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Dimmu Borgir | Death Cult Armageddon | interview | Shagrath | metal | Lollipop
Death Cult Armageddon (Nuclear Blast)
An interview with vocalist Shagrath
By Scott Hefflon
Photos by Pia
You're playing the Ozzfest this year, congrats! How many times have you played the States?
Five proper tours, I believe.
At the tail end of last year, I saw you with Children of Bodom, Nevermore, and Hypocrisy.
That was an interesting, mixed bill. All four bands are different, but all very extreme in their own way.
Your stage presence is, of course, immense. So much so that you don't even miss the nuances of the orchestra on Death Cult Armageddon.
That recording is the first time we used a full horn section. We used strings before, but not horns. Also, we had a lot more preparation for that album, a lot more time to demo and for preproduction so we could work out the sounds and ideas. We have a home studio that we've been building over the years, and that helps a lot to prepare for recording. We spent a month more than usual in the studio, and it was cool to have the budget to spend the time to do things properly. Most of the extra time was spent in the mix, because the mix is crucial for us.
How long has Dimmu Borgir been a full-time job?
Two or three years. Not that long if you think about it. A few years ago we still had to have day jobs or do odd jobs to pay the bills, but that's the reality of living in a country where the taxes are very high. If you have an average job in Norway you can live rather well, but as a musician - especially a musician in this genre - it's rather tight.
What was your job or profession before going full-time with Dimmu Borgir?
I worked in a photo store as a desk clerk for about four or five years. That's the closest I've ever had to a proper job, and hopefully that's the closest I'll ever be. (chuckles)
Do you live in the city?
No, I live in the countryside. I have a house. Actually, I guess you could say I've taken over the family house. We all live in the countryside except the bass player (Vortex).
Until you recently parted ways with drummer Nick Barker, you were on a roll with two albums in a row with the same line-up.
Except for the first and second records, yeah. We have a strong line-up (plus a session drummer) and we work very well together. Previously, various members had different ideas of what they thought Dimmu Borgir should do (and most had other side projects and bands), and when the band got serious and there was more touring to do, some of the older members just weren't ready for that. They had to leave to not hold the rest of the band back. That's how it is.
How many months a year do you tour?
Eight or nine, on and off. We're touring all of 2004 until September, and maybe more.
And black metal goes over well, even in parts of the world one might not think it would?
I think we help it become more acceptable. We don't have the old-school sound in much of our music, so we appeal to many who are not narrow-minded about their music.
Have you ever been approached to do soundtracks or video games?
A few times, yes, but the timing has always been bad. Perhaps that's something we can concentrate on when we're old and our bodies can't handle touring anymore. It would have to be the right time, the right feeling, and the right movie, obviously.
Are you a fan of movie soundtracks?
I listen to them quite a lot, actually. One I'm having trouble finding is the Terminator 2 soundtrack.
Song two, "Progenies of The Great Apocalypse," sounds like something from Danny Elfman's Batman.
Abbath from Immortal said it sounded like something from Star Wars. (laughs)
Who helped you with the orchestration?
Same guy as last time, Gaute Storaas, who's something of a Norwegian celebrity. He's a rather strange guy, but really knows how to capture what we want from the orchestral side of the music. He helped us arrange, because none if us know how to read notes, and he's able to see the whole picture. He helps orchestras and does TV commercials, all kinds of stuff. Everyone in Norway knows who he is.
How did you hook up with him?
In '99, we were scheduled to play the Grammy's in Norway, and he was the one who arranged the orchestra parts. The day before we were to play, the orchestra pulled out, so we played without them. But we had a tape from prerecording with the orchestra. We've kept in touch with him ever since.
A nice little thing for the box set...
Yeah, that's the kind of stuff we want to compile. We'll probably also put some demo versions from this album on there, the versions with keyboard, not the orchestra, so you can hear the difference.
You must've had some difficulty mixing a 46-piece orchestra with the blast beats.
Yeah, that was tricky. The orchestra recorded with a click, but sometimes there were parts that were out of beat, so we had to stretch and edit and such.
Do you get compared to Cradle of Filth a lot?
Yes. Next question.
Well, take them off the "friends and peers" list... Who are your peers? Borknagar? Didn't your bassist used to play with them?
He used to sing for them, yeah, but he quit a few years ago.
I really like Vintersorg's voice, the guy who replaced him. Who does your clean vocals?
Vortex, the bassist, the one who used to be in Borknagar.
By the way, I'm glad you released a CD with a title that's not such a tongue-twister. Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia doesn't exactly roll off the tongue...
We wanted a three word title that was strong and created images in your mind. All our album titles make perfect sense, but I don't expect they made sense to everyone else. (FYI: Enthrone Darkness Triumphant, Godless Savage Garden, and Spiritual Black Dimension) We wanted something simple this time, and Death Cult Armageddon is a good description of the lyrical and musical concepts on the album. It's also an obvious statement on our view of the world in general.
What is your world view?
We're a war-obsessed culture. Mankind is a death cult heading toward destruction.