Interview mit Jakob Batten von Illdisposed

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Our fifth interview with ILLDISPOSED is about the 30th anniversary of the danish Death Metal icons. Read, how guitarist Jakob Batten compares between the early days and nowadays, how the Corona pandemic affected him and the band and what he thinks of the digital development of the music industry. And how a signed, but not immediatly returned contract had very decisive influence on the history of the band.

Interview – vs Illdisposed // questions submitted from Andreas Althoff

Jakob, thanks for taking the time to do this Illdisposed special for the band’s 30th anniversary. How are you doing these days?
Thank you Andreas, all is good besides the virus is still here of course. I have been working a lot of extra hours in my regular job as an IT technician, to compensate for the lack of concerts and simply to get the thoughts elsewhere. It’s not really motivating for a musician to be in a lockdown like this.

To get the organizational stuff done first: This is our fifth interview, the last two where for the 20th and 25th anniversary. Are you in for another one in five years again?
You bet I am. Let’s keep this our thing, doing anniversary interviews exclusively. Time is flying, so we better start preparing already.

30 years of Illdisposed! What can be figured out as the most important moment or decision for the band to last three decades now?
That has to be back in 2003 when we were looking for a new record label to release the new album we wrote after almost breaking up as a band. We decided to sign to a smaller American label and we signed the papers and I just needed to send them back to America. Somehow I decided to wait another day sending the contract back and that happened to be most important decision ever. Because later that day a talent scout from Roadrunner Records contacted me and asked if we wanted to sign to Roadrunner. We did it and recorded an album that turned out to be the most popular album of our entire career.

Do you have any plans to celebrate this anniversary?
The original plan was to do some massive touring and playing the “Submit” album in its entirety. Unfortunately the virus made that impossible, so now we’re just playing the Submit album at selected venues in Denmark in front of a sitting audience.

Times have changed since then. Shortly after forming ILLDISPOSED Denmark won the European Football Championship. The older of us can imagine how long ago that is. What was better/easier to start a band back in the 90s compared to nowadays?
Not everything was easier back then. It was quite difficult to get your music exposed. We had to trade cassette tapes and shit like that. We had no online platforms to promote anything. But I wouldn’t trade that for starting these days instead. We grew up while heavy metal was wild and crazy. We were fucking things up, fighting, doing whatever we wanted to provoke and say fuck you to the mainstream. These days you can’t tell the difference between a metal band and a Schlager group. They’re all a bunch of pussies if you ask me.

Is there that one thing you would do completely different today than you did back then?
No, not really. I mean, we’ve made some bad decisions that turned out to be bad for our career. But we made those decisions to keep our honor clean and not bending over, taking it in the ass by the music business. I’m proud of everything we have done, good or bad. I wouldn’t change anything.

I don’t know if you remember the 24th of May 2006. You invited me and a friend to the “Burn Me Wicked”-release show in Copenhagen @ Stengade 13. We had a blast this evening and I am still so grateful for this memory, which is the most amazing thing I have ever experienced as an author for our website. Bo announced one song in German language that night for us even it took place in front of your home fans. How important is that kind of fan contact/dialogue for you?
That was a great night indeed. I think it was the night where Michael from Volbeat got drunk and fell down the stairs to our backstage room. He passed out and we stuffed him into a cabinet before we went on stage. After the show he was still inside the cabinet, unconscious. Fortunately he was ok.
Anyway, we have never been making music to become popular and make a lot of money. We do it to get away from daily life, going crazy and meeting crazy people. That’s what is important.

And what is your opinion on those pretty expensive Meet & Greets that are offered among many tours? Do you see a certain point of “value for money”? KORN even offer a virtual 200$ Meet & Greet besides a streaming show, which can’t be anything else than a simple web-meeting.
I think it’s embarrassing and I feel sorry for those bands. They don’t even want to do it themselves, they are kind of forced to it because they can’t make enough money on music itself. The music scene has changed a lot and today you need to give your music away for free while still having to pay a lot to produce the albums. It’s not easy.

While concerts weren’t possible for a long time now, is a streaming show something you’d dig for ILLDISPOSED?
Definitely not. We’re playing shows because of the craziness of the audience, the connection. When the virus came we swore that we would never play a show in front of a seated audience. It happened anyway, we have been playing two of those shows so far. Who would have thought we would still have restrictions after such a long time.

Back in the 90s you started as a rough Death Metal band and changed your style to a more modern and melodic type of Death Metal within the years. Are there specific bands that could be named as the biggest influences for that development?
We started listening to At The Gates and In Flames and all of these melodic Swedish bands. So I guess that is where the inspiration came from. I have always been a sucker to good melodies myself, no matter what kind of music I’m listening to. I can’t tell the difference between the songs if there’s no melody or theme to find anywhere.

My favorite album is the “1-800 Vindication” because of its highly melodic style. In the meantime you went back to a straighter kind of Death Metal. Can you imagine doing such as melodic one again and also using electronic samples like you did there? Or is that chapter closed?
Nothing is closed. We always do what we feel like when getting bored after playing the same way in a while. I don’t know what will come next, I totally lost my motivation for making music when the lockdown came. So it almost feels like starting all over now as things are slowly opening up.

The music industry changed a lot in the last three decades. In the 90s people had to buy CDs and today no one uses them anymore as everybody just streams his music. How do you see this development – If you could, would you prefer stopping all that digital stuff or would you say “That’s the best thing that could happen to a band”?
Personally, I hate the digital “evolution” in music. It made things easier of course, but easy isn’t always the way. Every band can get their stuff out on the platforms today, but it also means that these platforms are overflooded with shit. And as a musician it’s a knife to the heart to see people listening to well produced tunes on a cellphone or a crappy Bluetooth speaker. It’s making me tired. I never had a subscription to a streaming service. I don’t want to go down that road, where all music in the world is just a part of a huge pool of shit. I have my vinyl collection. Listening to that on my hi-fi stereo is what is giving me the right feeling.

Watching ILLDISPOSED live in Germany is always huge fun. Bo’s German trash talking entertains the audience and everybody has a good time. Do you think all this political correctness from nowadays could affect your interaction with the fans? When you’d be joking around with “We are the gays/hookers from Denmark” in the internet, people would instantly go mad.
It is affecting our situation. Some stupid people are often trying to get our shows canceled by sending emails to the promoters, claiming we are nazis and all kinds of shit. But we don’t want to submit to all the political correctness which is turning the world into a Kindergarten.

Your latest album “Reveal Your Soul For The Dead” was released in 2019. Is there any new music in the work and how can songwriting in ILLDISPOSED be imagined in this horrible Corona situation?
I haven’t been able to write any new songs so far because I lost my motivation. But I can feel it’s slowly coming back now as things start opening up.

In the meantime, your „newest“ band member Rasmus (Drums) has been with you for about seven years, but there has been a lot of fluctuation before. What is different within the band now?
Actually we have an even newer band member. But his name is also Rasmus. He took over the guitar from Ken. But we’re even stronger now. Rasmus and I have the same way of playing rhythm guitar. So it sounds more tight. And Rasmus Trommelaffe is an amazing drummer. The best we ever had.

Do you still attend concerts as a fan? If so, which were the last ones?
I certainly do. The last metal show I attended was Dawn Of Demise who is a local band from the city I live in. And the singer Scott was also the singer of my old band Infernal Torment. The last non-metal show was Steven Wilson in Hanover I think. I’m a huge fan of his music, also when he was in Porcupine Tree.

Let’s head over to our classic brainstorming at the end of the interview…

Favorite German festival: There are so many great ones to choose from. Of the bigger ones I really like Summer Breeze. Of the smaller ones I have to mention Chronical Moshers.
First things you do when Corona is officially over: Travelling somewhere far away and giving my daughter tons of great experiences. She’s four years old and did not have the chance of going places yet because of the virus.
Your plans for the summer: Some dear friends from Germany will visit me for some weeks in my new house. That’ll be fun. And then I will be going on a ride on my motorcycle with our former bassplayer Jonas.
Illdisposed in 5 years: Greyer but still going strong.

Jakob, thanks a lot for this. All the best for you and the guys and many many years more for Illdisposed! Stay healthy! The final words are up to you.
Cheers Andreas and nice chatting to you again! See you out there soon I hope!

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