Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Interview with Lasse Skov of Essence

As I wrote the review for Lost in Violence, the spectacular debut of Denmark's Essence, I eagerly jotted down a few questions regarding the creative process behind the music.

Essence's own frontman Lasse Skov offered up some detailed answers, giving us a look into the young band's approach to songwriting, their influences, and highlights of their aborning career.

NWOTM: Are you surprised by the amount of critical praise Lost in Violence has attracted? Do you think this will put pressure on Essence to write a killer album #2?

Lasse Skov: We are definitely surprised about the critical praise of the Lost in Violence album. It is our first album, besides a short demo tape, and it really means a lot to us that people seems to dig what we are doing. Especially the fact that many people from different parts of the world tell us that they have heard the album and enjoyed it. That is pretty awesome. We take this positive energy very personal and it helps us stay in contact with ourselves and the music we are writing. It kind of makes us rest at ease in our music and that is a very privileged thing when you think about it.

It sure puts a pressure on us and the writing of our 2nd album, but it is not a pressure that wouldn’t be there, even if people didn’t like Lost in Violence. We always push ourselves and our abilities to their limits and a littler further than that. In this way we insure that everything gets better automatically and without we really feel any changes. We adapt pretty easily so we are pretty confident that the next album will be a real tsunami in the genre. We can already now reveal that the next album will contain a somewhat new form of thrash metal. It will be very interesting for us to see how people react to this and if they will take it in, or reject it.

The songs on LiV are so well crafted. When writing music, once you have the basic skeleton of a song ready, what steps does the band take in the songwriting process until its completion?

Thank you very much. When we wrote the music for Lost in Violence,(I pretty much) came with the basic skeletons for the songs. Then we all contributed to the details and stuff. These details can lift a song to new levels, if the basic material is of the right caliber. Each person in the band has his individual role in the process. In this way we ensure that we are working together as a team.

On the next album it is more or less free for all. We are working in a much more dynamical way, as we write most of the music in our rehearsal room together. It is a lot more fun to write in this way. Though, this form of group work can only be possible if you have the right personalities in the band who know how to make the process work. This determines if it will work really slow or really fast. There is no middle way or third way for us at least. On Lost in Violence we weren’t ready yet to engage in this type of working process. Luckily we know how to benefit from it now.

Songs such as Shades of Black are not your standard thrash numbers, yet they fit perfectly side by side with Essence's other thrashier tunes. What motivates the band to musically touch on so many diverse elements?

We want to create diverged music and not that typical 10 track album, where you can’t separate the songs from each other. It is boring and it does not show the full potential or all the skills that the band and the individuals in it possesses. There is no real challenge in writing the same music on and on – you have to have a natural and healthy maturing process. Music needs to grow and you should not contain it or stop it from doing so. In there somewhere you find the answer to why Shades of Black got on the record. It would be wrong of us not to put it in there, out of respect for the music. This is our motivation for writing different types of songs all inside the thrash genre. Our only holding point in the song writing process is that it has to be thrash – that is our only rule or law, if you prefer. Thrash is a really broad genre and perhaps the single most diverged genre in metal. When you first get to understand the ‘secret of thrash metal’, you can basically write whatever you want to, as long as you keep this understanding in mind.

Which thrash and non-thrash influences drive Essence's songwriting?

On the first album we where inspired by bands and songs. We admired the classics and the stuff that helped shape us as musicians. In its own way Lost in Violence is a original piece of thrash metal, but you really have to listen to the details in the album to figure it out. Our understanding of music grew a lot when we wrote the record and it can be seen as a listenable image of our first 5 years as a band. All the stuff combined with starting a band, learning how to play in a band, getting to know how the music business works and all that, can be a very very difficult process.

Today we get inspired by people and not really specific bands and songs. We have grown a lot over the past years, and especially in the last year, which has been amazing for us in so many ways. Personally I get inspired by persons as Mille Petrozza, Peter Tägtgren and Olve Eikemo as far as metal goes, but also personalities as Eddie Izzard and Danish pop-producer, Sören Rasted. It is hard to explain in few lines how this fully should be understood. It is a lot more about ‘mind sets’ today, than it has ever been. In this way of thinking you also get the concept of originality. You are forced to push your own limits and be creative, instead of just listening to what other people make and get inspired by their songs and hook lines.

What newer thrash bands are you into?

There are many good performers out there and some of them will probably make it to the metal history books. In these books Warbringer and Evile could get the honor of being catalysts in the new wave of thrash metal, but it has many more elements in it than that. They played the right music at a time where many weren’t satisfied with what the scene had to offer.

I spoke to John Kevill at a Warbringer show some time ago here in Denmark, and he told me that Century Media Records approached them and not the other way around. This really shows how much a new age in metal was needed, when one of the leading labels contact an unknown band, with the purpose of making them the most successful act in the NWOTM. There are many great bands out there, but there’s without a doubt many times more less good bands.

Now that you are promoting the new album, where would you like to tour?

We are planning different tours at the moment and we will be heading out on the European roads with Vader in June. This is the first tour we have made official, but more will follow, together with festivals and single shows. We are looking very much forward to have the honor of playing in Europe, and get to play for people who have never seen us live before. That is always great fun. It is of course also a great honor to support historic bands, such as Vader.

As a young band moving up in the ranks of the NWOTM, what has been the highlight of your budding career?

There have been many highlights in our career from the beginning to now. Playing on MTV’s The New Era Tour was a great deal of fun, but touring with Vader and playing at Vagos Open Air in front of more people than we have ever done, will defiantly be the two most important highlights so far.

Final words?

We are only playing music for the hell of it! And that will never change. Thank you for showing interest in our work!

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