One of the most controversial metal (is it still metal? or already something else?) bands around is ready to shock the world once again with its new album. "Assembly", the fifth full-length CD from Norway's Theatre of Tragedy is to be available via Nuclear Blast in late February, and in order to find out something about the record before its release we contacted guitarist Vegard K.Thorsen by e-mail to find out what's happening with the band. There is not much about the band's history in this interview, as this stuff has been discussed a million times and more, but if you want an update of the situation in the Theatre Of Tragedy camp, here are the news.
MetalKings.com: Why did you name the new album "Assembly"? The word has many meanings, which one did you imply?
Vegard: Indeed it does have many interpretations. The ones we had in mind when we chose it was the way it reflects both the band and the album; Theatre of Tragedy is a group consisting of very different personalities, with extremely varying tastes. Consequently the album is an assembly of songs with very different starting points, which is all brought together through cooperation. It sounds quite pretentious, but it is true J And besides, the word has a good ring to it.
MetalKings.com: Are you satisfied with how the album came out? Was it a difficult album to make?
Vegard: Yes, we're all quite happy about it. There are always things you'd like to do differently when considering it all in hindsight, but that's not really very productive. Better to just see it as experience, and try to avoid doing the same mistakes again. And difficult…I don't know. Balancing creativity with productivity isn't always easy, and of course there were times when things were really slow and difficult. But all in all it wasn't a struggle. Things turned out well.
MetalKings.com: Since nobody has heard the new CD in Russia so far, I cannot but ask: what direction did you follow this time? Is "Assembly" taking over where "Musique" left off or is it a new drastic change in style?
Vegard: The band seems to take its own directions, regardless of what any single band-member wants. But yes, of all the previous Theatre of Tragedy albums "Musique" is the closest one. There are no drastic changes, but we've taken things further, and things sound somewhat more refined this time. The balance between guitars and programming is better, for instance.
MetalKings.com: I have heard that you recorded a Kim Wilde cover for a B-side to the album. Why this particular singer and why this particular song? Is there anybody else that you would like to cover?
Vegard: The idea was brought forward to make a cover of some classic, and having gone through a long list of songs (all of which seemed to have been covered by other bands already) we arrived at the decision to do "Keep Me Hanging On", since it was a song we were all familiar with. I think maybe we were blinded by the catchy choruses. It wasn't an easy song to work with. We would consider doing another cover, but people being so different, the decision-making process is simply too much of a hassle.
MetalKings.com: You have two new members in the band. Where do they come from? How did you get in contact with them?
Vegard: As far as anyone have noticed the only new member is myself (shit, how can I always make stupid mistakes where I expect it the least - Roman). I knew some of the people in Theatre of Tragedy through my girlfriend, and there isn't a very large band-scene here in Stavanger. When Tommy Olsson decided to leave the band back in '99 I was asked to step in and do session guitar, and after doing that for almost a year and a half I got the opportunity to join the band.
MetalKings.com: Does "Assembly" have any lyrical concept, or is it just a collection of songs? Did you use any other languages in addition to English? Maybe some words in Russian again?
Vegard: There is no 'concept' as such, but many songs seem to have common themes, such as attraction, rejection, loss and desperation. Liv wrote all her own lyrics for this album, which worked out extremely well, since she can get more involved in what she's singing instead of performing something written by another person. That definitely had a positive impact on how the vocals influenced the songs. As to other languages, there are a couple of French words here and there. There is even a Russian phrase, following up the 'success' from "Musique".
MetalKings.com: Can you describe the songwriting process in the band? What comes first, music or lyrics?
Vegard: In 99% of all cases the music comes first. This is largely because Raymond loves his synthesizers more than the microphone, and Liv is studying in Germany. We work in several ways. When someone has an idea we either go to Raymond's home studio, or the rehearsal room. When working on "Assembly" Frank would for instance come to my place, and we'd toss things around on the computer. Different methods fit different ideas.
MetalKings.com: Are there any touring plans for this year? Is there a chance to see you in Russia?
Vegard: There will be a tour commencing on the 29th of April, in Hamburg. It ends in Stavanger on the 16th of May. We were initially planning a longer tour, but 'things' have a tendency to get in the way, and we're simply not able to do a longer tour. But we'll try to compensate by doing as many summer festivals as will have us, and possibly one-off gigs in some of the countries we don't get to do during the tour. At the moment we don't have anything planned for Russia.
MetalKings.com: What songs are you going to perform live? Will you abandon songs from your early albums because you have enough new materials, will you rearrange them to fit to your current sound or will you perform them close to the original versions?
Vegard: We will concentrate mainly on the newer material, and some of the material from the very earliest albums will have to make way for songs from "Assembly". We did play a remake of "Black As The Devil Painteth", as heard on the "Closure: Live" album, and we've received very mixed feedback on that. Some people thought it was interesting, even brave, to re-create the old songs that way; others simply hated it. It was much an experiment at the time. Maybe we'll do it again. But whichever songs we do play from the old stock, it's bound do be coloured by the way the band sounds these days.
MetalKings.com: Theatre of Tragedy has had a lot of remixes on B-sides of singles over the past few years. Why did you start doing them? What is your favourite remix of a Theatre Of Tragedy song?
Vegard: Mainly to get a different perspective on the material, surprising and maybe even challenging people with something other than what they expected. And most of the band-members like electronic music in some form or other, which probably influenced the decision to some degree. My personal favourite when out and about would be the VNV Nation remix of "Machine", but the one I've enjoyed the most is the Kallisti remix of "Radio".
MetalKings.com: What do you think about "Inperspective" and "Closure" albums? Were you involved in putting them together or were they done by Massacre on their own?
Vegard: "Inperspective" was the idea of Massacre Records, and was made wholly on their initiative. "Closure" was a bit of both; it seemed to be a very natural way of ending the contract with Massacre, and they liked the idea of a live album. So both parties were pleased.
MetalKings.com: Do you have any unreleased material from 1994-1999? If so, are you planning to release it someday?
Vegard: Well, whenever you're working on an album there is bound to be material that is left out, usually because it's now very good. There isn't any already recorded material that we're planning to release, but a dive in the old archives could be good for re-discovering the odd idea.
MetalKings.com: Does anybody in the band have side projects? Will we ever see a new solo album of Liv Kristine?
Vegard: Liv is the only one with a proper solo-project. But we all have our different inspirations, and some ideas simply don't fit Theatre of Tragedy. So it's not unlikely that there will be projects involving one or a couple of the band members.
MetalKings.com: Will there be a video for the new album? Have you ever thought of making a DVD with a live show and all the videos?
Vegard: Yes, there will be a video made for "Let Me Down", which will be released as a club single. No further videos are planned at the moment, simply because there is little chance of having it played anywhere now that VIVA Zwei 'changed' their profile. Which is sad, seeing as it was the only channel where you could hear interesting music, much unlike…that other channel. It seems quite popular for bands to release live DVDs. It is not unlikely that Theatre of Tragedy will do something like that in the future, but it is not in the cards at the moment. Before embarking on something like that we'd have to be dead sure that it would turn out a product we could really support and we're happy with.
MetalKings.com: What is your opinion on bootlegs and the MP3 thing? Do you think that Metallica was right in its actions against Napster?
Vegard: Well, we haven't exactly got money to burn, so in that respect it would of course be better for us if people bought and sold official copies. Apart from that I don't really care all that much. But I don't buy bootlegs myself, mainly because they're often of terribly poor quality and really dodgy-looking. And I really hate MP3s. Not because they 'steal from the record companies' and all that, but because they're shit. Compared to the resolution of a proper audio CD it's absolutely terrible. I do occasionally download MP3s to check things out, but I'll never settle for downloaded MP3s burnt to a CD-R; I'd rather own the CD. People are fooling themselves when they think MP3s are 'good enough'. But opinions differ, and people do as they please. And the Metallica vs. Napster thing was - and is - ridiculous.
MetalKings.com: Is there anything that you want to say to your Russian audience?
Vegard: Take care and be happy. And be good to animals! ;)
(Roman The Maniac)
Special thanks to Iris Bernotat from Focusion P&M for making this interview possible
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