A band that fully lives up to its name. Dutch metal merchants, Human Demise have been around for a few years, and while their lyrics get harder and more depressing, their music just keeps getting better, song after song after song. The beautifully laid out ‘Of Wicked Men And Their Devices’ is the bands latest effort, and as it has just been released I thought it would be the perfect time to catch up with bassplayer Jasper, singer Maurice, guitarist Willem and the artist responsible for the album’s cover and more, Willem Jansen.
Interview by Martijn Welzen
MM: Who are the ‘wicked men’ and what ‘devices’ are we talking about? Does the title refer to the worlds (political) leaders and their arsenals of weapons?
Jasper: We’re all ‘wicked men’. We all have a dark side, and no-one is perfect, if perfection even exists. The ‘devices’ are the ways in we give meaning to this dark side. The ways in which evil is done, evil that sometimes has very concrete foundations within a system like communism or a church, and it also refers to how NOT standing up against the negative forces can be unacceptable. The downside of freedom is that it has always allowed unwanted behaviour, ideas and ideologies to prosper, so the devices come in many different shapes and forms, and sometimes not intentionally, society can become part of it. Leaders and their weapons are just an example, so the title has to be seen in and from a broader perspective. However it’s up to the reader to interpret this as their own truth, just like you have with leaders and weapons.
MM: What I do find very interesting is, when comparing the title with and to, various lyrics, is that you’re very opposed to religion. There’s plenty to be said about that, but faith isn’t what I would call a ‘device’ at first glance. What’s the connection between both?
Jasper: Nowadays, and even more so in the past, various religions have had such a grip on society, loads of things were just plain wrong. Faith itself is not nesseccarily the device, but it’s more the institutions that it enables, the main one being the Church! On the other hand faith can also be a device used to gather as much power and wealth as possible. It’s very easy to reign over a population of God-fearing people when you “own” the religious leaders.
MM: You’re also opposed to political influence on individual lives. Are there any similarities between politics and religion? Often those who make the laws don’t tolerate deviant or different opinions very well…
Jasper: Solely speaking for the Netherlands, I don’t think anyone would have the idea that opinions are forced upon them. We do have to abide by certain laws which limit absolute freedom, and rightfully so. Murder, child-rape, slavery and theft are all things we’re glad are NOT the norm, although I’m sure some people might think differently about this. Freedom of speech is another thing. Different opinions are not always that popular with the masses and the media, who can react in rather extreme fashion. The media tends to pressure the state to limit freedom of speech, which often happens within a religious community or society. The biggest difference between politics and faith is that religion is based on one sole idea / opinion and not following this opinion will make you an outcast. That’s fundamentally different from politics. As long as we’re all allowed to think freely, without being persecuted for not following the general consensus, which is hardly the case in the Netherlands, I don’t see any anti-establishment lyrics appearing from us for the forseeable future.
MM: What do you think absolute freedom actually is? Are you in any way opposed to belief in a higher power?
Maurice: Absolute freedom is when every individual can be who he or she would like to be without forcing their opinion upon anyone else or hurting other people. This also means that we’re all at liberty to believe what we’d like. The lyrics are designed to vent our thoughts on and about religious fanatics and institutions who use faith to surpress and control entire societies, whether it’s on a national scale or within a family or small community.
MM: I have rarely seen such an amazing connection between the artwork and the lyrics as on your new record. How did this cooperation came about? Did you just give the lyrics to the artist or you talk about, and discuss it?
Maurice: The lyrics, including a short description, were given to artist Willem Jansen, who developed his own interpretation of them. The outcome could not have been any better and we’re pleased with the fantasic job he did. The cover had to be changed once, though, as the first drawing didn’t really pop out. After some additional direction, Willem created the cover we currently have, which really epitomises both the title and the general thread of the lyrics.
MM: People have, generally speaking, negative connotations concerning rats, snakes and ravens, animals often thought to, rightly or wrongly, have a dark side. That seems to be reflected in the artwork for the album…
Willem Jansen: Good and evil are human terms. When you use animals, or any other symbol, it’s from a human perspective and, or meaning, neither of which have any foundation in reality. A snake does not lie, yet the snakes forked tongue has become symbolic with lies and liars. Without getting into symbols, their meaning, and the fact that they differ greatly from culture to culture, everything is used to say something about something else and that when it does bother you that these cool animals have been given that negative connotation, that’s not likely to change, unfortunately.
MM What is actually on the cover? It seems to be a loose interpretation of Shakespeare’s most famous scene from Hamlet. What is the rat saying to the skull?
Willem Jansen: In all honesty; I don’t really like explaining anything about my artwork. However the rat is saying nothing! It’s a link to the line ‘rats get fat while good men die´. Rats in that line don’t have anything to do with rodents by the way. The title is ´Of wicked men and their devices´, and the pointing hand is more like a traffic sign suggesting a direction, in that it points to, and thus refers to, the consequences of individual and mass behaviour. It’s not that we should all be granted eternal life or be nice to eachother all the time, but you know…
MM: A question I often ask musicians is, do you think that there is any hope for mankind? Lyrics by hardcore and metal bands are often quite depressing and negative, almost embracing the belief that there’s no light at the end of the tunnel that we’re currently in. Do you see any hope for mankind?
Jasper: It is often very difficult finding any grain of hope. However as long as there are bands, like us, expressing their discontentment, there’s hope. People have to be critical, and willing to point out the injustice in this world, to keep that momentum going and that brief spark of hope alive.
MM: Lyrics like ‘History repeats itself, nothing has changed in this world’, seem to emphasize the previous point. Is there any way to change our downward spiral? Some people say a violent revolution and some say social evolution in which science, arts and even sports can take us to the next level….What do you think?
Willem: A violent revolution might create a change of leadership, but as long as power corrupts, we’re just swapping one evil for another. Science, arts and sports can indeed move people and bring them closer. But look at the phenomenon of hooliganism with football, this also shows there’s a dark side to that as well. Directly opposite science, there’s vast groups of religious fundamentalists, and modern art is often too far fetched and not very interesting to people. In the end humans are animals out for their own well-being and good and it seems, the more we try to seperate ourselves from the animals, the more we turn back to our most basic instinct; procreation. You can see it in commercials, where just about everything is promoted by scantily clothed women, who often don’t have anything to do with the product at hand.
MM: What is V61.20 about? It seems to be entirely seperate from the rest of ‘Of Wicked Men’.
Jasper: I wrote those lyrics with the idea of making a song which can be interpreted in many different ways. The way a reader interprets it, is demonstrative of on which side of the scale he is at. Tell me what you think, and I’ll let you know how wicked you are….
MM: This may well be a bit on the heavy side, but when will Human Demise be done? With all this misery in the world you could probably address, you could go on forever, but isn’t all the misery a litttle too much at times?
Willem: When Human Demise is done, we don’t know. Perhaps when music as a medium isn’t that effective for channeling our discontentment, then the end of the band will be nigh. Still, even then there’ll be plenty to talk about, and there are so many ways in which you can voice your thoughts and opinions. Maybe music, but just as easily via other forms of art. Being tired of things can also fuel your will to express yourself in lots of different ways.
MM: Is there any outlet you need or have, one that allows you NOT to take everything too seriously?
Maurice: You have to bear in mind that our lyrics, the vibe and the music are a reflection of the darkest parts of our souls. We need to get that negative outlook on things out, and Human Demise is the perfect way to do that. Obviously this doesn’t mean we’re not having a good time during rehearsals, on our way to shows or on stage. We do like a good sense of humour which isn’t always that dark, and I wouldn’t say our performances are a party, but more of a way to show the world the beast that is Human Demise. It’s a display of anger, emotion and frustration. Sort of a cleansing of the soul.
MM: Talking about the future, what does 2012 hold in store for you? Are you able to tour extensively if the opportunity were to present itself?
Jasper: There’s a whole slew of shows waiting to happen, one of which is with Poison Idea on the 30th of June. This will also be our final show for quite a while as our singer Maurice will be out of the country for half a year. For three months he will be in Dresden, Germany, and we’re currently looking in to playing there for a weekend in the Fall. Unfortunately no extensive touring this year, but we’re open to suggestions for 2013…