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Communic. We hebben ze een hele tijd moeten missen, zes jaar om precies te zijn toen voorganger ’The Bottom Deep’ uitkwam. Niet dat de klad erin kwam – het trio bleef in dezelfde bezetting sinds 2003 – maar gezinsuitbreiding bij verschillende leden maakte dat de muziek even naar het achterplan verschoven werd. Voor ‘Where Echoes Gather’ werd het dus een zware bevalling. Des te meer zijn we tevreden met het resultaat: thrash, power en progressieve metal verenigen zich op een sterk en integer comebackalbum! We praatten met de bijzonder vriendelijke familieman Oddleif Stensland (zang, gitaar, componist) die nochtans nooit overwogen heeft om zijn gitaar aan de wilgen te hangen.

Door: Vera | Archiveer onder different metal

First of all, congratulations with the new album ‘Where Echoes Gather’! I like it a lot!
Thank you, that’s good to hear. The promo has just been sent out, so I am just starting to do interviews, but so far the reactions seem to be great. You have to see and wait when you have been out of the running for a while…

Indeed, it has been six years since the former album ‘The Bottom Deep’ came out. What happened?
It is a long story. Back in 2011, after that album we did some touring in Europe. We did a great tour with Rage and we started to work on new music pretty much right away. It was not planned to spend six years working on it (chuckles). I had ideas for songs that I wanted to put on the album, but then I found out that I was becoming father again, so I was telling the guys that it would not make sense to release a new album then, because I would not have the time to support it. I would probably have to stay home a little more and be a family person. And I still have three other children, so I said to the guys that we had to slow down, since I am the main person for the song-writing. Not stopping, but delay the release. In that slow time I started to work on some songs, different material that I worked out and finally I got an album together. Actually I scrapped many of the new material and started to work on some older ideas that I had laying around. Some of the things were fifteen or twenty years old. These were ideas I had created very early in my guitar playing. I always felt that I never gave the material the attention that it actually should have had. Back in the days, it was me and Erik (Mortenssen – bass – Vera) and a different drummer. It was a different name, but we had some early recordings of these songs and at least I had the foundation. Now, when I had a new baby at home, I felt that I had all the time in the world to give them a second chance. That was what we finally did: we got back into some older ideas, but you would probably not recognize them, because the songs got new lyrics and arrangements and stuff like that. In 2014 we recorded the drums. So already then, we were planning to release this album ‘Where Echoes Gather’. That was the plan back then. When we were in the studio, drummer Tor Atle Andersen told us that he was going to have a baby. He ended up getting twins. Of course we do the band not 100% full time, we do it beside our daytime jobs, of course we take family priorities first. At that moment we already waited four years or more, so we could wait a little bit more. So we recorded the drums and decided to wait because we could not support it. When we release an album, we want to go out and play festivals and tours. As long as we don’t have time for that, we do not release anything. I spent a lot of time, working on the guitars. I did not have any deadlines. No time pressure. When I put the kids to sleep, I worked few hours on music, but if I did not feel the energy, I could just wait. I have a studio at home where we recorded the bass, the vocals and the guitars. It is easy to work and you can do that when you feel the inspiration without time limits.

In the end it means that you had to switch from Nuclear Blast to AFM Records…
Of course Nuclear Blast was waiting to have a new album for them, but they understood that we were in this period of life that we needed to do this first. At the end of 2015 we were finally ready to make some real plans to release and support a new album and we started to talk with Nuclear Blast, because we had one album left on the contract. They actually said that they had to let us go. We totally understand their point of view from the business side of course. They are looking for bands that make records and go on tour and we take our time without deadlines… They hope for a release every two years, while we want to do it our way… at least at our tempo. Of course it is not ideal to wait six years and I understand their point of view that they have to start marketing the band all over again. Because after the first three or four albums that we did, everybody knew who we are I guess. We played the biggest festivals, did tours… but now after six years, we have to kind of regroup and start all over again. Some people have forgotten us, some have thought we stopped the band, we have not been in the picture for years… So I understand it, it was like a mutual split. I don’t have any regrets and Nuclear Blast has amazing people and they did a great job for us for the time we were there. But well, then we were without contract and we considered releasing it on our own, because the album was more or less done. I only had to record the vocals, that was the only thing missing on the album. I did not record the vocals earlier, because I like to have some kind of pressure on me When I have a deadline I think it is better to work with the final actions. So we talked a lot about the sense of having a record label in 2017. Shall we do it on our own or go label shopping? And we decided just to check out some contacts that we had and I talked to the guys of AFM Records. We knew the label and started to negotiate a little bit about what we can do and they listened to the songs and they loved the ideas and the music. In the beginning of 2017 we signed this contract with AFM Records and that kind of gave us a kick in the ass to proceed and get this stuff ready. They had a great plan for how they could marketing it. They loved the band from before. They were really enthusiastic about where we were going. They really wanted to work with us and that gave positive energy to the band. When we signed the contract, I had a date to deliver the master and do the vocals. So the ball started rolling really fast. We arranged the artwork with Eliran Kantor and we made a video for ‘The Magnetic Center’ which will come out around the time when the album comes out. It has been a long time and a long period of downtime, but we never broke up. We have been active all the time, we have been playing together and we have done concerts, mostly in Norway. I think people might think that we almost broke up, but we were here all the time, doing our music in the background due to circumstances.

That is something we should put straight, you never stopped with Communic…
For us it is important and especially me, I like to be at home – especially in the early years of a child – to be present as a parent. It is a lot of work. It changes your life and that comes first. Of course we love to work with this music and this band. We have never followed any trends when it comes to the music that we make, so we kind of do our own stuff. We could have done it faster, we could have changed members in the band or whatever, but we are such a tight unit now. We have been together since day one. Same trio since 2003 and we are pretty proud of it. That also means that we have deep respect for each other. If any of the guys need some time off, we don’t replace him, but say: okay, take the time you need. We have plenty of stuff to do too, don’t worry, that has been our main priority: to respect each other and have room to do other stuff and be with the family.

I think when you finally go on tour, it remains something special then, an adventure…
We don’t rely on the music to pay our bills. So when we go on tour, we lose money, because we don’t go to work at home. We need to take time off from our daytime work and then go on tour. Save up holidays for the festivals and so on. For us it is more like a road trip and we love it. We love to play live and we love to meet fans and people, but it is always good to come home again after two or three weeks on the road as well.

I have the same feeling when going on holidays. Always nice, but fun to come home again…
Same goes here. You miss the things and the safety of being home. That is the same kind of feeling on tour.

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Several songs have two parts. Is there a kind of concept or main theme in the lyrics?
It is not a concept album, but the songs are a kind of small concept on their own. Those songs that are split, are kind of connected of course. But I think there is like a guideline all the way through the lyrics. It can deal with totally different things, but if you read between the lines, it is all connected to how we, as humans, try to find our place on earth. How we use and misuse the earth. It is me about me, asking questions about what are we doing here? There is so much crap going on and there is a lot of hatred. I think many of the lyrics are dealing with our human kind and how the nature works. How we are connected. That goes back to our forefathers and the people that were here way before us; they were kind of connected to the earth. In some way to the stars, to the moon and to everything. Now in the modern days, everything is connected to new stuff, like electricity and the internet. It is dealing with this ancient thing, going back to the modern thing and how everything is connected. Because if you shut down the internet today, I think the world would be in trouble or panic.

Same goes for electricity…
I also think so. I think the artwork is giving a hint to that too. You see this giant man on top of the planet, planting the flag. At the same time he is conquering a new world by putting the flag on the highest mountain, he is also cracking the planet on the other side and all the resources are kind of craved out off the ground. We overuse, we consume, without looking around what’s going on, on the other side. It is kind of difficult, but I have all these questions and thoughts about what we are doing here… I don’t have any answers (laughs). But I have a lot of questions about how we abuse things and how we can be as cruel as we are, because we are a nasty kind. We are kind of ruining everything. There are also other songs on the album, like the song ‘Black Flag Of Hate’. That is about terrorism.

I instantly thought about IS…
Yeah, you could think about that, but it goes beyond. It is not written for something specific, it is more like a religion kind of question to those who are forcing their ideologies to others. They don’t want other people to be happy, they want to be dominant and kill the ones who are not following them or make them suffer. I don’t like that! I am not an anti-religion person, but don’t force other people to believe what you think. They should be open-minded and peaceful, but they aren’t. I think there’s over four thousand religions in this world today and I don’t think someone has the right answers. The way how some of the humans force stuff onto others, I don’t like that.

Yes and there have been wars because of religion since ancient times…
That is so true. Norway is now a Christian country, but it should not have been Christian if they were not killed when not switching to Christianity. They killed everyone who did not believe. Before people were more spiritual, something about taking something and giving something, living to the rules of the earth so to speak. Now it comes down to the fact that money is ruling everything. It is pretty deep stuff, but that is where my mind is at the moment. Also the question: what is true from the news? If they are paid enough, they will write anything. Well, heavy stuff again, but you will recognize and understand some things when you have the lyrics. However, normally what I am trying to say is not in the lines, but between the lines. Remember that. That’s why people sometimes find a different meaning in a lyric, far away from my original source of inspiration. And that is fine. People should relate to it in their own way.

Music and lyrics should always be a kind of catharsis, I think…
Yeah, sometimes when I am feeling bad about something, it is good to let it out in lyrics or in aggressive music. It is a good way of getting some stuff out of your system I think.

You entered a different studio in your hometown to record some bonus material…
There is an acoustic version of the song ‘Waves Of Visual Decay’, the title track of our second album. In 2015 we had a ten years anniversary show, here in our hometown. On that show, we did something that we never did before. We had some friends, a choir and different guests, but on this particular song, it was only Erik and me playing acoustic. We played this song live in front of the audience. We had never done that before and we will probably never do it again, but the result was pretty cool and I had it on my computer since 2015. I was thinking this song could be a nice bonus, because this is something pretty different from what we normally do. I think it is a great way of showing that song in a different context. We also recorded two other songs as bonus material. We went into a studio, Knutt Studios, here in Norway and we wanted to record few songs live in the studio. There were a few songs we had in mind that we wanted to give a try. One of them is ‘At Dewy Prime’, also a song from the second album, and ‘Watching It All Disappear’. We wanted to kind of show how we sound live in the studio without any overdubs or mixing. We recorded what we played and it is a different way of the same old songs. They are totally different in this kind of environment. I am not a huge fan of doing cover versions – although we have done that before – but I think it is more interesting to get some version of a song that you haven’t heard before. Different stuff from us instead of different stuff from others. It is a bonus and it is for those who want to check it out. I think it turned out pretty cool, I like it.

As you told me that you firstly wrote other new material… what did you do with it? Did you throw it away or are you going to use it in the future?
I am going to use it. Most of the stuff that I actually write, goes into my computer and it is also staying there some years before I actually use it, because I write every day almost. It goes into my archives. Right now I have ideas for the next album and I am kind of looking into my stuff I have. I always have a frame of what I am going to talk about. Now I am looking into the stuff I collected last five or six years to see what will fit for the next album. I like to work that way, because then I have the time to process it, to develop it, to change it… When I put an idea on the computer and I listen to it after three months, then my mind is in a completely different place and that is inspiring. It brings new ideas to my mind. I have material for three or four albums in the working and I also have stuff that does not fit Communic. That will be for some other projects or solo stuff or something that I just put on YouTube. I don’t know, but there is a lot of stuff laying around, it is just us as a band having time to get it done. I am also building a new studio, like hundred meters away from the house where I am living. I have my studio in it right now, but when I am working here, there’s other people in the house and you always get distracted. So I will have a new studio and I can record more stuff without actually booking a studio and record the drums here. Hopefully within the year I will be done with it, so next year we can start recording most our own stuff there. That will also make it easier for us. But now, first of all we are ready to play live a bit more and next year be present at the festivals.

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