Interview – Anders Odden

Anders Odden is a musician, who has toured as a session guitarist with everyone from Apoptygma Bezerk, Satyricon, Ministry and of course, the mighty Celtic Frost, in addition to performing with his own bands such as Magenta, Cadaver and Doctor Midnight & The Mercy Cult. M3 contacted Anders to hear all about life on the road as a hired gun, being turned on to metal by Mayhem’s Euronymous, and why copyright based royalties may be the main thing keeping some of your favourite bands afloat…

M3 – First of all, could you tell us a bit about yourself, and what it is that you do?
Anders Odden – Well, what do I not do these days. I am currently writing on both my 2nd book, my first solo album, going through my archives of old tapes, hosting the 7th Inferno Music Conference and planning the summers festivals with Satyricon and a tour with Magenta (my melodic band with my wife) this Autumn…

What inspired you to start making music? What is your own musical background?
I started off as one of the early black metal kids in Norway back in 85-86. I got to know Mayhem and their late guitarist Euronymous very early on and his influence pushed my to dig deep into the world of the black and death metal. I have been in this scene for 25 years now, but I have also been into the industrial music scene – so all in all its all kinds of music that challenge both the ears and the eyes. Its all about the feeling of the music for me and whatever gives me that.

What would be your preferred medium to listen to music (eg. Vinyl, CD, tape, MP3 etc.), and why?
I listen to all kinds of formats, but haven’t put up my vinyl player again. I know its the new hot shit to sit there with the vinyl, but it makes no sense to me. Its too much of a ritual around it and I got my main influence from listening to tapes and not vinyl really.

Do you feel the idea of an album, as a piece of art that people will listen to from start to finish, has been undermined or forgotten about in the digital age?
No not at all. I have my own digital label and people seem to want to have a whole album to listen to still. They might buy 3-4 songs from it, but they like to listen to a variety of music.

My band Magenta just released a digital EP because we thought 4 new songs is enough – but that doesn’t get any real press and no-one really knows about it. It’s a puzzle.

Much has been made of the supposed death of the record store in recent years. Do you believe the digital age has killed the record store, and if so, do you think that this is a necessary part of progression, or a tragic loss?
I think it’s sad that there is no record stores like there was. At the same time it follows naturally from the whole development we see in how people get into music now. Everything is available online at the same time, but there are no filters like there used to be with the local music know-how guy in the store that would get you into stuff you didn’t know about. Its confusing and mind-blowing to get into new stuff now. I guess it always was, but the variety of music online is just too much to grasp for anyone. You tend to listen to your friends and people you relate to to discover new stuff.

Many people have claimed that there is no longer any money in record sales, and that touring is the most efficient way to earn an income as a band. How much truth do you think there is in this sentiment?
It’s true and not true. The main income for bands at least in Europe is to play at the festivals. You can make good money on tours only if you are the headliner. What makes it hard now it that every band that ever was has a lineup out there trying to cash in at the same time. The needle hole for a new act to be successful and make any money is far more narrow than it was only 10 years ago.

You have toured with everyone from Apoptygma Berzerk, Satyricon, Ministry and even the legendary Celtic Frost. How did you get these gigs, and would you say touring as a session musician is good way to earn an income and fund your own musical projects?
I started in Apoptygma Berzerk after Cadaver spilt up in 1993 but never really understood how it became so popular. I guess I was used to the underground world so much that success never occurred to me that I would be in a band that would make it to the charts. Apoptygma Berzerk was not really my type of music and I’m sure that if we had turned darker and more industrial I would have stayed there. I can thank that gig however for the Celtic Frost gig as I played in Zurich in march 2006 with Tom G. Warrior in the audience. I didn’t know he was there at the time, but someone I got to know in Sony BMG Swiss connected them to me when they were looking for a guitarist the next month. Its funny how Apoptygma Berzerk got me into the band that influenced my liking for black and death metal mostly besides Mayhem. The Satyricon gig began with me recording guitars for them in the late 90s. I think they wanted me onboard because I never jumped on any bandwagon with black metal and toured with Apop instead. Satyricon and Apop were on the same label in Norway to in 90s so we got to know the guys in 96 or so. Norway is a small country. Ministry I met through Celtic Frost and they asked me to join when Paul Raven died. I never got the chance since their tour was coming up to fast for me to get all the paperwork and shit done. When that didn’t happen I joined Satyricon again. I seem to go back and forward between Apop and Satyricon for some reason.
Playing live as a hired gun means that you make a steady fee playing. The more concerts the more money. As much as that is a nice thing you will always gain the most from creating your own thing too. I am happy to have been able to do as much as I have to be honest. Its a ride I would never have liked to miss.

Do you think the digital age has rendered traditional concepts of copyright obsolete, or do you think they are still relevant?
I think copyright to your music is the most important thing you have to protect as an artist. The most money any artist that writes his own music sees at the end of the year is still from copyright related money from gigs, TV, Radio etc. If there was no money in publishing, why do you think the publishers are still making money? Even though CDs are not selling so much all other official use of music is due to payment.

What is your take on the current SOPA/ACTA controversy?
I just read the news, but I am not too worried. If 5% of the conspiracy theories out there is true we are living in the world of Big Brother anyway aren’t we?

What would you say are the main challenges facing an up-and-coming musician/band in today’s cultural climate?
Its getting paid for anything you do at all. How can you expect people to want to pay to see you when music is free? You have to do something that everybody just has to see. Even if you succeed of having the flavor of the year going for you maintaining your position is what is the hardest part now.

The competition is too hard even for well established acts now, many will crumble under the pressure to maintain their status. If you are able to adopt to the new reality and secure the money that you should be earning – maybe you have a chance.

Finally, what does the future hold for Anders Odden?
I have to say that traveling around talking about music pays way better than playing shows. However I think I will be doing a mix of things that keep me both busy and interested at the same time. After doing this for 20 + years you realize you need more to get a real kick out of it all. I want to stay interested in music and playing music for the rest of my life and think I will do so as long as I want. I sure hope so. It beats having a 9-17 job…

For more information about Anders Odden’s bands, you can visit the official Doctor Midnight & the Mercy Cult website and find his band Magenta on Facebook.


About M3 Event

The music industry is rapidly changing. The internet has enabled widespread piracy, as well as a variety of new business and distribution models. We want to offer an engaged audience in and around the Euregion an opportunity to develop a coherent and detailed picture of the future of music distribution. On the 31st of May 2012 a music conference in Maastricht, consisting of oppositional debates, creative workshops and lectures, will provoke opportunities for intellectual stimulation, debate, as well as networking. We hope to utilise the skills and ideas of some of most forward thinking minds and operators in the industry in order to highlight some promising new ideas and areas which can be improved upon.

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