Interview with Erik Sprooten
(Inquisitor, Ancient Rites, Plusminus)
"From Past to Present,
Thoughts of an Inquisitor of Ancient Rites"
(Inquisitor, Ancient Rites, Plusminus)
"From Past to Present,
Thoughts of an Inquisitor of Ancient Rites"
Questions compiled by Anita vH, Sorin and Georgius
Georgius: Hail Erik! In our very first conversation you told to us your first band was Menticide, where you played together with Alex Bakker and Wim van der Valk 30 years ago. What was the Menticide’s style? Could you mention a few track titles? Did you play any covers at your rehearsals?
- Hail Georgius, I appreciate it a lot that you ask me some questions again! Menticide was founded in 1989 and was indeed my first band experience but it was short-lived. The name is actually a word taken from the lyrics of “The Death of Innocence” by Dark Angel. The first line-up was with Wim van der Valk on drums, Alex Bakker on bass guitar and vocals and me on guitar. For Wim and me, it was our first band experience but Alex was already experienced as a bass-player and did make music with other people before. I think that I started playing guitar early 1989 but I'm not sure, maybe I already started in 1988. Anyway I wasn't really good back then and Wim just started playing drums, but the lack of experience didn't stop me, Wim and Alex to enter a rehearsal room in a village close to our homes to try to make some metal. I remember that our first rehearsal was a lot of fun but musically it wasn't very good, but that didn't matter 'cause we had a great time. We tried to play Thrash Metal, but we just "played" cover tunes like for instance “Hang The Pope” by Nuclear Assault and "Beer Bong" by Atrophy to name a few. After Wim left, a new line-up was formed with Alex on drums but that line-up also didn't last very long and with this line-up we even tried to write own songs but in the end, Menticide simply ceased to exist in 1990 if I remember correctly and Alex joined Desultory on guitar. Looking back, I wasn't at the level where I wanted to be, and maybe it was too early for me to play guitar in a band at that time but I did it anyway, 'cause I had the desire to do it. Menticide was just a band where I found out how much fun it is to play in a band. After Menticide disbanded, I started the obligatory military service for the Dutch army in November 1990, and this ended in November 1991. After one month in military service I bought my first Marshall amp (50W 2x12” combo) which helped me in getting a better sound. During the year 1991, I didn't play in any band, but my guitarplaying improved a lot and that was a reason for Alex Bakker, when he left Desultory in 1991, to ask me in a new band with Alex Wesdijk on vocals. I was happy to join and not much later Wim also became a member of this new band and left Desultory too. At first we even had a second guitarist and we wanted to expirement a bit more but it didn't quite work out with this guitarist, and shortly after he left, we named ourselves Inquisitor and we decided to focus on extreme thrash metal with blasphemous lyrics, and the rest is history.
Georgius: Wim and Alex left Menticide and joined extreme Thrash horde, called Dutch Desultory 1990-1992, if I’m not mistaken. Unfortunately I only heard the band name but didn’t listen to their demos. I’ve found on Encyclopedea Metallum an interesting live split cassette release, namely Desultory/Inquisitor: Crush the Holy Church through Hell Spawn Tapes. Enlighten us all the important details about this rare stuff.
- Desultory released two demos: “Religious Extermination” and “Luminious Assasination”. On both demos, you can hear Wim van der Valk on drums, and Alex Bakker is featured as guitarist on “Luminious Assasination”. The music and especially the voice of Johan Wesdijk (older brother of Alex Wesdijk of Inquisitor) was influenced by Kreator and other Teutonic Thrash Metal bands. Johan later joined Pleurisy and more recently he was a member of KhaoZ. The split-tape was recorded at a concert which was organised by Inquisitor in coöperation with three youth centres from our area. The tape was released by Hellspawn tapes from Holland. Other bands on the bill were Phlebotomized and Pleurisy. Judgement Day was supposed to play but apparently they couldn't so Pleurisy played instead. The setlist of Desultory is kinda interesting 'cause it hardly features any songs from the demo's. One song (Decapitated) which they performed was recorded in a studio and later featured on a compilation CD but the other songs have (as far as I know) never been properly recorded and can be heard exclusively on this split-tape. That day, Desultory performed with a new line-up of which I don't remember everyone but I'm pretty sure that Alex Seegers (guitar) and Edwin Nederkoorn (drums) of Pleurisy were part of it. Edwin Nederkoorn is nowadays drummer for Bloodphemy and he was also a member of KhaoZ. Alex Seegers is bass player for Bodyfarm nowadays. And although the second demo of Inquisitor wasn't released yet we did already perform a few songs from it live as can be heard on the split cassette. We also did "A Cautionary Tale" of Sabbat already back then and we used to play "Black Magic" by Slayer in those days too but we don't do that song anymore, and now that Slayer called it quits unfortunately, we're still not going to play "Black Magic" anymore.
Georgius: I read in a few old ‘zines and you mentioned shortly as well, that Inquisitor had some problems with local churches in your hometown. Would you be so kind to share your memories about it?
- Although things changed a little bit for the better lately, our area, is still a very christian area and is part of the so-called Dutch bible belt. In 1993 we were invited to play on a local pop-festival in Harderwijk, (where Alex Bakker and I still live). Our lyrics were not so friendly towards christianity and its believers and living in this bible belt certainly was an inspiration for those lyrics. Anyway, the organisation of this local festival apparently advertised us, if I remember correctly, as an anti-christian band and not as a thrash metal band. I don't know if that was done on purpose but that was not our idea. I lately found a small local magazine with an old interview, which was done with a journalist in my house back then, with me and Alex Bakker and some of our answers were not-so-christian-friendly which may have added fuel to the fire. Our gig at the local popfestival wasn't canceled, so we did our show, which was f**king great, and there was quite a lot of audience for us! Next Monday, after our performance, a small article appeared in a local paper which described that some local churches tried to get our performance cancelled because of our lyrics. Their attempt to cancel us, backfired on them, because I spread that article in the metal scene and it helped us gaining some notoriety and new fans. And right now I'm talking about it again so...
Georgius: You mentioned that Inquisitor shared common stage with Ancient Rites in early 90s. What are your experiences about that awesome show?
- It was great to play with Ancient Rites and it was also the first time that I ever saw them. It was on May the 15th in 1993 at a venue called Soos Plock in a town called Veghel in The Netherlands to be precise and it was our third gig. There was not that much audience unfortunately but it was a good opportunity to get the name of Inquisitor out and for Ancient Rites too. It was nice to meet the members of Ancient Rites and I remember that they told us that they just did a few shows in Greece, and Gunther was at that time using an effect on his vocals like you can hear on “The Diabolic Serenades”. I don't remember that much from that evening, but I remember that Alex Bakker was very enthousiastic about the Marshall Bass amp of Gunther on which he was allowed to play. I don't know if this show was a real reason a few years later for Ancient Rites to ask me to join them on tour in 1996, but they probably did remember me from this show.
Georgius: Tell us some interesting stories about the touring with Ancient Rites from 90s.
- In 1998 we did a tour for 8 days with Deicide, Six Feet Under, Brutal Truth, Amon Amarth and Naglfar. We wanted to take part on this tour but the condition was, if I remember correctly, that we could only take part if we arranged our own transport. That's was kind of a challenge but Jan Yrlund (our guitarist back then) managed to arrange the bus of his old band Prestige so that we at least could do those 8 gigs. The bus was not in a very good condition but we went along with it. The bus did have plenty of space for all of our equipment and there were even some beds in it and was also more or less our own backstage. On the first day we got pulled over by the French police 'cause the bus and it's people looked suspicious in their eyes. Of course they let a drug detection dog search for drugs which the dog couldn't find 'cause none of us did any drugs. You would expect to see a Rottweiler or another big dog to do this but they had this miniature French Poodle for this, which looked kinda funny to me. In the end, everything was ok, so we continued our way and went to Strasbourg to do the first gig of this tour and it was fantastic! In Strasbourg the audience went nuts when we opened with "Mother Europe" which was a new song at the time because the album "Fatherland" was not even released yet.
Due to the technical state of the bus, we later missed two gigs unfortunately but let's face it, we had not much other choices or stay at home and do nothing but we were hungry to go on tour again and I think we gained new fans in doing so.
The following story has less to do with the music of Ancient Rites but happened on tour, and I like sharing it anyway. In 1999 we toured again with Deïcide but this time, a proper nightliner was arranged. On the 26th of February, we had to play in Strasbourg again in the same venue (La Laiterie) as the year before. We arrived early and since there was enough time, I decided to visit the centre of Strasbourg. A few years before, my father, who used to be a cook, went to visit a former colleague who, at that time, runned a restaurant in Strasbourg which was awarded with three Michelin Stars. I won't go into details too much but to my father, eating in that restaurant was an ultimate experience. With that in mind, I got the kind of crazy idea to visit that restaurant called "Le Crocodile". In 1999 there was no thing such as Google Maps, so I asked people on the street (in French) "Ou est Le Crodile?". Imagine that I still had long hair and was wearing a black motorcycle jacket. Those people didn't quite expect a metalhead to search for such a chic restaurant. But anyway I found Le Crocodile and I went in, and said in German to a very polite woman that I'm looking for the owner, who happens to be a friend of my father. So the owner showed up and I told him that I'm the son of Felix Sprooten. He was surprised but he asked me how my father was doing and I told him that he was doing fine and that today is his birthday. He said "Wait a minute". He returned and gave me a bottle of wine for my dad's birthday. I thanked him a lot for it, and I took this bottle back to the tourbus and hid it very carefully or else it would have gone empty. When I got home after the tour, I gave this bottle of wine, which happened to be a quite expensive brand, to my dad and it's needless to say that he was very happy with it and a few days later he called his friend in Strasbourg to thank him for it.
1997 or 1998 picture by Anita vH
Sorin (Romania): Did you have problems with others back then when you got into rock/metal? (like getting your T-shirts burned and/or trashed, everybody on your tail everyday and so on)
- My parents didn't really like the music I was listening to but they accepted it back then. Metal wasn't very popular back then in my town and despite living in this bible-belt, I didn't really get into trouble and my T-shirts were never burned or thrashed. At high school I didn't feel like a popular guy, but nobody was on my tail because of me wearing metal T-shirts (from Saxon, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and Metallica). I wore my metal T-shirts at school with pride and confidence which attracted a few who liked the same music, and that was great. So I made a few metal friends at school and so it happened that with one friend I went to see Saxon in 1985, and with another friend I went to see Dio and Judas Priest in 1986. Those were great times but I haven't seen those friends in years.
Sorin: Did you ever write in zines? (If not, were you ever invited or had some plans to start one?) What are your favourite zines/magazines?
- I did write one or two reviews for a small webzine but that's about it. No, I never had the intention to start a zine too. I prefer underground metal magazines. Back in the days you had a great underground fanzine called Morbid Magazine which I read a lot and certainly was one of the best if not the best underground magazine of its time.
Sorin: Can you name some albums that changed your vision in music and/or scene back in time? (The question is NOT an alternative way of asking "What are your favourite albums?")
- My first album I really got into, was Dynasty by KISS, which sounds relatively poppy, but my second album of KISS was "Double Platinum" and that album changed my future taste in music 'cause that's when I realized that I developed a preference for Hardrock and later Heavy Metal. My next WTF moment was, when I first heard "Fight Fire With Fire" from Metallica from "Ride The Lightning". I was blown away, 'cause that was metal on a different level compared to what I was listening at that time (Judas Priest, Saxon & Iron Maiden), so that definetely changed my vision in music. "Ride The Lightning" was the first album I heard of Metallica, and I discovered "Kill 'em All" only some time after I heard the album "Master of Puppets". And shortly after that I heard Slayer for the first time, which again was a new level of what I was used to hear. Throughout the 80's I slowly but surely started to appreciate more and more extreme metal like Dark Angel and Kreator. I don't exactly remember when I received "Illusions" of Sadus on LP, which I ordered directly from the band, but I was blown away by its speed and aggression, and I dreamed of being in a similar band, and that more or less happened when I joined Inquisitor. "Illusions" (aka Chemical Exposure) is still a favourite album of mine. Throughout the years some bands changed the metal scene and maybe my vision too, but they may not necesarilly be my favourite bands.
Sorin: What was your opinion on CD's when they came out in comparison to LP's and tapes? What is your nowadays favourite format and why?
- My opinion on CD's back then (80's) was that they were far too expensive compared to LP's and tapes but the advantages were clear to me. You didn't hear any scratches anymore, and a regular CD doesn't have two sides. Downside of a CD is the size of the artwork. On an LP artwork simply looks better because of it's bigger size. However, I still think that a CD is actually easier to play then an LP. I think that it's almost unreal what's going on for some time now, but nowadays CD's are mostly cheaper than LP's because of the vinyl hype. To some people it may sound strange, but I just have no favourite format. I'm a collector and I still buy CD's, LP's and sometimes even tapes and I continue to do so although I can listen anything on Spotify or YouTube. To me, the music itself is the most important, and not necessarily the format on which it can be heard.
Georgius: What could you tell the readers about the re-mastered version of Legendary Inquisitor demos in 2014?
- Hammerheart Records suggested that we should remaster our demo's and our debut album "Walpurgis – Sabbath Of Lust" for the re-release, and of course I agreed with that. They brought me in contact with JB van der Wal who was bass player of Aborted at that time, and we met in the city of Groningen where he lives. First JB and I went to a studio where the DAT tapes with all of the Inquisitor recordings could be transferred to audio files on a computer. And while this process was happening, I had to listen for possible drop-outs which fortunately didn't occurr. Those transferred audio files were then remastered by JB at his homestudio and the idea was to get the different recordings to sound better of course but also to make them sound more or less alike. I let JB do his magic during the following weeks and the final result was great!
Sorin: What kind of guitar playing do you prefer: to have simultaneously a picking guitar and a fast hand for changing chords (like, for example, what was before 1988) or a less-chaotic one, but more controlled (what came after 1988)?
- I have no preference for a way of playing as a listener. It doesn't matter if certain albums I like are played relatively chaotic or played more controlled, as long as I get excited, I'm satisfied. The atmosphere, the songs or what an album does to you is what matters most. As a guitarist, I try to play as tight and controlled as possible and if possible 100% perfect and I'm certainly not aiming for chaotic playing but in a live situation it may occurr that I sometimes lose a little bit of control due to circumstances but that's ok, as long as it's acceptable and doesn't fuck up the song or the performance.
Anita vH (The Netherlands/Sweden): What is the difference between going on tour now and then?
- It's a long time ago that we actually did a real tour in a nightliner but I don't think that touring in a nightliner itself changed that much, you still need to travel all those kilometres. What I do think changed is flying to a gig, and not flying in itself of course. Since 911, flying became more complicated, and I mean mainly administrative. We often travel(led) with cheap airlines, and probably due to their cheapness, I always find it a hassle to book tickets and do the check in. I'll never know for sure what extra costs I can expect at the airport during the check-in.
Anita vH: What has been your favourite gig from all these years?
- It's impossible to name just one gig as my favourite gig. Gigs with Ancient Rites on Dynamo 1999, Wacken 2003, Motocultor 2015 and the three gigs we did at Graspop absolutely belong my favourites, because it's simply great to play at such festivals with so many people. But a gig in 1999 in Katowice, Poland was one of the craziest gigs I've ever experienced. That audience was f**king great! And I remember from that gig, right after we finished our set, that I was pulled into the audience and that I did some crowdsurfing, which was crazy. Best gig of Inquisitor in the old days was for me our performance in the Batcave in Tilburg in 1994. And since our reunion, I think that our best gig was last year in Drachten.
Graspop 1999 (picture by Anita vH)
Anita vH: Do you keep all equipment from what you started with from the very beginning?
- My very first guitar and my very first crappy amp I (fortunately) don't have anymore. But I still have some equipment from the early years of Inquisitor namely my LAG VRL, which is my Ferrari-Red Rhandy Rhoads Flying-V, and my 100W Marshall 2203 + 4x12" cabinet with Marshall T3120 speakers (G12-65) inside, which I'm happy to use again. I don't have any pedals left from those days. I remember that I used a Boss HM-2, which is now a popular pedal among people who want to recreate the old school Swedish Death metal sound.
I also used to have a black BC Rich Warlock (platinum series from Korea) as a back-up guitar, but I sold that one in the nineties. This guitar can be heard on "Walpurgis – Sabbath of Lust" as second guitar. I also still have the Iceman guitar made by Zwier Gitaarbouw which I used live with both Ancient Rites and Inquisitor. That guitar can be heard on the guitarsolo of "Dying In A Moment of Splendour" on the "Fatherland" album.
Anita vH: Any new good bands with old sound you could recommend me? (that I don’t know yet)
- That may be a difficult question 'cause you already know a lot of old school style bands. A band which comes to my mind which you might not know is a Frisian band called Sadotank. They play what you may call black thrash metal. I saw them earlier this year and I like them. I also would recommend thrash metal band Defazer from The Hague (NL) which I saw live in my hometown in 2017. And if you haven't already heard of Bütcher Speed Metal from Belgium, than I suggest you to check them out too. They are signed to Osmose Records I think.
Georgius: How were the Ancient Rites shows in Roeselare and Oud-Turnhout this year? Share us please your memories from these concerts.
- In Oud-Turnhout we played at a festival called Frietrock, where we did a short but great set. Although the weather wasn't perfect, the audience was great and it was nice to have played there. In Roeselaere we did two sold-out shows! At first, it was only one show, and for this show we were asked to do a special old school set with only songs from the first two albums. This show sold-out very quickly, so another show was added, which also sold out. Anyway, it has been asked a few times before, if we could do an old-school set, but now we felt it was time to do it. It took a lot of preparations during the months before but fortunately both shows were a huge success! Some of the songs haven't been played for years and three of them I never even played with Ancient Rites. It was really great to play those old songs again and most songs of the old school set I played before on the "Blasfemia" Tour in 1996 when I was session guitarist and still in Inquisitor at the time. That tour in 1996 was also with Bewitched, Sacramentum and Enthroned. Nice detail is, that the shows in Roeselaere also featured Sabathan, which features Sabathan (hence the name), former singer/bass player of Enthroned, and they also played only old Enthroned songs, which made for a nice trip to memory lane. It would be nice if we could do more shows together with Sabathan.
Dank je wel/thank you very very much, Erik! It was a pleasure as always. Your message for Inquisitor and Ancient Rites fans…
- Thanks again for this interview! Thanks a lot to the fans for making possible what I do. Please check our webpages on a regular basis to see what's going on with my bands. Ancient Rites will definitely do more old school shows, that's something which you shouldn't miss, so be there! Inquisitor is working on new material and we will do a couple shows next year. Feel free to contact me.
Georgius: More than a year ago your bandmate and friend Walter van Cortenberg (20.I.1970-16.III.2021 R.I.P.) sadly passed away...Would you be so kind to tell the readers some thoughts about Him?
- It's now more than a year that Walter passed away, and I still find it strange that he is not around us anymore, and I miss him. I will always remember the jokes and adventures we shared while touring, rehearsing or on the road with Ancient Rites. There are too many to mention but I wont forget those. On a musical level Walter was a very reliable drummer who hardly made any mistakes, and always knew his well constructed parts very well. Therefore he was a great backbone for the band. Walter was very dedicated to Ancient Rites and in later years his family was also very dear to him. His job at Interbrew was also important to him although he told me once that it was “just his job”. I spoke to him on the phone a few weeks before his death about some upcoming gigs, and asked him if he was available for those gigs, which he was (of course). It seems to me that he was looking forward, he just bought a new house with his family and moved to a different village. I also felt that Walter was kind of rejuvenated that we were doing the “Old school set”. He was absolutely into it, and also wanted to record a new album in the old school style. Ancient Rites will plan to record a new album in honour of Walter.
Erik Sprooten artist-page: facebook.com/Erik-Sprooten-623899868029148/
Additional thoughts by Alex Wesdijk
(Vocalist of Inquisitor)
Hail Alex, which Hard Rock/Metal band did you see live at first?
- The first band I’ve seen live was Vengeance (The Netherlands). By the way, their guitar-player, Oscar Holleman produced Inquisitor: “Walpurgis – Sabbath of Lust in 1996.
What are your favourite bands and vocalists?
- My musical input is very wide: from Kiss, Thin Lizzy, Philip Lynott, Rush, Led Zeppelin, Marillion, Nazareth, Black Sabbath, Skyclad through NWOBHM to Pink Floyd, Frank Zappa.
But in the scene my voice sounds a bit different so I prefer Martin Walkyier’s manner of vocalizing.