Interview by Ann Sulaiman
Saturnus are an interesting band: down to earth guys, mesmerising music live and on record. Really just the ideal kind of band you want to talk to, on the night of an exclusive show in your home city. So I caught a hold of lead singer Thomas that night, where we talked about the differences between London and Denmark, Scandinavian culture and how King Diamond never comes home (so to speak).
Hey guys, So why the exclusive show?
We don’t have any other UK shows planned this year, that’s why! We need to focus on making the new album and composing numbers for it. While there is more tour planning for later this year, England isn’t included as it’s centred on the Eastern part of Europe.
I noticed that some bands do steer clear of the UK, if they don’t touch London. Why do you think that is?
I dunno, but from Copenhagen in Denmark, I’d say that it’s a little bit more difficult to reach; you have to either fly or sail in on the ferry. With Copenhagen to London, it’s going from one island to another.
Many Danish bands tend to go the other way around, like if they go to Sweden, they can go through Jutland (another part of Denmark, but connected to Germany) and then further up.
This is our third time in London though, and I think it’s pretty good! The first time we came here was about five years ago, when we played in Doom Over London festival at The Purple Turtle.
And how does it feel to come back?
Nice! I love London; I come here at least twice a year as a tourist. I watch a lot of wrestling, so I go to see WWE shows at the O2 Academy.
What impressions have you gained of the London metal scene?
I think it’s really similar to Denmark, with small venues and crowds. That’s pretty much like being home! The people here are really calm and nice… I don’t have anything bad to say about that.
We’ve also played in Liverpool and Derby, where we saw the same thing. The only thing that changed for us were the dialects! (laughs)
You’ve obviously heard that Denmark isn’t seen as a “metal” country, compared to Sweden and Norway…
I don’t know why this is, but I think that when bands have the trademark of being from Denmark, the record companies don’t want to touch them.
But… King Diamond!
Yeah, but he lives in America, and all of his musicians aren’t Danish anymore – just him! Even though I’m a huge King Diamond fan, I don’t consider him to be “Danish” in that way; he doesn’t even come very often to Denmark whenever he tours. Many times he’ll skip over the country, like all the other bands, and every time he does come, he keeps promising to return with an extra special show to make up for this.
(Aside from him) we have Volbeat now, who are really famous. Maybe they can move around the globe a little bit, and open some doors for everyone else in Denmark.
I don’t know why (we have this issue)… I think the Danish culture is more like, “You can’t do something that you’re good at and be proud of it”, because then people will say bad words about you and backstab you.
Sounds a little like what I’ve heard about Swedish culture, save that no one wants to hear about you unless you’re the absolute best at what you do.
Well, we have played with a Swedish guitarist before the last album, who did a lot of touring with us. He said – and I don’t know if it’s true – that in Sweden, you can apply for the government to pay your salary, if you’re a musician (because they respect culture and the arts). In Denmark, it’s not like that.
We need that in the UK, too: music venues have been shut down over the years, due to financial issues.
I can imagine that what he said is true – when you look at the Swedish metal scene, it’s huge, and goes from traditional to extreme metal. We Danes could learn about that!
Saturnus has had an interesting evolution between a rather “gothic” style of metal, to one which incorporates more rock melodies. Talk to me about this.
I think that we’ve been pretty true to our own style throughout the years… if you look at our first album, it’s closer to doom metal in that it’s more slow and dark, and then from there the music and atmosphere develop onwards to become more gothic like Theatre of Tragedy.
In the middle of our career, it goes like that. Then we returned to our roots, and also made it more melodic and slow.
Your music gets described as death/doom metal. Whenever people talk about that genre, either they mean romantic, “gothy” bands like My Dying Bride or Theatre of Tragedy, or slowed down death metal alá Hooded Menace and disEMBOWELMENT. What do you think about this issue?
I’d say that the only way that [Saturnus] are death metal are the vocals! I also think that this is why we get the mark of “death/doom”, though we have our own style. We just compose from our hearts, and do what we feel is right.
What you hear is what you get!
Currently, there is concern over freedom of expression throughout Europe, going by the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo murders and (more recently) the shooting in Copenhagen, which is believed to be connected to it.
(Deep breath) I would say that I knew it would come, the terrorist attack in Copenhagen! In Denmark, we are adamant about freedom of speech, and I think that you should follow that.
I also think it’s silly, because I don’t understand religion… I do understand that people need to hold onto something in life, as they can’t take the fact that there’s nothing after death: I see religion as a substitute for that.
Denmark has changed now, and when you see the cops going around, they have machine guns, which they never had before.
I mean, Copenhagen’s the fairy tale city! (laughs)
How do you think that this will impact culture, especially music, in future?
I don’t think that it will impact music, but it will have a big impact on culture, because many Danes will be afraid of the Islamic world as well as the Muslims in our society.
There have also been many things in the news about kindergarden, where they were told not to serve pig because Muslim children can’t eat it. Well, we know that and respect that, but you can’t tell the whole kindergarden not to serve it to the other children! That’s one development, and it just makes people angrier. I think that if the Islamic community doesn’t make an example of themselves to show that they’re actually friendly, then (it won’t improve).
I respect different cultures, but I don’t respect those who don’t understand our way of life, when they’re in my country. I work as a bus driver, and seventy per cent of my friends there are Muslim; I respect them and their traditions, but they also have to respect me and mine.
What do you think the metal world would do, to stand up for free expression in general? These days, we also have talk about the genre losing its teeth due to commercialism…
I don’t know! I don’t think so much about what our expressions are, or what other people are doing. When I listen to a band, I don’t read the lyrics: if I like the music, that’s what’s important to me. And if it’s a good lyric, that’s just another plus.
Some would certainly disagree with you, there! Others say that lyrics matter, because they don’t want to listen to songs about rape, or that they refuse to touch Burzum due to Varg’s NS beliefs.
I think that that’s ridiculous! If the song is good, then the song is good. For example, I’m a big fan of a Belgian band called The Plague of Gentlemen, and their lead singer was arrested for sexually mistreating small children. What he did was horrible, and he deserves the greatest punishment possible for it, but this won’t keep me from listening to their record. The rest of the band didn’t even know about his actions.
If you look at the black metal scene in Norway, people had burned down churches and killed each other, yet this didn’t keep anyone from continuing to listen to them.