Danish Invasion | Interview with Hatesphere

Though Denmark is best known for introducing the influential Mercyful Fate to the world and for being the birthplace of one Lars Ulrich, drummer of Metallica, the country has a whole lot more to offer to outside audiences, just waiting to be unfolded.
There’s a musical revolution undergoing inside the nation’s borders right now with a handful of long-established acts like Illdisposed and Konkhra that dropped of the radar for years and are back to reaffirm their status as capital forces in Danish heavy music, and most importantly there’s a whole new generation of bands eager to revitalise a scene that was once very promising in the early 90’s. Back in those days Danish metal-scene was bursting with bands like the aforementioned Illdisposed and Konkhra, Iniquity, Panzerchrist, Invocator, Dominus, Thorium, Saturnus and Autumn Leaves between others, and although it revealed a predominance over the Death-Metal genre it was considered as one of the most individual and diverse musical scenes of the world. Unfortunately, it all began to stagnate with some of these acts collapsing throughout the years and lesser groups managing to break through and make some significant impact. A scenario that is about change with the imminent release of works from Hatesphere, Konkhra, Submission, The Cleansing, not to mention the fresh outputs from Crocell, Dawn of Demise, Exmortem and Thorium, perhaps not since the Vikings raided and conquered the north of Europe a few centuries back have the world witnessed such strong offensive from the Danes.
We obviously had to scratch the surface and quiz a few of these acts for a better perception on what Danish metal has to offer. Members of Hatesphere, Konkhra, Submission, Dawn of Demise, Crocell, The Cleansing and Sickseed all offered their perspective on their respective band’s careers and the whole Danish metal scene.


A lot has happened to HateSphere over the last eighteen months or so, the Danes have issued what is unarguably their best and most daring album to date “Serpent Smiles and Killer Eyes”, toured extensively around the world (even China was included in the itinerary) to promote said work, won the category "Best Hard Rock Act" at the Danish Music Awards, but yet not all the recent experiences can be seen as career highs. Unfortunately, the momentum acquired over the last two years hindered as the line-up gradually dissolved due to personal and professional reasons, leaving guitarist and main songwriter Peter "Pepe" Lyse Hansen as the sole original member left from the unit that recorded “Serpent Smiles and Killer Eyes”. I guess I can start off by clearing up any confusion regarding the recent events within the HateSphere camp by asking what exactly happened.

Pepe(Guitar): “Well, it wasn’t really as drastic as it seemed. Shortly after recording the "Serpent Smiles and Killer Eyes" album, we had a band meeting discussing our future plans. Here it became clear that neither Heinz, Anders nor Michael had the time or the enthusiasm to continue the work with the band. They all liked to play live and they liked to write music but they didn’t want to spend that much time on it, simply because of their families and work.
So at that point we knew, that we had to go out and find a new guitar player, drummer and bass player. Luckily for us we had half a year, before the other guys would leave, so it left us enough time to find great replacements without having to stress too much about it. We had already played with Dennis (drums) before and had been in contact with Mixen (bass), so both these two guys came in pretty fast. Jakob (guitar) is a good friend of mine and we had been playing together with his other band, so he came in pretty easy as well.
When our old vocalist Jacob left it came more sudden, actually only ten days before we had to go on tour for six weeks with Dimmu Borgir and Amon Amarth, so we had to work a bit harder to find his replacement.”

During that turbulent period did the thoughts of giving up completely ever crossed your mind?

Pepe: “When I just got the call from Jacob, saying he would leave, I thought: well, this is over!! But already that same night I decided that this shouldn’t ruin all what we had been building up these last almost ten years. I love to play in HateSphere and I have been writing all the music for all those years. So I simply didn’t want it to end there. I talked to Mixen and we decided to get together a new team, because we knew we had something good going! At that point we only needed to find a singer, so that was what we concentrated on.”

Gladly Pepe didn’t throw the towel to the floor and have assembled new recruits that have been touring and rehearsing together for nearly a year now.
How difficult it was to find new and hardworking replacements capable of enduring the hardship life of a touring metal band like HateSphere?

Pepe: “It was luckily not that difficult. We had been playing with Dennis before as he should have been the stand-in drummer for an American tour we had going a couple of years back. Mixen should have been the stand-in bass player on that same tour, so we had been in contact with him as well. So the first four months after we knew that Anders, Heinz and Michael were going to leave, we rehearsed with these two guys.
Jakob came in a bit later, but I knew him before and we had been touring Denmark with his other band. So when he first got the chance, he was quick to learn.
Finding a new vocalist of course showed to be the most difficult thing. We had auditions here in Denmark getting in people from Scotland, Italy and Germany... and in the end we found Joller on request from a friend of ours that wanted us to test him. It turned out that Joller was the perfect match, we were quickly to start both touring but also the song writing as a new band.”

Meanwhile, the successor of “Serpent Smiles and Killer Eyes” was recently committed to tape at Antfarm studios with producer Tue Madsen and is inevitably surrounded in speculation about whether or not the forthcoming record comes close to approximating the high stakes set out by its predecessor.
Did you feel any pressure due to the weight of the fans expectations and a need to prove that HateSphere hadn’t lost any of their pulling power despite the loss of various members that crafted and shaped their previous works?

Pepe: “Well, I would be lying if I said no, but that’s how it always is.
Every time you make a new album, you need to do better than ever before.
This time we just had to do a very, very, very good album, as everybody thought one year ago that HateSphere couldn’t do it. When we initially started the song writing for this one, we didn’t think that much about it.
We are always very critically about our songs and ideas, and that helps a lot in the end. Actually we already did some demo versions of two new songs this summer, just to prove that HateSphere could still do it. And the response has been amazing. So that naturally gave us a boost before entering the studio again this fall.
On top of that we have all shown stronger, as we knew that we needed to prove everyone that HateSphere indeed was back on top again. So we have been doing our very best, and I am sure that the result won’t disappoint!”

So with such line-up reshuffles, how would you say the HateSphere’s sound progressed, changed and developed?

Pepe: “It still sound like HateSphere for sure, but with small differences for the better luckily! As I have been writing most of the music again, the music itself is still in the good ol' vein. But with so many new members, also many new ideas arise, and it shows in the final product. We don’t want to make the same album twice but we also don’t want to change way too much. So the changes are always small things... like the tempo of the songs, new melodic ideas, the production or whatever.
We simply go for making a kick ass varied album, and I think we have done that again this time. Very shortly long samples will be up on our Myspace, so you can check it out for yourself.”

What can we expect from the forthcoming album then, can it be seen as a logical step forward when compared to the previous one “Serpent Smiles and Killer Eyes”, or are there major differences to be noticed?

Mixen(Bass): “I don't know if it's a logical step forward, as much as a necessary form of progress.
What we did was basically just get together in between touring for "Serpent..." and simply focus on the music.
There's always going to be a certain amount of pressure after releasing somewhat successful records, and given the chaotic history of what 2007 proved to be for
HateSphere, this will be no different if not more intense.
As far as the actual songs goes, it's always difficult analyzing your own music while trying to be objective about it, especially at this stage when the record is still fresh to us. But I think there's an overall intense feel to it and the hard work that we all put in is definitely showing. Also, Joller and I worked hard on the lyrical aspect of things and I think we touched some new ground as far as HateSphere and lyrical content goes. The rest is up to the listener really ‘cos once it drops, it's out of our hands.”

Have you already chosen a title for the new album?

Mixen: “Yes we have, but I can't reveal it at this time. However, the song opening the record is carrying the same name. Coincidence? No, it's all part of a long stretched symbolic scheme.”


Do you already tested out some of the new material live before going into the studio? What was the response to the new themes on a live environment?

Mixen: “We've been playing a handful of songs for a good while now and it's been great. Especially after uploading two demo songs on our MySpace page, we've been getting some awesome feedback. And with fans uploading their cell-phone recordings of the shows on YouTube etc, people are actually given the chance to get to know the new material, which is both good and bad ‘cos the sound quality sounds like shit most of the time, but in the end it gives people the possibility to scream along and that's what's it's really all about.”

HateSphere’s sixth full-length work was like most of their studio works recorded by famous producer and long-time collaborator Tue Madsen at his Antfarm studios over nine intense days.
Seeing that HateSphere always had a large input in the production work in the past, particularly from former vocalist Jacob Bredahl, did you do anything different this time around, anything you specifically wanted to try, or to change? Or did you placed all the trust in Tue Madsen to let him do what he does best?

Mixen: “After recording the demo songs with Tue early on in 2008, we pretty much decided right there and then that we wanted to do the record with him as well. Not only is Tue, technically in a league of his own, but he is also one of the most comfortable persons to work with. When being cooped up in a studio for hours at a time it's extremely important to feel relaxed in order to stay focused and be able to perform at your absolute best.
We didn't really interfere much with the technical aspect of things. We tried out some different amps, some different settings and so forth, and ended up with, what I think is sounding like a bad ass organic monster. And that's why we wanted to work with Tue and his assistant, Jacob.”

The latest member to join the ranks is Jonathan "Joller" Albrechtsen, a 19-year old Copenhagen native that has the difficult task of replacing the charismatic singer Jacob Bredahl. His résumé might be a modest one but his audition for the singer position was so stunning and powerful that blew out a more experienced competition and immediately convinced HateSphere that their search for a screamer has ended.
It seems pertinent to ask Joller how he felt about the grand step from singing with some local acts to fronting one of biggest Metal groups that is well-known for touring relentlessly around the world?

Joller(Vocals): “Well, it’s kind of hard to remember the beginning of it all, because my start in HateSphere was really hectic. Pepe called me up and told me that they needed a singer and asked if I wanted to audition. I was totally stoked and started rehearsing the songs right away. I went and auditioned and on the way home from Århus, Pepe called again and told I was in. That was when the nerves hit, ‘cause we only had 12 days until the first show and the day after that show we were going to play the Danish Metal Awards. And I was shitting myself with nerves, but everything was going so fast and luckily everything turned out for the best, and we rocked those gigs. Then we went on to play outside of Denmark, and going on a 26 days tour through Europe as main support for Dismember. It was a big step, but this is what I love and life for!
I’m really happy that I have this opportunity to live out my passion and that the fans that are still into HateSphere have accepted me! It’s indescribable to be on stage in front of these people. It makes all of the hard work worth it and more! Plus all of the beer isn’t exactly a boring part of it, haha!
And with every step and every show, I find ways to learn about the music industry and better my performance. So yeah a big step, but a really fucking awesome one!”

The more zealot fans of HateSphere still mourning the loss of Jacob Bredahl need to stop worrying because for one thing, Joller’s voice is extremely potent and confers the band’s sonority with an extra dose of brutality and intent. Another positive aspect is the fact that his performance has a lot of individuality and doesn’t try to replicate Bredhal’s tone.
Do you approach the task of singing for HateSphere with a different style as opposed to other bands you have been involved with in the past?

Joller: “Not really, I just do what I do, but naturally I and the rest of the new line-up have to be true to the sound of HateSphere. That being said, I do my vocals in my own style. Brutal! Hehe…
But since the level of activity is higher in HateSphere compared to previous bands I’ve played in, we naturally have to more focused and professional, regarding any aspect of the job. Whether it’s playing live, recording or discussing merch designs.”

Have you had a hand in the writing of the words you’re screaming on the sixth album? What can fans and listeners expect from this album, do your lyrics come from things happening in the whole world or in your own life?

Joller: “Yes I did. Me and Mixen worked really hard to make these lyrics stand out and match the level of the music on this album. Some of the lyrics are the usual “Death-Satan-blood-evil-death” metal lyrics, but the majority of them circle around deeper things. And if you are into lyrics, looking into the layers of these lyrics should be very interesting. The subjects circle around everything from binge drinking, to me having to experience an old friend being stabbed to death in Copenhagen, and how it came to affect so many people and how it tormented some of my closest friends who were a lot closer to that person than I was.
There is even a love song that Mixen wrote, of course it far from obvious when you read the lyric. All in all, it’s a diverse mix of lyrics, some with more statement and meaning than other, but all really good!”

I see HateSphere interact a lot with fans thru the band’s website and various blogs, which is an aspect that some bands simply don’t care to work on.
Do you think it is important to listen and interact with fans and keep them posted on the band’s developments by your own voice?

Joller: “It is really important to keep your fans close to you and let them in on everything that’s going on! And the HateSphere fans are a huge priority for us!!!
Also the personal contact is something I really enjoy, when we’re out playing live. I love to talk to fans, both before and after shows. And I think it’s really important not to alienate yourself from your fans, which would be totally boring, because they are the reason we play live. And our fans are the fucking best in the world! So yeah, very important, and we’ll keep on doing this!”

The metal scene in Denmark seems to be growing fast over the last two years with a great number of aspiring metal bands like Crocell, Dawn of Demise, The Cleansing, The Burning, etc making some significant waves in the underground. How would you describe the Danish metal scene of today?

Joller: “The scene in Denmark is strong I would say, the level of the bands, even the totally underground ones, is really high. I think the Danish metal scene is one of the healthiest in Europe right now, especially compared to the size of Denmark.”

Which Danish metal bands do you stand out right now?

Joller: “I think that bands like The Psyke Project and Vira are really interesting at the moment, both approaching metal in new angles.”

More info at: www.hatesphere.com