Pagan's Mind - 'The trickiest interview ever'
I got the opportunity to talk to one of the most refreshing bands of the new century. Whoíd let a chance like that slip through his fingers? I most certainly wouldnít. Hence I sat down for a chat with Paganís Mind vocalist Nils K. Rue on a small couch backstage in a room of 4 square meters.
First of all, let me congratulate you on a show well done, it was fantastic.
"Thank you very much, we had lots of fun playing here tonight, it was indeed fantastic."
How was Godís Equation received by the public?
"Itís a bit early to say, seeing that it has been in store for only two weeks at the moment. But up until now, it has been received fantastic as far as we can tell. Weíre really satisfied. The sound has changed a little bit and weíve made some adjustments to the music in general. Because of that, we were curious as to what people were going to say. But itís doing really, really great. The sales numbers are already higher than with all of the previous albums and I really believe weíre doing something right this time!"
Youíre definitely doing something right. When I first heard Infinity Divine, it was the re-release by the way, not the original versionÖ
(Nils interrupts me, laughing) "Good!"
Why, was the original recording that bad?
"The thing is, we had some computer problems because I had my own home-studio at the time. Things went bad when we recorded the album. All of a sudden we lost all the vocal tracks. I had to record all of them again in two days, working day and night. It really bears the mark of the rush we had to put into it, so the vocals didnít come out as I had initially wanted them to. On the re-release we kept the original music parts, but I did the vocals over."
Is the original version of Infinity Divine still being sold?
"Well, thereís a lot of Paganís Mind fans that want to get a hold of the original version. I think the record label in Norway with which we recorded it at the time, FaceFront, still have it available for purchase on their website."
Now Iím going to peek at the little note I wrote, because I donít remember all of the questions I made up before I made my way here. I have a really sucky memory.
(Laughs) "Me too!"
Letís see if I can still read my own handwriting. I have a question about this one song that I noticed on the new album in particular, United Alliance. Itís different from the rest of the songs, more commercial, fit for a wider audience. Was that the actual thought behind it, or did you just want to try something different?
"You know, We always try to just write good music. Itís our goal at all times and United Alliance, ohÖ (Nils sighs) It wasnít like we just sat down and said Ďhey guys, letís try to write a commercial songí, it just turned out like that. In the mixing process, we did try to handle it in a commercial way when producing the sound. I guess it just turned out like that and the record company thought it was a cool song to release before the album came out, so they put it on the website. Itís kind of a radio song, a video song."
Is it going to be the next video for Godís Equation?
"Well, we have Atomic Firelight now and weíre going to do one more video. But itís going to be either Hallo Spaceboy, the David Bowie cover, or Godís Equation, the title track of the album. At least, thatís what weíre thinking of doing when weíre ready to go home."
I can only say that Hallo Spaceboy was chosen really well. It fits the other songs on the album and I love what youíve done with the track itself.
"Thank you so much. It was a fun thing to do, actually. It all started when me and Jorn Viggo (guitars) were hanging out at his place on a Saturday evening, watching some old DVDs and stuff. Then we came across a recording of an concert of David Bowie in an old pub in London. We knew that the Pet Shop Boys did Hallo Spaceboy as well as other bands, but those versions werenít too good. Bowie did a really heavy version of the song at that particular concert and we realized that the musical colours, the chords, keyboards and everything were so much alike with what we do in Paganís Mind. So we decided to try out something new and it turned out pretty well. Our label approached Bowieís management to get the rights to the song so we could cover it. I know this doesnít happen pretty often, but this time around, the man himself actually heard our version of Hallo Spaceboy."
Really? Thatís quite something. What was his response?
"He mailed our label back saying that this was the best cover version of the song heíd ever heard and he really, really wished us the best for the future and so forth. That really made my day."
I like that you expanded the boundaries between melody and aggressiveness on the new album. How did that come to be throughout the years? ĎCause the difference between Infinity Divine and Godís Equation is immense.
"It wasnít really something that we sat down for and discussed. Infinity Divine set the foundations for our sound, then we went on to Celestial Entrance, which was quite proggy. After that came Enigmatic : Calling, which was even more proggier. I think we then convinced everyone that we could do progmusic. But itís not just about progmusic or doing technical stuff on our instruments. The most important thing is to come up with good melodies and write music of some standard. It just came natural with this album. I feel that we versed out the energy that we still had from when we were young boys and everything. We got more mature. At all times, the focus has been on writing good music and good songs. We knew that the tracks needed an organic sound and that was why we turned to Stefan Glaumann (producer) as well."
Do you still have the urge to impress audiences with your musical prowess? Because, letís be honest, itís great.
"I would say so, maybe we would like to show the audience our abilities in terms of writing good songs more and throwing in a bit of progressive music here and there than to just jerk off on our instruments all the time. (We burst out in laughter) Thatís boring for an audience as well. Weíd rather just balance the whole set out by sounding convincing, writing catchy songs and putting on a good show. The audience should notice from our performance and our playing that weíre Paganís Mind."
You get your inspiration for lyrics from books and movies among others. But what about videogames? You guys arenít that old yetÖ
"I wouldnít say we are inspired by videogames, though it would be fantastic to lend one of our songs to a videogame or contribute to one in another way. I loved games when I was younger, but the thing isÖ I donít have a PlayStation or anything now. Most of my inspiration comes from books, movies and my life and dreams. I come up with things in the morning. I tend to write things down when I look at a scenery and when I think about my dreams."
I know what you mean, Iím actually a small-time writer myself.
"Okay, great! You know, sleeping is the most creative part of the day. I love dreaming, itís fantastic."
(At this point, we were talking about contributing to videogames. I was reminded of a game all about metal, called BrŁtal Legend, which is in production at the moment and decided to steer Nils in the direction of contacting the production team for a sound-track contribution).
"That would be really something. Oh, Jesus. I will definitely check that out. I know that bands who have contributed to videogames have done really good money-wise and everything, so absolutely, Iíll look into it!"
If you got the chance to do one major thing in your life, no matter how impossible, what would it be?
"That would be going through a wormhole, travelling to other dimensions and other constellations."
Been there, done that.
"Like Jody Foster in ĎContactí. Iíve seen that movie about fifteen times!"
Are you a real fan of something or someone?
"Good call, Iíd say Steven Spielberg and King Diamond (he laughs heartily)."
In recent years, thereís been a trend of downloading music on the internet. What is Paganís Mindís vision on downloading music?
"Itís the same as maybe Lars Ulrich, I donít know (he laughs)."
(Drummer Stian and the merchandise guy walk by and shout: ďItís definitely not the same as Lars Ulrich!Ē)
"The record actually came available for downloading a week before the release. You could say that itís negative for sales and stuff, but on the contrary it also brings out the name of a band in a way. As long as itís not killing the sales numbers, itís okay. There can be positive sides to it, Iím not dead pissed when people download music."
I do occasionally download a few songs and if I like them, I buy the album. If not, then Iíll leave them be.
"Yeah, me too. Itís kind of a teaser for people. If Iím a real fan, Iíll want the physical CD in my hands. I want to read the booklet and see the artwork. This is actually the first time that a Paganís Mind album has been put up for downloading before the release. As I was saying earlier, the sales numbers are better this time anyway, so it probably didnít do that much damage in the first place."
Are there any plans for an upcoming big-time DVD, like Dimmu Borgir did?
"Speaking of Dimmu Borgir, Silenoz (guitars) just left for Norway again. He joined our tour for two days, acting as a roadie! Heís a friend of ours, so he helped us out. But yeah, weíve been talking to the label about doing a DVD. We have lots of great live material done by the Norwegian TV stations and from our gig in Atlanta a couple of months ago. From back when we started as well, so weíve got more than enough good material to put out a DVD."
Iím really looking forward to that one! Weíve all noticed that Paganís Mind songs donít come falling out of the sky when sitting on the toilet. How long does it actually take to write one complete song?
"We wrote twelve songs for this album for which we needed two and a half years, so bring out your calculator and find out! (Nils laughs) I think that would make at least two months for one song, soÖ"
Other bands write heaps of material, stash it at their producerís and then he maybe chooses one and throws the rest away.
"The thing is, every time we do a record, we never go to the studio before we are one hundred percent confident that all the material weíve written is going to rock. For the last three records, weíve ditched about eighty percent of the material we came up with in the rehearsal room. So we have a lot of songs that will never be released. But maybe in the future weíll put some old and new parts together."
Maybe a bootleg CD with b-sides?
"That would be cool, absolutely."
Speaking about commercialism, how close are you guys to actually being millionaires? Donít lie to me!
"Oh, my. Weíre very far from being millionaires. We all have main jobs and donít live off our music as it is now. Itís a tough scene out there with lots of good bands. In Norway, maybe two or three metal bands are actually able to live off their music, like Dimmu Borgir. You have to reach really high sales numbers and everything to accomplish that. We work our asses off all the time to be able to do that one day, but we donít live off it right now."
Okay, what do you for a living?
"Iím a graphic designer, I do all the cover artwork for the Paganís Mind albums. I kind of like my work, you know. Itís something that I love to do, so itís not too bad. Other people have big plans and everything, but Iím happy with it. But of course my heart lies in my music for one hundred percent, Iíd love to do that full-time."
But seeing that Paganís Mind is rapidly growing in popularity, that could happen tomorrow.
"It could happen tomorrow, of course. Thatís what we all pray for. We do our best all the time. We have our day jobs and spend most of our spare time on the band."
Because weíre nearing the end of this interview, I jotted down a cryptic puzzle. Iím going to say a few words that hint at a Paganís Mind song title. Itís up to you to figure out which one.
(Nils lightens up) "All right! Interesting!"
Hereís the first one: ĎBeer and womení!
"HmmÖ Ďbeer and womení? That would be something from when we were young, before Paganís Mind. Oh, Jesus. (He thinks). HmmÖ"
Ready for the next one? Here goes: Ďindependence day vs. pearl harbourí.
"This must be one of the trickiest interviews ever, actually. Very cool! Oh, Jesus. So if I melt these two together I should actually get a song title? HmmÖ it must be Atomic Firelight!"
Close, but no. Alien Kamikaze.
"Aaah, fuck! Iím slow today! Of course, of course."
Alright, next one: ĎThe moment youíre in after having been to a Mexican restaurantí.
"Mmh-hm. The moment Iím in afterÖ (he bursts out in laughter again and lets out a squeak). It must be something with Ďburningí. Iím in the right direction? All right! Arrhhg! Jesus! ÖI have to give up."
Dimensions Of Fire.
(Nils laughs all-out for a good ten seconds before he is able to concentrate on the next one).
ĎThe message that you were going to be interviewed by Metalrage.comí
(He thinks long and hard) "UhhmÖ"
Itís so obvious!
The Celestine Prophecy.
"Oh yeah! Brilliant!"
Well, thatís it. Weíre done. Thank you very much for your time!
"Thank you! It was tricky and challenging. Most interviews have these standard questions all the time, I really loved this one."
Needless to say, that was the case for us, as well. After having a chat with Steinar to remind him of his legendary words 'thank god for free porn on the net' (www.metalrage.com/articles/275), we settled for a long drive homeward.