Mike Smith of CosmosGaming.com recently conducted an interview with guitarist Silenoz (real name: Sven Atle Kopperud) of Norwegian symphonic black metallers DIMMU BORGIR. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.
CosmosGaming.com: First off, I'd like to congratulate you on the new record. Personally, I think it's a stunning piece of work. How do you feel the fan reaction has been since the release?
Silenoz: Thank you, first of all! The response has been surprisingly good, because the album hasn't been out that long. It came out October 12th and now it's December 13th, so basically two months. Judging by the crowd reaction, they seem to be totally into the new songs, y'know. For us, it's already a success, because we never release anything that we don't feel is 110 percent, so everything else is basically a bonus. Of course, we live off the band and selling albums, but the main goal for us was to make a strong record, and I feel that this one is definitely the most complete effort that we've done. It has all the details that maybe have been lacking in the past, and at the same time it combines all the different dynamics that the band has developed through the years. So I feel it's our most complete album.
CosmosGaming.com: What factors do you think made this record "the big one" for DIMMU BORGIR?
Silenoz: I think it's because the record has all the typical trademarks that DIMMU has been known for in the past. You have the simple stuff, the intricate stuff, and, of course, the symphonic parts, and some new elements as well. When we combine it all together, it makes a really great record. I've heard some fans say it didn't grab them at first, but after a few listens, it was like a revelation. I think that's how I feel about it, too; it takes more than five spins to get under your skin.
CosmosGaming.com: The past year has seen a lot of conflict within the band. Do you feel that that contributed to the making of the record?
Silenoz: Yeah, I think so. I can't say this for all the lineup changes, but for most of them, it's been for the better. Especially last year when we parted ways with two people who've been in the band for ten years. It's like an old marriage, and you're going through a divorce, y'know — it's not always pretty. But that's reality, and you have two choices. Either you sit back and cry over spilled milk, or you take the bull by the horns and you move forward, and that's what we did right away. I think it also gave us a good kick in the ass, for the three of us left to prove to ourselves that — since we've done most of the songwriting in the past, it wasn't much of a difference for us. It was just a relief. The three of us are pretty much on the same level when it comes to how we want things to be. So that again made this album probably the easiest to write that I can remember. Of course it's a lot of work — it's always a huge, mammoth project to do a new album — but surprisingly easy.
CosmosGaming.com: Speaking of the lineup changes, do you have any permanent replacements in mind?
Silenoz: Not really. We've tried permanent replacements in the past, and for some reason it never works out. So we're not really concerned about having certain people playing with us — that's why we never made any official announcements about who's playing on the record, because we wanted everyone to focus on the music as a whole thing, instead of "who's playing, who's not playing, and blah blah blah..." I think that takes a lot of focus away from the real deal, which is the album.
CosmosGaming.com: Cyrus [SUSPERIA, etc.] is currently touring with you on bass. Do you find it helpful to include your friends?
Silenoz: Yeah. Cyrus played guitar on the DANZIG tour when Galder had to sit out because he became a father. He's also been our guitar tech for a couple of shows, so he's pretty much done everything you could do for this band. He's always been a really good friend, a positive, supporting, understanding type of person. He knows the deal, and what it's all about when you're on the road for a long time, and what it requires from you as a person and as a musician. So he was the first one we thought of when we planned this tour.
CosmosGaming.com: Let's talk about genres a bit. There's been some controversy amongst fans over what your genre really is. Having emerged from the old-school black metal scene, do you still see yourselves in those terms?
Silenoz: Personally, I couldn't give a rat's ass what people label us with. I'm way past thirty now, and when I was sixteen, I was like, "If it doesn't have the label 'black metal,' it's no good." But now it's more like... either you feel close to the music — whatever type it is — and you like it, or you don't. It's that simple. So I understand the younger fans' point of view, "You're not black metal anymore, blah blah blah..." But they can't even possibly find a category to put us in, which is a good thing. We've carved out our own niche, and if you go by labels, that's a teenage kind of thing, where you feel like you have to be connected to some type of genre. I do understand those people, though.
CosmosGaming.com: Speaking of your evolution from straightforward black metal — and forgive me for sounding like a professor here — do you feel DIMMU has changed with the times, or that the times have changed with DIMMU?
Silenoz: That's a good question, because it can be seen both ways, I think. The way things have developed over the years, extreme music has become more accessible in general, and the world is turning more and more "extreme" every day. It's enough to just turn on the TV and watch the news. And we've definitely changed, but you'll never hear a band say they've changed for the worse, y'know — it's for the better. Ever since the first album, there have been new fans discovering us and old fans saying goodbye, and that's just how it is. But if we let our sound be dictated by fans, press, media, or whatever, that's when you're really hitting a low point, because they're telling you what to do, and you're following the safest bet. And that, to me, is selling out. Subconsciously, I think we've challenged fans to follow us, and have tried to have them understand how we think as musicians, because after all, DIMMU is our band. It's where we do things creatively. And we can't look at our own work objectively like an outsider can. Of course, we're fans of music as well, and I don't want AC/DC to change. But for some bands it works, and for some it doesn't. It all depends how you look at it.
CosmosGaming.com: What are your thoughts on the notorious criminal aspect of the original black metal scene? [vandalism, arson, murder] How do you feel the genre has moved away from those shenanigans and into the mainstream?
Silenoz: I think in general, connecting the words "mainstream" or "commercial" with that genre is a contradiction in terms. Until we sell millions of albums, there's no way that we can get airplay on the radio, or even be seen as "mainstream." But yes, metal has become more accessible. Take IRON MAIDEN, for instance. They were the biggest in the '80s. Now, they're still the biggest, and they play for three or four times as many people. So it's a generational thing. As for what happened in the '90s, once shit hit the fan and things got covered by the media and the press, that's when the black metal scene had some eyes on it. Luckily for us, we weren't involved in the criminal aspect — we were just focusing on the music. Of course, we got some free publicity just by being from Norway, I won't deny that. But what made the Norwegian scene in general very believable wasn't only actions, it was words and actions backed up with great music. And the music has prevailed over the years, and I think that's what makes it so authentic. There was no bullshit. Of course, when you're eighteen or nineteen and you go burn churches, that really has nothing directly to do with the music. It's the same as if someone walks into a saloon in Texas, shoots someone, and blames it on Johnny Cash's music. So we got some free publicity for sure, but we wouldn't be here today if it wasn't for our music and hard work.
Read the entire interview from CosmosGaming.com.