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Interview: Diggeth – The Dutch heavy metal band with the ‘acoustic guitar test’

This interview was originally published by the Get Ready To Rock Website here

Some bands, regardless of how big they they are, what size venue they are playing or how many albums they have released just manage to grab you straight away with hard, punchy, instantly memorable rock tunes. When I wandered into Hastings’ historic rock pub, The Carlisle, with an old friend last summer I was immediately taken with the band who came on stage a few minutes later – Diggeth.

It’s all down to the “acoustic guitar test” claims guitarist and lead singer, Harald: “Everything we write we always have a criteria. We must be able to play it on an acoustic guitar. That’s the test. Because it is very easy to write all kinds of guitar riffs and string them together and on electric guitar everything sounds big. But we always do the test, grab an acoustic guitar and sing into it. Is there a song?”

Diggeth are Harald te Grotenhuis (guitar/vocals), Alco Emaus (bass) and Casper Bongers (drums) and are a metal three-piece from the eastern side of the Netherlands. I catch up with the band in after a sound-check prior to a return to the Carlisle stage later that evening as part of a UK tour.

The songs

Citing influences like AC/DC, Metallica and Lynyrd Skynyrd, songs like ‘Kings of the Underworld’ and ‘See You In Hell’ (from the band’s last album) have all the hallmarks of classic metal anthems and stand up well alongside those of much better-known bands.

They explain a bit more about the process behind them.

Harald “We jam a lot together. We are really a jamming band. I guess like the classic bands did. It’s not that difficult to come up with all kinds of intricate guitar riffs but the thing is to write something you can sing over. My wife is my best critic. Sometimes I play her a song and sometimes she says to me well it’s still in my head after a day or two and sometimes she says nah I’ve completely forgot about it. Sometimes we come together and write something on the spot. Sometimes it’s something I’ve worked on for days or weeks.

Casper: “We spend a lot of time jamming together with the three of us getting the sound, the bass, the whole dynamic.”

Alco: “We have a certain frame that we work in and we have a certain sound. That’s the starting point.”

Harald: “We always try to keep it as simple as we can. We’ve played in bands before and we were always gluing stuff together you know, riffing: A riff, B riff, C and here we’re gonna do a break but that to me is like a puzzle. If you listen to a classic band like the Beatles or the Stones or Creedence Clearwater Revival they have memorable songs. It’s the same thing with playing a guitar solo. You can play a lot of notes and do all kinds of techniques and it’s amazing if you can do that. But to me the best is if you can play a melody that sticks in your head. So that if you are on your bicycle to work tomorrow morning and you whistle that melody that’s the thing for me.”

Alco: “In a three-piece band the drums and the bass have to be tight, all together. So Harald can do his singing and when he plays a solo we go to the back of the sound a little bit but we still provide solid bass and drums.”

Harald: “What I like about it is sometimes I come up with stuff and as soon as he starts playing the bass to it and the drums come in nine times out of ten we have already started to simplify it. OK I came up with something and it’s already too much – bring it back to something that is memorable and sticks. There are many bands that play music and you have to listen a couple of times before you get it and we sometimes do that, too, but I also like it something that grabs you.”

Casper: “When the first note is like woah!”

The Band

Diggeth has been around since 2004 but Harald and Alco have been playing together in bands even before that, for around 17/18 years now. Casper, a couple of decades younger than the other two, is the new boy in Diggeth. Becoming a member two years ago was something of a dream come true for him.

Casper: “I first saw Diggeth when I was 13 and I was like wow! What the fuck is this? I was so excited. I had been playing drums and at home in the basement with the drum-kit. I would put on the first LP and play along with it. And I went to every show with my neighbour in my home town and one time, one new year’s day I think, they asked they asked me to join them for a jam in the studio, just for fun. Then about five years later I was with the band as a stand in drummer. Twenty songs and one week to learn them…”

Alco: “We recorded our last album ‘Kings of the Underworld’ and we got a lot of gigs lined up to promote the album -big ones, small ones and some festivals. But then our drummer decided to quit. We asked Casper to help us out and after two or three shows he joined us officially.”

Harald: ”With a three-piece band everything just has to be right, especially the drums and the bass. It gives me as guitarist and singer a freedom to do all kinds of stuff. It has to be spot on. Since we have had Caspar in the band it’s given us a lot of energy. It’s like wow things are taking off. We are playing a lot more gigs. We have just finished the basic tracks for our next albums. We have recorded ten new songs. We built our own studio last year. That gives us a lot of freedom. And now all of a sudden there are labels and bookers that are interested.”

Alco: “We are getting noticed.”

The shows

This is the band’s second tour in the UK, following an initial series of gigs last summer where I first encountered them

Harald: “We played our first gig [of this tour] on Thursday in London and there were people in but they we in the corners and we said OK let’s see what happens when we start to play people were like woah what’s happening and all of a sudden there were all the people in front of us. Everyone was paying attention.”

Alco: “We try to make a show of it.”

Harald: “The people who gave us feedback afterwards were like ‘wow there is something happening between the three of you – it’s good music but it’s also great to watch’ and I think that’s the biggest complement you can get as a band.”

Casper: “Obviously being a rock fan and a metal fan I feel very humbled to be able to come to England with Diggeth and play. All those famous bands that originated here it’s like wow we’re in England.”

Alco: “I never imagined when I was young that at 40 I would be in England, playing with a band playing the music that I love to play. Yesterday someone told us that the place we at in Reading Motorhead had played here and Iron Maiden. And we were like are you kidding me? Amazing.”

Harald: “If someone would have told me thirty years ago that in thirty years you will be playing in England and you will be playing clubs were like Iron Maiden had played I would have gone insane probably.”

The band’s third (as yet untitled) album will be released later this year.

https://www.facebook.com/Diggethmusic/

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Related article:

Review – Diggeth at Hastings 2016

Interview feature: The Stretch Report – Devon-based band opening for some of the big rock giants

Uriah Heep, Wishbone Ash, Grateful Dead…

The Stretch Report are rapidly becoming the go-to support act for rock giants when they visit the south west of England. After well-received performances opening for Uriah Heep and then Wishbone Ash the band are now scheduled to support the latest reincarnation of The Grateful Dead – Live Dead 69, who are performing with original keyboard player, Tom Constanten, in Exeter on 29th January. Not bad for four middle-aged guys from Plymouth who got together four years ago when they met up at a friend’s funeral.

The band are Rob Giles (aka Razor) guitar and vocals; Ian Cooke – guitar and vocals
Chris Moss – drums; and Gary Strong – bass. I catch up with three of them. Bass player, Gary, is currently in New Zealand but the rest of the band assure me he’ll be back in time for the Dead gig.

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Rob works at Plymouth University in IT and research, Chris is in open-cast quarrying on Dartmoor and Gary lectures in paramedicine. Ian chips in that by contrast he is “the full-time rock-star of the band” but he also does a bit of painting and decorating on his days off from being a rock star. The four had known each other for years and had played in various bands over the years but met up at an old musician friend’s funeral in 2012.

Rob: “We talked about getting together for a jam and we met up and it gelled.”

Most part-time musicians getting together to form a new band at their age may be content simply playing the pubs and having some jam sessions together. But The Stretch Report set their sights higher and it’s clearly paying off. The band got a major boost being offered a slot supporting Uriah Heep at the Cheese and Grain in Frome back in 2013.

Ian: “Uriah Heep was our first really big gig. It was nerve-wracking before but we had a packed venue and the energy came out of the audience. It was very, very positive.”

Chris: “We learnt a lot from that gig that we didn’t know beforehand and I think we tap into some of the ethos of those late 60s/early 70s bands by not being over-rehearsed and having some spontaneity.”

More recently, the band supported Wishbone Ash when they played Tavistock in November.

Rob: “The Wishbone Ash gig went really well and the band were very generous and gave us a shout out when they came on. Then the Grateful Dead thing came off the back of that. We are really looking forward to playing Exeter. It’s a privilege to play alongside these big bands.”

The band’s musical influences are wide and varied but a little-known late 70s Stiff Records single “Police Car” by original Motörhead guitarist, Larry Wallis, came to provide a unifying template for the embryonic Stretch Report when they first got together.

Rob: “I wanted to do ‘Police Car’ even before the band got together. I’d heard it on a Mojo compilation of 70s tracks you should have heard of but haven’t.”

Ian: “That song gave us a sense of purpose. It gave us a thread we could follow musically.”

The band recorded a video of ‘Police Car’ back in 2012 and their version has won favour with the song’s original creator.

Rob: “Larry Wallis said he liked our version and gave us his blessing. He hopes he can finally earn some royalties out of it.”

Perhaps one of the reasons why the band has gone down so well with classic rock audiences is the wide variety of rock influences they bring to their music. Certainly, there’s a spiky, punky edge to some of their music but there is much more as well.

Chris: “Punk and new wave were big influences, especially The Clash and the Damned. But we all share a passion for rock in all it’s guises, from prog to punk.”

Ian: “Motown, soul and glam was the music I listened to growing up and then punk. I got my first electric guitar just as punk came out but thanks to one of the members of the band I was in at the time, I was also listening to Hendrix and Cream as well.”

Rob: “Music is a voyage of exploration. As a teenager I would go to second-hand record stores and buy old albums simply on the strength of the cover art. I would discover all kinds of different music like that. One of the albums I found was Mad Shadows by Mott The Hoople and Mott and Ian Hunter have been major influences ever since.”

Ian: “As for Gary. He saw the Clash in 1981 on the same tour as I first saw them. You know straight away then that he gets it and we were on the same page musically. Gary has a really nice retro warmth to his delivery on bass. A nice fat vintage Glen Matlock-type sound. Neil Finn is a big influence for him, too”

The Stretch Report’s live act includes covers of songs from the likes of Robin Trower, Mick Ronson and Roxy Music, as well as the aforementioned ‘Police Car’. But one of the band’s originals, ‘Six Degrees’ written by Rob, has proved to be a crowd favourite. “That’s gone down even better than the covers,” confirms Ian and a professionally-shot video of that song will be available online shortly.

So what of the future?

Rob: “I’d love us to do a festival. I think we’d be a fantastic festival band. But if you’re talking about the next major act we’d like to open for, I’d love us to support Ian Hunter and The Rant Band.”

Chris: “I’m keen we go into the studio and record an EP. We’ve got two or three original tracks we can work on.”

Ian: “Getting the video out is important so I’m looking forward to that. It’s shot by the same guy who did the ‘Police Car’ video for us. But I also always look forward to us playing together. The fact that we are very old friends, not just a random bunch of musicians that have got together, that helps – that we know each other well and we know each other’s quirks.”

A band with bags of experience, bags of enthusiasm and who are building a reputation as a reliable support act for some of the biggest rock icons of the 60s and 70s, The Stretch Report are well worth keeping an eye on.

The Stretch Report play the Exeter Phoenix on 29th January supporting Live Dead ‘69. Tickets here

Check out the band on Facebook here

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photo credit: David Reese