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donderdag 21 februari 2008
Saturnus On The Road

Interview with vocalist Thomas AG Jensen and bassist Brian Hansen of Saturnus by Vera in October 2007

November 2006 was a memorable time for doom fans. Under the flag of Metalzone Doomfest, bands like Novembers Doom, Saturnus and Agalloch toured in the Netherlands and Belgium for the very first time, all this supported by Belgian pride Thurisaz. Of course we had an interview with Saturnus back then. They appeared to have fun in these gigs and it was a beginning of more live appearances than before. In the summer of 2007 the band embarked for eminent beer country Czech Republic and in October they were back in Belgium for an exclusive gig. We descended into the catacombs of the Biebob to ask a few questions to vocalist Thomas AG Jensen and “lost son” bass player Brian Hansen right before their two hours gig in Belgium.

We enter the place quite early to check out our interview possibilities, as agreed with the band. We are lucky to assist the whole soundcheck and have a first glimpse of what we may expect this evening. Some surprises as well. Funeral decided to stay home and it means that Saturnus will perform two hours long. Though I’d like to see Funeral, this is a unique occasion to get into the atmospheric, melodic doom experience to the max. After the soundcheck, vocalist Thomas AG Jensen decides to take bass player Brian Hansen underground for the interview because he just returned to the band after a hiatus of several years. He was one of the founding members (in 1990 Thomas and he founded the death metal band Assesins, a pre-Saturnus outfit) who left the band after ‘Martyre’ to be part of Of The Wand And The Moon with former mainman Kim Larsen, but friendship survived all times and he rejoined the band as we speak. We went down the basement and had the following update, with the debonair Thomas as main speaking partner and soundcheck of Ataraxie as quite disturbing factor.

We picked up the thread at the time of their former European tour with Novembers Doom. It was a rather short tour for Saturnus that occluded their live adventure in their hometown Copenhagen, more precisely at Christiania, the infamous hippie conglomerate in the Danish capital Copenhagen.

The gig at Christiania was the final live experience for you at that tour last year. It might have been a special one?
Thomas: It is always amazing to play in Christiania. Let us say, it is not my home-base, but it is close to my home. I have some personal connections to the area Christiania, I have been there many times because my big brother is living there and I have been there many times in my childhood. Returning to the venue was quite special as well because it was an old place where soldiers used to eat; it is with wood on the floor and stone walls, it has a really special atmosphere. Compared with any other venue in Copenhagen is always different, because it has a special atmosphere. People who come there want to listen to music, they do not come only for the party afterwards. They are focused on you and the music. That tells a lot about the atmosphere. It was special too because of Agalloch and Thurisaz are good friends from Belgium here and we loved to show them this atmosphere. It was also the end of the tour for us, sad but true. So that evening was really unforgettable. The crowd was amazing, also for Novembers Doom. You can read their reactions on that night in their diary. I have nothing but good words for that evening, though it was sad as well, because we had to say goodbye to all our new friends of Thurisaz and Novembers Doom. Things had to come to an end and unfortunately it was the end for us that night.

But the result of this friendship was touring in the United States and play at Chicago Powerfest. What about this experience?
Thomas: The Chicago Powerfest was a big venue, about five hundred people I think. Atheist was the headliner of that festival, so it was very special for me personally. Opening for Atheist was amazing; it is something I have been growing up with. If they should have told me five years ago “Hey, you are going to support Atheist In Chicago”, I would have thought they are lying. But it was true! And America… well, it was just fantastic. As Europeans we are used to small things, for example, to go there in New York and Manhattan and seeing all the big buildings was amazing. We had a show in the centre of Manhattan. And we had a show four kilometres outside Washington. The trip took twenty four hours but it was worth the travel. But it was great to see those buildings and actually see a yellow cab in real life. Standing on Time Square, seeing Ground Zero, being up on the Empire State Building, I only knew those things from television or movies. And all the bands we played with, all four bands, also Daylight Dies, they were so calm and down to earth. The mentality over there is amazing, something like “We are similar friends, we play music and it doesn’t matter if you sell millions of copies or two thousand copies.” Especially the after-party in Chicago! We partied with Atheist, Solitude Aeturnus and Novembers Doom of course, and all the other bands. And it was amazing. There were no star attitudes, everybody was equal. It is something especially Danish people could learn from.

What were your impressions of the American lifestyle?
Thomas: I am glad to live in Europe. In America, you can see the rich neighbourhood: people have money there. You see the poor ones and they really have nothing. Everything is big, everything is huge: the cars, the houses, the people are big…

The meals…
Thomas: Indeed! If you order a regular meal in McDonald’s, you don’t get a regular sized coke, no, you get half a litre coke. If you order something extra, you get one litre! But it was great and hopefully we can do a full American tour in future.

On the other side of the spectrum, you went to the East and played in Moscow. What about this trip?
Thomas: Haha, that was crazy! I think the Moscow show is on my top 5 of the best performances ever in my career, because the reaction of the people was really amazing. People were so kind. It is also funny to see the culture there. I had an opinion about Moscow that was wrong. I expected it to be… not nasty, but old-fashioned, you know what I mean. I was really surprised to walk the streets of Moscow and see that all the ladies were good-looking and beautiful dressed up, everybody is really slim, the bands were well equipped and up to date. Time has really changed a lot in Moscow. All the impressions I got from home changed when staying in Russia for a while.

In August the band played in Czech Republic at the Brutal Assault Festival and now in October they are on stage again.
Thomas: This is the only gig outside Denmark. We have two shows in Denmark before the end of the year and then we close the touring books (laughs) and hopefully start working on new material. Then we play a couple of shows in a part of Denmark we have not been since the release of ‘Veronica Decides To Die’. We have only played in Copenhagen, so we have been missing a lot of places and we have to refresh the memory of the Danish crowds. But this place here at the Biebob is amazing. I looked forward to come back here!

Novembers Doom is coming back in November here as well. They are going to record a DVD here. Don’t you think “Maybe we can do that next time too”?
Thomas: Yeah, we have been talking about that, because the place is really good and it is not too big. If the Metal Female Fest would not happen today, maybe some more people would come. Maybe some day in future we will talk with Carl about recording a DVD here.

Are you working on new songs?
Thomas: We have been doing some small parts for new numbers, but we have not recorded anything.
Brian: We have a lot of ideas, after the shows we will focus on new things and hopefully it will develop quick, because we want a new album out soon again.

Do you have an idea about the studio you will enter?
Thomas: No, maybe we will use another studio next time, but nothing has been planned yet.

Today we notice a change in the line-up. Lennart the bass player is not with you anymore?
Thomas: He is not in the band anymore. Actually we have not said anything about it, because we wanted a working silence to focus on the new man in the band, Brian, and learn the songs to play live. He has only been here for five weeks. But after the shows people will talk and then we will announce it officially.

Are you working on the new songs as well?
Brian: Yes, I am just working with all the guys now.
Thomas: Of course he will contribute, because Brian has played on the first three Saturnus albums, he is the old bass player.

Ah you returned! You were one of the three musicians that left the band after ‘Martyre’?
Brian (laughs): Indeed, returned from the grave!
Thomas: It was really natural for Brian to come back. The only thing that is different from the old days is that it is a new drummer and it is a new guitarist, because Peter plays with us for about ten years, so Brian has played with him as well. Only Nikolaj on drums and Tais on guitar is new for Brian. When we started to rehearse the songs for the gigs, he only had to learn the new songs. It was really easy and natural to ask Brian to come back again.

Brian was already with them as a friend when they played at the Brutal Assault Festival. Indeed, when we looked at our recordings of that show at home, we saw Brian, sitting in the back on stage and taking pictures of the band. Funny! Later he told me that he has a side project with Thomas too, called Wizards Of Doom. And he once started Assesins with Thomas, the pre-Saturnus death metal band. Brian still plays with Of The Wand And The Moon and he was also the singer and bassist of The Loveless

What do you think about the support band Ataraxie?
Thomas: I think they are very good. We played one time with them at Dutch Doom Day last year. They played just before us. They are ponderous heavy and we are more melodic. I think it is a good mixture.

The fact that you play more often live now, is it reflected in the sales? Do you follow that?
Thomas: Actually I do not have an idea, but we can see it on our and on all the emails we receive. It has a positive effect. For example people are talking about the show here last time and they come back. It is the same with people in America. They want us to come back. So I think all the concerts have been really good in a promotional way. I cannot say anything about record sales because I do not have and idea how many records we sold.

Are you in close contact with Firebox?
Thomas: We are. The next album will come out at Firebox and then we will see what happens.

Do you put up some clips or shows on or ?
Thomas: We have been recording some shows and putting some songs up on myspace, we have some clips on youtube, but these are recordings of fans from Moscow. It is bootleg material but it is really good.

Dinner was ready for the guys and to occlude, Thomas says:
Just to make it clear: we have not separated with Lennart, the old bassist, in a bad way. We are still friends, it has nothing to do with our friendship!

A bit later Saturnus plays a marvellous show of two hours long with many old and new songs! It was the concert of the year for me (see our lists of the year)

Live pics by Vera at Brutal Assault festival, Czech Republic 2007

Geplaatst door Vera op donderdag 21 februari 2008 - 22:05:41
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