Interview by Jason Guest
Jason: Hi Andreas. Thanks for taking time out for this interview.
Andreas Tylden: Hello there, Jason. Thanks for getting in touch!
Jason: Altaar’s début album is a different beast altogether from the bands that the other members and performers are also involved with (my review is here). What was it that you wanted to achieve when you started Altaar that set it apart from the other bands that you are involved with?
Andreas Tylden: Well, first off, when starting new musical projects I never want to repeat myself. I’ve been doing a lot of different stuff over the years, but never explored the more experimental and slower side of things, so to speak. I went from playing in a democratic band setting to recording all by myself in my living room with limited access to proper equipment. That’s how it all started, at that time, for me, a completely new approach to creating music. The early mind-set of Altaar was to make very slow, black metal inspired doom, but only with the tools I had available. Totally lo-fi and very DIY.
Jason: Altaar was originally a side project. What made you decide to form a full band and record an album?
Andreas Tylden: After the release of the first tape, Dødsønske (“Deathwish”), Toft joined in on the project. Soon after we were offered to do a show with Stephen O’Malley, and as the songs have both drums and bass, we needed to include a full line-up to do the songs justice. Up until that point we had only done duo shows based on more experimental and improvisational drone/noise rather than Altaar songs. We simply recorded the record because a lot of people starting asking for one.
Jason: How did you choose the musicians that have become part of the band? And what have they brought to the band and its music?
Andreas Tylden: We are all close friends in the band, so the choice was pretty easy and obvious. Some of them I’ve already played with for years and can’t really imagine playing with someone else. They have all brought in tremendous amounts of inspiration and drive to my initial vision of Altaar. I couldn’t have done it without them and we are now more of a joint effort rather than being a “solo” project.
Jason: How has the band and its sound evolved since its inception?
Andreas Tylden: As mentioned the sound was pretty obscure and lo-fi at first; very dark and nasty. Now however, I see it as quite the opposite. I still want to make slow paced heavy music, but want to bring in a lot of different elements and inspiration to the concept, as it were. Good directions are always how can one use melodies in music that’s not necessarily meant for melodies and how can one make the music heavy as hell without sounding metal, you know
Jason: The band has a very eclectic sound. Did this evolve with the writing and recording of the album or was it something that you had in mind before writing began?
Andreas Tylden: First off we were supposed to record using modern day equipment – our regular backline – but ended up using old Vox amps, Fender and Rickenbacker guitars to get that classic twang, an old 1971 Slingerland drum kit to get that perfect, yet sloppy drum bounce, old rusty vintage mics and the whole lot. Not to jump on that retro wagon which is a huge trend these days but simply because I’ve always been a huge fan of classic psychedelia, beat- and freakbeat. Especially the British bands from that period. Also, we were very curious how our approach to “modern metal” would sound like if it was recorded in 1968. For the musical part I was the only one who had the songs in my mind and wrote most of it by myself. The rest of the guys had no idea what we were supposed to do when we entered the studio. However, we ended up forming the record together as a band.
Jason: Are there any bands in particular that have had a significant impact on Altaar’s approach to making music?
Andreas Tylden: Indeed. There are two records which have had a direct impact on Altaar. One being El Mundo Frio by the japanese band Corrupted and the other being Bitches Brew by Miles Davis.
Jason: Now that Altaar is a band rather than a side-project, how were the tracks for the album composed? Were they developed in the studio or in rehearsals? Did you all collaborate on the tracks or do you work individually and bring your ideas together?
Andreas Tylden: I wrote the skeletons of both songs by myself. As mentioned we entered the studio without not really knowing what to do, as the material was not rehearsed beforehand. Though I had somewhat of a vision, the music was formed in plenum and didn’t really take form until we started mixing the lot. I’d like to be on top of things, but the input and collaboration from the other guys is simply priceless. Again, I couldn’t have done this alone.
Jason: How do the tracks begin their life, an idea, a melody, a riff, a theme, a concept?
Good question because, in reality, I’m not really sure. That said, mood and state of mind are as important as anything else in Altaar. We very much rely on, if not, want to create a certain atmosphere in our music. A cheesy example, but let’s take Joy Division for instance; Technically they couldn’t play at all and sounded like shit, but the music had, and still has, tons of atmosphere and a unique state of mind that simply can’t be duplicated.
Jason: Is there a concept or a philosophy that underpins Altaar’s music? If so, how is it manifested in the music?
Andreas Tylden: (See above) After a show we recently played here in Oslo, someone said it felt like being high on drugs without doing drugs which is a pretty good description. So, in essence, our philosophy is to evoke certain feelings and transcend beyond the flesh, beyond the riff, the music itself. Not just for the listener, but us as performers too.
Jason: How did you come to be involved with Indie Recordings? And why did you choose to work with them for the release of your material?
Andreas Tylden: They wanted to work with us, so the process was pretty quick and easy as we were looking for a label. In all honesty I’m embarrassed to be on the same label as certain bands, but I am very grateful for what they have done and do for the band. They are excellent on distribution and promotion which is a must these days. Also it’s a great thing having your label just two subway stops away, you know.
Jason: The artwork for Altaar is very intriguing. Can you tell us about the artwork for the album and what it represents? Who is the artist? Why did you choose to work with him/her? And how much direction did you give him/her in its creation?
Andreas Tylden: The artwork was done by renowned Norwegian artist Sverre Malling. He too came to us with the idea of using one of his drawings for the cover, as Toft already knew him from the art academy. He invited us up to his studio to show us some work and we immediately fell in love with what ended up on the cover. Even though it was painted before he heard the music, I think it represents the music well: those two obscure figures being the two songs on the record; the abstract versus the solid, the pulsating heart being the sound/production of the record and so forth.
Jason: Boundaries between music genres are perpetually blurring and being challenged. Do you think that music reached an evolutionary step in that exploration and integration of sounds and genres that once appeared to be disparate is a necessity, that musicians have little choice but to explore other genres if they want to progress?
Andreas Tylden: Sure. And one must not to forget that by exploring the past, one can move forward into new directions and new musical territories. You know, when Napalm Death came around people said that the boundaries of extreme music had reached their outer limit which in retrospect was bollocks. As for exploring other genres, in Altaar’s case, we would not simply exist nor have a future if we couldn’t challenge the sound, bring in new ideas and constantly progress.
Jason: Despite the argument that the internet and piracy is having a negative impact on the music business, creatively speaking, music – at least in the underground – is thriving as a host of new bands are emerging and pushing further music into new sonic territories. What’s your opinion of the internet and its impact on music? Do you think that because of the ease of making music available, the internet has affected the quality of music?
Andreas Tylden: Luckily I was around when tape trading and zines were the deal and know how the true underground works; the physical format for the win. Nowadays it’s so easy to download a record or whatever, and as a result, the life expectancy of a record and/or a band is pathetically short. Still, I’m not an old bitter bugger thinking the past was better. I love the internet and use it in every way all related to music, which have become a powerful tool in terms of spreading music, a zine, a show, a festival, a label or whatever. I really don’t pay too much energy to the illegal downloading thing, but people should really, really know that being in a band, recording records and touring is not cheap, and one should pay great respect to other peoples’ creative work.
Jason: With illegal file-sharing threatening the music industry, do you think it’s become more of a challenge for band’s to survive?
Andreas Tylden: Yes of course. I’m sick of having to pay to play. If I’d only knew how much I’ve actually spent over the years I’d probably quit right away. Though for me I can’t stop playing. This is my reason for living, and that is worth paying for.
Jason: Is it the modern version of tape-trading?
Andreas Tylden: In many ways yes, but I’d like to say no because tape trading still exists.
Jason: Which do you prefer, CD, vinyl, or MP3?
Andreas Tylden: I prefer vinyl by a long shot. I stopped buying CDs a couple of years ago because I had to move to a smaller apartment (quite ironic as I buy more vinyl than ever). When it comes to the digital side of things I absolutely can’t live without Spotify which is a blessing from Belzeebub Himself.
Jason: What does the future hold for Altaar? Is there more music in the pipeline?
Andreas Tylden: I’ve started working on the follow up and I am very excited about the new material. I think it will surprise a lot of people and can’t wait to develop it further with the rest of the guys.
Jason: What would be the ideal setting and/or venue for a live performance?
Andreas Tylden: We’re talking about doing a show on top of a mountain here in Norway (yes, on top of a mountain) this coming autumn. It would be very cool to film the show as well. If not ideal setting, it would be very cool.
Jason: Will Altaar perform live? Are you planning any tours or festival appearances? If so, will we be seeing you in the UK?
Andreas Tylden: Up until now, we’ve done a handful of shows in Norway, Europe and the States, but we’re not going to tour a hell of a lot. We will do a few selected show this summer and then see what happens. We’d love to play the UK. I haven’t played the UK for some years now and really miss it.
Jason: Thanks again for taking time out for this interview. Do you have any closing words for our readers?
Andreas Tylden: Thanks for doing the interview and showing interest in Altaar. Much appreciated. And, concerning shows, get in touch!