Heart of Steel: Interviews


Interview, questions & live pics by Luxi Lahtinen
Promo pics thanks to www.nuclearblast.de & www.dimmu-borgir.com

One of the worldīs leading and most controversial Black Metal acts, the ultimate Norwegian Armageddon warriors Dimmu Borgir, visited Hell(-sinki) on the 25th of October during their extensive "Death Cult Armageddon" European tour. Strangely enough, I was the only one from the Finnish media representatives who was interested in interviewing them during the tour...?

I bothered the bandīs guitarist Silenoz with some questions about their new album titled DEATH CULT ARMAGEDDON, forthcoming tours, the future of the band, etc....and somewhat eagerly prepared to see them performing during that evening, too...


So, how has your European tour been going so far? I guess many of your dates have been either completely sold out or at least nearly sold out; correct?

Excellent...very good, I have to say. We have had very good crowds everywhere so far and overall the whole tour has been very, very good to us. I certainly cannot complain a bit, he-he!!

 

 

What has been the most remarkable show for you personally on your European tour so far?

Hmm... thatīs hard to say because basically every gig we have done thus far, the response has been really overwhelming. And Finland has always been very good to us and I am sure this night here in Helsinki will be great as it was last time we were here, too. Iīm really looking forward to play here tonight.

 

 

 I assume your gig in Tampere was a successful to you as well, correct?

Yes, that correct. It indeed was a very good gig to us and it was sold-out too. They had a really amazing crowd there and people were incredibly supportive towards not only us, but towards all the bands on the same bill from every possible aspect, I can tell. That was really damn great!!

 

 

Did you play a slightly different set in Tampere from what you are going to play here in Helsinki tonight?

We will play pretty much the same set here in Helsinki what we did in Tampere yesterday because we didnīt have time to rehearse too many different songs for this tour, so our set will be pretty much the same as it was in Tampere yesterday. We should have had a couple of different songs in our set for this evening in my opinion īcoz the ones who were in our gig in Tampere yesterday, may want to come to see our show here in Helsinki as well. Oh well...

 

 

Would you like to explain the title of your new album for the readers of Metal-Rules.com a bit? Your new albumīs called DEATH CULT ARMAGEDDON...

Yeah, sure... First off, we wanted to have a simple title; kind of more īstraight-to-the-pointī title that people could actually remember quite easily. Our new album title DEATH CULT ARMAGEDDON is a very good description of having a band view about the world around us and being a human being in general. And since all the religions and all the violence is an on-going conflict everywhere and because of all religious aspects, itīs caused by ourselves and itīs in our nature, I guess, to destroy ourselves. Itīs in itself already a pretty damn good description of both lyrical - and musical content on our new album.

 

 

Is there some sort of a concept on DEATH CULT ARMAGEDDON that connects all the songs together for some vision or story or whatever?

Yeah, I think there is this combining there on the album even if DEATH CULT ARMAGEDDON really isnīt any concept album after all. However, the title is overall a good enough description to combine the songs together, I think.

 

 

Your album has been nicely hitting many charts in many European countries. Like a week after D.C.A. was released, it was number 2 on the charts in Norway and here in Finland it reached the 9th position being out just for one week. Are you surprised at all as your new album is doing so well in at least European territory, or did you actually expect your new album to hit so many charts once it was released?

I definitely am a bit surprised īcoz I just had no idea that it would start doing so well in so many countries as itīs been doing since it was released. Itīs just amazing, I think. As for our real expectations, we just wanted to create a better album than what we did last time with PURITANICAL EUPHORIC MISANTHROPIA. After all the mastering for the album was completely done, that goal was already accomplished for us. So we thought whatever will come after it is just a big plus or bonus for us. Reaching the 2nd place on the album charts in Norway was kind of surprising really. I also have to say in the very same breath that we did expect to see our album a relatively high on the national album list, but not anything like finding our new album on the 2nd position. That of course felt really good to us.

 

 

So, what was number 1 on that particular list when your album went straight to the number 2 position after a week since it was released?

Itīs the IDOL compilation album... (*laughs*) and that album has been sold quite a bit more in Norway than ours so far, so...

(*laughs*)

People do really have a bad taste in Norway, donīt they, he-heh!! Anyway, letīs move on. I did some observation just yesterday and noticed that your latest 4 full-length albums have 3 words in the album titles; starting from "Enthrone Darkness Triumphant" ("Spiritual Black Dimensions", "Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia") to this new album? Has this naming your albums by 3 words happened by accident or on purpose?

You forgot to mention our first album... (*laughs*)

Oh, yes exactly!! I completely forgot that, eh? FOR ALL TID had three words in the album title, too...

Well, itīs more or less more īsymbolicī thing to do for us anyway. Having exactly three words to describe your album is always better in my opinion than just using one word for your album title because it kind of tells you better what an album is all about, yīknow. For example Susperia, they are always using only one word in their album titles and thatīs always a bit tougher to give people an idea what your album is all about and all that. We are going to continue with three words because thatīs our tradition and we have to keep the tradition going on, ha-hah!!

 

 

So are you going to continue this īspecial sagaī by naming your next album using only three effective words for it again or what?

Yes, most likely so... (*laughs*) I mean, Black Metal or Metal music in general has much to do with some certain traditions, yīknow. Traditions are overall kind of hard to break, so we are gonna stick with this, naming our albums with three words only.

 

 

What was the most challenging thing for the band to get the songs together for this album from your point of view?

I guess it was... (err!)

... to find the most similar songs for this album that somehow are linked to each other musically or...?

I think itīs more like we also use that stuff for our albums whatever all of us in the band like most, yīknow. Itīs very hard to do compromises sometimes, but usually if we end up having them concerning our songs, we have always found solutions for them inside the band. We are always listening to our song arrangements very carefully and each of us is of course entitled to have his opinion whether this or that part is useable for our songs or not. We made a bit different album this time because we recorded all the songs into some demos first before we entered the studio. That provided us more time to arrange every song for DEATH CULT ARMAGEDDON more properly and more carefully and go through songs basically from each angle and find out which of the songs work best for us. I guess we have never paid for that much attention to a studio recording as we did this time with DEATH CULT ARMAGEDDON.

 


On this new album you have taken a more orchestral and symphonic approach musically compared to your previous album PURITANICAL EUPHORIC MISANTHROPIA. Do you find this direction more appealing and exciting for the band in general and do you think that this is actually going to be the direction where you want to develop Dimmu Borgir musically from in the future as well?

We actually just wanted to make all the orchestral parts sounding bigger on this new album. Last time we only had 14 people, besides us of course, doing those orchestral parts on PURITANICAL album and now we had like 66-67 people in this orchestra we used on DEATH CULT ARMAGEDDON. That includes a full horn section as well and thatīs something that really added a new dimension into the songs, I think. The use of this big orchestra made our album sound more soundtrack-like which Iīm really happy about. Itīs great to have real strings to be used in your album because we have always been into symphonic sounding bands in general and besides that itīs also a step from keyboards to more real orchestral type of things, yīknow, even if this step we have taken, isnīt actually that big after all. I think a real orchestra makes our songs kind of breathe more, makes it sound more īliveī with full strings and stuff. We have used lots of keyboards stuff on the album as well and some parts that were recorded with the orchestra, sounded better with keyboards actually when we tried that afterwards. We always had the demos for our songs still available there, so it was necessary sometimes to listen to them and make some comparisons whether some parts needed both keyboard - and orchestra parts to make it sound even better than just using either one of them for our songs, yīknow.

As for our musical direction in the future, I cannot tell if we are going to continue this more orchestral-orientated direction in our albums in the future as well or not īcoz we have just finished this album for a while ago and are still so much stuck with its material and we still have lots of touring to be made for this album. After all the touring for DEATH CULT ARMAGEDDON, itīs probably necessary for us to have some months break, so that we could start concentrating on writing material for our next album. So whatever we may come up during that time that will sound good to us, thatīs what we are going to stick with and use for our next album. But itīs still a bit too early to talk about the direction of our next album as DEATH CULT ARMAGEDDON just came out, yīknow.

 

 

Like you already mentioned, you also had the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra helping you out on this new album with some of the orchestral parts on it. How did you end up adding a whole orchestra into the album in the first place?

There was this guy who helped us out with arranging the notes and he actually suggested us it in the first place. Heīs a member of an European classical orchestra and I think he was in touch with Gaute Storaas from Bulgaria who ended up being in the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra. I believe that they have recorded with quite a few known names like Yngwie Malmsteen and some other bands before, so they were used to be in a studio. I think they are also a part of a philharmonic orchestra. I guess they are more experienced to record in a studio environment, too.

 

 

Do you think that it might be cool to do shows with them in the future, having a full classical orchestra with you on gigs? It would be quite a unique and special thing to accomplish for an extreme metal band like Dimmu Borgir, donīt ya think?

That would be very cool, of course, but I donīt think it will happen any time soon or be possible for us to make happen in the first place īcoz most of the time we have many up-tempo, fast songs in our set, so I donīt think that type of stuff would work out properly enough in order to make it happen any time soon. We should have to rehearse with like īloadsī with the orchestra and then they still have to mix and they have to click and they have to have a click track in their ears, yīknow what Iīm saying? And you miss something when you have a live situation going on, you are not able to get back in, yīknow. But it is however possible. It just takes probably a lot of rehearsing and of course a lot of money because classical musicians are not cheap, yīknow... (*laugh*)

That could have been a big project, but maybe weīll see this a bit later on in the future. You never know...

 

You also did a rather, may I say, a quite īunusualī cover song for the special editions for this new album; you covered Bathoryīs unreleased song, "Satan My Master". What made you to pick up that song for these limited editions in the first place?

Actually in the past we used to do a more straight-forward Heavy Metal type of stuff and we just decided to show to the younger generation of Dimmu Borgir fans how we got our Black Metal inspirations from a certain type of Black Metal stuff we grew up with. I think many of these Black Metal fans of this īnewer generationī are too young to realize how the Black metal scene overall was in the past. They simply just donīt know all those bands that were there since the beginning. Maybe they started to become aware of more of these longer existing bands through us and then like for us in the past, a band like Celtic Frost showed to us more of that extreme side of Heavy Metal what we grew up with and got inspired by. So people can always go back to the past and listen to all those classic albums from some really influential bands of the extreme metal genre. Anyway, our cover for Bathoryīs "Satan My Master" is kind of our tribute to one of the greatest Black Metal bands that has ever existed in the whole history of Black Metal in general.

Itīs also a great tribute to Quorthon himself...

Yeah, of course!! Quorthon is absolutely one of the most influential persons in the whole Black Metal genre without doubts. We chose a more obscure song from Bathory as "Satan My Master" is only Bathoryīs demo song. It was just great to have something a bit more obscure for our album as a bonus instead of using the usual "Enter the Eternal Fire" or something that everyone has already done, yīknow.

 

Letīs have a word about your image. Namely I think that you may have heard quite a few times that Dimmu Borgir has come a few steps closer to the same kind of Gothic-look as for example Cradle of Filth, being more and more wrapped up with some Gothic-related things. How would you see this from your own standpoint? Is Dimmu Borgir becoming officially a Gothic band?

First off, I donīt see that way at all. I think that maybe we may attract some Gothic people because of our image, but I honestly think it has mainly to do with the image that we have, of course. But how we present ourselves on the album and how the artwork is done... Also we have lots of parts in our music that is somber and symbolic as well, so thatīs probably why we attract some of those people, I guess. But I donīt see us following the footsteps of Cradle of Filth or whatever musically at all. In my opinion, we donīt have anything in common with Cradle of Filth at all... no.

So you could even say that itīs kind of an īabsurdī thing from some of these criticizers to regard Dimmu Borgir equal to Cradle of Filth either music or image-wise then?

Yeah, I honestly think so. Absolutely!!

 

 

Do you still consider Dimmu Borgir as a Black Metal band or would you rather like to leave this for the so-called īgenre policesī to decide how they indeed wanna categorize your music?

Yeah, for sure!! I mean, thatīs where we come from and thatīs where our roots are from. Of course the musical side is so much more than just that particular term because we have taken our music into a next level. Some people may think that Black Metal should stay one way all the time. Whether people like it or not, things actually move forward, yīknow. Thatīs just how it is, so people either like it or they donīt have to like it. Itīs their choice, but thatīs how we prefer to play our kind of Black Metal. I mean, we play some more symphonic or modern type of Black Metal, but we donīt listen to that kind of Black Metal ourselves. We used to listen to more of an old-school type of metal; more ī80s and early ī90s stuff. Besides I guess itīs good for you to not listen to that kind of music for yourself because you may get influences from outside for your own music. You donīt drop comparisons to other symphonic influenced Black metal bands if you donīt listen to them at all.

 

 

So could you name some names of those Black Metal bands that you guys listen to yourselves these days?

Itīs the usual stuff. From Darkthrone to Mayhem to Emperor... These bands are very influential bands for our generation I think, and also some of the older bands Possessed and Exodus that really havenīt much to do with Black Metal musically, but still have a very brutal and a bit of a satanic touch...and also some Death Metal stuff, especially early ī90s Death Metal stuff has been a very influential thing for us.

 

Now when you have already done 6 full-length albums and two mini-CDs, do you find it always harder and harder to pick up songs for your live set list so that you could please both yourself and your audience?

Of course it has become harder and harder for us to decide what songs we should choose for our set each time. A thing is that we cannot do a set list based on what our fans want to hear us playing īcoz itīs just impossible as tastes differ so much amongst our fans. We always kind of need to remind us that we simply cannot please every fan of ours each time and thatīs not even our mission in the first place either. Thatīs just not gonna be possible. We just have to pick up songs for our set that we think that most of our fans will like as well as songs that we ourselves feel good to playing live. The songs that we wanna play live, is the easy part, but the songs that our fans want to hear us playing for them, thatīs always a bit harder for us. We, however, try to play songs from every album of ours. I think thatīs only fair for our fans. I mean, thatīs what (old) bands should do even if they had 20 albums, they should at least try to play one song from each of their album in my opinion, he-heh!!

 

 

Do you have any favorite songs that you have kind of always wanted to play in a live situation? I guess your audience has its own Dimmu Borgir favorites as well that they never get tired of hearing in your shows; I mean songs like "Mourning Palace", "Reptile", "Blessing Upon the Throne of Tyranny" and the likes.

Itīs always cool to play "Mourning Palace" because thatīs the song everyone knows and every crowd always goes crazy for. As for my own favorites, I have to confess you that I really donīt have my own favorite Dimmu Borgir cuts right now, but generally speaking all those songs that we have picked up for our live set, give us something onstage for sure, I think. And obviously for the audience as well. Some songs are more... you can tell the audience is more laid back, yīknow, but I think they still enjoy it even if I donīt show a huge enthusiasm for it, so...

People who pay to get in for our shows, naturally want to hear some specific songs from us played in our gigs in general and we also try to take care what they want to hear and expect from us to play for them īcoz after all they are the ones that help us to continue doing what we do, so we kind of have to show some respect towards them that way.

 

Now as we are talking about your songs here, did you know that Scott Ian from Anthrax happens to like your previous album a lot? When I interviewed him last time here in Helsinki this summer, I asked him to mention some of those newer bands that have made a huge impression lately and your PURITANICAL... album was one of them!!

Yeah, yeah... I know and thatīs of course fuckinī cool!! Iīm regularly in touch with Charlie Benante and heīs also a huge fan of the band and when we were touring last year, he came to two of our shows, I think. He even flew from New York to Chicago for the second show and we are gonna meet him again during this tour. Thatīs really cool... Thatīs an honor for us īcoz Anthrax is a band we have always been looking up to and they were actually one of those bands that made us start playing in the first place when we were kids and listening to them all the time. Itīs really nice and cool to heīs into our stuff what we do.

 

 

Also I even remember Rob Halford saying that he likes Dimmu Borgir a lot when I interviewed him for a couple of years ago here in Helsinki...

Yeah, I know that he likes our stuff, too. So does Bruce Dickinson... Itīs quite a long list now, he-he!! I guess thatīs a good sign that at least people must be doing something right even if we have people who are always complaining on that side we have, yīknow. The ībig starsī on that side who support us which means so much more for us.

You also shot your first official promo Dimmu Borgir video for a song "Progenies of the Great Apocalypse" to support the release of DEATH CULT ARMAGEDDON. First off, I honestly need to confess, itīs one of the most amazing promo-videos I have seen due to its great visual effects and everything in it. Which of you did come up with a script for it?

First off, it was a very tiring experience to do as we did everything in three days for it in Gothenburg with Patrick Julias who for example has been doing like million dollar budget Rap videos and stuff before. But itīs great heīs totally into our music. The making of the video cost us a fortune, but it also needs to be said that Patrick took a lot of his own free time to finish it. I honestly think the whole video turned out really great. As for both the script and those visual effects on it, they are actually a result of both the whole band and Patrick. We told him that what kind of stuff we wanted to include for it and asked him whether he could be able to do this and that for the video and basically he said to us: "No problem at all guys... I can do it. Just let me know what you guys want me to do for it and Iīll do it...". He brought some of his own ideas into it which was very cool in our opinion. I think it was important to have some sort of a concept for that particular video that could be close to the artwork of the album, too. Like we had some butchering scenes in it, myself as a priest in there and otherwise we tried to include some certain elements for the "Progenies of the Great Apocalypse" video that you could also find from our new album DEATH CULT ARMAGEDDON. We succeeded quite well in including a bunch of those elements into the video that are to be found from our new album as well, I think.

 

 

When Nuclear Blast linked up that video in their site, have they informed you how many hits they got for that video during one week? I think we talk about a few hundred thousands hits, am I right?

Yeah, it actually got an incredible amount of hits when they linked up that video through their site. Apparently there were just too many hits in our video at the same time that it became quite impossible to make a connection to the server īcoz the traffic was so huge there for a while due to the video. The other thing is that Nuclear Blast has said to us if we are gonna do a video which we have to do sooner or later, it has be all the way professional-looking and all that, yīknow. I donīt think that Nuclear Blast regrets it a bit for putting lots of money into it, yīknow, so... The result looks really huge and cool in my opinion anyway.

 

Did you already have some sort of a vision in your minds how this particular video would eventually look like once it would be out?

Yes, we had indeed. It came out so close to the actual concept of the album. Actually it came out better than we originally expected in the first place, so you could say we are more than pleased with it. And I guess we have to do two different versions for that video because some TV-stations simply just donīt wanna show any videos with some blood scenes in them, yīknow. If they see for example tits and asses, they just refuse to show those kind of videos through their channels. Thatīs why we have to make like - not a censored version or anything alike, but a bit ītamedī or īmilderī version available for it as well.

 

 

You will also do an US tour almost right after you have finished this European tour in Moscow. Is this your very first time to play in Moscow, by the way?

Yes, it is. We had some problems with visas recently, but I think that has been sorted out by now. Iīm personally really looking forward to play there because they really need metal bands coming over there more often, so thatīs gonna be exciting to go and play for all those people there.

 

 

Your first date will be in Buffalo, New York 7th of November. What kind of expectations do you overall have about this forth-coming US tour? What bands do you have there supporting you?

Our drum technician lives in Buffalo, so thatīs a good place to start our US tour. And then we go around the States like playing for example two shows in L.A., two shows in Montreal (Canada), etc., so it seems like people in the States are getting their eyes open for this kind of music that we represent. We also have a very good package on this tour; Nevermore, Children of Bodom and Hypocrisy. It also helps that we were able to announce the tour several months in advance because then people already have enough time to see all the dates in advance and buy the tickets for the shows they wanna attend. Thatīs why we have two shows here and there as we already have many completely sold-out shows on this tour.

I assume your new album doing well in the States as well, am I right?

Yeah, our new album hit onto the Billboard Charts on the 167th place if I remember correctly and just fuckin amazing just to be on the Billboard Charts, he-heh!! DEATH CULT ARMAGEDDON sold 7000 or so copies there in the first week.

Where else has it been released already?

I think pretty much everywhere...

Even in Japan, too?

Yeah... Weīll go to Japan in February 2004, but I have no idea about any sells for this new album over there yet. We also went to Japan for the previous album and played to like 500 people in our first show and for 300 people in the other show. Now we are gonna our 3rd show ever in Japan, so we will see how they are gonna like us there now when we have a new album out. You really donīt earn any money on those tours going either to Japan or Australia īcoz all the money basically goes into expensive flights, but itīs still worth it. Besides, itīs always cool to play in more exotic places, yīknow. We havenīt been in Australia yet, so we are gonna try to do that in the same run as Japan. From Australia we are gonna continue touring to South America. Or I think maybe we will be going to South Africa first before South America. Then we are gonna do a South American tour around in April and then we are gonna do a second US tour for sure either headlining it or most likely support some bigger and more known bands than us. I donīt know with whom we are gonna do that tour. Actually I have to say I donīt care because we have to show all those so-called īNu-Metal bandsī what real Metal is, so...

The whole īNu-Metalī (MALLCORE) thing overall seems to be such a big thing in the States unlike here in Europe...

Yeah, I know and thatīs something we have to change a little bit when we will go over there...

(*laughs*)

Then of course we will play at some festivals next year. We even may play at some festivals in Finland next year, I believe. At least thatīs what I hope for.

And what festival might come in question...?

I donīt know which one yet, but Iīm sure itīs gonna be at least one Finnish summer festival.

Maybe youīll play at the Tuska festival next year...?

Probably, who knows.

Have you had any talks inside the band when you possibly might start writing new songs again for your next album?

Itīs really hard to say yet because we donīt write any stuff when we are on tour, so whatever ideas I may come up with during these tours, they get simply lost eventually. Also I prefer writing new songs in quiet circumstances; itīs much easier for me to concentrate on writing under those circumstances than trying to come up with something when you have a tour going on. Thatīs a good thing living in the countryside especially during the fall and winter when itīs so fuckinī dark, black and cold. Those kinds of surroundings really inspire you to write grim music and making music is much easier for me that way. Anyway, we wonīt start writing new stuff on this side of Christmas, so...

 

 

Apparently it will take quite some time before you start the whole writing process all over again...?

We will probably gonna be on tour for another year - or something more or less...

 

So you donīt get tired of touring at all... like īneverī?

Well, you get tired from time to time īcoz itīs really not that healthy to be on tour for so long, but this is what we live for; this is the life we have chosen or that has been chosen for us. I mean, you really cannot complain if you, for example, prefer working at some McDonalds in San Diego or whatever. I prefer this life much more for some obvious reasons, yīknow.

(*laughs*)

Ok, I think thatīs it. Thanks for your time and it was pleasure to talking to you. If you have any messages to your Finnish fans or the readers of Metal-Rules.com, then go ahead Silenoz...

I just wanna say that Iīm happy to be back in Finland. Itīs always great to be here as you always have a very good and supportive crowd here. Then of course it was fantastic to find out that our new album hit straight to the 9th place in your official album charts in Finland which I guess just shows that we have lots of Dimmu Borgir fans in your country. Iīm grateful for that. I really am! Also, we really look forward to play tonight and I believe itīs gonna be just great to play here in Helsinki. And thanks man for doing the interview with me, too. C-ya!!


Dimmu Borgir Website
www.dimmu-borgir.com