Answered by: Jesper
Donald: Greeting Jesper. To get us started, give a brief but full history of Compos Mentis. You are a rather new and unknown act in the metal world so introduce our readers to CM.
Jesper: Well, it all started back in 1996 where four of us (Andreas, Ryan, Dan and myself) got together because we all liked the sound of heavy metal music and the taste o' beer. 3 years later Bo joined the band on keyboards and the same year we recorded our first demo. That year we also participated on a compilation cd called "Extremity Rising Vol. 4", which opened some doors for us here in Denmark. We then recorded the four-track demo,"Quadrology of Sorrow", in 2000 and after having received a lot of great reviews and a "demo of the year" title, we were finally noticed by some record labels. Lost Disciple Records in USA was the label that offered us the best deal and that's how "Fragments of a Withered Dream" became a reality. "Fragments." is our first full-length cd and has also received stunning reviews! Among other things it was rated as the second best metal release in 2003 at Danish metal awards. Since the release we have played a lot of shows and toured through Europe with the Danish band Illdisposed.
D: What is the meaning of your band's name? Any real reason that it was choosen? Do you feel it fits your music?
J: Compos Mentis is a legal term and means "being of sound mind, memory, and understanding". The reason why we chose it so long ago, however, was that we simply found it to have a cool sound to it. If you separate that from the meaning, I think that it fits the music quite well but there just isn't any message or anything behind the meaning itself.
D: You released your full-length debut Fragments Of A Withered dream in early 2003 I believe, and you have been getting some great feedback. It is a great album, I must say. So what is new in the CM camp now? Are you planning to write and record a second album soon? I have seen some info on your website suggesting so.
J: Yeah, that's right. We have almost 7 songs ready for the new record, but we still don't know when to record it. We expect it to be in 2004 but it is too early for us to talk about when it will be released.
D: You also released Quadrology Of Sorrow. Do you plan on making this material available to fans through publication from a label? How can people interested in purchasing QOS find it?
J: We have talked about reprinting it, but we decided to wait until we have released the next album. If some people are interested, they can still order it through our website. I think we have 20 left or something.
D: It is an understatment to say that Scandinavia is a breeding ground for extreme metal, and I am quite familiar with the scenes of Sweden, Norway, and Finland. Yet I know very little about the Danish scene even though Denmark is part of Scandinavia. What are some other bands in your country you enjoy would recommend to those who like your music?
J: This is something that we hear quite often but I'm sure it won't be long until the world really becomes aware of little Denmark as there are many really cool new upcoming bands as well as several more established bands, e.g. Illdisposed, Hatesphere, Withering Surface etc. But also check out bands on the way up like Urkraft or Illnath! They play some very cool metal. But most of the new bands play different kinds of more aggresive and groovy music. If you like stuff like that you ought to check out Raunchy, Mnemic and Stomped.
D: You have said in a past interview that CM is not the most brutal band around, and that you choose to focus more on melody. Melody is undeniably important, in my opinion, but I don't think that you have to forget about the brutal aspect in order to create melodic lines. Bands like God Dethroned, Dark Tranquillity, Children Of Bodom, and (the German) Dawn Of Dreams are but a few of the bands who can create brutally melodic compositions. Do you like any of these bands? Is it possible for CM to increase their brutially aspect while still maintaining the melodic aspect?
J: Sure I like those bands. It's not like we try to avoid brutal elements in any way, our focus is just primarily concentrated on the melodic aspects. I think what we meant was something like: The melody lines are - in our world - the most important and we wouldn't make music that ONLY contains brutal elements. However we aren't too fond of cheesy pop music either and I think it would require quite an effort if we wanted to remove all brutal elements and yet maintain the distorted guitars and the rather un-clean vocals, ha ha. But when I think about it, I actually expect that our next album will be a bit more brutal in some ways - without sacrificing the melodies. We'll see.
D: There are some part of you songs that have drums, guitars, and bass, but no keyboards. The keyboards are silent for a while yet all the other instruments keep playing. I call this "synthlessness" and I do not understand it. Why do you have a few synthless parts? Does your synth player Bo choose when the synthless parts occour?
J: Well, in CM we make the music together in the rehearsal room and we are all involved in the progress of composing the music. The reason why the synths are left out in some parts of the music is because we feel that it doesn't fit in the particular parts. Also when you vary the synths it creates a bigger contrast to the rest of the music, but it's always a valuation whether you should use the synths or not. It's a lot like using acoustic guitar, actually. The effect of the distorted guitars, drums and screaming vocal is more extreme when heard after a quiet acoustic passage rather than when it is placed after some thundering drums or similar. Or perhaps just after a break in the music.
D: Do you think in the future you will add some more complex elements to your songs, such as complex riffage or song arrangements. How about making long songs into the 7 or even 8-9 minute range? Are these, like the increased brutality I mentioned earlier, some things we can expect on the new album?
J: I don't think you can expect songs that reach 8-9 minutes but it is extremely hard for us to say what is actually going to happen with our music in the future. We just write whatever comes into our minds at the given time and it's not like we're forcing ourselves to sound like this or that. But I'd say that you can expect a little bit more aggresive and symphonic music - on the second album anyway.
D: What are the themes you deal with in your lyrics? Are they written by one person, or does every one in the band offer up ideas, sometimes different song lyrics getting written by different people?
J: We have a few lyrics that are actually written with participation from all the members in the band but usually one of us writes the lyrics for a song and then we talk about it within the band to see if anybody wants to improve it. The themes that we have dealt with the most on "Fragments." are broken illusions, self-deception and such. Hence the "Withered Dream" part of the title.
D: The song The Innate God deals with what looks like a distrust of monotheistic religions. On this subject I want to ask you if you are aware of how polytheistic, or pagan, religions have made some sort of "rebirth" in the metal scene. Does anyone in CM have an interest or more in paganism, something that might find its way into the lyrics as some many other bands have done?
J: First of all I'd say that The Innate God might as well be about polytheistic religions even though it is written within the framework of a Christian tradition. And I don't believe that anyone within the band practices religion, even of the polytheistic kind, but I'm pretty sure that some of the other guys are or have been interested in the subject. I don't expect that we will implement pro-religious thoughts in the lyrics, though.
D: The music of Compos Mentis has a very dreary atmosphere to it. This gloomy mood is one of the most noticable things in your music, even after just one listen. Is this sad atmosphere there intentionally, or did it just come in accidentally? If it was deliberate, why is it so prominent?
J: It's right that certain parts of the music are quite dreary but on the other hand I also think that we incorporate more "cheerful" elements in the music than many other bands in the genre. And this is exactly one of our strong points in my humble opinion. It's not just about sorrow or whatever throughout an entire album and actually we like to see every song as some kind of journey where the listener is lead through different experiences and moods. I wouldn't say that we try to find the atmospheres intentionally but I guess that it is just natural for us to compose the kind of music that we do.
D: You used a few acoustic sections and a spot of clean spoken/sung words on the Fragments' album. Do you plan to use these things more in future albums? What about bringing in a female vocalist?
J: We are probably not going to bring in a female vocalist. We tried that once and for some reason we never talked about doing that again. However, I am working a lot with my vocals as I would very much like to incorporate more different kinds of vocals in the future. As far as the acoustic guitars, I'm pretty sure that they will be there on the next album as well but it probably won't be much more than on the debut. It's a cool effect, though.
D: Is there any relation between your synth player Bo Damgaard and your bass player Dan Damgaard, or is Damgaard just a very common name in Denmark?
J: They are brothers and when we needed a keyboard player back in '99 it seemed as the easiest solution to ask Bo to join the band. At the time we used the Damgaard residence as our rehearsal room so Bo was pretty close.
D: Is anyone trained classically or otherwise in music. Do you use any sheet music or notes when writing music?
J: We have never used sheets or notes even though all of us can read notes. There is no reason to do so because it is easy to remember the music via your own instrument. Ryan (lead guitar) is currently studying at the music academy with classic guitar as his main instrument so he is the one who contributes with the acoustic sections etc. He's also got these long nails you know.
D: I cannot imagine that CM pays your bills. What kind of work do you guys do for a living? From reading your member profiles on your band site it seems like you all are studying something.
J: Yeah, that's right. Within a couple of years we've got a band put together by a lawyer, a philosopher, an educator, a marketing employee and a music... something. Something with long nails, that is! But we just enjoy playing and hopefully we will keep on doing so for a long time to come and naturally we still dream of making a living out of it someday.
D: I know just about nothing of your label Lost Disciple Records. Are you happy with them? Will they release your new album?
J: Sure we're happy with our label so far. Obviously they couldn't offer us the world as it is a relatively small label, but it's cool enough. As they said, they could take us to the next level. According to our contract they have an option for our next release as well, so we're currently working on new material for our follow-up, and then we hope they will release it.
D: On the subject of labels, some bands often get spit and shit on by their peers when they sign to a major label. They are accused of selling-out, swapping their original fervor for money and recognition. This is pointless as the music is what should be looked at first, not the amount of money or exposure they get, and I still do not see these accused bands getting as much recognition or album sales as the more mainstream music forms get. Where do you stand on the topic of sell-out bands being looked at the wrong way?
J: If I was offered a lot of money for doing what I love, I would do it! I don't give a shit about people who think that signing to a big label is selling out. The ones who get more money can dedicate more time to the music and how can that be seen as selling out? I don't get it. Sure, I do think that some bands evolve in a negative direction but other bands just get better even though they sign with major labels so there's nothing to it in my opinion.
D: What are some of your favorite bands? How about artists that are not metal?
J: Within the band we have VERY different musical interests and I'm not exaggerating when I say that the band members' interests cover both classical music, hip hop, electronic music, jazz, rock and of course metal. But this is one of the things that make it interesting to work together as a band: to try to join our perspectives into one mix of some kind of metal. Among my own favourite bands you find In Flames, Rammstein, Moonspell, Raunchy, Metallica etc. Among "non-metal" bands I really like the Danish band Kashmir.
D: When not doing anything music related, what do you guys do? Any sort of hobbies or interest you do to occupy yourselves? Is anyone in the band married or have children?
J: None of us are married yet or have any children but a few of us are living together with our girlfriends. As far as the hobbies, I think that most of us are busy enough attending our respective school and playing music.
D: Did you ever read the Lords Of Chaos book? What are your thoughts on it? What did you like/dislike?
J: Our drummer has got it but I haven't read it myself. I think that he found it to be very fascinating reading, though.
D: Video games are quickly and noticably getting intertwined with the metal scene. Bands play VG's at home, in the studio, and on the tour bus. Some 'zines are starting to even write video game reviews as well as album ones. Are there any gamers in Compos Mentis? If so, what genres/titles are favorites?
J: Actually, none of us are very much into that stuff. I guess we all have been playing before and I've still got a play station myself, but I never use it anymore.
D: I know very little not only about your country's metal scene, but about your country in general. What are some of the things you like and dislike about it?
J: I think that Denmark is ok - and that's about it. No, actually I think it is a nice little country but I think that it is difficult to say what is good about it and what isn't. Oh yeah, most bands never visit Denmark when they're on tour, partly because of the expenses related to logistics or something but probably also because of lack of people attending the concerts. But we've got some good beers, though (Carlsberg, Tuborg)!
D: How well do you guys get along? Are you not only tight as a band but also tight as friends? You ever see each other for something not related to the band?
J: Some of us have been friends since we were just little kids so we get along besides the band as well. Of course we usually talk about band related stuff when we see each other but there's more to it than that and we often meet just to get some beers 'n' stuff.
D: Do you have any tours in mind. Do you have hopes of touring someplace anytime soon? How about touring the states? I'd enjoy seeing one of your live shows.
J: We haven't got any tours planned just now as we are focusing on writing material for the next album but we would love to go to the states sometime if it is possible. However, I think that we will concentrate our efforts on the European area in the near future.
D: What are some of your short and long term plans for the future of Compos Mentis? What are some things you'd like to accomplish? Anything like a DVD, live recording, a possible book about the band history, signing to a major label?
J: We have always only set our sights quite low as we know that it takes a lot to stand out in the metal scene but surely that doesn't (and shouldn't) prevent us from dreaming about being able to work full time with the band on a major label sometime. However, in the near future we will be focusing on writing material for the next album and when that is out, we'll just take it from there and see what happens.
D: Well Jesper, I have now asked all that I can think of for the moment. I would like to thank you for your time and interest in doing this interview. I hope you enjoyed answering it just as much as I enjoyed writing it. Good luck with whatever you have planned, keep making the great music that you create. Now you have the chance to say whatever you wish to me, the rest of the staff, the readers, and all the fans out there. The floor is yours.
J: Thanks to you too for the interview. Nothing much to add except that you should visit a href="http://www.composmentis.dk" target="blank">http://www.composmentis.dk to listen to some of our music and keep an eye out for possible Compos Mentis concerts outside Denmark. See y'all!