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“On the blues side”: an interview with DAGGERS!

During their 5 years of existence, Belgium’s DAGGERS have worked hard on creating unique and singular records to forge a very personal sound. Their new full-length “It’s Not Jazz, It’s Blues” is an entire different animal than on their crust-infused hardcore previous releases, delivering twelve epic tracks that will drag you down to the bottom of the earth and shred the living out of you with the haste and anger of a thousand rusty swords. Captured in an organic live recording setting, the album takes a hypnotic, noisy approach to the band’s claustrophobic blend of punk and metal, more ruthless and vicious than ever.

The official press release pretty much clarifies what we’re dealing with here. This new crusty hardcore punk outing from DAGGERS proves once again Belgium’s music scene is growing exponentially.
I cought up with the band to discuss their noisy riffs, disturbing turbulence around the heads of their listeners and much more. Order your physical copy at this location and scroll down to be acquainted with DAGGERS!

Hey boys! What’s up? Thanks for taking some time with me!

Hey Karol,

We’re all over excited about our new release coming out in March on Throatruiner Records! We’re working on tours, release show and now we’re glad to be interviewed by you.

DAGGERS started around 5 years ago now, with a total different line up than today. During November 2007 we wrote and recorded our first self-titled EP in England with our good friend Ben Phillips. We were all studying, but that didn’t stopped us from going on tour, writing albums. With DAGGERS, we’ve always wanted to play loads of shows anywhere and that led us to Cuba and Russia twice. Since the beginning of the band, we’ve recorded three albums and two EPs. I’m really glad to have the chance to take part of all of this.

Yup, here you are, damn happy to see the record finally out, huh? How does it feel? A relief? :)

“Finally out” is a big word. Everything happened really fast, we’ve just recorded “It’s not Jazz, it’s Blues” in October 2013 in London, then we had the chance to work with Matthias from Throatruiner Records right after. He’s doing great job and we just met him in Brussels when he was touring with his band CALVAIIRE. I’m really excited about holding the record in my hands and we’re all happy with the artwork and the songs we wrote. At this moment the LP is on manufacturing at Pirates Press, just few rhums then it’s out ahah.

Tell me about your cooperation with Throatruiner Records. How did you two get connected? Also, what were some of the reasons behind parting ways with Twelve Gauge and Holy Roar?

Well we knew some guys from the Throatruiner Records crew before joining them. We used to put shows for RODEO IDIOT ENGINE, BIRDS IN ROW and we also toured with our present label mates ELIZABETH and PARISO in Cuba and Russia. Our last record was released by Twelve Gauge and Holy Roar Records, we had great times working with them but we didn’t sign for more records on their labels. Also we don’t want to get into some kind of routine, every label has their own public and way of working.

How would you describe the Throatruiner’s way?

I think he’s not signing that much bands a year, but when it happens Matthias does care a lot of everything going on with the release. By the way every records he puts out, are on free download, which is a good way of thinking at this time.

Distribution-wise, what are the chances of you guys taking the new record outside Europe? Do you collaborate with more labels and distros from all around the world?

We do collaborate with labels and distros all over the world. Throatruiner Records distribute very broadly all his records, he’s working with labels such as Deathwish Inc, A389, Robotic Empire, Southern Lord and many more. With DAGGERS, we’ve always wanted to tour in the U.S, and I think being distributed by those guys is a good beginning.

Alright guys, let’s talk more about the new record. How did you end up polishing it in London with Ben Philips? How was the experience of recording with him?

We’ve met Ben in 2007 when we recorded our first EP. Our first singer Kris knew him and his awesome work, that’s how we started recording with Ben Phillips. He was working in Gillingham in his apartment at that time. Now he’s doing everything in London on his old lightship. He always wanted to record a lot of different kind of music and it’s working quite well for him. In DAGGERS we also have a very diversified music background so it’s really nice to work with him. Collaborating with Ben is really great because we both share the idea of doing something different and rich far from music clichés.

How would we describe the experience of working with him? We always squat his place during 2 weeks, we record everything we wrote in 3 to 4 days. Then we use the remaining days to refine and mix the tracks. We try some crazy stuff, we see how it works. During the whole process Ben is working on the mix. And then we leave exhausted and happy.

Cool. I really dig the live, dark and noisy feel of the recording. Was it your purpose from the very beginning or just instinctively developed that way?

Glad you like it. We’ve already tried to work differently and to record instruments separately. Turns out, by doing so you’re losing something. A song is not only the sum of different tracks. Also why would you record your stuff alone when you always play with your band? That doesn’t make any sense. By recording live I think we get something more. For DAGGERS it’s the only way to achieve what we want, to get something real and spontaneous.

Will this industrial influence that you guys follow on the new record be a more prominent feature in your sound? How do you the future development of DAGGERS’ compositions?

I think our music just follow the way we evolve as human being and as friends. We never really thought about what the record would or should sound like, it’s just what came naturally. Now that it’s done I can see why someone would feel industrial influences on the record but none of that was intended originally, we just try not to repeat ourselves and create music we enjoy playing. So for the future, I guess we will have to wait and see. Maybe we’ll make a hip hop album.

Haha! I’ll wait to that! :) How does your everyday surrounding affect the music you create? How much of Belgium is there in DAGGERS? :)

In certain ways you can say there’s a lot of Belgium in DAGGERS. We’re lucky to have a lot of great bands and good venues, so that helped a lot. And the fact that this is such a small country, but still very active motivates you to try and push yourselves a bit more. And although I wouldn’t say this country is particularly gloomy, it sure rains a lot. I’m not sure how much all of this reflects through our music, it’s hard to get a good perspective on what affects us and what doesn’t

Concerning the title of the record, the structures you create are indeed more jazz-alike :) Who came up with the idea for this cool title? Please expound a bit on that.

The idea for the title came up late in the recording. It’s a line in one of the songs and when Ben saw it he immediately though it should be the name of the record. Now, we’ve heard people talk about jazz touches in some of our releases before, but I feel like people tend to say that a lot about any unconventional song structure in any kind of music. The way we see it, this record has more of a classic and conventional vibe, more focused on detail and feel as opposed to wild rage when compared to our previous records. That’s why we think it tends to be more on the blues side.

Haha! Ok, you won! ;)

What is the idea and concept behind the record lyrically?

I think it kind of follows the general mood of our precedent records. It’s about matters that affect us personally or anyone in general. Nothing really deep or specific. It’s always more of a romanticised look on the struggles of being a live human being, while trying to relate to the many points of view of one particular situation.

Was it any of books in particular that set you out on this lyrical course? Hardcore punk bands often express discontent with certain life situations, political systems, institutions that influence us all, actions, practices or beliefs like racism, homophobia, etc. A lot of this comes from direct observation of people, analysing processes or experiencing the pain of poverty, grief, death, anger or fear. How can writing influence the thoughts of a punk band?

I borrowed a few books from a friend while the lyrics were written, thinking I’d find some inspiration but I always end up drifting away. I read a bunch of poetry too, that helped me with the more aesthetical aspect of the lyrics, but themes always end up coming from something unexpected. I like to try and keep it relatable and as abstract as I can. I realise that there’s a lot of issues, like the ones you name, that need to be addressed, and a lot of punk or hardcore bands do it really well, but we’ve never really considered ourselves a political band. I like to see lyrics the way old progressive rock bands used to, I like the fact that the lyrics are not just a story on top of the music, but help you feel what the song is supposed to make you feel. We do like to take a jab at organized religion every one in a while though, there’s always this perverse black magic feel with cults that I find interesting.

Ok, now let’s talk about the garnish. The LP version of the album is housed in a heavy jacket with spot UV varnish and printed innersleeve, comes on transparent blue vinyl. Sounds freakin’ cosmic. Tell me more about the physical side of this release. How did you come up with this specific idea for packaging?

It will be cosmic for sure! For “It’s not jazz, it’s blues”, we wanted a cover that is more universal, colorful, simple and memorable. So, we came up with this idea that we think is visually strong and reflects in a glimpse the whole mood of the record. The design of a cover is really important for us, it’s the first contact that people have with the band before listening. Also, vinyls are outstanding objects and a good music support, it is awesome to combine both experiences! About the details of the vinyl like the garnish etc. they are following and reinforcing the idea of the cover.

Ok fellas. I guess it’s time to this beautifully printed merch and hit the road, huh? What are your touring plans?

You’re right Karol! We’re actually working on a European tour with a band called CHILDREN OF GOD which will happen this summer. Last tour we did happened a year ago in Russia. So we can’t be more excited about hitting the road again and doing a big tour this summer. It’s a really good occasion to let the public discover our new baby “It’s not Jazz, it’s Blues”.

Sure it is!

One of the best things about conducting interviews with bands from all around the world is learning about their local music scenes and realizing that you can actually travel for a couple of hours and experience a completely different environment, meet different people and enjoy cultural diversity in its broadest sense. Is there anything going on in Belgian hardcore and rock scene particularly that you’d like to talk about? How do you see it developing?

There always have been a very active hardcore scene in Belgium. There’s a lot a great bands, I discover new ones every week which is awesome. But more importantly I don’t consider this scene local but as something really international, we have friends in many countries sharing our passion for music. Even though you can find some kind of trends at some specific places, it’s always great to realize that you might have a lot in common with a band from a totally different country.

Ha! And there is one thing in particular that is flooding us all – the new digital and online environment! How do you like the full digital age we have entered? Have you embraced social media? How geek are you? :)

For us music has always been something we share directly with our public. But with the social media you can share your tunes with everyone in the world and people who don’t have the occasion to see you on stage. So yes we’ve embraced the social media but with a tiny frustration because we want to meet people and not only reaching them through the internet.

Yup, but it’s good that there’s so much time and so many ways to change it! :)

Thanks guys! It was a pleasure and really informative! Good luck for the future and please feel free to drop us a few final lines if you like. Cheers!

Thanks a lot Karol for interviewing us, it was a pleasure to meet you! Good luck with your little baby :)

Thanks! ;)

Black and white live pic by Geert Braekers Photography / Colorourful photo by Loic Warin

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