Interview with Maurice Swinkels - Legion of the Damned, January 2011

I listened to Occult’s ‘Elegy For the Weak’ before reviewing your new record ‘Descent Into Chaos’ and I had to conclude that there are differences in sound, production and perhaps musical skills, but that’s about it. You re-released it under the flag Legion of the Damned, why did you change the title and the order of the songs?


Maurice Swinkels: I first have to address something and that's the comment about the changes, I have done now many interview for this record and it always feels that people want us to change! There is a lot of comments about being the same constantly and no changes, as if that is need!! I mean listen to albums of Marduk, Immortal or even Bolt Thrower, those bands never changed a bit, maybe also here and there a different sound. I can be really clear about this. When Legion of the damned logo is on a disc, you get Legion of the damned, nothing more, nothing less. This is the music we like to play, I mean why would we sit down and say like: OK, lets do something completely different, and by doing that not standing behind the idea.  For this album we did spend more time in the writing process and of course its an development. Elegy for the weak was recorded and mixed in only 12 days, Descent was recorded and mixed in 21 days, that's 9 days longer, I mean there must be something to spend longer time on haha, we spend more time on the sound and tweaking the vocals here and there. As for your question about Feel the blade. Legion of the damned had gained huge success, while Elegy for the weak was a killer album but did not get the attention it should deserve, it only sold 1250 Records, this album had to be part of the Legion of the damned family. Since we wanted to give it a better cover since the original cover we changed the name. Also when we were Occult we never really deeply thought about order of songs, and so after hearing this album of course for years, we finally decided to change the order. Eventually we sold more than 15.000 Records I think. So that was a huge difference.


I will go back a little further in time. This is something I always wanted to ask. Musically the first Occult record ‘Prepare to Meet Thy Doom’ isn’t bad, but what happened to the vocals on that album?  How is it possible that it was released in that way, you hardly could hear them!


Maurice: Recording that album was the worst ever, we had no experience in studio or what so ever!! Before I had to go in studio I got a serious bad throat infection!! I was in bed a long time and the rest of the band members visited me while I was in bed and giving me updates on the record. I knew my time was coming near to do vocals. I did ask our record label that time if we were able to postpone the recordings, but they already had made a lot of promotion for the album on big festivals. So I had to sing this record no matter what! My throat sounded so horrible that in the end we brought it down in the mix. It was a shitty decision that I still regret up to this day!!


Enough about the past. The new album is produced by Peter Tagtgren and not by Andy Classen this time. I am just an amateur (or already a bit deaf), but I don’t hear big differences in the production. What are the steps forward on this new album?


Maurice: If you place both Cult of the dead and Descent together and listen to them one by one, you hear remarkable difference. Cult of the dead has a sound that is practically closed. Descent into chaos is more wider and open, this is also because the recording room of Peter is very large while the recording room of Andy Classen is only 3 by 4 metres, when the drums are recording in this small room you don't hear any environment sound, with Peter this was completely different. Also the mix is different, you hear things better, like bass and drums. Also we did on this album re-amping and searched for a sound for 2 days, while with Andy Classen a sound was fixed within 2-3 hours only. You must hear that difference in the album


Is it difficult to write new songs that are riff-oriented, I can imagine that it isn’t easy to create original ones that doesn’t look like one used before.

Maurice: It is hard, and once you have so many albums based on riffs you always hear things here and there that you have heard before, but sometimes it sounds like another riff, but never the same. We always spend 1 year on writing new songs, so we do spend a lot of time, its not like an album is written within 2 months or something. For us when we write its just like you know when there is a good riff, we keep it, when the riff sucks, it needs to go...all the songs are written while jamming together!



Never thought about adding guitar solo’s to the songs?


Maurice: Richard is not a solo kind of person. He used to play solos here and there on occult records but hated it!! Now when we only have 1 guitar player we can add in solos but once you are playing these songs live you cannot do this properly because a guitar sound will fall down. So we always make sure that a solo is placed on top of a good riff, so when we do this live and leave out the solo it still is a good riff to bang on.


Could you please finish the following sentence?

The biggest (musical) difference between ‘Cult of the Dead’ and our new album ‘Descent Into Chaos’ is...


Maurice: ....SOUND!


Aren’t you afraid that critics will come to a certain point where they will say that every new LOTD album sounds the same like its predecessor. ( Motörhead syndrom)?


Maurice: This really doesn't bother me at all. Why should a band change, you buy Motorhead because its fucking Motorhead, you buy legion because its Legion of the damned!! I hate it when I hear a CD from bands that I love and they changed something dramatically, in the long run I start hating them or lose interest in them!


Is it difficult for you to keep your voice in shape, especially during a tour?


Maurice: Its sometimes hard, because I used to talk a lot haha, which is not good on tour. I should be quiet and rest, but very very hard haha.


In Germany you play many festivals, any idea why the large festivals in Holland are gone for the biggest part. Is it just because there are more metal fans in Germany?


Maurice: Politics I guess and also the opportunity to have a festival. Dynamo open air had problems getting their festival on a different playground, I have no idea...its always tricky to do something big in Holland. Its a small country you know ;-)  


Already tired of playing live so many times, the last 2 years you played probably on every festival?


Maurice: No not getting tired, but this time we going to take it more easy though.


Legion of the Damned is supported very well with big advertising campaigns. I read something about the fact that you don’t have a contract with Massacre Records, but with another company. Is that correct?

Maurice: Yup correct!


Is Legion of the Damned already financially that successful that you can stop with a regular job?   


Maurice: Legion of the damned is a hobby and it will always remain a hobby. We all have our own jobs and have Legion of the damned on the side.


Debauchery vocalist Thomas Gurrath lost his job. He was a psychology teacher at a school in Stuttgart. Parents found out that he was a member of Debauchery and they looked at the website of the band. They didn’t like what they saw. Thomas had to choose between his job and  the band. What would you do? (Thomas quit teaching btw).


Maurice: That's a hard question and not easy to answer, it really depends on age and what you have build in your life. I am almost turning 40 years old, run my own production company, bought a house, have an expensive brand new lease car etc...I mean, if I would choose for a band only, I will lose all of this, car, house etc...because then I will not be able to pay this anymore. BUT when you are younger, live with your parents more easier. I also skipped school when I was younger and went on tour with occult together with Immortal and Marduk in 1994, by doing this I lose 2 years of education of being a carpenter. But those times I was young, no house, was easy! So it really depends on the situation.


They always say, the sky is the limit. Do you think that LOTD can still become more popular or did you almost reach the sky in the thrash genre?


Maurice: In my opinion we won't grow easily, the market is bad anyway and to grow more we probably would need to change our musical style.


Bands like Destruction, Kreator, Exodus, Slayer, etc, etc, are still there after almost 30 years. Do you see yourself still playing in a band after 15 years?


Maurice: No because I would almost be 55 years old haha...


Are you going to tour a lot again in 2011?


Maurice: Just 1 tour, we only do 1 tour a year!


What are in your opinion the 5 best thrash albums ever?


Maurice: Slayer's Raining in Blood, Kreator - Pleasure to Kill, Exodus - Bonded by Blood, Death Angel - Ultra Violence, Slayer - Hell Awaits, Slayer - Show no Mercy, but there are tons more: Testament, Exhumer, Deathrow, Violence etc...


Anything else you want to share with our readers?


Maurice: Check out Descent into Chaos and maybe see you guys on tour soon!

Legion of the Damned - Descent into Chaos

Label: Massacre Records




Maurice Swinkels (Vocals)
Richard Ebisch (Guitars)
Harold Gielen (Bass)
Erik Fleuren (Drums)

Descent into Chaos (2011)
Cult of the Dead (2008)
Feel the Blade (2008)
Sons of the Jackal (2007)
Malevolent Rapture (2006)l

Interviewed by Reinier de Vries