First of all, congratulations on the debut ‘Carving An icon’. As Ronny Thorsen stated in our last interview, the album might surprise more than a few people. It could be both a pleasant surprise to hear what ‘Carving An Icon’ brings, or an unpleasant one because it is nor a continuation of Trail Of Tears (which Ronny stated in our previous interview would be meaningless) but also not as black as Limbonic Art, the band that made you “famous”. How are the reactions on the album so far to you?
Thank you, that’s much appreciated! The fact that it isn’t a continuation of any bands, and that it can’t really be immediately compared to any other band (that I can think of one so far at least), is something that I really appreciate. The world is way too flooded with bands that sound exactly the same. It was one of the main issues I had when we got started with this band, I didn’t want it to sound like another Epica or Tristania or whatever ‘female fronted’ metal band you have out there. I’m happy to say that I think we succeded! To me, the reactions to the album so far is pretty much from friends, and the only review that I have seen so far was written by yourself, and you gave us a 90/100, so I would say that makes the reactions pretty positive so far!
Actually, I think the main problem is that it’s hard to categorize ‘Carving An Icon’. In the review I picture a mix of both bands that made the musicians in the line-up famous (Trail of Tears yet way more agressive) and Limbonic Art (yet more symphonic), but also with ideas of other opposites, like Slayer, Emperor and Lacuna Coil. Hard for fans to come up with a comparison… Are there any bands out there at the moment that you think are relatable to Viper Solfa?
No, like you say, Viper Solfa isn’t to be labeled easily. Not that I have spent much time actually trying to find some band that sounds like us, at least no one jumps up as an immediate candidate, but I think that’s somewhat a testament that we are making: something that isn’t your average run of the mill crap. It could of course be that there are several bands that sound exactly like us, but I just don’t feel like telling...
The line-up is Norwegian, the producing team – though you used a studio in Marseille – was Norwegian, yet the sound of the band is hard to pinpoint to a specific region. Is that a result of the enormous history of the individual band members that it came naturally, or something the band tried to put down while recording ‘Carving An Icon’ just to avoid that you could be labelled easier?
It isn’t completely clear in the press release, but I would like to add that in addition to Sound Suite and Strand Studio, major parts of the album was recorded in Transient Lab (my personal little evil lair) where we did the guitars (though re-amped in Strand Studio), bass, and all the orchestrations, and some of Ronny’s vocals, as well as Miriam’s vocals that were recorded in Spacemachine Studio. We used the studios that came natural to us, they are all studios that we as individuals are used to work in, and being a debuting artist our funding is limited. So it’s natural to use the resources at hand. If we had unlimited time and funds, we’d for sure record somewhere else and just shell out, but, next time!! :P
About the sound: at least for my part I never try to sound like anything but good sound. Sound is a very curious thing, what is good, what is not, what sounds like this or that... I’ve never recorded anything with the intent to sound like something that is already out on the market. I’ve always been focusing on recording when I have a sound that I think sounds good! I think all of us have gone into the project with that in mind, make it sound good!
As mentioned, the material for Viper Solfa, especially the early material I got to hear at bassist Endre and you, was originallty intended for your previous live band Mayhem (not quite unknown around). Can you give us an idea of how much of the ‘Carving An Icon’ album is basically based upon the ideas you had already worked out at the start of the band?
Well, I won’t go into percentages, but a significant part of the material was suggested to Mayhem back in the day. They said they liked it, but in the end they never worked with it, and I believe they didn’t really understand the way I wrote the material. In the past I have generally written finished music, full songs, arrangements etcetera, and I thought that with a band like Mayhem I had a good chance to work differently and suggest ideas and work out the kinks in the rehearsal room. As it has become very apparent from the new album, Teloch is the sole writer of the material, and Mayhem just wanted finished songs and arrangements and weren’t interested in working as a band at all. I’m extremely happy that things turned out the way they did though, I think the material has come much more to its own right now, we have worked on the material and arranged it as I first intended that it should be, and it has worked out far better than I ever anticipated.
The songs combine a lot of aggression and epic, one more agressive and the other more epic melodic. One song that differs a bit is ‘Funeral Of Kings’, very progressive and with “egyptian’ chords matching the title of the song. What came first for this song, the music or the lyrics?
The material is quite varied I believe. I’ve never been one to just stick to one style or one static way of writing. Yes, I know that I have my signature ways of doing stuff, but I really enjoy so many forms of music and I guess that’s reflected in the way I write. ‘Funeral of Kings’ is a song that was a bit different as you say, I wanted to write something that was a bit out of my comfort zone, and I’m really happy with the way it came out. It hasn’t ever crossed my mind that it has ‘Egyptian’ chords, but I guess I can somewhat agree.
I really don’t ever write music to lyrics. I have about 85 registered songs written, and out of those there’s ONE that was written to lyrics. That’s just the way I work: the music comes first. I do believe that with Viper Solfa, the vocalists prefer to work to music when they write as well. We might re-arrange stuff to make it suit lyrical and vocal needs to. I think that’s one of the things that is really cool when you are working with pre-productions, you get the stuff and can start throwing ideas around. Always the most fun part of the writing process.
For you, it is pretty much the first time you have to work with a female singer in your history as song writer. Is it a big difference in your working operandus or doesn’t it actually differ that much than what you were used to, for Limbonic Art, Dimension F3H or other songs you wrote before?
For me it really doesn’t matter at all. I see voice as an instrument just like any other, and as long as it fits and lifts the music, I’m good with it. I might have small ideas and thoughts here and there, but for the most part I just leave the vocals and lyrics to the vocalists, and they are both VERY capable of doing their jobs. Sometimes I might have some input on small details and stuff, but I try to stay out of it as much as I can.
I dunno why, but for me, I don’t really pay attention to the words that are sung in songs, but the way the words are sung. I guess that’s why I always screw up the lyrics when I’m doing cover songs.. :P
When you guys were over in Eindhoven last October, for the live debut at the Metal Female Voices Fest, you spoke that the main kick out of the album was the creative process involved in ‘Carving An Icon’. Can you explain some of that kick to our readers, especially the non-musicians?
Well, it’s always really cool when your creative forces start working and ideas flow on their own. It’s very hard to explain, but I guess it’s kinda like a TV series, once you get going you really don’t want to stop until you are done with it. That’s the way it feels to me at least. When I start writing and I feel that I get into something good, the hours just fly by and a lot of music can be produced in a fairly short time. Then it’s more a matter of tweaking and working on the details etc. With this album we were all involved in the process as well, and the songs changed a lot over the course of time. I loved this, and hearing the songs change to the better, it’s always a major kick!
What are to you the highlights of ‘Carving An Icon’, be it in specific songs or special passages on the album?
This is really hard to answer, there are a lot of stuff regarding this album that I really like. From the collaboration with the other musicians, to songs like for example ‘Deranged’ who has some of the most intense riffing I have ever written. Every now and then it happens that you have a really awesome idea, but you just can’t progress with it. ‘Shahanshah’ was like that for me. I had one part of the song, and it was killer, but it stayed like a two riff idea for several years, and I tried many different constellations that turned to crap. Finally at some point in the process the right idea just clicked in, and the song got finished in a manner of a weekends work! That’s the stuff that I really love (except for the frustration when the right idea doesn’t present itself of course)!
During the debut show in Belgium in October Viper Solfa had Jostein Thomassen as second guitarist live on stage, a man you have worked with in the past. I think Jostein did extremely well live and from what I could see, also blended in very naturally as a part of the crew. Is he the steady second guitarist or the preferred second guitarist of Viper Solfa?
Actually the first time I toured with Jostein was back in -99 when he was playing session guitars for Peccatum at the No Mercy Festival. I believe we made a good choice when selecting him as our second guitarist, and as you say, he fits the band perfectly, both mentally, visually, and last but not least musically.
He is our steady session guitarist for the time being, what happens in the future shall be for the future to tell.
I experienced that the band got a great response on the Metale Female Voices Fest: the t-shirts sales went very well, and the guy in charge of the merchandise told me that if only you had brought along CD’s, the revenues might have been a lot higher. Was it hard that you knew you had to wait until February 2015 until you could come up with a debut?
I wouldn’t say so. In my opinion it’s far more important to deliver a good product than to release something suffering under the lack of time. Of course it would be ideal for us to have some cd’s to pop out on the Belgian market, but it’s not a big deal. Hopefully the crowd will remember us, and when they see the album will think that ‘hey, that’s an album I gotta pick up’!
Viper Solfa is a new band, but the musicians all have earned a reputation because of their history before this band. Do these expecations influence you in any way?
No, to be honest, I couldn’t give a rats ass about what people think when I’m composing and writing stuff. I think that goes for everyone else in the band as well. Now, if there would be places where I’m thinking about an audience when writing it’s more like ‘people are gonna dig this shit’ cause I’m sitting there listening to a riff and banging my head myself! I don’t ever think in the lines of ‘I should write like this because perhaps that would get some of Ronny’s fans to like it’ or stuff like that, it just doesn’t work that way. I guess in a way I’m just fighting my own mind when I’m composing stuff and battle to find the good among all the crap, and that leaves no time to worry about other people’s expectations, they are FAR lower than my own expectations anyway.. :P
The band is not too much into extensive live tours, but I see Karmøygeddon festival April 30th coming up, one of the cosiest festivals in Europe from what I heard. Any work on the typical European summer festivals in progress? Just in case Graspop is an option, it is not that far from Eindhoven and I still have the big grill…
There will be more live shows, for sure. The main thing is that, even though we are a bunch of fairly well known musicians, we are a brand new band, with three songs out in public! It’s not the easiest to sell to a festival booker who doesn’t know us very well and say “hey, we have a new band that you can’t listen to, wanna book us as headliners??” It is just a matter of time before that part of the bands engine kicks off and we’re gonna be blasting metal from the stages worldwide!!
Seems like after some years of silence Mr. Morfeus is back to kick ass in every possible way…
Oh, most definitely!!