“We just want to use certain elements from the past in the best possible way.”
Norwegian rock outfit Audrey Horne has just released their latest album, entitled Pure Heavy. It’s an honest record with a couple of nods to long time heroes Vanhalen, Thin Lizzy and Iron Maiden. Midlands Rocks editor Raymond Westland had a friendly chat with singer Toschie to get his input on the new album, the rising popularity of vinyl and the state of the music industry as it stands today…
Pure Heavy is a kick-ass let-the-good-times-roll type of record. Are you happy the way it came out? Which elements please you the most and why?
First of all, thank you for your kind words. We’re really happy with the album and I’m proud of it for a lot of different reasons. The songs came out really well and I think that’s the most important part of any album. A good album requires good songs. When we wrote the Youngblood record we really changed the way how we did things. Before that, it was Ice Dale or Thomas working on songs individually at home. Towards the end of the writing sessions of our self titled album we decided to write songs as a group, because a lot of the fun of writing music was starting to disappear. It was almost like reawakening for us. The overall quality of our songs increased dramatically.
Not everyone liked the change of direction we took on Youngblood, but that is a matter of taste. Yes, I’m still happy with our older material when it comes down to atmosphere, but I feel we write better melodies now. As a singer that’s closer to my heart, because I’ve always enjoyed good songwriting. The Beatles were master songwriters and I really love them for that. You can have the best singer or the most intricate guitar riff in the world, but that counts for very little if you don’t have any good songs.
Production-wise I’m also very happy with Pure Heavy. With the previous album we decided to record live with virtually no overdubs whatsoever. Just so we could capture Audrey Horne’s live energy on an album. We almost became fanatic about using no overdubs whatsoever. With the new album we still recorded live as much as possible, but also use the benefits of a studio to polish things up here and there (laughs).
What can you tell us about the writing and recording sessions for Pure Heavy? In which way did they differ from previous experiences?
Jurgen, our producer, wanted to capture our live energy, but also add certain elements whenever a song asked for it. It was his idea to add the sounds of a train to one of the songs and to add church bells to another track. That particular song is about some misgivings I have about the church and their stance on homosexuality for instance. It’s not a massively political lyric, but it’s more social commentary.
In the past we never liked being in a studio, because of the long time it took to record an album. It was really boring and it sucked the energy away from us. Our producer argued that the recording process should be fun, because a very serious or saturnine type of attitude would ruin the upbeat nature of our music. We drank beer and we even danced when we felt like, just everything to make the recording process for Pure Heavy as enjoyable as we possibly could (laughs).
It all comes down to experience. When I get this question in other interviews I always compare it to being a carpenter. When you build a house for the first time you build it as best as you can, but you get better at it with each subsequent house you build. When you’ve build thirty or forty houses, you’re starting to get really good at it. You’ve learned from your mistakes and it all comes naturally in a way and you know how to react to the peculiarities of your coworkers.
It’s a combination of experience because as a band we’ve been doing this for a long time and by now we know each other really well. I know what makes the other members in Audrey Horne tick and what they like and dislike. I know how to present my ideas in such a way the other members are receptive of them.
We also listen to a lot of different music and we buy our vinyl and go to shows from other bands and we pick up some ideas here and there along the way. You’re never too old to learn something new (laughs).
There’s only a year between the release of Youngblood and the new album. How did you guys manage to deliver a new record so quickly?
We write songs very fast now. In the past we always second guessed every idea we had, but nowadays we trust our gut feeling more. Of course there’s still room for discussion but we’ve learned to trust eachother’s abilities more. When Espen, our bassist, joined the band during Audrey Horne sessions he was amazed about how serious we actually were at the time. He told us to loosen up, so if a song sounded too much like Thin Lizzy our first reaction was to toss it away. However, Espen said we should keep the song and no one really cares whether it sounds like a familiar band, because there are millions of songs written out there that sound alike and that we should focus on making the best song possible. He really helped us loosen up and learn to trust our gut instincts more. In the end everything we write will sound like Audrey Horne. That mindset really helped us with the creation of Youngblood and Pure Heavy. We’re actually thinking of writing our fourth album already.
Some tracks on Pure Heavy border on total worship for bands like Iron Maiden, Thin Lizzy and Van Halen. Tracks like ‘Holy Roller’, ‘Out Of The City’ and ‘Into The Wild’ are three particular examples. Do you see this as a good or a bad thing?
I don’t know. We write the type of music that we want to play basically and the type of albums we would like to buy ourselves. This week I’ve read some reviews on our album and I have to say that we are blessed and lucky to always get good reviews, however some reviewers accused Pure Heavy to be too much of an hommage thing to all your childhood heroes. As a band we’ve come to a point that we want to enjoy ourselves with the music we’re making. We don’t want to reinvent the wheel again, we just want to use certain elements from the past in the best possible way.
Our music had changed over the years and we might see another change in our music on our next album, you know. If we would make the same type of album over and over again, it would be very boring, especially for us. If you don’t like our music anymore, there are millions of other bands out there to listen to. We have to play those songs a million times, so we might as well write the type of music we enjoy playing (laughs).
Other band members in Audrey Horne are in other bands as well like Enslaved and Sagh. In which way does this affect the band in terms of touring, recording etc? How do you guys manage to make it work?
It’s a bit of a blessing and a curse. The fact that the guys play in other bands gets them musical input from other places and every member brings his own distinct style and taste into Audrey Horne and that makes us what we are as a band. When it comes to logistics it’s not a big problem because things evolving around Enslaved, Sagh and Audrey Horne are planned far ahead, so those three bands don’t bite each other scheduling-wise. However, when a short term touring opportunity arises, like doing three shows with Mastodon for instance, we have to say no unfortunately. We have to sacrifice some great opportunities because people are active in other bands, but that isn’t much of an issue anymore.
One of the more interesting developments of the last couple of years is the return of vinyl. What are your thoughts on that?
I love vinyl, I don’t buy CDs at all. I stopped doing that three years ago. The main attraction about vinyl is the format for me. CDs are all digital and it’s very cold and clinical. It’s nothing people cherish. Most people treat CDs like shit, but with vinyl people cherish that more. A lot has to do with the revival of old music, like classic rock and soul.
Technology has developed so fast the last ten years and almost everything is accessible nowadays. You can get the music you want in the way you want it. Same goes for movies. If you want a book, you can go online and download it somewhere. You don’t have to go out and actually buy a book. Also on television with all these talent shows that only produce idols that will last for two months or so. After that people need a new one to worship. Everything goes so fast and it gets delivered in an ever increasing state of perfection. People simply can’t keep up anymore, only machines can.
People aren’t perfect that and that’s why they can relate to things that aren’t perfect, like analogue recorded music. It simply sounds warmer in a way. You want things to go fast, but your life to go slowly, like you’re walking in nature and enjoy all the scenery. You don’t want to grow old and you want your twenties to last forever. I have this feeling with vinyl. It’s the scent, the warm sound and that fact that vinyl as a format simply isn’t perfect.
Finally, recently Gene Simmons (KISS) said that “rock is finally dead”. What are your sentiments on this?
I think Gene Simmons kind of represents the dinosaurs of rock. His kind are dying out. As for the old business model, the industry build on that is dying out. It’s a shitty thing when you think about it, because you don’t have to pay for music anymore. For a musician it’s a bad thing. However, the music industry simply had too much power. In the past they decided what the trends would be, who would have a hit record and would get the big tours. Nowadays things have become more democratic. As a small and independent band you can sell and promote your music, book your own tours and sell your merchandise all over the world. As a band you can do all those things without the meddling from a record label. Gene Simmons represents the old guard that are losing money now and he doesn’t like that. That’s probably why he said those things.
The rise of internet has brought some negative things on a certain level, but it also has levelled the playing field quite a bit and that’s a good thing in my book. There are so many good bands out there who wouldn’t stand a chance twenty years ago. Nowadays those bands can almost be the equal to the bands who have a big record label behind them. Music-wise, I don’t think Gene is going to that many shows anymore and I don’t think he’s the type who goes online and searches for new bands and sounds. As for me, I like going to record stores and check out new bands, I love going to live shows and I also love going online and watch live videos from all kinds of bands. When you do that you instantly know rock and roll is still very much alive and kicking (laughs).