Interview with Thomas Chr. Hansen of Gaia Epicus
Tell us a bit about the new album, SEVENTH RISING. You have some heavy firepower on this record in the form of Tim Owens and Mike Terrana! How did you recruit this talent?
Mike Terrana is usually a very busy man but due to last years situation he had to stay home and there was no touring going on. When I contacted him he of course wanted to listen to the songs first and check out my previous work also, and then we actually hit it off and started to have long conversations about all kinds of things in life. So he decided that he wanted to get on board and record the drums for the album.
When I made the song “Gods Of Metal” it became very clear to me that the vocals I wanted could not be done by myself, so I started to think who could fit to this song. My first thought was Rob Halford but I’m sure that would never happen so then my second choice would be Tim Ripper Owens. I tried to contact him but didn’t get a response at first, so therefore I started to contact other candidates for the job. After a while Tim replied my message and after hearing the song he accepted to do it, and he delivered exactly what I wanted.
Do you have your own studio and did you self-produce again this time? Can you give us a brief run-down of your preferred gear?
I do record at home but I don’t really have a fancy home studio, so the guitars and bass are basically just recorded with DI-signals and then re-amped after. I am still the producer on this album like always, but I have good help from whatever studio I use to mix and master the album. This album like my previous was mixed and mastered by Intense Music Productions. When it comes to gear I am not a “gear freak”, I just use whatever I think sounds good and feels good to play. I use a ESP guitar and ENGL amps.
After a brief stint with Sound Riot you seemed to embrace the independent spirit and formed your own record label. Was this born of frustration with labels and politics or just the desire to do it your own way? Have you ever thought of shopping recent albums to bigger labels like Nuclear Blast or whoever?
It’s no secret that I got pissed of at SR after they ripped me off, and every other band on their label. I didn’t have a desire to make my own label and I still don’t enjoy that part very much, but at the time being I felt it was the best option to do. I contacted the distributors who already sold my albums and they wanted to work with me, so then I decided to make my label and have 100% control over my own music. I have during the years tried to get on a BIG label but with no success, and I think one of the reasons is that I haven’t had a fully band. Big labels want a band that can do massive touring.
I have also at one point been contacted by a major label who showed interest in Gaia Epicus, but after I replied back to them asking about legal rights etc. well… then I don’t hear back from them again. If a major label had picked up Gaia Epicus I firmly believe we could sell a respectable amount of albums, and grow as a name. Gaia Epicus will most likely never be a major band but since I have been around for so long and have made seven albums I think that counts a great deal.
In a related question, at what point you decided to have complete and total creative and financial control? Was there a specific point where you felt that you had evolved from a traditional band to a solo artist?
The answer to total control was answered in previous question, it was a result of the conflict with our previous label. I never wanted Gaia Epicus to be a solo act, and it used to be a band for maybe 20 years or so until it became less and less members. It has always been hard to find people who knows how to play this style of metal, and if you find them they are either already in bands or they don’t want to play with a high intensity, more like a hobby.
In a semi-personal note; what do you do for a full-time career?
I am a freelance media and marketing consultant, where I do foto/video, design, marketing adds etc. I have also worked as a night guard for some years.
There are many world-class Power Metal bands from Norway such as Pagan’s Mind, Conception, Communic and of course Gaia Epicus. Do you feel the Norweigan Power Metal scene gets overshadowed by other, more infamous styles of Metal from Norway?
Well… first I like the bands you mentioned and this they are great and I’m happy for their success, but I believe they go under the style of Prog Metal or such and not Power Metal. But it’s no secret that Norwegian power metal have been given very little attention in the Norwegian metal scene from the media, especially Gaia Epicus. The Norwegian metal press and metal festivals have chosen to over look my band since the beginning, despite that I have been around so long and released so many albums, and I have had several big names as guests on my albums, and all concerts and tours I have done in Norway had been all arranged by me and we have had a great audience feedback on every show, not matter if it’s sold out or a low number of audience present.
In a similar question, what is it about Power Metal and bands like yours that is so stable, so consistent that you can keep going year after year and avoid all the trends and hype?
If you have a passion for something and it’s your drive force in life you will fight for it and keep it going. I am 100% convinced that 99% of all people/bands would have ended they band years ago if they where faced with all the challenges I have gone through. Gaia Epicus has been locked up in a garage hitting it’s head against the wall to get out ever since the beginning, and for every release with a bigger engine,but still the fu…. door won’t open! haha!
Gaia Epicus hasn’t played live too often in recent years. Do you ever have the desire to tour heavily and make the jump to a full-time working/touring musician?
I have wanted to be a touring band ever since the beginning, but when you don’t have a line up or a live band ready to go when opportunities knocks on your door, then you have to say no to those offers. I still have a desire to go on major tours, but as I am getting older the desire to go and play small clubs and pubs is not as strong anymore. Just before C-19 we had the chance to open up for Rhapsody here in Norway, but I had to cancel due to missing drummer. And before that I got the chance to go on a European tour with Symphony X, but I had to cancel since I didn’t have a ready band or the money for it.
What is your opinion of the current state of the music industry and a massive move to total digital realms? Do companies like Spotify help or hinder a band like Gaia Epicus?
It’s good and bad! The good thing is that your music is available to the whole world and on whatever platform is popular with the people, but the band thing is that you are missing out on money. Money that you really need to come in so that you can keep things going and make your next album.
Gaia Epicus is on all the platforms, I would like to pull out of it and say, “No way are you gonna make millions of dollars on other peoples music, and give nothing back”, but if you want people to be able to find you there is no other choice. Record labels were often criticized before for making too much money on artists and paying to little royalties, but it’s nothing compared to Spotify.
Next year will be your 30th year (at least) in the music industry. Do you have any plans to commemorate or celebrate this milestone? Are there any plans to maybe reissue again some of the albums that are harder to find, perhaps even on vinyl?
30 years since I started the band, man thats a long time. haha Well, I would say that I entered the professional industry in 2003 with the first release,
So that will make it 20 years two years from now, and will it be marked in some way? We will see, I’m not sure. Sometimes I have thought about making a show where we play the whole Satrap album, or a show where we play songs from the very beginning up until today, and have previous members come on as special guest. That would have been a fun night, at least for me. No plans for reissue but I would have liked to make our debut album Satrap come out on vinyl one day.
My pleasure, any time!