I was aware that this was not going to be a usual interview. How do you handle it when you are about to interview a favorite band of yours, whose last effort didn't exactly live up to your expectations? It could have been awkward, but it wasn't. Because it was Toschie, the singer of Audrey Horne that I was speaking with, one of the coolest guys in the rock music scene – not to say one of the best current singers. So, finally this interview turned out to be a great conversation that lasted about an hour and contains everything you need to know about "Pure Heavy" and beyond, while proving that Audrey Horne remains a great band, no matter what…
Hi Toschie, how are things going in the Audrey Horne camp? Hope everything is fine…
Everything is very good. It's been more and more fun to play in this band for every day and year that passes. So, we're having a very good time, yeah…
If we were in the 70's or the 80s I guess it would be normal, but nowadays almost no one releases a new album in such a short period like you did. What led you to take this decision?
Well, it was mainly that when we started out, we wanted to be a band like Kiss, to release an album every year. But, we weren't quite up to that, so it took us about three years between each album. Earlier, we used to write music in a different way, like Thomas used to sit in his place and he made music and recorded it and Ice Dale sat at his place. Then I got the files and made the melody lines and started writing lyrics. And then we got together and arranged a lot of it on computers and stuff. At one point we thought that this is not what being in a band is about.
So, before we recorded "Youngblood", actually towards the end of the "Audrey Horne" session, we started writing music together. Just got into a rehearsal studio and wrote music. And when we did that, everything was done way faster, we wrote music faster than we've done before and not that there's a necessarily a point to write music fast, but that was a result. Also, we started recording it live, so where we'd normally spend a couple of months on recording an album, suddenly it was three weeks and the album was done.
When we were done with "Youngblood", we felt that we were on a creative flow. We had written so much music and felt that we still had a lot of good ideas that we hadn't tried out yet. Basically, we started writing material pretty much after we released "Youngblood" and then of course there was a lot of touring, we had a break and we got together in between tours and wrote some more music and then we sat down and said that "We have a bunch of ideas for songs and we have some songs that are more or less finished, so let's make the new album really quick". We did one in 2013 and we said "Let's do one in 2014 as well". Then we sat down and wrote some more songs and basically we booked the studio and talked to the producers and it took us a little over a week and a half to record it and a week to mix it, then some days to master it and it was done.
To us, it was a lot more interesting to do things this way, because you don't get so nerdy and detailed about the music, you just a lot more with your gut feeling. "Does this sound good? Yes, it does! Let's do this!".
I have the feeling that you were trying to make everything "on the fly", trying to catch the moment and have this feeling through the music of the album. Is it true?
Yeah, very much so. It's definitely what we tried to do. To keep that as opposed to earlier, where we spent months on writing a song, questioning every detail in it and polish it in studio. You sort of lose some of that nerve, some of that touch in the music. So, on these last two albums we tried to catch the moment more and to capture the energy that comes from playing. When we record it, it takes us something between one take and maybe ten takes to write and record a song. And you don't get tired doing that, but if you record and record and record, at one point you get tired and you lose the energy. That's basically what we're trying to do these days with our music; we're trying to capture that moment and the energy, but also ideas that come in studio. "What if you put like a train in that? Yeah, cool let's do that. Let's check it out, see what it sounds like. Oh, it sounds great, let's do that". Not to say "Weeeellll, train… we have think about that". Just do whatever comes to your head basically.
Then, "Pure Heavy" seems to make sure that the major change in your sound that took place with "Youngblood" was not temporary. Do you feel like you've found your sound as a band?
Yeah, definitely. It took us a great number of years to sort of find that sound, but as soon we did it was kind of like "This is the way that we should have always been". We have changed a bit and I think Audrey Horne will maybe change more in the future in some way, but not like major changes, because I think we sort of found our musical path. Of course, it wouldn't be interesting if we did the same album over and over, so we always want to try out new things – we're not going to make an electronic album yet though. I think we definitely have found our type of music and the way we write and record, but the production sound wise may change from album to album. That's what we have to do to maintain vital and interesting I think.
One think I love about Audrey Horne is that you've been adventurous (music wise) from album to album; you know progressing and presenting different things each time. Is it more important now to be categorized in a predetermined sound? Cause, as I see it, one can put you in a certain genre with the last two albums, while with the previous ones I personally had a hard time to explain what Audrey Horne played…
Yeah, I can see your point… but to us that's not really something we can care about, because a band labeling is mainly for something we need to understand. If I tell you about a band that you haven't heard, then I would say "They sound like Mastodon meets The Beatles in a way". You label to make people understand, but labeling outside from that is not really important. When they start talking about a band and they say "Well, this band they call themselves a thrash metal band, but are they really thrash metal or are they maybe more speed metal?". That's not really important, not in the big picture. "Do you like the music? Is it interesting?". That's enough. Whether people call it this or that, it doesn't matter. So, we don't care much about that.
The part that we would care much in what your saying is if people think it's less interesting now, because it's less progressive and it's more straight forward. Some people might find it less interesting, which is of course for us a sad thing if people feel that way, but then we can't really do much about that, because we make music that we want to make and if people like it or not that's not up to us, it's up to you. It's up to you whether you'll like the music or not and whether you'll like one album more, that's out of reach. There's nothing we can do about that, so we don't care about that. If you can't do something about it, then you don't spend energy worrying about it either.
We'll talk about the music of the album later on, but firstly I'd really like to know what's behind the album title? What does "Pure Heavy" stand for?
(laughs) It's kind of hard to explain. It started out more as a joke, because within our community - with the bands that are sort of in the same community like us, bands that you've probably heard of like Enslaved, and then bands like Krakow and probably a bunch of bands you've never heard of – a lot of people [in that community] started talking about how we talked about music when we were kids. Because, everyone refers to heavy metal as "metal", you know it's "metal music". But, when were kids we used to say "heavy music". If anyone asked us what kind of music we were listening to, that was "heavy music". So, we started talking about that and people started using that term again and while we were in studio we were always referring to something – if it was good or not – as "Was it heavy or not?". If someone did something good we were like "Wow, that was heavy man" or if we recorded a take we'd say "Was it heavy or not?". It basically meant "Was it good or not?".
Then, we joked around and that became the theme when we were in the studio. It was always "Was it heavy or not?" and "That's heavy, that's not heavy" and stuff. When we were talking about naming the album, our bass player was like "This should just be called "Heavy", cause, that had been the theme of the recordings, so let's call it "Heavy"". And then he turned around and he came back and said "Wait! "Pure Heavy"! That sounds a lot cooler!". It was probably meant as a joke and we started joking about it and when people starting questioning what's the name of the album we were saying "Pure Heavy" and some people were like "Oh, cool" and some others were like "Really? Isn't that a bit cheesy?". When we said "Seriously, let's talk about the name of the album", we were so used to "Pure Heavy" that we realized "Fuck it, we can just call it "Pure Heavy", because that's already how we referred to the album".
What we forget is that it's just the title of the album and I guess most people except what they're being served. If a band releases an album, they say "Here's the new album, it's called… "Daylight Searchers"" and you say ok, that's weird, but you don't question it. Because, you say that they probably have a reason for why the album is called like this and you kind of accept it…
(laughs) Well, I almost always ask about the title…
Well, you're a journalist and you're used to asking behind the reason why people do what they do… But, normally, people don't do that. They usually go like "It's called like this. Cool!". This is called "Pure Heavy", because that's how we wanted to call it and if someone asks this is what I tell them. I tell them the story behind it, why it's called "Pure Heavy". You know, when Slayer released "God Hates Us All", I saw an interview with Tom Araya and they asked him "Do you really think that God Hates Us All?". And he was "No man, it's just a great fucking title". Which makes sense… He doesn't necessarily have to think that God hates us all, but he plays in Slayer and he knows it's gonna sound good as an album title. So, to us it was a little bit of the same as well. It was like "Pure Heavy" sounds cool, sounds like a cliché and sounds a little bit cheesy, but also sounds cool, so we said "Fuck it, let's call it "Pure Heavy"".
Also, the cover of the album is once again a bit 80's isn't it? If your previous one was a tribute to KISS, could this be a tribute to Van Halen or Motley Crue and the American rock scene of the 80's?
Yeah, definitely… The story behind the artwork is that we had some different, other ideas that we worked on and we couldn't agree on that between us, in the band. We talked a lot about it and some people wanted something and some people wanted something different, so in the end I said "Let's ask someone else". So, we called a friend of ours who's an artist and asked him "Do you want to make an artwork suggestion for us" and he said "Yes, sure, what do you want?" I said "I don't know! I'll send you the final mix of the album, you can listen to it and just make something that fits to the album". He did and he called me and he said "Yeah, I made a suggestion for you and I sent it over". He said "I did this because, first of all I think the music fits perfect to listen to it while driving your car, especially a fast one. Also, your music is sophisticated in a way, but also non-sophisticated, it's straight forward and it's not very progressive, you don't make conceptual albums or anything. I think it needs an artwork that says something about the whole rock n' roll attitude". Then he said he was inspired by a movie of Quentin Tarantino called "Death Proof", so he said "I figured a car would be perfect". When we saw that, I don't know if it says something about the music or not, but we thought it fits with the music in many ways. So, we felt that this is the artwork we need.
Before we get to the music of the album I have to make clear I consider Audrey Horne as one of the best and most unique current bands and I loved all the albums you've released so far, so I guess you'll excuse me if I say that it was the first time that I listened to an album of yours and wasn't really that excited. I'd like to know how do you feel about it and maybe you explain why that happened with me?
First of all, of course I think it's good that you say that, because we need honest response to our music… But, why? I don't know! The response we've got so far is very diverse, some people say that "This is by far your best album" and some of them are "Well, you lost some of the mystique or whatever you want to call it in your music". And maybe we did, but for us, this is the album that we wanted to make, we're very proud of this album. But, maybe, to some people it may be too straight. And, even though, "Youngblood" was musically very much the same as this one, this is maybe a bit more produced. I guess some people like the rawness about "Youngblood". Some people have already told me that "Youngblood" had a bit of more an edge in the production, because it was more primitive in a way and that sort of disappeared with the new album. I agree with this, the new album is a bit more produced, but that's what we wanted to do. Like I said earlier, even though we don't change much musically - we have done that in the past, since "Youngblood" we haven't changed very much music wise – but we have changed a bit the production. We've done that for each album, we always tried to do something new. Unless you're ACDC and basically do the same over and over again, when you do something new there's always gonna be some people who are really pleased and some people who'll be a bit disappointed. Some are gonna like it and some even are going to hate it. So, that is just what happens when five people make music, you can't really please everyone at all times.
Well, since I liked "Youngblood" I'm trying to figure it out. The two things I think I love most about Audrey Horne are your vocal lines and the guitar playing. While the guitars are still there –the work is once again really great – I think you've changed the way you write your vocals lines, making them a bit more… should I say straight forward, like trying to make sing along choruses for your live shows, becoming even a little predictable. Could this be the case, you trying to simplify your vocal lines in a way, so as to be easier to be sung along on your shows?
To be honest, we have always really tried to do that. We always sort of tried to make good melody lines, but also tried to make hooks in the melody lines that makes it work in a live situation. Because, we write music very much with a thought that you spend a little time in studio to make an album, but the main portion of the time you spend on the road playing these songs. So, we always tried to make sing along choruses in a way, but not just to make a sing along chorus, we're always trying to write good choruses or good melody lines in general. I think we didn't try it any more or any less on this album. It's basically just something that happens. We haven't changed the way we write music, except for that we write it together now instead of separately. But, apart from that, we always tried to make the best songs possible and we've done the same on this album. Of course, there might be something in there, that you react to in a way… When we make a melody line or a song, you might react to it in a different way than what we do ourselves. But, we always set out to make music that we want to make and that we love, because it's impossible to predict what people would want without creating something very predictable. And our music is a bit predictable. It's not predictable in a way that it's boring, but a bit predicable it is. Because, it's hard rock and hard rock is mainly a bit predictable. I don't think I can tell you any reason for why you hear that our music has changed that way. It's just our music and that happens… (laughs)
I just want to make clear that I'm not trying to be harsh or something, just trying to be honest with you…
You absolutely don't have to worry about it. We really appreciate an honest response. Most people do, but as long as they say "Wow, your album is fantastic, I love your album", then you don't really know whether they're honest or not, because you always think that "Yeah, but if he didn't like it, would he have said he didn't like it?". So, every time someone comes up and says "You know what? I really like your album, but I think your previous one was better" or they say "I like your album, but those two songs, they are not good, those are not worthy on being on this album", then you know that they mean it. Because, nobody lies about that. A lot of people tell a little lie when they say that they love your album. You never know, you just have to trust them if they actually love it. So, I really appreciate an honest opinion. You know, we make music and we don't expect everyone to agree with everything we do. I did an interview with a guy on the "Audrey Horne" album and he was over the moon, he said "you're the greatest band in the world". He was a Norwegian journalist and he was so pleased like "it's the best album coming out of Norway ever". And then this guy, when we released "Youngblood" I did an interview with him and we sat down and he said "What the fuck happened?". I was "What?"… "You used to be the greatest band, but this album… I hate to say, but it's shit. I hate this album". I was like "Wow, ok", but that's an honest opinion and like I said before, when you make music you don't expect to please everyone, you don't expect everyone to agree with what you do. You just have to do what you feel is right for yourself. So, I am not reading what you say as you think that we're a shitty band, you just have been honest with things you were not impressed with on this album, which is honest and appreciated thing to say.
Let's get to the things that I like in the album, like "Waiting For The Night" which is my favorite track on it. I think it has the nerve that some songs miss, the pulse and the big chorus I love in your music. Is it a stand out track for you too?
Yeah… When we wrote that song we were actually a bit uncertain… that was one of the songs that we felt that maybe is too simple in a way. But then we worked on it and when we recorded it, it got such an energy that we were like "Yeah, this is a good song". But, on the way to what it is today we weren't really sure about whether it was good enough actually. I think it turned out a really good song and I'm really happy with it. It's got great energy and I love the production of the song, I love the chorus, I also think it's a great chorus myself.
"Out Of The City", the leading single has Thin Lizzy written all over it and I think Thin Lizzy along with some other influences are the ones you wear on your sleeves. Which were really your main influences during the writing and recording of "Pure Heavy"?
I don't think that there's one influence that sort of is "this is the influence", but Thin Lizzy has always been a strong influence on us, because I think – and I know the other guys in the band agree, as they're all great Thin Lizzy fans – they made such a unique sound. The twin guitar solo thing… Every band that uses this twin guitar solo thing will always be labeled straight away as "Oh, that was very Thin Lizzy". They made a unique sound and they were great musicians. Phil Lynott is a really underrated songwriter, because he writes really-really good melody lines, he writes great songs and the arrangements of that band is so good. Even though some albums are not as good as the others, the still managed to make good albums in general all the way I think. Thin Lizzy is also a band that we relate to as a band, because they didn't care about their image, they were just themselves and they fucked things up seriously a lot of times, which we've done as well. When you look back it's always "Why the fuck did you do that?" You know… Like business wise decisions and stuff. So, I think in many ways, not just musically, it's a band we relate to very much. We don't compare ourselves to them, but I feel we're the same type of band as Thin Lizzy were.
Definitely a huge influence, but otherwise than that the influence is Kiss, as they've always been a major influence on us. Even though you might not hear it directly in our music, there's always been Kiss since we were kids. It's always been Kiss. There's no way that we can make music without being influenced from Kiss in our music. But apart from that it's all kinds of music. Not only the classic hard rock. We listen to punk rock, we listen to pop music, to extreme metal, hardcore, country and western. As long as it's good music we listen to it. There's not really one influence on this album, there are a lot of influences basically…
When we did our previous interview for "Youngblood" I mentioned to you that if I missed one thing , that would be the sad songs and your pessimistic lyrics. "Diamond" is only a small taste for it, not enough for me. Is it that you're not in the mood for such songs anymore or they just fit on albums like "Pure Heavy"?
I think it changed a lot when we started writing together as a band and we started having much more fun doing it. It's hard to be in a situation where you're happy with your life – and we're happy with the way we do things in the band – to write sad and pessimistic music in a way. But, I guess it's a combination of that and also of the fact that when you write music you tend to come up with some ideas and think that it wouldn't fit in, so you work on it for a while and realize that this is not gonna end up on the album, because it doesn't fit, like you said. When it comes to "Diamond", we discussed our intention and in the beginning it was to make a full song, but we had this small part and we thought it would be nice to have a small break in the album. So, we ended up just using this part of the song and we haven't really finished the rest of the song. I agree with you that this has a totally different vibe. The reason is probably because we sat down to do it. The other songs were written standing on our feet, having good time, playing hard rock and then we sat down, me and the two guitar players. When you sit down and start to do music that way it automatically changes, because the way you feel and what you do and how you act reflects in your music.
You laid back a little bit…
I always liked the style you have in writing lyrics. In the new album there are some obvious ones like "Wolf In My Heart" or "Volcano Girl", but at the same time I'm not sure if they are as obvious as they seem to be. Could you give a brief explanation of the lyrics of some songs the album?
Yeah, I could do that…
"Wolf In My Heart" is a song which it might be obvious, I don't know… But it has to do with being a musician, being in a band and doing creative things and travelling around from country to country and being to studio and going to festivals and meeting interesting people and all of that. All of these things are high energy things, so when you don't do that, I think a lot of people easily get really restless. This song is more about that feeling, when you come home from tour and people notice that you're a bit restless and you're lie "Ok [editor: Toschie starts pricking his thumbs], what's next?". And they're like "Aren't you pleased to be home? It's nice to have you back". Of course it is and you love coming home, but at the same time it's like coming from a great party to a very quiet library or something. You have to readjust. That's the "Wolf In My Heart", the one that wants to go out hunting, if you know what I mean…
Something like "Out Of The City" is very much about how most people want to please other people. You make promises and you want to help people and you want to be good to the people around you, but in trying to do so you fail a lot of times, you're bound to fail a lot times. So, the song is about "We're going to get out of the city, we're going to see things, I'm going to take you somewhere to see the world… Ok, it didn't happen, maybe next time…" That song is a bit more about my personal experiences promising things to the people that I love or to the people that I care about. When you can't deliver, then you feel really shitty and it might be my fault or it can be circumstances that lead to it, but anyway you end up disappointing someone. All the things you promised didn't happen and that's what "Out Of The City" is about.
"Volcano Girl" is more or less about the man/woman thing - it can be man/man and woman/woman too of course - how we pair up, how we team up with someone on this planet… with a mate, a soul mate or whatever. Usually, it's a man and a woman. It's kind of fascinating how I as a man want to be with a woman and clearly don't understand so many things that go on in their head and vice versa. So, I wrote "Volcano Girl" out of this idea of how you can go to your girlfriend, husband or whatever and say something and think that this is a normal thing to say and they go like "What the fuck did you just say? Why did you do or say that? And you go "What? What did I do wrong? I thought it was ok!" But, apparently, it's not. For me as a man, women are these volcanoes that sometimes they burst out and you have no idea why… (laughs). Of course, a lot of the times I know exactly what happened, but some of the times you just don't know.
"Holly Roller": Usually I write melody lines and I don't have lyrics, I just sing. I just sing whatever comes to my head, it doesn't necessary have to be words, it's sounds. But when you do this and you work on a song over and over again, there's always a word or sentence or different words that stick and just keep coming back. "Holly Roller" was actually the words "holly roller". I don't know exactly why I started singing that. I sat down and I was like "Holly Roller"… what exactly is a "Holly Roller"? I had to check and see what it was. I knew roughly what it meant, so I basically just googled it and found that it was what I thought. It's this religious person who just rambles on with his things and the rest of the world is dead wrong. I figured that this could be a cool subject for a song and when I wrote it I started thinking about the church. Church has done a tremendous amount of horrible things over the years, but today – especially for me who lives in Norway – the church is pretty harmless, here in Norway at least. They clicked on to the modern world. They know that you can't go around having these Old Testament ideas about the world, because the world has moved on and things have changed. But, on some subjects they remain to be in the Dark Ages in my opinion. One of those subjects is how they treat gay people, homosexuals. To me it's about, "How can you speak about love and understanding and compassion and then go on and say that I can't respect you, because what you do is not natural?" If they were talking to people who killed children then I would say ok, but they talk about two people who do nothing but love each other, that's all there is. I figured that this is a good subject for a song, because it's something that is vital in these days, in a day and age where the church is more or less harmless. We don't have many issues with the church, because they don't fuck around with us too much, but this is one of the few subjects where they still manage to piss me off. That song is about that.
"Diamond" : I wrote the lyrics, thinking about the lyrics on "Godspeed" from Audrey Horne, which is a song about leaving and not knowing if you'll ever come back. People can relate to it on different levels: it can be a relationship, it can be physically that you're leaving and you're not sure if you're coming back. There are people that have to leave their country for some reason and don't know if they'll ever be able to go back without being killed. I guess it's a subject that you can relate to on different levels, which is what I like about writing in my lyrics. A song like "Holly Roller" is more about a specific thing, but mainly my lyrics are more about an atmosphere or a feeling or more general issues, so that people can read whatever they want into it. Because, I'm not Bob Dylan, I'm not good at writing songs about mineworkers going to strike. Even though it's an important issue, I'm not good at writing stuff like that. I'm better at writing things that are more floating in the air sort of speaking. My lyrics are very much open for interpretation for the audience.
Now, with a name after Twin Peaks I wouldn't believe you're not into current TV series. Which ones are your favorites? If you had to name a side project by a character of a current TV series which one would that be and why?
I don't his full name, but have you seen "Sopranos"?
Unfortunately, only a little bit…
There's a guy there who's got grey hair on the sides, his name is Polly. I don't know his last name, but he's the most fucked up character I've seen on TV in many-many years, so I'd definitely name a side project after Polly in the Sopranos.
I do watch a lot of TV series. I spend a lot of time with music. Writing music, recording music, playing music and also I'm a tattoo artist, so, most of the time of my day is a lot about concentrating and being creative and expressing myself. So, when I'm getting home, it's very nice watching TV series, because you relax totally when you do that. You don't think about other things, because that's all you have to do; focus on what's going on there. So I watch a lot of TV series…
The Sopranos is one of my favorites. There's also a guy who has written two TV series that I absolutely love. It's a guy called Aaron Sorkin and he's written one called "The West Wing", which is about the White House and he's written "The Newsroom", which is about a news station.
Will McAvoy… (laughs)
Yeah, Will McAvoy! I love these two series and I think Aaron Sorkin is a fucking genius. The way he writes dialogues and monologues is fucking amazing. So good! I mainly like TV series that don't have to have too much action. The Sopranos: not too much action there. West Wing and The Newsroom… I also loved True Detective, which also was about the dialogue thing, but of course I like some series that are just basically a lot of action, like Justified that I saw recently. More of a show, it's just a lot of shooting and tough guys running around, beating each other up. That can be really entertaining, but in general I do love the dialogue based ones. The Wire is also a great example of well written TV series.
Closing this conversation I'd like to make two wishes. First one is that you'll get as big as you deserve with Audrey Horne…
Thank you sir…
..and the second one is to have the chance to see you playing live soon. I don't know if it will be in Greece or anywhere else in Europe, but I truly hope so. I'd love to see you playing live and I didn't have the chance yet…
I would love to play live for you and we'd love to come to Greece. We talked with several people in Greece that said "You should come down here". I know that someone tried to put up a show or a couple of shows last year, but that didn't happen for some reason. We should definitely come down there, because we receive a lot of good reviews from the music press down there and also when we go on Facebook on our page, there's always people from Greece telling us that they love our music and stuff. If there's people down there who love our music we should definitely come and play that music for them. It's highly likely that we will come to Greece within not too distant future.
I really hope and look forward to it… Not to mention I'll be there…
It was a pleasure talking to you. Once again respect for the music and wishing all the best.
Thank you, it was really a pleasure talking to you and I'm respectful for your honest opinion. I appreciate that, I really do. Take care and hopefully I will see you soon.