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Trail Of Tears – Itīs your Heim Spiel

Probably the biggest act to come out of the Kristiansand region are goth rockers Trail Of Tears and to great joy of their enthusiastic fans back home they were justly headlining the Straight Out Of Vennesla festival. Of course STALKER met up with the singers Kjetil and Ronny, who also is the primus engine behind the operation, to talk about playing in front of a home audience, the difference between female and male vocals and also… You guessed it: football!

First of all, youīre playing in youīre hometown now. Is that special for you and is it much different from the other gigs youīve played?
Kjetil: Of course itīs a special thing for us playing back home. But we try to do it so itīs something special every time when Trail Of Tears play back home. Itīs a very dangerous thing to play too many gigs in your home town because people, I wouldnīt say get tired of it, but itīs so much better when itīs something special and it was certainly like that today. I donīt know about the crowd. The crowd was great today. I do actually think the crowd in Kistiansand is quite good. And not least the younger audience…Like today. Many of the people in front of the stage were under 18. I think it was nice to play at a venue with no age limit. We had a great night!

How often have you played here and when was the last time?
Kjetil:I think itīs average only once a year or something.
Ronny: We try to have one annual gig but it depends on the circumstances of course. But since we started weīve had about one gig a year here. And like Kjetil said today was quite special because there were no age limits. I now there are a lot of people under 18 who wanted to see the band for a long time but didnīt have the chance to. So you saw a lot of people under 18. And thatīs the thing in Norway, that itīs very strict when it comes to serving alcohol and everything like that. If thereīs alcohol involved they are basically not allowed to let people under 18 inside. Thatīs the reason why we did this. Itīs a good initiative from the organizers and it was very easy for us to say yes to something like this. We had a blast on stage tonight and we did a good show. Seemed also like people liked it a lot so weīre looking forward to the next time but I guess itīs going to be a year or so until the next time again.
Kjetil:We always have a release party back home. So I guess the next one will be a release party when ever the next record is going to be released.

As you said there was a lot of under aged people tonight. Do you think there were more young fans or old fans?
Kjetil:I think the reason why there were so many people under 18 was, first of all, that there were some bands playing tonight with members under 18 and they of brought their friends but also, like Ronny said, people under 18 donīt get the chance to see Trail Of Tears every year because normally on our release parties we have a regular bar or a venue. This was probably the first time in years that people under 18 had the chance to see a gig with Trail Of Tears. So itīs about time probably!
Ronny:But I also think it was quite cool to see so many people over 18 because normally itīs very difficult to get people over 18 to come to shows like this knowing that thereīs no alcohol involved. People are not able to buy alcohol at the venue. So usually in Norway in general itīs very hard for bands to draw audiences if the venue doesnīt have an alcohol license. So it was also a big surprise for me to see so many over 18. That was very cool!

Okay. Now for something different. You played with another guitarist today. Will this be permanent? Will you continue playing with him?
Kjetil:Michael is… I wouldnīt say our second choice for session player, but we have another session guitarist. After Terje quit we brought in Gøran from Carpathian Forest so heīs going to be with us on our live shows. And if Carpathian Forest is touring, and if I can do it because Iīm in Green Carnation as well as Michael, itīs automatic that he can do it as well. Now he knows all the songs and this was his first gig with Trail Of Tears for… How many years?
Ronny:I think this was his first time for eight or nine years. Before this gig we had four rehearsals together with the whole band and for a person to go in and learn 12-14 songs in that time is just quite amazing! He did a great job!
Kjetil:He did a great job and heīs also a really, really good stage personality and a fantastic guitar player. And this is the guy who actually made, maybe, half of the demo that led to Trail Of Tears being signed in the first place. So he was in Trail Of Tears in the demo days and to have him back is a little bit nostalgic for us. Itīs really cool to play with him because heīs a good friend and heīs just a fantastic guitar player. It worked out really well today and hopefully we will have the chance to do some more gigs with him.

Why did Terje leave? I mean, youīre still best friends and I saw him in the crowd head-banging when you played. So, was it because of time or what?
Ronny:I actually told him on stage to watch his nose, because the last time I went to a gig with Terje was a Battlelore gig in Norway and he head-banged right in to the fence. So his nose was kind of fucked up and it actually still is. It was really special for me to see both Terje and Frank in the crowd today because I that must be one of the first times Trail Of Tears has played and there has been two ex-members.

But why did he leave?
Ronny:It was the business side of things. Terje just basically had enough on the tour we did with Tristania and Therion. In the end of 2004 we did a six week tour with them. And for him I think it was just the business side of things. I mean, when you have been doing this for so many years… Except for Terje now this line-up, in contrary to what people think, is the same line-up weīve had for eight years and through four full length albums. For him it was just the fact that there was too much bullshit in order for him to really enjoy it. You could say that the bad things were more than the good things. For him it became to difficult to really give everything that he could. Itīs a shame but like Kjetil said weīre still best friends and Terje has been with us since the beginning. We grew up together. We have know each other less since kinder garden, more or less. So it was great to see that he came to the gig today and had a really great time. And the same whit Frank, our keyboard player, who somehow is still in the band and is still contributing to a lot of things and helping us out with a lot of things. He just decided not to play live anymore so we do everything with samples. Itīs great to see them come to the show and really enjoying it. Just to see their faces and to see that theyīre generally just having a great time. Itīs so cool!

I really like this new Trail Of Tears with Kjetil. How did this co-operation happen? I think you got a lot of new fans with you singing, because people who arenīt that much into gothic metal with female vocals like more the newer stuff.
Ronny:For us it doesnīt really feel like a new thing, because Kjetil contributed to the band ever since Profoundemonium, the second album, which was released in 2000. He did a small guest performance on that album. And on the A New Dimension Of Might album, which came out in 2002, he contributed to seven songs. He has also been on tour with us for so many years so for us this didnīt really feel like a new thing because it was a well known atmosphere for many years. But it wasnīt until a year ago that we decided to make it public. But Kjetil has been with us on the last three albums and on several tours for the last 5-6 years.Itīs just the status that we made it official but, at least for me, heīs already been in the band for all that time.
Kjetil:I think it was a natural thing because I was contributing on A New Dimension Of Might album so much and Iīve been touring with the band and stuff. The only difference for me is that in the future I will have less songs when I can go back and drink beer. Thatīs the bad thing! (Laughter) Itīs been made as a drastic change for Trail Of Tears. It is a slight change in the sound but I donīt think that has necessarily to do with the female voice. I think people are generally too much into making a point in is this a female vocal or a male vocal. I do the melodies like Cathrine did and like Helena did before, maybe in a slightly different way as every vocalist is different, but Iīm kind of the female vocalist today. (Laughter) Although I maybe look a little bit different.
Ronny:A little bit more beard than those girls…
Kjetil:Slightly! Slightly, maybe… But itīs not a big change at all and many people have said that. I do know, as you said, we have a lot of new fans with the new sound, as people call it, but also there are some people in the scene that are conservative and think that "Oh no! They donīt have female vocals anymore. This canīt be good!". And the opposite as well! Thereīs so many people around right now that think that when ever thereīs female vocals in a band that plays something that could be called gothic metal, if you want to call it that, that itīs no good.

Do you think itīs a matter of looks as the guys donīt have that many girls to look at on stage in the metal scene and they miss it? (Laughter)
Kjetil:That would be sad, but I do see your point.
Ronny:Sadly itīs the truth. But I have enough confidence with our fans that they still give the band a chance and they will recognize good quality music when they hear it regardless if thereīs a female in the band or not. If thatīs the sole purpose for people to be into something then they can just pick up the latest issue of Playboy and listen to that!
Yeah, listen to that!
Ronny:Itīs sad to see that people are very conservative but at the same time I think most of the people who are already familiar with the band have embraced and appreciated the new direction of the band.

You have also got a lot of female fans as I could see in the crowd.
Ronny:Yeah. I think Trail Of Tears has always had a very high percentage of female fans. Itīs been like that since the start when we had female vocals and also now that we donīt have them so I would like to think that itīs because they recognize good quality music when they hear it.
Kjetil:I think actually that Trail Of Tears was very cynical about finding a new singer that had to be a sex symbol. So they chose me, of course, (laughter) so they could keep the female fans. I think thatīs the only reason! Because of my body and all that!
Ronny:Yeah, thatīs it! You cracked the riddle right there!
Kjetil:I know!

So what about the songs? Iīve noticed that the titles are very long. Whatīs the story with that?
Ronny:I usually have the titles for the songs and I write most of the lyrics but I never try to make them long intentionally. I usually come up with the titles after the lyrics are finished so I just try to find a sentence or a punch line that I think describes the song and the lyrics in general. For the next album I already have a couple of titles ready and the ones that I have are a little bit shorter. But thereīs no philosophy behind that. Itīs just how it turns out.

What song from the last album is the most important to you? Which one is "the" song?
Ronny:For me personally, and I think for the rest of the band as well, itīs the second song on the album called Carrier of the Scars of Life. I think itīs the song that best describes Trail Of Tears today. It has some old elements and also weīve added some new elements to it so itīs like the national inheritance from our past. It has the groove. It has the drive. It has slow parts, fast parts and it has multiple vocals. Itīs symphonic and itīs heavy so itīs a personal favourite of mine.

Youīre the main lyrics writer and you say this song describes Trail Of Tears really well, so do the lyrics describe your inside well too or is it just a kind of general philosophy?
Ronny:I never try to be a philosopher, because Iīm not. I just try to express my emotions and also I try to portray feelings that can be linked to the musical content of the song. So I like to have a finished song before I start writing the lyrics. If I write in the pre-production stages, when the song it finished it will have changed so much, and also the atmosphere about it, that what I originally wrote doesnīt fit anymore. Thatīs why I like to have an as finished result as possible before I start writing the lyrics. Itīs never something that I plan. This will sound extremely cliché, but I have to feel some kind of connection with the atmosphere of the song in order to write a good lyric to it. I have periods when I can write four or five lyrics in a week and then I have a dry period for several months when I donīt write anything. Itīs like a rollercoaster.

We heard today that this region is very religious. Does it influence your music or is it an issue in your music or in the lyrics?
Ronny:I try to keep the lyrics very free from religion in general. Personally Iīm an atheist. I donīt want to mix religion too much in to the sound of the band because I have Christian friends and I have , not maybe Satanic friends, but friends that are in extremes of both sides. I think what ever works for you is ok. I regard myself an atheist and I donīt want to criticize or attack anything like that. Thereīs been a couple of lyrics in the past where I just really felt like bringing in some issues. Like for example thereīs a song called Obedience In The Absence Of Logic from the …Dimension of Might album, where I touch the whole issue with priest in the catholic church. Like that, you should not have sex before youīre married but itīs ok to fuck an eight year old boy backstage in a church! Things like that is just something that I feel for, and I will write about it, but itīs not something that is a red line in the lyrics. The lyrics in general are very free from religion.
Kjetil:I agree with that 100%!

If your not on tour or in the studio with Trail Of Tears, what are you doing besides being in the band?
Ronny:Drinking beer and listening to music, more or less! (Laughs) I donīt have any hobbies or anything. For me music is what occupies my life the most whether itīs listening to music at home, going to concerts or festivals, checking out bands or performing. So, thatīs what occupies my life the most!
Kjetil:Iīm very lucky because I have 200% of hobbies of which 100% is music … Well, I would say that music has beat football the last couple of years as Iīve spent a lot of time on it, but Iīm also very much in to football. And back home here, when Iīm not touring with Trail Of Tears or Green Carnation, Iīm running a record label and thatīs a lot of work. Itīs called Sublife Productions.com… Itīs not called .com but still… Thatīs a lot of work. Iīm hoping that Sublife Productions is something that I can work with in years to come. But right now weīve just released one album and I do need some money also when Iīm back home. Yesterday I got my first job for a couple of years, as a bartender.
Ronny:Weīre going to exploit you as good as we can to get cheap beer.

What do you think is the spirit of Norway?
Ronnie: Thatīs a very difficult question. Norwegians in general have very split personalities. If you come to Norway in the middle of winter people in general are very down. You meet people on the street and theyīre looking down. But when you come in the summer people just cheer up and even strangers come up to you and say "Hello! How are you?. Itīs very different to come to Norway for example in January compared to July or August. I think weīre kind of moody people. If weīre happy weīre extremely happy and if weīre down weīre very depressed. I think weīre very climate influenced people. That reflects to a lot of things in our daily lifes and also to the behaviour and nature of the Norwegian people.
Kjetil: I too think thatīs a very difficult question. Of course we grew up here so for us itīs very natural.
Ronnie: We donīt know anything else.
Kjetil: But saying that, I do think Norwegians are generally very proud of their history, as many people are all around the world are, because when you go far back you feel an atmosphere there and feel like this is where you belong. Of course we do that in Norway because we have a special history but so does every country. So I donīt know if that makes Norwegians much different from any other people but this is what we know and this is where we like to be. Everybodyīs always talking, during the winter time, about moving to the south of Spain or something but nobody does it. Just a very few people do it.

(Ronny was excused for taking care of some beers, while we finished the interview with Kjetil.)

You were mentioning football. Whatīs your favourite football team?
Kjetil:My favourite team is Bristol City FC in England. They havenīt been doing too well since the 1970īs… I didnīt support them in the70īs! Iīm not that old but Iīve read my history. Theyīre basically a team that hardly wins but still itīs my team so I have to support them.

Whatīs the deal with the relations between Norwegians and Swedes and them always dissing each other?
Kjetil:We have a history with Sweden and we have a history with Denmark. Of course we have a history with all the countries near us. Iīve lived in England as well and I think Norway and Sweden have kind of the same relationship as England and Scotland. Itīs not really hatred but itīs more dissing each other, as you say. We grew up with jokes about Swedish people and I guess itīs the opposite way around as well. Actually here in the very south of Norway we feel much connected to the Danish because for us itīs just to jump in the boat and row over for ten hours so itīs a bit easier physically. We like the Danes because they are how we want to be. For example you donīt have a smoking ban in Denmark. You have cheap beer in Denmark. Thereīs a relaxed atmosphere in Denmark. Denmark is a little bit like Ireland for me. Ireland is my favourite country in the world as well as Norway of course. But Sweden is a bit far away from here so we only learned the jokes about them. And of course Sweden was the last country we were ruled by, so thatīs one thing with Sweden as well. Thatīs probably how it started. But itīs not bad blood at all and some of my family is from Sweden. But we like to mock them and they like to mock us and I think thatīs how it should be.

Whatīs your favourite Sweden joke?
Kjetil:Oh, thereīs too many…Thereīs so many that can not be translated. Just give me a second... Iīll tell you a classic one! Itīs not only about Sweden but…
A Dane, a Swede and Norwegian where in the north of Norway in the winter and had a competition who had the coldest igloo. First the Dane peed on the floor of his igloo and the pee froze, which was of course impressive. Then the Swede started peeing in his igloo and half way down the pee froze. Very impressive! Finally in the Norwegians igloo the Norwegian crouched, grinned and picked up something brown from the floor. He took it out and threw it in the fire and there was a loud "PROOT".

Website of the band: www.trailoftears.no
Current release: "Free Fall Into Fear"

Author: Caroline Traitler, Samira Alinto, translation: Klaudia Weber
Date: 2006-06-10

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