Zerozonic – Crushing PropulsionSaturday, 8th April 2017
Developing multiple outlets for all metal interests appears to be more of a regular occurrence these days. Especially if you can manage time and musicians well to make all your ideas become a reality. Such is the case with guitarist Daniel ‘Død’ Olaisen – probably best known for his work in Norwegian death metal outfit Blood Red Throne who’ve released eight albums in their close to twenty-year existence. Since 2004, he’s also developed four albums with groove/thrash metal band Zerozonic – including their latest self-titled release that decimates as the style should when done well a la Nevermore, Machine Head, Pantera, and Testament.
Feeling the need to learn more about both Zerozonic and Blood Red Throne, Daniel kindly answered this set of questions. Prepare to learn more about his love of music due to his mother’s influence, an appreciation for all styles of metal even with his brutal beginnings, and concern for the future of the genre because of the changing consumption model of digital music.
Dead Rhetoric: What are your early memories of music growing up in childhood? At what point did you know you wanted to pick up an instrument and play, and how soon thereafter did you start playing in bands and gravitate towards heavy metal?
Daniel Olaisen: Oh, I definitely got into music because of my mother. She listened to all kinds of music. Rock and metal too. When I found her TNT – Tell No Tales on cassette, I was sold. This was 1987 and I never looked back. She also had Yngwie Malmsteen and Joe Satriani CD’s and this made me interested in guitar playing as well. However, it was my best friend playing guitar at that time, that inspired me to pick up the guitar. This was around 1991 I think. Me and a friend of mine started jammin’ in my basement and being massive Metallica fans, this was the style we tried to play. Only a year later, I was introduced to bands like Obituary, Pestilence, Gorefest etc. This blew my mind and from then on, extreme metal would be close to me. Soon I discovered black metal and it was just a matter of time until I would play this style myself. I wrote riffs and songs all the time, but I never found a decent drummer back then. In 1994 I recorded my first demo, using a drum machine. There were no vocals and it was powerful black metal. This demo is even cool today I must say. However, it was not until I met the drummer Anders Kobro of In the Woods/ex-Carpathian Forest (that) I would be able to make my first real band. This became Scariot and it was 1997. And the style was actually heavy metal!
Dead Rhetoric: Is there a story behind your nickname ‘Død’, which means ‘death’ in Norwegian?
Olaisen: Two reasons. My personal belief and also what I demand when life is over, death! Second, my all-time fave band happens to be Death. There you go!
Dead Rhetoric: At age 19 you gained the opportunity to play as a live guitarist with Satyricon in 1996- what do you remember most about your time with the band, as you ended up forming Blood Red Throne with bassist Terje Vik Schiei (Tchort) shortly thereafter?
Olaisen: Believe it or not, Satyricon was the first band I ever played in. I’d only played guitar for 4-5 years and all of a sudden I was the live guitarist in one of my fave bands at that time. Insane! My first live performance ever was in front of 10,000 people at the Dynamo Festival in 1997. What a flying start. Naturally, it was a great experience for me to play in a big band with skilled musicians. My friend Tchort was also playing with me in Satyricon. We both had a passion for death metal though and we started talking about making a band a couple of years before Satyricon actually. But we never found a decent drummer…until Freddy showed up. After three years in Satyricon we decided to go all in with Blood Red Throne!
Dead Rhetoric: How do you feel about the long history of Blood Red Throne – what would you consider personal highlights in terms of particular albums, tours, or festival appearances where you knew you made a mark or important impact as a group?
Olaisen: I started Blood Red Throne almost 20 years ago, and I’m still here. Releasing great albums, touring the world and meeting the fans. Great man! Supporting Dimmu Borgir for 6 weeks in the US and Canada is definitely one of our highlights. But playing in South America was crazy too. And festivals like Hellfest and Bloodstock. There are so many shows. Keep em’ comin’.
Dead Rhetoric: Zerozonic started in 2004 – how did this band develop, was it out of necessity given the fact that you had something creatively different that you wanted to express in terms of styles? And are you able to separate your songwriting endeavors between the two acts, or do you just let inspiration strike you and then determine where the material will go best for which band?
Olaisen: I’ve always been a huge fan of groove metal. And I’ve always been a diverse guitar player. I can do everything from acoustic ballads to extreme metal. I won’t mix all elements in one band. That’s why I have four bands, (laughs). Anyway, it’s never a problem to decide what riff goes where. The four bands I have are very different and Zerozonic is where I put my groove and thrash riffs!
Dead Rhetoric: I’ve been very impressed with the band’s discography through the years, but it seems like your latest, self-titled album is the strongest Zerozonic record to date. Explain how the recording and songwriting sessions went- as it’s a long process to pull together given your other responsibilities, correct?
Olaisen: I totally agree. The albums keep getting better. The new one is not that new to me. I recorded the guitars 3 years ago, and the pre-production has been around for a while. We’ve just waited for Martin to have the time to mix it. It almost went two years, (laughs)! But finally, it’s here. As always, I write and record all the songs in my home studio and add programmed drums. I send it to Martin who records the bass and makes a nice mix before we send it to Arvid who puts his killer vocals on it. We need real drums for sure, so we actually do it the opposite way and record the drums at last. This time we got help from my drummer in Big City (my 80’s metal band) and Frank did an awesome job.
Dead Rhetoric: What are some of the lyrical themes you wanted to get across on this record? How important are lyrics to the overall outlook of Zerozonic?
Olaisen: I’m all about the music, but it’s never wrong to have meaningful or personal lyrics. Arvid talks a lot about his demons and I guess the basic line is what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
Dead Rhetoric: “Instrumentalis” is quite the eight-minute plus arrangement – bringing to mind classic work from Metallica, Metal Church, and Iron Maiden, while also proving that you don’t necessarily have to be speedy or technically intricate to create a compelling instrumental in heavy metal. How much of a challenge is it to create a memorable, epic track like this?
Olaisen: I’m extremely satisfied with that instrumental. I did a similar thing on the God Damn, Better, Best album and I just dig doing that kind of stuff. The riffs just came natural and I knew I would incorporate this beautiful clean part in the middle, which is a riff I’ve had for many, many years. I don’t care if things are simple or technical. As long as it’s well written and put together nicely, it’s a winner. I really hope metalheads discover this great tune!
Dead Rhetoric: How are you able to juggle all of your band activities while still maintaining a family and social life? Would you say you are great at time management and knowing how to carve out specific periods for business and productivity purposes?
Olaisen: Would you believe it when I say that I spend most of my time playing football (soccer)? I practice 3-4 days a week and I’m dead serious. Besides this, I work shifts and I’m also the manager of my oldest daughter, who’s becoming a big popstar these days! Of course, there are hours in my home studio and playing guitar, but I don’t practice every day at all. It’s all about finding time and doing what I like. My kids are almost grown-ups now and I have plenty of time when organizing my life. (laughs)
Dead Rhetoric: Being in the metal industry for decades now, where do you see the state of the scene these days? Do you think there are particular areas that younger musicians need to gain more insight or education that would benefit them in the long run that you had to learn through trial and error?
Olaisen: I hate to be a pessimist, but I think the scene is destroyed in some way. I mean, everybody can start a band, record in their home studio and put it out online. There’s nothing special anymore about releasing an album. There is so much being released (today) and when there’s actually a great album comin’ (out) people don’t notice it. Back in the day, I would run to my local metal store and buy the latest Death album, go home and listen to it for days, knowing the songs back and forth. This does not happen anymore. People skip through 50 songs on iTunes or YouTube in one day and never actually digest the album how it should (be digested). Sad. What I notice these days is that 12-year-old kids can shred as hell on guitar because they’ve watched YouTube. This is impressive of course, but at the end of the day, I want a good song. Give me a god damn great song and not all that wankin’ on guitar. It’s not all bad of course, but sometimes I find it hard to decide if people are into it for the right reasons.
Dead Rhetoric: Considering the thousands of CD’s in your collection from what I’ve read in previous interviews, what would be five of your go-to albums in that collection- they can be metal or otherwise? And who would you consider the most underrated heavy metal band these days and why?
Olaisen: Death is mandatory. Could be any album, but Human is my favorite. Far Beyond Driven by Pantera. Anything by Joe Satriani. I guess no one’s heard of Dream Police from Norway, but their debut means a lot to me. I also have to mention Kansas and Leftoverure. There are SO many good bands people should know about, but they drown in this metal jungle. One of them, is my friends in Dimenzion Psycosphere. They have been true to their style since the late 90’s and could easily have become one of the bigger bands in their genre. They are a mix of Devin Townsend and Rammstein and have their own unique live show. They did this in 1998 and they do it in 2017. If a major label picked them up back in the day, they would have been HUGE today. Check em’ out!
Dead Rhetoric: What would you want the average reader to learn and know about Norway that maybe they aren’t really aware of- beyond the ‘black metal’ movement and previous church burnings during the 1990’s?
Olaisen: Norway will always be one of the leaders in black metal. But we have some really impressive bands in other genres as well. Hellish Outcast and Wyruz would compete with the big thrash metal bands any day. Pagan’s Mind is as good as Dream Theater or Symphony X to my ears. Jorn Lande is one of the greatest heavy metal singers in the world. He’s from Norway! We have so much quality besides black metal. So, in terms of music, metalheads should be aware of this.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you see the rest of 2017 looking for activities relating to Zerozonic, Blood Red Throne, or any of your other musical activities? Will there be tours or festival appearances taking shape?
Olaisen: I’ve decided to focus on Blood Red Throne. We have a lot coming up this year. We’ve done a couple of festivals so far. Next month we do a headliner tour in the UK. We’re doing a mini-tour in Spain and Portugal later this year. And we work on both south and North America again. There might be a Zerozonic gig or two as well!