-- De Zwaarste Lijst gets shredded! --

Stijn Daneels
Interview conducted and written by Stijn "Metal Shredder" Daneels.

In preparation for the 2021 edition of De Zwaarste Lijst on Studio Brussel I was invited by the VRT to promote the show and to have a chat with the show’s host Thomas Michiels. I’d already known Thomas as bassist/vocalist of the post-metal band PSYCHONAUT and thus we immediately went to work. I asked Thomas about his upcoming radio debut in De Zwaarste Lijst and what bands he wants on the list, his recent interview with Gojira and his thoughts about the evolution within the Belgian metal scene.

BMS: Hello Thomas! Long time since we last spoke to each other, but I’m very glad to shred you here. I’m going to start with a question that’s burning on my lips! How did you become the host of De Zwaarste Lijst?
Thomas: Last year my band PSYCHONAUT reached the 42 spot on De Zwaarste Lijst and we were the highest ranked Belgian newcomer. Not only were we extremely enthusiastic but Studio Brussel themselves began to keep a closer eye on us as well. I also became good friends with Charlie Buyse, the curator of the StuBru rock & metal streaming channel BRUUT and in the past we also shared the stage with some of his bands. Eventually Charlie put me in contact with StuBru and after a smooth introductory chat and a successful tryout session I eventually got the part for De Zwaarste Lijst!
BMS: Awesome! For me it was very joyful news to see your name appear as the show’s host. So, is this your first time as radio host?
Thomas: Yes it is, but I’ve always been a huge fan of De Zwaarste Lijst and I even listened to a few editions with the rest of PSYCHONAUT, with beers and everything. And Alex Agnew did a sublime job presenting the whole thing and I’m proud that I can now succeed him.

BMS: Which editions of De Zwaarste Lijst were the most memorable for you?
Thomas: A few years ago our buddies from Steak Number Eight (now known as STAKE) ended up at nr 11 and that was an incredible feeling! And last year they reached the nr 10 spot, who knows, maybe they’ll end up even higher this year!
BMS: Let’s hope so! Personally I simply want a Belgian band at nr 1 and as much Belgian talent as possible to fill the rest. It doesn’t matter what bands. But with 666 available spots I do certainly expect a lot of Belgian material! How will you talk together such an immense number of songs?
Thomas: At BRUUT I’ll be talking every half an hour and during those breaks I’ll preview the next bands on the List. And the listeners have voted for tons of songs so we’ll certainly get to 666 different songs.
BMS: I think so too. Tell me Thomas, if you were able to choose, what Belgian bands would you include on De Zwaarste Lijst?
Thomas: If I had to choose one Belgian band, I’d go for Pothamus. I’ve known that band for years and last fall they finally released their debut album “Raya” and I was absolutely blown away by their epic sound! You can best describe their style as experimental sludge & post-rock, a mix between Om, The Black Heart Rebellion and AmenRa with a pinch of AmenRa. At times hypnotically calm and at other times all destructive, a huge recommendation!
BMS: I’ve already heard of Pothamus and I’m definitely going to check them out! Thanks for the golden tip! And what song would you love to see at nr 1 this year on De Zwaarste Lijst?
Thomas: “Silvera” by Gojira! Last week I had an unforgettable interview with vocalist/guitarist Joe Duplantier. Not only are he and his fellow bandmembers extremely talented but they’re also highly engaged to environmentalism. Recently they released a new single called “Amazonia” and that single’s profits will go straight to the ingenious tribes of the Brazilian Amazon rainforest to support them in protecting their rainforests against further deforestation. Joe himself is very engaged to ecology and recently he started a fundraising campaign with his metal friends (including Metallica, Slayer and Lamb of God) for nature conservation.
BMS: That’s incredible! You know, we’ve already talked a bit about your band PSYCHONAUT but now tell us some more about your band.
Thomas: I’d describe PSYCHONAUT as a post-metal band with 70s psychedelic vibes but also with plenty of heavy parts. Together with guitarist Stefan I sing a mix of harmonic singing and brutal grunting. Last year our debut album “Unfold The God Man” was released via the German record label Pelagic Records and it received many positive reviews and plenty of worldwide airplay. For which we are very grateful.

BMS: Indeed, we were also very pleased with that excellent album. Something different now, recently you were a guest on the StuBru stream #ikluisterbelgisch along with some other prominent Belgian metal figures. Tell us how that day went by.
Thomas: Together with the show’s host Rik De Bruycker I discussed Belgian metal songs that would fit very well on De Zwaarste Lijst and during that episode Channel Zero frontman Franky De Smet Van Damme was also present as well as Didier Goossens, a good friend of mine who wrote his master thesis about the New-Zeeland metal band Alien Weaponry! He has an encyclopedic knowledge about metal! Not just about the bands but also about the underlying mentalities and cultures. He assisted me a lot during my preparation for De Zwaarste Lijst and I’m extremely thankful to him.
BMS: We’re certainly going to have a chat with Didier soon. Thomas, what other things do you do in life aside from PSYCHONAUT and De Zwaarste Lijst?
Thomas: I’m a teacher in religion and French and in addition I’m a loving husband for my wife and a caring father for my daughter.
BMS: That’s heartwarming! A metal man and a family man! Tell us, what are your future plans at Studio Brussel and PSYCHONAUT.
Thomas: At StuBru I already recently did interviews with Code Orange and the aforementioned Gojira and we’ll see what my StuBru path will lead me to. Concerning PSYCHONAUT, next May we’ll be releasing a split album together with the Norwegian band Sâver. The release will be called “EMERALD” and both we and Sâver will both have 1 song of 15 minutes each, so that results in about a solid half an hour of music.
BMS: I look forward to it. Now one final question, I noticed that the Belgian metal scene has been growing nicely in these past few years. I see more and more bands appearing and our national acts are getting foreign publicity more often. Do you also see such positive evolution?
Thomas: Definitely! I except that within 10 years at least 30% of Graspop Metal Meeting’s lineup will be Belgian. There are so many young up and coming Belgian bands like Carnation, Brutus, Evil Invaders and so much more.
BMS: And we also have our own plans to further support the Belgian metal scene. Thomas, thank you so much for this conversation and good luck this weekend with De Zwaarste Lijst!