Bob Bagchus (Asphyx) Interviewed

What is the Deathhammer?
Bob Bagchus: Deathhammer represents the book of death metal. Our view on real death metal. It’s like the rules of what real death metal was supposed to be. Death metal was supposed to be hard, raw, dirty, creepy, dark and brutal to the bone. Music to be scared of. Just listen to bands like old Venom, Messiah, Slaughter, Hellhammer, Possessed, old Death, Autopsy, Necrophagia, early Mayhem, Necrovore, Incubus (Florida) etc., and you’ll know what we mean. During the last decade, it seems that death metal has turned into this hyper-blast technical nonsense bullshit that they dare to call “death metal”. In fact, it’s a contest of who can play the fastest bpm or riffs (sometimes 10 in 1 single song) and they seem to forget about the song itself. I mean, where’s the song? Where’s the catchiness and where is the atmosphere? Nowhere! And this is supposed to be death metal? It’s a joke! We say, “Go listen to Hellhammer’s Triumph of Death and discover what real death metal is!” So we thought that there should be a sort of guide book to remind those people of the essence of real death metal. We, of course, don’t want to be arrogant–hell no–but since death metal is in our hearts and souls, we hate to see it destroyed by those technical-bullshit-musically-graduated-soulless bands, pretending they know it all. Death metal comes from the heart, not from the mind.

How do you separate Death…The Brutal Way from Deathhammer?
Bob Bagchus: Deathhammer is more organic, raw and even more to the point. It’s louder and harder and the songwriting is more complete. Death…The Brutal Way was a great comeback album, but Deathhammer takes it a step further. Most songs were written in autumn/winter, and for that fact, they also sound darker and more atmospheric. For some strange reason, you’re in another mindset during those seasons. Call it a winter depression.

You revisited Harrow Studio to record the drums. Why revisit Harrow instead of recording the album at The Mörser?
Bob Bagchus: Since the Harrow studio is a 5-minutes drive from me and Martin’s house, and since we’ve known the guy, Harry Weijering, since 1987, it was pretty natural. He also did The Rack and Last One on Earth as well, and he has a great studio. He knows what my drums must sound like—it’s relaxing to work with Harry, and he is critical as well… The Mörser Studio is the Asphyx studio in Paul’s house and is like 100 miles away. We also did Martin’s vocals back in the Harrow studio.

Sounds like you’re working the old-school angle a little. Harrow Studios, Axel Hermann as the cover artist, and re-enlisting Dan Swanö to mix/master. Were you going for a specific sound/vibe/production or were these simply things that lined up the way they did?
Bob Bagchus: Yes, and it feels good this way. It’s the Asphyx way, and these very people were always a part of it as well. We wanted to capture our own raw, unpolished sound to make the album as raw and loud as we are in the rehearsal place–you know, capture that same vibe. Dan Swanö is the guy who really understands us 100 percent, and he is the one who can give us that kind of production and vibe. He loves it as much as we do.

What’s the cover trying to say? Is it the infamous Malleus Maleficarum crashing into some hapless souls?
Bob Bagchus: It’s our own vision of “The Book of Death Metal”. Axel Hermann did a great job on this one.

Lyrically, you have stories about hornets, pulp magazines, and floods. How topical or related to present-day life is Deathhammer?
Bob Bagchus: Very much related to present-day life, for sure. For example, a close friend of ours had this enormous hornet’s nest in his barn with hundreds of hornets, probably. After they got exterminated, I went in his barn to look at the hornets and was amazed by the size of those insects. So I told Martin about it, and when we jammed for the new album, he came up with the hornet subject again, since it fitted the riffs. So Martin did research on these insects, and they seemed to be an interesting—yet equally dangerous—species…“The Flood” is about the enormous flood back in the ‘50s in southwest Holland where thousands of people were killed. It’s Dutch history…”Of Days When Blades turned Blunt” is about the massive decapitation in Paris during the times of Marie-Antoinette…We don’t need Satanic shit to be dark—life itself can be a lot more gruesome.

What song on Deathhammer do you feel most represents Asphyx? I mean, they’re all classic Asphyx in one way or another. Straight ahead no fucking frills death.
Bob Bagchus: That’s a difficult question since, like you already said, all of the songs represent Asphyx…Well, I would say “Minefield” or “Der Landser”. They’re heavy as fuck.

Do you realize 3 of 8 Asphyx full-lengths have ‘death’ in the title?
Bob Bagchus: Yes, I do. It’s coincidental, but it does fit the music. Maybe our next album will be called Deathdozer…But for this album’s title, we were thinking of Deathhammer or Doomhammer. Or do both—make a Death-side and a Doom-side. But we choose to only do Deathhammer, and that title covers it all.

OK, how do aspiring death metallers get the Asphyx guitar tone? Anything special you do for drums as well?
Bob Bagchus: [Laughs] Never ask the cook for his kitchen secrets. That’s Paul’s thing, really. A lot of distortion, that’s for sure. I don’t do anything special for my drums, except down-tune the drumheads a bit.

You’ve been doing death metal for 25 years. What has changed? What hasn’t changed? I mean, do you still get the same feeling you did back in the late ‘80s/early ‘90s?
Bob Bagchus: A lot and not for the better. Like I said earlier, it seems now that a lot of so-called death metal bands try to ‘out-play’ each other with all those technical skills and other rubbish. It’s a big mess of 1000 mph blasting, riffs that sound like fairground attractions—and bands end up having not one proper song whatsoever. To hell with that crap! That’s not death metal! But still, there are also quite a few great bands that still operate and do their stuff with heart and soul. But of course, when a great old-school death metal album comes out nowadays, I’m not as impressed as I was when I heard Possessed’s Seven Churches for the first time….That was a blast—and even shocking! I grew up with Deep Purple, Kiss, Iron Maiden, Alice Cooper, Van Halen, Blackfoot—and during the early ‘80s, I heard Venom and Metallica, Slayer…That already was brutal as hell, but when Possessed’s Seven Churches came out, it was like, “Oh damn, this is the real deal!!” It couldn’t get more brutal than that! Later in ‘86, Kreator’s Pleasure to Kill came out, and it was just as shocking extreme! Great! It all has to do with what age you are. To get that same feeling, I just put on those good old records again…They’re still the best—by far! Oh yes, and sometimes I still do get letters instead of emails…

What do you make of people knowing what to expect from Asphyx? They know they’re going to get consistent if unchanging brutal, catchy death.
Bob Bagchus: Brutal, raw, honest, and pure doom-death metal from the heart.

What do you think makes Asphyx work after all these years?
Bob Bagchus: Our honesty and loyalty to our fans and to ourselves. We have a great line-up, and we believe 100 percent in what we do. People do notice that. We don’t tell bullshit.