Here's a Rhythm To The Madness interview that I did for a new music/lifestyle magazine called Hungry Is How I Feel, pick up your copy through @hungryzine on Twitter. This interview was done early May 2012.
Klaas, what's up? How's life?
I'm good, thanks. I’ve been touring, roadtripping and working a lot during the last two months so this is the first Saturday in nine weeks that I’m spending at home which is nice for a change. I'm listening to Agnostic Front 'Live At CBGB' and have been doing so for the last few weeks. I generally don’t care for live albums or live recordings and hardly ever listen to them, but ‘Live At CBGB’s is my shit! Great sound, perfect setlist, Rogers’ voice is on point (not a big fan of the way he started using his voice on later recordings), so many classic quotes in between songs. The rumor that it is supposedly not completely recorded live only adds to its greatness.
It's been two years since Rhythm To The Madness played a show. What have you guys been doing in the meantime?
When our friend Filip recently asked Rhythm To The Madness to play a show he’s putting on, we agreed to do it. Not only because Filip has always toured with us and supported us from day one, but also because it is a show with a bunch of great bands that we can fully back up and we would all be there anyway.
Life is always evolving, and a lot can happen in two years. How do you now relate to the lyrics you wrote for Rhythm To The Madness?
I think I can say I have grown and changed a lot in the last two years, but I can still easily relate to the lyrics I wrote for Rhythm To The Madness and they still mean a lot to me. I've been asked whether personal lyrics won't lose their momentum as time passes, but I always considered my lyrics rather socio-critical than personal: they may be personal in the sense that they deal with the search for the Self and the constant struggle to find balance in an unbalanced world, but I guess if people can't relate to these topics they are not asking themselves the right questions and must be content to live life and nothing more.
How did the marathons go?
I ran four marathons in the last few years, but only one of them I actually took seriously and trained for: at the end of June I decided to run the Brussels Marathon on October 1st so I had only three months to prepare, which as everybody warned me was too short to prepare properly. However with the help of experienced track & field coach Johan Baerts I started following a tight training schedule and gave it a shot.
The marathon itself went pretty well: I was hoping to finish under 4 hours and I clocked out at 3 hours 24 minutes and 56 seconds, which is generally considered a pretty good result - especially for the Brussels Marathon which is known as a rather though marathon because it has a lot of climbing and descending.
And how did the preparation part go?
I would train 5 days out of 7, running an average of 100 kilometers a week, sometimes focusing on distance, sometimes focusing on speed. I followed my schedule exactly as instructed, no matter the weather or the injuries that set me back (shin splints, achilles tendonitis, and minor stress fractures). It was not always easy and there was definitely a challenging aspect to the preparation.
Was it mentally challenging too?
It sure can be mentally challenging to force yourself to get up at 6am on a Sunday morning to go for that 35 kilometer run before a scheduled brunch with friends, or to push yourself to go out for a 15km speed-run in the pouring rain, or to give it all in that final sprint of a Fartlek training even though you literally threw up after the previous sprint… It takes a lot of persistence and willpower to just do what you gotta do, no matter the circumstances.
Let me add that I ride my bike to work every day (50km back and forth) and that my average workday is from 7.30am to 7.30pm and you can see how it's hard and at times mind-wrecking to squeeze in a daily run. It's not just time consuming but it weighs on your social life as well: even if I had the time left to hang out with friends, often I just didn't have to energy to go out or I'd prefer to just stay home and sit in an ice-bath allowing my legs to recover from running.
In the grand scheme of things all this is no big deal obviously, but training for that marathon took over my life for three months and when I had finally finished it, when I had accomplished the goal that I worked and lived towards: it felt like I just fell into a big empty hole and hit rock bottom - mentally and physically too. I guess I just burned out. I had adjusted my life to a training schedule that told me what to do, what to eat, when to visit the physiotherapist and when to sleep and when that schedule ended on October 1st, it felt like I didn't know what to do with my life anymore. I had to take the time to heal the injuries I had ignored so I couldn't run anymore and I felt like I had alienated from a lot of my friends because I had shut them out to focus on my training. Basically I just put my life on hold for three months and it took me a long time to pick it back up.
I know this all sounds overly dramatic because lesser men have done far greater things, but the mental challenge is the part I underestimated the most. Still, it does feel good to have reached that goal and to know that I am part of the small percentage of this world population that can finish a marathon in under 3,5 hours.
Why did you do it? Was running a marathon something you just wanted to do, or did you specifically set this goal with a reason?
It was indeed something I just wanted to do… I had been running on and off for a couple of years and that's all fine and dandy but I just wanted to work towards something: I wanted to test my limits and push them.
So many people are just happy to live their lives stuck in their safe little routines, and I'm not judging anybody but I think life should be about growing as a person and as a human. One way of growing - or at least one way of measuring your growth - is to set goals for yourself and trying to accomplish them. Running this marathon ties in perfectly with the outlook on life that I tried to bring across with Rhythm To The Madness from day one. "I see so many people close to me prioritize what lays so far from me, they pulverize what they could be: satisfied with potential unreached".
Did you set a new challenge now?
Sports-wise I did indeed set a couple of new challenges for myself for 2012: I will climb the Mont Ventoux in France with a race bike one day and try to run up that mountain the next day. I will ride 5000 kilometers in total on my bike, which I'm already well on my way towards. I will try to up my maximum bench press to my body weight. As for running: my shin splints and achilles tendonitis still haven't healed but if my body lets me I will give the Brussels Marathon another shot and try to better my finish time.
I have a bunch of personal and professional goals too, but I guess I'd rather not share those in a magazine.
You also used to work out with weights a lot. Did running a marathon have a big impact on this?
In the early stages of my training I just kept on lifting weights and squeezing in the occasional crossfit training. However when you spend as many hours running as I did, you need to allow your body to rest and recover. I learned that the hard way when I kept getting injury after injury so I completely stopped lifting weights and focused on my running. Besides, lifting weights means building muscle tissue and thus gaining body weight, and obviously the less body weight you have to carry along for long distance running the better.
Rhythm To The Madness is selling shirts for the good cause. What's up with that?
I was at a show in East-Germany a while ago when I saw someone rocking a Rhythm To The Madness shirt that I knew we never printed: I figured it’d probably be a Six Feet Under Records design and didn’t think much of it. However later on word got to me that someone in Poland was bootlegging Rhythm To The Madness shirts. Now let me tell you that I am quite the control freak when it comes to lay-out and designs for Rhythm To The Madness: I have a clear vision of what I want to get across with this band so I did not like that there was a shirt design that I hadn't okayed. If the guy had asked me beforehand and the design fit my vision (it does!), I would've told them to go ahead and print it if they'd send us a couple of shirts.
But he never asked me, so when me and some friends flew out to Poland a couple of weeks later to see a Sheer Terror show, I asked around and found out the guy who supposedly bootlegged the shirts lived in a city nearby. We had rented a car to drive to the show, so we decided pay the guy a visit. Without going too much into detail, let’s just say we didn’t find the guy but we did find his house and I just confiscated the remainder of the shirts. So Tomasz Konieczny if you’re reading this: a curse upon your house until the day comes that my blade is on your throat.
Anyhow, I was stuck with those shirts and as it turns out we are playing a show. Both Lennart and Cedric are playing shows abroad with Amen Ra and Rise And Fall respectively, so we asked our friend Jan of State Of Mind to fill in on second guitar for this show. Jan is heavily involved in a benefit project to raise money for cancer-research: he is climbing the Mont Huez with his bicycle six times in a day and people can donate money per kilometer, as I'm sure he explained when you interviewed him. So we will be selling these shirts at our show, and any profit will be donated to the Dutch foundation for cancer-research because it seemed the right thing to do.
What's the plan with Rhythm To The Madness now? Any other shows or recordings planned?
Rhythm To The Madness has always had a vision but never a plan. We initially just wanted to record two songs we had written on a Justice tour in 2006 and things snowballed from there to the point where we ended up touring on a full-length album. As for now, except for that one show we don't anything planned or scheduled. I do however have two EP's worth of lyrics, concept and lay-out finished, and some of us have home-recorded a bunch of roughly finished songs so we'll see what lies ahead. We don't think about the future, it comes soon enough.
Klaas, thanks for the interview. Any last words?
Thank you for the interview, it was good to reflect on that marathon. We hardly ever take the time to look back in life and use our past experiences to guide on us in the future, so it was cool to take a moment and process that.