Friday 19 April 2013

20 Questions w/ Altaar


Norway!!! Population of around 5 million, borders with Sweden and Finland, perhaps widely regarded for it’s associated with Vikings.  However, it is also home to Indie Recordings, a brilliant underground metal label, who is widely regarded for their promotion of some of Norway’s finest underground bands, most notably in recent times as being the home of Kvelertak!!

Fortunately for us, here at the Sludgelord, we have been able to discover some great new Indie Recordings artist.  For me, Altaar have stood out from the labels recent output, releasing their debut full length back in February.  Here is a few word we had to say about the record, as reviewed by Matt Fitton... The scope on display here is truly epic. Sometimes these things can be convoluted or pretentious, but not this. Not once did this piece ever result in losing my interest, nor did it ever diminish my enjoyment. While not the heaviest thing I'm sure many of you here will have heard within your many varied listening lifetimes, there is no denying the weight it carries. Crisp, clean guitars are at the forefront throughout. This really does have a big 'guitar' sound. It gets more experimental around the halfway point and breaks out choral harmonies in an effort to build dramatically, which it accomplishes with grandeur. And then it decides to show its teeth. The latter part focuses on a solid sweeping riff, accompanied by echoing drums. Simple in nature but no less effective or gloom ridden.
With just two track spanning 34 minutes, Altaar debut is a wonderfully expansive, with an abundance of ambience and heaviness in equal measure.  Because I was so taken by the record, I was delighted to get chief protagonist Andreas Tylden to talk to us here at the Sludgelord.  So sit back and enjoy this session of 20 Questions w/ Altaar.  As ever, thanks for reading!!

Hey Andreas, How are you? I appreciate you taking the time to talk to us

Hello there! Likewise.

Q) How are things in camp Altaar camp? What are your immediate plans for the band, with potentially another 8 months or so band promotion ahead of you in 2013?

– Right now things are quite calm. We just played a show at the Inferno Festival which went pretty good. Besides that we’ve already started working on the next album and a 7” which - hopefully - will be released in not too long.

Q) Might I just say, congratulations on your recent S/T release. I felt Matt’s review, encapsulated the feel and mood of the record. Can you tell us about the record and the process of putting it together? Perhaps what Altaar is about

– Thank you. Well, where to begin. I started working on the album in august 2011 by myself. I had to stop however, as I had to take care of three death in my family. By January 2012 we entered the studio to record these two songs not knowing how they would turn out as, I guess, I was the only one who had a clear vision and the fact that we hadn´t played them together as a band yet. The recording process only took about a week or so, but the whole thing was made and put together while mixing the lot by myself, Espen and Toft. That’s why it took so long, in between work, playing in other bands and arranging funerals. Pretty awkward but inspiring.

Q). I always apologise about this, because it must get kinda annoying for bands to ask, but for readers who may not have of you guys, could you tell us a little about the inception of Altaar i.e. when you first formed? Current band members?

– The band is myself (also in One Tail, One Head) on guitar and vocals, Espen Hangaard on guitar and vocals, Sten Ove Toft on guitar, Didrik Telle (also in Obliteration) and Kenneth Lamond on drums. Altaar first started as a solo project after my former band broke up with a need to keep on making music. However, I wanted to explore new territories with limited access to proper recording equipment. Strip it all down and start over, you know. That culminated in the”Dødsøsnke” tape which is very lo-fi, total black doom, noise, ambient, drone, whatever. When Altaar was asked to do a show with Stephen O’Malley, both me and Toft – who at that point had joined in – formed a line up which still is Altaar to this day. And with a proper band the progression came naturally as I constantly want to evolve musically and never stagnate.

Q) Which band or artist turned you guys onto music and specifically introduced you to Heavy Metal/Rock and wanting to form a band? What is your view of the heritage of Norwegian heavy music?

– My dad used to be a record collector and as a kid, by accident, he played the ”Burning Ambition 7” by Iron Maiden which seriously turned me on to heavy music for life. Since then I have never ever looked back. As for the Norwegian heritage of heavy music one cannot underestimate the impact of the black metal scene in the early 90s. Especially Mayhem and Darkthrone. Norway also had a few great prog band in the 70s such as Aunt Mary and Høst which today have a cult following. Of newer bands Kvelertak, Wolves Like US, Peter Berry And The Shake Set and, Obliteration, Nekromantheon etc. all do a great job. So, all in all, I think Norway is very much represented on the global map of heavy music.

Q) I read that Altaar formed from the ashes of JR Ewing, What was your motivation to start the band, as the aesthetics of this band seems totally different, perhaps more focus on material and rather than touring?

– Yeah, well, JR Ewing was a touring monster. That’s all we did. For years. It was very tiring but so much fun. I really miss it sometimes. As I said earlier on, Altaar is a completely different thing. I wanted to move on and try something different. Of course (Altaar now is way different than what it was, initially). My personal goal, when forming/joining new bands is to never do the same thing twice. Been there, done that, you know. And yes, Altaar is way more focused on the music itself, rather than touring. We do play live, but that’s more one offs rather than doing the punk route playing every possible shithole across Europe, the States or whatever

Q) Since your inception, was your plan always to write and release your own music?

– Yes of course. But I´m not afraid of doing covers. The third song on the CD version is a cover song. I´d love to do a couple of covers live. However, I have to fight the rest of the band first concerning choice of material.

Q) In your experience, how easy/difficult was it for Altaar to get coverage and get gigs in the early days and how does that compare today?

– In the early days Altaar was way more underground, and basically operating in the underworld of black metal and other forms of obscure, harsh, music. With the release of the debut album and with great help from Indie Recordings – it seems the record is everywhere. The first press already sold out - in a matter of weeks. For me the response is totally overwhelming and I did not expect that, First off I’m very grateful that people actually like and embrace our music, second it´s good to be on a label that do a great job when it comes to promotion and spreading our gospel of cacophonic psychedelic rock. I do not ride the ”ex-JR Ewing” at all as I hate people doing shit like that, but thankfully Altaar is in a completely different segment. Besides, that was JR Ewing – this is Altaar. So for that reason it´s good to see that Altaar is being spread and live it´s own life. I take nothing for granted.

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

– Yeah. For us it can be hard as some of us have kids, commitment to work and playing with other bands. I do get my doze of live performances with One Tail, One Head which is totally black magick. I have to play live. One can´t live without the other. The live aspect of Altaar is very important, though. We see them as form of rituals rather than, in lack of better terms, conventional rock shows. When playing such long songs one have to think and re-create in order to make it interesting enough. So far it has worked well. I remember one sound guy once ended up vomiting during the show, but that’s because we were screening the fabulous movie ”Begotten” in complete darkness. To my surprise, people were really shocked. When that is said we do not want to be”occult” and shock for the primitive sake of shocking. The most important premise is to evoke a certain state of mind. Almost like taking drugs without taking drugs.

Q) Based on your own experience, what do you think is the most important thing for a new band to do in order to promote themselves?

– Tour. Tour. Tour.

Q) What are some of the difficulties/frustrations of being part of Altaar, because there are many other commitments such as family, work etc that perhaps restrict the amount of time you can dedicate to the band? Obviously loss of band members can disrupt the momentum of any band?

– Rehearsing can be a bit of a drag. That’s why we do a lot of experimentation and improvisation live. As an example, the first song on the record, it clocks in at 20 minutes. There are only so many times we can play it at the rehearsals without staying there for twelve hours. Besides that I fucking hate carrying our massive backline in during winter time in Norway. Screw that.

Q) Please, don’t think about this too much, but if someone was unfamiliar with your band, what words immediately spring to mind when you think about your sound?

– I’m having great difficulty explaining what we sound like to people. And that’s a good thing. Oddly enough I’ve read reviews saying we sound like all from Hellhammer to Pink Floyd. Altaar is a mash of different tastes and inspiration which makes the musical landscape fairly wide and open for interpretation. There are no rules to what we can and cannot do. I guess the easiest way to describe Altaar is heavy doom inspired by late 60s psych rock and satan.

Q) It might sound like a stupid question but, how important is the band’s chemistry when writing and performing??

– So far I have written most of the material, so hard to say. We are close friends, so obviously the chemistry was there from the start. I’m very excited about the new record as we all will be involved in the process
Q) What were your aims for your new record and how do you feel about it now that it has been in the public domain?

– First off we just wanted to get it out there, you know. We did play live for a few years without a proper release and people started asking for a solid record, so that was reason number two. Now, in hindsight we of course would like to spread our music as wide as possible.

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

– Our tuning is complete chaos. I do B, Espen do E, Didrik do C and Toft, well, he doesn´t tune his guitar at all. As for equipment I use the first 5010 amp that came on the market, alongside with a Marshall JCM800 accompanied by Marshall 4x12 and Sound City 4x12 speakers. My main guitars in Altaar are Fender ’72 Deluxe, Fender Jazzmaster and a Rickenbacker 330/12. On the recording we used old vintage Vox amplifiers exclusively.

Q) How important is support from your peers and how do you feel your band has generally been received and does it still surprise you when people buy your music and merch?

– Not really, because people who listen to music such as Altaar still buy and prefer the physical format. Especially vinyl. The support from our peers is very important too, as long as people are honest about their opinion. I have no problem with people saying we sound like crap, but so far the reaction has been all positive. You also have people who do not get what we´re trying to do, but that’s just plain ignorance or lack of knowledge.

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 Sludgelord to bands and artists covering your music? Do all forms of media coverage translate to people buying merch, downloading music etc, coming to shows?

-Blogs such as Sludgelord is essential in every possible way. The music blogs are the post-internet of diy fanzines. They are the ones spreading the word to people searching for something different and new exciting bands. And often way cooler that the bigger corporate magazines. Altaar is still very much an underground phenomenon and not meant for everyone.

Q) Quick fire question, what’s your preference? Cassette, CD, Digital Download or Vinyl? And why?

– Vinyl, man. Because I grew up with my father’s humongous record collection and because it sounds the best. I stopped buying CDs a few years ago. Mainly because I had to move to a smaller apartment (ironically, I buy more vinyl than ever). I do download a lot too for my iPhone. I must listen to music as much as a can. The day I can´t listen to music anymore, it´s time to book a vacant grave-


Q) Reviewing records within sub genres of metal 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?

– As an example we were booked to play at the Inferno Festival which is mostly extreme metal. The overall feedback was that people felt certain calmness even though Altaar too can at times be extreme. In sum Altaar is based very much on moods and state of mind rather than riffs in its traditional sense. I don’t know it´s hard for me to say what differs us from other types of (metal) bands. It´s not that we’re breaking new grounds, admittedly. That goes for the length of our songs too. Bands like Yes and King Crimson did this in the early seventies already (which too are bands we draw inspiration from).

Q) Did you have an agenda when you began writing your new record?

– No, no agenda other than trying to convey what was on my mind at that time. However, when we started the mixing process, as mentioned above, I wanted it to sound very heavy, at the same time melodic and listenable for people who think St. Vitus is a cathedral in Prague. No, wait…

Q) Do you have any interesting stories from your tours, favourite places you’ve toured and bands you’ve toured with or bands you’d like to share the stage with?

– Well, we haven´t toured that much yet, so no juicy stories other than our first hospitality rider which said”strictly no coriander and lots of marijuana”.

Q). Reflecting upon your time together as a band, what have been some of the high and low point in your career. Are you a stronger unit now, than when you first started.

– The high point is coming to the stage where the record has been released, finally, that it has been received well and doing interviews with people/blogs like you. No low points really. Ask me again after we have released the”difficult” second album, and everyone hates us because we sound like Siouxsie and the Banshees on bad heroin.

Q). In terms of the band, what are your plans for the rest of the year? Can we expect new music or big tours ahead?

– I’m up for anything. If someone (interesting) offers us a tour, we’ll do it. If not we’ll definitely do some one off, shorter tours. We already did a mini US tour playing tree shows, so everything’s possible. I´d like to do a 7” in the near future and hopefully start recording the next album early next year.

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

Thank you for your interest and support. Much appreciated. Up the Irons and see you when we come to town.

All the best, Andreas Tylden

PS: This was written in a haze after working 30 hours straight. My English needs to be cleaned up, hehe.
As always show your support to the band. You can purchase this from all good stockists and is available now. Thanks to Andreas for taking the time to talk to us, much appreciated and look forward to the next time.  Also thanks to Andy at Indie Recordings for setting up the interview.  You can read our review in full here.