Interview: Haust (Part 2)
Last week we spoke with vocalist Vebjørn Guttormsgaard Møllberg and bassist Henrik Øiestad Myrvold of Norwegian blackened art-punks Haust about their challenging and forward-thinking new album, Bodies. That interview continues today with a discussion on their black metal roots, the importance of improvisation, and why they don't play old material.
Read the first part of our interview here.
I wonder how much black metal actually has to do with Haust. It strikes me as a very American thing to relate everything Norwegian to black metal. We sort of exotify northern Europe in the music writing scene.
Møllberg: We try to go in a totally different direction with our band. We want the minimalist desperate aggression from punk, only harder and darker.
Myrvold: The vocals is the only black metal-ish reference left in Haust, at least thats what I feel.
Møllberg: yeah, in the beginning we were very influenced by Darkthrone and early Emperor. But we wanted to play as a punk band, and now is basically just the vocals that refer to black metal.
I love Emperor. I feel like Ihsahn gets it. Part of that is probably that he strikes me as the sort of person who also learns from David Bowie and krautrock and things outside of his direct reach.
Møllberg: We also come from the same town as Emperor. Ihsahn recorded the demo of my first punk band
What? That's so cool.
Møllberg: He is a very nice guy, but I’m not into the stuff he makes now. He has nice references as you mention. But his way of recording is the way we try to escape from. Henrik is not from that town though, he is from a similar suburban trashy place.
Myrvold: In a review of NO in a Norwegian newspaper the writer gave us a pretty mediocre review and said that we should hire Ihsahn as a producer for our next record. We didn’t do that.
Møllberg: On the two first records Ruben did the recordings. He left the band right before NO, and then we decided to change the sound completely, so that we would not try to copy his style or anything.
That man, the reviewer, clearly does not get it. But I imagine that, like David Bowie, your sound is a bit fuller when you play live. It's hard to make drums thin when they're three feet in front of you.
Møllberg: Yes, that's true. But our guitars have less distortion than earlier and that changes stuff live, and sometimes we play with synths as well. I think the live experience and the listening experience when you are home should be two separate things
Really? Can you expand on that, why they should they be different? What does that add?
Myrvold: I agree with that actually. Listening to a record at home and seeing a band live are two completely different experiences and the sound should follow that.
Møllberg: I just think that it’s two different experiences. When you watch a band playing a gig the performance and the attitude of the band is half the experience. All our shows are different, but the record stays the same. We even change songs sometimes when we play it live, because it makes no sense playing them like we did in the studio, even though it sounds great on the record
Myrvold: I think a lot of bands tend to just go with the ruling sound that’s been laid down for their specific genre (or subgenre even). The records that sticks out are usually the ones that do something surprising sound-wise.
That's definitely true.
Møllberg: Yeah, and the best live bands are bands who can improvise, and don’t do the same routine every day.That’s probably a very un-metal thing to say.
Well several of my absolute favorite live bands rehearse twice or three times as many songs as they can play in a show, and then change the set every night. I love that, especially in the internet age when I can know what the set is in advance. That's not exactly what you meant, but I feel they're related.
Myrvold: Totally. As a performer, it sucks playing the exact same thing every night and that usually shows.
I feel like you can also tailor your set to the audience. I mean "taking requests" is not very punk, but it's a real bonding moment to yell a song title and have the band say "That song? Yep! We can do that. 1-2-3-4."
Myrvold: The only time people request songs from us, they yell old songs I’ve never played.
Møllberg: People often yell the titles of our old songs and since our lineup and sound has changed so much we just play a couple of songs from the records before NO. In many ways we are a different band now.
No "Skate Rock" at the Acheron, then.
Møllberg: No, sorry. [laughs] Henrik has never played that song.
Myrvold: I’ve barely heard it.
But still, it's good to keep evolving. Too often the 'metal' thing or the 'punk' thing is to play only old stuff.
Møllberg: Yeah, and that would kill us as a band I think. We constantly think of what happens next and try to keep evolving.
I'm a hypocrite, because you say that, and I agree with you, but I am not listening to Iggy's new album.
Myrvold: Neither am I! [laughs]
I am listening to the best song ever.
Møllberg: Yeah . . . but he is so old now. That’s a different thing.
That doesn't really matter, does it? Nick Cave is old. He's still one of the best live performers I've seen.
Møllberg: No, it doesn’t. But he has made a lot of great stuff. And doesn’t have to prove anything to anyone.
Myrvold: But will his new records ever stand up to the older classics? Vebjørn makes a good point too. The man has got nothing to lose.
Møllberg: It’s cool to be old. Don’t misunderstand me
Myrvold: Please . . . . don’t make that the header.
Møllberg: I love a lot of bands who keep changing. Like Earth for example. Saw them here in Copenhagen the other day and it was really really good.
Myrvold: I think the clue to keep refreshing a band is to constantly add new references and influences to the song writing. That’s what makes this band fun and interesting to play in. I never know what’s going to happen when I show up to write new songs or rehearse for recording.
Møllberg: Yeah. And a big difference on the new record is that the songwriting was much more of a collective experience.
Myrvold: Yeah, several songs were written at the spot as we went along.
Møllberg: Earlier, me or Pål have made the song structures before we start playing it together (and before that Ruben). Now we are more of a collective force, and I think you can hear that in the songs as well. Songs like “Static Attack,” “Peephole Maze” and “Bodies” have an almost jammy feel. Heavily influenced by bands like Can and Neu.
Myrvold: Trond [Mjøen] adds a lot to those songs. He’s a guitar god. The best guitarist I know.
Møllberg: Yeah. Trond is the newest member. He was not in the band yet when we recorded NO, but joined right after. For a while he was the only guitar player, and Pål played the synth. Now they both play guitars and we sometimes have an extra synth guy with us.
He [Trond] is in Ulver, right?
Myrvold: He plays with them live.
You'd need to be the best at everything to cut it in Ulver. You were talking about constant innovation? That's the role model, right there.
Møllberg: Yeah they have been in lots of strange phases. They are also guys that come from metal and get tired of it and just start playing whatever they like. In that way you can compare them to us, but I’m not a big Ulver fan. I like the jazzy stuff and the early black metal. The new lineup has grown more together, it's kind of a continuation of NO. Like the song “Night” on NO could also have been a track on Bodies, but NO is a punk record and Bodies is more strange and dreamy.
In a way I kind of thought of Bodies as a no-wave record. I got a little Melvins, Swans in there, in the sense that it's mid-paced and very gloomy.
Møllberg: We have always been Melvins fans. And Swans is a good reference for Bodies. We also listened to a lot of death rock when we made the songs. Christian Death and Bauhaus stuff like that. You can hear that maybe on “Light.”
Myrvold: A lot of krautrock too, which is very obvious in the finishing track.
Especially in the drum line.
Møllberg: Yeah . . . but the “Haust beat” has always been the krautrock beat in a way. Our old drummer also played very krautrock-y it was just in a different package.
Haust will play the following US tour dates:
March 15. The Acheron, Brooklyn NYC
March 19. Cedar Street Courtyard, Austin TX
March 20. Icenhauer's, Austin TX