A Conversation With Denmark's RAUNCHY

August 14, 2008

By: Scott Alisoglu

Denmark's RAUNCHY have been releasing quality albums since 2002 debut "Velvet Noise". While gaining fans slowly, but surely, with each successive release, may seem like a good thing, it is the "slowly" part that has dogged the sextet, while contemporaries have blown up across the global with arguably weaker efforts. Taking the aggression of modern melodic death/thrash metal and skillfully mixing in infectious, often pop-based, melodies and electronic/industrial elements in brilliantly cohesive fashion, RAUNCHY has managed to craft albums with individual identity and the potential for widespread appeal. There has certainly been no dearth of critical acclaim. The question now becomes whether the group's fourth outstanding full-length (and second for Lifeforce),"Wasteland Discotheque", will be the one to get RAUNCHY over the hump. Drummer Morten Toft Hansen made the transatlantic telephone call in an attempt to answer that question, as well as to clue folks in to the finer points of his band.

Q: You've got the day off.

Morten: Yeah, I took the day off because we've got the Roskilde Festival Friday. [Note: The interview was conducted in early July. Ed.] I'm also going to be there for the whole festival. I went out there and set up my tent today [laughs]. We never played that before. It's like a dream come true. We've been there as visitors; the first time I was there was in 1994. We always wanted to play there, but it took some time.

Q: How long are they giving you to play?

Morten: They're giving us an hour and fifteen minutes. We wanted to bring some bombs [pyrotechnics] and stuff like that, but it was very difficult because of the contract, so we dropped that.

Q: I finally got around to checking out "Wasteland Discotheque" and was absolutely blown away. I now understand what all the hype has been about. But why isn't this band huge, especially in North America? How frustrating has this been for you?

Morten: I think the quality of our records is probably good enough for it, but I think there are a lot of reasons why we are not bigger. First of all, maybe the band's name or maybe because we're from Denmark or maybe because we haven't been working hard enough ourselves. It's hard to just say let's do it because we're six guys and, like everybody else, we also have our own bills to play. It would be a lot easier if somebody gave us some kind of a start with money or something to go on tour. It's not that we don't want to; it's just that it's not that easy.

Q: Your twist on melodic death/thrash is in many ways done better than your counterparts in Sweden, albeit you've added more twists and turns in your music. Do you think that Swedish bands overshadow Danish bands?

Morten: I think you're right about that. For a while it was like if you were from Sweden it was a quality mark. Lots of Danish bands joked about moving their postal address to Sweden [laughs] because it's so close. During the last five years Denmark has gotten a little bit on the map. We've got some good bands now. A few years ago it wasn't like that and we seriously didn't have anything to offer, only a few bands. But I think it's getting better and I also think that now, especially in Europe, when they hear a band is from Denmark they pay attention.

Q: Perhaps with this album and all the positive reviews I've seen so far, you'll finally get the recognition you deserve, especially in North America.

Morten: We all hope that. I hope that we will be able to make a video. We talked to our label about that. I think there is a lot of hard work that has to be done. We will see.

Q: For those that don't know about RAUNCHY, take us through your four releases, pointing out stylistic differences and progression from one album to the next.

Morten: The first album we released was "Velvet Noise" and it was songs that we had been working on for years; we made three demos before that. I think for a debut it was very well reviewed, and Blabbermouth also gave it a 9/10. It really got attention around the world and we got contacted by people. We got a deal on Nuclear Blast. The style was also a crossover between the melodic chorus and the harsh parts. Our second album, "Confusion Bay", was kind of like in the same vein, but if you look through all the layers, some of the riffs and stuff were maybe a little bit more old school, but everything is more happy. I think it's kind of a party album and to many people it's a classic, if you can say that in our league. It was something we are proud of. A lot of our fans see that as kind of our best album. After that, our singer [Lars Vognstrup] left the band and we got a new singer, Kasper [Thomsen], and we made "Death Pop Romance", which was maybe a little bit more heavy actually, a little bit more brutal. In some ways it's also more simple and a little bit more poppy here and there. Therefore, we chose the title "Death Pop Romance" because when we were being soft it was really poppy and when we were trying to be heavy it was more heavy than we were used to. This new album is a great mixture of everything that we have done before — a little bit of "Confusion Bay", a little bit of "Death Pop Romance" and a little bit of the weird parts we had on "Velvet Noise". I think we're back on track. This time we used Jacob Hansen, like on "Confusion Bay", all the way through the album. On "Death Pop Romance", Tue Madsen did the mixing. This time I feel like we finally found something that just sounds like RAUNCHY. If you ask me I don't need to say this sounds like FEAR FACTORY or this sounds like SOILWORK. I think it sounds like us.

Q: Hybrid metal is a term that comes up quite often in RAUNCHY discussions. You can't just call it modern melodic death or thrash metal because that doesn't tell the entire story. Your melodies are often pop-based and you incorporate industrial/electronic elements.

Morten: Exactly. We all love lots of different bands, but actually I think what we do is we take everything we like and we just mix it together and somehow we are lucky that it actually works [laughs] because it could easily sound weird. But we also need to thank Jacob Hansen for the production because he's very good at catching everything and making it sound like it has to.

Q: He's obviously an important part of this band. He contributes guest vocals on four songs too.

Morten: Yeah, yeah! Actually, on "Death Pop Romance" and this one he's very good at doing that high pitch thing. Our keyboard player, Jeppe [Christensen] does all the clean vocals and Kasper does some clean vocals too, but sometimes if we want a higher voice, Jacob does it. He's also very good at saying you should maybe do a keyboard here or something like that. I also think he's been — and maybe he's not fond of admitting it — through the years is definitely a RAUNCHY fan. I think he enjoys working with us and he knows what we want. We're not a band that when we get to the studio we need a producer; we just need somebody to push record because we do it the way we want to do it. But if we have a problem, Jacob is very helpful. He also came up with some of the ideas for vocals this time.

Q: Speaking of vocals, it's a very fine line when you mix heavy and clean vocals because so many bands totally destroy the vibe if they don't do it right. It's very risky in metal. But you've managed to combine those things in a way that doesn't hurt the impact of the heavy sections. People shouldn't be misled though, as most of RAUNCHY's music is very, very aggressive.

Morten: I'm very happy that you point that out and of course I agree [laughs]. Some of our elements are kind of like a pop song, very simple, but if it's too simple it gets boring. But if the music gets too technical it only appeals to people that actually play music themselves. Take a band like MESHUGGAH. I think MESHUGGAH is great, but I think part of the reason they never got huge like METALLICA is because it is so difficult to listen to. One of our main goals is to make something in the golden middle, something that is not too simple and not too technical. I play the drums, but I know some drummers like to listen to what I do because I'm not afraid of bringing in all kinds of music in our band.

Q: That would really characterize the entire band.

Morten: Yeah, exactly. And I think our music could be kind of cheesy if we had some producer telling us that we need to turn down the guitars or take off the distortion of the bass or you need to do this and that. I think from day one we always wanted a heavy bass sound and thick guitar sound, so I think that makes up for everything and makes it sound so heavy. The formula makes it sound melodic too and is even something my mom likes [laughs].

Q: Clean vocals or not, "Wasteland Discotheque" is a loud, raucous album. But it's not like what you hear from some, for example, metalcore bands where it is growling on the verse and crooning on the chorus and it becomes overly predictable after two songs. The arrangements on this album are quite varied. You don't even really stick to one formula.

Morten: That's true and I'm glad you noticed that because some might say that we always have the clean vocal parts on the chorus, but we don't if you listen to the whole album. The last song ["The Comfort in Leaving"] is like a really heavy one and then it ends up being melodic all the way. The intro ["The Blackout is your Apocalypse"] is kind of melodic and then the first song ["Somewhere Along the Road"] is heavy with hard vocals all the way through the song. We just do what we want to do and sometimes we think this is a song where we think the chorus needs to be like this and sometimes the chorus needs to be like that. Even though Kasper is singing aggressive, I think he has a twist of melodic elements. If you take the song "Wasteland Discotheque" it has a kind of rock ‘n roll thing.

Q: That is a great song. The thing that's cool about it is that it takes a different approach from the rest of the tracks. It's very heavy and then you get this kind of industrial metal oomph in part of it, followed by this big, rowdy chorus that you could damn near dance to. It is one of the more unique songs I've heard in a while.

Morten: I have to say that I'm very proud when people like you and Borivoj say stuff like that because you guys know what you're talking about [laughs]. But that song, it's part of the reason why we chose such a fucked up record title [laughs]. We thought why not do it, we have nothing to lose. We're not like SLAYER putting out our next album and being afraid that the typical metal head would not be happy, so we just do what we want to do. He who dares wins. As long as we're happy… I remember when we released our first album there was also some kind of disco parts on the drums and I was like "Fuck that, we don't know if this is our last album, so let's do what we want to do."

Q: I'm always hesitant to use words like "dance" or "disco" or "pop" in the context of an album like this because unless you hear the music it's nearly impossible to really understand the meanings. You can't really explain it.

Morten: You know what? I would say 95 percent of my records are heavy records, all kinds of metal, but deep down inside we all have some bands that are not metal that we all like and we're not afraid to dig out some of those bands and get inspiration from them. A lot of metal bands that come out today you get the same thing from 20 bands and I think that's so fucking boring. If you don't have any kind of melodic elements in the guitar or the vocals it just gets to be too much.

Q: You actually brought back Lars Vognstrup for additional vocals on "A Heavy Burden". What led to that reunion?

Morten: We don't talk to him that much, but actually he only lives like a mile away from me. Once a year I went there for a cup of coffee and to talk to him and talk about old times. In the studio we finished that song and there weren't any vocals on the chorus. Me, and Jesper [Tilsted, guitar/synth], and some of the other guys were like, "Hey man, I thought there were going to be some vocals here." We nearly had to leave the studio because we only booked two weeks to record. We brought everything back to our rehearsal room and in there we have our own home studio where we do demos and stuff like that, and we asked Lars to please come out and give it a shot on this song and we wanted him to sing on it. He was there in half an hour, he listened to the song like five to eight times and then he wrote some stuff. That chorus he's singing we actually recorded in our rehearsal room and to tell you the truth we don't have any fancy gear there, so we just e-mailed the whole thing to Jacob and said this is what Lars came up with and can you polish it. Jacob is the kind of guy that can polish a turd [laughs], so he managed to make it sound great. I also think it's fun to bring back a guy like Lars because I know fans ask about what he's doing. So instead of just bringing some other guy in I thought it would be fun to bring him back. I also think it brings back the memories of "Confusion Bay".

Q: As far as some of the other songs go, "Warriors" has what is arguably the most addictive clean vocal chorus on the album. That one is the most immediately accessible track.

Morten: There are other persons in this business that have said that too. This is one of the songs that I hope Lifeforce will make a video for. It has potential to be played on MTV. Sometimes when I turn on MTV and I see "Headbanger's Ball" they play a lot of music where I think, "Why couldn't they play our music?" I'm sure they would if we had a great video.

Q: The main keyboard part in that song is so basic, yet so effective. It almost sounds like something that SENTENCED would do. It is another one of those little things that makes the album great.

Morten: That's why it's important to have songs that are not too simple, but not too difficult either. We try to be right in the middle. We were opening for SOULFLY in Germany for a tour and I remember the guitarist [Marc Rizzo] was watching our show every night and said, "This is awesome; it reminds me of if you took LINKIN PARK, took out the rap vocals, and made it all heavier and mixed it with some IN FLAMES and stuff like that." I know that LINKIN PARK sold more than like seven million since their first album and IN FLAMES sold more than 100,000 in the U.S. If we were somewhere between I would be satisfied [laughs].

Q: What about the cover of ROCKWELL's "Somebody's Watching Me"? It fits right in with the rest of the album too.

Morten: To be honest, our keyboard player is the kind of guy that… I'm not sure if he likes our music that much; he's not a huge thrash fan, for example. He was sitting at home — he also has his own home studio — and for some reason, I don't know why, he took out that song and recorded the verse and the keyboard parts, and sent it around and we were like "this is great." Then Jesper went over there and made some drums and heavy guitar and sent around the demo, and we thought it's funny that this is so much us, the way it was played with the clean vocals and the harsh. So we said let's just record it and maybe use it as a bonus track. Then when it was done we said, "Hell no, let's put it in the middle of the album and make everyone hear it." We all knew that some would like it and some would hate it, but we thought it fits in.

Q: It's definitely darker than the original.

Morten: Yes, it is. It's funny because Lars [Christensen], our guitarist, made an interview with our Danish national radio and they chose to play "A Heavy Burden" and "Wasteland Discotheque", but they started the program with the original of "Somebody's Watching Me" and then after a while they played ours and people were like, "Who is this band? This is great!" There were old men in their 60s calling in. We have some potential there [laughs].

Q: The album closer, "The Comfort in Leaving", is eight minutes and features that epic closing section. Then there is the line in the chorus, "Now is the time for you to pick up your clothes and go to that fucking place where you belong." It sounds to me like someone experienced a pretty bad relationship.

Morten: Four of us got out of long-term relationships; mine was seven years, another was 11 years, so we all had to go through that shit. But I think it is a little bit funny — and I haven't even talked to Jeppe — is that Jeppe is singing those lines and actually it was him that got kicked out [laughs], as far as I know. I think it's a little bit ironic. The lyrics were written by Kasper and he was in a relationship as well. I know what he's been through because I was through the same shit. I think it's great to sing stuff like that. I don't know if you've ever been there, but sometimes you feel like "pick up your shit and leave, I can't handle it any more" [laughs]. I also think it's great when you don't really care anymore, like you can just take it all and you don't want a discussion about it. Just take whatever you want and go.

Q: How has Lifeforce worked out for you thus far? This is your second album with the label. They seem to have a higher profile in the U.S. these days as well.

Morten: I think if you compare it to how big they are… There are always bands complaining about labels, but we don't complain about Lifeforce. I think they've been great. One thing we like is that if we ask for something we actually talk to Stefan [Luedicke], who is the owner of the label. So we don't have to go through tons of people. We always get an answer within five minutes through e-mail. I know that he doesn't have millions to spend on us, so compared to what he has I think he's doing great. Sometimes he probably complains about us not being fast enough with responding, but as I said earlier, we all have full time jobs and sometimes when you're working your boss probably doesn't want to spend time on your band [laughs]. We try to do our best and Stefan and Lifeforce have been great. One thing that we like about being on Lifeforce is that for them we are high priority. If we got into a label and were not treated that well, that wouldn't be fun. The first two records we were on Nuclear Blast and that was also fine, but I guess we didn't sell enough records.

Q: Have you ever played in the United States?

Morten: No. After the release of "Velvet Noise" we got offers to play festivals and we said yes, but they had to cancel. We all have dreams and I think that my dream right now is that we go over to the U.S. for a tour. We got a lot of mail and a lot of comments from the U.S. I think a lot of Americans know our band. I think it's difficult for them to go to the store and pick up our records. Maybe that is why our record has been number one and number two at that Russian site where you download music [laughs]. I know that Lifeforce has gotten bigger. They had TRIVIUM for example and now they are so huge and their first record is still selling a lot.

Q: You did play a five-show tour in China, which is something many bands can't say.

Morten: That's probably because we're from Denmark. It's a little weird, but in Denmark there is cultural exchange between there and Asian countries, like China. So we got a lot of support to go there. We got asked to come over and play by the biggest metal magazine in China called Painkiller. He contacted us and we said, "Yeah, let's go." They set up some gigs over there. It was very difficult to get in at the time, especially because Denmark was one of countries that said no to support the Olympics because of that Chinese democracy stuff. We were supposed to play some shows with SOILWORK, but they didn't get their visas, so they had to cancel the whole tour. But we just applied as tourists and we came over there with all our shit, all our guitars and stuff, and went right through the airport. So I guess if you want to play over there you should not apply as an artist, you should apply as a tourist [laughs]. For us it was a great experience. The people over there are hungry to see metal shows. It's such a big market. For us it's still too early because no one buys lots of CDs or goes to shows, but I think in time they will. What happens over there is what happened in the U.S. almost a hundred years ago. It was also a great experience for us to see China and we were lucky that we had a lot of spare time, so we saw The Great Wall and other Chinese things.

Q: So you were treated well.

Morten: Oh, yes, yes! Of course, we had a little bit of fun about some things. We were taken to a lot of shops and signed a lot of guitars because the boys are sponsored by Schecter Guitars and they gave us a lot of support. Some of the things that we thought were funny is that sometimes they moved the show like the day before or hours before we had to play. I was like, "Ok, so you moved the show? Did you tell anybody about it? Did you inform people?" They said they did, but you would think we'd have bad shows, but we didn't [laughs]. They invited us back, so I guess they were happy about having us.

Q: In the way of a wrap-up, regardless of what happens with sales of this album, do you see any problem with continuing to make RAUNCHY music into the distant future?

Morten: That's what I think. Things in RAUNCHY have never gone that quick and I think it's funny to see a lot of bands where they say if it doesn't happen within one or two years they will quit. As long as we're happy making music and playing together and somebody wants to release our albums then I think we will continue. People that have been following RAUNCHY since we started, I think they know that we will do our best to make the whole album great, not just one song. The reason that we're still a band is that we've always been realistic and said there's nothing we can do about some things. Like why haven't we played Roskilde, and we've been saying that for many years. Then this year it happened. That's great and we're like small kids waiting for Christmas.

Check out RAUNCHY at www.myspace.com/raunchy.

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