Norwegian Drummer Baard Kolstad is currently one of the most perspective drummers on a metal scene and his spectrum of activities helps to accomplish his life time dream: Make a living out of music. He started modestly by playing on a street in 2006, but since he won V-Drums World Championship 2012 offers started to come very quickly. His list of cooperation grows every years and here are only some of the names which he cooperated with: Leprous, Borknagar, Rendezvous Point, DJ&Drums, Gaahl and Abbath. Our interview took place shortly before Leprous show, in Prague where they supported Between the Buried and Me and Devin Townsend.
Major part of the interview in video at the bottom of the interview
Live pics credit: Freimen/Jørgen Freim
Video credit: Anna Pospíšilová
How was the sound check?
It is a little bit chaotic today, because it’s maybe the smallest stage so far on the tour. So, we had to kind of reschedule the whole system on stage. I’m on the right side of the stage, instead of being on left. So, we are not fully done with the sound check yet.
We can easily see your drum kit, as it carries your name, but you are also promoting your partners as Pearl, Sabian and Vic Firth. How are they treating you?
They are the best and most supportive partners I can imagine. Next to that they are also some of my most favorite brands. So, rather then jumping on the first offers, I rather waited to work with them.
Did you also try some other brands, let say within drums: Sonor or Tama?
Yeah, I definitely tried lot of drums throughout my career. My very first drum set was Tama Artstar. It looked really strange, because I was so small, as a kid behind that kit with massive toms. I used it when I played in local school bands and I saved my money for a long time to get it.
Next to that you are experimenting with electronics. So, please tell us what are your plans within this field?
First of all, I won the V-Drums World Championship in 2012, even though I was not much into it. I used SPD-30 sample pad to make some loops with it. However, I am mostly concentrating on the acoustics. I play in the DJ & Drums concept and there we are trying to mix the two worlds between electronics, as DJ plays and the organic drum beats. For Leprous we really like the organic sound, so no triggers etc. However, I might start using SPD-SX sample pad in the future.
Are you a fan of The Algorithm which is metal duo also including a drummer and DJ? I remember James Monteith from Tesseract telling me about them, while he was wearing their t-shirt.
To be honest, I haven’t checked it really out, but I heard a lot about them. I know James used to be a DJ at one festival after the show and played some really heavy metal tunes with some electronic effects. I’m very open-minded, so I will definitely check them out.
You said once, one of the main inspirations to start drumming on a street was a video of some guy playing on a street. I guess I know the video, as we used to share it with my friends in .avi format, with bunch of other funny videos on USBs. I used to live in Belgrade, Serbia around 2003, when I saw it for the first time but YouTube was not established yet. It was about a minute and forty seconds video of a black guy with his girlfriend, playing on about ten white boxes, right?
Yes, it is an old YouTube video. It was one of the first biggest drumming videos going viral from YouTube around 2006. It was a black guy, with big arms, I remember that as well! (Laugh) He was one of the main motivations to say: “Yeah, I’m definitely going to do this!” Btw, just after a year of playing on the street with buckets, I managed to purchase a drum kit.
For how long were you on the street?
I started to play in 2006 and the last time I played on the street was at 2014, so it’s quite a long time. It’s a big part of my career.
It’s truly big drumming spectrum, but what about your early days? What was the music of your parents, which influenced you the most?
I remember I was introduced to Dire Straits, Pink Floyd and ZZ Top. The first song I learned to play on air drums was one of the tracks from Greatest Hits album from ZZ Top. What was the song…?
Yes, Gimme All Your Lovin’!!! I learned every feel down to every detail, just by playing air drums, because I didn’t have a drum kit for years.
My main goal is to make every hit or kick count
We spoke about four main brands that you cooperate with but there is also Hantek Audio – ear monitors. It’s great you are support a company from your home country. However, why did you choose them compared to worldwide offers?
I think Hantek have really good sound, very good quality and the service is also very easy. You can call them any day, even when their office is closed, to fix anything for you. It’s much more comfortable to have somebody here in Norway, rather than shipping it to United States. Other guys in the band used Ultimate Ears, but when they had troubles, it took a lot of time to send it to US and get it back, maybe not even fixed, I don’t know. Therefore everybody in the band is now using Hantek.
Math & Feel
If we can be a bit philosophical, how are you trying to combine math preciseness and also the feel, which come from blues, ZZ Top or any other areas? How are you trying to combine these two worlds?
For me it’s never about playing something advanced just because of the sake of it. In the very early days, I wanted to play Dream Theater and various time signatures. But now for the past five years, my main goal is to make every hit or kick count. There should be a musical vision behind every stroke you do. I don’t want to do anything which is not necessary musical wise. And then we can probably say: “Ok, it’s very advanced music, very technical,” but I want to get beyond that as soon as possible to learn the parts and then be able to improvise and as you said, put as much feel I can in everything. Leprous is a band where technicality is crucial, but it’s not the priority. When I compose, my motivation is to get as many emotions I can to my sound. I would say we are very melancholic band and it’s my obligation as a drummer, to think about it and make it melancholic. Not just to be technical, using hi hats and kick drums, just to do it. If it makes it cool, then we go for it. So, on the new album, I did move one of my floor toms over to the left side, because than it’s easier to make certain moves. Not just because it looks cool. It was just a musical wish I had and in general, I want to apply feel into math.
There should be a musical vision behind every stroke you do
So can we say, you got full artistic space on the upcoming Leprous album?
Yes. Einar and all the others told me: “Feel free to experiment, as much as you can.” But of course we speak together and tell each other: “Oh, we don’t like that. We like that…” However, on the new album it’s generally way more free, improvised and playful than on The Congregation. It was my first album with the band, so I was little bit nervous, but now I tried everything I wanted.
Do you have the same feeling about the other members of the band? Personally I cannot imagine Einar limiting himself…
I guess there is more freedom for vocals and drums. Maybe also bass but a lot of the music is riff based as Einar makes the guitar riffs and guitarists kind of need to stick to that somehow. But they also love to experiment, so it’s been very interesting process with the new album. Just wait for it. (Laugh)
C’mon, give us something more about the new album.
Well, we haven’t done an official statement yet, but we are going to do that very soon. But I would say the new album is way more organic, even more momentum in all the songs. I guess every band says that about their new record but it’s more thought-through. Next to that, we are going to be very strict to ourselves, which songs we let go. Even though we have recorded lots of songs, we might not use all of them.
What about the mood of the album? Do you feel it is more melancholic or personal? From the The Congregation I feel Einar placed a lot of personal emotions there. Naturally it affects the mood of the album…
Definitely! This will be at least as melancholic, but maybe in a more rock direction, than metal. Especially within guitar and drum sound, which is more rock’n’roll. I feel the sound of drums on The Congregation is also very dry and rock based, but you can expect now way less distortion from us.
During recent interview at Brutal Assault you mentioned some favorite bands we have in common: Gojira, Tesseract and Chelsea Wolfe. Can we say these bands influence the whole band in any sort of the way and not just you?
I know Einar was a really big fan of Chelsea Wolfe’s show at Brutal Assault. I don’t think he heard much of her music before the show and neither did I. We were just blown away by the whole show. As you said, they are not a metal band but they sound as massive as lots of other metal bands. Gojira has also crazy tight guitar players and same it is with the drummers. Everybody in the band sounds incredible live. Next to that, I guess everybody in the band likes Tesseract, but I really love their drum and bass section. We are going to tour with them in the UK, so it’s going to be inspiring.
Other names that you like and also played with are Abbath and Gaahl, which are both very unique personalities. How did you enjoy cooperation with these two “icons”?
(Laugh) I still play with Gaahl. I’m from Norway, so I guess if you play metal and if you want to make a living from playing, you have to accept to play some black metal. I really enjoy playing with Gaahl, who is very nice person, very serious about what he does, same as everybody from God Seed. Very good guitar players and human beings. I love to play and tour with them, but unfortunately I don’t have so much time because I have Leprous, Rendezvous Point and DJ & Drums. I am very busy man, but I really enjoyed getting into that world. Within live shows of project Gaahls Wyrd, there are also members of Wardruna. Abbath is also a great guy, but unfortunately it didn’t work out to work with him, but he is an artist with big A. I love seeing Abbath on stage. He is an entertainer and great artist.
With the list of your activities, you reminded me once of Hellhammer. He is also crazy busy going from black metal to rock’n’roll, as he used to play for a while with Jorn Lande, whom I really love, before he went little bit crazy during the past few years, with all respect to his overall career. Therefore, could you relate yourself to this Norwegian drum icon?
I know Jan Axel Blomberg personally and he is great drummer & technical beast. My background is very different from him I think, but we are both highly influenced by Nicko McBrain. Abbath actually showed to me all these Nicko McBrain’s influences on Mayhem albums from the eighties. In general, I just want to be open, play as much as possible and I usually say yes, when I get offers. I am very lucky in getting number of offers playing with Norwegian bands. Same as Jan Axel.
So if we get back to our philosophical conversation, can we say you feel closer to Mr. “Right on the beat to an atom” Neil Peart or Nicko McBrain?
Definitely Nicko McBrain because of the feel. It would be dangerous for me to say I have as good feel as Nicko McBrain, because I don’t think so. He is very unique drummer with his own sound. He never played anything on a click track, as it’s all live. His sound is so organic, he invests so much energy and I will always admire his patters, signature grooves and feelings. It’s a drummer with a lot of character and he influenced so many drummers, even the ones I love. Let say, my most favorite drummer is Mark Portnoy and he is also inspired by Nicko McBrain and Neil Peart. But to be honest, I haven’t been much into Neil Peart’s stuff. But I remember getting once a free ticket for Meet & Great in 2007, when I was playing on the street. Rush tech came to me and said: “Who is your favorite drummer?” I said Mike Portnoy, but he told me: “Wrong! You should have said Neil Peart!” When he went away I started to playing YYZ, so he came back and gave me Meet & Greet pass. That day I went to the concert for free and saw Rush.
Yeah! (Laugh) But I was too young to understand what a meeting it was. I actually missed the Meet & Greet, but I saw the concert in Norway at least.
How are the drum lessons on the current tour going? Any interesting talents so far?
Definitely they are into Leprous and other things I have done. They also have a lot of questions, I have never got asked before.
Hm, let me think. It can be anything from technical, to stupid questions as: “How can you be so good?” (Laugh) It’s very overwhelming, when you get that sort of a question. Unfortunately, I don’t remember anything specific, but I remember there were plenty of those, I have never received before. However, it was very cool experience to share my experiences with people that want to learn specifics of my playing, that I am not even aware of. I even believe, I am becoming a better drummer by teaching others. But I really don’t teach often, even though we have a lot of free time. So I would like to teach more as plenty other active drummers do.
We often get questions from the readers on musicians, how do they handle a life on a tour – staying healthy, keeping a good diet and having enough sleep. If I get sick, I can take home office for few days, but you don’t have that luxury on tour. So, do you have any tricks?
Yeah, you are in a deep shit, if you get really sick on tour. You simply cannot cancel the show! Unless something extreme happens, but luckily I have never been very sick on the tour. But I have been very tired and restless. Let say, I went on a tour during fall 2015 with Rendezvous Point and Leprous, playing every single day for one month. Thirty five minutes with Rendezvous Point which is very hard, as my playing includes many drum solos. Then I got little break during Sphere and then ninety minutes with Leprous, which was not any easier. So that can be really tough and I remember looking at calendar all the time counting days. I think that was little bit overkill. On the other hand, when we do tours like this, normally we have night-liners, so we sleep very well. Let say I sleep a lot and I have no problem sleeping for twelve or thirteen hours. I also try to eat some healthy stuff. I have never been a drinker, alcohol wise and Ryan Van Poederooyen from Devin Townsend’s band is a very big influence on me in staying positive and staying healthy.
I saw you guys playing in Prague during that fall 2015 tour, but I also sent my best friend in Serbia, to see your show in Belgrade. He is used to mainstream music and local turbo folk, so it was rather a shock for him. He loves The Price but he said, he felt like on a satanic meeting…
Maybe he felt like that because of the Sphere show…
Well, I told him to see only Leprous, but he went anyway. How it is in general to play in a country like this, where metal is practically hated by general audience? Einar probably knows that very well through his Serbian wife. I lived in Belgrade for four years, when I was a teenager and I got many bad looks for wearing metal t-shirts.
Belgrade was very successful show and we have played there also before. We haven’t felt that people didn’t like metal. But I understand visitors of our shows and this tour are music lovers and fans of underground music. Progressive music is truly not mainstream.
What about some interesting locations you are planning to visit with either Leprous or Borknagar?
Straight after this tour I am going to South America for a three weeks tour with Borknagar and then I’m going for week to Cambodia with DJ & Drums, so that’s exciting.
I can imagine you will be playing in some party clubs…
On a beach!
Koh Rong, Cambodia. Police Beach. 10:30PM. 32° C.The Four Twenty Festival was an experience we'll never forget!
Zveřejnil(a) DJ&DRUMS dne 26. duben 2017
But I assume audience will be mostly dance “Ibiza” oriented with rare interest in metal…
Yeah, probably. I guess not Ibiza, rave level, but it will be a beach festival. But I will probably give them some metal beats in the techno! (Laugh)
I guess you found a hole on the market, as this combination is very rare and it will definitely grow.
That’s very nice to hear. We are trying to find our own style. More precisely an ultimate way of combining DJ, doing his thing and not just pressing play. Not just raving, as we have too many of those DJs. It takes time to find unique style. But what we really want is to make it quality and catchy. Next to that we don’t want to sell out, even though some people might get this feeling.
Few years ago, when both scenes were in their peak, I felt djent and dubstep have plenty in common. I could feel certain elements present in both genres and sort of a bridge was built between two worlds, which originally hated each other.
In the time we are living now and probably it will always be like that, lots of things are happening at the same time. Actually things you never thought could happen, actually do happen and that’s what is nice about music. There is always a progress. Dubstep was maybe more popular about five years ago than it is now, but it influenced a lot of music today. A lot wouldn’t be the same, if it wasn’t for dubstep. Same with the djent scene, where pure djent bands, wouldn’t be as popular few years, as they are now. But it always grows and you have bands as Tesseract, which used all available elements to make music unique again, without being total Meshuggah rip-off. So, music is interesting. (Laugh)
For the last question, what are your main musical inspirations lately, next to the bands we already mentioned?
I really like Behemoth as well. Their latest album The Satanist really grows on me. But also Anderson .Paak, which is absolutely unique hip hop stuff, with some beats I have never heard before. I also like Norwegian project Aiming for Enrike. That’s actually Shining’s drummer Tobias Ørnes Andersen, which used to play in Leprous as well. Very refreshing new kind of music. In general, I try to be as open and checking all sorts of genres.