EXIT 31 STILL ON HIGHWAY
In the summer of 1995 Dutch rock band Dufus was founded. After nine successful years, its members decided to rename the band Exit 31. In 2005, after two years of hard labour, the band signed a record deal with YeaYeaYeah Records. In 2006 they finally released their debut album 'Phonogenic' followed by 'Exit 31' in 2008 which was recorded in the Bamboo Room Studio in Cincinnati, Ohio by famous producer Erwin Musper (Anouk, Scorpions, Van Halen). Recently Exit 31 released their first DVD "Live @MPMF". The band was captured on tape during their performance at the Midpoint Music Festival in Cincinnati, Ohio (USA) in 2008.
Exit 31 can best be described as close-harmony rock, creating a middle road between modern pop-rock and stern yet melodic power-rock. Currently the band is working on their 3rd album. LazyRocker.com visited the band in their own studio in hometown Stein in the South of the Netherlands and sat together with the musicians and talked all night about their past, present and future.
Lazy Rocker: You started the band under the name Dufus in 1995. How were the early days?
Ivo: I started Dufus with long time friend Florian. In the beginning it was only the two of us playing songs in the attic of his house. I must confess that I started playing guitar and getting interested into rock music on a relatively “old” age. But I made it quickly up… I’m a fast learner… haha. With Garry joining the band a dream of beginning in a rock band became reality. Garry is born in Malaysia and when we met he couldn’t play the guitar properly. He was the king of badminton but that aside haha. Three months later Garry came back from Malaysia and it was impressive how his guitar playing had improved!!!
LR: What kind of music did you play in the early years? Already own songs or covers?
Garry: We started with playing covers. Especially Green Day, but looking back we covered everything that rocked in the early 90's... Cranberries, Live etc. Thinking back about that period it was completely crazy. We played over 100 gigs in the first years.
Ivo: The first show we did with Dufus was at the end of 1995. We had a full two hours set of covers, but quickly we added our own songs to the setlist.
LR: After nine years, you decided to rename the band to Exit 31. How did you come up with the name? And why the change?
Ivo: With Dufus we were in 1999/2000 at our top. We won important prizes and travelled over the whole country. So you meet many people who want something from you. We choose a manager, but in the end he... let's say it gentle... wasn't the right guy for us. After this experience we all decided that it was time for something new. Around the same moment David joined the band. The name Exit 31 is born during the Dufus period. We were recording the first album in Genk, Belgium and the last exit on the highway to enter Genk was Exit 31. At first we wanted to use the name as the album title.
LR: You describe Exit 31 as a close-harmony rock band, creating a middle road between modern pop-rock and stern yet melodic power-rock. What bands influenced you?
Garry: I loved the late 80's rock bands like Skid Row, Motley Crue, Guns ‘n Roses and Metallica. The harmonies all build up in “I don’t know how much” layers. The raw but at the same time clean sound.
David: I like the 'Keep The Faith' and 'These Days' period of Bon Jovi but I also love bands like Therapy? Especially during their Troublegum period. As a band we wanted to create our own sound so if somebody listen to one of our songs they will recognize us. All four members love and are mostly influenced by the American sounded bands. This music style fits us.
Ivo: Yes that’s right, we all love the big harmony sound like Queen for instance. I miss that sound nowadays when I turn on the radio. Not many bands play the music we are playing in the Netherlands.
Garry: David came in the band at just the right moment for us. We wanted a fuller, bigger sound. The greatest thing about David was and still is that he can play everything and anything. He can play guitar, play the bass and also sing… he’s in fact an one-man-band… haha.
David: I did follow Dufus for years and I never made it any secret that I wanted to play together with them. I still remember my first show with them. It was at the Pisart Festival. A crowd of 3000 people and we shared the stage with Di-Rect and Within Temptation. I nearly shit my pants… haha.
Garry: We all did…
LR: In 2005 you signed a record deal with YeaYeaYeah Records, owned and run by famous Dutch producer Erwin Musper (Anouk, Scorpions, Van Halen). How did you get in touch with him?
Ivo: That’s the only thing our former manager did right for us… One day he came to us and asked us who we would like to produce our first album. Any name… we thought he was bluffing.
Garry: We never thought about those kind of things before so we started searching in our cd collections to find some names of producers. It was until Ivo’s dad said "Hey guys, why won’t you give Erwin Musper a try?”
Ivo: My father knew him from the band Partner. Little research showed us that the man was a legend. Def Leppard, Van Halen, Scorpions, Danger Danger... We didn’t know that at that time… haha
David: We never thought Erwin would work with us… Till one day Ivo gets a call and receives Erwin’s phone number… The rest is history...
LR: In 2006 you finally released your debut album 'Phonogenic'. An album that you recorded in several studios in Holland and Belgium, but was mixed and mastered by Erwin Musper in his Studio The Bamboo Room. How would you describe that album now?
Ivo: We were already working on 'Phonogenic' during the Dufus chapter, but quickly after we completed the album the friction between our manager and us was at its boiling point. Due to possible law suits the release of the album was put on hold. Erwin helped us to solve the problems with him. He always believed in us. In fact when he first heard our songs he couldn’t believe we were a Dutch band and especially from Stein in the South of the Netherlands.
Garry: Erwin thought we were an American band… haha. So when Erwin started a few years later his own record label he called us and said "let’s refresh the songs you recorded so far and add some new tracks and release it under a new name. Let’s make a brand new start". The opening track "Bye Baby" is what I call a typical Exit31 song but in general 'Phonogenic' was a sort of greatest hits of Dufus… flowing into Exit 31.
David: I think that you clearly can hear which song is written during the Dufus era and what song have been added afterwards... The songs with more background vocals, more guitar, more melody in it for instance.
Ivo: We still play some songs from 'Phonogenic' but it was more a crossover album. Many different styles.
LR: Exit 31 became second during Nu of Nooit, a contest between rock bands. There is a rather strange story why you didn't win.
David: Working with a name like Erwin Musper is a blast. It opens up many doors, but at the same time it closes some.
Garry: Yes, that’s right. People of radio stations see Erwin Musper’s name on the back of our demo, single or album and think: ”ohh, these guys will make it for sure”.
David: And that’s what happened on the Nu of Nooit contest. We were far out the best band of the day according to some jury members… we didn’t win because they knew we were working with Erwin and thought we will make it anyway. That's what they said off the record.
Garry: If you want to show the best band at the Pinkpop Festival because that’s the prize you win… you got to choose the best band. Simple like that...
Ivo: If they all think that way we are going nowhere.
LR: In May 2008 you released your second album 'Exit 31'. You even recorded this one this one at Erwin Musper's Studio The Bamboo Room in Cincinnati, USA. How was working with him?
Ivo: With this album we really created our own sound. I think the difference between 'Phonogenic' and 'Exit 31' is like night and day. On the album 'Exit 31' we wrote more mature songs. We have grown as a band, the studio experience, the live experience …we’ve got more out of our instruments; this was the best we ever had recorded till that point.
LR: You just released your first live DVD 'LIVE @ MPMF', recorded during your performance at the Midpoint Music Festival in Cincinnati, Ohio USA in 2007. It contains 2 covers. One of them is Sting’s 'English Man In New York'. Not a usual song to cover. Why this song?
Ivo: 'English Man In New York' was one of the first songs we ever recorded as a demo… way back in 1995. I always loved the song and the voice of Sting, I still do. It’s a song where we always return to. It’s a song that everybody knows and can sing along with. That’s why we use it to let’s say “lighten up” the set list.
David: The beauty of this song is no matter how we or someone else plays it… it always remains very powerful and at the same time vulnerable.
Garry: Not so long ago we played the song in a acoustic setting there was this girl to play the saxophone solo in the end. And do you know what… she nailed it… it was so unbelievable. Very cool.
LR: Talking about acoustic stuff... During the DVD release party you did some acoustic songs which really sounded great. Any plans for an acoustic album someday?
Ivo: You know what it’s funny… My mother in law won’t listen to an album from us except if it would be an acoustic one... haha.
David: That's the same my father in law said to me haha. I can speak for all of us that there is always a chance to record something like that. But right now it isn’t the right time.
Garry: We have played acoustic sets many times. Not all songs are made for playing acoustic… there are songs you must play with the amplifier fully openes… haha.
Ivo: Still there’s always the idea to release an acoustic EP… but not for now. Still we have a great kick-ass country version of 'Tomorrow' and a reggae version of 'All The Bills'. These are originally hard rocking songs, so its extra fun to play these versions so now and then.
LR: You are working on your third album now. What can we expect? Will it also be produced by Erwin Musper?
Garry: Yes, Erwin will produce the album, but we record it here in this studio and then send it over to him in the USA where he does his magic thing. We're just getting started now… we can’t tell you much about it, but what I can say is that it will be a concept album. In the veins of Dream Theater’s 'Scenes Of A Memory pt2' and Queensryche's 'Operation Mindcrime'!!
Ivo: With that said… All songs stand on their own. So there is a story line but you also can listen to the songs separately. We were working on some songs and suddenly we came up with the idea to make not songs about you and me but over a fictive person. Somehow this fact did stimulate us to work out a storyline and write songs around that idea.
Garry: I can tell you we didn’t make it easy on ourselves. You’ll be surprised when you hear it. I promise you that... haha.
Ivo: Right now we have all the guide tracks ready… drums are filled in so when Garry comes back from his holiday we are going complete the tracks.
LR: Listening to that story about not winning the contest... Is it wise to record a third album with Erwin?
Ivo: We know that we can rely on Erwin’s craftsmanship… We were foolish in the beginning to scream from the rooftops that we recorded an album with the famous Van Halen producer Erwin Musper. In the end of the day… Erwin is only the producer... We know that now. He said to us "you have your own studio, you write your own songs and make up your own sound. I only master it, mix it and put my name on it… the rest is all up to you… Exit 31".
LR: Thanks guys for your time. Nice talking to you!
Exit 31: No problem. See you again at one of our gigs!
Ivo Penders - lead vocals & bass guitar
Garry Capel - guitars & vocals
David Capel - guitar & vocals
Bart Keltjens - drums