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JORIS NIJENHUIS – One drummer, 2 great bands: Atrocity & Leaves’Eyes (interview)

I am very happy to be back to you guys, with this new interview of mine, done during the Black Winter Fest in Milan with Joris Nijenhuis, drummer of Atrocity and Leaves’ Eyes. Having my self a background as an amateur drummer, I was pleased to focus more on this instrument. Then on the tourbus there was also a quick intervention by Alex Krull (singer of Atrocity), who you will find mentioned.

Enjoy!

Hello Joris, how are you?

Very good! But too bad they didn’t give us nice coffee btw, being in Italy 🙁

Let’s talk about something “hot”, because today here in Milan it’s very cold. How was your summer? I saw you were in a few festivals…

Yeah we had a few shows, we played at MetalGate Czech Death Fest OpenAir, then in Romania with both bands, Atrocity and Leaves’ Eyes in a sort of a small bikers festival, pretty cool actually (Road Patrol MC Romania Bikers Festival 2023), then in a Poland show and then off course we had Wacken, with a mega fire show (with Leaves’ Eyes)!

Can you tell us about your music journey and how you became a drummer for both Leaves’ Eyes and Atrocity?

Yeah, at first I did only Atrocity and then the other drummer could not do a tour and so like one week before the tour itself he asked me if I could do it! I’ve learned the whole set in I think six days, then I’ve officially practiced the set with the whole band once before going straight on tour. I was working a lot on that and then listening to the music, making notes. I remember that still. It was November 2013 to be precise.

And which are the differences of being in these two completely different bands?

Drums is ok especially now, with Atrocity, with the last three albums more on Death Metal, so much more speed. Leaves’ Eyes is a bit more like double bass version of AC/DC with just a lot of straight-forward four beats with some double bass here and there, this is more basic… “You have to groove, that’s also a kind of thing!”(Alex Krull, intervening :D) … but then people you can see in the audience, they were headbanging, so I guessed I’m doing kind of a good job, or else way they would just stand there still.

Atrocity has been active for over three decades. How has the band’s sound evolved over the years, and how have you contributed to that evolution as a drummer?

Well, they wanted to go back to Death Metal, so they needed a drummer that could do that and obviously I was the right guy I guess, but then yeah, the old school stuff is also nice. In the beginning I was also more Death Metal, then was some more Electronic and Folk stuff and then now back to Death Metal.

Alex: Yeah, but I would not call it a coming back; it was always like a Death Metal band doing also other stuff. So that’s the best explanation, I think. Project albums and stuff like that and also like this Industrial, Gothic… We invented styles, and then we went to something else. It was a band where we… hmm…

It’s nice to move, I mean, not always the same things.

Alex: Yeah, yeah, yeah. And that was like the intention to have like challenges in the music. That’s what Joris also likes to have. You know, we always do some experimental stuff also with drumming-wise. Oh, well, I leave you guys now.

Leaves’ Eyes has a dedicated fan-base worldwide. What has been one of your most memorable fan interactions or experiences while on tour with the band?

Well, the first thing I would say is like South America where there are literally like a bunch of fans at every airport waiting for the band.

Really?

Yeah. South America is always crazy.

How they can know exactly…?

Good question. I don’t know. Police? Really, how they know. Maybe they just wait.

For days 😀

Maybe they just wait for a day. Or at the hotels already. Maybe it’s also that certain promoters always use the same hotel. So then they know that we will be there also.

Atrocity has released several critically acclaimed albums. Can you share any insights into the creative process and collaboration within the band when working on new material?

Usually it’s someone coming up with riffs and together we write or I write some drumming parts and then we make it all nice together, so it’s a good song. Maybe change the structure if necessary. It’s a work of people together. Yeah, mostly that.

And what can you tell us about what happened during the lockdown period?

Normally I’m a bit more involved with the writing process, but because of Covid I could not really be and go to Germany, so in the end I didn’t do as much as I wanted with that. There is like the last song on the album (Okkult III): “Teufelsmarsch”: I wrote the drums for that first and then they wrote the music on top of that, so it’s actually because of me that song exists. Usually it’s not like that, so that’s actually cool and we did that with another song but that’s not released that’s probably gonna be in the future, like some B-side thing something. That was not so common because usually it starts with guitar, but this time I’ve just programmed some drums randomly and then they’ve used that.

Drummers often have a unique perspective on the music they perform. Are there any signature drumming moments or fills in Leaves’ Eyes or Atrocity songs that you’re particularly proud of? This is the time to not be modest!

Sometimes it feels they don’t sound really complicated, but then if you have to play them, then they are sometimes kind of weird. Especially like someone programmed something and then it’s not really how you would normally do it, so you have to adjust it a bit. For example in “Blazing Waters” you have towards the entry of the storm part (which doesn’t necessarily sounds very technical or whatever), but it’s still to get it all perfectly right it’s not so easy but yeah, in Leaves’ Eyes the challenge is more to just play everything as even as possible like every backbeat should be equally loud… this kind of stuff that’s I guess more the challenge not so much the technical part of it.

And… is Atrocity more technical?

Yeah, but then the same still counts, but it’s just a bit more focused on speed but with Atrocity I can do cooler fills of course.

In which other bands you collaborate?

I play sometimes play with Plaagdrager (Black Metal), Beenkerver (Black Metal) and then I still have another project I would say, but we didn’t release really much yeat, but this is called TDC inc. like The Dead Cult inc.:  it’s more a combination of Metal with drums and bass and even Electronic Hard Core, with the dj (Limewax) originally from Ukraine, but he moved to Netherlands. Only two songs released, but we wrote much more, but still in the process.

I’ve also played with an Italian Metal band, “The Secret”!

As a drummer, which advice would you give to aspiring musicians who want to pursue a career in the metal music scene, or drumming in particular?

With drumming is probably wise to take some lessons to have a good technique and from there, play as much as possible, every day or something similar. Sometimes maybe you don’t play for a week, your brain needs a bit of time to process something, maybe you’re practicing a specific fills and you don’t play for a week but then you play again and you get it.

It’s said that some drummers have secret rituals before going on stage. Care to reveal any pre-show habits you have?

I have no rituals but sometimes I jump for a while as a full body warm up, before the shows. If you play as much as possible then you’re always good to go btw!

Actual music metal scene: is there anything you don’t really like?

Yes, if there’s one thing I don’t really like nowadays all these perfect productions, for example in the past I’ve recorded some album for a band and by accident I just played the wrong beat but it was cool, so we left it in, but it seems now everything now it’s all pre-programmed, too much samples, there is not so much character in the songs. In the past usually you bought an album, initially you don’t really like it because the production doesn’t sound great but then you get used to it and you like it. Now it’s all perfect.

Still alive or not, who is your favourite drummer ever?

Do I have to pick only one?

As you wish!

I’d say who had really a big influence to me when I started was Abe Cunningham from Deftones which is not extreme or fast or similar to what I’m doing with Atrocity, then there is Raymond Herrera, the ex drummer of Fear Factory , the reason why I started to play double bass pretty much; this is more from the perspective of when I’ve started playing. I’d also say Richard Christy from Death. I’d like to mention Cindy Blackman, Todd Sucherman, Dave Elitch (his course is the best – in the last couple of years it was almost a life changing, he does it in a way you approach it as if you’re cooking something and sometimes you start looking at a lot of details about technique, reflecting, yes, he is great).

Last question, but not less important! This space is all yours, to send a special message, a vision about something or even an insult!

Enjoy life basically, it’s the most important thing. And come to the metal shows! Have fun!

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