Ah, gamle Norge! Home of countless renowned metal musicians, a good portion of whom play in countless renowned metal bands. Rather than list endless examples of musical cross-pollination in Norway, just take a look at the variety of projects that legendary sticksman Hellhammer has been involved in and you get the idea. It's the unique vision and creativity of these people that make for such a varied scene. So, what do you get if you take members of Red Harvest, Immortal, Aura Noir, Fuck You All and Infernö, a heady mix of thrash, industrial, black metal, and crust, and bring them together in one project? Well, you get Waklevören who, on their newest release, "De dødes arkiv" [see review here], have released one of the most blinding punk-fuelled thrash albums ever. Guitarist Bored invited It's a Trap! to check out the album and get the lowdown on one of Norway's most carefree musical anarchists.
How did Waklevören start out?
Me and Gorgon have known each other for ages but never been that close. We suddenly met at a local bar in Oslo, got drunk and started talking music, arguing back and forth showing no respect for each other's likes or dislikes. Thankfully, alcohol brought some kind of sense to our heads and we left that bar. During our drunken walk heading for Elm Street Rock Cafe we decided to form a band, handpicking our favorite musicians. A few months later we had a complete lineup and headed for our first rehearsal. That was in 2002. From the very first rehearsal everything was set. We jammed for some hours with a smile on our faces and Waklis was born.
Did you have any particular plans for the band back then?
Well, some changes have occurred since then: we started out with English lyrics and we never intended to perform live or record anything at all. All we wanted was a hobby project, getting away from our everyday routines, our other bands, just being drunk having a blast at rehearsals. It didn't work out the way we planned, I guess. People starting showing up at our comfort zone, somehow got hold of our recorded tapes, and rumours spread. Eight years later, three records, some concerts and publicity, and we're more satisfied now than if we'd stuck with the original idea of this band.
How do you all find the time to fit in all the other projects, or at least to fit Waklevören in around them? Are there ever any problems?
During our existence as a band we've played under 20 gigs and recorded merely an hour of music, so I guess finding enough time ain't our biggest problem. Some are married, some have kids, some of us are involved in other projects and we live more or less a normal life. Apollyon is doing his stuff with Immortal and Aura Noir, and him and Bestial Tormentor are also part of Lamented Souls. I have a few projects going on, Bergis is still running down the lane for 20 years with Red Harvest and Kenneth has his shop/record company, . Nevertheless, we've always been able to find space now and then. It's all about baby steps. It's a lack of communication and pure all-over ignorance that has brought us this far, haha.
How much is Waklevören a priority in the running order of all the other bands you're involved in?
Without a doubt at least 60%. When we started out; doing dishes, going fishing or having sex was a proper excuse for not rehearsing. We were actually down to 30% priority by then. Now, 2010, we actually get along just fine and learned how to stay focused in some sense. But five ugly sweaty guys spending more than four hours together every second month feels as annoying as... well, I shouldn't really go there.
The new album... was it a totally collaborative process as far as writing went?
No, I wouldn't go as far to admit that one. We're not a spooning-band like many others. We rarely keep in contact as a band, other than doing a few gigs now and then, and some of us end up working together in a studio somewhere. But that's how it always been. We've talked about spending more time rehearsing and stuff like that, but... There is a positive side to it, I guess: this album has a lot more variety, because we all trust each other's songwriting. Therefore we've been able to combine our main ingredients within thrash, death, punk, hardcore and even some black metal stuff more than ever before.
How long did it take to write and record?
It took almost three years. If we're down to counting creative work hours, I would say approximately 70 hours recording. The rest is art, right? Writing this stuff, huh... there are a lot of old riffs being played here as well as new ones. The biggest challenge came to Bestial Tormentor's songs. Goddammit! Me and Bergis actually had to start rehearsing again doing speed-picking all over the guitar. Felt like being a squirrel tickling John Holmes forever.
What are your expectations for the album?
The only expectations that we live for are our own, and by now we're spot on! We're proud of the album and never look back thinking of what we could have done better. We definitely should have used less time writing and recording the album. Hopefully next time we'll consider recording the entire album in 48 hours and have it released. No strings attached here so far. Thankfully the critics so far have been jerkable, so we're pleased.
What are your main influences when it comes to writing music?
You know, I would really like to know that one my self. When I write Waklis riffs it's all about rhythm, not any sort of super technique. I spend years working out my riffs and inspiration is hard to find, that essential feeling of thrash/punk/hardcore riffing. I can't recall watching a toad jumping up and down in the grass that has ever made me think of double bass drumming, neither have I been inspired by Jenna Haze doing her bumping or caught myself toe-tipping by enjoying the sound of popcorn popping. Maybe mask-wearing bands do, but I don't. Listening to old metal records sure gives me some kind of inspiration and that's why I don't listen to them when I feel forced to actually be creative. So, my inspiration for writing my stuff, pure and simple: it's a drag, but a six string and a six pack and I'm good to roll!
What do you do to pass time outside of music?
Not much. Due to health issues I'm doing it Homer-style to a certain extent.
How do you find the metal scene in Norway these days? Have you noticed much change over the years?
It's better than ever, I guess. It's all about music now. No one cares where you're from or what bands you've played in. You can actually perform live not looking stupid without 'old-school' pilot glasses and not being judged for not wearing pikes, studs or worn out t-shirts. There are a lot of exciting bands out there, although I'm not that much up to date. And when it comes to media covering this scene, it's also looking good. They're now focused on quality rather than having a stupid cover story. And now we actually have Italians coming over not expecting Norwegian metal heads to be surrounded by polar beers, drinking blood, sacrificing children or burning churches. They actually buy beer without crying their lungs out if they see one of their idols.
There seems to be a healthy global scene for the type of hardcore/thrash that Waklevören play. Would you say that this is echoed in Oslo?
As I said, I'm not that up to date, but I would think so. One of those bands that comes to mind is Mongo Ninja that is doing really well these days having that good mixture. Probably a bunch of others as well, but I'm really not the right guy to talk to when it comes to discovering new bands.
Would you say that being in a metal band in Norway offers more opportunity or credibility than if you were based elsewhere?
It used to back in the early '90s if you played in a black metal band. Now I don't really think it matters where you come from. You find great bands within every genre everywhere. Just like you no longer have to go to Italy to enjoy a great pizza.
True to what you said back on the release of "Brutal agenda", you've remained with Neseblod to this day. Still the 'other member' of the band as far as you're concerned?
Without a doubt! The whole idea behind suits us just fine. The Norwegian music industry lost its face and cred many years ago and you really have to sell your soul to Al Qaeda or make it grand at some kind of a stupid talent show to make a living doing music over here. Although I guess that's common in every corner of the world. We're still able to have 100% control of what we're doing and it also keeps us true to our roots and the whole concept of why we actually started this primitive band.
As a label Neseblod definitely reflects the ethos of the band. Do you think you might ever move to another label or are you happy where you are?
Well, Gorgon runs the label, so it'd be kind of stupid doing a statement here going "Yes, we're actually ready for that!" Haha. But we've had some offers as far as I know, that we've turned down in a sweet way. That means, not sending a response. CTRL, ALT & DELETE has made it all so much easier. By now, we're more than satisfied being able to promote Neseblod for being a true incarnation of the coolest metal shop ever to have existed, including Helvete, of course. On the other hand, if someone wants to work with a band that denies touring, won't play live more than four times a year and accept that they will have absolutely no say in any circumstances at all, feel free to leave us a note and we'll promise to at least read it.
Interview by John Norby. Photo by Sebastian Ludvigsen.