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Gothminister (VI)
Interview mit Bjørn [Gothminister], April 2013, mailer



Bjørn Alexander Brem ist ein absoluter Perfektionist. Da mag es schon was heißen, wenn er sagt, er sei vollkommen zufrieden mit dem Sound der neuen Gothminister-Platte "Utopia". Unzählige Arbeitsstunden hat er in das Mammut-Werk investiert, das wie die vier Vorgänger auf einem festen Konzept basiert. Als Inspiration dienten dem Norweger diesmal nicht nur sein "schizophrenes" Leben als seriöser Anwalt am Tage und düsterer Musiker zu später Stunde, sondern vor allem seine nächtlichen Alpträume.

Bjørn, which feedback did you get so far by your family and friends referring to "Utopia"? Who was the first person being allowed listening to the finished version?

Bjørn: Of course the band was the first to listen to the finished version. We had a lot of work this time, because I did new versions after the final masters from the US. I did some extra editing work in my own studio and together with the Norwegian mastering technician Morten Lund we actually more or less mixed the edited separate tracks for each song in the mastering studio – so we had a second mix. It was a whole new experience and we have never done it like this before, but it was needed I felt, to make the sound bigger and to achieve more punch in the drums and the bass frequencies. And the result is good, it sounds "bigger" than before in our opinion and we are very proud of the new album's sound. I have gotten a fantastic response from friends and family – they say it's by far the best and most various, experimental and catchiest Gothminister album up to date, which is very cool of course to hear as I have worked so hard for achieving this. It is the most important album in our career till now.

What's the meaning behind the album title referring to the content of the concept album?

Bjørn: "Utopia" means something like "a perfect society". Thomas More constructed the word from the greek word "outopia" which means "nothing" – and that is interesting. In Gothminister's "Utopia" we find a combination: In the film the main character gets a stroke or some kind of seizure and falls to the ground. And when he wakes up there is first nothing – no people left alive. Then everything develops into a nightmarish world filled with all kinds of fantasy creatures and monsters. I figured that when "Utopia" normally may mean "a perfect place", everything is subjective. And to me a garden of Eden with sunshine and flowers is not perfect. I live the "Happiness In Darkness" as Gothminister and therefore my "Utopia" turned out to be this… Everyone should be allowed to choose their own perfect setting, which here is totally different from how people normally might see it when they think of "Utopia". But then again, art is resistance.

In our last interview you said that the inspiration sources for the new songs have been your life and nightmares. So do you have a lot of nightmares? How bad are they?

Bjørn: Yes, I do have quite a few nightmares. When I was a little child I had often the nightmare of coming home from school, trying to find the doorbell to the apartment where me and my mother lived, but suddenly it was gone and I couldn't find our name on the doorbell anymore. Then a nasty monster – a horselike thing with razor sharp teeth – suddenly appeared and chased me up the streets. Of course I had to run from it up a hill, it was breathing in my neck and my legs started to feel very heavy, so that I couldn't run as fast as I normally did. Just when the monster was about to bite my head off, I woke up. I don't know how to interpret that dream, but it is the only dream that keeps coming back to me, that I can remember. Hmmm, now I am thinking that I should write a song about it! [grins] Maybe it is death breathing down my neck, the knowledge that none of us will live forever, that one day we will die for sure. Then it's good to have zombies, so we can arise again! I also think this might be one reason why the undead always have been so interesting and popular among people: A lot of people want to live forever, not many of us really want to die – and the thought of the undead or zombies might be eternal life in a way. Then again, is there a life after death? With "Utopia" we are once again digging into our own fears, into the unknown. That is what at least gives me the greatest source of inspiration and creativity. It would be boring if we had an answer to everything.

Your new promotion photos look quite creepy and bloody. Is it an expression of your nightmares and/or personal inside?

Bjørn: Yes, for example the front cover also is to express people's dark and maybe evil insides: The monster with sharp teeth and metal claws is coming "through" a photo of the same main character as a civil person in a suit. I also think that a lot of people, who fear our dark image so much and think it's evil, maybe they have something really creepy to hide. Everyone has dark sides. Why hide them so totally? The photos were actually so bloody that some rock/metal magazines have hesitated to put them on the cover. Then I told them that the Norwegian Eurovision didn't hesitate to publish them. What is the world coming to? [laughs] But it's great that even in the dark scene these pictures make people to lift their eyebrows, they are quite extreme but it's not intentional. For us this is perfectly normal, but if even the dark scene thinks it's a bit much, then at least we still have some edges, hehe. I like to make some resistance, also in the subgenre scenes. It is important. If no one stands out, the scene will not develop at all.

How does a Gothminister song usually come into being? Do you have to be in a certain mood and surrounding?

Bjørn: I have heard that Nick Cave for example has normal working hours to write songs. Like "okay, now it's nine o'clock, let's write a song". And "hmmm, now it's five o'clock, I'll finish the rest of the chorus tomorrow morning". To me that's impossible. Normally the good riffs come into my head when I am not in the studio – of course. Then I record and sing ideas into the voice recorder on my mobile phone, but the ideas often change when I get into the studio. I throw away a lot, but keep the best parts. Then I would sit, now most frequently with my guitar, and jam on a riff until I think I have it. Then again I record it as a demo, I add drums, bass guitar and maybe some orchestra. I produce it until all the programming and vocals etc. are done. And then the band and I will record drums and guitars. We have a session bass guitar player who also records bass guitar. After that I take control over all the recorded tracks again and do the "magic": produce it, add some guitar slides, some feedbacks etc. When I am all done, I send it to mix where it normally has to go through ten versions or more of each song, before I am/we are happy. Then it's mastered with at least two or three versions of each song, before the final master is done. But this time we had even a second round with editing as I told before. We are perfectionists, I believe. But then again, I never go back and think: "Oh, I wish we did some more work on that song", because we try all alternatives and do it all before the release. I have never regretted putting out any of the Gothminister albums or tracks until now – maybe because the process is so thorough. And that's how a new Gothminister song is born. [grins]

The concept album was mixed by Neil Kernon and mastered by Alan Douches. For which reason did you decide to work with these guys?

Bjørn: We also worked with them on our previous album "Anima Inferna" from 2011. The guys have worked with a lot of great bands like Judas Priest, Nile etc., but also a lot of darker, more industrial bands. I met Neil the first time on a Skype session and we immediately found the right "tone". He sent me hundreds of tracks, among them also a lot that sounded in the direction we wanted: a bit more organic than before and more guitar oriented. And those guys are very experienced, too. I think they have more than 30 Grammy Awards behind them. [grins]

Which anecdotes can you tell us about the recordings?

Bjørn: Bad things always happen. People get divorced, loose their jobs and get seriously ill. The first time Neil started to work for Gothminister, the same day as he accepted, he became seriously ill with some harsh fever and he almost died. It is true actually. The goth curse strikes again? I don't know. But we always survive it, we always overcome it and it makes all of us much stronger. There are probably a lot of similar stories out there among other artists and bands, too. I don't think we are the only ones. Maybe someone up there doesn't want us to make such dark music, hahaha! But seriously, after the recordings our drummer suddenly discovered that he had developed diabetes. He got infected in his belly, was stung by some insect and had to be isolated in the hospital. At one time there was also danger for his life, no joke!

What's your personal song highlight on the new CD right now – and why?

Bjørn: I would say that "Nightmare" and "Boogeyman" are two of the most important songs for me on this album together with "Someone Is after me" and "Utopia" – hmm, that's almost half the album. [laughs] They all describe maybe clearest the concept of the story – the whole album tells a story from start to end. The song "Nightmare" explains it all Maybe it's not a coincidence. See what I talked about earlier regarding nightmares!

Not to forget is the live/horror-film being part of "Utopia". How many hours did you spend with that project and how many people were involved?

Bjørn: Thousands of hours. Seriously! I have been working for more than a year with it. I did all the sound editing on it, too. It comes both in stereo 2.1 and surround 5.1. The surround part was programmed by one in our crew. More than 50 people helped making the film (behind the cameras), but with all the actors in the audience (the whole crowd in front of the stage consists of only zombies/undead) you can count many hundred people.

Are there any horror movies you would have loved to take part in as an actor?

Bjørn: Hmmm, I am not sure if I am such a good actor. That's why I insisted when acting myself in the film, that I should be a silent actor like in the old days. It is easier with no dialogue. [grins] But I simply love films like "Evil Dead" and "Prince of Darkness". I wouldn't mind swapping with Alice Cooper behind the leader zombie in PD. He also has no lines in that film! [laughs]

The "Utopia" tour will kick off on the 3rd of May. Why will the shows be a special experience for the audience?

Bjørn: …because the new 2013 show is the biggest show in the scene I dare to say. Our smallest monster on stage is like the biggest monster Alice Cooper brought on his last European tour. But we have much bigger props. The biggest one is an animatronic demon hidden under the stage. Our drummer Chris Dead is taken by some executioners and they throw him into a pit in front of the stage. Then the demon goes up more than six meters in the air holding our drummer upside down in his legs! The demon also has a wing span of more than six meters and it's moving his wings, head, jaws and has red glowing eyes. It is made of the biggest Haunted House company in the US which produces lots of stuff for CSI and also did Playboy Mansion's Halloween. People pay a lot of money in the US just to see the demon. Now you can see it throwing our drummer up in the air, integrated in a rock show! We also have a lot more, actors on stage and remote controlled bats flying over the audience with red glowing eyes etc. So show up in Hamburg at Große Freiheit 36 on May 3rd or Essigfabrik in Cologne on May 4th for the biggest show in the scene – you won't believe it until you see it! This is Gothminister at our peak of performance!

How do you prepare yourself for the shows? Where do you rehearsal and checkout/test all the effects?

Bjørn: The rehearsals take place in Oslo, the preproduction outside of the town. It has been a lot of work with the new big props. They are tested in big garages and we have two extra crew members just because of this working on the air hoses, air compressors, maintenance etc. Imagine, the biggest prop weighs 350 kilos!

For which reason are there only five cities on the tour plan?

Bjørn: We have some certain standards: The venue has to have a minimum clearance of seven meters from the floor in front of the stage and to the ceiling, because of the huge demon in front etc. Therefore we picked the bigger venues to rather do a few but really big shows, to give the audience the maximum when we first go live. But a lot of promoters have contacted us now after hearing about the huge show, so we are already looking at expending the tour in 2013. And in 2014 we will have many more shows, so don't worry. But for the big shows 2013 is the once in a lifetime chance to see us... For Germany that means only these two club shows and festivals, but on the festivals we don't do the one hour fifteen minutes show, so the show is shorter than in the clubs.




Interview: Lea S.
Fotos: Promo 2013
Website Band: www.facebook.com/officialgothminister

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(c) Zillo Musikmagazin / Ausgabe 06/13 / www.zillo.de

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