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EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: SOILWORK’S DIRK VERBEUREN SPEAKS ON SPLIT WITH PETER WICHERS

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Dirk Verbeuren

Soilwork parted ways with guitarist/songwriter Peter Wichers for the second time earlier this week. Wichers released a vague statement citing “creative differences,” but the remaining members of Soilwork have been mum — until now.

In our exclusive interview with Soilwork drummer Dirk Verbeuren, we learn a whole lot more about the factors that caused the split and how the band plans to continue as they approach the release of their next album, The Living Infinite.

First of all, how does it feel to receive the incredibly honorable distinction of being named by MetalSucks the Thirteenth Best Modern Metal Drummer?

It feels awesome! Knowing that people enjoy my drumming is pretty damn cool. Sometimes I don’t really know if what I’m doing actually makes sense. And then suddenly something like this pops up. So it’s all good. One thing though, I don’t think I should be placed above Dave Lombardo. Actually, I don’t think anyone should be, when it comes to metal drumming. He’s Dave Lombardo, man! He laid down some of the grooviest and most inspired beats ever on Reign In Blood and South Of Heaven and Seasons while I was still hitting crates with a pair of wooden rulers. Other than that minor detail though, being recognized along with a bunch of musicians I really respect is pretty damn sweet. So thank you, MetalSucks!

So, let’s cut to it: why did Peter leave the band? Did he quit, was he fired, or was it mutual?

It was mutual. Peter couldn’t be a part of our 2011 U.S. run with Symphony X. That was maybe six or seven months after The Panic Broadcast came out. We were on a roll then, but out of solidarity and respect for our bandmate and friend, and because we really felt like we had the ultimate line-up, we cancelled that tour. The whole idea back then was that Peter would tour with us again soon. But then the summer festivals came along, and he progressively said “no” to those too. We couldn’t just keep cancelling stuff, so we hired David Andersson who had filled in for us before.

After that, touring kind of came to a grinding halt. The rest of us didn’t know what to do. It was just kind of rough to be in this position all of a sudden, with a great album and no tours to support it and a shaky line-up. Less than a year earlier, we were all stoked about our future together, you know? We talked and tried to figure things out, and in the end, long story short, Peter couldn’t commit to what the rest of us feel is mandatory for Soilwork. Here’s the thing: whether we like it or not, we have to tour. There’s just no two ways about it. Playing shows, a lot of shows, is vital if we wanna have the slightest chance to survive as a band. That’s why moving on was really our only option.

What did Peter mean when he cited “creative differences”?

I don’t know, man. My take on it is… I guess that’s another way to say “artistic disagreements”. But honestly, we never had issues with making music or playing together. We’re all pretty free to play what we want in this band. There’s no musical dictatorship type of bullshit happening, we’re not that kind of band. We always respected Peter’s creative input and he respected ours. The Panic Broadcast felt to us like one of the best things we’d ever done, you know? We still feel that now, and I’m pretty sure Peter feels that, too. So, I don’t know exactly what he meant by that. I’d have to guess that some resentment may’ve built up. If I were to describe it, I’d probably have used the word “personal” rather than “creative”.

Peter came back to the band to write, record and tour behind The Panic Broadcast. Discuss Peter’s contributions as a songwriter. Many fans credit Peter with being the most important songwriting contributor in Soilwork.

Peter’s a super talented songwriter and he deserves every bit of praise he gets. Truthfully though, he’s not the only kickass songwriter in Soilwork. Sylvain [Coudret, guitarist since Ola Frenning left the band in 2008] wrote four awesome songs on The Panic Broadcast. And I’m pretty sure no one would question how important Speed’s vocal melodies are, because they add so much it’s just undeniable. We all contribute, whether it’s an entire song, the raw core of a song, a section, a beat, a riff, or a minor arrangement you’d never even think twice about.

People forget that less obvious stuff is also essential to the songs. Take Sven [Karlsson, keyboards] for example: that guy’s an absolutely brilliant keyboard player, what he does is just amazing! Mindblowing! And because it’s not as up-front in the mix and maybe more subtle, people rarely ever talk about all the musical greatness Sven brings to the table. Just imagine “As We Speak” without that keyboard melody. And let’s not even get into all the songs Sven has contributed to Soilwork over the years.

So yeah, it’s absolutely true that Peter’s a killer player who wrote a lot of amazing tunes, and in some folks’ minds he’s essential. There are a lot of Peter fans out there, and rightfully so. But there are also a lot of Ola Flink [bass] fans. Ola’s as loyal as it gets. He brings endless energy to the stage and he’s got a unique sense of humor that can make even the shittiest day on the road a blast. When it comes down to it those things are a huge deal, too. We’ve seen people at our shows wearing custom made t-shirts with Flink slogans on ’em! The bottom line is, it takes all these different talents and personalities combined to make Soilwork.

What was it like having Peter back in the band after doing the entire Sworn To A Great Divide cycle without him? Was there ever any tension? When did it start to become apparent that it wasn’t going to work out with Peter this time around?

Peter actually did the last couple of Sworn tours with us, and it was really great to have him back, man! But then some big changes in his family life happened literally a week after he officially rejoined, and that was rough for him. Once those two tours were done, we did The Panic Broadcast under great circumstances and in good spirits, but when it was time to tour again it became more and more obvious that Peter was still having a hard time.

Being away for months on end just plain sucks sometimes, and he often had a tough time coping. That’s part of why he left in 2005, so it wasn’t a total surprise either… I guess we were all hoping, Peter too, that things would be a little easier this time. That we’d make more stable money on the road, or maybe that some of the tours would be a little more successful. But as it turns out, life on the road can suck when you’re Soilwork. We’re not Metallica. And damn, it’s rough for all of us, for anyone, leaving wives or girlfriends or kids behind to fend for themselves for a month or two or three at a time. We all know how much it can suck. The truth is, without touring, a band like this wouldn’t be able to exist. And we’re not ready to throw in the towel. We love what we do, and we’ve put too much into this band to give up now.

Listen, we’re well aware some of our fans out there are concerned because of this split. I can guarantee you this: there’s nothing to worry about! Soilwork isn’t going anywhere, or going dubstep or some shit. We’re gonna keep doing what we do best! Peter’s a very close friend, he’s family, and he’ll always be present through his music. We wish him nothing but good things.

Who will replace Peter?

David Andersson, ’cause he’s a great guy, he shreds on guitar and he’s super fun to work with and to be around. It’s not like we split with Peter and then made this sudden decision to bring David in, either. We’ve had David play with us enough times to where it feels right. He’s been around, he’s done his time with us filling in for five or six years on and off. He’s earned it, if you will, and we’re stoked to have him in the band! He can write a killer tune, too. So all in all, the future’s looking really bright for Soilwork. We’re ready to go out there and kill it. Lemme tell you this: The Living Infinite is gonna kick as much ass as any Soilwork record you like. It’s gonna be intense and it’s gonna be metal as fuck!

-VN

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