Pagan's Mind inter view pt 2...
MM: Another thing that really defines Pagan's Mind a lot is the lyrical content. I know that Nils really takes charge of a lot of that, but 'God's Equation' marks four albums with that extraterrestrial, metaphysical perspective. Do you see that being the lyrical identity of the band for its entire career?
|I cannot imagine Pagan's Mind doing really commercial lyrics. It has to have some sort of metaphysical touch to it.|
Jorn: Yeah....who knows. (Laughter)
Jorn: I don't know. But the last album also has more of the ironic and funny. I mean, if you listen to the song 'Alien Kamikaze', it's pretty funny stuff. Filled with testosterone. If I were going to sit down and write lyrics, it would be more down-to-earth stuff. I would write stuff that I would understand and relate to. But that's what he's doing also. He has a big fascination with a concept. Nils is a graphic designer, so the cover artwork and everything is done by him, and that is very important, too. To sing that stuff, he really needs to be able to identify with what he's writing. I guess, I am more of the commercial devil coming up on his shoulder saying, 'Fuck, you can't sing that as a chorus, it's too complicated a word. You need to sing something that shines a bit more.' Sometimes he gets pissed off, but it's necessary to have both sides and we agree in the end. It can be books or movies or whatever that he takes inspiration from. Iron Maiden has Eddie, and we...not to compare us to Iron Maiden. They're a—holds up fingers an inch apart—bit bigger. (Laughter)
Jorn: But we have our concept, which means you can always see that it's a Pagan's Mind album. I don't see the blue cover disappearing or the concept of everything. As long he wants it to be that way, that's the way it's going to be. That is kind of his domain, in a way. The band writes a lot of the music, and a lot of the melody stuff, so far, has so far been a collaboration between me and Nils. And then he does the lyrics.
MM: Mm-hmm. It seems at times that the lyrics are almost devotionals, some are pure fantasy, and others are like narrating a documentary. Do the other members of the band connect to the lyrics in their own way, or is it—?
Jorn: If you asked me, 'What is the song 'Celestine Prophecy' about?' I mean...--(blanches and shrugs)
Jorn: The riff is cool? (Laughter)
Jorn: But, while it really is a little bit like that, I do really like the concepts. I think most of us, we really read through. And I'm always there when we record, so some of the lyrical stuff gets changed, but that's mostly because it needs to sound right. So, he's saying a word that's like—(lots of staccato syllables)—and it needs to be—(high, long single note)—you try to find more down-to-earth lyrics that mean the same thing. But I think everyone really likes the more Sci-Fi concept, because that's how I think of it. I've got to be honest, a lot of the stuff he writes about is stuff that he believes in or will stand firmly by, whereas for me—maybe not as much. But I play cool guitar riffs with it.
MM: So it works together. (Laughs) One more question about the lyrics, then. I'm interested about the connection between Pagan's Mind and Osiris, who's very much a recurring theme—'Through Osiris' Eyes', 'Osiris' Triumphant Return'. Do you know what that representation is or how it's connected?
Jorn: Actually, I don't know. But we did the first one on 'Celestial Entrance', and the thing was that you had a riff like—(imitates rhythm of opening theme)—and we just thought let's do the same riff in triplets. It's the same riff, but it's—(a cappella's the riff and drums out rhythm with hands). So, I guess he got the idea to use the same lyric as well. But we've been sitting here so long that I'm sure he'll be back soon and you can ask him.
MM: Regarding vocals—not the lyrics, but the musicality of the vocals—you guys seem to be using a lot of vocal effects. When you're applying those, are you thinking, 'Ok, we want to use this effect here or on this kind of lyric,' or--?
Jorn: Ah, that develops during the recording. That's a part of Nils' expression. He does listen to King Diamond, who has eight or nine different voices or whatever. But, if you listen to 'Atomic Firelight' live, it's just as cool as on the album, except that he's singing and shouting, whereas when it's recorded on the album, he's almost talking. But we never do something on the record that we cannot do live. It's just a matter of production, and what for this particular part would be cool. It's a part of Nils' concept and the way he expresses himself, you know? I guess the other ones and me bring in a lot, doing octave stuff, and telling him that it's also cool to sing in the midrange— (laughter)
Jorn: --And to save the high stuff for once in a while, so people will like it much more. I guess when he does the more distorted voices and stuff, he has a little bit of—(puts up devil horns behind head)—that within him. It's just a natural part of him. He has a lot of energy that needs to come out: some parts are melodic, some parts are not...if that made sense.
MM: Absolutely. Now, you've mentioned Circus Maximus before, which leads me to a question about Norwegian progressive metal in general. Bands like Pagan's Mind, obviously, Spiral Architect, Communic, Twisted Into Form, those kind of bands...most have got this really distinctive dark, brooding quality to them and unique vocals. Do you feel a lot of community with other bands in the Norwegian progressive scene?
Jorn: I don't know. Circus Maximus are friends we got to know after 'Celestial Entrance', when they were younger and up-and-coming. And they are a great band.; a great singing band. I think, if you listen to them, they're also a bit more poppy than us. Mats is totally more technical than me, but maybe I'm a bit more badass in the way I'm playing. And that's just a style thing. Michael's singing is more pretty and Nils is maybe more dirty. But both are very good bands, having their own sound, in a way. Conception was a very good Norwegian progressive band. Ark, with Jorn on vocals, is fantastic stuff. Yeah, I guess we're coming a little bit from that. But for me, I was a big fan of Jorn since '93, when I first heard him. When he called me and asked if I wanted to join his band in 2002, I was glued to the ceiling I was so fucking happy. He was the best singer I knew of and he wanted me to play with him. But I think Pagan's Mind came up with a sound, not because of Conception or Ark, but because of coincidence. I guess what Norway has is the black metal, and because of certain things that happened in the early 90s, when everyone couldn't play at all, they just painted their faces white and got a good record deal, just because they were from Norway. Some people from the US actually thought that they were burning churches or whatever, which was just stupid. Of course, some people were a bit more crazy than others, but most are not. I mean, the guys in Dimmu Borgir, we know them, and they're nice guys.
MM: Hah. I kind of figured.
Jorn: So I think that's what Norway is known for, but a lot of progressive bands, good bands, have come from Norway. Bands like TNT. Ronni Le Tekrø is a big influence. Have you heard him?
MM: Yeah, I know TNT.
Jorn: What a guitar sound, you know? It's like, you hear Zakk Wylde, you know it's him. You hear Van Halen or David Gilmour playing melodic solos, you know it's him. Same thing with Ronni. As for Norwegians, for me TNT is the biggest influence. Maybe Nils would like Conception. I don't think it's that we decided, 'Ok, bands from Norway sound like this,' or whatever, but I think for sure we were influenced by things around us. I think that Pagan's Mind in general has a very good sound and sometimes a European sound without us planning it. If you listen to bands like Stratovarius, they sound like—(falsettos a melody and drums double bass with his hands)—you know, bands that have that power metal stuff. That shit came from Europe. I'm not a part of that and never wanted to be. Then again, Nils likes that kind of music. I make fun of it because I don't really like it, but there are a lot of good bands in that genre. Jorn was in Masterplan, which was also that kind of band, but he had more expressive vocal lines. I don't like that kind of music because it's just my taste. I guess we are more bluesy, or whatever, in the riffs and guitar style. A lot of those bands that you hear, all of them have listened to Yngwie Malmsteen. And I don't like it. I don't like Ynwie Malmsteen. It's just—(shreds with fingers and makes noodling sounds). I would prefer to listen to David Gilmour play a four-minute guitar solo. Beautiful notes played with heart and feeling. That's more important.
MM: I would say, given the discography you've amassed, that you're approaching that territory: that tone and quality of playing that is instantly identifiable. It's been a pleasure to listen to throughout the years. We're all not necessarily happy waiting for the next album, but will be as patient as possible, having faith that it will be good.
Jorn: Yeah, I really hope that it will be good also. We'll do our best. To be honest, we've played together a lot of years, and you can not have the same high spirits, to be just as hungry, all the time. And maybe the band had a little down period. That isn't to say that something's wrong—it's just natural, you know? I guess we just had a writing break, and now are starting again. We're on the move now, writing songs, and I'm sure it's going to be good. Last year I was forced to take a break with Jorn, because of so many gigs with Pagan's Mind and Jorn. It was impossible to be in two places at the same time, so I had to be loyal to the people here. Not that that was an obvious choice, but it would have been much harder to replace me here than with the other band, you know?
MM: We've talked a little bit about 'Infinity Divine', 'Celestial Entrance', and 'God's Equation'. But we've kind of skipped over 'Enigmatic: Calling', which is the album that opened the door to Pagan's Mind for me and blew my mind. The first time I listened to it, I said, 'This is...pretty good,' and every time thereafter it kept getting better and better. But that album has not really come up a lot in our conversation. Where does that album fall for you in the spectrum? Not necessarily in terms of quality, but more so your perspective on it.
Jorn: People laugh about me sometimes, because after every album I'm like, 'Ah, this is the best one.'But you should have that, you know? Now it's been so long since 'God's Equation' I could say something else, but 'God's is my favorite, and also 'Enigmatic: Calling' is a really cool album. I guess it's more similar to 'Celestial Entrance', maybe a bit more heavy. But, all in all, they're not that different, style-wise. The difference is bigger between 'Infinity Divine' and 'Celestial Entrance' or from 'Enigmatic: Calling' to the new album, which had a different mixing process. But for me, it's a good follow-up to 'Enigmatic: Calling'. I put all of our three latest albums pretty high. I think 'Enigmatic: Calling' could have a little better mix. It's very powerful; you can put it on a stereo mix and it—punches palm—really kicks ass, but I think maybe the mix of 'Celestial Entrance' was a little better. Why, I don't know, because we pretty much did the same thing...
Jorn: But, songwise, there's a lot of cool stuff. If you check out the new DVD being released—
MM: 'Live Equation'? Tell me some about that.
Jorn: Right, 'Live Equation'. There are three different releases. One is audio disc and DVD. Two is the DVD with a bonus DVD, which has a lot of stuff: footage from the 2007 gig that you saw in Atlanta, two songs from our release concert from 'God's Equation', and all these songs on the bonus are different songs than from the main disc. So, as we picked it out, the 'Live Equation' disc is highly representative of the new album: 50% new stuff and 50% the old stuff. And that was because we had stuff like 'Aegean Shores', 'Supremacy, Our Kind', 'New World Order' from other concerts, so we didn't need to do those songs for a complete DVD set. So, release number two has also four songs from our rehearsal studio, which are songs picked out that aren't played live that often and are meant more as a treat. 'Resurrection (Back in Time)', 'The Celestine Prophecy', 'The Seven Sacred Promises', and 'Of Epic Questions'. And we have about one-and-a-half hours of our own little clips. If you are a big fan, I think you will enjoy it a lot. We just picked out the craziest moments from the last tour. It's a bit chaotic. Some backstage stuff. I think for someone who has not seen the band before, the bootleg medley—which is what we call it—is a bit too much. But if you're into all the songs, it's cool. Suddenly you have a drum solo, or a guitar solo after half-an-hour, and there's one-and-a-half hours of that shit. So it's just the best moments, like we did it for ourselves. And then there is release number three, which is a limited edition of only a thousand copies. It's all three: the audio, DVD number one, and DVD number two, and also footage from the second gig we did. Ever. From 2000. That is really funny shit. I looked at it. I remember the gig was pretty good, but we look so stupid.
MM: (Laughs) Is it embarrassing?
Jorn: No, no, it's not embarrassing. I'm proud of it. But it looks stupid. Now, I go on stage in front of 3,000 people and I'm not nervous, which is cool, you know? But, then, I'm like—(looks alarmed and uncomfortable)—you know? I was scared. And Nils has much more of a beard, the same as Stian. And then you have Thorstein playing with us, which was a bit special. And then you have Steinar, who is much skinnier.
MM: I remember! I've seen pictures of him from back in the day. (Laughs)
Jorn: Yeah, yeah. He ate some food. Ronny also has short hair. So, it's like the three guys coming from the Toto cover band are straight-laced, not that metal, and the other guys from the Kiss band are more like—(puts on a rock and roll sneer and headbangs a bit). It's just a video camera taping the performance and is just two songs, but it's definitely going to be funny to hear from people who know us as we look now.
MM: That'd be fun, I'd like to see that. The last thing I'd like to talk about is gear. Both of us are kind of into the gear side of things, and I was going to ask just about your experience and history with Peavey, and I know you've played with Hughes & Kettner as well. If, heaven forfend, all of your gear were broken or stolen, and you had a huge budget, say, $100,000...what gear would you get, precisely?
Jorn: I guess right now I would buy pretty much the same thing that I have because it's what I'm used to playing on and think sounds good. The setup I used when I started to play on 'Celestial Entrance' is recorded on a Hughes & Kettner Triamp. But after that I started to use the [Peavey] 5150, and to me, that had more of that live sound. I borrowed that Triamp from a friend, because I didn't have a really good amplifier. I had a Hughes & Kettner Tube 50, and it sounded good, but wasn't that good, so I used the Triamp because it was a good amplifier. After that I bought the 5150 II and just stuck with that, and now I'm endorsed by Peavey as well. We rented this amp that I used here, the 5150, but now I usually using the 6505, because that is precisely the same as the 5150. That is what I use now and probably will use in the future. I'm happy with that. But I'm not that geek with all the stuff. If something is fixed with my gear, someone else did it for me.
Jorn: With me, it's like, 'Ok, the cable has to go there, there, and then it sounds good.' If you look at my rig, I have the amplifier and I use the same cabinet. Earlier I used the Hughes & Kettner Red Box, but that is a very direct sound. You hear that on the 'Enigmatic: Calling' album. On 'God's Equation', I used the Palmer, which I used live today. It was the blue one in the bottom of my rack. And that is much warmer. Here comes Nils, so you can ask him the—
(Ronny and Nils enter the bus)
Ronny Tegner: (Shouting) BOOOORN in the—
Jorn: But the Palmer direct box, that is what I've been using, and it's fantastic. It gets something in between, maybe, a direct sound and a microphone sound. It sounds really, really good. So that is the basic setup, and I have a really old Boss GX-700. People ask, 'How do you get that sound?', but it's—
Ronny: It's all in the fingers (waggles his hand).
Jorn: It's all crappy shit. I guess everything you buy now is better. But I'm just used to playing on that.
Ronny: (Leans directly over recorder) He is lying a lot.
Jorn: But I only use that for solos. I give it a little gain, and of course have a button for some reverb and delay, and that's it. Regarding the gear, what I use for live is Music Man guitars, the Peavey 5150 II, or the 6505+ amp, the Palmer direct box, and the Boss GX-700. When I played with Jorn, that is the Marshall JMP with a Les Paul. But, on the recording, like I said, I also used the Les Paul. Just something about the sound of that guitar is like a wall. It's really cool. But, then again, it leaves more room for keyboards and bass and everything. Thinner, but really in your face in a way. So, I will continue to do that.
MM: Hmm. I think that covers everything. You've been wonderful with all the time you've given. So, great, thank you so much.
Jorn: Sure, yep.
MM: (To Nils) One of the things I was curious about was the graphic design of this album. It's consistent with previous albums, but I think we can agree it's different-looking in its representation of the theme, and obviously the style of the album is a bit different as well. When you are making the cover, did you think about how the music had changed and try to represent that with the cover?
Nils Rue: Yeah. That's what I always do. I can never start on the cover until the entire album is finished. I listen to the album while I'm doing it to be able to make the vibe from the album graphically right. So, during the writing level or demo level, whatever, I can't do the covers then. I have to do it when the final product is finished: mixed, mastered, and everything. It always takes a couple more weeks for me to do the graphics.
MM: One thing I asked Jorn but am still curious about is that you have four albums now that deal with the same extraterrestrial and metaphysical motifs. Do you think that the entirety of Pagan's Mind will be focused on those themes, or are there other themes that you would write about? I mean, how many more albums can you put out in that style?
Nils Rue: (chuckles) Yeah, that is an enormous field, you know. There's so much to get from it. So, I write all the lyrics, and that's really what my heart burns the most for. So, I cannot imagine Pagan's Mind doing really commercial lyrics. It has to have some sort of metaphysical touch to it.
Nils: On the last album, we through in a bit of humor to mix it up a bit, and I think that came out pretty good. Some humor in your music is good. Look at Helloween, they've done that a few times. We don't want to be an angry band, if you know what I mean. We want to write about things that are wise and make people sit down to think.
MM: Jorn told me a little about the Osiris theme, but what is that connection to you?
Nils: (clears throat and pauses) You're asking a tough question, now, because it been so many years since I wrote that song. Through a lot of films and books on metaphysical stuff, Osiris is always brought up, so the god has a connection to the spiritual and universal tie to whatever is in this universe.
MM: Hmm. Ok. The last thing I was curious about—I didn't even know until recently that you had performed in 'Faust', which sounds fascinating. I would love to see that. I've read a little bit about how it was a hectic experience with so much going on, but what was that like, doing a different kind of musical performance?
Nils: Yeah! Well, at the time I was doing it back in 2005, that was the biggest thing I had ever done, because I got to work with famous actresses and actors. I was drawn into the play because they heard my voice and thought I was unique and had the looks for it. So I played Mephisto—
Nils: And I learned so much from it. I learned the play, we did a tour, and it was altogether about four months doing it, with all the rehearsals and everything. It taught me a lot. I've always been curious about whether doing opera professionally would be something for me, but I realized that, even if it was an extremely cool experience, everyone is struggling to get jobs in the opera environment in Norway. It's hard being in opera, and that's why I thought, after doing it, 'This was great, but I'm going 100% for Pagan's Mind.'
MM: And were there particular kinds of techniques you took from that experience that were inspiring or that you'd like to inject into Pagan's Mind?
Nils: Oh, yeah, absolutely. When I got back, everyone in the band said, 'You've got the perfect key to everything now.' I can't read regular musical notes, so doing this whole acting thing, doing a main role in a play, was really progressive. You come in at weird places, doing weird stuff all the time, and it boosted my perception for music in general. I got to learn a memory technique, so I don't miss on a lyric or anything now, because of that.
MM: Well, I think that just about wraps up everything I had. I really do appreciate your time.
Nils: Thank you very much. We appreciate it.