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A Dirty Dozen with TIMO ELLIS from NETHERLANDS – March 2023

| 23 March 2023 | Reply

According to a recent press release: “Netherlands have been melting faces since 2010 and is the brainchild of NYC heavyweight Timo Ellis who, in addition to massive success with Cibo Matto, has collaborated with the likes of John Zorn, Melvins and Gibby Haynes. This new album, Severance is another round of intense avant-sludge rock with conscious lyrics about the weight of the world around us. Never one to shy away from potent and thunderous volume, Netherlands have laid down another slab of righteous noise rock sure to please even the most distorted of ears.” We get Timo to discuss new music, influences, and more.

1. Tell us a little about your latest release.  What might a fan or listener not grab the first or second time they listen through?  Are there any hidden nuggets you put in the material or that only diehard fans might find?

To me SEVERANCE is basically a high energy, weirdo progressive-sludge-soul-noise-rock album. It was recorded by Kurt Ballou (Converge, High On Fire) at God City and IMO has the greatest drum and guitar sounds we’ve ever gotten on a record. And in terms of any hidden nuggets, not really, although I hope repeated listens might reveal (at best) how much work I put into crafting the all lyrics…here’s an example from the song “SWIMMING DOG”:

the consonance ‘tween a bald 

technocratic futurism/

humanist hope, keep the machines alive

and the ascendance of an

atomizing narcissism,

radically exacerbates the ecocide.

2. What got you into music, and can you tell us about the moment you realized you wanted to be a musician?

As a preteen I went to this summer camp in Maine, and I think the second year I was there (I was 11) this hesher water skiing instructor dude played “Neon Knights” by Black Sabbath, and “Good Times Roll” by The Cars, CRANKED on the stereo of his Camaro, for me and a couple of other kids… and it was pretty much a full-on secular religious experience! My whole life changed direction in that moment.

3. Building on that, is there a specific song, album, performer, or live show that guided your musical taste?

The foundational genetics of my musical taste come from the following five artists; The Cars, Black Sabbath, Van Halen, Michael Jackson, and Earth Wind and Fire. In high school I had my “hip hop and punk rock revolutions” which were hugely important too, but on a foundational musical level the “die had already been cast” by those five artists.

4. If you could call in any one collaborator to do a song with, who would it be, and why?

I would probably say Chris Thile of the avant-bluegrass quintet Punch Brothers, as I believe him to be the greatest living mandolin player, and possibly the greatest mandolin player that’s ever lived. I just find him to be utterly mind-blowing in terms of imagination, arrangement, singing, playing, everything!! IMO he’s an absolute BEAST on every level.

5. What is your favorite activity when out of the studio and/or not on tour?  What do you like to do to unwind?

I’m a long time sober person, so drugs and alcohol are off the table. Generally I am a total movie buff that’s probably the main way I regularly decompress from all the work. And if I’m being completely honest, I don’t really think I ever unwind fully; I kind of have an obsessive music making practice and have basically oriented my whole life so that I can just make music all the time/ as much as I can. As a single person I never used to take any vacations, or really even take breaks from my art/ music making practice at all. But as I’ve gotten older, and being in a LTR I’ve gradually realized that it’s extremely important to take breaks from time to time, as it is of course possible to (occasionally) physically and mentally/ psychologically burn out, etc. Also, EATING is great.

6. How would you describe your music to someone who’d never listened to you before? What is the one comparison a reviewer or fan has made that made you cringe or you disagreed with?

Semi-humorously (but only semi!) I would describe NETHERLANDS as, ”imagine if Philip Bailey from Earth Wind and Fire, H.R. from Bad Brains, David Lee Roth, and Nina Simone had a mutant baby, who grew up and then joined “Melvins/ Funkadelic” as the singer. And in terms of cringe-y reviews, it seems like people generally lump anybody who has a (relatively) unusual vocal style in with (the GREAT) Mike Patton, but who honestly I’ve never tried to emulate, or even been influenced by; so whenever people compare me to him it just seems kinda lazy (even though I obviously also understand why, on a certain level.) That, and when people troll-y comment on our songs as “not being metal (enough)” or being “hipster metal” (?) which of course is fine with me because NETHERLANDS isn’t really a metal band anyway (as much as I love metal!) We’re (much) more like weird nerds than “hipsters” anyway, at least IMO.

7. When your band is hanging out together, who cooks, who gets the drinks in, and who is first to crack out the acoustic guitars for a singalong?

Me being the only vegan in the band, um, makes us have to “organize our own meals” most of the time! haha. Personally I kinda loathe “humans on alcohol” at this point, but it’s also not really been a regular “thing” within the band for many years now. And in terms of an acoustic singalong, it would probably be me, because NETH plays as a duo now and it might be weird if drummer David starting loading his giant drum set in to jam around a campfire.

8. When was the last time you were starstruck and who was it?

Walking by Slavoj Zizek in Soho in Manhattan a few years ago. He was wearing grey sweatpants and a ratty looking old Polo-type shirt. 10/10.

9. What is the best part of being a musician? If you could no longer be a musician for whatever reason, what would be your dream job?

For me it’s playing live, recording in my own studio, and then *cranking* rough and finished mixes of stuff in my car. All the work / travel / admin parts of this job ARE fucking brutal after a while, and not at all glamorous. So yeah, playing live and “cranking music in my car” are pretty much still the peaks of this whole experience/ “lifestyle” for me (see question 2.) And in terms of an alt. dream job, honestly I have no idea! Maybe teaching teenagers something, or working at an animal sanctuary.

10. What is one question you have always wanted an interviewer to ask – and what is the answer? Conversely, what question are you tired of answering?

“how do you feel about modern techno-industrial-civilization as a whole, and what are the most urgent responsibilities of “humanity” required to mitigate against all the ecocidal excesses of our “species”? My full answer would be (way) too long to properly detail here, but in a kind of essential/ macro way I think human MEN need to urgently learn how to categorically STFU and stop torturing and killing each other (and everyone/ everything else!) with all their “lower passions”, hotheaded aggressive violent energy. IMO men need to fucking chill out/ “take the bench” for, let’s say….the next 1000 YEARS. And all the large-scale institutions that privilege and continue this kind of grotesque exploitation and state-sponsored violence need to be fucking ABOLISHED, immediately. And in terms of a question I’m sick of, I like talking so overall that hasn’t really been a problem yet! haha.

11. Looking back over your career, is there a single moment or situation you feel was a misstep or you would like to have a “do over,” even if it didn’t change your current situation?

I was an actively out-of-control drug abuser for about 15 straight years, and I have some deep regret about all the havoc I wreaked on myself, the people around me, and my family (while at the same time, surviving it it obviously made me who I am today, more or less on every level.) However I still wouldn’t wish what I went through on *anybody* else, as it was hellish, deeply destructive and profoundly lonely. I would say to anybody out there that’s currently in the deep throes of an addiction, to use all your might to override your habituated desires and try to get outside help ASAP, as it IS almost always possible to fundamentally transform and heal one’s life, even from the darkest, loneliest, most wretched places.

12. If you could magically go back in time and be a part of the recording sessions for any one record in history, which would you choose – and what does that record mean to you?

I think it’d have to be the sessions that culminated in The Lost Trident Sessions LP by The Mahavishnu Orchestra (1973). To me this record is one of THE pinnacles of creative human existence…it’s absolutely BLAZINGLY, insanely incredible and deep!! That, and/ or the sessions for Van Halen I (1978), which for me is still the godhead/ gold standard of rock music.

Anyway, thank so much/ PEACE/ I LOVE YOU/ NETHrock FOREVER!!!





Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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