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November 3, 1999
The artists formerly known as Covenant are back with the follow-up to the critically acclaimed 'Nexus Polaris'. With the release of 'Animatronic' the band's name has not changed so much as morphed into The Kovenant. In fact, it appears that fans are witness to a shape-shift on every level. The music, while still rooted in the black arts and chock full of catchy metal riffage, is clearly electronic in nature. And not only has the band embraced a new "look" to usher in the next millenium, but the band members have changed their stage names. In light of this transformation, the Metal Update scheduled an interview with guitarist Psy Coma to find out what on earth these guys are up to.
METAL UPDATE: Hello, Psy Coma?
PSY COMA: Yeah.
MU: Formerly known as.
MU: A lot has changed in the world of Kovenant.
PC: Yeah it did. I mean for the casual viewer it seems like a lot of things coming at the same time, but it's been a gradual process. We developed from being what we were to what we are now, and actually it took like a year or so. Its not like we just said BAM one day and changed stuff, you know. It was like a gradual, gradual process for us.
MU: How did the name change come about?
PC: Um, well actually you know that was something that we knew about for a long time, but there's a Swedish Techno dance outfit or something called Covenant with a "C". We kind of like argued about that for a couple of years until the situation was resolved.
MU: Do you think its kind of fitting that the name has changed and now you' ve got a "K", and your musical style is really kind of going off in a different direction?
PC: Yeah I think so. You know, we could have done whatever. I mean we could've chosen a completely new name, you know? I think it is fitting if you look at it from that point of view, its sort of like we industrialized the name in a way. It's kind of interesting, I think.
MU: Do you still consider it the same band as Covenant with a "C"?
PC: Definitely. It is the same band, you know, but its like we sort of reinvented ourselves, so it's just like the rebirth of the band. We reinvented the whole thing based upon some of the same ideas.
MU: Who's in the band right now?
PC: Well, apparently me on guitar, Lex Icon vocalist and bassist.
MU: And what was Lex Icon's old name?
PC: And Hellhammer who is actually using his real name, which is Von Blomberg.
MU: So that's his real name?
PC: Actually yeah, it is. Parts of it anyway, the best parts. (laughs)
MU: Where did you and Lex Icon get your names?
PC: I wanted to have a stage name or alter ego within the band that can symbolize and emphasize something larger. My name says something about Coma and Psy. Which, for me, is like Psychic Coma. It's sort of like personification of the world's stupidity. I don't know if you're aware of Lex Icon having quite an interesting double meaning in the Scandinavian countries. If you put those two words together you get lexicon which is a Norwegian word for like an encyclopedia.
MU: In English it is like a dictionary. So is that where it comes from?
PC: No it comes from Lex and Icon. He suddenly got this idea to transform himself into Lex Icon. It's not meant as an encyclopedia. It says something about icons and it says something about worshipping. Sort of like the larger approach on life that we seem to have on a lot of things. It's not meant as a joke or anything
MU: So now the band is down to three members.
PC: Yeah, you know we are three people, a steady lineup with some session musicians coming here and there all depending on what we do. We have a session guitarist for sure, and you know we'll see what we need on different occasions, but we're building towards the whole lineup being somewhat around four or five people in the long run. We don't want to rush into things right now. When we do something we're gonna focus on getting some session people until we can find the right people for the job.
MU: Who played on "Animatronic" besides you core three?
PC: Well no one. Well, except the female vocalist of course. A German opera singer actually. She is a professional opera singer and hired in to do all that stuff.
MU: Has she made a name for herself in the world of metal? Does she do any other metal stuff?
PC: Oh no, definitely not. She's not into metal. She's like a professional opera singer. Actually she's not into - she told us that she never listened to rock or pop or anything. She was doing it for - she knew some of our studio technicians and stuff. She's doing it because she's interested in trying out new stuff, you know? She's definitely interested in getting her name in the metal scene, I think.
MU: And what about the rumors that Marilyn Manson was involved?
PC: Sorry? (laughs heartily) That's quite funny!
MU: So there's no truth to that.
PC: No, man. But uh. I don't know what to say about that.
PC: Well, I can't really say that he was. To my knowledge at least.
MU: Who produced the album?
PC: Siggi Bemm produced it.
MU: The same dude that produced the last album.
MU: Was this also done at Woodhouse studios?
PC: Yeah, it was. We spent actually almost three months at Woodhouse studios in completing this album.
MU: And what's your history before getting into Kovenant? What bands were you involved with?
PC: Actually no one, so that' my history for you in a nutshell.
MU: How did you hook up with Nagash?
PC: Well basically we've known each other since we were children - in like primary school and stuff. So, you know we've been friends. We just started playing together and formed the band later.
MU: Now obviously he used to play with Dimmu, and those guys are all pretty young. Are you guys also relatively young?
PC: Yeah, we're from 21 to 30. I don't know if that classifies as young or old.
MU: Do you feel like your roots are still in black metal?
PC: Mmmm. I mean, we've been colored by the black metal scene. I view it as we sucked the mentality and inspiration out of the black metal scene, and then we moved on. But we were colored by the black metal scene and it is reflected in the music.
MU: Earlier Covenant is definitely very different from a lot of the other black metal that was out there, but the roots still seem to be there as far as the keyboards kind of intertwining with the guitar. With this new record the guitar really stands out. You've got a lot of really amazing metal riffage going on there. What kind of drove that?
PC: Well you know, I mean like in comparison to 'Nexus Polaris', I think this new album is just a step in our own direction. I just wanted guitar life.I just wanted the guitar dynamics of modern metal music. I wanted to incorporate other guitar dynamics, other rhythm dynamics into our music instead of the old formula based upon 80's heavy metal in a way. Yeah we just wanted to get our sound more up to date and make music for the future, not retro music from the past.
MU: But, I'll go so far as to say that as much as 'Animatronic' is up to date and new and fresh, the guitar sound and the riffs and the solos are pure metal.
PC: They are. That's part of the symbiosis that we find interesting in Kovenant. That we will combine traditional - well traditional from our point of view anyway - elements from the metal scene with new fresh elements from the metal scene. I'm not saying that we are making a revolutionizing album for the whole music industry or whatever. But, you know, coming from our point of view and the scene we have been living in, then it is a fresh and new album. That's the point. I mean you can look upon it from two points of view. You can see it from the outside and the mainstream world, and it's an industrial and electronic record with a strange vocal to it. From a Black Metal point of view its sort of like creative and - well I would love to think it's creative and original anyway - but its definitely pushing the barriers of extreme metal. In the end, we just do whatever we want to do I guess. Of course there'll be metal in us, our souls are pure metal of course and we don't want to lose the aggression.
MU: There's been a lot of industrialized projects out there that all seem to ignore the guitar and guitar solos, whereas this has ripping leads throughout.
PC: Yeah, I mean even if we might be interested in stuff like industrial and stuff like that, we're not gonna ever let some part dominate the sound too much. We like a nice mixture between different kinds of stuff. Industrial, electric, goth and maybe some more traditional stuff. We try to keep things in balance, to let it sound interesting.
MU: I think you have obviously combined all of these elements together, and you have come up with a very unique sound. I mean, there's not anything else out there in the metal scene right now that has the same sound that this album does. I will ask you on that note, who do you think your peers are? Who else is doing anything like this?
PC: It's a difficult question, actually. I actually haven't thought about that. I mean were not really reflecting ourselves upon other bands you know, and this time we went really to great lengths to find our own distinct individuality within this music. It's not easy to compare to other bands. From a black metal point of view there's a band called Samael whose evolution can sort of be compared to us.
MU: I think that's a reasonable comparison. Except I think Samael lost the guitar a little bit.
PC: Its like they went to another studio and tried to produce the sound from Woodhouse, and it turned out not as good as Woodhouse.
MU: What does 'Animatronic' have to offer the traditional black metal fan who knows that Kovenant grew out of that scene?
PC: I think it's an aggressive, dark, rhythmic album. It promotes and proclaims the essential ideas of black metal. Not the cliched, glamorized version of black metal, but the original black metal ideas of rebellion and going against the masses. It's expressed throughout the album. I definitely think it's an album for black metal people, too.
MU: Is it a black metal album?
PC: No, it's not a black metal album. It has its black metal influences, and aspirations, but it's not a black metal album. We don't limit ourselves to black metal.
MU: Is it a satanic album?
PC: In some aspects. It's not important for us to go out and proclaim Satanism. That is not something that is a goal, but if someone were to come and ask if there's a Satanic message in some of this we'd say, "some of it, yes." We have personal ideas that can be compared to such a thing. We're not officially proclaiming Satanism, but on a personal level, I would like to state that Lex Icon is very much considering himself a Satanist in the social statement tradition. I don't really identify too much with that definition, but our statement can sometimes be related to modern Satanism.
MU: Is there still a galactic feel to it?
PC: Definitely. We're all interested and occupied with that. Although there's not so much stuff like science fiction lyrical themes on this album, I think its to an even greater extent an album about all those things. It's just on a more realistic, down-to-earth level to really get the point across. There's conspiracy theories. There's a lot of different theories about space - sort of abstract and existential themes on the album. A lot of futuristic ideas.
MU: Are you going to take this album on the road?
PC: Oh definitely, definitely. I mean, the main goal for us after releasing this album is to tour as much as possible.
MU: Do you have tour plans right now?
PC: In the works, actually. First we're concentrating on the European tour somewhere around January or February. Then we're going to probably concentrate on an American tour.
MU: Do you know who you are going to tour with in Europe?
PC: No, I actually don't have any clue. Well, I have some clue of the direction, but it's nothing confirmed right now. We're setting up a package.
MU: What's the dream tour?
PC: The dream tour for Kovenant would be to support a bigger band. I don't know if we could get Jim Morrison out of the grave. We'd stick an electric guitar up someone's ass and we could metalize the Doors. (raucous laughter) That would be really cool. I don't know. Ministry could be a really cool thing if could get that walking corpse on stage. Five years ago that would be a cool thing. We would really like to tour with Samael, too. We tried to do it on several occasions, but now they just did a U.S. tour so they're not going to come around again for a long time, I think. But that would be a cool. It would be cool for us to tour together because we're on the same mental level as those guys. There's so many bands out there that it would be cool to tour with. We're definitely interested in broadening people's perspective when it comes to music, so we would like to support slightly different bands on a major tour.
MU: You would like to expand the fan base a little bit.
PC: Definitely. You know, in some ways what we are doing is sort of like - well, when you get to a certain point you get to the point where you are sort of like preaching to convert ears. Yeah, of course we want to reach a larger and more varied fan base. The people who liked the last album are going to like it anyway - whatever kind of scene they come from. But, for us, it would be interesting to get out to other kinds of people, too. I think there's a big potential for the goth scene and electronical scene with this album, too.
MU: For those that haven't heard the new album, what does it sound like?
PC: It sounds like post-apocalyptic nuclear meltdown. It sounds like futuristic metal. Aggressive. Futuristic. Spacey. Metal. It's a dynamic, interesting, weird, psycho album.
MU: 'Animatronic' combines industrial, techno and metal better than any other attempt that I've heard.
PC: Thank you. We didn't want to become an industrial band or something, but I think the atmosphere is industrial. We think it's very interesting. But I always mix heavy metal guitars in there. Basically we're just making the music that we haven't found ourselves. We are trying to make the ideal record that we'd like to listen to ourselves. We have this vision of the ultimate music and we reach towards creating that.
MU: So you guys are not in direct competition with anyone?
PC: No we're not. We're just doing our own thing, and we don't have anything to prove. You know, there was a lot of pressure on the new album. There was so much going on with 'Nexus Polaris' and people were trying to pressure us. We just said, "Fuck you, we don't need your pressure. We don' t have to prove anything."
MU: Is it fair to say that this album is so different from 'Nexus Polaris' that you're not even in competition with yourselves?
PC: I would hope so. That was almost the idea. We pushed ourselves with the last album to do the best we could within that direction. To try to top that again, for us, would be stupid. We did something that we're really proud of, and then moved on in other directions.
MU: It seems that there was a lot of classical music influence on 'Nexus Polaris' and that has been replaced by a techno influence.
PC: Exactly. That's an interesting observation, actually. The classical influence resulted from me, personally, having piano and classical music lessons. I was very interested in how stuff like that was arranged and scales and stuff like that. That was one of the most obvious choices for selections for this new album - that we didn't want to keep that neo-classic approach in our music - because that would really mark the album as an eighties heavy metal thing again. We wanted to really have a futuristic, modern, milleniumish sound.
MU: And it's produced very tight, and very electronic. Did Hellhammer play real drums on the album?
PC: Yeah, actually, he did. There's a lot of different stuff done with the drums after actual recording. But, yeah, he's playing a real drum kit. What you do is you hook up the drums with a triggering system which basically sends messages to a computer whenever he hits the drum. Basically, we will take the echo and sound resonance from the real drum kit and on top of that include a double set of echoes or another totally different drum sound. What we're doing is keeping the original drum sound from the mics and at the same time we're adding drum sounds from a drum machine or a computer or whatever.
MU: So is there going to be an 'Animatronic' remix album?
PC: I don't think there will be a remix album, but remixes are interesting from an artistic point of view. It is interesting to see how people would interact and interpret your songs. I am not really into remixes like, you know, hip hop remixes or disco remixes. That's kind of like consumer products. That's not so cool. You know, if someone will interpret a song and do it differently that's quite interesting, but I don't think the whole CD like all the big American bands seem to do. Just put out the remix CD to sell the music twice - that's not a good thing.
MU: So you don't see Kovenant as a consumer product?
PC: No. I don't truly. Yeah, we're a consumer product because we're selling a product, of course. We're selling ourselves. It's like ultimate prostitution. For us, personally, we have integrity and artistic integrity. We firmly do what we want to do and what we believe in, so I don't think that we are doing this to create a product or anything like that.
MU: Have you put much effort into the look of the band and the marketing of the band?
PC: We're getting more and more into it. The look of the band is more now a natural reaction of spontaneous ideas. Some stuff we plan and build up over time, you know? Marketing, too - we're getting much more into how everything works and we want things to be well done. All the aspects of the band should reflect each other. We're interested in what is written, what is pressed and how we're advertised.
MU: How will the old material mix with the new songs in the live set?
PC: What we're doing from the old albums is what is most adaptable towards the new direction. We adapt the old songs to a new style of playing. And, also, we have a lot of stuff run synthetic on stage with sequencers and shit and the old albums were not made with that intention. So, it's a little bit of fucking around there, too. We are changing the solos a bit. I am doing solos that I've never played. I am doing my own solos on stage the way I would have done it.
MU: Did you play all the solos on the new album?
MU: And how about on 'Nexus Polaris' - did Astennu play all the solos?
PC: Not all the solos, I guess he played something like 80% and I played the rest. That was his job description.
MU: I think the guitar work on this album is better than on 'Nexus Polaris'.
PC: Yeah, I think so, too. That was just me - one guitarist - and Astennu is not really the best rhythmical player so there can be a lot less problems with tightness and stuff like that. That's cool that you say that because I am actually very excited to play all the guitars. The solo thing was actually kind of weird because I never actually recorded the main lead work for an album, so I was kind of nervous and freaking out. I knew I could do it, but I hadn't actually done it and put it down to tape. That was kind of a tense situation, but that was a good thing - to prove to myself that I could do that.
MU: So you are the lead guitarist.
PC: Yeah, I guess I can define myself as the lead guitarist.
MU: Will you get a session musician on tour?
PC: We have a session guitarist on tour, yeah. He'll be the second guitarist - rhythms and stuff. I'm doing all the leads and shit.
MU: How real is the possibility that you'll come to the United States?
PC: It's a very real possibility. Both us and are manager are very focused on getting to the American market and getting to do a proper tour in the states. We want to have the right tour and do it properly.
MU: Nuclear Blast's site mentions that your live show will have visual effects. What's the story with that?
PC: Yeah, we want to reproduce the band on stage at the same level that we do with the music. That's one part that can be quite tricky because it can cost a lot of money to realize full ideas. We have some really over the top plans and we will hopefully realize them gradually. We want to really emphasize our opinions, attitude and lyrical ideas with the stage show. There's going to be some quite extraordinary things. We want to really create an out-of-earthly experience. We want to reproduce a visual appearance of another place - the Kovenant dimension.
MU: I am thinking lasers and Pink Floyd.
PC: Definitely lasers and pyros and weird stuff. We're having some stuff designed. Whether we can use all this stuff is another thing. One thing is to have it made and another is to put it into practical use. The whole tour has to be organized to have the possibility to do it. Large stage props need a lot of crew, and that's why I say that money is involved and we're not sure we can do all this stuff.
MU: Is Nuclear Blast supportive of all that?
PC: Yeah, Nuclear Blast has the capacity to do quite good with tour supporting and all that, but we are a bit careful of what we spend our own money on. For instance, to do a tour supporting a bigger band would mean that we would eat up a lot of our royalties by doing so. We're being a little more selective with what we're doing, you know? We want to do the right tour to get the right response from the right people and we don't want to have to pay with our own money.
MU: It sounds like you are trying to bring the audience into the world that you've created.
PC: Exactly. We feel that we have our own little universe and we just want to pull as many people into as we can. Make people see things from our point of view. It's not really about political issues. We're not really about preaching. We're more about having an air of ideas revolving around us and letting people stick their heads in to see what's going on.
-- LINKS --
review of The Kovenant's 'Animatronic'
NUCLEAR BLAST AMERICA
-- CREDITS --
Interview: Brant Wintersteen, Paul Harrison
Editor: Brant Wintersteen [ firstname.lastname@example.org ]
Webmaster: WAR [ email@example.com]
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