From the inspiring shores of The Faroe Islands comes a young rocking band none of you might have heard of, hopefully that’ll change soon. So, you read the review on MAKREL’s “Wonderland” somewhere on this site and listened to the sample therein… and you liked it? Well, gather around if you’ll like to know more about this sad’n’rocking crew as I bring you this exclusive interview with lead guitarist and song writer Rasmus Rasmussen. Today’s topics include their latest CD, English doom, grey weather and funny childhood stories revolving around whisky, smokes and Rock’n’Roll, a fine mixture of all things bleak and unhallowed hehe.
Hello Rasmus! How’s everything going, you haven’t grown tired of this grey summer season we’re having hehe?
Hi Frodi, things are quite good, I’m enjoying my summer vacation, with lots of time to write new material, renting movies I’ve missed, staying indoors most of the time actually, so the weather doesn’t really affect me. But it’s nice though to be able to take a walk without a bunch of clothes stuck on me.
Ok, let’s start off with some light questions. For starters, how has your latest CD “Wonderland” been treated in the presses both local and international?
Locally, “Wonderland” hasn’t received any overwhelming attention. We’ve sold a couple of hundred copies, gotten some positive response from a radio host here, a positive review in one of the local newspapers, and praise from a few friends. Many musicians here have also taken a liking to it, which means a lot. But it’s a small country, so overall it’s not that bad I suppose.
Internationally the best response we got was when a reviewer from a German webzine called “Oblivion”, gave us an impressive rating, which was 9/10. He really loved the album. A Danish webzine called “Danish Metal”, by the way gave us 5/6, which was wonderful. Oh, by the way the famous Danish songwriter, TIM CHRISTENSEN, was impressed when he listened as it was being mastered in “Sweep Studios”, and cried out that it was sparkling with energy and raw power. Visit www.makrel.net to read our reviews and the general feedback on “Wonderland”, in the media section.
I think we can safely say that this album, as opposed to the debut, was a more serious project. Was it hard to assemble all the song ideas before heading to the studio?
Indeed it was a much more serious project. With our first album, we basically just wanted to have fun and to try the “making an album” thing out, so anything went back then. No, I wouldn’t say that it was hard to assemble the songs, because a few months before we entered the studio, we’d participated in a local band competition, for which we’d written half the album. So all we really did was to follow the musical style of those songs, and wrote a few more, until we entered the studio. On “Stinkar”, there’s a song called “Lost Track”, which with a better sound could just as well appear as a song originating from “Wonderland”, to the untrained ear. I think that perhaps we decided in silence, after doing “Stinkar”, this was the trail we’d follow, that we’d try to do more songs like “Lost Track”, songs with a strumming rhythmical fundament, with colourful lead guitars on top, and Ári’s heart aching vocals in the middle.
How much were the producers involved in the recording process, did they interfere in any way with the vision you initially had for the album?
You mean producer, because there was only one! Jón didn’t interfere that much when we recorded the music itself, which was done in a matter of only five days. Though during that time he persuaded us to cut down on some of the middle-parts in “Flashback Humour” and in the title track, “Wonderland”. If you ever attend a MAKREL concert, notice that we still do the original versions live, in “Wonderland” for instance we end the song in a big bang, where as on the album, it ends with the chorus being repeated for the third time. Later on Jón got involved a great deal more in terms of producing the album, as he helped Ári with the vocals, especially the vocal harmonies and such. Also, some of the keyboards I added didn’t make it to the final mix. Otherwise the whole thing is ours, and overall we’re also happy with the input Jón provided.
So how would you describe the progression from your debut to “Wonderland” and maybe even your newest material?
As pretty typical for most bands. From anything goes, to nearly making something special, to what we hope will be something very special. We’ve all agreed that we’ll try hard to become a better band from album to album, meaning that we won’t repeat ourselves, neither will we release an album that is worse than what we’ve done, in our minds at least. We’re not such a technically focused band, we’re interested in moods and atmospheres. That’s where all of our efforts and energy goes, into creating a trail of emotions which we find beautiful in one way or the other, and in which we’ll be able to dwell in peacefully as a band. That’s the focus of MAKREL these days, and may I note that some of the new material is quite bright and positive, something not much used these days, at least in the Rock/Metal world.
A new and rather popular song of yours, namely “Far And Beyond”, took you into the finals in the Nordic Unsigned contest, got any expectations for that, would be swell to get a record deal plus a video shoot right?
Yeah, it would be nice to be able to make a living entirely of music. On the other hand we’d be doing this anyway. No, I myself have decided to hold no expectations, but yeah, a MAKREL video, that’d be cool. We’d probably attempt to do it in the manner of THE PIXIES, haha.
Going back to “Wonderland”, I personally think the music is pretty versatile yet I feel as if you have some kind of working formula, as if you were trying to hit a certain sound, any truth to my observation here?
Yes, the structures of our songs are pretty similar and spring from our traditions of writing songs together. I wouldn’t say we were trying to hit a certain sound, it was not as if we said, let’s try to sound like this or that. That certain sound is what we’ve evolved into, after years of holding together and forming ourselves and our music, we call it “MAKREL”.
When I listen to your melodies and the execution that goes with them my thoughts wander off to something in vein of KATATONIA (sorry, just can’t escape the comparison hehe), does this band serve as a source of inspiration to your writing and playing technique?
Oh, well I can understand the comparison, but no. Indeed I’ve heard some of their albums, but they’re not especially high in rank, in what I’ve heard and observed over the years. If you would have said
Also included on the album are two instrumentals, I’m just curious to know if you wrote those in the studio cause they sound sort of semi spontaneous.
No, they were songs we already had in the bag, starting the sessions. My guitar-poem called “Recovering”, was something I made up shortly before we went into the studio (editor’s note: so there was a hint of spontaneity at least hehe), something I liked to play for instance when I was waiting for the other guys before practice began. Sometimes I would play it live, if our drummer was putting his cymbals up, and everybody was waiting in silence. I’ve always liked albums with that sort of short songs on them, they often serve as a free-space, on otherwise aggressive albums. So I guess it just seemed like a good idea to do that one, and I’m still happy with it. “Opening” was supposed to be the opening of the album. Originally it was an intro to the song “Crime”, when we played it in a contest in
Again on “Differences” there’s a slight hint of improvisation in the long outro, any special meaning in that particular passage?
Yes, it’s one of my dirty little experiments that took place after the sessions ended. The mixing process stretched itself over a whole year and I suppose I got both bored and restless, so I recorded it on my four-track one foggy night. But yeah, there is a special meaning in that passage. Ári sings, “Our differences, the beauty of this world”, which I think is a simple, but wonderful line with a lot of truth in it. The idea of using a sample of Hitler’s raging voice, was due to the fact that he hated differences in other people, and wanted one poor race, and therefore sadly a lot of people were killed as we all know. That’s my favourite song on the album, because of its powerful message and vast, exploding atmosphere, still gives me shivers, hehe.
I know Ári’s responsible for the texts but I was wondering if you could maybe fill me in on how much of it is authentic lyricism, and by that I mean personal?
Well I think that all of what he does is very personal to him, even the political stuff on “Wonderland”. He truly means every word he sings, which is one of the reasons why we love having him as our singer. He writes about his own life and about things that concern him deeply. The politics though have abandoned his recent lyrics with his eyes gazing evermore inwards, rather than outwards.
One last question concerning “Wonderland”. If you had the opportunity to revisit the album, would you change anything with it?
No, it’s an honest document of where we were at that time as a band, and besides I can’t, so no point of thinking of it. But very well, I never liked the way the cover turned out, damn, so there you have it hehe!
Right! Now, we all have our guitar idols that eventually inspire us to embrace the instrument, so who were guitar heroes in the early days and why hehe?
Oh, I might have told you a rather embarrassing story in one of my less sober moments. Well ok then. When I was about 10 or 11 I used to lock my room, after stealing one of those tiny bottles of whisky you get on airplanes, from my parent’s cabinet, then light a cigarette, and turn GUNS ‘N ROSES way up, and dream that I was onstage playing one of Slash’s awe-inspiring solos. So I guess that’s where my curiosity of the guitar began. My guitar heroes are Slash of course, Adam Jones (TOOL), Daniel Cavanaugh (ANATHEMA), David Gilmore (PINK FLOYD), Kurt Cobain (NIRVANA), Greg Mackintosh (PARADISE LOST), Joey Santiago (PIXIES), Chris Cornell and Kim something…(SOUNDGARDEN on the album “Super Unknown”). And I can’t help but mentioning a local guitarist called Hedin Ziska Davidsen, who is a fantastic all-round guitar player, and who was a big inspiration in my early days.
Music has always filled a big part of your life in one way or another, you’ve played in different bands, and you have your own radio show, tell me, do you know what could’ve triggered this passion towards the musical universe that surrounds you?
Music is a temporary escape in which you can chose your own destination, depending on what record you put on, happy places, melancholic places, rough and dark places, heavenly places, it’s endless. Sometimes music even has the power to elevate you to a higher state of being where you find yourself dreaming of things you otherwise wouldn’t have thought of. Who would want to miss out on that?
Music is the Faroes Islands is slowly rising up to a more artistic level which I think is great, what’s your take on the scene anno 2005, any band that really stands out in your opinion?
Yes, it’s getting better year by year, but there’s a long way to go. Any band that stands out, well there’s this one band which I absolutely adore, they’re called GESTIR. Their words are sung in Faroese by this one special, fantastic singer. They haven’t got a record yet, but check them out if you can. They’ll be playing with us in Lille Vega in
Alright. What’s been spinning in your stereo lately, any good music you’d recommend to the people out there?
All the bands I’ve mentioned in this interview so far, in case anyone has been so unfortunate as to not have heard all of them yet. The new NINE INCH NAILS album called “With Teeth” is worth a listen, and if you like Melodic Metal, check out INSOMNIUM and their album “Since The Day It All Came Down”. Also, check out a wicked and amusing band called the YEAH YEAH YEAHS.
This one’s always tricky but do you think you could name five albums that never let you down?
NIRVANA – Unplugged
ANATHEMA – Eternity
PIXIES – Trompe Le Monde
DEAD CAN DANCE – Spiritchaser
TOOL – Ænima
MAKREL hasn’t exactly toured intensively so far but you’ve established yourselves nevertheless. How much touring lies ahead for the band, I know you’ll play at the G festival and have another gig in
Lille Vega in
Alright then. So is there anything else planned for MAKREL in 2005, you told me you have a busy schedule yourself with studies and all.
Were trying desperately to organise the recording of our third full length album this summer, but as you say I’m very busy with school unfortunately, and the MAKREL wallet isn’t that well off, wish I was rich, hehe. Time will tell, keep taps on MAKREL at www.makrel.net and cross your fingers for us please J
Ok, I think we’re done. Thanks a lot Rasmus for taking the time to answer my question; you may share a few words of wisdom with fans and readers alike.
Thanks for showing an interest Frodi, you’re welcome anytime! Always liked this one: Better to be hated for what you are, than to be loved for what you’re not!
2004: Wonderland (CD, Tútl)
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