After a knockout UK debut performance at this year's Bloodstock Festival, and the subsequent release of their 4th full length opus "Remagine" - our very own John McCormack caught up with AFTER FOREVER keyboard surpemo Joost Van Den Broeck - to discuss their recent live triumph, the new album, Joost's numerous other projects and of course: Keytars.
Read the full interview below.....
[JM] Hello Joost. First of all thanks for doing this interview. Of course the really exciting news at the moment is that After Forever released their new album “Remagine” on the 5th September. What sort of things can we expect to hear on it, and how does it compare with previous After Forever albums?
Hi there, thank YOU for the interview…it’s my pleasure. Yes, After Forever released ‘Remagine’ on the 5th of September, we’re really excited about that! You can expect a lot of different things on this new album. Of course it is still After Forever - but with a lot of new influences - and that is also because it is my debut album with After Forever. Sander and I wrote all the songs together which worked perfectly! We tried to cross new boundaries and I’m sure you can hear that on the album. For example there’s this song called ‘Attendance’, which is an industrial song with drumloops.
Speaking for myself, I gave the keyboards a much bigger and different role than they had on previous After Forever albums. I see keyboards as an extra instrument, adding a lot of melody, atmosphere and face to the songs and production!
[JM] How would you describe After Forever's music, and the new album, to any of our readers who may not have heard After Forever before?
First of all After Forever makes Metal, with a lot of symphonic influences from of course our female singer Floor Jansen, orchestra, choirs and keyboards. But…we stay heavy and try to kick your ass as hard as we can!! The new album will be even more of a live album than any of the previous ones - because the songs are really made for that. In the rehearsal room we were very excited about the power created by the new songs!
[JM] Remagine is the first After Forever album since you joined the band last year, and you also made a major contribution to the songwriting for the album. Did you expect to play such a major role with writing the new album when you joined the band?
I hoped that I could fit in the band and try to do my thing there. Luckily things worked out very well…the chemistry between Sander and me concerning the writing process was amazing!
I’m already looking forward beginning the writing of a next album…
[JM] Sander said in a recent interview with “Cursed With Oblivion” that he had a chemistry with you when writing the album that he has never had before with anyone else. How did writing with Sander feel for you?
Yep…it’s true, and that’s very cool! It went all so smoothly and it didn’t take long at all to come up with ideas and make songs out of it.
[JM] Was it a surprise how well you worked together - or was he someone who you knew straight away you would be able to write great things with?
You never know how somebody is in different situations. The first time Sander played a new idea, I would play along with something which he liked immediately, and he was very surprised by that :o)
I like trying new stuff a lot, and so does Sander. I think there are some very interesting things on ‘Remagine’ because of that.
[JM] Which songs on the album are you most proud of?
Every song has something I like very much in it, but the songs that I like most are:
Attendance, Being Everyone and Strong
[JM] Which songs on the new album do you think will be the most popular with After Forever fans?
That’s hard to say, because normally that is something that you notice more in a live-situation. I think the first song ‘Come’ is one that the fans will like, because it has everything that AF stands for: Heavy, symphonic, opera, choirs, bombastic, electronic… Also a lot of people who like Gothic Metal with an orchestra will like the last song ‘Forever’
[JM] On Invisible Circles it did seem that After Forever were taking a deliberate step away from the Symphonic Metal sound of their first 2 albums. Is this a direction that After Forever intend to continue in the future?
I think so…After Forever wants to be fresh and renewing. Also the songs of the last 2 albums are better for this new sound. While writing ‘Remagine’ Sander and I had a very clear idea of how the sound and production had to be.
[JM] The word “gothic” seems to follow Metal bands with female singers around even when their music quite clearly isn't at all gothic. What do you think about this?
Thank you very much for noticing that! It’s true that a lot of female fronted metalbands are labelled as gothic. Some of them are and they choose to be, but the last After Forever albums aren’t gothic at all…Remagine is even futher away from that label!
[JM] Do you think that having a female singer tends to make people think differently about After Forever's music than they would if you had a male lead singer?
Maybe their first thoughts about that are different, but I think when you know Floor’s singing and the power and passion she has, people will like it! Floor has much more possibilities with her voices than many singers, male and female. That makes the songs and sound very dynamic and intense.
[JM] You recently played your first concert in the UK. How was the experience for you?
That was an amazing experience for us, we liked the crowd and the people that we met! It was a bit scary for to come to England for the first and we knew that the CD was distributed there…all those doubts were taken away as soon as we entered the stage. We would love to come back as soon as possible, we had a great time !!
[JM] You contribute much more to the band's stage performance when playing live than most other keyboard players tend to. Is it all just natural energy and enthusiasm or is it that you think it important for a band to put on a show for their audience?
Thank you, that’s big compliment for me! What you see on stage with After Forever is all real…we don’t try to set up al choreographed show…you see energy and enthusiasm, that’s true! We like performing live and playing to the audience a lot :o)
[JM] You have a lot of different keyboards onstage. Are they all needed or are some there more for the visual impact? You also regularly come out from behind the keyboards armed with a keytar. How helpful is this for your crowd interaction? Is this something that many people comment on?
Haha! I can’t do anything without them - besides the fact that I think it looks cool. No, the keyboards all have their own vital function. I like it a lot to play on my Keytar (a Roland AX-1 and AX-7). It very cool to leave my safe keyboard domain and stand between the rest of the band in the front, being able to run around. Of course the interaction with the crowd is a lot easier then, but also people just have to look at the thing I’m wearing then…since it’s more like a UFO :o)
[JM] According to everyone who attended, the release party for Invisible Circles was quite spectacular. Do you have many surprises in store for those lucky enough to go to the release party for Remagine this year?
Yes we have! We’re going to do some really special shows with lots of surprises. We said to ourselves…let’s make it as impressive as possible!! We’ll kick some serious ass, more than ever before!
[JM] Judging by your previous work with Sun Caged and Star One there are some obvious differences in sound and style between you and previous After Forever keyboard players. How much of a difference has this made to After Forever's sound? How much has the way that you play changed because of playing with After Forever?
Indeed there are a lot of differences between the former keyboard players in After Forever and my own style. After Forever of course has chosen that change by letting me into the band. I like to see keyboards as a full instrument, with all the possibilities it has…not just a nice layer or strings double. I use keyboards in the most extreme sense of the word, so: drumloops, samples, arpeggiators, synthleads, guitar doubles, wide orchestral sounds, FX, and so on … I didn’t really change my style of playing with After Forever, I have probably got a lot more different things to do!
[JM] Now that we have mentioned Star One and Sun Caged - Can you tell us something about those bands for anyone who may be unfamiliar with them? How do they compare to After Forever?
Star One is a space metal-band formed by Arjen Lucassen (Ayreon). We did a tour with singers like Russel Allen, Damian Wilson and also Floor Jansen (sounds familiar, doesn’t it?). The tour was called: Intergalactic Spacecrusaders Visit Planet Earth. We released a live-DVD and CD after that tour called Star One – Back on Earth. It was the first big thing I did, it was amazing and I’m still very thankful to Arjen who gave me this opportunity!!
Sun Caged is a progressive metal band and my first real band I played with. We released one self-titled album, mixed by Arjen Lucassen and produced by myself. I learned a lot in that band and we did some nice shows, like playing as support for Queensryche.
[JM] Was leaving Sun Caged a difficult decision, or was joining After Forever too good an opportunity to miss?
Joining After Forever was such an opportunity for me so I could not let it go! I’ve never regretted my choice, on the contrary…I didn’t expect that joining After Forever could bring me this much -and there are even much more opportunities than I hoped for :o)
[JM] Before joining After Forever you contributed to numerous and diverse other projects. Do you still intend to continue to do this or will After Forever take up too much time to allow this?
No, I still do a lot of projects…that’s something I really like to do!
[JM] One project that you are said to appear on this year is the project-band of your former colleague in Sun Caged Andre Vuurboom - "Sphere of Souls" . What can you tell us about that?
That’s true again! André Vuurboom is a great singer, composer and guitarist. He wrote all the songs on his own and he formed a band around him called Sphere of Souls. Apart from his great singing and perfect guitarplaying, he is a real perfectionist and you can hear that on the album. It’s all played very tight, amazing vocals and all the songs are very well written and are most of the time very catchy. The style is a little in the direction of Fates Warning, but a lot heavier now and then.
I did all the whole production of this album, including the mix and master. Also I played all keyboards. It was great to work with him, since he’s a very good musician and one of my best friends! Check www.sphereofsouls.com for more info.
[JM] You are also said to be producing and mixing that album, and have also studied Music Production as well. How does production compare with performance? Would you like to do that professionally as much as performance?
Yes, I studied Music Production, and I’m now doing a Master's Degree for that. I like to do both, you can’t compare them - so I’m very glad that I am able to do both! Producing is something that I have done professionally for more then a year now, I already did several complete CD-productions this last year.
[JM] How important is the way that the music actually sounds to you versus the actual notes that are being played?
Both parts have to be as good as possible…actually perfect. You can have a great production, but with bad songs…it sucks… You can have a great songs, but with a bad production…it also sucks…
When I really have to choose, I will go for the great songs with the bad production :o)
[JM] Do you prefer to make your Keyboard actually sound like a keyboard rather than like a simulation of an orchestra or another instrument?
It’s hard to say what the sound of a keyboard is…:o) I have lots of different synthesizers, some keyboards and samplers, even grooveboxes. They all have their own unique quality. Most of all, I like to make my own sounds (which I ALWAYS do), and make them sound like nothing you’ve ever heard, with the greatest morphing and realtime-editing possibilities!
[JM] You have a Progressive Metal background and have proven yourself to be a talented soloist. Are keyboard solos something that we can expect to hear you do with After Forever in the future?
Thank you! I like to play solos very much! After Forever is not really a band to put lots of solos in, also there are no guitar solos in After Forever. On Remagine I will use some lead sounds now and then with more technical parts and melodies! I save my solos for project like Star One, Ayreon and of course lots of the other projects that I do…One day I hope to release my own solo project…I’m working on that already, but there’s a lack of time at the moment :o)
[JM] Who are the main influences in your music and what is it that you admire so much about them?
For keyboards and sounds: Derek Sherinian
For melodies, solos and performance: Steve Vai
[JM] Do you prefer to listen mainly to Metal or Progressive music or are your tastes wide and diverse?
My tastes are very wide. When I’m not with busy with After Forever or some project I do, I don’t even listen to metal or progressive music all that much. I like to listen to bands like: Muse, Coldplay, Keane, Radiohead, Jamiroquai…and also a lot of modern stuff from the charts.
[JM] Are there any musicians that you admire who may surprise fans of your music?
Haha, I think there is…I admire Justin Timberlake and N.E.R.D. for the songs and productions that they make together. I really think that they are top of the bill when it comes to popular music!
[JM] Is there anything else that you would like to add to the people out there?
I hope you will enjoy our new album ‘Remagine’ and attend our concerts when we’re back in the UK. We really liked our first gig at Bloodstock, so we hope to be back soon! Stay in touch with After Forever by visiting our site: www.afterforever.com. There’s lots of information, the latest news, upcoming gigs and various media files on there!!
I want to thank John McCormack for this interview and his time!
[JM] Thank you for your time. Good luck with the new album.