DATE OF INTERVIEW:
THEATRE OF TRAGEDY
14th March 2010
METAL DISCOVERY: Obviously it’s recently been announced that the band is calling it quits in October this year - was that in mutual agreement with everybody in the band, and was it an easy decision to make?
LORENTZ ASPEN: It was difficult because there’s so much history and it’s in our blood, especially for me, Hein and Raymond. I’ve been in this band more than half of my life here on earth…so the band is kind of a part of me. So it’s difficult but you have to be realistic…not everyone is motivated the same and, also, we run the band as a democracy which does not work at all! So it’s always compromise, compromise, compromise and we thought it’s better to call it quits and, maybe, if some would like to play together they can do it but not under the Theatre of Tragedy concept.
(Lorentz Aspen on Theatre of Tragedy's planned final ever gig in Stavanger on 2nd October 2010)
"We’ll go out with a bang!"
Lorentz Aspen in The World's End pub, Camden, London, UK, 14th March 2010
Photograph copyright © 2010 Mark Holmes - www.metal-discovery.com
Interview & Photography by Mark Holmes
With Theatre of Tragedy releasing their seventh studio album, 'Forever is the World', in September 2009, critics and fans have generally likened the songs to the band's erstwhile musical aesthetic circa mid-90s, and those who objected to their mid-era progression into electronic stylistics have hailed it as "a return to form". Based on the merits of such a well received new release, a recent announcement from the Norwegians that they've decided to call it quits towards the end of 2010 and cease to exist as a band has, therefore, come as an unexpected shock for many of their loyal supporters. Embarking on a final ever European tour during March 2010, Metal Discovery were in attendance at the band's sole UK date in London, and spent some time chatting with keyboard player Lorentz Aspen to reflect on the past seventeen years before their show that evening. Equipped with beer in The World's End pub, the interview begins...
MD: Has the decision to call it a day made the shows a sad and happy occasion because some of the cities you’ll be going to on this tour will be the last time you ever play as Theatre?
LA: Yeah, it’s special but we have not been touring as much as we should have done. It’s a bit sad that I see it now when we come to play, like in Germany we’ve played so many places but there’s only Berlin and Frankfurt for this tour and we have Hamburg, Stuttgart, München, Nürnberg, like places we have played lots, and we’re not getting to them, but that’s just how it is. There’s not many people coming to the shows and we can’t pay shitloads of money to make it go round because we all have jobs back home. So that’s a bit sad and I noticed that when we played Berlin, like “thank you Berlin, okay, last time you see us ever”. It was a bit strange; a strange feeling. Also, for us, it’s a good way to go out, like we do it properly. We make a tour now and, okay, if you want to see us for the last time this is your chance. I think we do it in the proper way but it would be fun if the tour was maybe one month and visit every place.
MD: There’s kind of always examples of bands over the years where they announce they’re ending and never going to tour again, or play together again, blah, blah…then a few years later they make a comeback…
LA: Yeah, like Carcass! [laughs]
MD: Yeah! Is there any small part of you that believes Theatre of Tragedy might become one of those bands, perhaps in a few years time…?
LA: That would be in case there was a special festival or special show thing we were invited to. I don’t think we will get together and make a new album or do a big tour…just a special thing for a special festival…I don’t know.
MD: I’ve read lots of comments on the internet message boards, like your own, and Blabbermouth, and wherever, and people are very sad that the band is ending. Does that make you feel guilty in any small way reading how much Theatre of Tragedy and your music means to some people?
LA: I was quite surprised because I didn’t expect any reaction. Blabbermouth, for instance, Theatre usually only gets two or three comments, like “this is a good band, but I don’t care” - that’s the usual comments. And then, suddenly, it’s like thirty comments, kind of like they’re sad, or this is devastating news and everything. Also on the message board people react, and Hein got a phonecall from Brazil - “you don’t quit the band…ahhhhhh”! I feel it…it’s good to know people care that much about the band and the music, and I just hope it will live on and people will still listen to it. And I think we have a very diverse and, also, an original history in the music and also what we have done, so I just hope that we will not fade away but we’ll still be on the CD shelves…
MD: You’ve recruited a session bass player for this tour, Erik from Lowdown, and it’s the first time in ten years you’ve toured and performed with a live bass player. What prompted that decision?
LA: It’s because we usually play by click and hard disk recorder, and we have extra synthesisers, effects, percussion and things going on, and also the bass because that was easy to do. But we noticed when recording ‘Storm’ and the ‘Forever is the World’ album that when we made the songs we made them like we played them in the rehearsal area and one of us had to play the bass just to get the band feeling into it. It sounds so much better, and also better to have the bass on the stage. It works much, much better and, also, if the machine would fail we could still do the songs. That was not an option before if we got into trouble. We’re gonna do South America soon so there’s a big chance that this thing will not be working! [laughs]
MD: Are you still playing to a click or is it completely live now?
LA: No, we have a click still. Most of the songs we can do without but it’s better so we don’t change that…we know where we are in the songs! [laughs]
MD: Do any band members, or yourself, plan on continuing with a career in music in the future or is it too early to be thinking about that?
LA: The most motivated guy in the band is Hein. He needs to do something music-wise all the time. He’s like the primus motor in Theatre of Tragedy - without that there wouldn’t be anything coming out of us. He keeps us together and moves us forward, so I guess he would like to do something new.
MD: What about yourself?
LA: I would like to try different things. I would like to play in a band with some people…I’m not sure which kind of music but I also like to do a lot of programming and electronic music for myself.
MD: So maybe something in a completely different style from Theatre.
LA: Yeah, that’s the thing. That was one of the things that was maybe not good for us commercial-wise. We liked to experiment and try out new stuff. Most people like to have one band with one type of music. But I really enjoy electronic music so I would like to do that with no metal guitars or heavy drums…[laughs]…and maybe play in a live band, just for fun.
MD: You have your final gig booked in Stavanger on October 2nd and I gather that’s where the band were originally formed…
LA: Yeah, in the city, yeah.
MD: Did you do your first ever gig there?
LA: No, the first ever gig was at a place which is no longer there. We had to play three or four times, I think, before we got to play at Folken which is the biggest place in Stavanger where you can play. So we have our last gig there.
MD: Do you have anything special planned for that date?
LA: We’re gonna film it. We’re gonna do a live DVD from that show…we’re gonna play lots of the old songs, and new songs, and just have a blast. There’s already people we’ve met on the tour now and they’ve booked tickets already. It’s a 700 capacity and we played there one week ago before we came down here, and three to four hundred people is normal for us there, but it’s gonna be really packed.
MD: Will there be lots of tears after that show?
LA: Oh no!
MD: A big celebration?
LA: Yeah, a big celebration, I think. We’ll go out with a bang!
MD: Maybe you’ll wake up with a hangover the following day and then start crying!
LA: We usually never cry. We’re always happy! [laughs]
MD: As you mentioned earlier, you’re off to South America for your first and, obviously, last tour. You seem to have quite a fan base in some of those countries in South America, so was it important for you to finally get over there and play before the band ends?
LA: Yeah, it is. Also, we’ve never played in America, in North America, and that’s very sad. I would like to do that as well and also Asia or Australia for instance, but South America, the people down there, we’ve been to Mexico and they’re crazy! There are lots of people there that like live shows and…they like this kind of music there and they go wild. So we’re really looking forward to it but you don’t know how many people will come because everything is pirated. We’ve sold ten CDs in Brazil and we’ve got a thousand emails! That doesn’t add up! [laughs] So I hope there will be many people.
MD: I always hear that from every band that in South America and Mexico, the fans are mad out there apparently. The singer from Finntroll told me recently that even when they turned up at the airport there were people waiting there for them, and they felt like The Beatles!
LA: Yeah, when we played in Mexico City and after the show we went to the hotel and there were forty people there.
LA: Yeah, and “ahhhhhhh”, and “I’m not bringing anyone in!” One guy there, he was in the lobby, and he had a gatefold vinyl of ‘Velvet Darkness They Fear’. He specially imported that and there were only a thousand copies, and he just stood there with this, and “ooooo”! [laughs]
MD: Do you have a copy of that?
LA: Yeah, I have two! I’m gonna keep them!