Legendary producer & musician, Jacob Hansen of Pyramaze

Spread the metal:

Jacob Hansen – Pyramaze

Interviewed by: Anders Sandvall

Thanks to Emil Westerdahl at Inner Wound Recordings for setting up the interview.
Thanks to Inner Wound Recordings for the promo pictures of the band.

Pyromaze_promo_2015_Jacob

The Danish progressive/power metal act Pyramaze released their fifth album last year. I hooked up with legendary producer, musician and member Jacob Hansen in order to know a little bit more about the band and the album. The new vocalist in the band is Terje Haroy who fills the shoes of such singers as Lance King, Matt Barlow and Urban Breed. Me and Mr. Hansen also talked about the future of the band as well as the fact that the band is performing at the Prog Power USA this year, read more about Pyramaze below.

Hi Jacob thanks for taking the time for this interview. Before we kick off the interview, I have to say that I’m honored to have this moment with you and that you sure are a living legend!

– Well, thanks! My pleasure! 😉

You joined Pyramaze back in 2011, how did you end up in the band and are you friends with the original member Johan W and Marten Gade Sorensen?

– When Michael Kammeyer (founder, guitarist and main songwriter) left, the remaining members were deeply frustrated and contacted me after a while to hear if I knew someone who’d fit into the band chemistry and fit the job description. I promised to give it some thought, and after a couple of weeks it dawned on me that I actually thought this was an opportunity to write, play guitars and produce the band. I reached out to the guys and told them I would love to be part of this, and they were all very happy to hear that. After all, I was the producer and mixer on all the albums, and I knew the guys from way way back. So we started talking about the future of Pyramaze and everyone agreed that we now had a direction and a line-up.

Pyramaze have had problems with keeping vocalists and have had several lead singers through the years, why do you think it has been like this?

– It’s not like we wanna have different singers, but since these guys haven’t been there from the get-go, I think it starts feeling a bit like a project where you, as a singer, feel you have no say in anything. I mean the core of the band has been together since 2001, so it goes a long way back, really. That could be one reason.

During 2008, several members left the band including lead singer, Urban Breed (from Sweden), why did they leave?

– Yeah, in fact, Urban Breed was with us all the while we were starting writing songs, but due to the slow process and things not really moving, I think he lost interest, which was completely OK. He’s a great guy and singer, and we’re still in contact and good friends. Lance did two albums and was a huge part of the sound back on the 2 first albums, but I think Michael Kammeyer wanted to explore new grounds, as well as things weren’t all peachy between Lance and the band at that time, I believe. It’s always hard to keep a stable line-up with such distances.

Was it hard to find a new singer, did the band launch an audition for new vocalists? And why did the band chose Terje Haroy as the new singer?

– I contacted a few of my friends and we were all discussing who could be a possibility for the new record, but then I was mixing a Divided Multitude album, and there was this background track with Terje on, and I suddenly realised I wanted to work with this guy since I met him when I worked with his band Teodor Tuff (now Crossnail). I immediately contacted him and asked him if he was interested to try singing on a song, and he agreed, and what came back totally floored us all! He was hired! Haha.

What has Haroy been up to before joining Pyramaze?

– Like I said, he was, and still is, in Crossnail (Teodor Tuff), and besides that he’s been singing in a couple of local rock groups, and we have this mutual love for certain bands, which is so cool.

He has got some pretty big shoes to fill replacing singers like Lance King, Urban Breed and Matt Barlow. What do you think is Haroy’s strongest feature as a singer?

– Oh yes, but he wasn’t afraid. Me and him worked in the studio on the songs, and there was no problem to be present and sounding “right” for the new songs. I adore what the other singers, Matt and Lance, has done on the previous albums, but I couldn’t imagine listening to Pyramaze nowadays without Terje. I think he has a very distinct sound that sounds so… full. It’s insane, really. He sound like he’s a million years old, but he’s the youngest of us all, haha.

Pyromaze_promo_2015_band_02

In 2011, band leader/guitarist Michael Kammeyer left Pyramaze. What does he think of the band continuing on without him?

– We were of course in contact with him about me joining and continuing the band, and he was very cool with everything. He told me I was the perfect replacement, which was an honour, and he even shows up at gigs and was there while we shot our video, so yeah, we’re still friends.

New album DISCIPLES OF THE SUN

Is it correct that you began to write material to the new album back in 2011? if so why has it taken so long to release it?

– Yes, it’s insane. Well, there were a lot for me to do in the studio. We also didn’t rush into the studio. I think the songs were written during a years time, and then we entered the studio to finish the arrangements and record drums. Then we waited some more – mostly waiting for me to have some spare time in the studio for vocal recordings etc., and then there was more waiting, haha. It all took a lounge time since we felt we wouldn’t rush anything…

FEARLESS (OFFICIAL LYRIC VIDEO)

 

You, Skjonnemand and Jonah W has written the material, have any of the other members in the band got a saying when it comes to the material?

– Yes, they do! Morten comes up with cool drum parts and Terje has great ideas for vocals etc. Everybody can contribute, but of course it makes it harder when we live so far from each other. Toke, Morten and I meet up to do the basic arrangements out of songs that have been demo’ed. That’s how it starts. In the end, everybody contributes with their thing. In fact, we also had Henrik Fevre of Anubis Gate working together with us on vocal melodies and harmonies, as well as he wrote all the lyrics. I mean, working for years and years with bands, I get to see the strengths and weaknesses very clearly, and when the lyric writing issue came up, nubby felt they could bring anything serious to the table, so I contacted my old band mate Henrik, whom I know writes amazing lyrics, and he was luckily up for it. In the end, I’d rather have a nice lyric from a third-person rather than terrible lyrics from someone in the band, haha.

DISCIPLES OF THE SUN (OFFICIAL ALBUM TEASER)

 

Who is the main writer in the band and how many songs were originally written for DISCIPLES OF THE SUN? Who writes the lyrics and who writes the music?

– We wrote around 14 songs, as far as I remember. There’s a good chance the remaining ones are gonna be used on the next album, but we’ll see about that. There really is no main writer. It’s a process where Jonah, Toke and I bring stuff to the table that later is Pyramaze-ified into what you hear on the album. That also makes the new version of Pyramaze different. Previously there was 1 writer who wrote all music (pretty much) and all lyrics, and bringing in 3 song writers + another lyricist gives it a whole new sound as well as perspective, which is ideally what we all wanted. We all felt we did our best with “Disciples Of The Sun”.

Where does the title DISCIPLES OF THE SUN comes from and does the title have any special meaning to the band?

Well, I can’t really remember, but I think Henrik came up with that title. It was inspired by the members trying to break out of the darkness, so to speak, and bring the light and sparkle back into Pyramaze that was dead for a while. We are the disciples. In fact, there are more songs and titles here and there that is about us as a band. “We Are The Ocean” is also about how the oceans separate us as individuals… It’s deep, I know, haha.

What do you think of the cover artwork, does it reflect the music and the atmosphere well?

– We wanted to implement the old wizard figure from “Immortal”, but we also wanted something new, and I gave the title to this great Russian artwork called Alex (Mayhem Design), and he drew a sketch of this, which we all liked. I think it works very well with the title and the whole feel of the album.

The album is pretty long with a playing time on 50 minutes and 12 songs, was it your intention to make a long album?

– No, we just wrote whatever we felt like. We didn’t even check the length, which I think doesn’t matter. It was only when we were making a vinyl version, that our record label stated that there maybe wasn’t room for all the songs, and 1 or 2 should be taken away. I said “hell no!” and then they made it work. I think we didn’t really put much thought into anything other than the songs being great.

What are the lyrics about?

– Oh man… This is hard, as Henrik Fevre wrote all of them, and I’ve spoken to him about this a couple of times… Some of them are so personal that he doesn’t wanna give away what they exactly are about. You should really put your own thing into them. There are of course songs that are pretty obvious: “The Battle Of Paridas” – this one is about this city where there’s a legend about something evil that will destroy the whole city. This is passed on by the elderly, and they’re constantly guarding the city… Nothing happens, but everyone lives in fear all the time. I guess this translates a lot to how the whole world works today. Controlled by fear, really. Also the city name Paridas is a re-writing of the word “paradis”, which is of course paradise in Danish.

You put out an album teaser on youtube before the release, what did fans think of the teaser? And what response did the band get on the lyric video to “Fearless”?

– We heard a lot of positive reactions. Only a few fans were missing the old vocalists, but thats just who it is, and I understand it. I don’t say that we want bring back Lance or Matt, but I perfectly understand how their sound was a part of a feeling back then – it’s nostalgia, really, and you can’t compete with that. But the new Pyramaze is great in its own right, and I think 99% of our previous fans see that now, when they’ve gotten used to our new sound and line-up.
The response to “Fearless” was even better! People were extremely happy to see us back again and some have even said this is the best song off the album.

The bio states that: “Pyramaze continues to make music that is dark, thought-provoking, all with a sense of fearlessness” is that a statement you find to be true?

– Yes, I think it is dark, emotional metal. It’s bold, but yes. That’s how it is.

What respond have the band got from fans on DISCIPLES OF THE SUN?

– Overall, as I said before, it has been tremendously positive. It was so great to see the “old” fans emerge and write us with positive messages. We were so concerned about how 7-8 years had passed, and people would have forgotten all about us, but they didn’t. There was this enormous amount of messages on our social media pages, and the reviews were really great. We felt both relieved and truly happy!

The media has written some great reviews about it, does the band care about what press and media think about your work?

– In a sense, yes. There are reviews that can tell you about things you need to look into. Things we might even know is one of our weaknesses, so that’s important. Other times, bad reviews occur that make no sense, and obviously, we don’t pay any attention to that. But it’s also great to boost a bands’ chemistry with positive reviews and messages from fans. If I feel the band needs a lift, I will post a cool message from someone we all respect in our Facebook group, haha. That always helps clear the dark clouds.

How does it feel that Metal-Rules.com gave the album 4 out of 5?

– Great. We couldn’t be more happy! That is one of the reviews we can always read again and again, if we feel like the world is out to get us!

You play bass and guitar on the album, is the band planning to find a permanent bass player?

– We haven’t really thought much about that. I mean, if the right guy shows up, we’ll hire him (or her), but right now we feel like there are other more important things to take care of. Like writing new songs and such. In a live situation, we’ll deal with it. We already have a stand-in who can help us, if needed.

You shot a video to the song “Disciples Of The Sun” what can you tell us about the video?

– I contacted my good friend Thomas Tjäder who did a couple of Pretty Maids and In Flames videos, and asked him what he thought about the track, and what he saw. He immediately responded, and said: “I have this idea with lights (blinders) and such! Let’s rock!” I asked him: “do you know how we can make this 3D effect (Phillips carousel)”, and he went “Sure!”, and we just went from there! Luckily, Toke had some good friends at a local drama school (Hoptrup Efterskole), where they had tons of lights and students willing and eager to help us out, so things simply fell into our laps. It was crazy! All that gear and all these very nice people helping us out. We were so lucky and we owe them all so much!

It was great fun making it. Thinking back about that puts a smile on my face. It’s also not very often we meet. Jonah still ives in Vermont and Terje is in Trondheim, Norway.

DISCIPLES OF THE SUN (OFFICIAL MUSIC VIDEO)

Are there plans on shooting videos to any of the other songs as well?

– We have plans of going nuts on the next album. Our budget was fairly small on “Disciples”. We had to pay a lot of the stuff ourselves, but the next time, I’m sure we’ll make 2-3 videos. It’s always great to have, and it seems like the visuals are more important than ever. We did, however, make “Fearless” and “Back For More” lyric videos.

The bio states your music to be progressive power metal, do you agree with that or how would you like to describe what kind of music Pyramaze plays?

– I would say yes. I don’t mind people calling it whatever they feel like, but sometimes it’s good to describe it like that, if there are som new listeners out there that wanna check us out, we might catch their interest just by writing we’re prog/power.

In the middle of the album the midtempo ballad “Unveil” is placed and the last song is the ballad “Photograph” was it your meaning to feature two ballads on the disc?

– I really don’t see “Unveil” as a ball, but haha, there you go! My thought about “Photograph” was to do pretty much the same as two albums I adore, Crimson Glory’s self-titled debut, and “Transcendence”, where they end with amazing ballads. Just a little homage to that fantastic band.

Henrik Fevre, Kim Olesen (Anubis Gate) and Joost Van Broek (ex- After Forever, Star One) makes guest appearances on the album, how did they end up on a Pyramaze album?

– I have worked many years together with Henrik and Kim, so it was obvious that when I needed help, I reached out to those guys. Joost came into mind after I mixed an Epica album which he produced, and I talked to him about adding some extra orchestrations to the intro, and he was happy to do it. There was really no intention of name-dropping or making this an album full of guests, but there are thing we wanna try out that we can’t do ourselves, and then we bring in other musicians. That might happen again.

I think that you, Sjonnemand and Haroy does amazing jobs on the album, are you happy with the outcome of DISCIPLES OF THE SUN?

– We are so happy! Everyone of us were actually amazed of how smooth everything went. Morten and Toke were a little worried about the song-writing and such, but we immediately clicked and were extremely productive and creative. It was great fun, and I believe you can hear that in the songs and all over the album. We really enjoyed making this album. It was done with a huge smile and a big heart!

What does the old hardcore Pyramaze fans think of the new disc?

– Like I said, I feel they have accepted it. They might still like the old discs better, and that’s really all OK. But I think they see the qualities that this new version of Pyramaze have, and thats great. It seems like they’ve been very open-minded even though there was this change of vocalist, which is often very tough on old fans.

Studio and production work

The album was recorded in your Hansen Studio in Denmark, how was that and how was it to produce your own band?

– It was great fun. I mean, I do this all the time, so I just brought all my expertise to the table, and made everyone feel comfortable (I hope, haha) and made the session go really smooth. We arranged all the songs and recorded the drums all in one week. Plus some guitar parts were kept from the original recording. We were playing it like a live band, although as a 3-piece, but the whole vibe we had going needed to come to life and that thing went into the songs. There was this great feeling of understanding each other when we wrote and played the new songs, and you can hear that in the tracks. Producing my own thing is actually easier than producing other bands, haha! I mean, I didn’t have to take discussions with myself about sound and arrangements, haha.

Is it hard to produce your own music? Is it hard to stay objective and what do you think is your strongest feature as producer?

– Well, it can be hard at times to be both engineering, producing, writing, arranging AND playing the guitar, haha. I think I am best when I feel there’s this mutual respect. When I love the band and musicians and respect them, and vice versa. It’s very important. The best albums I’ve done were with bands that let me do my thing and they trusted me. I would tell them my ideas and they went “That sounds great to us! Do your thing!”. The albums where its starts with “well, we actually wanted another guy, but he was too expensive” are not gonna be great, haha!

Pyromaze_promo_2015_Jacob

How long did it take to record the album?

– We spent 1 week on drums and some guitar parts. Then I think each other part took about a week. I mean, Jonah probably played his keyboard parts over a weeks time, Toke played solos for 5-6 days, I did my parts over 8-10 days (guitars, bass and backing vocals), and Terje took maybe 12 days, as far as I remember, and then I mixed and mastered it in 8 days. It’s been a while, so I can’t be more specific than that 🙂

You have also mixed and mastered the album, was any other member a part of that process?

– No, I do that by myself. I like to work alone on this, and then present a mix to the other guys, and they can comment afterwards. Thats how it was.

Are you going to continue to produce the future Pyramaze albums?

– I hope and think so. I’ve made all the other ones, and why should you change a winning team? We have booked time in the studio to start arranging/writing and recording drums very soon, so we’re already doing it!

Pyromaze_promo_2015_inw_logo_2

Label and managament

The band is now co-operating with Inner Wound Recordings, when did you ink a deal with them and how come you chose to sign on with IWR?

– This deal was in fact made by the previous guitarist Michael Kammeyer, and we have little say in that, but we obviously checked the deal and were perfectly OK with it. In fact we wer s surprise about how much Inner Wound were involved in the band and PR, and we couldn’t be happier. I meet so many bands that complain and I see so many bad things, that i was completely overwhelmed by the support from Inner Wound.

How come the band ended the co-operation with Locomotive Records which released your 2008 year album IMMORTAL? What happened to that label, I heard they went bankrupt?

– Locomotive went “bankrupt”, but kept on selling the albums online. Terrible… The label was probably OK until things started to go down the drain. Too many expenses and to little income, I guess. The worst thing is that they still owe Michael Kammeyer and probably a lot of other bands money. I have heard that from more bands… The least they could do after bankruptcy, is to give back the material to the bands and respective song writers.

Who own the legal rights to your old albums today?

– I’m really not sure… I’ll have to check up on that, but I believe its Michael Kammeyer.

Are you happy with the work that IWR have put into the band and the new album?

– Oh yes. We feel it couldn’t have been better from such a small label. They’re doing great. There’s a great personal involvement, communication is easy, it feels like they really respect and love the band, so yeah, it’s awesome. We are making another album together with them, I’m sure. Theres no need to be looking for another label, unless they can offer us more in every aspect (not just money!) than Inner Wound. We’re beyond happy right now, and comfortable with what they’re doing.

2014 IWR re-released IMMORTAL, were there any bonus material featured on that edition?

– S**t! I don’t know, really. Sorry.

Pyromaze_promo_2015_inw_logo

Are there any plans on re-release the debut and the second album as well?

– I think there were lans about that, and some people even spoke about DVDs of old and new shows etc… We’ll see about that a bit into 2016.

IWR releases your albums in Europe and North America but who distributes Pyramaze in the rest of the world?

– You’ll have to look that up on their website. I know that they’re negotiating to change a few territories for the better, so fingers crossed 2016 will be even better for Inner Wound and Pyramaze.

Pyromaze_promo_2015_logonew

The Future

DISCIPLES OF THE SUN came out during the summer of 2015. What has the band been up to since then?

– We played our first festival show in the summer to test the new line-up. Some things went great and some were terrible, haha. We were a bit rusty, but it was a great feeling being on stage with friends! Of course we’re writing new songs and will start recording them in the first part of 2016.

Any plans on touring in Europe?

– We didn’t do any tours as there really was no tour support. We were kinda waiting to see how the album went before we did anything like that, so that’ll probably happen on the next album.

Who runs the bands website and why is it so little info about you on the site?

– Is there? You mean personal info? Well, I think we can easily build our website into something better, but we lost our administrator, and we’re looking for someone new. Anyone? Haha.

Is it important for the band to be active on twitter, facebook etc today?

– Oh yes! We’re trying our best, but with full-time jobs (we all have that), it’s hard to keep it up. But we are trying, and Inner Wound are also helping us! But I’m glad you mention that, because I really need to check if we have a Twitter account!

The band released a lyric video to “Back For More”, what’s the deal with lyric videos?

– It’s cheaper to make than a “real” video. That’s why. We felt we had some OK footage, but not enough to do a full visual video for “Back For More”. It was the plan that we would also make a documentary like “Making of” where there were interviews as well as videos from when we recorded and wrote the album, but money became an issue, as always, and it’s right now put on hold. Maybe i’ll be on the DVD, haha.

BACK FOR MORE (OFFICIAL LYRIC VIDEO)

 

Is Pyramaze a band or a project? Is the band going to tour and do shows or mainly focus on releasing albums and do occasionally shows?

– It IS a band, although not in the 80’s sense of the word. We all have our families, full-time jobs and tings that in most cases have higher priorities, but we strive to be a band and keep a steady line-up for the next album and coming live shows. We wanna be a band. We’re all great friends and have so much fun when we’re together, so it feels immediately like a band even when we meet very seldom. It’s a great feeling.

Pyramaze is going to perform at Prog Power USA 2016, are you excited? What are your expectations on the show?

– We are SO excited! This is a dream come true for us, as the new line-up. We can’t wait. This will be killer. I really haven’t even much thought about that, but I hope to show people at the show that we’re a band that has our sound and force.

Are you going to do more shows in USA when you’re over there?

– I don’t think so. We actually wanna make the Prog Power show exclusive.

Do you think the bands fanbase grew with the release of DISCIPLES OF THE SUN?

– Yes. Indeed. I think the genre is a bit more wide on Disciples compared to the previous albums, that were very “precise” in its genre. Disciples is a pretty varied album, and I think it’s quite accessible. Even though we have very heavy parts, we keep things melodic and feature Terje’s melodic voice a lot, so it’s maybe a bit more “pop” if you can say so. This wasn’t intentional, but that’s how the new song writer team writes.

What would you like to say to the ones who haven’t heard Pyramaze yet?

– Please do, if you like your metal melodic. You will love it, haha!

Pyromaze_promo_2015_band_1

Could you give them three reasons why they should buy DISCIPLES OF THE SUN?

– The melodies will stick to your brain. The range between heavy and nice will take you places. We put so much soul into this – you will hear it.

Is the band currently working on material to the next album?

– Yes we are. Hard to tell how it’s gonna be, but so far there’s some really heavy s**t as well as classic, epic stuff. We’re all very excited to get going. Recordings are starting very soon. I can’t wait!

What are the plans for Pyramaze during 2016 and what have you for plans for next year?

– We’re playing a bunch of festival shows. We were a bit late to the party last year (the album came out in May), so we’re hoping to be playing some really cool festivals in 2016. And then we’ll do the videos we always wanted to do, and hopefull give the fans something special, whether it’s a DVD with old and new stuff, we don’t know yet!

That was all for now, once again thanks a lot for making the interview possible. I wish you and the band all the best in the future and last but not least, do you have any final words of wisdom to share with the readers and fans?

– Thank you very much! Maybe the most extensive interview I have ever done, but I enjoyed every bit of it! Please, give Pyramaze “Disciples Of The Sun” a spin. Check out our videos and keep your ears and eyes open for the follow-up to “Disciples…” coming out 2016!

 


www.pyramaze.com

Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/Pyramaze
Twitter Page: www.twitter.com/pyramazemetal
Youtube Page: www.youtube.com/c/PyramazeMetal
Label: www.innerwound.com
Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/innerwoundrecordings
Youtube Page: www.youtube.com/user/InnerWoundRecordings