Known by various names - Athera,Shady Blue- from various bands he played in, Paul Mathiesen is the lead vocalist of the Norwegian based rockíníroll band Chrome Division. The band doesnít have a big history so far, but with this interview I discovered they intend to invest a lot of effort into the band and make it famous for more than Shagrathís side project. We have a new album to look forward to followed by a tour. Below, is the transcription of the nice chat I had with Paul before the concert at Norway Rock Festival 2010, in Kvinesdal, a chat about Chrome Division mainly, but that happened to touch small details about other bands as well.
Me: How long have you been with Chrome Division yourself?
Athera: I was actually asked to do a show in Germany in 2009 because Eddie couldnít make it, I canít remember the reason. I said yes and did the show and both the band and the crowd seemed really pleased with it, so that was a job well done. A couple of months later, in the summer of last year, Shagrath actually called me and said that Eddie was out of the band, so they wanted me to come back to the band as the new permanent singer. It took me a day to think it over and the choice was not hard, so here we are.
Me: For your first performance, how much time did you have to learn the bandís songs? Did you know them from before?
A: No, I didnít. I heard a song or two at some parties, but honestly I had none of the albums and wasnít that familiar with it. I think I got 3 or 4 weeks notice and it was like almost every day reading through the lyrics, trying to memorise them, rehearsing all by myself in my rehearsal room and singing along the songs.
Me: Did you try to copy Eddie or to make it your own style?
A: Itís, you know, almost impossible to copy another singer cause every singer has more or less an unique style, but that was not an issue for me anyhow. Sure, if I make a cover song, I try to copy with your own style, but a cover song is just for fun. When you replace a singer in a band, you are left with the choice, either try to copy it and you can really fail so people end up hating you. Or you can just have confidence in your own style and do it. And thatís what I did. I never sang in a rockíníroll band, only metal bands so this has been a new challenge but I have been known to have a very diverse style of singing anyway. I do a lot of other stuff in my other bands. I think it works and Iíve actually grown to love singing rockíníroll now. The more we work together now and prepare the next album, the more I feel comfortable in preparing my own style that also transforms the old songs. The feeling is there, the Chrome Division feeling sounds as it should, but itís my voice. Both me and the guys think it really works.
Me: So you really feel like part of the band now, not like the new guy?
A: Exactly. The story of Chrome Division is not that long. Before my first concert as a session member I think they only had one and a half show. One was a release party for the new album and then they had a show cut in half because something happened with the power on stage. So it was not a lot of history to look back on, so it was not so much to compete with, nor many fans to disappoint, Iíd say. I have done 3 or 4 shows now and thatís double the number Eddie did. I think the live situation of Chrome Division really starts now, especially after releasing the next album early next year, we are going to play a lots of shows.
Me: I saw you at a show in Oslo where you had Eddie as a guest for a song. Is it going to happen again here at Kvinesdal?
A: No. We met Eddie the day before that show in Oslo and he really wanted to come on stage so he would have a good ending with the band. So we did ĎTrouble with the lawí together and that was his end point and my official beginning. Then I fell offstage and made a fool of myself, but you know, thatís just me.
Me: You mentioned a new album. When should we expect it?
A: 5 songs are completely finished, recorded. We have 7 more that we have done drums on, some guitars and the only thing missing is bass, some solos and pretty much all the vocals. We will do that at the end of the summer, August, September because after that Shagrath goes out on a really long Dimmu tour. But he really wants to be a part of the creation of the album and especially the mix, so we need to finish the album before he goes on the road. The release schedule is really tight also. Probably it is going to be January or February 2011.
Me: When it comes to writing the album, is there only one member of the band who composes and tells you what to do or you all come up with ideas and contribute to the process?
A: I really like the way of working in Chrome, because with Susperia, the band Iíve been with since forever, we almost never come up with songs at rehearsals. Either one guys sits at home, or two get together, come up with a tune at oneís house, but here itís really nice and fresh because all 5 of us meet up and we just start jamming and jamming. It was so inspirational this year because we nearly came up with a song per rehearsal. It was fun and effective and a new way for me to work, because I could actually try to jam some vocals live instead of sitting at home with a boring computer with guitar and drum tracks. I think in this way you capture the impulse and energy of rockíníroll music.
Me: But Chrome Division started out of some jamming sessions.
A: Yea, it was Shagrath who wanted to do something else apart from metal, so he took a break from Dimmu and started this rockíníroll band because heís always been a rockíníroll fan. He likes bands like MŲtley CrŁe, WASP. He started with some friends, they left, other came in, they made an album, got a record deal, released a successful album, therefore they continued. So itís a full band now but itís still in the shadow of Dimmu for Shagrath. But we have talked this over and actually today we have a session guitarist, since Shagrath is in Germany doing a video for Dimmu Borgir. The guitarist is actually somewhat in the band because we are going to use him everytime Shagrath cannot do a show, since heís so busy all the time. But he said himself Ďplease, make him part of the band, hire him as permanent session musician and do all the gigs you can doí. He wants Chrome to go out there, be popular and get shows and play all over, but he feels bad that he canít be in two places at once.
Me: Itís nice of him that heís not like ĎOh, Chrome has to stop while I am awayí
A: Heís really into having Chrome to get up there, heís really excited about the new album and he is going to do all the shows that he canít do. But weíre still going to do the shows even if he canít be there.
Me: Is Nuclear Blast going to promote you more from now on?
A: Nuclear has always pushed Chrome but weíve always been limited because of the reasons I told you. Weíre going to tell them it is not the situation anymore so they can push just as hard from now on. We have missed some really big opportunities until now, tours with other bands and other festivals that we had to turn down. That is going to change now. Weíll come with a new album, some videos and then push for a tour and everything. Sadly there are probably gonna be some disappointed people that they donít see Shagrath at all the shows, but probably they are more into the person than into the music. But itís not gonna be a big loss for the fans, since the music and the band is going to be there for them with the right feeling. And sometime between the release next year and the summer we hope to do a tour outside Norway.
Me: What shall we expect in terms of the new songs? How much of a difference from the previous albums?
A: Things are going to change in some way or another, especially when you change the vocalist. So it will be a different Chrome, but with the same essence and vibe. There will be very recognisable songs and arrangements are still the same, but especially Shagrath and Ricky, the guitarist who creates the songs, have realised that new paths have opened up for them. I have a different voice and I can do so many things and we can experiment. Weíre actually going to have a blues song, where I sing completely down and easy, no shouting, and we are going to have fast songs and groovy songs.
Me: Will you go away from the current style? Any special new elements in the music?
A: It gets too boring if you have 9 or 10 songs thatís just the same beat. So now, even if we didnít plan it, it just happened that we have very different songs. We have a really really long song with a lots of riffs in it, but it never gets boring because itís so strangely crafted. Itís gonna be interesting to see the reactions to this. There are a few new elements. Itís still going to be Chrome Division, but itís gonna work and will be way way better.
Me: Any video planned?
A: Itís you know, rockíníroll, so weíre gonna do a cheesy video and this time weíre gonna take it over the top and it will be really cheesy, really Chrome Division. Like burning rubber tires, and big trucks and fire. We have some plans, but weíll have to see. We probably have to film the filming, some sort of making of because if what we have planned will happen, thatís going to be really cool.
Me: You said earlier you enjoy doing jamming with your voice. Does it mean that the lyrics came out after jamming sessions or you spend time writing them afterwards? Or itís not you who writes them?
A: I made like 80% of the lyrics for the new album and Luna, the bass player, made the rest of them. He mostly writes them at home or after a few beers and he gets bored, brings them to me and if I think theyíre good, I use them.
Me: Is he dictating how you should sing them as well?
A: He has his ideas because heís been in the band the longest, except for Shagrath. So he has some good ideas and even if it takes time of my work to adapt to them, I just use his ideas.
Me: How do you feel about being compared to MotŲrhead?
A: They are one of our inspiration sources. We really like them and if people think we sound like them sometimes, thatís all good news.
Me: About your stage presence and show, do you work to have it fit your music? Are you holding on to a certain image?
A: We have out uniform, if you can call it that way. We have our special leather jackets with the band name and logo on the back. And we have to have them even if itís too warm. But only for few songs. For the first song we come on stage with the very same outfits: sun glasses, jackets, black tight pants and tight shoes. But couple of songs later we just pretty much do whatever we want.
Me: And do you like this style? Because in Susperia you probably had nothing like that.
A: Yea, there was not much of a dress code in Susperia, mainly like boring clothes. So itís nice for me to be in a laid back rockíníroll band and weíre not taking ourselves too seriously. We take the bands seriously, but out persona is not something we really care about so we just have fun and it reflects on the crowd. They see we just have fun. I like it that you can just let yourself go on the stage and feel really free.