ILLDISPOSED are the grand old men of Danish death metal. For 25 years, the deadly groove machine has crushed stages and ears with its uniquely sounding metal, and the band’s latest effort, ‘Grey Sky over Black Town’, out on Massacre Records on the 27th of May, proves that Illdisposed are still more than up for it in 2016.
During the Heavy Agger festival, The Power Of Metal.dk’s Thomas spoke with the laid back and soft-spoken guitarist Jakob Batten, approximately one hour before he went on stage.
Thomas: Congratulations on the anniversary! How are you planning on celebrating it – apart from the release of ‘Grey Sky over Black Town’?
Jakob: Well, thank you! Our plan is to play some gigs where we’ll play songs from all the albums we’ve made. We probably can’t play two songs from all albums because that would come close to 30 songs. We’ll do at least one from all albums and then two from the best albums.
Thomas: Sounds cool. How far and wide will this take you? Around all of Europe?
Jakob: That’s our idea at least, but we’ll see. It’s become harder to get the gigs because the competition has become harder. We’re doing what we can to play as much out there as possible.
Thomas: Will you bring support bands from Denmark?
Jakob: We’re most certainly going to bring someone along, but nothing is decided as yet. We have only booked festivals so far.
Thomas: Which festivals are you going to play this year?
Jakob: Oh, I can’t remember…Summerbreeze for sure, and RockHard Festival too. A headlining tour as such won’t be until the autumn at some point.
Thomas: Let’s talk about ‘Grey Sky over Black Town’. What does the title of the album mean?
Jakob: The title is actually taken from one of the songs on ‘Submit’. Memories Expanded as far as I remember. Actually, this was also stolen from a Depeche Mode song. So it was kind of stolen from a place, which was also stolen from a place. It’s double stolen! [laughs] But the title is a nod to the fact that we are more black metal influenced on this album, and this is also why the cover looks the way it does with it’s grey and black colours. We felt that things came together well that way.
Thomas: You almost answered my next question. Stylistically, how is this new album compared to ‘With Lost Souls on Our Side’? More black metal?
Jakob: ‘Lost Souls…’ headed in a more old school direction, more in the direction of our old albums. In my opinion, the new album actually goes even further back, back to the very beginning of the band, as if we’re biting our own tail.
Thomas: This hopefully doesn’t mean that you’ve reached the end of the line?
Jakob: No, no, hell, no! We haven’t discussed the next album yet, but I’m hoping that we’ll be going in the same direction. Even if we’re getting old, it feels right to play it more brutal again instead of the other experiments we’ve made [laughs].
Thomas: Back to the cover artwork. Can you say a bit more about it? Who is the woman on the cover? What happens to her?
Jakob: Well, she’s a 22-year-old model from Aarhus [Denmark], whom I never met. We’ve used Lasse Hoile again for the cover. The reason we use him is that he has different ideas than most heavy metal artists. He does a lot of work for progressive artists like for example Steven Wilson, Opeth and Anathema. We just think that it’s great to do something else than the usual heavy metal covers. Most death metal bands have some big machine or a shooting robot that kills a lot of people or a desolate landscape you’ve seen a million times on the cover. It’s always the same. It’s something that looks great on a t-shirt, and then you’ve forgotten it again because someone else does exactly the same two minutes later. We like to use Hoile because he sees a deeper meaning in things. We give him a title, show him lyrics and let him listen to some of the music, and then he just sees something in it, which I think is cool. I like us to be more interesting than just the usual death and hell.
Thomas: Ken [Holst, guitar] and Kussen [bass] have been part of band for quite some time now and seem to be an integrated part of the team. What about Rasmus [Schmidt, drums]? Is he a full time member now? And by the way, what happened with Kim [Jensen, the former Dawn of Demise drummer who played drums on ‘Lost Souls’]?
Jakob: Kim had kids! I mean, his wife did [laughs]. He felt he couldn’t prioritise Illdisposed as much as he had to. He plays in a glam rock band now! In the beginning, Rasmus joined us as a session drummer, but the plan is that he’s permanent. He does spend a lot of time with [Danish black metal phenomenon] Myrkur, which is why he isn’t playing with us tonight. Kim is actually playing with us tonight – it’s great to have back-up drummers at hand [laughs]. But I really hope that it’ll work out with Rasmus because he fits in excellently. Even if he’s from Copenhagen and in that sense from the outset is directly opposite of what Illdisposed stands for attitude-wise. But he’s nice and quiet and laidback. And he plays everything from grindcore to jazz, that’s really cool.
Thomas: You’ve said before that you wrote practically all the music yourself. Is that still the case?
Jakob: No, actually, this time I’ve only written seven out of thirteen songs. I feel really great about that – I was beginning to feel a bit worn down from writing everything. It’s hard to have to dish out 12-13 songs every time. We usually write more songs than we record, also this time. We probably wrote 16-17 songs, and then dump some of them.
Thomas: And they won’t end up somewhere?
Jakob: Don’t think so, but you’ll never know. We tend to cut away the fat, so we only have the best left. I think it’s been amazing not to do it alone this time. I mean, even Rasmus has chipped in. Basically everyone in the band took part in the creation of these songs.
Thomas: I was going to ask how you keep finding the inspiration. Do you listen to a lot of metal?
Jakob: Yes and no. Actually, I don’t listen that much to music. It’s mostly when I drive. I generally listen to a lot of different music. I’m a big fan of Steven Wilson, the progressive rock artist, and also of A-Ha [Norwegian pop band] whom I’ve just seen live in Bremen [Germany] a couple of weeks ago. It was amazing. I listen to all sorts of music, and try to find inspiration in all sorts of weird stuff and not so much death metal. I think that’s why we have a different sound.
Thomas: Speaking of different: Why do you insist on using the sound bites from old, Danish films? It’s odd and no one outside Denmark understand them!
Jakob: They’re just cool! Danish films are great! That people outside Denmark don’t understand it, that’s their problem [laughs]. But they ask about it, and it gives us something to talk about [laughs]. The sound bite this time is from an Olsen Banden film. The actor from the clip died shortly after we used it, which was a bit bizarre. All of a sudden it’s become a kind of tribute.
Thomas: You’ve been part of Illdisposed since 1999. How has Illdisposed developed as a band? What has changed?
Jakob: We’re more structured. When I joined, there was no organisation. I soon took over the control of all practical matters. From contact with media, to our accountant, our label, booking agency, simply took over all of that. It was chaos when I joined. The band needed someone to look after these things. That’s probably the biggest difference. I also began writing a lot of the music and fairly soon homed in on the style we were going for.
Thomas: And soon wrote two very popular albums [‘1-800 Vindication’ and ‘Burn Me Wicked’]…
Jakob: Yes, probably the two more successful of our albums.
Thomas: Exactly. Thank you, Jakob!
Jakob: Great, thanks!