Interview with guitarist Andries Beckers | By Charlie Steffens
“You need to have some ambition, especially if you’re from Belgium. You have to aim really, really high,” explains guitarist Andries Beckers. As a former member of the Dutch hardcore punk band Born From Pain (2008–2011) and member of metal band Diablo Blvd. since its start in 2005, Beckers can back up that claim.
The band—Beckers, vocalist Alex Agnew, guitarist Dave Hubrechts, bassist Tim Bekaert, and drummer Kris Martens—signed a deal with label Nuclear Blast last October. Until recently, Diablo Blvd.’s popularity was confined to the small scope of their native Belgium and the Netherlands. Their horizons began to broaden last year when they played multiple European dates with Machine Head and Life Of Agony, and now they have kicked of 2015 by joining headline act Epica on the second leg of The European Enigma Tour with Dragonforce.
Follow The Deadlights—Diablo Blvd.’s latest offering—is their third full-length album and the first to be released internationally. It would appear that the band has made a conscious effort to step up their game, yet maintain the collaborative formula that has worked so well with their two previous records.
“Sound-wise, I don’t think we’ve changed that much,” says Beckers, who is also the chief songwriter, “but I think we got better. The first two albums, we had a lot of success in Belgium.” Their new label has provided the platform for the band to stretch and get noticed on a much larger scale than before.
“The statement we tried to make was that if Nuclear Blast signed us, it had to at least be with a record where we could compete with the big boys,” he continues. “You know, we were a big fish in a small pond. We’re coming from a small country, so it had to be better than what we had done before. It needed to be bigger. Music is a passion, but it’s also a technical thing. It’s not like we go to a mountaintop and we start writing. It’s not like everything is planned or anything. We listened to records. We talked about Type O Negative’s Bloody Kisses, we talked about Alice In Chains’ Dirt. They’re classics. You don’t necessarily write a classic. People afterwards tell you it’s a classic.”
At Beckers’ home studio, he and frontman Agnew worked up the vocal lines and choruses that became the framework of the songs on Follow The Deadlights. “As a whole, this album is more consistent,” he says. “Music is important, but people remember the vocal lines. So we worked a lot on those things.” Beckers says that Diablo Blvd.’s record deal was clinched when Nuclear Blast owner Markus Staiger heard “Rise Like Lions,” the album’s appealing first single.
Becker illustrates the importance of going big in the process of writing and recording, while pulling on the reigns when necessary. He uses Metallica’s 1991 self-titled album as one example: “I love the first four Metallica albums, but ‘The Black Album’ is a very interesting album. I never understood why so many people hated it. On the other hand, so many people bought it. That album is the most perfect combination of rock and metal. They try to be epic, but not in a cheesy kind of way, but when things need to be big—it is big. And they’re very clear. Songwriting-wise, they go all the way.”
During the second week of January, Beckers became a new father. He and his wife are celebrating the birth of their daughter, and the rocker will remain at home while the other members in Diablo Blvd. are out on the road.
“I have a fantastic wife—I can’t complain at all,” he assures. “But this tour is one I had to sit out. I’m going to do the last couple of shows of the tour, but I have to be home now. It was planned. I knew when the baby was going to be there. We already had a replacement a couple weeks ago.” Beckers’s fill-in is guitarist Rafael Balrak, a friend and former bandmate.
Beckers loves playing music, but he is happy for the break. “I’ve been the driving force for the band for a long time,” he says. “so I’m always arranging and taking care of business and going fast. And now, all of a sudden, I have to slow down and live at the pace of a baby. It feels good. Damn, I have to miss this tour with Dragonforce and Epica. But I gotta say, I’m happy I’m here. [Fatherhood is] one of the few things, I assume, that lets you be able to forget the fact that you’re not onstage.”