…on an angst-driven evening in january 2011, multi-instrumentalist Dirk Verbeuren (Aborted, Scarve, Soilwork) carved grindcore act BENT SEA out of his disembowling passion for the noise that permeated the air of his teenage years…equipped with an arsenal of furious beats and ferocious riffage, Verbeuren created an assaulting army of tracks, enlisting his Aborted bandmate and fellow belgian Sven De Caluwe to call the formations…the pair were then joined by none other than Devin Townsend on bass…BENT SEA’s debut 11 song EP “Noistalgia”, produced by Devin Townsend, was released digitally on 11/11/11…a limited vinyl version will be released in early 2012. And what else BENT SEA is, let’s find out…
1. Hi Dirk, I’m Tarja. Welcome to Metal Shock Finland! What was your first thought of this morning?
Hey Tarja! Thank you! I believe my first thought was “what the hell is this thing in my face?” In case you wanna know, it was my cat Sven’s tail.
2. LOL! Before we’ll go to Bent Sea, let’s talk about you… You’ve recorded over fifty releases with bands such as Devin Townsend Project, Soilwork, Aborted, Scarve and Anatomy of I. But tell me, when was the moment, the impulse, you knew to become a professional drummer?
Almost twenty years ago, after I graduated from high school and when it was time to choose what to do next. In the back of my head I had thought for many years that I was gonna become a scientist or something, but I suddenly realized how much music and drumming meant to me. I convinced my parents to let me attend the MAI, a professional music school in the North-East of France, and I haven’t stopped ever since.
3. Besides an active endorsee and drum clinician for Tama drums and Meinl cymbals, you are also the creator of a series of drum libraries for Toontrack, a sought-after brand of drum software specializing in home and studio recording. What else you’d like to tell about this part of your professional life?
I try to stay as busy as I can. It’s essential in this business. I’m very lucky to work with the awesome people at Tama, Toontrack and Meinl who are all extremely supportive of my career. I was introduced to Toontrack by Fredrik Thordendal of Meshuggah and it changed my life and my approach to drumming. The Library of the Extreme series is my way of contributing to their concept by providing musicians and producers with easy-to-use, pro-sounding extreme beats and fills. It’s been very successful so far and a lot of musicians have told me they use it all the time, which is truly awesome! As for Tama and Meinl, they make some of the absolute best drum gear out there. I’m super proud to represent those companies, as well as Evans and dB drumshoes.
One of the most fun things about my job is how diverse it is. Recently I took part in Sick Drummer Magazine’s first ever Sick Drummer Camp where I got to hang out and jam with some of my all-time drum heroes: Sean Reinert, Gene Hoglan, Derek Roddy, George Kollias… It was just insane! Playing live with Devin Townsend Project last November was also an unforgettable experience, especially because Deconstruction is easily the craziest record I’ve ever been a part of. And of course, everything I’ve done with Soilwork and Scarve has been essential in my life. I wouldn’t be here today without those two bands.
5. And now to your grindcore act Bent Sea which you formed last January… You’ve said it’s your passion for the noise that permeates the air of your teenage years… So this is a sort of “teenage-dream” to become true, or had you planned this to happen all these years?
I think it was waiting to happen. But it definitely wasn’t planned. As a matter of fact, one of the things I like the most about grindcore, crust and punk is the raw, spontaneous energy, as opposed to the “cleanly” produced approach of most metal genres. Bent Sea strives to preserve the initial energy that comes with creating new music. I consciously avoid overthinking any of it.
6. With you in the band there are Devin Townsend on bass and Sven De Caluwé on vocals. Tell me how you 3 got together?
Initially it was just me. I wrote all the music and lyrics for “Noistalgia” and recorded all the instruments. But I can’t sing worth shit so I decided to call Sven. I love his way of working and his vocals, and I think he did an absolutely stellar job on the EP! And so did Devin, who came into the picture completely by accident. We were rehearsing for the DTP shows and I played some rough Bent Sea mixes for him. He commented on the crappy bass sound, so I went “ok, well, do you wanna redo the bass?” He did not only that, but also mixed and mastered the whole thing! Bent Sea was never meant to be an all-star band or something like that. It really just happened. Of course I’m more than stoked to be working with those guys, they’re both good friends and amazing at what they do!
7. Btw, why this band name? It brings in my mind a very interesting conceptual vision…
It comes from an Endvra song called “Gods of the Bent Sea”. Back when I was studying drums, I once spent an entire vacation locked up in a dark room reading H.P. Lovecraft and listening to stuff like Endvra. Their music has a very mysterious aura which is perfect for dark literature like the myths of Cthulhu. The name Bent Sea has absolutely nothing to do with grindcore, but I like the way it sounds and the fact that it stand apart. There’s no particular meaning behind it. I always envision the ocean bending as the ancient ones arise from the depths.
8. This project sees you taking on multiple instruments, as well as the roles of composer, lyricist and producer. Tell me about this combination and how a new song sees the daylight?
Bent Sea is my personal outlet. One of the ideas behind it is to be free of any ties: labels, managers, band members- you name it. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to continue working with Sven and Devin and I really hope we can make it happen. But the band will continue regardless, as long as I’m inspired to do it. The same goes for labels. I’m actually discussing a limited physical release on an underground label right now, but I’m not about to sign an exclusivity contract anytime soon, at least I don’t think so, haha! As far as songwriting goes, the drums come first. I just try to make a solid structure with whatever beats I come up with at that very moment. Then I write the guitar and bass parts, and finally the lyrics. On “Noistalgia”, Sven did most of the vocal placements himself, and very expertly so, whereas Devin expanded on my initial basslines with a ton of groove and kick ass ideas.
My wife, who’s also my publicist, suggested that date because it was Record Store Day. I hate that so many underground record stores have disappeared and I do whatever I can to support the ones that are still around. As for vinyl, I grew up with that and it’s still my favorite format to this day. The big artwork, the sound, the fact that you have to flip a record over… I like everything about it! The Bent Sea vinyl will probably come out later this year, because I haven’t got enough money together to print it yet. Speaking of which, that was one of the biggest advantages of releasing “Noistalgia” digitally: it’s affordable and it allows me to keep the selling price reasonable.
10. The EP title “Noistalgia” is maybe referring to your teenage years, or?
Yeah, it’s my nostalgia of noise, hence “Noise-talgia”. In the mid-to-late eighties, grindcore, punk and death metal were the most exciting thing around. I was literally obsessed with fast music. I remember getting “Scum” just because the sticker said “world’s fastest band”! You couldn’t find everything in two seconds like now with the internet- back then, you’d buy something just because the band logo or the cover looked cool. And of course, it was all on vinyl or tape. What I miss most though, nowadays, are the random productions. When these extreme genres were born, no producer knew exactly how to capture them and to me, that rawness is part of what makes the early classics like “Scum”, “Horrified” and “World Downfall” so great. Although that last one sounds really amazing, actually.
11. I’ve listened now to your EP a couple of times, and it’s full of furious beats and ferocious riffage… Technically speaking, how would you describe your EP?
It’s just what came naturally. I didn’t think about the music as much as I felt it. This goes back to what I said earlier about letting the spontaneous energy dictate the songs, instead of the brain or some kind of pre-conceived plan. To put it simply, “Noistalgia” represents everything I like about grindcore.
12. The song themes seem to be very human, taken from every-day-life-issues. Let’s take an example from “Dead Meat” which you introduce saying: “Eating healthy is much easier than you think”…If it’s not preaching (as you’ve stated you don’t wanna do), with this EP you’re taking a stand in a very direct way … Do you agree? However, tell me the message you wanna get through to your audience…
The lyrics, I did put a lot of thought into. Napalm Death, D.R.I., Extreme Noise Terror and many other bands I grew up with had socio-political lyrics. And since there happen to be quite a few things that piss me off these days, Bent Sea is the perfect vehicle for my rants. The songs on “Noistalgia” address serious issues like politics and the downfall of our planet, and less serious ones such as what I refer to as the “ProTools generation”- i.e. bands that can’t play and depend on producers and studio trickery to make them sound good. So yeah, I do take very direct stands indeed. It’s important for me not to preach because I very much believe in personal freedom. But that also entails that I can express what I think. For example, I’m a vegetarian because I don’t believe in the way meat is mass-produced and in the way most animals on this planet are treated. It’s a cause I very much believe in and that’s what the song “Dead Meat” is all about. Everyone can eat whatever the hell they want, that’s totally fine with me, but maybe I can inspire a few people to think about some of these issues.
That’s a good question! I don’t know, I guess I just thrive off of completing projects, especially when it involves music. I have so much going on all the time it’s crazy, but I really don’t know how to stop. I guess that’s what a passion does to you… Very often, I’m singing beats and riffs in my head but I usually forget them. Bent Sea is when I actually remember them! Haha!
14. How are you gonna support this EP? And what are Bent Sea’s next plans?
It’s all DIY. I’m promoting the band whenever I get a chance. We may also play a few shows if we can make our schedules meet at some point. But that’s not a priority for now. I’m writing music all the time and I have tons of ideas for future releases, including a few potential split releases with some really cool bands. In any case, you’ll hear more Bent Sea sooner than later.
15. Now an extreme question… if it weren’t the drums, what would it be?
I’ve considered becoming an animal caretaker or researcher many times. Animals fascinate me endlessly, kind of like music does, and I think it would feel good to be of use in that field. But I can’t imagine not being a drummer though!
16. How do you manage to divide all the time between Bent Sea, Soilwork (full-time member since 2005), Anatomy Of I (which has recently released an album) + being a session drummer for several acts + all your other activities?
I don’t, haha! I’m always too busy, especially if you ask my wife. But then again it’s my job, and I’m so fortunate to do what I do. I guess I’m a bit of a workaholic. It’s all about finding the right balance, which every now and then I seem to succeed in doing.
17. And whenever you can to have some free time and relax, what do you prefer to do?
I usually hang out with my wife and our three cats and dog. We love to go out with our friends or watch TV together. I’ll play the occasional videogame too.
18. Before we close this interview, would you like to give me your “Top 5” of the released albums in 2011?
Ok, let’s see… I’m gonna say Brutal Truth “Endtime”, Mastodon “The Hunter”, Jesu “Jesu/Dethroned”, Primus “Green Naugahyde” and Devin Townsend Project “Deconstruction”.
19. Thanks Dirk for this pleasant chat! …now the word is yours, what would you like to say to our readers?
Thank you Tarja! Folks, if you’ve read until here, now’s the time to go to bentsea.com and download “Noistalgia” for a measly 4 Euros! You won’t regret it, I promise!
Interview by Tarja Virmakari – Photos: Hannah Verbeuren