TUSMØRKE – interview at Tons of Rock
TUSMØRKE has caught my attention with a rather different kind of performance during an event at a small stage in Oslo (I think it was at Pokalen). I got intrigued by the sound and the whole atmosphere they were creating, not sure whether they were serious about it or just fooling around. So now at Tons of Rock I was very delighted when the band accepted my invitation to have a chat and allow me to do some inquires about their weird universe. It was very sad that the chat lasted for like 20 mins only, because after the first few minutes I knew I’m in front of people with insane stories to tell. So hopefully there willbe some part 2 and maybe 3 of this interview, but for now, here’s a conversation that will allow you to understand a bit better who TUSMØRKE is and what gets them out there to be doing the magical music and lovely shows they are coming up with.
First, few words about the band, for those who are not familiar with it: TUSMØRKE‘s members, drawn from bands such as WOBBLER, JORDSJØ and ALWANZATAR, field an almost dizzying variety of instruments, allowing the band develop its own unique take on Prog. Comprised of Benediktator on vocals, bass, acoustic guitars, Glockenspiel, jaw harp, assorted percussion and loads of handclaps, Krizla on vocals, flute and electronics, HlewagastiR on drums and percussion, Dauinghorn av Jordsjø on electric guitar, and The Phenomenon Marxo Solina on Steinway & Sons grand piano, MiniMoog model D, Solina Strings Ensemble, Mellotron M400, SCI Prophet-5, Arp Axxe, Arp Pro Soloist and Lindholm Spinet, TUSMØRKE is proving to be popular not only with their studio output, but also live on stage.
- Underjordisk Tusmørke (2012) – Termo Records
- Riset Bak Speilet (2014) – Svart Records
- Tusmørke vs Spectral Haze – Elektriske Skrekkøgler Og Forhistoriske Framtidsfabler (2015) – Duplicate Records
- Ført Bak Lyset (2016) – Svart Records
- Hinsides (2017) – Svart Records
- Bydyra (2017) – Karisma Records
- Fjernsyn I Farver (2018) – Karisma Records
In their own description, the band states that their influences come from "Norwegian nature, birdsong, paradolia, Monty Python, Black Adder, Aleister Crowley, Lewis Carroll, J.M. Barrie, the international bronze age, the imminent apocalypse, the word of god and the silence of god."
ME: Who are you guys? I was trying to look for information on the web and there’s not too much…just that there’s a band who started out in ’97 with a different name
Krizla: Yes, that’s us
ME: then silence, then all of a sudden a lot of albums, even two per year
Benediktator: Me and Krizla started the band together in ’94 as a side project of another psychadelic band that we had, where after a gig where the bass player didn’t bother to show up, we decided to do more of this and we recorded one demo in ’97. Then we moved to Oslo and we started a different progressive rock band with Andreas Prestmo, the vocalist who is now singing in Wobbler. That fell appart and we tried to establish several different bands. We had one called The Few, and then an acoustic trio called The Mornings and then I played in a punk band (Lydia Laska) for a lot of years and then we decided to re-form in 2009.
Krizla: At those times we also used to work as DJs and we had a hip hop project. So we were doing a lot of music and that is why we actually started to rap – I was tired of bands, but with this one we didn’t have to rehearse.
Benediktator: The point I was building up to was that when we started the band again in 2009 we could use songs from The Few and from The Mornings. On the debut album, there are two songs from The Mornings and on the last album, 3001, there’s a song from the Few. So we got all of these old songs that were never released and we are able to put out now. The reason we’ve been doing so many albums is that we’ve both been in so many projects where we were ready to record, but a lot of them died and the music just disappeared. We realised that nothing lasts forever so we just strike while the iron is hot and push out as much material as we can.
Krizla: Also I think one of the reason that we didn’t release anything until 2012 is that when we were younger, going into a studio was beyond our economical means and working with other people in bands that had no money was an everyday story back then.
Benediktator: It is hard to imagine for the young people of today that when you are recording you have the option of buying the master tape. If you can’t come up with the dough for the master tape – and it was quite expensive – it simply got erased. That’s what happened when we went into the studio. We did actually record some of the stuff, but it has been deleted and all we got is sort of mixes on cassettes. We no longer have the master tapes.
Me: And now are you rich?
Krizla: No, but recording music these days is so incredibly cheap compared to how it was in the old days. We have a studio in the rehearsal room which works just fine for that. We have also done stuff in professional studios, still not a cheap deal, but at least now we get paid for gigs. It’s hard to imagine like in the mid 90’s, as a prog band, you couldn’t play anywhere. Nobody would book you.
Me: Not in Norway at least.
Krizla: Nope, not in Norway. And if you got to play, getting paid for it was something you could forget about.
Benediktator: So we’re really really thankful and lucky that we’ve actually got a metal audience, because if we’d have had to rely strictly on the prog crowd, it would maybe be like 50 people. So that’s really fortunate.
Me: So you two guys, Benediktator and Krizla are the originals, while the other ones are the late arrivals. How did you ended playing with them?
Krizla: We got ahold of HlewagastiR. because we were impressed with Wobbler and we became friends at a prog rock regular evening of people playing records. I didn’t know Wobbler at all back then even if our friend Andreas sings in that band, but we found out after a while that they were brilliant.
HlewagastiR.: So he introduced us
Benediktator: You can do that thing like at Aye Aye club where you actually get to say something
HlewagastiR.: Yea, that was something.
Me: Come on, he said all his five words already
HlewagastiR.: It was a great time at this Prog Cellar, met a lot of interesting people. and it was a cool agenda. I remembe rlaying in bed, hungover and I got this phonecall from Benediktator asking me if I wanna play with them so we started jamming. It took about three months I think and then we sounded pretty good and we became a band and did rehearse a lot at that time.
Benediktator: It was a sort of a transition because before HlewagastiR joined on drums we had a guy – Svenno – playing djembe so we were just a trio doing this thing more or less accoustically – bass, vocals, flute and the African drums. Then we got a guy on keyboards and he decided to quit right when we were supposed to go in the studio – same old story. So HlewagastiR joined on drums and we tried to incorporate the precussion guy into this as well, but he saw where this was going so he decided to quit. We became three again but really needed keyboards. We didn’t desperately want Moog or Mellotron or that sound
Krizla: We wanted Rhodes piano. The guy we had on keyboards, Reggio, did have a Rhodes piano but it was too damn heavy for him to carry. He never actually got to use it.
Benediktator: He has a friend, actually his cousin, a blacksmith. He made him a harnass that he could put this massive piano and carry it on his back. So we decided to try it and he was standing outside, waiting for a taxi and he goes like ‘You know what, this is too f’kin heavy, I need to sit down’. Be then he couldn’t get up again – had to get help from a neighbor to get out of the harnass and get back up.
Krizla: The harness itself weighted like 15 kilos. It was made of metal and the guy couldn’t get out of it.
Benediktator: So we decided to go with a Nord Electro Stage instead. When he quit and HlewagastiR joined on drums, we had the phenomenal Fenomenet Marxo Solinas who is really Lars from Wobbler who played keys for a while. Also a guy from Årabrot called Jon who also played for a while. Then we had Dauinghorn joining us a substitute for Lars.
Krizla: Marxo Solinas hates to rehearse and he hates to play gigs and he actually also hates to be in the studio.
Benediktator: He hates doing things.
Krizla: Not unless if it’s his own studio.
Benediktator: So Dauinghorn joined temporarily, cause he didn’t really have the time either.
Dauinghorn: But I’ve been a fan of Tusmørke for years and I remember singing with my body from the band I was playing in and I got a message from Benedikt where he asked me if I can fill in for Lars. I was like ‘WOW’. And the guy next to me was ‘YEY – even if it means we lose you’. I think it was an incredible time because I had just started a project called Nordsjø ????, doing a few gigs, then met these guys and I think we have a lot of common interest in music.
Me: What’s your interest in music then?
Benediktator: the common nominator is Scandinavian Progressive Rock, Finnish Prog from the 70s like WigWam – huge influence, Tasavallan Presidentti – first album, second somewhat but not after that
Krizla: Turkish funy psychadelic music
Benediktator: German Kraut rock – Magma
Krizla: And also Christian 70s music, Norwegian Christian Pop from the 70s.
Me: I need to update myself on Norwegian 70s musical history then
Dauinghorn: I guess we’ve all been fascinated by the metal old school scene in Norway.
Benediktator: At least old stuff like Burzum and Darkthrone
Benediktator: Yea, first album and second.
Dauinghorn: And of course stuff from Trondheim, like Vemod and Mare
Me: Do you guys have any musical education?
Benediktator: The only guy with musical education is Dauinghorn.
Dauinghorn: That’s the jazz guitar, so totally different…
Benediktator: I personally first I played the guitar and I couldn’t get any bass players to do that things that I wanted them to do. They couldn’t understand the groove and I decided that it’s better to not have a guitar but at least get the bass parts right. That’s why there’s no guitar
Me: I actually didn’t miss it at all during the show
Benediktator: Besides, some of the guitarists that we have tried out tended to drag it into a blues like thing which we do not like. What is really fortnate now is that since Dauinghorn is a jazz guitarist and he’s influences by Jukka Tolonen and the Finnish prog thing, now actually the guitar works. So we do have guitars on times live.
Me: Too bad he only has two hands though
Dauinghorn: We did play some gigs with Lars on keys and me on guitar and that was really fun. It expanded the sound and it was nice not to have to play the chords, but just communicate with Benedikt on the lines and such
Krizla: We’re big fans of the Finnish jazz and prog scene and I think we all hate blues guitar. Plus, another problem with the guitar is that it tends to dominate very many frequencies and for me, when playing the flute, it is very annoying to have to try to play over the top of someone taking the whole spectrum. So in order to provide space for everything that we want to be heard in a song, it is smart to just leave the guitar.
Me: I can actually understand that now when I think of the concert. It was rather clear and pleasant from the point of view of the crowd. It was not the type of band where you have many people on stage but you only get to hear one.
Benediktator: I once played in a punk band with two guitar players playing alot of fuzz all the time. Turned out that when we went in the studio that only one of them actually knew the songs. The other one has just been hiding in the fuzz.
Me: Your band has caught my attention when you came out with the Bydyra album. So what is it you are singing about in your songs? How do you pick your themes?
Benediktator: I think the main theme that we touch upon is the creatures of the Netherworld, the Subterraneans, the people from the other side – fairies, trolls, call them what you like. This has always been a thread. We are really interested in local history and myth and we see a line from at least the Bronze age up until now. You have rock carvings that are really just means of communicating with the Netherworld, which is the world of the dead but also other sort of supertnatural creatures. SO for us, the main point is to make people see the magic of the surroundings. To see more that is just objectively there and to fantasise, use creativity and make the world magical.
Krizla: We do our own folklore, so to speak. We elaborate on a lot of stories. Like the first single we made – Salomonsens Hage – is based on my neighbor at Vålerenga where there was a park with mushroom rings in it and I made a story on that. To me it’s true, but of course it’s fakelore. We do like to elabore on this kind of stuff.
Benediktator: We also do research. There are a lot of places in town where we play and there are lot of stories about these places
Me: Yea, nobody tells stories anymore
Benediktator: Excatly. So we’re researching and finding out that when you walk to a place you can think of all these stories and add just another dimension to the location. It’s not just a tree, a path, a rock. It comes alive with an extra layer sort to speak.
Me: Makes it sound like something in the lines of Neil Gainman books who makes me look at things from other perspectives
Benediktator: I’ve always been a great fan of comic books and the name partially came from Bourgeon – from his Les Compagnons du crépuscule – companions of twilight. In Norwegian it is Skumringens venner but in Danish it’s just Tusmørkets kammerater. And the writing of the band name is Danish as well. It was not allowed to be spelled like that in Norwegian up until I think 1981. Now it’s supposed to write it with two s’es but we refused to do that and kept it as it is.
Me: What about the stage show? You’re like a druid?
Krizla: No, I’m a wizard
Me: Tell me the difference
Krizla: A druit is dressed in white and is also an active religious group in Great Britain so I would much rather not be associated with that. I actually wore that cape for years and years. There was a period of my life when I only wore medieval inspired clothing that I’ve sewn myself so I never thrown those clothes away. When we started to play live, I dug out my old cape again. I’ve always been really intrigued by magick, like ritual magick and the left-hand path, occult traditions. When I was very active and into that I actually imagined myself to be a magician and wandered around in robes all the time.
Me: And then you became a musician?
Krizla: With music there’s actually magick that works so you can enchant people, instead of just sitting and meditating for hours.
Dauinghorn: There’s something unexplainable in music
Me: It must be the magick working
Benediktator: For me, with the feathers and the makeup is that I really love glam and the whole glam look, a la David Bowie. It’s always been a phylosphy for us that when you on stage it’s supposed to be something that’s not every day. You don’t go up there like you casually just walked out of your own garage. Or wear the clothes that you wear at work. If you look at Yes for example, int he 70s, there’s capes there’s makeup, they look like they’re dressed for the occasion. And that’s important for us as well.
Krizla: And also by all rules of logic, more is actually more.
Benediktator: Since we work very hard on stage, we get really warm so it’s nice to take something off.
Krizla: In my case, with that cape, it’s very nice because I don’t have to wear anything underneath. So it’s a wonderful sensation.
Benediktator: SO for us I guess it’s perpetually 1971
Krizla: So we just play old school music, wear old school clothes. We’re just analogue guys. I think a lot of people forgot how that works with all these laptops and other gimmicks on stage.
Dauinghorn: I actually had to use an ipad on stage and that’s because I cannot carry more than two keyboards with me for a show.
Krizla: We’re also into emulating our heroes, so in most of our songs you can hear a little piece from somebody else well hidden there.
Benediktator: Another thing with glam, we really love KISS. And we’re not afraid to be stupid. A lot of the ideas that we have, we’re just like ‘oh, that’s the stupidest thing ever. We have to use that!’ And we’re sort of always challenging the audience to see if they’re gonna laugh or take it seriously, because we’re never gonna tell if it’s a serious or a laughing matter. We talk about human sacrifice a lot, are we serious or are we not?
Me: Or Christmas trees…
Benediktator: Or that…There’s things that can be taken seriously but also be laughed at at the same time.
Krizla: I got into a huge argument about human sacrifice as I advocated that as being a big honor, to be sacrificed to the gods. And a woman in the audience was so intrigued, stating ‘oh no, the poor people’ so I just couldn’t help myself and it went on for hours after the concert. Both Benedikt and I are both historians and everything has been allowed at or has been accepted at some point as a good thing.
Benediktator: We talk a lot between the songs as well. Maybe not as much today cause we had a short set, but the reason we’ve started doing that was because we saw Aura Noir doing it and it was so f’kin funny. The contrast between playing really mean music and telling jokes and so we really enjoyed having this sort of banter on stage where we try telling things that we think are funny. And being on stage makes it feel like we pretty much can do or say anything. Of course, you get in situations like we did today when you talk about buttplugs and you look out there and there’s so many kids there. Then I’m like ‘Oh well, I said it, so I’ll just continue’
Me: Yea, I guess all parents there have do some explaining
Krizla: Tell them ‘Ask your mum’
Dauinghorn: Ask your dad!
Krizla: In the end, people take kids to concerts at their own risk.