Wednesday, October 9, 2013

... Interview with Andreas & Merethe of HIGH PRIEST OF SATURN

I certainly don't know all, but one must admit that bands into Stoner/Doom coming out from Norway are pretty rare and Merethe may not agree on this  - but in any cases, Trondheim's HIGH PRIEST OF SATURN is in my opinion actually their most interesting and easily one of the best european newcomers of the decade so far. Their selftitled debut album - released early this year by Svart rds- is a little jewel of heavy, psychedelic and mesmerizing stuff. Full of slow-pounding riffs, acid soloing, prominent vintage organ sounds and majestic ethereal vocals, it shows a perfect equation of classic influences like Sleep and Acid King - tightly blended with psychedelic rock in an amazingly ominous way !!!
Very impressed by this album and their catchy performance last May at the Heavy Days in Doomtown, I intented to make this interview for quite some time, also because I think people's reception to this band is too discreet regarding their talent... finally here it is and humbly, I'd be happy if it can help a bit more to spread the word on them ! thanx to Merethe for being so interesting and quick to answer - 

The album contains 2 songs that were on the demo and two new ones,  was that a logical balance you quickly agreed on for this debut album ? Did you have much choice within your repertory of the moment ?
It was  logical because we thought the demo songs were good songs, so we wanted them to be released on a proper album. The album will end up being heard by a lot more people than the demo which is just that, a demo, so it seemed a shame to leave them out. As for choice of repertoire, we simply wrote two more songs and concluded that we had enough material for a single vinyl which is what we wanted, so nothing was scrapped.

Of course your music is valued on the album by a much better production  but the band’s identity seems to have matured in a more personal way during the one year and a half that followed the demo… how do you feel  the band has concretely developed between the demo and the album ?
Being able to rehearse with such a fantastic keyboard player and rehearsing more in general has made the music a bit more organic, although most of the development has actually taken place between the recording of the album and now. Also, since Merethe now plays the bass instead of the guitar there is that change as well, different bass player, different guitar player,  and different keyboard player.

You signed on Svart rds, were they the only label that made a decent proposition to the band? Did you sign for more than the debut album ? Beyond their quality, reliability and quickness to release stuff, was that an advantage for them to be from a neighbour country or would have it been the same for you if they were coming from Taiwan or Montevideo ?!
We received some other offers around the same time, but Svart was definitely the best one in terms of quality releases, financial backing and giving us freedom to do whatever we want. We feel very lucky that Svart approached us, they’ve been really good to us. We could hardly wish for more. Finland is a bit different from Denmark and Sweden, because their langauge isn’t similar to ours, which means we can’t understand them at all, so it hasn’t really had an effect on our relationship.

The band’s name has a kind of mystical flavour perfectly reflecting the mesmerizing and trippy music but what about the lyrical aspect of HPoS ?
The lyrics are supposed to paint pictures and convey feelings in a non-literal way. Put shortly, the lyrics are concerned with life, the passing of time, and what it ultimately leads to, both in the perspective of the single human being, and in the perspective of the universe.

About organ, did the guy behind it become a full permanent member of the band ? Was it the same guy playing on the album and at HDDT  (with his grindcore T-shirt!) ?
That’s the same guy. He has as you noted an eclectic taste in music, which is fantastic. Our musical conversations flow freely between Autopsy and Ray Manzarek’s solo albums. Andreas actually got to know him when they played together in a short-lived death metal band called Morbus Crohn. We really want him as a full time member, but he is busy with his other two projects Flashback Caruso and Rancho Relaxo.

You played your 1st show abroad at the Heavy Days in Doomtown last May… did the experience turned out as you expected it ?
Playing (and staying!) at HDDT was a really good experience for us, in many different ways. While we had a lot of fun playing, the conditions weren’t optimal that particular night, and a few things did not go as well as expected, just enough things to make us wish we could get another shot. But of course, that’s  part of gaining  experience, and we learned a lot from it. We’re very happy that many seemed to like our concert and had a good experience seeing us..


I must admit that to start the festival with you and Huata in a row was simply memorable !!!  Resonaut playing the last day, you stayed there during the whole festival, what have been your most interesting moments within the 3 days which followed your set (inside the fest and in Copenhagen) ?
The most interesting thing was to witness the whole DIY-culture in Kill Town and just being part of that whole thing and seeing all the friendly people  helping out and making sure that things went smoothly. I know you asked about moments, but the general vibe was probably what we remember the best. And Martin drinking an entire bottle of Vodka that he bought at the gas station on saturday. Perhaps not that memorable for him, haha.

Could you speak about new songs please ? Is there anything already fixed for the 2nd album recording process ? How do the sound of HPoS evolute throughout the years ?
We have two new songs that have been written, except for vocals and some loose riffs and ideas for a couple more. On the last album we recorded the bass and the drums together, but this time we want to record the whole band live which means lots of rehearsing. The first album was written with two guitars in mind as we had two guitarists for a few months, but now we’ve kind of settled on having only one guitarist. It’s hard pinpoint how our sound evolves, but probably leaning more towards our 60s and 70s influences in terms of songwriting, and for the second album it will probably do so  production-wise as well.

Compared to Sweden and Finland, the Norwegian Doom scene seems a lot more confidential, how do you explain this and do you think an evolution can be expected ?
Norway in general has a music scene that isn’t widely acknowledged internationally, the reasons for which are debated here from time to time. We are Scandinavias smallest country in terms of population and I guess the smaller number of people makes for a smaller number of bands that really try to succeed commercially. We have great financial support systems for buying instruments and studio time, but making money off of music in Norway is next to impossible. We don’t really think there will be much change, we think the Norwegian doom scene will stay buried, you have to be a band like Kvelertak to succeed.

Is the status of musicians/artists satisfiying in Norway ? does independent culture in general and musical culture in particular get support and subventions from the government ?
We’re full time students, but Norway is very supportive of culture, we’ve gotten financial support for lots of things, like buying the Nord keyboard and the Rickenbacker. We’ve just applied for another one, hoping to get Andreas a new guitar and some drum equipment. The financial support is greatly appreciated, because making money is near impossible, we’ve been paying to be in a band for years and years.

HPoS may often be attached to all those occult retro- Heavy/doom bands featuring female vocals… are you Ok with that or kinda embarrassed or simply feeling unconcerned ?
Unconcerned is probably most fitting. We don’t feel like we’re part of that non-genre at all, especially since Merethe is the main song writer and we place less emphasis on the vocals. We don’t really mind either, people can think of us what they will, makes no difference.

Living in the north of Norway (Trondheim), you’ll be now quickly entering a pretty long period of almost constant obscurity … is that something that affect you and/or change drastically your way of living ? on the other hand, is the midnight sun something you deeply enjoy or nothing special ?
Trondheim isn’t far enough north to enjoy the midnight sun or having to endure total darkness, but daylight is scarce in the winter and plentiful in the summer. It’s hard to tell if it affects us, because this is how we’ve always lived. In some ways it makes us enjoy the sun a lot, but on the other hand we learn to cope with bad weather. We stay indoors alot.

You cover Pink Floyd’s “cymbaline” on stage, why this song in particular from the Floyd ? In which measure is this band’s influence reflecting in your music ?
Pink Floyd is perhaps our (Merethe and Andreas’) favourite band, and we really like the live versions they did of Cymbaline, it’s criminally overlooked and we just wanted more people to discover it. It represents a transitional phase for them between the more traditional psychedelia and the more epic songs they made later. Pink Floyd has been an influence from the start, especially Rick Wright perhaps. Andreas only has three influences in his solo guitar work, that is Gilmour, Iommi and Pike.

Naturally this isn’t a reproach at all and is just based on the impression I got after speaking a few minutes with you at HDDT, but-  Merethe-  you looked to me like being a pretty reserved character  and the band doesn’t really shine by a communicative image… can you comment this please ?
I guess it depends a lot on the context we’re in at the moment. Playing a concert is very exhausting both mentally and physically, and after a gig, normally one of two things happen: You get a bit quiet and contemplative, or you get totally psyched. I guess you caught us at the former. I (Merethe) remember speaking to you (I think), and I remember there being a language barrier as well, which also had a lot to do with the fact that there was a lot of noise in the room. I often have a hard time hearing people in crowded, noisy places. That being said, we are definitely not the most outgoing band in the world, you’re right about that. It’s just not in our nature, and I guess our music is quite introverted at times as well.

Could you remind us what  merchandise is actually available ?
LP is sold out from the label, but you can still find it in shops. The CD is still available, and a T-shirt with the demo cover art. T-shirt with album cover art is sold out and so is the demo.

Well, thanx a lot for taking the time to answer this ! add something if you want…
Check out Uzala’s new album “Tales of Blood and Fire “ and listen to Spectral Haze, Norway’s best band at the moment.

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