular and thrash metal became clean and boring, I got to know a lot of older music that I had missed on, such as The Velvet Underground, Pink Floyd, Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Stooges, The Byrds and eighties punk like MDC, Dead Kennedys, Bad Religion and Minor Threat, and I also started listening to Monster Magnet and Kyuss. In the mid-nineties I discovered some metal again with Darkthrone, Dissection, Mayhem, Impaled Nazarene, Ulver’s third cd and so on, and I have been a mixture of styles ever since. At the moment I mostly listen to Lynyrd Skynyrd. Of course there’s also a lot of other old and new music I discovered later but I won’t all mention those bands here, ‘cause this answer is way too long already. People of today don’t have no time for that anymore, haha, time.
What was the early days like for the band? Did you already have a musical vision for Toner Low?
We started TL in March 1998 when we had a break with one of our earlier bands and we just wanted to play stonerrock with a heavy and massive sound. Therefore our first line-up had three guitars in it, and a bass of course. Kyuss, Monster Magnet, Fu Manchu and Sleep were all of inspiration to us back then, and so we didn’t really had a particular style as we have developed into. The only thing that is still the same today, is that we wanted to have the heaviest sound we could and can create. In 2001 came the turning-point musically when we deliberately started a stoner-ish rock-band with for the most part TL-members, because we had too many riffs that were too much stonerrock and we wanted to get rid of that for TL. So we started this band, called The Mad Löggers, to give ourselves a few months to sort of detox, to get the stonerrock out of our body-system so to speak. We wrote six of those songs in the Summer of 2001, released a split-lp in 2002 and did 30 gigs until we quit late 2006. Consequently, in 2002 the music of TL took a more doomy path.
How do the Toner Low albums compare in your eyes and ears? The last album seemed more drone influenced to me.
Yes, that’s true, the second album is more drone-ish than the first. It’s also much slower, maybe that’s why it sounds dronier, haha. Quite soon after we released the first album, in 2006 we gradually started to play those songs slower and slower during our gigs. I don’t listen much to our cd’s, but the first is a bit too fast in my opinion -- and in the rest of the band’s too for that matter. Maybe we had that in the back of our minds when we created the second album-songs.
Toner Low has done some killer shows over the years, Is there a particular show that sticks in your memory?
Well, many gigs stick in my memory, all for their own reason, but mostly for the soundcheck, the dinner, the people we meet and/or the party afterwards. It doesn’t really matter to me where we play. Some stages are big, most are medium, some are small, but it all looks the same to me once the gig has started. We have our visuals beamed right at us, so I only see colours and hear loud music, haha. But I’d like to mention Stoned From The Underground 2008, for the very warm welcome we’d got from the audience and from the organisation, after arriving three hours too late at the festival ‘cause of serious car-trouble.
How does the band set out to write songs, is there a certain formula you work on to write songs?
Mostly we have some riffs that we recorded at home. At rehearsals we then work on those riffs. Some sound good together, others we just take a part of and of course we create new riffs to complete a song. During the following weeks or months we rehearse and record the composition that came out on a tape, and listen to it and reconsider parts and so on. All this time the song is still without samples and vocals. For our second cd one song has even been changed after we recorded it in the studio, albeit slightly. We are hard to satisfy but easy to please, haha.
Has your local scene been kind to the band?
Yeah, we did quite some local gigs in the first six years, but in those years that didn’t result in a wide local following as sometimes happens with bands. Since 2005 we only do one or two a year, ‘cause there’s not that many clubs that can have us decibel-wise and we don’t wanna play too much local gigs. The last years we have most contacts with bands, clubs and bookers in other parts of the Netherlands and outside of the country. The doom and stoner-scene has been very kind to us so far, that’s for sure. Thanks, brothers and sisters!
The doom scene has become really diverse over the years so what do you call doom?
I would say I call early Trouble, early Cathedral and Winter (the band I mean) doom, but also Candlemass, Count Raven, My Dying Bride on the one hand, and Electric Wizard and Sleep on the other. As you state it has become a very diverse concept, and I think people of different generations will have different ideas of what is doom music. Of course it should be heavy and slow music in the first place. But also within doom there’s a lot of subgenres, as you know, and slow ain’t the same slow to everyone.
Is there other styles of music that influence the way you construct your music?
Hmm, probably, ‘cause we listen to all sorts of music. I can’t say this or that style is something we incorporate into our music, other then some drone-parts that we use in some of our songs. When we make a song we just listen to what’s in our heads and reproduce that. Our drummer Jack did all the samples for the second album and has been around when mixing took place, and with that in the end he is the one who completes the compositions. He just does what’s good for the song, and gets his influences from a broad spectrum of music and his unbelievable creative brains. We owe much of our sound and songs to him.
As we move into the next decade, where do you see doom metal heading?
The music will slow even more down and eventually come to a hold, haha. Well, I don’t know, you can never know what people may come up with, but it probably will get heavier and more apocalyptic instead of more mainstream as happened to many other styles at some point. I don’t see anyone getting into the charts or anything. Would be cool if some doom-band would succeed in holding on to the doomriff and creating a hitsingle for the people at the same time though. Maybe in the so called Doomsday Year of 2012 the misinformed masses will be ready for it, haha.
As we all know, being in a band is expensive but is there any chance of Toner Low touring the USA anytime soon?
For various reasons it’s not very appealing to go on a tour in any country where you have to take a plane to and are not in control of the situation. Especiallly our drummer has got no good relationship with planes, every plane he took crashed so far, haha. No that’s not true, I think he just doesn’t like airplanes. But also, if I’m right, it would cost us at least 400 dollars only to get visa for the USA, so all in all it would be pretty expensive too.
How has CD sales been for Toner Low and is that something you worry about much?
We don’t worry much about that. It is not something that we care most for and we are not very active promotors of our band, as some of those young hipsters with their streetteams, clothing-endorsement deals and 10,000+ MySpace-friends nowadays seem to be. But of course we appreciate all who really support us and buy the real thing with the original art-work that our drummer spent so much of his spare time on.
When can we expect a new album from Toner Low and what can we expect to hear?
Maybe somewhere in late 2011 or early 2012 a new full-length. All the songs still have to be composed and I’m not sure, but I think we will start on those in the course of this year. We also still have a few unfinished songs left from the 2008-studio session. Some of this will most likely be released late 2010, early 2011 on vinyl only. Any new songs we might create this year will probably be a continuation of what we did. Two things for the next album already are for sure: the songs will be titled after numbers and there will only be four lines of vocals at most in each song, those lines preferably consisting on three syllables each.
I recently saw Toner Low II rated as number one album of 2009 but wasn't it recorded in 2008? I ask this because I had it high up on my 2008 top 10 list .
Yeah, actually the second album is a 2008-release. It came out late November, but many people only got to know about it in 2009. And of course most (if not all) of the reviews of it got published in 2009. We appreciate it very much that Laurel/Rocksanne put it at top position for 2009.
Just one question about the vocal side of the band. What inspires the lyrics in the songs?
The only song that actually has lyrics that are more than just some words to me is Two. Those are lines I wrote in November 2002 and are about living slow. I think my pace of living inspired that one, haha. The other lyrics are written by all of us and composed of words that sounded good together, the words inspired each other so to speak. Except for Three, that’s some quite coherent story-telling lyrics written and performed in the studio by our drummer Jack. In an earlier interview somewhere I said I would write more lyrics like the 2002 one, but at this point in January 2010 I’m not too sure about that. Cause we sing with two vocalists, our bassplayer Miranda and me, we keep the lyrics shallow and vague, and don’t wanna sing about personal stuff, social issues, obscure movies, conspiracy theories and so on. The lyrics for our second album were mostly written after we recorded the music, and were recorded one or two weeks before mixing started. So they ain’t very important to us or to the songstructures, let alone if they have a meaning.
Ok I think that is enough questions for now, is there any last words or thoughts for the readers?
Yes, thanks to the readers for their interest and for reading this, thanks to the people that support us by coming to our gigs, listening to our music and having our releases in their cd/record-collections. And also thanks to you, Ed, for giving us some much welcomed exposure.