From Aural Innovations #41 (October 2010)
Smoke Mohawk is a new Oslo based Norwegian band featuring Thomas (from WE), Danny and Raymond (from Gluecifer) and Rolf (from My Midnight Creeps). This is quite an all star line up of the Norwegian rock scene. They released their debut album earlier this year and will drop a new one on us later this year. I was able to catch up with lead singer Thomas for a short chat and here is what he had to say...
Scott Heller (SH): So how did this band come together? As I recall you started off just for fun playing cover songs in the clubs, right?
Thomas: Smoke Mohawk are all old friends. I've known Danny Young the drummer since the late 80s. He is one of my best friends in life. We´ve been through a lot together. And of course he´s one of the best drummers around. Which doesn´t hurt either. We got a very similar understanding of how it should swing, almost intuitive. The same with Rolf Yngve Uggen the guitar player in the band, whom I´ve been friends with since 90/91. He and I worked together at Voices Of Wonder Records also in the 90s. We share much the same humour and Rolf like me got an unstoppable lust for listening and collecting rock´n´roll albums old and new. We´ve met over many barcounters over the years when they were playing with Gluecifer and I was with WE. Then we always imagined up all these weird and funny band constellations. But they always ended with the night, if you know what I mean. Then it´s of course Smoke Mohawk´s mr. bassman supremo Raymond Jensen, whom I shared a house with for 3 years a few years back. In the house Ray was always jamming at home on whatever instrument he could find whether a banjo, a guitar, piano or bass. Good sounds were coming out of his fingers. So I took note. Raymond was at the the time playing bass in a Norwegian band called My Midnight Creeps. So when Danny got himself a rehearsal space to play drums in around autumn 2007, we could start a fun project, which was all Smoke Mohawk was in the beginning. All you need is a room and you can do anything. In the beginning we threw cover songs of bands we liked at each other. Bands like Pretty Things, Dr. Feelgood, Nick Lowe, Sensational Alex Harvey Band, Patto, ZZ Top, Bevis Frond and even threw in a warped out version of Born On The Bayou the old Creedence classic for good measure and made a medley of Los Hombres garage classic Let It All Hang Out mixed with Them´s evergreen Gloria. Which is recorded and might see the light of day one day. So gradually over 2 years Smoke Mohawk turned into so much fun and we also started doing a bit of gigging around Norway, just to keep the good foot on, you know. Then all of a sudden we started to write our own material and lots of it, songs were pouring out from nowhere. So then a friend of Rolf´s Johnny Skalleberg gave us some time recording at a studio in Oslo called Amper Tone Studios. Then we had an album done and we got a record deal with Norwegian quality label Propeller/Impeller Recordings. Smoke Mohawk´s debut album The Dogs Are Turning Red was released in May 2010 on Impeller Recordings and now we´re set to record the follow up in October 2010 to be released early in 2011. That´s basically it so far. If it sounds easy, well, I guess it was. Our motto is "Chillin´ while the iron is hot". Smoke Mohawk is all about the good vibes of rock´n´roll, sharin´it out to anyone who wants it. We´re not snobs, we´re rockers.
SH: What's up with the name? Does it have some special significance?
Thomas: It´s just a fun play with words. It started out as an imaginary barbecue sauce, which my girlfriend and I were joking with, when we were barbecueing one hot day, supposedly very hot. Heavy duty smoky smoky chipotle all the way. If there´s any chilifreaks out there who´s following. Smoke Mohawk sounded like the perfect name for a sauce like that. But also a very apt moniker for a rock´n´roll band. So it came to be...
SH: I was a little surprised that the Smoke Mohawk was not recorded at Hangaround Sound studio and released on Nun Music? Any specific reasons?
Thomas: The main reason for that was that Rolf and the engineer and co-producer Johnny Skalleberg are old friends and the studio was available. So we went in and recorded the whole thing in Amper Tone Studios a day here and a day there, whenever it was free studio time. That´s it really. Maybe we´ll use Hangaround Sound at a later stage.
SH: The debut CD has a lot of different styles of stuff and it is a sort of mix of all the styles of the bands you guys have played in. Quite funny…
Thomas: Well, it´s hard to change who you are as a player completely and why should we? Smoke Mohawk is about playing what we feel like at any moment. That´s why there so many styles on the album. We are shamelessly snacking on the smorgasbord of rock´n´roll and we´re enjoying every moment of it. "Hey! that´s my piece of ham you got there..."
SH: How does Smoke Mohawk come up with new material? Do you just hang out in the rehearsal space, smoke some Mohawk, jam some and develop tracks or do people come with songs they wrote at home and the band learns these and you only meet every few weeks?
Thomas: Most of the songs have been rough written by Rolf and myself in Rolf´s small cellar studio. Then we present them for the other guys and everybody arranges and bring in parts to help the song develop. Sometimes we jam it out. Reefer and rent was written in about 20 minutes in the rehearsal room together all 4. Some songs just write themselves, at least that´s how it feels sometimes. The song Electric Lit Nite was based on a drum groove Danny was playing around with. Ray also brings a lot to the songs and is killer to arrange vocal harmonies, truly a bassplayers duty. We all share writing credits. It´s a true band in that sense. Who cares who comes up with what as long as it´s good and rocking. Bring it on!
SH: What is a Smoke Mohawk live show like? Now you have a CD of originals do you still throw in a few covers for fun and if so, which ones for the fans outside of Norway, who will probably never get to see you play live?
Thomas: Our set is now a mix of originals and covers. Which is fun. But when the new album comes out it might be more originals as we enjoy playing them so much right now. But we´ll always throw in the odd cover or two. It´s in the tradition of the greats. Bands like Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin and The Who always rocked out to a few Chuck Berry riffs or a an old Muddy Waters or Little Richard classic in the middle of all the serious stuff. That´s the gig we want people to experience with Smoke Mohawk. That never the sense of fun in rock´n´roll disappears. That you could go from an eight minute prog-epic to a ragged 12 bar blues and it´s all the same stew and it tastes good. It´s just different layers of stew, that´s how we look at it. And we got to eat through to the bottom of the pot everytime... He he...
SH: Does the band have any specific plans for conquering the world or will you be happy to just release some records and play in Norway?
Thomas: Smoke Mohawk wants to conquer every bit of land that wants to be conquered. We´re open for anything. If you want us to play in your town and you are ready, willin´an´able to pay the costs of rock´n´roll, we´ll play there. Just give us the nod of approval and we´re already on the bus. We´ll definitely be doing some gigging in the new year and Europe looks quite certain. There are several plans in the making right now for some touring in Europe during 2011. We´ll keep you posted on that one. Smoke Mohawk are playing a few gigs in Norway this autumn while recording the album. But there will definitely be a full Norwegian tour to promote the new album during winter 2011.
SH: How do you go about marketing a band these days with the music industry in a historic decline?
Thomas: You got to play gigs. If you can cut it playing live and entertain the people and get the talk started, you will eventually make something out of it. Smoke Mohawk just wants to go at it old school releasing 1-2 albums a year and do some tours. We just wanna play! Then the marketing will miraculously happen... He he...
SH: Will there be a vinyl release of the CD?
Thomas: It has been planned and will hopefully happen in the near future. We´re working on it. Expect a double LP gatefold with a bonus track of The Dogs Are Turning Red sometime in a record shop near you. Check out our website www.smokemohawk.com for updates on that one.
SH: Do you think we can get you down to play in Denmark? What are the bands next concerts, will you play any festivals this summer?
Thomas: See you in Copenhagen Denmark man sometime in 2011 I´m sure. I just had a vision of sweaty rockin´ Danes and some of them were female.
SH: Any last words?
Thomas: Keep supportin´rock´n´roll, fly the flag and fan the flames. Peace...