"The more sincere an artist and band can be, the deeper the fans will feel connected to the music"
The Norwegian rock/blues band Pristine released a couple of months ago their fourth album "Ninja" and we contacted, the singer/songwriter of the band, Heidi Solheim to learn all the details behind their new album. We also talked about the differences between the new album their previous works, the discriminations in the music industry, their new label and what inspires her the most. Read below all the interesting things she told us.
Since this would be the first time we speak, would you mind to introduce yourself and your band to the Greek fans by sharing some information about you?
Sure, my name is Heidi Solheim. I’m from the northern parts of Norway. I’m the songwriter and vocalist in the blues/rock band Pristine and we’ve just released the new album “Ninja”, Pristine’s fourth album since 2011.
"I find inspiration for songwriting everywhere. People I meet, things I see, different situations or just nice grooves and beats I come across"
Why did you decide to work alone on writing songs instead of being a part of a band during the writing sessions? How a song ends up into the album? Which course it follows from being just an idea to become a fully formed song?
I established Pristine back in 2005 based around some songs I’d written. Back then we were more of a pop band, actually. Since then I just kept on writing songs and organizing album recordings and book tours etc. It kind of became our way, I guess. I find inspiration for songwriting everywhere. People I meet, things I see, different situations or just nice grooves and beats I come across. Then I sit down by my guitar or piano and start writing the cords and melodies. It always starts out with the melody before the lyric. When I feel finished with the song I record it on my iPhone and take it with me to the band’s rehearsals. And then the guys and me do the arrangements and riffs.
Why you name the band Pristine and what’s the story behind the title “Ninja” of your new album?
I am from way up north in Norway, where the steep mountains meets the ocean in a harsh and brutal way. The nature contains a lot of contrasts and has really inspired me in my creative life. And when we looked at band names I came across the word Pristine, and felt that this was the right name to the music and reflects on where we come from.
The title “Ninja” came after the song with the same name was recorded. It is a strong and fierce word that reflects around determination and strength. Which I felt was right for this album.
"This time the songs had the time to kind of grow on you and I think you can sense this in the music as well"
Which would you point out as the main differences between “Ninja” and your previous albums?
I think the main difference is the production. Previously we’ve gone in to studio and stayed for some days until the album was finished, with very little overdubs and additional recordings. This new album has the same "Pristine-feeling" to it with live recordings and energy, but this time we made the recording a two-part-process. First we went into studio for a day and did the main recording live (drums, guitar, bass and keys), then we had some time off before we went in to do the additional recordings. For me this was a very nice way to make music. The songs had the time to kind of grow on you and I think you can sense this in the music as well. There is more overdubs on Ninja than on the previous albums, because we had some more time to process the songs. I also feel I had a lot more space to work on the different additional vocal recordings, which felt very nice.
"The Perfect Crime" gives me the impression of a soul version of “Creep” from Radiohead. Is there any chance that you have something like that in mind or it just happened?
Haha! I haven’t heard that comparison before. Interesting. I haven’t listened a lot to Radiohead before, so I can’t say I know their music. Of course I know of the song “Creep” though. A great song! But “The Perfect Crime” really came after I listened a lot to soul- and jazz ballads from the 50’s. It was something in that soar and heartfelt sound that inspired me to have a soul ballad on the album.
"I grew up with my dad’s record player and LP’s of The Beatles and Rolling Stones"
In your music I hear many influences. There’re the obvious blues and soul part but also some hard rock elements, like the heavy keys (“Sophia”) or some riffs (“The Parade”). Who were the artists and the bands that influenced you the most? How you would describe your music to someone that has never heard you?
We are very much inspired by the old school rock icons. Espen, the guitarist, has always loved psychedelic rock and progressive rock. The same goes with the rest of the band. Gustav (our brand new bass player) is more into indie rock, but generally we get a lot of inspiration from the way they made music in the 60’s and 70’s. Something in that authentic sound and raw impulsive energy feeling to it, I guess.
I grew up with my dad’s record player and LP’s of The Beatles and Rolling Stones. That caught my attention pretty early on. The harmonies and songwriting is something that still impresses and inspires me to this day. The vocals of Aretha Franklin inspired me to start to sing soul and rock music when I was a teenager. Later on I found Led Zeppelin and they quickly became one of my favorite bands. And still is.
To describe our own music is always difficult. I think perhaps we can be described as a classic rock band, with inspiration from psychedelic rock and soul.
"I don’t want to «lock» myself into only one genre, so I always try and make albums that are diverse as well as complete"
I think that the most appropriate title for the album would have been “Jekyll & Hyde”, because of all this variety of the songs. In my eyes you’re something like a music chameleon. How easy is for you to go through all these phases in your album? Great song by the way, with great melodies and great escalation. I don’t know how to put it in words, but it feels like someone mixed Adele with The Doors (or some psychedelic band of the '60s)...
I like your combo with Adele and The Doors! I love their music.
I have always loved the diversity in music. I’ve released both pop albums and children’s music albums in Norway previously, so I really love to challenge myself when it comes to expanding the horizon of songwriting. It has also become very important for me as a creative human. I don’t want to «lock» myself into only one genre, so I always try and make albums that are diverse as well as complete. It keeps me inspired, and also I never get bored.
"I believe that the more sincere an artist and band can be, the deeper the fans will feel connected to the music"
Is telling your stories through your songs working somehow like doing psychotherapy to yourself? Telling more personal stories creates intimacy or distance between the artist and the fans you think?
Absolutely! I’m a pretty transparent person, I think, who easily share stories and feelings with other people. I feel songwriting for me is very much therapeutic. Sometimes the songs I write is a way of processing situations and things I experience. Other times it can be what I see other people go through, and me trying to put myself in their situations. And sometimes I write about things that aren’t that “deep”. On one of my children’s music albums I wrote kind of a heavy metal song about the different sorts of food I like. It turned out to be my favorite song on that album.
I think fans can tell when something is genuine or not. And I believe that the more sincere an artist and band can be, the deeper the fans will feel connected to the music.
"This unconscious bias seems harmless, perhaps, but I hope that in some years from now all people will be considered the same way"
Is the music business so harsh for female artists like the story behind “The Rebel Song” suggests? Do you think that it is hard for people to avoid sexism and see beyond the image or the sex of an artist?
I think one of the challenges today is that the acts against women aren’t deliberate. It is more a product of the unconscious bias, that’s been around for years and years…
One example - when people think of a “rock star”, what do they see? Often the answer is a young white man. And I think this “automatic reaction” often can propagate into other views and situations as well. This unconscious bias seems harmless, perhaps, but I hope that in some years from now all people will be considered the same way.
I, myself, experienced some harsh things when I started working on booking my own shows. Some people didn’t take me seriously at all, and I often felt like I got a small tap on the head and a «good luck little girl»-attitude. I didn’t think much of it back then, but it has kind of stuck with me and I have a pretty clear view of the situations today.
“The Rebel Song” is about being a woman in the music business, and how especially women can treat each other so bad. But it is also about experiencing discrimination one way or the other. Whether it is about the sex, the color of your skin, the sexual orientation or where you come from. “Put on your iron shield, cause when they strike they do not tell”.
You had also released two solo albums. Do you feel that in your solo projects you write music that cannot be in a Pristine album?
Pristine has the biggest place in my heart, for sure. But the music that I write doesn’t always fit in to what we want Pristine to be and where we want to go next. That’s why I wanted to establish different projects so I could continue to write music in other genres as well.
How did you end up “doing business” with a metal label such is Nuclear Blast?
Our previous album Reboot was the first album released abroad. As a result of some good work from the Pristine team, we got some attention in Germany. Then we went on tour and this one guy came up to me after one of the shows, presented himself and said that he wanted us to be a part of the Nuclear Blast family. He liked what he heard at the concert, and wanted to work with us. It sounds and felt like a fairytale, and I’m very glad we met! I think Nuclear Blast has expanded their catalogue over the last few years, and Pristine fell into their area of new genres they want to work with. Good for us!
"The fans give us so much inspiration and motivation, and they are the true rockstars for us"
Are there any plans for a tour? What you think about the life on the road?
We are going on a longer tour now this September, mostly around Germany this time. But our booking agent is already working on a new tour next spring in southern Europe. Hopefully we will come to Greece! That would be amazing!
We absolutely love being on the road. Meeting the fans and doing concerts is the most important thing for us. The fans give us so much inspiration and motivation, and they are the true rockstars for us.
Thank you very much for your time, I wish you all the best.
Thanks to you too! It was a very nice chat.