Nicklas Sonne – Truth in ResonanceSunday, 30th October 2022
Best known for his work in the Danish progressive metal act Defecto, Nicklas Sonne felt the time is right to deliver a solo album of material in Resonance that carries a different level of creative diversity without compromise. Encompassing a mix of melodic metal/ hard rock with a feel of the past and present, these ten tracks showcase a musician willing to embrace his passion in any way he feels fit. We reached out to Nicklas on a Zoom chat in his studio to learn more about the new solo record, the challenges behind this release, the personal nature to the lyrical content, discussion of other projects/bands beyond Defecto, how he helps artists achieve the best that they can through his studio, plus thoughts on what the future holds for live touring/records.
Dead Rhetoric: Resonance is the debut solo album from Nicklas Sonne – and you mention on your website that you wrote these songs being true to the ideas that came to your mind, not catering to anyone specific but more to your own creative ego. Tell us about the development of this material, and why now was the right time to deliver a solo album after your work with Defecto?
Nicklas Sonne: It’s something that has been coming along for a long time. I’ve always had so much creative energy inside. With Defecto I’ve been able to get a lot of it out. As things develop in a band and the democracy gets more and more in terms of how big the band gets, everyone has ideas and wants to get involved and that’s very good, it makes what Defecto has become. The more I’ve had to discuss my ideas with the band, the more things got left inside with my creativity. As we approached the third album release Duality with Defecto, I still had so many songs inside of me that I hadn’t been able to get out yet. And all those ideas and feelings I had to get out in another place – and that was the perfect place for me to begin planning out a solo record.
That’s pretty much why it was a good spot now more than ever. A couple of the songs were written back in 2010, right in the moment where I wrote the first single for the first Defecto album. Two or three of the songs are very old, and the other songs I wrote during the time of Defecto, and I presented these songs to the band in the early stages, demos. The songs were not selected to continue forward, but I thought these songs were very good. I selected them for my solo album – when I sat down to write, record, and shape things, it only took me about three months, including the recordings. I had all the pieces, I just needed to take them all up and put them together. I wrote one whole new song, the third single that will be coming out soon “Spit Out Your Pride”.
Dead Rhetoric: What were some of the greatest challenges that came about in doing everything yourself relating to the instruments, production, and execution for these ten tracks?
Sonne: (laughs). I think everything has been easy. Maybe moneywise, because I had to pay for everything myself. That’s the most difficult thing. It is expensive to create an album – there is vinyl, CD’s, management things, promotion things, videos, photos, the list goes on and on. Merchandise, backdrops, ugh! (laughs). Creative-wise, recording-wise, I’m able to do everything myself. I didn’t do the drums, I had my good friend and old drummer from Defecto Lars (Jensen) to play the drums, because I can play drums but not at all that good. I know what to write and I know what can be done, I have an understanding of it. He almost played what I told him to do, but he was allowed some creative ways with certain fills, we tried things back and forth. I played the guitars, bass, solos, and vocals. I didn’t have to discuss anything with anyone, I could just do what I felt like, and that was quite nice and what I definitely needed with this album.
Dead Rhetoric: How did the cover concept develop – and where do you see the importance of cover art in giving the listeners the right visual enhancement to put them in the proper headspace when they listen to this record?
Sonne: I’ve always felt this album was a very personal album for me. All the songs are very personal, the lyrics as well. I wanted the cover art and visual art in general to reflect my emotions in certain situations I’ve been in, and that’s very difficult. That thing where you are walking down a path and it’s dark on one side and bright on the other side, you don’t know which side you will fall on if you slip. It’s a feeling I’ve always had inside, and I’ve been trying to write in the Defecto material. I feel that with this album I could do that full on, it’s all about that now. It reflects how I’ve felt for many years, I’ve had some depression, bad things going on relationship-wise. On the other side I’ve had a family who has cared for me, and some great friends. I’ve always had myself, and I’ve believed in myself. I will continue believing in myself. That’s the idea for the album, and what has built up inside.
This idea I presented to an art designer friend of mine. This is the first draft he sent me; it ended up being perfect as it was. I had drawn some pretty bad art myself, stick figures with bright colors and dark colors.
Dead Rhetoric: You’ve taken a lot of the ups and downs from childhood and growing up between bullying, depression, torn family situations, and low self-esteem and channeled that in a lot of the lyrical content for this album. Discuss what you were able to get across through this process, and was it a cathartic cleansing of sorts to take these aspects of your life into a different, hopeful light?
Sonne: Yes. I’ve used my creative energy with this album to be therapeutic. Instead of visiting a therapist. I’ve been able to get things out that I’ve felt, and it helps when you say things out loud. I’m using my music and with these lyrics, it means even more to me. It’s been a bit deeper than I’ve ever written before. It has helped me get some of these old emotions out. Especially the song “Misery”, it’s a family thing. At one point I feel bad for releasing a song like that, I feel bad for my parents, but there was that six-year-old Nicklas inside of me that still feels those things – and if I reflect on it, I still have the same emotion. I’m trying to write lyrics as I felt inside at the time I got the feeling, and that’s very therapeutic. As a way to escape those feelings now. I can close those things a little bit.
Dead Rhetoric: I can imagine “Keyboard Warriors” was another cleansing, your take on social media and the way people put thoughts out there behind screens and computers…
Sonne: Yes, exactly. I’ve never written so directly before, but “Keyboard Warriors” along with “Misery” is direct. I didn’t hide what I wanted the meaning to be. There was a situation not long ago where a couple of guys made a whole podcast, discussing how horrible of a person I am. They had all these wrong ideas about me, and said random things about my voice, my music, and how I wanted to just become a rock star. All those weird things which are not true at all – personal things that even included my family as well. Comments on videos, they think I am a moron. It was nice to write a song about this, put a focus on this. It’s not an area that is focused on, even in Denmark. I think it’s important, why bully each other? I do this music thing because I like it, I use it as an escape from reality, find a peaceful area in my life. I can spend time with my music to feel good again.
Dead Rhetoric: What’s going on with your other work in bands like Evil Masquerade, Section A, and Theory beyond Defecto? What have you enjoyed most about the different relationships, styles, and process working in these other bands/projects?
Sonne: Section A was only a one-time album. I don’t know if there is going to be another one. It was with an artist Torben (Enevoldsen) who hired me as the singer, he does a lot of other projects. I don’t know if he has more plans. Evil Masquerade, I only did two or three songs on that album from 2016 (The Outcast Hall of Fame). The plan was to create another album, Henrik runs that show. I don’t think he’s been inspired that much to do another record. Malrun, where I am a singer in, those guys all have kids, big jobs, houses, it’s stalled as well. We released an album last year and I am very proud of that album, but I don’t think there will be any more records right now. Theory, I am singing with as well, we will release an album very soon. It is way more progressive than the other bands I am in. These are fun projects to have fun with.
With Defecto, we have always pushed and want to be first in line with everything. It’s been nice, and hard at times. Especially when we released Duality the third album, we released that right in the corona situation. The album just disappeared, and it made me so sad as I was very proud of that album, we worked hard on it. It never took wings. It’s annoying, we tried to release a couple of songs, some more heavy songs. We set everything up, and we did one song after another. We are trying the single thing, get it released – I think right now we have been fed up with doing that. We are not on a break, but we are taking some time to ourselves and what we will get inspired to do next year. I’m focusing on my own material; Frederik has done things himself in another direction. It’s healthy to wait before we get together to write another album. We can quickly get together, and it’s a smart choice to wait a little bit.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you enjoy the personal relationship you have with the owner of Prime Collective, who will be putting out your solo record?
Sonne: Yes, I definitely do. I don’t see him personally, but he’s been with Defecto since we started, he has always believed in me and that band. He believes in my creative outlets. He doesn’t quite understand the music that I make, but he knows that I am good at what I do, and he sees that I have a following so he knows what’s going on, he’s more into metalcore. When it comes to progressive metal with classical music and choirs, he doesn’t get it, but still supports it. It’s a good relationship, I think.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you think is most challenging or difficult for the average music listener to understand regarding the decision-making process for a musician like yourself when it comes to business or career decisions that you have to make from time to time?
Sonne: I think it’s hard for people to understand that you can develop different genres and want to try something out of the ordinary. I personally love to challenge myself, but in many different directions. I’m fearful sometimes that people don’t understand why I do a “Frozen” cover, and then I’m doing the last song on the album which is a very epic thing. I have a Judas Priest-like song on the album with “Open Fire” as well. I’m frightful that people will back away because I have a personal preference for different genres. I love many different things. I remember many reviewers at the beginning of our career with Defecto would say they don’t know where they are going, they don’t have a line to follow. It’s always been like, yes, we have – we want to do everything, why limit things to one sound, one kind of genre? That’s why we called ourselves progressive metal. Even though I hate labeling myself with one category or genre, when you are progressive you are more able to do what you want to do.
It’s the same now, my followers have an understanding that I’m doing weird things now and then. You can always count on what I’m doing. Sometimes I think people can be thrown off because of this.
Dead Rhetoric: Running your own studio, how do you see your role with the many different bands or projects that come through? Where do you believe you are able to help these artists best to achieve the best results?
Sonne: There are a lot of good bands. There are a lot of good bands who aim higher than their skills. I’m very good at helping them achieve the same level they want to achieve with an album in a not so technical difficult way. For example, there is a drummer who is ready to play technical, but he cannot make the fills sound good because he’s not capable and he doesn’t want to realize that. He can’t do that yet, but I’m good at making them understand and help them figure out another way that sounds just as good or maybe sounds more comfortable to the listeners’ ears. You can do things in so many different ways, I have ideas of how to put things together. The same with singers – they have big ambitions, and I have it myself when I come to the studio. You will feel how much you can do, and you can’t do – it’s very honest. The computer and microphone will not lie, it’s naked. Instead of doing that high note, let’s do something that sounds awesome in another way. To carry the listener through each experience.
I am best at helping the bands sound as good as they want to sound on their level. Understand where they are, and still make that awesome album that they want to make, without compromise.
Dead Rhetoric: How have you personally handled the prolonged downtime as a musician when it comes to the pandemic? Do you believe things are returning to a level of normalcy, and that there will be more respect/appreciation for the creative arts/ entertainment that may have been taken for granted in years past?
Sonne: In Denmark we haven’t been locked down very much this year, people have been able to go to concerts. I’ve come out of it fine; I have had customers in my studio. I have extra time to write my album. We haven’t played live shows in a long time. It will be very nice to play some live shows now, my release concert is coming up in November. There is one problem, here in Denmark when everyone was going to shows that were booked three years ago, those people have been fed up with music already. There are so many shows and things to do – go to the movies, etc. I think it’s been difficult for new bands to join the live scene. Even with Defecto, we haven’t booked anything. I hope next year it’s a bit more settled again, and people won’t be as fed up, things may get back to normal. A lot of people haven’t come out of their dens yet, so next year could be a good one.
Dead Rhetoric: What was it like having a metal musician father as a part of one of the early Danish heavy metal acts like Wasted – and how proud is he of your work and accomplishments in the industry?
Sonne: I think he is very proud of me. I think he even mentioned he was proud of me, sometimes. He joins me for a lot of my shows, ever since Defecto took off. When I was a little boy, I didn’t think so much about it because he wasn’t playing when I was big enough to know. I always heard his music; I thought it was fun and weird. That’s awesome, I never thought I would see him play music again so when I joined him in Wasted as a guitarist in 2013, that was mind-blowing for me. That was a huge thing. It has definitely influenced me to pursue the dream, my dad tried that as well. It has helped me grow.
Dead Rhetoric: What is some of the worst advice you see or hear being dispensed in the metal music industry?
Sonne: That’s a hard one. I’ve heard a lot of people say that you have to adjust a lot to gain attraction. I don’t think that’s correct. You should stay true to what you want to do, and at some point in time, that thing will be noticed because you are doing what you love to do. That’s why I’m never going to make a djent record. I want to do what I do now. There will be different versions of it, and of course I’m going to experiment with things, I’m never going to change my genre because I want to gain attraction from someone. Then I could just stop making music, I’m doing this for myself. Be in the music business because you are doing the music that you are wanting to do. You shouldn’t be in it to earn money or attraction.
Dead Rhetoric: What’s on the agenda for activities for Nicklas Sonne to support this album – or any of your other music endeavors – for the next twelve months or so?
Sonne: I’m going to focus 100% on this solo album. The projects are not very active – so I will focus on my solo work and Defecto. I will try to go on some tours, get some festival action going. I have a band that will play my solo work – I will pay them a little bit as well. I want to call them and ask if they can be booked for a show. I will play the album and write another one. These first shows I will have next year; they will be an album release tour. Maybe show music videos, having a good time, and not ask people for a lot of money. I’ll play the whole album live from start to finish and focus on writing the next solo album for next year.