Already their 11th year in existence, Pagan’s Mind returns this year with 5th full length album, Heavenly Ecstasy. While 2007’s God’s Equation proved to be a disappointment for many longtime followers of the band, Heavenly Ecstasy provides a nice fusion of technicality and melody to provide an hours’ worth of enjoyment. We talk to vocalist Nils to find out more.
Hello! The reactions have been tremendous so far. The album has been “album of the month” in several important magazines, we have entered the charts at good positions in several countries, and the reviews all over are very, very good. We are so very much satisfied so far! Definitely a big step up ahead for the band, and finally with a serious record label to support us, the future looks brighter than ever before.
Unlike previous releases, Heavenly Ecstasy was released under SPV Records, marking the first release under this label. What was it that made the band decide to switch labels, and how has it been working with SPV so far?
The band really wanted to move on to a bigger record company that could help us better in future endeavours, so therefore we wanted to collaborate with a company that had the opportunities to help us further. After considering different labels, our choice was SPV Steamhammer. So far the collaboration with them has being going very well, and we look forward to call them our home for many years to come.
The first thing that was noticed when the album artwork was revealed before the album release was the significant difference in the theme compared to previous albums. While the band has mostly stuck to blue hues on album artworks, this time the band has chosen to instead utilize a fiery-orange themed artwork. Why the change in style in the album artwork?
Well I guess we really just wanted to try out something different. I myself have made the covers in the past – for all the records, but we wanted to do a twist this time and try out something else. So we were approached by Mr. Felipe Machado who did a lot of cool covers for band like Blind Guardian etc – and we are really happy with the result. I think it´s important for a band to try out different stuff and not get stuck too much with the “old recipe”, even if it worked in the past.
Are there any hidden meanings, and what is the significance of the new album artwork to the music on the album?
Well, my lyrics and conceptual framework in Pagan´s Mind is often metaphorical, and stuffed with mysticism, and yes, you can say hidden meanings. I like to make the listener use his or hers mind to interpret the concept and message, and that´s not always that easy. It´s all a treat for the brain even if we simplified things a little bit on this album. The album title and the artwork speaks for itself I think: It´s celestial, flying high, an out-of-this-world feeling, and both romantic and erotic at the same time!
Let’s talk a little bit about the music and songwriting about the album. Heavenly Ecstasy presents to fans of Pagan’s Mind the strongest work of the band so far. What was the songwriting process like, and was it any different from the writing of previous albums?
We all wrote the songs together, but Jorn Viggo has (as always) been “the conductor” securing the quality to the last chain of the production. He is the one in the band that puts the most blood, sweat and tears into this. We all contribute in our way and by our respective instruments to create an album. It took a long time creating this album. I guess we were a little “dried out” on the creative side after “God´s Equation”. In addition we did a lot of touring after that album, and that takes up a lot of time and energy. I guess three year is what we needed this time around to put out a good album – we always think quality over quantity that pays off in the long run. I guess about two years after “God´s Equation” we started to write again. Then the recording process took half a year, and we changed record company after that, so everything stretched out
Before the album writing started proper, was there any premise that the band based the writing of music on?
The songs on “Heavenly Ecstasy” really didn’t come up because we decided “hey, let´s be less progressive” – it was just a natural thing for us. And personally I like melody and strong songs over all so I think this is a good thing for us. So no, no planning ahead, just a natural writing process.
The band also released a video of Intermission, a compilation of sorts with live footage and some footage of the band in the studio. Why pick this song in particular?
I guess that particular song is written with intention for radio/video play, even if it´s a “full blown” Pagan´s Mind song. We have focused very strongly on melody lines this time around. Actually the main riff is something we have jammed on for many years, and finally it became a song out of it – and a good one I think as well! Our budget did not allow some million dollar production and something in-between “trying” to make it look expensive can easily turn out cheesy – so we went for a simple “feel good” video with footage from gigs all over the world. I think it´s a fun video that brings a smile to anyone´s face.
The video was released in memory of Ronnie James Dio and Gary Moore (R.I.P.) in particular. How have their works influenced Pagan’s Mind throughout the years?
I know for a fact that our guitar player Jorn Viggo is very much influenced by them both, and since he is so influential on the band´s sound, we wanted to give some of the biggest names in rock our little respect by having them in our video…!
What, in your opinion, is the biggest difference between the music on Heavenly Ecstasy and that on previous releases?
It´s a little bit more straightforward and more catchy. The songs are overall shorter, even if there are a couple of long epic ones on this album too. It is a little more radio friendly than before. I would say that are the main difference.
Before the release of Heavenly Ecstasy, the band also released a single entitled Helter fra Telemark, roughly translated to mean heroes of Telemark, the place of origin of Pagan’s Mind. What is the significance of and meaning behind this track, and will this song be available on any future releases?
That song was written as a support song for our local football team, and was released as a single by the board of the football club. The lyrics are really typical football supporter stuff and are sung on Norwegian. It is based on a cover song, and it will not be released on any other Pagans Mind album, it was just a little and cool thing we did for the “local spirit”. “Heroes Of Telemark” is based on a film by the same name about a WW2 sabotage action back here in Norway which halted the Germans to create the atomic bomb. And so we wrote the lyrics over to a football context. Funny because I am not interested in football at all. I just sing, hehe.
The band has done a cover of Loudness’ Crazy Nights, as a tribute to recent happenings in Japan. What was the reason behind choosing to cover Loudness, and in particular the track Crazy Nights?
We all were fans of Loudness back in the 80´s and it was a classic party tune we loved to sing and drink to. Of course paying tribute to Japan would be covering a Japanese metal band, so the choice was natural to do a Loudness song. Crazy Nights is easily in my opinion their coolest song also, so therefore we did just that. I know Hammerfall also covered that song so I guess bands like that song in particular.
Besides the Graspop Metal Meeting at the end of June, the band will also be playing at the Norway Rock Festival in July. How are preparations coming along for the band?
Just got back home from Graspop and it was totally awesome. We look forward to the other summer festivals and I think the bands sound tight, good and ready for more live playing in the weeks and months to come!
Can fans who are catching the band at these shows expect any special treats by the band?
They can catch the very special treat of seeing a band live that is totally honest: no cheating with backing tracks on click, Pagan´s Mind is 100% live and straight from the heart, mind, body and soul! Unlike a lot of bands these days who have a lot of their sound on tape live….we recreate the studio feeling live with our own instruments.
We have come to the last part of the interview; the final words are yours!
Be nice to each other, don´t drink and drive, support art, love and give yourselves time to wonder about life´s great mysteries every day!
Album Review: Pagan’s Mind – Heavenly Ecstasy