Anubis Gate (interview)

To every real and honest fan of progressive metal, two things are clear. One is that progressive metal is just like life itself, full of turbulences, ups and downs. Second thing is, those who are able to find in the sea of dynamics and changes, their integrity and become a strong constant, can consider their goal reached!
Anubis Gate, with their quality, consistency and goals, have showed that you can expect so much more from progressive metal and that thanks to those exact hardcore music workers, progressive metal will always be one of the pioneer directions in the area of musical expression. For Vision Rock Metal – Anubis Gate!

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1. Could you tell me how the story of Anubis Gate began?

Henrik: It first started when Jesper M. Jensen and Morten Sørensen wanted to form a melodic metal band, after the split-up of their 90′s rap metal act Geronimo. They found Torben Askholm as a singer and a couple of additional musicians (Kim Olesen – writer, keys and guitarsolos) and myself (writer and backing vox) and the debut Purification, which was actually only meant as a demo, ended up being the debut album. The rest is history, as they say.

2. In the bands biography it says that the band has its roots in the 80′s. How come an album wasn’t released sooner?

Henrik: Jesper, Morten and I knew each other in the 80′s and I played with both of them in different bands, but we were only big kids and too young to make records back then. I quit metal in ’87, but the guys kept going in the late 80′s with Kim in a thrashband, which disbanded. Jesper joined Invocator (Jacob Hansen’s band) with whom he actually did an album in the early 90′s. Torben was in Prophets of doom in the 80′s. It later changed to Northern Empire. Both of these were led by our present guitarist Michael Bodin, and an album was released by Prophets of doom, but the album with Northern empire was recorded, but never released. So some of us did make records before Anubis Gate, but we just didn’t do them together ’till 2004.

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3. The style you play always varied from melodic metal, progressive metal to mild trips in to power metal. You have always nurtured a different musical expression, something like Fates Warning, Conception, Axxis and many others. From where do you draw the inspiration for your music and could you tell us something about the dynamics involved in the process of creating it?

Kim: I think the secret is that we are all quite old and as a consequence of that we draw our inspirations not from new stuff, but older sources. Eighties pop music mixed with eighties thrash metal and seventies progressive rock. That way we are kinda avoiding the “inspirational inbreeding” that is in the modern progmetal genre. My personal inspirations would be Genesis, King Crimson. Iron Maiden [up to 7th son], early Megadeth, early Testament, Voivod, Depeche Mode, any eighties pop song that is melancholic (like Kim Wildes View From A Bridge), Pink Floyd etc etc. But also bands like Kraftwerk and Rammstein…..

4. Each one of your albums I experience as a separate whole, conceptual but still connected with all the others. Can we think of your albums as conceptual albums?

Henrik: Some of them are and maybe other are – unintended. The first two and the last two weren’t meant as such. But both ”Andromeda unchained” and especially ”The detached” were meant to be conceptional. The latter was our biggest conceptual album ever, a big task both musical and lyrical. I wouldn’t say that our albums are connected, not beyond the fact that almost the same people were involved and that most lyrics were written by the same person since Andromeda.

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5. Whenever I listen to your song „Andromeda Unchained“, I have to ask myself: where did all those, in the cases of many bands, beautiful piano parts that gave such a strong atmosphere to songs, go? Do you think that most bands today stopped exploring and using their own original sounds on keyboards, the same sounds that gave a special kind of atmosphere to their songs?

Kim: I think that we are probably more “daring” than many bands when it comes to keyboards. I try to use keyboard sounds that I have never used before on each and every song we do. There are almost no repeats of sounds in our catalog. Many other bands tend to rely on just the same 10 sounds all the time.

6. „Facing Dawn“, „Going Nowhere“ and „Airways“ are only some of the songs for which you could say they are in contrast with the concepts in metal, but at the same time they are creating new concepts of progression which combines pop and alternative music. I have to ask you, were you influenced and creatively inspired by music outside the spheres of progressive rock and metal ? Do you consider your style to be progressive metal or do you view your creativity as some kind of an ultimate musical expression of which metal is only a part of?

Henrik: I try to see it as just music that I like. Or at least ”modern heavy metal”. Labelling music is always both difficult and wrong, but some find it necessary to call it something. I draw from all other genres than metal actually. I rarely listen to metal these days, so my inspiration comes from pop, jazz, ambient you name it.

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Kim: If you see my lists of immediate influences above you won’t find any prog metal bands there. I really like old Queensryche and Crimson Glory, so you might say that “first wave” prog metal is among my influences too. Personally I think much of todays progmetal is “too much” in many respects. It’s like every palm muted guitar note is banged out in the bass drums too. And the solos are so much show off that I stop listening to them after a few seconds. Are we a progmetal band?I don’t know. But most people say we are so I am content to put us in that box. But to me we are just metal really.

7. Henrik, your solo career and albums have a different style than that of Anubis Gate. Does your prog rock/art rock/alternative expression, that is present in your solo albums, have to do with you exploring styles outside of metal or are your musical ideas perfectly crystallized and you know right from to start how to stylishly shape them?

Henrik: I’m having a hard time limiting myself to one genre. I need to do different things to fullfill my musical creativity. There would be little point in making metal albums on my own – that side of me is already covered in AG. So naturally I do something else which is also a part of me. But the different worlds affect each other of course, though it might be hard for anyone to hear the similarities between ”Horizons” and my forthcoming very quiet piano-driven solo album ”A summer can change everything” (released October 29 this fall). But the latter would probably have sounded different had I not been in AG. Basically different ideas go in different directions.

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8. Questions dealing with technical aspects of bands and the gear they use are rarely present in interviews today. Could you tell us what do you use in studio, during rehearsals and on concerts (drums, guitars, bass, keyboards, microphones, mixers, etc.)?

Henrik: In the studio I use a 1974 Neumann U87 microphone, live it’s a standard Shure beta58. Basswise I’ve always used the same 1992 Fender jazz bass Plus V, both live and on albums (Andromeda Unchained to Horizons, Jesper played the bass on the first two albums, which was on a fretless one, don’t recall the name). Lately I’ve changed the 5-string to a 4-string 2002 Fender FMT jazz bass. Sounds a little better and, best of all, easier to handle than a 5-string. Live bass is amplified via virtual bassamp and directly into the desk, in the studio it’s reamped in one of Jacob Hansens bassamps.

Michael: I play a Ibanez RG560 where I put EMG acktiv pickups in. I play the same gear as Kim does live.

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Kim: Live I always use my Parker Fly Deluxe. For studio we track mainly on Michaels Ibanez and in a few cases my Schecter Hellraiser. The sounds are re-amped by Jacob Hansen with what he prefers at the moment. He has our absolute trust so we give him free hands to chose whatever he likes. Keyboard sounds are Omnisphere, JV1080, the built in synths in Logic Pro and a HUGE library of samples that I have collected over the years. Live all the keyboards are running from a macbook pro loaded with Logic Pro.

9. Nowadays, in progresive metal, it’s incredibly hard to achieve an atmosphere with a perfect ratio of technical, melodic and atmospheric aspects. Do the few bands, yourselves among them, that manage to achieve that ratio today, do it by spending many hours experimenting with sound and with new approaches to their musical expression or does it just come out perfectly, without any philosophy?

Kim: Countless hours of experimentation. Not just choosing sounds and keyboard atmospheres but trying the song different ways. Sometimes nothing remains of the original song when it’s finished. Options-Going Nowhere went through an incredible amount of different versions. Over 30 actually.

10. Considering how ‘crowded’ the music market has become, do you consider
experimenting with ones sound to be a ‘dangerous’ act?

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Henrik: In an ever-changing music scene, I think you have to to a certain level. We’re not worried, in fact we feel we have to take one or two steps in new directions every time we do a new album. But on the last day we carefully listen to the outcome to determine if all songs fit under the umbrella that is AG. Including the acoutic ballad (Erasure) on ”Horizons” turned out to be perhaps too bold a move for some people (reviewers), but that was a direction we thought was well thought out, fitted the album and finally it was different from what we’d done before.

Kim: We can’t just stand still. Life moves forward as we do as humans and musicians. And as do our fans too. So we have never really worried about that. We only ever think about the quality of the output.

11. What is your opinion on the sea of bands creating music using a template and do you think that many metal labels have turned into small corporations that, in the name of pure profit, are asking of their bands to have an ever present trendy aspect to their music, at the expense of the musical essence and art in general? Is a good chunk of the metal scene starting to look like the MTV commercial scene?

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Kim: Some labels perhaps but I must say that we have never experienced any interference from our label to sound a certain way. But yes I feel that there are bands out there that are more of a product than art. On the other hand there are many many many bands who stand up for their own way of doing things. The music business since The Beatles revolutionized it has always been divided between product bands (The Monkees) and the real deal (The Beatles). Nothing new there. Commercial is not a bad thing necessarily. We have a good deal of pretty commercial songs under our belt too. The problem is when you are being commercial for the sake of being commercial rather for the sake of writing music that fulfills you artistically.

12. The Danish metal scene has always been strong, innovative and full of individuals and bands that ennobled any genre and sub-genre with their own seal. Give us your opinion of your countries scene and name some of the bands you prefer? Are there any young melodic progressive metal bands? Do you like what Finn Zierler is doing with Beyond Twilight?

Michael: There are many good bands in Denmark in all different types of metal, and the quality is getting pretty high. For me I would say; Pyramaze, where Morten Gade Sørensen also play drums, is a great prog. power band and Phonomik is a good act too, and then of course Beyond Twilight. I play in another danish prog. metal band called Third eye who released an album in 2010, where Finn Zierler did a guest appearance. Finn is an old friend of mine and I have the deepest respect for his music, the man is a brilliant composer and musician.

13. Progressive music has always held a special place in my heart and mind and lately I have started to notice certain aspects and patterns, that could be attributed to progressive music, to be present in the things that I do daily, in my hobbies, my studies and the way I handle and do things in general. A certain everchanging theme that is constantly, progressively, changing, growing, shifting, combining different aspects depending on the situation but without sacrificing the main tune, main feeling of the theme. As musicians of the progressive genre have you noticed something similar in your lives? Do you think that certain fundamental lessons that music, and not only music, teaches us can be found and applied in other parts of a persons life?

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Kim: I think I have always been a progressive person in the way I think. I have always played with words and twisted them around. I play a lot of regular pop rock (I partly make a living out of that) and even when playing other peoples music I always end up doing things a bit different from performance to performance.

14. Kim, this summer you were in Croatia in Porec. Was this your first trip to Croatia and how did you like it?

It was my 4th time In Porec. I was there as a child when it was still Yugoslavia. And 3 times as an adult. Croatia is really wonderful. This time it was very hot though ;-)

15. Thank you for tis interview. Do you have a message for your fans in Croatia and on the territory of former Yugoslavia?

Kim: We are always so grateful that there are people around the world that have a place in their heart for our music. The gift of connecting to people is one of the greatest gifts one can get. So our message is simply thank you for listening to us.

Dalibor Mladenović

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