This is an interview I did with Dimmu Borgir frontman Shagrath that was never published. I’m publishing it on here for people to hear what he had to say to me about his side-project Chrome Division. The interview dates from 14th April 2011.
How did Chrome Division form?
Chrome Division started in 1999 when Dimmu Borgir had after rehearsals. Lex Icon, who used to play in Dimmu back in the day was jamming on the drums and I was playing guitar to it. We started jamming some riffs and we recorded it and it sounded pretty cool. That was more based on stoner rock and that kind of thing. After Dimmu did the Ozzfest back in 2004 we decided to have a long break for different reasons and I finally had some time. We recorded a lot of riffs back in ’99 and I started to put some of those riffs together and I contacted my long-time friend Björn Luna, who is the bass player. It started in 2004 when we got several people to join the project and we began jamming songs basically.
What made you change from your usual black metal style so dramatically to a rock n’ rolling heavy metal sound with Chrome Division?
I’m very much into different styles of music myself so for me to have an outlet with a different style to Dimmu Borgir is very positive for me personally. In Dimmu we follow a certain way of doing things and it would be pointless for me to start another band that sounds like Dimmu. It would be totally pointless. That’s the beauty of it, because I’m really passionate about old rock n’ roll music. I never really discovered any bad-ass rock n’ roll bands that did what Chrome Division is doing, which is a more down-tuned, heavier type of rock, which we have labelled ‘Doomsday Rock n’ Roll’. I’m a very creative person. I like to create all the time, I have my studio and it’s very important to separate the two. I’ve always been involved in doing old projects and doing guest appearances with other bands. It’s more about collecting some good friends and having a good time. It’s not so much thinking, it’s more about rocking out and drinking beer and having fun.
Is it simply a straight-up, bar brawlin’, women-lovin’, motorcyclin’ atmosphere that you wanted to create?
Yeah, I think that’s the label – sex, drugs and rock n’ roll! [laughs] There’s no limits really, but the subjects we are writing about from the first to the third album goes very well with the typical rock n’ roll atmosphere. It’s very based on the old biker type of music and very much about drinking, nice girls and bikers!
When you set Chrome Division up did you ever think that you would lose fans?
When we released the first album I think a lot of people thought – ‘how can Shagrath from Dimmu Borgir play in a rock n’ roll band?’ But it’s very important that people know that I know how to separate those things individually. In Chrome Division I am a different character and in Dimmu I am a completely different character from what I am in Chrome. It’s especially a lot of the young fans who don’t understand it. The fanatical black metal younger kids probably don’t understand and I don’t want to waste too much time explaining it either. It’s about creating an outlet for what I do.
So it’s best to get the best of both worlds?
Yeah, absolutely. I think that is the beauty of the whole thing. I’ve grown up listening to bands like Kiss, Motorhead, Twisted Sister and Iron Maiden. It’s not like I’m sitting at home listening to black metal all day. I’ve been into the scene for over 25-years now. The older I get the more I can find more interesting aspects from different types of music and not just black metal. I think it’s definitely the best of both worlds – in Dimmu I play vocals, in Chrome I play guitar and that suits me perfectly.
Do you think you’ll be able to balance out the time for Chrome Division?
Dimmu Borgir will of course, always be my main priority and that’s just the way it is. Because it’s not a serious band where we go on long tours and stuff, we do selective shows if everybody has time to do it then we will take the offer. This is a band that’s not based on any business or any bullshit or any paperwork, it’s more about having fun with nice people. The only thing we follow is that we only have a one-day-a-week where we meet up and rehearse and talk. That’s about it. There’s no special goals behind it. Of course it would be great to see Chrome Division becoming a great band but still it’s more about just rocking out!
What would you say to those who describe it as a side-project?
If it was a side-project then I would just hire people to do be a part of the record. Chrome Division is not meant to be a side-project, it’s meant to be a bad-ass, rock n’ roll band. Everybody has something to say in the creativity outlet in Chrome Division. It’s not a side-project even though I make most of the music anyway. It’s still a whole band.
Athera from Susperia (also known as Shady Blue) has recently joined you. How did that come about?
It was Eddie Guz from The Carburetors who did vocals on the first two albums, and he was basically so tied up with his work in The Carburetors and it was very difficult for him to be a part of Chrome Division. Rock n’ roll music is very based on vocal lines as well. We can always create a song with a guitar in the studio but it’s very important to have the vocal aspect next to it while you are creating the songs in rock n’ roll. Therefore, we just decided to let him go. We used Shady Blue for a gig in Germany two-years ago where Eddie Guz was not able to be a part of it, so we had Shady Blue being a part of that concert. After the concert we got a lot of good critics from people who were at the show, and from magazines saying ‘this should be the singer of Chrome Division!’ I’ve known Shady Blue for over a decade and he was in a band called Susperia, he’s almost my neighbour. He’s a very good singer. He has a different character to what Eddie Guz had but I think he has more to offer when it comes to the vocal lines. It was just a natural transition from Eddie to Shady Blue. With that being said, it’s also very important to say that we are all still very good friends with Eddie Guz. There’s no bitterness or anything like that. We usually hang out on the weekends, meet up, have a drink together and have fun. It’s not a bitter thing, it is more about having the time to do Chrome Division.
Is there any musical boundaries with Chrome Division?
It’s pretty much straight-forward but there is no limits in rock n’ roll. That’s what I think is the beauty of it too. You never know what kind of direction. Maybe we want to do an acoustic song. On this new record we did a blues song called The Magic Man and after that we have a song called Long Distance Call Girl, which takes more of a stoner rock approach. There’s no limits really, as long as it sounds good and we feel it is right, then we do it. It’s not like we’re sitting and planning the song, it just comes natural when we start jamming and rehearsing. If it sounds good we’ll use it. No limits really!
Are the blues another influence of yours?
Yeah, it’s the same with Ricky Black, he was the one who made that song. He plays for another band called Hot Muffins and has played with a lot of very good blues musicians as well. He made a pre-production of that song at home and it sounded pretty cool. I’m also very much into blues myself. I grew up listening to my dad who is also a musician. He played in a blues band. I’ve always had blues in my life, I’m a big fan of blues music. I’ve never been really passionate about it, I have a lot of blues records but the older you get the more open minded you get to different types of music. If you go through my ipod, you will get a shock. You have the most extreme black metal to pop music! [laughs]
Which one do you think would shock me the most?
I have all kinds of different varieties! Everything from Lady Gaga to Darkthrone! Good music is good music, that’s how simple it is. Maybe sometimes you’ll discover a band that has one cool song and maybe the lyrical content is something you cannot relate to, but good music is good music.
How did the recording process go with Third Round Knockout?
It started out that we were actually a little sceptical about it. It wasn’t a big studio really, it was a home of a friend of ours called Marius Strand Studio. He offered us to do the pre-production of a few songs just to see. So we agreed to try out and recorded three songs, and that was all we recorded. This album was recorded over a one-year period – from December (2009) till January (2011). We did different sessions. It’s not like we did the recording in a short amount of time. We started doing the pre-production songs and we liked the result, so we continued recording a few months later, then a few months after that we did the rest. It was a little bit ‘back and forth’.
It’s just a case of getting the time then?
It’s hard to focus 100% all the time, over a long amount of time because I’ve been touring a lot with Dimmu and the other guys have a lot of things to do, so it isn’t always easy to get everybody focused in that long period of time. We recorded when we had time.
Is there any chance Chrome Division will be returning to England sometime?
If the demand is there, we will be there. There’s a lot of Chrome Division fans in England so it’s very good,so we will try to be there. If we get an offer that we can live with, then we’ll be there. It has to be worth the trip.
Interview by Calum Robson.