Friday 23 May 2014

Interview with HJORTENE

Hjortene S/T cover art

I  was contacted by today's guests to check out their début album. I wasn't really expecting much but then the album pr sheet said it had duets with Valient from Valient Thorr, President Fetch and Lorenzo Woodrose from Psych Rockers – Baby Woodrose.

Now that really grabbed my attention. And then I listened to the album. And – WOW. Wasn't I blown away from the very first listen.

I am talking about HJORTENE the Stoner Punk Outfit who have just released their excellent S/T début album.

We said this about their début album - “The Danes can crank out some hefty tunes if I might say. I can't confidently tell you the correct pronunciation of the band name. Is the H silent is the J a real J sound or a J as in Jose. I guess I'm leaning towards Jose with the H-j combo, regardless it doesn't really matter because the album opens fast and furious like Jose or Hose B fleeing straight across the border heading towards greener crops. The bar is set in preparation for a punk rock assault with guest vocals from Sir Valient Thor himself.

Speaking of greener crops, the sweet leaf aroma on song two lays down the stoner foundation which supports the slab of heavy punk rock. The bass is tuned down heavy and low with a fuzzed out punky energy floating high like a kite on a cloud of bong smoke. Hjortene keep an upbeat pace with an invigorating punk rock tone to their baked distortion. The drumming shines from beginning to end as well, accentuating the fuzz just right. I get a bit of a Fu Manchu vibe as the album progresses forward which is never a bad thing.”

I have a feeling this band will be making a name for themselves within the Stoner/Hard Rock scene in the next few months or so. Before that happens I have managed to grab an interview with these guys.

Q1 – Hi guys. Thanks for doing this. How are things with you today.

Pleasure. Thanks for having us. It's Monday, and well, we just played a concert on Saturday – outdoors in the sun, so that was cool (the sun only shines 20 minutes a year here, so we drank a lot of cold draft beer and Jäger and dark rum on that). Our drummer Kim can’t be here today because he his body imploded after the show and after the after show – if you know what we mean… We played with a cool Canadian all girl band called Powder Blue. Check them out.

Q2 – Can you give a brief history of how the band came about and where it is today.

Ten years ago Claus and Palle met at Uni, and talked about music in the campus bar getting drunk. There we decided that it would be the best band name to be called Hjortene (Danish for ”The Deers”), because Deers are the biggest and coolest animal we have in Denmark. The male deers have a gathering of female deers that they protect and fight with other males about, and when the mating season begins they piss all over themselves and roll around in their own sperm to attract the females. We felt like that.

Q3 – Now, lets talk about your fantastic début album. WOW. What a ride that album is. Was that a great album to make as it sounds so much fun from start to finish.

It was a long process, and too long. But we wanted to experiment with sounds and vocals on this record, since we had no time pressure, and the other things we have recorded has always been 2 days in the studio and out, so not much time for trying things out then. On the new album we recorded the songs live on tape for two days in a row in the old analogue Black Tornado Studio, and then did dubs ourselves on/off over a period of 5-6 months. But it was definitely fun and we learned a lot. And great to work with the guests on the album. For the sound on the album we wanted a heavier and more raw sound that we have had before, so we always tried to push our sound in the recording beyond what felt safe. It always had to be dirtier. We had Fu Manchu’s sound on Eatin’ Dust as a reference, since it’s so fucked. We can’t say that we did go that far, but still it was an inspiration.

Q4 – How did you get all those amazing guest musicians to write and record for you on the album. Have you been friends with all of the guest musicians for a long time.

We just contacted them and sent songs to them of the rough versions. We have known Lorenzo Woodrose for many years, since we are Baby Woodrose fans, and the previous bass player Anders Skjødt produced our first 10”. Lorenzo also did a brief contribution to that record. President Fetch is a legend on the Danish punk scene, and a really great performer, so when we had the idea for the song James Brown; he was the perfect fit. We did not know him from before, but have just seen him play and around at many shows.

Valient Himelf was different, since we only knew him from all the Valient Thorr concerts we have seen. But we tried to write him, and did not hear anything for long, but suddenly he responded and thought the track sounded cool. We wrote to him because we saw that Valient Thorr would play in Copenhagen, and that was our chance to record him. Two days before the mixing sessions began the show was on. We did not really know if he would do it, but just went out there and crossed our fingers. Luckily he had some time between sound check and the concert, and did the lyrics and vocal takes in a conference room upstairs from the venue. Such a relief after waiting around for hours.

Q5 – Was it an easy or hard experience working with some legendary and well known musicians.

It was cool and very easy going. All were cool and down to earth, so it felt like they also wanted to do it. We really picked the guests out carefully, and no one is on there by coincidence. These three bastards are the people we wanted the most to help us out on the album, so that is pretty cool that it worked out.

Q6 – You have read our review of your album. How would you describe it yourselves.

The album is punchy as hell, and there is a lot of variation in the songs. We know. But we listen to a lot of different music and would like to make the music that we want, and not be held back by constraints. Therefore the album is actually - what a lot of people would call different styles - but we think that when we play it, it still sounds like us.

Q7 – Would you change anything about it or are you happy with the final version that is being released.

We are very happy, and finally we sound like we should. Anders Onsberg Hansen (Baby Woodrose + Spids Nøgenhat) who recorded and mixed was a big help on that AND the good old analogue studio. You can’t beat that warmness from tape.

Q8 – How would yourselves describe your overall sound.

Punchy. Heavy. Low end. Riffage. A screamin’ eagle in the antlers of a deer running 180.000 km/h.

Q9 – What was the main inspiration behind the album as its a fast paced action packed album.

Ohhh, many different as you can hear. We all listen to all kinds of styles of music (NOT reggae, ska and dancehall), but where Kim and Claus are on the contemporary heavier end of the scale, Palle listens to a lot of old records. The approach to writing lyrics was among other things inspired by talks with Anders Grøn and Anders Skjødt from the old Baby Woodrose line-up; to strive towards being honest and personal. Graveyard’s lyrics on that account is among others also an inspiration.

Hjortene S/T cover art

Q10 – Who designed the excellent album cover. It's a wonderful design. Doesn't give the impression what the album is about and did you have much input with overall design.

It took a looooooong time to agree on that cover and we have been down many roads before we finally settled with this. Anders Cold did the beautiful work, and also did our previous cover designs and t-shirts. Everything. He is the coolest most talented art designer we know. To find the image was very hard, and we have been through many, but this old xylography from 1892 captured the energy that we felt is on the album. We know it’s not the typical stoner rock look, but we like that.

Q11 – There seems to be a wealth of great bands coming from the Danish Sludge/Doom/Stoner Metal scene with bands such as yourselves, Pet The Preacher, Slowjoint, Helhorse, Doublestone, Barricade and Rising to name but a few. What is the scene like in Denmark at the moment. Anymore great bands that we should check out.

There is a great scene in Copenhagen right now, and a lot of psych inspired things going on. Also stoner rock is in there, and we have never seen so many stoner bands as now. We’ve played this kind of of music for ten years, and suddenly there is all this attention on the scene, which is great. Among the bands you should check out (that you don’t mention) is definitely Baby in Vain, Moonless, Causa Sui, Electric Elephant, Papir, De Hårde Døre, The Woken Trees, Demon Head, The Wands…

Q12 – Do you perform gigs on a regular basis in your home town or do you have to travel further afield to perform regularly.

We mostly play Copenhagen, but would like to play out of town much more. But unfortunately we don’t have a booker, so we don’t have many contacts to the venues outside of Copenhagen. In the recording process we didn’t play much live, but now we hope to play as many gigs as possible. We also hope that we play outside of Denmark, but that’s even harder to set up yourself. We might arrange our own little festival out in the forrest this summer, and invite bands to come and play. Our dream is to play the little festival called Gutter Island, which is the coolest festival in Denmark.

Q13 – What is the song writing process in the band? Is it a group collective or is just down to one individual.

We mostly just throw riffs at each other and try things out in the rehearsal space. Some times Palle comes with a finished song, but mostly we just jam riffs. Then after a long time (sometimes years) some riffs click together. Lyric ideas might pop up along the way in that process, but most are written after all the riff-o-rama.

Q14 – What are you thoughts on the crowd-funding scene where bands and artists ask fans to help fund their latest album, tour or release. Are you fans of this medium. Would yourselves ever go down this route.

It’s a great idea and we were thinking about it, but we haven’t gone down that road yet. But we might try it for the next album, as it’s great way to involve fans and to get it out there.

Q15 – What is your live set-up when performing on stage. Any advanced rigs or are you guys have a more straight forward set-up.

We have a really simple set-up. As a trio it is great that you don't need a lot of stuff to play. It’s just guitar, bass, drums. Nothing more. Kim plays a Ludwig set, Claus plays Fender and Rickenbacker through a Fafner amp and Palle plays an Australian Ashton pawn shop guitar through an old 70's Carlsbro amp into a Marshall cabinet with Electro-Harmonix speakers (that should give more crunch - they said!).

Sometimes when we play small gigs in record store etc. we sing through an old space echo and a bass amp. We just did that for the release parties supporting this S/T album, where we played three shows the same day; in a hair saloon, a vinyl only record store and in the coolest a moped garage hosted by a local moped gang. Check out the pictures here:

Q16 – Which bands and artists influenced you as musicians. Any particular bands or albums that had a great impact on your life.

Fu Manchu is probably the biggest mutual influence, but other bands that we all dig is The Sword, Red Fang, Mastodon, QOTSA, Graveyard, Sabbath, Kyuss, Brant Bjork, Valient Thorr…

Claus Doomhamer (bass) is into: Slayer, Hellacopters, JR Ewing, At The Gates, Anathema, Refused, Spiritual Beggars...

Kim of Death (drums) digs: ...And Justice For All made me want to play heavy, but besides Metallica; Slayer, Neurosis, Faith No More, Pink Floyd...

Palle Hjort (guitar) spins: Sir Lord Baltimore, Dragonfly, 13th Floor Elevators, Blue Cheer, ZZ Top (Tres Hombres), Mudhoney, Nick Drake...

Q17 – In 5 words or less, what is the live HJORTENE experience.


Q18 - If you could give any advice to people wanting to start a band what would it be.

Play music. Don’t listen to people. Play more. Play as many gigs as you can. One gig equals a thousand rehearsals.

Q19 - Apart from the new album what else do you have in store over the next 12 months or so.

A clothing line. Hangar ships going to Asia. Saving whales. Making songs and we play a gig with Valient Thorr in Copenhagen on the 19th of July, which will be apocalypse. After that, or before, we hope to play as many gigs as we can, so people should just get in touch. We’re ready.

Q20 – And finally, do you have anything to say to your fans.

Buy the record for your dad and mom and sister. There is only 300 made. Get it here:

And hope to see you out there...

Well guys thanks for doing this. Best of luck with the new album. It's an excellent album. 

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Written by Steve Howe