Long a Blistering confident thanks to his ever-colorful column, Hatesphere guitarist Pepe Hansen has not only endless wit, but tenacity to boot. You would need it too if you changed lineups every album, all the while touring the globe, flying the flag for European thrash metal in the face of a bloated (and tumultous) scene. There’s no one that does this style better than Hatesphere, evidenced by 2009’s stalwart To the Nines and the new The Great Bludgeoning. The band’s visceral thrash is bolstered by new vocalist Esben "Esse" Hansen, who manages to spit quite the game over mounds of devlish d-beats and breakneck riffing. Plus, there’s never a shortage of nimble jams to get excited, such as the melodically-inclined “Smell of Death,” and ominous “Decayer.” Simply put: Hatesphere is one awfully hard band to slow down.
All things considered, we snagged Hansen for a round of questions about lineup changes, The Great Bludgeoning, their hallmark Bloodred Hatred, and much more. Here’s how the always-jovial guitarist responded...
Blistering.com: A new lineup for the new album. Are you tired of making all of these changes?
Peter ”Pepe” Hansen: Yes... yes, I am! But the plan is also not to do it anymore, he-he. We feel that we have found the right lineup. We all share the same vision with the band, we all are about the same age, and we all are quite experienced, so I guess, we all know what to expect. We havent made all these changes out of freewill though, but looking back, this was really the best thing that could happen to the band. It was hard when it happened but we are a much stronger unit now. We have agreed to at least do the next three albums together, so let’s see, if we can manage that, ha-ha.
Blistering.com: Describe some of the demands that come with being in Hatesphere.
Hansen: Well, an urge to play live and a realistic vision on how it is to play this kind of music. You need to be able to spend a lot of time away from home, as we play quite a lot. You have to own that stage, every time you enter it - and you need to play your instrument well, ha-ha. The personality is very, very important as well, as we have to spend that much time together... damn, now it suddenly sounds like a dating show!
Blistering.com: You've been doing this for well over a decade now. Has it gotten any easier or harder for you compared to when you were on Century Media or SPV?
Hansen: It is quite hard being a band right now, as there are so many bands out there... and people dont have that much money anymore. But we have been around for quite a while, so it gives us a little advantage. Surely it’s easier to get tours, when you are on a big label, like SPV. They have/had a lot of money to promote their bands. So, in that sense it’s cool to be on a bigger label. But you also get ignored more easily. So, being on a bigger label can get you big things - but you also lack influence, as you can get on a smaller label. I guess, it’s all about finding the right balance. The label must be big enough to promote you good, but also not too big.
Blistering.com: In relation to [fomer vocalists] Jacob [Bredhal] and Joller [Albrechtsen], how does Esse stack up?
Hansen: Well, Esse is simply the best singer we have ever had. You can like or dislike the various styles of our past singers, but Esse can do it all. He is very diverse - and then he’s a beast on stage as well. He has had a lot of influence on the sound of the new songs for sure!
Blistering.com: It appears that Mike Park has been an excellent addition to the band, coming from Mercenary. What does he bring to the table?
Hansen: He brings a way more old-school and wild touch to the drumming. His contribution to the band has surely also couloured the new songs in a more old school direction.
Blistering.com: What was your impression of North America during last year's Nevermore tour?
Hansen: We got a great impression of North America. This time around we drove around ourselves, so that gave us the possibility to be tourists way more. So we got to see a lot of fantastic landscapes, visited a lot of great cities and simply had a great time. I like the diversity of the country, and this time we really got to see it all.
Blistering.com: You made two trips here last year, so did you see any type of growth in terms of fan turnout/reaction?
Hansen: We surely made some new fans but the two tours were also very different. While the tour with The Black Dahlia Murder attracted the young crowd, the Nevermore tour attracted the more mature crowd. So all in all, it was perfect for us to be on two so different tours. Even though we have played around Europe for the past 10 years, we are the new guys in the US. So we had to fight a bit more to make ourselves heard. It was cool though to gain some new fans but also to finally meet some of the guys that you have only talked with online. Some of our fans over there are really dedicated. They have all of our albums and have waited for years and years to finally see us.
Blistering.com: As a European band, is it more easy now to come to the States than in previous years?
Hansen: I actually dont know, as these two tours were our first US tours. But I am sure that European metal is quite popular in the US, so I guess it might be a bit easier than before. But again, there are more and more new bands, and the competition is hard. You just gotta be persistent and believe in what you do.
Blistering.com: Seven albums into your career, is there any set goal with each new recording? It seems like you're still finding new ways to expand on your Euro thrash sound.
Hansen: Yeah, well, we all get older, but we all wanna see how far we can take the band. First of all our goal is always to make the best possible album and to improve and evolve from album to album. If we could play bigger shows, sell more albums and make a lot of money while doing it, we would be happy.
Blistering.com: It will be ten years since the release of Bloodred Hatred, which is arguably your breakout album. What do you remember most about that point in time?
Hansen: After that release we actually had our first European tour. We supported The Haunted alongside Mastodon, who got their breakthrough just after that tour. I was still a very young guy - now I’m grey and old, ha-ha - and this was my first experience with touring.
Blistering.com: That was far and away your most melodic album. Was that a reflection of your state of mind at the time?
Hansen: I dont know, actually. This was just how I wrote music at the time. Maybe I was just young didnt have any worries in the world, ha-ha.
Blistering.com: Finally, what's on the agenda for the rest of 2011, going into 2012?
Hansen: We have some small European tour runs coming up here in the fall of 2011 plus we have some dates in Denmark and Scandinavia. The plan is to get a good support tour in Europe early next year, then tour Scandinavia again before playing European festivals during the summer. We then aim for going back to North America in the fall of 2012... so hopefully see you all there at that time! Would be amazing!