Interview with guitarist and vocalist Jacob Hansen
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: September 9, 2017
Denmark's Invocator, formed in Esbjerg in 1986, became well known in the international tape-trading scene when they started out as a fast, straightforward Thrash Metal act inspired by American and European Thrash and early Death Metal. The band recorded their 4-track Genetic Confusion debut demo back in 1988, which featured ruthlessly fast Thrash in the vein of early Kreator and Sadus. Their follow-up demo, Alterations, released a year later and also with four songs on it, was also fast but musically a more advanced and technical effort than its predecessor. Invocator's potential did not go unnoticed and the band was snapped in the early nineties by Black Mark Productions. They recorded three full-length albums, all well received among metal heads around the world, before vanishing for many years.
Invocator reformed in 2000 with only Jacob Hansen from the original line-up and found a new home with Italy" Scarlet Records. Through the Flesh to the Soul, the band's fourth studio album, was released in 2003 but didn't get the attention it deserved. Since then the band has kept a low profile and done one-off shows every now and then (due to Jacob's hectic job as a producer).
In June, 2017, one of The Metal Crypt's devoted reporters traveled all the way to Copenhell festival in Copenhagen, Denmark with the intention of interviewing Mr. Hansen himself. Due to some unfortunate circumstances this interview never took place. However, worry not, as Jacob Hansen is a true gentleman and got things done afterwards via email.
Ladies and gentlemen, Jacob Hansen from the legendary Danish thrashers Invocator...
Luxi: First off, it was nice meeting you after all these years Jacob, or should I say decades? Where did you get the spark to bring Invocator back to life?
Jacob: Nice meeting you, too! We have been asked to do shows ever since we got off the small Headbangers Ball tour back in 2010 but we really couldn't make it work due to all kinds of things and I felt it really wasn't the time. When I received the call from Copenhell asking us to be at this year's festival, we were, of course, very honoured, as I feel this festival is really something special on Danish soil, so we decided it was time to revive the old band again. Also, it would prove to be our 30-year anniversary show, as the first one was back in 1987 - how time flies when you're having fun!
Luxi: Was it easy to find a line-up to carry Invocator's torch in the name of Thrash Metal? I mean, you all have your jobs, families, and so on...
Jacob: Both yes and no. I knew who I really wanted to work with again as I feel there's a strong friendship among us. I also really wanted to have our old bass player from 1996 with us, but he wasn't able to do it, unfortunately, due to some personal issues. We found a great replacement in Jesper Kvist of Raunchy fame. I've known the guy since 1995, I believe. Can't really remember. Anyway, they all said "hell yeah" when I asked them to play a show at Copenhell, so that was neat.
Luxi: I cannot remember but is Perle Hansen in the band your cousin or even brother, perhaps?
Jacob: No, we're not related. ;) It's just a very common surname in Denmark.
Luxi: What about the songs that you have rehearsed for these reunion shows? Did you try to cover all of your albums to give everyone something from the band's whole repertoire?
Jacob: We went through a lot of songs and ended up playing mostly material from Weave the Apocalypse and Dying to Live as well as a couple of songs from Through the Flesh to the Soul and one song from our debut album Excursion Demise, the title track. There were so many songs that we'd love to play but some of them are very hard to perform live as they were written when I was maybe 19 or 20, haha! - It was just all over the place. Cool songs but just not suited for live performance and not written for a guy that's turning 47 this year, haha! So we skipped a couple and ended up with a cool set list, nevertheless.
Luxi: Your show at Copenhell was entertaining to say the least. Did you have any fear in the back of your mind prior to the show as it was your first reunion gig...
Jacob: I was hoping for the best, but I didn't fear it. I was really looking forward to it and I felt we had a great band and killer crew behind us. Everything was taken care of and the Copenhell crew was cool as well, so we just took all our energy and went on stage with huge smiles. I really, really enjoyed the show and it was so cool to see the huge crowd and recognizing a lot of faces, people I haven't seen for ages. That was very nice. Of course, we had a few hiccups and small technical problems, but all in all we had a great time.
Luxi: You have at least two more shows booked for this year. Are you still trying to book more and will some of them happen perhaps outside of your home country?
Jacob: We don't know yet. We've been asked about some festivals next year but nothing is confirmed as of yet. We'd also like some time to consider if we're gonna start writing new songs, but let's see how and where that all goes.
Luxi: Is this incarnation of Invocator more like a "hobby band" for you or do you have some bigger plans?
Jacob: It is a hobby band for me. It's really been that way for many years as I have a career as a producer where I earn my living. Innovator doesn't earn anything, which is absolutely fine as long as it's great fun and not too much hassle. It's still so cool to meet up with the guys from way back when. We live quite far apart from each other, so we only meet occasionally, and that's what started all this: friendship.
Luxi: What about writing some new material; is this a part of your plans?
Jacob: As I said, we're on the case, but you never know if something's gonna come out of that. We hope that suddenly the riffs start flowing, haha!
Luxi: Back in early 90s Invocator were really going strong and you managed to play with several big names like Dark Angel, Massacre, Immolation, Evil Dead, Laaz Rockit and so on. What are some of your most memorable experiences from those days?
Jacob: There were so many good and fun times and meeting all your heroes of the 90s back then was so cool. I feel like I wasn't really prepared for all this, being so young (in my early 20s), but it was great fun! One of the best shows we ever played was with Sepultura on their Arise tour, where we met with the guys afterwards and exchanged shirts and stuff. Really, really cool guys! But yeah, we made a lot of fantastic friends. It was a great time.
Luxi: How important were your gigs in your hometown of Esbjerg in late 80s/early 90s? Do you perhaps have any cool stories that you can remember from those gigs?
Jacob: They were really important. We helped make the metal scene in Esbjerg come alive. We arranged shows and brought all these cool bands to the local stage and the metal community in Esbjerg was huge. When we started, I think we had like 50 people coming to the shows and at our peak it was 800 people or more.
Luxi: Your band was a big, if not huge, name in underground circles, especially in the first half of the 90s. I suppose it had a lot of to do with your active tape trading network which really helped get the band's name out there, right?
Jacob: Yes, Jakob Schultz (guitars) and I were heavily into tape trading and underground stuff such as collecting magazines. I loved that. It made me so happy and it felt so fantastic to be communicating with people around the world that shared the same interests as me. I grew up in a very small town of 1500 people where 99.9% were into sports, so I was the only guy with long hair, haha! I had friends but none of them understood me when I listened to metal, so the underground and especially tape trading was such a huge part of my life back then. I still meet people around my age today where we can talk for hours about old demos and who we traded with. It's such a positive vibe, really.
Luxi: If you still remember, how much cooperation was there back in the day with some local or other Danish underground Metal acts (Artillery, DesExult, etc.) in terms of helping each other to spread flyers, promote shows, just getting the word out and stuff?
Jacob: We played one show with Artillery and a couple with DesExult. As far as I remember back in those days, you were on your own. We tried to set up shows with other bands from Denmark but there was this weird, strong and not very healthy competition going on. I feel like there was a lot of bad energy in the scene back then, and it made us "fight" for noting, really. It took some time for me after I stopped Invocator back in the late 90s to see how stupid that all was. It was very negative and we could've gone so much further if we united. But I guess that was just how it was.
Luxi: In 1995, the band split up and you started running a record label and had a record shop. Do you regret this decision or was it more of a relief to focus your energies on something else back then?
Jacob: I never looked back or regretted it, really. The friendship and fun were gone and there was no reason to continue, so I just found other fun things to do and that was where I started my record shop and started my producer career. Also, I felt like there were many upcoming bands that could use some help and I wanted to be a guy in the background rather than a "band leader," so to speak.
Luxi: Invocator's Weave the Apocalypse album was produced by a collaboration between the band and Eric Grief, who was Death's manager back then. What's story behind how you got hooked up with Eric Grief in the first place?
Jacob: He got my address from a mutual friend in the band Atrophy as far as I remember. He wanted to reach out and tell people the truth behind some decisions in the Death camp - that's how I remember it anyways. I wrote him back and we started talking. Later he made a trip to Denmark and I met him at a small festival and we started talking about producing and such. He was actually working in a studio together with the Broken Hope guitarist - can't remember his name - and we thought everything sounded very interesting, so we started collaborating on what would become the recordings of Weave the Apocalypse.
Luxi: Invocator's debut album was mostly influenced by bands like early Kreator and Sadus with some fast tempo Thrash Metal songs while on Weave the Apocalypse there's just one band that comes to mind when listening to it - Dark Angel. What happened between your debut and follow-up albums?
Jacob: I think we realized that we were sick of only playing lightning-fast Thrash/Death Metal and we had a new song writer in the band, Perle, who was really into Pantera and more Rock and melodic stuff. This influenced us in a great way so when we started writing new material, we felt it went in a new direction that we all liked. But yeah, I was still heavily inspired by Ripping Corpse and Dark Angel, which you can hear here and there, haha!!
Luxi: You have been a producer for several years (since 2001) and are known for your work with U.D.O., Doro, Pestilence, Volbeat, Aborted, Pretty Maids and many other bands. What have been your most interesting and most rewarding clients to work with so far and why?
Jacob: Ahhh... That's a tough one. I just think I learn so much each and every time. It's always rewarding! Sometimes it's really tough, but that's also something to learn from.
Luxi: When did you make the decision to get your own studio and start producing on a more serious basis?
Jacob: I started way back in the mid 90s to help out local bands and I really loved it. When I did my first production in a real studio, I knew I was hooked. It was fantastic to be creative and work with a band, but not be part of the band as a member, plus they paid me to have this much fun, so I knew that was something I wanted to pursue.
Luxi: When you started the band back in 1986, I believe you were also kind of intrigued with how to get your music transferred into an audio format and how to make proper sounding demo tapes that represented Invocator musically in a good way. Do you believe you also went through this learning phase in your life as a producer when you were learning production tricks and so on?
Jacob: Oh yes, I did. Everything I've done has been trial and error, really. I just went with my gut feeling and picked up a little here and there. I sometimes just imagined how people would get a certain sound and went for it. I think nowadays it's so much easier with all the information you can get about a certain subject, but back when I started, you had to figure shit out yourself!
Luxi: Would you say it's a never-ending road to be a producer because you can always learn something new with modern technology constantly evolving? In other words, you need to be constantly in the loop because things are changing in the studio world as far as new studio equipment is concerned?
Jacob: Yes. Spot on. I learn every day. And I have to, if I wanna keep on doing this. The worst thing I can do is become stubborn and uninterested in what's going on. You can disagree with a certain sound or production method, but you can pick up the good parts from all the new stuff that is happening and fuse it with what you've learned through all the years, and I'm sure that'll be a good thing. Of course, you never know how long a career like this will last.
Luxi: Thank you for your time Jacob and all the best to you and the band for your plans to conquer the lands once again. If you wanna leave some last words for all the Invocator fans worldwide, here's your chance...
Jacob: Very happy to answer your cool questions, my friend! I hope everyone is spinning their Invocator songs at home and might I add that I've heard that Black Mark is due to re-release the old albums on vinyl. That could be interesting to some! Also, check out our merch shop – invocator.bigcartel.com
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