Interview by Raymond Westland
Raymond: With your previous album you did a lot of touring and it really put Shining on the map due to a huge amount of very favourable feedback. How do you look back on the period?
Jørgen Munkeby: It was interesting because now after three years Blackjazz is viewed as a sort of classic. At first many people didn’t know what to make of that album. Many reviewers tagged the album as “special”, but also as a little too left-field for their taste. It’s still a very agressive album. In Norway we’re more well known than in other countries. In fact, we’re seen as one of the more established acts. You know with albums like NIN’s Downward Spiral and Metallica’s …And Justice For All are seen as god-given in a way that’s kind of what happened with Blackjazz. At the time it was just another album I worked and it was recorded during one of my worst periods of my life. Blackjazz is a very disturbing and confrontional album, so you can clearly hear there was something wrong with me.
Raymond: With the status Blackjazz in mind did you feel any pressure while working on One One One?
Jørgen Munkeby: Yes, but I have that every time when a work on a new record. I had the same feeling when we recorded In The Kingdom Of Kitsch album back in 2005. I had to come up with better songs than ‘Grotesque Weather Report’ because it was my favourite song on that album. I had the same thing with Grindstone (2007) and Blackjazz (2010). With the popularity of Blackjazz in mind it’s very hard not to feel pressured. Jay Z has a line in one of his songs which says “Do you have the strength to get out from which is underneath you?”. That’s kind of how I felt when I worked on One One One. Even if you have success in your past, it’s hard to get away from, because people have a certain expectation from you. They expect from you to come with something good, but also they might ask from you to come up with the same thing. We’re not that kind of band. We’ve changed our sound a lot on each successive album. Shining started out as an acoustic jazz band and look we we are now today as a band. If we were afraid to change and to disappoint people we would never made an album like Blackjazz.
Raymond: What I really like about the new album are the well-rounded songs. Some of them are ‘poppy’ in a good way..
Jørgen Munkeby: Yes, that very much sums up what I wanted to achieve with One One One. I wanted to retain the essence of Blackjazz, but refine it more and encase that in well-rounded songs. I wanted the madness of ‘Fisheye’ and ‘Carnage And The Damage Done’, but make them shorter and remove the transition parts. I wanted to make the songs that no one wants to skip. I love being in the twilight zone between uncompromising art and commercial music/pop culture. I really like the mixture between those.
Raymond: One One One is also partly funded by cultural funds affiliated to the Norwegian government. How did you manage to get that done?
Jørgen Munkeby: In Norway the government has special funds where people can apply for art related projects. With our history Shining is viewed as a serious art band. You can apply for a whole range of different things, including tour support and funds for recording an album. Obviously not everyone gets money and you can’t get money everytime. The Norwegian government feels that’s important to support the arts in general and they have done so for several years now. I think that’s a great thing.
Raymond: One of the things I’m quite suprised about Norway is that (extreme) metal is seen as a valid art form. Things couldn’t more different in many other European countries.
Jørgen Munkeby: I think it’s the right thing to do. Metal is a valid form of art and it makes me wonder why it isn’t seen like that in many other countries. I don’t have the answer, but I just know it’s the right thing to do. Not everything in metal is art. It’s the same with every other form of music. Not every piece of music is good and worth of your attention. Metal music is starting to become an art form. I’m talking about bands like Enslaved, Ulver and Solefald and not so much old Burzum and Mayhem. People at the Norwegian government ultimately decided whether a band or musical project is worthy of support or not. I think it’s a good thing that the government decided to look past the church burnings and see black metal as an art form.
Raymond: There was also a remix competition for One One One. What results did it yield?
Jørgen Munkeby: It’s actually still going on, because so many people became interested. When the people at Indie Recordings heard about it, they wanted to make it even bigger. The end of May is final deadline to send in the remixed versions. A lot from around the world are working on this project and I already heard a couple of them. I just love how people can take our music and change it in something totally different. That’s really inspiring.
Raymond: So what if a certain Trent Reznor would make a remix of a Shining song?
Jørgen Munkeby: That would be a huge honor. I haven’t asked him. We just put a message on our Facebook page and the label people posted it around. I would be thrilled to have Reznor or someone like Skrillex remix our music, but at this point it’s just fantasy.
Raymond: Finally, you also did a lof of guest appearences, most notably on the last two Ihsahn records. How do you look back on those experiences?
Jørgen Munkeby: It was great working with someone like Ihsahn. We really got along greatly. We are the same kind of people. We’re not really talkative and we’re both really serious about the things we do. We also share the same interest in studio gear. He asked me to play on one of his albums. He sent me some pieces of music and some melody lines and he told me that I was free to color his music in every way I see it. I went to his studio and recorded my parts. I improvised a lot there on the spot. The funny thing was that his album was released at the same time as Blackjazz. My recording experience with Ihsahn really helped me on how to combine jazz and metal.
And you can read Raymond’s review of One One One here