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Dimmu Borgir

Echelons van een genre weten altijd een nieuwe stroming net dat eerder te ontwikkelen dan de bands in hun kielzog. Dimmu Borgir is een goed voorbeeld van een black metal band die al geruime tijd een fikse dosis symfonische elementen aan de zwartgeblakerde furie toevoegt. Wat diehardfans van het genre daar ook mogen van vinden, ze zijn altijd hun eigen weg gegaan. Later dit jaar kunnen we (eindelijk, want geleden sinds 2010 met ‘Abrahadabra’) nieuw werk van de getalenteerde Noren verwachten, maar eerst verschijnt eind april een live registratie die we best uniek kunnen noemen op dubbele DVD/blu-ray: ‘Forces Of The Northern Night’. Daarop vinden we twee concerten die de band gaf met uitgebreid koor en orkest in Oslo en op Wacken. We wekten gitarist Silenoz uit zijn lange Arctische winterslaap om ons licht te schijnen op de DVD en de nabije toekomst…

Door: Vera | Archiveer onder black/pagan metal

How does it feel to be back in the running with Dimmu Borgir?
Well, it feels really great. We have always been working on music during this break – or whatever you want to call it – just trying to make the DVD come out as good as possible.

That seems a lot of work to me, because it turned into an extended package…
Some of it has been on YouTube for years obviously, but we wanted to mix it the way we wanted to sound it and make it a great package. If you are a fan of music, you want to have the best sound possible for your home stereo. I don’t think it has lost anything in its value or anything, even if it is like five or six years old now. It was a very special happening and we are really proud that it is finally out.

How long did it take in preparations for such a gig, actually both gigs in Oslo and Wacken?
Well, it took a while, because it is such a huge project to do. So the better you prepare, the better the outcome and we did not want to keep anything left to coincidence. So we planned this very well with the broadcast company and the choir and the orchestra. Both shows were a success.

Were these the only shows you did this way?
Yes, these were the two only shows and that is why we decided to include both in the same release. We pretty much had it finished last year, but we had some hang-ups on some of the production parts, so that’s why we also had to find the most suitable release date and time. It is all about doing it strategically as good as possible.

I think you also had to refresh your contract with Nuclear Blast…
Yeah, we signed a new agreement last year, that’s when we really started working to get this compiled and completed and of course we have been working on new music for the last two years anyway.

Was that so-called “break” initially planned or was it a matter of years passing by due to circumstances?
(chuckles) It is a mix of both. We are not that typical ‘release an album, tour, release an album, tour’ type of band. We have always taken a longer break after a touring cycle, but this time the break was a bit too long of course, but I think that we are in a position where we don’t really feel that we should make an album just to do it. It has to make sense, it has to have honesty behind it, otherwise it is not going to be something that we can stand behind. So that is just how we have been operating the last few years or maybe our whole career I think. That is the formula that works for us, if you can call it a formula hehe…

Indeed, a break will not harm your career anymore…
I guess in this day and age the listeners and the music industry change from year to year, but I think as long as we do it because we want to do it, and not because we have to do it, there is a difference. I rather do it that way, than just rush an album or another release just to get money or whatever… It has to come from the heart.

band imageAnyways, during that break you must have had more free time. Was there anything special you focused on during that break?
Well, you know, family takes a lot of time obviously and we did some work on the side. We had side-projects as well. Before you know it, several years have gone by. In between all this we have been working on new music for the new album. I think it is important that we actually had this long break, because you get to spend time to reflect back on what you do and why you do it. A lot of things have changed the last two years. We are pretty much on our own now, trying to work as good as possible with the label. We have a really good relationship now. There’s been a lot of people that have been working with Dimmu in the past that we needed to get away from, basically, to start fresh and do it the way we want to do it, not because other people want us to do things.

What do you think of the return of the good old vinyl?
I love it! I don’t even have many CDs left. I just collect vinyl. To me vinyl has always been welcome and when I buy music now, it is basically vinyl. Of course on iTunes as well if I have to, but to me, and maybe for the metal genre, it has never really gone away. It was always there, because the major or the bigger independent labels they were still pressing vinyl for releases, so it was always there anyways. But I think it is really cool that the younger kids these days get to see where we come from. We grew up with vinyl in the eighties. Now the younger kids maybe also share that same interest and passion of getting their favourite music on vinyl. That is awesome!

I am so happy that I never sold my old vinyl…
Me too. I got rid of all my CDs, because they just took up too much space and I had not been listening to them for three or four years. I just said to myself: ‘I don’t listen to it, why should I keep it? I rather give it away or sell it to someone who would really appreciate it.’ But the vinyl I keep of course (laughs).

Talking about the past and reflection… are you writing a book with your own story of your black metal history?
That is not entirely true, but there have been several people and writers that want to do a book on Dimmu Borgir. That’s the truth, but I have not really thought about that much myself, because it will take too much time. Maybe some time later down the road. Apart from that, I just know that there’s quite a lot of writers out there that has approached us about doing a biography book and stuff like that.

What are your personal memories on the days of those gigantic shows? Do you still remember every minute from the morning you woke up till the actual show-time?
Yeah sure. It was such a huge happening for all of us. We had rehearsed with the choir and the orchestra for three days. The day of the show everyone was in a good mood, looking forward to the show. Actually I cannot recall I was nervous. I was excited, that’s true, maybe a bit more excited than normal, but not nervous… until twenty minutes before the show my guitar technician came up to me and said: ‘Your wireless is not working.’ Okay, that was shit, but in a worst case scenario I just had to use a long cable, you know. Another thing he told me was that he could not detect what was wrong, because everything was working during the soundcheck and during the day when we ran through all the songs. He said: ‘Well, I’ll just fix it.’ and disappeared. I did not think about it anymore and two minutes before the intro starts, he came over to me with my guitar and said that everything was in order; ‘Everything works, go and have a good show.’ Okay cool. Even to this day we do not know what was causing the problem, because everything was up to date. At that time I had the best possible equipment one can have. It worked before, during the day, so it is kind of weird. But fortunately everything went smooth during the show.

Late minute pressure indeed…
Something can always go wrong, especially with a show like that, because there is so many people involved: one hundred people on stage, microphones everywhere, cables, channels… The only thing that we got to know later on was that one of the screens in the broadcast went black, but it was a screen that did not really have an important mission in the production. That is the only thing that went bad I guess, apart from my wireless.

When watching the documentary, it was cute to see that the make-up is not tested on animals…
(laughs) Yes, that’s what I have been told at least. I have been doing some research on it myself. I have been using the MAC make-up almost thirteen years now. That is something I will continue to do. You know that the visual aspect has always been important for us. With the last album we wanted to do something really different and we went for a white/grayish approach and we knew that people would either love it or hate it, but I think a couple of months after the release of the album, when we were on tour for a while, no one was talking about it anymore, so I think we took the right decision to do something different and think outside the black metal box.

Now the irresistible question: what can you tell me about the new album at this point in time?
Well, I can say as much as that we are really proud of the music that we have been writing the last few years and it is accumulating now into – what I think – will be our best album to date. Actually I have no doubts that it will be our best album, because I see it from this angle: if your goal is not to make your best album possible or better than the previous one, then there’s no point of making an album at all. For us, even before it is released, it is already a success, because we have managed to do the best we can at this time in our career. I think a lot of people will agree with us when it comes out. It has everything that Dimmu is known for and more… I cannot wait for people to hear it!

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Do you have a confirmed release date?
I am not too sure about it, but the last time I talked with the label about this was maybe a month ago and they told me that they hopefully can get it out in August. I am hoping that as well, because it is hard to be patient about something that you are really proud of. You want everybody to hear it. It is going to be massive!

With German Legacy magazine comes an exclusive Dimmu Borgir CD with six songs, amongst them a cover of ‘Perfect Strangers’ of Deep Purple. Please tell me about your personal affinity with Deep Purple…
I have always been into Deep Purple. Everybody in the band is and the plan was to do this cover back in 2001 or 2003, but it never got around to do it. So we decided to do it as a bonus thing on the ‘Abrahadabra’ album. Indeed, we are all grown up with seventies and eighties hardrock and metal and ever since I heard ‘Made In Japan’ – probably the best live album ever – I have been a huge fan. They have an unique influence on how rock-‘n-roll and metal has developed. They are one of the forefathers - or grandfathers we must say now - of the genre. Huge respect!

And Black Sabbath?
Same goes for Black Sabbath. Absolutely. I happen to like all areas of Black Sabbath. I like the Ozzy stuff, my favourite era is with Dio of course and I even love the first albums with Tony Martin on vocals, like ‘The Headless Cross’ is one of my favourites. We were of course really fortunate to do Ozzfest in 2004 on which we played on the main stage with Black Sabbath. We got to see them 33 shows in a row which was a pinnacle in our lives.

Who did the artwork for the DVD?
It was Joachim Luetke who has been working on the last previous album covers. So we decided that we wanted to incorporate some stuff from the past, because this is a live release and it needs to have something that links all the songs together and we decided that he was the best to compile and do the artwork and the layout. It turned out really cool. We did not know how the label would put this up in terms of different releases and stuff, but I am really happy that it also comes out on vinyl.

But then you miss the visual aspect…
That’s true, but it is there in so many versions. Obviously we don’t expect the fans to buy all the versions, but they can choose whatever they like. At least they have options to choose from.

You started as a black metal band. How did you personally grow into the classical, symphonic thing?
I cannot say that I am a huge classical listener, but of course I really like the big ones like Beethoven, Mozart, Wagner… but I think the similarities between our music – and maybe metal in general – and classical or orchestral music are pretty obvious. They have so many things in common: it is very dramatic, very dynamic,… we of course have always been leaning towards that side of symphonic and epic type of stuff. For us, incorporating an orchestra is, in a way, not such a big deal, because we already had the symphonic elements. The challenge was to transcribe this into notes, because none of us in the band really knows notes. So we needed help to do that and that’s when things can go wrong. If the guy who transcribes our music into notes does not know what he’s been doing and where we want to take it, then it could be a catastrophic outcome (chuckles), but luckily we managed really well and that is why we worked with the same guy for three, four times now. We kind of coach him about how far we want to go and although it is challenging and time-consuming, he is doing a great job.

What is the latest news about your other band Insidious Disease?
Actually we finished mixing the new album in January. I am just working with the guys at the artwork at the moment and hopefully we will have this ready by Summer or Fall. I am not sure who’s going to pick it up yet. At this time we are an unsigned band, but I want to have everything ready before I go to labels with it. I want them to hear the final product, also with artwork and stuff. So they know what they are getting into. That way there’s no secrets from either side, you know. It is what it is. We are really happy how it turned out. It is more groovy and heavier than the last album I think.

If you consider this DVD as the pinnacle of your career, what will be the next highlight?
The next will obviously be the new album. It is going to speak for itself when it comes out, as I think it is worth the wait for people. I know that the fans have been really impatient, which is understandable, but even worse for us in the band, because we want to show it to the fans as soon as we can, but we are not the type of band that rush things to get a quick success. We need to have everything in order, as close to perfection as we can.

Can Dimmu Borgir be expected live on stage still within this year?
Yes, I absolutely think so, because we have the artwork and everything ready for the album. We will start preparing for the world tour. I don’t know exactly which month we are going to start, but it is going to be somewhere in the Fall, I am pretty sure about that. We cannot wait to get out with the new songs and of course the old songs which we play live. We really look forward to meet the fans again. It has been too long!

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