Audrey Horne – Norwegian rockers and their Superhero alter egos
Audrey Horne, the outstanding hard rock band from Bergen released with “Youngblood” their fourth album. That, plus the label change, a new permanent band member and tons of other interesting stories, was reason enough that STALKER.cd had a little chat with Torkjell “Toschie” Rød, the singer of the quintet.
Toschie, the lyrics from Youngblood begin with (I´m paraphrasing) "He´s cool and pretty old school / he carved the things he´s seen into his skin…” Is this song about you?
(laughs) No, not at all. We´ve been playing for many years, not only in this band but in several other bands, way before Audrey Horne. When you look at the music scene there are always people who become famous really quickly and they kinda have a know-it-all attitude. I wrote this song about the fact that there are so many people not only in music business but in general who are really good in what they do. They are doing it for a long time, taking a lot of pride in what they do and deliver solid handwork but they don´t get recognised for what they do. They can be way better than a lot of famous people who got very often famous by luck or by coincidence.
It all started when I read an interview with a young band. I can´t remember their name but that is not important. They were talking about Motörhead, how Lemmy is not up to it any more and that he´s too old. I sat there and thought he´s been doing this shit forever. It´s pretty brave to be a 20 year old musician and saying stuff like Lemmy is old and boring and call it a day. This was my inspiration for Youngblood. There is a verse in the song “Youngblood, full of piss and vinegar, the flame you use will be the death of you” which is all about how these people will probably be famous for a short while and then they´re gonna disappear. So, with “He is cool and pretty old school…” I tried to make a picture of this guy who has been doing this good for years without any fame and the same thing applies for the tattoos. With “he carved the things he´s seen…”, I talk about that he got tattoos that are about his life. A lot of kids who are 18 years old just come in the studio and want a full body suit as quickly as possible because they need to look cool. I think its way cooler if you have tattoos that you got here and there and it´s representing a period or a time in your life. This song is basically a “fuck you” to all people who are disrespectful and full of themselves. It´s always hard to explain lyrics as my lyrics are not necessarily about a particular thing but that´s what Youngblood is about.
Is there also this “Idol search” stuff in Norway?
Yes, there is a lot of that on TV. That´s where you see that the people who become famous today are more the reality show people from the idol search, star-search and Britain´s Got Talent, Norway´s Got Talent, and Germany´s Got Talent and all of those shows. I don´t really mind this because the reason that people like that, in my opinion, is that they are not some super talented guy who becomes a big star but about regular people who become stars because they are on TV. It is this sort of “it could have happened to me too” feeling people rely on, I think. Some of the people who are on these shows actually are talented but then there are those who can hold a note, and the people are “Wow, he´s so talented”. Noooo! He isn´t, he can only hold a note! Well, then they mostly disappear as fast as they appeared. They don´t deliver any significant piece of art. That is also part of the game. In a way, I think it sucks, as it takes away the spotlight from people who deserve it, but on the other hand that´s what people want. They want to see an everyday someone from the street.
How do you think these hard working musicians who deserve the spot light could make themselves more recognized?
I don´t think they can unless they compromise themselves because the media doesn´t care about talent in that sense, or art for that matter. They just give the people what they think they want. So, for instance, I think if you take Sólstafir who are on tour with us; they are an amazingly good band, but of course they never gonna get prime time TV appearances, because they´re too weird for it. However, they can get recognized by touring, putting out albums and promoting their stuff. People who are into it are gonna be into it. The people who are not into it… you don´t really want that audience anyway, as that audience is going to leave you in two weeks anyway, as by then there is something else new and interesting for them. Audrey Horne is successful in that sense, that we have an audience that listens to us and follows us because they love what we do. I prefer that, instead of an audience that would love us, just because we´re the flavour of the month. They are not really into what we do, it´s more like “is this the thing which is IN right now?”
Talking about it… You made the album of the month in many magazines right now. So on this tour, a part of the audience will be exactly those people you talked about; those, who want to check you out, because you´re hot right now. How do you feel about that?
Yeah, for that matter I think a lot of people are simply curious about us now. Apart from one show in London, we only did one show so far on this tour. When we played yesterday there were a lot of people who came up and said they wanted to check us out because they heard good things about us. Of course that´s good. They come to our show and if they like us, they will probably come to another show and buy our album. If they don´t like it? Well, then they don´t like it but at least they came to check us out. I think we got an extreme amount of good reviews and good press on this album. We´ve never been any sort of fashion band in any way so I think we got good reviews because people actually like it.
You got already very good reviews on your previous albums like “Le Fol” and “No Hay Banda.”
Yes, we did. We always received good reviews; we have always been sort of critic favourites in many ways. That is a good thing, of course, as that means that people who are into music and work with music, like it. But of course there is always the risk that people label you somehow as critic favourites and blah blah blah. That luckily never happened to us and we have been well received by critics as well as the audience in general. With this album, we got extremely good reviews and more than ever before.
Does this put pressure on you?
No, not really. We´ve always done music for ourselves because that´s the only way we know how to make music.
Do you think it was a benefit in the early beginning that Arve plays in Enslaved?
Of course. We got a lot of attention and a lot of feedback in the metal magazines and websites. There were a lot of people who were checking us out because Arve plays in Enslaved and Tom from Gorgoroth played on the first album. So we got a lot of free attention because of that. Over the years we proved that this band isn´t a sort of child of some other band; we are a band in our own rights.
Over the years, you also changed your style. You got happier…
Yes, we got happier! (smirks) I think the reason was basically that when we wrote the material for the previous albums, Ice Dale and Thomas wrote most of the music by themselves. Then I wrote the melody lines, harmonies, lyrics and stuff. After this we went into the studio and recorded layer by layer. When we released the album we sort of had to sit down and think how we could do this live. On this album we turned the whole thing around and said “Let´s write music as a band. Let´s just get in our rehearsal studio, pile up our gear and just write everything together”. Then we recorded the whole thing as live as possible. When the album was done, it was the other way around. We knew exactly how to do things live but we were more unsure about the album as writing, recording and mixing happened all so fast. If you do it layer by layer, you get to know the album on the way, but the way we did it now was more like swoosh and then it´s over and you´re like “Wow, what happened? Is it a good album or not?”
Of course, if Ice Dale sits at home in his chair and writes stuff and records it on his computer, composes it as a song, gives it to me and I put in my stuff. It is a totally different vibe, than if you stand and play together. I think that was the whole reason that the sound and the atmosphere changed that way. We had a lot more fun.
Well, “Audrey Horne” was already more upbeat and positive than “Le Fol”…
I think that on “Audrey Horne” we did a mid thing between the first two records and the new one. We sort of started changing our music a little bit and rehearsed together more, even though Thomas and Ice Dale wrote all the songs and I did my part, we still rehearsed a lot more. Thomas, Ice Dale, and I borrowed a cabin far away out on the coastline on the country side and we stayed there for four days with just acoustic guitars and wrote. One of the songs we did there was “Blaze of Ashes” and we wrote a couple of other songs there on acoustic guitars. We just brought a lot of food and wine and just hung out. I think that was the time we realized we need to do music more together and not just one by one. Even though we still recorded “Audrey Horne” layer by layer, everyone was in the studio all the time. Before that, we left after our part was done. As everybody stayed, we all had more input on the whole thing. When I was singing they recommended doing it a bit more like this or like that. On “Youngblood” we did everything together. It was an on-going process and you can hear it on the albums. After we did it on “Youngblood” like this, we knew there is no way we can go back to how we did it before. It was so much more rewarding and fun.
Espen Lien is now a full member of Audrey Horne. Why did it take so long to make the bass player a permanent member and how much did Espen contribute on the new album?
It took us this long basically because when you have been together as long as we have, we felt that we needed to be 100% sure that we included the right person. If we were going to have a full time member, it had to be someone who could be a part of all processes: writing, production, and making decisions regarding the bands structure. Otherwise we could just keep on paying someone to play live for us. Espen truly contributes on all levels, so he was our man.
The video for “Redemption Blues” is quite inspiring. In the video an old guy is reliving his youth and party time. How do you deal with ageing yourself?
Quite good, as long as I don´t talk to my kids. When I look at them I´m going “Oh fuck, I´m old!” I´m getting older, of course, but everything I do is very inspiring. I make music, I play music, I draw, I paint, and I do tattoos. And they are all connected to things that are in a way keeping you young at heart and I enjoy everything I do a lot. So, I don´t feel the ageing apart from the hangovers getting longer and heavier. You get way more relaxed and confident. You don´t panic that easily and you realise that things which were really, really important, like what other people think, are not really that important. In some ways I feel the ageing in a very positive way and in other ways more negative, of course. I don´t think I look old, I don´t feel old and I am not old. But yes, I´m getting older and I don´t want to be 18 again, not for all the money in the world.18 was stressful. Of course sometimes I think that in 10 years I´m pushing 50 and I´m not sure if I´m comfortable with that. But then again when I turned 30 I probably thought the same about getting 40.
When you say that you don´t want to be 18 again, is there something from your past times you would like to re-live and do stuff different?
I´m happy with my life so far. Of course there are some things I regret. If someone says he doesn´t regret anything, he is full of bullshit. You always hurt people or you do stupid stuff you regret but those are just minor incidents. If I could go back, I would probably work a bit harder if it´s about music but maybe I wasn´t mature enough back then. I´ve been playing in bands since I was 15 or 16. Of course you look at bands who have achieved a lot by the time they were 22. Then you ask yourself why didn´t I work that hard, as they probably have worked really hard to do that. I think I would focus a bit more. I´ve been really all over the place and doing all kinds of stuff.
You are still doing all kinds of stuff.
Yes, but I´m more focused on the things I do than when I was younger. I didn´t take things too seriously -not that you need to be serious! You can still have a lot of fun, but maybe I should have taken more chances and pushed harder. But I definitely don´t want to be 18 again. It was just stressful. Future plans, love – everything is stressful when you are 18.
The cover of Youngblood is quite something different compared to the previous ones. What was the thought behind it and who did it?
I did it. The main thing is that I´ve done artwork and t-shirts for bands for many years. So Ice Dale asked me why don´t you do it for us since you do it for everyone else? I told him that this feels honestly a bit too close to home for me, I´m not sure if you guys are comfortable with me doing this. We sat down and talked about it with the whole band and they seriously wanted that I do it. Ice Dale meant it would be a good thing that I do it because it would get more personal if we do artwork with stuff that I draw and paint. He asked me to draw the band and I showed him some sketches and he said I should try just to do the heads. I made a sketch of how the album looks now. I liked the idea about the fact that we are a unit. It got a marvel comic, superhero feel to it and also got a certain touch of rock´n roll over Kiss as well. I said earlier on that on this album, in comparison to maybe five years ago, everyone was more involved in the writing and recording and we did everything more as a band and we become more a stronger unit. I wanted to make something that sort of spoke about that. It was the first album we made where the art work was mentioned a lot. I got the impression that people simply love it or hate it. We got some reviews where people were writing that this is an amazing album but why this crappy art work? When you make something and people say its crap, you take it a bit personally; but then again, that is also part of getting older. You don´t take things too much to the heart any more.
I enjoyed the artwork, but now I kind of got provoked to the next question. Which marvel superheroes would you be if you chose one for each band member?
Kjetil would defiantly be the Hulk, because he´s got this temper which he doesn´t quite know how to control. Thomas would be Wolverine, because he would fit that character. Ice Dale would maybe be Spiderman, as there is Arve and there is Ice Dale. Arve is the calm, gentle, and polite person and Ice Dale is the raving drunk. Spiderman is also divided between these two characters. Espen would be Batman because he would love living in a cave.
(Espen walks in) Espen: And I would have a cape. Toschie: And he would have a cape. Espen: Everybody looks good in a cape!
What superhero would you be, Toschie?
Espen, if I would be a superhero, who would I be? Espen: Capeman! Toschie: Capeman? I think I would be Superman, because if I´m incognito I would look good in glasses. I would look way smarter than I actually am.
On tour, the most musicians have to leave their family behind. As you also have to leave your studio behind, does it make you nervous?
It´s not my own studio, I just work there. It´s called “Let´s Buzz”. Working as a tattoo artist fits very well with being a musician. You work on a creative level on both sides and one inspires the other. When I draw and when I tattoo, it´s a lot about stories. People come in and they have ideas about something. It can be something which happened in their life and my job is to make an image that speaks about that. A lot of times I get ideas for lyrics while doing that and the other way around. Working as a musician you experience a lot. I can see a lot of the stuff that I do, experience and write about as an inspiration for my tattooing. The other part that is good about dividing my time in these two things is that I have a job where I can take three weeks off without having to apply for time off. I just clear my schedule and make sure that I don´t have any clients and then I can leave and nobody really cares. I just say, I don´t have clients in the next three weeks and I´m off now and they are only wishing me a good trip. It is a good combination – practically and creatively.
Do you do mostly custom tattoos?
Yes, that is what I do the most. Of course there are always people who want bread and butter tattoos, as we call them. Like a tribal, a band logo or a football logo.
Did you tattoo the band members already?
I tattooed him (points at Espen). Espen: I got my whole sleeve on the left arm tattooed. Toschie: Yes, and a bottle of beer on the other arm.
What brand? Espen: I.P.A.! Toschie: Indian Pale Ale -because he loves it.
So the others are still not covered with your tattoos?
No, I wanted to do him (points at Thomas), but this is probably never actually gonna happen.
What is the weirdest thing you ever tattooed?
I´ve done a lot of weird stuff. Do you remember the Levis-commercial with Flat Eric? The yellow dude? In that commercial he is sitting with his phone to his ear. He´s calling a friend and he´s playing a song and holding his telephone against the speaker. I tattooed Flat Eric on a guy´s ass where he is holding the phone against his crack.
Okay, enough about tattoos for now. You changed your label from Indie Records to Napalm Records. Why did you switch and what changed for you?
Our deal with Indie had come to an end and they wanted to renew the deal and negotiate it with us. We thought it would maybe be good to see if someone else is also interested in us -we hadn´t really tried that yet. Our management let out the word that we don´t have a deal at the moment and so we got offers from four different labels. The reason we chose Napalm was firstly, that it was important for us to have a deal with a label that will prioritise you. Napalm was recently starting a companionship with Universal Music and they were changing their roster a bit from mostly metal things to more hard rock. They started signing bands like The Answer, Monster Magnet, and The Sword. We figured that if they are making a change and we are part of that, then we will probably be more of a priority for them. Also they have an amazingly good promo set up. On this album I´ve probably done as much promotion as I did on all three previous ones together. I´ve done a lot of interviews and Napalm seems to promote the album a lot, especially here in German music magazines. Of course they also offered us a very good deal -a better deal than the other labels did.
The combination of bands you tour with now is quite interesting. As you said, Sólstafir are playing in a league of their own. The headliner Long Distance Calling is a German band, which I honestly never heard of before.
They are a poppier version of Isis. It´s a lot of instrumental songs and they have more progressive songs and lots of different parts. I think the combination of the bands is good for a bill. You can always have three bands which sound pretty much the same and that would be not that interesting for the audience. When we come on stage, we always put on a full entertainment show. Sólstafir are doing a way more dirty and heavy stuff and then Long Distance Calling is somewhere in between, but they are very progressive and have long songs. If you go to see a show of, for instance, three thrash metal bands, you get a bit tired after a while. Not because they are boring bands, but because it´s hours and hours of basically the same thing. I think it is a good thing to combine three bands which are a bit different.
Why do you play some shows of this tour while the others are played by Thomas´ other band Sahg? Is it because of Arve having shows with Enslaved?
He´s got a pretty tight schedule. He just got back from a month in the States, then he went straight on this tour. Then he is going straight on the European tour with Enslaved and when that tour is over, he´s going straight on the UK-Tour with Audrey Horne. Then there are the festivals with Audrey Horne as well as with Enslaved in the summer. In September we´re going on a European tour with Audrey Horne again, so he is basically not at home at all for six months.
Which festivals are you playing at?
The ones that I know of so far are Rock Hard and Rock Harz in Germany, we´re doing Masters of Rock in Czech Republic, Hellfest in France and Sweden Rock in Sweden (loud laughter follows from the rest of the band) and Sweden Rock in Denmark (laughs). Those are the ones I know of so far, but hopefully there will be more confirmed soon.
Anything you like to add?
I would like to add that Espen is a wonderful person with his heart and soul and his looks. Espen, do you want to say something?
No, just that I agree with what he says. (smirks)