The Reapers just released their hard-hitting debut LP "Rip It Up" through Rebellion Records and LSM Vinyl and the band serves their album-title just right, they fuckin' rip shit up indeed! Time for a little chat with vocalist/bassist Gwenn (for the most part) and drummer Ron (for a question or two) about their inevitable past, the present and the future!
Hi guys, thanks a lot for doing this interview! How is everything going at the moment?
Hey, man, we’re doing great at the moment. We’ve got our first full-length out, finally. We’re featured on Oi! Ain’t Dead 7 with three songs. We finally have a stable line-up. So, apart from a little rib-injury our drummer picked up at a hardcore gig in Germany the other week, we’re in tip-top shape, hahaha.
Let’s start with the usual chit-chat first, who is who in the band?
I’ll start with myself for a change. I’m Gwenn. I’m the singer of the band. Not by choice, I have to add. I liked it better when I was just doing my background thing, playing bass and giving a few screams here and there, but the line-up needed a singer and I was the only one who was practically available. Apart from that I play bass and write most of the lyrics.
Ronny, who is actually a better singer, plays the drums. He can basically play anything for that matter. He’s a monster guitar player, but the line-up demanded for him to be a drummer, so that’s what he does now. But apart from that he writes most of the music and helps me out with the lyrics and the notes they need to be sang to.
Richard is our lead guitar player. He does all the solo’s and all the fancy high-note stuff, that gives our music that typical Reapers-sound and that separates us from a lot of other streetpunk/skinhead rock ‘n roll/Oi! Bands. Apart from that he’s probably the most mentally stable person in the band, which has it’s value in a band like this…
Joery then is our latest asset, also ex-Discharger (2004-2006). He plays rhythm guitar and helps me out by doing the backing vocals, especially with our live performances. Apart from that I would characterize him as the joker of the band, hahaha.
All of you guys were, at one point or another, active in Discharger. What is the main difference between the two bands when it comes down to writing music, band chemistry etc…? If there is any difference?
Good question. Yes, there is. Of course there is a big difference when in one band you’re working with Tim Steinfort, and in the other you’re not. Tim is a big personality. You can’t go around that. We had a really dynamic writing process with Discharger. Tim did all the lyrics himself most of the time, but that crazy guy had multiple rough ideas for songs every fucking week for more than ten years... We filtered out the diamonds of those ideas and composed the songs together. That was a really cool process. We all really enjoyed those Eureka-moments when a song just came together perfectly. Now Ronny is our Tim, basically. He comes up with most of the music, sometimes along with a couple of lyrics, and the rest we work out together. And we still really enjoy that writing process. So yes, it’s different, but we still try and do as many things we can together. That way everybody really stands behind the music.
When the end of Discharger came in sight, how quickly did it became clear that you guys wanted to continue and make music together?
For myself I think pretty soon. I didn’t know what I was going to do, but I really wanted to do something on a smaller scale. Discharger was hard work: every fucking week you had to be there. No excuses. Also we we’re driving to Germany or Poland or Czech Republic every few weeks. So it was hard to combine that with our daily jobs, girlfriends, kids, etc. But to play music is something we all like to do, so I think it was inevitable that we all started playing again. I just don’t think we knew back then, we were going to end up in an all ex-Discharger member band together.
Do you think there is an advantage, or perhaps a disadvantage, to this ‘ex-Discharger’ label? In what way?
It works both ways. We still have a lot of contacts from our Discharger-period, so that’s good. People might just take us a little bit more seriously, because we already sort of earned our stripes. Of course Discharger also had a bad name in some circles, but we don’t shy away from that. It’s nice to have a fresh start, but to all those PC warriors we still say: fuck you. The message has never changed. But yes, there are still are venues that won’t have us because of our Discharger past, and that’s a shame, but we don’t let it bother us too much. We don’t want to play big venues anyway, hahaha.
Anyway, that is the past for now. The present is the release of The Reapers’ debut LP “Rip It Up”! Are you guys happy with how the record turned out?
We are now, but it was a bit of a struggle, to be honest. A first release always comes with a lot of stress, I guess. We didn’t have a label at the time, so it was a bit of a gamble and an investment. Along with that our drummer had kind of a mental breakdown at that time, so recordings were tense and it were tough times. Also, our rhythm guitar player at that time, Jesse (The Partons, Stealers), decided for personal reasons to leave the band. All in all it were trying times, but the record came out great. But we can’t change the fact that when we hear it ourselves, it brings back a lot of mixed memories.
From what I understood is that you guys weren’t too satisfied with how the album was mastered at first, resulting into an all new, far superior master. To be honest, I didn’t realize until recently that mastering could make such a difference! Was it an instant conclusion to get a ‘second opinion’ on this, or did the feeling that you could get much more out of the band’s sound grew over time?
True. It’s always hard to judge the sound of an album, but we just didn’t feel the album rocked like it should. We were told we had to wait on the pressing for half a year anyway, so we called in the help of Freek de Greef, who also does the sound for Live By The Sword, and he set us up with a way more powerful master. I think it really makes a big difference and we all are a lot happier now with the overall sound.
This partly resulted into a year difference between recording “Rip It Up” and its actual release. In hindsight, is there anything you would have done differently?
A lot. We all have studio experience, but we’re still growing and evolving as a band. We’re not only evolving our sound, but also our songs. “Rip It Up” is a debut album, but it’s also a recording in time. If we had to do it again, we’d probably change half the songs, the way they’re played and the actual recording gear. But it is what it is, and I think it is a good start for the band and the albums sounds pretty cult, to be honest.
What about influences? Because sound-wise The Reapers differ quite a lot from Discharger, with bands like The Templars, The Veros, early Perkele and The Janitors coming to mind. What bands had an impact on The Reapers sound if you could say for yourself?
The Templars for sure, also a big influence: The Beltones. We really like that American street-sound: The Bruisers, a little bit of Bonecrusher. But also some good old Cock Sparrer and Blitz for the melodies, mixed up with that nice All Skrewed Up sound of course…
On the album there is also a guest spot for Bevynn Wilkerson, better known in the Oi! and punk scene for his work with The Corps, RUST and Black Ball. How did this collaboration got together?
We were always a big fan of Bevynn’s work in The Corps. The slide guitar of course, but mostly because he’s an amazing guitar player. In fact I think he’s one of the best guitarists and kindest person that the scene has to offer. We came in contact with him, when we played a show together with RUST in Berlin, back in the Discharger days. Ronny maintained contact with him and asked him to feature a song on “Rip It Up”. Bevynn agreed instantly, so we wrote a song that fits his style: Sirens Of Sorrow.
RUST will be heading to Europe again this Summer, any chance you guys will join them on a date or two?
We’re actually working on that right now. Hopefully we’ll join them at the Rotterdam-gig. That would be fucking awesome. Really nice guys and just a very cool band.
Besides the album, you guys also appeared on Rebellion Records’ seventh volume of the ‘Oi! Ain’t Dead’-series late last year. Among Savage Beat, Live By The Sword, Complaint and Razorblade, this appearance was actually The Reapers’ first official release – but the three tracks were recorded much later than the full-length! Was it weird to have your music released in this order?
A little bit, yes. Because we now feel that we want to write more in the direction of those three songs. We’re going for a more straight-to-the-point sound. Simpler, but stronger. And I think our contribution on OAD7 reflects that evolution. So for the future expect more of where that came from.
What is your opinion on your fellow countrymen on the all-Dutch edition of this series? And the Dutch scene in general?
Our friends from Complaint really have their own sound: a raw mix of Oi! and hardcore. That really is their trademark. For Savage Beat and Live By The Sword: I really like the direction Dutch streetpunk/Oi! is heading. Simple, but strong riffs, bulldozer vocals and a true old-school sound and production. It sounds fucking awesome, and I think that sound can compete at an international level.
For the scene in general I think we’re heading in the right direction. After a couple of mediocre years, the scene is thriving. We always had the problem of more bands, than actual audience. Though we’re all still getting older, I see a little bit more young folks now at shows. So that makes us feel a little bit less of a dying breed.
What about the rest of Europe and the world? What is currently on your playlist? Any bands, besides The Reapers obviously, my readers need to check out?
Well, like we said, The Beltones has always been a big influence. But luckily there are a lot of other great, newer bands bands out there nowadays. Bands like Live By The Sword, Crown Court, No Heart and (like you mentioned yourself) The Janitors are a big influence to our writing style. I think it’s really promising, the amount of great new bands that are popping up nowadays. But we always get a lot of inspiration out of the classic bands of course, with Blitz on the top of the bill, I guess.
Alright, that’s about it, so last question – what will the future hold for The Reapers?
Right now we’re working on getting ready for a couple of shows in Holland the coming months. This spring we’re also playing with Tim and Haymaker. That should be interesting. Apart from that we’re investing in our sound: we’re looking at good amps and stuff like that, so we can also convey the sound we want on live performances. And of course we’re already writing new stuff for the next album. Some really powerful stuff, if I say it myself. All killers, no fillers, hahaha.
Okay, thanks again for taking your time! If there is anything you’d like to add to this interview, feel free to do so!
Cheers, man! Thanks for the interest. Well, I think we need to mention Wouter from Rebellion Records here for believing in us. Without him it wouldn’t be possible, or at least it would’ve been a lot more difficult. That guy is the motor behind a large part of the scene here, so thumbs up to him. And you yourself aren’t doing that bad either, for that matter. So cheers to you too, man. Rock on!