Wednesday 16 January 2013

20 Questions w/ Tombstones

Hello again, Aaron here with another great interview for you with Norway's down tuned Doom merchants, Tombstones.  Tombstones released one of the best doom albums of 2012, with Year of the Burial, which we reviewed during the latter part of last year.  They were also yet another undiscovered band for me, until I heard their 3rd record.  Having listened to the record, it subsequently received heavy rotation from me.

Anyway, I am slightly digressing.  I contacted Ole from the band and he was keen to give us his insight into the band, since their inception, their work with renowned producer/engineer, Billy Anderson and the low down on their current record and plans for the future.  This is another great interview.  So Enjoy!  More to come over the next days, weeks and months ahead.  Cheers. 

Hey Ole, How are you?  Thanks for talking to us and congratulations, on the release of your superb new record, Year of the Burial.  We recently reviewed it and we were gushing in our appraisal of it, it is outstanding.

Right back at you, mister! And a humble thank you for your compliments! Highly appreciated. We are doing mighty fine, thank you.

Q) Where are you guys at the moment and how active has the band been in terms of promoting the record?  

We are just about to getting into rehearsal-mode again, after a long festive season. We are almost finished writing our new record, and need to finalize the songs for recording in the spring. We played a few gigs the last months, and are looking forward to support Clutch here in Oslo, early february for a sold out venue. That will kick ass..

When comes to promoting the album, I think we’ve done as good as we can. We got a lot of media-attention in april-may 2012, and we toured central Europe in august/september. Of course it’s hard to reach as many as you want being an underground band, but hopefully more and more will get their eyes on Tombstones. We also took part in the excellent Mudfest-festival in Venlo, Holland in november.

Great bands, atmosphere and beer.

I read your bio that you self released your first record and then were signed to excellent Transubstans label.

Q) For the benefit of our readers who may be new to your band, could you tell us a little about the history of the band, Where you’re from? Current band members?

Sure thing. Tombstones consist of Bjørn-Viggo Godtland, Jørn Inge Woldmo and myself. We hail from the eastern parts of Norway. In the middle of trees and urban legends, in the myth-ridden forest called “Finnskogen”. The history of Tombstones started around 2005 with Bjørn and our former guitarist Jonas planning a heavy band. Jørn Inge and myself joined in 2006 and things started to fall into place, and Volume I was recorded. We were lucky enough to make contact with legendary engineer Billy Anderson, and he started mixing our album.

Eventually we got in contact with a label interested in releasing our first effort, and things were going smoothly. In June 2009 everything was suddenly turned upside-down, when Jonas was found dead because of heart-failure. This hit as lightning, and was tough to deal with. All plans regarding Volume I was put on hold, and to this date the album isn't professionally released.

Disbanding was never an option, and later that year Billy came to Oslo to record “Volume II” with us. This album was released by Transubstans Records late 2010.

Q)  Is Tombstones a full time commitment?

No, unfortunately not. All of us has full-time jobs in Norway. I think its nearly impossible to make a living with our style of music. If so, we would at least need to tour constantly.
Q) With all the changes in the music industry, it genuinely does appear harder to make a commitment to a band, what with the potential for constant touring, promotion and bands perhaps supporting themselves financially, what motivates Tombstones?

The joy of playing live is the number one factor. Touring is something we would like to do more of, and to reach that goal we need to keep going full throttle. It’s a welcomed break from everyday life, to get together and develop our sound and play the gear we love so much.

Q) What was your motivation to start the band and was it difficult to forge your own identity, given Norway’s association with black metal and bands such as Darkthrone, Mayhem, Emperor?

No, can’t say it was. None of us are huge black metal fans, so that specific genre was out of the question. Tombstones started out as a heavy rock band, strongly influenced by the magic of the seventies. As time has gone by, the stylistic impression as leaned towards heavier and darker stuff. We feel that we’re getting there, towards our own sound, and I honestly don’t think we sound like any other norwegian band.

Q) Since your inception, what was your modus operandi been in terms of the band?  

If you aim at the song-writing process, either me or Bjørn come up with a riff, or an idea for an entire song. We try the ideas at rehearsal, and let our guts decide which idea to stick with, and which to not. We try to refine the good parts, either at rehearsals or in the couch at home. Initially the song starts his own life, and the smaller adjustments are being made as we keep playing it.

Q) How easy is it for bands such as yourselves to get gigs?  From talking to other bands, some venues/promoters just won’t book them, Is it a struggle?  

It’s very easy. Bookers are all over us all the time! Hehe, no. It can be quite hard actually. Especially for bands in our situation, without a dedicated booking-agency. After a while you get to know which venues who’s likely to book you, and the other way around. Luckily there are many DIY-organizers out there, making it a bit easier to be a heavy band.

You also pick up lots of tips from other bands, and people you meet on the road. And of course Internet can be a bit useful.

Q) It might sound like stupid questions, but is playing live important to Tombstones, because touring can depend upon work commitments etc?  Often touring is the main source of promoting your band.        

Yes, it’s the thing we like the most, and something we would like to do as much as possible. As you’re saying, it’s at gigs you gain new fans. Venues are also a crucial part of getting your name out there, and into peoples consciousness. We have quite understanding employers, so if a good opportunity arises, we tend to make it work.         

Q) With your new record, Tombstones are redefining their own formula of down tuned heaviness. Their doom is darker, filthier, heavier and more consistent. The sinister approach of "Year of the Burial" sends shivers of cold down your spine, and takes you back to the evil priests of ancient times. What do you really think, haha? Is that a fair assessment?

Haha, spot on, right? Compared to “Volume I” and “Volume II”, this album is way heavier and darker. The whole atmosphere on “Year of the Burial” is dark and evil, so yeah, it’s a fair description. Hehe

Q) Do you feel there is the same significance attached to being signed to label as their once was, with bands releasing music on bandcamp etc?  

That’s impossible for us to answer, since we were too young to rock in the glory days. Either way Soulseller Records has done a great job with “Year of the Burial”. Soulseller has a growing roster of great bands, and they’ve helped us reach out to a lot more people than just a bandcamp-release would have done.

It’s also an undisputed fact that a physical copy of a record beats streaming and digital files any day.

But of course, 20 years ago it was much easier to sell alot of records, and to make a living out of it, both for bands and labels. The easy-access and mass-consumption of music nowadays, makes the physical copy less attractive to some.

Q) Are you big fans of rock/metal, if so what are you listening too at the moment?

Yeah, we’re fans of rock and metal, no doubt. Nevertheless our musical taste within the band differs a bit. For me, Elder has been a great inspiration the last year. “Dead Roots Stirring” is a fantastic record. And the new OM record of course. OM and Sleep are bands I never get tired of listening to, and they’re a constant motivation for writing music. Also have to mention Cough.

Q)  Who would you say are your influences/heroes both musically and artistically in terms of the bands sound and subject matter for your lyrics?  

To me, Sleep, OM, Cough, Yob, Naam, Ufommamut ++ are great sources of inspiration. If all three of us should decide upon one band, I guess we would end up with Yob.

Lyric-wise, our heritage from the deep of the dark woods and mother nature in general are inspiring, as well as the loss we had when Jonas passed.

Q) I’m assuming all musician like to talk about gear, so with that in mind what gear do you use in terms of guitars, amps and why? Also what tuning do you use?

Hehe, correct! We have become quite geeky gear wise over the years. Bjørn’s weapon of choice is a Gibson SG standard, played through a seventies Simms-Watts and a custom-built Matamp, for enclosure he uses four different vintage 4x12” cabinets. Marshall 1960, Laney, Simms-Watts and Sound City. I use a Rickenbacker bass, through an Ampeg SVT with an Ampeg 8x10” and a vintage Carlsbro 2x15”. Jørn Inge hammers on a custom built Spawn-kit.

All the gear are carefully chosen because of the sound. Huge, warm and very very heavy.

Q) I referred to the strong black metal movement in Norway, but you also have cool bands such as Sahg, Audrey Horne to name but a few.  What is the scene like in your hometown?  What are your thoughts?  Where do you think Tombstones fits within that?  Any bands we should be keeping an eye out for?

There’s a lot going on in Norway these days, lots of great bands are on the verge to flourish, but I don’t know if there is a scene or not, for our music so to speak. Maybe there are, but don’t think we’re a part of it. The majority of people, especially in Oslo, are devoting themselves to indie-rock, indie-pop, indie-schmop or whatever it’s called, praised by norwegian festivals and larger venues.

On the other hand, as you asked for, there are many underground bands playing killer heavy music. To mention a few, keep your eyes open for Svölk, Malossi, Spectral Haze, High Priest of Saturn and Resonaut. Lonely Kamel is another Oslo-act killing it, but you probably already know since they have done lots of gigging throughout Europe the last couple of years.

Q) How you feel your band has generally been received and does it surprise you when people buy your music and merch?

Yeah, it’s surprising, but it’s also something we dearly hope for, so when people are buying, you can say we’re more happy than surprised. It’s a great feeling to sell a shirt or a record to someone at a gig, who just discovered our band.

In general, “Year of the Burial” has gotten great reviews.. some bad too, of course, but we’re very happy about the publicity we achieved after the release.

Q) Taking a more general view of the changes in the music industry as a whole, what with illegal download and perhaps more pressure on mags to feature ‘scene’ bands or bigger artists.  How valuable are blogs such as the Sludgelord to bands and artists covering your music? Does all forms of media coverage translate to people buying merch, downloading music etc, coming to shows?

For a band in our position blogs like this one is extremely valuable. I’d like to mention an example. We answered a 10-question interview with Terrorizer around the album-release, and were super stoked to be featured in one of the coolest mags out there, but when the magazine hit the stores, they had narrowed it down to a small notice in the corner of a page. Kind of disappointing.. but yeah, cool anyway.

In the more genre-oriented blogs, you seem to be treated with more respect, and they’re genuinely interested in your work and visions. That means alot. As a fan of heavy music I always try to keep myself updated with whats’s going on in the underground, and I don’t think I’m alone doing that.
Maybe it doesn’t lead to any sales, but at least people get aware of our existence, and hopefully they’ll check some of our music on line. If they like it, good, if they don’t, at least they gave it a shot.

Q) Reviewing records within the genres of sludge/doom/stoner/punk etc, you often listen to a lot of stuff which is quite similar. What sets you apart from your peers and what are your thoughts about being part of any scene?

That’s a hard nut to crack. We’re not trying to invent the wheel again, and I don’t think you can anymore either. We play the music we would like to listen to ourselves, and don’t care if another band has a similar riff somewhere, or a similar groove or whatever.

But we try to create a certain atmosphere with our music. It should be felt in the gut, like a heaviness knock-out.

Q) Getting back to your record ‘Year of the Burial, it seems to be defined by the slow fuzz-bass heavy riffs?  How does this record differ from your previous records?

This record was written in a much shorter period of time, and it has a more consistent feel to it. The riffs and the overall sound is less “stoner” and more doomy. Needless to say, much heavier than our previous efforts. We also share vocal-duties on “Year of the Burial”, which gives the album a more varied feel.

Q) "Year of the Burial" is recorded live, why did you go for that particular method of producing this record?

We were pleasantly surprised after recording “Volume II” live, with Billy Anderson, and there were actually no question whether we would do it again or not. For us, it’s the only way to record. We have a lot of tempo-dynamics in the songs, and those are best expressed without being locked to a click-track. The only way to do the songs justice, are to record them the way they are presented live. We want the listeners to feel what we feel at rehearsals.

Q) The write up on Sureshotworx remarks upon the sound of Tombstones being  rich, warm and dynamic and has a low end destined to crush all things crossing its path. Did you agenda when you began writing the new record?

No, we didn’t. As soon as we were done recording “Volume II”, and had come to terms with being a three-piece, the sound kind of developed itself. We liked the stripped down heaviness of being three, and that made us want to write more songs emphasising on that particular feeling.

Q) What were your aims for ‘Year of the Burial and What are your thoughts about it, now it is in the public domain?

Our main goal is to score more gigs abroad, and hopefully get in contact with a booking-agency, helping us setting up tours. We have reached this at some level. We toured Europe in august/september, and took part in Mudfest, where we met some interesting people who might be good for us in the future. We’re also appearing at one of the coolest festival this spring.

To sum it up; gain audience, and become a more attractive live-band.

Q). Reflecting upon 2012 as a band, do you feel that 2012 has been a good year for you and what are your plans for the rest of the year and 2013.  Are you planning to tour throughout 2013

Yeah, we are very happy with how things turned out last year. We do want to tour more in 2013, but we don’t have anything specific to reveal at the moment.

Q) Thanks for answering my questions, but one final question, you got anything you like to say to your fans?

We would like to thank everyone who has bought our albums, and visited our shows. Keep it up. And to those who haven’t got “Year of the Burial” yet, get it, light up and play it LOUD!

At last, a huge thank you to you Aaron, for showing interest in us, and making this interview. Hails!


Thanks to Ole from Tombstones for his cander and taking the time to do the interview.  As ever show your support to the band by buying their merch and checking the various links below.  Cheers for reading as ever.  Many thanks.