From Aural Innovations #23 (April 2003)
Norwegian band WE has made quite a long journey from their start back in the early 90s. I was lucky enough to spend three days on the road with this great bunch of guys. Below are the results of an interview done with Thomas and Kris over these three days in Denmark and Sweden. I think you will learn a lot of things you never knew about the band. I sure did.
SH: Scott Heller, TF: Thomas Felberg, KK: Kris Krikvaag, Goshie, DK: Don Krikvaag
SH: When and where was the first WE concert? Were you called WE at this time?
TF: We were called WE approx. but that was without Goshie from 1991. We did not really become a proper band with Goshie until 1993. So our first gig was Kongsberg, where we played at this youth club. We did not have any albums out and we brought out this super 8 silent film which had apes from the circus to play as an intro. We played, I donít know if any of those songs have survived, songs like Communicational Truth, a lot of covers, Sabbath, Free...
SH: Ok... FREE... They are one of my all time favourites..
TF: Yeah. Us too. We used to play Iíll be Creepiní and Mr. Big.
SH: You should play Mr Big again.
TF: Yeah, Actually, we had a great version of Mr. Big. But when Goshie came in we didnít play as many covers. We have always written original material and played it live but then it sort of took over with our own originals and then our debut came out in 1994. We recorded and financed it ourselves. We recorded with Bore Logic from So Much Hate, an old punk guy in this little crummy studio in Oslo called Endless Sound, which actually burned down a few months after we recorded.
SH: Were your masters lost?
TF: No no... the masters we have with us. In the Field of Moose that was called on our own label. It didnít really go too well commercially but we got some lessons and moved on.
KK: Like Thomas said, it didnít even get a proper release. It was finished by early June '94 and printed straight after the mix and master. Then we actually sold it hand to hand during the summer. Got rid of 3-400 copies. We almost forced people to buy it!
TF: Then we got distribution from Voices of Wonder. So it was released in the whole of Europe. We actually got a review in Kerrang magazine, a 3 KKK review, which was very strange.
SH: How did it get over there?
TF: We sent it. We have done things and gotten out very early without the proper credit for it I feel. We have done many more things than a lot of bands who have had a lot more written about them.
SH: Right now you are sort of considered this new rock band in NorwayÖ
TF: All over really.
SH: Yet you have been around 10 years.
TF: We started out in a high school... met Kris and Don, brothers... Kris is one year older than me. Then its me and Don one year under that and we all grew up in the same place in Oslo and we started playing in a band when we were 14 called Paranoid! Played Little Red Rooster, Heavens on Fire and Smoke on the Water and Born to be Wild and two of our own songs. The first song we had ever written, Don and me, was called Watermelon Woman and the second one was Sunday morning Hangover! 14 years old...
SH: Sounds like you guys were already stuck in the 70s.
TF: Oh yeah.. We grew up totally on that shit but also some of the stuff from the 80s like Iron Maiden, Metallica, and that stuff. But we sort of grew tired of the whole poodle scene and we went back to the 70s and we walked around with our long hair, center parted and that was our style at our home setting where we came from, not just us, but everybody. So when they saw guys from our part of town, you know the suburbs of Oslo, then they knew we were from Oslo, because everyone was looking like the 70s freaks way back in '85-'86. That is when we started really going back.
KK: Even though everyone was wearing this kind of hair style it... it was to be honest, it was me and you and Don and a few others who were kind of into the music and wanted to really explore and not just kind of be like a hangaround, trying our hash in the forest for the first time. You know we did that too but...
TF: We were into the music.
KK: Get together in rooms and listen to music and turn each other on to different stuff.
TF: My main mission was to make tapes and spread the music. They were also totally into it but I was mainly the one who was running downtown listening to albums in the stores and coming up... ĒThis is the shit!Ē...
KK: He was always coming up with cool shit.
TF: Then after all this heavy rock and stuff we discovered Led Zeppelin, Rush, Yes, King Crimson, Genesis and then we sort of expanded into our serious prog phase and now it is sort of a mix of heavy rock and the stuff we grew up on like the Beatles and Stones. More psychedelic sounds.
SH: How did you meet Goshie?
TF: Goshie, he was at Hovseter, Elm Bar, he was working there and we were just tipped from a friend that he worked there and he was a bass player and we needed one. We met him the 3rd of Feb, 1993 at the rock bar in Oslo called M-Street. Met him, said hello, tried the addition, went to see Rage against the Machine first time in Oslo and from then on we have just been going on.
KK: Quite stubborn all the 4 of us, I must say. Compared to what we have done and what we have gotten back. We are not in it for the money. We are in it for spacing out!!!!!!!!!!!
SH: Once you get in it for the money, then you are in trouble.
KK: The combination would be nice though, to earn some money from what you do but...
TF: We would love to be in it for the money but we arenít!
SH: How long before you recorded the Violently Colour Sneakers (VCS)?
TF: That was our first proper recording. We recorded those two years after the In a Field of Moose in 1996. We went down to Athletic Sounds in Halden, a very renowned studio in Norway, with this guy who has been doing sound for many many years named Kai ō. Andersen. That was a proper, costly recording. We brought in Deathprod (Helge Sten) from Motorpsycho for mixing. And we were the first to bring him down to Athletic Sound, which sort of became Motorpsychoís sort of in house recording studio for many years. We sort of brought them together but not many people know that.
SH: Did you get any state money for recording that?
TF: No that was financed by us and Voices of Wonder. We still owe them money for that shit.
KK: They had some sort of strange vibe that we were going to break and that album was going to sell thousands of copies. The money was loose at the moment but they soon realized that the things we were doing were out there spacing completely out.
TF: VCS is better than In the Field of Moose and in that we tried to do everything and some of that is ok but VCS still has some songs that lives through but its not so consistent. It wasnít until Wooferwheels that we realized we canít use loads of money on a new album, we have to just do it ourselves and we started to build our own studio at that point. Don was starting to really get into engineering and then we just decided that we would do Wooferwheels ourselves. Wooferwheels was the first one that really broke us through that barrier. It started with VCS, that was the first time we played out, played in Denmark and Germany. We started to build on that and when Wooferwheels came out we got thrown into this stoner thing that was just starting to come out. We have already been a part of that scene. I was a Kyuss fan all the way back to 1991, we used to love DOOM, Black Sabbath we all grew up on. First it was just natural... I think Wooferwheels is the first album that puts WE on the map. The first two are like baby steps.
SH: Who came up with the title Violently Coloured Sneakers? Any hidden meaning?
TF: That was me. It was in the middle of the techno phase when everyone was tripping out on Ecstasy and that shit and having your sneakers on... is slang in Norwegian for doing speed. Then if you are doing Ecstasy you get speedy but you get spaced as well. Then you not only have sneakers, you have Violently Coloured sneakers and that song VCS is sort of the warning of the frying of the brains.
SH: I love that painting in the VCS CD by Peter K. Bugge.
KK: That is my cousin.
SH: Do you have the original at home?
KK: I do. It is a 1.20 meter oil painting.
SH: Who designed that WE logo that you started using at this time?
KK: Me. That is actually my drawing.
SH: I really like it.
KK: Some do some donít. Iím not sure. I think it is... There is something in it... Originally by me.
SH: Speaking of Wooferwheels, what the hell is that thing on the cover. It is really unique.
TF: It is actually a plaster childrenís clay thing that I actually found when I was taking the tram home one evening. I just found this bowl and I just started... probably stoned at the time... ha ha... just started making this head and when the tram ride was over I had made this head with two matches as eyes and stuff and then it rested on my mothers TV and of course she loved it, as all mothers do when you make stuff and she put it up. It was just resting on the television in the living room and when we were discussing covers for Wooferwheels we were up at my mothers for some reason, I think my mother was out, we used her house for smoking at the time, and then Kris just saw that and said, this is the new WE cover!
KK: I remember.
TF: No, No... this is just some shit I made on the tram while stoned. My mother put that up because she doesnít know any better.
KK: I just took it with me and the designer took some pictures and put it into his PC and it came out like that.
TF: A bit manipulated.
SH: Do you still have the head?
TF: Oh yeah. It still rests on my motherís television! But it didnít have headphones, that was put on.
KK: We have always used people who know how to design, at least from the Wooferwheels and up. We always have tight control of it. Normally me, I sit there from day one, not to control but to get in on the brainstorm. The artists we work with they get our music and ideas and we also help to carry the ideas and melt it all together in a huge pot and see what comes out.
TF: With WE, there is no one guy who really is doing everything. WE is collaboration and we work with outsiders as well.
SH: When you toured on Wooferwheels what was the set list like? Now, you donít play anything older except Wooferwheels.
TF: We love that album, actually, I donít know. We are still an underground band and we feel like our latest is the one that can break through to more people easier. We also feel like we have outgrown some of the songs. We still love to listen to them but sometimes you donít feel so natural playing them anymore. Like take Chase Vampire, Stuks of Khun de Prorok...
SH: You used to play those live?
TF: Oh yeah. We used to play the whole fuckiníalbum live. And on the Wooferwheels tour we brought on two big televisions and we have on them each side which plugged together into a VCR which I run myself from stage. I had done clips from Nature things and Koyaanisquatsi, some from Heavy Metal, the cartoon film. I had timed everything for the songs. I also had some costumes. That is when the costume thing started. We did the German tour of three weeks, some Norwegian gigs and it was really sort of the breakthrough for us. As for the set list, we also played VCS songs and even one or two from In the Field of Moose. It was really a psychedelic set but still some rock songs. I donít know. We are always talking about playing some of the other songs from Wooferwheels.
SH: It sounds like you will eventually do it.
TF: We will. Last Argument of Kings... Chase Vampire would be great to bring out. Just have to sell a few more albums and when they start yelling for Chase Vampire we will play it! Isnít that right Goshie?
Goshie: Chase is always with us!
TF: We love Stuks of Khun de Prorock...
Goshie: IM Dschungle von Kraut...
TF: That song is pure improvisation. It was suppose to be timed and we had this alarm clock that was suppose to go off because we didnít have anymore room on the album, but we were so into it and stoned when we played that, we donít usually play stoned, but then it was a different thing, not one heard the alarm clock so we went 3-4 minutes too long. That is why the album is a double vinyl! It was suppose to be a single, then IM Dschungle von Kraut, instead of 4 minutes became 8!
Goshie: If you are really stoned and listen to IM Dschungle von Kraut you can hear the alarm clock! You can but we put reverb on it and it sounds really cool but its there. Itís a contest, find the alarm clock.
TF: The one who finds the alarm clock gets a free t-shirt!
SH: When did you start to put together Hangaround because you guys rehearse and record there.
TF: Everything is done at Hangaround. That is our headquarters, the nerve central of WE. We started to build that when we got our rehearsal space in 1995. Itís a great huge two room place.
SH: Is that where the Jinxed video was filmed?
TF: Yeah. Everything except the big stage stuff. There is one big room which is sort of the recording room and the rehearsal room and there is one smaller room which is the technical room where the mixer is and that stuff. And then we started to build. First with 16 track mixing console, then 12 track recording, and then we just started to expand and invest on that. Especially Don, the latest years, he also got a job working in another studio and so he got a lot of experience and then we got the 24 track mixing console and 24 track 2Ē tape and then we started to get some outboard stuff and now we have a fully operational professional studio with Ĺ inch down mix and loads of compressors and effects and Don is now running the studio professionally on the side to get some extra money and experience.
SH: That is great for you. That means anytime you guys have some ideas or whatever and you are just ready to record...
TF: Yeah. We can go down there. There is no rush or time limits. If we want to work on an idea we work on it. So it came out a bit of a mix of necessity of having to do it yourself and the will of getting to learn more about it.
SH: Are there any unreleased songs from In the Field of Moose or VCS sessions? Stuff that didnít actually get put on the records?
TF: Nothing from in the field of the moose... VCS... no.
Goshie: Yeah, we have a few from the VCS demos.
TF: Which songs are those?
Goshie: We have a very special version of Turtlewaken. The stoner version of Turtlewaken.
TF: Yes. We have some alternative versions and stuff.
Goshie: And then we have the Cough. Do you remember that? Instrumental.
TF: Mostly alternative versions and the most songs that we have not recorded were just on the demo from the ghettoblaster. From Wooferwheels... I donít think there are any either.
Goshie: There are lots of songs from 2 tracks not recorded onto 24 track.
TF: We have lots of other stuff. There is an EP coming called Light Years Ahead (May 21st), some leftovers from the Dinosauric sessions and one new song, Freak Capital of the Universe. That EP is the last hurrah from that stage. The time has past. The next proper album will be a bit experimental, heavy, a bit on the left side I think. Some of the songs we have coming now are quite dark and actually, I think, an evil, more grownup version of Wooferwheels its gonna be.
Goshie: Very inspired by the Kraut scene.
SH: Well, Freak Capital of the Universe is definitely one of the best songs you have ever done.
TF: Yeah. Definitely! That just came out of a jam the last day summer days before our holidays.
Goshie: It started out, just a jam. What was this... wow...
TF: We definitely see things coming up, like you said, we are a new band now. Yesterday we were told like Gluecifer who started out the Scandinavian rock wave and shit. And we were there before them. We just learn to say, ďYes... Thank you very much, we are newĒ. I am actually 21 and proud!
SH: Liviní the Lore hit the road in 1999... you were quite active, with 3 CDs in just over 3Ĺ years.
TF: Living the Lore came out in March 1999. Yeah, quite prolific in a way, then the songs started to fall more freely and we did more live work, which helped our sound I think. We also had finished our art phase and we wanted to rock out a bit, so that is why Liviní the Lore had some shorter songs. We always had those songs but they have always been a bit more quirky. As I told you earlier we started out with Black Sabbath, AC/DC, Rolling Stones, the Beatles, so it was natural to go back to that a bit and try to get that in. There is still some really spacey songs on Liviní the Lore... This Day and Shades we Wear. This Day is over 10 minutes long.
SH: Have you ever played that live?
TF: Yes. Once, at Rockefellers supporting Euroboys and the guy Danny from Gluecifer on percussion.
SH: How did you come to meet Chris Goss?
TF: They played at Enger in Bielefeld in Germany and we were on tour at the same time and we saw them playing. We knew the promoters who were putting on the gigs in Germany. We just talked with them and met them and Goshie and Don got themselves backstage and met Chris Goss and gave him a Wooferwheels album. 2-3 months later, we got a handwritten fax from Chris Goss, really loved your album, we must talk more. Send Demos. Nothing fancy. We were like ok, why not. He has been a hero since 1988, we loved Masters of Reality. Don and Me we used to cry to Blue Garden and Sunrise on the Sufferbus. So that was great. So Liviní the Lore came out in 1999 and so did the new Masters of Reality album, Welcome to the Western Lodge and then all of a sudden we got invited to go on the full European tour. That was a great experience for us, a growing experience as a band.
SH: When we met at the Roskilde Festival in 2000 at that time you were saying that Chris Goss would produce the next album (Dinosauric).
TF: Yeah, that was really the plan from both of us. He has gone through many WE things and he has really been supportive but the thing is it has to work in with his schedule and ours and there is also a financial side to it of course. Chris Goss wonít take all our money but this is his job, he has got to live, and he wonít come for free and he needs his own engineer. We also have to rent the studio. The financial and the schedule thing just did not work out, so we just had to go on ourselves and do Dinosauric Futurobic in Hangaround just as we did with Wooferwheels and Liviní the Lore. And also, our stash of equipment has gotten better. This is the first we have done on 2Ē tape, 24 track and stuff.
SH: You donít know have any reason to record anywhere else.
TF: Still, we would like to work with Chris Goss in the future and I think we will. I know he wants to work with us. It is only a matter of timing really before our heads come together.
SH: How did the deal with Drunken Maria happen and when were those tracks recorded? It is a great EP with fantastic artwork? Who's idea was the pill?
TF: That deal happened late at night after WE had played together with 7Zuma7. Michiel the guy who runs Drunken Maria was a friend of the Zuma guys, a great night were held and in the small hours we started to talk. They were recorded in our own studio Hangaroundsounds, I think on 12 track, and mixed by ourselves in the band with Don having main charge and switching round on engineering each other, for the most times WE record everything just us, with again Don behind the main technical aspect, but input, arguments and shouting from everybody including Don. It`s a very heated ship at times during recording, outsiders easily become wallpaper, while the musical philosophies fall like hale from the 4 eagerly participating players. The cover is all Michiel, the pill and all WE just sent him the masters. He did a great job. I like that EP too. Maybe WE will remaster it and release on cd in some time or maybe not. Weíll have to see.
SH: How did you come to cover the Groundhogs and choose Cherry Red?
TF: We are all big fans of Groundhogs. They got a great raunch if you know what I mean. Tony McPhee is truly one the great blues guitarists from England in my book! Great songwriter as well, so WE had to play a song.
SH: What inspired the tracks on the split LP with Gas Giant? Those are really unique songs for WE and quite trippy.
TF: That was meant to be trippy. We had these long trippy songs we had written, which wouldn`t really fit into what was to become Dinosauric Futurobic. And then We hooked up with you Scott, we saw a brethren of the spirit and thought, "We must give this longhaired, bearded man our long and trippy songs and then WE can make them even more trippier and put them on one long LP side and space out... so that was the attitude... on The Trip Don played his sitar which Kris and I got for him on a trip in India that WE did a few years back. Great stuff... and hazy sessions "studio kinda cloudy". Last Stronghold of the Freaks is actually part two of an ongoing series about the destiny of freakdom, the series is a Bonzo Dog Band inspired sci-fi rock odyssey freak story about this guy called Todd Monsoon, who lives on a spaceport far out in space and there they grow herbs and experiments in herbpollination for a whole universe of freak galaxies and planets. It`s quite elaborate so I won`t go into detail here, but the spaceport which is called Spaceport 22 Benfric gets destroyed by "the grey synthetic force of Straighto" who hates freaks and destroys and converts them. The only survivor is Todd Monsoon, because he was out pickings herbs when the attack happened, and the story starts from there. It will all be revealed in a spacelog that is included on our new mini-lp Lightyears Ahead out somewhere near you during 2003 sometime. 26th of May in Norway and August/September Europe. www.stonerrock.com is always a good tip for WE stuff. They got a lot of them. The freak saga gets concluded for this time... on Lightyears Ahead with the 14 minutes long song Freak Capital of the Universe...
SH: Was the song Trilogy of Last Stronghold, Galactic and Freak Capital brewing already back at this time?
TF: Well I answered ahead back there, but that whole story has evolved through time, the original was the rhyme on the innersleeve and the song Last Stronghold of the Freaks and then it exploded during a few, very hazy mornings and afternoons coming down from a nightshift job I had back then. You know when you haven`t slept at all last night and you`ve smoked at least 4 spliffs to set you in mood with the sun that`s just come up, things happen then you know...
SH: Do you have some favourite Sci Fi writers that have inspired the more space themes in the bands music in recent times?
TF: I am inspired by sci-fi in general, the whole outlook, but through my eyes they come more like Freak Brothers in space with a ghettoblaster on full blast you know, `cause rock`n`roll is all for me, everything must have a seed of rock`n`roll and many things, it`s a way of looking at things, for me anyway. I really like Michael Moorcock. I love the collaborations he`s done with Hawkwind. I`d love to do a spacerock opera based upon his first Von Bek book. So if Michael is reading don`t hesitate to make contact with some Norwegian freaks who are ready. I read lot of other stuff as well, comics of course. From the Spaceways, the song from Dinosauric Futurobic is inspired by the Silver Surfer comic in a loose way. Organic Room, another track on D.F. mentions Peter Parker, a.k.a Spideman, an old hero of mine. I read a lot of rock biographies as well. I like the stories and the point of views. It`s all stewed together in the little pea. I try to just flow really, see what happens.
SH: It took quite a long time from the time you laid down the Dinosauric Futurobic tracks and it actually came out. What lessons have you learned about the whole process of marketing your band, finding the right deal, etc. And what can you recommend to up and coming bands as far as what to do and what not to do?
TF: Well, you gotta stand firm on your music. If some say they don`t like it, it`s just an opinion. If you believe in your heart that your music is good, it is good... at least that`s how I feel. Be wary of all deals, read everything like they`re trying to screw you. If you haven`t got a result from a label yet, how do you know that they will do a good job, no matter what they say to you, anybody can say anything... can say that I am gonna sell a million records. I can even mean it, doesn`t mean that it actually is gonna happen, you know. Also get third parties in to read the contracts. Someone who knows law. If someone is gonna make money on your product, why not yourself as well? Otherwise Rock on. The only true place for your profession is the stage, that`s the bottomline.
SH: You have a new EP coming out in May. Can you describe this for us? What is the artwork like? Is it a CD-EP, 10" vinyl only or what? I can't wait to hear it.
TF: Well, I guess I already described parts of it, the scifi part anyway. There`s four other brand new songs on it as well that`s gonna raise a few eyebrows I`m sure. WE got a song called Kickin, a crazy take on a hardrock band from 1979! The song R`n`R (I put my life...) is WE`s ZZ Top/boogie song, complete with female back-up singers! Lost Crossroad Found is a WE song, about spacing out into night. It`s called a mini-lp but it`s length is 30 minutes so it`s good value... most 60`s albums were 30 minutes so it`s a good 60`s album`s worth of music. Artwork`s gonna be great, wait and see.
SH: What was your first trip to the USA like? Any good stories or mishaps?
TF: WE`s first trip to the USA and South by Southwest in Austin, Texas went great. We had a good buzz going and packed the club we played in called Beerland, We also got a very favourable mention in The Austin Chronicle for our gig the day after. Out of 300 bands playing that night, we were one of 9 bands they reviewed, so we must have done something right. We`ll have to see what comes out of it though. We met Roky Erickson from the 13th Floor Elevators while in Austin, which was quite cool. He`s gotten a bit better the last years we were told and was attending a barbecue tribute in his name, signing autographs and posing for pictures (which we of course did...). it was called The Roky Road Psychedelic Ice Cream Social. Nice experience. We will be back in the US in sometime... let`s hope for some peace though...
SH: Any last words for all the freaks in the world???
TF: Cheers, check out our music.. We will prevail. These are turbulent times, the freaks gotta stay together. Freaks wherever you are, come out and unite!