Former DIMMU BORGIR drummer Nick Barker has spoken exclusively to BLABBERMOUTH.NET about his surprising departure from the group.
Barker, a former member of CRADLE OF FILTH, joined DIMMU BORGIR in 1999 as a replacement for original drummer Tjodalv (a.k.a. Kenneth Åkesson). He has since appeared on two full-length studio albums with the band: "Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia" (2001, Nuclear Blast) and "Death Cult Armageddon" (2003, Nuclear Blast).
In an official statement announcing Barker's departure, DIMMU BORGIR indicated that "Nicholas has been removed" from the band's lineup and advised their fans to not "waste [their] time speculating why," adding that "we have already moved on."
The following is a transcript of an exclusive question-and-answer session held between BLABBERMOUTH.NET and Nick Barker the evening of Monday, February 9:
Q: DIMMU BORGIR confirmed your departure from the group by saying that you were "removed" from the band's lineup. Most people would interpret that statement to mean that you were kicked out of the band, not that you left of your own accord.
Nick Barker: "That's right. I guess they let me go because they think it's the right decision for the band. And I totally respect their decision, and I have to go with it, obviously. And I just wish them all the best."
Q: Was this decision a long time coming? Were you surprised at all to learn of their decision to kick you out of the band?
Nick Barker: "It was a total surprise to me. But I guess they think it's the right thing to do, and all the best to them."
Q: But they must have given you a reason as to why they were kicking you out, didn't they?
Nick Barker: "I guess it's because of the distance thing — me being English and those guys being Norwegians. And me commuting from England to Norway all the time. I guess they thought things just weren't working out. I [also] think there might have been a few cultural differences, with me being English and those guys being Norwegians. I mean, we always seemed to get along, and we made some good music together.
Q: The way their statement was worded implied that there might have been some bad blood there — like the split wasn't entirely amicable.
Nick Barker: "I don't know anything about that."
Q: So there were no band fights or internal disagreements that precipitated this decision to kick you out of the band?
Nick Barker: "Certainly not with me, no."
Q: When you were actually told that you were no longer in the band? Did this happen just a short time before the band released their official statement announcing your departure or is this something that had already occurred several weeks earlier?
Nick Barker: "I was actually told… I think it was the second week in January, when I was on vacation, they called me up and broke the news to me."
Q: Was it the band that called you or was it their management?
Nick Barker: "No, it was [vocalist] Shagrath. I was on vacation, and as soon as I got back home, I pretty much called [former FEAR FACTORY and current BRUJERIA guitarist] Dino [Cazares] and came out to L.A. to work on BRUJERIA and I played my first show [with BRUJERIA] in Mexicali this [past] weekend."
Q: But you've been involved with BRUJERIA for quite some time now, at least on the recording side.
Nick Barker: "Yeah, I recorded some tracks on the last record, 'Brujerizmo', in 1999."
Q: Was your involvement with various side projects, including BRUJERIA and LOCK UP, ever mentioned as being in potential conflict with your duties in DIMMU BORGIR?
Nick Barker: "No, [the DIMMU BORGIR guys] were totally cool with the side-project thing, and they always knew that DIMMU would be my priority and everything else would be worked around DIMMU or not at all. Me and Dino and [NAPALM DEATH/BRUJERIA bassist] Shane [Embury] are working on some BRUJERIA material right now."
Q: Was anything mentioned to you about a possible replacement drummer in DIMMU BORGIR? Is it possible that they already had a replacement in mind and that's part of the reason you were kicked out?
Nick Barker: "No, I think they're gonna go with session drummers [going forward].
"I'm not bitter about [the split] or anything — I've got plenty of other things I could be getting on with.
"I've got no beef with [the DIMMU guys] — I totally respect them and I've got nothing but admiration and respect for their music and them as people. I wish them all the best, and good luck."
Q: Were you friends with the rest of the DIMMU guys outside the band?
Nick Barker: "Yeah, we were friends outside the band, too. Obviously, we hung out a lot together, with all the time I spent in Norway. Obviously, though, I had to [always] go back to England. So I was kind of living two separate lives, really."
Q: Was that something that was a problem with you?
Nick Barker: "No, I'm totally… It wasn't a problem for me at all."
Q: Was there ever talk about you possibly relocating to Norway?
Nick Barker: "Yeah, but it was just so impractical because Norway is such an expensive country, and they pay over 30% tax. It's just a very, very expensive country, and unfortunately, the royalty rates [from record sales] are the same the world over, regardless of whether the currency is up or down."
Q: But you were never a full-fledged member, correct?
Nick Barker: "No, I was."
Q: So you weren't just getting paid a salary?
Nick Barker: "No, I get paid royalties and everything else."
Q: How much of a hand did you have in the songwriting process, if at all?
Nick Barker: "I didn't really come up with any riffs apart from groove patterns on the drums, and I used to have a very hands-on role in song arrangements. I have a good ear for song structures and stuff like that, and that's basically how I used to help out. And then I could come up with groove patterns on the drums and we worked on some of those ideas on occasion. I tried to be involved as much as possible in the writing without actually being able to create any riffs."
Q: When you heard, or read, the band's statement regarding your departure, were you upset over how it was worded? To the average person, their statement read as if your split wasn't exactly amicable.
Nick Barker: "Not really. I find it quite comical, because it totally reflects their personalities in some respects."
Q: What do you mean exactly?
Nick Barker: "Just… It's a very black-and-white kind of humor."
Q: So do you think the statement they released regarding your departure was meant as some kind of joke?
Nick Barker: "I wouldn't say it was a joke, but I don't really see it as [implying that there was] any animosity. When they say that [I have] 'been removed' [from the lineup], I find it… If you knew the guys, you would know what I was saying."
Q: With respect to BRUJERIA, when did you actually arrive in L.A. to start working with the band? Were you already in the States when the split with DIMMU happened?
Nick Barker: "No, I was on a Spanish island, in the Mediterranean [since around New Year's Eve when I got the call saying I was out of the band]. I've been in L.A. for a couple of weeks now, and I played my first show in Mexicali this Saturday just gone, and I'm gonna be over here for awhile. Shane's over here, too — Shane Embury — and we're already writing the new BRUJERIA record."
Q: Are you involved with any other projects besides BRUJERIA right now?
Nick Barker: "LOCK UP. Only LOCK UP."
Q: And that's kind of "on hold" for the time being?
Nick Barker: "Yeah."
Q: Are you planning on getting involved with any other projects now that you have more time?
Nick Barker: "I think I'm gonna have my hands full, really, for the next few months playing BRUJERIA shows and writing the new album with Dino."
Q: So you envision yourself spending most of your time in L.A. then for the next few months?
Nick Barker: "I think so, yeah. I think I could quite possibly be moving out here if it starts to pick up [with BRUJERIA]."
As previously reported, DIMMU BORGIR, who recently cancelled their Japanese/Australian tour, have been officially confirmed for the 2004 edition of Zillo Festival, set to take place July 16-18 in St. Goarshausen, Germany.
DIMMU BORGIR's "Death Cult Armageddon" has sold 34,817 copies in the U.S., according to Nielsen SoundScan.