When Red Harvest's new album 'Cold Dark Matter' appeared in my mailbox a few weeks ago I didn't really know what to expect. An industrial metal band on Samoth's Nocturnal Art label? Was this going to be yet another disappointing slide into electronica for the Norwegian scene? Well, thankfully, I was not let down in any way by the record, and in fact I was so impressed by Red Harvest's monstrously cold and dark sound that I knew I had to interview them right away. As you will see, this band has actually been a part of the Norwegian scene for a long time now, and their connections to the black metal bands in that country are eye-opening, if pursued past the 'novelty' stage. In any case, this group is worth listening to based on their own merits, and I hope this interview will prompt the readers of this magazine to investigate their efforts.
This interview with Ketil of Red Harvest features questions by U. Amtey
Having read the bio sheet that was delivered with your promo package from Nocturnal Art, I know that your band has actually been around the Norwegian music scene for some time now. Have you had trouble in getting your band recognized outside Scandinavia? Are there other bands in the scene around Oslo that share musical tastes with your own - or are you originators? Is there much of an 'industrial' scene in Norway - industrial metal or traditional industrial (experimental music)?
Well, we have been around like 11 years now... We have always gotten some kind of recognition from all parts of the world, but when we changed from the label Voices of Wonder to NAP things have grown in a larger scale than before. I guess we've had a more or less solitary existence so far... I don't know any other norwegian bands sounding like we do. No bands at all, actually, even though you could always draw some lines here and there.
What prompted your move from your last record label (Voices of Wonder) to Samoth's imprint? How do you feel about his connections to the black metal scene, or some of the events he has been involved in in the past? How has your experience with Nocturnal Art been so far? Do you feel that your music shares any affinities with black metal? I linked some of your more evocative atmosperes (esp. the song 'Last Call') to mid-period Burzum - is this a fair comparison? How did Fenriz become involved in the recording of your new album? Do you ever have trouble in gaining recognition because of the predominance of 'traditional' types of metal in Norway - i.e., black metal or death metal?
Samoth offered us a deal after seeing us live a few times. We were sick and tired of VOW's terrible work for the band, so when this offer came up, we just jumped on it. He could offer us a lot more in all ways. What he has been up to in the past is his business. Samoth is doing a great job for us, and he is very professional. (the professionalism of the Scandinavian record labels always makes me envious - Ed.) We've known shitloads of black metal people even before they became black metal, we're all part of the extreme music society in Oslo, so this has not been a "problem" for us back home. Maybe abroad, but then again, who knows? Personally I've never listened to much of what Burzum has recorded, so I really donīt know. But many people have told me that some of his music is worth listening to, so maybe I'll give it a try. Fenriz is a good friend of ours. He showed up in the studio one evening. We did some stuff on the track "Absolut Dunkelheit" together, we laughed a lot and got drunk.
What bands would you consider to be influences on Red Harvest's sound? Did you in fact take the name (as I has guessed in my review of 'Cold Dark Matter') from the title of Hammett's crime novel - or was there another source? What does the name of your band mean to you - what does it signify? Can you explain what your motivations are for writing music that tries, above all, to create soundscapes that are cold, harsh, and (I think) completely misanthropic? Is this meant to be a reflection on reality - or human nature? Life on this planet? What does the title of your album, 'Cold Dark Matter' specifically refer to?
Slayer, Skinny Puppy, Godflesh, Neurosis, Minestry, Strapping Young Lad, Darkthrone.... all great bands that I guess have influenced us one way or another. I wasn't in the band when the name came up, but the guys who came up with the name swear it's not from the book you mention. Anyway, I've heard that the book is pretty cool, so it doesn't matter. To me, the name makes me think about oceans of blood. We wanted to share some of the twisted shit that has been going on in our heads the last years on "Cold Dark Matter". We all have experienced a lot of shit the last years, so everything came kind of natural to us. The lyrics, the music, the production of the CD. It's like a now or never CD - a question about dying or not. Dark matter doesn't send out light, but it's there.... same goes for our thoughts.
Tell me a little about combining industrial sounds with traditional metal instrumentation - do you find it to be a challenge? What is the most difficult part of composing music this way? Do you think this is the way metal should be pushed in the future? In the band, who writes the music - is it a group effort? How long does it take to write songs? Do you find anything else outside of other music to be inspirational when it comes to writing Red Harvest material? Any films or literature or other kinds of art that you want to reference?
We have been doing this stuff from 1994. The difficult thing is to make it "not sound sissy", to make it both organic and machinemade at the same time. Bring a feeling and a mood in the music. What other bands feel like doing, doesn't matter to me. The most difficult thing is to export what's in your head to the rest of the guys actually... if they get it, it usually works. We sometimes make the music together, sometimes alone, but after all it's a group effort. It can take from one hour to 6 months. Inspiration comes from everything that's around us. A life that sucks is inspiration enough.
I read in your bio that you have a very good reputation as a live act in Norway - do you incorporate anything extra in your stage set that would add to the power of the music? Any kind of stage show or effects? Are there adequate places to play where you live? How difficult is it to find or set up shows? Is there anything that you would LIKE to add to your shows that you are not able to now, for whatever reason (money, etc.)? What would your vision of a PERFECT Red Harvest performance be like?
The music usually speaks for itself. People are impressed that five guys can make so much noise and play as tight as we usually do. I guess the lights we use when we headline are a bit extreme: We use shitloads. And we work really tight with our sound engineer. There are some really great places in Norway to do gigs, so if we get enough light, the right PA and get to use our soundguy and lightguy that have been working with us the last years, you have a perfect show. We usually do all the biggest cities in Norway once a year.
Do you have any plans to tour for the support of your new album? Are there any bands that you would like to play with? What bands have your played with in the past - which ones were the best to play alongside?
We will tour Europe in September as a support act with Mayhem. I guess it'll be cool, cause we know the guys from way back. Unfortunately there is not enough seats in the bus, so we cannot bring our sound- and lightguy, but we'll manage anyway. We have played with a lot of bands, but we actually did a very cool support job for Type-O-Negative a few years ago. If I could choose some bands no matter what, Iīd choose Godflesh and Strapping Young Lad.
I have been listening to industrial music almost as long as I have been involved in the metal scene, for about 14 years now, and I always consider the term 'industrial' to mean the traditional first wave of experimental noise bands: Throbbing Gristle, SPK, Nurse With Wound, Whitehouse, etc. 'Industrial metal', on the other hand, has come to mean bands that play in the vein of acts like Ministry, latter Skinny Puppy, Treponem Pal, Pitchshifter, Sonic Violence, Skrew, Nine Inch Nails, etc - at least in my country. To me, at least, the ultimate 'industrial metal' band would have to Godflesh, and I don't think anyone has really ever been able to equal 'Streetcleaner' or 'Pure' in terms of creating a sound that combined metal and industrial textures in such a powerful manner. Where does Red Harvest fit into this picture - are you a disciple of the later (more modern) bands or have you tried to go back to find the roots of this kind of music and incorporate those sounds into a new metal framework? Do you think it's difficult to create an original industrial metal style and/or sound when there have been quite a few bands already that made such an enormous impact on the scene? Do you think there's still room left for growth and experimentation in the industrial metal scene? In what direction do you plan to take Red Harvest in the future?
We love Godflesh. Actually, the drummer in Godflesh helped us out in the studio. I guess we have picked up things from many of the bands you mention. Maybe Swans? I think there is room for Red Harvest. We combine the metal we listened to when we grew up and the metal we listen to today, with a bit more technology and brutal approach. We have some freaky and chaotic elements many other bands don't have, still with a touch of melody lines. Red Harvest will probably be more brutal and chaotic in the years to come. More mixes of man and machines. We'll push our gear and skills to the max.
Can you explain the lyrics and theme of the song 'Absolut Dunkel:heit' to me? Is this a prediction of the future, or merely a song that tries to create a certain mood and feeling in the listener? Out of all the songs on your new album, I thought this was the best at displaying the different styles that you incorporate into your sound: from the blasting black metal opening to the techno middle to the crashing traditional metal at the end of the song. There are only a few lines of lyrics, I know, but what exactly are you referring to? It's difficult for me to decipher. Do you write lyrics to serve as additional mood-building effects in a song, or do you approach them as a narrative, as telling a story? Depending on the song, they seem to be either one or the other.
We try to pass on a feeling. "Absolut" is about being trapped in a system that is more or less eating you alive piece by piece until you canīt fight back anymore. You'll find the lyrics on www.redharvest.com. They're all about being fucked up by other persons, drugs, the media and your own head.
(Ed.'s note: I decided to just include them here to eliminate misunderstandings)
How do you feel about the emerging industrial-black metal scene in Norway, centered around Moonfog records? Are you familiar with those bands and the new direction they are taking - bands such as Satyricon, Dodheimsgard, the 'new' Mayhem? At one time they were very traditional, but now they have taken it upon themselves to incorporate a wide manner of influences (including 'industrial' or 'techno' textures) into their music, seemingly in a search for new ideas in their playing - is this just experimentation? Do you feel this is a laudable movement, something that should be supported? I'll confess that your band is the FIRST I have heard from Norway that successfully (in my opinion) combines industrial and metal textures into a legitimate style. Because your band has been around for a long time do you think it has had an influence on these other (newer) groups that are trying to mix industrial and black metal? Do you think we are going to continue to see this kind of music coming from Norway in the future?
That's cool with me. We have always been hanging around with a lot of the guys from the black metal scene. Lately these bands have been picking up a thing or two from our earlier stuff (so it was natural for us to pick up a few things from them too (he-he)). I'm not fighting for more loops and samples in music, but the fact that some of these bands are doing things like this, sure makes it a bit easier for us to reach new people. Some of the bands you mention do some cool stuff in my opinion, but I hear a lot of things that are boring to me, and that we did five years ago. I know that some of the "youngsters" used to listen to us, and still do. We are lucky, cause we've always been (to "metal ears") doing strange things and our fans dig that. Itīs not that easy for the bands you mention to develop, cause many metalheads are really conservative. I say: Give them a chance, it makes music more interesting. Rome wasn't built in a day. I think the music from Norway will develop, but not necessarily in an industrial direction. But things won't remain the same forever... perhaps Darkthrone.
Is there anything else you would like to add for our readers to see? Please take the space here to write anything you wish.
I really don't know where in the world you're from (Dallas, Texas - Ed.), but I hope to see you and the readers in September. The post-atomic winter might come to a place very near you.