author AP date 30/07/12

On the 20th of June, Danish sludge/southern/doom rock group Helhorse (formerly known as Dødning) played a special show at Loppen to showcase their new, as-of-yet untitled new album to an enraptured audience, playing the whole thing front to back. Before the show, we took the opportunity to sit down with Mikkel Wad Larsen (vocals) and Søren Nybo Hansen (bass) to discuss the current state of the band, their recent bout of touring, the state of the Danish metal scene anno 2012, as well as the upcoming sophomore album. Read all about it in the transcript below.

RF.net: So what’s new with Helhorse?
Mikkel: What’s new? A lot’s new! We’re in the studio now, recording our second album. We’re doing a special one-off tonight at Loppen playing our album live, to kind-of get out of the studio for a day and try the stuff out live, to see what really works and what doesn’t work. Hopefully, most of it works! It’s been a pretty busy spring for us. We’ve toured a lot: with HateSphere in Denmark, a headliner in Germany and Austria and writing new stuff.

RF.net: How were those shows in Germany and Austria?

Mikkel: Really, really good; really good!

Søren: Actually really good!

RF.net: So a lot of people came?

Søren: Actually, yeah. Some Danes came as well in Austria, so: pretty cool. Despite having a breakdown in our van. The gearbox went, fifth and sixth gear went, so we couldn’t drive more than eighty miles an hour... eighty kilometres an hour! So we had to cancel Switzerland, but, we’re planning on coming back, hopefully.

Mikkel: Probably in December or something like that.

Søren: We don’t like to have cancelled that. We really tried but it was impossible. It would have cost us €1400 to play that one show, so we decided just to get home... and that was hard enough! But, other than that, the shows we did were fine.

Mikkel: Berlin was really good, especially.

Søren: The first leg we had Thursday, Friday, Saturday: two weeks in a row. First we did Hamburg Berlin and Waldkirchen - some punker squat in the middle of nowhere...

Mikkel: A farm somewhere.

Søren: ... and that was a really good week. Hamburg and Berlin were great, and then we did Jena where we played a small bar. They were okay with the number of people but it was vacation. It’s a university town and it was spring break, so most people were home. But Innsbruck was very good as well.

RF.net: And do the people out there know your songs and sing along?

Mikkel: Well, we were headlining that tour so they bought the ticket because of us. The merchandise sales were really good and it really seemed as though people wanted to check us out and find out who we were.

RF.net: We’re really excited to hear this new album tonight. How’s it going in the studio?
Mikkel: Very well, very well. We’re working with a new guy called Emil Buus, a relatively young, new producer. He’s really really cool. He has a great set of ears on him and he’s helping us go in new directions, I would say.

Søren: Yeah, we wanted to have a more rock feel to it, a bit more open and a few more hookSøren: vocal things. We introduced a Hammond organ as well. So, it’s new but it’s not a departure from our old style; still riffs all over but with more hooks on the vocal side.

Mikkel: We’re trying out a lot of stuff!

RF.net: How has the recording process differed from when you did “For Wolves and Vultures”?

Mikkel: I would say its a bit more... I don’t know!

Søren: I think you can say it’s the same. We tried to record everything live, so the guitars and base are recorded in takes and then we edit the takes together. It’s a bit more refined than last time. I think last time we were new to playing together. I just came into the band 9 months before we went into the studio last time so I felt more comfortable this time. And we’d been touring; that showed. We had a good feel to it and it was easier for us to get some good takes, but, we tried to maintain that seventies style to it with the live takes.

Mikkel: We are kind of old school the way we record: everybody in one room, the rest of the band sits and everyone is there. It’s a very collective process.

Søren: It’s more about the groove than the details. It’s more the feel of the whole song.

RF.net: So you don’t care if theres some kind of little scratch here and there?

Søren: There are scratches everywhere! There were on the first one as well! But yeah, it’s the big picture that counts... although it has to sound okay.

Mikkel: We are also human. We don’t play tech metal; we don’t play very technical stuff. So its all about the groove and it’s about the song. So, if the song works and the collective works, that’s the most important thing.

RF.net: How was the writing done? Was it written by one person or did you collaborate?

Mikkel: It’s a collaboration but I would say that Søren and Aske did a lot of the stuff this time.

Søren: But we all chipped in actually. Everyone has a song that was mostly written by someone, but it’s a collective process always. We try to have packets of riffs that work together. Then someone introduces this package and we see what happens, “oh, this doesn’t work”, then we change around the riffs. So, it’s more or less all chipping in; it’s not one person at all. Of course, there has to be something when you start, but...

RF.net: Has it come easily or did it take a long time to write the songs?

Mikkel: I think we started out having a bit of a block actually but then we sat down, set some deadlines and it started flowing.

Søren: I think that we didn’t know where we were going in the beginning, so we wrote a lot of very melodic stuff, very “laaaaaahhhh” harmonies and I don’t know what!

Mikkel: Very epic!

Søren: Then we had a detour with some weird reggae stuff and then we kind-of found the link.

RF.net: Is any of that stuff still in there?

Søren: Actually, we had a song with a working title of “reggae song”, just to call it something, but theres one riff that’s still there. Actually two: one of them is a kind of melodic verse and the other is as it was.

Mikkel: I’m pretty sure anyone who likes dance hall would very much not call that reggae.

Søren: Perverted reggae!

RF.net: We’re going to notice it then?

Mikkel: Maybe if you’re some kind of beat fascist you’ll hear it. It’s just the vibe you know. Don’t worry; it’s not reggae!

Søren: That seems to be the thing with this one. We were all over the place and then it just funnelled down to the ten or thirteen songs we have now.

Mikkel: I think that’s a good way for us to write stuff. We really need to try everything out and were not afraid to try it on an audience either. So, if you go to Helhorse shows, you can experience a bit of it. Sometimes its good and sometimes it’Søren: “ah, we need to go back and work some more on it”. But, we need to try it out because we have to stay curious, y’know?

RF.net: What differences can we expect to hear in the new stuff compared to the old sound on “For Wolves and Vultures”?
Søren: I would say, mostly it’s just better, more composed songs from A to B. We’ve been very, very attentive to the fact that it needs to have structure and it needs to start off and finish up in a way that makes sense.

Mikkel: … and the keys.

Søren: Aske has worked a lot with his Hammond and the Rhodes has a more melodic part now. It had on the first one, but, he plays it better and it has a bigger part now. The keys have a slightly bigger role. It doesn’t take over the stage but it’s a fuller - more than it was on the first album. It fills out the gaps in the songs.

Mikkel: It does, yeah. And, as Søren said, our stuff is a bit more rock-ish now. It still has the diversity that the first album has - it still has songs that are like two minutes of punk rage - but, you also have two ballads on the album, including the glue which is our groove stuff. So, the structure is the same; they’re simply better songs.

RF.net: You said online that there were going to be more melodies in the new record. Are those changes going to have an impact on your live performances at all?

Søren: No.

Mikkel: We don’t do stuff in the studio that we can’t do live. Not the important stuff, anyway. I don’t think it’s going to be any more down-tuned or less powerful. I think it’s still going to be pretty energetic. We have a big advantage that we have three guys who can sing, two guys apart from me. Stephan can play the guitar and sing pretty advanced second vocals. So we’re not cheating in that way.

Søren: No. We just like to play. No matter what we play, when there’s an audience and the count-in is done, then it’s just the same as the first time.

RF.net: Do you have a release date?
Mikkel: No. We don’t actually. I think we have a plan that we have to go through the whole process again: of labels and shit like that. It’s a pain in the ass, but, it’s just a fact of life. I think we have a plan that it has to be released in Spring next year: March-ish. We simply don’t want to wait as long as we did the last time. That was one and a half years.

RF.net: So you had already recorded the last one when you were still called Dødning?

Mikkel: Yeah. But that was a process that wasn’t without its advantages because we went through a whole process where we changed our name, became a better live act and played more shows. So, when we look back it now, I think it made sense to do it that way.

RF.net: You’ve been touring a lot this year, supporting HateSphere and doing some major headline shows. What are your plans for the rest of this year?
Mikkel: I think the fall is going to be mainly just planning the release. Hopefully we’re doing some supports. We’re playing with Crowbar at Beta on August 5th. Hopefully some other stuff will turn up and, hopefully, our European agent is planning a tour again in December. So, not as many live shows but we need to keep the engine running. We are very much a live band; we need to play live. And then we’re going full on in 2013 with, hopefully, a Danish headline show, a European headline show, hopefully some festivals... just getting as much as we can!

RF.net: You took a break from recording to attend Copenhell this year, in the audience this time. How do you think it compared to last year?
Mikkel: Apart from the fact that we didn’t play, I think it was way better because the line-up was stronger, there were more people, the atmosphere was fantastic, the weather was better! I love that festival.

Søren: Not as much rain. Yeah, it’s a feast. I’m looking forward to next year already.

Mikkel: I think it’s really fantastic that something like that is possible in Denmark.

RF.net: So, which acts do you think stole the show?

Mikkel: I think, for me personally, it was very much Gojira.

Søren: Immortal. I’m not a big Immortal fan, but, God damn, they played their asses off. That was the best black metal show I’ve ever seen. I really dug that. And Meshuggah was really great as well.

RF.net: Did you enjoy Immortal’s face expressions?

Søren: Oh, yes! Oh, yes!

Mikkel: He learnt the crab. He’s going to do the crab tonight.

RF.net: We have a gallery of images up on the site that’s pretty entertaining! Anyway, Copenhell has seen pretty strong growth since its first year; I think it doubled its ticket sales this year. So, what do you think of the health of the Danish metal scene in general at the moment?
Mikkel: Oh, that’s a good question! Well, if you look at it from a shallow point of view you could say that, commercially, it’s in decline because the bigger names are maybe struggling a bit, but I would say that, artistically, it’s probably never been stronger. I think we have a fantastic scene just here in Copenhagen. The bands we play with and the bands we listen to: just awesome!

Søren: Pet the Preacher. They’re record is great. It’s going to be fantastic. Scarred by Beauty has had a weird year...

Mikkel: … a busy year...

Søren: … toured all over. But it seems there’s a bit of a generation change, like Mikkel said. The bigger bands are in their fourth or fifth incarnation. There aren’t that many bigger bands. It’s only Volbeat, more or less, that can pull a crowd. It has to happen; there has to be a new generation coming up. It looks good.

Mikkel: I think it looks really good. I seriously think we are on the brink of what you might call a “third wave”. If you had the first wave, the ‘90s, with the death metal stuff and you had the second wave with Mnemic and HateSphere, I think we’re on the brink of a third wave but this time it’s actually coming from Copenhagen and that’s kind of interesting.

RF.net: So, what other upcoming bands, apart from Pet the Preacher, do you think our readers should check out, Danish or otherwise?
Søren: Actually, Revolt of Darkness. I’ve dug them a bit. We’ve played with them once. They have a really good energy live. I have to say, I haven’t heard their records, but I really think they’re onto something.

Mikkel: Absolutely. I don’t know if they’re categorised as upcoming anymore, but, I’m a big Rising fan. And I would also say, just internationally, definitely a lot of interesting things are happening as well... damnit the name escapes me now, stuff I just heard. What was that called? Sludge-ish kind of stuff.

RF.net: What do you think of this djent movement that’s just picking up popularity now?
Mikkel: Well actually, it might not be my style personally, but, I have to tip my hat to guys like The Interbeing: very, very talented young people and very accomplished songwriters and stuff like that. I like it, but I mean, I don’t even know how new it is because I’ve been a Textures fan for many years and apparently now they’re “djent”. Four years ago, they were tech metal and nobody kind-of cared about them, but now they’re djent and they’re hot shit! So, that’s funny. I like it. I really like some of it. I mean, I think some of it is kind-of boring, but I like the stuff that has song structure and is not just a display of skill.

Søren: I think it says a lot about me, but, I didn’t know what the “djent” movement was! Haha!

Mikkel: Well you did, you just called it something else!

RF.net: Any final thoughts that you’d like to share?
Mikkel: Just stick around. Check out our website. Stay tuned to the news; a lot of interesting things are going to happen in the Helhorse camp and we can’t wait to play the album live and throw out some teasers for you guys during the fall. Support the scene man. Show up to your shows!

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