Kjetil is the lead guitar player for the Norwegian hard rock outfit, Razorbats, and he was kind enough to take some time to Talk Some Trash with us here at G2G. This interview was a particularly interesting one for me, as I fell on some ice and suffered a concussion about half-way through our PM interview, so there was some disruption to the conversation, which was already somewhat difficult to conduct due to the 8 hour time difference between my hometown and his. However, not only was Kjetil game enough to continue the interview with me, he was kind enough to be one of the first people to contact me after hearing about my little accident, checking in to see if I was doing well. Truly a class act. So, without further blathering from me, here is Kjetil, Talkin' Trash in one of the most fun interviews I have done to date....
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------G2G: Kjetil, thanks for taking the time to talk some trash with us!
Kjetil: Thanks for having me, Arttie...
G2G: Kjetil, the first thing I have to ask...what year is it in Norway? Because you guys sound like you think it's still 1978 or something!
Kjetil: (Laughing) It is still 1978...everywhere! If you're into hard rock music, there really hasn't been anything new since the late 70's. There has been variations on a lot of the older music, but nothing truly new. Bands from the 90's and 2000's, like Soundgarden or the Hellacopters...the Darkness, the Black Keys...they are just doing their take on KISS, Sabbath, Aerosmith, etc. As with them, we don't feel the need to experiment too much, since it can't really be improved on anyway. And, we're not a bunch of desperate hipsters trying to show the world how underground and
G2G: That you do! And, that's a refreshing attitude, honestly, because here in America it seems like everyone goes with the trends and keeps trying to become superstars playing the exact same thing as everyone else.
Kjetil: I know! It's pretty much the same here in Norway. They're always looking for "the next big thing" and when it happens, it gets copies so many times that it loses all meaning and turns into a parody of itself. But most people don't really care. They just want to listen to what everyone else is listening to so they can pretend they're hip or something. Very few people want to dig a bit deeper and discover all the great bands that don't get played on the big radio stations or written about in the major newspapers and magazines. Bit, I think the tide is turning. Eventually, they will get tired of the sterile EDM (Electronic Dance Music) DJs and whatnot, and start looking for something where you can hear the people who made the music. Much like what happened when Nirvana came out and shook the world out of the plastic 80s thing that was dominating the airwaves.
G2G: I totally agree, which is why I love doing this site. It exposes me...and hopefully the readers...to so many new and exciting bands that are doing their own thing. I love that part. Now, speaking of things I love, I honestly cannot stop playing your new record, Camp Rock! The first question I wanted to ask is actually about the record itself. Who mixed and produced this record, because it has such a complete 70s/early 80s feel and sound that I actually feel like I'm listening to a vinyl record at times.
Kjetil: That's so cool! It's great to think about that we can move someone on the other side of the planet just by making some rock songs! And, we do have it on vinyl, as well as CD! (Laughing) We recorded the album in a small studio in Oslo called Calmeyer Studios with producer and engineer Kai Christoffersen. We had 13 songs more or less ready and we recorded all of them.
First, we had a day of pre-production at our shitty rehearsal space in an abandoned factory. Just to straighten out some arrangements, you know. We then spent about 12 days recording the album. Since the studio is small with just one recording room, we had to record the drums first and build the songs from there. We were pretty well rehearsed, so things went quire smoothly. We chose Kai as the producer because we knew he loved 70s hard rock and he's done some great work with a band called Orango.
It was really hard to find the right producer. There are not many bands like us in Norway, so very few producers could understand and enhance on what we were trying to do. There are a LOT of metal bands, and punk bands, but very few hard rock bands. Also, indie rock and pop is huge, so most of the producers go where the money is. Kai mixed the album as well. I think that sound comes natural for him. Plus, I play old Marshall type amps and a 1974 Gibson SG. The bass player uses a 1976 Rickenbacker, so a big part of the sound was already there, I guess.
G2G: Awesome! You kind of led me into the next question there...how are you received in Norway, which is kind of known for extreme metal styles like death and black metal?
Kjetil: It has been a bit difficult, to be honest with you. There is only one radio station here that can break a new band into the mainstream, and they have a strict regimen of play-listing music that they think will appeal to 12-22 year olds. The rest of the stations only play songs that are already Top 40 hits. So, it's hard to get through. We have gotten a lot of support from a new radio station that plays rock music, and the reviews in rock and metal magazines have been amazing. It seems to us that the people who like the kid of music we play love the album, but for us, unfortunately, they are in the
We started this band because we did not want to compromise anything and do whatever we felt like, regardless of trends. We love Alice Cooper, The Sweet, Blue Oyster Cult, and bands like that, so it would be dishonest for us to try and make something more current just to fit in. But, enough people get and like what we're trying to do, so we can tour and record songs. And that is really what it's all about for us, anyway, so we're happy campers!
G2G: So, speaking of influences, how did you guys discover those bands? With radio being like you describe it, I can't imagine a lot of BoC or The Sweet get much airplay, either...
Kjetil: (Laughing) Absolutely not! For me, it was through my older brother. He was into KISS and AC/DC, so I remember sitting, just staring at the cover of the Destroyer album, wondering what had happened since they were standing on a pile of rocks with fire all around, and wearing those weird clothes and make-up. I remember thinking that maybe it was the end of the world or something like that! (Laughing) We were still young when Nirvana happened, and I guess for a little while in the early 90s, a lot of people started reidscovering bands from the 70s. The Doors movie came out and the girls in my class liked "Stairway To Heaven" by Zeppelin. I didn't like grunge, but it opened the door just a bit, so that it was easy to backtrack the influences of those bands. The first big one for me was Black Sabbath. I couldn't believe what I heard. I was so raw and powerful!
Then, the whole Scandi-rock thing happened here, with Swedish and Norwegian bands like the Hellacopters, Backyard Babies, and Turbonegro mixing classic 70s hard rock with punk. In many ways, those bands laid the foundation for how Scandinavians play hard rock. I don't know if they had any impact in the states, but here they were massively important.
G2G: Well, Hanoi Rocks made a bit of a dent over here, but most people don't know the Hellacopters, for example. Crashdiet and Reckless Love have gotten some attention, but they are more like the second wave of that Scandi-rock movement...
Kjetil: And I've never heard of them! (Laughing) But Hellacopters are doing a one-off reunion show at Sweden Rock Festival next summer and the buzz is immense! Much like it was when Turbonegro reunited in 2003. When they split up in 1998, they played clubs that held about 300-400 people. When they got back together, they played an arena tour in Norway for 6,000-10,000 people!
Rock has fallen out of favor in Norway, it seems. At least, when it comes to new bands. The most popular rock bands in Norway today were formed in the 80s and 90s. I've heard festivals complain that there are no new bands to headline festivals, but I think it's like that most places, not just Norway.
G2G: Okay, I have to ask...what is a Razorbat?
Kjetil: A razorbat is the weapon of choice for the Green Goblin. He's a super-villain and Spiderman's nemesis! The bass player came up with the name and it sounded like an awesome name for a rock band, so it stuck!
G2G: (Laughing) As a comic book fan, I was wondering if that was where it came from! Nice! So, how did you guys end up coming together? Where do the Razorbats come from?
Kjetil: I love comic books, myself, so when he said where it was from I was all for it! After a while, the name of a band doesn't really have any other meaning than just what you associate with the band and their music. I would say Guns N Roses is one of the worst band names of all times, but it sounds killer when you say it because it makes you think of a great band!
As for us, we came together in the fall of 2012. I used to be in another band that toured internationally and ha a few hits, so I wanted to start a new band when that fell apart. One of the things I didn't want was to have a clear idea about what kind of band it was going to be. I just wanted to find some good guys, start jamming, and see what happened. To begin with, we were more of a punk band, but we soon gravitated towards our common love of 70s hard rock and we started to sound like Razorbats. In our "punk phase", we released an EP cammed Bring It on, and actually got a minor radio hit in Norway from it. So, some were a bit surprised when we abandoned that direction for more retro sounding hard rock. But we felt really comfortable with it and felt that what we recorded with Camp Rock is a lot closer to what we really wanted to do.
All of the guys have been in bands before where we have felt restricted by a formula or a sub-genre of music that he had to follow the rules of, so it has been a joy to just do whatever we want and that a lot of people actually like.
G2G: You do get a sense of that punk past creeping into Camp Rock, though...especially on a track like "Betty Book". But, it feels authentic 70s punk and not the pop-punk that was all the rage for a few years after Green Day and Blink 182 became successful...
Kjetil: It is definitely in there somewhere! Our bass player was in a hardcore punk band earlier, and I was in a pop punk band,. But we don't agree on what kind of punk is the best! (Laughing) I like Rancid and Bouncing Souls and a few of the bands from the 90s, but we all love The Ramones, The Dictators, Dead Boys, and bands like that. So, we try to go with what we have in common.
G2G: So, you told me the other day that you had to travel 18 hours or something to a gig. Is that common, or do you guys just play anywhere, any time?
Kjetil: It actually just too 17 hours this weekend! (Laughing) But that is back and forth. It's hard to get people to gigs here on week days, so we just play Fridays and Saturdays. It takes about 10-12 hours to drive from the east coast of Norway to the west, and about 4 days to drive from the south all the way north. So, touring here is a bit tough. Many of the roads are extremely narrow and winding, with lots of tunnels and ferries. This weekend, we drove 5 hours to the first gig, and 3 1/2 hours to the next gig the second day. We try not to play everywhere because it takes so much time, bit its hard to say no to gigs...we love playing in front of people and we have a great time together! Lots of jokes and farts! (Laughing)
G2G: (Laughing) Is that because of the Mexican food? I have a friend who lives in Sarpsborg, and he told me..and I've also read...that Mexican food is huge in Norway.
Kjetil: Taco Friday!!! It's a tradition for a lot of people here for some strange reason! I would think that too much beer, not enough sleep, and food from a gas station causes the farts, though. (Chuckles) It's like what guys said in Spinal Tap. "I wanted to capture the, the sights, the sounds, the smells, of a hard working rock band on the road..." (Laughing) Most bands are like that! Bad food and even worse jokes!
G2G: Awesome! Alright, let's talk about Camp Rock. That CD is still in my disc changer and is pretty much all I've listened to for the past two weeks or so. It's very obvious early Def Leppard has some influence here, especially on tracks like "Planet Riff". Would you agree with that?
Kjetil: Very cool that you still listen to the album. I've heard from a lot of people that it needs a couple of listens before it sticks, but when it does, they never seem to get tired of the album! I see the link to the early Def Leppard stuff, but the main inspiration for the riff was actually "In The Evening" by Led Zeppelin, with a bit of "More Than A Feeling" by Boston! (Laughter)
G2G: I can hear that as well, to be honest. There is just such a mix of 70's influences all over this record...very cool stuff. My personal favorite track, far and away, is "Desolation Highway". Can you tell me a bit about where that song came from inspirationally? I simply don't get tired of it, and its probably my song of the year for 2015, if I made such a list.
Kjetil: I can, yes! The song came from a strange feeling that something was terribly wrong and that something was broken that could not be fixed. I have no idea why, but the song is an attempt to describe that feeling with a story. In the song, we follow a guy who is running away from a messy situation he has caused, but it's left up to our own imagination to figure out what he has done. He wants to go back to the one he loves, but knows it can never be the same again, so he keeps running and punishes himself by seeking out situations that are bad for him.
The music for this one came real quickly and without much thinking. The opening riff has sort of a "doomish" vibe to it, maybe with a little nod to Black Sabbath. We had a girl sing backup on it, because it felt like an echo of the girl he is running away from and made it more powerful.
G2G: I think it's incredible, like I said. Another favorite is "Warhead". Any insight there?
Kjetil: That song is about something a lot of young men can relate to. That is, getting violently jealous when you're drunk. (Laughs) You do a lot of stupid things when you're drunk and when your in love and jealous at the same time. It can get really ugly. The guy in the song ends up losing the girl in the end because she gets tired of him going crazy when he's had a few too many. Like a self-fulfilling prophecy, he pushes her away and ends up thinking he was right all along. The singer wrote the lyrics for that one.
G2G: Hopefully not from personal experience! (Laughing)
Kjetil: (Laughing) No, but you see things! Songs can be true even if you haven't lived it yourself. Thankfully!
G2G: Is that the way it is with "Kids of the 70's"?
Kjetil: That song is more about how things haven't changed that much since the 1970's, and not really all that much about being a kid in the 70's. We started thinking about music and that most new bands claim to be so damn original, but if you dig a little deeper, you will find tons of bands who sound just like them. Then I thought that might be true for more things than just music, like how the optimism and the will to fight of the 60's was replaced by the escapism of the 70's and beyond. The opening line of the song is "There are riots in the streets, while the 'Me Generation' gets lost in the disco in a blizzard of cocaine". That could be just as true of the rave culture of the 90's. We are just recycling old cultural expressions now and we don't understand why so many try to hide it. So, we quote Free at the end of the song and state that "we're alright now!" You don't have to be original to be good.
G2G: (Laughing) Well, it is definitely good. I'm enjoying it immensely...
Kjetil: Gload to hear that! We released it as a single in Norway and it got played a lot. We also heard now that a station in Italy has picked it up and they've gotten great feedback from their listeners. Maybe we're on the brink of a major international radio hit! (Laguhs)
G2G: Well, we all know I have MAJOR pull in the industry! (Laughing) Have you guys had the opportunity to rub shoulders on-stage with any well-known bands?
Kjetil: Of course you have pull! Tell all your friends, give the album to the whole family for Christmas, and pester your local rock station to play Razorbats!
About other bands...we usually headline smaller clubs in Norway, but we got the chance to support Rise Against in a bigger hall this summer. It was awesome! We might be doing the same with Backyard Babies in Norway soon, but that is not 100% yet.
G2G: Let's play a little game. I'll give you a word or words and you give me the first thing to come to your mind, okay?
G2G: Stage Dolls
Kjetil: Haha! Pop-metal for housewives!
G2G: Ouch! Bashing on the Nordic countrymen! Okay...Backyard Babies...
Kjetil: Total 13! UFO Romeo! Getting punched in the face by a drunk biker at Turbonegro's farewell gig in Oslo during BB's set.
G2G: (Laughing) Okay...T. Rex...
Kjetil: Glam! Glory! Tragedy!
G2G: Black Sabbath?
Kjetil: The love of my life! Power, mystic, genius...
G2G: Ozzy or Dio?
Kjetil: Ozzy! I think they are like comparing pizza and burgers. Both delicious, but very different. The Heaven And Hell album is great, but Ozzy is a god!
G2G: I'm a Dio guy, but you have the right to be wrong. (laughing) How about black metal?
Kjetil: Thanks! (Laughs) I saw Dio with Heaven and Hell (the band) on their last tour in Europe, and he was amazing.
I'm not into black metal. It doesn't connect with me. Only one black metal song that really moves me and that is "Mother North" by Satyricon. It's an overwhelming display of power...
Kjetil: Barf... I'm more of a pinnekjott guy. Delicious lamb...
G2G: (Laughing) Just trying to make you feel culturally comfortable. I try to do my research!
Kjetil: Not bad! Check out smalahove! Very black metal...and also delicious!
G2G: Favorite beer of Razorbats?
|Kjetil enjoying SOME kind of beer!|
fan of American beer, though.
G2G: If you could hang out with one rock star, living or dead, who would it be?
Kjetil: That's a tough one! I'm gonna say Geezer Butler from Black Sabbath. He seems like such a brilliam and funny guy! I was actually in the VIP section of a Killers show in New York once with David Bowie and Jimmy Page, and I totally froze and didn't manage to say a single word. So, I'm not sure I'm a fun guy for the rockstars to hang out with...
G2G: One rockstar you would like to punch in the mouth?
G2G: (Laghter) That was quick! Any specific reason?
Kjetil: I don't know. I hate U2 and he seems like such a self-righteous douchebag...
G2G: You referenced Spinal Tap earlier...do Razorbats have any Tap moments in their career? Trapped in any pods or doing any dancing around a miniature Stonehenge?
Kjetil: Hmmmm....nothing as funny as Spinal Tap, I'm afraid.
Kjetil: Very true! All bands eventually have a few Tap-moments. Hope it's not the drummer it happens to!
G2G: (Laughter) If a Razorbats movie is made, who plays you and why?
Kjetil: Bjorn Sundquist! The ultimate Norwegian badass!
G2G: What about that guy that plays Thor in the Avengers movies?
Kjetil: (Laughs) I changed my mind. I want Happy Tom from the Norwegian death punk band, Turbonegro, to play me! Or the Cookie Monster!
G2G: Norway has Sesame Street?
Kjetil: Of course!
G2G: What are your hopes for Razorbats? How far do you see your band going?
Kjetil: That's hard to say. The feedback on the album has been amazing, but not too many people like the kind of hard rock we play. At least not too many people under 30. The goal is to be able to tour Europe and play for 150-200 people a night, earn enough from it to finance recording new albums, and have a blast doing it!
G2G: Any videos or plans for such things?
Kjetil: Nope...it is too expensive and MTV just shows reality shows now, so we don't really see the point. We hope to get the support gig for Backyard Babies or Imperial State Electric this winter, and if we do, we'll record and film it. Maybe make a live DVD or just put a couple live songs on YouTube.
G2G: What's the best concert you have ever attended?
Kjetil: Best concert? Hmmm... Is it okay if I choose three?
1. Balder--my brother's band when he was in high school. I was 12-13 years old and the experience pretty much changed my life. They played the cafeteria and it was full of 16-17 year old kids, drinking beer, making out, and smoking something that smelled funny. It was so loud and such a long way from the music videos I had seen on MTV. I had never been so scared and felt so much alive at the same time. I realized then that I had to start a band.
2. Turbonegro--I think it was the release party for the Ass Cobra album at the legendary rock club "So What" in Oslo. They were so disgusting. The singer was fat, hairy, sweaty, and extremely rude to the audience. They all wore denim and looked kind of gay. I thought it was the funniest thing I had ever seen. They were a long, long way from Bon Jovi and other heroes I had from childhood. They were dangerous, fun, and unashamed of being different.
3. Black Sabbath--reunion tour. They are my favorite band and I never thought I would be able to see them. I got Tony Iommi's guitar pick and I am not ashamed to say I cried a bit! (Laughs)
G2G: Worst concert ever?
Kjetil: Bon Jovi a couple of years ago. It was terrible.
G2G: Yeah, they're just not the same anymore...especially with so much Nashville seeping into their sound.
Kjetil: And no Richie Sambora! And, Jon's voice has gotten thin and he couldn't reach any of the high notes any longer.
G2G: What about the last album you were just completely disappointed in...just pure crap?
Kjetil: It's been a long time since I was that disappointed with an album. Probably Wolves In Wolves' Clothing by NOFX. Couldn't find a single track that I liked.
G2G: Anything that has just blown your mind recently?
Kjetil" Yep! The new single from Turbonegro called "Hot For Nietzsche"!
G2G: And Camp Rock, of course...
Kjetil: Of course!
G2G: Kjetil, I want to thank you for all the fun! I hope you had some fun as well, and I truly hope people check out Camp Rock and your band, Razorbats! Truly great stuff!
Kjetil: Thanks a lot! I had a blast!
G2G: Gledelig Jul to you my friend! I think I said that correctly...
Kjetil: Perfect! Merry Christmas to you, too!
G2G: Make sure you head over to this location so that you can pick up Camp Rock from Razorbats...and maybe you can even snag a Razorbats t-shirt as well...although I doubt anyone can rock a shirt quite like this guy!