-- Psychonaut gets shredded again! --

Stijn Daneels
Interview conducted and written by Stijn “Metal Shredder” Daneels.

In early 2016 I visited the youth bar Ressort in Geraardsbergen for their self-organized festival Metalworksfest. One of the bands I shredded that day was the Mechelen based post-metal act PSYCHONAUT (read that vintage shred: http://belgianmetalshredder.be/interviews/40).

And a few weeks ago I was contacted by PSYCHONAUT’s PR man David to check out the band’s newly released debut album “Unfold the God Man,” (read the review: http://belgianmetalshredder.be/reviews/213). He also offered me to get in touch with PSYCHONAUT’s guitarist & vocalist Stefan for a fresh shred via Skype!

And so Tuesday night March 31, 2020 I called up Stefan to talk about the making of the “Unfold the God Man” album and the inspiration behind its intriguing artwork, their successful gig at Alcatraz 2019 and Stefan offers valuable advice regarding band lineup longevity.

BMS: Good to hear you again, Stefan! So, tell me and the readers how your debut album “Unfold the God Man,” came to fruition.
Stefan: Hey there! Well, ever since me and my two friends Peter & Thomas got to know each other we’ve always had a keen interest in religion, spirituality, philosophy & existentialism and we wanted to discuss such deep topics through music. And that has been PSYCHONAUT’s main goal ever since we debuted in 2014 with the EP “XXIV Trips Around The Sun” and with “Unfold the God Man” we’ve expanded this concept further than we ever did before.

Stefan: The concept of “Unfold the God Man” stems from an article one of my best friends had sent to me. That particular article featured a ton of alternative takes on history and humanity’s creation, all very profound and detailed and it gave me tremendous food for thought, so much that I gave it Peter & Thomas and they instantly shared my enthusiasm. And so that article formed the basis of the “Unfold the God Man” album.
BMS: Now let’s talk about “Unfold the God Man’s” artwork, I must say that the ancient carving surrounded by the silver cube grid gave the cover art a unique ancient/sci-fi look.
Stefan: The creation of the artwork was a happy accident, so to say. Back when we were recording the album in the Daft Studios in Malmedy our visual designer was present among us during 6 of the recording days in order to gain inspiration for the album’s artwork and to provide us with pictures for use as visuals during our following live shows. When he showed us the pictures between drum takes we were all amazed by the pictures of the wooden carvings that eventually became the album’s artwork.

Stefan: We all saw something similar yet different in those carvings and that image perfectly summarized what we wanted to achieve with “Unfold the God Man.” An album that has a solid structure yet opens up endless possibilities for self-interpretation.

BMS: Brilliant! Now speaking about the album’s sound, the style is very versatile overall, the creative core is post-metal but there are plenty of psychedelic and alternative metal influences and world music as well. I also felt the album had a tight pacing despite the long songs. It was a very engaging experience.
Stefan: Thank you!
BMS: Time for something funny! I saw your post regarding Counterculture’s review on “Unfold the God Man” and I felt their remarks about your vocals sounding like James Hetfield to be really funny.
Stefan: Yeah, so did we! Pelagic Records showed us that article and after laughing out loud we went along with it and plastered Hetfield’s face on all 3 of us.
BMS: Speaking of Pelagic Records, how did you end up signing with them?
Stefan: We’ve got our merch guy and loyal friend Didier to thank for that. As you know, we originally unveiled “Unfold the God Man” in September 2018 as an independent release but when we were working on the album’s second pressing Didier suggested to look for a label. Back then we had kind of given up all hope of getting signed to any label since we’ve already tried getting our earlier 2 EPs via record labels but to very little success. But Didier was more than willing to scout around for us and we couldn’t believe our eyes when he managed to get us in touch with Pelagic Records, one of our all-time favorite record labels.
BMS: Congratulations! Personally, I believe that finding a record label is a matter of knowing people and properly promoting your music! And having a couple of high-tier festival shows under your belt definitely helps a lot as well! Such as your gig at Alcatraz 2019, am I right?
Stefan: Yeah, that show was amazing! We performed at the La Morgue stage and the tent was stacked with enthusiastic people. I estimate we played for about 500 people that day and we also received a lot of positive post-show feedback and gained plenty of new connections there.
BMS: Indeed, doing a successful gig at a large festival like that can give a huge boost to your band’s public profile. So, what were your plans before the Corona crisis broke out?
Stefan: We originally had major EU tour this spring but we’re currently working hard on rearranging the tour dates. Sure, it’s a setback, but we remain very active in the community and we believe that we’ll still provide a good draw once we can go out on tour again, no matter how long it will take before we can kick things off again.

BMS: That’s a great mentality! What other PSYCHONAUT stuff are you up to now that we’ve all got to stay at home?
Stefan: Pretty much the same stuff that we always do, working on new material and boosting our social media profile. We’ve got some fun surprises coming up in the following weeks, so stay tuned.
BMS: I look forward to it! So, Stefan, I remember during our 2016 shred that you were a teacher in French, do you still teach today?
Stefan: Oui, mon ami ! Aside from giving classes in French I also do English and a bit of Dutch. Thomas also still teaches French and religion and Peter now owns a package-free store here in Mechelen called Kabas.
BMS: Excellent! Now, one more thing I want to congratulate you for is your lineup’s longevity. You, Peter and Thomas have been working together as PSYCHONAUT for many years now, so what advice could you give to other bands regarding lineup maintenance.
Stefan: I believe it’s very important to treat your follow musicians as people rather than colleagues or hired guns. Every band member has his/her unique set of traits, ambitions, personalities, interests, etc. and you’ve got to willing to share it with everyone in the band. Peter, Thomas and I talk about everything, even stuff that’s not music related and we listen to each other as well. That way you can build a deep and intimate connection within your band and that’s essential for your band’s later success!
BMS: Very inspiring words, so, Stefan, you’ve got anything else to add to this Skype shred?
Stefan: It was a great time talking to you! Me and the guys look forward to seeing you again at a future PSYCHONAUT gig!
BMS: Better sooner rather than later!