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Bourbon Flame, what a great name for a sleaze rock band, is a quartet of relatively well-known musicians who formed their band seven years ago. Seven long years with the output of only one demo in 2003. That was it so far, as the band members have been quite busy with their other bands and various projects. It seems to be a kind of sport for Norwegian musicians to be in at least 4 bands with several ongoing projects. This explains their really long warm-up till their first long record “Bourbon Flame” was finally released. Nevertheless, in Norway the band is already relatively established, at least in the Bergen-music-scene, as if they seem to have studio-phobia, they have played a lot of concerts in Norway. Now the time is right to wave their flag outside their home country. STALKER talked to their singer Janto Garmanslund…
How would you describe the Bourbon Flame music yourself?
It´s Hard Rock with a 70´s US theme. With bands like Alice Cooper, Aerosmith, maybe early KISS and that kind of music. It hasn´t got much to do with the 80´s. Of course we love some of the 80´s style, but we love some of the 90´s and 70´s and 60´s… We just wanna play hard Rock´n´Roll. It´s got to be intelligently made, but with a sparkle in the eyes with some dark humour in it.
photo: Roy Birger Nilsen
What makes Bourbon Flame stick out amongst the other Hard Rock bands?
It´s not so vain. We don´t fill something in between some catchy choruses. Every riff, every part of the song has to be good. If I don´t like everything in the song, we cut out the part I don´t like and we make something that I do like until it becomes one good rock´n roll song.
Please introduce all the band members, plus their characteristics, spleens, age etc.
There is Erik, the drummer. He is maybe kind of the Dad in the band. He is the one who makes sure that everything is alright in rehearsal and decides where and which show we´re going to play and that everybody is on time to the studio. He pulls all the strings to make it all work. He is also the first person to call to make appointments. For example if I want to fix a day for a rehearsal, I call him and he calls around and talks to the rest the band.
Is he also the one who hides the booze the day before then?
Haha! No, not really. He is the one who makes sure that things don´t fall apart.
photo: Roy Birger Nilsen
Then we have Ice Dale on guitar. He is the rockstar or whatever. He is always busy with all his bands, rehearsing, doing shows, producing. We have to plan very carefully to meet his schedule. In his job he is the best you can get, but it´s difficult to work with him as he is always somewhere doing something.
photo: Roy Birger Nilsen
Torbjørn is the definite rhythm guitar player in the band and not only because he plays the rhythm guitar. He also writes good songs and is the nicest guy to have around in rehearsal. It´s hard to describe him. I would say he is kind of an engine and the gluing factor in the band which keeps us doing what we do. He does more and more in a way. It used to be me and Ice Dale. Torbjørn hasn´t been in the band for more than two years.
How long has the band existed?
Seven years and you´ve come out with your first album now??!
Ehm… yes. It kinda needed a push from a guy called Torbjørn to make it all develop.
photo: Roy Birger Nilsen
What about you?
I formed the band together with Erik. I make the decisions about when and what to do. I write most of the lyrics. Otherwise, I own a bar and night club called “Inside”. I prefer to listen, than talk myself really. I´m a quiet silent guy…
How did all start?
Erik and I had played in different bands, but met most weekends and talked about music and drinking and going to clubs. It ended up us going into a rehearsal room and just jamming together - I was playing the guitar and he was playing the drums. We made a couple of songs which were pretty good. Then we thought we could make a real band out of this. So we asked Ice Dale who played in a band called “Malignant Eternal” and after he joined, the three of us kept it going on. We did a demo and played some shows and basically just kept jamming in the rehearsal room. Nothing really happened before Torbjørn joined in. He overtook more and more the part of Ice Dale, who got more and more busy with other things. We didn´t want to loose Ice Dale, but we needed to rehearse and write new songs. Torbjørn was really interested in joining us and it was cool already on the first day and since then he has been our motor. Like I said, his appearance was gluing us together and making us a whole band again. So since at least a year it´s been Eric, Torbjørn and me meeting often doing songs and rehearsing with Bourbon Flame. Ice Dale came in every now and then when he had a chance and then we just did the record. And it turned out great I think. We spent almost a year doing the record.
photo: Roy Birger Nilsen
Let´s delve into the picture of the album.
Six Feet Under
That is a pretty new song basically written by Torbjørn. The song is about all the things that shouldn´t go wrong. About all the dreams that are shattered in a persons life. It´s not one story. Its several small stories all ending up six feet under.
That is one of the first songs we made. Not THE first, but it was made in 2001. It´s a song about girls… well more about groupies really. It´s a catchy song and the one which is more for playing on the radio I guess. I didn´t like it so much back then, because it was so happy and stuff in appearance. I love this song now. It´s one of my favourite songs actually. We always play it live and open with “Rock Vice” and we normally end with “Back in the Saddle”.
Why isn´t it the opener on the album then?
It´s not representative for the rest of the songs, which are mostly gloomy. It´s just happy. We were lucky. We wanted the opener to represent the band more than “Rock Vice” does.
You said the song is about groupies. What is your opinion about groupies?
(laughs) I don´t have an opinion about groupies. Ehm… well… whatever. If people wanna do it, they just do it. There are some stupid ones I don´t really wanna meet.
Have you ever had a female Stalker?
I have had one for several years.
What are you doing to get rid of her?
There is nothing I can do about it. She just calls me up and sends me text messages. Just being a pain in the ass. She has been stalking me and being an asshole for several years now.
photo: Tatiana Ringstad
It´s almost a punk song and a really quick hooky thing. It starts in total different way then it ends. It slows down and gets up in a monumental way. It´s really kinda divided in that sense. The song is about gambling on slot machines and the horrors of that. About how it can ruin you. The song itself is a lot of peoples favourite. I think Ice Dale is really fond of this song as well as Erik I guess. I like it. The way it drives you when the rhythm goes down and gets this heavy thing you wouldn´t expect. It´s also an old song, but we haven´t played it for many many years. Ice Dale and I basically wrote that song.
Have you ever been to Las Vegas, or do you have any experience with slot machines?
Yes, we used to have slot machines on every goddamned corner here in Norway until quiet recently they got banned, because so many people were hooked on it. I used to work, when I was a little bit younger in an amusement arcade, which was a small bar with oodles of slot machines. People just gambled away all their money all the time. So that was my experience with that. I played it as well, but I knew when to stop.
Are you addicted to anything?
Addicted to love maybe? I don´t know. We all have our demons I guess.
High on the Bourbon Flame
That is the very first song ever written for Bourbon Flame. I wrote it seven years ago. That was the song where we picked the band name from. It used to be longer than the version on the album. When we recorded the album, they were not sure if we were gonna use this one, as it was too long. I said ´No wait – we´re gonna work on this song. I´m gonna make it sound really cool and make it work. Just give it a chance.´ In the end of the recording process the other guys really understood what kind of song this was. Now we all really love it, but it looked like it wasn´t gonna make it to the album at all. It is definitely my favourite song on this album. I love the lyrics. It´s kind of a twisted love story and the whole mood on the song is special.
Back in the Saddle
It also has a catchy thing like “Rock Vise”. It doesn´t sound like KISS but it has the KISS style because of the catchiness. It´s a song about being on the road.
photo: Tatiana Ringstad
Rooster in a Henhouse
We wrote it a few years back before Torbjørn joined the band. It´s one of the more epic songs. It´s not a pop song in any way. Some people compare it to “Paradise City” from Guns´n Roses. It´s hard to get into it and through the recording it looked like this one wasn´t going to make the album either. I think that was one of the hardest things we did. Not only the recording, but also the mixing was hard to do due to sound dynamics. It´s about a young guy coming into a knocking shop. Being the only man there. It´s the same issue in the song “The House of the Rising Sun”. One time I was in Texas and I was supposed to meet my friends in a strip club and I ended up in the wrong strip club. There was no one else there, just me and the strippers. That´s where I got the whole idea for this song.
How did the evening there end up?
It´s not as exciting as it might sound on the song. Not at all! (laugh)
They were dancing, as that was their job and I felt quite awkward to be honest. I was a bit younger… it was fun, but I was really not sure how to get out of it. I didn´t know where to go, because my friends where not there where they were supposed to be. But then at least I got back to the place where I was staying. One of the girls took me back there when she had finished her show. At least one exciting thing happened!
That was the first song Torbjørn did for us. It has a kind of sleazy opening riff. There is definitely a strong sense of Torbjørns signature in that song. It´s also the song that is the most different to the rest of the album. It´s much heavier and also much slower. The lyrics are really old. They were from a song we would definitely never play again and the lyrics were just lying in a forgotten pile. As we were playing the riff that Torbjørn did, the words of this old song just came along with the melody and suited so perfectly. It´s a great song to play live and a great song to listen to, or to just go home and play it. It has female backing vocal towards the end of it. It just blows me away! I love this song.
What is Midwest Punk about?
I sort of wrote it about Eric. But when the years passed by and looking back at it now, it´s just as much about me and all of us really. The whole attitude of the band is in those lyrics. A strong individual. You just live your life and not be bothered by anything or anyone really. Like “Don´t mess with me!”
Talking about not wanting to be bothered… Does it bother you if you read bad reviews about your band?
I can block it out. It doesn´t bother me very much as long as the writer also writes his reasons. I have read some bad reviews on the internet about us, but as it is made clear why, I´m fine with it.
That was also Torbjørns thing. We worked on that song very long in rehearsals. In the end we just speeded it up and played it twice as fast as it was before and then we had it. When I started singing on that song with that high pitch voice almost screaming voice, we said – okay that´s it. Done. It´s a great song, but it´s not the gravest moment on the album.
Got What It Takes
It´s a song with a great groove. I wrote it a four or five years ago and Ice Dale left his definite signature on the guitar playing. Towards the end what he is doing and all the things he plays… it could only be him doing it. It sounds awesome! The song is about me being fed up with bullshit. It was written in a kind of break up period. Me and an ex-girlfriend. I just wanted her and everybody to go away and leave me alone. It has some darkness between the lines. The song turned out brilliant when we recorded it. It´s also one song we most definitely play live.
Talking about Ice Dale´s signature, I heard that there was an accident right before your album release show. He fell from a wall?
I don´t know what happened. He fell from a wall and hit his head. He does shit like that all the time. This time he got some pills from the doctor and was told to take it easy for a while, but of course he had some shows to play and went on tour the day after.
photo: Roy Birger Nilsen
Do you think it is more difficult in Bergen for a Rock band than for a “traditional” Black Metal band to succeed?
Definitely. Not as much as it used to be maybe, but it is much easier to gain fans and to lose fans, when you are a black metal band. There are loads of followers in all of Scandinavia and in the whole of Europe and its not expected to be kinda commercial in a way. People approach it differently to a rock band. A Black Metal band raises interest in just being. People will most definitely check them out and see if they like it or not. As a Rock band you have to grip the people by their neck to make them listen to it.
Is it a benefit or a burden to have people say that there is, for example, a band member of Enslaved playing in Bourbon Flame?
I think its damaging. We were arguing with our label about that. They really wanted to use the name Enslaved and whatever for all promotion work. I said it´s not gonna be good and that it´s not necessarily a good idea to mention in which band the members are. But they said, yes it is! It´s unnecessary and evokes the wrong expectations and might damage the bands reputation. I really hope that we can avoid that on the next album. That was one of the arguments that we lost with the record label. Particularly Erik, he hates it! Mentioning in which band who is and stuff makes him really see red.
Who do you want to reach, or what do you want to achieve with your music?
I guess we all have different kinds of expectations and I can´t possibly answer for all four of us. I want to get acknowledgement and that it´s basically it. I personally don´t have the need to become famous or whatever. It would be nice if that happens, but I want acknowledgment for the music and the people to understand what we´re trying to do. People just say this is just another band trying to do the 80´s scene over again. That is so wrong! When I read reviews from people who really understand what we´re doing and kind of listen to it really… that gives me a great pleasure.
Our review of the album "Bourbon Flame" awaits you here.
When will the album “Bourbon Flame” be available outside of Norway?
Since the end of January it is distributed all over Europe. We don´t know about the USA, because they have some different rules there, but it will be able to order online for sure.
Are you planning a tour after the release of the album in Europe?
I´m thinking about it and discussing it with the record label, but right now it´s more of an idea than a proper plan. We hope we can get in as a support act for a bigger band.
Which one do you have in mind?
I´m a big fan of the Backyard Babies. But in Sweden there are a lot of bands in that genre which are often touring and are quite popular. I don´t know all of them, but I would rather go on tour with a Swedish band than with another Norwegian band.
Author: Samira Alinto, transl. Katrin Dietl, photos: Tatiana Ringstad, Roy Birger Nilsen Date: 2008-02-22