Interview with drummer Mikke Norén, Impious (February 13th 2007)

Hi, even though you’re Swedish and we’re a Danish based webzine, I’d like to do this interview in English, both to avoid misinterpretations of words, and because we print our interviews in English anyway – I hope you don’t mind. 

First off I just want to congratulate you on your new album, the sixth if I’m correct. To new fans could your please fill us in on the history behind it all?
Mikke - Thank you! We are really happy with the result. I think it turned out fucking awesome! But actually, it’s our fifth full-length album. The first Impious album was released in 1998 and since then we’ve released four albums and one EP. The new album “Holy Murder Masquerade” is released by Metal Blade Records, and so is the album before, entitled “Hellucinate”. Our earlier albums were released by Black Sun Records and Hammerheart Records/Karmageddon Media. In 2000 there were a few line-up changes and Erik Peterson was added to the band. And in 2002 I joined the band since Ulf Johansson left the band. And the line-up hasn’t changed since. We’re a solid group and we’ve always had a really good time with each other. 

How has your new album been received by the media – are you satisfied with the reviews so far?
What do you hope that this album will bring for you?

Mikke - The new album have really been over our expectations when it comes to reviews in the press. I haven’t seen a single bad review. So we’re really glad about that. And the fans seem to happier than ever with our music, so we have nothing to complain about! As with any release, we really hope that this album will get us more gigs and more fans. We love to do live shows, and it is what we do best so we definitely hope we’ll get tons of shows with this album. And also, we want to do bigger tours and tour parts of the world which we’ve never been to before. And we’ve just signed with a new management, which definitely will lead to more gigs. 

I’ve had the opportunity to listen to the new album the last week, and though I’m normally not that much into the death scene material, it really caught me. I know artists don¹t like to put a label on their music - but yours seem to be a mixture of several styles and directions, how would you describe your music, and how did you come to this mixture?
Mikke - I agree. I think we’ve never been afraid of mixing new elements and stuff into our music which we haven’t done before. We don’t have any boundaries when we make music. If it’s good - it’s good, and it’ll probably make the album. I think many bands today are scared to push the limits and bring new influences into their music. I think it’s because we listen to all kinds of music within the band. With “Holy Murder Masquerade” we’ve not only gotten excellent reviews in metal magazines, but also hardcore and rock magazines. I’m pretty sure there’s something for everyone in our music. 

If your music was an emotion, which one would it be?
Mikke - I would absolutely say excited ness, arousal and aggression. Because when you listen to Impious you just want to get it on and go fucking nuts, in a good way. 

Who and what inspires you when you write a song? Can you guide us through the creation of a song?
Mikke - Well, Valle does about 99% of the song writing. He does demos and stuff at home on his computer. Then he gives us the stuff and we take it to our rehearsal studio. Sometimes we change some stuff that we don’t like and sometimes we just add some bits. But when we recorded “Holy Murder Masquerade” we actually made some parts and even songs as we were recording the drums. So when I was recording drums in one room of the studio, the other guys sat in a room just next to mine and wrote songs. I think it turned out amazingly good, and in this way every one in the band contributed to the album. 

Which subjects do your lyrics refer to, and who writes them? And what inspires you when you write your lyrics?
Mikke - On our earlier albums we did a lot of lyrics about today’s society. It involved relationships, drugs, crime and death. There are so many things to get inspired by with all this shit that’s going on in the world. However, since the lyrics on “Holy Murder Masquerade” follow a concept this was quite different. It was Martin and Valle who did all the lyrics for the new album and I love the way they turned out. 

On your new album you’ve written a conceptual story – how did you come up with the idea, and why exactly write about an insane mass murderer (are you inspired by actual events, or is it just imaginary?)?
Mikke - It all started when we released “Hellucinate” in 2004. We got a lot of good reviews but we heard a lot that the album wasn’t particularly original, and that made us and especially Valle think. He knew that he didn’t want to change where our music was going, so we had to change something else. And that’s when he came up with the idea of a concept album. Nothing particularly original about that either, and that’s when he came up with the idea to make it like a comic. So we all sat down and came up with this story. We had a couple of other ideas for the story but maybe we’ll use it some other time. We weren’t inspired by any actual event. We just wanted to come up with a cool story. And I really think we did. 

Do you think you could get accused of inspiring someone to do the same as in your story?
Mikke - No I don’t really think no one of our listeners will get the idea to kill their family just because it’s God’s will. I’m sure it’s happened before and it might happen again, there are some crazy people out there, but because of a concept album? I certainly hope not. 

Andrea Cavaletto has done the comics artwork for your new album – how did you get the idea that it should be done as a comic, and how did you in touch with him to do it? Did he do the front cover as well, and how is it connected to the story of the album?
How important do you feel it is to have a great cover/booklet, and are you satisfied with the result?

Mikke - When we’d decided to do a concept album and to make it like a comic, we obviously had to find someone who could do comics and knew how to make it look good, ‘cause we certainly could not. And we all knew that we weren’t interested in making it look like your average Marvel Comics cartoon, we wanted it to be much more dark and realistic. So we started to search the internet for suitable artists, and someone found this guy Andrea, who does art for a living. We told him what we were looking for and he did some pretty wicked art for us. We are very satisfied with what he did for us. The cover was done by an American guy named Justin Kamerer whom we came in contact with a few months ago when he did a t-shirt design for us. The cover is a picture of a mask, representing the mask of Jesus, which our main character Trent wears as he commits these murders. We thought it would fit our album perfectly since it’s a pretty dark album but with a cool touch to it. These days when a lot of people download your music, you have to give them something extra which hopefully will make them want to buy your album. I hope people who download this album will check the booklet out, since it’s a big part of the album. 

Who has produced and mixed the album? Are you pleased with the result?
Mikke - Valle produced the album and Chris Silver at Studio Mega mixed the album. This is the fourth album we mixed at Studio Mega and we knew that Chris knew what we wanted so we kind of gave him free hands. And we are very happy with the result. I think it turned out really good. 

What was the hardest part in making the new album?
Mikke - Without a doubt making this whole comic story and music come together and to make it sound good. It’s hard to transform a story into an album, no doubt about that. 

Do you have any immediate touring plans for 2007 – is there any chance we might catch you on the European festival scene in the summer?
Mikke - We’ve been offered a couple of tours so far so I’m pretty sure there will be a whole bunch of shows this year. We hope to do some European, American and Japanese tours and I think, and definitely hope, that we’ll play some European shows this year. Let’s hope for it. 

Let’s speculate – you have been granted a free slot on a tour of your own choice – who would be your ideal touring partners?
Mikke - Oh this is a big one. I’d probably say Metallica, (since they pull about the biggest crowds possible for metal shows), The Black Dahlia Murder (they’re awesome guys who do awesome music, and we’ve had a blast with them before), As I Lay Dying (they’re our label mates and a kick ass band, I would love to tour with those guys) and some MTV rap star so that we could get some nice chicks to the shows. 

What do you consider to be the biggest accomplishment for you and Impious, not necessarily sales wise? What are the strengths and where can you improve?
Mikke - The biggest thing we accomplished with Impious is all of our live shows. It is thanks to our live shows we’ve gotten most of our fans, it’s thanks to our shows that we get to see all new and cool people all over the world and it’s thanks to our shows we got signed to one of the biggest labels for heavy music. We’ve always been a good live band and the only thing we need to improve is that we don’t do enough shows. 

How do you feel about the co-operation with your current label? You’ve had some label changes through your band history, is it because of differences or “just climbing the ladder” to still bigger labels?
Mikke - Metal Blade have been very good to us. They’ve always had a good reputation and been treating their bands very well. They know music business and they’ve always done what is good for us. It has always been one of our goals to get signed by a big label. We always knew we would be picked up by one sooner or later. The other labels we’ve had have most certainly helped us in one way or another but we’ve always had our eyes set at one step higher. And right now I’m very happy to say that we are at the top when it comes to our label. We couldn’t possibly ask for a better one. 

The internet is a very important source for many metal fans – how do you use the internet and how important do you think it is for you and other bands?
Mikke - Internet is an excellent way to find new music and to spread your own. We update our Myspace site every couple of days and our regular home site every once in a while. I listen to tons of new bands every week over the internet, I’m a real music-enthusiast and I look for new bans and new music all the time. So I’m really happy with the way bands use the internet. I know what the labels think about sharing music but I love it. If I like an album I get of the internet, I will buy it. No doubt about that. If every band had to spread their music the old fashioned way, it would take a hell of a longer time than it would take to just upload their songs on Myspace. So that’s great. 

How do you feel about the metal scene in general at the moment, and what in your opinion is the most exciting thing going on right now?
Mikke - I really enjoy the metal bands today. Although I think too many bands try to sound like each other these days. But I love this new breed of metal bands. Bands like Parkway Drive, A Day To Remember, and Bleed The Sky etc really get my attention. I easily get bored of just listening to the same bands and same music all the time so I need new stuff to listen to all the time. 

Which song do you consider to be the best one you have ever written?
Mikke - Oh shit. I really like "Death On Floor 44" and "The Confession" of the new album, but I also like "Bloodspill Revelation" and "Digital Devil" of our older CD’s. So I’d probably try to pick one of those tracks. 

Name an album, person or event that has had a huge influence on your life … and why?
Impious – My life definitely changed when I heard the Dark Funeral album “Secrets Of The Black Arts” about 11 years ago. I was about 12 years at the time and I had never heard anything like it. I’d listened to bands like Dismember and Entombed earlier so I had been into extreme music for a while but this album really got to me. 

Which music do you listen to at home?
Mikke - When I’m at home I listen to a lot of Metal of course, but I enjoy all kinds of music. I listen to a lot of hardcore, screamo, pop, punk, indie... Whatever makes me feel good. Or bad. 

Which five albums would you bring on your iPod to a deserted island?
Mikke - I’d definitely bring:

  • Parkway Drive – Killing With A Smile, ‘because it’s probably one of the best albums ever made.

  • Atreyu – A Deathgrip On Yesterday, ‘because it’s an excellent party album when I drink island-beer

  • Mew – Frengers, ‘because I’d need something to chill out to when I’m on the beach drinking island-beer.

  • Underoath – They’re Only Chasing Safety, ‘because I’d need something to feel sad to when I miss regular beer.

  • And some “The Best of” album by Iron Maiden ‘cause who can live without “No More Lies” and “The Trooper”?

I thank you very much for participating in this interview and sharing this information and your thoughts with us - these last lines are entirely for you. Any final words you would like to round off with?
Mikke - Thank you for this interview! And everyone should check out “Holy Murder Masquerade” and 

I hope y’all will get a lot of free booze in your lives. Take care!
- Mikke - Impious

Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions, and good luck with your further career – I hope to hear a lot from you in the future!Claus Melsen

Impious - Holy Murder Masquerade

Album available on Metal Blade Records.

For more info on Impious - click on the album cover.