Interview by Jason Guest
Jason: Hi Davy. Thanks for taking time out for this interview. Congratulations on A Sign Of Time, it’s a great album (Ed: Jason’s review is here). Maudlin have been together since 2004. What was it that drew you together to form and start writing as a band? Did you have an idea of what you wanted the band to sound like?
Davy De Schrooder: Hi Jason, thanks for the nice words about our new album. The thing that drew us together was friendship. We know it sounds cheesy, but before Maudlin started, Jasper, Kris and I played together in Disengage. That band called it’s quits and we just kept on jamming. We had no idea what kind of music we wanted to create and we just told ourselves that we were going to play music without any boundaries. Mainly it was depressive, sludge, doom that we created, but always with different influences. Still now, we don’t have the feeling that our next album has to be a copy of this one… We mainly play music because we love to create, and it’s an honour that we can get on stage with it and that people come to check out and like or dislike Maudlin.
Jason: How has the band evolved since its inception?
Davy: As I said, we started with three members, pretty soon Thijs Goethals was added on bass. He used to play in another band with Jasper. Munchie, our drummer, played his heart out in a band with Kris, so he seemed the right guy to jam with us. As a five-piece we recorded our debut EP Solitary Echo (released through Offerandum Records). Shortly after that we started writing new songs and it became obvious that it was difficult for me to combine playing keys/samples with singing and losing myself in the music. So we had our number one fan Tim Gyselbrecht behind the keys from that point. Tim also did a great job for the layout of Solitary Echo. Anyway, we recorded a first full length Ionesco, had some good responses to it and we played out all over Europe. As this 6-piece we also started writing A Sign of Time. Shortly after it got recorded both Tim and Thijs decided to leave the band. They both had new jobs, were working on their houses, family expanding, all great stuff, but unfortunately it became difficult for them to combine it with Maudlin. So that’s where Yannick Dumarey, our new bass player shows up. We all knew him from his former bands Death Before Disco, Masters of Waha, Lost in Rhone, and as being an amazing bass player. He joined the band and I went back to keys and samples…
Jason: Who are the band’s main influences and how have they informed Maudlin’s sound?
Davy: I can name tons of bands here, but that would be kinda boring, wouldn’t it? We are influenced by everything that surrounds us, life, death, music,… everything that has a certain intensity can touch us… these things are what help us writing songs. It sounds eclectic, but I can only tell you how it is. But as a good friend once said: you guys are like Mastodon on relatin, Pink Floyd on steroids and Saint Vitus on speed. So, I guess we have some influences right there.
Jason: A Sign of Time is your second full length. To what extent does it mark an evolution for the band?
Davy: Everything we did so far is an evolution for us. We learn every show, every review, every recording… We suck up all that information and we end up doing not that much with it. We just keep on creating and doing what comes out in the jams. We have a very strange way of writing songs and we’re bad at doing something because it will sell better… We love to swim against the stream without that being a purpose. We just do whatever we feel like we should do… and what we should do, that’s what we do best. Jam and create songs out of these jams. The main difference with this album is that we are surrounded by two great labels who work their ass of for us! Props go to Consouling Sounds and Moment of Collapse!
Jason: How does the band on A Sign of Time differ from that on Ionesco?
Davy: While the singing on Ionesco was mainly based on screams. A Sign of Time is all about singing. With Ionesco we started recording and only I had the picture in mind how the vocals would be placed on the record. While on the new album we had lots of singing rehearsals, with the whole band. Everyone had his line and that’s what we had to record. That and the conceptual approach created a lot of room for some psychedelic stuff. For each song we had a picture in our mind how it would look/sound like when we finally had to record it. I remember telling Andrew Schneider (he mixed our album, also Cave In, Pigs, Unsane, and Shrinebuilder) the idea of the song… At first he was like, ‘what the…’ but he got into the story pretty fast and delivered some state of the art mixing. Same goes for Dan Coutant who mastered our stuff.
Jason: Both Ionesco and A Sign Of Time are based on very elaborate and challenging concepts. How does the band work to create the music based on these ideas? Do you have an idea of what the album will be like when it’s complete or is it more an evolutionary process?
Davy: It is an evolutionary process. As I just said, we have some kind of painting in our minds. We talk a lot about how songs should feel like, not how they should sound like, because that comes out of jams, but how they should feel like. For A Sign of Time we wanted to do something around some mythic figures who were related to some strong elements of nature. As we started writing the idea grew that we could do a time stretch of our previous album and place A Sign of Time on the timeline of our Ionesco story, who had an open ending.
Jason: Is it the lyrics, concept, and/or themes that inspire the music, or vice versa? Or do they both develop at the same time?
Davy: The inspiration goes in all ways… lyrics have to fit in the concept, but also into the music. None of these things you mentioned is holy. We just keep holding on to our painting and the feeling we want to create with the song. If the music has to change for the lyrics, so be it. If the lyrics have to change for the music, that will happen. If the story we have in mind, doesn’t fit the feeling we want, the story changes. It is a very challenging way of creating an album… but that’s what we love to do and used to do…
Jason: What drew you to the Dr Freeman story for A Sign Of Time?
Davy: Actually Dr Freeman was one of the characters of Ionesco. In Ionesco we placed a fictive character into the late 1940’s. A time where Dr Freeman thought he found the cure against depression through transorbital lobotomy. His first ever patient Sue Ellen Ionesco was cured by this so he started to do this surgery by masses. One of his patients was our nameless character. And we describe all the feelings he has before, during and after the surgery. It ends with a suicide attempt, but we never told if our character reaches the white light in his near death experience or not. His near death experience was symbolised as 35 seconds of almost complete silence, except for some birds chanting some songs. With A Sign of Time we stretched those 35 seconds to a new album and tell everything that happens there. The big moments of your life, who made you who you were flash by, but that on a rather symbolic and psychedelic way…
Jason: Death and suffering have always been an inspiration for all forms of art. What do you find so fascinating and inspiring about it?
Davy: I do feel that our album got his inspiration on life, on the big moments. It’s more an idea, how long would your life last if we had the chance to skip all the bullshit and only go to those ‘signs of time’ that really matter. The longer that takes, the interesting your life is/was. But this approach doesn’t mean we’re not into art that is about death and suffering, who both recall a lot of intense feelings. There is mystique around death, no one knows for sure what comes after it. Everyone believes it goes like this or like that, but no one knows. I guess the same goes for art, you might think or believe it stands for something, but you will never know, unless you are the one who created it.
Davy: All pictures for the layout are some pictures that I took, except for the band picture which was done by the amazing photographer Jan Pypers. So, about the directions… that’s pretty obvious, haha. Why we ended up with those pictures, they are strong pictures of nature elements who have something over them, they tell a story and they look surreal, so we thought they fit perfectly as layout.
Jason: How does the artwork relate to the music? What does it represent?
Davy: It’s very important how our artwork look like. And I could tell you the exact reason why we choose those exact pictures, but then we would leave no room for mystique for own creativity, for standing still and thinking why these exact pictures. There’s more to it than just the nature elements and the surreal look, but that’s something we would love to keep open for the people who are into our music.
Jason: Who directed the video for ‘She Whispers Treason’? And how much input did the band have in its creation?
Davy: Diederick Nuyttens is responsible for the video. 15th of February we have our release show, which is going to be something special. We asked 15 artists (painters, photographers, sculptors, visual arts…) to have an exposition on our release show. We told them the story behind our album, we gave them the lyrics, we gave them the music and then they had ‘carte blanche’ to work something out on our release show. It’s their interpretation of our story, of our music, of our lyrics. I still have no idea what we will be seeing, but I’m sure it will be thought-provoking and it will help a lot of visitors to understand our story.
Jason: What’s your opinion of the internet and its impact on the music scene? Do you think that because of the ease of making music available so widely, the internet has affected the quality of music? Do you think the digital era has made it better for musicians to write, record, and promote their music?
Davy: I guess because of the internet there is less space for small, local, starting bands. Everything is so accessible, so everyone throws away rubbish. Quality of recordings became more important than ever before. On the other hand, if you come with something mindblowing it’s easier to share the vibe of your creations than it was ever before. It has an impact for sure, it brought us some good things and some bad… but that’s the time we live in and have to do it with.
Jason: With illegal downloading and file-sharing threatening to become the norm, how do you as a relatively young band feel about this?
Davy: I hate it that our album can be downloaded before we did the release… but on the other hand, we reach a lot of people who would never buy our album anyway. So, we can only hope that if they do download it, and when they like it, they help us out in another way… buying merch, stalking their local promoters until they finally book us,…
Jason: Which do you prefer, CD, vinyl, or MP3?
Davy: Vinyl, it has some romance.
Jason: Will you be touring in support of A Sign Of Time? And will you be visiting the UK?
Davy: I’m pretty sure we will be touring in support of the new album, but before we start booking we wait on some response and interviews like yours who help us get foot on the ground. We hope we will be visiting the UK again, so go ahead and stalk those promoters or set it up yourself, we would love to!
Jason: What can we expect from a Maudlin show?
Davy: Intensity and tightness, those are the keywords we have for ourselves. People who have our previous records always told us it was live 10 times as good as the record. Let’s hope that says something about our live show and not about our previous albums. But I do feel that we are that band that gets lost in their own music, what you see in honest, not an act, not a show. It’s what we do, who we are…
Jason: Given the visual and conceptual aspects of Maudlin, what would be your ideal setting for a show?
Davy: Anything would do as long as we have a good sound system and sound guy. We’ve played clubs, cardumps, churches, castles, festivals… All the amazing shows are the ones where we can put a lot of definition and layers in our sound.
Jason: What does the future hold for Maudlin? How do you see the band’s music developing?
Davy: Within a month we start writing new songs, meanwhile we will be playing a lot. Our first focus is on club shows in Belgium, presenting our new album. Then we hope to get on some summer festivals and touring is also high on our wish list. How our music will develop, no idea… I might be able to tell you that as soon as some new songs see the day of light.
Jason: Thanks again for taking time out for this interview. Do you have any closing words for our readers?
Davy: Thank you for willing to listen to our music and supporting us. To all you readers out there, keep reading!
And you can find out more about Maudlin here