-- Soul Collector gets shredded --

Stijn Daneels
On November 21st 2015 I attended the fourth edition of Metal For Angels in Ninove organized by the band Soul Collector. The event did suffer from a few setbacks, not to mention it had the immense misfortune of taking place only a week after the gruesome Paris terrorist attacks. Fortunately, everyone had a good time, the audience, the bands present and the event crew all alike. At first I suggested postponing the interview until a week or two after the event but Sylvie (Lady Naämah) and Ronny (Lord Mantus) still had the energy and willpower to have a conversation with yours truly!

For this interview I restrained from much of my usual wisecracking. Sylvie and Ronny told me a serious and touching story about how they’ve had their share of bad fortune over the years but who have always been keeping their heads up high. And when facing such dedication and courage, I can only lift my index and little fingers up in the air in utter respect.

BMS: I've said it before and I’ll say it again. I’m very thankful the two of you still have the time and interest to talk to me tonight. Giving the fact that the entire event didn’t go that smoothly, I thought having an interview would’ve been the last thing on your minds. Please tell what happened.
Sylvie: Shortly before we opened our doors for tonight’s Metal For Angels festival, we heard that both Wolfen and Martyr wouldn’t be showing up today. They feared another terrorist attack similar to what happened in Paris last week. Of course, we perfectly understand their point of view, but we had to continue the event with two bands removed from the roster.

Sylvie: In addition, there were less people in attendance than originally expected because this morning all news channels urged people not to go to any events this weekend. A huge exaggeration as always when the media are involved. We do are happy that the Paris based symphonic metal band Evolvent were present here tonight. Friends of theirs were wounded during the Paris attacks but they still had the courage to come here and play a truly magnificent show.

Ronny: Despite all the trouble we've had today, I’d say our fourth edition of Metal For Angels still was a successful one. The people present here had a great time and enjoyed some awesome music. As Sylvie already said, we understand that people are still fearful about a new terrorism attack and that they prefer to stay at home. I experienced fear and uncertainty myself earlier today. But as we were playing as Soul Collector I regained my pride and confidence.
BMS: I admire your professionalism during tonight’s event. I saw you guys walk around the venue without looking panicked or hastened.
Sylvie: Yeah, it’s important to keep your cool in front of the audience and the bands present. Flexibility is vital when you organize events like this. Trouble like this can always happen.
BMS: Now, how did you get the inspiration for starting Metal for Angels?
Sylvie: In 2007 I gave birth to our first child called Macha. However, I suffer from an illness that I knew could give complications during labor. Unfortunately, my gynecologist did not listen to my warning and as a result, I nearly died from excessive blood loss while I was giving birth to Macha. I lost consciousness and woke up a day later in the intensive care department.

Sylvie: My husband, Ronny, told me that while the baby was fine, I would never be able to give birth to children again because of those complications. As a sign of gratitude for both me and my daughter surviving labor, Ronny and I organized our first edition of Metal For Angels in 2008. And from that day onward, I do everything in my power to make sure that every child in the world has a chance to grow up, find love, happiness and eventually have children of their own.
BMS: … (I needed a second to take this story in) That's a very noble cause, Sylvie. Tell me, how do you get bands to come here to MFA?
Sylvie: It isn’t easy, because you have to ask bands if they’re willing to play here for free. They do get sufficient food and drinks. But it’s heartwarming to see that there are a lot of metal bands who care about child welfare. And as I said before, you need to remain calm and confident even when shit happens like cancelled performances. But I admit that I did shred a few tears today, especially when Evolvent were performing. Emma, their vocalist, has such a powerful voice and such charisma on stage that I in particular became very emotional. But all bands who played here tonight alongside our band and Evolvent are all pure noble souls and I can’t thank them enough for playing here tonight.

Ronny: And let’s not forget the first band, Breakfast at Midnight, who played here tonight without their bassist. The band managed to play the roof off the place with their guitarist/vocalist and drummer alone. Also Organized Chaos were quick to accept performing here as a replacement for Tortuga Boulevard. Once again, we understand that people are scared because the Paris attacks happened a mere week ago and we hope things will quickly return to normal in this world. Fine, some people may think that we westerners have all the luxury in the world, but we also had to work our asses off for it! We’re proud of our society, our prosperity and our way of life!

The logo of the Metal For Angels festival, organized by Soul Collector.
BMS: I’ll be the last one to not show up at an event because I’m afraid some psycho might shoot me. We live in a free country and we must remain a free country! But enough about that, what are your plans for the next edition of MFA?
Sylvie: We have big plans! We want to make our fifth edition the longest and biggest event in the history of Metal For Angels. We want to include virtually all the bands who performed here in the past as well as several others.

Ronny: It’s certainly worth a try. We hope to have FireForce, Wizz Wizzard and many others on the roster. Next year’s event will start earlier and some bands on the card will have to accept that they won’t be playing as long as they could do during the earlier events. Because up till this year, every band on the roster had one full hour to perform.
BMS: I look forward to it! Now, let’s talk about Soul Collector. How did you start the band?
Sylvie: We started Soul Collector about eight years ago. More or less at the same time we started Metal For Angels. Originally the band was called Gnais, which is the Rumanian word for earth. However, Ronny and his brother (Lord Mictian) saw that a change was needed in the band and that they wanted a new vocalist. I’ve known Ronny for many years and I jokingly suggested that I should be the next vocalist and to my surprise, they accepted my offer. I did a tryout and ended up with a broken voice and a monster headache for three straight days!

Sylvie: I didn’t quit, however, and went to Daisy Deboevere from the Roxvox Academy. She specializes in metal and punk rock vocal styles and did a great job helping me getting my voice right for the screams. In addition, I’ve quit smoking, just to keep my vocals intact.

Sylvie: We came up with the name Soul Collector shortly before we released our first EP called Win or Lose. I thought that the name Gnais wasn’t memorable enough a name for our band. I also used to work together with an American radio station and they couldn’t properly pronounce the name Gnais. Finally, the band received a pretty bad reputation during the time they played under the name Gnais so we all made the decision to reinvent the band and give it a new name. When we were recording our EP, our recording assistant frequently used the word soul and I played a bit with it until I eventually came up with the name Soul Collector. We all thought it was a great name for our band and kept it. I even have our logo tattooed on my left wrist. So you could say I’m sort of a band mascot!
BMS: Speaking of tattoos, I see that the both of you have visited your local tattoo shop quite a few times. Tell me something about your tattoos.
Sylvie: Well, in addition to my Soul Collector tattoo, I also have a replica of George Clooney’s tattoo that he wore in the movie From Dusk till Dawn. And on the right side of my neck, just above the aformentioned tattoo, I have a pentagram.
Ronny: I have the clown and hourglass from our EP Win or Lose.

BMS: Where do you get the inspiration for the vampire theme and lyrics in Soul Collector?
Sylvie: During the Gnais days we played old school speed metal. I immediately said that I wasn’t capable of singing at such speeds and I also found the songs to be bland and cheesy. A song we had as Gnais was Castle of Doom. With a title like that, the general audience already expects the song to be about a castle with mythical beasts, hellfire and other fantasy stuff. When we became Soul Collector, we turned things around for a darker, grittier and more realistic style. I had my eyeteeth lengthened to make them look like actual vampire teeth and I began wearing black cloaks, blood red contact lenses and a hat made of thorns when performing on stage as Soul Collector.

Sylvie: I’m a huge fan of horror movies especially those based on real life events such as the Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Seed. Movies like that give me the inspiration for the lyrics because such horrors exist in real life. One of the songs I wrote for Soul Collector is called Fear and it’s about the fear of losing the people you love. The song I Want is literally about the desires everyone has on his or her minds. It could be a desire for money, attention, sex, life, etc. The song Lost is dedicated to Ronny’s mother who began suffering from Alzheimer when she was just sixty years old.

Ronny: It was a horrible experience seeing my mother degrading like that. My brother and I had both spent eight years of our lives taking care of her needs. But we always hoped for the better even at her dying bed. We have been keeping that same optimistic mindset ever since. Soul Collector means a lot to everyone in the band as we write songs about relatable subjects.
BMS: I feel that your band’s vampire-inspired looks and dark, threatening musical style beautifully contrasts the warrior spirit you represent using Soul Collector. Tell me what the future holds for the band.
Sylvie: We hope to go on our first major tour next year. We want to play in as many countries as possible, both in Europe and beyond. Belgium is a small country and once you’ve reached the stage of Graspop Metal Meeting, well, you’ve basically done everything you could do here in Belgium. We want to become better known to the worldwide headbanging public and more importantly, we want to leave a legacy behind for our fans and especially for our daughter. We hope to earn enough money with Soul Collector to provide her with sufficient financial support. It’s not that we want money and fame for ourselves, no, we want it out of love for our daughter.
Ronny: I’ll keep on playing with Soul Collector for as long as I’m capable of.
BMS: I love the idea. I for the moment limit myself to just the Belgian metal scene. But I do hope that one day we’ll see a French or a Spanish Metal Shredder who can help keeping their respective metal scenes alive!
BMS: I saw on your band’s Facebook page that you usually employ a lot of props (like burning candles and a coffin) into your performance. Now imagine for a second that you have unlimited possibilities for your show. so no financial, practical or time restrictions, just your own imagination, how would such a dream show look like?
Sylvie: I love listening to P!nk. So I’d have her descend from the stage’s rafters hanging in ropes and covered in blood. I myself would love to make an entrance hanging on a real cross and slowly descending towards the stage. For today, however, we kept things sober and serious. We removed all the blood and shock effects and I decided to wear camouflage face paint, a combat tank top and army boots in order to look more like a metal warrior rather than a bloodsucking vampire.
BMS: Ronny, I noticed that you lost the upper tip of your right index finger.
Ronny: Yeah, I had a little accident when I was repairing my bicycle. Most people don’t notice that when I’m playing.

BMS: I only saw your “handicap” when you lifted your fingers for the devil’s horns. So that was some cool visual trickery. Is there anything else the two of you wish to add to this chat?
Sylvie: I want to make it clear that we’re not Satan worshippers despite our rather evil looking fashion, tattoos and style of performing. We don’t believe in any deities. Both God and Satan reside within us all! We’re all capable of doing good and evil to one another and as I already said, that’s one of the main topics our songs are about. For us, there’s just man and nature. Nothing else!

Ronny: I want to thank everyone who played here and those who attended our festival. You make it all worth it!
Sylvie: I want to thank Sophie of Red Hair who took care of my hairstyle and my face paint. I also want to give my full gratitude to everyone who played here, the photographers and reporters from Ninofmedia, everyone who volunteered to help us tonight and of course a big thank you to all the people who came along to see the bands and you too, Stijn, for interviewing us.

BMS: The pleasure is all mine, milady. I’ll be back next year!
Soul Collector - Soul Collector