Michael Denner’s musical contributions and performances over the past 35-plus years are integral to heavy metal. As one of the original guitar players for Mercyful Fate, including work on influential albums like Don’t Break the Oath and Melissa, Denner’s impact is undeniable. Through an extensive discography in several innovative groups, the Danish-based guitarist continues to create exciting and challenging music with a new band, Denner’s Inferno.
The Denner’s Inferno project arose in 2018 from the ashes of Denner’s Trickbag, featuring the latter group’s bassist Flemming Muus and drummer Bjarne T. Holm. The two bandmates also played during Mercyful Fate’s 1990s reunion. The newest member of Denner’s Inferno, vocalist Chandler Mogel, is best known for his work in Punky Meadows and Radio Exile. Available via Mighty Music, In Amber is the group’s album debut. The lead single, “Fountain Of Grace,” released earlier this year as the title track of an EP, is included. The “Fountain Of Grace” track is something of a mission statement, featuring a spooky-classic metal vibe during the chorus. Longtime fans will recognize the heavy metal trailblazer’s signature doom approach over a ten song combination of original and obscure covers.
Musicinterviewmagazine.com caught up with Michael Denner to discuss why the new group stands out among others, capturing a live but in-studio sound during In Amber and some insights which may surprise fans.
Musicinterviewmagazine.com: What was the creative goal for Denner’s Inferno?
Michael Denner: First of all, to proudly show that I’m very much still here as a guitarist and composer. Also, to let people know that it’s still possible to make albums the old fashioned way, with musicians playing together in the studio, like we did back in the days. My aim was to create an album full of the music I listen to for my own pleasure, including 1970s heavy rock with a twist of more modern metal, which is different from my previous works. There’s always been some compromising when being part of a band. But this time, I took full control of the process with a lot of help and inspiration from members in the band.
The first single, “Fountain of Grace,” certainly captures that early metal sound, but still retains a suggestion of fun. Did you write the song knowing the track would be a standout?
I wrote “Fountain” with my lyricist, Jesper Harrits, back in 1999. I’ve always been inspired by the more doomy bands and I’m a fan of old horror movies and horror comics. So this very much reflects who I am.
How did the song “Veins Of The Night” come about?
Flemming played a riff for me 40 years ago when I had my glam rock band Starchaser, during the mid-1970s. It was too complicated to play at that point, but it always stayed in my head. So I took this single riff and built a full song over it and now it’s one of my favorite tracks on the new album.
How did you know Chandler Mogel would be the ideal vocalist for the band?
I heard him [Mogel] on YouTube with Radio Exile and liked his voice and attitude. We made some tests and it clicked right there. As a bonus, he has similar taste in music as mine and is a very professional musician to work with.
What are the challenges in creating new music within the hard rock genre?
My challenge is that I am never fully satisfied with my songwriting. I can spend years with a song and then finally delete it, so it takes a lot of time for me to get enough work and tracks to use for an album. That’s why I was only semi-satisfied with the Mercyful Fate reunion albums we did in the 1990s. There were too many fillers on those albums for my taste, compared to Melissa and Don’t Break The Oath, where almost any song was a killer.
How much of the record was created altogether in the studio?
Almost everything, except for vocals, which was done in a studio in New Jersey and my guitar overdubs, which I did at home. The full rhythm section is played the old fashioned way.
What is your typical writing process? How might it have changed for Denner’s Inferno?
Music is always first and on the guitar in most cases. I’ve had some ideas on keyboards and even on drums a few times, but the guitar is mainly my tool for creating a new song. This time I had a lot of stepping stones, people around me who chipped in with ideas and songs, things I covered and rearranged, all in all a pleasant way of preventing me to delete songs and then never be able to finish the idea.
How does modern recording technology and similar methods enhance or detract from the recording process?
Modern techniques make things go so much faster. But it’s important to stay near your roots. Too many artists push it too far, with everything to the max and it can make the listener fed up and tired. For me, the organic and open sound landscape is the key.
Tell us about “Run For Cover” and your approach for making the song your own.
“Run For Cover” is, as you mention, quite obscure. It was originally recorded by the Streetwalkers. The original was a bit sloppy on the guitar side, but had some excellent drumming by a young player named Nicko McBrain, yes that same one, in the mid-1970s. So I gave it some metal riffing in the bottom end and a lot of my lead signature and made my own version of this great song.
How does it feel knowing your guitar work is revered by many fans, players and critics as among the most influential in metal?
It took some time for me to fully understand my impact in the genre. But after over 45 years as an electric guitarist, it’s an honor to be part of metal history and something that gives me joy and happiness every day.
Who are some players or bands you might draw inspiration from?
I try not to copy anybody after my time, but got a lot of inspiration from all the people I worked with in my past on more than 40 albums and from my heroes back then, including Schenker, Roth, Blackmore, Montrose, to name more than a few.
Is there an artist or genre that influences you that would surprise your fans?
I have a huge collection of 1970s glam vinyl singles of bands like The Sweet, Slade, Mud and T. Rex that I often enjoy listening to. It might surprise people to know that I had some years as an amateur jazz/easy listening singer in the late 1990s and listened to Sinatra, Dean Martin, Elvis Presley and other singers in that style for inspiration back then.
What are the tour plans for Denner’s Inferno?
We will start the tour from early May 2020 forward and try to hit as many countries in Europe as possible. I’m going to concentrate on the new album, but also songs from the past, so many to choose from. One song I’m looking forward to play live could be “Up And On,” from In Amber. Chandler really shines on it and that song is a great challenge to play as a guitarist.
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Justin Smulison is a professional content writer and producer whose first love is music. Smulison’s digital and print copywriting experience spans music, law, true crime, advertising and real estate, among other subjects. You can often find JS in Long Beach, New York, either running on the boardwalk or in the sand with his family.