Norwegian progressive black metallers ARCTURUS are back after ten years with a new album and Metalpaths grabs the chance for an extensive interview with the one and only Vortex aka Simen Hestnaes for their return, Game of Thrones and the next Arcturus’ moves including a new album sooner than you ever imagined! Ladies and gentlemen Arcturus are back and here’s our conversation!
Hello Vortex, and welcome to Metalpaths.com, it’s a great honor to have you here with us! So, Arcturus are back with new material, after ten years. How come it took you so many years to return to studio and record new songs?”Arcturian” is almost a month out and I’m sure you have a nice picture of reactions to it from around the globe. What’s your opinion on the album and how did the world and media react to it so far?
Well, reactions are pretty good and I didn’t expect it to be this one-sided positive, but it’s been overwhelming. So, yeah that’s fantastic I guess, I mean for us when we said this is are going to be that bombastic, these are gonna be our last concerts -in 2007 it was I guess -,we were just being on tour for long time, we were either having issues in the band, you know it wasn’t as fun playing any more. I mean it was fun playing, we didn’t want to sit down and work to the music and make a new album, there was just no inspiration for us. We just thought, fuck this seems like a lot of work for right now and with the issues we had in the band and everything , we wanted this to be a work of love, and we have to be 100% to actually make a good album! To do it halfway, I thought, that would definitely be the death of Arcturus!
As years went by, the inspiration gradually came back, and that was happening! We just took it very slow, step by step, started building it again, doing some concerts and making new material and it developed, we just used so many years in the studio. We Started recording the drums, I guess in 2012, at least 2 or 3 years in the studio it’s like ridiculous –hahaha-!!! It was a lot back and forth, we recorded the drums and then we waited a long time till I did the lyrics.
I was back and forth doing many sessions with vocals, I had all the time in the world, so I definitely wanted to do anything without stress because I think the more time the material has to mature the better it will be. I was in the studio doing my vocals’ sessions and it was almost like a party, I went down on Friday, after a three hour drive, got to the studio maybe 8 o’clock in the evening and what you want to do Friday night 8 o’clock in the evening? You want to have a beer at least, maybe a few beers and then maybe a bottle of wine, and then some whiskey and there you are 7 o’clock in the morning, where you can’t stand on your feet! You know we had a lot of fun, constantly recording during those hours and drinking at the same time! But of course I had to throw away a lot of it because you know, my vocals skills are not that good when I’m too much under the influence of drinking, but there’s a sweet spot in between, getting NOT to drunk but in the mood and not carrying about things like “this is a milestone in my carrier or this is so important” – thinking about the metal gods listening or the metal police , you know..
I did a lot of preproduction of course, in my own studio and I knew exactly what I was going to do, all the lyrics took my so long to write. But I had it ready when it was actually time to do it, and I love the way that we did it now! I was always a huge fan of Quorthon (Bathory), he was one of my heroes, I guess, he sounds like a drunken sailor that’s what I liked the most and wanted to be able to keep you know as many -one takes- long one-takes , some first ones, some others when I couldn’t stand on my feet. Trying out things with our guitar player 7 o’clock in the morning. And some of those, we just kept it because, we were smiling the next morning listening to some of those takes.
What are the main lyrical themes of “Arctuarian” ?
Yeah, well on the Arcturian it’s pretty much the same, as the Sideshow Symphonies album, I mean, I having changed anything radical. I used a lot of metaphors, it’s the Arcturus universe, I think, and it seems like it’s maybe a story about a space traveller, or something like that, but cut down to the core of it it’s personal, it’s very down to earth, it’s about friends and family, and the darker side of self- inflicted doom. To be silly, you know , there’s a lot about drugs. Drug-related issues, stuff that I grew up with from my 20s and my 30s and looking back where a lot of thing were happening, dealing with them I guess. So that’s actually it.
How did it happen this time as far as compositions and recordings are concerned?
I had one song ready , actually, before we went into the studio. Knut had a song already, that it was supposed to be on the Sideshow symphonies album, but Øyvind Hægeland, the vocalist before me, he didn’t like it. It wasn’t Garm, it was Øyvind Hægeland, I don’t know, he was in Arcturus maybe a year or less, so it eventually became “Crash Land” on Arcturian and it’s one of my favorite on the album, very “Arcturus” anyway. So, I had one song and Knut made 4 songs and Sverd made 5 songs. We made them, pretty much arranged them and had them finished. On my track I had all the keyboards and we just didn’t bother to record new ones! Haha, I mean it sounded ok, so we just kept everything, added new drums and basslines, guitar and voila! It sounded like Arcturus! I wish we had got to rehearse in a place and put the songs together as a band! I think that’s always good! It’s a good process for a band. To have anyone in the band coming with inputs, participating in the whole process, but we didn’t!
Listening the album it really sounds like all eras of the band blended and surfaced quite equally in the entire album’s songs. Was this on purpose, or it just came to be that way?
Everybody is wondering about that! No! I don’t know! I definitely don’t sit down and think “I’m going to make this or that”… We just sit down make the music and we had to throw away a lot of riffs and stuff. These are the best parts that made it to the album. It’s the best stuff that we had available right now! I’m happy how it came to be, and we didn’t have any crowd-pleasing thoughts behind it or anything like that! This is an album that we felt no pressure doing it! It was just a good, fun process and that’s how we want to keep it! We don’t try to please somebody because I think it will fail! The music has to come naturally! Of course, it’s a lot of hard work, but you don’t want to be set I guess! You want to be able to do silly stuff, that none will expect! Not too fucking silly though !Haha! There’s a middle way, specially when it comes to the actual music, it doesn’t sound like a calculator, there’s a lot of catchy-ness and a lot of groove in a lot of riffs, and that’s one of the most important riffs in all music I think! It was true in Black Sabbath, in Kiss, in WASP ,in iron Maiden, all those killer bands had really good melodies which could built into songs! That’s the most important thing!
I read on wikipedia that “arcturian” charted on Germany in the 15th position, which is a nice thing and may it happen to the rest of the world, but do you believe that the music of Arcturus will ever be for the masses?
NO!haha!!! But yeah that was brilliant! Of course, Prophecy, our new record label, is from Germany, nad they must have done a killer job , because we were always not going really well in Germany! The tour that we did in 2005, we did a couple of German shows and the turn out wasn’t that good you know! And to get to number 15 on charts I believe is the same chart position as Dimmu Borgir, on their last album! This is good work from the record company, but I can’t really see it anywhere else! I mean if we had like a video out! We are working on a video, on a couple actually, but this happened out of nowhere and I’m so impressed about it! It’s inspiring! It’s gonna make it easier for us to book some shows or festivals for next summer! The bigger it gets the more energy we can put in it! We all have dayjobs, it’s a hobby project. I don’t sit at home writing music all day! I have maybe two hours in the evening, when the kids are not around and I’ m not working I have maybe 2 or 3 hours! I don’t like watching Tv or anything like that, I watch some HBO shows though! I want to see Game Of Thrones, I do want to see that! It’s a good thing! There’s a wildling guy and his kid goes to the same kinder garden with my child and I see him every day and that’s weird!
Leaving in times where the music industry slowly collapses the record companies have resurfaced the vinyl releases and of course sensed the need of music buyers for the limited editions. What’s your opinion about the “arcturian” limited box version? How do you feel about this turning point where every new release has to have 2 or 3 versions for sale?
I have some mixed feelings about it, it’s a little rip off maybe to have 2 or 3 versions but I’m very happy with Prophecy, how they made it. One fantastic version, if you have that you have everything, you get everything, you get the t-shirt, the extra recordings , you get the extra booklet information, it’s really well done. It’s quality stuff, as a music fan myself you know I grew up with the LP covers, and we read everything! We read the lyrics, the thank you list, we just devoured everything and I think that’s part of the magic of the bigger than life experience, and this is a really important part of the music! For me it’s always some kind of religion, I always looked after these bands when I was a kid, and I thought they were the coolest in the universe! It meant so much to me! Putting money into this product, making them as good looking as possible, instead of thinking “oh, we are not making enough money, let’s make this box set, as cheap as possible” so that we don’t loose any money or whatever..
I like prophecy in this aspect, because they’re just pouring money to make it look as desirable as possible, for the fans to buy it! I think that’s actually really cool, that’s a gutsy thing to do for a little company. They’re really small! They are on the sideline of the outsiders, on the metal music industry, and they seem to care a lot about their bands. I talked to the CEO and he is from Hungary, and he is a very nice guy. You can tell that certain people have their heart to it! that’s a rarity, specially in this business, I ‘ve been ripped off many times and it’s what you come to expect after some years in this business with some guys you go “what’s this guys agenda? Etc.” and that’s stuff that is usual.
Now with Prophecy I have real respect for them, I e-mail them daily, they are super interested, and they won’t rip my ass off, and I believe this is a mutual business partnership. I have a really good feeling about this record company. If they can sell our record for us, in their fashion, that’s fantastic! I see nothing wrong with this, I mean it can be really annoying if there is one million different vinyl colors and this is just to cash in on the die hard fans, then I don’t like it that much. You want to respect your fans, because enough is enough, but I believe there’s a balance there cause Prophecy at least put a lot of money into the product so you get something back and you don’t feel ripped off!
Arcturus have announced some tour dates for May and June and I’m sure that I read somewhere that there will be a second part for supporting the “arcturian” release. How did the first part of the tour go? and can you give us some details about any dates coming?
I think they will take place more in northern Europe, I’m not too flaring I want to start from Oslo, so we can get the bus up here so that we can put a lot of lights, all our backline and all our shit into the bus, and do a really really good show! I just want to top what we have done before when it comes to light and production, everything! To keep ourselves happy and the fans as well! I think it’s right for us to do something big, big as possible anyway, haha cause we are not that big, but we got to do our best to make it look big you know! That’s the plan, we don’t have any dates set yet though, it’s gonna be after September I guess, because I think Mayhem stop in September, so I think, October/ November then we will probably do both, a European and a South American and a North American tour- a small one, two or three weeks long. I have no idea how long it’s gonna be, or how many dates, I ‘d like to start it or end it in Sweden or somewhere close and go as far as possible! We’ ll see about that!
What about Greece? You now here, you’re worshipped as one of the most intense bands ever? Will the Arcturian Circus get to our shores any time soon?
I think it will, for sure! If not on the second part of the tour it will definitely be around Christmas. Greece has always been good for Arcturus! That’s where we did one of our first reunion shows! We don’t have any dates, I can’t promise anything, but I’ thinking and I’m hoping it would be possible to not do be able to do it before Christmas. Then again I’ve been wrong so many times that I can’t promise anything! We’ll see!
Given the chance of this interview, I’d like to ask you about your personal group? Are there any news to share?
You know I make music for ICS Vortex almost daily! That’s what I do when I sit down with the guitar, recording some riffs into my phone, put them into banks, so it’s 250 riffs maybe, six songs almost ready, it’s lacking the lyrics but there’s so little time to do this, to finish everything, the last process it’s very time consuming. So I’m feeding riffs into the bank, and I can’t see this released any time soon. Because I’ve been so focused on Arcturus, and I’m starting really to wanting this again. Do a new album, I really do like the new songs, of course. I think it’s gonna be a lot of fun to actually record them but I don’t have any release dates. Last album was in century media and they said “you have to do a new record within two years or there won’t be a new deal or whatever” so I don’t know! I just hate stressing things, having it fast it will be a lesser product if it’s just done because you have to. So, I don’t care if it takes me another two years I guess that’s my calculation.
Maybe in summer 2017, something like that! I wanna have enough time to write the lyrics and I want now to be able to write and do a new Arcturus album really soon. We are in a very good place, bandwise, it’s fun playing with each other, it’s inspiring and that’s the most important thing. It’s more fun to be in a group with all these musician that you look up to. I was always a fan of Arcturus back in the day, and hopefully that’s where we will put the most of our energy now, everybody. Do this rest of the tour and during the wintertime seriously go for a new album! Not many people know about it though!
What about Lamented Souls, your participation there has been like forever, any news from that field?
No, there really isn’t any news. We don’t even talk about it anymore. It’s a little sad, because we all want to do it. I think the album it’s pretty much all written and it has to come out one day, but it can be another ten years. The bass player just had a little kid, so I know he’s gonna be busy. You know first things first! You have to take care of your family, and for me I want to concentrate on Arcturus now.
I do want to concentrate on ICS Vortex, and I was just in the studio today to record vocals for God of Atheist. There still some work to be done there but it’s pretty much done, I ‘m just cleaning up some vocal parts, there’s a little bass missing here and there, and that’s it! But I have no idea when it’s gonna come out! It’s the drummer’s project and he just got a new job into the computer sth sth I don’t know…so I haven’t spoken to him for a couple of weeks. I’ll call him up very soon to see what’s up, because I know he wants this out. It’s a little bit different. A very fun project to work with and finally I can say that I have been in a band with Ihsahn from Emperor, which I’m a huge fan of! Cause Emperor are a really bright star in the Norwegian black metal scene! It’s definitely not that kind of music that I’m used to work on but it’s interesting, very brutal and super technical.
Alright Vortex, thank you for your time and this chance to chat with one of the most exceptional voices in metal nowdays! Metalpaths is really honored to have artists like yourself interviewed! The last words are yours!
I just want to repeat once again, that we hopefully gonna be able to come to Greece before December ends and if not as soon as possible, for sure. I have a lot of friends. The atmosphere, playing in Greece, has always been fantastic. I remember since the Dimmu Borgir days we came down to Greece, and get out of the bus early in the morning and there would be die hard fans everywhere! That stuff don’t happen nowhere else in Europe! I have a big heart for Greece because I know that the passion for music is real! On the surface you can tell that when you’re onstage you know people are really excited! For a musician it’s a great honor and so I hope we can get down in Greece as soon as possible! That’s all I want to say! Hope to see you!