A talk with
KLAUS AGERBO (Drums)
(Questionnaire by Sloof)
Once again, I was stunned by a new Danish band, this time Meridian blew my socks off. Being formed in 2005 and after recording their debut album twice (!), it’s time to check out with the band and we are not going to talk about the Danish national anthems ‘Der er et yndigt land’ and ‘Kong Kristian’, but about their debut album ‘Metallurgy’ and many more issues!
Q: Well, it’s always great to get in touch with new bands and new albums, and I guess that the same goes with a band. Is it time to broaden your horizons, getting in touch with new people and media?
A: Hello Patrick and thank you for the kind words. Because we have been writing and recording our debut album over the last 3 years, it’s fantastic being able to finally release it and share it with fans of melodic metal all across Europe. And our biggest hope is to get out and play the songs live for as many metal heads as possible.
Q: The band released already 2 EP’s, but those were independently released. I guess it was limited to Denmark only?
A: Yes, the two first EP’s were printed in limited numbers and even though we sent some to record companies around Europe, it was mostly reviewed and sold in Denmark.
Q: How was the reaction on those EP’s? Did you had the chance to promote them live or is it a struggle to play gigs if you are unsigned? Tell us a little more about the scene in your area, the West coast of Denmark…
A: Well, both EP’s were well received and some reviewers even claimed that we deserved a record deal and wrote more creative and interesting music than some established bands. Our local metal scene in the town of Esbjerg used to be the best in the country back in the beginning of the 1990’s with local band Invocator being the driving force, but through the years that scene is not that big anymore. We certainly hope we can play some part in changing that again! But as a small band in our area, you’re lucky if 50-70 people show up at the gigs.
Q: You live about 300 kilometers from the capital city ‘Kobenhavn’, I wonder, are most of the gigs in Kopenhagen, or is it spread all over Denmark?
A: (Laughs) We actually haven’t played in Copenhagen yet, but we sure hope to do so in the coming months. We are scheduled to play gigs in other Danish cities and we are trying to book some double-gigs with other likeminded bands from around the country.
Q: The name of the band is Meridian, why ‘the circle of longitude’?
A: Well, back in 2006 I was watching some show on discovery channel and the word Meridian were mentioned and I thought it had a nice ring to it and was sort of a global term. So before presenting it to the other guys in the band, I messed around with different cool fonts and ended up with the letters that we used on the debut album.
Q: Drummer Klaus Agerbo and bass player Peter Bruun founded the band in 2005. Did they play in other bands before and how comes that they started a new band, called Meridian?
A: I had just moved to Esbjerg in 2004 and having played drums in all kinds of genres, I desperately needed to play some original metal material again, so I put an ad up in the local music stores website…. And the day after, Peter responded to it. We jammed just bass and drums and totally hit it off. We came from the same background musically and had a common vision about the band from the beginning. Before meeting we had both played in other metal and hard rock bands.
Q: Vocalist Lars Märker joined a year later, followed by Steffan Pedersen as guitarplayer in 2009. It’s uncommon that there haven’t been lineup changes so far! Is Meridian a bunch of good friends in first place and a band secondly, or is it just because the chemistry between the members fits just right ?
A: Lars is a lot younger than Peter and I, but he fit right in from day one! And he’s has to be one of the nicest frontmen in the genre! So the chemistry was there early on. When Steffan joined, it felt like we found a major piece in the puzzle, which had been missing.
Q: My first acquaintance with this band was only a few days ago. I received one of many promo packages and Meridian was amongst it. A new band is also a huge question mark... What will it be, how will it sound, so the very first tones of an album are extremely important. ‘Metallurgy’ opens with an intro called ‘Introminator’ and that’s ideal to get people into the right mood. Was it written with the intention of an intro, as in my opinion, it could become a great song as well!
A: (Laughs) It was based on an old riff Peter came up with back in 2006 and he and I arranged much of it back then. But for some reason it didn’t fit in on the first two EP’s. We had 9 finished songs for the debut and talked about the idea of having an instrumental as the first track. Short of new riffs, Peter and I suggested the old riffs from 2006. The others liked it. We composed a beginning to the song and that was it.
Q: ‘Between Love And Hate’ is the first song, and the vocals of Lars Märker are really authentic. He seems to be capable to go in many directions with his voice, and that’s really important for a band. It gives the musicians a wider margin, isn’t it?
A: We always knew that Lars had a great and unique voice. But writing the debut made it clear that these songs would fit his voice perfectly! He pulls the heavy music in a melodic and cool direction. And it’s a thrill to hear him arrange and sing the choir voices as well.
Q: How would you like to describe the music of Meridian? It’s much more than Melodic Metal, as it has sharp edges and extreme parts as well. Can you mention any influences, name some bands that might be influential for Meridian?
A: Melodic Metal is a fine description in our minds, but you’re right. We have a lot of different influences. The older guys in the band grew up with Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Metallica, etc. The younger guys have brought newer bands like Tool and Killswitch Engage, to the melting pot.
Q: Is that also the reason why you teamed up with Jacob Hansen for mastering? He’s really into this musical direction and always delivers great work!
A: Jacob is not only one of the best producers in this country, but worldwide if you ask me, so we were extremely happy that he was able to do the mastering. And he lives 20 km. from Esbjerg, so we hope to work with him again, Perhaps even make the next album with him, hopefully.
Q: The album is produced and mixed by Christian Bonde Sorensen. He also worked with the Inbreeding Rednecks and Dawn Of Demise, right? How did you get in touch and how comes that Jacob Hansen was involved for the mastering? What’s exactly the difference between producing, mixing and mastering?
A: Well, Christian is a good friend of Lars and we made the first EP with him as well. Christian, like Jacob Hansen, has a great collection of classic old microphones, amps and gear, so even though they track digitally, you get that classic analog sound in there as well. We absolutely wanted that. Christian has a comfortable and cool studio with great rooms for tracking, so after trying to record the debut album ourselves, without luck, we called him and soon after we tracked the drums there. But it was a long recording session, because of Christians busy recording schedule. So we went in and recorded it in smaller sessions. Bass and most guitars were actually recorded at our own rehearsal space. When the recording and mixing was done, Christian himself actually suggested that we should get Jacob Hansen to do the mastering. Trying to explain the difference in producing, mixing and mastering, is a little out of my league, so I will pass on that. But Jacob definitely gave the album some more edge, depth and punch!
Q: The duration of the individual songs is also pretty long and that results in an opportunity to go all the way, really unlimited. How do you start writing new material?
A: Usually Steffan, Lars or Peter comes in with an idea, riffs or sometimes an almost finished song. We then jam our way through it, trying different tempos, breaks and ideas. At some point we find a form we all find comfortable to play and then we do a raw recording of the song. We then listen to it and if we still like it a couple of weeks later that’s it! If not, we try to throw different ideas in there. But with Martin in the band, we hope to do some more collective writing. Perhaps going to a desolate log cabin for the weekend to jam on new songs. We’ll find out soon.
Q: My laudatory speech ends with the many guitar solos that are present in the songs. I guess it’s important for Martin and Steffan to make songs heavy enough, to stand out of the rest of this genre?
A: Well, I’ve personally always loved guitar solos in metal music, but somehow they’ve disappeared in the last 20 years or so. So it was important for us to have a leadguitarist with the passion and the skills to do solos and to make them more than just fillers. Guitar solos should have a personality of their own and take the song in a new direction. Martin is the perfect guy for that and I can’t wait to hear what he comes up with on the next album.
Q: Can you tell us a little more about the lyrics of the songs. What are the topics to sing about and are they important to make a song complete?
A: The lyrics on the album don’t have a common concept. They are all about different things. Frozen in Time for instance, is about the 5000 year old frozen mummy Ötzi found in a glacier in Italy. Between love and hate tells the story about the good and the bad times in relationships.
Narrowmind is a slap in the face to a certain party in Danish politics. The lyrics to Seeking immortal life is a story seen through the eyes of young kamikaze pilots during the second world war. My enemy is about facing your own inner demons. The lyrics are important but they usually gets written after the songwriting has ended.
Q: But the lyrics are printed in the booklet… How comes?
A: The lyrics are not printed because we liked the way the cover looks without them. And these days most lyrics can be found on the internet, so we encourage people to try that if they want to see them.
Q: In the past, the band recorded 2 EP with 11 tracks in total. Never thought about re-record older material for this ‘Metallurgy’ album?
A: No, not really, because we wrote 9 of the songs for the debut in a relatively short period and they just seemed natural to record together. But we have talked about perhaps rerecording a couple of the older songs as extra tracks on the next album.
Q: Can I say that Meridian is a band that writes songs on a high speed. Everything is coming really fast?
A: Not always. But once we get into complete songwriting mode, things usually go pretty fast.
Q: Can you compare the material from the EP’s with the new material? Did the band evolve through the years?
A: There has been a progression in our way of writing songs, so if you put the first EP up against the new album, there will be a difference. We play more complex parts now, but we also try bolder ideas than in 2007. The second EP, which we recorded and mixed ourselves, may sound a lot different than the new album, but it’s actually more like the new stuff structure wise.
Q: The front cover artwork is rather simple, compared with the material on the disc. What is the idea or story to tell?
A: It may be simple but we feel that it has a recognizable look to it that we wanted. We like the cool blue flames that is also carried on in the inner sleeve. And I can think of many great and classic albums, which had a simple but powerful artwork, so that probably inspired us to keep it rather simple.
Q: Isn’t it important to have an ‘eye-catcher’ as album cover? People should be drawn to attention, don’t they need to be poked?
A: Well, as I said before, we feel that it’s kinda unique and hopefully something people will recognize, but if not hopefully the music will.
Q: Right now, Martin Jepsen Andersen is the second axeman in Meridian, but he joined in recently. Martin is also guitarist of Blindstone, so I wonder isn’t it a problem to give full commitment when you are part of several bands?
A: It’s not been a problem so far and he’s very dedicated to Meridian and proud to be a part of it. But let’s see when Blindstone gets busier. We’ll just have to work it out.
Q: How is the reaction of the press so far? The album is released on December 9th. so the first reviews should be incoming?
A: The album has gotten great reviews from at least 10 different reviewers so far and 1 bad review. But you can’t please everyone. ;-)
Q: Is comment important, or don’t you care what people (press) write and say about the band. The only thing that matters is what fans say, or not ?
A: I personally care a lot about what people say about the album, whether it’s reviewers or fans, because we’ve been keeping it just to ourselves for so long, so it’s cool, but also a bit scary to let it out amongst others. We hope that all the positive feedback will show our label that they made the right choice in signing us and I hope the hype will make us get a chance to record another album soon.
Q: What is going to happen now? The album is ready, the job can be considered ‘done’, so I guess that the stages are waiting?
A: We sure hope so. We would love to play the songs live around Europe if possible. A support tour with a bigger name would be great!
Q: Is playing live the ultimate goal for the band? Is that the reason why people start a band?
A: I can’t answer for anybody else, but I did it because I wanted to be creative and write original music. And when that’s achived, playing live is the coolest thing about being in a band!
Q: Any dates confirmed yet? Any possible to play outside Denmark?
A: We hope to get in contact with foreign promoters, but it’s hard work playing your own manager/promoter, so we are trying to find a dedicated person to help us get out on the stages. But we are still trying to book gigs I Denmark as well.
Q: Is every member able to tour, don’t you have private obligations like work, family, financial support... ?
A: (Laughs) Three of us are married with children, so that is a puzzle to solve but we have very understanding families. All five of us have daytime jobs, but we’ll just have to wait and see how that will work out.
Q: What can people expect when they go to a Meridian show?
A: Five dedicated metal musicians, playing their hearts out, because we love doing it!
Q: I really hope to see you on our stages in Flanders and beyond! Keep up the good work and if you have news to spread, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us!
A: Thank you so much for the interview and we hope we’ll be able to visit and play Flanders sometime soon.