Silenoz of Dimmu Borgir
Interview Conducted By Robert Williams
This fall the Blackest of the Black tour is bringing an eclectic mixture of metal to a town near you. Boasting a lineup that features the often Goth-Rock sounds of Moonspell, the melodic black/thrash attack of Skeletonwitch, a career spanning setlist from festival organizer Danzig, and of course… the melodic black metal machine that is Norway’s Dimmu Borgir. Having already ventured Stateside twice before in support of "In Sorte Diaboli" the band is back for a third trek, this time on behalf of a 3 disc DVD set entitled "The Invaluable Darkness" Special thanks to Loana dP Valencia at Nuclear Blast for arranging an interview with Dimmu Borgir guitarist and co-founder Silenoz.
How are you doing today?
I’m doing ok, I’m a bit sick as you can hear, but other than that it’s pretty good.
Glenn Danzig chose Dimmu Borgir personally to join the Blackest of The Black tour and has been citing you guys as one of his favorite bands in press releases. Was Danzig’s music an early influence for you personally?
Yeah, of course. We all listened to Danzig, you know? But I think it’s more…We listened probably more to the Misfits and that stuff…you know…obviously we’re Danzig fans or we wouldn’t have done it (the Blackest Of The Black tour) you know?
Are you getting the chance to interact on a day to day basis with Glenn?
Yeah, sometimes. I mean he mostly keeps to himself which we do too actually, but we’ve shared dressing rooms and we have backstage after parties together. Sometimes he is stopping by to hang out.
Besides obviously seeing your fans and catching up with some old friends what do you enjoy most about touring in the United States?
Just to see that for every time we are here we move up a level. You know? This is the third time we are here for this album combined with the DVD release, so there’s another reason for us to do another round of touring.
It’s not the same in Europe where you do a tour and you do the big festivals and then it’s like you need a new album or a new release to have the reason to go back out touring, but here in the States it’s just such a huge country and you wanna get out to people and a couple tours and an album is not much at all really. We only do about four or five weeks at a time so that’s not really that much touring.
You’ve just released your latest double DVD set through Nuclear Blast entitled "The Invaluable Darkness" what would you like to tell your fans about this new monster sized collection?
Well, it’s definitely a lot of material in there. It’s been approached just like when you do an album, it’s a lot of the same work and preparation and you have to start early. It’s a long process but if you do it carefully and do it the way it’s supposed to be done the result is, of course, really good and we’re really satisfied with it.
I think it’s a lot of value for money since it’s a three disc DVD and there’s a lot of stuff on it. Plus, all the uncensored videos which the European version don’t have, they have the censored ones…Which is kinda weird to me because usually it’s the other way around. So it is different from the European one too.
You started writing a pretty epic story lyrically on your latest release "In Sorte Diaboli" will you continue in this direction lyrically for the next album?
Not the same storyline, I think the next album won’t really have any story connected to it as I already started writing some lyrical ideas and they’re all a bit different from each other so we’ll see what happens.
The reason the story on the last album is not a conclusive one so if we want to take it up again later down the road we can that, you know? So, we’ll see.
Speaking of a follow up to "In Sorte Diaboli" I have to ask you; will you once again utilize Hellhammer as a session drummer?
I mean we keep all doors open but right now we have such a good chemistry, both personally and musically with Darek ("Daray" Brzozowzski) who played with Vader. It would sure surprise me a lot if he’s not playing on the new album.
He’s doing such a great job and he fits really, really well into the musical wide range style of Dimmu. I would probably say that he will be the one that will play on the next album. It would surprise me a lot if he wouldn’t.
You’ve always been very fortunate to have some of metal’s most talented drummers at your disposal, how would you rank Darek against the others?
I would say that he is the most steady and consistent drummer I’ve ever played with no matter what. He’s extremely reliable, hard working, determined and he really, really pushes himself, you know?
Even if he plays a really killer show and the rest of us has nothing to complain about he still is not happy. It’s not good enough. That’s the attitude we need, you know? After all, the drummer is the engine in the band and you won’t get anywhere if you only have oil and gas…you need the engine to work too…so… he’s awesome.
There were several videos produced for the new album and they tie together very well. Dimmu Borgir has always been very over the top in all of your endeavors so far, will you continue to push the envelope in the realm of metal meets cinema? Can we ever expect a full on metal movie based on your music?
Anything is possible, you know? It all comes down to the economical side. That’s the only thing that limits us. If we had unlimited amounts of cash and money to do it we could do things really big.
Since we’re still a metal band we are forced to operate within certain frames and limits, even if you don’t want to, but that’s just how it is. You don’t wanna compromise your art either, so…time will tell.
You are currently endorsed by ESP guitars who make some of the finest guitars in the business, especially for metal players. Any chance we can ever expect a Silenoz signature series from ESP?
Yeah, and a Galder signature series as well. They have been working on it for a while now and actually I haven’t spoken to the ESP office for a while but we both expect new customs (guitars) coming soon and they gonna do a retail guitar for sure. But when? I don’t know…
I believe we’re gonna see action…
Maybe by the Winter NAMM show?
That would be perfect actually, you know? At least by that time. That would be awesome.
You know I’ve seen every North American tour you’ve done, since the first one with Samael and what started out as a half filled room of fans soon transpired into a sold out club and then of course playing ampitheatres as part of Ozzfest and then very recently watching you headline a 5,000 person capacity venue. Do you feel as though after all of these years you are attaining the success your after in the US?
Yeah, I mean success can be described in different ways. We feel that we’ve always been successful because we’ve been able to do the music we want to do. Everything on top of that which develops the band on a bigger scale is just a huge bonus.
So, we’re just really grateful that we’ve gotten this far playing the type of music we do without compromising it. That’s success to me.
I know a lot of fans will cite Stormblast as your breakthrough album, but for me personally I have always looked at Enthrone Darkness Triumphant as the first album in your discography to really shape and define the band musically and lyrically. What do you remember about writing and recording that album?
Actually, we had a lot of leftover ideas from Stormblast era that we morphed into the other stuff that we have on Enthroned. Obviously it’s a whole different production, it sounds so much fuller and bigger and the way we wanted Stormblast to sound like. That’s why we re-recorded Stormblast because we wanted to go back to Peter (Tagtren – Abyss studios owner/engineer/Hypocrisy frontman) and re-do it there (Abyss studios) to make both ourselves and also the fans…whining fans saying "Stormblast is so different from Enthroned" but in reality it’s not really, it’s more the production that makes the sound seem like that.
Take a song like "The Night Masquerade" for instance. All of those riffs we had laying around when we wrote the Stormblast album. If they would have been recorded with the original Stormblast album it would fit straight into that.
Of course there is development on Enthrone anyway. I guess you can say it was one of the first steps where we made a huge leap.
Having said that you take a track like Mourning Palace, a definite crowd favorite and a staple of your live performances and stack it next to your latest recorded output and it is almost primitive sounding for Dimmu Borgir isn’t it? What do you attribute most to growing musically as a band and as a songwriter?
I don’t think we think too much about it because it takes us two to three years between each album and in that period of time you have been touring, experiencing a lot of new things and hopefully gotten better as a musician, but…Once you get together writing for the next album, you just keep on writing and keep what you think sounds cool and scrap the rest. We try not to analyze too much because if you do then you might get too paranoid and you’ll never get anywhere because you start thinking "Is this good enough? Is this good enough?" you kinda have to go with the flow…
Of course be critical at the same time which is a fine balance.
One last stroll down memory lane, you and Shagrath are the sole original members of the band. How did you originally meet and become friends?
I think we first met at a local show I arranged for my previous band "Malefic" back in 91’ or 92’ I think…and later on he moved back to his home place which is pretty close to where I live and we went to the same college and that’s where Galder went too actually. I guess we were the outcasts, you know? (We were) wearing the leather and black jeans and whatever…we just started hanging out and just one day started jamming and shit and then bought some instruments and that was that.
This question is more theoretical than anything, Rob Halford stated a few years ago that he would be into working on some black metal with you guys if his schedule permitted. I can only imagine what an honor that must be to have an invitation like that to work with the metal god. Do you plan to take Rob up on this offer some day?
Of course that would be a total honor, you know? What else can I say? Although I think that when he said something about that in interviews he more or less meant a collaboration with Ihsahn from Emperor because they know each other very well I guess.
I know he’s really into black metal and especially Norwegian black metal and older black metal too so…you know, he’s a really humble and down to earth guy and he keeps up with whatever’s happening in the metal world. He really lives up to the word "Metal God" you know? That’s for sure.
You’ve stated in the past that one of your favorite parts of being in the band is the opportunity to meet some of your metal heroes, and they often tell you that they are in fact a fan of you! What was one of the most surreal experiences meeting one of your metal heroes?
Well, you know…since we’re talking about Rob (Halford) that’s one thing, you know? He’s into the band a lot, Bruce Dickinson’s into the band a lot…
I remember when we played a festival, it was like many years ago with Judas Priest when they had Ripper (Owens) in the band…K.K. (Downing) was coming up like "Yeah, how are you guys doing?" like in his Birmingham accent "I love you guys I got all your albums!" stuff like that, that’s just like…
How did you fall asleep that night?
I probably didn’t. It happens a lot especially when you play huge festivals there’s this huge camaraderie…it’s all about individualism is the way I see it, but once you play festivals there’s no stupid acting or anything like that so you meet many of your peers and heroes there and you hang out and you realize that they’re just like yourself, you know? That’s probably why in many ways metal is so big because the normal guy in the street can relate to it really easily and that’s why it’s honest and still here.
What can you tell us about your other band Insidious Disease which also features Napalm Death’s Shane Embury and the very talented drummer Tony Laureno?
I’ve been so busy with Dimmu lately with the business and administrative things…shit like that so I really haven’t had time to finish (the) layout and all that stuff for the Insidious album. I’m gonna work on it when I get home and we’re gonna do a new mix of the album because everything’s recorded so…
We already did a preliminary mix but once I get home we’re gonna try to get somebody else to mix it too and see what comes out of it. There’s no rush to release it because it is what it is. It should be just as good today as it will be a few months from now. We’ll see.
Will that be released through Nuclear Blast?
That’s too early to say. I keep every door open. At this point I want a label that treats it with respect and that treats it as a band not a one time project. We’ll see what comes out of it.
With Halloween just a couple of days away I think it’s only fair to ask you, what does this holiday mean to you; is every day on tour sort of like Halloween for you?
Yeah, it is Halloween for us everyday so on actual Halloween we will not dress up. We will go onstage in our everyday clothes. (Laughs) We are all about the opposite. No, seriously when I grew up it was more…Halloween wasn’t so known in Norway we had more…we had during Christmas what we call…almost like Christmas, you dress up, you walk around to neighbors and ask for candy and stuff and that’s what we usually had at Christmas. So Halloween is getting more and more popular now in the last five or ten years.
What are some of your favorite horror films?
I’m more into…even if I like gory stuff I’m more into the thriller type of horror movies, like "The Exorcist" and all the classical stuff…I’m more or less into thrillers and stuff. As long as it’s dark…it has to be dark.
I’d like to thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to talk metal with me today, I really appreciate that. Before we wrap this up do you have any last words for all of your Dimmu Borgir fans?
Just that I hope that they will continue supporting us. That’s why we’re here. We wouldn’t be here unless they didn’t. If they support us it will make our lives a lot easier.