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VULTURE INDUSTRIES, “it’s kind of letting every social inhibition go and just flow with the music… let the animal out”

by on Feb.21, 2018, under INTERVISTE

Last autumn the world collapsed when Vulture Industries released their new album, “Stranger Times”. Like good schoolboys they respected the rules, following the schedule, and immediately hopped into a tour bus to bring the music around Europe. Probably Bjørnar hoped to enjoy some Italian food before the gig (24/11/2017) at the Alchemica in Bologna (like his band mates did), but I managed to force him to a backstage snacks diet, stealing half a hour of his life, and asked him some very smart (?) questions, questions I wouldn’t want people to ask me, to be honest. But Bjørnar fears no challenges, happily gave up his dinner, focused to the unlimited backstage beer and bore my endless questions stoically. Stranger Ladies and even stranger Gentlemen, this is Bjørnar E. Nilsen of Vulture Industries… (LEGGILA IN ITALIANO)

MH: Hi! I’ve previously seen you live three times. This is the fourth. One was supporting Taake. One with Arcturus. And then back in February 2017 in Bergen with Devin Townsend. The crowd has always been amazing in these shows. So: how was this first headlining tour and what do you expect from Italy.
B: The tour so far has been really good. A bit up and down of course, but in general the shows have been as I expected and the audience has been really nice, positive and with really good atmosphere. And on some shows we had some very positive surprises like we had over 200 people on a Wednesday in Romania, and even though there was a big metal festival in Bucharest on the same day we played there, we still had 160/170 people and sold more mech than we ever did before on a gig. So yes, it has been really good. And for Italy… well I think it’s our first headlining show in Italy, ever, so I am a bit curious to see how it’s gonna work but it’s … I have a good feeling and we like Italian people and it seems there is some interest for the band here so, I think it’s gonna be a good start.

MH: Recently “Stranger Times” has been released. How is it doing so far? Reviews, sales, radio playings… what was the impact on the scene from your point of view?
B: Well as far as reviews go, the reviews have been really positive… I think if you put them all together and calculate and average it’s probably a 8 out of 10 (this is our review). Which I am really happy with. And there’s been a lot of reviews, Season Of Mist is doing a good promo job it seems… as far as sales go, I don’t really know yet because….
MH: (laughing, editor’s note) You didn’t get any money yet…
B: (laughing, editor’s note) we got an advance for the recording when we started… but I haven’t seen any statement yet but as far as our own sales go, we bought out quite a lot of the album on CD and LP from the label and we sold most of that already, so it seems to be going well. And people are responding well to the album and it seems the statement is about something fresh and different, that has some significance for them as it isn’t a standard metal or rock release.

MH: If I ain’t wrong the band has a very steady line up. What’s the secret? What is keeping you all together without killing each other?
B: (laughing, editor’s note) Of course it helps being good friends and respecting each others, and I think there are a couple of keys to make it work, one is to try to keep something happening with the band so people don’t get bored, and also trying to keep somehow a steady and concise expectation within the band as how much we’re gonna tour and….
MH: some targets…
B: yeah, yeah, yeah, and also not to push everybody into tour as much as I would maybe, like… but finding some work around.
MH: maybe because everybody has a family or something…
B: Yes, everybody’s got a family now and I am the only one working full time with the music and having a flexible, a rather flexible schedule, so it’s a bit difficult to make things work but we also have used a couple of standings. On this tour we have had actually three standings on short appearances because some of the guys couldn’t do the full thirty and something days tour. We have had Tomas from Mistur he is helping us with the drum for this leg, for these twelve dates, and we have Kevin from Heidevolk he is standing in on seven dates of this tour…
MH: So tonight you have only the drummer which is not from the line up…
B: Drummer and one guitarist.

MH: Still about the band. What was the original vision of the band (maybe starting from Dead Rose Garden?), how has it evolved and where is it going now?
B: I can’t really say what was the original intention, because I was not part of the band when it started out as Dead Rose Garden in 1998. It was Øyvind’s project (Øyvind Madsen, guitar player, editor’s note) and it had a quite different style, more of some gothic doom that was quite popular in Norway at that time… and when I got to know Øyvind in civil service (we went to same preparation camp and stayed there for a month and got to know each other) I showed him some demos that I had with an old project, he really liked it… and I moved to Bergen a bit later to study and at that point…
MH: Because you are not from there?
B: No, I am from close to Stavanger. Well, I think at that time the band was missing a singer… the rest of the line up was complete, he asked me to try out as a singer as they already had some demos that they wanted to add some vocals… so I tried that, and it worked out quite nicely, but we realized that we wanted to go in a different direction than the one the band had already been having. To be more experimental… So we worked a bit on that and we found the initial sound and as that developed, we figured out that we had to change also the band name because the band name sounded like something completely different from the past…
MH: It’s like a brand…
B: yeah, and to be honest I think that Dead Rose Garden is a pretty horrible band name! (laughing, editor’s note) It sucks big time!

MH: And where are you going now, artistically
B: Yeah, we are not that kind of band that sets as a goal about where we want to go, we are kind of we just feel our way there…
MH: Inspiration…
B: Yeah, and see where inspiration takes us. So at the moment I don’t really know because we haven’t started writing the new album yet. But as for “The Tower” and “Stranger Times” I kind of think that we found our musical-selves…
MH: Yes, quite different from the previous stuff, there’s quite a line in between.
B: I would say so also… so I pretty much see ourselves continuing in that direction…
MH: Which is that everything is allowed…
B: Yeah, Yeah, but basically even though everything is allowed we kind of have quite a good sense and intuition when it comes in ‘what fits into the world of Vulture Industries, and what does not fit’. It’s quite easy to feel it when you got things rolling.

MH: Well, I need an explanation. Having seen you few times I noticed –apart the climbing and resulting falls down– you have a strange pattern. I don’t know if I am wrong because I’ve seen you three times only… but either you wear the shoes and the guys do not, or the contrary of that. So I want to know if there is some kind of celestial design for this thing or if it just comes up randomly at every gig… with you guys going like ‘I wear the shoes, I don’t…’.
B: Well… (laughing, editors’ note)… it had a random start… the start of it was when I started to wear a suit onstage and I hadn’t any suitable shoes to wear with the suit… so I said ‘ok… I’ll just go as well barefoot’.
MH: this is a pretty good explanation! Thank you!
B: and after I’ve been…
MH: It sounds like a ‘I can’t afford the shoes’…
B: (laughing, editor’s note)… after I got tired doing it without shoes, I put on mine… and the other guys figured …. ‘ok, then we’ll go shoeless’.
MH: and in every gig? Is it random?
B: I don’t have any plan on who is wearing what…
MH: fully random?
B: Yeah! Yeah!

MH: How much of your stage look is “stage look” and how much of it comes from being ‘Bergen Fjord farmers’?
B: (laughing, editor’s note)
MH: and having seen you even last August in Bergen (at Dark Essence Records, editor’s note), it’s kind of the way you dress up every morning… album pictures apart, I’ve seen that you don’t change much from on stage and off stage…
B: Now we don’t really change so much in the way we dress. Ok, Of course we have like some sets of clothes that we wear onstage that has some plan, but also reflects the style of who we are in the daily life. I guess.

MH: last time in the studio you were wearing the same shoes I’ve seen on some stage set up…
B: Yeah! On this tour I only have one pair of shoes… with me and it’s this… and they’re getting a bit bitten… Of course. No, but as far as the the stage person, it’s kind of letting every social inhibition go and just flow with the music, and just to whatever feels like a good idea to… let the animal out.

MH:You somehow roam in the black metal scene. Because of the label, the collaborations, whatever you do outside Vulture Industries, also former bands, other bands or live session too. But you play everything but black metal. You are known as “Avant-garde/Progressive Metal” or whatever they define you, and I might agree on some songs, I may not on some else. In addiction you fit any bill…I mean I saw you with black metal bands, saw you Devin Townsend which is something between metal and pop maybe… saw you with Arcturus and Krakow, a completely different topic. So, what is the soundscape target of a song when you write it, considering your pretty mixed direct influences? How do you do a song that fits everything?
B: I think basically it’s just going with the flow and see where the creativity takes us, and our music is basically a kind of a mirror image of our musical-selves. So that’s what it becomes. It doesn’t become something to fit into any standard and it doesn’t really need to have this part, this part, this part and a little bit of this to be Vulture Industries… it’s just we see where it takes us, and by chance that fits into this place which fits with quite a lot of different stuff, actually as long as festival doesn’t have a very very set profile, that they are only playing orthodox black metal, or only thrash metal, or it’s only stoner, or whatever… if there is some variation we can usually work with the audience and even people that don’t really like our music often appreciate our shows, on the least, because there’s other stuff going on.

MH: Who writes what and how does the song get shaped?
B: I write most of the songs but Øyvind also does some of the writing…
MH: Lyrics or music?
B: Both. Ehm… But Øyvind doesn’t write lyrics, I write all of the lyrics. He writes some of the music … we usually start out by ourselves, I have a studio, so I sit there and work with ideas… sometimes I sign in ideas on my phone, I often get ideas when I am walking… that’s really stimulating for my creative process. So I collect all these ideas and start making it into songs, then I send out to the other guys to get some feedback, if there’s something they really like or something they don’t think it’s working, and as the songs are starting to take shape we take them to the rehearsal room, to finish the details and develop them from there.

MH: A reason why for “Stranger Times” took so long from the previous album? 4 years maybe?
B: Yeah! 4 years. I think it’s … ehm… it’s multiple reasons. One was that after “The Tower” we toured quite a lot more than we did after the first two albums, so that took more time…
MH: well, that’s a good reason!
B: Yeah! That didn’t give much time for writing and developing new material. And also both me and Øyvind had projects we finished in between. I finished the Black Hole Generator album, he finished the Sulphur album. That’s mostly… those…
MH: well… Life!
B: Yeah! YEAH! Life taking time!

MH: What’s the idea and the vision behind this, in my opinion, masterpiece?
B: “Stranger Times”?
MH: Yeah, of course! (laughing, editor’s note)
B: well… you talking about lyrics?
MH: Everything! The whole idea of the album.
B: I am not sure I can answer for an over hanging idea for the whole album… but as far as the lyrics go… it’s like trying to hold up a mirror to our world and look at it from a side and paint it with stronger colors, and make the edges sharper…
MH: a distortion…
B: Yeah… so that, it makes the story a bit more interesting and also to look at our times from different perspectives and to hopefully get some people thinking and make open the mind.

MH: Why there’s a rhino cycling on the wire? I mean, it gives that decadent circus feeling, but you usually see an elephant on the unicycle…
B: (laughing, editor’s note)… Yeah, that’s true. I am not sure why it had to be a rhino, but it just came to me this idea that it needs to be a rhino on the unicycle… the metaphor, the picture, is quite easy… this rhino is like the world tying to travel this line and you can see it is probably going to go to hell every minute now, but somehow it manages to balance a bit more.

MH: … and what are the devils doing with those newspapers? What’s today headline breaking news on that newspaper?
B: On the “Stranger Times” newspaper?
MH: what do you imagine those newspapers brought by the devils around a rhino can highlight today…
B: Today or any day?
MH: Nowadays…
B: Well: “Wannabe rockstars dresses up girlfriends in T-Rex costume to gain followers on Facebook”! That’s the headline for today! (laughing, editor’s note).

(The actor dressed up as a T-Rext is Bjørnar’s girlfriend… the only one fitting in the small costume they scored around in a last minute search, editor’s note)

MH: Fantastic! Well there are two songs that hit me a lot on the album for personal reasons, among the others. One is “As the World Burns”. I love the music but the lyrics are touching me. And so how did you write that, what’s the meaning. To me it’s a love and hate song. So who is this Lucifer of yours? Because I got my Antithesis too…
B: Well, I got the idea for this song while reading news, I guess one year ago or something like that… and the basic meaning behind the song is how extreme world views are interdependent of each other, the one needs the other to keep the balance, and to justify its own existence. If your antithesis goes away then you cannot longer stay. That’s it. I am really glad people see my lyrics from different angles.
MH: I’ll be one of those singing it from the frontline, with you…
B: Me too… just hope I don’t sing anything wrong! (laughing, editor’s note).

MH: The other song is “Something Vile”. I like this “look at it from the opposite side” that you paint on the lyrics. This “also the opponent is human like you, and he is your opponent as much you are his opponent”. Any explanation from your side?
B: Well, you pretty much summed it up. It’s a bit of the same concept as “As The World Burns”. Just looking at it from a bit of a different angle and how… in order to get to the point where you can destroy the other without feeling guilty and … Like the cruelty you have seen through history before, you can get to that point you need to through the process of dehumanization, and see if this person is still …being a person.

MH: I somehow lied to you. The real question was another about this song. I dig into the music and the lyrics as you can see, like an archeologist… but I couldn’t find any fucking dinosaur bones down there…
B: (laughing, editor’s note)
MH: How did you put a dinosaur on this song? Because the dinosaur going at the pub Garage doesn’t really fit much, probably on my view, with the lyrics!
B: No… Basically it was just “ok we need something that is something… odder… something really different…” and took that a bit far… and figured out that it must be funny!

MH: Vulture Industries: a band to be a rebel rocker, or a deep passion that you all love to keep alive? Or anything else? I mean, is that a rock band because you have a rocking dream or is it just a pure expression of your passion and you just want to do it, whatever is the result.
B: I think…
MH: where are the “I want to be” and the “I just wanna do it”…
B: I think that the initial reason was just a creative edge. Wanting to make music to express myself. And that is still by far the most important reason for doing it. But at the same time after having done it for many years, and touring quite a lot by now… we really feel privileged by having the opportunity to tour and see new places, and meet new nice and interesting people, and see places we would never see as normal tourists. And sights of places that we wouldn’t see otherwise. So that’s also a motivation for me now to keep it going, because I like doing this. As for rockstar and fame, no, that’s not something I crave at all…. I…. aehm…
MH: But you still want people to come to your shows and enjoy your music…
B: Of course. If I only was doing it for myself, then it doesn’t make sense that I travel around to do it. And do gigs… also it doesn’t make sense to release albums if you only do it for yourself. But I am a sociable guy and I like sharing stuff… so sharing my music with other people… that makes sense to me, as long as people seem to enjoy it. And of course a certain level of fame -you can say- comes with it but at our level it’s not so much… I enjoy talking with fans afterwards, that’s no problem, but I would never want to come to this point where I get recognized wherever I go and … people taking pictures of me… to get this to a huge level of fame that’s not something I would want for myself in a million years. I want to have a normal life balanced with something extra. And I think we can go still quite far from where we are now before this becomes a problem, that we are so famous that I get recognized everywhere!

MH: This is for you, personally, not the whole band. For what you do… I mean you work full time with music … you work for a label (Dark Essence/Karisma group, editor’s note), you do productions like the last Taake and The 3rd Attempt albums. You are really into music: you’re an artist, a producer, work for a label… you somehow stay on all the sides of the coin… and the coin has more than two sides, in your case. How do you manage doing this staying artistically free? Because a label is a company and has to sell stuff such as CD…
B: Yeah, yeah, yeah, of course, but we are not signed to my own label, so I am artistically free.
MH: But you know how a label works from inside…
B: Of course… I don’t see it as a problem for me to also handle these other aspects in contrary to my artistic life… I think it’s actually adding a bit to it, because I am seeing different sides of things, and as an artist into the studio work, I get to go a bit deeper into how other people are thinking when they are making music, and see how they approach it and that expands my horizon a bit. As artistic inhibition put there by the label so far… Season of Mist never set anything to us like ‘you need to do this’ or ‘you need to do that’… they trust us to do our job and we sent them the final mixes, also some in the making and of course they give us some feedback like, ‘yeah maybe there should be be more band on bass drum’ or something like that … but that’s just professional opinion, it’s not like they are guiding the artistic side of it, so… I am perfectly comfortable with that.

MH: Well, to close this… if you want to send a message to my readers, your fans… to the ones ignoring my reviews of your music or ignoring my interview to you… and also to those ignoring your band… let’s say I am asking you to say a message to all our lovers and Lucifers too…
B: (laughing, editor’s note) All of you should check us out! Even if you think Vulture Industries sucks you can pick up the CD and give it to somebody you don’t like…

(Luca Zakk)

Photo: Monica Furiani Photography

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