So here is an interview I did more than fourteen years ago with Anders Iwers, the bassist of the Swedish death metal band Tiamat. It was going to be published in a fanzine I was then making with two friends. However, our plan fell through, the second issue was never published, and I was left with the interview in my recorder. I kind of forgot about it for years. Recently I decided it was a pity not to publish it somewhere, and this 'somewhere' is my blog. I was giggling throughout the interview because I was so nervous, but Anders was very sweet, easy-going and polite. So, after exchanging our hellos with him, here is the actual interview...
Elizabeth: -Before we begin, I am going to tell you something that I thought was a compliment to you. My best friend came to visit me last night, so you know, I just went to the stereo and pressed play, without checking which CD is inside. After the first ten seconds, he exclaims, "Oh! Tiamat!' and I am like, "Wow, how do you do this?" He replied, "Very simple! It's the bass. It's so characteristic. You can't mistake it." And I said, "Okay, I'm going to tell Anders! He'll probably appreciate it."
Anders Iwers: That's indeed a compliment. Thank you!
-You are welcome. He said that it's something totally characteristic of your sound. "Listen to it", he said. "It's deep, it's not rough. It's melodic. As soon as you hear it, you say, it's Tiamat." I was very happy about this comment.
AI: Well, I am happy about it.
-Okay, onward with the questions. I am going to ask you a few questions about your new album, (Note: at the time, it was Prey) hopefully not boring ones, and hopefully not something you have answered 3000 times before.
AI: I'm sure it is going to be fine.
-And then I am going to ask you some general questions as well. Okay, so: first strange question. The artwork on your CDs is becoming wackier and wackier, if you know what I mean. Actually it has become progressively darker, more rich, more distorted. Do you have any kind of control over the representation of your work? Some kind of collaboration, or...
AI: Absolutely. Our singer does the artwork for the albums. I mean we have as much control over it as we possibly can, actually. We do it all ourselves. I really like that because it provides contact with the lyric sense and the atmosphere of the album. It's one step closer than using any artist, and it is very reflective of how we see the album.
-That is great! I noticed this, because there are bands that have this characteristic 'one type of artwork for everything' kind of artwork, so I was wondering how you did it.
AI: Yes, you can have a really good artist who does his work, but he doesn't have anything to do with the music...
-But you want to use sight as much as hearing. To provoke thought, etc.
AI: Exactly. We tend to see music as covers. I don't want to say too much because the atmosphere is for everyone to decide. It's graphic.
-It creates images in one's mind. I am of the opinion that good music creates images in someone's mind. It's like traveling somewhere. Or seeing things. Snapshots of people, places.
-Next question. For the song Pentagram, you used a poem by Crowley. How did this come about? Is it a recent interest into the occult, or...
AI: It is not recent. We've been quite interested in all things religious and occult since day one, basically. The reason we used that poem is that we didn't have lyrics at that point. We used that because it seemed fitting like a working theme as we were developing the music, and after a while you couldn't really hear the song with different lyrics, so we had to ask for permission from the owner of his estate, the OTO. They didn't give us permission to print the lyrics. I am guessing they hoped that people interested in the lyrics would actually search for information and read more on Crowley. That's just a guess.
-I think it is a good idea actually. Give someone a starting point to go and look for themselves.
AI: It's actually working. A while ago I was talking with a journalist, and he did go and found the poem. So it's working.
-Ha ha, that's great. Okay... next question. Most of the reviews I read are in praise of Wildhoney, which is an older album. It must be irritating after a while to read the same again and again. I have Wildhoney myself, I like it, but if was to choose between Wildhoney and another album, I wouldn't probably choose Wildhoney. But anyway, that is personal. Still, it must be tiring to read the same again and again. What's your view?
AI: Tiring is a good word. It is not irritating because it is a record that we made, it is our most successful album and we are very proud of it. But it can get a bit tiring after a while like you say because we've done four albums since Wildhoney, and I think better albums, actually.
-Yes, and I can see a steady evolution in your music. There is evolution, you can tell. I mean, I have been playing Deeper Kind of Slumber ever since it was out, and I am not bored of it. I recently got Judas Christ and I love it. So it must be irritating to read the same reviews again and again, because reviews influence the audience, so they probably say, "Let's buy Wildhoney instead of the new albums."
-The same old story.
AI: Yeah, but you know, it's just... if people like it, fine.
-If they don't like it, they can go fuck themselves. I mean, I am of the opinion that if you really put your soul into something, you can't care less. If they like it, it's just fine, if they don't like it, that's just fine too.
AI: Something like that.
-Next question, and that's probably a tricky one. Which album is your favourite?
AI: Well, at this moment I'll choose Prey, because it's the most fresh to me, but probably, if ask me again after a bit of time, I'll choose something else. For example, I am very proud of Deeper Kind of Slumber.
-Yeah, when I first got it I was wondering, "What the hell happened to them? What kind of drugs are they on? This is just amazing!"
AI: No no no, I am very proud of that album. Looking back in the day, I am really proud of that album. And I am proud of Judas Christ too. Actually it's very hard to choose.
-I was thinking the same. It must be like having five children and being asked which one is your favourite. And this is why I thought that it must be so irritating when people say about one of them again and again, "this one is lovely." Yeah, but what about the rest of them?
AI: Yes, exactly.
-So, what makes you laugh, and what makes you furious about the contemporary music scene?
AI: I don't know if you have this in Greece, but in Sweden, we have all those manufactured bands on TV. They have something like a school that creates those bands. For me, that's really disgusting. it makes me really really angry. It's a manufactured product. It's not even music, it's a product.
-Based on a successful recipe.
AI: Yeah, and the only purpose is that it should sell as much as possible, and the fact there are companies like that makes me puke, I hate it. What makes me laugh it that every once in a while, a band or an artist becomes successful without using a formula. And you could not have foreseen that. Actually I can name only Swedish bands, but this happens in every country. And it makes me smile. It makes me think there is some hope.
-For this world we live in.
AI: I don't think there is any hope for the world we live in.
-Okay, this explains a lot about the latest albums. (laughing)
-There is always hope. If you lose that, you'd better jump off a building, you know? We have this little fanzine that has just begun. And there are people judging it from just the back cover. There are people who have asked us, "Oh, what are you trying to do? Establish an elite that is more elite than the elite?" And they don't even read it. But we are basically trying to do what we want to do, and we don't care. There is always hope. As long as you have people, original creative people, that they are trying to do what they want to do, you know, just express themselves, then anything can happen.
-Tell me something that you did as a band, and you have sorely regretted it. This can be anything, not an album, just something you did as a band and then said, "oh, we shouldn't have done that".
AI: I don't know, I mean, I am not someone who believes in regretting the past, because there is nothing we can change about it. if it's done, it's done, and you really can't change it, even if you feel bad about it.
-You can get things from it, actually.
AI: Yeah, exactly.
-Usually it's bad experiences you get things from.
AI: Actually I regret something in Mexico.
AI: We were on tour in Mexico and we ate something bad.
-Ha ha ha! So you were running to the toilet.
AI: Yep. That was something we shouldn't have done. But other than that, I am not regretting a thing.
-I am sure the toilet won't remember.
AI: I hope so. I want to forget it.
-Okay, one last question. I was reading the lyrics in your latest album and I thought that the song Clovenhoof is referring to the witch hunts. But I am not sure, so I am asking you.
AI: It's not, actually. It's metaphor from the witch hunting days to cast light on something else. It's more abstract, actually, and related to guilt. It's about taking in other people's guilty feelings and trying to absolve something you have nothing to do with. You should accept your own fate, carry your own burden.
-Or even put that burden down, if you can. Don't carry it.
AI: There are consequences, you know. Do whatever you want, but pay the price.
-I realise that most of your songs are abstract. You are not very political, in the sense that you don't use current events; instead you seem to mostly draw your inspiration from feelings, frames of mind...
-Do you think that music should be political? Reflecting on events that happened to the world? Or you just prefer to speak about the feelings these events stir?
AI: I would say, if I had my own band, I would be very political, actually. I am very interested, ah, I am very outspoken in matters of politics as a private person. As a band, I don't think that Tiamat would be benefited. But a lot of my favourite bands are very political. In fact, most of our inspiration comes from current events.
-Yes, but you can filter it through, you don't have to put the event itself in the song.
AI: Exactly. The events from couple of years ago in the United States (note: he is referring to the 9/11 events) changed everything for everyone, basically. It made us question everything. More specifically, it made me think about what it takes to put a man in the frame of mind to fly a plane into a building.
-Yes, and the problem was, there were people inside the Towers. If it was just a madman who decided to take a plane and fly it into an empty building, I would not mind. But there were innocent people inside, everyday people, who had nothing to do with it.
AI: So just imagine what it would take to make you hijack a plane full of people and fly it in a building. That thought...
-Makes you wonder about human nature.
AI: And it's also based on religion.
-Yes, I know. Greece is an orthodox Christian country. If you are not with them, for some reason they think you are against them. It's very prominent, you see it everywhere. If you are Greek and you aren't Orthodox, there is something wrong with you.
-Yes, for example, if I say to my co-workers I am not Christian, I would get all those weird looks from them. And if I try to explain to them, that would be a very long and awkward conversation. So you have to keep silent about it.
AI: He he.
-Okay... It was very nice talking to you.
-I also got a funny comment from one of the guys in the fanzine. He works in a musical magazine, and yesterday I called him and told him, "Oh god I'm stressed, I'm so stressed about the interview with Tiamat." "Calm down," he said to me. "Who is the interview with?" and I said, "The bassist." He said, "Oh, that's great. Not the singer then?" "No, not the singer. Why, what's wrong with the singer?" I asked. "He's a fine guy," my friend said, "but he doesn't talk." "What, Tiamat have a mute singer?" I said. "No no no, he's just a little difficult to interview, not mute."
AI: Ha ha ha.
-Thank you, thank you, thank you. It was a very good interview.
AI: Yeah, absolutely.