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Demon Head's Birk Gjerlufsen Nielsen: "…What was rock 50 years ago doesn't sound like rock anymore nowadays, it's still rock though. Then the question is if one wants to stay stagnant in the past? I say no thanks. I trust the youth with all my heart"

Interview with Birk Gjerlufsen Nielsen from Demon Head
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 23 January 2021, 10:34 PM

Something that would raise a scent, sound and atmosphere of a kind of complexion that has to be followed and listened carefully more than once, a kind of a puzzle in a musical form, a code that has to be broken. Not every musical piece is there to just sit back and enjoy the fun of the sun, or a kind of a lockdown, but actually to raise questions, retrace steps and start again. First time listening to Demon Head, and beginning with their new record, "Viscera", signed to Metal Blade Records, and it can be understood why the interest levels were high up. Steinmetal talked to guitarist, Birk Gjerlufsen Nielsen, about the creative end of the record, understanding the musical pieces, and trying to find out more about the band's development

Hello Birk, it is quite a pleasure to have you for this interview for Metal Temple online Magazine, how have you been doing mate?

Not too bad, thank you. The world is changing; I suspect not for the better. But what can you do?

I have always heard of the Demon Head name, yet honestly, I never had the chance to experience what it is all about. Thankfully, your signing to Metal Blade Records brought you into the spotlight. Talking about the spotlight, was it your intention when you signed with the American giant label, to gather more attention to yourselves after all this time being in the underground?

We're moving slowly as a group. One step at a time. Signing with Metal Blade Records was the next step for us. A lot of the best music is to be found in the shadows of the public, where integrity, joy or sheer necessity is the reason of doing.

What made you realize that you are ready for the open wide public eye, spread throughout the Metal and Rock scenes as you have never been before?

This is not meant as a corny response, but I honestly believe the question is if the public is ready for us.

With this rather giant step, I am sure that it made life a little easier when it comes to the overall state of mind due to the ongoing pandemic. How have you been coping with the situation? What has been keeping you sane, since I know that you have been quite a touring kind of guy?

I'm quite alright with solitude in general and long stretches of time where nothing happens only contributes with focus and clarity in my work. Some of the positive things to come out of all this has been the notion of subtleties in my daily life. Pleasant or unpleasant it is important to feel your feet and be honest to yourself.

Do you believe that the current phenomenon of vaccinations is bound to contribute at a substantial rate to the coming back of culture in the very near timeframe? Some have been saying that it would take at least another year

I'm not an expert in the strategies of overcoming Covid-19. I'm a pessimist though, so I'll be dressing up for another year in the bog.

Simply titled “Viscera”, Demon Head unleashes its fourth album, laying down mischief and mystery that cannot merely make an individual’s mind wandering and wondering, but overcome the senses. How can you explain the chosen title and what stands behind it?

For me the title is pointing towards what is within

Continuing the kind of enigmatic artwork style, as it appeared on “Hellfire Ocean Void”, “Viscera”, at least for me, took another step forward with a shape, which appeared to me like remnants of an old coin, attributing to the bizarreness of the thing. What can you tell about this artistry?

The object is known as a 'Haruspex'. It's an ancient Etruscan model of a sheep's liver that was used to read and interpret the entrails of sacrificed animals.'

As I mentioned, “Viscera” seems like a collection of riddles, pieces of puzzle that I am sure completes a much bigger picture. However, it is really hard to decipher it, other than exhilaration made by the music. What can you tell about the themes on the album?

I will only comment on musical themes on the album since it is where I'm responsible. I never think of themes in my work as such. But I'll take the challenge and describe the music in terms of themes. The main theme would be our group, our friendship, what we are together as a whole. I'm interested in collectivity. To learn to act according to a group rather than to my ego. This requires something that is reminiscent of distance. It feels like distance because you do distance yourself, but it's not really distance because you move closer to the actual work, the music, and the group, when your ego is not there to direct you. You distance your activity from yourself, and make space for the actual work, what it is all about, the music, the group, the friendship.

Since there is always a personal connection to the material, in particular the written word, which of these titles do you find yourself attached to, as impactful mini events on a philosophical turn?

My personal connection is closer to the music than the words. In my life in general my personal connection is closer to the communication of music than the communication of words. Words hold a promise of precision that I'm constantly disappointed and misdirected by. The emotional communication of music is never misunderstood. Either you feel it or you don't. 'Triumphal Chariot of Antimony' was the last song I wrote and is the one I feel the deepest emotional connection to. The tonal language is abstract but precise, close and intimate, it is what I'm looking for when composing.

I have to admit that my eyes were open, and my mind ten folds, I was bearing witness to the dangerous meeting of a bowl of sensation. The Doors, King Diamond, Black Sabbath and several uncharted places within the twisted and underground sources of NWOBHM and early Doom Metal. Quite interesting. Nothing heavy, though the atmosphere made it an experience. What can you tell about the development that Demon Head went through while working on “Viscera”?

Some years ago I moved to Ireland and Mikkel moved to Sweden. So we had to find a way to continue through distance. I guess it was the reason I started writing these songs, to simply make sure we would continue. In the process I slowed down the compositional process quite a lot. Making time for the chaos it is to make something from nothing. As a group we started working with demos for the first time. I went to Sweden, to Mikkel, to make demos of the music I had written. It allowed us more control of how the songs found their shape. Control is not necessarily a good thing when working with music in my opinion. But I believe we're quite chaotic as a group, so for us further control only contributed to how much emotion was possible to put into the empty vessels unfinished sketches are.

What do you believe that you have been denied ever since your formation and the previous albums that made you take such a big step in your musical enhancement, mainly due to your saying “restraints of capitalism”? How did you know that it was the right time to make such a change?

We take one step at a time. Every change is a step along the way until the road ends. Like a stream finding its way down a hill side, maneuvering in the directions that makes most sense and takes the least effort until it mouths out into the ocean.

Working with the man that produced Metallica back in their heydays was bound to be something else, quite an experience that it would be hard to let go anytime soon, if ever. What can you share about this small journey that you guys took with Flemming Rasmussen? How did he find your material at first?

We only recorded drums and bass in Sweet Silence Studios so I don't think Flemming got the full picture haha. That being said, to quote Flemming himself the only music he actually likes is The Rolling Stones. I think he admires the way we do what we do. What he thinks of the music itself I've got no idea.

What can you say were the main challenges, whether through the writing or recording phases, upon creating this rather adventurous record such as “Viscera”?

To me music always suffers from some kind of trauma when being realized. The inspiration is always so clear and other worldly, but all the stages it requires to capture sound and formulate it through, mixing and all that is bound to obscure the actual feeling of the music.

I noticed that the record consists of a lot of instrumental breaks, some could be rendered as intros. How do you find the contribution of these small musical pieces to the overall record? Are those game changers in comparison to other records that are close by in direction of music?

To me the instrumentals work in order to blur out the beginnings and endings of the songs of which it was necessary for the final movement of the whole record. Beside of that they are pieces of music in themselves.

The album’s main single, and impeccable video, “The Triumphal Chariot of Antimony”, introduced me to a whole new universe when it comes to the mixture of chaotic Rock and Doom Metal. To be honest, it is one of the most mysterious Rock songs I have heard in a while. What is your appreciation of this particular musical venture? How do you capture its essence?

The tonal material is abstract, but still contains a lot of feeling. Not understanding but still allowing to exist, to welcome the unknown is the deepest way I know how to connect with anything.

Turning to a more melodic feature, which various Metallic elements is “The Feline Smile”, the devouring drama and atmosphere are enticed by riffs of old and simple rhythm guitar to provide an additional layer of heaviness. What can you tell about the creation of this track?

Not many have noticed but 'The Feline Smile' is kind of a sibling to 'Black Torches'. 'The Feline Smile' ends with same piece of music that begins 'Black Torches'. The choruses share similar parts, but are played on different instruments, and the chords played after the choruses of both songs are the same. It was originally meant as the same song. I think the song-writing was somewhat inspired by Steeleye Span, Mercyful Fate and Ved Buens Ende. During the recording of 'The Feline Smile' we were studying changes. I think changes are a very fundamental part of making music. How you go from one place to another. How much difference can a specific change hold without it sounding too constructed?

Maybe you heard that before, but did anyone tell you that Jim Morrison is alive through your vocalist? Of course there are also King Diamond features, yet his emotive sense is clearly outstanding. Would you say that Ferreira Larsen pushed himself to the limit on this record?

I think Marcus was more comfortable singing on this record. Comfortable in the sense of letting go. He always says he's not a trained singer, only started singing along with starting this band. So I suppose he's a bit reluctant when he's singing. I couldn't care less about technicality or whatever in music. It is all about feeling to me. I contributed with a lot of vocal harmonies throughout the record. Production-wise I think it allowed Marcus' vocal to stand on its own without it sounding disconnected because my falsetto is there to resonate with both Marcus' voice and the music.

Since there is no chance for shows, at least for now, any thoughts of how you would promote the new album? Perhaps a series of online shows? An online release party?

We just cancelled a couple of release shows. So instead of rehearsing we've isolated in a small cabin on an island called Møn to write new material together. Maybe we'll do some online shows instead. We'll see. I worship music as a physical experience. Not as something that can be compromised into a digital experience and I'm reluctant to let the world know that there's a substitute to live music. Because there's not. But then again it might be nice enough to click on a link and watch someone like us expose themselves in their rehearsal space…?

Birk, I wish to thank you deeply for this interview. You created a piece of music that is virtually uncanny and unexpected, many thanks for this experience. Cheers mate.

Thanks Lior. It was a pleasure. We're in the process of writing new music this week and might not have that opportunity the next long while, so we've been prioritizing that, and thus pushing the promotional aspect aside. But then now while the others were cooking up some food I sat down to do this. Thanks for the thoughtful questions. I've had a flask of Red Breast whiskey that I brought with me from Ireland, a glass of champagne and a cup of coffee to get stimulated from along with a new album by Playboi Carti. It's like a vampire record, like King Diamond, but it's modern hiphop, it's modern trap. Times change and time is relative. What was rock 50 years ago doesn't sound like rock anymore, it's still rock though. Then the question is if one wants to stay stagnant in the past? I say no thanks. I trust the youth with all my heart.


 



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