Dew-Scented interview with Leif Jensen: "We don't need to change in order to progress"

28/09/2012 @ 14:04
In the realm of thrash / death, bands-constant values is a rather common occurrence. Even if the word 'evolution' is quite rare to be found in their vocabulary, some bands are known never to disappoint their fans, proving it with every new release. German's Dew-Scented stand out as a prominent example of this, offering their twenty-year career and their nine albums as evidence. This year's "Icarus" is their latest effort, which gave us the opportunity to conduct an interview with the band's mastermind, Leif Jensen.

Greetings from Greece, Leif. I am Vagelis, on behalf of webzine. How are things for the band these days?
Hey Vagelis! Thanks for getting in touch... things are great over here. Just wrapping up an intense summer-season and looking forward to whatever else crosses our path to keep promoting "Icarus"!

So, "Icarus" is your ninth release so far. How far would you say you’ve gone since the beginning of the band?
Well, obviously we have come quite far, seeing how it’s been 20 years and already 9 albums released so far! I don’t think anybody was seeing this coming in his wildest dreams, when we started out. I mean, we were local teenagers that loved listening to Metal music, drinking some beers and sharing some time together after school or work. That was pretty much all to it and then from step to step, things took a more proper approach and kept growing! I like the fact how it was all a very organic process and how we are still having fun and passion for this after such a long time. It doesn’t cease to amaze me how challenging it keeps on being to be active with a band. It really never gets boring because you always encounter new situation, so I guess that’s good...

Dew-ScentedI understand that you have recently welcomed three new members in the band. Can you share a few things about these guys and how you did recruit them?
Actually four members, in total. Three of them were involved with the creation and recording of "Icarus" and then Rory joined us as second guitarist after we were finished in the studio. I really don’t know where to start as far as telling you 'a few things' about them, but all I can say is that these are like the best musicians that I have ever been involved with as far as Dew-Scented. Totally relaxed but extremely focused guys who know what they are doing and why they are doing it. That alone makes a world of difference. Initially my old friend and former Dew-Scented live-session guitarist Marvin joined the band in the middle of 2011 to compose "Icarus". In the process of songwriting the previous line-up of the band started to collapse and one after another, Marvin brought in the new guys. At first it was Koen to handle the drums... and that guy totally kicks ass. And then Joost joined for the bass duties, which was an amazing move as well. I am extremely happy with the line-up we have managed to gather right now and there seems to be some really good chemistry going on between the members, so we are currently looking forward to seeing what comes up next for Dew-Scented!

So, all three of them also play in a band called I Chaos. Does that make them able to commit and cope with the band’s needs on a full scale?
Yes, correct... Koen, Joost and Rory also play in the Death Metal band I Chaos. That’s a great band, by the way, so please go and check them out! Yes, it seems to be working well, as far as the schedules of both bands and hopefully we will be able to keep navigating smoothly if we all plan ahead and stay reliable with our vision. I think Dew-Scented is still in the process of gluing together some more... "Icarus" came up in a pretty strange way, with a lot of old baggage as far as the line-up switch. I am amazed it turned out to be such a cool record, because things were tough for the band to start with... but eventually that’s something that helps add aggression and bite to things in the end?! Marvin, who by the way also still plays with Severe Torture, wrote the full album and we will see how we do things next time around when the other guys are a bit more involved and a proper, solid part of the band. I think in a nutshell, the answer to your question really should be 'if there is a will, there is a way...'.

Dew-ScentedHow does Dew-Scented compose music nowadays?
We still go by the riffs at first, so it’s mainly a guitarist providing the kick-start for a song. In the case of "Icarus" it was all Marvin. He wrote the entire album and I am super proud of what he managed to come up with, especially given the circumstances. He always bounced the ideas back and forth with me as pre-production demos so we could discuss final structures and so on. But in the end of the day, there really wasn’t much for me to interfere with, as Marvin knows exactly what Dew-Scented best sounds like. He wrote material that was pretty much spot-on and I feel this represents the band super well for what we are at in 2012. After we had all material prepared, we met in the rehearsal room and worked on the songs with drummer Koen and bassist Joost. It was a very interesting and production process, much different to what we tried on "Invocation", where the writing included four or even five people at times. I actually look forward to seeing what happens to the next material we write, when also the other new guys get a bit more involved...

I find quite remarkable the fact that you succeed in retaining the same sound, although the band’s lineup is quite unsteady. I mean, how is this possible?
Thank you! Yeah, that was an elementary first task... the band has a trademark sound and musical character that I don’t think should be altered too much anymore. I feel we can still get better within our pre-established own parameters. We don’t need to change in order to progress, so I am really happy that Marvin as main songwriter truly understands the essence of the band’s approach. I didn’t have to coach him at all for this, as one might expect. I think normally I would be available to give input if some of the song-ideas would be 50/50 as far as whether they really fit the band, but there wasn’t much to discuss about on the "Icarus" sessions, really. I think we understand what the band is all about well enough to not do a power metal album all of sudden, haha! Not that we would want to anyways... we still play by our heart and always do what we like best, really!

Leif Jensen (Dew-Scented)In your opinion, what’s the difference between an actual band that revolves -naturally- around its leader and an one-man project that uses session musicians for materializing his own vision?
Tough to say... it really comes down to the band itself really as well as the constellation of people involved. I have seen all types of different set-up’s working better or worse. Some bands call themselves a democracy while it’s not the case. Some others have one main guy running the show, not because of egoism but simply because the others aren’t meant to lead in any direction. I have seen the bands with several people trying to be in charge and then only getting in each other’s way. That’s the most dangerous of all combinations, I think. While I have always been doing the main bulk of non-musical work with Dew-Scented, I have always wanted to encourage the other guys to get involved and help shape the band. Five people pushing forwards would surely achieve more than just one. But it doesn’t seem to easily work that way. But going back to your question, I certainly don’t see Dew-Scented as a one-man band with hired guns that simply color the picture I have painted. In fact, all of the music on "Icarus" was written by Marvin and I came later on with lyrics and vocal-lines to fit his musical output. Then again, the other guys involved with the recordings (and I mean the musicians but also the producer) are equally important for making this a complete and ass-kicking album. I think there is good chemistry in the band line-up right now, but obviously a lot of the organizational work and logistics are handled by me, mainly because I have been there from the beginning, but I actually don’t insist on having to carry all the weight of the band on my own shoulders, if that’s what you mean... haha!

Dew-ScentedDew-Scented is a band that doesn’t care much about trends or fashions in metal. However -and I don’t mean to confound these two- would you say that the rise of modern thrash during the past decade has helped the band in any way, in terms of popularity or better chances for participating in big tours?
Yeah, probably every comeback of Thrash has always helped us a bit! I mean, it was a tough time for this style in the early 90’s when we started. Around the year 2001/2002 or so, there seemed to be a comeback for older/classic Thrash bands and also some new generation acts arose, so that we automatically stood in a pretty decent spotlight with the "Inwards" album. Recently I also see younger fans again at our show and I guess we have some respect for doing what we do for a long time and with quite a relentless attitude. It’s also good to see yet another generation of new kick-.ass bands emerging and carrying the torch for Thrash Metal. And yeah I think modern Thrash does the scene great favours as well as Metalcore did. I know some people will disagree, but I think the popularity of the newer Metalcore acts definitely opened some new doors for everyone because a whole bunch of new kids started opening their ears towards heavier Metal sounds. At some point, when checking left and right, they might also discover more traditional acts or partly different bands in their process of doing further musical research or even historical homework. And yes, we are happy to perform in front of different or new crowds and spread the message around as much as we ever can...

So, 2012 marks your 20th anniversary, right? Have you planned anything as a celebration, like a special kind of release or a themed tour or something?
Yes, I guess you are right. Time flies when you are having fun, huh?! Indeed, the band originally started in 1992, but we feel like at the beginning of a new chapter right now, rather than at the end of our second decade. That’s why we really didn’t wanna give "Icarus" any anniversary tag or any flavor of nostalgia, because it wouldn’t represent the band correctly for the time being. We feel that we have some new energy and something 'new' to show or even to prove, so we decided to skip the whole thing for now. We are discussing a possible EP or special release for early 2013 right now, but there are no plans for any best of tour or something like that. Whatever good idea or opportunity that comes up in 2013 and sounds like fun will be considered, but we don’t have a masterplan or any tactical target with this anniversary, really! Just like in real life, I don’t like birthdays... hahaha!

Dew-Scented - IcarusAs you already -and most probably- know, your new album’s title comes from our country’s mythology. Are you using Icarus to symbolize something or someone in our times? Are the songs’ lyrics forming a concept that relates to the title?
Yes, I am well aware of that! The album isn’t meant to be a concept record, but the choice of title gave us the opportunity to create a great visual concept, surrounding a theme that automatically opens up a certain implications with people. We decided to use some elements and parts of the symbolism in the storyline for some of our lyrics, but in a way of mixing them up with our own trademark topics and vibe. I wanted to stay up-to-date and based on today’s reality, but nevertheless, some passages of the saga can always be applied to our age and modern society. I think it gave me a good kick for the lyrics and also will make for an interesting reading. There is no certain person that "Icarus" stands for in our time, but I am happy to hear if someone that follows the album discovers parts that interest him. Just like always with our lyrics... they are rather personal, but can be openly interpreted!

All of your album titles so far start with the letter 'I'. Is there a specific reason for that? What would you do if at some point you’re out of 'I-' words that make good album titles?
No, no specific reason... just a way to keep the records in line and relation to each other! At least that was what we had hoped for on albums # 1 and # 2. Now we are already at our 9th release and it seems the concept has stuck with us, for better or worse. I hear from some people that it’s getting tough to keep the individual records apart and I really can’t blame them. It’s a bit of a strange idea to begin with and honestly, if we don’t have the right title for a certain album following this pattern, I am happy to drop the thread. I mean, we happened to always start from scratch when doing a new album... you know, we don’t have a list with 'to do titles'. "Icarus" wasn’t even my idea. I think Marvin came up with it and even though I at first thought it didn’t sound heavy enough, I liked how it opened up a whole range of visual and symbolic possibilities, so we simply went for it! It’s as easy as that...

You always include some bonus tracks on the limited editions of your albums. In "Icarus", what have you prepared as a treat for your fans?
Yes, we do! For "Icarus" we actually recorded five songs additionally to the standard version of the album. The European first-pressing Digipak comes with three bonus tracks: The own song "In Dying Mode", the Prong cover "Steady Decline" and the Inside Out cover "No Spiritual Surrender". We also recorded cover songs of Wasted Youth ("Good Day For A Hanging") and Judge ("The Storm"), which for now are only used on the Japanese version of the album. We will most likely make them available over here one way or another soon too.

Dew-ScentedI would like your comment on the evolution of the crisis in many European countries, on contrast with your country. How does all this affect the music industry, from your point of you as a German citizen and a musician who hails from Germany?
Wow, now that is a tough question for such an outlet and in between plenty of other unrelated questions! You mean the economic crisis, right? Well, I guess that’s hitting everyone, currently some more some less. The European Union is a big project, but risky for everyone at the same time, it seems. I don’t have enough insight to comment on the source of the problems, but I am guessing that not every country had the same level of preparation and a solid own platform to be part of such teamwork in the end of the day. I know that there is some weirdness in the media’s presentation of the situation right now, especially since Greece was one of the countries that first started to hurt. I am hoping there will be clarity and a fair presentation of the global or EU-related status at some point soon, because I feel most people are right now making superficial assumptions and going for extreme 'solutions'. I mean, seeing a heavily right wing party rise quickly in the way it did in your last elections is scary. But unfortunately that’s what happens when things are shaking and people are uncertain about their future... what a shame! But coming back to your question…In the end of the day, I think it’s a crisis for everyone right now, in general! Economy is down all around the globe and since music is an entertainment tool it’s obviously part of the more luxurious assets to life. Thereof of course a lot of people who can’t afford it easily anymore. I understand that. And I believe music should be for everyone, regardless of his degree of education and financial status…but then again it’s a vicious circle if people stop paying for their music. This is currently hurting a ton of humble and dedicated artists, who struggle to survive with the music they create. Germany is tough too... there is too much going on and it’s not that easy to come out of unemployment if you happen to be in a problematic segment of the market. It’s times of change right now for the economic system and also in the music business, so we can only stay positive and hope for the best!

Do German bands in general have a ‘better fate’ inside this whirlwind or is it really the other way around?
I don’t know... I think Germany is a large country and has a big scene, which even in times of crisis is still quite massive. It seems there is way too much going on at the same time and the competition is just getting fiercer and heavier by the hour almost. Germany traditionally has a music scene that embraced and catered all different styles and sub-genres but even that is getting tighter now. I don’t think German bands have many advantages in terms of the general crisis, other than having a really solid infrastructure here nationally with tons of media, labels and a big touring / club / festival circuit. That obviously helps and makes bands be central and with a fair level of access at home. But that’s really about it already...

Dew-ScentedWould you describe yourself as a music fan? Are there any new bands that you enjoy listening to and like to recommend?
I am a massive fan of music! I buy records all the time and spend most of my spare-time at show or other musical events, even if we are not playing ourselves with Dew-Scented! Sure, I can definitely recommend you some young and up ‘n’ coming stuff... check out the new albums by Vektor (US), Necrovation (Sweden), Zodiac (Germany), Red Fang (US), Aliases (UK), Black Breath (US), Morbus Chron (Sweden) or Acephalix (US). That’s all pretty killer stuff in different styles.

Thanks a lot for your time, Leif! You may conclude this interview as you wish...
Oh, thanks a lot for your time and your continued support! We truly appreciate it! We are hoping to be able to return to Greece for shows sooner or later again, as we had a great time on the two previous visits! We would be really happy to re-introduce the band in its new line-up and also with the new "Icarus" material to the loyal Thrash Metallers in Greece! In the meantime, please stay tuned for more band-news here or here Keep it heaaaaaavy!