Below you can find interview with one of the main figures of Holland black metal scene. Arjan Peeks is creative mind behind or is part of Uuntar, Heimdalls Wacht or Cultus and he’s also founder of great label Heidens Hart. Same as with interview I did with Grift, this one too was supposed to be part of printed Bes zine which unfortunately didn’t happen yet. It was contucted more than a year ago but I think most of the information is still relevant and interesting for reader. Enjoy!
Mythago: Greetings to you, Arjan and thank you for joining this interview. You are pretty busy, I would say, you are part of different projects and bands. There is Heimdalls Wacht which is a regular band, then Uuntar which you have together with Nortfalke and of course there’s your solo project Cultus. Is one of these environments closer to you in terms of creation process?
Arjan: Greetings to you! I think that yes, you could say Cultus is the „main“ band. But I work on all my stuff with 110% dedication in the moment, so on other hand, it is not even interesting to say if one project is more important than the other. When I have inspiration for one thing it doesn’t mean the work on another thing stops. I have lots of short ideas, demos, lyric parts, writings etc, for all kind of things and I work on everything at the same time. Also it doesn’t really matter because whatever project I work on, there are no aspirations and there is no grand plan that by the year 20XX we are playing Wacken and doing worldwide nightliner tours. Most bigger bands work like that, but I don’t. So this also means that for me basically not one project is more important for the reason that there is priority and a deadline to hold, because there isn’t. I am just a musical fanatic that jumps from project to project, from tour to tour, from idea to idea.
And then there is the work for the label, which is never-ending of course. This takes away a lot of time that I could use for creative purposes. But it’s the reason why I am slowing down with the label for the last couple of years, and putting more time in writing.
Is process of creating music for each band different? Are you trying for example to put different themes and emotions into the music of Cultus or Uuntar than that of Heimdalls Wacht?
The biggest difference may be that Cultus lyrics are more personal and philosophical, and much harder to write. Even though I prefer not to publish them, they are the hardest and closest to me. For lyrics for other projects I mostly write about specific times or places, tangible things, history. It is equally important of course, but there are a different themes. Musicwise, everything is equally important too, and everything has to sound as good as possible in the moment. I do not write for Heimdalls Wacht though, maybe a little riff or idea here or there, but basically all the writing is done by Saruman.
Which project is currently the main for you and you want to invest most time into? Or are you prefering to work on your label Heidens Hart?
This is answered above.
What was main reason to start your own music label? Did it change during the years it’s active?
The label was started as a hobby, which grew to proportions I would and could have never imagined. From a time consuming point of view, it is more than a full time job. It’s more a 24/7 job. However, you could say it is still a hobby because I would never want to see black metal as a foundation to pay the bills. Because I don’t rely on the label financially, there are no compromises needed and I am not constantly looking for the next hypes, gimmicks and trends that sell. I release purely what I want. I don’t view running the label as “work” or “daytime job”, so there is no drag in my daily routine – even though I am working every free minute on it. There are others who are even proud to say they are living of running a black metal label, but at the end of the day they are selling a musical throw-away product in the form of modern black metal for teenagers, to pay their bills. Luckily not me and that will never be. Heidens Hart is the distribution backbone of Cultus and I am a musician and egoist creator in the first place. This attitude „behind the scenes“ never changed during the years. What did change is some practical things, such as explosive increase of sales and then obviously more budget available. Addition of digital distribution. Change of populairity of the genre and with that a change of attitude amongst customers.
Blutkrieg: The last album of Cultus „Gezeteld in zegeruïnen“ is actually a re-worked and re-recorded debut „A Seat in Valhalla“. Songs gain new energy and different atmosphere. Are you planning to do something similar with other songs too?
No not really. I am finishing writing the new album „Haatmanifest“ and there is no need to re-record more older songs. I took the best songs from the previous releases, re-wrote them to a new level and the best possible outcome – and that should be enough looking back.
Part of Cultus’s discography is also a split album with Detonator 666. The main figure of this band was now deceased legend of home UG Vlad Blasphemer. How do you remember this person or his main band Maniac Butcher?
The second Cultus concert we ever played was in Czech – in Maniac Butcher’s rehearsal room in Zatec to be totally specific! I remember he welcomed us at the place, showed us around. Very fascinating, it was my first travel into the eastern bloc. We got some Detonator666 CDs as part of the payment for the concert and of course I still have my personal copy. Many many years later I met Vlad Blasphemer in Czech again when I was working for Inquisition and Archgoat. I was following Maniac Butcher raw war horde of barbarians since end of the 90s, and for some years I am official distributor of Maniac Butcher LPs/CDs/tapes and now I am also working together with Barbarud to produce official Maniac Butcher t-shirts.
It’s now two years since last album of Cultus. Are you preparing something new?
At the moment I’m finishing the demo recordings and writing the final lyrics. The new album will be totally new songs – the first ones since the split LP from 2008.
Mythago: The material for album of Uuntar was written and recorded as long ago as 2010. What are the reasons for that eight years gap until releasing it?
Just finishing touches, always moving it backwards, thinking „I’ll do that later“, no time. Also I remember we couldn’t agree on the cover art too. Then I stumbled upon this amazing work by Willem Roelofs and everything fell on its right place.
Lot of moments on „Voorvaderverering“ reminds me of 90’s era of Graveland. Were you gaining inspiration from them too? Are you influnced more by classical black metal bands and black metal bands in general or is history, paganism or nature more of an inspiration for you?
The main music writer on this album is Nortfalke, who is extremely productive. He has a lot of projects going on. Once we came up with the idea he basically had the album written in three days. Graveland is a pretty clear influence music wise indeed yes, but it has enough of own sound to speak for its own, I think. Some bands are cloning the old Polish sound and riffs 1 on 1 and such albums I don’t need. Also our lyrical concept is very far away from Graveland; in fact I have never seen any bands with this kind of topic or lyrics. They are partially about dolmen / gravestones / passage grave cult in The Netherlands from 3500 until 2500 before christ – I am also touching this topic on some Heervader songs.
One of your older and currently in-active projects is also Sagenland which only released material is split album with Vargulf. I must say I really like these only three songs and that is why I’m curious why you didn’t continue with it. I think you didn’t officialy end this project so is there a hope you will continue with Sagenland at some point in future?
That is well-spotted indeed. We never officially ended, that’s correct. There is some new material. One track is finished and mixed, a second one we’ll try to finish soon and release a 7” single. The label who released the LP stopped activity and I think only around 100 LPs were distributed. The rest probably collecting dust somewhere, who knows what happened to it. I’ll do a CD version of these tracks sometime this year. We also recorded some Ulver covers but didn’t finish that yet.
For some time you were also playing with matadors of Holland black metal scene Countess. What were your feelings about cooperating with people who were present at the beginning of black metal in Netherlands?
That was a great honour. Countess was one of those gateway bands for me. I thought „The gospel of the horned one“ (their first album) was one of the most extreme thing I heard at the time. Not the fastest or the heaviest or anything, just very extreme. The concert we did in Helsinki is among my personal favourite concerts I have ever done in my life so you can imagine I am looking back with feelings of great pride and good times. I had not touched any keyboard for maybe 15 years but for this band I picked it up again, trying to memorize the parts – I am not a good musician – but it worked out for as long as it lasted. Unfortunately due to time shortage for me and too far a distance geographically between them and me it didn’t work out for a longer period. We continue to work together on vinyl and merch production of course!
In interview for Heathen Harvest you mentioned that you like to travel. Are the targets of your wanderings situated more in Holland or outside it’s borders too (and I mean travels beside a musical tours)? Are there some special places in Netherlands which you would recommend to someone who never visited your country?
It is one of my life’s necessities of me to put human body to the test, by putting it to extremes. It is a way of learning, improving, growing. It is a way of resting and escaping dialy routine by 100% focus on an atypical, physical goal. I believe that your body should be put to an extreme hard and shocking challenge at least once in your life.
That said, I am not an ultra-walker or something, and my physical condition is probably not extremely high, maybe average. But I like to go on long hikes and find out what I can. Here in the flat country it is easy for me in half a day to walk 30-40 km with a backpack, or to bike 60-70 km, and over here the reason for such wanderings are simply physical endurance testing and putting the mind to something else.
If I want to combine such endurance trips with a nice view, or harder level of grounds, I have to visit other countries with hills and mountains.
But anyway, physical tests are not the only reason for travelling. Last year I drove 13.000 km in my car in one journey to Russian Ural and back, purely for holiday. I did some shorter walks over there too. It was combined with some concerts over there, but it was a journey I wanted to do in this way specifically. Everyone said I was crazy, but for me that was not even far away enough yet. To be continued.
Places to travel for me personally could be anywhere. The Netherlands have some nice places, mostly in the bordering region with Germany. Zuid Limburg and Meinweg in the south, Veluwe in the centre, over here in north-east Twente region, and further to the north Dwingelerveld and Drentsche Aa regions are calm and quiet, with a lot of history in its soil. Don’t expect jaw-dropping landscapes and stunning horizons because it is still all (mostly) flat. But in those mentioned regions you’ll find big limestone cave systems, some rare flora and fauna, old Roman foundation ruins, burial mounds, and of course the 5 centuries old dolmen I wrote about before.
What’s your relation to Holland landscape which is famous for its „flatness“? I for example, as a person who grown up in part of Czech Republic which is very diverse in height difference and famous for its sandstone rocks (I’m speaking about National Park of Bohemian Switzerland – in case you would visit Czech Republic I really recommend you to visit this part too), am not able to imagine living in place like that.
A flat land prevents me from getting lost when I go walking long distances. But I love the mountains and hills of Scotland, Russia, Germany, Norway. Still so much left to explore!
And that was last question of our interview for which I thank you. Is there something you want to add before we definitely end this?
Hail to Slovakia, hail to Bulgaria, hail to Poland, hail to Russia, hail to common sense.