Interview with Maenad Veyl

Published by Alessandro Violante on June 21, 2020

maenad-veylMaenad Veyl is the most recent project of Thomas Feriero. In early 2018 its first release was out on Dutch label Pinkman – which many of our readers probably already know – and during the same year three other releases were out on his label VEYL, created at the same time with his friend Alex Knoblauch. In three years, Maenad Veyl has released six works on LP and tape, including a split with Years Of Denial released by Oliver Ho aka Broken English Club on his label Death & Leisure.

With his first full length Body Count released in 2019, Feriero has gained ever wider attention by new generations of  EBM, techno and industrial music aficionados, although his music is a mix of a wide spectrum of styles ranging from new wave to electro and techno, from breakbeat to dub, from punk to EBM. This mixture makes it difficult for us, and even unuseful, trying to categorize his music into a specific music style. This is particularly emphasized in his sophomore full length, the double LP Reassessment released few days ago by VEYL.

Hi Thomas, it’s a pleasure to talk with you on FLUX Webzine. I’ve listened to your releases and I’ve read to the interviews you’ve done in the past years, and I’ve reached the conclusion it would be quite difficult to dig into every aspect of your music, but I’ll do my best to give to the reader a quite comprehensive idea of your music and of who the artist is, also given the great respect your releases have gained thanks to the EBM, techno and industrial community. Let’s start our interview focusing on Reassessment. Reading the notes written on Bandcamp, we can read this release was composed during particular time of your life, during which you experienced a change.

Do you want to talk us more in-depth about this release?

Hi Alessandro, thanks for the kind words.

It’s always hard for me to put the ideas behind my music to words, but making this album was different from writing ’The Acceptance ov Not Knowing’, ‘Body Count’ and everything between. I was in a more emotional state during its production but also a more confident about what Maenad Veyl is and could be, and it translated to the music. Venting some frustrations through this music has been a very cathartic process, so I was taking things a little bit more seriously than with some of my previous work.

Some of your releases have been reviewed on this webzine, such as The Acceptance ov Not Knowing (the first VEYL release) and Body Count, but I must admit Reassessment has been the starting point to listen to all your previous releases and I would say this is your best release so far. Listening to it, what caught my attention was the compresence of a very wide spectrum of influences and music styles, which is an uncommon thing nowadays. This was more common during the ‘90s. I think about my background in big beat with which I grew up. In Reassessment there’s techno, EBM, punk, breakbeat, electro, new wave, and so on. If you want, talk about your relationship with these music styles and about how these influences have defined and influenced Maenad Veyl’s music. I focus on Reassessment because I’ve found traces of this mix also in your past releases, but in this last double LP this element has been emphasized.

I’ve stayed away from singles and even shorter EPs for most of my career, as I like showing as much as I can in everything I write. I often aim to make a record that can entertain throughout its entirety, showcasing my take on different styles and genres keeps things interesting.

As a stereotypical angst-ridden teenager growing up in the 90s I listened to metal, hardcore, crust, grind and other unnecessarily aggressive forms of music. I was addicted to the intensity and energy these genres would provide and I would listen to these CDs at full blast whenever I could, every day, in their entirety. As I grew older I got into industrial, jungle, breakbeat, early, contemporary electronics and eventually club music but listened to them with the same obsessive approach.

With Maenad Veyl I aimed at creating something that belonged to one (or many?) of these early influences; something I would have loved to consume with the same passion if I had heard it back then.

During these three years, VEYL has been gaining sincere respect by guys listening to techno, EBM and industrial, and it’s undoubtful, but I had the feeling electro is a clearer influence in your music. I especially think about your massive use of the sounds of Roland TR-808, in particular in a release such as “Not what you see, not what you feel”, but also in all your other releases, such as Body Count and Reassessment as well as in your previous releases. Which weight has the electro sound had in your music?

I’m very happy you’ve noticed this, as some people tend to want to label Maenad Veyl as EBM, when I think I’ve written maybe 2 or 3 EBM-influenced tracks in my life. Electro has been a much bigger influence for me for this project, possibly even more than industrial.

In one of your past interviews, I’ve read that in the past yourself made an interview to an artist. Have you had experiences of music journalism? Do you keep on doing it? Do you think your music career has been influenced by this kind of contact you had with other musicians like you?

I worked on a small, now defunct webzine in the early 00s. I interviewed Atilla Csihar from Mayhem, Anaal Nathrakh and many others bands I was a huge fan of back then. Speaking to a lot of these people in person, as a 16-year old nerd, made me realize a lot of seemingly impossible realities were actually within reach.

In another interview, you’ve declared to have music roots in punk and grindcore music. I would be interested in knowing something more about this influence. Which bands have influenced you and in what measure has your music been influenced by these music styles?

Grindcore has been the hardest influence to translate on a concrete level, but it’s the kind of genre that has a lot more to do with a kind of “vibe” than the actual music. Napalm Death, Carcass, Agoraphobic Nosebleed and Cause for Effect all sound completely different to me, but they have that same anarchic energy. This seemingly careless approach has been a big driving force in my recent writing process even on ‘Reassessment’, but I’d love to work on a grindcore album at some point.

We know you as Maenad Veyl since 2018 with your first release on the Dutch label Pinkman, but you release music since 2010 as Avatism and CW/A, two projects with which you’ve explored other sonic landscapes, such as minimal techno. Thinking about it today, what has changed and what hasn’t?

I’m older, grumpier and no longer relying on gigs for a living, which means I’m able to do what I want with my music now. In all seriousness, there’s a brutal conflict between making art and having to make money from it: there’s a lot of diverging paths you need to choose, and it’s often hard to backtrack or make amends and it gets frustrating very fast. Are press caring about your project? Are you getting booked? Are you getting booked at the right clubs? Are you getting paid the right amount at the right clubs? Are the records selling? Are you making enough money to pay rent?

When I was younger I cared about all these things together and it was thinning the pleasure of working in this industry. At some point it felt like all my music was “commissioned”: tailored by what magazines would want, my agent would want, my label would want, Facebook would want. Some people can do this forever, and do it well, but I wanted to leave this bullshit behind me and start doing things my way.

One thing I found cool about your music is each Maenad Veyl is different. This element is what makes great Reassessment; a work in which different music souls coexist. Where are you heading to now? Considering you’re a very prolific musician, I have the feeling you’re already working on new stuff.

Some ideas on ‘Reassessment’ I composed before ‘Body Count’ was even out, I was making a lot of music in this style around then. This time it’s a bit different, even though I’m constantly working on new tracks, I feel these two albums complement each other in an unexpected way. They complete a part of what I wanted to create with the project as a whole. I’d like the next Maenad Veyl to be something different, so I’m taking a small break from it to gather some thought on what steps I want to take next.

Another aspect I would like to dig, although it was already mentioned in some of your past interviews, is your relationship with the Do It Yourself philosophy.

I admired anyone embracing DIY for as long as I can remember, but for many years I was too insecure to tackle a lot of aspects myself. It’s easy to think you need a lot of people involved just because everyone else is using them. When I started Veyl with Alex we thought it had to be 100% us, or at least us and some close friends, so we set out to do as much as we could. I was tired of having to deal with designers, PRs, copywriters, labels, managers and all these complicated intricacies tied to releasing music. For VEYL 001 I set out to do everything myself, thinking it was going to be a one-off release, almost a joke, and that if it would fail miserably we would end it then and there. Everything in the music, from the first sine wave to the vinyl masters, vocals, all the graphics, copy, logos, websites, posters, shirts and stickers were done by me with the help of Alex and Tomaso (our friend and photographer.) A lot of it probably sucks, a lot of it is wrong, but it’s all honest: it’s us creating it all, take it or leave it. It’s exciting to see Veyl evolve from that “VEYL001” folder on my laptop to what it is now.

All your releases except your debut with Pinkman, released on tape, were released on vinyl. As a curiosity, which role do you play in the process of production and distribution of your music? What should an artist like you should do to release his music on vinyl?

I am blessed to be working with Alex, who has a lot of experience with distros, vinyl and running a label in general. I took care of a lot of the “hands-on” creative direction early on, but I’d have given up at the fifth time I had to correct some CMYK black magick bullshit on VEYL002 if it wasn’t for him. In our division of roles, he takes care of all the logistics, production and distribution aspects and is very involved in everything. A lot of it is “behind-the-scenes” work, so not as obvious, but I’m still amazed every time I see a Veyl record in a store, thinking “how the fuck did he do this?”, reminiscing me Googling color profiles and “LUFS for tape”.

I’ve tried doing a lot of these things without someone helping out when I worked on Parachute Records and it was a soul-devouring nightmare.

To answer your question: what an artist like me should do is find some guy like Alex who actually knows his shit.

How much is important today, in the age of “liquid music” ruled by YouTube and Spotify plays, to produce music on physical media?

For years I cheered for digital media to stand on its proper two feet, especially in underground circles as I am not too nostalgic about physical formats. The expensive entry point for vinyl stops a lot of young artists from releasing on the format and this was a hurdle for me when I first started too. You can upload to SoundCloud straight from you DAW, but vinyl requires getting other people (and some cash) involved.

When I started out releases on wax were considered of a higher quality, more likely to reward you with reviews and shows: they made you stand out in a sea of fast-food iTunes music. The way I saw it, pressing on vinyl meant “we believe in this so much we’ve put time and money in this.” It didn’t necessarily mean the content was any better, but if you didn’t have all day to browse for new music it was always a great filter to start out with.

The streaming model changed everything, making things even more volatile than in the post-Napster, pre-Spotify days. The majority of people now expect music for free. They expect singles, 2-minute long arrangements that go straight to the chorus and they expect your work to get lumped together with other vaguely similar, stereotyped tracks in algorithm-generated playlists.

Due to this I’ve changed my stance on physical media and now see it more as the polar opposite to all that generalization. It’s a direct connection between artist and listener, through something physical. It loses that metadata, algorithmic aspect of digital music. It’s not pigeon-holed with other things. It’s not track 5 on ‘Dark Scary Music by Spotify Robot’, it’s not the third most played track by other people (who cares?) It’s ‘Reassessment’ by Maenad Veyl.

Technically, vinyl is a piece of plastic that plays music in an undoubtedly, scientifically inferior quality to it’s cheaper, digital counterpart. In reality, it is so much more.

In an interview, I’ve read that, when you released your EP “The acceptance ov not knowing”, you were inspired by Genesis Breyer P-Orridge’s Thee Psychik Bible. If you want, let’s talk about the influence the founder of industrial music had on you, also considering he recently passed away.

I owe a lot more to Genesis and h/er Bible than I even understand. H/er influence contaminated the majority ov subgenres and artists I’ve been inspired by. S/he was a true visionary.

Let’s also talk about how Mark Z. Danielewski has influenced you with his book House of Leaves.

I am fascinated with disruption and bending established traditions, especially in creative formats. When I first read ‘House of Leaves’ it felt like it was a different medium, it didn’t feel like a “regular” book. Despite it being full of gimmicks, it broke so many rules of what a book should be and it opened my eyes to some concepts on physical boundaries that I now try to apply every day to my creative process. It’s the only book I’ve ever read (and enjoyed) and that wouldn’t work digitally, truly taking advantage of its format.

I hope you’ve found interesting this interview and I wish you all the best for your future. If you want, greet our readers and invite them to buy Reassessment!

Thanks a lot for the time you took for this interview and to whoever stumbles on here. ‘Reassessment’ is out now!