About Me

Interview with Ill

Ill is an Atmospheric Black/Doom Metal band from Belgium that rose from the ashes of Quaedt in 2013, enforced with former Natan members.
Ill finally released their sophomore self-titled album in 2021 via Sounds Of Hell Records and is all about atmosphere, and prefers quality over quantity. The album was recorded in the corona lockdown in 2020 and the songs deal with dark visions and inner struggles like addictions and the urge to kill.
Wolf has taken some of his precious time to share the details about the band’s self titled album “Ill” with Metal Imperium. Get to know this extreme Belgian outfit better...

M.I. - First off, many thanks for taking the time to answer our questions.

No problem, thank you for the interview request.

M.I. - Ill is an Atmospheric Black/Doom Metal band that rose from the ashes of Quaedt in 2013. Why have you opted for the name ILL? Who/what is sick?

Back when we formed the band, we were looking for a short, strong name. One of the members came up with the name Ill, and we liked it. We looked if there were no significant bands with that name, and we took it. It was also perfect for a logo. And most of all, we think the band name perfectly fits our music. So, WE are Ill…

M.I. - What are the main differences between the debut album “Tabescas Utinam dei Volentibus” and the sophomore “Ill”?

I think the compositions on “Tabescas Utinam Dei Volentibus” were a bit more experimental in general. Maybe also a bit more psychedelic. The self titled album is a bit more straight forward, I guess. Both albums were produced on a very low budget, and have a quite organic sound. Which is something we like. 

M.I. - Why have you decided to release a second self-titled album instead of the first one? Did it happen because “Ill” is perfect to describe the state of the world at the moment or did you have it in mind already?

We didn’t have an album title in mind when composing the songs or entering the studio. And since we were recording while the corona hysteria was taking form, we thought this would be a fitting title for this album. The world is indeed in a sick situation, so it wasn’t too far fetched to go for a self titled album. 

M.I. - The lyrics for this album were written by vocalist Vladimir, and deal with dark visions and inner struggles like addictions and the urge to kill. Who or what do you feel the urge to kill?

He despises humanity and society, and it gives him morbid ideas. An other inspiration of him is his struggle with drug addiction and rehabs. He is “clean” since several years now, though. He still visits a psychiatrist on a very regular basis, and takes prescription drugs for his mental issues. I guess that’s all I can say about the lyrics.

M.I. - The songs for the album were written by guitarists Dood & DaniHell and the musical composition and arrangements by the complete band. Was it a difficult or an easy process?

I experience it as a fairly easy process. I have been playing in bands continuously with DaniHell since 2002 and with Dood since 2004. With Vladimir and Stof, I have been in bands on and off respectively since 2001 and 2004. That means we know each other well as musicians since we made a lot of music together and share a lot of live and studio experience through the years. The guitarists (being DaniHell and Dood) brought the ideas for riffs and also ideas for the compositions. I think that about 2/3 of the guitar riffs were written by Dood, the other 1/3 by DaniHell. And then, we worked on it as a band to find every member’s arrangements on their instruments and finalizing the composition as a band. 

M.I. - The album was recorded in the corona lockdown in 2020. How complicated or easy was it when compared to the first album? Did the band get together at the studio or were the decisions made online?

No, we are horrible when it comes to being online. We came together in the studio for the recordings. I personally love to record the drums playing together with the guitarists as “pilot guitars”. And for post-production sessions (editing/mixing/mastering), there were mostly 1 or more band members involved with the studio engineer as well. 

M.I. - Ill is all about atmosphere, and prefers quality over quantity. How do you define a quality song? What criteria does it have to follow?

It has to feel right for us. We work on things until the complete band is satisfied. Quite a few songs were thrown away in the process of songwriting when putting this album together. There is no “written rule”, but the music must be atmospheric. But I don’t know if that’s really a criterium.

M.I. - Your lyrics are written in your native tongue. Why do you opt to do it like that considering that it may not be understood by as many people as if it were written in English?

Because Vladimir feels very free when writing and performing in Flemish, and we simply don’t give too many f*cks about what outsiders want to understand. On the other hand, I believe the atmosphere Vladimir brings with his singing may bring the exact atmosphere as the lyrics he is singing at that moment. But that doesn’t mean he will always sing in Flemish. One of the songs we are working on for the next record is in English for example. On our first album, our previous vocalist wrote and sang in Flemish, English and in German. The language is not really an issue for us, that is up to the writer of the lyrics. Also, in the BM scene, I believe it’s quite common to have lyrics in different languages.

M.I. - The last track of the album is “Marche Funèbre” which is also the name of the funeral march hymn by Chopin. How did the idea of doing your own interpretation of this track come up? How challenging was doing it?

Actually, on the album tracklist, the track is called “Dodenmars”, which also means funeral march in Flemish. But to come back to your question: we were thinking of a cool outro for the album, and we like this piece from Chopin. So we asked Sonja Tavormina to arrange and record this for us. Sonja is a talented harpist who plays acoustic and semi acoustic  harps. She recorded it for us, and we put some vocals with effects over it. I think it’s the darkest version that I have ever heard from that funeral march. 

M.I. - Musically, which bands/albums have inspired you for “Ill”?

For me personally, I think that is very hard to tell. I listen to a big variety of musical styles and very different bands. I enjoy raw BM, but also Death/Doom music, avant garde stuff, classic rock, but I can also enjoy a good deal of instrumental classical music & classical choirs, or Goran Bregovic & His Wedding and Funeral Orchestra, some folk music or just Sòlstafir or Primordial. Unconsciously, I guess we get inspired by several things we listen to, but I can’t say I am more inspired by this or that music for this album.

M.I. - The album is quite interesting, innovative and features several avantgarde and jazzy elements. How did it turn out like this? Was it your intention all along or did you keep on adding elements until it sounded perfect? Were all the band members in sync with the decision?

It is just something that we do. It comes naturally. DaniHell has a big influence on that aspect of our music. He had been playing in a jazz/funk band in a long gone past. He has it in his way of playing and composing, so that’s why he needed to be in the band. All members are quite well in sync with everything that gets released, otherwise we work on it until everyone is satisfied with the final result.

M.I. - I admit one needs more than one listen to get into the mood of the album because one discovers new details with each listen and it’s awesome having an album that keeps on giving us more and more. What reactions did you receive to it?

That’s something typical for music like this, I guess. I call it the Pink Floyd element of Ill. Listening to albums so many times, and then at once you recognize something you haven’t noticed ever before. The reactions are a bit mixed, but mostly positive. There are always those who enjoy music from the heart, like this. Even if it might take a few spins to come to that point. And there are always those who expect a sharp, more mechanical modern sound, or less “out of the box” music. 

M.I. - The cover includes a bird, some trees and psychedelic rays... what’s the meaning of all of this? What’s its connection with the album?

The album cover is part 1 of 3. The other parts are illustrated in the booklet. On the cover, the raven has approached a teddy bear with rays coming out of its eyes. Those rays fit the psychedelic or experimental aspect of our music. In the second part of the artwork, the raven is destroying and eating the teddy bear. That stands for the destruction of innocence. In the third part the raven lies dead next to the remains of the teddy bear. Somehow in was the raven’s downfall. In the landscape in the background there’s a tree in the distance, with a person hanging on a noose. That person hanging there is an element from the song “Vals Ontwaakt”, where someone wants to escape by hanging himself. It all stands for the f*cked up world we live in. 

M.I. - The album has been out for seven months already and you have played it live. How did the shows go? How did the fans react to the new songs?

We only did 2 local shows since the album release. The album release show was in a very nice venue, but with very stupid corona restrictions. There was only a limited amount of people allowed in the venue, and they had to sit at tables with a face mask on. It was a very strange view from the stage. The show itself went quite well. Then, we played at Bokkenrijderfest, and that was a crazy show as well. First of all, until the day of the gig, we didn’t know if Dood would be playing live with us, since he hadn’t been rehearsing with us for that show due to a corona infection and the quarantine time after the infection. In the end, he played along, so we practiced a few songs on stage when the doors were still closed. The other crazy aspect with that show was that right that weekend, new corona restrictions were ordered by the government. At once, all venues had to close at 11PM, so we had to change the time scheduled for the event, and it was a blow for us when it comes to the amount of visitors. At once, we had to play at 7PM. Anyway, that gig was not our best live experience, although the crowd reacted in a positive way. But that’s how it goes. You take it as it comes.

M.I. - Considering that many shows got cancelled due to the pandemic, I believe you haven’t been able to properly promote the album. Are you planning on doing it this year?

We are planning some shows this year, while keeping in mind it might all be in vain, depending on what “they”(government or whoever) decide. We hope to do some shows, and at this moment, there is hope it will happen.

M.I. - Ill played some exclusive shows in Belgium and Germany through the years, with bands like Valborg, Ostrogoth, Gamma Bomb, Sardonis, Natan, Mother, Insanity Reigns Supreme, Marche Funèbre, Necrotic Woods, Myrkvid,... how eager are you to go back on the road? 

We would love to promote our new album, so we are quite eager to do some shows and or mini tours here and there.

M.I. - Have you been writing new material in these months between the album release and now? Has the pandemic been a source of inspiration for you?

Yes, we have been writing new material for sure. If we go on like this, we might actually be recording something later this year. Although that might be optimistic. 
The pandemic itself is not a source of inspiration for me personally, it’s just a stupid situation.

M.I. - Feel free to share some final words with your fans and Metal Imperium’s readers.

First of all, I want to thank you, Sónia, and Metal Imperium for the interview. It was a pleasure. To the readers of Metal Imperium: support your underground! Keep going to gigs, as far as that’s possible, and keep buying underground bands’ merch. Don’t take anything for granted, the world is in a strange and uncertain situation.

For Portuguese version, click here

Listen Ill on BandCamp

Questions by Sónia Fonseca