Michael H. Andersen interviewed by PSL
There's been awfully quiet around Thorium since 2003. Did the band split or were things just put on hold due to the financial problems of the now defunct Diehard Music?
It was partly a combination of both. The last thing I recall happened was that we played at the Party.San Open Air festival in Germany alongside with Marduk and Kataklysm among others and at the Nuclear Storm festival in the Czech Republic. It was a great experience for us, but after a while we thought: 'what should we do next?' Some people had become somewhat tired and didn't really find Unleashing the Demons that exciting, and when Diehard Music stopped we continued to practice once a week, but after some time we looked each other in the eyes and asked what it what it was that we actually wanted to do. After a while we said goodbye to one of our guitarists, Morten Ryberg. We then continued and made additional changes in the line-up and looked at what kind of style we would play. When we got that sorted out and the line-up fell into place, we were more determined to make a new CD, but sometimes it takes a few years to get there and that was what happened in our case.
You have previously recorded in Norway and Slovakia. What made you go with Berno Studios this time?
This time we wanted a guarantee that the result would be good. The way we recorded Unleashing the Demons wasn't necessarily to achieve an awesome sound, but more to get a shattering sound. With Feral Creation it's somewhat different. This time we wanted to approach things in a more professional way than previously. We've spent a lot more time on the songs and used more time on the production. In the past there was a tendency to just approve things despite that we didn't nail 100%. This time we've been a lot more selective in terms of what we've done and that's also why we picked Berno because we sort of knew what we would get by working with him. This is also why we chose Jakob Hansen to do the mix because we know that Jakob is able to do a superb job.
I was actually going to ask you about Jakob Hansen. What is it that he's able to do that made him the obvious choice?
Jakob is really good at piecing things together. I wouldn't want to record and mix a Thorium CD with Jakob Hansen because then it would get to sound too much like Jakob Hansen. He obviously has his own sound, just like Tue Madsen also have. I think he does a great job when he 'just' mixes the music. He also mixed our first CD and did a solid job there as well.
Did you record the music in analogue or was it done entirely digital?
These days it's difficult to record purely in analogue. I did hear somewhere that the new Dismember CD was recorded 100% in analogue and I think it's cool that they do it. It's a minority of studios where it's possible to do so today. We did record digitally at Berno, but it's not recorded in 100% ProTools-like where everything is adjusted from start to finish. A lot of the vocals, guitars and drums are first takes, but it is done digitally as it's unfortunately almost impossible to avoid today.
So you're not a fan of ProTools?
No, I'm not. If you play death metal today and want to be true, isn't that what you should say?! [laughs].
But there are a lot of death metal bands who use it, especially those who play extremely fast.
One of the main things that Jakob Bredahl spoke about in interviews in connection with the latest HateSphere CD was this hate towards ProTools, drum triggers and so on. I somewhat feel the same way. I think bands like Hate Eternal and Nile isn't that interesting anymore because the drums sound like something from a computer game. It just doesn't sound cool. I don't think it is cool either knowing that people cheat with almost everything in the studio. To me it's not necessarily a contest about who can play the fastest anymore. That contest was fun years ago, but with all the cheating you can't take it seriously anymore. I recall when Morbid Angel issued some of their first CD's and people where really impressed how extremely fast the double drums were and the same with Napalm Death. Back then people didn't cheat and there was a reason to be impressed. But today if you see an American or for that matter European bands play live it look like shit. Many of these don't even touch the little drum. When all this is said then there are some positive aspects as well. If you're in a hurry in the studio and then come homes and think 'man, this doesn't sound too good', then you can adjust a bit here and there. Most people would probably want to change a few things if the music sounds really untight, unless of course you're Autopsy or similar.
We did try a couple of solutions with other people, but we weren't satisfied with the results. We talked about what we wanted and it should be a Seagrave type of thing. We thought it over a bit and then I suggested that we contacted Dan to hear if he wanted to do it and he did so that's how it came around.
The artwork also adds a lot to the old school vibe.
Definitely, Dan Seagrave is a very professional man to work with. His approach to things is extremely professional and unlike to other graphic artists I've worked with he involved us in the creative process right from the start. We got to see the sketch and make suggestions. It was a very fun process.
What about your musical references these days? The music seems a bit different compared to earlier on. Where do you think the biggest difference is today?
Compared primarily to Ocean of Blasphemy I don't think there's a big difference. When I formed the band almost 10 years ago and asked the musicians that I wanted to joining, I had the idea that it should be the Swedish style meeting the Florida scene. By this I meant Entombed and At The Gates meeting Deicide and Morbid Angel. I still have it that way and the references that Thorium have today is very much the same as they were back then. I think the small elements that could seem somewhat modern might sound a tiny little bit like At The Gates, but those tendencies were there also on Ocean of Blasphemy so stylewise I don't think we've changed much. I just think it's because we sound tighter and you can hear what is going on [laughs].
How does 2008 look seen through the eyes of Thorium? Are you going to play live?
Yes. I recall when we played Stengade [Denmark] in December, I said something like we needed to take a small break during the concert because we were getting old. Of course it was a joke, but we've been a part of the scene for many years and we don't necessarily want to go out and play lots of shows. I'm very impressed that HateSphere, Volbeat and to some extend also Mercenary tour as much as they do, but it's not something I would want to do and the attitude in the band is that we would love to play some shows in Denmark. We have something like six or seven concerts planned for the spring and then we'll play on a couple of German festivals during the summer. If we still can stand each other after that we may go on a European tour as support band, but only for a maximum of two weeks. I could not cope being away for more than two weeks.
So you don't like touring that much?
No, again I have a family and some of the others in the band have as well. I also have a job I need to take care of and I know by myself that after two weeks in a bus with other guys I really want to go home [laughs].
There's not really any money in it either is there?
No, there's not. It's primarily for the experience and that is fun for about a week, but no longer than that.
What did actually happen to Withering Surface? Most of the new Thorium line-up has a history with that band.
Yes, Thorium 2008 is exactly the same line-up as Withering Surface in 1999. It's me on vocals, Allan and Marcel on guitar, Kasper on bass and Nikolaj on drums, so the split wasn't because of personal hate, someone fucking the others girlfriend or some other stupid thing. What happened was that we just grew tired of playing that kind of music that we had played for so long. We just got tired of rehearsing two-three times a week, so we stopped. There's not really anymore to that story.
Rumour has it that it's you who growl in Corpse Vomit. Is it still a half-known secret who was in that band?
Oh, I had nothing to do with that band. I've put out their CD on my label, but I've not been a part of the band. It is some people from Amager whose CD we put out. I think they are still around.
What are you personal preferences in metal put up against what should like due to your jobs at Warner and Mighty Music?
I'm not working at Warner anymore. I quit that job a while ago. What I do besides Thorium is that I own Target Distribution and that is where I work nowadays. Target Distribution is also Targetshop and besides that I run Mighty Music and the sublabel Drug[s]. Moreover we have a rock label called Tactic Group. I'm 100% self-employed and don't work at Warner or anywhere else anymore. Regarding the music; Each year I always make status in terms of the different CD's that have been put out. I do this because I'm in a club where we meet and discuss what has been good and bad. I'm among the youngest of the bunch. It's primarily music in the hard rock and heavy metal genres that we debate. Some of the CD's that came in 2007 that I like is quite varied style wise. I liked the releases from 69 Eyes, Entombed and Paradise Lost among other. I wouldn't say I limit myself to a specific genre, but I do prefer the more hard types of music. When this is said I actually like the latest Bruce Springsteen CD a lot [laughs].
You're involved in many aspects of the music business. What's your opinion on things like the decrease in sales and illegal downloading? Things like these must leave a negative effect on the budget to record, artwork and promotion?
Well, that's two questions in one. My general opinion when I get asked about this and that's no different if it's a Tuesday morning or a Friday night when I'm drunk, my answer is the same; people will always want entertainment. They needed it both before and after there was music in physical form. People simply want to be entertained. Even in the early days people went from city to city and played and got paid, and then came vinyl, the CD and now digital downloading. I believe as long as you have the line of approach that the musicians and the people working with the music get paid the money they should have then music will always be there. People want to be entertained. At the moment concert tickets are far more expensive than ever before. Tickets to the theatre are also far pricier. Tickets to the cinema have never been more expensive so it would be a bit ironic if you suddenly couldn't buy music anymore because there weren't any money to the artists. I think what is going to happen is that you'll see labels ink 'all including' package deals with more and more bands. 'All including' means that you give the band money to record, but to do so you need to get a cut of their live shows and merchandise sales as this is where they earn their money. I mean it's difficult for a band to go out and play live if they don't have an album to support it and it's a little odd that a label pays for the recording, the pressing and promotion and then it sells very little and the band goes out and play live and make money on it. The bands are also selling more merchandise than ever before so it will be a combination of this the way I see it. Sometime during the next 10 years there will also be a more natural flow in terms of how you purchase music via the internet. It will probably be some type of subscription arrangement and similar, but I haven't quite figured it out yet, but if I had I would probably have had a lot more money than I do now [laughs].
I'm still very old school. I think it's awesome to get a real CD, but this being said I do own an Ipod and an MP3 player and I use them. I think if you have an interest in music then there's no limitations in the format it's available on, but I also feel if you're a fan then you'd want a real copy of the album.
Yes, I recall buying LP's. It was a huge part of the experience to sit and look at the artwork and read the lyrics.
Yes, the LP has actually also made a comeback. But as I said I think people will always need entertainment, need music. Something like the Radiohead gimmick is proof of this. It was extremely calculated the thing the band did. It's not like they just did this to get sympathy. They've gotten a lot of attention because of that stunt by making it available for free download. They've been booked for the biggest festivals just because of the attention they received. They've made a load of money and the album end up coming on CD anyway. It's a great stunt they pulled by doing what they did. I'm sure they've had some kind of spin-doctor/manager who advised them to do this. I'm sure we'll see a lot more gimmicks in the vein of this in the future.
Mighty Music has been on a low for a couple of years. What made you revive the company?
We've been spending a lot of time getting Target up and running. Some time around June Target has been running for five years and it's been extremely hard work in every aspect. The people behind Target are the same who runs Mighty Music. It's Bjarke Alhstrand and me. We own Target Distrobution and it's been blood, sweat and tears. Therefore we had to make a decision in order no to get a stomach ulcer, get kicked out by the family and live alone. We simply had to put some things on ice including Mighty Music. We revived Mighty Music because we have the necessary time nowadays. Target is doing well and we've hired more people so a natural thing for me was to start Mighty Music up again and slowly sign some minor bands that we liked. We've also reissued our back-catalogue to show that we have started up again. By now we also have the setup to do things without any help. We have Target who can distribute the CD's in Denmark. We also have a setup outside the country that is better than ever. This has also made it possible for us to sign some established bands like Submission and Exmortem. At the moment we are looking to sign a big international band or two because we want to push Mighty Music even further.
I know you've been involved in the underground for many years. How do you think the Danish death metal scene has evolved? Copenhagen seems somewhat stationary compared to Aarhus!
Yes and Jutland in general. It's probably a little too narrow to just talk about Aarhus as most of the bands have moved to Aarhus from elsewhere. But I agree that it does look that way. The underground scene when I began putting my fanzine out was different. I started Emanzipation back in 1991 and the first issue came in '92 so that's a while ago. Of course back then there weren't that many bands. It's possible they existed, but they most likely just stood in a rehearsal room without releasing anything at all. Today a lot of demos are put out or the music is posted on various forums and things alike. Back then there wasn't anything called the internet where you could go and check the bands out. You traded tapes with each other and it was wild when a band put out a CD. Today CD's come all the time, but when this is said a lot of the nostalgia, the charm and the excitement of discovering a Danish band that sound good have partly vanished. I think how the scene evolved up through the 90's was dreadfully oafish. It was too much about smoking bongs, running around in jogging cloths and playing rockstar, wearing bandanas and talking shit about each other. I think something like what Illdisposed and Konkhra had going was too stupid and it probably contributed to the bad reputation that metal got in Denmark. I like the scene today a lot more. People seem to have a lot more respect for the different mechanisms that is in the music environment. People are a lot more determined, professional and behave nicer. It's also apparent that the audience today is far more varied; there are both people with long and short hair. Also there is a lot more girls at the concerts than back then so I think the scene is far more fertile and positive than it was back in '96 for an example.
Anything you'd like to add to finish this interview?
I'm really looking forward to this Sunday as Thorium will be filming our first video. It will be something in the vein of the Entombed video "Night of the Vampire". We'll be running around on a cemetery and we're in that fortunate situation that Allan, our guitarist has a cousin who owns a coffin factory. We'll have a variety of coffins available for us to use so we are looking to making the video available and of course to shot it [laughs].