- by Andrea Chirulescu
- Posted on 14-06-2018
Having had known Kenneth for few years now, I found out he is involved int his post-metal band called Subnoir and the very small bits that my ears have heard made it sound like a very interesting idea. So after a few failed attempts, I managed to gather Kenneth and few other colleagues from the band and sit down and chat about how this project started, what’s its story and what’s behind their music. Below is the transcribed version of this chat.
Should you like it and find it interesting, and should you find yourself in Oslo on Friday, June 22nd, you can catch them live at Krøsset as support for Acarash – https://www.facebook.com/events/569127150137940/
Me: The history states that the band was formed in 2014 by Inge and Kenneth. What triggered the need for this band after many years of just jamming together?
Kenneth: It started out as just fun as I was playing in 3-4 bands (Claymords, Mistur, Voluspaa) and it was a lot of concerts and touring but I always felt the need to play more like post-metal and post-rock. And so I just picked up the guitar and learned how to play and Inge shared my vision, he wanted to do the same thing. But we only jammed and never took it too seriously, but after few years we wondered why don’t we just write the songs down and make something out of them. So we sat down with GuitarPro and started arranging the songs. We ended up with two and thought they were rather cool and so we sent them around to the vocalist in Mistur with whom I had played for years and I always mentioned to him about the idea of playing post-metal. He liked the songs and said he’s in. Then I presented the songs to Jørgen and he said that we can use his studio to record the songs. So we used the summer of 2014 for that, but during the process Inge and I ended up writing a lot of other materials so we ended up with an album.
Me: But wait, so you say you didn’t know how to play guitar? I’ve only seen you as a drum player so far…
Kenneth: I`ve played guitar since 2011. Inge was playing the drums, and we just jammed and I was a really shitty guitar player. But I wanted to do this kind of music so I had to learn some basics and go from there.
Me: Who taught you? Youtube or?
Kenneth: Youtube and some friends..I mainly used my ears, picked up the stuff I liked.
Peter: That’s the great thing about this post-metal stuff, you have the freedom to do like that.
Kenneth: But in the summer of 2014 almost all songs were finished. Then I contacted Peter, with whom I had played in Voluspaa for…I don’t know how long
Peter: I think I had played with them for only 2 or 3 years, playing epic strings and choirs.
Kenneth: Both me and Inge knew Peter, we showed him the music and he also thought it was cool. He joined us during the recording process, when the songs were finished but only like half-way mixed.
Peter: Then I joined in and had to build new stuff around the existing ideas. It was a bit hard to be as creative when the songs are almost finished.
Kenneth: He got the toughest job. The album was finished and we were like ‘Ok Peter, here’s the songs, do what you want’. But he did a really great job. He built the sounds from scratch and he made us these atmospheres and melodies which we all are happy with. The album was really lifted to new heights with Peter`s efforts.
Me: What attracted you when you heard the existing music, before joining the band?
Peter: The mood, the vibe and the focus on atmosphere. I had been playing in a lot of different bands and styles and I was tired of having the focus on technique for example. I almost stopped playing entirely because practising scales is just so boring.
Me: I understand, I myself see a lot of bands with amazing technique, but few songs into their set I usually lose interest as they lack that mood which is part of the live experience
Kenneth: My focus is not to play fancy technical music. I like to express moods and create certain atmospheres. The music is simple but we use a lot of layering with guitars, and the synth is like the spices on top of it.
Photo by Marius Martinsen
Me: So there are six people in the band? Drums, synth, three guitars and a bass.
Kenneth: We are six members, but live we performed in five so far. The plan was initially to have three guitars live and actually the band kinda evolved into that in the songs as well. We just made it work. And if there’s a third voice needed on the guitar, I get Peter to play it. But the dynamics in the band is really great right now, so we don’t need three guitars. But maybe in the future if we feel like playing a big show, on a big stage.
Peter: He keeps saying that, but let’s see
Kenneth: maybe we can have two synths instead. That would take a lot of space.
Me: Why not two drummers?
Kenneth: We talked about that actually, since our main inspiration is Cult of Luna. And they usually play with two drummers. Anyway, so that’s how things went up to 2014 when we started the recording, then we went on with the drums during the Easter 2015, then guitars and bass in the autumn of 2015.
Me: So it was a long process..
Peter: Yea, we were very thorough about how we arranged the songs.
Kenneth: Half of the arrangements were done during the preprod, and then all of a sudden you’d hear "Oh, I can do this and change it like that"
Peter: I remember coming to the studio when they were working on "Skinwalker" – the first single – and I was hoping they would finish the production day. It turned out they had beens pending 2 hours recording the didgeridoo for the beginning of the song because they wouldn’t get it dark and post-metal enough.
Kenneth: The problem was the didgeridoo was in the wrong pitch…so we were trying to repitch the entire part of the didgeridoo.
Peter: Those are 4 hours of our lives we will never get back.
Kenneth: I remember one more story from 2014, while in the studio we came to the conclusion that it was about time to add vocals. So I came to the conclusion that ‘Hmm, I’ve never done that before’. So we started trying, it didn’t work out. But eventually, after I had few beers I stood there and screamed – I never screamed before and I was like ‘<insert sound of a constipated person working on the problem>’. I still have the recordings and when I look back at that it is really funny. But it has been an interesting process for me. Learning to play guitar, play guitar standing, singing, play guitar and sing. Back to the story, after we recorded drums, bass and guitar, we spent like one year with the synths parts because Peter actually had to figure out what to do and come up with all those sounds.
Me: So it was lucky to have one of the guys with an available studio
Kenneth: Absolutely. Jørgen did a great job with the recording and he was of great help
Me: Yea, in this case it worked in your advantage. But I know of people who prefer to have a deadline when they have to be done and no more changes can be made after that.
Peter: We should probably think more like that next time. It’s not healthy to do that with every release, it can become tirening. You basically have the same song and just some parts changed a bit during a long period of time.
Kenneth: We were trying everything and we have also learned a lot in this long process. In the end, Jørgen did a fantastic job mixing the album and giving it such a great sound. But we also used this album to learn and the first couple of mixes didn’t actually sound as good as the final product, so it’s good we didn’t stop there. There was a lot of frustration too, but it turned out great and I’m really happy how everyone in the band contributed and played their role during this long period of time.
Me: So when did you Jonas joined the band?
Jonas: It was first in 2016. The recordings were done, except the synths. Oliver, the bass player contacted me and I had played with him before but it had been many years since we actually played together. So Oliver said that this band needed a drummer.
Kenneth: I can complete the story – I noticed at some point that Inge was getting less and less interested and eventually he said he’s considering quitting the job as a drummer. So I think in the spring of 2016 he actually did it so we panicked a bit, as he’d been a key character in the band, composing and arranging the songs with me and such. But so I contacted a friend called Mads, a good drummer and I started rehearsing with him. But he got ill and had a kid on the way and then Oliver contacted Jonas. So we invited him to the rehearsal, we played the first song and it was flawless. Everyone was like ‘Wow!’. So he was hired. Jonas then had to step back, Mads returned. But he also stepped down again and right then we had an opportunity to play live (2 gigs in Trysil). We asked Jonas who said Ok for the temp job for the live part and I saw how much he enjoyed it and then I decided that I had to get him as a permanent member. And that happened a while later at a party.
Peter: Yea, we had to get him drunk first.
Kenneth: At the same time, in the summer of 2017, we also needed a new guitar player. Jørgen was not able to perform the songs, hence I approached a friend of mine named Marius and he was also supposed to do a temp job. But he started to make stuff for the band so he somehow became a permanent member. I played with him in many bands before and he also liked the songs, so he happily joined. He has also made the band logo and the artwork of the album, which turned out great!
Me: How are the live experiences? Did it just flow or was it a less successful attempt?
Kenneth: It was just flowing by itself. I’ve been dreaming of playing this music for so long, ever since I saw this Cult of Luna DVD (maybe from 2009) where I stare at this energy on stage and I said ‘I want to do that. It seems too fun’
Peter: I think it’s been a release for a lot of people in the band actually. There had been a lot of dynamics..
Me: Yea, you’ve been recording for 2-3 years
Peter: Indeed, and then you finally get to play the songs. And, like I said earlier, in other bands you need to focus a lot on getting the music right and you have to play tight. But with this kind of music, it is related to a different kind of energy. Let’s call it a punk kind of energy, it the way of playing, it’s more important to build the atmosphere.
Me: But do you think you have a stage for this kind of music in Scandinavia? I see a lot of events at Blå in this style
Kenneth: Yea, there’s more and more postmetal and doom and stoner and it feels like the scene in Norway is not that big yet, but trying to grow. It might be bigger in Sweden, it is certainly big in the US. We only managed like a show this year, but the energy was amazing and we have good feedback from the crowd.
Peter: Yea, that’s where we are right now. We need to play more. But it’s not easy as a brand-new band. But we all know it’s a bit tricky in the beginning. At least now we have the album out, it has nice reviews…
Me: Did reviews come from outside Norway too?
Kenneth: Yea, so far we got reviews from US and Poland for example. And right now we need to find a good management or a booking agency.
Peter: Indeed, for bands in our position a label is not something important at this stage. We have free studio time so we don’t need much help from a label with that but we need help with getting gigs at this stage.
Me: And what is it that you guys are doing at the moment?
Kenneth: Right now we are trying to gather all the guys together and take new photos since we have two new members.
Me: Can’t you just photoshop them?
Kenneth: Yea, we were talking about that. Hehe. And when that’s finished, we are going to contact this guy in the US to help us with the PR campaign and push the band and so hopefully get more reviews.
Me: I am mainly talking from a musical point of view here…Are you already in the process of making new stuff?
Kenneth: I think I have two more albums ready. When the first album was finished in 2014 I just kept writing so I’ve been doing that for like 4 years now. I’ve shown some of the new songs to the guys, but they’re only drafts and I’d like to have them as close to finished as possible before I send them out.
Me: But do you do all the instruments at home and then you send it out?
Kenneth: I use my tiny home studio and record the guitars and then program some basic drum beats to like lay the foundation. I play a bit with the arrangements and get some melodies in place. It’s not just a riff or so. I try to make whole songs that I want to present to the guys and meet at the rehearsal place to jam on those ideas.
Me: Did you set any sort of goals like ‘We want to make a new album by…?’
Peter: We haven’t set any goals yet. The last months have been focused on the album release and promoting it, so I’m thinking the next thing to work on is being creative again. We are aware that if you want to sell yourself, we also need to show that we have more to deliver than one album.
Me: What’s your favorite part on this album?
Kenneth: Peter first
Peter: I have to think about that
Kenneth: What about you Jonas?
Kenneth: Actually for me it’s the ending of "Fading Sun". That part became really special as had this like drum’n’bass kind of thing with some guitar chords, from which I told Peter ‘Peter, you do what you want here’. So he made this melodic, ambient thing with lot of layers.
Pater: A lot of noise..
Kenneth: Yea, a lot of noise. It is real magic because he captured the essence of the song. The whole song is starting out so loud and massive and turns out really emotional towards the end where it breaks down into this floaty atmosphere. This one dude who reviewed the album said ‘This album sounds like Neurosis mixed with Interstellar soundtrack’. Peter also said it was the hardest part on the album to write…
Peter: Yea, it was a very static part so I had to find a way to bring dynamics into it.
Jonas: I agree with what Kenneth said, but I also remember that when I first heard the album, I think I liked most the ending of ‘Dissipation’ because it’s this instrumental part that keeps going and going and keeps building up for several minutes. I remember wondering ‘Can you really do this? Can you play this like over and over and have it getting so big?’
Kenneth: I think you also liked ‘Skinwalker’, I remember you saying how amazing it was.
Jonas: Yea, that’s true.
Peter: Can I cheat and say that there are a lot of parts that I like, actually most of the song endings.
Me: Only endings, what about other parts?
Peter: That’s actually the thing about the album that I like the most – the pacing. The way the songs fit after one another and you have these peak moments, building towards the endings and then we strip it down again. And then we take it really down. We have this interstellar thing, if you want. It brings things together without being too pretentious. It gives you the feeling of a story after you have finished listening to the album.
Kenneth: That’s like a thread you can follow through all songs. I also think it’s funny people mention the space theme because there is no mention of space – except maybe "Fading Sun" – yet I always had this vision of space and the loneliness, like the last big emptiness out there. Also when you look at our logo, there’s the band name and a lot of dots that look like stars. But it’s not stars. When Marius designed the logo, he made this pattern which we know can be interpreted like stars and make people think of space when listening to the album. We’re actually using sounds from NASA on the album
Peter: I actually think this sound was used in ‘WestWorld’. And also Neurosis used this kind of sounds – sounds of magnetic waves from space converted to soundwaves.
Me: Why Subnoir?
Kenneth: We had 4-5 names
Peter: Oh yea, some were terrible
Kenneth: The first name was Pale Rider actually. I took that from a Solstafir song. But people were laughing at it. So we changed the name to Jovian (jovial) but then we discovered that another band in the US had the same name. And they played kinda similar music to us so it wasn’t usable. Then we changed it to Khôra, we used that for quite a while until we discovered there were like 10 other band with that name. So everyone was thinking of names. I also tried various ideas and came across this name and pitched it to the guys, and initially we thought it was weird but we realized how suitable it was with out materials. We found out there was a DJ with this name,but spelled in two parts. There is also a brewery in the US
Me: Wow, so how much have you researched about it? Have you checked it doesn’t belong to a porn star as well?
Kenneth: Yes, we did that. As you can see, it was also a long road when it came to the name picking.
Peter: Everything with this band takes its time.
Me: How would you describe post-metal to someone who doesn’t know about it? Don’t use Fenriz references please
Peter: I tried describing it to my mother when she found out I was playing in Subnoir. I said "this is music you’d actually like if it weren’t for the screaming". And she listened to it and agreed.
Kenneth: So if I’d be singing clean, it’d be something else
Peter: Yea, we all know what a great singer you are actually hiding.
Kenneth: It is obviously hard to describe, it is such a vast genre with every band sounding different. It is very atmospheric and complex…but yea, hard to define. I read online that post-metal is the thinking man’s metal. Wait. Scratch that!
Me: So you’re gonna get only geeks at your gigs actually.
Peter: Yea, I might not be able to say ‘I play post-metal for the babes’
Me: What about the title "A long way from home"
Kenneth: It is a name Inge and me came upon the idea. I think it resonates with the whole atmosphere and mood of the album. When you listen to it it feels like a journey and at the end you get an increased feeling anticipation for this heavy ending, so you go through a lot of emotions.
Me: I actually associate this name with something meaning ‘a long way from earth’.
Peter: It took a long while before we decided this was the album title. Album had been finished and the idea suited very well so everyone agreed to use it.
Me: I am done with my questions. Anything left to emphasize?
Kenneth: I really need to mention again the work that Jørgen did with this album. He did a really good job with the mixing and mastering on this album. And if there are any bands out there that need recording, mixing or mastering services, just get in touch with Jørgen. And lastly, thank your for taking time to do this interview, Andrea!