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Interview with Limbonic Art by Daniel Hinds (march 2002)

The Norwegian duo known as Limbonic Art burst onto the scene with a intense brand of symphonic black metal that was all their own. Utilizing orchestral keyboards and a drum machine, Morfeus and Daemon cranked out the stunning debut Moon in the Scorpio. Nocturnal Art (Samoth of Emperor's label) was the entity that brought Limbonic Art to the people and now Candlelight have given a North American release to all three of the band's albums (including In Abhorrence Dementia and the utterly fierce Ad Noctum), with a new opus on the horizon. Morfeus charts out the background of this unique outfit...

So where are you at, what city?

Sandefjord, Norway. It's a little bit south of Oslo.

Cool. Can you explain how you chose the name 'Limbonic Art' and how it relates to your music?

The band name was actually chosen before I got into the band. Limbonic Art had a four-member line-up originally and they kept it going for about a year, before they started arguing so much that they had to split. (laughs) No, I don't think it was arguments so much, but they had some differences in musical tastes and so on, so they decided to split up. At the time that they did, Daemon, who is the founder of Limbonic Art, and I had already started jotting down some riffs and just jamming for fun. We found that we suited each other very well, both musically and in what we wanted to achieve, so we decided to keep Limbonic Art going in the way that Daemon firstly intended it, as a hard, extreme metal band. I wouldn't say black metal totally because he is open to much more than that. The band name is from… I don't know if it is totally correct, as I have never read anything about it, but there is a purgatory-like place or state called Limbo. Limbo, to me anyway, is kind of a waking place between life and death, on the borderline. Limbonic Art is the art being made in such a state of mind.

Can you tell me about the music on the new album and how it differs from that on Ad Noctum?

Mainly, I think the production will differ a little bit. We're recording the album ourselves this time and that's, to me at least, since I'm recording everything, that will be the biggest challenge this time, to try to make this sound good. The album is going to be some kind of mix between Ad Noctum and In Abhorrence Dementia in a way. There will be a little bit more of the synth layers and that kind of stuff that disappeared a little on the Ad Noctum album. There will also be faster songs, slower songs… no softer songs (laughs). It's going to be a pretty hard album, definitely, but overall not as fast as Ad Noctum.

That would be a challenge, to be any faster than that. (laughs)

Some of the songs are faster. Several times I've been faced with things that I've said in an interview right before an album is released and the outcome is a little bit different, but that's the way it is. Everything changes all the time and the album is still not totally finished. We finished off the main part of the vocals yesterday, but there will still be a couple weeks of work before the whole thing is done.

How much of what ends up on your albums is planned in advance of entering the studio?

Before, we've had pretty much everything prepared, but then we've been scheduled to go into the studio from this date to that date and on THAT date, we have to be finished no matter what because there is no more money. I think that kind of limits a little the creativity and this time I feel we've been much more creating and recording at the same time. I still think that we have relatively strict rules, in a way, that this is what it is going to sound like. Of course, if somebody pops out with a great idea, we use it - we're not limited in that way - but basically the stuff is finished as we start recording.

You guys use orchestral instrumentation in a rather unique way. Can you tell me a bit about how you came to incorporate such elements in your songwriting?

In the beginning, it was quite coincidental that it was incorporated into the music, actually. Originally, we just started out making riffs on guitar, both of us. When we decided that we would do something serious with it, I played drums for a couple of months, mostly because Daemon was doing most of the riffs and I had a great desire of pounding those things. But I was never a good drummer. I just liked to hit the drums. So we started searching for a drummer and we didn't find anyone who was able to do it or who was interested in playing the music that we wanted to in this area. I had just for fun been playing with a keyboard at the place I was working and I said to Daemon, 'Why not just use a drum machine for now, to have some beats to play to and to structure our songs and so on?' After a while, we had a keyboard and the drums layered and we thought, why not put a bass there to fatten the sound a little bit. One thing led to another and I started putting other instruments into it and we kind of got stuck into the keyboard. Lost in the keyboard! (laughs)

Your music is quite elaborate. When you are writing it, do you come up with a whole song in your head or do you come up with different melodies and riffs and then fit them together later?

It's mostly the latter. I don't think I've ever done a whole song in my mind first and then put it down. Mostly riffs and trying out 'does this fit with that' and that kind of stuff. It's really funny because Daemon does all the lyrics and very often I feel like the song is very non-strucutred before the lyrics are layered. To me, it feels like a train, when you have these carts, first one cart and then the next. The songs are kind of divided into parts and they don't complete until the vocals are done. It's real strange because sometimes I've listened to songs and been like, 'Oh, this sucks!' because it doesn't sound right. I remember one special riff and I can't remember now which song we used it in (laughs), but I thought the riff just sucked totally. I kind of on purpose forgot the riff and I knew that Daemon liked it, but I didn't want to bring it up in rehearsal. From time to time, he'd say, 'Hey, can you play that old thing you had on the keyboard?' and I was like, 'Ughhh… okay I'll play it.' After a while, I always tried to push it away, but then he came to rehearsal once and said, 'Yeah, I've been writing some lyrics for that riff,' and I was like, 'Oh, damn! He really wants to use that riff..' Then he started singing to it and I was like, 'Wow!' It was just so cool. It's really weird because these things that you think are just shitty, you can add little tiny things to it and then it gets where it should be.

Let's go back a bit and talk about each of your albums. Starting with Moon in the Scorpio, could you give me your opinion of what the real strengths and what the weaknesses of that album were?

To me at least, the obvious weakness is the sound - I think it sucks. One of the strengths of the album is it was recorded in only four days and the outcome is quite good for just four days of recording. Of course, in the way that we record things, I have pretty much all the keyboards on a sequencer, so the keyboards are really quickly recorded. There are some really good melodies on that album and I think that is the strong part, the melodies and the lyrics.

How about In Abhorrence Dementia?

I feel it is kind of the same thing, really. It's better than Moon in the Scorpio, but I still think all of our albums lack a good production. It's kind of a development and really strong songs. I don't know if it is the technician or if it is us, but it doesn't sound as I would want it, but at the point I wouldn't know how to do it as I want to. I think it is as good as it could be for the time that it was made.

Since you recorded the new album yourselves, are you happier with the sound on that one?

I don't know yet (laughs). It's not finished. But I think it will be more of a sound type that I would want to have. Usually I feel satisfied with each album as it is finished and released and then I listen to it for a couple of months. Then the bad things start to come to my mind. I also think that is one of the really important parts because if I were to listen to one of our albums a year after and still think it was just as good as when we did it, then I would have to find some other genre or something else. Start playing tennis or something…

You wouldn't be as inspired to do the next album.

No, I think not at least.

What's the new album called, by the way?

It is called The Ultimate Death Worship. Cheerful title… (laughs)

Very (laughs). Do you ever come up with songs that are just totally not right for Limbonic Art?

Yeah. I'm working on a side project at the moment, which is obviously songs that I don't think would suit Limbonic Art.

What kind of stuff is it?

It's a very strange mix of everything from fast black metal to more German type metal to completely electronic stuff. It's hard to explain, I don't like explaining my own music, but I think it is a little bit more different in the songs than what is usual for Limbonic Art. And it is more or less totally clean vocals.

Are you doing this project by yourself?

No, I have so far there is only one guy who is a full member. I'm in the some trouble with my drummer at the moment. I'm a little bit pissed off at the moment. The songs have been ready for quite a while and we were supposed to record the drums in December and my drummer got sick. Of course, he can't help for that and I don't blame him for that, but the recording was not as I hoped. So I said, 'Let's just do it over again because you can play better than this.' After that, he has been recording some stuff for his other band and I kind of got the sense that he wasn't really interested or had time to do my thing. So I think he wants to, in his mind, but he's too busy to do it, so right now I'm trying to twist my mind to find someone who can do the stuff and who can learn it fast. I hope to have the album finished within the summer. The project is signed by Hammerheart and I hope it is not going to be too delayed or Hammerheart is going to be pissed. (laughs)

What's the name of the band?

It is called Dimension F3H.

Is there a special meaning behind the name?

I'm not going to talk about that just yet. (laughs) Tiny secrets…

Saw that you toured with Mystic Circle and Rebaelliun - do you like to tour? What is your setup like when you play live?

I like touring, Daemon does not. (laughs) So it is kind of compromising, the live aspect. We play only the two of us and we normally have one guy whose index finger is perfect for pressing the play button. We kind of decided to not incorporate any more musicians because we wanted to keep the feeling that we ourselves had in rehearsals. Kind of a Limbonic Art live show is a good, structured rehearsal. We use this third person to handle the electronics because I feel it looks a little bit stupid when I stand there banging and playing my guitar and the song finishes and I run over to the keyboard, then back onto the stage. What has been our problem when we play live is it doesn't look as good as it does with a full drum kit on stage. On the first couple of gigs we did, we always removed the drum kit if we were headliners and we found it actually looked better if there was a drumkit standing on stage because there is more on stage for people to look at, even if there is no drummer there. It psychologically became better for us to have a drumkit there.

Is the image of the band important to you? It looks like you put a good deal of thought into the band photos that you do and don't just have a 'typical' black metal look.

For me, I think image is a really important aspect of the music business, in any genre. It is important to have a kind of unity with both the artwork and the music. Of course, the music reflects a lot of our personalities. With me doing all the keyboards and electronic stuff, I'm more of the futuristic guy in the band. Daemon is more of the late 80s metal kind of guy, he's the, what should I say…aggressor of the band. I think it is good for us, the look that we have. Of course, there are always those who think we should have been sticking with the corpse paint. Who knows, maybe we should, maybe we shouldn't. The reason for me personally that I quit the corpse paint was… We were touring with Morbid Angel in April of '99 and we were so late for a gig because of some shit happened to the bus. Peccatum, who were supposed to be the first band, didn't even play, so we were told, 'If you want to play, you play NOW.' So we didn't do any makeup, just went on stage with no warpaint, nothing. We played two songs and they want to cut us off and I was really pissed off. I just said, 'Start the next song,' because that was kind of the main song at the show, the song that we always get the most feedback from, so I told the keyboard guy, 'Just play! If we start to play, they won't stop us, just play the fucking song.' And of course the fucking assholes turned down the volume in the middle of the song and I was so pissed off, but the cool thing was when I got offstage, I didn't have any makeup to remove. I didn't have to spend an hour in front of the mirror trying to rub that shit off my face and I was thinking, 'Okay, never again.' I still think the corpse paint could be cool. There's an awful lot of people who do not have a clue how to paint their faces and they look like total assholes. One funny thing is one guy that I really admire when it comes to corpse paint is Frost from Satyricon. It really pisses me off that on the last couple of Satyricon albums, I think he looks like an asshole, but when I meet him at concerts or around Oslo, he has totally amazing corpse paint. I'm really fascinated by that guy and I'm thinking, 'Why the hell don't you look like this on your album covers?' I don't meet him every day, maybe just a couple of times a year, but each time he has a different type of corpse paint. He paints his face differently, but it looks really good. The thing that held me back from doing it anymore is doing it fifteen, twenty times in a row and it is just way too much work and your hair gets really sticky.

Your artwork is quite amazing. How much time do you spend working on art vs. music?

The Moon in the Scorpio album, I painted for a year actually. I've been jotting down things on paper as far as I can remember. All my teachers were going nuts because I had drawings of Eddie from Iron Maiden on my school books and all that kind of shit. After I got a little bit older and got interested in music, making an album cover was always a small dream of mine. When we signed a deal with Nocturnal Art, it was my way of being able to make this thing come true. I just said, 'I'm going to do the cover.' Everyone was like, 'Ehhh…' a little suspicious, but I was like, 'No fucking way, I'm going to do it.' I think everyone was pretty happy with it though. If you remember the cover, you have the first picture with the lady and in the middle, she is falling down and on the back, she's not there anymore. This series was the first time I was introduced to artwork with the help of computers. I had never in my life seen anything like this before and I was truly amazed by it. An old school friend of mine who was working at a company was dong this kind of shit, he was doing all this weird stuff to my painting and I was like, 'Wow, wow, wow,' over and over again. After that, I got a computer myself and did all the other album covers more or less on the computer. I spent a year on the Moon in the Scorpio album and the others went faster because of the computer help. Also, the Epitome of Illusions cover I did totally computer-generated, for fun, just to see if I could do that without any paintings. I'm not very happy with that cover, it didn't turn out as good as I wanted it, but it still reflects a bit of that album because it was just re-recordings of old demo material. So the whole thing should look sort of demo-ish.

So was the Moon in the Scorpio cover originally done on a big canvas?

Yeah, it's actually on my wall.

How big is it?

Like… one meter and 75 centimeters, more or less poster size.

Have you done artwork for other bands?

I did the artwork for a band called Odium that was on Nocturnal Art for a while. I was not really happy with the outcome of the cover. The computer I was working on was a little bit fucked up in the display, so a few small errors are displayed on the cover and I don't like that very much (laughs). But I think they were happy with it and maybe that's the main thing.

I've noticed that you have released all your albums on vinyl as well as CD, which is great for the cover art. Is that important for you to have that option for people?

Yeah, I think so. It's a little bit strange to say because I don't buy that many vinyls anymore, but I feel like kind of a vinyl freak anyway and I like to look at those bigger covers. You have a lot more detail. For me, it's for the covers and nothing else. I don't even have a record player anymore. I wish I had one, but.. (laughs) Still, I think there is something genuine about vinyl. I detest the Ad Noctum vinyl, it really pissed me off.

What did they do?

It was the only image that was hand-painted in the album, it was on the fold-out. I only did some scans for the sky and the rest was hand-painted. The only reason I hand-painted it was because I wanted it in the gatefold on the vinyl. The fucking assholes removed it without notifying me. I was in Holland when I first saw the vinyl and I was so thrilled. The first thing I did was open it and was like [makes a strangled scream]. The guy from Hammerheart, who did the vinyl, was standing there and I was practically barking at him, I was so fucking pissed off. They just removed my image and put some other shit inside. The front cover looks really good, but the rest of the layout sucks. But what really pisses me off is I can't do anything about it. It was released in a limited number of copies. And of course by the time I see the album, it is already printed. They said, 'Blah blah blah, yeah we'll never do that again.' Of course, they WILL never do that again or I will do something awful to Hammerheart, but it doesn't help for the mistake that is already done.

I was surprised when I saw the box set. How much input did you have?

Pretty much everything. I did the layout. I don't remember who it was that came up with the idea of doing picture discs. I think it was us but I'm not sure. That was a little bit funny because I changed the colors for the In Abhorrence Dementia. So the front cover has a totally different color for the background on the vinyl set. It was also a little bit irritating because it looks much better than the original one. (laughs)

Are you able to support yourselves financially with Limbonic Art?

Nope, no way. (laughs)

Is that something you think will happen?

Well, I have a dream of course. Like Martin Luther King, 'I have a dream!' (laughs) My dream is to be able to buy or build a house somewhere that is on a location that is pretty much as where I'm living now. This is a really beautiful place. I mean, I have my housekeeper [i.e. landlord] who is my closest neighbor, but he's a nice guy and is working all the time, so I don't have to worry about loud music or anything like that. Apart from him, there are no neighbors for half a mile or something. The one thing that is a little bit irritating is that there are a lot of people going out for picnics who get way too close to the house, they can't find the park that is a little bit into the woods. But my dream is to get such a place, have the support to buy a house and make a studio and just sit down in my basement and make music and make music and sleep all day and be awake all night.

That's a good dream. (laughs)

Yeah! But not even the Emperor guys are making a decent living from just Emperor, they're all doing other things beside Emperor. Thomas has Nocturnal Art and Zyklon and I would think he makes a decent living from all those three things and probably some income from all the other albums he has participated in. So I think the only way in the extreme metal genre is to either get insanely big or do several different things. Personally, that's what I'm trying to do with Dimension F3H and I also have some other ideas that pop into my mind. This Limbonic Art album will be the test of my recording abilities at my own little shitty studio. I don't think it will be a very, VERY good sound, but if it turns out okay then I will be able to record the music that comes to my mind and to put it out into the market. Hopefully that will make some money and I can quit my work and just do what I want to do.

Is there any chance of you guys playing in the US anytime soon?

No way. (laughs) Of course, there is always a possibility. To me, I like to tour and everything but Daemon doesn’t. Sometimes it is hard to get him to want to play live and if he doesn't want to play live, then I wouldn't want to play live either. But we have no plans for any gigs at the moment, just focused on finishing this album and then we'll see what happens and what companies would be interested in taking us on the road.
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