An Interview with Stef Broks, Drummer with Textures, conqueror of the Alps and fan of the Bush...

An in-depth interview, a dislocated knee and Bush Tucker Man...like, totally surreal, man...

Stef Broks, drummer with Dutch band Textures, is an utterly charming man. He tells me that the weather forecast is predicting thunder for the South of Holland, where he's currently hanging out. Not that he cares – he’s all hyped about the new album Dualism and the forthcoming US tour. Guitarist Jochem Jacobs recently said of Textures; “We’ve been through a lot lately, especially the last year.” so Stef, give us a quick summary...

He says “We’ve had some drama”, and adds with a laugh “We are drama queens. The last year has been kind of bumpy, up and down. Actually the last few months... well, the last half year, feels like we’re going up 100% because last year, at the beginning of 2010, we lost our former vocalist (Eric Kalsbeek) and our synth player (Richard Rietdijk) so that was like a slap in the face because our former singer Erik was really incredible and was a very good friend – he still is – when he left the band, the news came all of a sudden and we were all aware that finding a new singer like that was really hard to do so we posted some news and questions on the net about finding a new singer...”

You can hear the amazement in his voice as he continues “...and in the end we ended up with a guy from Holland who is a friend of Erik because he went to the same music school here in Holland and is a good friend of ours now and is in the band (Daniel de Jongh) and the band is running again now and it’s incredible. It really does feel like 100% and we have a new label, Nuclear Blast, since last year, we have a new booker, the same as Dillinger Escape Plan, Meshuggah and Devin Townsend.”

The loquacious Dutchman continues “The whole team is exploding right now from positive energy, of course also due to the new album. Coming back to the history [of the band], in the last three years we wrote a lot of songs; we did shows in Russia; and two times in India, where we performed to a few thousand people, which is kind of bizarre with our kind of music. So that’s it - the tours in India, Russia and Europe, losing members and finding new members.”

The new album Dualism was recorded at Split Second Sound , Amsterdam and was produced by Jochem Jacobs. “You know, it really worked easy with him. Some people asked us ‘why do you have to do it and produce the album with him, again the fourth time...why don’t you take somebody else who is outside the band and who can judge the music or the production more from a distance?’ but for us, that’s so unnatural because with another guy who’s not in the band there will always be some form of slight miscommunication about the idea that we have and the idea that he has. And since Jochem is in the band, we have this perfect match of sharing ideas and that kind of stuff because the basic communication in the band, besides that we are friends, we have a huge respect for each other, not only personally but for the ideas that we have, not only on our instruments but also about the songs, about the production. Jochem is not a ‘fuhrer’ – you know that word? Fuck! What’s the fucking English word for that?!”

There’s a pause... “Err...dictator? Yes, Jochem is not like a dictator, he’s open to ideas and we treat each idea from everybody with a lot of respect. It’s like climbing a ladder of energy; when someone comes up with an idea, the other guy adds another thing to it – ‘Yeah! We can all do that!’ and the other guy will say ‘Yeah! And we can also do that!’ and it feels like climbing a ladder to the maximum result. This (Dualism) is the most perfect product we could deliver – and I can imagine that sounds clichéd to you because every band is saying that – of course it’s true, it is clichéd but Textures would never release an album which felt worse than the former album.”

I’d be a bit worried if he said he didn’t like it himself.

“Sometimes you can hear an album from a band and you know there’s not so much inspiration on the album than on former albums – Textures will never do that..” Stef is quite adamant about it.

”I can assure you that the day that we have songs that are not as progressive, as new, as fresh as the stuff that we released before, I think we will have to stop. Textures will always be progressive and will always release the final, maximum product with the maximum energy we can deliver – and that’s also the reason it took three years because we’re not the type of guys who jam a little bit and put some stuff together and then have a perfect song. We’re always crafting and always levelling some stuff and focusing on the details all the time to reach a final product.”

What are the standout tracks for you?
“Well, let me first say that I like all the tracks, but that’s also clichéd, but for me as a drummer I think the track ‘Singularity’ which is track number seven on the album, it’s a real drum track – it’s fierce stuff for all the drummers who hear it!” He gets all coy: “I have a little present for them because there will be some kind of video about this song soon on the internet. It’s one of my favourites and it’s really a Textures song; all the stuff that Textures stands for is in that track; progressiveness, a lot of epic vocal lines and guitar leads and weird rhythms.”

The interview is interrupted by a massive crash and a scream – my wife’s knee has just dislocated and she’s lying on the floor screaming blue murder. I ask Stef to call back in five minutes while I pop the knee back in and icepack it. True to his word, Stef calls back and the interview resumes.

So you’ll be releasing a drum tuition video on the interweb? “Yeah, very soon. I recorded the video last week. I totally forgot! Today, we’re going to release for free this very song Singularity. Don’t put it up on the internet yet because you’re one of the three people in the world who know which song it will be. Today is the first day that people are going to hear our new stuff.” As this happened on Thursday, I don’t think I’m breaching any ethical standards by leaving that bit in the interview. Go check out Textures MySpace to stream the track.

The album’s art work was designed by Eric Kalsbeek & Remko Tielemans (bass), so you’re obviously still friends – how does that work? “We’re not the type of guys who stay angry ex-band members, we have respect for Eric’s decision to leave the band, we remain friends until this day – we actually had a Textures party two months ago, with all the band members and the ex-band members and that’s how we are; we’re still friends with all the guys. At one point Eric said ‘I know I’m out of the band but I still feel connected to you guys’ and we feel the same way, so he asked us ‘Can I do something for the album? Of course, not vocals but can I do something?’ and we said ‘OK, if you want to help us out with the artwork’ - because he really is an expert in doing artwork - ‘be our guest!’ and that’s how we are together and we let him do the artwork. This guy, Eric, has fantastic feeling and fantastic humour – he’s such a funny dude – that working together is always fun. It just works out really well and I think that the album, as it stands, is incredible. I have to give credit to the dude. It’s a bit clichéd maybe, but that’s how we are, you know? We are not here on this planet to steal energy from people or be angry about people because all the angriness that people have, I think is due to a lack of comprehension. I think Chuck Schuldiner of Death was right in his song Lack of Comprehension and it all has to do with that; global wars, miscommunication, whatever the struggle people are in, it’s always due to lack of communication because some person doesn’t totally understand the other person, or is too arrogant to even want to understand the other person. When it comes to me and my friends in Textures, we want to invest in people and we respect other people.”

Stef talks about how they wanted Eric to stay in the band but respected his decision to leave. It all comes down to devotion, and if one member’s not 100% committed then it impacts on the rest of the group.
The US tour starts in September. Stef’s reaction? “Too many shows! I’m afraid when looking through the schedule!”, he laughingly adds “Don’t talk to me about that!” Textures will be playing with Periphery, The Human Abstract and The Contortionist, all pretty intense live acts. What preparations will you be doing? Bit of weightlifting? Running? “The only preparation I do is not looking through the tour list! What we do is try to stay fit with sex”

He can hardly speak for laughing at this point. “No. Seriously...Most of the guys in Textures are fit; we run a lot and I ride my bike a lot – all the guys are healthy in the first place, not using drugs and too much alcohol. We sleep - when it comes to being all rock and roll, we are not this type of guy! We’re not so rock and roll in the end - we are very healthy guys.”

The group are more into making their music and building their own studio than getting off their tits and Stef is quick to dismiss the notion of groupies and all night parties: “...when it comes to drugs and alcohol, that’s not really Textures – we are not such hard guys. But preparation for the American tour? Staying healthy, doing some sports. I went to the Alps here in Europe and I climbed a bunch of them and that gives me a healthy vibe. In the end, I hope I survive the USA – maybe I‘ll have to get a t-shirt with that – ‘Textures survived the American continent, 2011’! There’s something like 35 shows and we have to drive at least 800 kilometres everyday, we have to drive ourselves, and in the middle of this tour we have a show in Mexico so we have to leave the bus, take the airplane to Mexico for one evening then fly back to America and then continue the tour. I’m curious to know if we’re going to survive with a healthy mind!”

So when can we expect to see Textures in Australia? “The whole tour schedule for 2011 is already set up until December, and we’re now busy with a lot of bookings for the first half of 2012. We’re talking about countries like India, Australia and a full European tour so Australia’s been on our ‘wanted’ list for a long time, since Drawing Circles (2nd album, 2006) and there are a lot of fans in Australia – of course, we have to go there!”

Growing up in Holland, Stef watched episodes of Heartbreak High, Bush Tucker Man and Flying Doctors and it gave him a love of the Australian bush. He says “The thing we could see is that Australia is a really beautiful country, especially in the Bush Tucker Man, which is an awesome programme, and you can see all those beautiful landscapes and I hope that when we do the tour we can have a few days off to see the country, to go to Arnhem Land and go to the middle of the country to see Ayers Rock (It’s called ‘Uluru’ now, Stef...) – it’s a bit clichéd but I think there are a lot of special places to go to in Australia. I hope to see that one time.”

I’d loved to have talked with Stef for a lot longer but I have to check on my wife’s dodgy knee, and as we say our goodbyes he checks with me that wifey is OK - he sounds genuinely concerned and he doesn't even know her.
What a charming fellow.