Carla van Huizen
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Today we have the pleasure to present an interview with singer Carla van Huizen and bass player Mike Saffrie, two members of the Dutch band La-Ventura.
Carla and Mike, thanks for taking the time to answer my questions! Here we go:
Could you please introduce you and your band mates, describe each of you in two-three words, and tell our readers a bit about the history of La-Ventura?
Mike: We have Renzo on drums (relaxed, sometimes too relaxed...!), Saz on guitar (tight, machine but overall likable guy!), Carla doing the vocals (dedicated and sweet, always time for a chat) and me on bass. I will let Carla put some words to the name to describe me: Mike (groovy)!
Started in 2007 when Gothic was big and hot in Holland, we set out to be not just that. We found our own blend, which was presented to the public on the debut album A New Beginning. From 2009 we worked on new material for the second album. We were fortunate to enter the new studio in France of our producer Didier Chesneau to start recordings in 2010. Then a two year battle to get it finished... but with great results!
Not only was the production done highly professional, but two masters in their trade, took it to the next level. Great sound which was the work of our producer, but also a great finish done by Bruno Gruel who took care of the mastering.
In 2013 we had finally a finished product, where I had to work my ass off to get us back in the scene. A whole year of planning, making deals etc. where now in 2014 we have something to show for: releases done by independent labels in specific territories, the first gigs and finally the new album in hand for people to enjoy!
In 2013 your CD White Crow was released in the BeNeLux-Union only. The Germans had to wait a little bit, in our country it came out on February 14th, 2014, through Valkyrie Rising. How were/are the reactions, from the press and your fans? Are you content with the feedback you got until now?
Mike: We are starting to receive the new reviews from Germany, Switzerland and Austria for the release and hopefully soon the first from The UK. In 2013 we received many reviews (check our website) from The Benelux, but also from around the world. All have given us great praise, where I can say in all honesty: we have not received one “bad” review till date! So let’s keep it like that, ok... not to jinx us right now...!
Joking aside: we have a good album in hand. What I mean in first place is, that the production has been done professional, where to sound gives us the edge. Liking specific music is subjective, but we have shown with the album that we can evolve, that we can be better. If it is still not your cup of tea, no problem, but you as a critic can still say something positive about where we started as band and what we can show you now.
How long did you work on the songs all in all, from the very first ideas to the finished album?
Mike: Way too long...! The song writing for me, is pretty straight forward. Fortunately many ideas, were accepted by the band, from the get go. The time we lost, so to speak, was because of the many problems we encountered to get the finished product ready. So many unforeseen circumstances jeopardized the release again and again in 2012, where we needed to push it to 2013 and beyond.
That for us, was make or break: do we have the will to continue, or is this the end. Hell no! We fight till our last breathe! Just, because we believe in what we do and we want to do it right.
The CD is amazing, congratulation! Carla, you write the lyrics for La-Ventura. Could you please tell us: what are they about, what are the most important inspirations for you when you are writing songs?
Carla: Thank you Marion! Most of my lyrics are about things that occurred in my life, things from the past or subjects I struggled with during a period of personal trouble. For some reason it seems easier for me to write about serious matters than the more pleasant things in live, even though I am definitely not a negative or depressed person! I do feel kind of responsible to write about serious matters cause they are never meaningless. For me it is about emotional expression of feeling through music, so is the heaviness of the riffs and bombastic tunes of our music.
Do you have to be in a special mood and/or do you need special ambience to be creative?
Mike: if you are referring to the song writing (music), than I have to admit: mood is everything if you want something that breathes, is alive and works like a charm. Ok, you can do the same old trick again and again, cause when something works, why do something else?! But, for me, I always are looking for the next thing. Being in a particular mood, can help to create something totally different for what you set out to do. Being angry or frustrated, will cause the music to explode.... NICE!
Carla: It is always an undefined process. Sometimes I let the music speak for itself and I create lyrics to complement the tunes and sometimes it is just the other way around. I also created a small archive with pieces of lyrics written in the spur of the moment waiting to be processed if necessary.
There are 10 great tracks and I have my special favourites – Drowning and Song For An Idiot. Could you please tell us a little bit more about the origin of this songs, respectively about the lyrics, what is the story behind?
Carla: Well we all know the feeling of drowning. It’s like struggling to stay alive, gasping for air, ready to be pulled down into the darkness of a large and unforgiving pool. I think it is a familiar feeling that a lot of people will recognize. We all have our dark days. So did I mostly during my troubled childhood and more recently my divorce. The lyrics for Song For An Idiot on the other hand was written in earlier days and is not meant for a specific person... who are we kidding here? :-)
Are there any plans for a new video clip for one of the songs?
Mike: Yes, though we need to find the time to get it done. We are looking for an opportunity to make a video for the track Song for An Idiot. We have had our talks with people who make music videos and have found a party, which for us, are the right ones for the job. The how and when, is still work in progress...
Is it easier to start work on the next album after positive reactions or do you feel some kind of pressure, to be even better with the next release?
Mike: Hmmm, for me as song writer for this band, I can’t be pleased long with what I have done. If it is recorded, I want to make something new and if possible better.
With the critics saying stuff, you can check what was positive or even negative and that is the way to play. Probably the negative comments for me, would inspire me to do better and change the music a bit, if I think that change is needed. I’m never afraid of some ones opinion. I embrace it, filter what I deem fit for creating something new.
Our music evolves, though we do what we like and never go chasing what is hot at a moment, it means you always operate on your own. People will really either like or hate you for it. With White Crow, it seems we did it right, but we will always evolve to take it to the next level, regardless of what critics have to say!
Carla: There is always the pressure of achieving a higher goal. Perhaps now more than ever. I hope it will makes us more creative and focussed to achieve an even better result. I do believe I have learned a lot from performing in a professional studio. It was an important experience that has given me so much valuable information that will hopefully give me a huge advantage next time.
You surely will showcase the songs often live on stage. Do we have a chance to find Germany listed in your tour-schedule soon?
Mike: I hope so. With the release now in play, hopefully getting good reviews, the industry will get to know us in Germany. This will hopefully create demand. Demand to play live and do shows in the territory. Also we hope to find new fans in Germany, Austria and Switzerland where they can honestly say: we want to see you guys live on stage! So stay tuned and hopefully the first signs are clear that we can play live for you guys and gals out there!
Do you often find time to see live-performances from other bands/musician? Which concerts have you visited as a spectator in recent months?
Mike: Due to the workload as not only manager but also the bass player for the band, time hasn’t been on my side. Weekends pass, without R&R, so I’m afraid I haven’t seen a band live for a while. Fortunately this is going to change soon, so then I hope to see Killswitch Engage or Amaranthe live.
Internet has made it easier for me to check new music. This is a great way to get inspired as well. I have seen a rockumentary on the telly last weekend about Motörhead/Lemmy, which was great! These guys still are hardcore Rock&Roll artists even after so many years! Also seen a rockumentary from Black Sabbath from their latest album, also great stuff! But it is time to see bands live, where it is really happening.
How would you describe your music in your own words?
Mike: Female fronted metal, with loads of groovy rock tunes and catchy melodies that will haunt you!
Carla: Melodic, powerful, catchy!
Where are your roots (read: in which style of music), and which bands/musicians/singers would you name as your greatest influences?
Mike: For me it has always been Metal, but have been raised with every kind of music imagine. From classical music to Dire Straits (seen them live!), from opera to sleazy funk, from Motown to the fastest Death Metal/ Metalcore Djent out there!
I like bands like Killswitch Engage, Amaranthe (first album), Sevendust, Machine Head, Death, Soilwork. But also the Red Hot Chilli Peppers (earlier work), Tool, Liquid Tension and the list goes on and on... From each I have filtered something I really liked and could use to be a better musician and song writer.
Carla: Abba (in my early days), Alanis Morissette (when I was a teenager), Evanescence (recently).
Carla, your voice is great. Do you use vocal exercises to ensure that your voice is in adequate shape? Do you have little tricks to protect your voice?
Carla: I have had some singing lessons to learn the basic techniques and skills. I always do some warming up exercise before a rehearsal or gig. However, when I am on stage, I tend to block all the do and don’ts and give it all.
Mike, how many bass guitars do you own, and which model is your favourite generally?
Mike: I own three bass guitars, but wished I had money to buy at least ten more! My Ibanez SRX595 is now my work horse to do the things for La-Ventura. Five string beast of low solid grooves and tunes!
What do you think: is it a must for a bass player to have an especially hot sense of rhythm in his/her blood to deliver an ideal job? ;-)
Mike: Hahaha, define hot?! Are we still talking about bass skills here or...? To have it still PG rating 13, we’d rather talk sense now, right?!
As part of a rhythm tandem you need to have a sense of a steady pumping (maybe not the right word for it...) groove. With your drummer as partner (no no people we are talking bromance here in La-Ventura’s case...) you have to keep it steady, so your other members (oww no...) can do their thing, to keep it tight (... now I have done...). Marion, if censorship is needed, then please do so! (Marion: *lol* no *beeeeps* needed)
What is on the plan for La-Ventura for the next months?
Mike: Promoting the new album in the new territory, setting up shop for the live gigs and make sure we can produce the goods when needed. Let’s hope the release for Germany will show that we are worth your time!
Is there anything you would like to add to this interview?
Mike: We had a blast, thanks for this interview, Marion! I hope the readers will like the answers and will understand a bit more who and what La-Ventura is. Hope to see you all soon live on stage. Rock on!
Thanks for your time. We wish you and the band all the best and much success with White Crow!
La-Ventura: Thanks Marion and the whole gang of Sarkophag Rocks! See ya!
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