AN NCS INTERVIEW: SETH VAN DE LOO (CTHULUMINATI, VOODOO GODS, EXTREME COLD WINTER, CALIGARI, ex-SEVERE TORTURE)
(As part of her continuing interview series with metal drummers, Karina Noctum has brought us the following excellent discussion with Dutch drummer and vocalist Seth van de Loo, who was a member of Severe Torture for 20 years and is currently active in a diverse group of bands consisting of Cthuluminati, Voodoo Gods, Extreme Cold Winter, and Caligari.)
Many thanks for granting me the interview. I have been following the dramatic situation when it comes to the surgery you had. What happened? How are you feeling nowadays?
I feel great actually, thank you. Two years ago I had an accident when coming home from work on my bicycle. A guy was right in front of me on the wrong side of the track and we crashed at full speed. It was a head against head crash so I broke my skull and there were fragments of bone they had to peel off my brain. I got lucky ’cause normally these fragments puncture the brain and do lots of damage. I had two surgeries and they were 100% — well there are a few titanium plates in there but that’s it. I had and have no pain at all ’cause the nerve was cut in half. More luck for me there. It took a long time for the second operation so I had to struggle through a year with only about 30% of my energy. Things could have been a lot worse.
What has happened with the drumming, are you playing currently?
Yes, I play drums for Cthuluminati. We make a psychedelic mix of black, death, stoner, prog and various other styles. After 20 years of Severe Torture I felt it was time for a big change. I’ve always been playing lots of different stuff on my drumkit and really wanted to explore different worlds. In Cthuluminati there really are no limits on what crazy stuff I can come up with. Also I’ve recorded the first full-length for Extreme Cold Winter, a funeral doom project I got involved with a few years back together with A.J. van Drenth (Beyond Belief) and Pim Blankenstein (Officium Triste). This is also something completely different but a lot of fun to do.
I’m a huge fan of your blackened projects Nox and Centurian. Is there any possibility of some new material being released from any of those bands?
I’m still good friends with Rob and I know he is working on new material, but I don’t think these bands will be resurrected any time soon. As far as I know he is starting a new band for his new music. On the other hand, when Rob might ask me to join him I would probably say yes. Maybe in the future, we shall see.
I saw you playing with Severe Torture and then singing with Nader Sadek at the same festival, how does your stage experience differ from being a vocalist to that of being a drummer. What do you enjoy best?
It’s a different way of expressing yourself. Drumming feels like talking to me. When I play I’m completely in my own world and the only ones there are me and my bandmembers. It’s only on a few occasions I can actually see or hear the crowd, so I focuss mainly on myself. As a singer and frontman you’re in direct eye-to-eye contact with the crowd and you’re not leading the song, like you are as a drummer. As a singer I have to follow the drummer and basically focuss on different things and details in the music. I love both, that’s why I do both. I’m a lucky guy, I get to do so many things together with awesome musicians and people. It’s impossible to prefer one over the other.
Are you still collaborating with Nader Sadek?
Yes, actually I have recorded some backing vocals for a future release. We’ve also been talking about some future shows again but times are crazy now.
When it comes to Voodoo Gods you sing along with George “Corpsegrinder” (Cannibal Corpse) — how did this band get created?
Alex Poschinger started this band in 1997 and had me involved in 1998 already. Back then we had Tony Norman on guitars who was playing for Monstrosity at the time. After many years and a lot of battles we had to overcome, Alex and me succeeded in getting the first e.p. together with Nergal (Behemoth) on vocals and Mike Browning (Nocturnus), and me of course. After the e.p. was released Nergal had problems with his health and only wanted to concentrate on getting well and Behemoth. So we asked Corpsegrinder, who is a long-time friend of Alex and me.
This is the second album we did together and I think it’s great working with him. His voice is a weapon, no one I know is more tight, louder, or more powerful than George Fisher in the studio. I saw him record at Andy La Roque‘s studio and was very impressed. Besides that, he’s been a friend for over 20 years and it’s great hanging out together.
What was it like to sing together with Corpsegrinder?
It’s awesome. He’s a professional, first class. Usually I record all the vocals first so he uses my vocals on his parts as guidelines and then goes into the studio. We are both very different singers but I think it works really well together.
Since Voodoo Gods is an international project, how do you guys manage to work together?
A bit of everything. Some record at home, I record in Alex’ studio. George recorded at Andy’s studio. So it’s a mix of traveling and doing stuff at home. It works.
Did you record your vocal parts in the Netherlands?
No, Alex’ studio is in Köln in Germany. I always record there while Alex makes the best kind of food for me, haha. His burgers are the best!!
What are the advantages and disadvantages for bands working in the way Voodoo Gods do it?
The biggest disadvanteges are probably the distance and personal schedules of everyone. On the other hand, it’s not a band where every decision has 5 opinions on it. Alex decides and he takes care of pretty much everything, so for me it’s just a matter of knowing my parts and riding along. To me that’s actually an advantage.
I really like the Dutch scene, although many of my favorite Death Metal bands from there are not so active anymore. What are your thoughts on the scene these days? How has it evolved?
It’s not like I’m a really big follower of the Dutch scene in particular. These days I think are not as good anymore for death metal as they were in the ’90s or early 2000s. On the other hand I keep exploring more and more great bands I had never heard of but make killer music, though maybe not death metal. Laster is one of these bands I really got into.
Do you keep in touch with the metal scene? Any Dutch bands you would like to recommend us?
Definitely Laster. For death metal I think Disavowed released a very strong record this year.
How would you describe Chtuluminati? It is really hard to pin it down…
It really is hard to pin down. The new album we just wrote and did pre-productions for differs a lot from the first one. Devi and Rami also started writing new stuff already and that’s going in another direction. So basically I call it psychedelic music with metal influences.
What were you aiming at when you started Chtuluminati?
I didn’t start the band myself but joined after they recorded the first album with a session drummer. Cthuluminati is a continuation of several projects the other members had before. I think with Cthuluminati everything fell right into place where they wanted it. I think our sound will be defined a lot more with the new album. Hopefully we can find a label and release it in 2021.
Chtuluminati have so many non-metal influences I believe. Does it reflect the music that you listen to nowadays and has inspired you?
People know me because of the death metal I made but I’ve always been a fan of bands like Dillinger Escape Plan, Primus, Mr. Bungle, Cypress Hill, Pink Floyd and this list goes on. I just love it when something is kinda crazy, weird but hits a certain spot. All these bands are very rythmic as well.
Was it a conscious process to involve such a variety of styles in Chtuluminati’s Reliqideus album, or did it just flow in the composition process?
I think that’s definitely what they were aiming for and that’s really how the writing process of the new one was going. Also Devi and Rami have a lot more equipment now and experience, so we had way more options to create the soundscapes we wanted.
What is the status for the bands you are currently playing with?
My active bands are Cthuluminati, Voodoo Gods, Extreme Cold Winter, Caligari and occasionally Nader Sadek.
Any new projects you are currently working on?
Yes Caligari is the newest project. I’ll be doing vocals in this one. It was started by Rogge Johannsson (Paganizer) and Alwin Roes (Dead End). Right now we are working on songs for the first album. This will be old school death metal with some doom influences. What I heard so far sounded killer and very fresh. I couldn’t really compare it with any old school band although I can definitely pick out influences. It sounds new but very familiar together.
How can generic metal drumming be improved in your own words?
To me drumming doesn’t sound generic as long as I can hear some personality in it. A lot of the very extreme drummers beat the feeling out of it and all kinda sound the same. Impressive maybe with what they can do, but boring to me. I prefer drummers with a face, maybe not perfect but honest drumming.
Tell me about a metal release(s) that impressed you in 2020 and why?
There were a lot actually. I loved the new Macabre, Carnival of Killers. These guys are bringing an album that is just as good as their classic record Sinister Slaughter that came out almost 30 years ago. Same 3 guys, great guys by the way. I enjoyed that one a lot. Also the new Igorrr, Oranssi Pazuzu, and Imperial Triumphant were solid gold to me. Benediction, Vader, Demonical, Disavowed, Lik and Skeletal Remains did some awesome death metal. Napalm Death comes up with probably my fave release of theirs since Enemy of the Music Business. The Claypool Lennon Delirium released a second full-length that is really good and spacy. I probably forgot a ton but these are the ones I play the most at home.
Do you have any advice for upcoming drummers?
Be yourself and have fun. Don’t try to copy others, yet be inspired but create your own unique drumming. Also do whatever suits you best — in good music there are no rules.
What’s your favorite drumming gear to play with and why?
I love my Amedia cymbals. They have a unique sound, are loud, hand-hammered and affordable. Also I use Balbex sticks 7ª ultra jazz. I’ve played 7ª since I was 8 years old so after 35 years you get used to that. Also I’ve played with DW5000 pedals for over 20 years now, no reason to change. I’ve tried the direct drive but that doesn’t give me the right feeling. I use Tama drums but also have a Pearl Firecracker and Sonor Tambourine snare now. I go for the sound. If I like it, the brand doesn’t really matter to me.
Which drumming styles do you like to play best and why?
I love what I’m playing now which is a mix of everything I’m capable of and more, haha. I’m learning a lot of new things lately. I got a lesson from Baard Kolstad from Leprous a few months back who gave me some awesome advice on polyrythms and ghost notes. Also I’ve been watching lots of video’s from Louis Cole from Clown Core.
My drumming has been developing since I was 8 years old and really started playing. I developed in all styles but then kinda specialized on metal and mainly death metal from age 15-40. I’m 43 now and the last years I’m developing faster than the last 20 years ’cause I’m simply doing more different and complicated stuff. Most important, it’s all been fun the whole time, I think the change was good because I have a lot of energy now and I’m hungry again.
Which characteristics must excellent extreme metal drumming have in your opinion?
That’s a hard question because there are a lot of different ways to approach something extreme. It can be slow and heavy or fast and technical and everything in between. Main thing is that in a band all the pieces in the puzzle have to make it one picture. So whatever you do, it has to serve the big picture. Like I said before, personality and pure honest feeling should do the rest. The main goal should not be technique or speed. Those are tools.
EXTREME COLD WINTER:
Interesting interview w a musician. Normally, they dont interest me that much (interviews. what were yr inspirations, how did the writing process go this time etc.).
Saw Seth sing for Deicide once when Mr Benton had some divorce issues and cldnt travel. He stood there w a lyrics sheet in his hand, giving his best!
Checked out Chtuluminati and was not disappointed, at all.
Good to hear too that he’s recovered. I know how such experiences mess up more than your body alone; your self-image takes a hit, as well.