Interviews : Arcturus

Arcturus : No End Near
Arcturus
With Trickster G.
Interviewed by

There are rumors that Arcturus is splitting up after the release of The Sham Mirrors. Is it true?

I would not say so. No.

Really?

We have no plan, you know? No plan to split up or no plan to follow-up with a new album. So your guess is as good as my... We might decide [about] making a new album in five years. We have no plan. We are just happy we managed to pull off this record.

So why putting the band on hold? Are you tired of creating the music with Arcturus?

No, I am not tired of music.

Did the fact that Ulver is your main band has anything do to with the break-up of Arcturus, to which you could not dedicate all your time and energy?

Well, it's part of it. But there are more factors present. Hellhammer is pretty busy and the keyboard player, he wasn't necessarily all "go" all the time. So basically, as I've said, it's very demanding to gather our creative minds. But when we finally decide to do so...

Arcturus has arguable been one of the best metal bands of the past decade. Do you think the band is under-appreciated for its music, or do you think that the band got enough respect and reverence from the fans and critics alike?

I think the response has been rather overwhelming. Considering the fact that we are not a "working man's" band. We are very keen about talking too much about the band [laughs].

Yeah, I've noticed.

Yeah.

Would you say that you are happy with the release of The Sham Mirrors?

Yeah, it exceeds my initial expectations. Because we did start recording tracks quite a while back, and at the certain points of time I kind of imagined [this album] never actually being brought to any kind of [completion]. I was pretty pessimistic there at times.

What has caused the change in the name from Garm to Trickster G. Rex?

[laughs] I always change my [I could not understand the word]

So is there going to be something different next time?

Possibly.

But why Trickster G. Rex out of all the names?....... [very long pause]. Hello?

Yeah, hi. I am just thinking. In the context of Arcturus I pretty much appreciate fucking with minds. I am also sort of a ringmaster.

One of the main differences from album to album have been the changes in the vocal patterns. On Aspera Hyems Simfonia, you had excellent blackish vocals, on La Masquerade Infernale, there were clean but very distinctive vocals, kinda like monk chants, and on The Sham Mirrors, your vocals borderline with power metal at times with some high pitched singing. Why such drastic changes from album to album?

[laughs] Yeah, its more classic, more rock-n-roll. It's the change of taste, I guess. And of course, its also natural development, I would hope.

So do you mean that you've been actually listening to some power metal bands lately?

Definitely not power metal. No. [we both laugh] Good ol' rock-n-roll. Definitely.

Well, I can definitely hear some rock-n-roll influences.

Well, it's also the matter of taste. The last album was pretty over the top and mellow, and very, very theatrical. While this album still retained some theatrical elements but not to such an extent.

As I was saying, there are definitive rock-n-roll influences, like the faster part towards the end on Nightmare Heaven.

That's my little tribute to Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons.

Oh, cool. So you are a big KISS fan?

Oh yeah!

Have you ever seen them live?

Yeah.

How was that?

The first time was probably the best concert I've ever attended. I guess the other was...I remember Diamanda Galas as well. I usually don't like concerts, but KISS was stunning.

What year was that?

1996.

Alright. Well, going back to your vocals. There are almost no black metal shrieks on this album. Is that how did the collaboration with Ihsahn come about?

Yeah, sort of. The keyboard player wanted Emperor-like screaming on one track. And he asked me to do that and I was not willing to do it. So, I just called the Emperor and asked. No biggie.

[laughing] No biggie?!

Well, I've been a friend of Ihsahn for quite some time now.

So it was not planned by any means?

No kind of cunning thinking was involved in the choice. Just pure and the easiest choice. As I've said, he [the keyboard player] wanted me to sing Emperor style and as I did not want to scream or do any of those kinds of vocals, the best thing was to call-up Ihsahn to guest on the track. You know, it's pretty common in the hip-hop world.

Where does the inspiration to write such heart moving music come from? Arcturus is very distinguishable from any other metal act in the world, what's the moving force here?

I think, actually, I don't really know how to answer that. But I think a significant reason why Arcturus sounds kind of different from other bands in that genre, is that we are not particularly into that genre. So we kind of adapt to the style from a completely different angle than most metal people. The synthesis of quite distinguished men in the group also has an important role in the outcome. Because if we have been like a "working man's" band, rehearsing three times a week and having that kind of ambitious outlook on, it definitely would not work. Put the four of us in a room for a week and we would probably kill each other.

So is the spontaneity one of the big keys to the success of Arcturus? I mean, you don't see or hear from each other for a while and then come together and its basically?perfection.

Yeah, I guess you could say that. It also has something to do with sacrificing your ego, because you kinda have in mind that it's gonna to be good when it's Arcturus. Plus, also, there is this sort of first-time responsibility for the fans, because we did go out a couple of years ago and say that we were going to make a new album. So it's kinda all those things in conjunction.

So would you be able to say now that in 4 or 5 years, Arcturus will write a new album?

Sure. It might now happen. It's not going to happen next year, but who knows where we will be or where our interests may be in five years. It's difficult to say. That's perhaps [people's] interest in Arcturus. Kind of, lack of megalomania. It's completely lacking in the wannabe rock-star department. It's simply not there.

Do you write most of the music/lyrics or do other band members write the majority of the songs for Arcturus?

I don't write the actual compositions. My involvement goes pretty much for the actual producing, this kind of a sound-layering and the little things. I do write the lyrics. This time around, I've been given the great trust by the band to put my personality into the production.

If I remember correctly, this is the first time that you have something resembling a planet or a star on the album cover. Is that how you see the real Arcturus?

Well, I can reveal that [the design on the right side of the cover] it's a model drawing of the upper part of the Apollo spaceship. So its kinds of scientific.

My favorite song on the new album is For the End Yet Again. Before this interview, I thought that you guys are breaking up, so I was thinking maybe there is some kind of a double meaning behind the name of that song. Like contemplating a break-up, but not actually breaking up...

The first track starts out with "Welcome this transmission from a fallen star." Originally, the track, I think, was supposed to be called "The First Song of the Last Star," or something like that. So lyrically, I can understand why it might be perceived that way. Although the title for the last track was just lifted from Samuel Beckett, which is a pretty neat title, I think.

Speaking if the same song. I find that the horns really add to the song as well as the album as a whole.

Yeah, I like that too. It has kind of a Pink Floyd feel to it.

They provide this sort of victorious feel to the music.

Yeah, I agree.

There is an interesting keyboard sound throughout the whole album. It sounds really extraterrestrial and unearthly. Was that the sound you were trying to go with?

Not consciously, I think. I mean, we always have certain images in mind.

Since Arcturus is taking a little break, do you foresee any current bands improving their music and possibly becoming something special that Arcturus has been for a long time?

I don't know. I am just so poorly oriented in genres. I have no clue, whatsoever, what's really happening.

So do you actually listen to a lot of metal?

No.

Will you be in any other future projects outside of Ulver?

I am doing some vocals with this Dutch group, The Gathering. Yeah, for their next album.

That's interesting, because I thought that they were taking a break as well, because their singer was going to opera school...Maybe not. That's a different band I am thinking of. That's Nightwish. Sorry.

[laughs] I'd never sing with Nightwish.

I am an idiot. That's why I was a little surprised about you doing some guest vocals for that band.

[laughs] They could give me a hundred grand, and I'd never sing for Nightwish.