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Gothminister (I)
Interview mit Bjørn Alexander Brem [Gothminister], 21.08.2008, phoner

Es ist das dritte Album in der Ära von Gothminister und soll wohlmöglich auch das letzte sein. Die Rede ist von „Happiness In Darkness“, dem neusten Studioalbum der norwegischen Düster-Formation um Frontmann und Mastermind Bjørn Alexander Brem. Noch während der Studioarbeitsphase hatte ich die Möglichkeit mit dem Gothminister himself zu sprechen. Am 21. August 2008 telefonierten wir und sprachen vornehmlich über das Mixen und Mastern von „Happiness In Darkness“. Das Interview wurde für das Musikmagazin Zillo geführt.
In November you will release the third Gothminister-album “Happiness In Darkness”. When did you start with the whole recording process?
Bjørn: I think, I wrote the first songs already in 2005 after we have released the second album “Empire Of Dark Salvation”. But the things have been pretty tricky for us as usual, because every Gothminister-album is living in hell with lots of accidents and bad omens. (laughs)
What kind of accidents and bad omens?
Bjørn: It`s incredible, I mean, I´m not superstitious or anything, so I think that some things are pretty normal, because we worked during a long period of time. But actually during these recordings and makings of the album two people have died. First our producer´s father died surprisingly which caused of course a delay of the album. And also the best friend of a friend of mine died. We were supposed to make an animated music video for one of the songs. And her best friend died as well, so we cancelled the project. That was kind of the start for the bad luck. Lots of strange things happened, but I think that it`s natural of course, although it`s sometimes really scary. Lightning struck in our house in the mountains and destroyed the whole roof. And earlier we had studios burning down. It`s just frustrating and no good PR for us that things get delayed all the time.
I have heard that there has also been someone who broke in your apartment…
Bjørn: …ja, and stole my laptop with a lot of stuff. So I was even delayed going to the studio. I never found out who it was or what happened. Now he or she has the whole set-up for our live shows, so the person can actually play a Gothminister-live show with that laptop. (laughs) But that would be cool, because then we would have more shows going on. Maybe there is a person right now performing our songs live somewhere in Eastern Europe. You never know!
And how is your foot?
Bjørn: Oh, my foot is better. Now I had some troubles with my job, because it´s always when you have hurt your body that something else comes as well. But now I´m feeling much better. It`s just been so stressful. It`s really living in hell to make an album, because there´s so much to do and I´m pretty much all alone doing everything.
Who´s the main producer of the album this time?
Bjørn: Peder Kjellsby, a Norwegian, and I produced the album together. He has a nice studio in the Swedish woods. It´s a huge property with three big houses and full studios and a lake close to the studio. You can sit in the studio and record drums and look at the trees, because you have windows in the roof and it`s a really cool and hightech-studio.
Are the studios called “Is It Art?”?
Bjørn: Ja! And it`s nice, because this is where all started when we played in our old band Disco Judas. We went into that studio exactly 10 years ago in 1998. This is where all started and maybe also it all ends, because this might be the very last Gothminister-album.
Why that?
Bjørn: I mean, the original idea was to build a project with three albums. But let`s see how it works out this time. I think, it might be the last album for now.
What do you want to do after that?
Bjørn: After that I will continue to focus on my law practise. (laughs) But I`ll also work a lot in the music and entertainment industry with a lot of other bands and artists, so I´m still gonna be in the business. And first we`ll gonna tour a lot with this new album “Happiness In Darkness” and we have hopes of making a DVD next year. But for now this might be the last album.
How`s the current state of the album?
Bjørn: It`s mastered and we just sent the promo album to Drakkar. But we have one extra song which is a cover song and not finished in the mix yet. It will be a surprise which song it is. We can talk about that song in our next interview.
Okay. For the mastering you went back to Norway to Masterhuset in Oslo…
Bjørn: A lot of bands go to Finland or the US or wherever and that is probably nice, but we have mastered all our albums in Oslo and why shall we change something which is working out great? It worked so great on the first two albums. I was happy with the mastering and the guy called Morten.
How would you describe the Masterhuset studio?
Bjørn: The studio recently moved, but it`s just an ordinary mastering studio. It´s a grey building outside of the city and nothing like the studio in Sweden. In Sweden we`re really far out in the woods. We have to drive for half an hour to find the next or closest store to buy some food. (laughs) And there we have a really bad Internet connection. Peder tried to send me one extra mix and I think he spent 12 hours for that. Also the mobile connection is really bad, but it`s getting better. Peder now wants to complain, because when it was still so bad, everybody turned off the mobile phone. Now it`s getting better and better, so the artists are talking with their mobile phones all the time. Now Peder wants the connection to be worse again as it`s better to stay in peace and disconnected from the world there. That´s so fantastic with the studio that you can only focus on the music.
Where did you sleep there?
Bjørn: Peder has three houses there for a lot of people. His best friend is married to a famous Norwegian actress. She made some food for us. So we had a really great time there and just focused on the music. We recorded the drums in another studio in Oslo. It was actually more a rehearsal room. It was the place of a friend of mine from the old band Disco Judas, the bass player. We just recorded the drums in his room. He has some great microphones and amps.
How much do the surroundings influence the development of an album?
Bjørn: A lot, I think. (laughs) I forgot to mention that my girlfriend moved out during the recording process. So my relationship broke once again. I think, that it`s pretty common for a lot of musicians. But maybe this causes you to write better lyrics when you`re sad. The surroundings have been really chaotic with some family problems, lots of stress, girlfriend problems, break ups…Actually the lyrics of the new album are inspired by one relationship I had a couple of years ago with a girl who was really strange. The lyrics are actually all about dark love and what is always frustrating about that.
So there is a lot of self biography in the lyrics?
Bjørn: Yeah, there is. And of course everyone who writes lyrics says that they`re inspired by life itself. That`s an old cliché. A lot of lyrics on this album are actually about the love you can never have. It`s kind of typical to fall in love with persons or things you can actually never have. And that´s what hurts the most, I think. That`s what I want to say with many of the songs and tell my stories and experiences about that issue.
How much do the other Gothminister-guys contribute to the lyrics?
Bjørn: Nothing. (laughs) I mean, they could say like “play this guitar riff open instead of closed”. Maybe one or two percent of the ideas are coming from them and of course they say if they like a song or not.
How does a normal studio working day of Gothminister look like?
Bjørn: In Sweden we kind of woke up whenever we woke up, normally at 10 o`clock. Then we had breakfast and watched some Simpsons. (laughter)
Are you a Simpsons-fan?
Bjørn: Ja! Also Peder is a huge Simpsons-fan. But we also watched some comedy and stuff. Sometimes we also listened to some stupid music in the mornings. After eating breakfast we went to the studio. It`s like 500 or 600 metres to walk through the woods to get to the studio. As we recorded the drums in Oslo, it was already recorded when we were in the “Is It Art?”-studios. The guitars were also recorded in a studio in Oslo. Caliban studios. It was a really good experience. We used the microphones, amps and actually nothing digital. It was more the old school way. Then I have programmed most of it in my studio, also in Oslo. So in Sweden we basically mixed the songs and put on some extra tracks. We went into the studio, had some sessions there for some hours. When Peder was really hooked into this, I took a bath, because there is this nice lake over there. (laughs) I went swimming and relaxed a little bit and maybe went back and watched some cartoons or whatever. It`s really hard to be in the studio producing and mixing, even though it`s just sitting there and coming up with suggestions and listening. It`s really hard work, because you have to be hundred percent focused all the time. We have a lot of different monitors there to check the sound. I also have a headset where I can double check on certain levels. So we basically did a mix and then while Peder read a book, I sat down at the computer checking the mixes with the headset and writing down some comments on what should be changed. When dinnertime came, we met on this beautiful balcony where you can sit in the sun and do some barbecue and listening to music. It`s really relaxed. There is no stress, because you have some extra hours when you´re just separated from the town and the stress and switch off your mobile phone. It`s the best studio I`ve ever been to.
On your second album “Empire Of Dark Salvation” the guitars had become more dominant in comparison to “Gothic Electronic Anthems”. Where did you put the main focus on this time musical wise?
Bjørn: I´m not that focused on having these big guitar walls anymore. Maybe I can explain it like this: Before you play any music, you listen to music in a certain way. You maybe cannot notice if it`s a guitar or bass guitar. When you become a musician, you maybe focus especially a lot on guitars. You tear the music apart and just listen to the drums, to the guitars etc. and it`s almost impossible to hear a song as a whole. And now after many years – I mean, I`ve been playing in bands since 1987 – so maybe now I´m starting to feel that I can regain this feeling of listening to a song as it is. And even though it`s not the biggest guitar wall in the world on the new album, it still works. My main focus is that either a song works or it doesn´t. That´s my only goal.
The newest album is called “Happiness In Darkness” and there was already a song with the same title on your last album. What do these words mean for you and what do you want to express with them?
Bjørn: Well, “happiness in darkness” has always been my motto. Through Gothminister I try to confront my darker side and I think, it´s important to live out some darkness. A lot of musicians also use this darker side to be on stage and perform. You can let out a lot of aggression to become a calmer person in every day life when you´re creative. I think, that the darkness or especially the unknown is our best inspiration or source. I can give you an example: If you enter a room which is dark, you maybe get afraid, because you can`t see everything what`s in this room. So that´s kind of dark and unknown. But if you switch on the light, you´re no longer scared as it`s just a normal room. So the darkness inspires you to create something in your brain. And when you´re creative, I believe that everyone becomes happy in a way. So that´s the background for “happiness in darkness”.
“The Allmighty” from the new album is featuring Nell from Theatre Of Tragedy. How have Gothminister and Nell found together and how have been the recordings with her?
Bjørn: I`ve known Nell for many years. She also contributed to the first Gothminister-album back in 2003 before she became a member of Theatre Of Tragedy. I just asked her, because she is a great vocalist. I mean, she lives not far from me and sometimes we go out to drink beer together. We have a nice connection, so she came into my studio and recorded some vocals. Nell actually also sings on two more songs on the album. I think, it`s a nice change from my intense vocals to have some female vocals. We tried to spread her out on the album, so like on every third song you will hear some female voices to have a variation. That works perfectly.
Have there been any songs which where especially hard to record?
Bjørn: Yeah, the cover version of the secret song. We actually mixed it, but when we came into the mastering studio, I thought it sounded like crap, so I have to mix it all over again now. I´m waiting and stressing for the tracks to arrive in my mail box. During this weekend I wanna work on it and try to finish it until the 1st of September.
Which songs are already your personal highlights on the album?
Bjørn: After listening the album again, I have to say that “Dusk Till Dawn” and “Beauty After Midnight” are my two favourites right now. Any maybe “Emperor” as well, because this song really changed during the process. It was a completely different song and we experimented a lot and Nell had some beautifully vocals where I couldn`t sing.
What is always the best part of the recording process in a studio?
Bjørn: To me the best part is when I´m alone in my studio and I have some ideas and I just program some drums, records some demo guitars, just singing some vocals and you get the idea of how the song is going to be. To me that´s the best part, the demo state. After that it`s a lot of pain and hard work of trying to conclude your original idea. The best would actually be to record the song when you`re just creating it. But we record demo guitars and have to record all over again and again. It´s kind of frustrating, because the first take is always the most honest, when you have the idea, when you have the feeling while you´re playing it. Everything else is just trying to copy that. That´s actually why I prefer to perform live, because then you only have one chance and it`s more honest. In the studio we have to produce and work all over again. Sometimes it`s fun, but very frustrating.
How will you celebrate when the final step of the album is done?
Bjørn: Actually tomorrow a lot of people will come to my house. Nell is coming, the whole band and also some guys from Mortiis and some guys from Red Harvest, another Norwegian band. We gonna have a few drinks and listen to the final product and hopefully it sounds good for them.
And when is the album going to be pressed?
Bjørn: I`m not sure yet, but the release date is the 14th of November. Tomorrow they will send out the promo CDs for the press, but there will only be nine instead of 10 tracks on the promos, because like I said the secret cover song is not done yet. The album is around 40 minutes, while the promo is only about 36 minutes long.

Interview: Lea S.
taken from promotion.dansemacabre-group.com
Website Band: www.gothminister.com

(c) Zillo Musikmagazin / Ausgabe 11/08 / www.zillo.de

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