Category Archives: Interview

An Interview with Helge Sten of Supersilent

Group Photograph of Supersilent

Norwegian avant improvisational troupe, Supersilent, are a multi-stranded proposition – teaming electronic and acoustic instruments with high energy arrangements and moments of hushed calm all with no rehearsal. They’ve been at it for over a decade now and have recently teamed up with former Led Zeppelin multi-instrumentalist and rock aristo – John Paul Jones – for a number of shows including five in the UK later this month. To get the lowdown on this line-up, their future plans and their unique playing I spoke with Helge Sten on the phone from his native Norway.

Hello Helge! Supersilent have been together for a long time with the same line-up. How did this particular project with John Paul Jones start?
Helge: We played at the same electronic festival in Norway and he was due to perform right before us so just sort of met up with him and asked him if he would like to join us for our show. It just happened.

What does Jones’ playing bring to Supersilent?
H: He’s so diverse and really really good at listening and going into improvised situations.

Has the dynamic in the group changed as a result?
H: It’s different when you have four people in the band but in a good way. We’ve also played a lot with another guitarist in Europe and it’s the same – another member it’s different dynamics but in a good way.

With Jones in the group have you noticed a difference in the audience you’re playing to?
H: We have done mainly festivals and I think if you know Supersilent you know what you’re coming to see. People who are interested in John’s past have the knowledge that he might do stuff that’s different from the old days. There’s not a lot of people wanting to hear stuff from that different group [Led Zeppelin], it’s working out really nice.

You’ve mentioned in the past Norway’s tradition of improv-jazz. Most people when they think of Norwegian music, they’ll automatically conjure up notions of black metal or Eurovision – does Supersilent have a big audience at home?
H: It’s not fair to say we have a big audience in Norway. We do most of our concerts in Europe, it’s actually hard for us to play in Norway due to the infrastructure and length of the whole country.

How’s your experience been of England?
H: We played a tour there in, maybe 2000 – can’t actually remember and a few gigs in London. We found it a very open audience; interested in going to listening to music in an open way

Given your rules about rehearsing I was wondering if you ever listen back to recordings of gigs or past records for reference points or pieces you’d like to expand on? Or are those moments snapshots in time never to be repeated?
H: The thing is that for us improvisation is a tool to compose music – that’s the idea. We want to compose music and for us improvisation is a tool to do that in real time. We’re not into it for philosophical reasons it’s just a way for us to compose and play music in a way we enjoy. I mean we could rehearse but then we’d just have a tape recorder going all the time then we would get a bunch of recording to sort out so actually not recording is good for us to focus immediately in the studio or in shows.

To play this music must take a lot of concentration, are you still able to have fun?
H: Yes! I would say every time.

You don’t feel the need for a three minute pop song?
H: Well I mean there’s so much weird stuff coming in which sometimes is really beautiful kind of short piece then it can be really noisy and dynamic. It’s so many things – it’s all allowed there’s no censorship – if you add that into the mix it’s ok.

Are there any plans to record with this line-up or keep it on the road?
H: We’ve recorded a few of the concerts and we might do some recording but we’ve not really talked about it but it might happen. We haven’t discussed it in detail.

Finally, what can people expect from a Supersilent gig?
H: Woah, I don’t know… It’s supersonic music with a lot of great musicians in the Supersilent universe but it’s hard to tell what to expect because often the venue is colouring how we make choices in the music. Like if we’re in a big concert hall with lots of reverb we would play different music than if we were in a small club. It’s very organic, really hard to tell [someone] but it’s electronic music, improvised. It can be really dynamic and noisy and loud or super-quiet.
First published on RoomThirteen

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Riff ‘n’ Roll – an interview with Karma to Burn

Karma to Burn, the recently reformed stoner rock trio from West Virginia, have a certain aesthetic purity to them � the songs are (mostly) instrumental riff-a-thons given simple numbered titles. New album “V” is their second since reforming and continues to mine the furrow that served them so well on past classics like “Wild, Wonderful Purgatory” but with some added vocals courtesy of Daniel Davies. Make no mistake though; this is no lumpen pile of guitars: the songs are structured in such a way that new shades reveal themselves over time and are continually exciting. R13 caught up with the band via email to discuss the record and their upcoming UK and European tour.

R13: Karma to Burn have been back together for only a relatively short while but you’ve already released two new studio records. Are you making up for lost time?
Karma to Burn: I believe we are just scratching the surface of our full potential as writers. Before we were distracted by many many different things – right now, its just about creating and getting it on live.

R13: Was there a specific moment when the band got back together when you just knew it was all clicking?
KtB: As soon as we started writing 41. I felt great about it and it had definite Karma to Burn vibe.

R13: Were you at all concerned with tainting the band’s legacy?
KtB: Not really, as long as it’s all 3 of us doing the tainting and not 2 out of 3 or 1 out of 3 like so many of the “reunited” bands, hehe.

R13: The band are starting to incorporate more vocals into the Karma to Burn brew; were you finding the instrumental agenda a bit limiting or have you just found the right vocalist in Daniel Davies?
KtB: We just don’t want to be limited. We want to be able to do whatever we feel at that time. At this time I feel like we explored Daniel’s full range and there really isn’t any need to approach that direction again.

R13: Do you use the same methods for writing for all Karma to Burn songs whether they have vocals or not?
KtB: Yessir. Although we do add more riffs to the instrumental tracks. We tend to leave some space in the vocal tracks.

R13: Are you pleased with new album “V”?
KtB: Definitely. We tried some things we never tried before. I regret not being able to try Jimmy D as an instrumental track but we will approach that some day I am certain.

R13: From what I’ve heard so far it sounds like a beast! How was it recording with John Lousteau?
KtB: Lousteau is the beast. He managed to reel in the live atmosphere and sound effortlessly and immediately.

R13: Why did you end up choosing to cover ‘Never Say Die?’ � is it not a bit risky covering Sabbath?
KtB: Of course, Sabbath are the zenith of hard rock. Paying homage to a band like them is tricky; the main thing for us was to enjoy the process and try to learn while attempting to view the song from their creative reference frame.

R13: Are you looking forward to another trip to Europe this summer?
KtB: Definitely. It’s been a blast as always. The crowds are always wound up and the weather is always completely unpredictable, not to mention, you never know when the bees will attack.

R13: Will you playing some of your non-instrumental tracks live with Daniel?
KtB: Daniel has run his course with us. I doubt we will play with him in the line up again. We had a good time but we really feel we explored what he could bring to the table.

R13: Are there any bands you want to catch when you’re playing the festivals?
KtB: Oh man, we always manage to see something that makes our heads spin. Like last year, I saw Limp Bizkit and 10 years after the first time I saw them and puked I figured for certain they would be amusing as in an irrelevant joke type of amusing, but instead the amount of boneheads that still think they are good was absolutely mind blowing. This year I will probably have my mind reamed by people who still watch rap live like it’s a viable form of live music.

R13: Finally, as a band with a million riffs can I ask do you have a favourite? Mine would have to be the opener on ’20’ or maybe ‘5’ � it’s very difficult to choose.
KtB: Oh, it really changes day to day as we become more acquainted with the subtleties of each riff live. Right now I think 47 is peaking with us as players, and I have a new appreciation for 5. You are just like me. Hehe. Anywho, thanks!

Karma to Burn are clearly a reinvigorated act making the most of their second chance. Catch them on tour in August and prepare for a thoroughly sore neck and mile wide grin.

http://roomthirteen.com/features/870/Interview_with_Karma_to_Burn.html

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Discovering Impossibilities – An interview with In Solitude

Here’s my recent interview with the trad-metallers for Roomthirteen.com

In Solitude are a group that take themselves and their art seriously. They are far from pretentious though; they just have a naked strength of conviction in themselves and in the music they create together. Rather than indulging in some half-baked publicity posturing that overcompensates for weakness In Solitude simply walk the walk and talk the talk. Knowing this it’s probably best not to get the title of their album mixed up in the very first question- a tip for next time perhaps. In a bout of WikiLeaks style probity and a position taken in contrast to governments worldwide there won’t be any redacting here- just my foolish truth. So here it is: an interview with the heavy metal band of the moment.

R13: You’ve just released ‘The Flesh. The World. The Devil’ are you pleased with the results? Did you achieve what you set out to create with the album?
In Solitude: The album is called “The World. The Flesh. The Devil”. Anyhow, it certainly took on (and opened) shapes and depths that we never could have imagined. Of course, we were fully aware of the spiritual and emotional value of the work, but we didn’t expect it to become so intense on us. I don’t know how others experience the album, but to us, its shakes the foundations of who we are. We are very pleased with the results.

R13: How important was getting the artwork right for ‘The World. The Flesh. The Devil’?
In Solitude: It was very important. And it took a very long time to find the right artist and the right piece of work. Thousands of ideas were in motion and many artists were in consideration, but we were very particular with what we wanted and waited for the perfect one. And we came across the American artist Jesse Peper and specifically his number of “shadow portraits” that to us felt like if they were born out of our album. It was as if we remembered them from somewhere. From that place where In Solitude grows out of, and where we are headed. So it felt perfect to use them. Blessings to Jesse for his great work.

R13: Have you been pleased with the critical reaction the record has been getting?
In Solitude: I really don’t keep track on such things unless someone puts a magazine in my hands or if someone comes up and tells me face to face. And as far as that goes, the reactions have been fairly good. I seldom find any value in what major media has to say. I prefer when people personally takes the time and comes up and tells me what they think with their honest opinions. That is far more rewarding than any reviews.

R13: People are keen to discuss the dark aesthetic of In Solitude. Does the interest from the largely secular music press in this aspect surprise you?
In Solitude: No it does not surprise me. It’s a part of human nature to be interested and drawn towards powerful things that lie outside the confines of their own world and life. And it’s a part of human nature to be drawn towards things that are for real and that are written in blood and tears. And I think that people are in need for real, sincere and honest music. Music that has heart and soul. Music that actually can cause change and growth in people. Music that can open inner eyes.

R13: What attracts people with outspoken, possibly marginal views such to metal? What comes first, do you think, the metal or the beliefs?
In Solitude: Well, I can only speak for myself here. And I have always been writing, painting and playing music in order to translate the essence of something far greater. For me personally, beliefs come first. Art is always reflections. Music is always reflections. The artist translates the vision. He reflects it. And what we do with In Solitude, is to translate, reflect and capture fragments of the far greater darkness that drives us.

R13: The lyrics for Serpents Are Rising is based on a poem by Viusiudad of Reveal also from Uppsala � is the metal scene close knit there?
In Solitude: There are a handful of bands from Uppsala that we are very, very close with and share a lot with, and have for many years. Reveal is one of them. Viusiudad is an extremely close brother in life and death and it felt very natural for him to contribute with a poem since we come from the same “place” when it comes to these kinds of “things”. His impact on my lyrics was already pretty distinct and a lot of the lyrics deal with experiences we have shared together.

R13: Do you feel any particular kinship with Ghost?
In Solitude: We feel particular kinship with them because of who they are and because of their great work. May they haunt this world for a long time to come.

R13: Older listeners will recognise plenty of NWOBHM and eighties metal sounds on the album. Where does that influence originate from -older brothers, friends for example?
In Solitude: We all started to explore music and dig deeper on our own in a very early age. And those first life changing experiences are still extremely important. And not only when it comes to metal music.

R13: Members of the group have spoken about the ritualistic nature of In Solitude � how important are live performances and audience participation in this regard?
In Solitude: The way I approach my emotions and my spirituality while under the influence of our music, the movement, the value of the words, the energy and the unravelling is a very similar process as those I experience while communicating with the shades beyond the borders, while under, above or in trance. It’s a similar process of getting into that. Dancing on the edge of the flames. Letting the hands caress and get burned. Sores reveal answers. New questions, new keys. And through this, and through a lot of playing, the experiences become stronger and stronger and more and more similar, and we become able to communicate on stage as well.

R13: In Solitude are touring extensively and playing the festival circuit over the summer is there anywhere you’re especially looking forward to playing?
In Solitude: Anywhere where we are consumed by the fire.

“The World. The Flesh. The Devil” is out now on Metal Blade Records and In Solitude are playing in the Netherlands and Germany later this month before touring the US with Down. Go on, investigate…

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