Twenty years on the scene and they haven’t lost anything from their original force. That’s Norwegian band Audrey Horne which originally started as a hard rock project by mainly extreme metal musicians, especially Ice Dale (Enslaved) and Thomas Tofthagen (Sahg). Main topic of this interview was obviously band’s new release Devil’s Bell, but the last thing the fans nor the musicians would like, is to rely on an autopilot. Pandemic pushed the band to slow down, concentrate more on their private lives and arrange all thoughts. The result is a balanced, yet heavy and progressive hard rock album. Next to a new release and its adjusted writing approach, we spoke about Toschie’s life or memories on the early marketing tricks of the band.
Photos credit: Øystein Haara
Thank you for finding time for this interview Toschie. We spoke together a couple of times in the past. Especially around Masters of Rock. First of all, congratulations on having a wonderful daughter. I believe she must have been an incredible element which helped you to get through the past two years of pandemic and confusion around.
Thank you so much, yes she definitely is wonderful. In many ways it was the perfect time to have a child, as everything was put on pause. I had time to focus 100% on her and not having to divide my time between her and music or tattooing. In many ways it was also good for us as a band to take a break, even if it was a forced one. We have been going for 20 years and never really slowed down, even though we don’t do this full time it still is something that occupies our mind and time more or less constantly. So getting a new daughter into my life was something that gave me tremendous purpose and joy, and made the whole lockdown a positive side.
How were you and the rest of the band feeling creatively during that period? I heard numerous opinions during interviews, but some artists mentioned that next to frustrations and confusion, they sort of concentrated on art to stay sane and found somehow new sources of inspiration.
I would say it is a bit mixed. To be honest, in the beginning we were a little apathetic and had trouble finding a focus and a creative glow, but after having just decided to do it, things got easier. The good part of this situation we all have been in, is that we had the time to really focus on the songs and also what kind of album we wanted this to be. Also having to work on this material separated from each other maybe gave us a little more space to do our own thing undisturbed by what others in the band might have interrupted with their ideas.
What do you do, to stay in shape, as a daddy needing a lot of energy? For me it’s lately mainly swimming.
For me it is mostly hiking, but also swimming and stretching. But to be honest, having to run after a 2 year old very active girl, and carrying her around is work out in itself.
I am not saying, I don’t appreciate your previous releases, but honestly I feel, this is your strongest material since Youngblood. Where were you gathering inspiration? Did the past two years give you in some way space to keep some ideas grow and work on them without pressure?
It sure did. The fact that nothing else was on the table gave us a lot more freedom to dive deeper into the songs we wrote. We had talked a lot before we started writing about what kind of album we wanted to make, and we all expressed a desire to do something more heavy this time around and also to focus more on the instrumental parts of the songs. This led to some more progressive songs as well. And with almost no live playing or any other form of business occupying our time, we had a lot more freedom to focus on writing music. Having said that, we wrote a lot less songs for this album than what we normally do, but instead we spent more time on the ones we did write.
Give us an idea please about how did the writing go? Did you write mainly during a group jams or building on somebody’s strong ideas?
Normally we write everything together as a band in our rehearsing studio and then record as live as possible, however this time around, due to the restrictions, we were forced to write stuff separately and send files back and forth to each other. This is not how we enjoy doing it most, as we sort of felt that we lost some of the band feeling, but as songs came along we started to see the benefit of working this way, and by using Arve (guitars) as a producer it gave the project more focus. I too think this is one of our best albums, if not the best, and I think this focus is the reason. We have made an album that probably will be even more perfect for the live setting, even though this is the first album in many many years where we recorded instrument by instrument as opposed to playing live as we usually do. So being forced out of our comfort zone, both writing and recording, was luckily a good thing.
I too think this is one of our best albums, if not the best, and I think this focus is the reason.
How did it go let say on From Darkness? Many great moments on the album, but such a mature songwriting in this case.
From Darkness is a good example on how this way of working was a good thing. We had the two verses and choruses down and worked on an instrumental part, a guitar solo, but we never felt satisfied with how it sounded when we got back to the last chorus. So after some months of trying out different ideas, we came to the conclusion that we did not need to get back into the chorus. So it freed us from the normal set up of a song and allowed us to go to a totally different place, and so we ended up with the long instrumental part that ends the song. It does not necessarily have anything to do with what comes before it. If we had done this in our rehearsal studio like we normally do, we probably would not have done this.
During the past two years, I tried to keep the amount of news to a needed minimum and I spent more time with my family. I went back a couple of times to our family house and I was also digging around some of my old boxes with memories and listening to some albums, I didn’t hear for years. Simply there was more time in some way and it helped me to get away to a different world. Did you have moments like this as well?
I spent a lot more time with my family, and have got more in touch with some old friends that the busy everyday life leaves little time for. This has been very good, and I think the pandemic forces us to value more the important things in life.
How is your tattoo business? I got back to language tutoring and find very useful interactions with people, especially in the challenging periods. It is sometimes heavy, but useful to hear and share experiences to get a different perspective.
Tattooing has actually been good, but I have worked less on purpose to focus on my family. I have also been drawing a lot more at home on my own ideas and projects. Before most of my time drawing was spent on clients. To me it has been very rewarding to be more selfish in what I draw.
Back To The Roots
When I mentioned music classics, what were some the classics you returned to? I remember I saw you some time ago in Angel Witch t-shirt. I love coming back to Diamond Head’s Borrowed Time as well.
Bruce Springsteen, The Eagles, Radiohead, Joni Mitchell, The Beatles, Tears for Fears, Elton John, Abba, A-ha, Queen, The Police, Fleetwood Mac….all great songwriters.
Your most favorite Iron Maiden album btw? I immediately thought of Iron Maiden and Thin Lizzy, when I heard All Is Lost. Ice Dale was always master in this.
He he, there has always been a bit of Maiden and Lizzy in our music. My personal favorite Maiden is Number of the Beast.
Masters Of Rock 2009. Source: Spirit Of Metal
During this digging, I came across materials from your show in Masters of Rock 2009. At that time, you were dealing flyers a day before and giving free t-shirts at the show. It seemed as a part of the early phase of a band: “Damn, I believe our material is good. We just need to get more fans!” What were other tactics you used? That’s me btw on the head on head photo.
We have never been very good at promoting our music. We are good artists but rubbish businessmen. But in the early days we had to do more stuff like that, and we were more eager to become rock stars. Today that is not so much a focus. These days we just want to make albums that we can look back on with pride. But we do marketing of course, cause we want as many as possible to listen to our music. But rather than being desperate for attention we try to get the word out in a way that we feel comfortable with. Mind you, in the band I was in before Audrey Horne we had a t-shirt that said “Will fuck for a record deal”. That might have been a little too desperate.
Peace and love, Toschie.