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Metal A la Francaise: An Exclusive Interview With Matt Asselberghs Of NIGHTMARE

By George Mihalovich, Pure Rock Patroller
Thursday, August 28, 2014 @ 4:29 PM

"Playing with IRON MAIDEN was like a dream."

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NIGHTMARE is one of France's most distinguished classic/power metal exports, and has been on a roll since their reformation in 1999 with former drummer Jo Amore taking over vocal duties. Guitarist Matt Asselberghs discusses the making of their latest offering of dark and aggressive metal, The Aftermath, and provides some insight into the band and their creative process.

KNAC.COM: Tell us about your musical background: training, influences and former bands.

ASSELBERGHS: I’m Matt, guitar player in NIGHTMARE since 2012. I started playing guitar at the age of 11, at that time my influences were Blackmore, Page and Iommi. I started making my first band with my father called FIRE WIZZARD, then I was involved in DIESEL DUST (Southern Rock), SANGDRAGON (Death Metal) and now NIGHTMARE!

KNAC.COM: Are you a full-time musician, or do you have another job outside of music?

ASSELBERGHS: If only .,. ahaha yes, we all have a job, I'm an educator, I work with children at school and I really love my job!

KNAC.COM: How did you get the gig in NIGHTMARE? Were you a fan of the band prior to joining?

ASSELBERGHS: Ahaha a fan? Not really, but I knew NIGHTMARE for a long time and I liked their music already. I got involved in the band thanks to the internet and Facebook. They were looking for a new guitar player and I just sent some videos … they just said, “All right let's do it!”

KNAC.COM: NIGHTMARE's style of power metal seems to have gotten progressively heavier over the years. Bearing in mind that you are relatively new to the band, how do these influences work their way into the music?

ASSELBERGHS: Maybe I'm the youngest, but in my mind I’m stuck in the 80's ahaha, so anyway, everyone in the band has the chance to put their influences into the music we're making during the writing process. For sure the band has become more heavy and that’s what we wanted with The Aftermath. Each album is different also thanks to the different persons that are in the band at the time.

KNAC.COM: There seems to be a strong continuity of style on the The Burden Of God and The Aftermath; do you agree or disagree? If so, has there been a conscious effort to fine-tune NIGHTMARE'S style and approach?

ASSELBERGHS: Well, everything went naturally, after Burden Of God we really wanted to go more roots and make the heavier record than we ever made before! And that’s what we've done! Burden Of God was something … The Aftermath is HEAVY!

KNAC.COM: Describe your contributions to The Burden Of God and The Aftermath; how have you personally influenced the sound of NIGHTMARE?

ASSELBERGHS: During Burden Of God I’ve only recorded the solos, every single songs were already made. For The Aftermath it's 50/50, there are five tracks of my composition and five from Franck. The blend is fucking awesome, we really helped each other sound better for this part or that part.

KNAC.COM: How do you and Franck Milleliri split your guitar duties and decide who will play specific parts?

ASSELBERGHS: Well it was natural, Franck taught me some stuff and I taught Franck some other skills, it's a real sharing between each other! We are really complementary, I'd rather be a melodic guy and he is more of a riffing guy!

KNAC.COM: The entire band is credited with the songwriting on The Aftermath. How does the writing process work?

ASSELBERGHS: Franck and I just bring some riffs and songs idea, then everyone is adding his piece of inspiration to it.

KNAC.COM: NIGHTMARE recorded The Aftermath at Dreamsound Studio in Munich, Germany. During a time of slim recording budgets, what is behind the decision to spend the extra money to record outside of France?

ASSELBERGHS: We met Mario during the Metaldays last summer and we had a really good talk upon recording the next NIGHTMARE album. Mario used to work with bands such as MASTERPLAN and EMERGENCY GATES, and we really liked the sound he made for those bands so we’ve decided to work with him. We’ve also decided to try an album using reamping process which costs less and allows us to work at home.

KNAC.COM: How did the production team of Mario Lochert and Jan Vacik influence The Aftermath?

ASSELBERGHS: They really liked the fact that we really wanted to go more roots with this record, the sound they created really influences that feeling of heaviness. Patrick Liotard produced, engineered, arranged and mixed The Burden Of God – and even added some additional bass. Pat is a longtime friend, he is a genius melody maker and has a real talent. He takes a real look at our work and never hesitates to say that this part can be better with this melody and so on. His work with Jo is outstanding.

KNAC.COM: Jo Amore's vocals on The Aftermath were recorded and arranged at Peek Studio in France with Patrick, who also contributed vocals on "Mission For God" and "Forbidden Tribe". Why did Patrick only record the vocals this time, and why not do the vocal tracking in Germany in March?

ASSELBERGHS: Pat is a kind of coach that really help us and Jo for the vocals and the melody that we want to use and spread throughout the album. Jo sang on all the finished demos we made in March.

KNAC.COM: Jonathan Menard provided keyboards, orchestrations, strings and choirs arrangements on The Burden Of God. Who is Jonathan and what is his relationship with NIGHTMARE?

ASSELBERGHS: Jon is the keyboardist from VELOCE HYSTORIA, a really awesome band here in France and we met him a few years ago. We wanted to make him part of the arrangement on the last two albums because he is a real professional and melody maker as well.

KNAC.COM: For The Aftermath, he is credited with “keyboards arrangements.” Is this a misprint and his role was “keyboards and arrangements?” If not, why did he have a reduced role on the latest disc?

ASSELBERGHS: Jon is just someone that makes the record bigger and less empty with his arrangements. With this record we wanted to make it sounds more heavy - so less keyboards. That's all.

KNAC.COM: Do people like Patrick and Jonathan conceptualize and execute all of the progressive elements and arrangements in NIGHTMARE's music, or is the band involved as well?

ASSELBERGHS: They are really free to add the inspiration, of course if we don't really like something we will let them know :)!

KNAC.COM: Continuing along these lines, if the recording was completed in March, how were you able to release the CD so quickly thereafter in June?

ASSELBERGHS: Everything went fast; we had a deadline and we didn't have the choice, so we had to work quick, also with the rest of the album development.

KNAC.COM: NIGHTMARE has been with AFM Records since 2009; what are your thoughts on the partnership?

ASSELBERGHS: AFM is for sure one of the best record labels that NIGHTMARE ever had, they're doing a real great job with us and we are very happy to be part of this record label family.

KNAC.COM: The promotional video for "Sunrise In Hell" from The Burden Of God was very professional. Can you tell us about making it? Any plans to do a promotional video to support The Aftermath?

ASSELBERGHS: Thank you, yes a video is in the project for “Forbidden Tribe”. We're working on it :)

KNAC.COM: What was it like to play Dubai Rock Fest in the United Arab Emirates?

ASSELBERGHS: Always a great pleasure, and a chance as well, it's a very special country and the crowd there is very dedicated to heavy music! It's kinda the holy land without any play on words LOL!

KNAC.COM: For the 2014 edition of Hellfest, you shared the main stage with IRON MAIDEN (among others). How did it feel for the band to be a part of France's most prestigious metal festival and how was NIGHTMARE received?

ASSELBERGHS: It was really awesome, we had a great time here at Hellfest. It's a shame to see that French bands here played at 11:00, while at Wacken three weeks afterwards we played at 22:30. But this festival is really kickass and playing with IRON MAIDEN was like a dream!

KNAC.COM: You are also playing several additional festivals throughout the summer – most notably Wacken – to be followed by a fall European tour. Obviously, it's great to get the exposure to large numbers of people at the big festivals, but the club shows might attract more diehard fans. Can you describe the experience of playing both types of shows?

ASSELBERGHS: When you play in such a huge festival as Wacken, it's always like the great orgy! Like the biggest party you ever had, but you have to do the show anyways if the crowd is bigger or not. Personally I really love both types of shows; one is more intimate where you can see every face and be with them, and another where you're more like a lion in the arena!

KNAC.COM: In addition to the two CDs of material that you have written and recorded with the band, do you also enjoy playing the band's classics in concert?

ASSELBERGHS: For sure I really love Genetic Disorder and Insurrection - I love playing the songs from those two albums!

KNAC.COM: From an outsider's perspective, NIGHTMARE seems to be one of the elder statesmen of the French metal scene. What are your thoughts on the band's role?

ASSELBERGHS: Well, I think that nowadays NIGHTMARE has not the place that we really deserve. I think in France we really deserve more gratitude, but anyway it's the music atmosphere here. That’s why that we’re more known in Germany than here, for example! ahahaha

KNAC.COM: Thanks for your time Matt. Please add anything else that you would like to share with KNAC.COM readers and NIGHTMARE fans.

ASSELBERGHS: I'm single now, so if any girls, monkeys, dogs, cats, frogs, wanna have a date, no problem I'm free. Ahahaha just kidding! Thank you to all the readers and stay true!

Pick up a copy of The Aftermath in the KNAC.COM More Store right HERE

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