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Shining

So you too were totally taken by surprise last month by the fury unleashed upon you by Shining's new 'Blackjazz'? Shining accomplished a record that thunders all over you but at the same time is showing you a whole new world of blackened jazz. Yeah whatever that may be, I hear you think. And you're very right to think. And ponder. Because if there's one thing Shining succeeded in, it is in tickling our curiousity and raising questions. And here is Munkeby, frontman and multi-instrumentalist of the band, answering all your possible questions with full patience, enthusiasm and in very great detail and descriptions!

By: Bart D. | Archive under different metal

Welcome Shining, in the territories that you're investigating with your new record. With your previous records, it would have been hard to get the direct attention of this website. Could you tell our readers where you come from musically, and why jazz and/or other influences combined with an open mind will always lead to better hard rocking music than when without?
Thanks for taking the time to speak with us! We started out as an acoustic jazz quartet in 1998, when I started studying at the Norwegian State Academy of Music, and met the other band members there. Back then, we played a strict kind of post-Coltrane jazz music, with piano, drums, acoustic bass, and me on tenor sax, bass clarinet and flute. We played a very energetic kind of jazz, and were quickly famous for being the band that ruined the concert for the main act for which we played support, due to our furious energy and our habit of giving everything on stage. In 2001 and 2003 we released our two first albums, 'Where The Ragged People Go' and 'Sweet Shanghai Devil'. Both were acoustic jazz albums, both were very well received around the world, and both are now out of print.

In my youth I had grown up listening to metal bands such as Death, Sepultura, Entombed and Pantera, and I had also been playing in rock and pop bands in my teens. For ten years I also played in and composed for the well known band Jaga Jazzist, and from all this I gathered a lot of knowledge and experience with combining musical styles, genres and different instruments. I also spent three years at the Music Academy studying contemporary composition, and composers like Olivier Messiaen and Arnold Schoenberg.

In 2004, I quit Jaga Jazzist and started focusing exclusively on SHINING and on rehearsing my musical skills on instruments, ear-training, and composing. Me and the guys in the band decided we wanted to open up the musical palette of SHINING, because we had grown a bit tired of the strict jazz idiom we sticked so close to on our two first albums. This all resulted in me buying my first studio equipment, and in January 2005 our third album 'In The Kingdom Of Kitsch You Will Be A Monster' was released worldwide. This album, and the follow-up 'Grindstone' in January 2007, got a huge amount of attention and extremely great reviews all around the world, including Pitchfork, The New York Times, The Wire, The BBC and Terrorizer, to mention a few, and with these two albums we were on our way to developing the style that was to become 'Blackjazz'.

And how did we arrive at this newer, heavier and harder sound on 'Blackjazz'? With 'Blackjazz' we wanted to make an album which was a combination of metal and jazz. Between Black Metal and Free Jazz, to be more specific. We also wanted the album to be more catchy than before, but also much more aggressive and hard. We wanted to focus the sound, so it wasn't as wide and spread out as 'Grindstone' and 'Kingdom'. Soundwise a lot of inspiration was drawn from NIN, Marilyn Manson and Ministry, in addition to being sources for musical inspiration. Bands like Slipknot, Meshuggah and The Dillinger Escape Plan, along with Norwegian black metal bands like Enslaved, Satyricon and Emperor, all inspired our sound on 'Blackjazz'. In addition, inspiration drawn from the bad and dark sides of life have contributed to this development in both music and lyrics as well.

When it comes to the playing part of the music, we imported some of our hard playing attitude from our first two albums: When we started out as an acoustic jazz quartet, we were focusing a lot on the energy in the music. We were actually famous for being the support band that ruined the night for the following main act, because we gave all we got on stage. But when the soundscape went from purely acoustic, to also contain electronic instruments and sounds in 2004, the recording approach also went from raw live performance to a more studio-oriented approach. This brought in new and harder sounds, but on the other hand I also think the pure playing energy might have suffered a bit. I think this playing energy is one of the things we really wanted to re-implement more on Blackjazz, which contributed to the heavier and harder expression in the performance. All in all, I think you can say that this development has been gradual, but is felt strongly now because it's been a long time since our last album was released in January 2007. If we had released a recording of our special 'Armageddon Concert' collaboration with Enslaved in 2008, I think it would be seen as 'the missing link' between Grindstone and Blackjazz.

To return to your initial question about why keeping an open mind will enable the music to better hard rocking music: There is a lot of other genres than metal that have darkness, energy, aggressiveness and hardness in them. We have imported hard and aggressive elements from contemporary music and jazz music into the metal music, and this can often lead to a better and even more extreme result. There are a lot to learn for everybody if you're willing to lift your eyes above the standard, old and stiffened metal package. Being open-minded and willing to learn from others always enables you to grow and elevate your knowledge and skills. This of course also apply to music.

Your new record doesn't seem to be as dynamically diverse as the previous 'Grindstone'; it seems more of an extreme statement, reminding in that sense of Ulver's 'Nattens Madrigal'. (Of course it is, certainly compared to that, dynamic as hell, but you really stay on top of the beat all the time and never seem to breath out really). So, could you tell something about your statement(s)?
I think your observation is a very correct one! During live concerts it actually feels like we don't have time to take a breath before the show is over! It's extremely intense! I actually do feel that 'Blackjazz' is a statement from us. It has been a very conscious and well thought-out process making the album. When Sean Beavan (NIN, Marilyn Manson, Slayer) and I talked on the phone in January 2009 about how we wanted to mix the album, I said that 'I wanted the album to sound as extreme and angry and evil as possible, but also be as catchy as possible'. This kind of summarizes my vision for the sound of the whole album. We wanted SHINING on the new album to sound more like a 'band', and less like a studio project edited together, as 'Grindstone' and 'Kingdom' was made. We also didn't want people to perceive the band as an instrumental band, and we also wanted to make music that was both crazy and catchy at the same time.

This all pointed us towards a more standard rock band instrumentation with bass, drums and guitars as the basic foundation, and also suggested having more vocals and catchy refrain hooks to hook it all together. To me, having vocals in music gives the music a 'face' so to speak, and pushes the music closer towards the listener. I wanted the music on Blackjazz to jump out of the speakers, both in terms of the songs and the sounds. We were also very conscious about choosing the title for the album: The word 'Blackjazz' is a combination of 'Free Jazz' and 'Black Metal'. We spell it in one word, to try to separate it from the colored jazz musicians from USA. The album title is meant to be a suggested name for a new musical genre that we feel we have arrived at. It's a name for our genre: We play Blackjazz. It's a reference to earlier genre-defining albums, such as Venom's 'Black Metal', Ornette Coleman's 'Free Jazz' and 'The Shape of Jazz To Come'. We also want to pay tribute to the freshening and transforming route that the Norwegian BM pioneers took death metal along about two decades ago, which for me is a very inspiring and impressive task of musical inventiveness. And I don't want to keep the 'Blackjazz' genre to myself! It would be great if other bands that dabble in the same kind of music, would want to call their music for Blackjazz music in the future. That would be a true honor! So the statement might be (a paraphrase of Kubrick's movie title): '2010: The Year They Made Contact: Free Jazz and Black Metal unite, and form Blackjazz'.

And having seen some stellar live footage, what can we expect live when you go touring to promote 'Blackjazz'? And will you please come to the Netherlands?
Thank you so much for the compliments! All the members of the band are professional musicians which have spent their entire life practicing, and we really enjoy playing concerts! We feel that albums and concerts are two different things, and that both should be top priority, in their own unique ways. A concert should not be a lame and sloppy presentation of the album, and an album shouldn't be made just to have an excuse to book gigs. The concert should be a super energic and precise show that is to stand on it's own strong feet. Our concerts are usually full force from beginning to end! We actually find it easier to express the right kind of energy live than on records. The band members in SHINING are so extremely good playing their instruments, so getting this energy across in a live situation is just fun. The volume in the halls, and the sweat and physical efforts are also easy for the audience to experience.

We will play almost all of the songs from the new album, and also the best and hardest ones from our previous albums. I'm sure the audience will be blown away! The Netherlands is one of our absolute favorite countries to play in, so we're especially looking forward to playing there! Right now, the following shows have been confirmed in Netherlands and Belgium:
19-MARCH - METROPOOL, HENGELO (NL)
15-APRIL - ROADBURN, TILBURG (NL) [A designated SHINING solo show]
16-APRIL - VOORUIT, GENT (B)
17-APRIL - ROADBURN, TILBURG (NL) [Performing the very special 'Armageddon Concerto' with Enslaved]
18-APRIL - VERA, GRONINGEN (NL)

As you see, we're playing two shows at the wonderful Roadburn Festival. We're greatly looking forward to this! Our first show at Roadburn will be a solo show with only SHINING, and the second show will be a performance of the very special 'Armageddon Concerto' that we composed with and performed with Enslaved in Norway, Summer last year. This will be the second time in history that we perform this very rare 95 minutes long concert, and might also be the last time, due to so much production and effort needed to put this together with two such busy bands. This will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience! Of course we're also hoping to be able to play some really good festivals in NL in the Summer! Please keep checking out our MySpace profile www.myspace.com/SHININGofficial for tour updates! It will be updated regularly.

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In an ideal world, your kind of music would be some kind of mainstreamly appreciated. How do you choose direction with the band, with all these possibilities that makes Shining so unpredictable for the listener?
Thanks again! I would love it if our music were to be mainstreamly appreciated! We choose direction for the band's music only based on what we ourselves want to play. We don't try to analyze the musical situation to try to 'hit' something that we think people will like. Instead we only aim to make the music that we know we like ourselves, because that is the only thing we can know for sure.

During the course of music history, and also art history in general, one can see that the audience have always gotten more and more accustomed to harder and harsher expressions. It's like being a junkie; you need bigger and bigger doses to give you the same wonderful high. People also need more and more dissonance and friction in music to not grow bored.

I see more and more that young people growing up now, really love SHINING's music. I guess it's because they finally have found a band that delivers the amount of friction in the music that their taste craves. They probably find everything else dull and boring, just like myself. We're getting bigger and bigger real quick now, and this happens all over the world. On our MySpace page, more than 59% of all visitors are from USA. And in Norway we've received two Alarm Awards (Norwegian Grammy Awards), we've performed at the biggest National TV Station, we play at the biggest rock and pop festivals, and after the first week 'Blackjazz' were at #9 on the official best-seller list in Norway out of all albums. In general we see that today's dissonance is tomorrows consonance, and this makes me very optimistic about our future!

Could you tell what influences you when making music? And when talking about musical influences, what do you like to listen to? And are there also some recent players that grabbed your attention?
The sources of inspiration for me are numerous. But some of my biggest personal musical influences have been: Wagner, Miles, Coltrane, Coleman, Schönberg, Ligeti, Michael Brecker, Jaga Jazzist, Meshuggah, Fredrik Thordendahl's Special Defects, The Dillinger Escape Plan, Lightning Bolt, King Crimson, Van Der Graaf, Manson, NIN, Sean Beavan, Tim Sköld, Dream Theater, Pantera, Entombed, Slayer, Satyricon, Slipknot, Emperor, Enslaved, Death, Olivier Messiaen, Paul Hindemith's musical theory, Dave Liebman, Marilyn Manson, Slipknot and many others. There are also huge sources of inspiration outside of music, such as movies, books, visual arts, dance, science, philosophy and sports. But I'd better not start that list here, because it would be extremely long.

When going on tour, would you like to go all by yourself, or would you like a package tour deal? And if so, what kind of groups would you see yourself share the stage with?
We like both to play support, to be part of a cool package, to do a special collaboration (such as the Armageddon Concerto with Enslaved), and also to play headliner gigs. All of these ways of touring are good for us. The only problem with playing support for other bands is that we're so extremely energic and loud, so there's not many bands that can go on stage after us and get away with it. Our dream bands to tour with would be: The Dillinger Escape Plan, Meshuggah, Mastodon, Nine Inch Nails, Slipknot, Gojira, Between The Buried And Me, Metallica, and Marilyn Manson.

Do you already have some ideas of the future musical directions of Shining? Some unpredictable acoustic ambient, close harmony blackened retro blues? Do you jam or mainly think out new material?
Hehe, that blackened blues thing sounds cool! It's a good idea! I haven't managed to think that much about where to go after 'Blackjazz' yet. The reception of 'Blackjazz' has been tremendously good, and right now I can barely find the time to do all the interviews and touring preparation needed. The album keeps selling out from the label, and we keep re-printing it to meet the explosive demand for our new music, so I have no time for planning future music right now. But our next album might be more mainstream and pop-ish, like Muse, or it might be even more crazy and harder than 'Blackjazz'. It might be more open and ambient, or it might be even stricter. It's hard to tell. It might even be another 'Blackjazz' album, like 'Blackjazz II'.

When making new material, it usually starts with me thinking out the direction I want to music to take. I might start with a riff or a melody, I might start with a rhythmical figure, or it could be starting with an emotion I want to portray or some vocal lyrics. Then I just start working from there, writing it down on paper. Then I work on it and twist it around on paper, and then I usually record some demos, while fooling around experimenting with different sounds and instruments. After the demo is finished, I send it to the guys in the band and we all discuss it and rehearse it. From then on, it goes in and out of rehearsal rooms, studios, back to paper sketches, new demos, into studio again, pre-mixing, editing, etc. etc. We keep on editing and changing and polishing it until it is as good as we can make it. There's no standard route here; every song has it's own way of being born and maturing. But they all take hell of a long time getting there!

These were my, hopefully not too annoying, questions for you. Hopefully we'll see you live around here soon, thank you for answering! If you would like to add anything, feel free to do so below!
And thank you for asking! It think your questions were great! And I hope to see you in the Netherlands very soon! Before we go, I would like to bring the attention to the wonderful producer and engineer Sean Beavan (NIN, Marilyn Manson, Slayer etc.) who worked with us on 'Blackjazz', since I'm so extremely happy that he decided to join in on the Blackjazz mission!

As I mentioned, we wanted to combine free jazz and black metal. But this could easily be a very dirty combination, since both genres usually have a pretty dirty and gritty sound. We, on the other hand, wanted to wrap this crazy music in fresh and catchy packaging. Then what better solution, than to turn to Hollywood? In the last two years I had been listening a lot to Nine Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson, and I had become a huge fan! I really like the way they were able to combine ultimate catchiness with utter aggressiveness. They also sound both dirty and polished at the same time. All this, and the cold and industrial vibe, I really wanted to implement into Blackjazz. I read through all the booklets in the Marilyn Manson and NIN catalog I had bought (yes, actual physical cds!), and I discovered that Sean Beavan had been a key figure in developing their sound from the very beginning of NIN 20 years ago. His work with Slayer on 'God Hates Us All' is also amazing, and because of his work with pop artists as No Doubt and Depeche Mode, I knew that he was the right guy for Blackjazz. He didn't just prove to be the right guy, he was actually the PERFECT guy! His sheer talent is impeccable: His knowledge of musical and technical theory, his understanding and sensibility for emotions in music, and his ability to reflect and discuss these things in words - all of this makes him the very best guy I have ever worked with! He is also full of great ideas on mixing, and really put his mark on the album. On top of this, he's a wonderful person to be with, and his family is super nice! Needless to say, Sean contributed extremely much to Blackjazz, and I'm very happy that he would want to join in on the Blackjazz team. I really wouldn't want to think about how the album would have been without him.

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