Nick van Dyk (guitars, keyboards): “We as people need to be able to have principle disagreements without deciding that anybody who doesn’t agree with them is evil.”
Redemption is al sinds 2001 actief als niet te missen progressieve metal band en bracht intussen zeven studioalbums uit. De achtste, met als titel ‘I Am The Storm’, is zonet uitgebracht via AFM Records en is een knaller van jewelste. Gitarist/componist Nick Van Dyk staat al de gehele tijd aan het roer en met hem is het fijn praten over dit nieuwe werkstuk en het leven.
Vera Matthijssens Ι 24 maart 2023
How are you doing, because it has been a while? In 2018 you released the previous album ‘Long Night’s Journey Into Day’…
It apparently didn’t seem like that, but we have been busy. After that we did a Blu-ray (‘Alive In Color’ – 2020 – Vera), which was a major production and at the beginning of covid-19, we started working on this new record. We actually wrote enough – we thought we were going to have enough material for two albums – and then at some point we said: as an artist, we have to have a high level of quality and it would take too long, so we stopped, but that is why we have a bunch of bonus material. So the writing process probably took a little bit longer and then, frankly, we were working with a different producer. He is very good, but he overbooked himself and he literally sat on his desk for eight months. Finally we said: look, we love you, but we cannot do this. So the album should have been out probably a few months ago, but we are where we are. Happily we got what we got and we take it from here.
This is the second album you have made with Tom S. Englund as singer. Did it change something?
No, not really. We did the same basic process which is he tracks the majority of his vocals at his studio in Gothenburg, but I think my writing probably reflects a little bit more his abilities of range to feel comfortable and I think he is a little bit more used to my writing. So I think there is a bit of growth there. I think we can still continue to move in that direction as we become more comfortable with each other. Part of why Tom wants to do this, is it pushes him out of his comfort zone. The way I write melodies is different from how he writes and we wanted it to be that way, because we don’t want to sound like Evergrey, because we are a heavy metal band with him singing. So it is always going to sound a little bit like Evergrey, but by creating my melodies that does create some distinction, it also makes him sing in a way that isn’t that natural to him and which he enjoys, because he grows as a vocalist, but I think when we continue to work together, it will become a bit more natural for him.
Can you tell a bit more about that growing of the first songs during the pandemic? Did you write on your own, totally isolated or something like that?
I think we were all kind of isolated, but that is usually how I write. The difference there is Vikram, our keyboardist, he is an incredibly gifted composer and arranger himself. There were some songs that I more or less finished completely, there were other songs that I had sections and that I asked him to contribute or melt them together or come up with alternatives and there were some songs that are based on his ideas, where I contributed melodies and snippets or maybe some guitar parts here and there, but the bones of the songs – one that I can remember is the bone of ‘The Emotional Depiction Of Light’ – which came from an idea that he sent and I think it is a little bit different for us in a good way. So I was pleased with Vikram being more involved in the song writing process.
That’s nice. The song is indeed a bit more easy listening and less hectic let’s say…
I agree although I probably made it too hectic towards the end with a lot of different vocal lines which is why we let Vikram do an alternative mix. The beginning of the song and even in the middle reminds me of what Anathema would do, this very simple haunting melody. I love that sort of song writing. You need to be able to breathe (chuckles).
How are you doing by the way, because you have been severely ill some years ago? Are you doing well?
Thank you for asking. Yeah I am now… I wasn’t supposed to be here, so I am doing well. I had a type of cancer that most people think is not curable, but I went to a very aggressive doctor and I went through a very aggressive treatment and so far it looks like he has been right. I was given three to five years to live back in 2008 and there is no trace of the disease right now although it is strange. I am going to a doctor in Los Angeles regularly and he really can’t explain. The doctor who treated me is now retired but he said I am cured, so hopefully he is right. That is why I realize that every day is a gift.
How did you face the pandemic, weren’t you extra careful?
Yeah there have been some changes to my physiologic. My back is broken at several places, I am a little shorter than I used to be, I have lost some muscles mass that will never be back because it was eaten away by the treatment I got in Arizona, I got some current pain from gastro, your gut gets destroyed by the chemo, but I got adjusted to this life now, because the alternative is not being here, so I’ll take it.
The title track kicks off the album and this is an instant attack of energy I would say… how do you see that?
There is a kind of cliché with a lot of progressive bands, that they should start with a kind of 9 seconds tone or special effects or sound effects, really slow before it starts. I never wanted to be accused of being a whimpy prog band or someone who lacks energy. So our albums tend to start with one of the more aggressive songs and that’s always been one facet of us: we have an aggressive side, we have a kind of melodic prog metal side and then we have this kind of prog rock extensive longer form song side. All three of these are represented, plus Vikram’s little journey we took with him on ‘The Emotional Depiction Of Light’, so it is a varied album. We definitely started with the most aggressive track, just a sort of get people’s attention and kick them in the teeth right from the start.
A contemplation about ‘Remember The Dawn’. Are you a morning person?
(laughs) Haha that’s a very good question. There are days when I am, there are days when I like to get up early, my day job is very demanding, so I am working a lot. There are some times, particularly when I have been celebrating with friends, when I feel like not getting up quite as early as I need to. So I am not necessary a morning person, but I am a person who – metaphorically that song of course is about the ups and downs of life and remembering to keep perspective and every time there is sadness, there will eventually be joy and every time you think you are on top of the world, don’t think it will last forever, because life does throw challenges at you. So that song is about perspective that ultimately turns into optimism I think.
Do you follow the news or do you live inside your own little world?
I do follow the news and there is a theme… we had a song on the last record ‘Long Nights Journey Into Day’ called ‘The Echo Chamber’ which is about how people react to the news and how the ability to have a civil disagreement – at least in America – has becoming very, very rare and people become very entranced in their opinions, they surround themselves with people that agree with them and then they are starting demonizing people that disagree with them. That dynamic – which I do see, because I do follow the news – has gotten even more extreme. I removed myself from some of the social media, because it became so toxic there and that is… there is a bonus track on this new record which is called ‘The Pearl Clutchers’ which is about people that are incredibly rude and do demonize others and then when it is thrown back into their face, they pretend to be shocked by how awful this person is, it is pushing back against this normalization of being uncivil. We need to be able to have principle disagreements without deciding that anybody who doesn’t agree with them is evil.
In that respect the dialogue is gone…
Yeah it is a terrible thing.
Another song that I wanted to mention is ‘Seven Minutes To Sunset’… It speaks to the imagination, because recently we had a conjunction of Jupiter, Venus and the moon here in Europe right after sunset…
I can tell you what it is about, but that might spoil it. It depends… if you want to know… one person said it is the length of time that it takes sunlight to reach the earth from the sun, which I thought is pretty cool. That is not what the song is about, but it is an interesting fact, so some of the people don’t want to spoil it, but I will tell you if you really want to know what the song is about.
Yes, I really want to know…
So there are metaphors… the song is a metaphor for the daily grind of going to work in a stressed environment. Seven minutes from sunset refers to: it takes me seven minutes to drive from my house to the large street nearby – which is Sunset Boulevard – and during these seven minutes, I don’t have cell phone connection, because I am in a canyon and it is peaceful. And then as soon as I hit Sunset shit hits the fan as we say here. You land into the world crisis… when you are driving to your work every day, you are dealing with people who are upset with the economy and things like that, it is stressful. That’s sort of a parallel: you are going into battle and you get wounded, you lick your wounds, go to bed and get up the next morning and do it all over again. That is what the song is about.
You are still in the rat race…
I am in the rat race, that’s for sure. That’s the only way I can afford to keep making music (laughs).
So it is a hobby for you…
Well, I wouldn’t say. It is more than a hobby. It is not my first source of making a living, because you cannot really make a living of it in our genre at our size, but it is more serious than a hobby obviously. We take it very seriously and want to continue making great music and I am lucky that I am surrounded by phenomenal musicians, all of them. Tom couldn’t survive of Redemption, not either from Evergrey. That is maybe the prize we pay for making music, we play this type of music and we love our fans, even though there are not as many as we need to be doing this full time.
Is there still a descent scene for progressive metal and rock in the US?
There are bands that are popular and sometimes I am surprised by how they are able to draw people, but I don’t know if you have heard about the band Marillion, they can only tour in the US if they do a Kickstart campaign. They manage to get people out, but it is expensive to do that. There is a scene, but I would say that it is probably much bigger in Europe than it is here.
Although, I have to say that ProgPower in the US manages to have more famous bands than ProgPower EU…
Well, ProgPower in the US is a shining light and an exception on everything I just said. That is a very, very special event and we love being part of that family and the guy behind it all, Dan Harvest and his crew of many, many people who make it work every year. They are fantastic people, really passionate about providing a platform for bands like us and others, to reach an audience that otherwise would not be possible. So we love them for that.
Please tell me about your connection with Simone Mularoni, the Italian guy who helped you out in the studio. I have known him for a very long time and I see that he is doing well.
First of all, isn’t he just a lovely person? Incredibly kind, talented and humble! Unbelievably humble. The only thing I don’t like about him is that he should quit smoking, but we are so lucky. I loved working with him and this is the third album that he has done with us. He is under contract, so I cannot make him a full member, but he is certainly very close with the band and when our producer could not get it fixed, Simone said: ‘let me try and see what I can do’ and he spent a couple of weeks on it and I think this is the best sounding record we have ever had. He did a marvellous job with Michael Romeo’s solo stuff and other albums that I listened to and he is becoming literally one of the world’s handsomest guitar players. He has become an incredibly sought after engineer and producer as well, so I am super happy to have him.
That is nice; born and living so far away from each other and now there is a connection…
Yes, I have to thank Tom for that. When I asked Tom if he could come to follow on Ray’s big shoes, Tom mentioned Vikram as keyboard player – we didn’t have one at that time – and he worked with a number of guest guitar players and he introduced me to Simone. Simone just blew me away. As I said, he is such a fantastic guy, so Tom really helped building up the line-up that we have now and I credit him for that.
In your band the world is one place…
That is kind of nice, in the face of all that division that we were just talking about; that we can still have this close connection.
Please tell me about the choice of the two cover songs… I love Genesis, with and without Peter Gabriel, but what is your connection with that?
Well, part of it is… I grew up listening to the music of the seventies and the eighties, I still listen to that today. Good songs are good songs, it doesn’t matter what genre they are in. And forty years later, these songs endure, because they are incredibly well written. We have always had a tradition of doing one cover per album. Iron Maiden is arguable my favourite band, but nobody needs to hear another version of ‘Run To The Hills’. It is already done perfect. So I like picking great songs that can retain the character of their song-writing, but be done in a different style. Going back to Iron Maiden, the first time I ever encountered something like that was when they did ‘Cross-Eyed Mary’ by Jethro Tull, way back on the ‘Piece Of Mind’ album and I thought: ‘wow, what a cool thing to take this song and make it your own’. So that’s probably when I got the idea, we have always been doing it and Tom sounds like Peter Gabriel. I always liked the song ‘Red Rain’ and the version we did of it – which is based on his live performance – is basically a six minutes drum solo with singing in it. Our drummer never gets to show off, he always tames himself down. I always have to push him to show off. The reason why there are two covers, is because we thought we were going to do two records, as we were writing a lot. I wanted to do the Genesis one before we were writing a different record and for what reason it didn’t right click. So we re-recorded the music and did the drums and I sent it to Tom. He is not a huge fan of covers, I think he just did it to be nice to me, but he sent back the vocals on that and I said: ‘wow, this turned out much better than I expected.’ We liked it so much and you know what? We just cannot pick one of those two covers, we are going to release them both.
That makes sense… Peter Gabriel and Genesis are connected…
That brings me to another song ‘Action At A distance’. I was doing a lot of reading – I am sure we all did during covid-19, because there was nothing else to do. I came across this one book that introduced a concept in physics that Albert Einstein called ‘spooky action at a distance’. What that means is, you take an atom and you split it. You separate the two parts and keep them in the super collider, miles apart and if you change the spin of the electrons around one atom in one place, the other one changes too even though you haven’t touched it. So in despite of the fact that they are separated, they remain connected forever. It implies things like theories we maybe don’t understand and there are layers of connection that we can’t see or touch every day, but they nonetheless exist and that is obviously a metaphor for personal relationships and even something as simple as you and I having this conversation, our parallels are a little bit different afterwards than they were before. In some way we will be connected through this conversation forever. So Peter Gabriel and Genesis are connected, I didn’t have it planned out at the beginning, but maybe there is an underlying spooky action at a distance that I didn’t see to turn out this way.
In that respect I sometimes guess: how many connections am I away from the Queen of England…
Yes, yes, probably less than you think.
And David Gilmour, I haven’t interviewed him, that would be a dream…
I wish there was an opportunity; I love David Gilmour’s Pink Floyd. Roger is a genius despite of being a little bit of a wacky character, but I was glad that I have seen both of them perform. I wish I could see David perform one more time, but I don’t think he’s going to be touring extensively now.
I once saw him in a university campus when his first solo album came out…
Oh ‘About Face’, I love it, it is a great record. I used to know how to play one of those songs. I am looking for an acoustic guitar, but I don’t see one.
Are there plans for any video clips, because that is a totally different thing to do of course?
Yes, that is challenging, because of everyone’s job and how busy they are, but a video is in the works. We are going to figure out how it can be done, but it is in the works. It will probably be for ‘Seven Minutes From Sunset’, because that is still the right length for a video.
Do you think there’s going to be a chance to play live?
I certainly hope so. It will probably be in Europe before it is in the US, because it is so expensive now to get Tom and Simone over here to tour. You have to buy visas for both of them and by the time you get that… what probably needs to happen is that we need to book early enough so we can get a couple of festivals in Europe. They can provide enough money frankly to get the US members of the band over to Europe and then we can put something together for a few weeks. That is what we did – it is hard to believe it’s been ten years since we last did that. We all got three years over for covid-19.
And now all the bands try to go on tour at the same time…
Yes, the bands that make a living touring had a very difficult time obviously. We would love to tour with Evergrey, but that would be hard work for Tom. Maybe we should tour with Evergrey and DGM, then we have all the musicians in one place. (laughs) I would love to play in all three of those places (NB, B, D). I was in Amsterdam over the summer actually, meeting relatives that I hadn’t seen in thirty years and I actually went to the street where my father was born back in 1917. It didn’t use to be a very nice part of town, but it has been cleaned up and it is very nice now.
And did you still recognize something from where he was living?
No, I have never been to that part of town, I have been to Holland before obviously, but when I went there with my parents when he was still alive, I was fifteen, I think he probably told me. He grew up very poor, I think it was a slum, it was near the Heineken brewery and I didn’t remember where it was because it wasn’t a nice part of town, but it is maybe a mile away from Rijksmuseum, now a really pretty part of town, it has been cleaned up for all these nice apartments and gardens. I hope to come back with a guitar next time (chuckles).
Travis Smith has done the artwork, a very famous name, but now it has been a while for me, so how did you get him involved?
He has done everyone of our records. It is funny. There are times when I have a pretty well formed idea of what I want and there are times when I only have a vague idea of what I want, like the last album. This was somewhere in between, but I knew I liked this idea where ‘I Am The Storm’ comes from. There is a saying that is very popular here when you look for a nice bottle of wine. It says: the devil said to the warrior: you will not survive the storm. The warrior replied: I am the storm. There are different variations on it, but this idea of ‘we are authors in our own story’, we are individuals with dignity and the ability to influence our lives and have the agency for our choices and decisions and a sort of pushback against fate. There are things we cannot control, so the metaphor is maybe a little bit overblown, but don’t be a badass in your own life and take responsibility and be the source of positive changes in your life. That is what this song is really about and I had this visual representation of that, it is this person walking through this street with a wake of destruction behind him. That is kind of what we try to convey with that cover. I think it worked out great.
Yes it is a kind of desperate imagine, dark…
And he is not the victim there, he is the agent of change.
Good that you tell me. We should always have a positive note, even in these times…
What do you want to do with your life now this year for instance?
Well, let’s see. I will ignore the things that I have to do for my job. I continue to love every moment I can spend with my kids, my daughter Parker who I wrote a song about a long time ago or a couple of songs really, she is twenty now, so time flies.
Is it okay with her eyes?
Yes, her eyes are sort of stable, which is good and she has shown to be able to drive a car, but we manage. Of course I will get more music done. I am working on a couple of things now, including putting some ideas together for the next Redemption record. I love us to get this video done. I love us to try to think about how we got to get out and play live. And that is probably an ambitious enough list for the next nine months.