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Sahg

“Beter dan een pint bier”, schreef ik al in de bespreking van het debuut van een jonge Noorse band waar toch al wat muzikanten met ervaring inzitten. Sagh volgt het pad van Black Sabbath, Kyuss en Monster Magnet, maar heeft wel een frisse, persoonlijke 'touch' gegeven aan deze bekende ingrediënten. Net zoals die pint bier: het smaakt vertrouwd, maar het is lekker. We waren nieuwsgierig naar wat meer uitleg en trokken gitarist Thomas Tofthagen aan de mouw.

Door: Vera | Archiveer onder doom metal

These must be exciting times for you: your début album is about to release one of these days. A positive tension?
Yes it is very good vibes in the Sahg camp these days. We just released our debut album one week ago and we entered the official Norwegian charts at the 31st place this week. The response so far has been overwhelming, from both fans and critics. Things just seem to fall into place with this band.

On the 13th of April you played at the Inferno Metal festival in Oslo. Can you tell a bit more about this gig?
We headlined the small stage on the first day of Inferno festival. I could not actually play the gig because I'd fractured my hand, so we had to ask Arve from Enslaved to step in. He did a tremendous job and the gig went great. It was definitely a big kick to watch the band play live and hopefully something I won't experience again in the near future (laughs).

Sahg… a strange name. Why did you choose this name and what does it stand for?
It started out as a joke. We were having too many beers one late evening, and started fooling around with the concept for the band. We soon found out that we all had a fascination for chainsaws and saws in general. Sahg could have been referring to this deadly tool, but the letter h turned us into a turnip.

The band emanates from bands like Gorgoroth, Manngard and Audrey Horne. Why did you decide to found a new band and can you tell us about these days of the beginning?
Sahg is a result of long-time companionship. The members knew each other years before forming the band and have played together in different bands up through the years. That way we've shared a lot of the same influences and come from a lot of the same musical background. So I guess you could say that even though Sahg as a band has only existed for two short years, it's been around in our minds for a lot longer. When the first few right-sounding songs one day were suddenly there, we knew it was time to put the idea into action, and so we formed Sahg.

Is Sagh a kind of side project then or a new main band?
Sahg is most definitely a band. And that is the attitude of all four members. Sahg is as much a priority to us as our other bands and I think that is a necessity for the band to function 100%.

A lot of excellent music is coming from Norway, but I think you are the first doom metal band I hear from your country. Is there not much of a doom scene?
The doom scene isn't very big here in Norway, but I think it's growing. You have a couple of really good doom/stoner bands here in Bergen that you probably will hear more about in the near future. The bands that originate from here tend to spring up with true originality and character and also put their honour in expressing themselves with technical excellence. Very few simple-minded wanna-be's trying to copy someone else's sound.

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But somewhere the love for doom metal must have been prominent in your genes. What are your main influences?
Seventies music is what we all grew up with and which inspired us to start playing music. So this was the sound that came out when we started writing songs. Black Sabbath I guess is one of our main common sources of inspiration. In one way or the other, every metal band in the world is influenced by Sabbath, but I think we have taken the influence in our own direction. Also a lot of other seventies doom-related bands have been of great inspiration, such as Led Zeppelin, Kiss and Pentagram. Some of the "newer" stoner/doom bands also need to be mentioned, such as Kyuss and Cathedral. But we find inspiration in all kinds of music and that's what makes Sahg stick out of the big mass and makes it interesting.

It is a début album, which means that for Sahg, the recording process must have been a new adventure. Can you tell a bit more about that?
Going into the studio and hear the songs come together was a really big kick. It was a big learning process for us, because we produced it ourselves (in co-operation Brynjulv Guddal) and none of us had done that before to this extent. We really wanted to experiment with sounds and effects and when we finally learned how the equipment functioned, it was a lot easier to get an idea across compared to trying to explain it to someone else. Usually nobody understands what the hell we talk about anyway (laughs).

In between you kept on playing live gigs. Was that a positive experience to remain fresh at the same time?
Yes it was. Because we recorded the album in two periods, we had the opportunity to write as well as play the material live before recording it. This really helped us achieve the freshness and spontaneity we were going for. We wanted it to sound as live and vibrant as possible and have a raw and dark feel to it. And I think we have captured that pretty well.

Did you enter the studio well prepared or was there time for last minute jams? Where was the album recorded and did you use an extern producer?
We entered Earshot Studio in Bergen (Norway) just a couple of weeks after we started the band, so we weren't prepared at all (laughs). But I think that was one of the key elements why it worked out so good. Within the band, we pretty much had a common idea of what we wanted the album to sound like in the first place and we are very pleased with the way it has turned out. Our producer, Brynjulv Guddal, also played an important part in making it sound right. We're totally on the same level mentally and musically, so we fed off each other. You could say he's like the fifth member of Sahg.

One of my favourite tracks on the album is 'Godless Faith'. Can you tell a bit more about that track?
This was actually one of the first songs I wrote for Sahg. When I came up with the twin guitar riff in the beginning, the feel of the song pretty much gave itself. I had the chorus laying around for another idea and I just stuck them together. Olav came up and wrote the lyrics and there you have it. I think it's one of the best songs on the record.

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And naturally I am very glad that you have chosen it as a single. An idea from you or the label?
We all agreed on that song quite early on. The only problem was that we had to edit it from 6.5 min to 4 min for the video. But I think it worked out great. We're really happy with the video as well.

Can you go a bit deeper into the 'making of' of the video clip for 'Godless Faith'?
It was directed by Tommy Naess, who had worked with us shooting press photos early on. We wanted to make a dark video to really compliment the track. We also wanted it to look old but at the same time up to date, so it was shot on eight mm film to get that old atmosphere that we all like. We also wanted the tempo to match the song with long shots like they did in the old days. The video itself switches between the band playing and different characters who act out some of the contents in the lyrics. We didn't want everything to be too close to the lyric. We mainly concentrated on getting the atmosphere right and making something different than what we usually see in videos today.

You are signed by the famous Regain Records label. How did you get in contact with them?
King already knew the Regain guys after signing with Gorgoroth. So we sent them a demo and they called us back the same day and seemed very excited about it. It was meant to be.

I hear a decent amount of keyboards on the record. (more precisely mellotron, or not?) Who played these keys and what do you do in a live situation?
That's right, there are quite a few keyboards, organ, piano and mellotron parts on the album. We're not going to have a keyboard player with us live at this point. But we'll see what happens in the future. Our producer Brynjulv Guddal is playing keys on the album, so if he forces us to bring him along on tour we might have to take him with us (laughs).

Your music has also a psychedelic flavour, it will appeal to stoner rock fans too. Any affinity with the seventies?
As I mentioned earlier, seventies music is our main common source of inspiration. Black Sabbath, Thin Lizzy, Kiss, Rainbow are big influences, but we also like more progressive/psychedelica type of bands like early Pink Floyd, King Crimson and Rush. It really comes down to what we are listening to at that particular moment. When inspiration hits us, we are off and we don't waste time thinking about where it came from. We try to make that idea as good as possible, and try to give it as much personality as we can. Hopefully it will fit the Sahg concept, if not we'll move on to the next idea.

Regarding the artwork… what kind of artwork suits Sagh?
Olav and me did the artwork for the album ourselves. We wanted it to be old-school but at the same time psychedelic and I think we accomplished that. Olav designed the logo and that gave us the direction for the cover. I'm very pleased with how it turned out. I'm looking forward to the vinyl edition. It will be a double fold-out vinyl with a poster, just like they made them in the seventies.

Looking for information I discovered that the website still has to be made. Are there any plans for that?
The website will be up and running in the next couple of days www.sahgweb.com

Who from the band is still active in other bands/projects and this is the moment to tell anything about these…
We all play in different bands besides Sahg and I think this is a healthy quality. You then have the possibility to express different musical sides in different bands. This way we can concentrate on making Sahg music when we're working with Sahg. Concerning the individual members, our main projects at the moment are: Olav: Sahg and Manngard; King: Sahg, Gorgoroth, Audrey Horne; and myself (Thomas): Sahg, Audrey Horne, Paul Di'Anno (ex-Iron Maiden). Olav, King and myself also play in a seventies and eighties classic heavy metal cover band called Hell Patrol which has been around for many, many years. This was actually the first band in which we all played together.

Are there plans for touring, maybe even abroad?
We are doing a lot of festivals in Norway throughout the summer. We are also working on booking European and international dates right now. We have got a few balls in the air, but still nothing is confirmed. We are working on a big tour of North-America, supporting for a legendary metal band. We would definitely also like to do a European tour to promote our album. For more information check out our website, www.sahgweb.com

What are the plans for 2006?
Just to play as many concerts as possible and to promote the album the best we can. We'll be working on new material for the next Sahg album, and hopefully go into the studio in December.

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