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I will watch ANY movie by M. Night Shyamalan, and when I saw this Blu(e)ray on a store shelf, I bought it without needing to read the synopsis or anything else. I do not regret having purchased this, but I do have questions and criticism, but before I delve into the dark, I want to repeat that I enjoyed watching the movie. The bonus material was also enjoyable, especially the exploration into Shyamalan’s filming style for this movie.
Before I get to the spoilers, let me state that there were some interesting situations that were created by the aging process, and there were some compelling group dynamics. I won’t spoil those.
The more I thought about the movie, the more I poked at some holes. When I watch a movie, I want to be immersed in the world. I make a deal with the movie, as a viewer, to believe the rules of the story world. I do not watch as a critic.
The people who are on the beach are unable to leave, but wouldn’t that barrier make them unable to enter? I will watch the movie again to see if I missed an explanation, but I suspect that if there is one, it will be cheesy. For the story to work, people can only leave via a tunnel, an exit that will likely result in drowning.
The premise of the movie is that evil pharmaceutical people are experimenting upon unwilling recipients, which would never be allowed in the real world because of ethics (not a philosophy – it’s a part of the design of an experiment). Maybe there has been a fake story of how a medicine was discovered (that hides how a person being raped by an elephant produced the particular form of adrenaline… but the official reported story is that elephants that were rescued from poachers had blood tests, and the adrenaline that was produced while having a tusk removed proved to be an incredible medicine for humans).
The beach ages people very quickly. This is used to test medicine on a fast track, rather than waiting decades to see the result. In real life, experiments are performed on creatures that have short life spans because of the quicker results, but this more has to do with seeing many generations, like if you make a pill that increases dick size, would that altering of genetics have results down the lineage of the big-dicked creature?
Each doomed person (experimental rat) is given only ONE dose, disguised in an alcoholic beverage. Isn’t this silly? “Wow, we can examine what happens to a person throughout his entire life span from just a single dose.” In this movie, a woman was cured of epilepsy from a single dose. Well, relatively cured. I think she was estimated to have been cured for sixteen years.
The more I thought about the movie, the more I suspected that plot-points were forced and weak justifications were put into place to make the story flow according to the main ideas, with everything stitched up in a neat bow at the end of the movie, which came off as “contrived.”
I eventually came to the conclusion that this, like many works by the director (and others in science fiction) were enveloping their ideas in story-situations that expressed the personal idea (of the creator). Much material in movies in unrealistic, like fiery explosions in space, or blood spurts from a gun shot. Fiction can be realistic, but fiction is not meant to be a newscast of a real event. It is meant for the reader or viewer (or listener) to enter the world of the creator.
Changing my perspective made me look at the movie the right way – to enjoy the dream of Shyamalan, a dream experienced at Night. (Get it?)
This interview with Leif Edling appeared in issue #32
I talked to Messiah. I told him how godly his vocals were on the Nightfall album, and he made a face. This was just a conversation, not an interview. He said that he was told to relax the vibrato, but it was the vibrato that made him a god. Were you criticizing him? When he made that face to you, I am pretty sure I know what that was. He didn’t like his singing on Nightfall. He went to a vocal coach between Nightfall and Ancient Dreams, so he got taught how to breathe. That is why his vibrato is too much on Ancient Dreams, personally speaking, of course. I really like how he sang on Nightfall. It was very natural. On Ancient Dreams, he was very proud of his vibrato, and he got many compliments. A lot of people I meet think it was exaggerated. During the Tales of Creation album, we told him to relax the vibrato, but Messiah being Messiah – he told us to fuck off. During the Chapter VI album, we told him again, and he told everybody to fuck off again.
I am happy to hear the reason for that face. Yes. Now you can sleep (laughs).
There is a rumor that Messiah is extremely difficult to work with, and the relationship with the band has been nasty. I don’t really want to go into details. It’s just the way he is. It’s like a bad marriage. You have your good days with him, but there are times when there are going to be major outbursts. It’s like walking on thin ice. It’s not easy when a person refuses to discuss things in the band. That’s a big thing for me. It’s a band, and I think you should listen to our guitar player when he says something, or when I say something. That’s just normal decency. Even if you don’t like what people say, you should listen. Something good can even come out of our drummer’s mouth (laughs).
Is Candlemass, at this point, a band or a project? A band, of course. We looked for a replacement for Messiah because we wanted to go out an play.
Was the Leif Edling double CD your idea? No. I was asked by GMR of we could do something like that. People really wanted to hear the Nemesis tracks (ed – Candlemass songs in which Leif sang), and there are lots of Abstract Algebra freaks who knew that we had a song that wasn’t on the album.
There were moments in the past when you sang live. Messiah fucked up his voice in Baltimore. Maybe you went to that gig.
You play bass, but are you really a guitar player in your heart? No. I’m a one-trick pony. I play some guitar, but never in Candlemass.
Have the rights been returned to you, like for the Nightfall and Ancient Dreams albums? Oh yeah! That’s why we released the remasters with the bonus tracks. We tried to make the ultimate releases. I’m really proud of those.
Years ago, I asked Messiah if it were true that he fell through a stage while doom-dancing, and when you played in New York, he fell through the stage! When he doom-dances, sometimes he really tries to break the floor. Being a big guy, and he’s really strong, he did that famous thing in New York.
I heard that, in Stockholm, if there is a dark-skinned person in school, it is forbidden to sing the Swedish National Anthem because it is considered racist. Our immigrants, if you want to call them that – they think that we are stupid for not being more proud of being Swedish than we are. They think it is stupid that we cannot sing our national anthem with pride. I know that in some schools you cannot sing the national anthem, and that really pisses me off.
You shouldn’t be called a racist for having pride in your own culture. Absolutely not. I am proud of being Swedish.
This interview with Slymentra Hymen was in issue #16
Since thou art a goddess, shall I be on my knees while I ask thee questions? But of course. All inferior beings must be on their knees at all times, and that does include you.
My knees, although they are in pain, will be healed by the succor of they beauty. (Laughs) That is right.
Thou hast coined the phrase “Abandon all hope, ye who enter her.” That’s right. That’s what’s written over the gates of Hell. Dante wrote about me years ago.
All great works, intentionally mistranslated. Could it be that if the story were revealed to be about thy gates, that the meaning of the tale would be lost? (Laughs) That is correct.
Other life forms have evolved lures that captivate prey. Pheromones taking over the male body, forcing them to do things that they are unwilling to participate in.
Was thy body always of that form, or hast thou created such exquisite curves in order to trap men? That is very interesting. You are finally understanding my plot!
I would like to by thy first disciple. (Laughs) Oh really? How young are you?
I cannot reveal my age. Then you will have to go to the back of the line!
I have a youthful body, my goddess, but no one can tell the age from my face. Do you have little boy muscles near the groin?
I have often heard the adjective “little.” (Laughs) Well, it will be even littler around me because I will chop it off.
Dost thou not think that thy manner hurts the female humans of this planet? I think there are lots of problems on both parties.
Thou art not the first alien in GWAR. I was led to believe that thou wert the first human was absorbed into GWAR as a unit, not as a race. I’m not a human. I am from the planet Clitosphere (spelling?).
Forgive me for my lack of knowledge. That’s OK. My great mother was punished by her masters. They stole her first child and banished me to this insignificant planet. They were going to force me to sleep with the Scumdogs to create yet a more powerful warrior ever seen in the galaxy. I wouldn’t give in, thus the Scumdogs were forced to sleep with the apes, and thus your race was born.
Thou hast been quoted saying that we breed like roaches. That’s right. The poisons that they put into the food don’t even help. It takes fifty years to kill you off with cancer and things.
Why is thy form so close to human then. Forgive me, for no human has thy perfection. (Laughs) Well, you know… (laughs) Let’s see. How can I answer this one? I am not as glib as you, as glib as thee.
It is thy magnificence that moves my tongue. I am usually an obtuse man. How couldst thou reconcile the fact that beauty such as thine harbors an evil intellect? It is this planet that has made me this way. Before, when I lived on my planet, all I did was worship others as myself, and read literature, and study the great arts, but here, I’ve had to learn and understand the art of war.
Were there any masterpieces that have long since been robbed of any connection to thee? Oh yes, of course. All the great masters have painted me. Have you seen the painting Olympia, by Manet?
I have not. Well that’s me. Have you seen Nike, from the Greek era? That’s me. There have been great statues made of me when I take the form of the great snake goddess.
I have heard that thou has appeared in front of crowds as the snake goddess ans sang to very unusual rhythms. That’s right. It was very cool to pull that off in front of a GWAR audience, as moronic as they may be.
Yes, I have often felt that thy grace is lost on those who see thee only as a woman. Only as a tit or an ass. It depends on what level of consciousness they have. Some people you just cannot teach.
Anyone can be drunk on a bottle of wine, butt for someone to appreciate fine wine, all its components and textures, that is another man. That’s right.
Thy fans are also of this diversity. Few know of the subtlety of Slymenstra. You, my friend, have figured it out. you make me very happy.
Art thou merciful to such as I? I never thought that any man would truly understand me.
My intention is to make thee known to all in thy true form, and not as common wine. You will be my humble slave.
I will do all that you ask. (Laughs)
Thy voice is give a spotlight in the song “My Girly Ways.” Is it a privilege to sing an entire song thyself in GWAR? It was a ten year struggle, but finally I was finally able to make it happen. I wrote all the lyrics myself, and the melodies. The way that it worked was, they sent me a tape out here in Hollywood – because I’m a big star – I live out here. I basically just showed up in a studio and I did it.
The operatic parts have caused my ribcage to resonate to thy voice. Wert thou trained? I was trained vocally in the fifth and sixth and seventh grade, so that was the last vocal training I had. As all great women of my planet, we were cultured artistically. We went to many classes. We studied piano, voice, dance – all the great arts – drawing, painting. That’s what my parents were into, and it reflects now. I’ve been singing for years. I just love it. I usually sing in the shower, and people try to record what I am singing.
I certain there is another reason for them to sneak upon thee. (laughs) They love to see the water barreling down my fruitful breasts and down my buttocks. And they love to see me rub almond oil all over my body to make my skin supple.
I must beg thee to desist, or I will lost consciousness. (Laughs)
Hast thou ever experienced astral sex? Thou art a goddess, and the question is silly of me to ask. Astral projection is something that I practice daily. I love leaving my body.
How could someone abandon such a vessel? (Laughs) Well, when you come back to it, it’s no problem.
When thou first had left thy body, was it unplanned, or were you knowledgeable in the practice? It was unplanned. It was natural. It is natural. It is natural for all of us. Unfortunately, through eating junk food and watching Jerry Springer, we’ve ruined our minds and closed off certain parts of our brain.
Wouldst thou say that most males are inept at pleasuring women? Most are, but I believe there is hope, ladies. There are a few. I think they’re going extinct. You must help them. You must lead them. You must teach them.
There was a plot that was foiled. Leaving the earth. Yes. Again we fail. That is because Oderus Urungus is always in charge. He thinks he knows. He’s gonna make the plan. He’s the big general. (Sighs). How many times can we make the same mistake?
I have been told that they sales of albums were never eyebrow-raising, but the sale of merchandise on tour is phenomenal. Yes.
Thy voice is like the call of the sirens. I am compelled to jump into the sea and to die. Matador beach? It’s this cliffy beach with rocks sticking out where I go to get a little mermaid action.
That’s where I will go to crush my body upon those rocks, the way thy absence crushes my heart. I just love you.
Time grows short for us. I would rather leave wanting more of thee, than thee wanting nothing more of me. Come and see me at a show, and introduce yourself to me. I want to meet you.
You may not remember this, but many years ago I interviewed you for the first issue of this magazine. Back then it was just a fanzine that was photocopied and stapled in the corner. I will again ask you the very first question that I have ever asked you to see if your answer is different, and then we’ll get on to the serious interview. Are you ready? Yes.
If there were a warmth emanating from thy buttocks, what would it be? A fart.
Yes! That was the same answer, so now I know that you are an honest person. In the early days there were some cover songs that appeared on albums, like the Judas Priest cover. When I saw your show at BB King’s, one of the encores were Mercyful Fate’s “Black Funeral.” Did you ever record “Black Funeral” in the studio? We never recorded it.
There was an Orff cover on one of the albums. I was wondering if you were ever tempted to do something in the same vein from Strauss, like “Biem Shlafengehen” or the Commendatore finale song from “Don Giovanni.” Anybody can do classical covers, but the most interesting thing is to break new ground.
In America there are television commercials for a breakfast cereal simply called “Shredded Wheat.” On one side there’s frosting and on the other side there isn’t. In Therion, I personally prefer the opera over the prog side. That’s very gay. I caught you.
That’s so funny. You insulted me before I insulted you! Well I’m gay too. We can go to Denmark and get married. It’s legal there. (pause) But it’s interesting that people in metal actually prefer that side. I think that people like that we make the classical and the opera more accessible because they don’t really have, for lack of better words, the capacity to go deep into all of this musical information that some opera contains. If you listen to a metal album, or rock, or pop, or whatever – there’s a couple of riffs in each song, and it doesn’t really contain much musical information. You can pretty much judge the album by one listening if it’s a regular rock album. If it’s a metal album than you can judge by a few listenings. But even a very short song in opera contains so much more musical data than, let’s say, five or six metal albums. A lot of people don’t really have the energy, or whatever, to actually take the time it requires to penetrate the surface and go deep into this sort of music. So what we do is actually a shortcut that, because we have the rock structure with classical content as well. It’s a shortcut to opera and classical, which is very convenient for people into metal. Maybe they could like a few highlights. They might buy a CD with Ride of the Valkyrie or some highlight part from an Italian opera, but they wouldn’t sit and listen to opera for a few hours. I think that we’re filling a function for people who could be potentially really interested. So we can start stuff with this, and if they get really enthusiastic they could find a way to more sophisticated music.
You are the gateway to opera. A few people might take the next step.
Have you heard Elend? Yeah. A very long time ago somebody made me a cassette. They’re French, aren’t they?
French. Austrian. One of the members of Korovakill is in it. If you heard the right album, it’s a blue album (the re-release with bonus tracks is red). Instead of bringing operatic vocals and orchestral instruments into metal, they brought death metal vocals into opera. But these days they don’t have the death metal vocals anymore. That’s a brilliant idea. But that’s precisely what I didn’t like about it. (ed – the death metal vocals).
When I listen to opera, I prefer the very dark opera. It’s vary sad. I was always hoping that there would be that sort of opera presence in Therion, and I was wondering if there is any way for that to happen. I know that you are a live band and you like to create a certain mood for that. But could there be a song or two, not meant for live performance,that delves into the realms of sorrow? There might be. But the thing is, the way that we write songs is very spontaneous. I’m hopelessly trapped with whatever I write. If someone said to me, “I’ll give you five million bucks if you write a ballad. You have a weekend. Here’s a guitar.” I would write ballad, but it would be the most miserable piece of shit ballad you will ever hear in your life. That’s how it works. I cannot shit on command. I write what I write. It’s what I’m stuck with and what everyone else gets.
If there is a way for me to send you some music, hopefully on some level it will influence you. Actually there is a lot of sad opera that I like. (editor’s note – We discussed opera, which to you would seem like an inside conversation. Christof went on and on to praise a particular soprano opera singer). She is the best singer in the history of recorded music.
Well, by that reasoning, if she can turn shit into gold, and if you force yourself to write a sad opera song and it will be shit, then she should sing on it so that she turns your shit into gold. (laughs) By the way, have you seen this movie “Holy Mountain?” That describes the modern culture so well. You know the scene – everybody gets color on their butts and then they put it on paper – it’s mass-produced art.
A long time ago I did try to contact you to hopefully be able to send you some music, but the only Email address on the website is for the webmaster. There is some sort of explanation about that along the lines of, if any band member’s Email were to be known, you would get overwhelmed. That’s true. But it’s usually not a problem for people from the press to get it. If I gave my Email out then I would have to get a new one every month.
Were the Emails about penis enlargement? I wish it was. It’s more about boring questions like, “When will you come to my town?”
In Sweden, is penis size very important? No. They’re all
I had heard that Sweden has even more concern about penis size and that it has spread to veterinary science as well, with penis enlargement programs for dogs and cats. No. That’ completely wrong. That’s totally American.
I did notice that there’s a tremendous difference between the audience at a Therion show and a crowd that sees any other band, and that difference was the extreme level of respect. It was also your respect toward the fans. I was told that you did not want the usual barricade between the fans and the stage. And the end of the performance was the metal equivalent to a standing ovation. Is that a common reaction throughout the world? Yeah. We’re very spoiled. But I think that is related to people having bought the records and they had been waiting ever since. They never thought that we would come. For a lot of people, it was more than just a concert. It’s something more special. The same thing happens in Europe when we play countries we never had before. Same thing with Latin America. We get an explosive reaction. In many countries they have a really tough life, so when people go to a show, they switch off their daily problems for a while. It’s almost like a religion.
Your main opera singer – I hope you don’t take this the wrong way, but the way she puts on make-up is sort of the mistake that a little girl makes when she puts on make-up for the first time in her life. Is that the look that she was going for? She’s the only one who’s a trained opera singer so I told her to make something very theatrical.
Oh, so that’s why she walks on stage like she’s a Gestapo officer patrolling the concentration camp. That is what is turning you on. (laughs) She has nothing to do with metal. She doesn’t listen to metal. She’s just doing her thing to our stuff.
There’s a blonde to the far right, if you have the same set-up every night – I was wondering if you could have her in the front instead. Well, that’s an idea.
She’s Swedish, right? She’s Finnish but she lives in Sweden. We’re going to sell tickets on the next tour to the back stage.
Can you let her know that I love her? Yes, I will do that.
Some people say that Sweden is very conservative and some people say that it is very liberal. Conservative? Are you fucking kidding? Our conservatives would be condemned as being too liberal. Ralph Nader would call our conservatives liberals.
I learned that when I ask someone about a country, it’s almost like asking someone in America what America is like. It’s not a true representation. If you ask a communist, of course he will say that we are conservative. But if ask someone who is somehow in the middle, politically, it is hilarious. We had a social democrat ruling this country in the second world war. It’s like a one-party state. But you have a one-party state too. You just have two names for it. The difference between democrats and republicans is that republicans piss in your face and they say. “Hey, we pissed in your face. We’re happy about that.” Democrats will piss in your face and if you ask them about they’ll say, “No, we never pissed in your face.”
I have not verified this, but I have heard that in France they have passed a law which protects their language. On television they cannot use non-French words, especially slang, and the term “Coca Cola” is one of the no-no words. In direct opposite thinking, America, because it is so sales-driven, has allowed the most niggery language to be on TV. People leave out verbs. It’s almost like hearing Tarzan talk. Poor grammar, nigger-slang, and simplified language. The American version of English is now completely destroyed. We learn Oxford English in school.
Is Sweden protecting its language? Protect the Swedish language? Are you kidding? That would be racist!
Yes, Snowy Shaw and I had a conversation about how the Swedes are pussies. Yeah, I read that. Those things you cannot say in Sweden. I showed that interview to a band and they thought that Snowy is joking. If you do that interview in a Swedish magazine then your career is over.
In America it’s very trendy to think of the French as pussies, but I look at them as heroes. The French deserve respect for standing up for their culture. I’m very conservative when it comes to things like culture. A lot of things are better these days, but I don’t understand why you have to ruin everything from the past. A lot of liberal ideas are very good, like equal rights for women. And in interracial marriage, it’s up to people what they want to do with their lives and if they want to have those kinds of kids. But there comes a point when you fulfill the rights of minorities and start to go in the other way.
We’re in the other end of the swing. In Sweden we completely crossed that line a long long time ago, and maybe that’s the reason why we went from being #1 to… (ed-I laugh so loudly that I cannot hear the rest of that sentence as I transcribe this)
“Lucid Dreaming” was an album that I had to buy because it was at that time that I found out that what I had experienced actually had a term, and that other people had similar dreams. Many years later a girl I know interviewed you and she said that you had out of body experiences. Is that true? That’s correct.
What came first with you, the lucid dreaming or the out of body experiences? The astral projection came first.
Was this something that you learned or something that happened accidentally when you were falling asleep? It happened accidentally. It has happened to many people who have had their first out of body experiences that they are in their room outside of their bodies. Actually, I didn’t even look at my body. I was looking through the window, and was drawn outside, out over the woods. And I had a very strange feeling that I can’t really explain these colors.
You are able to induce these now. Yeah.
Did you learn that on your own? I’ve been a member of the Order of the Dragon for some years now. They collect ideas and develop techniques.
When I found out that my lucid dreams had a name, I discovered a scientist, Stephen LaBerge, and he had developed techniques, and one night I actually had three lucid dreams in a row. It was crazy. But prior to having had experienced lucid dreams, I had thought that out of body experiences were a hoax. Very easy to think that if you are a rational person and if you never had that.
Right, but there are parallels between lucid dreams and out of body experiences. In fact, lucid dreams are the perfect launch pad to out of body experiences. That’s actually how I most often do it. I usually find a gate, like a mirror or window, and I project through that.
Lucid dreaming, to me, is a purely mental phenomenon because, although I am aware that I am dreaming within the dream and I control everything around me,it is still a dream. So is an out of body an actual phenomenon in which your awareness somehow extends beyond your body, or is it a mental state? When I thought about the matter, whether it is internal or external, it doesn’t really make a difference. So I haven’t really made up my mind because the experience remains the same.
In Sweden, do you have the Christmas carol “Tis the Season to Be Jolly?” Yeah, we do. But our main songs are about the yule, which has nothing to do with Christianity.
In the song I asked about, being that you are a musician, I was hoping that you could help educate Americans. They are probably the most ignorant people in the world, judging from the interviews I have done with people all over the world. Stupidity is our #1 export. Your big companies don’t want people to think. They want people to work for minimum wage and to pay taxes and to consume a lot. Here, we pay 33% in taxes but hospitals are free. If you are unemployed you get money that you can actually live on, and so on and so on.
Americans are not interested in the rest of the world, and for those that are interested, they look at the world thinking it’s the same as it is here. It’s really bad that your education system is that way because that makes people that much more unable to have opinions about international affairs. There are a lot of similarities with the Roman empire. You can see a lot of degeneration in empires that are falling, but it won’t be a few centuries. Here we are talking about only a few decades, maximum. You import a lot more than you export. And there’s a lot of loans. You consider yourself the richest country on the planet, which is correct on paper, but if all the international investment would be withdrawn from the United States…
Interesting. But if you look at America’s capital, it looks like a third world country. Washington D.C. But getting back to the “Tis the Season to be Jolly” the end of that song is “fa la la la la la la la la.” I would like you to tell me the notes of the major scale of C. I am happily uneducated musician.
Really? It’s C D E F G A B C. I’m very thickheaded to learn things unless I am interested. If I am interested, I learn very quickly. Notes and stuff like this is like learning Latin.
I will still ask you the question. The scale that I just told you, in other countries is DO RE MI FA SO LA TI DO. Your B is called H in Germany.
Getting back to DO RE MI, when you sing the fa la la la la, it should actually be the notes F and A. But they’re not sung as F and A, and I would like to know if this is some sort of conspiracy. But you can write a song any way you like.
Certain things should not be intentionally misinterpreted. You wouldn’t have a guitar that is shaped like a swastika, right? Not on stage, but it would be fun to own one. I‘d like one like a banana, and one with a hammer and a sickle.
But you know what I mean. The swastika is a cool symbol and it meant something else prior to World War Two, and now if you see it you cannot remove the associations that define it. If you were playing India it would be very popular.
It’s really not easy to interview you. Well, you do not have an easy magazine.
What happened to that word “god” being in the pledge of allegiance? America is a theocracy! Do you, as a Swede, see America as being too religious? Yes. In Sweden, only 2% of the population consider themselves Christian.
You have heard of moslims who blow themselves up believing that they will be rewarded with virgins. Well first of all, if you’re in the afterlife, you can’t do anything with corporeal things. And even if you could, why would you have sex with virgins? They are not good in bed. It’s not just a moslim concept. Christians thought they would get rewarded if they died in the Crusade. I don’t know that much about Judaism. I think that they are a bit more hedonistic and think that you should get more out of life.
When you tour Israel, you should ask. I actually had an opportunity, but it wasn’t enough money to make it worth going there. We don’t want to compromise the things we want to bring. They have a similar thing to America – do you believe that we paid $1,000 a head? So we have to play a lot of shows to make it worth coming.
If you play in Israel, would you go on stage with a backpack that has a lit fuse on the bottom? That would be a pretty cool effect, but it wouldn’t be worth it.
Getting back to the moslim thing. I don’t think it’s really a good reward to be given virgins. Virgins are terrible lovers. It’s much better to be a rock star (instead of a suicide bomber) because it’s very easy. You don’t have to blow up yourself. Just learn how to play guitar.
So the more realistic way to fight terrorism is to support the rock bands that the terrorists form. But define “terrorism.” According to the term, the United States is a terrorist state. You bombed Iraq while there was no war declaration. If you don’t declare war and bomb the country, you’re a terrorist.
Don’t say “you” – I’m not an American. Ok, so you’re not responsible then.
This interview with King Diamond was in issue #30.
I don’t know if the Abigail 25th anniversary edition is going to be different from the recent remaster. Do you know if it will have the same bonus tracks, or the same audio processing? That’s what I heard so far. There have been ideas thrown around. What the end result is going to be, I’m not 100% sure right now. There WAS talk about getting it remastered by a topnotch guy. Abigail falls short a little bit. That was unfortunately the one that I feel was not given the right treatment when they did remaster them. That one turned so bright that it hurts my ears to listen to it. That’s the one where I would say “Well, the older version sounds better.” Now we get the chance to do it right.
I was told that Abigail and Them came out when they were mastered for vinyl, and what that means is that the equalization favored the high end because bass makes wider grooves on the record, and that can limit space. Well, it sounds fine on the original. What about the others from the same period of time? Right there it kind of contradicts itself. I was listening back and forth, that and the original, when I got it. There was a lot of time pressure on that. I realize that. Things HAD to be done. There was a deadline. So there was no means, time-wise, to go back and re-do it. That’s why, if they remaster, give it to a top-notch guy. If they can’t get the actual master tapes, which I doubt. Well, they might have them still. But if they can’t find them, they can definitely do a killer job just grabbing the old original CD and do it from that. They can get it up to a decent volume without jeopardizing the frequencies.
I had asked you if you had ever been tempted to go back and not just to adjust the equalization, but to actually re-mix the multi track tapes and remaster in the true sense. You told me that once you do something, you leave it, because you would never be satisfied, no matter what is changed. Abigail I would never touch. That album has the right feel for what the album’s about, for the TIME. If I had to do that album today it would sound totally different, of course. There’s a different sound that you get today. The things you CAN do today… The Puppetmaster, and even the last live album – those have got some REALLY good sounds, in my opinion. They have a nice spectrum of top-to-bottom, clarity, and authenticity. Those, I’m very happy with, and also the old Abigail. For that time, it was exactly what it should be. Everything else – I can go in and pick shit apart – high hat too much to one side for my liking, or too crisp, or it interferes too much with the attack of the snare – there are so many things. There are certain blends of some of the choir parts that I would like to change to feature a different part in it that would probably give more of that atmosphere that I was after. So many things. I can go in and change ALL the albums, except Abigail , The Puppetmaster, and the very last live album. Everything else I could definitely go in and go nuts with, and I would probably finish up with something that I would probably, two years from now, NOT be satisfied with. (laughs) It’s a healthy thing to not be satisfied with what you do. That makes you search continuously for making things better.
Of all the King Diamond albums, did you spend the most time in post-production on Abigail, mixing everything and applying filters and such? I don’t think so.
What about the actual recording? Was that your longest stretch in a recording studio? No. (laughs) I can tell you, if you took a metronome and ran it with those songs, you will HEAR that it did not take that long to do. (laughs) There are passages that are speeding up, and then there are passages that suddenly drag down. You can go from a fast verse that goes faster and faster toward the end of it, then comes this heavy chorus – WHOA! – What a tempo drop! These days, we like to be in time with the songs.
You play with a click track? Yes.
And you did not back then? No. (laughs) You can hear that, big time. If you put it to that test, you can really hear it. Some of those things I remember from back then… Andy was usually the one who would play a cue guitar in a little booth somewhere in the studio. Mickey would have it in his headphones. Andy would probably play a little sloppy sometimes, not out of bad intent, but Mickey knew all the parts – he just needed something to show him where he was in the song. So then you don’t have to be that precise because it’s not the real guitar you’re recording. Suddenly Mickey would stop and say, “What the hell?” And Andy would say, “You’re speeding like crazy!” “I wasn’t speeding! you’re just playing sloppy now!” Those whose-fault-is-it kind of things… When we record today, there is nothing to discuss because you have to be on the beat. That’s the end of it. There is a way to set it like that so that it’s correct. So those kind of things made for it not taking any longer. It was a very LIVE feel doing it that way. But still, it was an instrument at a time. We never recorded where everybody stands together and plays. Then it would probably take longer than other album because, with that style of music, someone would make a mistake through a song. It would just take too long.
The strange this is, Abigail has been hailed by musicians. If musicians themselves are applauding that work, is that sorcery that makes them overlook what you just said? You know how anal some musicians can be when critiquing another artist. It’s not a bad thing that it speeds. Sometimes you like that live feel. It’s the kind of feel that you have when you are in a live situation. Most songs, played live, are faster than studio albums. That’s just the extra adrenaline pumping from having an audience in your face. You totally let go. You get caught up in the mood of the whole thing. It’s not a bad thing. It just gives a different feel. The songs themselves – the writing and the performances – that’s what made that album what it is. There are also other things. It was the first of the genre where there’s a full-concept horror story with metal music. It had not been done before, ever, by anyone. A lot of bands have done a concept album, but never a horror story. The style was very unique. It was an early part of the career when people had not gotten used to that style. So the album had everything going for it much easier to make an impact with an album like that at THAT time, than twenty years when everyone knows your style. They expect you to stay in your style. I would never do a country album, of course. It’s such a trademark style. You can always tell when it’s us. Fans would not want us to go away from that. The trademark style has given us a longevity that very few bands experience. It’s still going very well, as you know. Because it’s such a unique style, we were never affected by any trends. We just plow right through on our own little road. But then, we were never right there on the bandwagon when something was very popular and able to sell a platinum album. That has meant that much to me. You also know that. The pleasure itself of playing and being able to have my hobby as a livelihood… I don’t need sixteen Ferrari’s in my garage. It would be nice, but I don’t have those kind of values. I never had. I guess I’m a lot easier to satisfy. That’s the best road for me – the longevity and still being able to have that fun. I have more fun playing those old songs live today than it was when the album came out. It’s a more enjoyable situation now because the guys that are around are the best I’ve ever played with in my life. There’s that 100% trust. They’re not going to screw up. It has to be something serious for that to happen, like an amp blowing up, but we have one of the best crews in the business – I trust them so much that I don’t even do soundchecks anymore, and I have perfect sound… well, as much as is possible. There can be rooms that are weird, like having carpets on the walls. It sucks the sound in. You feel like the whole room you’re playing in died. Nothing bounces off the walls. That’s a weird live feel. I like to feel the reverb of the room and hear a little of the P.A. and the delays it throws out. I feed a lot off that stuff. When the sound is dead, it’s so tough, and the crew can’t fix THAT. But everything is done so pro now, and that give more energy to give a party instead of concentrating and thinking about the next part that has problems. There’s not so much to worry about, like in the early days when every man was pretty much his own roadie. That means a lot. I look forward to the high passages today. I know my voice can handle it, unless I’m sick. The very high, long notes, in “Eye of the Witch” for instance. I look forward to that because I can feel like I can show off in some ways. I really do. I feel confident I can hit those notes. Five years ago, when I got to that part, I would wish that I could hear myself properly. It’s not that I can’t take the note, it’s just so that I can hear the note, so I can. A lot of those problems I eliminated now. That’s a big part of why we still want to go on the road. All other aspects, you know, I hate. It makes me want to puke to sit on a bus for eight hours,rolling thumbs. You can only do so much of one or another thing. They have only so much DVDs on a bus. And I can’t sleep on a bus when it rolls. Then there’s bad food, and sometimes no food at all. Lack of sleep. I usually get six hours every twenty-four hours, but it’s divided into two or three little go’s of an hour and a half or two hours each. Not a whole lot of time to enjoy. The only time I enjoy is that hour and forty minutes on the stage. That’s the highlight every day.
You amass quite a sleep debt. At the end of the tour, do you sleep for sixteen hours straight? When I get home, I can tell you, I don’t want to talk to friends. I don’t want the phone to ring. I don’t have the energy to speak to a grocery clerk. I need groceries, the house is empty, and they’re always friendly. “Hey! How was the tour?” That’s the last thing I want to hear. I want to see my bed. I’m tired of sleeping in a soft bed, then a hard, bed, then a soft bed, then a bed where something sticks up in my back. I can tell you, when you get into those kinds of scenarios, you’re always sore.
Getting back to the speeding up and slowing down, maybe musicians hailed it because they considered it to be dynamic. I think it’s the songwriting and the performances. It’s very melodic and still heavy.. It’s raw. It’s got mood. That’s why it’s one of the albums that I am most satisfied with. And The Puppetmaster too. The moods in that album are much stronger than on Abigail. But it’s an album that came so many years later, and it will NEVER be hailed among the fans as up there with Abigail. It’s a real treat for me because I know how much it takes for an album to be so high in a fan’s opinion. It means that that album has to be a lot better. That’s the pure fact of it. It’s hard to compete with something that was so unique at that time. It was a shock for a lot of people to hear that style for the first time. A lot of fans have said that to me. It’s hard to compete with yourself in that respect. The things with Abigail that were the hardest to do were not the recording stuff. You have to remember that, at that time, we were all in the same country, or pretty much. We lived so close that rehearsals were possible. We rehearsed more, together, you can say. There are better musicians now that don’t need that rehearsal time, but back then, the songs were rehearsed by the whole band before we ever went in and recorded them. With Mercy, we had even played some of the songs live before recording them. Sometimes for a year we played some of the songs that were later recorded. That’s not the case later on in the career. We’re spread out all over the world, you know. So that didn’t take as long as one might think And the mixing process didn’t take as long as you would imagine simply because we didn’t have the means for it to take long. There was no automation. We didn’t have the chance of working for two hours getting specific reverb to open up in the right way in those five words at the end of verse 2, or whatever, and program it in so that it does it itself so we don’t have to worry about it. We spent time on it, came up with ideas, and now it does it by itself. Back then, we had to do it all manually. We were all in on the mix. Everybody’s fingers were on some kind of buttons on the mixing board. That’s why we delegated in a smart way… and said, “No Mickey, you’re not going to control the snare drum. Andy, you’re not going to do your own solo.” He’d argue, “Well I know how loud..” No, no, no. Let Mickey do your solo, and you can do Mickey’s snare, and so on. There were marks. We had done test after test run. How loud should that solo be? OK, here’s the mark. Don’t go over that mark. And you can be sure that Mickey wouldn’t go over the mark, and visa versa with Andy going over Mickey’s snare. You could trust better , otherwise you would have to do it again and again and again if people weren’t kept in control.
You should never let people edit their work. No, not in that scenario. it was 100% analog. You couldn’t start in the middle. You would have to do the whole thing again. So in that respect it was a little faster, mixing it. First of all, we didn’t have the capability to go so much in depth with every single little thing. There were not enough hands to do it. You had to do what you needed to do, on the fly. Let the thing roll. So there were limits there. Today there are piratically no limits. You could sit and spend three hours on the reverb for five words, and we did on Puppermaster.
Getting back to the timing thing, there have been Mercyful Fate songs, like when you sing “It is so much colder in here.” That was done purely by feel, not by metronome. Would you make a song like that on a future album? It’s a different matter for me, as a vocalist. I don’t sing to a metronome. I sing by total feel, no matter. I don’t think that I have ever needed a metronome in a break. If you listen to “No More Me” it’s full of that type of stuff. Those total emotional, feeling-out breaks. It’s nothing but. Of course that song was recorded with a metronome, but for the vocalist, it’s a totally different matter because you are free. You can go over beats and this and that, and then pick it up, being on a beat later. The more precise they (the musicians) are, the more free I feel. If they started suddenly speeding up at the end of a verse, and I had to do something, it might not leave me enough space to do an emotional thing. That emotional thing, to fit, would have to be rushed, and that wouldn’t sound right. But when I have that solid tempo going, then I don’t even have to think about it. It’s almost how I feel pitch, for instance. It’s totally automatic. I found out. When Mercy was playing shows with Metallica in Europe in ‘99, there was a show in Milan where the Metallica guys invited Hank and I to go up and do the whole medley from the Garage Inc. album, all twelve minutes, or whatever, as one of the encores. At first, I was like “Doesn’t Metallica play detuned a little bit? How the hell am I going to sing that?” I had sung some of that stuff earlier that day, but in our key,and now I had to drop it half a note, or whatever it is. That scared me to death. How is that going to work out? But once we started, I didn’t even feel that I was singing it differently. It actually became a little easier, singing like a semitone lower. It’s a matter of feeling the key inside. The same thing with the beats, when they’re going. I never ever count anything. when there’s a solo going, I don’t stand there and count. “OK, that was three rounds, four rounds. Ok, now I have to start singing again here.” Never. It’s all feel. But, the guys always play the same solos, and if they were improvising half the time, good luck to me, because I would have nothing to go by. I know those solos by heart. That was one thing funny about listening to the live album. I could picture exactly where I was on stage the whole time, and then I realized certain things as we were mixing it. If Andy is playing a solo, I will usually be closer to him so I hear his solo clearest. That’s what I go by, since I don’t count. But by the end, when the verse starts, I am on the opposite side where I could hear Mike’s rhythm guitar more, or visa versa. Andy is my favorite guitar player of all time, so I am not saying anything bad about him, but he has this tendency, live, when he finishes a fast lick or whatever – he will hold a long feedback note. Listen and you will hear that. In those places, I had to get away from him. I can’t stand over there by the feedback note because I have nothing to go by. That dawned on me while we were mixing. If they, for some reason, screw up in the middle of the solo. or the amp goes out just for five seconds, I’m screwed completely. I will not know when to come in. I will not know where the other guys are. was it five or six rounds that they played? I hadn’t been paying attention to how many rounds. Suddenly it changes key and goes into the verse, and I can’t pick it up there. You just aim the mike at the crowd and the crowd starts singing. (laughs) They ALWAYS know. What do you call those… in theatres, you have this little old man sitting in a box, with a book, speaking to the actors. Whatever he is called, the audience, the first row there, they are the best of that. I’ve had to use it. I admit that. Those situations… what the hell are you going to do? Suddenly you’re two rounds in. The lyrics don’t just sit like that., like “OK, I’ll pick up from the second line.” No. I pick it up by cue words. I know the first few words of each verse. The rest is automatic. I don’t even think about what I’m singing. When the cue words are NOT there, I can’t just pick it up. It’s impossible. Then I look down at the audience, at those desperate eyes… it’s rare, but it does happen, and God,do I feel miserable afterwards! I swear, if I didn’t have that white on I would be glowing red like the reindeer’s nose. That is embarrassing. the same thing if someone is out of tune. You will hear that on bootlegs. There could be one guitar not matching. That’s very difficult for a singer. If a guy’s out of tune somewhere and I start hearing him, I follow him with that automatic pitch. I sound off, but I’m dead-on with the guy I can hear. You’re lucky in the studio. You have all the time in the world. With mercy, when we played Satan’s Fall live. Everybody’s like, “King! You’ve GOT to talk longer before Satan’s Fall! We all need time to tune perfectly.” By the end of that song, everyone’s a little off, each other. They have no time to tune for twelve minutes. That’s a problem when you play live, in a hot sweaty humid room. The guitar will slowly drift out of tune. It’s got to be dead-on in the beginning and you will not be that far in the end. At the end of it there’s a lot of single-note playing and harmonies. I have to sing to them. Oh man! That’s the real world of a musician. There are lot of things that no one knows about and can’t see unless you tell them. This is how hard it is.
I recently unearthed a tape that I had a long time ago. It’s an interview that Ole did with you that was done before “Fatal Portrait” was released. You were actually playing guitar in that interview, giving fans a chance to hear riffs that were on the forthcoming album. It was pretty strange hearing you play guitar. Is there a secret part on any album in which you actually play guitar? Well… (in a nonchalant tone) there’s a few places.
Ha! I knew it! It was strange to hear you play guitar. But it was also strange, sort of comical, to hear you and Ole talk to each other in such a respectful manner, as if you were perfect strangers. (laughs) the good old days. People didn’t know us yet.
Wow. I’ve just unearthed some trivia! King has actually played guitar on the albums! Yeah, here and there, bits and pieces. Most has been in scenarios where I had a very crooked finger position that was impossible for the other person to do. I use some very odd chords sometimes. Sometimes it’s a feel thing. Each player has different techniques. I have a very unique way that dampen the strings when I want these (vocalizes what the guitar sounds like). it has sometimes been very hard to get out. I want them sounding a certain way, fat but still very crisp. It’s not all that easy. I have my style. I play both up and down strokes. A lot of guitarists play only down strokes. It’s different techniques. There are some things that are awkward for Andy to play, with the up/down strokes, but that’s what it demands or you’re simply not going to get the right mood out of the riff. There were some places here and there where I’d do that little bridge, or this or that. One thing that was cool about The Puppetmaster is that Andy has never gotten that close to my expression of my songs, the way I play them on the demos. I have all the demos here where I play all the guitars. There’s a drum machine, and I simulate the bass by playing the guitar through an octave. Some of the keyboards turn out to be the real ones. There, you can REALLY hear my style of playing. It’s demos, so it’s not that perfect, of course, but the overall feel of everything is exactly there the way I want others to play it. Sometimes I play little pieces (on the album) where there’s certain kinds of chords, or certain kinds of structures that just doesn’t fit the other player’s technique at all. Maybe one day I should release demos where I play everything. (laughs)
I’m very upset with the security you when you record. Nothing leaks out. It’s very frustrating for a King Diamond fan Well maybe one day I will release them. You do hear me play guitar on one those albums with the bonus stuff. For “Them,” I think. I play one of the guitars on the rehearsals because Pete Black wasn’t there at the time. That rehearsal tape, that’s Andy and me playing guitars.
Abigail, to my ears, has the most amount of choir, of all your albums. I’m not sure you’re right. Not with the backings,and how many there are, and how layered
It sounds like that. It’s probably the album with the most REVERB on it ever. It does make everything sound more like we recorded in a church almost.
A Satanic church. Of course! Are you kidding? (he pauses, and then laughs) Do you know what I am saying? Some of the stuff on “Conspiracy” – there’s so much (choir) on there, and later on too. There’s lots of that stuff. You can go all the way up the albums. There’s tons of layered vocals. But everything is dryer. Even if the guitars are reverbed more than usual, they will create an atmosphere for the vocals, of course. The more swimmy the guitars are, the more swimmy the vocals will sound, even if they don’t have reverb. How you put the whole band in a certain room for the whole duration is something you determine from the early phase. What kind of room do we want to be in? Then you add more reverb to a certain snare because it has to have a special effect. I’ve gone away from using reverb on my vocals. It’s only used for specific effects. I use delay instead. There’s a delay at all times on my vocals, but you don’t hear it in the music. This is an odd thing, actually, No matter what tempo the song is in, we set the delay at 666 milliseconds. You’re probably thinking I’m lying, but I’m not. That amount of delay time fits ANY of our songs. I don’t like to have that swimming around if there’s a quiet passage, for instance where I’m talking, because then it sounds stupid. When I’m playing live, I don’t like a delay hanging on my voice when I’m between songs, “Thank you very much.. thank you very much (he mocks a repeating echo getting fainter with each cycle). That sounds so stupid in between songs. The same thing for taking parts in music. You kill that delay. But for the singing parts, that’s what’s on my vocals all the time. It’s a cool feel for how we produce the albums today. They are a LOT dryer than back then. When you’re a guitarist, and you try to make out what we’re playing on Abigail, on certain passages you will NEVER know what chords we’re using. You simply can’t hear it clear enough duplicate perfectly.
When did you start producing your own albums? Well, it started with “Don’t Break the Oath” when we decided we had had enough of feeling like going to a dentist when recording an album. That’s what it felt like. That’s the strongest memory I had on “Melissa.” I felt like being at the dentist’s office, being called in. “Mr. Peterson?” Then you walked into the control room and were played a song. “What’s this? Where’s THIS, and where is THAT? Why are the guitars so low? Where is that harmony? This is heavy metal, not the pop you normally do!” Great producer at that time, but he was a pop producer, actually. That’s what he had done most – Danish pop music. Very good productions. Very skillful guy. We didn’t have any other names of producers. It was probably because of the studio he had. We got a little bit of that taste on the mini LP. I had all of the backing parts ready for that. Those songs were supposed to have the same style of backings as on the “Melissa” album, until I was told “You have two tracks.” You know the story with Hank. He was taking to long. It cost a lot. “I’m sorry, man. This one has got to be IT. Whatever we do now goes on tape and it goes on the album. I don’t care anymore.” Talk about pressure. (laughs) And that’s what happened. So that was the first time we felt these other people in control. And it continued on ‘tile “Don’t Break the Oath.” I had enough. “I’m going to stay here whether you like it or not! When I say turn that keyboard up, I want to hear what it’s like when you move that thing. I want to SEE you move it, not send us out and bring us back in and try to fool us without having moved anything and see if we hear it, because I DO hear it!” So during “Don’t Break the Oath” that’s finally when the band ended up in the control room. So we, of course, got a little bit more experience there. Then when Roberto came in on “Fatal Portrait” and so on, we knew a bit more and were involved the whole way. He had a lot of ideas. He was also a great link between our ideas and how to bring it to tape. That continued for many albums. It was awesome working with him. He and I would sit and play keyboards together. Some of the things on “Conspiracy” and also “On the Eye” was played four-hand, actually. It was him and I. Otherwise we didn’t have enough tracks. (pauses) I forget. Where was I?
About producing your own albums. (we both laugh) I can’t remember if “Them” was… no, I don’t think “Them” was automated either. There was a part that Andy had forgotten to record. It was a make-or-break riff for “The Accusation Chair” I think. He was already back in Sweden, and I had to go back and get my guitar and record the part. We were losing time, and we were up against other people who stood outside waiting with all their gear, and we were still mixing the last part. Before that, we must have been mixing for twenty hours straight. I was so dead, sitting on a chair, listening next to Roberto, and suddenly blacked out and fell forward into the mixing desk and onto the floor. Roberto is like “Go take an hour on the couch! This is no help.” Then we finished later. Some tough times.
Did anything strange ever happen in the studio the way strange things have happened in your apartment in Denmark? I remember that I almost burned the studio down when we did “Them.” I used to have candles to see my lyrics. Just candles. Nothing else. I found ways to put them where my lyrics stand was, and it was one of those times when I was so tired that I took a break. There must have been some wind going in there, blowing the candles over towards the lyrics. They were burned! They were gone. I came in there. “It smells smokey in here.” There was a big black spot burned into the floor. I fortunately had copies. (pause) But I don’t think there was a demon in there blowing at it, or something like that. The first thing we were in the studio that I KNOW things went haywire was with “Conspiracy.” There was this female second engineer that we barely used. She was the one who was freaked out completely. She was screaming, crying, all kinds of shit, because of what was going on there. That is not a rarity. That is more the norm. SOMETHING will happen. Other people get freaked. I think it was on “House of God” when Koll Marshall was working a little overtime. We were mixing, trying to get done, and we both saw a little man in the doorway. But the weird thing was that i had seen that little man at two in the afternoon, and of course, the whole studio is dark. But I had seen him there. “Am I THAT fuckin’ tired? This is too weird.” About five hours later, we’re sitting there. Koll was at the mixing desk. It was across the room, to his left, where that doorway was. I would be sitting, usually facing the console, but from his left side. Suddenly, man, he just got pale, and he totally froze. He was looking over in that direction, and without me even turning my head, I said, “You saw him! I know you saw him!” He’s was like, “This is not REAL! You CAN’T know that!” I said, “The man over in the doorway? I know you saw him.” He was totally freaking. He usually closed up the studio by himself, but he was begging me to stay for the rest of the night. (laughs). “You don’t have to leave right now, do you?” That’s why there is a mention in the credits for that. (Ed- I swear I saw the Glitcher! King saw him too)
I had asked you prior to the Mercyful Fate reunion if you would ever re-do a song. You answered that you are always moving forward, working on new material. When you re-did “Return of the Vampire” I was suprised. That was a unique experience.
Did it ever cross your mind to do a sort of re-visit album and do the songs from the mini LP, and songs like “Shadow Nights” and “A Dangerous Nightmare?” Those were all chopped up into other songs, the last two. But the others – I almost said it before, when we talked about the mini LP and how that was recorded, the other vocals were prepared but never done, and I wonder how those songs would have sounded… maybe I will never know. It all comes down to time, and money too. Is it going to be interesting enough to go in and do those songs? What would it look like to other people if Mercy does another album in a year or two and we put that in there – would the fans think that we are out of ideas? I always worry, maybe too much, about those things. I worry about what people think. In that respect. I don’t want to appear pathetic.
Well maybe if I keep asking you to do it every time that I interview you. (laughs) That’s the reason why “Abigail II” finally done. Inside, I felt there was so much more I could write about this story. Gramma is one of my all-time favorite characters. I would love to be given permission to do another album with her in it. It would be so cool. I know what the cover would look like. It’s a very passionate thing inside of me. But if we did that, how would it look? Honestly. Conspiracy, Part III , with Gramma? No matter what the story is about, it would still look like Part II to other people. It’s like, “He has to go all the way back there to get inspiration!” I don’t dare do that. It would have to be fan request, like it was with Abigail II. So many people kept asking me to do another thing that reminds of that, and has that complexity.
How many signatures do you require? What? (laughs). Two! I really want to do it that bad! (laughs) But seriously, it is like that for me. I don’t want anyone to think that I ran of ideas. But if that were not the case, I would love to go back and give those songs the full treatment.
Maybe you won’t re-do “Burning the Cross” but is it possible for you to write down the lyrics for me to print? Would that be a pain in the as for you? Yeah. To find them?
You wouldn’t remember them from hearing the song? I doubt it. I don’t know how clear it is there on the actual album. (pauses) Maybe after the tour.
Keep that on your list. It will be a treat for old-timers like me. I think I have it somewhere. I was thinking of it that way, that I wouldn’t have to sit and listen. It was very early-days, as you know.
I’ve heard earlier versions of Satan’s Fall with more aggressive lyrics. You moved away from in-your-face evil in favor of the more mysterious. It gets old very fast. It doesn’t leave too much to the imagination. Do you like splatter movies or more psychological movies? Which one puts you deeper into a certain mood? The first one is like (makes a gore, splat sound) “That looked cool!’ The other one, you feel uncomfortable for a long time. It’s much bigger impact. To misuse the word “Satan” does not make you heavier. I think it’s so anti-tough to misuse it. I’ll still use it any day. It’s a very good word. It doesn’t matter which camp you’re in. That word has a uniform meaning to most people. It gives them immediate association, which to me is not the real meaning at all. Even I see some pictures in my head, even though I know it has nothing to do with that. Do you know what I mean by that? It’s like a label. Like picking up a bottle of Johnny Walker. It gives you something that you don’t have to think too long about. Drink it, and you will like the taste or hate the taste. It depends on the kind of person you are.
One of the things that I heard that I thought was rather shocking, having had grown accustomed to the later style of lyrics, is the an earlier version of “Satan’s Fall” in which you sing, “Satan is better than God.” I will stand up for any lyrics, ever, because there are meanings behind those things. That thing there is very tongue-in-cheek, of course. I should have chosen better words to make it more lyrical. Well, Satan is, in many situations, a better choice than God. There would be less killing. You know that’s true. The Crusades, whatever. Even if you believed in the worst scenario of Satanism, in what I call the completely distorted fake rituals, if that was all true, it would have hurt so much less than the Crusades. When you just said that line, I immediately got the feel from back then, what I felt inside. But the words,I think, “How fuckin’ primitive!” It’ s like “Walking down the stairs to hell” or something like that. How corny.
You seemed more confrontational back then, You know also why. There was nothing like that back then. Attacked from all sides. Venom didn’t really do that. We were simultaneous, but they had a whole different way of talking about these things. With them, I think,it’s like watching the old Hammer horror movies. It looks cool, sounds cool, but maybe it doesn’t mean as much as was said. I think Cronos has said that himself sometimes, that you need to take things with a grain of salt and lighten up sometimes. I try to do that too. That’s why sometimes you see the band in Christmas outfits and stuff like that. You have to be able to laugh at yourself. You know there’s a lot of humor on the albums too. It might be a little twisted, but it’s there. back then, I can tell you, English was not that easy for me. I had not traveled much at that time. When we the first U.S. tour for “Don’t Break the Oath, there were lots of times when I did interviews, and I remember clearly how it was not natural for me to just say things. Like, now, I dream in English. But that’s because I’m in the environment. I only talk Danish when I talk business to Ole, or my mom, or my brother. Everything is English around me.
You are immersed. Absolutely. But back then, if anyone asked me a question, inside my brain there was this translation going. I translated in my head to Danish. I must have seemed so slow back then because I’d come up with my Danish answer and then translate to English. To say anything took me time. That’s why there are those famous… “Sarcophagus” was “sarco-fay-gus.” Then later on it’s like “I have to sing it the wrong way.” I think about it every time we play that song.
I remember you used to introduce “Into the Coven” as “Into the koh-ven.” Yeah, well that’s a thing that you can say either way.
If you want to hear something funny, I had never used the word “coven” unless I was mentioning your song, and whenever I said it, I said it your way, and people were yelling at me to say it right. You messed me up! But you know what? People came up to me and said the same thing. No, no, no. you can’t be right. That must be wrong because it doesn’t sound as tough. There’s a big difference there.
Exactly. Getting back to “Burning Cross,” but not in an annoying way, for the DVD material that might be provided as a bonus, you said you had video footage of Ben Petterson playing. That’s a treat for all of us who don’t know what he looks like. Did he write “Burning the Cross?” Yeah, with me. (pause) There should be a good possibility of that early show from ‘82 when Michael Denner is not in the band
Is this bonus video footage would go to Roadrunner and not to Metal Blade? I know you have stuff coming out on Metal Blade. Yeah, but there’s a difference between these things. The stuff that Roadrunner is getting is stuff that some collectors had seen – maybe not a lot of the King Diamond stuff that I am intending to give them – the Mercy, a lot of collectors have seen, but not in this quality. It’s been through digital processing with a company from Sweden. It’s actually a three-camera shot of us playing a little club in Holland called “The Dynamo” at that time, anyway. For us to give it out is where I am not living up to my (sarcastic tone) perfectionist image. There are some bombers in there that you would not believe. I have one and the band has one, and they’re big. It’s not like I have to tell you where they are. Then of course everyone just plays as if everything is normal. For King Diamond, it’s a show from Gothenburg, Sweden, on the Abigail tour. But I think is two camera angles. That one, I haven’t seen yet. Our own stuff for Metal Blade has never before been seen. we have the only master tapes. There is some killer shit. I freaked when I saw it. There is fifty minutes from a show in Amsterdam at a place called Paradisio (ed. spelling?) which used to be a church. I think that’s from ‘84, if I’m not wrong, before we did “Don’t Break the Oath.” But we did play “Come to the Sabbath.” There are more. There is this big festival in Denmark where we went on stage at 4:40 in the morning. But people stayed. You can see in the distance when the sun starts coming up. We have quite a bit. King Diamond stuff too. There was a park in Copenhagen, a gig that we did in the middle of recording “The Eye.’ We tore our gear down and then played this one show and then put it back up and continued recording. Unusual.
That would put to rest the rumor Snowy programmed a drum machine instead of playing electronic drums. There you go. Electronic drum pads are definitely not the same as playing a drum kit, you know – an experiment that wasn’t bad but it was not what it could have been.
I’ve seen clips, after the reunion, at the Dynamo festival. Yeah, that would have been the big open air one. MTV was there.
Why have your books become out of print? You have no idea how deep was my sense of loss when I could not track down the people who had borrowed your books from me. Thanks for liking my work so much. Writers always love to hear their work praised. There appear to be two reasons why my books are currently out of print. First, there were changes of personnel at NAL (U.S. publisher). Everyone who had any interest in my work left the company, and the one editor who was in a position to buy new fantasy work, did not want the third novel in the “Sorcerer¹s Son”/”Crystal Palace”series. When that happened, I worked very hard to get the rights to the first two books reverted to me so that I could resell them along with the third book. Although I found editors with at least one other company who did want to publish all three books, the sales people at that company said I had been out of the marketplace too long for the books to be viable. That is, I wasn¹t prolific enough. Several editors have said I should write some new books, unconnected to the old ones, and after they were published, the old books would look more attractive. So that¹s what I’m doing now – working on a new book. We¹ll see how that goes.
Would you agree that many people have a gift for writing, but very few of them actually dare to try making something of it? Actually, I disagree. It¹s my observation that very few people have a gift for writing. I say this as a teacher who has seen a self-selected sample of people who want to be writers -in my classes – and the majority of them think they can write but they can’t. Of course, there are really two elements to writing – the ability to tell a gripping story, and the ability to write in readable prose. Some people have one ability but not the other. Relatively few have both. And the days of editors who would fix your prose if you were only a good storyteller are gone. My job as a teacher, I think, is to help my students develop both skills. As for daring to make something of it – writing well is hard work, and writing fiction is not particularly high-paying. A lot of students discover these things and go on to become middle-managers at hotel chains.
Do you make a skeletal outline first and then flesh it out, chapter by chapter? Yes, I am an outliner. I think a 20 page outline is about right for a novel. Then I mark the chapter breaks and, starting at Chapter One, write them in sequence. I usually come up with other details as I¹m writing, and I jot them down on scraps of paper, which I tack up on my bulletin board. As I reach the points where they fit in the story, I write them into it and throw the scraps of paper away. There have usually been a lot of scraps of paper in my wastebasket by the time I’m done with a novel.
I would like to know what you consciously do to make the descriptions so vivid in my mind. I consciously tell myself to slow down, to avoid rushing the story. When I was a teenager, I could tell almost any story in 4 pages, most of it dialog, and I¹d write it in a single sitting. It was only when I forced myself to slow down that I started selling my stories. I close my eyes and see the scene and the people I’m writing about. I try to hear the dry leaves crackling underfoot, I try to feel soft fur of an animal under my hands. I bring my own physical experiences to writing, whether that be horseback riding, swimming, running, fencing, or just climbing a flight of stairs. And I try to find some of myself in every character, so that I feel what that character is feeling – hate, anger, despair, whatever. Of course I want reader to care about and identify with my main characters, and I want them to dislike my villains. I usually make my villains paranoid or extremely self-centered, which can certainly result in heartlessness and cruelty, which are evil enough for most stories.
In “The Crystal Palace” you put my imagination in a different reality. It is as if I actually have the memory of existing in the dimensions you described. What made you dream up something so abstract? I thought about the demon worlds of Water, Fire, and Ice for quite a long time before writing about them. As I thought about the demons themselves, trying to imagine what their personalities would be like, and what their lives would be. Weightlessness was an important aspect of the demon worlds, and I did as much research on it as I could. I also thought a lot about swimming – a kind of weightlessness- and I’ve often had dreams about flying, so I used memories of those sensations, too. I daydreamed a lot of thought experiments about the demon worlds. I wanted them to be as different from the real, familiar world as they could be. I thought of them as surreal, like landscapes painted by Salvador Dali. Indeed, it was a challenge to write that material down in a vivid way, but I had a good time doing it.
You teach science fiction writing at Columbia College in Chicago. I wonder if you have the time to enjoy the works of writers such as Terry Goodkind. Not as much time as I’d like. People keep recommending books to me, and there’s a stack on the dresser in my bedroom. I haven¹t read Goodkind yet.
When you wrote the six novels of the past, how much time did you spend writing each day? I am wondering if you received an advance that would allow you to do nothing else if you wished. On those various novels, my writing time varied wildly from an hour or two a day to eight or nine. Sometimes I was writing full time, sometimes I was doing other things. The advances were never enough to live on, though sales of foreign rights sometimes added a nice cushion. Like many writers, I’ve done a lot of things to make money.
What is your opinion about the conflict of good versus evil, or light against darkness in fantasy? Is it amateurish to create characters that are all good or all bad? It may be amateurish, but the real problem is that it’s very easy. As a writer, you don¹t have to think much about your villain’s personality if he’s simply the incarnation of Evil. Sauron had stopped being a human being, and he is, of course, a model for many writers. I prefer more human villains, who have human motivations. Perhaps they are not mentally balanced, or they have horrible experiences in their backgrounds. Perhaps they are self-centered and greedy. There are plenty of motivations available,other than simple pure evil.
Are there some formulae in writing that cannot be avoided?
Various writers have suggested that there are a limited number of plot formulas. Marion Zimmer Bradley said there were nine plots. Robert Heinlein suggested some even smaller number. But these are all vague things, like boy meets girl/ boy loses girl/ boy gets girl. Or, as Marion put one of hers,“There’s a hell of a good universe next door.” On that level, the word “formula” doesn’t mean much. I don¹t really believe in formulas, and I certainly don’t use any on a conscious level. As for variance in structure… let’s face it, readers expect certain things in fiction. They expect to be able to understand what¹s going on. They expect the story to move from someplace to someplace else, either on a personal level or a broad, sweeping level. They expect at least one main character to have interesting and significant experiences. If fiction doesn’t deliver some of this stuff, people won’t read it. So there is a practical limit to variance in structure, based on the audience. In my own writing, I have a broad structure in mind… a route that the story will take from beginning to end, which calls for character growth and change as well as change in the situation – things are different at the end than they were at the beginning). The route has to FEEL right to me, and I judge its rightness by all the standards that I have internalized through decades of reading.
It is often thrilling to read stories that feature demons. But I think that “evil” is just a human attribute. In a physical reality, communication would perfect. So there could be no deception. There would be no ownership of anything, so there could be nothing to steal. You could not be killed or destroyed. You could not be made to suffer pain. There would be no competition for a mate because there is no mating. There is no competition for shelter because there is no weather. You have some very interesting ideas about how nonphysical reality would work, but I disagree with all of them. Why should communication be perfect? Communication arises from the wills of individuals and is colored by their abilities and intentions. Lying seems an obvious attribute of intelligent creatures, whether they are physical or nonphysical. Ownership does not require physical objects… songs can be owned, not to mention the creatures themselves. Ownership depends, again, on the attitudes and desires of the individuals and of their society. Ownership is a concept we humans have invented, and we apply it where and to what we wish. Why should thoughts have the power to manifest themselves as temporary reality? In short, what you have here is your own set of parameters for a nonphysical reality, and if you were to write a story using them, that would be fine. But that doesn’t mean they are the ONLY parameters for such a story, and it doesn’t mean that other writers must use them. Every writer is entitled to make up one or more universes with rules that suit the writer. Of course, they should be internally consistent, but lots of combinations of elements can be mutually consistent. As for the otherworldly beings, my attitude toward them is an extension of my attitude toward villains. I envisioned demons as a race of intelligent, nonhuman creatures, not just as disembodied forces conjured up when sorcerers needed them. With that as my premise, it followed logically that they would have their own world, their own culture, their own attitudes. These are not HUMAN attitudes because the demons have their own value system and their own interests. I like the demons a great deal, partly because I see them as aliens -that’s the science fiction writer in me, and partly because they are struggling against the injustice of slavery. This struggle makes them sympathetic characters, even though they are all a little odd by human standards. I also had a lot of fun developing their individual personalities. They’re not evil, but sometimes they are forced to do evil by their masters. And sometimes they do very selfish things that could hurt humans because, to most of them, humans are not very important.
You mentioned that you had flying dreams. Those have had been my favorite type of dream. When I was in high school I had a dream in which I became completely aware that I was dreaming. I knew that I could make anything happen, and I chose to fly, although it was not so easy to shake the beliefs that kept me grounded. It was pure will that enabled me to soar. The reason why I love flying in dreams so much is because it is an experience. Whether it happens in a dream or in real life, the result is the same. All I have after it is done is the memory. But while I am flying I relish each moment. I would like to know if you have also been able to wake up in your dreams. A few years after I had the first conscious experience, I learned that the phenomenon was called “lucid dreaming” and I have learned to induce them, as I’m sure, anyone can. I’ve had the experience of lucid dreaming a few times. For me, it has always been the result of wanting to dream about certain things before I went to sleep. The time it worked best resulted in a series of dreams over a period of weeks that were repeats or extensions of the same scenario. Eventually, I used that series of dreams as the basis of a novelette (“Nightlife”, published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction back in 1982 and nominated for the Hugo Award). But I haven’t done this, or really wanted to do it, for a long time.
Did you ever meet with rejection that almost ended your desire to write? Once, when Lester Del Rey urged me to write a sequel to “Sorceror’s Son”, approved the outline, and then rejected the finished book. For a long time after that, I felt sick to my stomach just looking at my keyboard. But I came out of it eventually.