-- Ironborn gets shredded --

Stijn Daneels
About a year ago I encountered the Waregem based Ironborn. I was very impressed by the crisp covers they made of songs from various 80s and 90s metal bands like Metallica, Pantera and Judas Priest. 

On April 22, 2016, during a gig in Zottegem headlined by Spoil Engine, I decided to have a talk with Ironborn. Discussing their freshly written original material, their favorite cover songs and Game of Thrones… Winter may not be coming, but Ironborn is!

BMS: Hi there, folks! How did Ironborn came to be?
Jan: The roots for Ironborn actually date back over ten years ago. For a long time I played with Tom Hugelier and John Mortelez in a cover band named Baremouth. Around 2011 Baremouth disbanded so I joined Wizz Wizzard while the other two guys joined No Nonsense, another cover band but who specialize in covering grunge. Eventually I left Wizz Wizzard and I learned to play bass. I found bass playing to be very fun and checked with Tom and John whether they were also interested in starting a band on our own.

Tom Deblauwe: It was around that time that I got a call from Tom asking if I could play drums for Ironborn. During the Baremouth days I did some gigs for them as a replacement drummer. So I quickly jumped ship to Ironborn and learned the tracks in detail.
Jan: Although we started Ironborn as a cover band, we did have the idea of writing and playing our own material right from the start! It has been about two years since we founded Ironborn and we’re slowly starting to slip some of our own songs into the setlist.
BMS: You know, I saw you perform a couple of times last year and I recall that most of your songs were covers. But you showed great skill and respect to the original material and that’s one of the reasons why I wanted to talk to you.

Ironborn from left to right: Sven Vanwalleghem (guitar), Tom Hugelier (vocals), Jan Versnick (bass) Tom Deblauwe (drums) and John Mortelez (guitar).
BMS: How did you choose what songs to cover? Did you want to play very technical songs or harsher ones?
Tom Hugelier: We wanted to play songs that really get the crowd pumping! Songs like Walk by Pantera, Creeping Death by Metallica and Angel Witch by the band of the same name are all songs that every metalhead recognizes and just starts banging their heads to! And it also was a safe way to get ourselves our first shows and it helped to get to know each other musically and personally. But as Jan said, we wanted to slowly move away from the covers.

Tom Deblauwe: John is our main songwriter for our original material. But Jan did write a tribute song to Lemmy from Motörhead!

BMS: Ah yes! You played that song during tonight’s show! Tell me something about it, Jan.
Jan: I’ve written the bass riff and while practicing it, I found it sounded like something Lemmy could’ve written. So late last year I decided to expand it into a fully-fledged song. While working on the song, we heard the news that Lemmy died so we decided to turn it into a Motörhead tribute song with the lyrics referring to the many catchphrases Lemmy made during his career.

Tom Hugelier: Tonight was the first time we played the track live!
Jan: Instead of one minute of silence, we paid homage to the God of Rock’n’Roll by going above the decibel limit for three straight minutes, just as Lemmy would’ve wanted it!

BMS: Do you guys have similar musical tastes?
Tom Hugelier: I prefer listening to the all time metal greats from the 80s and 90s as well as stoner rock and grunge metal.
Tom Deblauwe: My preference goes to power metal like Manowar, Iron Maiden, Hammerfall, Saxon etc. I do try to expand my love for metal by exploring less joyful metal subgenres although I don’t like grunts and growls that much.

BMS: How about you Sven, you’ve been pretty silent up till now?
Sven: I have a big soft spot for Metallica, especially the album …And Justice For All! I also love death metal like Behemoth.
Jan: I grew up with bands like Motörhead, Judas Priest and Iron Maiden. I do keep exploring the metal scene of today and therefore more recent bands like Machine Head and Satyricon also get my pumped.

BMS: Now about that new material, what kind of metal subgenre can we expect from you guys?
Jan: How would you call the style of metal we’ve played tonight?
BMS: I’d consider it old-school. All kills, no frills.
Jan: There are influences from Megadeth, Metallica and Iron Maiden, but our material will be faster and more aggressive compared to the songs we covered in our early days. John is cranking out songs like there’s no tomorrow, giving us a hard time to keep up with him!
Tom Deblauwe: Yeah, we’re getting a bit scared of what he’ll have in store for us next!

Jan: I am, however, very grateful to be part of this awesome group and to play such challenging songs. I still can’t believe how positively I’ve evolved as a bassist over the past few years, thanks to Ironborn!

BMS: What’s your next big goal with Ironborn?
Jan: We’re working hard on our songs and once we feel 100% satisfied with the material we’ve written, we’re planning to release an EP or a demo. All of our original discography is still work in progress so stay tuned for more information.
BMS: What other stuff do you do in life aside from playing with Ironborn?
Jan: I work a lot and I’ve got two kids to feed and that’s a full time job on its own! I wish I’d have time to play rhythm guitar in a second band, but that’s not possible without sacrificing my spot in Ironborn. And I’m having too much fun playing with this band to consider leaving!
BMS: And how about you, Tom? You’ve got any kids of your own?
Tom Deblauwe: Not that I know of (laughs). Like John, I’ve got a job and I only play with Ironborn.
Sven: I also exclusively invest my musical talents in Ironborn. But I also enjoy watching TV series like Blacksails and Game of Thrones.
Tom Hugelier: I’m jealous! Sven even has time to binge watch TV!
BMS: About a year ago I took a shot at reading the Game of Thrones books but the story was too complicated for my taste. The novels have so many characters and perspective switches that I gave up after reading the first two-hundred pages! My brain isn’t smart enough to contain all those details. But I am impressed by how George R.R. Martin has managed to create such an enormous, detailed world!
Sven: You should watch the TV series, they also go into a lot of detail…
BMS: Yeah! Especially when it comes to blood and nudity, ha, ha! But you’re right, perhaps one day I’ll check it out. But my webzine is already slurping up a lot of my spare time!
Jan: Speaking about Game Of Thrones, we’ve got one instrumental medley that combines the title theme from Game Of Thrones with that of Pirates of The Caribbean and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.
BMS: Ah yeah, I knew I heard those tunes from somewhere.
Tom Hugulier: Up till last year I played in two separate bands (Ironborn and No Nonsense to be specific), but that’s something I’ll never do again! Playing in one band is time consuming enough as it is!
BMS: What are your favorite covers to play live?
Tom Hugulier: I’ve got many favorites. All covers we do of songs by Megadeth, Iced Earth, Savatage, Saxon, etc.
Sven: Creeping Death and Phantom of the Opera are too awesome to not play live!

Tom Deblauwe: Tornado of Souls is my favorite. From a drummer’s standpoint it’s an easy track to play and it gives me time to watch John shred out the solos.
Jan: I prefer playing our own songs. Don’t get me wrong, playing covers is fun, but I get much more satisfaction when playing our self-written material.
BMS: I perfectly understand. It gives proof that you have the competence and confidence to create your own anthems. But honestly, I would’ve still interviewed you if you were to stick to just been a cover band!
BMS: Do you have any warm-up rituals before you play?
Jan: Just drinking beer!
Tom Deblauwe: I don’t consume any coffee, chocolate or coca-cola before I start playing. I found out that my drum quality is more consistent without the additional cacao or caffeine.

Sven: I play a few quick riffs before playing. Especially when we’re playing a short show like today it’s important to hit the mark straight away!
Tom Hugelier: Like Jan, I like to have a few beers before, during and after the show!

BMS: Is there anything else you want to add before we go see Spoil Engine?
Jan: I’m thirsty!
BMS: So am I. And anything else…
Tom Deblauwe: Thanks for the interview!
Tom Hugelier: Keep in touch for more new Ironborn material!

Ironborn - The Curse