Interview with State of Negation

Founded in 2010, State Of Negation is the 5 piece metal band from the city of Haarlem, in the Netherlands. They played over 150 shows, a number of festivals (Beeckestijn Pop, Occultfest, Strudelfest and more) and also showcased Altersonic at Eurosonic in 2011. They won the Dutch National Metal Battle 2011 and the regional contest “IJmond Popprijs”. In 2012 State Of Negation opened for Suicide Silence in Het Patronaat, Haarlem. They also shared the stage with Onslaught, Sinister & Seita. After 2 successful years State Of Negation released their first and self-produced EP’s titled “PROJECT PAYBACK” and “DISTRICT UNKNOWN” and did their very first European tour. Some of their influences are Lamb of God, Trivium and Machine Head. They also had a bit of a line-up change throughout the year. We have Casper as the frontman, Mike on bass, Tristan and Maurice on guitars and Dennis on drums.We recently caught up with frontman, Casper Leijen, and this is what he had to say.

Metalhead Spotted: Going back to 2010, how did State of Negation originally start?
Casper Leijen: Before 2010, Mike and I had a band called Blackened (or Crashed, after our bipolar name change). That fell apart in 2009 but we didn’t really want to quit there. So in 2010 at Beeckesteinpop we went up to Tristan, the guitarist and together with our old drummer, Tomek we formed State of Negation. Two years later, we were already playing the main stage on that same festival.

When we first formed we tried being a Greek mythology-themed metal band, kind of trying a Sabaton-ish sound, but that didn't work out. You can still see that in some of our song titles (or at least the original song titles) like Hades or Jason and the Argonauts, which got renamed to Visum Veritas. After our first couple of gigs we started making a lot of friends in other metal bands and we did a lot of exchanges.” You get us a gig there; we get you a gig here”. In hindsight that may have been a stupid move, cause we were playing shows in Haarlem nearly every month, so I guess people grew a little tired of us.

Getting to see a band play once is cool, then seeing them again is even cooler ‘cause you can sing along to some of the lyrics, but seeing the same guys play the same set for the 4th or 5th time starts getting on your nerves I guess.

Metalhead Spotted: When was State’s first gig and who did you share the stage with?
Casper Leijen: Fuck. That takes me a while back. Well, the first “official performance” was at my high school, where we played one of those open mic kind of gigs. Though we can’t really call that a gig. The first real gig was at Flinty’s, a cultural center here in Haarlem. We were really good friends with basically everyone there, so at that show we had about 80 people showing up just to mosh to whatever the hell we were doing. They didn't really care if it was good, everything got wrecked that night. I think we could have been playing slow jazz and those guys still would have bashed each other’s heads in.

I remember one guy coming up to me after that show with a massive lump on his head saying he couldn't see colors anymore, only black and white. We did that gig together with Purest of Pain, I believe. After that we became really good friends with them and we’ve done a lot of shows together. The other bands I don’t really remember that well. I think Die For The Purpose of Living was on the bill then too, but that’s all I recall through the beer fuzz.

Metalhead Spotted: Focusing a bit on PROJECT PAYBACK and DISTRICT UNKNOWN, where did the inspiration for your first and second EP come from and who wrote the lyrics?
Casper Leijen: Payback was a bit of a vague area when it comes to writing. I wrote all the lyrics myself and I think 95% of the music was written by Tristan, if not everything. But we kind of just compiled everything we had then, without a big idea behind it.
Back then I was really into Lamb of God, so I would write shit about corrupt governments and camera’s watching everything. It was also back when anonymous was such a big deal so I wanted to write shit about that as well. You can also see that in the video clip for corruption. It has the Guy Fawkes masks in it and some politicians playing with peoples’ lives and stuff. Super cheesy but it was so much fun to just write about all the frustrations in the world. There didn't really need to be a “bigger picture” in it for us, I guess.
Take Project Payback and Corruption for instance, those lyrics are completely interchangeable. I just felt like a punk singer in a metal band yelling fuck the government, you know? It’s fun, but it doesn't have a lot of depth.

District Unknown was a different story. The lyrics became about real life things I either witnessed first-hand or got involved with because of friends of mine. For instance the title track: I got to know the guys from a band called District Unknown through a newspaper article. They live in Afghanistan and they have the roughest time ever to get to play the music they love because of the war going on there. So I got to talk with them and kind of learn their story and it inspired me to write the lyrics to the song. Eventually, all of us liked the concept so much we based all the album artwork on it too.

“Derealise” is about a mental disorder I had for a few years. One of the symptoms was derealisation, which basically means that parts of your day, or your entire day, feels like you’re watching a film or dreaming it. That may sound nice, but it’s really a living hell. Everything just felt fake and your brain really starts believing everything you’re doing is “not real” or something. The more you try to fight it and forcefully trying to go back to feeling normal, the worse it gets, hence “The more you beat the mind, I see, the less you can’t break the code”. It meant so much to me back then to really put all those feelings in a song. That kind of backfired though, ‘cause these days when I’m singing it, it really takes me back mentally to those days.

“Gunslinger” was kind of a step back to the old days. Tristan had written that song years ago, probably in the first year of the band. He had originally named it gunslinger, not as the official title but just to have something to work with. Then when we picked it back up 4 years later, the whole American gun law thing was going on and I wanted to write the lyrics about that, so we went with the title and created something out of it.

Metalhead Spotted: What does being a part of State mean to everyone?
Casper Leijen: I think for most of us, it’s just our entire future. We all have shit on the side now but we really want State to take off at some point, and all our bets are on that. Some of us have some other bands, and I guess they all have equal opportunities to break through at some point, so I’m not saying we’re the best one or anything. But I really do feel like all 5 of us are most focussed on State at this point. I've personally had to give up a lot of other bands and side projects to be able to give State 100%.

Metalhead Spotted: Besides touring in Europe this year, what were some other highlights?
Casper Leijen: I guess there’s nothing else that really stands out that much in particular. There were some cool things, but nothing as big as the tour. Don’t know if you can call this a highlight, but we did change line up. First there was Pim leaving…that was done in a good way though, we still love him, he still loves us (I think? Ha-ha), and we all just accepted we had to move on. So we found Maurice who we've grown to love too. He brought a really new style with him we hadn't really explored that much before then but it changed us in many ways for the better I think.

Then there was drummer Mike (Yeah, we had two Mikes) who left us in a big rage fit. Really, he was gone in a single day. He told us with a text message he was quitting the band, the next day he had already sold his drum kit and after that he just dropped off his keys in my mailbox and we've never seen him again. Weird stuff, but we did get to invite Dennis, a drummer we’d already known for years (partially from that first gig I mentioned earlier. He was the drummer for Die For The Purpose of Living), and he wanted to join us and could play the entire discography in less than a month with no drum kit to practice on at home. We were like “Here, take these CD’s home and learn to play them as soon as you can.” The next week he joined us for his first rehearsal and he already managed to play Project Payback in its entirety, just by listening to it alone. That was the moment we decided “Okay, we need this dude as our drummer no matter what.” He aced his first gig at Strudelfest this year which also came as somewhat of a surprise, because by then he had been with us for I think a month and a half.

Metalhead Spotted: What can we expect from State in 2015?
Casper Leijen: Some really cool stuff is coming up! First of all, we’re working on our first full length album. This is going to be the first release where the lyrics and music is really bound together with a bigger idea behind it.

I’ve been brainstorming with Tristan about the ideas we had. We ended up with the Buddhist reincarnation cycle. They have this theory where you revive after every life, depending on the karma, (both good and bad) you’ve built up in your previous life. This goes on forever, so even if you make it to Buddhist heaven or hell at some point, your good or bad karma will eventually run out there and you’ll be reincarnated in one of the other realms.

It’s really cool, especially for metal, because all of those realms have their own dark undertone. For instance, the god realm is amazing, and you’ll constantly feel good there, but by being there doing nothing for others your good karma slowly burns up, so to say, and you’ll eventually end back up with a “clean slate” in one of the other realms. Of course this is a really crappy way of saying it so quickly, but I've really dug into it and I keep finding out more and more about it. So writing all the songs about this cycle feels good, I finally have stuff to go by instead of sitting down, thinking of whatever comes to mind first and then writing it into lyrics.

We’re going to go through all the realms, Heaven, Demi-God, Human, Animal, Ghost and Hell. The most distinct realms get two songs and we've already written Animal part 1 and Human part 1. The album is really going to be a journey, travelling from heaven to hell, highlighting everything about it.

I will eventually be able to tell you more about it because like I said, this is a really short way of summarizing everything, but it will come down to this in the bigger picture.
We also have some more tours planned together with None Shall Fall. Right now, it’s looking like we’ll head back to Hungary, Germany and the Czech Republic at the start of next year, spend a week in the UK at some point and we’ll hit the road to France, Italy and Slovenia near summer, but that’s still a work in progress.

Metalhead Spotted: And wrapping up the interview, any messages to your fans?
Casper Leijen: Well most importantly, we love you all so much. And that’s fucking cheesy to say but really, it’s indescribable to have people appreciate your music so much. Seeing kids go to shows having the time of their lives in the mosh pit or getting compliments afterwards from guys that have obviously been around in the scene for years is the biggest adrenaline boost you can ever get.

We've been missing out on some stuff and we haven’t properly had a run at gigs for a while because of the line-up changes but right now we’re back in full force and the future is looking golden. The album is coming as soon as we can, all those tours will be on the road probably within a few months already, and we’re coming to fuck your home town up as bad as we can.

Interviewed by Vivean Stoltz

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