Textures – Phenotypic Expressions

Sunday, 7th February 2016

All was quiet on the Textures front for a good length of time. Following the release of 2011’s celebrated Dualism album, the progressive metal leaders lost guitarist Jochem Jacobs and several members started families of their own. But following silence, the best news is always that of big things to come. Textures come through to announce last year that they were releasing Phenotype in early 2016 and it’s follow-up to come, Genotype, in 2017.

In keeping to their namesake, Textures latest release Phenotype keeps the contrasts of heavy and progressive polyrhythms with atmospheric and esoteric melodies front and center. Their ability to shift and twist songs into different directions while keeping the structure and flow intact is often uncanny, which has led to the long-time success of the band. An early Saturday morning Skype chat with guitarist Bart Hennephof provided some insight into the delay between albums, the contributions of new guitarist Joe Tal, and his thoughts on the expansion of the djent sound over the years.

Dead Rhetoric: Any reason for the lengthy gap between Dualism and Phenotype?

Bart Hennephof: There were several reasons. The main reason was Jochem [Jacobs], our former guitarist, left the band after Dualism. It was kind of a bummer, and me personally, I didn’t see it coming. We all knew he was busy and it was a hectic time, and he had a good job running a studio. It was always a problem for him with touring and rehearsals and stuff. But it was a big bummer for the band. It took almost one year to find another guy. We had auditions and then we found Joe [Tal], and of course, it takes time to get to know each other, musically-speaking as well. The rhythms we use and the musical vocabulary, and getting into writing together – it all takes time. Personally, I don’t mind that it took a bit longer because what we have now is a new Textures band. It’s still Textures, but with all these new influences, from Joe especially, it’s really refreshing for me as well as a musician.

In a way, it’s good that we have something new because someone left. We took some extra time, and in the last two years, half of the band had their first babies. It was a big punch in everyone’s personal lives as well. We thought, okay we can do this no problem, but sometimes people can’t come to practice because they can’t pay the babysitter. But we still managed to do everything well and kept focused on the music to keep it alive, it just took a little more time. If the music stays cool, that’s the main thing. It doesn’t matter how long it takes. It’s a big part of our lives.

Dead Rhetoric: I liked the part of the press release for the album that said, “Music shouldn’t be fast food.”

Hennephof: A lot of bands put out EPs and albums almost every year now. If it’s really good, I like it but if the quality decreases it becomes quantity over quality and that’s too bad. With some bands, they could spend more time to make the songs special. But before you even get used to the album, they are already working on another one. All of the focus and the special-ness of the album gets lost.

Dead Rhetoric: What do you feel that guitarist Joe [Tal] has brought to the writing process this time around that is new for Textures?

Hennephof: On the one side, he comes from a pretty jazzy background but on the other hand, his other band is very brutal; death metal with all of this technical stuff. It’s not very melodic at all – it’s more technical. All of these ideas he brought to the band. A lot of it was really, non-melodic, brutal, and weird stuff. It was like, “what’s this thing?” It was like some Frank Zappa in a death metal shape. Some really weird stuff. But we like to be surprised as well. Some of it was too weird and extreme, but on the other hand, it was also cool. It was really some freaky stuff – when I heard it for the first time, I thought, “I don’t know what he’s doing here. I don’t know what kind of rhythm this is or what kind of scale he uses – I cannot grasp it but it’s very cool and we should use it. We should use it and edit it so that we can all play it so it still sounds cool.” We all really like to incorporate stuff that one person comes up with and edit it with the whole band so it becomes more of a Textures thing. Everybody adds their ideas to the band so that it becomes album-worthy that way.

Also, Joe is a very experienced lead and solo player, which you can hear on Phenotype. He plays solos in his own way. A bit jazz-fusion in style and very experimental. We really wanted to incorporate that into the music as well. Textures was never a band about solos. We aren’t a band that had a guitar solo in every song. We have never had that and never wanted it either. The song needs to ask for a solo somewhere, and if it’s in the right spot, the solo can be there. It can be extreme and fast, but it has to be functional for the song, so that’s what we did. Joe has some really big solo spots on the album. For example, the single we just released, “New Horizons,” has a harmonic solo between Joe and Uri [Dijk], the keyboard player. We have never done something like that before.

Dead Rhetoric: So do you think still being able to experiment within your sound is important when you are this far into your career?

Hennephof: We’ve always been about experimenting and surprising ourselves, and our fans. Our fans respect that – we can do whatever we want musically. We can add fusion, clean guitars, and death metal parts – we want to keep that kind of freedom and make things sound as mature as possible. We never want to be too “safe” – the song needs to have a special twist or something that wakes you up. For example, “Awake” from Silhouettes. If you zoom out on that song, the first half is calm but the second half has some big twists with difficult rhythms and grooves. We like to experiment with that kind of stuff. We mess around and that’s what makes the songs really special.

You could also think, “Why do we want to experiment like this?” Some people have asked us, “don’t you want to grow and grow more [in terms of exposure]?” With this technical, heavy music, you can’t become like a Killswitch Engage type of band. That’s not what Textures is about. We know we are a technical and heavy band. We can reach out to death metal in some of our albums, and we are very aware of that. We just want to put out some cool musical statements, at least for ourselves. We want to be satisfied with it and then see what people think. It’s not the other way around. For me personally, the bands that have inspired me the most have shook me, and that’s what I like about them. Not because they had catchy songs, but because they woke me up and touched me with melodies/lyrics. That is what makes me a fan of the band. So I hope that with our experiments and musical journeys that we have that it inspires people – musically or spiritually, that it touches someone.

Dead Rhetoric: Phenotype is coming out, but you also have Genotype coming out next year. Has that album already been written and recorded?

Hennephof: It’s not recorded yet, but it’s almost done, composition-wise.

Dead Rhetoric: How does Genotype play off of what you are doing with Phenotype?

Hennephof: What you hear on Phenotype, you will hear back on Genotype, but in a different way. If you hear a melody on Phenotype, you may hear the same melody on Genotype, but with a different instrument. A guitar melody becomes a vocal melody with a different background, or the other way around. This makes it very unique. We had a lot of musical ideas for Phenotype and we thought we could put it on one big album and make it an hour and ten minutes or we could keep writing and make a double-album. We considered doing the double-album, but we thought it would take the focus off the double-albums. The double-albums I’ve heard have too much info. When you have 20 songs at one time, then song 14 doesn’t get appreciated in the same way. There’s too much there. So we split it into two releases.

Musically, Genotype will be very different from Phenotype. It will be more proggy, more stretched-out. The fusion stuff is in there, but the heavy parts are in there as well. It will be 45-minutes long. It sounds like one big song – they are all just passages in one big journey in 5-10 minutes. After 10 minutes, another journey starts. In that way, it’s different than Phenotype. Phenotype is just nine tracks and very song-based.

Dead Rhetoric: After Phenotype had been mistakenly put on Spotify, you pranked everyone on your Facebook page with a Youtube video “leak.” How’d the response go over with fans?

Hennephof: We made a little bit of fun of it because it was such a weird thing that can happen. It’s still weird that it did happen. Sometimes mistakes happen. They can’t really tell us where the problem was and who did it. It was in their hands; it was two months before it was to be released and should not have been made public. The only thing I can think of is that the file was made on Spotify – it has to be uploaded and make sure everything was there, but it was done publicly despite the release date. So we thought, okay it happened, we might as well make a post about it. We aren’t the only ones that this has happened to. Other Nuclear Blast bands have had it happen to them before as well. If anyone had decided to listen to it and record it, it could have been leaked. But there were some people that did hear all of it, and they messaged us [on Facebook] and asked why it was on Spotify already. It was a curious experience. So the Youtube video was meant to be a comic relief.

Dead Rhetoric: As one of the bands that lead the way towards the djent genre, how do you feel about its expansion over the years?

Hennephof: I still just look at it as progressive metal. Not really as a new genre or anything. Of course, it’s a new corner of progressive metal. I think it’s a cool thing, but also there’s a downside as well. I think a lot of bands come out of nowhere with that sound and are not very diverse. They are quite extreme and have some cool ideas, but it seems unfinished. I like that it’s such a creative corner, because so many bands have put out new stuff, but it may kill the genre as well. Too many bands sounding a lot alike. But I personally don’t listen to much of this new progressive metal a lot. I like the creativity – they are really pushing forward in terms of creating rhythms. For example, Animals as Leaders – they are really progressive and on the verge of making it sound inhuman. Musically I like it a lot because it is so experimental. If I was not a musician I don’t know if I would like it because it’s so inhuman. I like it now because I hear what they are doing and I understand what is happening. I really respect that and enjoy it.

When you make music like we do in Textures, I want to make it really enjoyable for someone who is not a musician. I try to zoom out music and try to listen to it as if I am not a musician and still have some element that is still enjoyable – some melody, basic drums, or cool sounding guitars – something that happens a few times within a song. It makes it more universal for me. Most of these new djent bands sound so extreme that it sounds like cut-up guitars – it sounds like someone recorded one note with the guitars and cut and paste a whole song out of it. They’ve created some cool sounds and rhythms but it doesn’t sound human at all.

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