Fourteen Twentysix – magic of the numbers

That this Dutch band is supposed to rise the dust around themselves tells a fact that their debut album called Lighttown Closure was downloaded for more than 50,000 times. With much more energy, creativity and self-confidence 1426 entered the creating process of the second album, which is expected to be released in early 2012, featuring Mick Moss of the Antimatter fame. Fourteen Twentysix is already known by establishing a formula which takes best of dark / alternative rock, electronica and melancholy. But, let’s start straight from the beginning. I hooked up recently for an interview with Chris van der Linden, the founder of the band, who together with the guitarist Tom van Nuenen set aside some time to talk for Prog Sphere.


Nick: When did you find out that the music is something you want to devote yourself? How was it back then when you were confronting directly the reality and your dreams? Have you been involved in any other projects/bands prior forming Fourteen Twentysix?

Chris: I come from a pretty musical family. While my grandpa was already passed before I was born I do know he played drums, banjo and a number of other instruments. In some ways it feels like I’m carrying on his tradition, while in life, I’ve never met him.

Chris: During my teenage years I listened to metal almost exclusively and played drums in a few metal bands. It was my first experience with digital recording, which was really in its early years at that time. After that I played in a progressive rockband called Sweet Assembler. We got some nice reviews and played a lot in Belgium. I left the band after some differences and decided it was time to put down the drumsticks and start my own band.

Nick: It’s clear that Fourteen Twentysix developed as your idea of blending melancholic dark rock and electronic music, but over these years it developed to an entity comprised as a group of musicians free to explore wide dimensions under the aforementioned genres. Tell me how was that transitional process from the starting point up to now?

Chris: I started Fourteen Twentysix with just a vague idea that I wanted to use digital drumloops and a lot of repetitive, hypnotic melodies and sounds. I really wanted this project to sound different from the traditional drums, bass, guitar bands I played in before. I worked on the PC with sequencers, samplers etc and a few acoustic instruments. Bands that influenced the sound where Tiamat (A Deeper Kind of Slumber album) and Depeche Mode. I loved how they blended electronic sounds with guitars. It also meant I worked alone, I didn’t really need an entire band to do what I wanted: realease music.

Chris: After I recorded a bunch of songs I put them on Myspace it turned out a lot of people liked it. Jelle, a befriended musician, helped me with mixing and some technical things and together with him we started thinking about playing live with Fourteen Twentysix. It meant we had to find people that would be interested in playing my songs, sort of like session musicians. One thing led to another and all of a sudden I was the “frontman” of my own band haha.

Chris: Since then we’ve grown as a group and we basically decided after Lighttown Closure that the next album would be a group effort, not a solo project anymore. The whole process took a lot of talks and getting to know each others wishes. For me it was all about letting my baby go, so sometimes it was hard. Now that I can hear the end result (our new album is nearly done) I am happy we did it. Things really have grown in ways I couldn’t have done on my own.

Nick: I came this far, but still didn’t ask about the name of the band. Would you talk about it or you’d rather keep it mysterious?

Chris: We make it a habit to not tell what it means. They are numbers of personal significance to me. I chose the band name to be abstract so that it triggers interest. Also, it leaves room for intepretation as opposed to a really recognizable name. The mystery remains… :)

Nick: 2008 saw your first release, an EP called Songs to Forget and I have to admit that it was pretty weird seeing this as an EP, as structurally it could be considered as a full-length. How did you feel about knowing that you are for the first time making something that serious what people will listen to?

Chris: Thanks for the compliment. At the time I was not aware of it. Really it was me and a guitar and keyboard behind a computer in a tiny “bedroom studio”. Ofcourse you want to make the best you can but I had no big expectations really. I was happily surprised when STF got great reviews which gave me confidence to move forward. Looking back at it now I think STF sounds pretty horrible, save for a few songs like Dead Lights and You Sleep Under The Trees. We still play these tracks live and people enjoy them.

Nick: The interesting fact is that you guys decided to offer your stuff through a netlabel. Was that planned or simply you didn’t try to get into a battle of getting yourself a contract and have your music released on a physical medium?

Chris: It really started with my desire to record and release music frequently and freely. I love putting things online (that sounds kinky) and in this time and age there’s a lot of sites, apps, tools to do that. During the making of Lighttown we felt it deserved maybe more than just an online release. However when we talked about our goals and what is needed to achieve them, a brick and mortar label seemed less and less interesting. We wanted as many people to hear our music and play live. Releasing online (even for free) resulted in over 50.000 downloads of our music which is something we could never do with a label. So our goal of having many people hear our music and get exposure was definately achieved this way.

Chris: For our new release we are further expanding our approach. In advance to the real release we will publish a number of free digital EP’s with new songs and obscure content. When the new album comes out it will be both digitally but also physical, a deluxe digipack and a limited edition box set. So we use the best of both worlds. Its hard work though without a label, we need to promote everything ourselves which is a day job in itself.

Nick: Speaking of that, how do you see the future of physical mediums? Is it bright?

Chris: People are humans (well most of them, Jelle our guitarist is a robot) and humans love having something real in their hands they can emotionally relate to. I listen to digital music at home, but when I’m at a show of a great band I still love to buy a cd and shirt, to bring a piece of that experience home with me. I think having digital products doesn’t mean physical products have lost their value. I think we’ll get to see a hybrid between the two, where you use your digital products for what they do best and your physical products for what they do best.

Nick: Last year you released an album called Lighttown Closure. How did the creating and recording process for it go?

Chris: The recording of Lighttown was really hard. It took a year and really stretched me thin. With Lighttown Closure I really have that notion and stress that it had to be better than the first EP. The planning was to write and record it with Jelle who finished STF with me and move into new territory, even make a lot brighter positive album. But Jelle got busy with school so I had to continue working alone again.

Chris: I ended up making a lot of slow and dark songs again and the end result was not totally what I wanted. I was dissapointed and quite a few times thought about not releasing it. Now I can see that its a great step forward, with a lot of beginner mistakes still, but a move forward. I have to thank Jelle, Tom, Martijn and Jeroen for helping me during that time , keeping me going.

Nick: Comparing to Songs to Forget, I kind of feel it’s more laid back, with less electronic work. But in general, the music, rhytmically I would say, remains the same. What is your take on this?

Chris: The music sounds similar because it has my musical signature, choice of sounds and atmosphere. I used about 10 times more electronica on this album but chose to have it sound organic. I also used more live drums which makes it sound more like a regular band, I was always worried that without the trademark digital drumloops I had on STF it wouldn’t be 1426 enough, but its just how the album evolved.

Chris: Also my intention was to make a really positive and bright album, but when Jelle dropped out of the writing process, the whole new fresh material we had going was pushed to the background. I wrote a lot of dark songs again and I realized that I still had some stories to tell about my past. Lighttown turned into this dark second chapter of my personal story. It came to be the closing chapter for me as a solo project and new start for the band as a group.

Nick: As we already talked prior this interview, let’s announce the new album that you are about to release. Mick Moss of Antimatter appears as a guest vocalist. How did you hook up with him? What can we expect from the new record comparing to what you released so far?

Chris: Yes! Mick Moss from Antimatter sings on one of our new songs called “Every Line”. We basically wanted to do something cool with our new album to make it stand out. I contacted Mick to ask if he was interested in singing on our album and he said yes. It really was that simple actually. It turned out he’s a totally relaxed dude and it was fun working with him. We sent him our song along with some guide vocal tracks I did. He then booked a studio in Liverpool (UK) to record his vocals. He sent those back to us and we then mixed it into the song, together with our own vocals. Every Line is one of the more darker songs on the album with a real filmic quality. Mick’s vocal performance is out of this world and I think people will be really blown away by it.

Chris: The new album is a group effort. We wrote a concept for it and then started writing and recording together, mostly out of an old farmhouse in the Dutch country side and our home studio (which has evolved since my bedroom hehe). Aside from our concept we all worked freely, brining in ideas, playing various instruments. Our drummer did a lot of keyboards etcetera. We completely ignored the “you are the bassplayer” stigma, everyone did what he felt was good for the song.

Tom: This worked especially well since we have multiple songwriters in the band. Most bands tend to have one or two guys who write the songs, and one or two performing them. In 1426, all band members have written music for other projects, so when we’re building a track it’s really easy to switch instruments with each other to see how that turns out. It results in songs and sounds that can be quite different from LC. Hearing the dub-bassline in Every Line, for example, it is instantly clear that it wasn’t Chris who wrote it.

Chris: After a few months of work we had about 25 songs recorded. We started trimming things down and detailing the songs that really stood out and worked with our story concept. The new music is really, really different from what we’ve done before. Sure, there’s still the same atmosphere and a lot of electronics but people will definately be in for a surprise. On a high level I think this album is really positive and more uptempo. Its about life, growth and moving forward. The album is also quite lengthy, a journey through light and dark, with a lot of different emotions. We wanted to address some of the issues people had with Lighttown, that it was too much the same for example.

Tom: We might have overdone it a bit, though (laughs). There’s so much stuff going on on this album, it’s crazy. It’s a mess of genres – but that’s also what makes it such a great album to me.

Chris: We are releasing a new website and first teaser video really soon so keep an eye out on www.fourteentwentysix.com

Nikola Savić is a prog enthusiast, blogger and author, in addition to being the founder of Prog Sphere, Progify, ProgLyrics and the ongoing Progstravaganza compilation series.
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