DATE OF INTERVIEW:
23rd July 2009
Releasing their debut album, the aptly titled 'Deranged Headtrip', on PMM Records early 2009, Dutch band CILICE have received a plethora of rave reviews for their self-labelled "mad math metal", a technically accomplished series of compositions that bears influences of acts such as Meshuggah, Dillinger Escape Plan, NIN, and Mike Patton but also remains progressively original in its own right. When one of the band's two guitarists, Theo Holsheimer, offered Metal Discovery an exclusive interview, I took the opportunity to quiz him about the album, their intensive touring schedules, the absence of a bass player and much more...
METAL DISCOVERY: How are you all doing at the moment?
THEO HOLSHEIMER: We're doing fine, thank you for asking. We had a pretty intense time the last year. The album 'Deranged Headtrip' was released earlier this year. We had an amazing tour right behind it and the reviews of the album were pretty promising and convincing. So far we had a pretty good start.
(Theo Holsheimer on CILICE's uncategorisable, uniquely progressive sound)
“It’s pretty hard to describe our music so we described it as “mad math metal”...I hope a lot of people will find out about us in the future and the name CILICE will stand for itself.”
CILICE promo photo - supplied by, and used with permission from, Theo Holsheimer
Interview by Mark Holmes
TH: We had a good time on Progpower for sure. Because we do so many shows, we are used to deal with the situation at the spot. For this show we arrived on time to do the soundcheck, but the whole time schedule got all mixed up. Cynic had a problem with their in-ear monitor system and it took a really long time before the problem was solved. So eventually we didn't have time for a decent soundcheck, we just did a quick line check and went for it.
Deranged Headtrip (2009)
Official Cilice Website:
MD: Your performance at the ProgPower festival last year was very impressive - how did that show go for you as I gather Cynic spent a long time sound checking so it was all a bit rushed from your perspective?
Official Cilice MySpace:
MD: I remember the absence of a bassist, but I presume all bass was on backing tracks (although I recall finding this difficult to tell as the guitars sounded down-tuned and bass heavy). Do you have plans to recruit a live bassist either as a session musician or full-time member?
TH: Bass on backing tracks? Good idea haha. But seriously the way we do it is that Remko splits his guitar signal into two separate channels. One signal is the distorted guitar sound and the other signal is put through a kind of an octaver and bass pre amp from Sansamp. It’s not the usual way to get the lows but we are quite satisfied with the end result. In our perspective it’s not a bad thing to do things differently, to step out of line. We are not looking for a bass player at all at the moment. If we would find one it should be in a very natural way. I wanna share one surprising detail most people don’t know about. Robin Zielhorst, bassplayer from Cynic nowadays, was our bassplayer in CILICE in the early days. We are very happy for him he is in Cynic right now.
MD: I remember Daniel stumbling around at the after party in the Sjiwa basement right into the early hours even though he was coherent enough to apologise to me for being incredibly drunk when I spoke to him! Did you enjoy the whole ProgPower experience….music-wise and beer-wise?!
TH: I think you must be mistaking somebody else for Daniel as we weren't present at the afterparty. We had to go back home after the show. Next day we had to play somewhere else. But the person who was drunk at the Sjiwa basement had to have one hell of a time I can imagine haha.
EDIT: The guy I spoke to at the after party looked very much like the Cilice frontman, and was hugely inebriated. Evidently, he was so drunk this made him claim to be (and perhaps believe he was) Daniel from Cilice!!
MD: How did you end up signed to PMM Records and what can you tell me about that label as I hadn’t heard of them until they sent a review copy of your CD?
TH: When we were recording, Listenable Records found out about us and showed us real interest, but timewise they were so busy with other releases we had to wait for a year. We found out about PMM Records, a very young label. They really showed interest in CILICE, so after a very good meeting we signed for a one year contract for this album.
MD: I gather all tracks were recorded back in 2007 - was the album originally self-released, and was it frustrating having to wait until 2009 before it was officially unleashed upon the world?
TH: Well, the album was recorded back in 2007 indeed. But due to the tours we had it took a long time before we finally had the mixes in our hands as we did the album entirely on our own. Of course it can be pretty frustrating to have this album released after such a long time, especially because we already have written a bunch of new songs waiting to be recorded. Also, the lack of record companies not signing us took a long time. We could've released it on our own, but we just wanted to have the full attention for this record as we put a lot of effort into it.
MD: Press reactions seem to have been very positive towards ‘Deranged Headtrip’ - how do you feel about receiving so many favourable reviews, and have you read any negative ones?
TH: When we were recording 'Deranged Headtrip' we totally weren't focussing on what reactions would be like on our upcoming album. We just like to believe in what we do and know that for every kind of music there is an audience. Of course it was a big heads up for ourselves to see how well 'Deranged Headtrip' is received by the media. When you are recording it's not priority number one what anyone thinks, but of course it's damn important if the album is well received or not.
MD: So you’ve had many great reviews, but how well has the album sold?
TH: I don’t know exactly, it's just we don't really focus on the crunching numbering. Of course the sales could be better as our bank accounts aren't tilting hahaha. It's just how well the promotion of the album has been done by a record company. And how far the networks reach of those companies.
MD: One thing I liked about the album in particular is the fact you write genuinely progressive music, but it doesn’t come across as just for the sake of being progressive - you never sacrifice the composition for experimentalism. Do you always try to be conscious of this when composing material in terms of making the songs accessible in spite of the experimental elements?
TH: We really don't think too much of how difficult a song has to be and if the song is well structured or not. It all starts as any other song which is written in the world. It begins with a riff or a good beat and then you start building. In our way it ends up as an intense creation of progressive movement with a mainstream touch to it. Intentionally we didn't even have the idea to make it this catchy, but it just found its own way as we're in writing progress.
MD: Do you have enough material written for a second album, or will you need to take time out to compose some new stuff?
TH: We already have a lot of new ideas written, even a bunch of them are being played live at the moment. Now we are rehearsing and writing new stuff to add to the material we already have and create a new kind of chaos.
MD: The production by yourselves on ‘Deranged Headtrip’ is fantastic - will you continue to self-produce your music or do you have plans to work with a particular producer in the future?
TH: We don’t know about that. I think we will continue the path, but maybe get some help from the outside who could really make a contribution to make the whole thing better. Of course it would be a dream to work with people like Devin Townsend or Trent Reznor. But the main hand will be done by ourselves unless it's one of those two big guys of course haha.
MD: You describe your music as “mad math metal” whereas I think that you offer so much more beyond the ‘math metal’ tag. Are you ever worried that this label might put some people off in checking out your music in the first place?
TH: It’s pretty hard to describe our music so we described it as “mad math metal”. You can say most of our grooves are math influenced but you are totally right we offer more than that. We know one thing for sure, it ain’t thrash metal haha. I hope a lot of people will find out about us in the future and the name CILICE will stand for itself.
MD: You seem to have a pretty intense touring schedule all year round - has CILICE/music become full-time for any of you, or do you have day jobs with understanding employers who let you take a lot of time off work?
TH: CILICE is our main thing for sure but you are right, it doesn’t pay the bills. So when we are home we have to work to make money, but on freelance basis, so we can go on tour when we want. Our main goal is to change this situation in the future, making enough money by touring, selling merchandise and albums. It’s not an easy job, we are aware of that. But it's our main goal in life, so we keep on going.
MD: How did the UK dates go earlier this year? I did intend to make it down to one for reviewing etc, but unfortunately couldn’t in the end. How were audience sizes?
TH: There are cool spots around the UK where we always come back and people especially come to see CILICE, what feels great. But from our touring experiences through the whole of Europe we found out that the UK is one of the hardest countries for bands to get decent attention. Unfortunately a lot of promoters are doing a really bad job, no posters, no flyers, no advertisements at all. But hey, we are positive guys, we believe in our music, we will continue our journey. And we'll definitely be coming back to the UK always.
MD: The UK dates were part of a much larger European tour - was this self-funded, or did you receive any label support?
TH: Unfortunately we've funded all of our tours ourselves. We asked for support from the government, but apparently all of the money goes to bands who already made it or to bands which split up a year later. Our label is still too small to fund our tours. Again, it’s the hard way. The good thing is we met a lot of great bands and so many people all over Europe who really like CILICE. Our fan base is growing for sure.
MD: What are your craziest, drunkest memories from being on the road? Any funny or surreal moments you’d like to share?
TH: One time we did a gig in Switzerland and I drank to much Jägermeister. Next day I really felt terrible. We had to continue our journey to the next gig. In the car I had to throw up and found this plastic bag under the frontseat, so I puked in the bag. After a while I found out that the bag was leaking, so there was vomit all over the place. I decided to throw the plastic bag filled with puke out of the window and it collapsed on someones front window behind us. I don't want to know what that person must've been thinking.
MD: I understand you’re back over here in the UK in December this year (I’ll try and make it this time!) - would you say your UK fan base is steadily growing and are there any noticeable differences in playing to UK crowds compared to other countries?
TH: As I told you before, the UK is a very tough country, but our fanbase is still growing. It's still very hard as it is really noticeable that England is an Island. Especially in the music-scene. It just feels like the people don't give a crap if you're from another country and it seems like most of the promoters prefer UK bands over foreign bands, which I can't understand at all. So it is a really big difference if we play in front of a UK crowd or a crowd from other countries. Also which I find really amazing is that support bands, which are booked in front of the band which we tour with, just leave after they've played. Especially when they've played on our backline. It just feels like a big lack of respect. We always watch other bands, just to check them out. It's always good to see new bands. I don't want to be too negative about the scene over there, but it's just something that we've noticed in the four times we've played in the UK. But as I also told you before, we will come back to the UK constantly.
MD: Finally, for people who will be reading this and haven’t heard of CILICE before, what would you like to say that recommends people go check you out?
TH: People who are into bands like Meshuggah, Dillinger Escape Plan or UK bands like Fell Silent and Tesseract should come to our shows. They will love our shows, it’s pretty intense. The music is brutal, the rhythms are messed up but it grooves. Even better, check our album or listen to our songs on http://www.myspace.com/cilicemusic first, so that the songs stick in your head and the concerts will be even more fun. You can sing along and will find out we play a lot of new material already. On http://link.cilicemusic.com/ people can find the codes from our video clip and banners, free for use.
MD: Thanks very much for your time, and may you continue with the madness for many years to come! And hopefully I’ll be able to catch one of your shows later in the year. Cheers.
TH: It was my pleasure.