The Kovenant have returned after a brief hiatus with their most compelling effort yet. Entitled SETI, the band has strayed even further from their black metal roots. While Hellhammer no longer has a commitment to the band due to time restraints, the rest of The Kovenant guys are anxious to tour again and may even be coming over to the States to spread their relentlessly bleak gospel. Our interview is with lead vocalist Lex Icon.
What does the title of the album SETI mean?
There is a program called The Search For Extra Terrestrial Intelligence. It really has nothing to do with the NASA thing. The title SETI reflects upon seeking towards something greater than ourselves Ė the longing and willingness to explore new paths and to go beyond the accepted norms of our existence. Thereís also a little bit of black humor in that Ė we couldnít find any intelligence down here so we had to look elsewhere.
For older Kovenant fans, how does this new album compare to the older ones? Itís definitely a change!
Yeah, I would say itís more electronic in many ways. Actually the record was suppose to come out more industrial, but after we brought in Erik from Zeromancer as the sound designer, he changed the whole sound of the album Ė which is what we wanted in the first place. Itís very different from all our records Ė well, all our records are very different from each other. But I would say that this is the one thatís most different from all the others Ė basically because of the way I use my vocals this time. Iím using it more in the way of clear singing with the minimum use of extreme vocals. But when you put the album on, you could still hear itís The Kovenant album.
Overall, what took so long to get this new Kovenant record out?
I was pretty fed up with this whole music industry. I didnít really have any inspiration at all to make music. Actually, I cut my hair and got a job.
(Laughs) Yeah! But I quickly found out that that was something I would not be able to do for the rest f my life. I quit my job and went back to making music again. I just started listening to the old records that I have again. We werenít really thinking about making music for a few years at least. We were just busy living you could say.
What kind of job did you get?
Actually I was the department manager at Toys R Us.
Really? They have Toys R Us in Norway?
Yeah! But I fucking hate kids, so Iím never doing that again. (Much laughter)
Was that kind of difficult working with an opera singer and a choir?
No way, these people are professional and it only took them a few hours to do all their vocals. We could even tell them what keys to sing in and they did it. It was a lot better than working with people like Sarah from Cradle Of Filth Ė sheís more a personally evolved singer while these people are professionals. It cost money but itís easier and it sounds better in the end.
On the last album, you had an opera singer that was in her sixties. Did you use her again this time?
Yeah, itís the same one. Her name is Ilene and sheís actually a part of the German House of Opera. She really knows her job! She did seven or eight takes of one vocal track and we couldnít even hear a difference but she was like, ďNo! It has to be the right quality and the same style. People are going to listen to this and it has to be the proper opera style!Ē
So she became the producer of the new Kovenant album then.
Yeah, for a few hours at least, she was. It was really very amusing working with her. Because other than Kovenant, sheís never done any other kind of music than opera before. I have to sit down and tell her why weíre singing this and why weíre doing that Ė and she really got into the whole idea.
What does she think of your music overall?
She thinks itís very interesting Ė she actually likes it. She compares it to musicals. She was a bit nervous when she first came to the studio during the recording of Animatronic. Because what she heard, that weíre Norwegian church burning Satanists Ė she was a little bit nervous but that quickly went away.
Since you worked with Erik from Zeromancer, have you ever thought about touring with them?
Oh, we have toured with them, just in Europe though. They are actually on tour right now in the States. They fit really well with us. Weíre just a little bit more extreme than they are.
Where did you get the ideas for some of the lyrics on this record?
Itís more less like a revelation Ė it just comes to me and I write it. I watch a lot of news and a lot of movies. Iím really not inspired or influenced by other bands Ė itís more about what I see. I canít write about things that I donít believe it. Sometimes when I write the lyrics and I look over it after Iíve finished, itís just bullshit! But you know, itís very reality-based lyrics. It is however, in essence, a doomsday record proclaiming and demanding the fall of our world and everything that we know as truth. We are strong believers in technology Ė that it can be used to recreate, improve and rearrange the old. And thatís on all levels Ė musically, lyrically, visually and conceptually. No minimalism here. We believe in universal themes. We like things to be bold and outrageous and pompous.
How weird was it going back to re-work your first album In Times Before The Light again?
It was a bit weird, yeah. Actually that album was recorded on such an old system that we had a lot of troubles converting it. Also, when we recorded the keyboard tracks on that album, we did it on an old computer and the midi files were not there anymore and the original keyboards were never recorded onto a tape. We sort of had forgotten that. When we came back to remix it, there were no keyboards there. Then we found out we had to transfer everything digitally. We recorded the keyboards on top. And once we started that, it was such a huge process that eventually it evolved to a re-recording instead of a remixing. It was a very interesting thing to do, working on that album again. The drums and vocals and guitars are from the original recording and the rest of the stuff is re-recorded. It was very interesting and very weird working on that old album again. These days, most bands just re-master the album and then the release it digitally re-mastered Ė but I think thatís cheating the fans a bit.
I saw you out here when you toured with Moonspell a few years ago. How did that tour go and what did you think of the States?
I actually liked touring the States. The people who come to the shows have a different attitude than people in Europe. In Europe, itís about being the most evil and everyone standing in their corner watching. But I really enjoyed playing over there. It was an interesting tour. Moonspell, Amorphis and The Kovenant are such different bands when it comes to music styles. It went really well though.
Is there any chance of you guys coming over here again?
Oh yeah! Weíre just waiting for the new album to come out before we start planning anything. So far, Iíve got Pain to come with us to tour the States. Itís going to be this year for sure or very early next year.
Will Erik from Zeromancer be touring with you too?
Weíve talked about it, but weíre not really sure yet because they are over there touring right now. But we have talked about it and weíre going to see what happens.
What happened to Hellhammer and do you have a new drummer yet?
We have two new members actually. But Hellhammer had to quit because of the same problem I had with Dimmu Borgir Ė I really didnít have enough time to do all the bands. And Hellhammer is involved with 234 bands or something, so it really came to down this. Weíre doing so much with SETI, that it just became a question of was he going to be able to do all of the things that weíre putting up. And if not, then Iím not really interested in having him as a drummer then. Either your in the band or your not. It just came to a choice where he had to choose. It was a mutual agreement though that he leave the band and we find someone else. We actually have a new drummer named Chem and he use to play drums in a band called Ram-Zet. Heís an excellent drummer and has a very different drum style from Hellhammer. Also the keyboard player from Apoptygma Berzerk. Weíre going to try out one more member Ė a bass player Ė and then weíre going to have a full band again of six people.
So whatís going on with Troll?
(Laughs) Well, not much. Iím working on a new album. Itís sort of going to be old school Troll again. Hellhammer is doing the drums and Iím doing the rest. Troll is sort of something I do when I have the time for it or when I feel like doing it.
Have you ever wanted to do a live Troll show?
No, never. Iíve been thinking about doing something. But Iím really not in the mood or the right frame of mind to be doing a black metal tour right now.
How do you respond to the older Kovenant fans who say you guys have changed way too much for their taste?
I think that we lost them about ten years ago anyway. Itís not something that I think about at all. If they are so much into In Times Before The Light, why donít you go out and buy the new Darkthrone album? Donít worry about what weíre doing Ė go buy the new Immortal album!
Do you still keep in touch with the guys in Dimmu Borgir?
Oh yeah, I talk to them almost every day. We live in the same town and weíre still friends, so itís kind of hard not to bump into each other. In Norway, thereís no music scene like in the rest of Europe or in America. Thereís no clubs that you can go to or happenings. You only have like a few bars where people listen to music. You would think that there was this music scene, but there isnít. Everyone who comes to Norway is so surprised that they canít find a scene anywhere.
Whatís up next for The Kovenant?
Weíre planning a tour when the new album comes out. Weíre planning our DVD release to come out around Christmas time. Itís going to be more like a documentary DVD. Weíre the only band on Nuclear Blast that doesnít have a video yet. Even the bands that sell a few hundred copies have a video and we donít Ė and weíve sold a little more than one million albums altogether. Weíve had offers and Iíve said no every time, because it was really something we really didnít feel like doing at the moment. Also, if we were going to do something, I want to have the money to do it proper Ė not just a live video. And finally Nuclear Blast has given us enough money to do a video. So weíre going to combine that with this DVD thing, which will feature tour and studio stuff from all our albums.
Did you have any messages for fans here in the States?
What can I say? I never really have any message. Itís probably the hardest questions next to what five albums are you currently listening to. Get drunk, buy the album and then get drunk and buy the album again. And then get drunk, buy the album again and make us a lot of money. We need it!
That way Lex doesnít have to go and work at Toys R Us again!
Exactly! Iím never doing that again! Work sucks!
And kids suck too!
Yeah and kids suck too! And they smell horrible and crap themselves and puke and drop vomit everywhere. They have no respect or disciple or anything!
And final question! If the world were suddenly to come to an end, what song would you like to hear before the final explosion?
It would have to be a soundtrack song. Across The Stars by John Williams from the Attack Of The Clones/Star Wars movie. Itís the love scene song. Itís either that or Itís The End Of The World by REM. Iím not going to spend my last hours on Earth listening to Darkthrone or MayhemÖ
NUCLEAR BLAST RECORDS: The Record Label for The Kovenant!
INTERVIEWS WITH THE KOVENANT: Earlier interviews with Lex Icon and Psy Coma from Animatronic daze!
THE HIGHWIRE DAZE HOME PAGE: Return to the Main Page!