Xeno is a Progressive Metal band from the Netherlands who like to truly experiment on their songs. The latest release, Reconstruction, contains three songs of varying lengths that each have different themes and influences woven throughout, creating unique, awe-inspiring pieces of great complexity while maintaining cohesion. They recently took the time to answer some question, ranging from who they love to what they see for the future of the band. Two specific questions that really highlight just how diverse this band is are the list of their influences and their dream tour. Fans of those bands will likely hear things in Xeno’s music that sound familiar, comfortable. They truly are a killer blend of many excellent styles and sounds.
- Ruben Willemsen – Vocals/Bass
- Edwin Haan – Vocals/Guitars
- Jasper Bruggeman – Guitars
- Sean Lubbersen – Keyboards
- Lars van Mourik – Drums
MZ – Who are some of the main influences each of the band members have on their personal writing/playing styles?
Xeno – Each member answered, and it is a thing of varied beauty! Not a single repeated band.
Sean: Plini, Steven Wilson, Pink Floyd.
Edwin: Haken, Thy art is Murder, Persefone, Animals as Leaders.
Jasper: I built the sky, Leprous, Anathema, Syncatto, Tigran Hamasyan.
Vincent: Jeff Buckley, Tamino, Fink, Failure.
Ruben: Tesseract, One Hundred Thousand, Opeth, The Ocean.
MZ – There is a lot of crossover from Progressive to Power to Extreme and Death Metal in your compositions. Is there a predominant genre that all of you agree on, or is Xeno a true blend of everything?
Xeno – To us, Xeno is a true blend of everything. You could say that we take influences from various metal genres, the most predominant probably being death, djent and progressive, but if we’re talking about genres, you could place us in many boxes. If you look hard enough at an orange, you could make it seem like an apple if you try your best! It doesn’t really matter to us in which genres we are placed, as long as it’s still classifiable as metal. The joy of mixing things is that it gives us the freedom to write whatever we want without boundaries of a specific genre.
MZ – There are also some jazz elements scattered in. Is that something you may expand upon in the future?
Xeno – We would love to! Before Sean (on the keys) became addicted to metal, he was more into jazz. Especially the harmony and chords in jazz sound so unique to us, it’s a lot of fun to hear what happens when you mix that with a more metal-esque sound. The best thing to us about playing in a prog band is that you can combine all these influences as long as it’s a coherent whole. As we develop as a band, we also develop as individual musicians to try and learn something new every time. But, as you know, the world of music is endless. But every time we learn something new, we’ll try to use it.
MZ – Are there any other genres that want to bring in to the mix of your music? Blues, funk???
Xeno – We have already experimented with light touches of blues and funk, but we would to love to dabble in more funk influences. Apart from that it’s hard to say for now, we are open to all kinds of influences. Perhaps something a bit more drum ‘n bass of EDM oriented (Are we joking? Perhaps. Stay tuned..)
MZ – Reconstruction has a short, medium, and long song. Is there one length you prefer writing over another. Or do the songs just flow naturally?
Xeno – Definitely the second. When we start writing we almost never have an idea how long a song is going to be. It depends on many things, for example how much time it takes for the song’s instrumental or lyrical story to be told. I just so happens that our songs tend be longer, maybe because we have so much to say..? The only exception would be with our songs ‘Columns’ and ‘Sojourn’. With these songs we just wanted to make lengthy prog epics, we have a soft spot for those!
MZ – What is the Xeno writing process? Do you each bring ideas to the table or work on things together?
Xeno – Mostly one of us comes up with an idea and works it out themselves until they are done with it or don’t have any further inspiration. Then the rest of us continues, layering and building the song together until it is finished. Everyone has a part to play in writing their own parts, and we are all critical to new ideas or layers. Most of the time, however, the fundamental ideas come from Jasper, Sean and Edwin at this time, but it may change. We have a new member amongst our ranks who is quite the scribe so to speak.
MZ – You tend to not go for the “standard, radio-friendly” Progressive Metal sound. Is that intentional or do you just write what’s in your hearts/minds?
Xeno – Yeah, we write what’s in our hearts and minds. That just happens to be not very ‘radio-friendly’ haha. There is a creative freedom in not trying to please listeners on grand scale, it’s something we hold dear when we come up with crazy stuff! Maybe one night, when the blood moon rises, we will write something more radio friendly. We already came pretty close with ‘Closure’ once. Also, some of our members have more radio-friendly projects outside of Xeno. It could well be that these influences sneak into our music. But, then again, we don’t know. The one thing that we really want is to not be predictable, and we think we’re doing quite well in the ‘unpredictable’ zone.
MZ – What inspired you to add Gregorian Chant style vocalizations?
Xeno – A simple answer would be that we love choirs. Choirs make music sound big and majestic, and something about hearing so many layered voices resonate with us at a primal level.
But in the context of this EP, we wanted to expand on what was already there. The older work ‘Columns of Creation’ already had choirs in it, so when we decided to rewrite it, we got especially enthusiastic about it. ‘Columns’ for example is a track about the concept of creation and life, so a more orchestral and choir focused sound fitted really well in our opinion.
MZ – Are you thinking of expanding the string and horn sections on future recordings? Maybe adding wind instruments as well?
Xeno – Xeno – Maybe, this is something we never really plan. It just happens when we get into new songs. We don’t really want all our tracks to sound orchestral and define our sound that way. But on the other hand, we think our love for orchestral sections will probably manifest again eventually! Good point about the wind instruments, it has sparked an interest! We feel like that’s something that would be fun to explore more in the future. Then again, it depends on the song and what it needs. There is a long-standing controversial idea to include a piccolo solo in one of songs. It will happen when the time is right.
MZ – Being based in the Netherlands, are you hoping to expand to touring more throughout Europe? Any plans to try to get to North or South America?
Xeno – We would love to play anywhere to be honest. As long as there are people showing up and having a good time, we’re happy to play. Going on a tour seems like a dream, be it in Europe, the Americas, Asia or Australia. As long as it’s not Antarctica we would love to play every continent or even every country! But it seems like we still have quite the road ahead locally, and we should focus on our local scene before expanding toward a different continent. First the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany, hopefully then the rest of Europe, and maybe then we can go further abroad. But who can say, you never know what’s around the corner. All we know is that we are going to keep chipping away at the block. A lot of small steps lead to large strides, and who knows, perhaps we’ll get noticed by some big agency or booker who could help us finance a tour like that. That would be awesome!
MZ – What is your dream tour lineup, as an opener and as a headliner? Who do you want to tour with, and where?
Xeno – That is a very difficult question to answer, as there are so many great bands out there: it’s almost impossible to choose. We don’t want to make anyone feel left out!! (Please forgive us) Alas, here goes nothing:
A dream tour would be a package of Opeth, Porcupine Tree, Tesseract, Haken, Animals as Leaders, Leprous and The Ocean, in any order you can imagine: you can be sure all of Xeno will be throwing their bras and panties at these talented artists from the front row!
As for who we would like to tour with: all of the above obviously! But we thought it might be interesting to answer this in a way which bands we think we would be a good fit to. To us, one band checks the boxes of both fandom and style of music: Persefone. These guys are right up our street, and we look up to them as well as understand what they want to do with their music. As for where, a tour through Europe would be amazing, although any country or continent would make us happy. We chose Europe because a tour through Europe would make building a fanbase little easier as it’s a bit closer than the other continents!
MZ – Is there a desire to write or record a more straight-forward Power Metal or Heavy Metal song? Or are you a Prog Metal band to the last breath?
Xeno – There are some desires in the band to write something more straightforward, but it would not fall into the genres you mentioned: Deathcore or Djent seems more applicable to these more ‘straightforward’ desires. But, yes, we are a band who will keep trying to push our own envelope, and it seems that the sum of all our influences inside the band equals something you could call progressive metal. But we don’t really like to use labels as such: because what really makes something progressive? Is being boxed in to a genre really progressive? This is a question we have been struggling with lately, but it seems that the answer keeps eluding us: we might never find it, but maybe it’s the journey to something uncatchable that makes it something different. Is the act of defining something not conservative then? Excuse us, we’re rambling on an existential level, what was the question again..?
MZ – Now that the world seems to be opening back up some, are there plans to work on another full-length album?
Xeno – We are playing around with ideas and plans are definitely starting to form. I hope you will forgive us for being a little mysterious for the time being.
MZ – How do you feel about the current state of your regional metal scene (Dutch/Benelux/Western European)?
Xeno – It seems like the heavy genres are steadily rising in popularity: more and more people like heavy music. Maybe it’s because, since the emergence of Spotify, you can listen to anything without financial consequences which makes people more susceptible to experimentation. Back in the day you could only spend your money on 1 or 2 CD’s, making you a bit more careful as to which artists you would buy the record of, making a safe choice more alluring. We find it cool to speak to people, and also see people at shows of whom you wouldn’t expect them to listen to heavy music. And then people connecting over music who would never really come in contact with each other. It’s magical really.
MZ – What are your plans for 2023? What do you hope to accomplish in the next 12 months?
Xeno – First and foremost, the stage! We are incredibly passionate about playing live music for our dear audience. Playing international shows would be great, or bigger festivals.
But we also want to keep growing as a band an many aspects, the work is never done! We also want to write music for our next release, and utilise the new skills and talents we now have in the band.