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In this brief piece, Comrade Aleks catches up with early '90s Dutch Death/Doom band Spina Bifida, who reformed in 2010 after a long hiatus, in an attempt to find out a little more about their mostly obscure career.

Interview with Spina Bifida.
"Spina Bifida is one of those bands who formed the first wave of Death Doom in the Old World. Half a dozen of such bands - including Delirium, Mourning, Mystic Charm and Phlebotomized appeared for a brief period in the late '80s in the Netherlands, and this outfit from Tilburg was amongst them. They formed in 1990 and recorded first demo, 'Symphony Of Indictment' in 1992: back then the lineup was Gerard van Boxtel (drums), Rob (guitars), Harie van Erp (guitars), Geroen van Veen (bass) and Jan (vocals). Those four songs appeared on their first and only full-length album, 'Ziyadah' (Adipocere Records, 1993), where the band performed this material with new vocalist Werner and new bass player Veronika Wilking. The new blood didn't save their situation, and Spina Bifida disbanded in the mid-'90s, though they reunited in 2010, when no-one expected it, to record new EP 'Iter' (Godeater Records, 2015). The new material was recorded with the same lineup as 'Ziyadah' apart from new vocalist William Nijhof. I sent a few questions to the band to clarify some points of their murky career, and though my introduction is almost longer than the answers provided by Rob and Veronika, feel free to check them - it won't cost you much time."

Current line-up.

Hi Spina Bifida! The band was formed 28 years ago, how did it happen? How was the original line-up formed?

It started as a project with people working or visiting the 'Bat Cave' a punk/metal venue in Tilburg. Amongst them were members of Disembowel and Achrosticon.

What was your vision of the band back then? Why did you choose a medical term as the band's name?

We wanted to combine the different influences of the people who played in Spina, for instance industrial, death metal, punk. At that time a lot of bands used medical names. We thought Spina Bifida is a very beautiful name for a terrible disease, we liked the contradistinction.

Spina Bifida's demo, released in 1992, was a pretty promising record. It's well-composed, and catchy in some ways: how did you write those songs?

Most of the time at rehearsals we started with for instance a guitar lick and expanded the song together.

You recorded it at MKW Tilburg, is that a professional studio? How did you deal with all the technical issues during your first record sessions?

MKW means "Muziekantenwinkel" (literally: musicians shop). It was a place where they had rehearsal rooms, a magazine, a meeting place etc. And a small studio, but not a professional one. The technician dealt with all the technical problems, so we could focus on playing the songs.

Live in the '90s.

Your full-length album 'Ziyadah' was quickly released, in 1993. How did you work on the songs? Did you have a chief song-writer in the band?

We wrote most songs together, like the songs on the demo. Most of the lyrics were written by Rob.

And most of the music? You were saying that initially you wanted to combine influences of all band's members?

Like the songs on the demo, the music started during the rehearsals. For instance, Rob made the lick for 'Purest Queen' and the other members came up with their part. For 'Reverse', Veronika played a riddle at the rehearsal and the others improvised a kind of 'solo'. Richard wrote 'Verdict'. Etc.

The album was recorded at Tapes Productions, Raamsdonksveer. How much time did you spend there? What are your memories about the session?

We spent a week in the studio. It was exhausting, with some tension, but also a lot of fun.

Spina Bifida - 'Witchfire' (1993):

What influenced the band's sound back then? What kind of bands did you follow?

Winter, Sonic Violence, Paradise Lost, My Dying Bride, Bolt Thrower, etc.

Speaking about the mood and lyrics of 'Ziyadah' - what was it all about? How would you describe it? And what does the title mean?!

It was doom, the failures of mankind, but with a little bit of humor. You are still allowed to laugh. Ziyadah means 'fast as the wind'. We liked the contradistinction.

How do you see both the strong and weak sides of this material?

The strong sides are that it is unique. Our background is not only metal, but different kinds of music, like punk, new wave, industrial. We don't play 'Individual' anymore. It's not our favourite song on the album, but we know a lot of people do like it

Why was Spina Bifida disbanded after the release of 'Ziyadah'? It seems to be symptomatic for early Netherlands Death Doom bands to split after a few years of work... Delirium for example...

Some members of the band quit Spina to join another band. We tried to go on with other people, but somehow that didn't work.

Did the band have any recognition after the release of 'Ziyadah'? What was the reaction of people, and the label, to this album?

We had very good reviews, for instance in 'Meltdown' and 'Aardschok' magazines. Christian of Adipocere (our label) was also very enthusiastic. Since we split up we didn't record a second album (and we won't do so in the future), but we are still in touch.

How often did you play live in that period? With what kind of bands did you share stages?

We think we played about 50 times (it's a long time ago). We played a gig with Kreator & Biohazard, with Therion, Phlebotomized, Celestial Season, Castle etc.

Dutch Doom Days reunion, 2011.

The band was resurrected in about 2015: what was your motivation? There is new vocalist William Nijhof in the band - was it impossible to rejoin with Werner again?

After a while we liked to make music again. We were not in touch with Werner anymore and William was willing to join us.

You released the new EP 'Iter' in 2015: how was this material written? How did you keep the vibe of 'Ziyadah' on this album so many years after that debut release?

We started rehearsing and playing the old songs, so that's how we kept the vibe. Also, most members were the same as before. Most material on "Iter" was written by Harrie. The rest of the band adjusted the songs he wrote, so we came to this EP.

Spina Bifida - 'The Heretic' (2015):

What was your initial goal when you entered the studio to record 'Iter'? How did you work on the new songs? Did it differ much from the way you recorded 'Ziyadah'?

We recorded "Iter" at the private studio of Harrie (one of our guitar players). He wrote a lot of the songs on this album, so it was much different from the way "Ziyadah" was created.

What's the band's current status? What are your plans for a full-length album?

At the moment we take it easy, we don't have plans for a full-length album yet.

Click HERE to discuss this interview on the doom-metal forum.

Visit the Spina Bifida bandpage.

Interviewed on 2018-07-09 by Comrade Aleks Evdokimov.
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