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With second album 'The Hour Be None' recently out, Mike enjoyed an in-depth and informative chat with Hooded Priest's Luce and J-Maze about the band.

Interview with Hooded Priest.
"Not the most prolific of studio bands, veteran Netherlands outfit Hooded Priest have just celebrated the release of their sophomore full-length album after something like 11 years in the business. Nonetheless, their exuberant live presence has bolstered that small catalogue, giving them a strong European presence. We took the opportunity of an enforced hiatus in their schedule to catch up with frontman Luther 'Luce Vee' Veldmark and recently-turned-bassist Joe 'J-Maze' Mazurewicz to talk about 'The Hour Be None' and more."

Talking to us today, Luce and J-Maze of Hooded Priest.

Hello guys, and thanks for agreeing to be interviewed for Doom-Metal.com. Could we start with a quick formal introduction to our readers: who you are and where you're from?

Luce: Hey Mike, we are Hooded Priest – a doom metal four-piece from the Netherlands, consisting of Jeff von D (guitars), Joe (bass), Quornelius (drums) and myself, Luce (vocals). We started back in 2006 and have just released our sophomore album 'The Hour Be None' with I Hate Records from Sweden. Actually, we just returned from a short promotional tour a few weeks ago, taking us to the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Ireland and Slovakia.

How's everything going in the Hooded Priest camp at the moment? I hear you've been recovering from various mishaps recently!

Luce: In December, I had three operations in three weeks time, so my recovery will probably take a couple of months. Then, our drummer Quornelius broke his thumb, so I'm sorry to say we're not really active at present. However, Joe and Jeff are always writing new stuff, so we'll see what they come up with. A short break, on the other hand, may not be all bad… things have been rather hectic for us lately, band-wise. The recording, mixing, mastering of our new album, rehearsals for an upcoming tour, new album release and then, as I mentioned above, gigs scattered all over Europe. Originally, we even planned to do a more extensive, three-week tour with an American doom metal band, but they cancelled at the very last moment. That was a major setback, but still, we quite enjoyed our downsized tour, met some great people and, all in all, I think we made the best of the situation.

The other half of the band: Jeff von D (guitars) and Quornelius Backus (drums). Pictures: Rockingphotoart.com.

2017 must have had its high points, such as the release of your sophomore full-length 'The Hour Be None'. How has that been received, generally?

J-Maze: Well, at least we haven't had any bad reviews – so far… Seriously though, we believe The Hour Be None was received rather well; some loved it, while others merely 'liked' it – depending on personal preference. The thing is that, with The Hour Be None, our intention was to write the most pure-bred doom album we could imagine – a return to the very foundations of the genre and of our identity as a band. Mind you, our debut was released seven years earlier and we've been through a lot together, both personally and as a band. So our new album was a way to regain our bearing. Most people seem to appreciate this, the fact that we're not jumping on the next trend or subgenre, post-monolithic oriental-fusion jazz-deathcore. While others enjoyed the album, but mentioned that it was too firmly rooted in the doom metal tradition – which is fair enough, as it was intended that way. The new material we are working on now is somewhat more eclectic, so we can't wait to find out how that will be received.

Since we've never formally spoken to you before, can we cover a bit of older history at this point? The band was formed back in 2006, and its members largely came from other areas of the underground scene: what made you want to get together and assemble a Trad Doom project?

Luce: Back in 2006, some friends of mine played in a few Dutch and Flemish metal acts, mainly black/thrash metal. At the same time, though, they were also very interested in slow-paced, doom metal, so they asked me to come to some jam sessions. They had heard me sing before, as the vocalist of Witchsmeller Pursuivant, and they felt my vocals would really fit slower paced music. At first, I was reluctant to start in yet another band, which can be quite complicated, but in the end… I could not resist. And the rest, as you might say, is history.

Hooded Priest - Live in 2017:

The "official" Cathedral/Winter/Count Raven/Reverend Bizarre list of influences surely doesn't give the complete picture of your sound, with the inclusion of Epic Doom and older Metal and Thrash elements. What other inspirations did you bring into Hooded Priest?

Luce: We all share a genuine passion for doom metal, but other than that our influences are just a mess of different styles. Jeff and myself are into old-school metal, but we always seem to disagree on which band or which album is better or more significant than another. Also, Jeff is into death metal, together with Joe, which is not one of my favourite genres. Quornelius' roots are black metal roots, and he also shares an interest in 80's new wave and electro, which is also one of Joe's main influences. In fact, when our rehearsals are done and we're hanging around, drinking a few beers, we tend not to listen to metal at all. Instead, you could hear anything from Bauhaus, Arpanet and Rome, to – say – Lana Del Rey, which all, in their own way are an influence in our music. I mean…it's all there if you care enough to listen on a set of decent speakers and look beyond the obvious.

So, you were playing live for some time before recording anything at all - was the band originally intended just as a live project, or did you always have studio recordings in mind as well?

Luce: Well, in the beginning we were just jamming around. However, it didn't take us too long to write enough songs to play a live gig, so that's what we did. Then, we recorded a demo, which resulted in our debut album being released, which resulted in more new songs, more gigs, more connections and now – our second full-length album, The Hour Be None. My point is that the whole thing kind of evolved spontaneously, it's not like we planned anything.

Hooded Priest, circa 2009.

Was the name Hooded Priest chosen to signify anything in particular? And is Luce's on-stage persona reflecting some ritualistic side to the band?

Luce: When IX, one of our former members, came up with the name Hooded Priest, I immediately pictured our Reverend Death mascot – a macabre figure, combining elements of the grim reaper and a priest. On a couple of occasions, when playing with Witchsmeller, I had worn a monk's robe and had used a scythe as a mike stand, and I thought it might be a good idea to use it on a more permanent basis. Since we don't use special effects or such, we have to resort to other means to entrance our audience. With this on-stage presence, I try to hypnotise myself and the audience, but it's more a transferal of energy, rather than a religious activity. I can lose myself in my own character, be swept away by my role – and when I watch the crowd during our performances, I realize that I'm not the only one.

On that subject - how seriously do you take the occult nature of such titles as 'Devil Worship Reckoning'? Are you advocating it, warning against it, or using it as a metaphor for more earthly things?

Luce: There's no simple answer to this question, as all words are important in this title, equally important. If you read it like that, you get a sort of 'This is what you get for worshipping the devil…' or better said 'Be careful what you wish for…' At a primary level, I try to keep my lyrics clear and understandable, but there are always more layers, other layers and more or other meanings. The blackened feeling in the music of that song goes well along with my observation that both God and the Devil are always near when it comes to Doom. In most of my lyrics, fantasy and reality go hand in hand – there's always room for interpretation. So, if people think of us of being occult, who is the dark soul then, I ask?

Hooded Priest - Well Worth The Dig (Live, 2010):

What's your songwriting process, if you have one? Does everybody pitch in with ideas, or do you have a more orderly way of developing songs?

Luce: Whereas our earlier material largely originated from jam sessions in our rehearsal room, our new album was almost completely written by Joe, our bass player. He writes and composes the tracks in their entirety in his home studio and then sends us the finished result – then, based on the structures he provides, we can add our own interpretation. I, for instance, had complete freedom when writing the vocal lines. Quornelius, of course, has the final say on his drums and the tempo's, whereas Jeff tends to add a bluesy, 70s feel to Joe's riffs. Then, we rehearse the songs with all our personal additions, until they evolve into their definite form.

So you released the original demo in 2009. How much reworking did you do to the songs on that when they were included on the 2010 'Devil Worship Reckoning' album?

Luce: An important difference in between the 'Call For The Hearse' rehearsal tape and our debut album is that we replaced our first drummer with Quornelius. Although the album was recorded shortly after, the drums are much better and tighter than they were before. The second difference is that the rehearsal, of course, was recorded live, all the instruments and vocals were done in one take – we were a young band back then, and didn't have the possibility to do overdubs or anything. As a result, we had to rerecord everything again for our debut album, which we ended up recording in a black metal studio – which might explain the vibe and sound of that album.

After a fairly stable decade or so, you had a comparatively significant line-up change and shuffle in 2015. What prompted that, and are you settled with the new formation now? Do you miss having double-bass in the line-up?

Luce: We've undergone some significant line-up changes indeed. We've parted with two long-standing members and, as a result, Joe switched from rhythm to bass guitar. We do believe, however, that these changes were inevitable – for various reasons – and they've had a major impact on the band. Instead of struggling with members struggling to meet their obligations, there now is a tremendous energy and a good vibe! And even though we may truly miss Notaris on a personal level, our current, revamped line-up provides a much more sound and solid basis for the future, so despite the setbacks, we're very happy with the way things turned out.

Was the line-up change part of the reason there was a sizeable delay between demo/debut and the follow-up EP and sophomore 'The Hour Be None' in 2016/2017? What else took up the intervening time?

J-Maze: Yes it was. As Luce mentioned earlier, with Hooded Priest, we're all good friends, so when it turns out someone has difficulty combining his personal life with the obligations of being in a band – well, it's a difficult situation, which took us quite some time and a lot of energy to resolve. Aside from that, we all have other musical projects, priorities, jobs etc… there's just a lot of stuff going on all the time. It seems that life just got in the way. Anyway, with Jeff joining us, we're back to being a four-piece again and looking forward to the future!

First picture of the current line-up, 2015.

Given that all of 'These Skies Must Break' appears on 'The Hour Be None', and all of the demo tracks appear on 'Devil Worship Reckoning', that's not a large total studio repertoire! Do you have other songs that you play live?

Luce: Earlier, we used to play 'Dethroned Emperor' and 'Sign Of The Wolf' as an encore at some gigs. At the same time, with our new material ranging somewhere between 8 and 11 minutes, we have a hard enough time as it is, fitting them into a halfway decent setlist. We believe in playing a proper set with proper tracks, rather than filling it with as many songs as possible. We do like working on new material, though, but that's a natural process, something that can't be rushed – like polishing rough diamonds until they start to shine the brightest. And don't worry, even though we're taking a break right now, we'll soon start working on new material. We've already finished three new songs, which will show yet another aspect of Hooded Priest.

'The Hour Be None' is a more straightforwardly Trad Doom album than 'Devil Worship Reckoning': what was it that made you decide to drop the thrashier and faster parts? What particular atmosphere did you want to create with that?

Luce: We really don't want to repeat ourselves when we are writing new stuff – and even on our debut album, there was a lot of variation between the tracks – I mean, if you compare '8 o' Clock Witch' to 'Devil Worship Reckoning'. We really wanted our second album to sound like a wall of bricks collapsing on your head – slow, grinding and heavy as hell. We also recorded it with a new engineer, who gave us a lot of room to experiment and find the right sound for our band. And we knowingly went for a more minimalistic approach, but we believe there's still plenty of tempo changes and things happening, maybe even more so than on our first album. It's all there, tempo changes, odd harmonics and timings, acoustic parts and strange influences, such as the new wave-inspired outro of Mother of Plagues, but maybe it's more hidden, more integrated into the music itself.

Do you feel label releases still have value over independent ones? And how was it working with I Hate for this album?

Luce: It's just easier working with a label. We don't play live that often, so we need another kind of promotion, something that gets us the gigs and the exposure we want. And it's hard work, for an underground band promoting itself on a DIY basis… so Peter and Markus are a great help! I think that, if we wouldn't have found a label, we would have released the album ourselves on Bandcamp or so. But still, that's not quite the same, now is it?

Discography: 'Call For The Hearse' (Demo, Self-released/Capricorn Records 2009), 'Devil Worship Reckoning' (Emanes Metal 2010), 'These Skies Must Break' (EP, Self-released 2016), 'The Hour Be None' (I Hate 2017).

We reviewed 'The Hour Be None': is that a fair summary, would you say, and is there any comment you'd like to make on it in response?

Luce: A part I really like is this: 'You can usually spot the Doom bandwagon jumpers. Hooded Priest do not sound like one of them. They do sound utterly convincing in what they do.' We do take our music seriously, and we're in it for the long run – not because it's a trend or anything… come to think of it, I wish it was more of a trend… hehehe… We ourselves don't really recognize the 'Black Sabbath blueprint' that was mentioned, as I believe Black Sabbath in essence was much more bluesy, while we're more riff-based, however, the ideas and motivation behind our music are quite similar: to create an eerie landscape, taking our listeners to a bleak and grim Neverland.

I do think, especially these days, Trad Doom styles are the most difficult to come up with something original-sounding. But is complete originality necessary, or is it better to maintain the classic Metal aesthetics of the genre?

J-Maze: What I like about metal in general, and doom metal in particular, is that there are no rules, not if you don't want there to be. And hence, the variety of doom metal bands is simply overwhelming – there's your 70s-inspired retrodoom, funeral doom, drone, post-something doom, stoner doom, etc… anything goes, really! We didn't try to copy a style or fit into some sort of subgenre: The Hour Be None is what we sound like, and what we want to sound like, with our diverse influences and ideas at this particular moment in time. And tomorrow, we might sound differently… We didn't plan it this way.

Hooded Priest - Mrs Satan (Live, 2016):

So, what's next for Hooded Priest? Any plans for the new year and the immediate future?

Luce: Our primary goal is to work on tracks for our next album, which is something we're all looking forward to. Mind you that some of the songs for The Hour Be None were written five or more years ago. We've had our ups and down in that period, but we surely don't want another seven year gap between albums! At the same time, we're not going to rush things, so we won't be releasing tons of EPs either or maybe we just will haha. Anyway if we're invited for an interesting gig or festival somewhere, we'll probably see you there!

And in the longer term, do you have any particular vision for where you'd like to take the band?

Luce: I love being part of this band, so as long as we're making creative progress as musicians, I'd say we're good. I'm sure we'll come up with some great stuff in the future. After 'These Skies…' and 'The Hour…' we'll start working on our third release with this line-up, and our new material proves, in my view, that we're heading in an interesting direction. I hope it'll lead to some great performances and more cool experiences.

Picture: Rockingphotoart.com.

To close, I hope we've presented a thorough picture of Hooded Priest here, but if there is anything you'd like to add, the last words are yours.

Luce: Thank you for your questions and the opportunity to talk about our band. As a little self-promotion never hurt anyone, you can find more information about us on:

and for those of you who are tube horny:
Call For The Hearse LIVE
Herod Again + Mother Of Plagues LIVE
Locust Reaper studio version
The Hour Be None
These Skies Must Break EP
Hooded Priest LiVE version in VIENNA
8 o' Clock Witch studio version
Devil Worship Reckoning studio version.

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

Visit the Hooded Priest bandpage.

Interviewed on 2018-02-11 by Mike Liassides.
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