you started about 14 years ago and have released your third album De Zoute Kwel in December. As we have never presented the art of Grafjammer in our magazine, can you please give a short introduction, telling us, what led to the band formation, and what kind of friendship or familiar relation exists in your line up.
Grafjammer / Jorre: Hello. Thankyou for taking interest in Grafjammer. My name is Jorre and I’m the vocalist.
About 14 years ago in 2007 I started Grafjammer with a friend as a low profile studio project. Just for our own amusement we recorded a couple of songs at home, put them on Myspace and left it a that. We were both busy with other bands.
In 2012 we re-discovered those songs and on a whim decided to start a ‚real‘ band. We started to rehearse as a four-piece with among them my brother Jelle and recorded the 7 inch, ‚Smeerenburgh‘. We also did our first gigs in those days. Especially in the beginning it was a bit an on and off affair with people coming and going and we stayed mostly under the radar.
Since 2016 we have a steady line-up as a five-piece and have gradually become a bit more serious over time. In the last years we released 2 albums and a few splits and did more gigs.
Time For Metal / René W.: You celebrate Black Metal, flexing your muscles without restrictions. The lyrics are sung in the local language, as we know it from Heidevolk in the Pagan Metal sector. What motivated you to take this step and are there other groups in your home country that have taken this path?
Grafjammer / Jorre: Yes, I can attest that what we play classifies mostly as black metal. Although we don’t stay really ‚orthodox‘ within the borders of the genre, if there are any. And that is how it should be I think. We mix it with death, punk, grind, d-beat, rock or whatever we feel like.
We don’t really think or analyse about our music too much. We just start with a riff and then look for another one. If it works, it works. If it doesn’t, the garbagebin is ever patient.
From the beginning the use of solely Dutch lyrics was a natural choice. It fits the philosophy of the band of keeping it as local and close to home as possible in terms of subjects and feeling. It’s an ugly and guttural language with the elegance of a drunk pig, yet is at the same time extremely rich in texture. With it we try to capture the feeling of real Dutch dreariness and gloom. So, mouldering farmsteads, slimy ditches, cold cities, lead grey skies and endless rain.
If you peel away the everyday fabric of your own surroundings you can find chilling stories even in your own street.
The last few years saw a rise actually of a lot of (black) metal bands in the Netherlands adopting Dutch names and lyrics. Some very good, some lame as fuck.
Time For Metal / René W.:
Your names all start with a J. Is this a fictional public image or are these your real first names?
Grafjammer / Jorre: It’s actually a bit of an ongoing joke within the band. When we started with Grafjammer it was Harry and Jorre. After that came Jelle and Jurgen and later Jeroen, those are all their real names. We then issued the order that with the exception of Harry all members of Grafjammer are required to have a name starting with J. If you have a name that doesn’t, the band will provide you with another one that does.
So no deep philosophy behind that I’m afraid. Just nonsense. Although I like to think it’s in a way a very small nod to the Ramones.
Time For Metal / René W.:
Black Metal bands in Germany are strongly connected. What about in the Netherlands? Are there any bands you can spend some time or even play shows with?
Grafjammer / Jorre: Absolutely. We have a couple of bands very close to our heart. The most important one is Wrang. We share our drummer and in times of need different members fill in for each other. Apart from that they are a bloody great band that dwarf our own sorry abilities.
Another brother band a little further away is the Swiss Chotzä with which we did quite a lot of gigs and 2 splits. Great guys with even greater livers.
At home the Utrecht metalscene as a whole is a close-knit group of people that can easily be called incestuous. Everybody does it with everybody in one band or another. Sometimes they even make music.
Time For Metal / René W.: You have produced your album in the year 2020. Did you have any restrictions in the rehearsal room, in the studio or during the release of De Zoute Kwel due to the pandemic situation? Or could you proceed unrestricted like for the other two studio albums?
Grafjammer / Jorre: Actually the whole corona crisis sped up the process of finishing De Zoute Kwel. Since there was not much else to do we concentrated on writing the last few songs and polishing the ones we already had finished.
Our rehearsal space was closed a while because of the first lock-down. That was unfortunate because we don’t write from home but old fashioned together in a room. After it opened again we could rehearse like normal albeit with the usual precautions such as keeping enough distance. The studio where we recorded is a little cramped but we didn’t need to be there together all the time. Mainly just the one who was recording his parts together with Wessel from Catacomben Studios.
So no real problems there. But because of the second wave of infections our live presentation of the album on the 18th of December was cancelled. Since we only were allowed to play for 20 people at the same time the plan was to play 3 times in row. But then came the new lockdown. The new date is the 12th of February but in light of the current developments I’m not betting anything that it will proceed. It being cancelled and postponed again would of course suck big balls, but it is what it is. We can cry, but it won’t help.
Time For Metal / René W.:
After the self-released albums, you found your way to the Folter Records family. How did you come together, and what development is this intended to accomplish?
Grafjammer / Jorre: For a long time and – still for a great part – we really enjoy the DIY approach. So we released our previous albums ourselves and we produce our own merchandise. But our albums have since the very beginning also been released on tape by the Berlin based Black Tapes label of Matthias Frenzel.
Our guitar player Jouter has a good nose for getting acquainted with the right people and so got us an offer from Joerg from Folter Records that’s very beneficial for us. Joerg is a reliable and down to earth guy and Folter carries a lot of weight in the underground. So getting aboard his label was a no-brainer for us. That his name starts with J was a pleasant bonus.
Time For Metal / René W.: De Zoute Kwel has clear structures, and also the lyrics are clear indications for a concept album, which is also transferred to the artwork. Please tell me something about the folktale, which deals with burning children.
Grafjammer / Jorre:
De Zoute Kwel is not really a concept album in so far that all the songs are separate stories. But what unites them is the feeling of old and local dread and Dutch misery in the extreme.
The story of the burning children is more an urban myth than a folktale and originates from the 50’s. It is also the only story on the album that is not solely Dutch since it’s also known in England and Belgium.
It’s about the cheap reproductions of kitsch paintings of weeping orphans or ‚gypsy children‘ presumably painted by an Italian under the pseudonym Bragolin. Those were very popular in working class families in the 50’s and 60’s. The story goes that it are all orphans that died in a fire that destroyed the orphanage shortly after they were painted. It is said that the paintjngs cause fire and that firemen used to find them often completely undamaged between the rubble of burnt down houses. Apart from that it is also claimed they cause depression and drive people to suicide.
I remember one hanging in the home of a friend from kindergarden when I was 4 and it scared the bejesus out of me then. They still do actually. They all have these eyes that follow you around the room and there is something especially unnerving about them. Nowadays you find them at thriftshops mostly. I own one which I keep in my garden shed. Not that I actually believe the story. But better safe than sorry.
Time For Metal / René W.:
Can you please also give a short track-by-track commentary for your German fans and our readers, explaining a little bit the thoughts behind the sequences of De Zoute Kwel?
Grafjammer / Jorre: Happily.
The first song on the album is Jajempriester which translates as Jeneverpriest in old slang. It’s about a fictional unlicensed bar on the wharf where violence, alcoholism and fornication run rife. It contains hints to several old bars of ill repute in Utrecht and is also an ode to one of our favorite bartenders in dB’s, the place where we rehearse.
It’s a raw Motörhead like track with a lot of D-beat and riot vocals. A first fist in the face to start with.
Affreus. Infaam. Abject translates as old words for ‚dreadful, disgraceful, repulsive‘. A song about depression, madness, nightmares and substance abuse. It’s a more classic BM song with some Dissection influences. Although it again has a hearty pinch of D-beat as well.
Zelfverminkers & Spiritusdrinkers means roughly ‚Self-mutilators and paintstripperdrinkers‘
It’s about Utrecht Central Station that until quite recently was a very unpleasant place full of addicts, homeless and madmen.
It also tells of the medieval graveyard for ‚unfortunates‘ that used to lie just outside the city walls and coincidently under the fundaments of the present train station. Here were buried all the unwanted people of those days like unbaptized babies, self murderers, executed prisoners, homosexuals and the like. A few years ago they stumbled on a lot of bones during construction in that area. Somehow the place always has been reserved for the rejects of society.
It’s bit of a slower paced song with some proto black and death metal influences.
Fourth in line comes De Bijlman van Trecht. It’s actually a grind song clevery discuised in a BM jacket. It means Axeman from Trecht
Trecht is the medieval name for Utrecht. If you look a the map of the inner city you can see the form of a man raising an axe in the old waterways and streets. The historical consensus is that this is purely coincidental but some obscure sources claim a sinister plan behind it.
Bakboordshand‘ or ‚Portsidehand is a BM song with a bit more epic qualities and some very catchy leads. It’s a ghost story partly based on the legend of the Flying Dutchmen and the old maritime superstition that lefthanded crewmembers were deemed satans‘ prodigies. It ends with a very nice peace of accordion by the hand of Jacco de Wijs of Heidevolk.
Bijbelgordelgesel is a small play on words translating as Bible Belt Whip. In the woods east of Utrecht is still a lot of orthodox hardcore christianity in fashion. It’s a fictional story about a remote village where religious madness completely derails into Old Testament sacrifices to Jahwe.
That is also our drummer by the way. Again a blistering D-beat black metal track.
Next up is De kinderen branden or The children burn. I already talked at length about its subject so I won’t tire you with more. It’s one of our more doomy songs. The intro especially is a not so subtle nod to Black Sabbath.
Maak het kort means Make it short and so is a compact facebreaker about Johan van Oldenbarnevelt. He was prime minister of the fledgling Dutch state during our war of independence against Phillip of Spain. He was cowardly tried and executed by an ancestor of our present sovereign in a political trial and power struggle. According to history he went dignified and quiet up the scaffold only whispering ‚make it short‘ to the axeman.
We thought he deserved a little more words. So in our song he spits black bile and vitriol on the prince, the country and every sorry soul between East Frisia and the river Schelde.
We conclude with Kolkgat or Whirlhole. It’s a hole that occurs when a dyke breaks and all sediment is washed away by the force of rushing water. It’s in particular about a stretch of dyke to the south of the city of Utrecht protecting us from the Lek, an extension of the Rhine. That dyke has been there for more than 1000 years and in that time has broke in floods or due to ice or was pierced in wartime on hundreds of occasions. It’s still there though with a whirlhole as a silent witness for every time it broke.
It’s mainly a slow, doomy, droning song with some hints of Burzum.
Hope that qualifies as a ’short‘ track by track commentary. You won’t make the same mistake twice asking me that.
Time For Metal / René W.:
Currently live shows are not possible. What are your plans for the time you can enter the stages again? Will you catch up on the release party or will there even be a tour at the end of the year (if it is possible)?
Grafjammer / Jorre: Well I really hope we will be able to host our release party somewhere in the future. But like I said I’m afraid the 12th of February will be tight. I really look forward to the time we can leave all this lockdown shit far behind us but I’m afraid it will be a while still.
A tour would of course be great but I’m not sure that is completely realistic. But I hope we can do more shows later this year. Right now I would already give my right arm just to be able to rehearse again and to drink a beer together. But yet there is no point in getting worked up. We have to make due with spinning records and reading books for now.
As long as the roof doesn’t leak, the fridge is full and the wifi works it could all be much, much worse I guess.
Time For Metal / René W.:
Thank you very much for this short and concise interview. I wish you all the best and good luck in these crazy times.
Grafjammer / Jorre: Not sure if I kept it really short, but it was a pleasure nonetheless. Thanks again for your interest and opinion. Good luck with your magazine.
Stay safe, wash your hands and get fucking vaccinated. Then hopefully we can drink a beer somewhere in the future.