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NIGHTSTALKER Interview By - Ivo VirusWithShoes -

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To make things less confusing: this article is not about the Greek stoner band Nightstalker nor is it about the any of the criminals, comics, videogames, movies or the military unit or the hundred other things called “Nightstalker”, “Night Stalker” or “The Nightstalker”… 

No, this is about the Belgian Nightstalker, a dark, sinister synthwave project that creates the perfect soundtrack for long nightly rides to bad places. Recently the properly named E.P “Destination Dystopia” was released and where a lot of synthwave tends to be overly nostalgic, Nighstalker [BE] sets itself apart by taking a more modern approach with eerie synths and additional guitar tracks. We asked a few question to the man behind Stüdd Johnson, the Nightstalker, the Mister Hyde to Bram Van Cauter, about being a misfit, lewd teenagers and even lewder videostore owners.   Official Video “Death Chaser” from “Destination Dystopia” 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GcF_VmG4t7k   

SF: Hi, Stüdd Johnson, I hope you're doing well. For everybody who doesn't know Nightstalker yet, could you briefly introduce it and tell us how it all began?   Stüdd Johnson​: Hey there! I’m currently awake for about 40 hours and feel like I stumbled straight off a Romero film set.I’m on the couch having my huge ri†ual coffee with my cappuccino coloured crosseyed cat Clowie. That aside: I am doing fine.
  
As for NightStalker: I’ve always been a sucker for 80s retro/action/sci- fi movies and culture. I lived in a pretty uninteresting neighbourhood surrounded by uninteresting people. I felt out of place. The endless pastures, the football clubs and the blandness of living in a small village made me feel like an alien life form. Like most outcast kids I found a release from all this in cinema and books. That was my diet and possibly salvation. I remember having my bedroom walls plastered with horror/action posters and for a few years I even had a life sized cardboard Robocop figurine facing my bed. 

I got all of these from our local video store where I spent many hours being fascinated by all these weird and/or forbidden movies and culture. I remember the owner: he had a ferocious combover and was always dressed in polyester trainers, white sport socks and flip flops. That video store turned into an insulation or heating business over ten years ago.

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Anyway… I digress… That fascination with all things outside of the norm gradually developed into tape trading and a two decade stint in the metal scene. Making my own xeroxed magazines and sending and receiving mail on the daily. When I was fifteen I released my first full DIY magazine limited to 100 copies. I released a bunch ever since. 

NightStalker is a bit of a nostalgic trip to those days.  SF:​ ​ People who only know you from Nightstalker will not know this but before Nightstalker, you were in a metal band called Herfst. With that band I think you've spent a lifetime in the rehearsal room, tracked a hundred songs and hit a million stages across Europe and despite great reviews never got what you deserved. You, as the leader of the band, were very open about the split and how much energy it costed you to keep that train rolling. How did you pick yourself up after the break-up?  

 SJ​: I founded Herfst right after graduating high school back in 1999 with two friends. We even had a sort of ceremony close to the forest behind my house. Back then the whole extreme metal thing was still ‘fresh’, ‘dangerous’ and counterculture in the suburban hell we dwelled in. Initially I did not see us performing live since I had a pretty serious case of stage fright (still do).  
But here we are/were… 170 gigs later… 

I have poured my heart and soul into the band and the better and more mature the music became the more any label/media interest waned. It felt like fighting an uphill battle. Losing a bunch of band members/friends, a string of health problems, a heavy depression, etc did not help either. People who know me know I might not be the easiest person to work with but I believe we did write some killer records. Towards the final releases it became more and more of a one man project (with me doing everything from lyrics to writing vocal lines to doing artwork) but that started to take it’s toll. The recordings of ‘Towards Haunted Shores’ were a nightmare: I had to re record all guitars thrice (!) including ALL rhythm guitars & solo’s. My amp blew up during the reamping process. Our then vocalist didn’t bother to show up on time etc etc… Working super hard, pouring your heart and soul into something that doesn’t work is heartbreaking. I realised it frustrated me more than it was giving me pleasure.
  
That aside: I’m still good friends with most of my ex bandmates. We had some amazing experiences: the CZ tour comes to mind, MetalDays twice in front of a killer audience, winning a bunch of contests back in the early 2000s, working with Dan Swanö twice… And not to forget some of the crazy afterparties like the one in Leipzig mere months ago, haunting Metal Frenzy’s spooky hotel etc.  
And we did write some good records, in my opinion. I’m especially proud of our last record ‘Towards Haunted Shores’, the preceding ‘An Oath in Darkness’ and ‘Necro†ica’ and especially working with Dan Swanö twice was a highlight for me. 

  SF: Can you remember when you first discovered synthwave? 

  SJ​: It’s a cliché but the Drive soundtrack did it for me. I was living a pretty bohemian lifestyle back then and remember cruising around in my shitty little beat up second hand car while blasting Nightcall through those dodgy speakers every evening. It hit me right in the feels and it came at the right time: I was growing increasingly bored with the whole metal scene and this was a weird mix between something new and fresh and something nostalgic and escapist.   SF: Something that everybody has noticed and has become your "signature", is that phat, crunchy guitartone. How difficult was it to make that fit into Nightstalker?   SJ​: Initially I planned to have no guitars at all on the E.P. I hadn’t touched my axes in a few months and felt no real desire to do so. Somehow I did end up picking up my Skervesen and adding a few rhythms and leads here and there. That aside: I’m not that happy with how I mixed them on the EP. Given that it was a debut release they turned out alright, but they could have been incorporated better. I’m writing new songs for the full length now and they will be way more present & well mixed. Some songs have 4 layers of rhythm guitars at once. Not easy to merge these with synth wave since they often operate in the same frequency range as the synths. But the good news is: I’m learning quickly and the latest songs I have written sounds absolute MONSTROUS. I use the Kemper Profiling preamplifier to record all of these.  

I’ve gradually learned to love the instrument again even though we quarrel all the time.  

 SF: How are the reactions to your debut E.P. “Destination Dystopia” so far?  

 SJ​: I’m extremely grateful that people really dig the music & concept. The tapes and legal downloads are selling really well, way better than anticipated. What surprises me is that barely anyone in Belgium buys them on shows. 

I get most of my support from abroad. I’ve sent tapes to Belgium, France, Holland, Germany, Greece, Italy, Spain, Sweden but even quite a lot to the US! Just today a dude from New Jersey ordered five! Every little bit of support is greatly appreciated & every mail is answered. It reminds me a bit of the tape trading scene in the mid nineties!  

  SF: Something that I want to ask you, being a veteran and an active member of the metal scene. How much have the musical landscape and the audience changed?   SJ​: As for me: most of the magic is gone. Partially due to becoming older, but also due to the inherent nature of the scene. Back in the mid nineties when I started to dwell in the sewers of the underground this genre was rebellious and ‘edgy’; not something you could find at your local H&M. After a while we got a super slow callin modem or whatever those things (that helped) are called and an ancient Apple computer at home. I remember how my family couldn’t use the phone every time I was downloading something. Not easy, when you’re a lewd 15 year old if you know what I mean ;) I remember how happy I was every time a package from god knows where hit the doorstep. I remember tape trading & writing actual letters to people from all over the world. We would put glue on our stamps to be able to recuperate them. I still listen to a ton of metal but partially due to ‘shitty experiences’ and a dissolving interest I have no real ambition to be a part of it any more. I do visit the occasional metal gig and keep following interesting bands but I do my own thing now. As for Herfst: I didn’t see the joy in it anymore when you load up 5k worth of gear into a 1.5k car to drive 150 kilometers to play in front of 8 uninterested drunks for beer money. That’s cool when you’re 16. Add to that a few times of almost being signed to a big label. A few festival cancellations… Begging every year to be featured on a festival and nothing happening.… Mailing 200+ zines and having 7% bother to even OPEN them… Nah. I’m over that. I simply loved the band too much to let it continue like that…  

  SF: You've recently pulled in your old bandmate Steven Vanderperren as a drummer. I know that he is a technical, tight, hardhitting badass muthafucka but did he have any trouble adapting to this style? And how much of a technical nightmare was it to build the current set-up?
   
SJ​: Steve is arguably one of the best drummers in the Belgian scene, period. He was always the rational, cool one while my mind was hopping all over the place. We’re good friends and we respect each other’s work and personal traits. We don’t hang out every weekend nor do we feel compelled to but we know we can rely on each other and our musical ideas complement each other extremely well. While he often drums technical, intricate genres this is of course a whole other story. But I have the feeling that he’s having an awesome time on stage being the driving rhythmic force. It’s definitely an addition to have him aboard live!  

As for the sound: the first show was a bit of a mess but he invested in a killer Alesis Crimson mesh electronic kit recently, loaded with my NightStalker drum samples. Works like a charm!   
The new stuff I’m writing have more complex rhythms and details going. I try to stay away from common ground as much as possible.  

 Snippet of “Destructron 2164”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NVkxkTnMwMw   

SF: Are they any plans of forming a full Nighstalker synthwave band?   SJ​: I did toy with the idea for a while but a duo is ideal for me. An extra bass player might be interesting, if we’d ever consider adding someone to the fold. I might pick up my guitar during shows too. But I don’t really see us turning into a full fledged band or anything like that. We’re lone wolves, us synth wavers ;)  

 SF: What’s your top 5 80's television intro’s?   

SJ​: Gosh this is hard! Today I’d say: - Masters of the Universe - Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - Airwolf - Miami Vice - McGyver   

SF: A bit of a chiché but since we’re knee deep in nostalgia, what are five movies from the 80's that everybody should have seen?

 SJ​: I’m going to be rude and ignore the 5 title limit & just name some amazing that come to mind:   In the category ‘nostalgia & feels’: -E.T. -The Goonies -Ferris Bueller’s Day Off -Back to the Future -Gremlins   Adventure/sci fi: -The Karate Kid -Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom -Blade Runner -Star Wars -Terminator -Big Trouble in Little China   Horror: -A Nightmare on Elm Street -Evil Dead -The Shining -The Fog -Reanimator Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer The Texas Chainsaw Massacre   I could go on & on…

SF: Cassettes or LP’s?

 SJ​: Releasing both cassettes & an LP has been a lifelong dream. Managed to realise the first part so far… I’m really psyched to announce I’m working on a full length and promise that it will be available on both formats. I can’t wait to record, design & produce these and release them to the world.

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I can promise you guys one thing: the new stuff will be a lot more cinematic, a lot more dystopian and I will not stop until it sounds absolutely, horrendously MASSIVE!  

SF: To conclude this interview, what lies ahead for Nightstalker?  SJ​: We have tons op plans in store. Our shirts are being printed RIGHT NOW and will be available next week.The full length should be released somewhere during Fall.   
  
SF: Thank you for your time! It has been a pleasure.  
Nightstalker’s new track, the overwhelming, massive “Destructron 2164”, is featured on this compilation: 

https://distant-signal.bandcamp.com/album/lords-of-the-night  

If you want to buy a ultra fancy T-shirt, his debut EP on cassette or download it, head over to: nightstalker86.bandcamp.com  
Also follow him here for more news about the full length and the occasional teaser! 

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