Rick Bouwman (Martyr)

Check out Steinmetal’s Interview with the lead/rhythm guitarist Rick Bouwman of the Dutch Heavy Metal comeback artists, Martyr. Rick gives his thoughts about the band’s new material, talks about the old days and the current Dutch Metal and world scene.

MER: Hello Rick and thank you for taking this interview on behalf of Martyr for Metal Express Radio. How are you?

Rick: Hi all you guys at MER! I am great, thanx !! Thanx for the opportunity as well.

MER: Martyr is back in the saddle since 2005, but officially, you guys are back with a new / old lineup, a remastered version of your old classic debut and something new for the fans. How is it to officially be back on the road again? What drove you to make a comeback?

Rick : It is great to be back. After our first German reunion shows (we did the very first reunion at the Heavy Metal Maniacs fest back in 2001), we had such a thrill to be playing again with MARTYR. It was the Keep It True IV festival that brought MARTYR back to life really. That festival was so amazing, and the reactions of those true Metal fans, from all over, during and afterwards were so overwhelming that MARTYR wanted to keep that feeling. The same feeling we had back in the 80s. Also in 2004 High Vaultage / Metal For Muthas re-released our two albums For The Universe and Darkness At Time’s Edge. So we were back in business and were offered the chance to play a lot more shows live as well.

MER: Sometime before your new package release Fear The Universe, you signed with the local Rusty Cage Records label. What was behind the idea on bringing back the old memories of the classic For The Universe, aside from reaching out to the old / new fans?

Rick: RCR wanted to release For The Universe as well back in 2004. But we just released it with High Vaultage / Metal For Muthas. So we said : “sorry, but no” at that time. A few years later RCR asked again, ’cause they have the Dutch Cult Classic series as well on their label. So we said: “Ok, but it has to be different from the High Vaultage release which already contained some never before released bonus tracks ”. That’s why we discussed with RCR to write some brand new material. 1 songs became 3, 3 songs became 5. And in the end there are 5 brand new MARTYR songs on Fear The Universe as well. We decided that they couldn’t be just bonus tracks anymore and wanted the press and fans to concentrate on our new material as well. So it became a double album with Fear and For The Universe together called Fear The Universe. Still get it? And what is also great: 2 albums for the price of one !!

MER: Fear is your new EP release after almost 25 years of total album silence. After hearing it, I couldn’t help but notice that Martyr stepped into places it has never been before: grooves, darkness and sorts. Why the change from your early days of melodic NWOBHM? Is Fear an intentional event to present you as something else or a new face perhaps?

Rick: That really was our intention. It is a choice we made. Fear had to be traditionally based, because our roots are of course based in the 80s, and in the great era of 80s Metal! But of course, we are 25 years further now and new influences along the years are mixed in with our classic influences as well as a more modern style. So still very heavy, with groovy guitar riffs and a mature sound. Also it had to have elements the old fans of MARTYR could recognize but attract new fans, who never heard of MARTYR before, as well !
So, yes, we stepped a bit aside from the NWOBHM style, because we wanted to present MARTYR as a band with a new face, new sound, but not totally ahead from their main influences. We kept the basic elements in the songs, but approached them with a more modern vision. So Fear can be hopefully seen as the bridge to bigger things and a bigger development for MARTYR in the near future as well! I guess you can call it: Classic Metal with a modern twist.

MER: From your band’s history you and Marcel were the only ones who stayed in the band until it ceased its activities in 1989. What was the reason for that old breakup or should I say recess? Was there any bad blood between the other members that forced that kind of move?

Rick: No, there has never been bad blood in this band. This band started as a band of friends and it still is. Although, Gerard Vergouw and Elias Papadopoulos aren’t in MARTYR anymore. That is because of their own choices.

When we released the DATE album it was a great step forward compared to FTU. It was a more mature MARTYR and recorded to develop MARTYR’s popularity on a much larger scale. However, unfortunately the record company Metalloid Records lacked good promotion and distribution channels worldwide. It certainly was not due to the music, I know that for sure. Nowadays we still get great responses on the DATE album!!

After DATE we were pushed by a large record company ro produce more demos in a more commercial way. But we couldn’t do that. In the end we were not signed, band members changed, and the band unfortunately split.

MER: Your past and present lead singers, Van Haren and Vergouw are a different story. Van Haren started the band and then was replaced by Vergouw and in 1987 Van Haren came back until two years before your recess. Now after Vergouw made a comeback with you in 2005, Van Haren is back. Why did all these changes occur between these two? Why isn’t Vergouw, who starred in your first two albums, isn’t with you?

Rick: You are very well informed I must say ha ha. That all is true. Both are terrific singers and great frontmen. Rop Van Haren quit around, I guess, 1984 with MARTYR. But he was a very important MARTYR member, doing the very successful Metal Torture demo as well as contributing the vocal line and lyrics for FTU which Gerard finally recorded. From the Metal Torture demo also 2 songs made it to the DATE album : “Into The Abyss” and “Unknown Forces”. Also our classic “Snow And Fire”, contributed to the Dutch Steel album (Roadrunner Records) was recorded by Rop .So through our early MARTYR career you already notice that Rop has been an important contributor to the success as well.

After Rop quit Gerard did auditions and did the two albums and Metal Massacre VI. After the reunion shows, Heavy Metal Maniacs fest 2001 and Kit IV 2004, Gerard decided to emigrate to Colombia. He is a writer nowadays. And to keep the band as original as it could be, and can it be more original than reunite with the very first singer (?), we asked Rop back.

MER: After the band’s inactiveness, to which direction did you turn to? Did you form other bands or joined others? Were you still in close touch with the others of Martyr during that time?

Rick: We have been doing a lot actually and we all have been playing in several bands after MARTYR. Some in the same traditions, others sounded very different. On the 2004 rerelease we added a Martyr labyrinth of all the MARTYR members and their post MARTYR acts. And even that is not a total list.

To name a few bands you might know: Medallion, Syrenade, Mindscape, Hot Legs, Picture, Vangouw, My Brother Jake amongst many others. Most bands also released albums as well. After 2001, the Heavy Metal Maniacs fest reunion, Gerard Vergouw (vocals) and Elias Papadopoulos (drums) followed their non musical careers.

Me, Marcel and Toine kept on playing several bands and joined again 2004. But in some sort of way we always crossed each other’s paths.

MER: Tell us something about Rick Bouwman. What can you tell us about yourself as a long time musician? What is your Metal History? What is your most preferred Metal subgenre?

Rick: What can I say. Before MARTYR, when I was about 16 or so me and Wilfried Broekman (drums) already started our 1st Metal band. We go a way back (to elementary school, so you can imagine….). I started MARTYR in 1982 . I am always looking for a way to sound original and different in my guitar playing, and in the process of writing songs. My Metal history starts with listening to Jimi Hendrix, really I guess when I was around 10 years old. After that KISS Alive I was released and I was caught by their stage act of course and arrangements. Also one of my main influences from the beginning is the Van Halen I album, that is still a classic in my opinion.

After MARTYR I continued several other bands, did some albums with My Brother Jake and Syrenade. But MARTYR is and was really my baby and the band where I could express myself the most in my songwriting and guitar playing.

I don’t have a favorite Metal genre really. At times I love bands like Sevendust, Pantera, Meshuggah, but also the classics Van Halen as well as the Red Hot Chili Peppers for instance.

MER: These days when you gaze upon the Dutch Metal scene, what do you see? Do you think the once glorified Dutch Heavy Metal scene has turned into something greater or it’s the other way around?

Rick: I Think the Dutch Metal scene was at its best in the 80s. Of course there are great bands now as well and very popular especially in the Gothic scene but in the early 80s when Metal was rising, Dutch bands like MARTYR were exploring new paths.

MER: What are thoughts about the Metal world in general? Where do you think it’s heading? Will the world Metal scene take back its rightful place as in the times of the 80s?

Rick: When I look at the Metal scene these days it is so hard to recognize bands and to be different than any other band. It is so easy to expose your music, which is good, but at the same time there is a lot of rubbish around and a lot of bands that aren’t even trying to bring something new and refreshing. I am not saying we are reinventing Metal again with MARTYR but we are always looking for a sound that makes us recognizable. But that gets more difficult than back in the early days of course. I think Metal will take its rightful place back in the future. The same way you can foresee the return of more vinyl re-conquering the market instead of CD’s . People, especially in bad times, like the financial crisis right now, like to look back into history and tradition.

MER: After the Fear EP, will the Metal world see a new full-length release out of Martyr or is there a huge tour coming our way?

Rick: Both I hope. Fear is indeed a restart for MARTYR. Immediately after the releases we started writing new material for hopefully a full length album somewhere in 2010. This summer we will do a European tour as well. Before that we will do shows mainly in Benelux and Germany. And hopefully 2010 will finally bring us to Greece to meet our fanatic fans over there . Can’t wait for that to be honest!

MER: Do you have any important messages to deliver for the young generation of Metalheads around the world?

Rick: Don’t forget where Metal is coming from. Listen to the classic stuff, there is plenty terrific stuff around !! And then move forward. When you’re playing in a band, have fun. That is the most important thing, and try to be creative. You don’t have to be the best guitar, bass player etc. around but try at least to bring an original touch within your music…..

MER: Is there anything you would like to add on behalf of Martyr to the Metal world?

Rick: Try to get hold of the Fear album and take the opportunity when able to see MARTYR live. I can assure you MARTYR won’t disappoint you. We have one of the most energetic front men around in Metal. Experience this when MARTYR and Rop are hitting your stage !! Hope to see you somewhere this year on the road. And in 2010 I hope a full length new MARTYR album will bring us even more back into today’s Metal scene!!

So… after 20 years the clan is back. Fear has never been this pleasant, haha!

MER: Rick I want to thank you for taking this interview for Metal Express Radio. I hope you guys in Martyr will retain your place as a Heavy Metal force. Congrats on Fear and I must say I cannot wait for a new release from you. Cheers mate!!

Rick: Thanx again! Cheers to you too and Rock On !!


  • Lior Stein

    Lior was a reviewer, DJ and host for our Thrash Metal segment called Terror Zone, based out of Haifa, Israel. He attributes his love of Metal to his father, who got him into bands like Deep Purple, Rainbow, Boston, and Queen. When he was in junior high he got his first Iron Maiden CD, The Number Of The Beast. That's how he started his own collection of albums. Also, he's the guitarist, vocalist and founder of the Thrash Metal band Switchblade. Most of his musical influences come from Metal Church, Vicious Rumors, Overkill, and Annihilator.

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