On Tuesday October the 15th DutchMetalManiac’s Tim van Velthuysen went to the Hall of Fame in Tilburg, The Netherlands where Street Sects, Trepaneringsritualen and Svartvit were performing. Of those three bands Trepaneringsritualen (T x R x P) was the only one I already saw live before, which was last year at Lucky Rocks Metalfest III. You can read my live review of that festival here. Before the show in Tilburg I sat down with Trepaneringsritualen’s Thomas Ekelund for an interview.
Hey Thomas, how are you?
Great. Your tour with Street Sects just started yesterday. How did it go for you?
It was a good one. It was a Monday night so not a huge audience, but a nice venue and a good start.
What do you think of Street Sects?
They’re good people. I hadn’t actually listened to them before the tour thing happened, but it’s good stuff.
In September you released your new album ᛉᛦ — Algir; eller Algir i Merkstave. Congratulations with that, I really like it.
Thank you very much.
How are the reactions you got on it so far?
Mostly positive I must say, all the reviewers really seem to have understood what it’s about. Most people seem to understand it as well. For some reason there are some people that seem to think it’s very different from what we used to do but I wouldn’t agree to that. It’s just aesthetically different maybe, but not even that, actually. I mean, it’s not the first ambient work we’ve done, but some people were probably expecting full on industrials.
Yeah, I’ve seen you once at Lucky Rocks Metalfest last year and the show was really harsh. This album is a bit less harsh.
Yeah, it is, but for us, it’s just different aspects of the same thing. It’s with the same basic energies.
It’s still dark.
Yeah, exactly. The purpose is pretty much the same, it’s just a surface that seems different to some people but for me it doesn’t make a difference.
On your Facebook page in the band members section there are three names. Is it correct that that is you, Peter Johan Nÿland and Nicky Hellemans?
What are Peter’s and Nicky’s parts in Trepaneringsritualen?
Nicky sadly is only a spiritual member these days because she left her body a few months ago.
Thank you. Peter is physically present most of the time. He’s been helping me out for many years. We’ve been friends for well over a decade. He’s always been proven to understand the whole T x R x P working so he’s just getting closer and closer to it, so, eventually it just made sense to actually invite him in as a full member. So, obviously it still emanates from me, but he’s very much part of the creative process, the recording process, the writing process, live settings, he plays percussion and he does backing vocals. So he’s a full member, just as important as me at this point.
But you’re the only one standing on stage, right?
No, Peter does play live as well. He was supposed to play tonight but unfortunately had to skip this one.
At Lucky Rocks Metalfest you were also performing alone.
Yeah, he started playing live with me a few shows last year and now since six months it’s been most shows. That’s how it’s going to remain, because it really adds a lot to the whole energy of the performances.
Who creates the music?
Right now we mostly have a process where I get things started and then he comes in and puts his spin on things. We’re trying to find ways to do it the other way around as well to see what happens with that, but really don’t have anything set in stone. We try to go with what is required. I hope that having him start things might prove that he can interpret things slightly different than I can in the whole working. So the aim is to not have a fixed process with that either because I never had a fixed process when I was working alone.
Instrumentally your music isn’t really to divide into drums, guitars and bass or something like that. Where do you start when creating new music?
It varies a lot, there’s always an impulse to begin with, which is usually a thought, an idea or a couple of words or something. It always starts with the intent of the whole piece before there’s any thought given to how it’s going to present itself aesthetically. Then we try to not have a fixed process about that either. It’s just whatever is needed in a particular situation we can do, then we do it. It’s an unnecessary limitation to say that for example we need to write on bass guitar or whatever. I mean, we’re not a rock band so we can do whatever we want.
Speaking about your show. You start with a bag over your head and later you’ll get it off. Is there a special meaning behind that?
There is, there’s several actually but the intent is to remove me from the equation, me as a person, Thomas Ekelund, and make myself be T x R x P. Obviously, there are many connotations to wearing masks because you’re hiding something and removing the mask is revealing something. Revelation is obviously very important to what we’re doing. Essentially it’s all about enlightenment. So finding that moment of revelation is a key aspect of the listener I would say.
Your Facebook biography says “We hide our countenance to reveal the hidden face of god.” Is that something that has to do with that?
Exactly. I mean, god in a sense. Obviously, god can mean so many different things. As you probably know, I’ve always struggled to really understand what T x R x P is actually about, but one key aspect seems to be finding one’s godhood, and through this transcend these worlds, and become something that is greater than your physical manifestation.
Only not god as in the Christian way or something.
No, obviously I’m not a huge fan of that YHWH.
When I saw your show at Lucky Rocks Metalfest there were only a few people that stayed during your entire show. A lot of people didn’t seem to get it.
No, it was quite apparent that most people did not really understand it at all.
What do you think about that?
I don’t know. I mean, I never expect people to understand. So whenever I feel that most people in the audience actually do understand it, it’s a great benefit, because it gives me a lot of energy. But honestly, I mean, people can interpret it however they want. If they don’t get it, they don’t get it. If they’re unwilling to let their guard down and even try to get it, then they’re not going to get it. At that particular festival we were by far the most esoteric act playing so I wasn’t too surprised that it wasn’t that well received.
You were quite an outsider in the line-up.
Your show is an attack on all senses. Of course with the intense music, but also with heavy visuals and the smell of incense. You also use another smell, right?
Yeah, well, the stage clothes are pretty rotten at this point. So, I’ve been trying to figure out a way to actually describe it, what kind of scent you can actually expect but talking about something as ephemeral as scent is close to impossible. The incense we use is a custom blend that has some things in it that are not particularly appealing to one’s olfactory senses. Then you have this smell of me basically, which is also not a pleasant smell. The idea behind it is to actually make people let down their guard as well. If they have to struggle with the scent the other senses might become more attuned to things. It’s the same with the visual aspect and the sonic aspect as well. It’s all about making people so overwhelmed by different sensations that they cannot use their rational minds anymore to actually put up the guard. The hope is to actually let them experience what I’m experiencing on stage.
What do you get out of the show for yourself?
The rituals are such a important part of the whole Working. Perhaps even the most important aspect.
Under ideal circumstances it allows me to fully let go of my rational being, and immerse myself in the abysmal void of T × R × P, which hopefully means this also happens to the audience. I don’t succeed every time but that’s always what I aim for, to be able to destroy my own grasp on the created worlds.
I now remember that Batushka played after your show at Lucky Rocks Metalfest. I was really looking forward to your show as well as Batushka’s show. I didn’t experience much of Batushka’s show, because I still was in the atmosphere of your show.
Thank you very much. I’m sorry to have ruined Batushka for you though, haha.
I didn’t experience that before with music.
For the audience your show is very intense. I guess it’s also for you?
How do you prepare for that?
It used to require a pretty long period of preparation. I would say hours but I’ve gotten to the point where I can focus in pretty much half an hour. I do the physical preparations of actually getting on stage, putting on the stage outfit and the makeup, the blood and all that. While I’m doing that I focus and meditate on the T x R x P working and try to be ready when it’s time. So there’s really no need for a separate ritual for getting ready anymore. It just comes. It’s so ingrained in the pretty dull experience of actually getting ready to get on stage. It’s so connected right now that it just happens automatically.
And do you need to come back after a show?
Yeah. It takes a long while to get back. At least, if I’ve been truly successful in performing the ritual, it takes hours to get back to dealing with any sort of logistical stuff that comes with touring and playing. That’s probably the most difficult part, to actually be able to deal with the created worlds and all mundane tasks at hand.
How do you handle that?
I tend to forget a lot of stuff at venues and have to buy them again. From like a spiritual perspective, I don’t really know, actually. It’s a very hard question to answer. Usually it’s also a pretty natural process, even if it takes time. I sort of slowly fade back into the so-called real world over hours and then I am back and it starts over to the next night, the next time we perform.
When you’re back, do you still remind everything?
T x R x P has become such a huge part of my life that I do. It’s pretty much always present. Even if I’m not thinking about it it’s actually there. I pretty much have to consciously ignore it to be unaware of it for any period of time. It’s always there in some sense and it’s always communicating with me in some ways. I’ve been doing it for 11 years now. I think the spiritual growth that has been involved in the process over those years has been huge in many ways. It makes dealing with the created worlds a lot easier. Even if I am still not too fond of the physical world it’s made me more easygoing about all that crap, I think. Being able to actually ignore all the pointless little details of everyday life.
Yeah. Which is weird because T x R x P is not a really calm experience in any way. But, ultimately I think it has made me calmer as a person.
I have to say that the first time I listened to music was a stream of your performance in the Boiler Room in Berlin on YouTube. At some point I fell asleep because I became that calm.
That’s a good thing.
Yeah. I think it’s the same for me. It’s probably the same for other people as well. I think if you are actually able to understand T x R x P in any deeper way, you’re not going to think of it as particularly violent in any way. I mean, some aspects of it are aesthetically violent but in the end I think there’s nothing aggressive in the spiritual purpose of it.
I think you would only see it that way if you get it.
Yeah, if you don’t get it, it of course sounds violent and aggressive but if you do understand then you’ll actually get to a point where it is a calming experience.
I can imagine that when I will let, for example, my mother listen to it, she would probably thinks it’s just chaos or something like that.
Yeah, but there’s a calmness in chaos.
Indeed. You also have a few shows announced besides this tour, including one Dutch show at the Black Earth Festival in Utrecht. Also looking forward to that show?
Yeah. I don’t really know what to expect because I don’t know the venue. I think it’s going to be good. I always like playing The Netherlands. There’s always a good audience and all organizers always take very good care of you, which is a bonus and makes it easier to focus on the important things, because you don’t have to focus on all the logistical stuff.
You also see the Dutch audience as a great audience?
I would say so yes, people are attentive, and they usually seem to be able to understand it in a way that some other countries might not really do. I think that’s true for Germany as well and even up in Sweden. I always enjoy playing in The Netherlands.
Thanks for your answers and good luck with the show.
Is there anything you want to say to our readers?
I don’t think so. Buy the records and immerse yourself in the T x R x P working and see where it takes you.
Here you can read our 7th part of Promoting Bands, including Trepaneringsritualen.
I’m Tim van Velthuysen and I started DutchMetalManiac back in 2014. I’m 27 years old and I live in Nijmegen, The Netherlands. Of course, I like metal, but I can also appreciate other musical styles. However, metal is what I mostly listen to. I also like going to concerts, meeting with friends and watching movies (especially arthouse).