Fehler are a sludge metal band from Hertogenbosch, who have recently finished working on their debut album for Hammerheart Records. Drummer Ruud van Esch told M3 about his views on the industry…
M3 – First of all, could you tell us a bit about yourself, and what it is that you do?
Ruud – We are Fehler. A Dutch sludge metal band that has been around for about 4 years now. We released the EP ‘Adharma’ on Black Death (an independent label) in 2009 and in April of this year our debut full length record ‘Dissona’ comes out on Hammerheart Records. Through the usual route of a demo and some line up changes over the years we have accomplished our current shape, that is more or the less inspired by different kinds of metal, hardcore, doom, sludge and what not. We tend to not stick to one formula: our songs vary from short and aggressive to longer, sound-layered epics.
What inspired you to start Fehler? What are your own musical backgrounds?
When two hardcore bands I’d played in for years ceased to exist, I started to look for a new band. I wanted to do something totally different and that’s why I looked for new people. People I did not know. If you start a new band with old band mates the risk of returning to old habits and styles is just too big. I met a couple of musicians through an internet forum and after completing the line up with a guitar player they knew we decided to give it a go. We all have different backgrounds, hardcore and metal bands being the most important ones.
What’s your opinion on the music scene in the Netherlands?
‘The music scene’ is hard to pin down. Underground music like metal and hardcore has always been able to survive pretty much on its own. Without much support of (mainstream) media I mean. There have always been plenty of concerts (too much even) and musicians to keep the music scene alive.
What would be your preferred medium to listen to music (eg. Vinyl, CD, tape, MP3 etc.), and why?
For us as a band the physical product is still the real deal to release an album, be it vinyl or CD. As music listeners, personal preferences differ within the band. I still buy a lot of CD’s but our singer -who is 9 years younger – almost exclusively listens to streaming music or MP3s. For me, streaming audio and downloads are a great way to discover new music. But if you really want to get into a band, a physical product, the artwork and the lyrics are necessary. Putting on a CD or LP is a way more conscious experience than skipping through an endless list of tracks with a thumbnail of the artwork with it. And of course the sound quality of any physical product is better. Besides that, it’s cool to have a music collection you personally built up over the years. 20 terabytes of music or a Spotify premium account is not a music collection.
Do you feel the idea of an album, as a piece of art that people will listen to from start to finish, has been undermined or forgotten about in the digital age?
Most bands still work in the traditional way of releasing a collection of songs in one go. While listeners have developed a habit of skipping through music or maybe picking just the songs they like. Just because it is so easy to skip/delete songs you don’t like. I certainly hope the art of listening to an entire album will not be lost. Many bands are able to write a few good songs. The real trick is to write a good album and convince listeners to take the trip of listening to the whole thing. Even though it might take some getting used to.
What is your take on the current SOPA/ACTA controversy?
I hate the fact that many of the so called freedom fighters who are crying about government censorship are actually people who makes shitloads of money from pirating music, movies and what not. On the other hand the music industry has been exploiting bands for many years as well. Trying to hold on to old business models is not going to work, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that all music should be available for free. I think artists who come up with ways to distribute their music themselves and earn money with shows and merchandising are going to be the winners in the end, whatever the outcome of the SOPA/ACTA controversy.
Recently, there seem to be a large number of bands offering their releases for free via sites like Bandcamp. What do you think of this distribution method, do you think it is a realistic solution to the problem of illegal downloading?
Again, I think artists who come up with ways to distribute their music themselves and earn money with shows and merchandising are going to be the ones who survive. Nothing will ever stop illegal downloading because you can’t compete with something that is free and easy to get. The only way to solve the ‘problem’ is to think of other ways to earn money. Albums aren’t money makers anymore, unless you sell hundreds of thousands of them.
Many people have claimed that there is no longer any money in record sales, and that touring is the most efficient way to earn an income as a band. How much truth do you think there is in this sentiment?
It’s no longer about the band as it is about a ‘brand’. I don’t really mean that in a pure commercial sense of the word. Distributing music is a way to get your name out there and to be able to do shows. Money can be earned by playing a lot and through selling merchandise. I think in the future the ‘VIP areas’ for live shows or fan sites will become major sources of income for (bigger) bands. I guess people still want to pay for experiencing a band.
What do you personally believe the future of music distribution will look like?
There will be a number of networks or online possibilities bands can choose from to distribute their music. It would be nice if a ‘pay what you want’ system would work. When it does, bands should be able to get payed a little for their creative efforts and earn back some of their recording costs. In the digital age worldwide distribution possibilities are accessible for both smaller and bigger bands. In the end it will be about getting your band on the top of the list, about being in the spotlights, since availability will not be an issue anymore. I think ‘record labels’ or similar organisations will allways play a role in that.
Finally, what does the future hold for Fehler?
Who knows? Releasing our first full length album is really important for us. You’re not a real band unless you’ve at least created one full length album. We hope to gain fans and better/bigger shows from ‘Dissona’. We should, because we worked hard for it and are one hundred percent behind this album. We managed to do quite a bunch of cool shows based on the EP, it will only get better with our first full length out there.