Interview with Astennu
Enslain: It seems that most fans aren't aware of Dimmu Borgir's earlier releases. How long has Dimmu been around?
Astennu: I suppose they started about '93, just fuckin' around or whatever, and then it took about '96, they started to say fuck it, let's do it properly, when I joined they started really working hard... basically, went through the motions, changed a lot of members, because, we are so busy these days, we have to find people who just want to do that, so right now, we seem to have found that, so everything seems to be going fine. It's taken a long time though.
Enslain: What recent member changes have taken place?
Astennu: Since the album we have changed bass player and drummer, now we have Nicholas Barker drumming, and we have ICX Vortex from Borknagar playing bass, who also did the clean vocals on the new album. So... yeah, everything seems to be fine now, it's taken us a long time to get there, but only six months again, someone could be an asshole again, so... you just gotta find people who really want to work hard, you know.
Enslain: When will you be in the studio?
Astennu: February/March we go to do the new album, it might turn into March/April, just because we have a couple of shows, I think, in February, but we'll be ready by then, we just want to get it out of the way quick. You know, we don't do anything else, we rehearse five days a week, so we come up with music all the time, but we can't rush it, so I think whenever we're ready...
Enslain: Do you have everything written for it yet?
Astennu: Yeah, we've got most of it written for it, like when we're on tour or rehearsing we'll come up with riffs, but we haven't started putting anything together yet, that'll happen after this tour.
Enslain: What kind of sound can we expect?
Astennu: It's a bit more extreme, and we have a much better drummer now so it's much more extreme, but it's a lot more groovy at the same time. I think we're going to try some more weird stuff on keyboards. I think we're just going to, again, just make the borders wider, again, like every time, like every time we go there we have more open wide, and we just open the borders a bit more, you know, what we think is good, you know, because I think like, between each album is like a year, and a lot happens to your life in that time, a lot is going on. I mean, it really depends, when you get to the studio the whole mood of that two months can change the whole thing too. Every year new things happen in our lives, so it comes out in our music. I mean, if you write ten albums that are the same, your life didn't really progress much.
Enslain: Who writes the lyrics?
Astennu: There's a couple, like Silenoz, Nagash wrote a lot for this one, I would do some, basically Silenoz and Nagash did the new ones because, everyone wrote some but just for the concept wanted to go with the best riffs, like the right words, the right place. Everybody writes a whole bunch and then we just pick in the studio which ones fit best. Normally, Shagrath doesn't write no lyrics anyway, so he just sings, I know it's a bit weird, but that's how it works.
Enslain: What's topics are expressed through the lyrics?
Astennu: I'd say more of these days, it's more about being yourself, trying to work your way through the system, you can never beat the system, you just gotta find your way to sneak through it, get around it, how it caters to your abilities, it caters to how you are, you know. The whole fight about, you know, don't look up to no one else, don't look up to us, we don't have statements so much, more like questions, we just put another opinion next to the table, you know, and hopefully they go away and think about it, but it's basically just about believing in yourself and, you know, just getting through any way you can, you know, and at the same time not destroying anyone else's dreams, because that's the most important thing to all of us, I think, having our dreams, having our goals. So, whatever you have to do to get to them, you know, as long as you're not fucking anyone else up in the process.
Enslain: What bands are you into?
Astennu: I listen to all kinds of bands, you know, but there are certain bands, Morbid Angel, Cannibal Corpse, Deicide, Malevolent Creation, Mr. Bungle, Cardigans, classical music... basically death metal/thrash. Anything that's basically extreme for its genre. I don't listen to black metal so much though, but I'm around it 24 hours a day, it's my lifestyle, so...
Enslain: What bands have you been influenced by?
Astennu: I'd say basically a lot of old heavy metal bands, I'd say more so than the 90's metal bands. I think once you add everyone's stuff into it, I think basically it's just metal, that's all you can say. I'd say it's just got a lot to do with metal?
Enslain: What do you think about the current state of metal, and the direction it's heading?
Astennu: Well, I don't know about here, but I suppose in Europe it's really picked up really big now, especially for our genre of music, it's like, anybody who's young... when I was young I was getting pushed into whatever we listened to, so death metal or thrash, but automatically for Europeans it's black metal, so that's just how it's going, you know. In Europe it's really taken off a lot, like at festivals, black metal bands will be headlining it, and being the main bands, so over there it looks really healthy for that stuff. I don't know about here, but we'll see about that.
Enslain: Where do you get the best response?
Astennu: Germany, you know, anywhere around the central part of Europe, then you go right up to Finland, that's a cool place for us. Around the eastern block of Europe is cool, like the old Greece and Turkey and Italy, they just go crazy there. Then you get to Oslo where everyone just stands there.
Enslain: How were your experiences with your first American show at the March Metal Meltdown?
Astennu: Terrible. It was only because, as festivals go, everything was running late, and it wasn't organized well, we had the police standing next to us, saying 'make sure you're off by this time or you're in trouble', some people knocked over some guitar amps about the same time we were to get playing, and it was organized really bad... but for us, we still did the best we could in that situation, but since then, what you're going to see now is totally different, because, you know, when you have your own crew here, everybody is working for ya, seems to be organized well.
Enslain: How are things going on this tour?
Astennu: This is our first time over here, you know, and we'd rather come, bring some other bands with us, you know, have a good time, and check out how it works, and how it doesn't work, what to do, what not to do, and come back next year properly, bring the whole production, you know. First time over here, you have to impress the promoters first, so you gotta cut down on your expenses and stuff, but... it's cool, you know, you have to crawl before you can walk anywhere, you know, and we crawled in Europe for about two to three years, now we're just starting to run in Europe, and so, you know, for us, we gotta do it hard, and we gotta start all over again, and that's fine, that's how it should be. This tour is us and Samael, and we're very good friends with them, we play a lot together, we have the same manager, and you know, we've known each other really well for a long time.
Enslain: How will the live show be?
Astennu: We brought a few lights out, we always have a really aggressive live show, I think that's why it's helped us out so much with the success we've had, we play a lot, and we play good live, and we really, we grab the people in the first five minutes, you know, we don't wait, we just come out and bang, you know, and then whoever's watching in those first five minutes I guarantee won't leave, I don't know what it is... You see other bands at festivals, 30,000 people will turn up for one song, and then it will be 5,000 people, you know. We play, we come out, and we seem to be able to just grab your attention, straight away, and they'll stay there to the end. So I think that's important, when you're playing live too, when you come out, you really have to grab everyone in that place. I see some other bands, they come out, they play really good music, they got excellent music, but you know, they come out and stand there, they don't do nothing, they just wear black... they're just playing, and it doesn't catch you, it takes them like 20 minutes to get the people into it, you know where people are out getting beer, you know, with us it's like, 'I'll get a beer... no, I'll wait 'til the next song' you know, so I think we just, we learned how to capture the crowd. It's more got to do I'd say, we're good at creating energy, we're good at actually stealing energy from other people too, so I think that's got a lot to do with it.
Enslain: How long do you think you'll be doing this?
Astennu: I'm not sure right now, I'm like 22 years old now, fuckin, you know, been playing live since I've been 16, I've been doing it for about 6 years now, I suppose it will stop when I don't feel it's right anymore... That's the whole thing about this music, especially for our music, you know it's… there's no point doing stuff you don't want, that's the whole concept of us playing, you know. It's like, one day when we wake up and you know, we come to band practice and someone says 'I don't feel like doing that no more' you're like 'that's cool, dude,' you know? That's how it is, you know, I think when everybody thinks they've had to complete in their life, and that's it, you know, it's like a step like everything else, so, I'll be doing it until my heart says no, which I don't think will be for a while... I hope...
Enslain: What did you do before Dimmu?
Astennu: I played in a few bands here and there, I did a lot of work, like, at my job was that I programmed drums for a studio, and I'd get into a lot of that, teaching music, doing a lot of teaching guitar and stuff, and um... I never really had a job, you know, used to always play music, it always seemed to get me by, and I've always played in bands and stuff... always just been playing.
Enslain: Are you surprised with all the success?
Astennu: I suppose, yes, but I don't think, it doesn't really bother us, we haven't changed, we still, you know, walk around here dressed in what we probably went to sleep in, you know, it's really as normal as we can be, and I think it's important to remember that because, you know it makes things so much easy, you don't have to run from everybody, don't have to make sure that this hair is in the right place or whatever. So I think, the most important thing we always talk about is about keeping our feet on the ground, you know, to us, what we've done so far is nothing, that's how we see it, you know, so we see if we go that far there's no point to stop, we just gotta keep trying a million percent as usual, see how far we can take it, better than saying we've come this far and stuff.
Enslain: As a black metal band, being known for anti-religious connotations, what are your ideas on religion?
Astennu: I couldn't care less, to me it's like, the bible is the best horror book I've ever read in my life. I grew up the first 13 years of my life pretty strict Christianity, and you know, of course there's a lot of hatred there and stuff, but when we're young, you go through that because, you've respected someone, you've believed in someone so much because that's how it was, and one day you find out that it's all bullshit just to control you. So I get really pissed off, but then I think after a while it's like, I couldn't be bothered to hate anyone, I don't feel hate ever, I don't feel anger, someone could chop my arms off and I'd say 'that's cool', you know, it's like, I don't waste one second of my precious energy on anybody else, you know, it's like, why worry about someone who's pathetic, why let someone else get you stressed, get you worried, why let them do that to you, you know? So I could give a fuck about it anymore, they can do whatever they want. I'm better than them, and I hope a lot of other people are. That's our message too, you know, we don't want people to burn down churches and shit, we just want to say, I believe I am my own god, I am better than them pathetic people, I'm not going to worry about it, they're not going to get me down, man...
Enslain: Any last words?
Astennu: It's just cool that we actually got to come here, you know, not a lot of bands get to come here, and we know it's going to be hard, the conditions suck here, compared to Europe...
Enslain: In what way?
Astennu: In every way, here, I think Americans just care about money more than everything else, they don't care how the condition is, everything's chaos, everything's crap… in Europe, you know, you turn up, you'd be in a nice hotel room, you'd have food ready, and there'd only be two bands playing, but people here, they just cut up everything, you get nothing to eat, you don't get nothing to drink, they don't give you shit, you know, they're paying 7 bands to play, and most of the bands are paying the club to play here, that's bullshit, they just want to make fucking money. So we don't have a big high opinion of America... But it's cool, you know, we're just glad to be here, and we know it's going to be hard. We're here because we want to be here for the people who want to come see us, and we don't care about all the crap that goes on with it. We're always going to be here, we're going to try our hardest, and if we fail this time, which we won't, we're going to come back and just, come back until we get where we need to. But just appreciate a lot for this tour we do get, because it is hard to break it over here, and I hope the people appreciate it, how hard it is for us to come here, you know, to watch us play...
Thank you very much, and be yourself, that's all that matters...-- Lady Enslain