About Me

Interview with Dimmu Borgir

Dimmu Borgir are about to celebrate 25 years of existence and 2017 mark their monumental return. In late April, the DVD/BluRay “Forces of the Northern Nights”  will be released and they expect to release the new long-awaited album later this year as well. Silenoz, one of the band’s mentors, had a chat, via Skype, with Metal Imperium and revealed a few details of what the band has in store for us.

M.I. - The band is about to celebrate 25 years of existence. Did things work out the way you thought they would? 

No, actually not. [Laughs] We didn’t think we’d make it this far, I don’t think any band thinks about that when they’re starting off. But, after a while you get to have more and more ambitions. In the beginning we were just playing for fun… you know, just wanted to jam but things developed more and more in a way that, sooner or later, you decide to join the ride and try not to control it, you know?

M.I. - What’s the biggest difference between Dimmu Borgir in the 90’s and Dimmu Borgir now?

I think we have a bit more aware of everything. I think it that has to do with ages and experiences that we didn’t have in 93 because we were too young.  But the core is still the same, to have the drive to do something different, to do something that you can stand behind 110%, to enjoy something that you don’t consider work, even though it can some hard work sometimes, but it’s not work like at the factory or whatever. I have a huge respect for everyone that does their work properly, whether you are a garbage man or whatever else. This is enjoyable, even in good times and bad times, you kinda reflect on that and realize that the good times are so good that they overshadow the bad times.

M.I. - 2017 is believed to mark Dimmu Borgir’s monumental return… what can fans expect?

First of all they can expect the DVD release in late April which wanted to have out a years ago but, due to circumstances, we figured out it was better to have it out closer to the time frame of the next album. We are really happy with the fact that we can release this huge documentation of the biggest shows we’ve ever done and that alone feels like a huge accomplishment. Then, of course, it’s like a teaser for the new album which will be released later this year, which we are in the last stages of mixing at the moment… that’s why I am calling from Sweden. It’s gonna be an interesting year and it feels good to be back, we feel very confident about the new material which we have been working on and off in the last few years. We have been off the radar, not doing that many shows, I think the last one was in 2014, but we always usually take a break after each world tour is done… but, this time, the break got a bitnlonger and I could give you several reasons for that but they are going to sound like excuses so… [Laughs]!

M.I. - What’s the band’s current line-up? The press release only mentions Silenoz, Shagrath and Galder. Is it still just the 3 of you?

We do this in the sense that we want to portray who’s the creative part and who’s the administrative part of the band. It shows who the creative part is, ever since Galder came into the band 17 years ago. No to take anything away from any of the previous members but the creative trio is the 3 of us and we are gonna continue like that because it works out better this way. I’m not sure if it’s the absolute optimal but it’s the best way for us to function and we don’t want to mess with that at this point in our career. 

M.I. - Let’s talk about the DVD… it is one high-end production! It is spectacular! I guess it involved massive logistics. I know there were many cameras around but do you know how many were actually involved in the recordings?

Thanks! Yeah, for both shows there were between 16 to 22/23 cameras, so it’s definitely a massive way to document a live show.

M.I. - Did you take part in the organization of all the logistics or were you there just to play?

We took part of the preparations on every level but we tend to keep the people who know about the filming stuff, we go through with them… every camera man and woman and they don’t know every part of each song and you kind of gamble with that anyway but if you have many cameras, it allows great camera work. Everything came out really well, we have been reediting some footage for both shows because some of it came out on Youtube years ago already but we mixed it the way we wanted it to be sounding. The dynamics for both orchestras were shown better on this version, the live mix is more lively, energetic and show the dynamic range of the orchestral parts better.

M.I. - How’s the pre-order demand of the DVD “Forces of the northern night” been so far?

That’s a good question ‘cause I don’t know any numbers from the pre-orders yet. Judging from the fans, it’s a good response, especially on our Facebook page and from fans that attended both shows… they can get the copy from the show they choose. These are 2 monumental days in our history and it would be totally wrong to sit on these documents and not have them out for the fans and for ourselves for that matter.

M.I. - The title “Forces of the northern night” is an allusion to the verse in the Dimmu Borgir  track “Forces of the northern lights, assemble, Forces of the northern nights, call to arms, Summoned by the secrets of sacrifice”… why this title in particular? Cause of the self-titled track?

Yeah, I feel it captures the essence of what we are about, apart from being a bit of a play on words. It shows us as a trio writing wise anyway, it shows that we know how to do songs and that’s what we always have done. Some members take way too much credit from the fans but what people see from the outside is one thing, and what I see from the inside is another thing, I don’t want to stir with the past because we are not in the past ... so our force is totally intact in the band and I think it’s a fitting title for a DVD/Blu Ray at this point.

M.I. - In the Oslo 2011 DVD/BluRay you play along with The Norwegian Radio Orchestra and Choir and at the Wacken Open Air 2012 you play with the National Czech Symphonic Orchestra. I know I shouldn’t be asking this because it’s a mean question but... with which orchestra did you prefer playing?

[Laughs] It’s a difficult question but it’s not mean or evil. I think that if Wacken was the 1st show, I don’t think this would have happened. Imagine all that onstage, all those mics recording and you need to have all the channels prepared. Since we did all that once in Oslo we had time to prepare, to do like a proper test before, plus 3 or 4 days of rehearsals that made proper sense. But if we were asked to do a festival before we would say no. I’m glad we did the Oslo show and surprisingly it came out well not only from logistics but also from a technical point of view. A lot of stuff can go wrong, you know? Doing it at Wacken was still a huge gamble and I would say that the differences between the orchestras aren’t that big because they play from the same notes, they both have tremendous experience, not only playing classical stuff but other stuff as well, which is really helpful in our setting. You have conservative players in each orchestra but, at the end of the day, they came up and said they were worried to do this but after doing it they respected us more and some even became fans. It was really cool, means that they saw something in us, that we convinced them about. That feels really good.

M.I. - The Oslo show was in a venue and the Wacken was played live during the day... does that make a great difference?

From a visual point of view it is very different. We had lots of pyros at Wacken and since it’s outdoors, the classical instruments can easily get out of tune. It’s also a factor that people don’t think about because both orchestras are used to tune by ear. Inside a venue is different from outside. That’s a bit of a challenge too, the only thing that was extra challenging for Wacken were the signals for each instrument and that made it more difficult to mix and finalise than the Oslo show. At Wacken the preparation stage was only 45 minutes compared to 2 days in Oslo.

M.I. - Why did you use two different orchestras anyway?

The thing with the Oslo show was the KORK Orchestra approached us before we started recording “Abrahadabra” and they wanted to know if we wanted to do a show with them, it wasn’t us contacting them it so it’s important to pinpoint this! Lol!  The logistics and the costs were easier to take care because KORK are part government funded and that made the Oslo show possible. We did that and then we were asked to do Wacken and we said we could do it for this and this because it costs shitloads of money to record but… anything for art! It was more of a gamble to do the Wacken show but I felt it was the right thing to do. If we can do it inside, we can do it outside and throw ourselves to the lions. 

M.I. - Did you have to adjust the sound of the band to the sound of the orchestra?

No, not at all. We had the drum kit inside a glass cage because of the cymbal ringing, that was basically the only thing. Our keyboard player always has his monitors anyway. Shagrath is using in-ears and the rest of us went on about it as usual. The trick was to have everything low onstage, especially because if you have loud onstage, it is very difficult to get a clean mix or clean sing for later mix. Some people noticed that at Oslo the sound was low because it was supposed to be recorded. I don’t believe if it gets louder, it gets better, it still needs to have a proper mix. 

M.I. - It was amazing seeing some of the guys of the orchestra at the Wacken Open Air are totally excited about being there and headbanging and all and some are wearing face paint. Were there any fans of the band before you played with them? 

Some of them knew about us before, especially in the KORK orchestra half of them knew about us from before and a couple of the guys took the initiative that put the idea first for the rest of the orchestra. Thanks to real fans for making this possible!

M.I. - Anyway, it seems you paid less attention to the albums released in the 90’s. The DVD/BluRay does not include any track from Spiritual Black Dimensions, For All Tid, Stormblast. Why were these albums left out? 

That’s a good question because, in my opinion, we have really well-written tracks from Stormblast and Spiritual. We haven’t really paid too much attention to Spiritual but we are going to try and change that because it has quite a few great songs. The majority of the fans are mostly into our later albums. Both albums did really well but when we play songs from older albums there’s only a small percentage of people that recognise them. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t play, but it makes it more if a challenge to convince the fans to listen to our older catalogue. 

M.I. - Well, I am included in that small percentage and I miss those songs. I remember when Shagrath sent me a promo copy of Stormblast and it blew me away. I enjoy those albums and not having them featured on the DVD was a bit disappointing but…

Yeah, it was like a compromise, we had just done the “Abrahadabra” with KORK Orchestra and doing the concert with them and the main focus is on that album. One year later we did the Wacken and we could have changed a few songs but that meant more logistical steps for us and more extra work. The guy helping transcribing the notes wasn’t available. It’s a pity but most of the songs are really suitable for that kind of release. I’m not against doing this again in the future. Imagine if we can do the same in London, Los Angeles, Sydney…

M.I. - Lisbon, Porto…

Yeah, you name it. If things are in order, we can’t say no. But this time, we are gonna finish this album and prepare a world tour and get as many places covered as possible. It’s gonna be a long touring cycle but after that’s done and if the timing is right and if the money is there to do it, who knows? Everything is doable after we did these 2 shows!

M.I. - You said that compared to the choir and orchestra, the band was not the pro there. Why? Don’t you think you are a professional musician?

Yeah, we are professional but I realised there are musicians more professional! [Laughs] We learned a lot from these 2 experiences, the way to approach our creativity and our music. Every situation requires a lot of thought, a lot of planning. And that’s what I meant when I said that. We learned a lot from these 2 orchestras and we are gonna take that with us, we are taking it into the new album and we are taking it further in the touring in the future for sure.

M.I. - On January 22nd the band posted on Facebook “Voices of the Apocalypse – It’s a wrap.... recording sessions with Schola Cantorum Choir now complete”... Will they be playing with you on the new album?

Yes, they will and they recorded their stuff already. We’re completing the mix in Sweden and we are almost there. There’s a few more days left to do the cutting with a surgical knife and then we’re done. It feels really good. It’s hard to say, hard to explain, but this has been the biggest thing we have done, apart from the 2 orchestra shows, this is the biggest. Every band says this, that it is the best album, that’s a cliché, but I have to believe that I can do better otherwise what are the reasons for doing a new album if you won’t top off what you did before? We cannot force creativity, it comes when it comes, that’s why we have been writing on and off material. And now we’re here but once fans hear this stuff, all the years of being impatient, which I totally understand, it’s gonna mean nothing anymore cause it’s gonna be worth the wait. To do what we think is best! There’s a huge difference between doing an album just to do another album and doing it because you want to. We did another album because we wanted to.

M.I. - The press release states that the new album won’t be for the faint-hearted, plus you all stated that these shows were the pinnacle of your career so far. How will you top it then? 

You just have to wait and see! [Laughs] I wish I could play you something over the phone since I am here at Fascination Street but the engineer has gone home and I don’t want to touch the system, because I fear I might fuck up something. [Laughs]

M.I. - When will we be able to listen to it?

We have been under the radar for so long, no one in the studio filming us, we have kept it really low because we are here to work… we’re not here to show off, that comes later! [Laughs] I am sure later on there will be trailers, video clips, lyric videos for the promotional part. If it was up to me I would like to have it out by late summer, but it all depends if we can up keep the schedule, all the deadlines, stuff like that!

M.I. - One of these days you posted an Instagram photo with the caption “The Aeon Nomad”. What does it mean? It is related to Dimmu Borgir’s upcoming album?

What??? [Laughs] That’s your speculation! But it’s no secret anymore, it’s not really a concept, the words refer to ourselves and everything else as timeless, that we have always been timeless and will always be timeless… there’s not beginning and no end, and if there’s a beginning, then there’s an end and then another beginning… so it’s gonna be difficult to explain the lyrics. Once we start doing interviews for the new album, I won’t talk about the lyrics because I realise now that there are at least 3 or 4 versions to each lyric, 4 meanings or symbolisms. I can put so much stuff into what’s written, especially with the music and Shagrath’s vocals on top, it gives this punch in the face. You listen to one song once and you get one meaning, and the next time you get another meaning. Each and every one has to figure out what the words mean because I can only judge from my own subjective perspective.

M.I. - You said you always put your left foot first onstage and on an airplane. Why? Some kind of superstition? 

Yeah, I also do it when I get out of the car, not into the car but out. [Laughs] I wouldn’t call myself superstitious because that would be putting too much into belief, I’d say I am more of an exploring type of person and once you open the lid to the rabbit’s hole, you’re done. There’s only one way from there and that’s further down. I guess it’s a stupid tradition. 

M.I. - A band like Dimmu Borgir must receive great deals from labels yet you extended your cooperation with Nuclear Blast Records. Are you still with them because they respect your creativity and don’t imposed deadlines?

That’s one of the main things, they never interrupt on the main creative part of the band. But that goes for any other band on the label ,that’s why they are prospering still. NB is still there and even growing as far as I can tell.  I think that’s also because they have the same type of mentality that their bands have. Everyone starts smalls and without any particular ambition and then just moves on from there.

M.I. - In the documentary you said you always use make up that hasn’t been tested on animals. Are you a vegetarian or animal lover?

I’m not, I’m looking into the idea of becoming one, I’ve been thinking about it for years but I still eat meat but I eat a lot less. If I’m gonna eat the amount of meat I eat, I wanna shot the animal myself which is also something I’m working on. Yeah, this is a different question… yeah…lol!

M.I. - Being so used to wearing make up, have any of your female friends ever asked you to make them up?

Not make them up but they ask me to order stuff for them. It’s important to have certain types of make up that you can actually use for longer periods of time so you don’t fuck up your skin.

M.I. - In these years, what did you miss the most about being a musician? The rush of being on the road?

Yeah, I do, obviously, I don’t miss the smelly bus and waiting at airports but I miss being onstage and interacting with people. The energy is different from place to place, that’s just the way it is, it is an exchange of energies. A Monday night on a shithole in Kansas can be more intense than playing for thousands of people. It all depends.

M.I. - How do you feel when you come across fans that travel a long way just to see you play live, or fans that tattoo the band’s symbols or lyrics?

I take a lot of pride when I get fan mail from people that express their gratitude and say our lyrics saved their lives, their marriages. That’s pretty harsh, but really good in a way. That’s of course a really empowering thing and it makes me really proud. Because when I was growing up I found a soul and heart in music. So I totally can relate to that feeling.

M.I. - We hope you come back to Portugal soon and we can’t wait to listen to the new album. Please share a final message with your Portuguese fans.

I hope so too. First off, I want to give a shout out to Rune, lives in Portugal and he’s a friend of mine, and his wife and all the fans that have been supporting us. I remember getting mail from Portugal in the 90’s. It’s been a long time since we’ve been there and I can’t wait to come back and share the DVD and the new album and I am really thankful for the support.

For Portuguese version, please click here.

Interview by Sónia Fonseca