Dimmu Borgir Interview with Silenoz
By Simon Lukic
Transcribed by Mike ‘Fucking Hostile’ Holmes
Live pics by Hanntu
Love them or hate them Dimmu Borgir is quite the success story. From their early days as a fledging Black Metal act to the orchestrated tones of DEATH CULT ARMAGEDDON, there’s no denying their place at the top of the funeral pyre. The new album IN SORTE DIABOLI continues Dimmu Borgir’s march forward – an ascension that is sure to continue unabated. Guitarist and founding member Silenoz and I had a bit of chat recently and here a few of the things we covered.
Let’s begin with the new album. What inspired the band to tell this story?
It was something that came up a couple of years ago, to lyrically do something from a different angle. I guess you can say it’s limiting in many ways – what we could do lyric wise, so it’s always cool to try and challenge yourself as a lyricist to do something with a different angle.
What angle exactly?
It was more personal I guess. I still write lyrics the same way as I did in the past, maybe now they are easier to understand. I still have my way of doing things and the album has become quite personal, in the end.
You’ve provided listeners with an introduction to accompany the lyrics and the music. Why not let them draw their own conclusions?
Well, I want that too and that’s why I don’t make my lyrics too direct. There are always a lot of hidden meanings – double meanings where you have to read in between the lines to understand. What is seemingly obvious when you read a lyric could be dealing with something totally differently – it’s the same when you hear Ronnie James Dio singing about “killing the dragon.” He’s not singing about killing an actual dragon. People can make up their own ideas as well.
When it came to the music what were your goals this time?
We don’t really have a specific goal when we write music, we just come together and express ideas. We basically keep the majority of what sounds cool and that’s the closest to a formula we ever get. That’s how we’ve always done it.
Does it get easier after 8 albums?
Both yes and no. I mean, we are getting older now and have the experience to see what will work and what will not work. At the same time, it’s challenging because you try to make things better and try to perfect your own style and vision. That’s not always easy but, it’s the best thing about writing music. You get to be creative in your own realm and you get to concentrate on just that.
How have things changed for you as a songwriter?
I think it’s safe to say that I’m not too concerned about having as many of my own riffs and ideas in a song. It’s what comes out in the end that counts – how the song flows and how things sound in the big perspective. The older you get, the less egos are involved.
So you become more mature.
Yeah, I think just as you become older you become older in the song writing process too. You gain a lot more experience and when you try out different ideas you know what will work or not. Usually the stuff that sounds cool always works and those are the most memorable songs.
Is it impossible for you to tap into that innocence that most songwriters have when they first begin?
It’s quite impossible to do that because when you start out you don’t know any better. For each album you gain experience and each album after that you have to compare to the one before. You could go back and think about what you have done wrong on each album or what you could have done better but on the first album you don’t have anything to compare it to.
Are there any musical boundaries that come with being in the band? You obviously have an audience you need to satisfy, expectations that you probably need to meet.
We have to always think about what we like and as long as we like it then that’s all that matters. Even if we sold 200 CD’s, instead of 200,000 – it doesn’t matter, as long as we like what we do. That’s how we started out and that’s how every band starts out. It’s great that we can sell this many CD’s and live on what we love to do most in our lives. I’m extremely grateful for that but it doesn’t come easily. It comes with a little hard work, determination and stubbornness to be able to persevere through the storms and everything that goes against you in this business. Once you look at the big picture it weighs up as a positive thing – being in a band at this level really makes up for everything else.
I would assume that more of your time is being asked of you the more Dimmu Borgir becomes bigger. How do you keep a grip on it all?
We get offers to play live and tour all the time and we could do that and nothing else. At the same time, I don’t think that would be healthy for the band. We want to stay productive and creative on the level we are at. I mean, we could burn shit loads of more money if we wanted to tour all the time and play everywhere that we are asked to play, but that’s not why we are doing this. I think that’s what keeps our feet on the ground still. We are a bunch of normal kids that happen to be lucky and we were at the right place, at the right time.
I think that’s a great attitude and the fact that you still see yourselves as fans. I remember watching the WORLD MISANTHROPY DVD and seeing the band asking Destruction to sign their demo. That was a cool moment.
Yeah, for sure. That’s how we’ve always been to. I still look up to the bands that inspired us to pick up an instrument. Even when you get the chance to tour with them or meet them, like we did at Ozzfest in 2004. We shared the stage 30 times in a row with Slayer, Judas Priest and Black Sabbath, what is better than that?
It’s been really interesting how the whole scene has just moved up and you guys have been able to stay ahead of the pack. Like you said earlier, a little hard work goes a long way.
That’s for sure, we’ve had our fair share of problems and turmoil, but you just have to try and stay as focused as possible. You have to be stubborn and you have to believe that it’s just going to make you stronger. It can’t be worse than it is at that moment, so things must get better. With that attitude, you can get pretty far.
Speaking of change, you now have Tony Laureano behind the kit. How is he fitting back into the band?
Tony is the type of drummer that learns fast. He knows his shit and can step in on short notice. It’s a great thing to be able to have him play with us and we are grateful to be able to have someone step in on short notice when Hellhammer sadly got injured. He was actually injured before the last few shows of the U.S. tour were done and we had to alternate his drum kit and simplify a lot of drum stuff because he could hardly lift his right arm.
What did he exactly do to himself?
We thought something was wrong with his arm, but the medical report came back saying that he has a ‘prolapse’ in his neck which causes his arm to numb out. He can’t play drums at all basically. It was amazing that he managed to play at all during the rest of the U.S. tour and the few festivals that we had lined up because their was no chance in hell that we could get someone drumming for us at one days notice. We suffered a little bit, but we managed to get through it.
He probably did himself more damage.
Yeah, he did and he played with a lot of pain. It just shows you the type of guy Hellhammer is and that he doesn’t want to go down. He actually thought that his arm was broken, that’s how much pain he felt at the time.
Some people don’t even get up to go to work because they have a headache.
Exactly and that’s the type of people we want in the band, or to play with us. They are prepared to go through a lot of bullshit, pain and fire to be able to do what they do. It just shows you how he is as a person as well. He doesn’t take ‘no’ for an answer, even if all the evidence is against him to play.
So, how long will he be out of commission for, or is it just too early to tell?
It’s too early to tell. He might have to go into surgery and you never know how long that’s going to take for recuperation and stuff. We will have Tony playing for us for the rest of the touring for this album, so we will see after that.