Hi! Can you tell us about the early days of Phlebotomized, and what led you to incorporate violin and synthesizers into your music?
Tom: PHLEBOTOMIZED started in March 1989 as Bacterial Disease. In 1990 we changed our name to PHLEBOTOMIZED because our music became more technical and we used the term in a song from our demo DEVOTED TO GOD, namely TRAGIC ENTANGLEMENT. We started with 3 persons and in December 1990 we expanded our music with synthesizers. Of great influence was the album THE KEY by the band NOCTURNUS. We wanted to experiment with different sounds and different ideas and we were supported by the music itself, not by preconceived ideas of how we should sound. We only started using violin until our EP, Preach Eternal Gospels. This experiment was so successful that we started to implement violin in our music. I think classical music and doom metal in particular influenced making this choice.
Your 1994 album “Immense Intense Suspense” is considered a classic in the death metal genre. What was the creative process like for that album, and how do you feel about its enduring popularity?
Tom: The creative process was awesome. Everyone got better at their instrument and the ideas kept coming. We started to develop a number of songs from our demo because we felt that they were not finished yet. Especially arranging violin parts and synthesized parts were a challenge. We were all 100% behind the band and the music and felt that we were working on something special. In the studio it was great. We were working for 3 weeks straight from early in the morning until late at night to get the best result. In that period we were very receptive to a lot of styles of music and that can be heard on that album. It goes from death metal to classic to gang shouts. heavy metal and a bit of electronics. The continued popularity of the album is surprising and amazing at the same time. We often hear that we were ahead of our time at that time, but we really didn’t feel that way. We just made what we liked.
After disbanding in 1997, what prompted your decision to regroup in 2013?
Tom: In 2011 we received an offer to re-release our demo and our EP and that led to a reunion show after which 4 of the original members decided to do gigs and from there the train kept rolling and a new album was created.
Your comeback album “Deformation of Humanity” was released in 2019, after a 16-year hiatus. What was it like to be back in the studio and working together again after so long?
Tom: It was great to work on a new album again. It also had a practical side. We were told by a lot of bookers that they didn’t want to book us again for more shows until we were going to record a new album. Then we started working on the songs of DEFORMATION and in 2018 that resulted in recording the album. It was wonderful to record another album with the band. A lot of new members, a lot of new energy, a lot of new ideas.
Your latest EP “Pain, Resistance, Suffering” was released in 2021, and now you have a new album “Clouds of Confusion” coming out in 2023. Can you give us some insight into the songwriting and recording process for these releases?
Tom: The EP, PAIN, RESISTANCE, SUFFERING, originated In the COVID break. I still had old songs from 2006 and we had to rewrite, arrange them in the style that suits PHLEBOTIMEZED. We needed a goal in that period because rehearsing wasn’t possible. Staying busy on something beautiful in a confusing period. The music was mainly rehearsed via WhatsApp, video calls and two rehearsals just before the actual recordings. We sent each other files of recordings back and forth and that was a lot of fun to do.
In 2019, the lyrics for CLOUDS OF CONFUSION were written for the most part. At the beginning of 2020 I started with the music from clouds and then the COVID break came and something else had to happen. The result an EP. After the recording of the EP I picked up and further developed the process of CLOUDS and finished in January 2021 80% of the music. After that everyone rehearsed the music for themselves and we started rehearsing in January 2022 and the album was recorded in April/ May 2022. Here too, COVID has made an important mark because we could not rehearse with each other for a long time. It has slowed down the process but the end result is cool.
What inspired the artwork for “Clouds of Confusion,” and how do you feel it reflects the themes and mood of the album?
Tom: The inspiration for the artwork of CLOUDS OF CONFUSION comes from the confusing period after surgery on my left hand that has caused me to do little for a long time. The prospect of not being able to play guitar was a nightmare. Based on this, the lyrics were written from side a and thus the idea for the artwork was born. The tree on the front symbolizes man. The roots symbolize how well grounded you are and how firmly you are in life. The branches of the tree are full of how flexible you are to deal with new situations. The clouds that cover the branches cloud the image, symbolizing confusion. The angels and demons fighting each other is the inner battle that is going on. The rays of light shining through our logo symbolize hope.
“Clouds of Confusion” is being described as the most mature album in Phlebotomized’s career. Can you elaborate on what this means to you and how it’s reflected in the music?
Tom: I think the most mature aspect of the album are the lyrics which are very personal. They describe, from experience, what it can be like to go to a new phase in life out of sadness and confusion. The coherence between the structured lyrics, really structured music, reflects the maturity of us as a band. In particular, the arrangements, use of harmonies that can sometimes be traced back including jazz. A lot of use is made of minor 7, 9 chords, major 7 and chromaticism.
How do you approach playing live shows and festivals, and what can fans expect from your upcoming shows in support of “Clouds of Confusion”?
Alex: We have a quite a diversity of songs and adjust the according to the setting of the show, for example, at a Doom festival we are not going to play a song with a lot of blast beats.
The shows we play this year, currently 4, are filled with 5 killer songs of Clouds of Confusion.
What has been the most memorable moment of your career so far, and why?
Alex: Playing at Brutal Assault last year, we are thankful that we got to play at such a big and well organized festival. It was insane.
How do you feel about the current state of the death metal genre, and how do you see Phlebotomized fitting into that landscape?
Alex: The current state of the death metal genre is very diverse nowadays and we fit in very well. Everyone in the band is very professional and has grown a lot as a musician. The summary of all those years of experience as musicians can be found in our last record.
How do you balance staying true to your established sound while still experimenting and pushing boundaries in your music?
Alex: By listening carefully to everyone’s ideas during the pre-production and looking for a way of recording and mixing in a way that every detail remains audible but still sticking to our own sound as a basis.
What role do lyrics play in your songwriting process, and what themes and messages do you hope to convey through your music?
Alex: The lyrics play a major role in the process, on Clouds of Confusion for example, to get to a different phase of your life you often first have to experience something unpleasant, learn to deal with this and find a new way in your live to deal with it and move on, Tom’s hand injury is an example of this. The message we want to give is to turn something negative into something positive, take the time for this process and continue life in a different setting.
How has the music industry and the way people consume music changed since the early days of Phlebotomized, and how do you navigate these changes as a band?
Alex: This has changed a lot compared to 30 years ago, people used to buy a record more often physically and nowadays digitally, but vinyl is back. In terms of promotion, it has now become easier to reach fans and future fans, the socials help a lot with this.
Your music has been described as “Death Metal with a twist.” How would you describe your sound to someone who has never heard your music before?
Alex: Phlebotomized is a band that thinks out of the box a lot and is different from your average death metal band. While we are a metal band, the diversity of our music makes us different from most of the other bands in that genre. Also: the predilection we have for the 80s and 90s sound is clearly audible and tangible.
What’s next for Phlebotomized after the release of “Clouds of Confusion”? Do you have any plans for future projects or collaborations?
Alex: Of course we want to play more show this year to promote our new album. We are also looking for promotors so we can play Immense Intense Suspense on the festivals next year.
Lastly, can you tell us about the music video for “Destined to be Killed” and what inspired the visuals and concept behind it?
Alex: To give a proper answer we have to contact the company that shot the video. We sent them the music in advance to give them an idea. In my opinion the claustrophobic atmosphere, due to the aggression of the music, and the lyrics in which we are told that “life as we know it, will cease to exist” is captured nice by using a lot off different shots.
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