author AP date 24/04/07

Denmark moves closer to the newest release from its own flesh and blood, Hatesphere. “Serpent Smiles And Killer Eyes” is the band’s fifth studio album and takes a slightly different musical approach than we are accustomed to. Being a curious scribe, I had to find out more, so I caught the band’s guitarist, Henrik “Heinz” Jacobsen, for a phone interview regarding the new album, the motto “blood, beers and Satan”, and his thoughts on Justin Timberlake. Without further due, I give you Heinz:

RF.net: You're on the brink of releasing your fifth album, "Serpent Smiles And Killer Eyes". Are you excited?
Heinz: (chuckles) Well, not really. It's nothing new to release a new album. I mean we worked on recording it three months ago, so I kind of got used to the idea.

RF.net: So what's old, what's new, what's borrowed and what's black on the new album?
Heinz: What is old is probably the Hatesphere sound. It's still the same five guys playing metal, so nothing drastically new, but we tried to take the music we play in a slightly different direction this time. We wanted to play a little more mid-tempo, a little slower, and I think we succeeded in that. We tried to focus more on the simplicity in the songs with more riffs. We wanted to write good songs that are more mid-tempo.

RF.net: Was the recipe for this album also "blood, beers and Satan"?
Heinz: Yeah basically (laughing). I guess it was. It's all about having fun playing good music.

RF.net: Is the album art supposed to reflect something deeper than the literal allusion to the album's title?
Heinz: Well, I think the cover reflects the title pretty well, because it's about the whole world, how people show you a smile, a killer smile, which means that they smile to you, but when you turn your back, they'll stab you. It's a jungle world out there. It's all about winning on other people's behalf, and that sucks. So the whole world is filled with killer smiles and snake eyes; friendly eyes looking at you but just waiting to get ahead of you. And that's what the cover is trying to represent as well, with the fragments of a face, fragments of the reality we see.

RF.net: I have to ask, is that Jack Nicholson's famous "Here's Johnny!" pose on the left?

Heinz: I don't know, actually. I thought the same but I'm not really sure. I never asked our graphics artist.

RF.net: So you can see the similitude?

Heinz: Yes I can, definitely (chuckling).

RF.net: Last summer we asked whether or not your musical style had progressed in conjunction with "The Sickness Within", and it hadn't really, but with "Serpent Smiles And Killer Eyes" you're definitely poking at new ears, right?
Heinz: Yeah, we're also just trying new stuff like throwing ideas in there, like the intro for "Let Them Hate" or the intro for "Drinking With the King of the Dead", which is pretty new for us to try stuff like that, because we've always been pretty narrow in what we do in the music. We had the Hatesphere rules and we followed them, but with this new album we tried to just go with the flow and write whatever we felt like was cool and try some weird stuff where we thought, "We don't know if this will suck or this will work, but let's try it!"

RF.net: So was the idea behind songs like "Drinking With the King of the Dead" and "Absolution" to add some accessibility to the music?

Heinz: Yeah, basically. We tried to focus more on the simplicity of the songs and, well, basically just write a verse, and a chorus and C-part in the middle parts of the songs, and that was it; just keep it very simple. And we're getting better at that compared to the earlier albums, which were a lot more complex. And it's just - I'm not saying that the early albums are worse or that the new albums are better - but it's just different. We learn a little every time and we get more focused. Besides Hatesphere we also play in other bands and we learn every time we compose songs, so we almost know what we're doing now (laughing).

RF.net: Some people have chosen to predict the new album will be Hatesphere's international breakthrough. Do you agree with this?
Heinz: It's hard to say. This is what we hear each time we release an album. When we released "Ballet of the Brute", we were told that, and when we released "The Sickness Within", we were told that, and now we're told again. It's not about that. It's not about breaking through or anything. It's about playing the music that we like, so if people want to call it a breakthrough, go ahead. It doesn't matter. Breakthrough is just an empty word as long as we enjoy playing the music we like.

RF.net: International exposure of course means more touring and what could be better for a band dubbed the best live act in Denmark. What makes your live show so unique and memorable?
Heinz: I don't know, you tell me! I've never seen us. I think that we try to act normal on stage. We try to have fun and get up on stage and enjoy what we do and then it reflects on the audience. If they can see that we enjoy what we're doing, it rubs off on the audience and then they have a good time and we see that they have a good time. It's a spiral, a downward spiral. It's just music, there's no image to it. We play music with a lot of energy in it and we want to portray that. We're not a band that gets up on stage and pretend to be mad or evil or something crappy like that. We're just five guys who like to play music and enjoy playing with each other.

RF.net: Do you get the same appreciation internationally as when you play Danish venues? Do they get it?

Heinz: Yeah, certainly. We get a lot of international recognition. When you go outside the Danish boundaries, you're turned into a band from another country, which is a little bit more magical. Like when we play in Denmark, we're just Hatesphere, and we know a lot of the people we play for. We've played a shitload of concerts in Denmark and we know a lot of the people who attend the concerts, so I don't think we have the magic in Denmark that we have outside Denmark. It's the same when a band from the U.S comes to Denmark. It's a band, you know, "oh wow, they come from the U.S!" It's different than when it's just the local guys playing. So I definitely think that we get good response outside Denmark.

RF.net: Maynard James Keenan once said, "Once you take yourself too seriously, the art will suffer". Hatesphere is the only band I know that plays their set with ironic grins on their faces. Is this because you know something we don't, or do you just conform to Maynard's philosophy?
Heinz: Well, I think he's right when he says that. Basically, if you take life too seriously, it sucks. Everything you do, you have to keep a certain distance to it. Especially in the case of metal music, where everything is about burning children and things that explode. If you can get up on stage and sing aloud how great Satan is and think that's the coolest thing in the world, there's something wrong with you. Music is fun and we like to have fun with it. We like to use clichés with Satan and drinking and all that stuff, but we're just a bunch of kids who play around. We basically still think it's cool to headbang and we do that, but there's nothing serious about it.

RF.net: More and more bands are orchestrating concept albums these days, a prime example being Denmark’s very own Compos Mentis and their new release "Gehennesis". Can you see yourselves recording a concept album?
Heinz: No, not really. That's not for us. A concept album is for bands who are a little like "Uhh, we are artists. Look at us! We have something to say!" If you want to say something, go into politics. This is just art, this is just for fun. It's metal.

RF.net: So hypothetically, if you were to make one, what would it be about?

Heinz: Blood, beers and Satan? (laughing)

RF.net: That being asked, does "Serpent Smiles And Killer Eyes" have a concept, recurrent theme or significance apart from putting attitude back in metal?
Heinz: Well, the theme in this album is to put action behind your words and do what you like, do what you care for and don't back stab people. I have the philosophy that if you say something bad about people, always do it to their face. Never say anything bad about people behind their backs. I always try to speak good about people when they don't hear it, and when they hear it and if I have something bad to say about them, I say it to them instead to others. It definitely helps. It's very hard to live by, but I think it works. If everyone lived like that, the world would be a better place.

RF.net: Hatesphere appeared on a Danish children's television show some weeks ago. Why did you choose to do this?
Heinz: They asked us, and we just thought that it would be fun. That's basically it.

RF.net: You were also the centre of an episode of DR2's "Musikprogrammet", dedicated to the Danish metal scene. Are you beginning to get the media attention that you said you had trouble getting last summer?
Heinz: Yeah, it's getting way better. We've played a lot of live concerts and we've struggled a lot to go with the world music. The fact that Volbeat had a few hits in Denmark helps to draw the attention towards metal more, and now people are curious, like "Oh, I heard Volbeat. I really like that. I wonder what other bands like that are in Denmark?" And they want to portray it now because it's interesting for a broader audience.

RF.net: So Volbeat brought the attention to metal?

Heinz: They did a big part of it, there's no question about that.

RF.net: Tell us about your life as a band right now; what are your goals and ambitions, and what are your plans for this summer?
Heinz: Right now the album comes out this weekend and then we go to China for two weeks and play some concerts there. When we get home, we have some shows in Denmark and Norway with a Norwegian band called Stonegaard. After that we have a headlining European tour with Aborted and some German band I don't know.

RF.net: One of our writers requested I'd ask this: What are your thoughts on Justin Timberlake?
Heinz: He's a good looking guy! (chuckles). He's a good song-writer. I don't really listen to his music. It doesn't do anything inside me, but I have deepest of respect for him as a musician.

RF.net: That was it for now. Do you have any famous last words or shout-outs?
Heinz: A shout-out should be "Ouch!" because I just got operated in my lip today and it hurts like hell to talk. It's crap. I'm just lying here in my bed on painkillers and ah, fuck it hurts. So no intelligent last words from me today.

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