We have grown into a very strong band live, which means that the demand for performances also grows.
Der Klinke has released a new album: ‘Facing Fate’. We have been following the group for a long time, but especially since the masterpiece ‘The Unexpected’ from 2017, followed by the strong compilation ‘Decade’ that was to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the formation in 2019, we are always looking forward to what Der Klinke does. And yes, ‘Facing Fate’ is also an excellent record, which we wanted to know more about. Singer Geert ‘Chesko’ Vandekerkhof was more than happy to answer our questions.
Let's go back to 2019, when you celebrated Der Klinke’s tenth anniversary. You then thought about stopping the band. Now you are back with a very strong album: ‘Facing Fate’. Tell me, why did you want to stop then, and why did you decide to continue?
Oh, the thought of quitting only occurred for a brief moment. It was more of a thought to change the band name. That would then become … ‘Facing Fate’. But then we ultimately mutually decided not to do that and to use that title as the new album title.
‘Facing Fate’ has become a very dark record, even though it contains several danceable and energetic songs. I feel like grief and isolation are important topics. Is there an overarching theme on the record?
No, there is no overarching theme, but we do ensure that all the songs fit together. We like variety in our music. I find a record where every song sounds the same boring, not to mention groups where every record sounds the same. (laughs) But we think it is very important that everything forms a whole. Songs and ideas that ultimately do not fit may appear on a later release.
Is ‘Facing Fate’ a way to process a difficult period in your life, like its predecessor ‘The Unexpected’?
Yes, it always is. My life is not exactly a happy fairy tale. I often struggle with myself, with how I stand in the world and towards others.
In 2019, the single ‘Who To Deny’ was released on limited edition vinyl. What was the idea behind this single? And why was the John Wolf remix of ‘Who To Deny’ included on the new CD, albeit not on the vinyl edition?
‘Who To Deny’ is a song that was finished shortly after the release of ‘Decade’. As a vinyl lover, I also wanted to release a real vinyl single. That’s why it was released as a single. There was no point in putting this or the B-side of that single on the new LP, because vinyl lovers already have it. When pressing a vinyl record, you also have to take the time duration of each side into account. On CD, it's a different story. Those who only buy CDs didn't have ‘Who To Deny’ yet. I thought the regular version didn't fit in as well with the whole of ‘Facing Fate’, but the John Wolf Remix fitted perfectly.
‘The Shallow Shadow’, a song about saying goodbye to a friend, is also an older song that had already been released to the world. That also fitted on the new record?
It’s not really old. It was recorded in 2021. For us, it was the first song for the new record anyway. We announced this to the world with a video clip, in the run-up to a new album. It's always more fun if several songs are already known when the album is released. We work on a new album for an average of two years anyway.
The song ‘Dark Night March’ was inspired by a poem by Baudelaire. What made you draw your inspiration here?
The musical basis, the demo, of that song was recorded ten years ago. I rediscovered it by going through old hard drives again. I don't remember how I ended up with that poem by Baudelaire, but I do read a lot of poetry. It must have automatically come back to me when I heard the music.
I understand that ‘Dance of Liberty’ is about the corona pandemic. Does it describe the yearning for freedom during the tough months of lockdown?
No, that's a misunderstanding. I didn't even make that song until October last year. It's more about the feeling that when you dance, go to a party or gig, you are momentarily freed from the maelstrom, from the incessant whirlpool of thoughts and emotions that often dominate me, and probably many others as well.
In 2019 you said that you had plans to release a new record in 2020. Has corona thrown a spanner in the works, or are there other reasons why the new album took longer?
No, corona certainly hasn't thrown a spanner in the works or anything, on the contrary. Corona was the unexpected emergency brake on all our lives. It was a time to first rediscover and recharge yourself. I don't think I ever said that we would release a new album in 2020, especially since I was thinking of a different group name, Facing Fate... As I said before, a new album takes an average of two years. It also depends on the inspiration and motivation. And yes, like many fellow musicians, the latter was the biggest absentee.
I see that the album has been mastered by Martin Bowes of Attrition again. He also recorded some lyrics on ‘Closing In’. You’ve had a long relationship with the man, if I'm not mistaken. How has that collaboration evolved over the years?
Indeed, I have personally been friends with him for a long time. I even went to his wedding – in 2011, I think – in Coventry. He married Kerri, who died on January 8 last year. They have both been at my house often, and I have been at theirs too. The story of our friendship could be a book... It started when Der Klinke was on a bill with Attrition at a festival in Portugal, around 2010 or so. The festival turned out to be a scam, orchestrated by someone from a mental institution. ‘The Great Goth'n Roll Swindle’, we called it.
Together with the other bands, we started a group on Facebook to share our doubts and do some research. That ‘organizer’ had supposedly released a compilation LP a few months earlier, but no one had ever seen it. People who bought these never received them either. Anyway, that's how Martin and I became closer.
The song ‘Closing In’ is about an unrealistic longing and loss. It was very emotional for Martin to record these sentences shortly after Kerri’s death, but he did it for us with great pleasure. He had also previously done a guest vocal for ‘The Game’ on 2012’s ‘The Second Sun’. When you see that music video, filmed in Ostend, you see both Martin and Kerri.
The song ‘You're Looking Good In An Elevator’ has become a modest hit. It was played on Radio Willy in Frlanders. In the video, we see different personalities appearing: Marcel Vanthilt, Dirk Ivens, Sam Louwyck, Nel Mertens... How were you able to involve those people in the clip?
They’re all friends too, and that actually helps. For Dirk Ivens and Marcel Vanthilt, it was ideal to go to a performance by Arbeid Adelt in De Casino van Sint-Niklaas, where Dirk Ivens was the support act with Motor!k. There is an elevator there, and Nel was also present there. (laughs) The friendship with Sam Louwyck became even closer after our kiss at the end of the clip. (laughs) But he had been friends with Dominique, the wife of Marco, our guitarist, for some time. She has asked his cooperation for this video.
The lyrics of ‘All The Right Wrongs’ were written by Filip Heylens from Wegsfeer. It deals with a very sensitive subject: suicide. Is it about Filip’s personal experience? Was the song written with ‘Facing Fate’ in mind?
Once we start working on a new album, all the songs are written for it anyway. There are always many songs that do not make it onto the final album, but we can then take them with us for the next album. Initially, I just asked Filip to sing the chorus. I had a different text for it at the time, but Filip kept playing the instrumental demo in his car, and then came up with the idea for that completely different text and extra guitars. I would like to let Filip himself tell you about the text...
Filip Heylens : It's not literally about suicide, but about choices and the confusion that those choices entail. It's about the impossibility of some decisions. About how every choice you make opens a door but also irrevocably closes a door. About how rationality sometimes takes over emotionality and vice versa... How you sometimes know that what you are going to do or decide is wrong, but you do it anyway...
You wrote 'Absolutely Nothing' for your mother who suffers from dementia. In 2008 you moved back in with her to care for her, and she now lives in a residential care center. Does this situation weigh heavily on you?
It means constant switching and having to accept each new stage of dementia. I visit her every day, but it is especially those visits that weigh heavily, because she no longer recognizes me and all that.
The song ‘Facing Fate’, the seven-minute closing track of the record, reminds me a lot of ‘Faith’ by The Cure. Was that a deliberate reference?
No, absolutely not. We already had the title of the record in 2020. The final title track was created by a jam session during a rehearsal in which Sam played that bass line and Marco found a suitable guitar line for it. That was recorded with a mobile phone and then properly recorded in our studio later. The final result is indeed the closest to The Cure we've ever done, but it just grew without prior intention.
I see that there are quite a few concerts planned for the near future. Has it become easier to find gigs? What are Der Klinke's future plans?
Because Red Zebra is currently inactive and I also stopped with The Bollock Brothers – indeed! –, we can all fully devote ourselves to Der Klinke. We used to refuse a lot of requests for performances because a date was already taken for one of the other bands.
We actually need a good booker and promoter, but for the time being we are doing all of this ourselves and things are going well. We have grown into a very strong band live, which means that the demand for performances naturally also grows.
In addition to performances, we also hope for a new release next year, but we now also have to look for a label that can and wants to collaborate with us.
Picture: Luc 'Who Cares' Luyten