Susperia - Interview
"Predominance" hit the metal world like the atomic bomb, leaving 90% of it in ashes, the affect of radioactivity will be judged in a few years from now but the first reactions are disturbing. Did I mention that this is Susperia’s debut? Imagine what the second wave will do. Susperia are five guys with a very impressive resume but don’t let it fool you... I’d say more, but you shouldn’t even read it cause you might end up drinking too much trying to figure out what style they play. (Like I did) One hint: whatever they did in the past has got nothing to do with what they do right now. I’m not going to bore you any more cause there is quite a novel to read below; Athera couldn’t stop talking, I couldn’t stop asking questions and we got to the point that I ran out of tape so enjoy...
Before we start with the questions I would like to congratulate you on a great album and say that you surprised me in a very positive way with the style and sound of "Predominance". For at least a week I didn’t listen to anything else...
Oh right!!! Thank you very much and what was the big surprise?
First of all I was expecting another Norwegian black metal band...
Yea, that’s the problem coming from Norway. Everyone is expecting this or that... well, I’m glad we surprised you.
The band was founded by both Tjodalv and Cyrus, how did the rest of the members get involved with this project?
Yeah, you are correct. It was actually an original idea by Cyrus, the guitar player, cause he was sitting with all this material and all these ideas to create something new. He wanted to do something different and for many years he has written music for different bands without playing there and he also had done just session jobs for many bands. So, he wanted to create his own band and he contacted his friend Tjodalv, still at that time in Dimmu Borgir, and they did some rehearsing and when Tjodalv finally left Dimmu Borgir they had all the time in the world to really focus on this thing.
It was actually a crazy coincidence cause some months after they really started focusing on this thing I met Tjodalv for the very first time at the Wacken festival in Germany, we were both there, and being Norwegian, we introduced to each other, started talking and he told me he just left Dimmu Borgir and was starting up a new band and looking for people. I had nothing special to do at that time and I was a vocalist so I said I’m very interested and actually I also new two people back in Norway who could fill the bass and second guitar. That was just the lineup they were looking for. So, when we got back we gathered the troops, did the test rehearsal and everything went perfect from the first day and that is actually how the band was born.
I assume that with such a huge interest from the fans and labels this is not a side project but rather fully functional band?
This is a bunch of friends that have built up this band from nothing, from scratch, and we are definitely not a project. I’ve even heard people called us something like an all star band and this is totally wrong. This is just a normal band that we try to build together, do something new and stay together in this same lineup. We’ll be around and we’ll keep recording new albums.
Great to hear that, I’m already eagerly awaiting your second album...
Great, we already have like five or six songs in preparation now. They need some lyrics and some rehearsing but from pre-production stuff from Cyrus’ little home studio it sounds fucking killer to me and I’ll do my best with the vocal stuff and we actually hope to go in to the studio early autumn.
You used Mustis of Dimmu Borgir as a session musician for the keyboards on the "Illusions of Evil" demo. Did you drop this idea because you didn’t like the Susperia sound with them or you thought there are too many of Dimmu Borgir members in this band and it simply becomes Dimmu part II.
Well, the whole demo thing was actually quite funny. Yeah, you’re right. We have Tjodalv on drums, the original Dimmu drummer, and it wasn’t the smartest thing that we did to have Mustis come and play some synth for us on the demo cause the media, press they got totally wrong impression cause from the demo they were expecting a new Norwegian symphonic black metal band. I mean, how the hell could we know that the demo was to become so talked about and successful. We started this band in September of 1999; just two months later we had enough material to record the five-song demo, which we did. The sound was very nice for such small studio. I mean we had a concept already figured out that we would combine the old dynamics of the American thrash with emotions of black metal from Norway and actually just for fun as an experiment we contacted Mustis as a friend to come over to the studio and just do some improvised synths, which I know he loves to do. So, he came over one day and just played some notes which we recorded and it sounded fairly OK and we just kept that. And then we released the demo without expecting anything. But after the release, it was enormous take off, we couldn’t believe our eyes with what was happening. Then so many labels contacted us and were interested in working with us and the media, when they heard about this thing, got totally wrong impression because there was never meant to be any synth on any album of Susperia which you can tell from the debut album. There are no synths there and it will stay this way but I think it’s ok to experiment, which we did, on the demo.
Although your music has nothing to do with Dimmu Borgir it seems like Nuclear Blast does everything to associate Susperia with them.
Well, they have this thing for this kind of promotion to tell the audience and the media that people have played in this or that band, but one of the positive things all the responses from the labels was that most of the labels didn’t care about us as individuals and what we have done or not in the past. They were really focused on this band and the music. They didn’t care what we have done before and we want to put the past behind us and we want people to forget what each one of us had done before cause this is not essential at all. This is totally something different and has really nothing to do with symphonic black metal and actually not so much to do with black metal either. I really consider Susperia more a thrash metal band with, of course, some influences from black. Maybe we had this in the back of our mind when we signed with Nuclear Blast, that Dimmu Borgir being very close friends to us, maybe something could be worked out there and so it has happened. We are so fortunate to be supporting Dimmu on the whole European tour and this is so perfect a promotion tour for us. We couldn’t ask for more. It’s just so perfect for us, so soon after the release of the album to be able to play for so many people in so many countries and just promote the band and our music. And being a new band with our first album in these times with all those bands around and all those albums coming out, especially coming from Norway where there’s a hard competition we needed a really good promotion. And if you ask me, I think Nuclear Blast is by far one of the best companies when it comes to promoting their bands, on any level. We negotiated with them for almost four months to make a deal that would suit both parts. I mean, we are not in this for the money at all but we need to rely on the contract that can compensate the loss we have ‘cause right now we are sacrificing everything, our jobs, our friends, girlfriends, everything. So we need some compensation for all this but we are still not in it for the money.
Nuclear is just a perfect company for us, they can promote us extremely well, put us on tours, it’s perfect but I don’t really like the connections they make to all these bands and I would rather have them forget that some of us had been in Dimmu, Old Man’s and blah, blah, blah cause I don’t want to be connected with that. Some people see it as a negative thing, like you many media people asked me this question so it’s something we just have to live with.
I don’t necessarily see this as a negative thing, but I just noticed that everywhere the Susperia name is, there are names of the people that played with Dimmu, now the tour with them, so it seems like Nuclear is pushing you guys together...
Yeah, they are pushing us really hard and I’m really satisfied with the whole pushing promotion thing. I also think maybe it’s a cool thing... a lot of people were wondering what the hell happened to Tjodalv after he left Dimmu and I think it’s kind of interesting for the Dimmu Borgir fans to go to their shows on the European tour to see Dimmu and also see as a support band a new band of Tjodalv. I think it’s quite interesting but I don’t want to be connected with this too much that maybe people get the wrong impression that this is Tjodalv’s solo project or his new band. I mean, it is his new band but there are four more people and we’re into this together. There are always going to be negative sides and always positive sides and it all depends on people you are taking to.
I have to say that landing 4-album deal with Nuclear Blast just after one demo is quite impressive.
I think is quite unique. I think I’ve never heard of a band that signed with Nuclear just after one demo. I think it’s something special [laughs], I’m totally amazed and still can’t understand what happened. I mean, I totally like my own music and the music we make in the band and I appreciate that label and those people that like it too. But still, just existing just for four-five months with only one demo and getting this major deal with one of the biggest companies is, for me, a dream come true.
You said that most of the labels were for the music and not for the people but do you think that’s because of previous bands’ membership of some Susperia members helped you in getting the deal?
When we promoted our demo we didn’t go so deep into the details of the people in the band. We listed on the back of the demo who we were, what our names were and where we played but we didn’t promote it this same way as Nuclear Blast is doing now that Tjodalv came from Dimmu and Cyrus from Old Man’s Child and blah, blah, blah. We just wrote some simple information on who this band is. Most of the labels maybe have heard of the people before but I don’t think they paid to much attention to it. You can’t sign the band just because one or two members have been in other bands. You have to have some quality in the music you represent.
And this is totally different; this is nothing like the bands they have played before. This is not Old Man’s Child. This is not Dimmu Borgir. For me this is something totally different and hopefully for the crowd also. You can’t just sign a band because Tjodalv was from Dimmu Borgir; you have to play your own good music.
I had a real problem categorizing your style of music...
I’m so glad to hear this. I love it every time when people tell me they have problems comparing us to other bands, labeling us... I love it. That was what we hoped for that we’d do. That we would not just fall under a label, being compared to all these bands and styles and being just another band of this or that. I’m really glad to hear that.
I actually wrote in my review that either I drink too much and my mind is in a constant state of confusion [we laugh really hard!!!] or this album is that good... of course there are black metal roots, but I can hear a lot of death and even thrash in your compositions. How would you describe your style?
Acctualy, all five of us have more or less this same taste. We are very much into old American thrash and of course also into Norwegian black scene and trying to combine the dynamics from the thrash metal and emotions from the black metal, from what I’ve heard, I think we have succeeded in a way of creating an interesting mix of this two very different styles. I’m totally satisfied with being able to play in a band with this kind of music cause old American fashion and Norwegian black are my two favorite styles within metal and being able to combine them in my own band is just perfect for me. I feel really comfortable and I hope people can enjoy the way we want to play metal.
Lately, it seems like some people judge underground by album sales rather than the style of music. What does underground mean to you?
Well, I have to be honest with you. I really hate the underground. I have no respect for them anymore. I mean the real underground was the late 80s and the beginning of the 90s with only a few people playing in really underground bands, helping each other out, releasing each other’s albums and being this inner circle. Then people left scene, they got killed or actually they killed and got put in jail and all that stuff, you know there is so much shit that happened and the whole thing just split up. The whole black metal scene moved on with more and more bands and more and more people but in the beginning there were, at least in Norway, 15-20 people and today there are like 500 claiming to be of the inner circle of whatever. I think underground people from all aver the world are too much into the old school thing from 10-15 years back and have really narrow-minded vision when it comes to metal nowadays.
I mean we are not a satanic band; we don’t surround the image of the band with any ideology at all. I couldn’t care less for any religion. I just believe in myself and in my own values and I get really provoked when people call Susperia a sellout band or a fucking commercial band. What’s the fucking point? We don’t want to be a part of this whole black, satanic underground stuff. Why do they have to call as names? Why do they have to label us as anything? Why can’t they just either accept or don’t like the music?
I know exactly what you mean. In my opinion anyone that’s says selling one album or 100,000 doesn’t make a difference to him is just lying to himself and contradicting human nature.
I would never play the music I don’t feel comfortable with. I love to play. For 12 years now I wanted to play this kind of music. Since I was 11 years old, I’ve been having this dream of one day making it with the band, getting the record deal and be able to go around the world, tour and play my music for myself and people. I really don’t care about sales figures I just want people to get to know the music and enjoy it. I’m not in this for the fucking money. You’ll never get rich playing metal, at least not in Europe. I don’t really care for the money but of course it would be nice to make as much money as you would in a normal job so you don’t have to have both ‘cause combining normal day job with the band is totally hopeless cause we need to sacrifice everything to make this happen. So, a certain income or certain compensation as I talked about before is highly needed to survive. When I sacrifice my fucking blood, sweat and tears to do this and people of the so called "underground" call me a sellout or a motherfucker, I have nothing in common with those people and I have no respect for them. They have no idea what are they talking about, at all.
Do you know why there is so much hate between black metal fans about traditional and new black sound? I don’t see this in any other genre. For example lets take death metal... there is a trend of this new melodic sound now, which traditional death fans might not like it or even hate it but it doesn’t get to the point like between black metal fans.
I think it’s the magic and the mysticism of the old times when the black metal started. I think most of the young people growing up today listening to bands like Darkthrone and that stuff they want things to be like it was in the past. All that strange, mystical, satanic shit going on, they still want things to be like this. In early 80s when there were bands in every style like Morbid Angel, Testament, Helloween, I could mention bands from all different styles, there was no taking about you are a sellout, you a commercial band and you are shit and you not. In the old days, before the black metal thing there was just metal, everybody liked metal. It was just one big, happy group of people enjoying the music, going to shows and listening to different bands. There was no shit talk of any kind but after the whole black metal revolution and now in the later years when there is not so much extreme things going on, people maybe look back and want things the way they were. I don’t know... things just got way out of proportion. I don’t know how people can call Nuclear Blast a fucking commercial company? I mean if a fucking Britney Spears or Limp Bizkit would have been on Nuclear then they would have been a commercial company. There are no Nuclear bands on top 40!!!
They are also narrow-minded, as I said; they don’t know what they are talking about. I just get frustrated thinking about them...
Well than, let’s change the subject. You have a very interesting cover. It’s not like overused satanic theme on most metal covers. Who came up with this idea and does it have any special meaning?
Well, I have to ask you... do you have a promo or a real album cover?
Promo with a child’s face on it...
That was actually a temporary cover for the promo release. You have to check out the new album cover. This is totally much better. It’s this same concept but we took away the whites clean effect and it’s still the child head but now it has this insane screaming mouth coming out of the head. Really beautifully, graphically put together and the logo is much more enhanced. New album cover is totally different yet this same but it looks fifty times more professional and I’m totally satisfied with it.
The whole idea behind it was, as you said, when we are from Norway people expect some landscape picture or some forest picture with some strange title like "under the blue sky moon" or something, and as I said, we are totally not satanic or anything like that and actually not a black metal band at all. I consider us more thrash metal band still we wanted to have really strange, original, eye catching cover and I think we achieved our goal cause the other day I was down in a local music store shopping in Oslo and saw our album on the shelve and you know they put like 10-15 of them in a row along with all new other releases and I mean it’s not just because it’s my band and I know the cover it really stands out. It’s something really eye catching, it’s this total sterile white and just this focused face in the middle, red logo and it totally stand out from everything else. I think is really original and special and when people see it in magazines or in music stores they will go like "Hey, what the hell is this? A metal band?" It draws attention and I think we achieved what we hoped for.
You write all the lyrics, what’s the general subject of them?
Well, there is no same red line in this album, no special message or concept that I wanted to tell the people. Some lyrics are just fictional and stories are almost like short novels. Stories I make up in my head when I’m in a strange mood. They don’t mean anything, just funny, strange stories. Another way of writing lyrics is when I draw some inspiration real life invents surrounding my close friends or myself. Mostly negative events where I take the hate out of the situation and make like this poetic statement through the lyrics to direct my hate to someone or something and those are the most aggressive and most energetic lyrics I ever write. And the last way of writing lyrics, at least for this album was about Christians. As I said we are not satanic, we don’t write satanic lyrics but Christianity has always been around and I know especially in the United Sates and Norway they are really talking too much and speaking too loud. They go on television screaming, preaching then they go knocking on your door and always try to push this thing on to you even if you don’t want it. They provoked me a lot and sometimes I write lyrics that tend to criticize and question the moral use of Christianity. I use quite a lot of sarcasm rather than satanic lyrics like kill Jesus or all that stuff.
You decided not to use makeup which is great but why do you still hide behind nicknames? Isn’t it also one of the old black metal fashions?
Maybe... but I think the main reason that we choose to have nicknames was, actually two reasons, Tjodalv the drummer used his nick name in Dimmu and he still wanted to use this name. So, it would look rather strange when one person has had a nickname and the rest would have original names. That was one reason and also the fact that we are from Norway and some of us have really strange names for international use and pronouncing our names in English is not always that easy and to make it simple and short we just chose nicknames for the rest of us too.
You just came back from a great tour with Dimmu Borgir, In Flames and Nevermore to name a few. How was the people’s reaction to your music? Are you satisfied with your performance?
Oh, it was very intense. I’m very satisfied. We didn’t know what to expect, we were supposed to support Dimmu Borgir on the whole European tour and this part was also a festival tour with all these bands that you mentioned, actually five and we were the first going on stage rather early and we didn’t know what to expect. Coming home now and looking back I’m so satisfied cause every night it was maybe from 60 to maybe 90% full when we were on stage and the response was fucking enormous. We had great sound, lights, smoke, everything the whole surrounding. I’m totally satisfied. We were not down-prioritized in any way and we were really taken care of by professional people. This would never happened to us if we would have signed with any other label and that’s why I’m so happy that we signed up with Nuclear Blast cause they have done so much for us and being on this tour is just the best thing that could happen to us. The album is just out and people have not heard of us all that much and this is the perfect promotion tour for a new band as we are. We got some great live reviews and thousands of new potential Susperia fans.
I guess Tjodalv’s relation with the Dimmu members is still friendly. How did you get along together during the tour or all of you are just one big, happy family?
Yeah, when we formed the band, Tjodalv was the only guy knowing the Dimmu guys cause we all came from different parts of the Oslo area but now when we have been in the band for almost two years we have gotten to know the Dimmu guys and now Susperia and Dimmu are just this same kind of people, crazy metalheads. We have become really great friends and we also spend a lot of time together in private, besides the music. We got along really great and we became really good friends. The whole tour thing really connected our bands in a special way, being the two Norwegian bands we always share the same dressing rooms and we also at some point shared the bus, so yeah we are really getting along perfectly and we are just looking forward to meet each other for the last part of the European tour and party on... [laughs]
What are the future tour plans? Any chance to see you in US? Why don’t you support Dimmu in their US tour?
Dimmu is in US now, and Susperia album is not going to be released until the 1st of May in America and we also had a limited budget. We have spent a lot of money on this European tour, on merchandise and promotion and Nuclear has limited budget for first time bands and I can totally understand that. To not exceed the budget and take any chances, they didn’t want to send us to US this time, which I totally accept. I mean, it would have been a good promotion tour, but wouldn’t benefit from it. We would just go a way below zero on band’s budget and would have to spend next two years paying Nuclear back for the expanses they would have for a eventual US tour. I hope that something can be arranged, maybe after our second album. We are going to record an album after the summer and hopefully have a new release at this same time next year. Maybe then it would be possible to go to the US, which is also one of my biggest dreams. I didn’t expect to go to the US just after a debut album, so I’m not disappointed but it would have been totally great. We will continue promoting our band in Europe after they come back for the second part of European tour and just take things day by day.
Even though you said that there are not going to be any keyboards and the album I find some background on "Blood On My Hands". Is this something you want to do more in the future or just one-time experiment?
It was actually the Peter’s idea, he suggested to put some electronic, strange sounds behind it and we went to this other studio were he had this computer with all those strange sounds, so there are no manual keyboards being played on that song, they are just electronic sounds put together by Peter Tagtgren. It’s his credit that the song turn out the way it did cause he made some good melodies and strange sounds, which is cool. I think we’ll continue experimenting but not too much. Maybe one or two songs with something alternative but having one song with some electronics doesn’t mean next time we’ll make a full electronic album.
Although most of your vocals are great and range from deep growls to even a’ la King Diamond screams, I’m a little disappointed with the clean-nordic range. I got this feeling that you tried to sound like Vortex in those parts. Don’t you think that maybe you tried to accomplish too much in such a short time?
Well, I have four people that I really look up to when it comes to vocals. It’s Chuck Billy of Testament, Eric Adams of Manowar, Michael Kiske of Helloween and Michael Patton of Faith No More. Those four people have their very own unique style and sing very differently. So, somewhere in the middle as far as I’m able, you can find me. I try to make combinations of all these four people and I look up to. I’m a vocalist, but I don’t consider myself the best in Norway. Vortex of Dimmu is a masterpiece, he’s a really professional, great vocalist and I don’t try to be like him at all. The clean parts of "Predominance" that’s my true voice. In death and black metal vocals I make my voice, as far as I can, to sound like different styles. I have to adjust my voice to sing deep and I have to adjust my voice to sing black. King Diamond stuff is how I sound when I try to squeeze my voice to the top. I really sing from the heart and I don’t think of anybody else. I just sing the way I feel comfortable and feel able to. I don’t want to sound like Vortex and I don’t try to either, but I can accept that when people think I sound like him. For me personally, to listen to the album with these same vocals through the whole album that’s very boring. I don’t like that. When I’m in the studio recording an album I want, for my own enjoyment and also the interest of the audience, I want to create some variations. I’m not saying I’m the master of every vocal style but as far as I can I try to make things sound interesting. I try to experiment with a lot of styles and the things I try that don’t sound good we leave out. What we thought sounded good we kept, just to make it interesting for the listener, to have some variation.
I know it’s a little too early to ask for the new album but you already said you would try to go away even more from the black metal sound on your next album. What is it going to be then?
We haven’t started to rehearse so much on our new material. I was just checking them out cause Cyrus is making all the new songs for the new album. He has his little studio at home and has made five or six new songs, which he gave me the copy of just with the drum machine and his own guitar sound. It sounds really dynamic and thrashy. I think we’ll move even more from black metal and even more into the extreme thrash metal thing.
Is all that stuff going on in black metal world one of the reasons you want to go away from black metal influences in Susperia?
No, no. We don’t care about the views of the underground people. We cannot let them control our musical life. They can say whatever the hell they want but they’ll never affect us concerning what we are doing. We will do exactly what we feel like, what we want to do and we will do it anytime and anywhere. No matter what people say. There will always be people criticizing us but that something we have to live with. We will just fallow our metal ears and make music we feel comfortable with and hopefully people will accept and enjoy it.
That’s exactly what I wanted to hear. Thank you for a great interview and I just want to wish you and the rest of the band my best Susperian regards and the best of luck in the future.
Thank you very much for this great interview.
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