It seems that, unlikely as it may sound, there actually is a market for Trve Norwegian Balkan Metal! You guys seem to become bigger with every album you release. Is this a positive surprise for you, or simply the fruits of an elaborate master plan to take over the world?
Of course it is positive for us to become bigger and more popular for each record! We love our fans, and we want more! Is it unlikely? No, I don't think so. Because you can't just deny the love we have for our music and the joy we feel when performing our music. We are true entrepreneurs when it comes to making extreme music that makes people smile! And everybody deserves happiness! Trve Norwegian Balkan Metal is definitely here to stay!
The new album, 'Helluva' seems to be a bit more aggressive than its predecessor. What happened there?
Yes, I agree! It was definitely not a conscious decision to make a much more aggressive album, we just wanted to make the best songs as possible at the time. But if I remember correctly, TrollBank was first of the starting line with his songs, and many of them were sort of ‘half-aggressive’, if you know what I mean. So, from then the idea was that we could balance out his songs with some really hard-core blast beat mayhem. And when I say ‘half-aggressive’ I mean that TrollBank had left out the blast beats. His songs turned out to be very thrashy, in terms of the drum beat, so Mr. Seidel and myself were able to fill in that void to create a balance, if you will. And when we wrote Kaptein Kaos, we were much more in a place where we wanted to make catchier material. Less of the frantic and more of the melodic stuff. But, like I said, mainly we just wanted to make the best songs possible this time around, without too much philosophizing.
At the same time, there is loads of stuff going on on this album. For instance, you invited a string quartet. Can you tell us a bit more about this, and perhaps also about what exotic (at least to metal standards) instrumentation you used this time around?
There is no string quartet on this new record. But you might be referring to the instruments we usually use, like bouzouki, acoustic guitar, accordion and saxophone? Or! Could it possibly be that you are talking about the brass section we acquired this time? We hired the Damnation Army (also known as Oslofjord Brass) for this extension of kaos! They expanded our musical universe with delightful tones produced by trumpet, tuba, cornet, hornet, trombone, blowhorn, windhammer and bellowsnoot! In addition to that we incorporated a lot of synth, courtesy of our newest member, Fjernkontrollet. And Bok'n Brusetruse joined on vocals, tambourine and some perfect percussion (Trollmannen also always adds some percussion to the madness). Is that exotic enough for ya?!
Anyway, how did this fascination for Balkan music actually came to be? As much as I appreciate its different time signatures, it's still not something I would expect to be very common in Norway.
Balkan music is kaotic. To us at least. In our ears, true Balkan music is upbeat, frantic and a bit insane. That particular culture is so different to what we have in Scandinavia, and being the untypically Norwegian freaks that we are, this attracted us deeply. What if we could combine that wild Balkan groove with extreme metal?! Well, I guess that question is answered by now! Balkan and metal is a combination that had not been tried before we did (to my knowledge). And new stuff usually attracts attention!
There is a song on the album that is quite different from the rest. It's called 'Sputnik', it sounds rather traditional and the vocals are completely different. What can you tell me about that particular tune?
This tune (СПУТИК) was written by Lodd Bolt and his friend Anders in a completely unrelated fashion to Trollfest. They got together, had a few drinks and started composing a song that incidentally turned out to have this Russian vibe over it, with a Jenka beat and everything. They made a demo on which Bolt laid down some really gritty, yet sweet vocals. This demo was shown to the rest of Trollfest and we basically said that we have to steal this song! Not only because of the great lead melody, but also because Bolt was showing a very different side of himself through this type of singing! We had to take advantage of utilizing this vocal extension for Trollfest.
How do you write and record an album like 'Helluva'? It seems less straightforward than just a regular metal band with four dudes.
Personally, I tend to write for my own enjoyment. Firstly, I have to dig the song, and then I can present it to the others. The rest is a very democratic process, and for both Helluva and Kaptein Kaos we voted. And the songs that got the most votes stayed. I wrote about ten songs, and two of them got voted up. All in all, I think we had 50 songs to choose from this time! I think the others guys also work hard to enjoy their own material too, before they present it to the band. Actually, I think it's a very straight forward process. The idea and the plan for constructing and album is simple enough, but what is sometimes a struggle is the timeframe and most definitely the importance of being in a playful, free and stress-less creative mindspace. That is something that has to come naturally.
There are quite a few guest musicians on this album. You seem to be particularly proud of the fact that Karin Krog contributed. She is not very well known here, so maybe you want to tell me a bit more about her and this collaboration?
Karin Krog is the Great Grand Lady of Jazz, the Voice of Bliss! The Queen of the Chorus! She is somewhat of a legendary character in the Norwegian jazz scene, as her career stretches over at least 6 decades! We wanted a really classy, soft, adlibbing jazz voice for a few sections of the song ‘La Grande Finale’ and we threw a few names around. Some of the names inspired total awe, and were sort of out of bounds. (‘No one of these women would even touch a Trollfest album!’) But then we figured that all we had to do was ask politely, and the worst that could happen is that we got turned down. Asking one at a time, and we started with Mrs. Krog, she accepted our offer! Trollbank and I had the pleasure of picking her up at her house, and we were amazed to be conversing with this extremely experienced musician. You will not believe that she is almost 80 years old. A truly funny and totally respectable human being! Working with her in the studio also went as smooth as silk, and we could not be happier with what she put on our record! Other than her we also had Miriam ‘Sphinx’ Renvaag on guest vocals, Bok'n Brusetruse, who I mentioned earlier, Torgrim from Dunderbeist on guest vocals, Tanthe Pathe (who also joins us live occationally) on violin and Berta the Chicken on guest vocals.
Obviously, the lyrics are of great importance to Trollfest. The bio speaks of a great deal of new characters. What can you tell me about what is going on on this album?
The main character this time around is Professor Otto! He has been ordered by Karve (an old troll you will encounter on albums like ‘Kvest’ and ‘Brumlebassen’) to create an army of trolls. Basically, he wants to clone Jegermeister, who is the baddest and most violent, gun crazy troll in the village! But who shall Jegermeister mate with?! Oh, that would be Helluva, the mother of all trolls! She dwells deep inside the earth, so they have to go downwards. Can you dig it? That's why Camouflage Claire and Steel Sarah join the team, since they are the Sisters of Spelunking! Along the way the run into many terrible foes, including snakes, bugs, giant fish and a huge, sadistic and murderous hen! They reach Helluva's lair and Jegermeister gets to the mating! He jumps and Helluva's back and absorbs into her skin. He is now one with the troll mother, and all that is left of him are his balls. They feed Helluva with sperm whenever she is ready to spawn. Out pour the tiny Jegermeister/Helluva offspring and the rest of the crew spend some time collecting all of them. Once they have enough for an army, they head back. This story is of course described in much more detail in the booklet of the cd and the vinyl edition, they can be purchased here.
What are the plans for the near future? Any tours coming up? Of course it would be nice to know if there are any plans to visit The Netherlands, for instance.
The following festivals are confirmed: Santa Maria Summer Festival in Portugal, Skaldenfest and Barther Metal Open Air in Germany and Masters Of Rock in Czech Republic. Other than that we are working on a tour of Norway and also there is talk, but only talk still about more touring, either in Europe or the US. We have no other dates confirmed as of right now, sadly.
Thanks for the interview. Any famous last words?
Take care, little baby trolls! And remember to be a little less picky about who you screw, because it always feels the same in the dark.