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donderdag 04 juni 2009
Susperia: After The Narrow Escape...

Interview with vocalist Athera of Susperia by Vera in May 2009

Text: Vera
Pics: thanks to Kjell Ivan Lund

Life is precious. Life is fragile. Athera, frontman of Norwegian based finest act Susperia knows everything about it. After many years presence in rock ‘n metal he was warned by fate: right before the release of their fifth studio album ‘Attitude’, the metal scene was shocked by his sudden admission into hospital for a serious operation following his recent heart attack. It is terrifying how sudden health problems can change your life. I sent some questions about Athera’s feels and the new album ‘Attitude’ to Norway and folks; this is how our reborn frontman reacted. All hailz to Athera and Susperia!

The news struck the metal community as a bolt from the blue! You had a heart attack followed by heavy open-heart surgery. How are you now?
I am good thanx! It has been a special time for me the last couple of months and the experience certainly made its mark on me, but against all odds I pulled through it and had successful surgery that fixed the problems my heart suffered. The recovery has been going as it should and today I feel even better than I did before all this happened.

But most of all it must have been very terrifying for you! Did you have some signs before it occurred now that you look back on the time right before?
Yeah I had some strange feelings in my body some time before this. Felt very tired some days and dizzy the next and my back hurt a bit and different symptoms. But I have had this latent for many years without knowing it. I knew my heart sometimes struggled and acted strange but no doctor could ever tell me what was wrong so I just took it for granted that it was supposed to behave this way. But one day the heart couldn`t take it anymore, the arteries became too narrow and it almost stopped... The actual attack was quite a horrific experience I tell you and nothing I would wish upon even my worst enemy... Luckily I was with a friend so the ambulance could find me.

How long is the recovery period and can you keep yourself busy a little bit during this time? (hm well, this interview of course hehe but I can image it is a kind of torture to keep calm for a busy musician as you are)
My heart is OK again actually right after surgery and beating like hell with fresh new connected veins so that`s no problem. The thing that takes time to heal is the fracture from the opening of my chest. This takes 3 months to fully heal and that is why I have to take it easy, and not jump around on a stage or travel too much. I have no problem singing. I had several rehearsals with the band before they went on tour now, coaching the replacement singer and trying the new songs myself for fun, and it went fine. Actually I sing better now than I have ever done, based on me quitting smoking and having more lung capacity since I had to have special lung exercises after the operation. It all feels much easier and smoother now, I like it a lot. It is not a torture to relax, it feels good. But it`s torture to not being able to do the tour, shows are sold out and stuff, when I actually feel like I could have done it. But better listen to the doctors and wait a little bit more.

I guess a lot of reflective thoughts cross your mind when something like this happens?
You can say you get a different perspective on things yes. I don`t get so annoyed with the little things anymore, and take more notice of and appreciate other things in life now. I feel more harmonious with life itself. I haven`t seen the light or anything but things are certainly different. I would never ever dare to touch any kind of drugs anymore and I don`t understand now how people can pull smoke into their lungs and stuff like that, even though I used to love it. I guess you must go through something like this to realize the dangers and insanity of some of the bad things in life.

Yes, sometimes I am afraid that it will happen to me as well. A sudden change, while life is going on for so much people, putting me at the edge of eternity. Strange! It can end in a minute! But let us focus on ‘Attitude’ now, the fifth studio album that has recently hit the shops. It marks the first record on a new label, Candlelight. Two previous ones came out on Tabu (which is now Indie Rec I guess). Can you tell something more about the label switch and your expectations?
Actually Indie was started by some of the people working in the Tabu/Tuba system, so that`s different companies. Tabu was so manned down it didn`t seem right for us anymore to continue the relationship. And when they said we were free to go we did. Candlelight has been our distributor in the USA on the last two albums and done a fantastic job over there, so we talked to them about signing on and it worked out in the end. So we are now signed to Candlelight worldwide and under one roof so to speak, which feels secure and nice.

‘Cut From Stone’ came out in 2007. Could you support this album with touring/gigs? Which ones can you tell something more about (as you toured with great bands in the past!)
Not long after ‘Cut From Stone’ hit the streets early 2007 we got offered the main support spot on the WASP European tour, which we of course said yes to. We had several successful shows in the U.K. and as many as 7 gigs in our home country, which was a particularly nice part of the tour. It`s a privilege to tour with legends such as this.

What about the writing process of ‘Attitude’? Usually you and Cyrus do the main writing. Was it different this time?
The majority of the songs are written by him and me, but that`s just a part of the whole process. A song is never finished just because the lyrics and riffs are written. They are arranged and re-arranged and stripped down and pieced back together. This is a process that everyone participated in deeply this time, especially compared to the last album, which was made during a difficult period within the band. But that`s all history now. We have always worked close together on our material. We have spent much time at Memnock`s cabin deep in the forest over the years making many of our songs as a strong unit. But ‘Attitude’ is the album that has taken the longest time making. Not because we had problems making songs. But because it has been tested and recorded again and again in pre-production over a long period of time. Instead of rushing out an album we took the time to finish everything prior to the actual main recording.

Can you go a bit deeper into the lyrical contents of ‘Attitude’?
What do you want me to say?? He he. I sit down with a drink or a beer alone somewhere and start to write. Sometimes the stuff is usable and sometimes it is thrown away. It`s strange, I set out with one idea sometimes and the next day when I read the lyrics again that I wrote the day before, it seems to be about something completely different. Basic rules: no politics and no religion. I write personal stuff inspired by things that have happened to me or people close to me. Sometimes all fictional lyrics about a certain emotion, feeling or specific situations. And some close to truth. One of the new ones, ‘Sick Bastard’, is inspired by the gruesome acts of Josef Fritzl and his molestation and abuse of his family. So my lyrics are mostly about human emotions and shit that happens in life. It`s funny how many of my lyrics now come back to bite me in the ass..... Strange to read some of them again, they fit me now after I nearly ended my life with carelessness....

I have the impression that ‘Attitude’ is more melodic then ‘Cut From Stone’ or am I wrong?
Some say that, some say it`s harder... All comes down to individual taste I guess. Susperia has always been about melody. Emotional and memorable melodies. I guess that`s why Cyrus and me work so good together. He plays melancholy, I sing it. And the band completes it. ‘Elegy and Suffering’ is maybe the most melodic song we have made in a long time, and I really like that one. We have been looking for a new "Devil May Care" kind of landmark in our musical world, and I feel we accomplished that with that one.

I see the album came into being with mainly the same guys in the studio, what were remarkable differences in the recording process this time?
We felt confident doing the drums and vocals again in Strand Studio. We have done everything there since the ‘Devil May Care’ EP in 2005. The only difference in the actual recording was the fact that all guitars and bass were recorded at Cyrus` new studio at his house. There we had the freedom to work whenever we wanted under no stress or pressure. And Cyrus knows what he wants. But Marius Strand is a real professional when it comes down to drum and vocal recording, and I especially like to work with him. ‘Cut From Stone’ was mixed by Daniel Bergstrand and turned out quite OK, but we felt something was missing and we really wanted to go back to Fredman Studios for the mix, given the fact that ‘Unlimited’ is our most successful album to date and the one everybody talks about. So we must have done something right. It turned out to be the perfect solution and ‘Attitude’ has the best sound ever out of anything we have released.

You have two infamous guests on the album: Chuck Billy (Testament) and Shagrath (Dimmu Borgir). How did this idea come into being and can you tell about their contribution?
We have become good friends with the Testament guys over the years. It all started back in 2001 when Eric Peterson contacted me and told me he really liked our debut album. I was quite flattered since Testament has been my favourite band since I was a kid. We stayed in touch and in 2005 we had the honour of being main support on their re-union tour with the original line-up. One of the best tours we have done. It was there we talked about Chuck or Eric doing something on the then upcoming album ‘Cut From Stone’. But we didn`t get it together. So I contacted Chuck late last year and asked if he had time to do a song now, and he managed to squeeze it in during Christmas holidays, just in time for the mix in January, ha ha. But glad we did it, coz it sounds awesome the song we did together. Strange and cool having him singing my lyrics on our songs, but it was a perfect match. Since he contributed, we also asked our good friend Shagrath if he too would do a song with me. So I took him to the studio after I was finished and spent a couple of hours jamming some stuff that turned out cool as well!

Great all the way! On another level: the artwork is done by Rune Tyvold. That’s a guy you have worked with before, isn’t it?
You could say that. Actually right from the very beginning in 1999 and the very first demo CD pictures. So you could say we have all come a long way, ha ha. Rune has done all the artwork and covers on all our six releases. We call him the sixth member of the band.

The UK tour starts the 18th of May and the band will hit the road with an interim vocalist. What are your thoughts about this and who is the stand-in vocalist?
His name is Bernt Fjellestad and he usually sings in a band called Guardians of Time. He is an educated singer and has a characteristic classical power/rock voice. Not the deepest growler but better to have a singer with the right technique to master most of my stuff. A pure growler with a limited range would not work out. My initial thoughts when getting sick were that the tour must happen coz it was very important since the album was coming out at the same time. And I felt confident we would find a replacement after some auditions. Luckily many were interested and it worked out. As I mentioned I coached him a bit at rehearsals, he stayed at my house when he was here and I drove him to the airport and sent the band off and told them to raise hell in the U.K. for me. I feel OK about it as long as the turn out at the shows is so good, and it`s vital for the band to do this tour. I only wish I could be there myself. But my time will come soon enough again.

What are the prospects on your return on stage?
As of mid June I am 100% recovered and ready. So my return to stage will happen at the Steinkjer Festival in Trondheim, Norway on the 26th of June. Will be damned nice!

Where does your nickname Athera come from?
Derived from letters of my last name actually (Pal Mathiesen). It doesn’t mean a thing really. We decided to have simple nicknames in the band when we formed 10 years ago since Tjodalv was already a brand and some of us had complicated Norwegian names hard to pronounce, hehe.

Your way of singing is pretty powerful, so I guess you are cautiously informing yourself about how to manage it in future? Are there things you have to be careful with?
Nothing at all! When I am recovered there is nothing wrong with me. And I am already in better shape than I have been for over ten years! I sound strange maybe, but since I survived and got lucky they managed to fix my heart, so I am just like the next guy in the street, totally normal. And I even have more power in my lungs and throat now. And do not get sore or tired in my voice at all, like I could at occasions before. So the future looks very bright.

How would you describe ‘Attitude’ in your own words to recommend it to the people?
It is another child of the family Susperia. And something we care a lot for. And we want our fans and potential listeners to care for it and like it just as much. We put our hearts and soul into our music and we do it not only for ourselves, but also for you. And we strive to make it better and better each time. We feel we have come through once more and this time the album spans over our entire existence and back catalogue. It has sounds and emotions of all the corners we have explored. So as a fan of the band we hope you will be exited and satisfied. And for new folks tuning in we believe there is something for every taste of metal in there. A cocktail of good metal music! There you go, hope you enjoy it, and looking forward to see you on the road. Hail life, and hail metal!!

Yours truly,


Geplaatst door Vera op donderdag 04 juni 2009 - 17:41:47
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