DATE OF INTERVIEW:
7th March 2009
BJØRNAR E. NILSEN
Norwegian experimental metallers Vulture Industries formed back in 2002 from the ashes of Dead Rose Garden. After releasing three demos between 2003-2005, they finally unleashed debut, full-length offering, 'The Dystopia Journals', on Dark Essence Records in 2007, with glowing reviews ubiquitous in the media. Comparisons to Arcturus were, and still are, rife, although this is perhaps by musically insular journalists who seek a point of comparison with other such offbeat metal, for Vulture Industries have a unique identity through their genuinely progressive fusion of styles and histrionical live show. Over in the UK with fellow countrymen Helheim and Taake for a handful of UK dates, I arranged to meet with the band's frontman, Bjørnar E. Nilsen, for an interview before the final show of the tour at Camden's Underworld venue. Hooking up just after 5pm, we initially settle down in a quiet corner of the venue (although re-locate to backstage midway through when soundchecks commence), and chat for around half an hour on a plethora of subjects including disrespectful Glaswegians; what constitutes progressive music; and shopping in Camden! Read on for a full transcript of the discussions...
METAL DISCOVERY: With this being the final date of your UK tour, how have the shows and audiences been, and what’s been your favourite gig to play on the tour?
BJØRNAR E. NILSEN: I guess, so far, Manchester has been the best. We had a really nice audience and a really good response. Ireland also was good but not so many turned up in Ireland. Scotland was…divided. We had a lot of good feedback and some bad feedback.
(Bjørnar E. Nilsen on significance behind the band name)
"...it’s like an expression for industrialised and capitalised society where...your main thing in life is to consume and be a part of the machinery. We are not individuals anymore."
Kyrre Teigen, Eivind Huse and Bjørnar E. Nilsen backstage at the Underworld, London, 7th March 2009
Photograph copyright © 2009 Mark Holmes - www.metal-discovery.com
Interview & Photography by Mark Holmes
MD: What kind of bad feedback?
BN: Like people standing in the back giving you the finger.
BN: Yeah, we had three or four of those, and some shouting between the songs.
MD: That’s bad.
BN: Yeah, it’s okay, but I think it’s…the gig went okay, but I think that stuff’s unnecessary. It ruins everything for everybody.
MD: Yeah, if you don’t like the band, then go and have a beer at the bar. Maybe it was black metal purists who thought you were gonna be a black metal band.
BN: Yeah, I think they were expecting something darker, definitely, but it happens.
MD: Is there any significance behind the name Vulture Industries or is it simply one of those random band names?
BN: There is some significance behind it. I liked the openness of the name and you can interpret it a bit yourselves, but the basic thing behind it is it’s like an expression for industrialised and capitalised society where everybody is a consumer and your main thing in life is to consume and be a part of the machinery. We are not individuals anymore.
MD: ‘The Dystopia Journals’ is a fantastic album, I think personally…
BN: Thank you, I read the review.
MD: Ah yeah, I didn’t write that. That was one of my contributors. The album’s got a very original sound - have you been surprised by the hugely positive press reactions to it?
BN: Yeah, definitely. We were very pleased with the album when we finished it and felt that we had made something that we could be proud of. We were expecting good reviews and we were also expecting a lot of bad reviews because we have kind of a strange sound, and we were expecting more of the completely shitty reviews with the reviewer not getting where we were going at all. But we only had two or three of those, and a couple of mediocre reviews, and tons of great reviews. So we’re really happy with the feedback.
MD: Is the title ‘The Dystopia Journals’ supposed to be a collective term for summarising the songs on the album - like a social commentary of sorts?
BN: Yeah. The lyrics didn’t start out as a concept but, as we went along, and the songs started taking form, I saw this red line going through all the lyrics and felt that ‘The Dystopia Journals’ would be a good title to be a collective title for it.
MD: There seems to be a lot of pessimism, despair and a generally bleak outlook in the lyrics - do these reflect your views on contemporary society?
MD: Not that I’m saying you’re a pessimistic person!
BN: No, no! [laughs]
MD: They’re maybe just your observations on the world.
BN: Yeah, it’s like a pessimistic extreme of what I think the world can be at times. Lots of the lyrics are quite personal but, at the same time, distanced from myself, like transferring some of my own ideas and some of my own thoughts onto an imaginary person, and building it up. I’m not so mad that you might think when reading the lyrics, but one can get strange thoughts at times!
MD: Yeah, I know where you’re coming from! What kind of relationship do you have with your reviews, and do you ever get tired of comparisons to Arcturus?
BN: Er, yeah, all the time! [laughs]
MD: People say you sound like Garm, which you do a little bit but, for me, the music is progressive in a different way to what Arcturus do.
BN: Yeah, I would say that I think the comparison is a bit overstated at times but also I think it’s quite a natural comparison because we’re in a genre that not has so many bands, It’s natural to pick that one because at least my voice does some of the same sound as Garm does. I like Arcturus a lot and ‘The Sham Mirrors’ and ‘La Masquerade Infernale’ are great albums so I don’t have a problem with it. It’s kind of a compliment but still I feel that we’re definitely heading in a different direction than Arcturus. So, yeah, I don’t have a big problem with it. You get a bit tired of it reading it so many times but it’s okay.
MD: You did a European tour with Helheim and Atrox last November which was billed as the “Vikings, Villains, and Vultures” tour. Obviously, you’re the Vultures; Helheim the Vikings…out of interest, what makes Atrox the Villains? Or was it just another word that begins with ‘V’?!
BN: [laughs] It’s just a word that begins with ‘V’ and it sounded good! But the guys from Atrox were actually staying with, er….what do you call it?…the bandits of this er…not goggles, but the piece of cloth before your eyes so that people won’t recognise. They painted on ghosts too. The vocalist was known as the one-armed bandit on the tour! Extremely nice guys, a fantastic band. It was great fun touring with them.
MD: I had the interesting pleasure of doing an interview of sorts with them in Holland last year at the ProgPower festival…
BN: Was it good, ProgPower?
MD: Yeah, you should put Vulture Industries forward for this year.
BN: Yeah, Atrox did recommend us to the promoter of the festival.
MD: It’s organised by three people and one of them is a big Arcturus fan…
BN: [laughs] Okay, there we have it again!
MD: I know he will love Vulture Industries…if he hasn’t already heard of you actually. Anyway, yeah, I interviewed them late on the last day - I introduced myself as being from Metal Discovery and they insisted I interview them there and then. I didn’t have any questions prepared so asked them another band‘s questions, from the Wolverine interview I did the day before, and it turned out to be a crazy interview and they seem like crazy people!
BN: They are quite crazy people!
MD: How was touring with them and was there any random craziness on the road?
BN: Yeah, lots of random craziness. I remember they had this clown nose that they travelled around with, a big red clown nose, and we had this nice videotape from Czechoslovakia where Rune, the tall guitarist, is walking around with a big red clown nose kicking around an empty beer crate in the street with the police standing watching him! [laughs] And they don’t find it funny!