10 questions for Amenra

When lyrics are as heavy as those delivered by Belgian doom merchants Amenra (“I cast no shadow, light is too profound”), you need riffs to match - and the sledgehammer refrains that make up new album Mass VI are utterly crushing.

Now six albums in, the triple-pronged assault of guitarists Mathieu Vandekerckhove and Lennart Bossu and bassist Levy Seynaeve produces a seamless blast of distorted fury that is sure to shake venues to their very foundations as they tear across the UK and Europe with fellow rumble merchants Boris during February and March.

We caught up with Levy, Lennart and Mathieu to get the lowdown on their rig highlights, first instruments and gigging straight after surgery…

1. What was your first guitar and when did you get it?

Levy: “My first guitar was an Ibanez Stratocaster model. A very typical beginner’s guitar I got when I was 15.”

Lennart: “I started playing when my older brother got a guitar. It was a Strat model called Vantage.”

Mathieu: “I learned to play on my brother’s guitar when i was around 12 years old. That was on an Ibanez guitar. When I was 14/15, I bought my first guitar and that was an Epiphone Les Paul.”

2. The building’s burning down - what one guitar do you save?

Levy: “My Gibson RD.”

Lennart: “My Nik Huber guitar, it beats anything I've played so far.”

Mathieu: “I will save my family. Who cares about a guitar then.”

I love the EarthQuaker Devices Afterneath very much. It can get very crazy, but if you figure out how to tame it a bit, it can be very usable and a real enhancement

Lennart Bossu

3. What's the one effects pedal you couldn't do without, and why?

Levy: “My Providence Stampede - no distortion without it.”

Lennart: “Let's assume here that there already is distortion on the amp, then I would definitely go for a reverb. I love the EarthQuaker Devices Afterneath very much. It can get very crazy, but if you figure out how to tame it a bit, it can be very usable and a real enhancement.”

Mathieu: “The Rat 2 distortion pedal.”

4. Is there a guitar, or piece of gear, that you regret letting go?

Levy: “I’ve never been able to let go of anything I bought, even if I haven’t played it in years.”

Lennart: “Not really. If I have let things go, it has always been because I didn't like certain aspects about it.”

Mathieu: “My Gibson Les Paul and my Marshall JCM800.”

5. And what's the next piece of gear you’d like to acquire?

Levy: “I’d still like to buy a Les Paul Custom one day.”

Lennart: “I'd like to get a Fender amp.”

Mathieu: “An Electrical Guitar Company guitar or a Gibson Les Paul Custom.”

6. What’s your favourite chord, and why?

Levy: “Anything minor sounds good to me.”

Lennart: “I'd have to second Levy here.”

Mathieu: “The chord that hurts. Why? Because it hurts.”  

7. Is there an aspect of guitar playing that you'd like to be better at?

Levy: “Improvisation, I think. I lack the theoretical knowledge to do stuff like that.”

Lennart: “There's lots of things I'd love to be better at. I'd like to have some understanding about more complex chords and playing them crispy clean onstage.”

Mathieu: “I would like to learn more about arrangements.”  

My worst gig? An appendix surgery in the morning, and then playing a show in the evening

Mathieu Vandekerckhove

8. If you could have a guitar lesson from one guitarist, dead or alive, who would it be, and why?

Levy: “Chuck Schuldiner from Death. Wouldn't mind getting a few tips and tricks about soloing from him.”

Lennart: “For me, that would be someone like Johnny Marr. I grew playing almost exclusively heavier music, but his playing has always also really spoken to me, so I'd love to learn more about it.”

Mathieu:David Gilmour it is!”

9. What’s the worst thing that’s ever happened to you onstage?

Levy: “I guess the time I tripped over my guitar cable and fell into our guitar stacks was the worst.”

Lennart: “I've once managed to trip over the monitor and fall down in between songs. So there was no sound but the noise that my guitar made when it hit the ground. I died a little on the inside that day.”

Mathieu: “An appendix surgery in the morning, and then playing a show in the evening. Fun.”

10. What advice would you give your younger self about playing the guitar?

Levy: “Learn it the right way from the start if you can. I didn’t, and it’s difficult to relearn and kick off the bad habits you’ve developed.”

Lennart: “Invest less time in looking at/for gear and spend more time playing.”

Mathieu V: “What Lennart said.”

Amenra tour the UK and Europe with Boris in February/March:

16/02 - Norwich, Arts Centre, UK  
17/02 - Nottingham, Rescue Rooms, UK
18/02 - Manchester, Gorilla, UK
19/02 - Glasgow, St. Lukes, UK
20/02 - Leeds, Brudenell Social Club, UK  
21/02 - Lille, Aeronef, FR  
22/02 - Oberhausen, Drucklufthaus, DE *No Boris on this show
23/02 - Dresden, Beatpol, DE
24/02 - Warsaw, Progresja, PL
25/02 - Prague, Palac Akropolis, CZ
26/02 - Budapest, A38, HU
27/02 - Ljubljana, Kino Siska, SL
28/02 - Bologna, Locomotiv, IT
01/03 - Rome, Monk, IT
02/03 - Milan, Santeria Social Club, IT
03/03 - Karlsruhe Jubez, DE
04/03 - Haarlem, Patronaat, NL

Michael Astley-Brown

Mike is Editor-in-Chief of GuitarWorld.com, in addition to being an offset fiend and recovering pedal addict. He has a master's degree in journalism, and has spent the past decade writing and editing for guitar publications including MusicRadar, Total Guitar and Guitarist, as well as a decade-and-a-half performing in bands of variable genre (and quality). In his free time, you'll find him making progressive instrumental rock under the nom de plume Maebe.