Interview || The one with Willem Heijmans from Antillectual

I was first introduced to Antillectual in early 2011, a little after they released "Start From Scratch!". I had just started exploring the -then- uncharted territory of DIY scenes and this record stuck with me to this day. Seeing as the restless trio released their latest opus, "Engage!" in late July, yours truly had an exquisite oportunity to chat with Willem Heijmans (guitar, vocals) and the outcome was nothing less than interesting.
© Roos de Huu
U: You recently released your latest album, “Engage!”. What I noticed is that the songs, though angry, are not aggressive, the sound is more mature and the production is magnificent. Do you consider it the most integral album you have released so far?
Willem Heijmans: Yes, most definitely! We approached this new album completely differently. We never took as much time and did as much finetuning when preparing recordings. It is the first album we wrote in this line up, and we had a lot of friends, both professional and non-professional give us feedback while writing and recording it. We also went to a different studio to record it, Split Second Sound in Amsterdam. This new and different approach resulted in our best songwriting and recording to date. It feels like a completely different album compared to what we have done before, we hope other people pick that up as well.

U: You also have Nathan Gray of Boysetsfire and Thomas Barnett of Strike Anywhere doing some guest vocals. How did that come about?
W.H.: For all our recordings we like to do co-operations, with guest singers or musicians. When [we were] working on these new songs, we made a list of people we thought would be great guest singers to accompany us on the album. Thomas and Nathan were on the top of the list. We toured with both bands in the past, so the connection was easily established. But when they came on tour together and played Amsterdam while we were recording there, it all came together very quick. The only problem was that Nathan had vocal issues during his time in Amsterdam, so in the end he recorded his parts with BoySetsFire’s guitarist Chad in their home studio. But we’re incredibly happy with their contributions and the final result.

 If our band can be a source of inspiration for others to all those things, that would make for a great legacy!

U: I believe you have answered plenty of times already about the meaning behind the album title so I'll be cheeky and, instead, I'll ask what causes do you guys engage/commit into?
W.H.: Very cheeky! We’re not affiliated with political parties, or NGO’s (even though we do charity shows and sales quite often) or other organizations. And just being engaged to “life” or human/animal/environmental rights is a bit too vague. Getting “engaged” can be about your behavior as a consumer, as a parent, as someone in traffic, as employee, etc. In all those roles your behavior leaves an impact on your own life and the lives of people around you. What it comes down to, is involvement and commitment to what is going on around you in the relatively small circle that is your life and the impact that it can have on the bigger world around you. It’s about giving a shit and getting active, instead of being indifferent and staying passive. Especially when times and circumstances call for it.

U: Passion plays a major role in the music-making process. What is passion for you? How would you define it?
W.H.: Thanks for calling it passion, some other might use words like addiction or obsession!
But more seriously: I think passion is a mix of a drive you have within yourself, which is being catalyzed by the energy and motivation that other people spark in you. That’s why I love being in a band, working with other people on shows, tours and recordings. If it wasn’t for passion, we couldn’t persist doing this for years and years. But this also goes for people booking shows, releasing albums and all other aspects of a scene that’s relying on DIY and DIT efforts. As long as money won’t float our boats, passion is the only thing that can. Besides, I believe being passionate about something is always a better motivation than money.

U: What's the current situation like in the Netherlands? You're having parliamentary elections soon, if I'm not mistaken, and the right-wing party is gaining popularity...
W.H.: What goes for the Netherlands, goes for pretty much all of Europe, or the whole Western world you could say. People are losing faith and confidence that the lives they are living will maintain the quality level they have gotten used to. Whether that is because of refugees “stealing” their jobs, the climate changing quicker than we can keep up with or fix, or because of the political and economic elites not taking responsibility for the power they have. The resentment coming from that is benefitting a lot of extreme rightwing parties because they pretend to be anti-elite and provide simple solutions (which aren’t solutions at all, of course).
In the Netherlands Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party (PVV) is the biggest, if there would be elections right now. I hope another party wins the elections, even though a lot of parties copy many of the PVVs viewpoints to attract voters. Then again, national or parliamentary politics aren’t as powerful as they used to be. Local governments and non-governmental organizations seem to become more influential. Change could be achieved easier through those institutions, hopefully for the better.

U: You've always been vocal when it came to politics and injustice issues. When I interviewed Bishops Green, they said that “this is a great time for punk rock because there's so much fucked up shit that's going on”. Do you think punk rock can turn out to be a refuge and have a revolutionary impact like it did back in the day?
W.H.: First question is, did it have a revolutionary impact back in the day? If it did, I think it was because it was part of a bigger movement. (Punk) music can never establish anything on its own, without broader support or a movement. Neither can any other form of art or culture. But it can work the other way around: art and culture can support tendencies that are growing in a society. It can give them a voice or a soundtrack to help express and spread a new or previously unheard message. Punk can be a good vehicle to get ideas across, but I wouldn’t overvalue its importance on its own.

U: On that note, Goethe believed that "none are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe that they are free", a quote that remains relevant even 200 years later, and can be interpreted in many interesting ways. What is your interpretation regarding the current situation in the world? What is freedom for you? And finally, is there still hope that humanity will change its ways?
W.H.: I think that freedom is highly overrated. At this moment a lot of people living in freedom, yet poverty would trade their life for a life in an authoritarian regime that feeds them and their children. “Protecting Freedom” is an excuse used by governments to take anti-terrorist actions that actually decreases the freedom of the people. After the terrorist attacks the French government has taken measures, which are more drastic than the impact of terrorist attack could have ever been. So in the end new rules and restrictions to safeguard our “freedom”, just limit it even more. Especially for minorities and other groups that should be protected by a system based on freedom and democracy. They’re doing exactly what terrorists are aiming for, but could never achieve on their own. Ironic, isn’t it?
Freedom these days is defined as economical freedom, the free market: you’re free to choose what brand of soda you want to buy. But the corset of being a consumer in a capitalist society isn’t how I define true freedom. I think that will change eventually, all ideologies exist for only a limited period of time. But if we will live to see it change ...

© Roos de Huu

U: A genie pops up and can grant you three wishes. What do you ask for?
W.H.:Three more genies. But seriously: worldpeace, a new band van and a 6th finger to play more complicated guitar chords.

U: What do you want your legacy to be?
W.H.: That we can do with our band what other bands have done for us. Music, punk and bands have given us so much; they entertained us with their music when driving our bike to school, they introduced new ideas to us, they gave us a scene to meet friends, future partners and places to go all over the world. If our band can be a source of inspiration for others to all those things, that would make for a great legacy!

U: If you died right now what song would you want to play at your funeral?

W.H.: That’s not really something I’m thinking about at the moment. I’m not really someone that makes lists of favorite albums, year lists, funeral songs. But let’s use this to plug a relatively unknown band: Southtowne Lanes - Homecoming (Fall) is a song you can play on my funeral, if that takes place within a month or so...
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1 σχόλια :

  1. Although I've never listened to this band's songs, I have to say I'm really intrigued by this interview! Congrats E.C.