Experimental Musical Outcasts
CoC talks to Vicotnik of Dodheimsgard
by: Yiannis Stefanis
There is a long list of words that music journalists can use in their attempt to describe the experimental Norwegian outfit DHG (Dodheimsgard), but "average" and "repetitive" are certainly not amongst them. Eight years after the release of the highly acclaimed _666 International_, the band is back with the latest product of their musical intelligence. The purpose of this interview with mainman Vicotnik (guitars / vocals) is not simply to illustrate the man's personal ideas and feelings, but mainly to serve as a guide to penetrate the unique world and reveal the dark secrets of this outstanding new release, entitled _Supervillain Outcast_.

CoC: Hi there, Vicotnik. It feels great to have DHG back with us after eight really long years. What is the spirit within the ranks of the band at this moment in time?

Vicotnik: It is great to be back. Response has been deafening. Spirit within the band can not be complained about. What about you? Feeling funky?

CoC: All the time, dude. <laughs> Both you and Kvohst have been involved in other projects, namely Ved Buens Ende and Code. Do you find this being a reasonable justification in the claims made by fellow journalists that DHG is more of a musical project of like-minded musicians than a full-time band?

V: I have never seen nor heard that claim for the last thirteen years. I think it is fair to say that since Ved Buens Ende is R.I.P. and Kvohst quit Code, that those bands are the projects, not the other way around.

CoC: What are the ideas and feeling that you believe the music of DHG allows you to express through an album such as _Supervillain Outcast_ that neither Ved Buens Ende or Code could?

V: DHG is more about the sordidness of the human being. DHG is about becoming your capacities, fulfilling yourself while observing and analysing the world's mechanical functions. DHG focuses on being the best you can be. DHG concentrates on the dark and secret places of the mind. We blow all society's illness out of proportion and illustrate it, and make this essential for the growth of the individual. Ved Buens Ende is about lament. Both our offerings so far have been complaining albums. It's kind of a dark romanticism. VBE is kind of pretentious. Code is more about atmosphere, not so directly on the human soul or mind. More about dark atmospheres and moods. Nothing really that tangible, more like a dream inside a cloud or some bullshit like that. So, I don't really see any similarities at all. At all!

CoC: _Supervillain Outcast_ is like a musical oasis in the modern extreme metal scene, and many people consider this to be the natural heir to _666 International_. Do you find substance in such comments?

V: I think all comments in relation to DHG albums are interesting. People's opinions about _Supervillain_ really differ from each other, which makes me feel that they really take a personal angle on it. This kind of interest means a lot because it's kind of on a psychological level. I push myself really hard in order to be honest and personal, and at the same time re-invent my music on every release. I think when you do exactly that, you will get a lot of personal sentiments back as well.

CoC: If you were to compare _Supervillain Outcast_ to _666 International_, which would you say are their main similarities and which their differences? Which are those elements in _Supervillain Outcast_ that provide us with clear evidence of the band's musical evolution these last eight years?

V: I am not that conscious about it. In 1999, _666_ was the album I really wanted to make both content and structure wise. This time around _Supervillain_ came just as naturally. I think some of the similarities reside outside the musical contents. You know, the fact that we do re-invent our sound every time, but still keep a subtle signature so that even though all the changes it still sounds unmistakable DHG.

The biggest difference on this album is the song structures. _666_ was more like a musical cabaret. While with _Supervillain_, the song structures are more classical songwriting. This is to make the songs more focused and also to make them more varied in relation to each other, instead of having multiple theme and mood changes within the song itself, as witnessed on _666_. Another big difference is that _666_ was written out from a guitar perspective, while with _Supervillain_, I have had a multiple angles as tools to make the songs. There are also more layers on _Supervillain_. With this I mean that _666_ contains songs that are very streamlined. _Supervilllain_ has a lot of layers in the height as well as going from A to Z.

I don't know much about the band's evolution, I only try to do what feels natural. I knew right from the start that I did not want to do a _666_ number two. Mainly for two reasons: first, it would not be much of a challenge -- as an artist, I always feel the urge to move; and second, I want every piece of work I do to be one of a kind. If I made three or four albums just like _666_, I would feel that I was pissing on the album's legacy. When I write the new material now as well, I am not that conscious on doing this or that, I am just naturally developing as a songwriter and at the same time writing stuff I like. I have like twenty five songs for a new album, and obviously the album will not contain all these songs. This means that even though I have all this material, I have no idea at this stage what the next album is going to sound like. It's like a maturing process, where you and the music grow and take form together.

CoC: When did you first start working on these fifteen new compositions? Do you believe that the band's long hiatus enabled you to ensure that this year's effort would come across as a better balanced and more mature album than would have been the case if it had been released, let's say, two years after _666 International_?

V: The plan was to release it two to three years after _666_, but circumstances wanted it differently. For me, the timing feels perfect. But from the labels perspective, the momentum feels lost. Nevertheless, I think these are better days for DHG than the Nineties. People seem more open to something a bit different. Nobody could really label us when we released _666_. Even though the album got outstanding reviews, I feel that the record buyers used years getting into the record. In 1999, people where almost scared of liking it, while today it has kind of a cult status. It's very gratifying for me to have made something that today defines a branch of a big genre. Cheers.

CoC: Judging by its musical complexity and unique nature, I believe that it will be slightly difficult for _Supervillain Outcast_ to appeal to the average black metal fan. What are your thoughts on this issue, and what type of audience do you believe will become better connected with the album?

V: Maybe you are right. On the other hand, I think it is probably easier to get into this album than the previous one. When it comes to commercial press here in Norway -- and with this I mean newspapers and net-places for TV stations, etc. -- they have all blown me away. Top scores in almost every one. A journalist told me the other day that _Supervillain_ is the most highly rated album in commercial press regardless of genre. That really blew me away. If the press really hated the album, it would make no difference to me, but having it this way is definitely a bonus. I have also noticed that you don't have to be into black metal to enjoy this album. It appeals more to a general metal public.

CoC: There are plenty of things happening in your songs in terms of compositional arrangements and rhythmical changes, yet none of the compositions sound perplexing or extremely difficult to digest. What is the secret formula that you used in order to bring a composition such as "Vendetta Assassin" to life?

V: That's a family secret. You are right, though; it's not complex in the same way say Suffocation is. It's very easy to get an overview of the music. I think the main reason for this is because I use really simple means to present something complex. It's all about tempo and dynamics... and the fact that I use myself as main source for what I want to accomplish. I don't listen to other bands and think to myself "I want to sound like this", or "I wish I could sound like that". When I write a song, I am very conscientious about it becoming a specific song with a specific feeling and function. It's not just a group of riffs that I hope will add up in the end. When I come to the rehearsal room with a new song, it's already a fluent structure.

CoC: The strongest point of the album is without doubt the harmonious co-existence of massive guitar riffs and thunderous double-bass drum themes with those obscure but dramatically appealing keyboard samples and melodies that seem to "haunt" the vast majority of the compositions. What was the feeling that you wanted to convey throughout the album, and how far did you go in achieving that goal?

V: I wanted to convey the state of the human illness into the album. I wanted it to be scary in a way people recognise within themselves. I think most black metal bands, when trying to be creepy, are scary in the same way the ghost ride at some amusement park is. I wanted this album to be very mental. Organic in the sense that it deals with the dark places within our core. At the same time, it is important to use the society, other people and mechanisms as kind of a backdrop. Not in a political or complaining manner. Just to illustrate our sordid careless age.

CoC: Those short chanting themes that you have strategically placed throughout the album have managed to bring closer together compositions of a diverse musical nature, such as "Apocalypticism" and "Ghostforce Soul Constrictor". Is that an indication that _Supervillain Outcast_ should be considered a concept album?

V: It's kind of a concept album, but very loosely. I want people to get the feeling that there is a red thread to this album, but at the same time use their own brainpower to figure out what. Nothing is shoved down the throat. The loose concept deals with recognising the world's mechanical functions and the phenomena that transgress them. The "normal" versus the "tabu", so to speak, as a formula for personal growth. The "I" perspective of the album is an identity that redefines himself through stepping out of the mechanical structures. To become an outcast he has to travel to a very lonely place deep within himself. In there he redefines everything, and seeks out his true capacity and function. In this process he becomes the Supervillain.

CoC: Did you find the experience of recording these compositions in the studio to be a pleasurable one? How much time were you given to complete the recordings, and were you at all involved in the production / mixing process?

V: Yes, I produced and mixed the album myself. A couple of the other members where at times involved with the mixing process as well. I rented studios without engineers. I would not manage on my budgets otherwise. Studios are sooooo expensive these days, and at the same time budgets from labels have decreased. Doing this album was a great study for me; I had to teach myself basically everything related to recording and mixing. This will enable me to take it one step further next time around. I have been making albums for fifteen years now, and it's quite amazing how much the recording process has changed during these years. When I did my first albums, it was normal to record on 12" tape, then a couple of years later it was A-dats and mini-tape recorders, then hard-disc recorders came and now we basically do everything through a computer.

CoC: How important is the role of lyrics in the general musical picture for a band like DHG? Even though I did not have access to the lyrics, I felt that songs like "Horrorizon" and "21st Century Devil" have quite a few interesting messages to convey.

V: Lyrics are very essential. Lyrics make the feeling of the song stronger, and are also the general tool for getting the "story" across. It is important that the individual lyrics relate to the songs, the album as a whole and to each other. The lyrics are not like carbon copies of each other by any means. But all of them are relevant to each other. I wanted the lyrics to be more tangible this time around, but at the same time be tabu oriented with dashes of paradoxes and irony. So even though they are tangible, you have to dig in really deep to connect with them. I think Kvohst did an excellent job both performance wise and on the lyrical side.

CoC: Can you single out any of the fifteen compositions of _Supervillain Outcast_ that you feel could work as an "ambassador" or representative of the album?

V: The initial one was "Vendetta Assassin", that's why it was stuck on the my-page a couple of months before the actual release of the album. "Vendetta" is quite easy to get into, and has a lot of variation tempo wise. This set aside, I think the album is at its strongest if you listen to the whole thing. Like I have stated previously, _Supervillain_ has this red thread strapped to it. For me the album makes the most sense when I listen to it from A to Z. I was very conscious of making an album this time where everything relates in a subtle manner. The songs, the lyrics, the cover, the pictures, the chronology, etc. -- it all adds up in the end.

CoC: I am not aware whether you plan on making a video for the new album, but I am quite curious to find out which in your opinion would be the most fitting visual representation of a DHG song.

V: I have plans about making a video, but budgets are really tight. I have to wait and see if the label comes around and grants me some money. I already have the plan for the visual and technical aspect of the video. So it's just up to the moneybag. I don't want to say too much regarding this, but I am sure when people see the actual video, it will make a lot of sense.

CoC: Early fake versions of the album have been released on the Internet since February this year, and I assume that you must be really upset about this. Do you believe that this will work for the benefit of the band or against it in terms of sales?

V: I am not really that upset. The album version that was leaked was a studio version, and not the actual album. How much it affects the sales I don't really know, and don't care much either. These are the times we live in, better to accept it. I can only hope that the people who download it buy it if they like what they hear. There is one really positive thing about downloading, the advertisement aspect of it. More people have your album even though you sell less, which means more people attend concerts. There is not much I can do about the negative aspects of it, except getting really frustrated. So why bother?

CoC: Would you say that the music press has been supportive towards the band so far in your career? What has been the reaction that you have received so far, and how important are to you as an artist the numerous reviews that have already been published? Do you feel that most people have understood the band's musical vision?

V: Press has not always been supportive. Especially with a band like us, that are kind of outcasts, even in our own genre. Times have changed though. I've talked a bit about it earlier in the interview, I believe. I have never in my career ever been handed so many great reviews. Like I said, it's been mind-blowing. I don't necessarily need people to understand the band's musical vision. I need our themes and lyrics to pose questions in the listener. To create thoughts and visions in their minds. That's the album I like the most myself, the album that speaks to you on unmusical terms.

CoC: Do you consider presenting any of these fifteen compositions in a live environment? I know quite a few people, myself included, who will be more than happy to attend a DHG show.

V: We have done two concerts in 2007 to date. Many more are planned. We play stuff from all our albums. Mostly new stuff of course, but a couple of songs from _Kronet til Konge_, a couple from _Monumental Possession_, "Traces of Reality" from _Satanic Art_, a couple from _666_ and the rest is from _Supervillain_. I don't want to give away the set. It's better to have a few surprises in store for those who might come and see us in the near future.

CoC: Have you considered what your future plans will be as far as the musical direction of DHG is concerned? What would be the next logical step in the band's career?

V: It's a difficult question, but like stated earlier, I have like twenty five new songs, and I am pretty sure some of them will be presented on the next release. In the meanwhile, I have to focus on production. What clothes to give the music, so to speak. I also have to concentrate on the visual and conceptual aspect, to take the whole thing one step further. As for now, we are happy doing some shows, and enjoying the awesome response we have been given on _Supervillain_. Musically this album is quite old already, so I am finished with the natural hibernation I have after every album. After making so much new material, which I have, I need to sit down and think a lot. To figure out what I want to get out of a new album regarding all aspects.

CoC: What is your impression of the extreme metal scene in the year 2007? Have you listened to any bands lately, regardless of style and genre, that you believe that fans of DHG should invest in?

V: I listen to a lot of music. I don't know many new bands, though. I feel the scene is slightly repetitive. As far as I am concerned, I think the people that made quality albums ten or fifteen years ago are still the major players. While I've been doing this interview, I've been listening to the new Watain and Shining albums. They are both very recommendable. Other great albums are Leonard Cohen's _Songs of Love and Hate_, both albums by Anthony and the Johnsons, The Streets' first album, Radiohead's _Hail to the Theif_, Mayhem's _Ordo ad Chao_. To mention some all time favorites as well... Darkthrone's _A Blaze in the Northern Sky_, Mayhem's _De Mysteriis_, Celtic Frost's _Into the Pandemonium_, Master's Hammer's _Ritual_, Beherit's _Drawing Down the Moon_, Depeche Mode's _Violator_, Autopsy's _Mental Funeral_, Carcass's _Symphonies of Sickness_, Dissection's _Storm of the Light's Bane_, everything by Metallica including the black album, everything by Slayer with a few exceptions, Kreator's _Pleasure to Kill_, Mercyful Fate's _Don't Break the Oath_, King Diamond's _Abigail_, etc., etc.

CoC: Thank you for doing this interview with Chronicles of Chaos, Vicotnik -- the last words are yours.

V: Thank you.

(article submitted 25/5/2007)


ALBUMS
3/27/2007 Y Stefanis 8.5 Dodheimsgard - Supervillain Outcast
GIGS
5/19/1999 P Azevedo Dimmu Borgir / Dark Funeral / Dodheimsgard / Evenfall The Darkest Night of the Year
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