Interviews > Susperia
SUSPERIA
Interview by Athena Schaffer

Susperia’s new album Attitude (Candlelight Records) is aptly titled indeed. This is one band that lets nothing get them down, no matter what obstacle is thrown in their way. The band recently and amicably changed labels because they wanted more control over their fate than “waiting around for something to happen”.

But most impressive is frontman Athera’s defiance of a life-threatening heart attack and quadruple bypass open-heart surgery, bouncing back even stronger than before. The man is already back on stage performing for rabid audiences on the heels of Attitude’s release. Athera is joined by Tjodalv on drums, Memnock on bass, and guitarists Cyrus and Elvorn.

Poised to celebrate its 10th Anniversary next year, Norway ’s Susperia have plenty of irons in the fire. Not only are they touring on the heels of Attitude’s release – which features guest appearances by Testament’s Chuck Billy and Dimmu Borgir’s Shagrath - but previous label Metal Minds Productions is re-releasing the band’s first two albums, Predominance and Vindication as a 2-disc set, chock full of extras. The band has plans to unleash a DVD retrospective – a must for any fan!

The first video from Attitude is currently in the works, for the song "Character Flaw", helmed by producer/director Daniel Bones. Until it’s anticipated release, we’re going to have to content ourselves with their previous "Devil May Care" .

The Crowgrrl caught up with Memnock by phone late last June, the very day before Athera was set to make his triumphant return to the live stage at the Steinkjer Festival in Norway!

First and foremost: how’s Athera doing?

He’s doing great right now. We’re doing our first show tomorrow with him. He’s happy, in great shape, he’s better than ever. His vocals are better than ever. He’s fine.

So he’s ready for the festival tomorrow?

Definitely! He’s really been looking forward to it. Today we just had our last rehearsal before we leave, and he said, “Wow! This is going to be so good to get back onstage!” He’s really ready to show everybody that he’s back in shape, and that this big operation won’t affect his voice or anything. It’s actually the contrary! His vocals sound better now – that’s from my point of view!

Really?! Because his vocals have always been amazing anyway!

Yeah, but you see, when you do a big operation like this, when you open your chest, your lung collapses and everything. You have to really, really work to build up that lung capacity again. He had, obviously, to stop smoking, so I think that might have had something to do with it because now it just seems like his voice is more powerful and it’s clear! We’re really happy!

Awesome! Do you have any long-form tour plans yet? Is he up for that?

We’re doing 11 dates in Norway, so he’s really up for that. We’re also doing a small tour again in the UK later on this year. Hopefully eventually we will get to the United States, but I can’t even start promising anything, as usual.

Yeah! You just recently did the UK! How did that go?

That was fine. As you know, we had a replacement singer. He did a great job, but he wasn’t Athera. That’s the most I can say about that. He’s a great guy and does a great job, but he’s a totally different singer than Athera is. He sounds like Rob Halford on speed! He’s a real cool guy, but we’re glad to have Athera back. It’s been the same line-up for so many years, that just to have somebody else interferes with the routine. It’s like an old marriage!

OK, back to Attitude – excellent album by the way – how did the songwriting process work for this one? Was it the same as your previous ones, or did you do things different this time around?

Well, what was the most different part was that we didn’t actually rehearse the songs before we recorded them. Usually you make the songs, then you go rehearse them for 2 or 3 months, then you record them. This time around we just sat down in the studio, we made the songs – we discussed which riffs should go where and how to do it. Basically we just made the songs in the studio, then we recorded them.

Wow! Really?! The album sounds so Polished…so Perfect!

Thanks! We put a lot of time into it, don’t get me wrong. When I said we did it “in studio”, we also did this pre-production thing. It’s just programmed drums and stuff like that. What we did was make rough ideas on the songs, then just finalized them in the studio. It’s like we had put a lot of effort into them, but we didn’t rehearse the songs like we usually do. That’s the major difference.

OK, so did you already have the lyrics in place? Did you already know where you were going with each song?

At least Athera did, as he always does. He worked really, really hard this time. He worked for almost 10 hours each day this time trying to figure out some good lyrics. He really worked hard! I wrote some lines in some songs, which he thought was a good idea so he basically used them. Everybody put their efforts into the music this time around, but still it’s Athera who does mostly the vocal lines. That’s just how it is.

"Elegy & Suffering" is one of my favorites on the album. It’s both beautiful and terrifying at the same time! Any inspirations behind that one?

I think it’s just basically Athera. He’s a very sensitive guy. He just likes to write about things that happen in Life. Basically now I think it was all about some guy’s life that was really, really hard. A friend of his suffered a lot in life, and he just wanted to write maybe a tribute to him or something. Then again, sometimes he just writes fiction. But for this particular song he told me that he was going to write about his friend. I think that’s really nice because it’s a good song. I like the way it’s done!

Yeah, and the foundations and musicianship are brilliant!

Cool! Thanks! It’s a very good song. We actually play it live and when we play it live, it comes out great because the audience sings along.

"Another Turn" is another one of my favorites. Any stories behind that one?

I don’t know, to be honest. It sounds like it, doesn’t it?! It sounds really, really sad! But here’s the bummer – when Athera wrote the lyrics, he wasn’t aware of his situation with his heart. Then he had his heart attack. Then he got all well from his heart attack, but then his Mom died.

It’s like, “Athera did you actually know what was going to happen?” Because the lyrics in the song sound like he was writing about his own life! We were getting goosebumps! We were like, “Athera, what’s happening here?”

He said, “I haven’t a clue! I can’t even start writing lyrics anymore, because if this is what happens when I write lyrics, Man, this is scary!”

It’s interesting, isn’t it?! So we tend to joke about, ”OK, you wrote about your own life, I guess!”

Other than that, it’s all about emotions, feelings, the usual things.

"Character Flaw" just plain Rocks Out! It’s very catchy. Are you going to possibly put that out as a single?

I wish! For some reason the record label doesn’t do singles anymore, especially not with a band our size. They think it won’t make enough money, blah, blah, blah. But we’re going to do a music video for it anyway. We have already recorded the video, which will be done in the late Summer. That song is a very good song. It could’ve been a single, it could’ve been a hit – I would have wanted it as a radio hit.

It would make a great video and great live song!

Oh, we are playing it live, and it’s fantastic! It’s so cool playing it live, actually, because - I don’t want to sound like any of those Idol guys or anything – but it’s got “the groove”. It really does! You can’t listen to the song without nodding. It really, really gets you! I’m looking forward to playing it live tomorrow, actually.

Very cool! Are you going to be filming the festival?

I think we’re going to film it. I think that was already planned.

Do you have a personal favorite song on the new album?

Yes! It’s the title song, actually.

Ah! That one has a sexy vibe to it – kind-of a swagger.

It’s really cool because to me, it just puts things in perspective. I’ve got a lot of friends who really, really need to change their attitude towards Life. They too much talk about too many bad things. It’s like, “You really need to change your attitude, Man!” And they’re like, “Why?” “Whatever! Just listen to the song, and you’ll get the picture.”

The cover art – I actually know people like that. All Mouth! – How did the cover art come about?

There you go! That’s the thing, again! Some people are just all Mouth, nothing else! The picture just says it all, doesn’t it?! It’s all about the wrong attitudes. I know a lot of people like that, but I won’t mention names right now.

The guy who has done our covers since we first started came up with this idea and showed it to us. The guy on the cover – I don’t know the name for this disease – but he’s got no hair whatsoever. It’s a rare disease. We just took a picture of him standing there on his own, and then we took a picture of Athera’s mouth and put it over his head. That’s actually Athera’s mouth. We had lots of names that we wanted to call the album, and me and our guitar player said, “Let’s just call it Attitude, because that’s what we’re all about.” We’ve got an attitude, people have an attitude, and big mouth people really have an attitude.

You mentioned you’re doing a video for "Character Flaw" – it’s already been filmed?

We filmed it last Saturday, actually.

Any fun stories?

There’s not too much I can reveal right now, but you will see a lot of the CD cover in it. There will be a wasteland, lots of destruction, that type of thing. The guy who filmed it is tight-fisted, and said, “I will show you when it’s all done”.

I can’t really tell you all of the stories because it’s more like a performance video from our point of view, but from his point of view, “No, it’s not! I’m going to make a story out of it.” So, we’ll see. It should be exciting!

Do you have any long-form DVD plans?

We will have our 10th Anniversary next year. Susperia started as a band in 1999, but the band wasn’t called Susperia and we didn’t release an album until 2000. We will have the 10th Anniversary next year, and we’re planning on having all the crazy things we’ve done throughout these 10 years on the DVD. I hope it won’t get too boring for everyone! So, that’s the plan.

You had Chuck Billy and Shagrath make guest vocal appearances on the album?! Which songs and how did that come about?

The first song is "Live My Dreams" with Chuck Billy. It’s so funny because people come to me and say, “Wow! How were you able to get him to do that?”

Well, I was drunk sitting backstage, and Chuck Billy was there. I turned to him and asked “Do you want to do some vocals on our new album?” He said, “Sure!” And that was it! End of story. That’s how easy it can be if you try.

Yeah, but he’s a legend! And a cancer-survivor! I have nothing but admiration for him!

Me neither! He’s fantastic! You know, the Testament guys are very down-to-earth. We’ve done one tour with Testament. We were doing the first Original Line-up tour they had, we were touring with them. Everything they did, whatever they said, whatever happened, they were so cool! They helped us out. When it was our guitarist’s birthday, they took us out and got us pitch drunk. They just did all these cool things for us all the time. It just felt so natural just asking Chuck if he wanted to do some vocals because he really likes Susperia.

That’s the beauty also about technology because we were really short on time. We had 2 weeks until we were supposed to mix the album, and nothing had happened. Basically we just sent him some MP3’s of the song, he recorded some vocals, and he sent it back. That’s it! That’s how it turned out. It was as easy as that. Technology is a beauty!

Yes it is, when it works. When it doesn’t want to cooperate, that’s a different story.

Yep! I know!

Metal Minds Productions is re-releasing some of your earlier albums?

True. That’s interesting, isn’t it?!

Is that leading up to the Anniversary Celebration?

That would be fantastic if they could put a big boost around it, which I hope they do, that will just be even better because then we can put a whole packaging to the 10th Anniversary thing.

It’s funny – I just looked at the pictures from the first album. “Hmm…did I really look that young? I’ve gained that much weight since then?” I wish I could’ve just stayed like that forever. It really gets to you because it’s like 2 or 3 years in between every album. But on the first album, I just looked like a kid! Get a grip!

So they’re going to release that – the two first albums – along with a lot of extra pictures, touring passes, and a whole bunch of old stories, histories, and things like that. I think it’s going to be really cool! We’ll wait and see.

Speaking of technology, how Hands-On are you guys with your Myspace page and website?

We’re actually updating it a lot, we’re using it a lot after we got a new webmaster for our website. It’s been really, really good, surprisingly good, actually. We’ve also got Twitter so we’re really into the technology these days, aren’t we?! Wow! I’ve got my own Myspace, Tjodalv has his own Myspace, Athera has his own Myspace. We’re all on Facebook. We love technology!

Is there anything that I didn’t ask that you’d like to tell our readers?

Just if you haven’t checked out Susperia yet, check out the new album and see if you like it. Hopefully you do. Other than that, I’m just enjoying the sunshine. It’s summer in Norway, and it’s really hot.

“Hot” is a relative term. How warm does it get there?

I’m not sure the temperature in Fahrenheit, but it’s 25C in the shadows, which is rather warm to be Norway. There’s no icebergs in the streets right now.

You also have a lot of sunlight, more daylight this time of year, don’t you?!

In Summertime, the sun stays out until 12. We have Midnight Sun and everything. That’s nice! But then again, it’s hard to get your kids to sleep. “Why am I going to sleep? It’s still sunny outside!” It’s tough! LOL!