Antihero Magazine recently had the opportunity to have a conversation with Clemens “Ardek” Wijers, composer and keyboard player in Horror Black Metal band Carach Angren. Clemens is also a composes of Epic Cinematic Music for short films and other projects, including his most recent solo release titled Worlds. Check out the interview below!
ANTIHERO: How would you describe extreme music? Everybody has a different definition of extreme music and I just like to get your take on extreme music.
Clemens “Ardek” Wijers: It’s interesting. You can look at it from a philosophical point, because “extreme” the word says that it is out of the ordinary and so what an average person, or whatever that is, looks upon as extreme, so it could be anything. It’s something that is out of the ordinary and I like the extreme. I think if you turn it around, a lot of music and media out there is narrow because it doesn’t call for every human emotion, every aspect of life. A lot of stuff is superficial in that sense. People want to be entertained in a very boring way. I see it in movies. Lot of movies get bad these days. People go and they want to eat popcorn and they want to see action and they don’t like a story. What I like in media and music is what people maybe call extreme, is that it covers every aspect of life. It can be a horror movie or a terrible event or a dark event or things that people don’t tend to focus on. I was reading about the Goth culture the other day; just how adventurous it is and then they’re described as a culture that embraces every aspect of life and it is interesting because that means that other cultures don’t do it. I’m all pro-positivity and motivation and good energy but you should also embrace life in its full proportions and everything it must offer. Extreme music in my opinion does that so maybe I wouldn’t call it extreme.
ANTIHERO: Would you consider Carach Angren extreme music?
Clemens Wijers: Yes and no. We incorporate extreme forms, like we have black metal stuff going on obviously, that is looked upon as extreme because it has blast beats and growls, grunts, and screams, but we also have very much more accessible aspects like the film score style and melodies. The ideas I put in the compositions. We are storytellers. We are extreme if you look at our imagery and the way we confront the audience but that’s also what people like and expect from us in a way. It’s yes and no. We are accessible but also extreme.
Clemens Wijers: We do it ourselves, but I must say that Seregor is the master in this. He also makes all these masks. He has his own web shop nowadays. He is the guy that comes up with all this stuff so that’s his talent that you see there, but because of all the touring, we developed it ourselves too, before you go on stage, I paint my own face but it’s coming from his brain, which is awesome.
ANTIHERO: Each of you do your own makeup though, before shows?
Clemens Wijers: No. Seregor does Namtar’s and I do mine myself …and Seregor does himself of course.
ANTIHERO: Wow, that’s amazing. It’s so intricate. There’s so much detail in your makeup. To look in the mirror and to be able to do all that, how long does it take?
Clemens Wijers: It depends. 50 minutes or something around that. It’s not bad but obviously sometimes there’s not much time or the circumstances are not ideal. I think the fastest we have done, we once did Namtar in two minutes. With two people at the same time. There were problems in a festival. Obviously when you have a photo shoot or you do a video, you have more time and you give it just a little bit more extra effort, that kind of thing, but when there is a festival I guess that sometimes things are very complicated and things break or the schedule is fucked up and then you really must crank it in. Or there is no mirror or stuff like that. It’s always a challenge.
ANTIHERO: Have you done it without the mirror?
Clemens Wijers: Yeah, then we use a cell phone or we do it on each other’s face or something like that.
ANTIHERO: Wow. I imagine probably by the end of the show, it gets kind of messy?
Clemens Wijers: Yeah, it does. Especially for Seregor because he’s moving all the time. For me it stays quite well. We also changed the type of makeup we use. The ones we use now are better, they sustain, but they’re also very hard to get off again. Multiple shower sessions. We love it.
Clemens Wijers: Yep.
ANTIHERO: Can you tell me a little bit about that? Is it the same music that you do in Carach Angren?
Clemens Wijers: It’s interesting because it’s completely new. I released one track and it’s heavy and it’s close to home, so to speak but this album, it’s so varied that it has completely contrasting stuff. There’s classical music. I even did some vocals on some tracks. It’s carnival-esque. It’s almost jazz influenced. It’s also quite industrial. People can expect something crazy and it is like this because I wanted to do it like this. With Carach, it’s always a concept album, it’s always one big story, and for this I just wanted to make music out of the box again. I spent a couple of months here basically working on whatever comes up in me, so the music turned out very different. Each track is very different from the other, but all together it’s cool because I made it and I like it a lot, so that’s completely different but of course people will recognize my style. I haven’t showed it to any people so I’m curious what they will think. It’s exciting. It’s something I wanted to do for some time, you know? Just to put something out again. I love that.
ANTIHERO: It’s not a concept album?
Clemens Wijers: Yeah, it’s individual songs and for every song I have written a little note or story and some background. For example, there is a song where I composed about a young boy that learns to fly. That’s what the song sounds like and I describe how it progresses and another song is very, very aggressive and it’s very industrial. I describe that I created that to work out to. It’s completely … almost like a diary or with some tips and some thoughts. It’s not a concept, it’s not a story. It’s just something I worked very hard on but it’s also a bit new, I guess, but it’s from the heart.
ANTIHERO: Are you going to be selling the CD on the Children of Bodom tour?
Clemens Wijers: No, probably not. I’m doing these pre-orders online and it’s going well. You can listen for free on my page ardek.bandcamp.com and if you like it you can buy a digital or physical copy right there.
ANTIHERO: Are you going to be releasing it on iTunes and Spotify as well?
Clemens Wijers: Maybe. I am considering it because I am on Bandcamp and I’m happy with that system because people can listen but they can also buy it if they like it. For now, I focus on that platform. The other programs, they are cool too but they are also massive. I’m curious to see what will happen with the CD and how people react to it. So far, it’s been really good.
ANTIHERO: That sounds good. Who else played on the album?
Clemens Wijers: Only me. I did everything. I used samples, I used my voice. I do everything. That’s what I wanted because I have control that way and I like it, and it is a solo album so in my mind it’s like, “Okay, I’ll do everything.” Also, it is, like I said, a diary. It’s like, “Okay, let’s try to do everything myself and see what skills I have improved.” I also learned a lot again for mixing and mastering. I just wanted to do everything myself. I took it as a challenge to take some things to the next level. I learned a lot of new things. How can I make this track sound like ‘this-and-that’? I researched a lot. It was a challenge for me to to do it like this. Again, I wanted it to be completely something that I came up with and I didn’t want to include other people at this point.
ANTIHERO: Besides you, has Seregor or Namtar released any solo material or any other bands that they’ve been in?
Clemens Wijers: No, no, not really. Namtar has drummed in Septicflesh for a couple of gigs he did some years ago as a fill-in drummer and he does sometimes upload some cover videos and he drums along with some track, but no they don’t have any side plans for the moment. Seregor is busy building his web shop regarding horror masks.
ANTIHERO: Is your solo album being released by Seasons of Mist also?
Clemens Wijers: No, I do everything myself so I release it as an indie artist. I love the fact that these days you can do everything yourself. I only got great help from Erik Wijnands (Negakinu Phography) regarding the complete artworks. He did an awesome job.
ANTIHERO: Makeup or no makeup, that is the question?
Clemens Wijers: No makeup. I thought a lot about it and the reason is because the album has so many different colors that I just wanted a neutral image for it and in a way it’s like a portfolio for me because I work a lot with other bands and other projects. I do short films, I do … It’s also a way to give people an impression of my abilities, so I wanted it to be neutral. I don’t want it to be competing with Carach Angren or anything because that’s not what I want to do because Carach is something separate. This is a cool separate adventure.
ANTIHERO: As you said, your solo album has elements of jazz and industrial. What artist influenced that? What jazz musicians or industrial artists influenced that sound?
Clemens Wijers: I was a big gamer once in the ’90s. I played all the old Doom games and stuff and I always loved those soundtracks. This industrial kind of stuff but also back in the day, computers were not as fast and they had very limited sounds on the sound blaster and stuff. I always loved those sounds, so what I did on these new tracks is I used some cheap and bad sounds, so to speak, and combined them with the best sounds I have and I have incredible sounds nowadays. Huge orchestra sounds but I even broke them down, I put distortion on them to blend everything together, so it was a cool experiment to combine some retro sounds with some new stuff. That in an influence. For jazz stuff, I like this Latin piano music a lot and I studied that a little bit so that’s an influence. There’s not so much jazz but there’s a playful touch here and there on the album. The main influence is soundtracks and movies. That’s always something that inspires me.
ANTIHERO: Can you define, what is Carach Angren?
Clemens Wijers: It means “Iron Jaws.” It’s from the world of Tolkien and that world. It’s a ghost portal, but we took it because we thought it sounded cool.
ANTIHERO: Are all three of you gamers?
Clemens Wijers: Yeah, my brother Namtar is playing Warcraft again right now. Not much, I barely play games anymore but it was cool back in the day. You had these new games and then you needed to upgrade your computer. That was exciting, but nowadays, maybe I’m getting old but everything is the same. That’s also what I try to do with music, to offer people an escape because how cool is it if you … I go to the movies sometimes, or a lot and sometimes I go three times to the same movie because I want an escape. It’s the same thing.
ANTIHERO: Wow. Just stay in the theater all day and just watch movies.
Clemens Wijers: No, I go back. For example, I watched Dunkirk, the new film from Christopher Nolan, and I really, really love that movie and of course it’s about war but I love how they did it. I saw it two times already in cinema, and I just go for the experience, you know? To me it’s a completely new way of storytelling. It’s almost like a documentary but with full blown tension that never lets you go. Some people don’t like it because it’s not what you expect. From a movie, you usually expect a main character and there’s a natural progression, and here all these things are mixed up, so that’s cool. I love it. I like these fresh approaches.
ANTIHERO: You said earlier that you played numerous festivals with Carach Angren. What festivals did you do recently?
Clemens Wijers: We played in Italy, Colony Open Air. We played With Full Force in Germany. We did Nummirock in Finland. We did another festival in Sweden, and the coming Thursday we play in Germany again. It’s called Wolfszeit. It’s a nice, smaller festival. We had some gigs here and there.
ANTIHERO: Do you prefer playing festivals or individual cities more?
Clemens Wijers: I like them both. It’s a cliché answer, maybe, but they both have something because in the festivals, you can address a lot of people at the same time and you have a big stage and more possibilities with light and props. The club shows are cool too because they are more intimate and the sound is usually a bit better. You can do more because the clubs are … Some clubs are good, they have good sound boards and holes. They both have something, to be honest, although the club shows are more intimate so that is cool. I look forward to the U.S. tour for example, because I like to play as much as possible.
ANTIHERO: Do you have anything else coming up for the band? Anything else going on?
Clemens Wijers: We are really working hard on preparing … improving our live show again, especially for the new tour. We are building new stuff, trying out new ideas. That’s what we’re doing in the background. To give people a new kind of show again, an improved show. Not just play the new songs but add some elements. That’s what we are working on. Basically, then it’s just we want to get out because right now it’s a little bit boring because we haven’t played that much so we are a bit in cabin fever mode, like, “I want to play.” I think we will be very busy from October on, because we get offers every week and we discuss the best offers. That’s basically what we’re focused on, to get this show rolling.
ANTIHERO: Have you ever played with Children of Bodom before?
Clemens Wijers: No, Never. Looking forward to it. It’s a nice step for us. They have a very good career and for us it’s a nice opportunity to reach new fans. That’s the challenge these days because everyone’s on social media all the time and I don’t know if you have noticed but if you go online it’s very difficult to draw massive attention without paid advertising. At the same time, everything, every band is accessible online but it’s very difficult to discover new things because everyone is in their own bubble. It’s good to get out as a band and reach new fans and touring is the way to do it. It has always been.
ANTIHERO: How do you think bands promoted themselves before social media, before Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for instance?
Clemens Wijers: Then they depended more on the record labels of course. There were just a handful so what you focused on as a band then was sending your music constantly to record labels and the cool thing now is that you can chose a different route if you want. What I said with my solo album. I upload my stuff, I can make my own sleeves and it’s very easy these days, but the other side of this is that everyone can do it so there is a huge over-saturation of information and only a couple of years ago when you posted something on Facebook it could go viral, but now almost not anymore because a lot of bands and labels, they pay for advertisement and that’s the only way to reach people. The Internet is also getting more and more controlled in that way. I see things shifting and that’s what I meant earlier. What worried me is that sometimes we announce shows and then we hear people that didn’t even know we played because the information doesn’t reach them because maybe their Facebook gets flooded with advertisements and stuff like that. The Internet is also changing, but I see it as a challenge. Let’s see what comes up.
ANTIHERO: Do you feel it’s important to step out of your comfort zone when it comes to writing songs?
Clemens Wijers: Yeah because else you get stuck in the same thing. In my experience to do that, to step out of your comfort zone, you come back stronger at it again because you pick up new skills or you pick up new interesting ideas. I try to do that, and at the same time develop what’s already there. The idea always is to keep the elements that really work well and at the same time, develop it. You don’t put the same food in your stomach every day probably, but it’s still your stomach. That’s how I see it. When I look at albums we have written, I always look at … For example, “The Funerary Dirge of a Violinist,” it’s cool song. There’s a lot of melodies. It works well. You try to keep these things but at the same time, you look at other instruments, you look at new themes, so you try to make a blend of what’s already there and what is new. I don’t like to completely change the sound and a lot of bands have done that as well and sometimes it fails miserably. When you are in a band, and we have been doing this for more than 10 years, we have built it and it’s working and it has a couple of reasons why it’s working. We don’t want to throw that away. You don’t want to punch the fans in the face.
ANTIHERO: Have you ever experimented with different instrumentation that you have never previously used during the recording of any of your albums?
Clemens Wijers: Yeah. It’s a lot of digital instruments but on the last album I … I did orchestration for ExDeo, this band. I had the privilege to create the whole score. Because of their nature, the Roman world, I was looking at new, exciting, exotic instruments and when I explored these instruments, I came across a couple of cool string instruments. Indian, Chinese instruments, and some of them really sound creepy if you play them in a weird way, so I made some notes like, “This sounds really creepy,” and some of them ended up on the last album. On the song “Charlie” there are a couple of really intimidating sounds and they are these exotic instruments. That’s what happens when you get out of your comfort zone.
ANTIHERO: Do you put all samples into one keyboard when on tour?
Clemens Wijers: Yeah. I’m going to be honest, a lot of it is on a backing track because it’s full orchestral scores and you cannot play that live. You’d need 28 hands. What I do is I put a lot on the backing track and I play the parts that need to stand out and that fit with my performance. Obviously, some piano parts and stuff. This way the sound is cohesive live and it works well.
ANTIHERO: Has Carach always been a three piece?
Clemens Wijers: Yes. We have always worked with live musicians and the reason for it is that we have all been playing in different bands when we were younger and we were happy with how things were rolling with the three of us. We are very different individuals and we all have our strengths and weaknesses so to speak. Seregor is like an actor, very active on stage and he’s visual, I am the composer and Namtar is the drummer, the machine, the mechanic. That works well together. We have tried adding a fourth member but it doesn’t really work so we decided to keep it this way and work with live musicians. Now we have someone very steady on live guitars with us. His name is “Bastiaan Boh”. We call him “The Butcher.” He’s from another band called Mescaliner and a really, brilliant guitar player. He comes on tour with us and he makes playing with the band a priority. That is cool and we always have a lot of people surrounding the band that help. It’s the three of us but we couldn’t do it without all the help and support from a dedicated team of friends and family.
ANTIHERO: When you are on tour, do you have a live bass player, or is everything prerecorded?
Clemens Wijers: Yeah prerecorded, we always use bass and it’s funny because people always say that the bass is lacking also on the album but I write heavy bass lines… also on the last album. There’s aggressive bass on there, and it’s recorded on the album and we play it live. Also on the backing track, so it’s different of course compared to seeing a live player, but we have always had bass, also live. There has never been a gig without bass, but because people don’t see it they assume it’s not there. I understand that phenomenon. For us it works like this and this way we only need our live guitar player. That’s all we prefer. We had a bass player once for a year or something but things didn’t work out and to me, this is the thing always. A band is like a family. We must work almost every day to make things work and you must really get along and know each other, and when you change the dynamics in a band it can improve things or it can completely fuck up things. When you have someone that plays well but it’s not matching with our personalities for example, it can delay the whole process. We have had some experiences with that, because we are also not easy people maybe ha-ha. In the end, we always decided that with the three of us, it’s good as it is and let’s keep it that way and then hire people, work with them, and see what happens.
ANTIHERO: Have you guys ever played with an actual Orchestra?
Clemens Wijers: No. We’ve used a live violin player on the albums but also a couple shows. Nikos Mavridis, very good guy, and that’s it.
ANTIHERO: What is a more accurate genre to describe Carach Angren’s sound, Horror Metal or Atmospheric Symphonic Black Metal?
Clemens Wijers: I like to call it Horror Metal nowadays because what we do is we tell horror stories through our albums, and we use black metal but also death metal. There even is industrial metal. The symphonic black metal genre, to me… when I hear this term, symphonic black metal, I don’t like the term because this genre, whatever, this has been so over-saturated in the ’90s and 2000s. You obviously had a couple of big, successful bands, but you had also a lot of smaller bands and not always as good. To me, this genre doesn’t mean anything. Horror metal maybe doesn’t mean much either but for us it’s like: “We play metal and we have a lot of influences and we tell horror stories,” so for us it really makes sense and feels better to call it that way. To me it’s also like this: We never pretended to be a band like Marduk or Mayhem because those are completely different bands from a different era. I have huge respect for these bands, we have toured with Marduk for example, but they are a completely different beast. If you say Carach Angren and Marduk is the same genre, that’s weird because that’s not doing right to us nor them. Of course, we are in the extreme metal genre but we are such completely different bands in a way. There are some similarities but that’s it stylistically. I understand that we don’t go out and say, “We are pure black metal,” whatever that is, because it is not like that and we don’t really care about that. The people who are … You see it all the time. They say, “This band sucks because they don’t sound like that.” Of course. If you eat French fries and you get angry because it doesn’t taste like chicken … To me it’s so obvious but some people have been limited, I think. Also, people have a tendency sometimes to be negative. For us, with the last album, people said “There are too much lyrics,” and now I read, “there’s too little lyrics.” Some people often look for the negative side of things because that’s easier maybe. It doesn’t matter. You get used to it. Of course, maybe I like one album by a band but it also has to do with how you are doing yourself. When you are 15 and you listen a black metal album for the first time, it gets hardwired in your brain and that’s going to be a very special thing, so of course everything afterwards is going to be at least half as impressive. That’s just how it is and it doesn’t have anything to do with that band, it has to do with your brain, but you have to know that obviously to realize that.
ANTIHERO: The first question I asked you was about extreme metal and I asked that because lately I’ve been really, really fascinated with the whole Norwegian and Scandinavian black metal where I’ve been watching interviews about what is extreme music. Some people are like, “It’s the music, it’s the corpse paint, it’s the burning of churches.” You guys don’t go and burn churches. Then I just found out about Christian black metal. That’s another thing that it took me a long time to wrap my head around. I listen to the music because it’s good, I don’t dive deep into the lyrics and stuff. I listened to some of that and I don’t mind it. I don’t know I just feel bad for those guys because the general black metal crowd looks down on them.
Clemens Wijers: In a way, I understand this because it’s like you go to a wedding in your swimming suit. What are they trying? If I have Christian values and I want to play black metal, I’m not going to bother mixing that up and making a statement because I don’t care. Just saying: “Yeah, I’m in a black metal band.” regardless of what other values you have in the background would be sufficient in my opinion. By doing this they are seeking a little bit of controversy stating this term “Christian Black Metal”.
I can be really complicated in my thought processes and I can be philosophical but… I can also be direct and straightforward and when I think about black metal, originally it was a movement, a musical one but also cultural one. It was anti-religious at its heart. It was dark and it was made to be confronting people so that’s what it is to me and stylistically some things ended up in our music and other people’s music but to me it’s weird to go out and say, “I’m a Christian black metal person.” It’s like, what’s your point? Just play your music and let other people discuss the genre.
ANTIHERO: Since black metal’s all about the darker side.
Clemens Wijers: Exactly.
ANTIHERO: … everything that Christians aren’t and for a Christian to come in and play … Obviously, if you’re playing black metal you obviously listen to some legitimate black metal, so if you’re playing Christian black metal maybe you grew up listening to Mayhem, who’s completely on the other side of the spectrum with Christian black metal.
Clemens Wijers: This also has a little bit of this hipster taste to it in my mouth. The hipster kind of way? It’s like, “I do something but I do it a little bit different to raise some eyebrows, like: “I have long hair but I’m going to have a man bun.” or I’m black metal, but I am a Christian black metal guy.” Or, “I play death metal but without drums because drums are stupid”. These people, not to generalize, but…: Go out and do something useful…for real. No one cares about your bullshit. Just work hard and play good music.
ANTIHERO: If they played thrash metal. But, to play black metal? They call it un-black metal. Or white metal.
Clemens Wijers: Exactly. This is the culture we live in. Everything to get attention on the short term. People don’t want to put in effort to create a band. It takes 10 years or more to create a band. I see that on the Internet too. People play covers, people do all these cool things but it’s all aimed at short term rewards. Short term, “Can I get enough likes? Can I get enough controversy, attention?” In the long term, these people are not satisfied. I wonder if these bands, are they going to put in 20 years of hard work to establish something or is it just to raise some eyebrows by calling it Christian? I don’t know. Probably.