|LUNARIS: An Interview with Mainman M
|After their first album, 2002s, The Infinite, received widespread praise, Norwegian extreme metal eclectics Lunaris faced great pressure to repeat the trick with their sophomore effort. Thankfully, the band have more than delivered with Cyclic, a tour-de-force of blistering blackness, deathly bludgeon and esoteric progressive structures and dynamics that leaves the competition, what little there is, gasping in the dust. We spoke to Lunaris mainman M. about the bands respect for the past, enthusiasm for the future and all points in between.
||Whats been happening since the release of the first album?
Not too much really. We had some line-up changes which kind of came and went, but basically after The Infinite came out we wanted to do some live shows. But given the unstable line-up we had and because the first album had been recorded a year and a half in advance of release, wed already started working on the new album. There wasnt a lot happening as far as the public were concerned. We put out the album in September and then in January we started to do the first pre-production for Cyclic. We did that until the end of July and started recording in August.
left: Lunaris' Elitist debut, '...the Infinite'
What were the major line-up changes during the last two years?
Our guitar player Azarak left. Early in the pre-production for Cyclic he was really busy with Satyricon and we were having some disagreements about the musical direction we wanted to go in. It was a classic, typical band thing. We wanted to go in different directions. He hadnt been a part of the whole process of writing because of Satyricon and because of his lack of interest in what we wanted to do next. So we decided mutually to go our separate ways. Then Maztema, our bass player and clean vocalist, he stayed for the album but we knew that he didnt feel very comfortable playing bass and singing at the same time. It wasnt something hed done before and he had a lot of other commitments so he wasnt really ready for the whole touring situation. He played on the album and did the clean vocals but then we had to go out and search for a replacement for him as well. Weve got a new guitar player called HP and a bass player called Dr. Dream. They werent involved in the album at all.
Would you say that youve finally got a stable line-up now?
It has stabilised. The new guys were originally just session members but the chemistry was right so we took them on as full time members earlier this year.
How have all the personnel changes altered the sound of the new album?
It hasnt affected it at all. The core of me and Ray, the creative core, has always been there and the people who have changed around us have never been part of the creative side of things. Theyve just shown up, done their stuff and left again so it hasnt really affected us in any way.
How different was your approach to writing this album compared to the first?
Initially it was the same process, with me sitting down and writing more-or-less finished songs. But with The Infinite we went straight to the studio without really rehearsing anything. We just went straight in and recorded what Id written. But this time we got the band together and we started rehearsing, doing pre-productions and arranging and more pre-production. So we spent seven months working on the songs. Everything was about 95 per cent ready in March and by August we were ready to record. The whole band was a lot more involved this time. It gives everything a different feel. Its a lot more complete. There are certainly parts of the first album that I would change now, a lot more than I think I will want to with Cyclic. We had time to change things that had to be changed.
This album does sound a lot different to The Infinite. What are the main differences from your perspective?
I dont know. Obviously I feel personally that during the writing process Ive been a lot more influenced by death metal than black metal. Theres still black metal there, obviously, but theres more of a death metal feel at times. Ive always listened to a lot of 70s progressive rock, too, but Ive listened to it a lot more over the last two or three years. I feel that theres a lot more of that in there as well. Its not like I deliberately went towards this style or that style. It just comes out that way.
Which death metal and prog rock bands have you been listening to recently?
Theres so many. Obviously the more technical stuff interests me. Theres bands I listened to before a lot that Ive gone back to, like Sadus, Death and Atheist. I started listening to the Spiral Architect album a lot as well. I got a bit sick of it around the time of The Infinite but I started listening to it again recently. I like the more death metal-era Testament stuff as well. With progressive rock its pretty much everything I can get to hear, and the weirder the better. Theres obvious stuff that Yes, Rush and Kansas but also stuff like Magma and Amon Duul. I was on a huge Kansas kick for about half a year and didnt really listen to anything else!
Is it fair to say that your taste is fairly broad?
I just categorise music into like and dont like, so I can put a bunch of MP3s on and have a mix between die hard black metal and 70s funk music. Whatevers cool is cool!
Is it important to represent that diversity of taste in what you do with Lunaris?
|Again, its really the only way I know to make music. And I think that its because of that that I have so many influences from different styles in my music. I get paranoid and have to get really into all the different styles that I like and get them into my music somehow, and do them justice! All those influences go into my songwriting. Its not something I try to hide!
What have reactions to Cyclic been like so far?
Theyre just starting to roll in now. Theyve been really good. A lot of people are saying that they like the first one a lot but that this new one is even better. Obviously thats very good news for us.
How did you end up working with Steve DiGiorgio, Eric Peterson, Asgeir Mickelon and Steinar Sverd Johnsen?
Eric Peterson and Steinar Sverd Johnsen were never on the album but somehow their names ended up on the promo. That was a slight fuck up! Steve DiGiorgio and Asgeir Mickelon are both on the album. Wed been in touch with the guys from Testament for quite some while. Eric Peterson was supposed to produce our album and we got to the planning stages but it came down to money. He was supposed to do a solo for us but we reached our deadline and it never materialised. Then he told us that Steve DiGiorgio had really liked the pre-production demo of I.A.D.. He was in Norway to play on the Vintersorg album, so he came to the studio and played some bass for us. As for Asgeir, he has been part of the Lunaris family since day one, so nothing was more natural than to have him play on the album.
How exciting was it to collaborate with Steve DiGiorgio?
Testament has always been a huge band for me. I love Sadus too. Having Steve on the album is a big honour for us. Were still in touch with Eric and we just hope that some day well be able to get that done. We really like the production stuff hes done with Testament and also with Dragonlord. Dragonlord isnt exactly my favourite band but I love the way he put the music together. We really hit it off and have the same ideas on stuff. It was unfortunate that it didnt pan out this time, but hopefully in the future it will happen.
Are you going to see Sadus play at the Inferno Fest in April?
Absolutely. I havent got a ticket but hopefully Ill get in. I wasnt planning on going until I heard that Sadus is playing and theyre pretty huge for me so I have to go now. Im not even sure what the rest of the line-up is, but I guess Ive seen pretty much all the Norwegian bands that I want to see!
This new album sounds a lot more angry and extreme than the first one. Are you a lot more pissed off at the moment?
Not really. Were not really a pissed off bunch of people. Like we said when people asked us what the second album would be like, it was a natural thing to go in the direction of more of everything! The first track is pretty much straight up black metal. Not that it was done self-consciously, but its one of the few lyrics that has a specific meaning to me. Its about something that really pissed me off so it ended up as one of the more brutal songs. A lot of people thought wed go more towards the whole jazzy, avant-garde thing on the second album and we just wanted to prove them wrong! Again, the songs that have more brutality are more death metal influenced and that goes back to what I was listening to at the time, but then theres slower, atmospheric, melodic parts too. Its just more of everything.
Could you enlighten us as to what the two songs with Norwegian titles are about?
Altruismens Gravøl is a song that Ray has written and its sort of cryptic, even to me. The opening sample is a Norwegian preacher from the 50s. He was a really extravagant Doomsday preacher. The thing he repeats over and over is that he cant understand how people can go to sleep at night without being converted because they might wake up in Hell. We just thought the whole thing was hilarious. The rest of the lyrics are sort of a counter to that, word plays on Bible quotes and things like that. The title expresses a goodbye to the connection between church and state and to get people to think for themselves and not be forced into any direction. Its similar to what we were saying on the first album. The lyrics are more diverse on this album, though.
What about Mot Natt?
We didnt put those lyrics on the booklet because I wrote them in 94 or 95. Its very, very old school Norwegian Viking black metal. Its the whole swords and shields in the woods kind of thing. It started as a joke but we just really liked the song.
Did you ever spend time waving swords about in the woods with corpsepaint on?
No, I was never really part of that scene. I came into it a little bit later. The song is not to be taken too seriously, but then nor is anything on the album.
Whats your favourite song on the album?
Ask me again tomorrow and youll get a different answer, but today its Mendacities Of A Corporate Messiah. It has a lot of meaning to me. Weve never really put a lot of issues in the lyrics. Theyve had serious thoughts and ideas, but its usually something to go with the music. But this song deals with the whole Scientology movement. There was a period last summer when I heard about it and was reading a lot about it. I read a couple of books and just got more and more pissed off about it. Its another song that really wasnt intended to end up on the album. Its a much more aggressive song. Thats the one that Asgeir plays the drums on. I play everything else, including the vocals. Thats my solo spot!
Do you have plans to take Lunaris out on the road?
Weve had a couple of tours that nearly happened but didnt come through in the end. We did our first show in December and we have another couple of single shows lined up here in Norway and were hoping to do a Norwegian tour in August, with another Norwegian band. Were looking at possibilities for a European tour as well. We are definitely going to play live this time. We wanted to last time but it just didnt work out.
Has it been hard to transfer the sound of the albums to a live environment?
We dont really know yet! The one show we had was really well received, but I guess we need more experience of Lunaris in the live setting to know how it all works, but it was a conscious thing during the writing of Cyclic that we thought about the whole live issue so we avoided anything that would be difficult to do live. Well be playing songs from The Infinite, but just the ones that really lent themselves to being played live.
Finally, what are your plans for the next album?
Right now I have no idea. Ive taken a break from writing. I have some ideas and I have stuff recorded. It all needs to be put together. I dont think itll be an extreme leap away from what weve done so far. Our main focus right now is to promote the album. People have been nagging us to play live for a long time so we cant wait to go out and play for everyone.