Sunday, October 1, 2017

Serotonin Interview

1.Can you give us an update on what has been going on with the band since the recording and release of the new ep?
We are currently continuing to pursue a course we set out on quite some time ago. The EP was a fairly spontaneous affair that sort of happened in the middle of it. In parallel to recording our previous full-length, ‘Provoke’, we had been writing a lot of the material for the next album. Since some of these songs are particularly challenging, writing them took a considerable amount of time. Moreover, recording, mixing, and mastering our material takes quite a bit of time. We do everything ourselves and we tend to make our lives rather difficult due to our multi-layered sound. In other words: it was always going to take a while before coming up with a successor to ‘Provoke’. To ease the pain of waiting, we decided to release ‘L’Enfer Gris’. We were particularly happy with the way ‘Graue Hölle’ turned out, so it was almost a no-brainer to base the EP around that song.
We completed a lyric video for ‘Graue Hölle’ just a few days ago. It can be found here:
Meanwhile, we managed to wrap up songwriting for the next album. Undoubtedly, the songs will be developed further once we start laying down the basic tracks, but that has been our modus operandi anyway. Once again, the process of making an album is rather painstaking, so don’t expect this album to see the light of day shortly. In the meantime,  there will be another EP. We’ve been writing rather prolifically recently, which resulted in a few new songs that we want to get out there. Also, our recording equipment has just been upgraded significantly, so it makes sense to record an EP rather than a full-length. Working on just a few songs allows us to get comfortable with the new gear and experiment a bit with the sound.

2.In June you had released a new ep, how would you describe the musical sound that is presented on the recording and also how does it differ from the stuff you have released in the past?
‘L’Enfer Gris’ is, first and foremost, a short sharp shock. That is intentional.  ‘Provoke’ was our most ambitious release to date, by a stretch. Several songs on that album are very long and the sheer number of audio tracks is staggering. On the EP we wanted to tone it down a little bit. We still go all out now and then. 12 layers of vocals aren’t that unusual for us, but mostly it’s drums, bass, 2-3 guitars and 1 or 2 tracks of vocals. When we do start adding layers to that, it adds contrast and dynamics. Essentually, that didn’t necessarily make life any easier: when you record less, every note counts.
The opener, ‘Graue  Hölle’ is the song most representative of our sound. It’s a fast and aggressive composition with a few twists and turns, especially in the vocals and the guitars. Overall, it gravitates to the black metal end of our spectrum. Closer ‘Grey Hell’ is essentially another take on the same concept, but the sound of this song is particularly inspired by Aeternus. ‘Hosannas From The Basements Of Hell’ was lovingly borrowed from Killing Joke, but we definitely gave it the Serotonin treatment.

3.What are some of the lyrical topics and subjects the band explores with the newer music?
‘L’Enfer Gris’ follows a distinct lyrical concept. The image of Hell in the western world has fundamentally been shaped by Dante’s ‘Divine Comedy’. Painters like Bosch visualised it and influenced our perception further. The East has a slightly different view, where it is not so much about eternal torment in the ever-burning flames, but rather a state of being. In particular, this means that when one lives a life devoid of joy and only filled with suffering, they are in Hell. Many people just trudge through existence, stuck in a life they do not desire. Rather than break out and seek joy or happiness, they stick within their own self-styled hell.
The German version references some famous German authors, though we prefer leaving it to our audience to scour through the lyrics and find all the references. The English version was written as a means to check the accuracy of what was intended with the lyrics. Eventually it morphed into its own song and serves as a counter point to German version.
Overall, we are happy to say we have a virtually unlimited source of inspiration: human stupidity. Whether we approach it from a religious, (neuro-)scientific, philosophical, psychological or historical perspective, all our lyrics explore the less than overwhelming, or overwhelmingly oblivious, aspects of humanity.

4.What is the meaning and inspiration behind the name ‘Serotonin’?
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter, a chemical substance in the brain that allows nerve cells to communicate which each other. People who have been going through some sort of depression might recognise the name, as many antidepressant drugs alter the concentration of serotonin in the brain. It is too simple to say that a lack of serotonin causes depression, but we can definitely establish that serotonin affects everyone’s mood. Moreover, the realisation that our deepest thoughts and emotions are driven by chemical reactions, and vice versa, is vital to understanding human nature and its inherent tendency for stupidity. There is a beautiful paradox to be found in that: humans have always tried to transcend the restrictions of the human body and its chemical reactions, trying to find some kind of ‘soul’ or ‘spirit’. Many people don’t like the thought of being reduced to a set of chemical reactions, even if they describe themselves as atheists. At the same time, this whole search for ‘something’ to transcend the flesh is actually driven by those same chemical reactions!

5.Currently there are only 2 members in the band are you open to expanding the line-up, or do you prefer to remain a duo?
The band started as a 4-piece but that line-up didn’t last very long. The main reason behind that was a significant difference in dedication between the band members. Musicians who are not willing to make an effort to push themselves and the band forward are, frankly, not welcome in Serotonin. We don’t necessarily want to remain a duo though. Communication between us is very efficient and working as a duo really allowed us to learn a lot about every single aspect of composing and recording music. However, we do feel that our live sound in particular would benefit greatly from at least one other band member. Sander plays both guitar and bass on the recordings, which is something we obviously cannot do live.
Most importantly, we are very open to the idea of other people contributing to our sound. We have worked with several guest musicians in the past, which can be really exciting. Allowing someone else to add their own touch to a song can lead to surprising results. We are particularly proud of ‘Gamma Aminobutyric Acid Jazz’, from the second album. The violin part took the song to a whole new level.

6.What are some of the best shows that the band has played over the years and also how would you describe your stage performance?
We don’t play live very often, but when we do, a great deal of effort goes into it. Opening for Svart Crown and Ulcerate a couple of years ago was probably our best show in terms of attendance and exposure. However, we have developed our live sound since then, so our most recent shows stand out as the ones we remember most fondly. Also, those shows finally allowed us to play outside the Nijmegen area, which is vital.
Serotonin’s live sound is considerably more stripped down in comparison to the recordings. It’s mostly just one guitar, a drum machine and vocals. That may not sound like much, but we make up for it in sheer ferocity. Our live drum samples are quite a bit gnarlier than their studio counterparts, and the guitar tone is quite abrasive, especially in the songs we play on baritone guitar. Moreover, it has to be intense: if we aren’t completely destroyed after a set, we didn’t work hard enough.

7.Do you have any touring or show plans for the future?
Not right now, but we should definitely make something happen sooner rather than later. We haven’t played any shows this year due to personal reasons but the time is right to change that, especially with the new EP out in the world. As said before, it would be great to expand the line-up with a third member, as this would certainly benefit our live sound, but we don’t intend to wait until that happens.

8.Currently you are unsigned, are you looking for a label or have received any interest?
We certainly won’t say no to any serious offers from credible labels and it would help a lot in terms of exposure and promotion, but looking for a label is not our number one priority. We are able to write and record our music. We can release it through various online platforms. We value having this amount of control over our releases. It would be great to see our music released on vinyl and to find our albums in stores all over the world, but right now that’s simply not the case. There is no reason to be held back by that though. Rather, we focus on creating music that excites us and allows us to grow as musicians.
Realistically, most any band is looking to find an ever expanding audience. A good label can be of tremendous value there.

9.On a worldwide level how has the feedback been to your music by fans of black and death metal?
One of the great aspects of the internet is that our music somehow reaches the most remote corners of the world. We’ve been getting some feedback from very unexpected places.  Overall, most of the feedback has been very positive, and we got some feedback from musicians we respect a lot. That’s always a morale boost. At the same time, one of the internet’s drawbacks is its scale: there are just so many bands out there that it’s virtually impossible to overcome the anonymity of being just one of them. This can be frustrating. We hear even from well-respected musicians with longstanding careers that it’s almost impossible to get their new bands signed or properly promoted. We find the self-promotional aspect of being in a band rather dull and uninspiring and prefer to concentrate on creating music that stands out from the crowd. Whenever we do get recognition for that, it is very rewarding.

10.When can we expect another full length and also where do you see the band heading into musically during the future?
As mentioned before, our third full-length is more or less completely written and we expect to start recording it in the next few months. We are very excited about those songs, and quite a few of them already snuck into our live set. Compared to earlier work our new material is a bit more immediate and mostly really brutal. There will be several songs in between that are very, very different though.
Lyrically, it’s going to be a very dark one, as the album will explore themes such as human weakness and (the fear of) death itself.

11.What are some of the bands or musical styles that have had an influence on your newer music and also what are you listening to nowadays?
It’s not easy to keep this short. Obviously, there is a strong black metal element to our sound. Bands such as Abigor, Deathspell Omega, Ved Buens Ende, Dødheimsgard, Obtained Enslavement, and Limbonic Art, to name but a few of our favourites, have definitely influenced us. Our influences reach far beyond the limitations of black metal, or metal in general, though. It doesn’t really matter if it’s metal, jazz, classical music, trip hop or Tibetan chanting; there can be hidden gems everywhere.  The thing that those artists usually push the limits or what they’re doing, not allowing their music to become stale.
A few albums that we find particularly inspiring are Celtic Frost’s ‘Monotheist’ and Killing Joke’s ‘Hosannas From The Basements Of Hell’ (hence our little tribute on the EP). Also, never underestimate Queen. Their approach to arranging and producing music in the mid seventies has been a vast source of inspiration.
2.What are some of your non musical interests?
Again, it’s very tempting to write an essay on this, but let’s not do that. Music is a big part of our lives, but there is more. We definitely enjoy the finer things in life: reading, traveling or a fine glass of whisky. Other than that, we both have very fulfilling professional lives, which allow us to attack and reduce human stupidity by making some smart individuals a bit smarter. At least that’s what we try. It is important to practice what you preach, isn’t it?

13.Before we wrap up this interview, do you have any final words or thoughts?
First of all: Thank you.
Secondly, in the words of a very distraught man:
O the mind, mind has mountains; cliffs of fall
Frightful, sheer, no-man-fathomed. Hold them cheap
May who ne'er hung there. Nor does long our small
Durance deal with that steep or deep.


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