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Athera (Susperia)

Interview with Athera from Susperia
by Orpheus Spiliotopoulos at 20 March 2001, 1:00 AM

From all the newcomer bands only a few make it. Among these few are Susperia, a Norwegian band that combines Thrash Metal, Black Metal and other interesting elements from other metal genres too. We spoke with Susperia's singer, Athera, on the phone. Read what he has to say about the band, their friendship with Dimmu Borgir, the Internet and the future of Metal!

Since we’re an Internet Metal Zine, my first question is ’What is your relationship with the Internet?’.

Well, we have our own web site. We check it very often to answer questions in the Forum and see what the people are talking about or what questions they have. I feel that the Internet is a great way to promote bands and also to communicate with people living on the other side of the planet. I don’t like the Internet as a trade market and I think that’s wrong. The downloading of music and all that stuff is wrong to me but it also helps to communicate, so that is enough for me.

So, you believe MP3s is a bad thing going on?

In a certain way. Of course if you have sound samples and maybe also a few songs, that’s a good way for the bands to distribute their music. If it happens in a small amount then it’s ok; but you know, this napster shit, where you can download entire albums…I mean that’s totally wrong because it destroys the companies.

Don’t you think that it’s the same thing that was going on with tapes? Like someone bought a CD or a record and then he copied it onto to tapes and gave them out to all his friends.

Maybe. I haven’t thought about it that way really because you know this was going on without anybody hearing about it. Now we have the Internet and everybody knows about Napster, about this downloading and MP3s. Well, maybe it just seems to be a black matter and it’s nothing more -as you say- than what was always going on.

You’ve signed a four record deal with Nuclear Blast. How do you feel about it?

I feel very good because we are a new band; we’ve only existed for two years now. I mean, these days there are so many bands and it’s especially difficult in Norway…difficult to present yourself. You know, it all happened really fast. We met each other in summer 1999 and we recorded the demo in December 1999. We recorded it and sent it out and we didn’t really expect anything. The response was really great, really amazing! Quite a few labels were interested - not because of the Dimmu Borgir x-drummer or anything - they were purely interested in our music. Nuclear Blast is for me the best Promotion Company because they’re so good in consulting and promoting new bands. Just what we needed.

Nuclear Blast is indeed one of the best promotion companies. One of the major ones that is.

They can also put us on tour with Dimmu Borgir - of which we’re close friends - when no other company could arrange something like that because of us being new. Nuclear is so professional and good and that helps out a lot!

Don’t you think that the fact Tjodalv and Cyrus had their part in bands like Dimmu Borgir, Old Man’s Child and Satyricon helps a lot? I mean, in a way of promoting.

I know what you mean. Of course it’s good to have one person that all the people have heard about. As I said, it’s a very difficult contest, very hard to raise a new band these days. It helps to have for ex. Tjodalv because he has so many contacts in Nuclear Blast, which receives so many demos every day and I guess they hardly listen to all of them. Since Tjodalv has been in Nuclear Blast before, it’s easier for him to talk to the man and say please listen to my new band. And so they did. You can’t sign a band though because of it’s names. You need some certain quality in music and that’s what they found in us. Ok names probably help a little in the promotion because people started wondering for ex. What Tjodalv was doing after he left Dimmu Borgir and of course after two years of absence they’ll be interested in checking out what he’s doing. That’s interesting for us also and it helps…it’s business…(laughter)

I found out that you had a non-professional band some time ago. Could you tell me about it?

(Laughter) Well I’ve been playing since I was 12-13 years old. I started playing the drums and stuff and over the years I played just at local clubs.

Just for the joy of it I guess.

Yeah…of course we tried to make some demos and send them around but we never heard anything so… In the beginning of the 90s there was Black Metal, popular from Norway and it like exploded and we weren’t that much into it. My friends from school and I…we played more Thrash Metal and that wasn’t very interesting for the people at that time.

It’s been almost 1.5 year since all of you did your first rehearsal together (September ’99). How do you feel right now about the band?

Oh I feel so comfortable. We’ve become so good friends all of us; one united group of people. The studio experience - where spent so much time - was really great. We all lived together in this house. Of course there was much argument about the things going on but finally with the whole experience we all got closer. Now we know what to do next time! (laughter)

You were friends with Memnock and Elvorn, right?

Yeah. They’re good friends of mine and I’ve known them for many years.

It’s kind of strange. You were friends with those two and Tjodalv was a friend of Cyrus! And all of you joined in!

This was a very, very strange coincidence. I mean, a small change of fate or destiny and this would have never happened and I guess I wouldn’t be here talking to you right now. It’s that big twisting of faith, me meeting Tjodalv in Germany two years ago…it just happened.

In Wacken…

Yeah, we just happened to be in the same place and we were both from Norway. We started talking and he told me about leaving Dimmu Borgir and starting a new band…and Oh Shit…I heard his demo and I was really interested! (laughter) They were also looking for a bass player and a second guitar player and I had two friends playing (Memnock and Elvorn). It’s so strange, isn’t it?

It was a…let’s say cool coincidence, huh?

Very strange and cool, yes.

Your initial name was Seven Sins. Do you feel it was a pity you had to change the band name due to copyright reasons?

No, I think they actually did us a favor. Now that I think about it I didn’t really like Seven Sins as a name and I’m quite happy with Susperia. We were looking for an easy, catchy name for us and I believe Susperia both sounds and looks better! I’m happy we changed it, really.

Susperia is the name of an Italian film I think…or am I wrong?

No, no, you’re correct. The idea was taken from that movie and it’s one of my favorite ones. I even have it in my collection. I saw the cover of the movie and I thought the title looked so cool; it sounded so cool so we changed one letter to avoid any other problems (laughter). So I talked to the guys about it because we didn’t have much time left and they found it very cool too…and we used it!

Yes, it is catchier than Seven Sins indeed. Now about your first album, Predominance. I’d like you to tell me what inspired you guys and also if there’s a concept behind the whole album.

Well, Cyrus has written all the music and I’ve written all the lyrics for this album. The concept…the idea is that we want to create a new alternative style. All five of us in the band really like Norwegian Black Metal and also we’re pretty fond of the good, old American Thrash Metal -like testament, overkill etc - and all that. We like both styles very much and we thought it would be nice to make an interesting combination of those two genres. I think it’s a very interesting mix and from what I’ve heard we’ve succeeded in a way and I’m really happy. So actually that’s the main idea behind…

I’ve never heard of the demo. I’m not aware if tracks in the album (Predominance) are from the demo or if the playing style is the same?

We had five songs from the demo of which four we recorded again for the new album.

Oh. Which songs?

The Hellchild, Illusions of Evil…. \[the first side of the tape came to an end, without me noticing it, and I must apologize for not being able to memorize the three other songs]

Throughout all the songs of Predominance everything matches up together pretty well. Vocals, guitars, drums and bass. How difficult was it in the recording studios? Did it take a long time to finish recording?

We had some problems in the beginning since it was the first time we ever worked together in a big, professional , awesome studio and everything was so new to us as a band together. We had some problems but when we got going everything was so great!

You’re going to be touring together with Dimmu Borgir, Lacuna Coil, In Flames and Nevermore. Sure this is part of the promotion. What is your relationship with Dimmu Borgir and the rest of the bands?

Now, the last year, we’ve become really good friends with the Dimmu guys. We met them when we joined Tjodalv in his band and now Susperia and Dimmu are all very good friends. We meet a lot, we party a lot, we share our thoughts and we talk a lot about this upcoming tour…to plan and we’ll possibly share the same stage. Yeah, our relationship is really good.

You know Mustis, right? (keyboard player of Dimmu Borgir)

Sure, he lives five minutes from me.

Oh! He does? (laughter) I was wondering, in Predominance are there any keys?

No, not really. There’s one song with electronical sound in the background but there’s no keyboards, no samples. It’s actually something Peter created on his computer. He mixed together all kinds of crazy sounds and made a strange loop in the background, which went on through the whole song. It really fits well with the rest.

Well, I asked you about Mustis because I know he’s a friend of Tjodalv…

Mustis actually played some keys in the Demo. The Demo songs are the ones that are more…Black. We thought we could try something just to improvise, experiment just for the fun of it…but we finally agreed not to use anything from the album. I don’t think Susperia will ever need keys. Keyboards don’t have a place in Thrash Metal really and I’m glad we can make music without depending on keyboards. I’d feel more comfortable just having the basic line-up…you know, bass, drums, guitars and vocals. I don’t think we will ever use keyboards. Not in the first years anyway.

Except if one day you decide to change your sound…

Maybe. We’ll see. I’m a hundred percent sure that the next album will be all the vocals in three because we’ve already started planing the next album. There will be no synth there.

What do you think the future of Black Metal will be like? What do you think the future of other Metal genres will be? Do you consider Heavy Metal outdated? What is your opinion?

I don’t really know what will happen to the Norwegian scene. This has been going on now for…sixteen to seventeen years since Mayhem started in 1984. Everything has been tried more than once already and everything has been done; from the worst production on a four-track recorder like Darkthrone up to the best productions with orchestras etc etc. So many different styles. So many alternative styles have been tried out in the Black Metal Scene so at this point I don’t know what will happen. I don’t want to make Susperia seem above anything else but I think we’ve created something alternative and maybe new. We might have succeeded because I know a lot of bands - without mentioning names - that have tried alternative styles but not many have been successful. For example I liked the two first Kovenant albums but I didn’t like the last one. The last Mayhem was cool but it wasn’t Mayhem you know. It will be quite interesting to see what happens. All the bands are still around and they’re working on new material. I know for example that Arcturus will be going back to the beginning again and Kovenant will be doing an even darker album with children quire etc. Ouh there’s a lot of exciting things going on I think.

Do you think you might do a project with one of these bands in the future? Maybe with Dimmu Borgir?

I’m not such a big fan of projects. I like steady bands, you know, more with the same line-up. I find projects unnecessary and not so many make interesting music with projects. They’re just good musicians but…For fun maybe at a live show Dimmu and Susperia will play together or maybe even record something in the future but no big project ahead, I think.

What are your dreams with Susperia? How far do you aim with the band?

Oh! I’m so happy we’ve come this far you know. I’m careful with aiming too high but of course my dream is to make enough money so that we can concentrate 100% on the band. When you’ve got money, you don’t need to have a regular job. That is standing in the way of music. I just want to make enough money as I would make with a normal job back home so that I can only play music - go on tours, record albums - that’s my dream.

I’ve noticed that your tour dates are only for a short period of time. Are you planning on scheduling more tour dates maybe on your own?

This festival with Dimmu and In Flames is the first half of the Dimmu European tour and after that they’ll be visiting America for three weeks. When they come back they will do the second half of Europe with all the other countries - Spain, France, Greece, Scandinavia, Bulgaria, Romania etc - and we hope to support them on that tour but it’s not for sure yet.

So there’s a possibility we might be seeing you in Greece too, after May?

Hopefully with Dimmu Borgir, yeah. I’d really like to play in Greece. I always wanted to go there so… (laughter)

That would be nice. Now, finally I’d like a word from you to all the Black Metal Fans that will listen to your first album and read this interview.

Actually what I was going to say was I hope people listen to this album. I know this album will sound strange to some people in the beginning but I think that if you listen to it more and more it will grow on you. You will experience new things and for those people that have anything against Nuclear Blast bands or the fact that we recorded in Abyss, try listening to it. It’s not how you think it is. There are a lot of narrow-minded people. I know that because I’ve seen how tough it is in this business. This is no Glory…no glamour at all. This is as hard as it is in any other place. Don’t turn your back on this band immediately, just give it a chance.

Give it a chance…I agree

Yes. I can accept if they don’t like it, if they tried to listen to it and they didn’t like it. I would be very happy if they at least gave it a try.

Well it’s a really good album and I can’t see the reason why someone shouldn’t listen to it!

(laughs) Thank you!

My Susperian regards to Athera and to all the members of Susperia. Nice work guys!


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