Toner Low

Interview with FAZ 'zine - FR/LUX (April 2012)

1) Hey Daan! How have you been man? How did your Roadburn go?

"Hi Pierre, i'm doing well thanks. Roadburn was great, especially Sleep, Om, Doom (the legendary UK crust band), Jucifer, Conan, Michael Gira, and the surprising Ulver, that played mostly songs of their unreleased sixties cover album (like The Beau Brummels, The Electric Prunes and The Troggs). I also had a lot of encounters with old and new friends there and saw parts of some great documentaries, especially Slow Southern Steel."

2) the readership of FAZ (france/ lux) is probably not familiar with Toner Low so even though you guys have been around for a while now and are about to release your new LP, could you please briefly run us through Toner Low's history?

"We started in March 1998 as a more traditional stonerband, lost some members over the years and in 2002/2003 our sound got a more doomy approach and we gradually started to removing the older songs from our setlist. We played our only gig in Luxembourg so far in September 2004 in Belvaux. In 2005/2006 our first cd/2lp got released which got many great reviews. From that point we also begun doing more gigs across Europe, like in Sweden, Denmark, France, Germany, Austria, Italy and the UK. November 2008 our second cd/2lp got released, again with a lot of great reviews, and more gigs in Europe, from Oslo to Zagreb. Amongst other bigger events we played at festivals such as Roadburn 2006 (Netherlands), Stoned From The Underground 2008 (Germany) and Stoned Hand Of Doom 2010 (Italy, right before headliner Electric Wizard)."

3) You seem to be a pretty busy man with a shitload of projects? Can you do a little bit of self promotion please?

"Besides playing in Toner Low, i play in about four projects. Two of them are my own solo projects: the murderballads singer/songwriter Danny Ramirez and an obscure sixties one man band called The Given Time. As Danny Ramirez i release some stuff regularly on and do around five -- mostly local -- gigs a year. The Given Time is just a studio project with no plans of playing live. For necro black metal band Slaughter Towen i play the live guitar, but this is actually a solo project by Zhreckh who's playing the drums and doing the vocals at the Slaughter Towen gigs. As a one man band Zhreckh has already released six Slaughter Towen cd's. Finally i'm involved with a studio project of a guy named Rogier. He did the live samples for Toner Low from April until September 2008 and in the goregrind scene he's known for his bands/projects Intumescence, Fece Vomitatie, Tumour and Carnival Of Carnage. Rogier also played the bassguitar for Last Days Of Humantiy. The studio project of his that i'm involved with is still nameless and combines AC/DC alike rock with some old school metal influences."

4) So...what are we in for as far as the new album goes? I heard you wil be recording unreleased songs that were meant for II? Any title yet? what themes are covered? Where did you record it? How come it took you 4 years to record a new album? still on the same label?

"In late June 2008 we did four days in the studio recording all instruments for II in three days and the drums and guitar/bass-cues for four more songs on the final day to be finished and released on 7-inches and 10-inches later on. In hindsight we weren't too satisfied with the feel and groove of those extra recordings. Of course at the time of recording it was the final day in the studio and the serious work for II was done, so we probably were too easy on the drumtracks for the extra songs. Later we decided to rewrite two of those songs to record them again, which both still has to happen. It's unknown if those will be on our third -- still untitled -- album or will be released seperately later on. Currently (April 2012) we're still working on more songs to record, we're thinking about five or six to record in total and we've got around 65-70% of written material now, more or less a continuation of how we use to sound but probably a bit longer songs. There are several reasons that it takes us years to release another full-length. One of them is that after having an album released, we focus on playing live and don't practice that much for quite some time. It's hard to put the gigs to a halt to start making new songs again, but we tried a few times now, haha. Also somewhere in November or December 2010 we decided to release none of the extra songs that we recorded in 2008 (as i explained above in this answer), so that kept us from doing any other release that we had initially planned altogether. I think the new album will be released through a different label, but we will announce it when there's more details."

5) One thing that sort of amazes me is that even though Toner Low is the Dutch godfather of modern doom (in my opinion), you guys don't seem to play THAT often in the Netherlands? Why is that? Been there done ?

"We played about thirty gigs in the Netherlands after the release of our first cd in 2006/2007 and after that it went down to 5-10 gigs a year. The reason is we no longer actively search for gigs in the Netherlands, and recently we also had to turn quite some of Dutch and abroad gig offers down because we need to write a few more songs first for the new album."

6) Leiden Rock City or Eindhoven Rock City? I am asking as from our conversations, you seem pretty proud of being from Leiden, although people in Brabant think Eindhoven is the rock capital of the Netherlands...Has the scene changed much since you started booking bands?

"I only booked some shows for other bands in the past, but as far as the scene goes it's been about the same between 2006 and 2010 bookingwise. Leiden is the best city of the Netherlands, because it's more like a village. But of course that might be because i've been visiting Leiden regularly since 1982."

7) Let's focus for a second on the natural progression TL has gone through over the years...Where does it come from? I am asking because TL is one of the rare bands that isn't formulaic as far as song structures are concerned? Besides, each album seems to be getting it just weed related or is it intentional?

"I think when we write songs we are the least stoned band in the stoner/doom-universe. We never smoke during rehearsals, 'cause we wanna use our time well. Also we never play jams at rehearsals. In the studio we are completely sober as well, as for the mixing and mastering. So it's pretty safe to say that it is all intentional, haha."

8) I truly believe TL is a unique band in that you just don't rip off riffs from other bands and have your own persona, which is fairly rare in this genre of music...How do you do it and what do you think of copycat bands? I also know for a fact we have the same tastes in music so....are you psyched to play with Acid King in June or what?

"We change and delete riffs and/or parts until a song fits us. Mostly we work for months on one song before we're satisfied. I have no opinion about bands copying other bands, i think listening to music it is inevitable that you get influenced or wanna have a sound similar to a band that you like. That's how many bands got and still get started and if they hold on long enough and/or develop a musical vision the sound becomes more a sound of their own. And yeah, in June we support Acid King and it's gonna be really awesome to finally play with them! I've been trying since they first played in the Netherlands in October 2005, but as far as i know this 2012-gig is only their fourth gig here."

9) Anytime I see you guys at gigs, it's always the three of you...I assume you reach the point where you're more of a family than a bunch of mates right? How long have you know each other for?

"We know each other since 1985/1986 when we all played in our first metalbands and were visitors of the local metal venue (and one of the few in the Netherlands at that time), called Scum. Great bands played there, such as Slayer, Savage Grace, Agent Steel, Possessed, Kreator, Nasty Savage, Destruction, Sadus, Dark Angel, Candlemass, Raven, Entombed, Obituary, Morbid Angel, Death and many more. But still we are quite individualistic people. If we would consider ourselves a family, it would be one without having to pay each other obligatory visits at birthdays and x-messes, haha."

10) In the last couple of years, there has been an explosion of stoner/doom bands worlwide? Why do you think it is? Each and every band seems to try really hard to be heavier than other bands, which often results in a lack of riffage if you ask me...Do you think that by aiming at being the loudest, having stacks and stacks of vintage amps, the song structures suffer from it? To recap, what do you think of bands going for volume and using drony riffs instead of focusing on writing more elaborate songs?

"I'm not sure why that explosion takes place, but the doom and stoner-scene seem to get more populair which maybe leads to more bands starting. I like both those drony bands and the more song based bands actually, they both have their charm as far as i'm concerned. I like many sorts of music anyway."

11) TL is often invited to Doom festivals across Europe...Do you guys like intimate gigs better or is it the other way around?

"It doesn't really matter how big a venue it is, you could have a great gig anywhere. But i must say, apart from that the many-bands-versus-the-tight-time-schedule issue takes its toll on me, i like playing those festivals a lot. It's a perfect way to reach more people with your music."

12) What has playing in Toner Low taught you? I believe playing in a band is like being in a relationships, with all the pros and cons it encompasses...what do you think?

"I think first and foremost it taught me to losing the punk attitude i used to have in the studio regarding my playing, my equipment and the sort of guitar i used to play, and becoming more of a perfectionist, so to speak. For Toner Low it's important to have a certain sound and well executed performances for our recordings. In the past i used to say that eventual fuck ups were okay 'cause they captured the moment, but i agree now that a flawless recording is a better representation of a song. The relationship comparison i think only applies to when you're on tour, you must try to always be nice to each other, haha."

13) Shotgun questions for you...

- white widow or jack herrer?

"Both, but i prefer the solid stuff."

- geert wilders or queen beatrix?

"Beatrix, but i really don't care about the royal house. Wilders his opinions are based on grudge." 

- vinyls or cds?


- Dutch beer or belgian beer?

"German beer!"

- weirdest thing you ever saw while playing/touring with TL?

"Eeehm (thinking for some time), i seem to have very tolerant eyes, haha."

14) Anything else you'd like to add, some bands to recommend maybe?...

"Our first (orange) album will get a vinyl re-release later this year. Check for announcements our Facebook and official site. No recommendations, 'cause i might forget a couple."

15) What is the best moment/circumstances to listen to Toner Low?

"Probably late at night in a smoke filled room with a good sound system and no neighbours, haha."