――Thank you for taking your time. How ‘ s going today?
Great, just had a bit of a cold for the last week feeling tired and wasted, but as usual during the days that it is starting to wear off i always feel very good.
――Could you tell us about the history of Toner Low?
Sure, we started in March 1998 with five band members and a somewhat different kind of musical approach, more like stoner rock mixed with some guitar rock, quite vocal-orientated and with three guitars. Late 1999 our bassplayer started playing with 7Zuma7 (cult Dutch retrorockers) and one of our guitarplayers switched to bass. Anyway, we lost two more members and our original bassplayer returned, but since December 2007 we have the same musicians. In the meantime we released three full-length albums, played many gigs and shared stages with amongst others Electric Wizard, Acid King and Boris.
――Where are you originally from?
We come from the area around the city of Leiden in the Netherlands, and we still live there.
――Which bands and artists influenced you as musicians?
As musicians it’s hard to say, but we all were teenage thrashers in the mid-80s. Personally i practiced a lot of Slayer “Show No Mercy”, “Hell Awaits” and Exodus “Bonded By Blood” in 1985-1986. Gary Holt, Jeff Hanneman and Mike Torrao (Possessed) were among my favourite guitarplayers back then. For Toner Low Sleep, Electric Wizard, Acid King and High on Fire became the main influences around 2001-2002.
――Which bands and artists are you currently enjoying?
Any recommendations you can give to our viewers for bands to check out.
I listen to all kinds of music, from 30s blues to extreme metal. I also enjoy listening to garage bands and instrumental surf music from the 60s. Furthermore, since some time i’m playing the A-sides of all my vinyl albums in backwards alphabetical order and i just finished listening to the first side of the album “Monument” by Hallows Eve. Great guitar sound and vocalist and the second album’s A-side is next, so that will be soon i guess. Of the modern-day metal bands i like the new albums by Darkthrone and Necrophagia. And then of course there are many great doom, sludge and stoner bands, like Conan, Pombagira, Suma, Rorcal and also don’t forget to check out Buried at Sea.
――Congrats on your album. Are you satisfied with the responses so far?
Thanks, we are very satisfied with the reactions in doom and stoner scene. They were better then we could have hoped for and in reviews our album “III”(※1) more than once was dubbed as ‘a landmark release’. But is was quite a job getting the album completed in time.
――Where was the album recorded and how was the recording process?
In January 2013 we were for two days at Studio Moskou in Utrecht, Netherlands, recording the basic tracks. After that the songs were finished at Sissysound Studio in our hometown Leiden. This was done by our drummer Jack with on and off help of our former bassplayer/vocalist Deef and of our current live engineer-live sample man Dirk. This finishing process as usual took the longest, but was completed pretty quick in 6 weeks. We had to, ‘cause in April and May our first gigs were coming up and the pressing of the vinyls also would take four or five weeks. So Jack made long days working to finish the album, all in all 400-500 hours for the finishing process alone. This involved things such as selecting and mixing the different instrumental tracks and balance for each song, creating and adding samples and effects, making and recording numerous different studio mixes of those songs and of course listening to all those mixes and deciding on what’s the best one for each particular song.
――” III ” is great album, like psychedelic journey from earth to universe, universe to spiritual world … What is the albums overall themes. Or would you like the listeners to find this out for themselves.
Well, i think it’s our most divers album and it has a lot different aspects to it, but it is hard to tell what the overall theme is. I think this probably will differ with each listener or with the listener’s mood at the time.
――What can you say about the cover artwork? Is grass indispensable for Toner Low?
We have one song named “Grass“(※2) on our first album, it is also known under its alternative title “Devilbots Designed To Assimilate”. Most of the band are smokers, some more than others, but we never showed it off as bluntly as with the cover artwork of “III”. The plants are homegrown by one of the band members by the way.
――The albums vinyl edition includes Japanese styled obi, is this you idea?
It was Jack’s idea. He’s done it as a tribute to 80s hardrock bands from Japan such as Loudness (yes, we know they still exist). Those albums (or the import versions of them) were often presented at the music store with an obi. The one around our album has actual Japanese writing. The cd version includes this obi as well by the way.
――Why all song title is numbers Since “ II ”(※3) ? And why does not exist song named “ IV ” ?
Basically when we lost our bassplayer/vocalist Deef in November 2007, we were in the middle of writing “II”. I am not sure why and when we decided to change the song titles into numbers, but it happened not long after Deef had left us and basically the change marks that we’d got a new band line up. We went through a few months without having an idea of whether or not to have vocals on “II”. In the end we chose to do vocals, but the numbers stayed. I wanted to change this for “III” because Karma to Burn had become active again (they use numbers for titles as well), so on the new album the word ‘Phase’ is added to each title. “IV” was a song that we’ve only played at our rehearsal room and the basic tracks were recorded at Studio Moskou in June 2008, on the final day of the “II”-session. It is a 6-minute song that was intended for a split 7-inch release, but in the end we weren’t satisfied with the rhythmic flow of the drums so we never finished it. Of those final-day recordings we still have 2 more unfinished songs (a rewritten 1998-song and an untitled jamlike song), as well as a cover version of Velvet Underground’s “Venus in Furs” that won’t be finished either.
――Music industry has drastically changed, like social media, free legal download … etc.
Have you ever imagined when you started the band? And How it effected to Toner Low?
“Thanks to our former bassist/vocalist Deef who saw the potential of the internet, we’ve been having our official website at Roadkillrekordz.com since 2002 i think. Around that year he also had band info posted on some Dutch music websites. Back then it seemed to be all that you could do internet-wise. But in the Summer of 2006 Johan, the bassplayer for Swedish doom band Suma, pointed out to me that there was a website called MySpace. So in September 2006 Toner Low had two websites and up from that we only got more, haha. I think the internet has made it a lot easier for bands in general to spread their name and music, and for touring underground bands in particular to organize gigs outside of their country. At the time that our first album got released i must have send out several hundreds of emails to organizers and clubs (including BCC’s of course). Imagine if i would had to call all those people on the phone.
――what are your preferences for listening to music?
Cassette, CD, Digital Download or Vinyl? And why?
Bands like Slayer and Macabre i still buy on vinyl as much as possible, because i have all of their albums on vinyl. But CD’s are ok with me too. Jack is a real vinyl type of guy.
――Do you have any plans for 2014?
Yes, first we will release a reissue of our album “II” on vinyl, cd and audiocassette. It will be out in early Spring on our DIY label Roadkill Rekordz. Around the same time we will play in the Netherlands with amongst others Pombagira from the UK, and we have gigs coming up in Greece, Italy, Germany and Switzerland.
――Finally, Would you like to send a message to Japanese fans?