Amsterdam based Vitamin X have been at it since the late 1990's. They have toured the world, played festivals in front of 10's of thousands of people and have 6 full lengths and 7 EP's released in their time together as a band. In addition their animated video for their song "About To Crack" is one of the best hardcore videos I have ever seen. With all that said I pretty much knew jack shit about these guys until their PR people got in touch with us a few months back in support of their latest album... "Age Of Paranoia" on Southern Lord. An interview was suggested and after reading what their guitarist Marc Emmerik had to say I am glad we gave these guys some space. Check out what he had to say. Graphics by: Bas Spierings
IE: Hey Marc, where exactly are you right now and what do you think you would be doing if you weren't answering these questions?
Marc: I'm at home in Amsterdam and just came back from a concert by John Lydon's PIL, and would otherwise go to sleep.
IE: VX recently put out a new album called “Age Of Paranoia”. The artwork is pretty intense and the message delivered in a few of the songs resonates with me as well. Can you talk about the artwork as well as the general message you are putting out there with the songs that touch on this so called age of paranoia?
Marc: Yes the art is pretty intense. It was made by Marald who is just like us, from The Netherlands. He's a friend of mine long before he got known as an artist. Marald did the art of the last Baroness album, and bands like Wolfbrigade, Kylesa, High On Fire, etc. Baroness' John Baizley, who did our 2 previous albums was also supposed to do the art of this album, but he was too busy, so we asked Marald, and he did an amazing job. He not only made a drawing on the front, but also on the back and the insert!
You could say it's a concept album! Technology is hijacking our brain and minds, that's what the songs ''Short Circuit'' and ''Flip The Switch'' are about. We live in a dangerous time and age, an age of control, confusion and paranoia. More than ever we're controlled and affected by media, technology, mobile devices, internet, social networks, governments, political earthquakes, extreme ideologies, climate change, pollution, fake news, etc. The song ''Modern Man'' is a sarcastic song in which we wonder if our so-called ''progress'' isn’t actually ''regress''. It's about people who are only interested in their phones instead of participating in the world around them.
PHOTOS BY: ARI SUMMER
IE: How did the art and message tie together?
Marc: I gave Marald the lyrics and he made a few examples. I also gave him some ideas, and we went back and forth. The art reflects the lyrics as a whole, and specifically the title track ''Age Of Paranoia''. Those lyrics talk about ''2 sided paranoia'', hence the two skulls, on the left and right side. Then the song ''Short Circuit'' is about your brain getting overheated, and in ''Flip The Switch'' the lyrics say: ''rearrange my brain'', hence the brains coming out of the skulls. The scream in the middle of the 2 skulls is a scream for help in the ''Age Of Paranoia''
IE: The band has had extended gaps between full lengths in the past but the gap between “About To Crack” and this new one was about 6 years. What was going on with the band and its members during this time?
Marc: We had a change in drummers, our bass player Alex went on a long trip around the world, I had a daughter, and my dad got very ill (cancer) and eventually died. Because of this the recording process took longer than normal. Also, once the record was finished, several bigger companies were interested in this album, and we had to figure out who would release it.
PHOTOS BY: DAVID DE HAAN
IE: Outside of playing with VX what does everyone else in the band got going on with occupations and families? Anyone married? Kids? As time goes on does it get harder to go out on tours due to this?
Marc: I'm the only one with a kid; I have a daughter, she is 9 years old. Nobody is married. Marko is a video editor and has another band called Open Wounds in which he plays guitar. Alex studied physics and worked for years at Cern on those nuclear particles and almost won a Nobel Prize. Danny is a drum teacher. And I studied politics, am a member of the environmental party, organize festivals and I just started another band called Demon Eyes (hardrock Sabbath style) in which I sing.
IE: How did the name Vitamin X come to be? Who thought of it?
Marc: When we started we already got show offers after a few practices. We didn’t have a name yet, and the organizers needed a name for the poster. So we just came up with some name, not knowing this would stick around forever!
IE: There are promotional photos of 3 of your members signing the deal with your new label Southern Lord in blood. Did they run out of pens for you to use?
Marc: Well, of course we had to sign in blood! Only the ''blood'' we used was beetroot juice… haha!
IE: Name 3 things that scare the shit out of you?
Marc: The environment, pollution, people dying because there are wars and they don’t have anything to eat...
IE: First hardcore, punk or metal records you remember buying or getting from friends when you were young?
Marc: Back then records were pretty expensive, and when I was at school me and my friends didn’t have any money to buy records. So what we did was listen to the radio (in the Netherlands there was ''squat'' radio who played punk) or tape LP's on cassettes. One of my first punk shows was Peter & the Testtubebabies.
IE: Early on in discovering heavy music what guitarists did you look up to that inspired you to want to become a guitarist yourself?
Marc: Black Sabbath's Tony Iommi, Black Flag's Greg Ginn, Birthday Party's Rowland Howard
CLICK BELOW TO WATCH THE ANIMATED VITAMIN X VIDEO FOR "ABOUT TO CRACK"
IE: The “About To Crack” video got the band a lot of attention with over a million views to date. An absolutely brilliantly done video. How did that video come together and how much input did the band have in making it?
Marc: This guy from Belgium Marco and his studio ''IMOV'' made a video for Belgium punk band ''Reproach''. I liked it a lot so I asked him if he could make a video for us as well. He took a long time, years, mainly because he was doing this in his free time, and was doing this alone (together with Pierre). He wanted to make the best animation video ever and I think he succeeded! I had a lot of input and several things happening in the video were my idea.
IE: Back in 2006 VX played on MTV Brazil and according to legend a riot broke out after you smashed some instruments. It has been hard to find footage of this show online so can you give us some more details about this experience?
Marc: Yeah, I smashed my guitar several times at other shows so when we had to play MTV I of course wanted to smash my guitar again. I bought a cheap guitar in Sao Paulo (as I wouldn’t want to smash my 1979 Gibson SG), and Alex bought a cheap bass (he wouldn’t want to smash his 70´s Rickenbacker). We changed our instruments before the last song and at the end we started smashing them. You can actually see a bit of the smashing on You Tube. There was a small studio audience of about 100 people. When they saw those broken guitar and bass parts flying through the air, they all jumped on each other to get those parts. Then security jumped on those people and there was a huge fight. Some people were spraying tear gas in the eyes of the security. It was total chaos. Afterwards the producer of the show told me it was great haha! Click HERE to watch some footage from this set courtesy of KRAST1986.
PHOTOS BY: ERIC GUYOT
IE: VX has done a lot of touring and played a ton of shows in your 20 plus year history. Can you narrow down some of the more scary or dangerous moments in that time where you were worried about you or your bandmates safety?
Marc: One of our most insane shows was when we played in Jakarta, Indonesia. It was extremely hot and there were too many people who wanted to see us. I think there were 1000 people inside the venue and 500 outside (and the venue could only fit 700 people). Inside the venue there was no ventilation and it was insanely hot. Marko our singer crowd surfed outside of the venue several times to get some air. At the end of our set, our Brazilian tour drummer Boka (from ''Ratos De Porao'') was close to fainting and his eyes were almost outside of his head. Actually I was also almost fainting. So we ended our set. After the show the promotor told us some other band played that venue a week earlier, and the singer actually died because of the heat... luckily he told us after the show haha!
IE: What has been your most embarrassing moment on stage while playing with this band?
Marc: Marko one time fell through the stage after one of his jumps, only his head was sticking out of the floor. But he still kept singing! I almost unplugged myself at one of our biggest shows: Hellfest, there was a catwalk, so I went on it but my guitar cable was not long enough, luckily I stopped walking right before I unplugged myself! The most embarrassing thing ever was that we once showed up at a show but forgot our instruments haha!
PHOTOS BY: MICHIELE DE WILDE @wilde_concerts (IG)
IE: What are some of the biggest factors that keep this band going after so many releases and tours? 20 years is a long time for any band to stick around, especially within the hardcore scene where bands can be around for less than a few years in most cases. It usually takes special circumstances for bands to stay together as long as VX has.
Marc: Our line-up is basically still the same as 20 years ago; me, Marko and Alex. Only our drummer has changed several times over the years but Danny is also already with us for 6-7 years. As a band we are still growing; playing to bigger audiences, and now we're also on a bigger label. And of course it's fun to play! To see people singing along and going crazy in the pit is something that is very rewarding. So, we still play as much as our schedules permit, something like a few shows each month.
IE: In a sort of continuation of the last question where do you keep coming up with new and fresh ideas for VX? It is obvious on songs like “Age Of Paranoia” that you have influences well outside of the hardcore and punk stuff. What kind of stuff were you listening to leading up to writing these new songs and does listening to music outside of the hardcore and punk realm really have a factor on the final outcome on VX songs and how they sound?
Marc: I write the songs and I'm a big fan of all kinds of music, from hard rock to new wave. VX is a punk hardcore band but I try to mix different styles of music into our songs, to create something interesting, diverse and new. So certain intro's sound like Black Sabbath, and then at a certain moment we go into a fast part. On the new album there's a song that was inspired by surf music (''Short Circuit''). ''Flip The Switch'' had a Dinosaur Jr style intro… that’s why I asked J.Mascis to play guitar on that song. ''Reverse Midas Touch'' has a Stooges type of riff. ''No One'' has more of a Discharge influence. When Greg Anderson from Southern Lord heard the album he said he loved the unique fusion of old school hardcore and rock, metal-punk etc.. and he thought we push boundaries within a genre that is typically limited.
PHOTOS BY: MAYRICIO MELO @snapliveshots
IE: Where are some areas/countries on your musical bucket list that you are dying to take this band to?
Marc: Well, we've already been all over the world. But we didn’t play China yet, and some South American countries like Colombia, Peru, Argentina, where we have a lot of fans. It would also be cool to play some African countries
IE: If you were on death row and had one last meal request what would you want it to be?
Marc: Blueberries and chocolate
IE: We have gone over a lot of the positive things you have done with this band over the years. When you think back over that time what are some if the things that jump out and bring you the most pride with doing this band for as long as you have?
Marc: It’s really cool to hear that our music and lyrics have had a lot of impact on some people! Also, there are a lot of bands on You Tube that play covers of Vitamin X songs. There are also several bands that named themselves after a VX song.
IE: Now that the new album is out what does the band have in store for the rest of 2018?
Marc: Well, this will be the year of the release of our new album on a ''bigger'' label, Southern Lord records. We will be promoting the album, playing a lot of shows! We hope to reach our fans but also new audiences who might hear us for the first time. We're looking forward to playing the songs from “Age Of Paranoia” live.