With their excellent new album Memento Mori forthcoming, we caught up with vocalist/guitarist Olav Iversen and bassist Tony Vettas to talk about it and its creation, the effect of the deaths of Lemmy and David Bowie and the albums special release party.
Your new album Memento Mori is out soon. How did the recording of the album go?
The recording went great. We did it mostly the same way, and in the same studios as we recorded the previous album, Delusions of Grandeur. We tracked most of the basics live in Duper Studio, Bergen, and did vocals and other add-ons in Solslottet Studio. We used the same producer as the last time as well, Iver Sandøy. There is a really good chemistry between him and the band, so the frame of the album sessions was as good as possible. We were well prepared for the sessions and everything was well planned, so it was very enjoyable.
The albums title is a Latin phrase meaning “Remember, you must die”. Do the subjects of death, loss and grief play a big part in the album?
When we were working on the title for the album, we were looking for some kind of common theme in the lyrics. At some point we realized that almost everything we had written was pointing at one thing, death. Wether it is the threats of disturbed forces of nature, the threat of religious extremists, or the death of someone close, it was all about mortality and death. When Lemmy and David Bowie died, we were in the middle of making the album. It came as a shock, it was like it started a wave of dying rock stars. It made a big impact, and gave a new dimension to the album theme. Even “immortal” icons die eventually.
What influenced the creation of the album?
The state of the world. We were inspired by the idea of addressing the big issues threatening in our present time, without becoming political. We have a strong will and urge to make new music, and a lot of the creativity is driven by things that are going on in the contemporary world of music and art.
You have mentioned the loss of such musical icons in recent times such as Lemmy and David Bowie has an effect on the album. Were you big fans of both these artists?
Both Lemmy and Bowie have inspired us, both as individuals and as a band. They are icons and have always been part of our musical world, ever since music started to interest us. They have created a lot of groundbreaking music, so yes, we are fans.
What was it about them that made them iconic to you?
When we grew up we had these huge rockstars with huge personalities. They were larger than life figures. They were superheroes and they created this kind of immortal atmosphere around themeselves. You don’t see so much of that these days.
What about favourite albums by both?
Hard to choose. I personally like “Iron Fist” by Motorhead. Probably because that was the first Motörhead album I bought. To me the early Motörhead stuff is what I enjoy the most. But I have to say, “Another Perfect Day” is a very underrated album. David Bowie? I have to say “Honky Dory”. To me this is the album that started it all for Mr. Bowie. A great album that never gets outdated.
Can you tell us about the album artwork for Memento Mori?
We wanted to create a visual image of the topics we describe on the record, by using stylistic symbols that are in some kind of disharmony with each other. We wanted to keep it as simplistic and stripped-down as possible, and give it a very clear expression. There is a lot of darkness and pessimism in the image and it gives you a hunch of what to expect from the music as well.
Are you drawn to the more morbid and dark side of music naturally?
No, not really. We listen to all kinds of music. But of course it is something about the dark and heavy stuff that unites us and we prefer the heavier side of music.
How does the new album differ musically compared to your last album Delusions Of Grandeur?
I think it is more direct. More straight-forward and to the point. We wanted to make it a bit more heavy and edgy. At the same time we tried to look for the catchy choruses and maybe make it a bit more accessible. It is important for us to renew ourselves. To make things a bit different than we did the last time. That helps us stay interesting and interested.
Amongst the heaviness there is a lot of melody, is this something you are keen to stand out when it comes to the Sahg sound?
Definitely. Melodies defines the mood of a song. If you want to make a song about death and sorrow you certainly don’t want to make it cheerful and cute, will you? Melody is definitely a tool to bring across the expression you want, and to describe what you want to describe.
The music and vibe of Sahg is also dark and heavy in a subtle way without being overpowering and completely in your face, is this subtlety something you want to come out in your music and your image as a band?
Yes absolutely. You don`t need to be brutal to describe anger or sadness. It`s not always necessary to flex muscles to show how powerful you are either.
How would you describe the music of Sahg to someone who had never heard you before or would you prefer them to listen and decide themselves?
The most interesting thing would be to hear people’s thoughts after a listening. Before anyone have told them what this is or what you are supposed to listen to. There is to much categorising in music nowadays. Let the music speak for itself, and let the listener hear what they hear and not what they are told to hear. The best decription you get out of me is that Sahg is heavy rock. Nothing more – nothing less.
Epic tracks on Memento Mori like Black Unicorn and Sanctimony are huge in both their outlook and execution. Is this grand nature something you were keen on including on the album?
That has always been a central part of Sahg’s sound. We like the grandiose stuff. It is very expressive, and it is the best way to address the big subjects that inspire many of our songs.
You did a video for Black Unicorn, What is the concept for both the song and the video?
Black Unicorn was inspired by how all ideologies, whether they are political, religious, capitalistic, materialistic – no matter what form, and no matter how well-intended – become dangerous, harmful, even lethal, if they are taken to extremes. The song is a call for caution against radicalism in general. The video puts the theme into a very conceptual setting, which is what I love about working with other creatives. We gave video director Benjamin Langeland freedom to make his own interpretation of the song, and it turned out something very different and unexpected. And those two adjectives is what equals good art to me.
What is your new single Silence The Machines about?
It is about trying to catch up with the world and struggling to keep track with the speed of development, without losing touch with yourself, your origin, your soul, your humanity.
You had a special listening party for the album combined with a beer tasting event with a different beer for each song which sounds fantastic! How did the event go?
That was really something. The event was sold out and it went great. Our times chedule was really tight, so everyone had to drink a lot of beer in a pretty short time. Before listening through half the album, everyone was pretty tipsy, and people were all smiling and having a good time. It was really fun and hopefully we can do it again some time. A million thanks to our local favorite brewery, 7 Fjell and their eminent Brewmaster Gahr Smith-Gahrsen, for helping us with having the opportunity to do this.
Do you have a favourite song on the album yet?
Not easy to pick one. Right now, maybe Sanctimony. Tomorrow, maybe Electric Sun. They are all great tracks in my opinion, and each serve different moods or situations.
What about a favourite beer to go with it?
A brutally strong coffee stout is a good match for any dark and heavy tune.
Who are some of your musical influences?
The classic 70s and 80s heavy metal bands are always inspiring us. That is the primary influence and the root which our music comes from.
What are Sahgs touring plans for the album?
We will do some gigs in Norway this autumn, before we head down to tour central Europe for a couple of weeks in October/November. We are working on more dates and there will be more to come in the near future. Check out our Facebook page <https://www.facebook.com/Sahgband> for news and updates.
How would you describe a live Sahg show?
As a powerful, energetic, hell-raising, beer-drinking party with great music. It is a study in dark atmospheres. A trip into the realms of darkness.
If you could tour with any band who would you choose?
The coolest thing right now would be to tour with Black Sabbath on their last round before the actual end. We have opened for greats like Iron Maiden and Motörhead, and that is certainly something we want to do more often. We did som gigs with Clutch, and would dig to do more of that as well. Mastodon would also be a great match for us, I think.
What Norwegian bands would you recommend that we check out without delay?
Wardruna, Gaahl’s Wyrd, Magick Touch and Skaarv.
How would you describe the musical climate in Norway at the moment?
The climate is OK. There hasn’t been a lot of new and exciting stuff going on in the hard rocking corner of the norwegian music scene since Kvelertak. But there are a lot of great female electronic pop artists. I’m not kidding. Check out Susanne Sundfør, Aurora and Thea Hjelmeland. If you don’t have too much prejudice about that kind of thing, you will be amazed.
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