BEYOND THE LABYRINTH
Crown Jewel Of Belgium Rock
A few months ago Belgium group Beyond The Labyrinth released their fourth CD ‘The Art Of Resilience’ and this web magazine’s humble writer was impressed with the rich musical escapades, mixing influences of symphonic, progressive, melodic rock and metal together, giving the record lots of variation. Geert Fieuw is the main man behind this four piece band and took the time to introduce himself and gives us some background information on the CD.
Geert Fieuw (Beyond The Labyrinth) Photo by Reinhold Podevijn
Geert, you have been active in the rock and metal world for many years now. What attracted you at a young age to music?
,,My earliest memories come from the sixties, like a French singer called Michel Delpech singing ,,Pour Un Flirt’’. The old recorder my dad owned had a recording of Fats Domino who he was happy to share with the household. My parents had a small record player where Bill Hayley was a regular guest. We had a few more singles like Tony Christie’s ,,Is This The Way To Amarillo’’ and Elvis Presley’s ,,Good Luck Charm’’. I borrowed vinyl records from a friend of my parents, among them Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Kraftwerk, Deep Purple, The Rolling Stones and The Beatles. ,,Hey Bulldog’’ was my favourite song, a track that is still deeply imprinted in my memory. Later on we got a TV so I could watch music programs like Avro’s Top Pop (leading music show in The Netherlands) and discover more hits. I started reading Joepie magazine. On Sunday, after church, my dad went to the local pub Saint Anna to play pool. My mother and us kids went as well to keep an eye on things as dad was playing and having a pint or two and enjoying a smoke. In the corner there was this jukebox belting out new songs. As a young boy I had some problems with my parents and at school. If you could not play soccer, the other boys ignored you. I found solace in music. My first real cassette was AC/DC’s ‘Let There Be Rock’ followed by Meat Loaf’s ‘Bat Out Of Hell’, Cheap Trick’s ‘Live At Budokan’ with ,,I Want You To Want Me’’, Van Halen ‘I’ with ,,Running With The Devil’’, Status Quo ‘Whatever You Want’’. I still like songs such as ,,Baker Street’’ (Gerry Rafferty), ,,Don’t Stop Me Now’’ (Queen) and Al Stewart’s ,,Year Of The Cat’’. And Abba off course. I consider ‘The Album’ with the songs ,,Eagle’’, ,,Hole In My Soul’’ and the phenomenal track ,,I’m A Marionnette’’ a classic. At school there was a sort of a ‘cellar’ where kids aged 16 or older could come together for a smoke, table tennis or just listening to music. Redbone’s ,,We Were All Wounded (At Wounded Knee)’’ was a crowd pleaser. My hobby was building little planes. I stood there for hours surrounded by Humbrol paint and odours of glue putting little planes together. I did not have much of a social life….”
,,My musical background exists of 70’s pop, rock, hard rock and eighties hard rock, new wave and metal.’’ -Geert Fieuw
In the eighties I started going out, much to the surprise of my mother, and got to know bands like CCR, Uriah Heep, Black Sabbath, Dio and the Deep Purple spin offs Whitesnake, Rainbow and the Ian Gillan Band, but also Lynyrd Skynyrd, ZZ Top, Scorpions, Thin Lizzy, Survivor, UFO, Kansas, Styx, Boston, Supertramp, Rush and Pavlov’s Dog. In a later stage I discovered Bon Jovi, Europe, Giant and Riverdogs. I could not dance at all, but music was my thing… playing air guitar, head banging and drinking beer until 01.00 in the morning when the local hall closed for the night and I had to find my way home, stumbling more than walking. I listened to the Top 10 of Steel on the radio, Joepie’s Betonmolen and started reading Aardschok magazine. Once I got my driving licence I went to concerts. My first big one was AC/DC with Y&T as support. Their albums ’Mean Streak’ and ‘Black Tiger’ are my favourites. I did not like Metallica, Anthrax and Slayer, too macho and childish for my taste. My sister listened to new wave and I started to appreciate some of that stuff as well. I started to follow the Belgian scene. It was great to see a band like Killer live. I saw a lot of Belgium bands perform in their original versions in the eighties like Killer, Crossfire, Bad Lizard, Ostrogoth, Mystery (fantastic band), you name them… Then there was the time of the guitar heroes like Yngwie Malmsteen, Michael Schenker, Vinnie Moore, Tony MacAlpine, Gary Moore, Steve Lynch, but also Geert Annys who played in Mystery. Yngwie Malmsteen’s ‘Marching On’ is great as is the first Alcatrazz. Later on I came across bands like Savatage (for me a cross between Queen and The New Wave Of British Heavy Metal), Threshold and Saga. My musical background exists of 70’s pop, rock, hard rock and eighties hard rock, new wave and metal.’’
When did you start to feel that you wanted to make music yourself?
,,My mother had put me and my sister in a music school on a Wednesday and a Saturday afternoon, so she could have some peace and quiet. In my second year I went for the guitar. But instead of playing what was written down on paper I wanted to do my own thing. Yes, I was a bit of a rebel. I was always playing air guitar so the electric guitar was my obvious choice. But mum always said that I should finish school first before becoming an artist so I had to settle for an acoustic guitar. On that thing I tried to play AC/DC, Status Quo or CCR stuff, but the results were not great! My first guitar was a second hand Fender Mustang. To my regret I sold that. After I was released from the army in 1987 I started playing in a band and recorded a demo. ‘’
,,It is not about playing a lot in the hope to reach more people, it is about enjoying the fact that you play.” -Geert Fieuw
You have made four albums and some singles with Beyond The Labyrinth. You started out in 1996?
,,It has always been a mix between studio and gigs. ‘The Art Of Resilience’ is our fourth CD, but we had a period on which we focussed on making clips and ITunes singles. It is not all about gigs. Other forms of art are involved as well: photography, media, making clips. When you look at our history on stage: we have played some decent festivals, supported Uriah Heep, Y&T, Pagan’s Mind, did a small tour with Threshold and played in the final of the Global Battle in London, England. My view on gigs has changed a bit. I have become a bit like Brian Wilson (Beach Boys). It is not about playing a lot in the hope to reach more people, it is about enjoying the fact that you play. When I have a gig I try to avoid doing anything else that day. I want to enjoy the performance and you see that when you enjoy it yourself the audience will notice and follow you. It is about focussing on the music and creating positive energy.’’
It is my understanding that you guys have always had a problem getting a singer…
,,I believe that affinity between persons is important. You can have the best singer of the world in the band, you have to get on as persons. This band has numerous influences and that makes it difficult. If a band has a certain style it is a lot easier to find and motivate people. Singing is the most difficult thing. A singer that does not feel comfortable… you can hear that! I believe that a singer should be able to be himself. Our style is not easy at all. I sang myself on our first single, Meat Loaf style. Jo De Boeck sang on our albums ‘Signs’ (2005), ‘Castles In The Sand’ (2008) and ‘Chapter III-Stories’ (2011). At the end of 2011 he quit and drummer Michel Lodder and yours truly started toying with the idea to work with guest vocalists. We had some gigs to do and used a stand in singer. After that we worked on that idea and released some ITunes singles with clips done by guest singers.’’
‘The Art Of Resilience’ is by far your most prestigious project to date. How and when did the surroundings for this release come to your mind?
,,During the ITunes concept that we worked on we stumbled on keyboardist Sjoerd Bruyneel. That was in 2012. At the end of 2013 we encountered problems with a singer/guitarist we had and I decided to have a cool off period, take stock and work on some more old and new song ideas. Around 2015 we knew what we wanted to do and slowly started recording. Dominic Heynderickx joined on bass and around that time we decided to go for ‘guest singers’ only. Musically we knew that it was going to be a mix of different styles, so that was in our minds the best way to go. We are not a band that is sticking to a certain format.’’
,,The CD is the result of friends helping out friends.” -Geert Fieuw
Geert Fieuw & Tara Lynch in the studio
About 20 guest musicians have participated on the record. How does something like that go? Is it a matter of ringing around or a matter of having many contacts? As executive producer, song writer and guitarist you must have had a few sleepless nights!
,,The CD is the result of friends helping out friends. Yes, we know a lot of people. We put a Beatles slogan on the record: ‘with a little help from our friends’. Most names are far from known or famous, but each of them is as good as names you might know. Most of the recordings took place in my home studio where we also rehearse. Some people recorded their stuff in their own home studio or a in a place where they felt more comfortable.’’
What about the financing of the record? Record companies hardly invest these days in bands and/or recordings…
,,While most people hope to be discovered I learned in an early stage that it is better to do it yourself if you do not belong to the chosen ones. There are people that spend their money on a hobby or sports. I invested in equipment. In 1992 Cliff Cultreri of Relativity Records told me that when he heard my instrumental demo from that time that if I had come to him two years earlier he would have signed me, but the style and market had changed. My lesson was that it is not about what you can do as an artist, it is what they are able to sell to the public. And it helps if you have got the right connections. Beyond The Labyrinth has always recorded in their own studio, simply because we did not have a choice. During the years we learned a lot and have some experience now. In the past I used the studio for commercial purposes and invested the earnings in the band. Now we try to avoid spending money on things we do not need. The IMac in the studio is now nine years old, it needs an update, but it is still working! When we finished the recordings we had to make a difficult choice about the mix. We decided to let somebody else do that work. In the mean time we organised a Pledge Music campaign so we could pay for the mix. We managed to pay about a third of the cost through that campaign, I paid for the rest myself…’’
Beyond The Labyrinth Photo by Reinhold Podevijn
So you delivered your record company Spinal Record a finished product. How are things going now that the CD is out there?
,,I have always had a good contact with owner Marc DeKeyser. I realised that we needed a good distribution of the CD otherwise it would mean playing gigs and hope to sell CD’s during the concerts. Every three months we receive the sales figures but I am not counting on a miracle. They have not asked us yet to print some more CD’s.’’
During my holiday in The Netherlands I was able to read some other reviews including one in Aardschok, the leading metal magazine in the Benelux. Your CD only received a score of 65 out of a 100. Was there something wrong with my ears, did I overrate your record of has the person that wrote the review not listened close and often enough to ‘The Art Of Resilience’?
,,Other magazines with a decent reputation like Fireworks, Rock Tribune and IO Pages gave us excellent scores. Although it is a stab in the heart, you just can’t stay angry. I heard from someone who had seen that review and hesitated to buy our CD. He did anyway and contacted us saying that that particular journalist has shit in his ears! I hope that more people felt that way. It is the right of a journalist to have his opinion on what he likes to hear or not. It is okay to be subjective, but from a professional journalist you at least expect that he or she checks the facts. If there are 4 wrong facts in a review of 180 words it seems to me that it was a quick review of an amateur. Magazines who employ such people I just cannot take seriously anymore. I will not support such magazines any longer.’’
Any thoughts on the immediate future of Beyond The Labyrinth?
,,With the release of ‘The Art Of Resilience’ we have ended a studio chapter. The next logic step is playing live. And that is also our wish. I think that part of 2018 and 2019 will be used for concerts and writing new tracks. By the way, I am also working on a Dark Musical/Rock Opera about Nikola Tesla, I am in the writing phase now.’’
Header photo by Reinhold Podevijn
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