Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Interview With Audrey Horne

Norway's Audrey Horne is a band that was recently offered to me for an interview and under good advice, I accepted.

This band is a bit of a strange example in that it's a hard rock band with a bit of sleeze attitude and a 70s and 80s arena rock feel.  They have members of Enslaved and Sahg in their ranks, two drastically heavier bands in different ways.  They are on a label that primarily focuses on metal.  Their audiences appear to be primarily metalheads.  Yet they play hard rock.  Modern hard rock while harking back to their influences of decades ago.  Their 2013 album "Youngblood" is an excellent display of bringing the hard rock sound of a long-gone era into the current one.

They were quite possibly one of the best live bands I've ever seen-extreme metal or not. Not taking anything away from Solstafir and Long Distance Calling, who put on excellent to amazing performances that night, but Audrey Horne quite possibly stole the show for me.

Reminiscent of old David Lee Roth-era Van Halen, Audrey Horne's performance was filled with relentless movement, kung-fu cross kicks, and band members interacting with the crowd.  Despite the fun, the music was tight and expertly executed.

Vocalist Torkjell Rød

Drums Kjetil Greve

Guitar Thomas Tofthagen

Guitar Arve Isdal

Bass Espen Lien

Interview with Torkjell Rød:

How is Audrey Horne different now when compared to earlier eras?  I noted the band now is on Napalm Records.

A lot of things are a bit different, we have a new label, as you mentioned.  Music wise, we also changed a bit.  Most people say we changed quite a bit, but in our own minds, the change isn’t so great because it’s been an ongoing process for years now.

We’ve spent years and years now playing with bass players and keyboard players in and out and it’s basically been me, Isdal, Thomas, and Kjetil, the drummer. We’ve been in place, then we had people playing bass and keyboards on and off.  When we recorded our previous album, the self-titled one from 2010, we asked Espen (Lien) if he wanted to play bass.  He replied “yes” and then we asked him if he wanted to also help us out live and we offered to even pay him.  So we did that and at some point, he stopped charging us and at some point he was a permanent member of the band.

(Espen in background laughs)

So he kind of came in the back door.

Espen: (laughs) You owe me a lot of dough!

Torkjell: (laughs) I know!  I’ll never be able to pay you all that money!

If I may ask- for those who might suggest it, did Napalm suggest a change in musical direction?

No, they didn’t suggest anything.  Basically, when we signed with them, the album was already made.  They never told us what to do and what not to do.  We’ve always been very strict about that.  They can decide on business and promotion, but not when it comes to the music. We have to do what we want to do.  This band would last two weeks if we started to make music that wasn’t comfortable for us to play.

So the change in music was our own decision.  Actually, it wasn’t a decision. We just wrote and recorded everything differently from what we’re used to.  Normally Thomas and Isdal write most of the stuff, then I write the lines and then we record it.

Listening to the discography, it didn’t seem as much a radical change in direction as it seemed part of an ongoing process from the beginning.

Yes, very much so.  So I think this change in music was the result of a change in writing, rather than sitting at home writing music.  We went into the rehearsal studio, all of us, and wrote music like this (stands up and simulates playing guitar), which makes for a totally different type of energy.

During the process, we realized that this was way more old school and a lot more classic hard rock.


You know, on "Youngblood", I’m even finding old school David Lee Roth Van Halen
and it made me wonder about your influences.

Van Halen (Torkjell raises a fist to Thomas) is definitely one of our influences (another member in the background utters “yes”).  Especially those two guys there (points to Thomas and Isdal).

What shines through is definitely bands like Kiss, Van Halen, Rainbow, Deep Purple, Scorpions, Led Zeppelin, Thin Lizzy…all of that old school music that we grew up listening to. 

You guys have some of that 70s and 80s “arena rock” sound thrown in.

I think when we wrote the songs and recorded them, we noticed there was a very old school vibe to it.  We basically said that we’re not going to make a retro album or walk down memory lane, but we wanted to make a modern rock album where we didn’t hide the influences.  If you don’t set out to copy someone, you should absolutely wear your influences on your sleeve with pride because this is who we are. 

Music has always been the most important thing in our lives and it’s shaped us as people.  So we said “fuck it” and just left the influences on our sleeves. 

At the same time, my background…I have a huge pumping of pop music through my heart.

A lot of metal fans aren’t going to be happy to hear that!

I don’t care (laughs).  I listen to all kinds of music and I’m influenced by all forms of art.  I don’t see any reason to have it all fit together.  It’s not as if you like this, you should like these types of clothes or certain types of books.  I’m influenced by basically everything from Tom Waits to Slayer to Rick Springfield to Fleetwood Mac.  As long as it’s good music, I really don’t care.  If it’s good, it’s good.  I’ve always been a sucker for pop music.  And I think that’s what makes the sound of Audrey Horne.  We’re a modern rock band and we have influences from classic rock, but I think the way I write melodies and lyrics might be a bit different from the classic rock bands.

What do you find yourself listening to lately?

Lately I have a copy of the new Norwegian band Kvelertak.  Fleetwood Mac, Rick Springfield, for god’s sake (laughs).  And also I bought a lot of old stuff like a lot of old UFO albums and some more pop and country.

American country music?

Yes. I just saw Justin Townes Earle live and they were amazing.  Like I said, as long as it’s good music, that’s all. As a musician, you’re interested in art in general. 

I work as a tattoo artist and I get into a lot of tattooing of graffiti and I’m very interested in American popular culture, tunes, and movies and stuff like that.  All of those things, you somehow subconsciously bring them into the music.

Speaking of visual art, could you tell us about the album cover for “Youngblood”? 

I made it (laughs).  In fact, I’ve done a lot of artwork for other bands and the guys in the band approached me and suggested that perhaps I should do the cover art since I do it for other bands.  I always felt that it was a little too close to home and I wasn’t sure if they’d like me to do it or not.  Then we decided that I’d do it and we fooled around with some ideas. 

During the brainstorming, they said that I should make a drawing of the band and I think Isdal came up with the idea to just use the heads.  So I started drawing it and I realized (smiling) that this would be very rock ‘n roll and Kiss.  But anyway, I made it because our music has gone from a darker, more mysterious and more depressing place towards feelgood, classic hard rock.  We wanted colors.  So I made it and the others wanted to use it.

For previous albums, people really haven’t talked about the artwork.  It’s “just there” and nobody really talks about it.  I’ve read shitloads of reviews for this album and it’s either “love it” and “it’s cool”, or they just fucking hate it (laughs).

I read a review where one guy said he loved the album apart from the (laughs) “abortion” of an album cover.  Of course, when you make something and read it, it’s personal in a way, but I don’t sit around and moan over stuff like that.  We have a lot of our audience and press from the metal scene and I guess it’s not their cup of tea, which is perfectly fair.

We made artwork we liked and we felt was fitting for the album.

Are there hidden meanings we can look for?

No, there aren’t any hidden meanings.  When you play together as long as we have and work together and live together on the road, it becomes really intense, like a marriage; you love each other and hate each other at points.  You have to make compromises.  There’s five of us and not everyone can get their way all the time.  Even though we can fight like cats and dogs, it’s always a good thing being in a band like this because the moment someone from outside the circle comes in and points a finger and puts you down, and even though we can fight like hell, we automatically become a unit and stand up for each other.

So I wanted to make something to show that we are a unit.

There is that unity concept in the art.

Yeah, on this album, everyone had input in the writing of the music, where normally Isdal and Thomas write the music and I write the lyrics and melody lines.  This time we all went into our rehearsal studio together.  That was kind of important because everyone in the band got more of a feeling of ownership to the music.

The band has grown much stronger as a result of this album so in a way I wanted to do that [regarding the artwork].  It’s difficult for people to see that, but it was important to us to underline the fact that we feel like a strong unit.

The producer, Magnet, I tried looking him up and he seems either a bit elusive or most of the info is in Norwegian.  Can you tell me about him?

The reason we chose him was because we wanted to record the music as “live” as possible and get as much of that live energy into the recording as possible.  So we talked about producers and we came to the conclusion, in order to get that live feeling and get the most out of the band in the studio, we had to get a producer who was familiar with and understood playing live and the concepts around it.  He’s an amazing musician and released a bunch of albums as “Magnet” and released a bunch of albums with other musicians and we’ve always admired him.  His music is so far away from ours; half electronic, half acoustic, and very dreamy. His music is a crossing between Van Zandt and Bjork and so on.  It’s very intense and very beautiful and as far away from us as possible.  However, we’ve known this guy for years and he grew up with the same kinds of bands as us and was in bands that were Thin Lizzy-inspired.  I also worked with him previously in a different band.  I suggested him to the other guys because he’s so talented and has an ear for music. 

A producer’s job is to get as much out of a band as possible and help them focus and prioritize what is and isn’t important and he’s very good at that.  He understood that we needed to have balls and energy and fuck it if someone was a bit off. 

And the album sounds exactly like you wanted?


The guy who mixed the album (Jørgen Dupermann Træen) is also very talented and works with several major acts from Norway.  He’s not a hard rock guy at all, but comes from a similar musical background as us.  He does more electronic, modern music today.  When we started recording we asked him to come in and he refused and said there was nothing for him to bring to the table and that this wasn’t his thing.  He said that hearing our previous albums.  Since he works in the same building as where we record, he walked by our door and we were doing I think “Redemption Blues”.  He came in and said that he thought it was like the first Iron Maiden album and so we talked a couple times and he still refused.  At some point, he came in and said the album kind of grew on him.

He and Magnet make the album sound the way it does.  And us, of course.

I recently interviewed Laakso (Chaosweaver, Kuolemanlaakso) and he mentioned being strongly influenced by Twin Peaks and Angelo Badalamenti.  I’m starting to get the impression that in Scandinavia there’s a big Twin Peaks following.  What is the significance of Twin Peaks for you?

Well (smiles), I’m very influenced by David Lynch, in general, not just Twin Peaks.  I just love the fact that you understand it, but there’s so much within his work that is totally not understandable.  I love movies where they end and I go “what the fuck?”.  Happy endings and all that are all well and good.  I love that, as opposed to my girlfriend, who finds some of these movies boring and says she doesn’t understand.  I ask her if she appreciates that there are things that you just don’t understand.  I think that’s very interesting.  Lynch also makes these weird universes within his movies.  I think he had some influence in Scandinavia maybe because the whole atmosphere and nature we relate to. You’re American, so you’re way more outspoken and you’re polite, even though you don’t need to be polite.  I think Norwegians, we don’t always say it like it is and if we don’t mean it, we won’t say it.  If I didn’t like you, I wouldn’t say you’re a great guy.  We just wouldn’t comment.

I think the characters in Twin Peaks all go around saying weird things.  Maybe Scandinavians can relate to it and nature and in the show is very much like Scandinavian weather and nature.  When they showed it on TV in Norway, it was weird because we…when I grew up, we had “TV Theater”, which was a lot of Finnish, Swedish, and Norwegian theater made for TV.  It was dark and depressing and fucked up in every way.  It even became a saying in Norway, when if something was fucked up, it was like ‘TV Theater”.  I think Twin Peaks is a lot like that.  It’s weird and there are so many levels there and you don’t understand half of them and they don’t make sense.  You then realize David Lynch didn’t just put them there.  Everything is there with a purpose.  Even if it’s not understandable for the rest of us.  Like Mulholland Dr. It’s got a shitload of symbolic things and symbolic scenes that don’t make sense at all, but I think that’s what art is about.  You don’t have to understand it.  You just have to appreciate it even without understanding it.

When we started this band, we wanted to make music that didn’t need to fit in somewhere.  As long as it’s good and as long as we put ourselves into it and if people aren’t able to label it, it’s like a compliment.

When we came up with the name “Audrey Horne”, it was because the character sort of fit our music in a way; not easy to put into a category, was a bit mysterious, beautiful (laughs), we are beautiful.  We felt she kind of was a good pinup woman for our music in many ways.

The way I write music I just blacktalk when I start writing melody lines.  I just say stuff.  It doesn’t make any sense, but most of my lyrics, the finished ones, always starts with a line from that blacktalk because there’s always a word or a sentence that kind of fits in there and I use that very often as a starting point.  David Lynch, when he writes his stories, he uses his dreams.  When he wrote Blue Velvet, he said he had a dream of red lipstick.  He said when he woke up, he wanted to start writing about that as a starting point, which sounds rather weird or stupid.  He said subconscious stuff is the most interesting because it comes from a place that’s more true.  I like to write my lyrics in the same way, not that I’m comparing myself to David Lynch, of course, but it is, in a way, the same starting point.

In many ways, Lynch has influenced us a lot.

Also, the real world doesn’t make a lot of sense and it doesn’t have to, either.

No, it doesn’t make sense, the real world.  Artists, the most important job is to mirror the real world in a way and if it doesn’t make sense, the art doesn’t have to make sense.

Where do you think the music industry will be in 5-10 years?
That’s kind of hard to predict.  With the downloads and streaming, I think the music business got caught off-guard and instead of being proactive and doing something about it, they sat down and complained a lot about how things are going to hell and they don’t sell albums anymore. I went to a lecture with a guy that studies information technology and he said that it’s basically bullshit; people will still pay for music.  He said there was a period of time when people downloaded, but people don’t download for free as much anymore.  They buy it or pay for streaming like with Spotify. 

I think the music business will find a way to make money again because in every business there are ups and downs and usually they find a new way to make money out of it.  I think the industry will find a way to sell their products again and happily, you see vinyl sales going up.  That’s great for me because, in my opinion, that’s the best way to listen to music.  I think the music is too important to die and it’s too big of a business and too important to everyone involved, including producers, musicians, and labels to die off.  As long as people are willing to make music and people are willing to listen to music, there’s always going to be money in there somewhere.  I think the business will change a lot.  Everything in the last ten years has changed, for example the way we use our phones now.  Everything changes so much quicker these days.  So I think the business will find a way to change.  The business is changing and will change further, so there will be a way.

It’s a fun ride…

Yeah, it’s interesting.  When record companies sit around and complain about people stealing music, it’s not very productive.  The age of technology is here and the internet is not going to go away and neither will all the new technologies we use to make and listen to and promote music.  You can either join it or give up.

Embrace technology and modify the formula and figure out how to utilize it…


It’s a slow-going process, but I think the companies are figuring it out.

Yes, there’s still enough money in the industry, but now it’s distributed differently and power is distributed, which is good for the artists...

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Attic live here
Victor Griffin's In Graved live here 
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Valient Thorr here
Krakow live here 
Valborg live here
Solstafir live here
Audrey Horne live/interview here
Bison (Bison BC) here
Kalmah live here
Triptykon live here
Long Distance Calling live/interview here
Nachtgarm (Negator) here
sG (Secrets Of The Moon) here 

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