Producer/guitarist and bass player Jacob Hansen – Pyramaze
Interviewed by: Anders Sandvall
Thanks to Sidney Weiß at AFM Records Promotion, Socials & Marketing for setting up the interview. Thanks to AFM Records for the promo pictures of the band.
Here comes an interview with the Danish/Norwegian/American act Pyramaze which recently released their brand new album EPITAPH. It has taken the band a really long time to come out with a new album, their previous one CONTINGENT was released 2017. Why it took the band so long to unveil a new album was one of the questions I asked legendary producer/guitarist and bass player Jacob Hansen. Other things we spoke about, as you can read down below, is the bands signing with a new label and the lack of touring.
Hi Jacob, I hope you and the rest of the band are doing OK in these strange times. It’s an honor to talk to such a legend as you are, last time we spoke was back in 2016 at the time of the release of DISCIPLES OF THE SUN. Are you ready to kick off the interview?
– Sure! Well, it’s weird times, but luckily, some of us can work with music which makes you forget that the world is rather crazy right now. Fingers crossed most of us will be safe.
When did you start to work on material to the new album EPITAPH, on your website you posted in June last year that you began to work on new material and was in your studio when was that the starting point of the writing process?
– I believe we started in 2018 when Jonah and I started working on some songs he brought along when we met just before we were playing Brainstorm Festival in The Netherlands. So, he had a bunch of songs that he wanted me to come up with some riffs to, and we worked on it together, and it really sparked some great ideas. After that, I started writing as well, and Toke came in with his ideas when we hit the studio to start recording the drums and arranging the songs.
Is it you, Jonah and Toke that’s written the material this time around?
– Yes, it’s been the three of us basically since “Disciples”, however, this time around we’ve had a guy called Christoffer Stjerne help us out with some lyrics and vocal lines on three of the songs. He’s the singer and guitarist of the cool Danish band H.E.R.O. And he really brought a new thing into the band. I was totally floored when I heard what he was working on when he started to send me drafts for “Particle”!
What are the lyrics about on EPITAPH?
– Well, this time around, instead of making a concept where every song was part of a larger story, we wanted each song to stand out with its own story and own atmosphere, so to speak. I feel like the songs dictated that. They were, in my opinion, much more cohesive than on the previous album, but they all had their own feeling and little story to tell, so it was important that every lyric fit that exact song just right. So, I am really hoping that the listener will feel the same way, and connect with the lyric and emotion of that particular song. And sometimes the words maybe don’t mean that much, it’s more a feeling, or poetry. To be fair, the three lyricists that we’ve worked with on this album all feel very strong about their lyrics, but sometimes, you can just sit back and let the words be a part of the sound, rather than trying to understand what it’s all about. It’s all emotions.
A Stroke Of Magic // Official Lyric Video //
Does the fact that EPITAPH is the third album with the same line up had any impact on the music?
– I think so! Terje has gotten much more involved and more confident in knowing what he can do, and also the way we write now fits his style better, and I believe most people can tell that he really honed in on his thing on this one. You know, we all learn as we go along, and being a tighter group of individuals, having spent hours and hours together while traveling and such, you develop a sixth sense of how people are, and I think we’ve utilized that to its fullest on this album. I also think that Terje is very proud of being part of the most stable version of the PYRAMAZE line-up ever, haha.
The bands previous album CONTINGENT on of the best albums that year I think was released 2017 what have you guys been up to in between the release of that album and EPITAPH?
– Thanks so much! Very appreciated! Well, as we live very far apart (Terje in Norway and Jonah in Minnesota, and the rest of us in Denmark) we don’t get to hang as much as we want to, so whenever we can, we write music, and throw it into our PYRAMAZE folder, and when we feel we’re ready to start working on a new album we’ll go nuts with that. But the time is very much spent doing what we do in our daily lives. I am really busy as a producer, and the other guys are just as busy with their day jobs as well as family etc.
If you compare CONTINGENT with EPITAPH do you think the band developed anything music wise?
– I do think so, yes. I think we’ve distilled what PYRAMAZE is. We started a journey on “Disciples” and we continued that and just got better and better, I think. “Epitaph” is a very solid piece of creative work, I think. We all went 100% into it, and you can hear that. We’re just working very well together.
I think EPITAPH contains more melodic/progressive/power metal songs compared to CONTINGENT, what do you think?
– That might be. It’s definitely more melodic in a sense. I also think there’s some melancholy that hasn’t been there before, which is very nice, I think. I am a sucker for very emotional songs, and I think we have a bunch of them. But there are also real bangers that are straight power metal, which is still great fun! I think everybody knows what PYRAMAZE is about now.
EPITAPH contains 12 songs and clocks in on about one hour, was it your intention to make a long album or was it just a coincidence?
– Actually, most of what ends on our albums is by far planned. We go with the flow and see where it takes us. The only thing I remember we discussed was, that Jonah had this epic song he worked on and he apologized that it was getting a bit long. I believe it was 7-8 minutes, and I just went… Wait! Why don’t we go all nuts on this and make it this long, epic song?! And things evolved from there with asking Matt and Lance and Michael Kammeyer to participate to bring all of our history together, and it just came out so amazing! Just listening to the raw tracks from Matt and Lance gave me goosebumps!
World Foregone // Official Lyric Video //
Were there any songs that you wrote that wasn’t featured on the final edition of the album?
– I think we had a few left over ideas, yes. It’s not like we won’t revisit those and see if they’re great, but I truly believe that it’s better to write new fresh material, as you grow – hopefully – all the time as a person and song writer, and to me, it’s important to get the latest and best version of one self into the songs. We’ll see when we get started working on new material again. We’re very much a “feel” driven band. If we “feel” like writing, we’ll get going! I’m sure that itch to be creative again will come in a few months. It’s always like that, haha!
Britney Slays, Matt Barlow and Lance King makes guest appearances on the album, was it easy to convince them to participate?
– Well, yeah, it was actually! I mean, I’ve met Brittney two times when I worked with UNLEASH THE ARCHERS on their two previous albums, and I’ve loved her voice since day one! She’s such a beast! Jonah met the band and he went on and on about how we should feature Brittney in one of our songs, and as we both loved what she does, we started thinking about which song that could be. At that moment, we weren’t entirely sure, until “Transcendence” started to come to life, and then we knew! That was the one! We asked her again, she agreed and tracked her vocals in a studio nearby where she lives, and it sounded absolutely stellar! Wow! As for Matt, Jonah had already worked with him on their WE ARE SENTINELS project, so they were in touch, and Lance and I had a good relationship, as I worked on his solo albums, so it all came about without any crazy stress.
What are the shortest song “Final Hour” (3.37) and the longest “The Time Traveler” (12.04) about?
– Final Hour was inspired by the whole story of Chernobyl, and how they dealt with the problem in attempt to save the day. Brave men were sent in an attempt to save the day in the moment, well-knowing that were actually facing certain death. I would love to have Michael Kammeyer tell you about The Time Traveler, as I am sure he could give you an in-detail explanation. I can’t really give it justice, I’m afraid.
Before the album release three lyric videos/singled was released, what did fans and media think of the singles?
– We received very very good responses from the first three videos. I was actually amazed how much it boosted our plays on Spotify for example, but just our overall fanbase just grew, so something was right! Obviously, you’ll always disappoint some fans with new stuff. I know how it is. I’ve felt that way with bands that I’ve been a fan of as well, but the good thing is that our old stuff doesn’t disappear. If you love that, then go back and listen to that again. We’re not forcing anyone to love the new material. We’re just as happy that what we did years ago means a lot to some. That’s just fantastic!
The first video has almost 80 000 hits on youtube, congrats, are you happy with that number?
– Yes, we are very happy! We’re still a small band, but it seems like the fan base is just slowly rising, and we’re getting very very good reviews on the new album. There seems to be a positive feeling about the fact that we are now consistently releasing albums, and people understand that we mean serious business! This is not a project band with singers going in and out. We’re real, haha!
How come you named the album EPITAPH? Does the title have any special meaning to you and the band?
– You know – we were discussing a title for the album, and when this one came up, we could feel that this had something in it. There was something that felt like things were looking gloomy, but still gave us hope in that title. You know, I’ve been asked if this was our last album, due to that title, but I just think that it wraps the whole feeling of the album so perfectly! It’s NOT our last album, God forbid!
The cover art work is made by Giannis Nahos at Remedy Design, are you happy with his work? Was he given free hands to create a cover?
– He posted this, and I hit him up telling him that I felt this was the one for Pyramaze! He gave it a touch up and we went with it. It had the right feeling, which we all agreed fit our album and the songs that
we had written. I think he’s amazing!
Is it the usual Pyramaze magician that you use to have on your cover art-work that’s featured on the new album as well?
– No, we wanted to kinda step away from that, even though we had him since years. We’ve kept the symbol, and who’s to say if our magician returns!
Have you read any reviews of EPITAPH in the media yet? Do you care about what critics have to say about your work?
– I’ve read a bunch, as it’s always interesting, but then I stopped, because there’s also really no need to be listening to what one person thinks. Don’t get me wrong, I really appreciate people listening and giving it criticism, but I should actually remain neutral and just do what I do in the band, without being pushed in some direction by reviews and such. Of course, if every single review would take out one particular song that they all hayed, we’d have to consider it, but as it is now, we’re going with our emotions and just being creative, and it’s important to not let anything interfere with that, I think.
Metal-rules.com loved the album and gave it 4 out of 5 congrats 🙂
– I’m very happy about that! It DOES mean a lot to us when reviewers like it. We’ve really seen some staggering reviews and playlist placements that were out of this world, so we’re doing something right!
What does fans think of the album, have you got any respond?
– So far we’ve received overwhelmingly positive response. In fact, we were all quite surprised and shocked that this seemed like it was connecting so well with people out there. I feel like even more than the two previous albums, so it feels very very good.
I think EPITAPH is one of this years best albums, are you happy with the outcome?
– Oh yes! We worked hard on it, and I think everyone just gave their best to it. The songs are really strong by their own. I have had people from the scene that I admire and respect very much hit me up out of the blue and praise what we’ve done, so there’s really something special about “Epitaph” than I haven’t seen before. I think with “Disciples” we had to establish a new line-up as well as a new sound, and it took a while before people got used to that. With “Contingent” we went a little more progressive, I think, and went for a futuristic and dystopic story, and I felt like that was way harder to connect with for some fans, for some reason. It was a great album that we’re so proud of, but it was in a way standing in the shadow of “Disciples”, or so it seemed to me anyway. With “Epitaph”, it’s much more its own thing, and just proves that PYRAMAZE is a force that you can’t hold back!
Many bands consider their latest efforts as their best one yet, is it so with you and EPITAPH?
– Yeah, we do, but there’s a reason we do, not just because it’s the latest, haha!
Do you think old hardcore fans of Pyramaze is going to like the album?
– Yes and no! I think we already lost some people that were into the older stuff or only liked a certain era of PYRAMAZE, and as I said earlier, that is totally fine! We completely understand. There was some magic to the older albums, undoubtedly. However, the revitalisation that happened when Terje came in is just undeniable, and we’re happy to see that we’ve never had so many engaged fans before. I also think that even some older fans have started liking what we do now, which is awesome.
Studio and production
As usual the band recorded the album in your own studio Studio Hansen in Denmark but where did the guests record their parts?
– Brittney recorded in a studio in Canada nearby where she lives. I forgot the name, sorry! But I believe it’s somewhere in the liner notes. Lance recorded at his home. He has a net setup where he records his solo stuff as well. Matt, I’m not sure. I know he used to work with Tom Morris, but on this one, I don’t know.
This is the third album by Pyramaze you produced, is it getting easier to produce your own band or is it hard work?
– I think it’s more or less the same. I have gained so much experience that I use to make it efficient and meaningful. If you ask the guys, they’ll tell you that it’s a very intense and creative process. I like to move on rather fast, so any ideas that we have initially can be tested fast and brought to life right there. We started working this way on “Disciples”, where we had basic ideas and song structures, but went into the studio, arranged the songs, and right when the first song was arranged and laid out, we tracked the drums for that one, and moved on to the next song. That meant we could do writing, arranging and recording (drums only, though) in about a week. This sounds crazy to some, but most of the pre-production and demoing was already made, plus all the years that I have done this together with a lot of bands make me fast!
How long did the recording process take?
– So when drums have been recorded, we all start to put down our parts. That usually takes about half a year before it’s done. It’s not half a year in the studio, but it takes quite some time to track all keyboards, vocals, guitars, bass, solos etc. I will then have it all sent to me, and I put it into the songs and make sure it all works. There might be some changes here and there and some songs will have structures changed right then and there to make them better, so it’s sometimes a little shock to the rest of the band when I start sending off mixes. They’re surprised – pleasantly, usually, haha! – how it all came out of almost nothing!
You changed label and are now signed to AFM Records, why did you end your deal with Inner Wound Recordings?
– There wasn’t any drama behind the switch, our time with Inner Wound was up and it was time for us to move on to a new label. With our current lineup we’ve continued to grow with each album, so it really made sense for us to move to a larger label like AFM.
Do you have any idea on why IWR dropped so many acts?
– We don’t know actually. For us specifically, our contract was up so we moved on. We can’t speak for other bands or Inner Wound.
Are you happy with the work AFM Records put into the band and album so far?
– Yes, we are! They’ve been great to work with thus far and we’re really excited to see the new reach we’ll have under their umbrella.
Whats the biggest difference between being signed to AFM and IWR (besides the fact that AFM is a major label)?
– The biggest difference so far is that it feels like we’re generally getting more exposure right out of the gate, which I think is a natural effect of signing to a major label. We’ll see what the future holds — the album has only been out for a month or so!
Besides CD and digipack version AFM releases EPITAPH in transparent vinyl in 500 limited copies, is it also going to released on black vinyl?
– I do not know — that’s a great question for AFM!
AFM usually release vinyls in all sorts colors and a string of various CD versions, how come EPITAPH “only” is released on transparent vinyl and not in any other color?
– Again, great question for AFM, haha.
2017 IWR re-released the album MELANCHOLY BEAST and 2018 they re-released LEGEND OF THE BONE CARVER, what did fans think of the releases?
– Our fans love our classic albums, so they were very well received. While we have evolved in our sound, I think you can still hear the influence from some of our early albums in this current incarnation.
Did the re-issues sell a lot of copies?
– I don’t know specific numbers offhand, but yes, they did well.
Who own the legal right to the bands old albums today?
– I believe that Inner Wound does — all of our older albums are available through their website.
In one of the two biggest records online stores in Sweden the album is sold out and the other online store only have the CD version, Pyramaze seem to be popular in Sweden?
– Apparently! That is awesome! I guess that makes sense, they are our #2 top country on Spotify for listeners. We have so many amazing fans from all over the world. We hope to play in Sweden sometime soon.
All of your older albums is sold out as well, where should I look if I want to buy older Pyramaze albums?
– Doing a quick internet search, looks like you can get physical copies on Amazon. Otherwise, everything is available for digital purchase at your usual places.
Does the band currently work with any booking agency?
– We don’t currently have a booking agency, but we’re always open to hearing offers 😉
Past present and future
The band performed live in Denmark 2018, where did you perform and how was it?
– We performed at Forbrændingen in Albertslund with Defecto. It was an amazing show! We had a great crowd, the venue was fantastic and we had two of our former bandmates surprise the crowd and join us on stage. Our previous bassist, Niels Qvist, as well as Pyramaze founder and former guitarist, Michael Kammeyer, came out and played a couple of our older songs with us. It was an unforgettable experience!
Particle // Official Lyric Video //
Last year you performed at Orland Rock Fest in Norway, how was that?
– We had such a good time! It was great to spend some time in Terje’s neck of the woods and meet his family. The festival had a ton of killer bands on the roster. We also shot the footage you see in the World Forgone music video while we were there, which was breathtaking.
The band was scheduled to do three shows in Norway together with Divided Multitude but it was postponed due to covid 19, have you re-scheduled those shows or are they canceled?
– Those shows are not canceled, but we haven’t set official dates for them yet. We’re waiting until we know for sure that we can set new dates. We’ve already rescheduled them once just to have to cancel again. Fingers crossed for mid to late 2021!
What’s the reason to why the band do so few live shows? You do not many shows at all on your albums I think a lot of fans all around Europe or USA like to see you play what do you like to say to all that what to see you play?
– Aside from the fact that the five of us are so spread out, we all have other full-time jobs and families that keep us pretty busy. Aside from this year, we’ve gotten into a groove of booking 1-2 gigs a year and we try to choose things that feel special to us. Scheduling is the main reason, but we’re looking forward to checking some major festivals off of our bucket list in the coming hears hopefully.
Would you like to perform more live if you could?
– We would! Doing full tours isn’t a possibility for us anymore, but smaller tours like our 3 gigs in Norway we’ve had to reschedule are perfect. That or festivals — we’re down to play as much as we can!
The band is active on all kinds of social forums, do you think it’s important to be active online? Don’t you ever miss the good old days with tape-trading and paper fanzines 🙂
– Social media is a necessary evil these days. Its has its benefits and downfalls. You get to be closer to your fans in a sense, but it also feels like the air of mystery is gone because of that. Things were very different back in the day, and I do miss what the world was like before broadcasting your entire life on Facebook was a thing!
Does the band get a lot of mail from fans? What’s the most common question they ask you?
– These days, most of the communication from fans comes via social media through DMs or comments. The biggest question we get asked is when we’re coming to their country to play.
The bands facebook site got 12000 followers, personally, I thought there would be more fans that hit the like button, is it important to the band how many followers and likes you get on facebook etc?
– Yes and no. A band’s social media numbers and Spotify plays factor in to so much these days, so obviously its somewhat important. But for us personally, we love our fans and how awesome and supportive they are. We’ll take quality over quantity any day!
What affect have the pandemic had on the band and on your work as producer?
– We really wanted to record vocals in my studio this time again (as we did with Disciples Of The Sun), but those plans got changed. It really wasn’t a big deal, and it could’ve been far worse. And we had to postpone some shows, which was sad, but again, not a catastrophe. I’ve worked with bands who had months and months of touring cancelled, which is far worse than our situation. As a studio owner and producer, 2020 has actually been rather good. I managed to have Amaranthe in the studio, 2 months from when our country was in lock down, and that actually worked out fine. On one hand, it was a strange situation, but on the other hand, it was great doing business as usual. I just worked in the studio with the band being creative, and we could forget (almost) about the rest of the outside world. I think that’s quite important. Not to stay ignorant, but in some way forget everything around you and just be creative. That seemed very healthy at that time, anyway. Also, I’m so happy about the bands that took this as an opportunity to get stuff done they didn’t have planned. I saw a lot of creative bands doing cool things and writing new stuff, so things were up in the air, and the bands that made the best out of it will surely hit the ground running when it all – hopefully – opens up again.
Does the band have any plans on touring or play live when the virus have settled? Any plans on streaming a live show or so for the fans to hear and see you live?
– Like said earlier — we’re definitely going to reschedule our Norway shows when we get the chance, and we’d love to get some festivals on the books. As far as streaming goes, we can’t really get all 5 of us in one place at the moment. But it could be cool to do a paired down acoustic set or something. We don’t have anything planned for streaming right now though.
What would you like to say to the ones who haven’t heard Pyramaze yet?
– Our new record is our most accessible record to date — folks who haven’t heard us yet should definitely check us out. There’s really something for everyone on this album.
Could you give the readers three reasons why they should buy EPITAPH?
1. It’s a perfect meld of our old and new sound.
2. We believe that it is an instant classic.
3. It is home to our catchy choruses of all time!
The time is up and that was all for me and metal-rules.com this time around, thanks for taking the time making the interview, stay safe and healthy!! do you have any final words of wisdom to share with fans and readers before we say goodbye?
– Thanks for having me.