Kjetil Nordhus (Green Carnation) Interview
- by Andrea Chirulescu
- Posted on 28-04-2020
Interview with Kjetil Nordhus, vocalist of Green Carnation
As it’s been quite a while (more exactly 14 years) since the latest Green Carnation release, the fact that they have announced a new album to be out this year was a rather big piece of news and a lot of people were looking forward to all the events aorund the album release and upcoming shows. The band has been rather active for a few years now, but a full new set of songs would have probably added new elements to their live performances. But not all plans were to be executed as intended, and their release show in May has now turned to an online live stream, while a lot of the live performances have been postponed or are uncertain. Therefore I reached out to the band’s singer, Kjetil Nordhus, to hear a bit on how the band feels about the whole situation and how they had to adapt to all the changes that are out of their control.
Sadly, the sound and video quality of the skype meeting are both rather bad so you have to live with the transcribed version of the dialogue.
Green Carnation live in Kristiansand, 2018
Photo by Irmina Lunnøy
14 years since your latest album and now you have all these big release plans for 2020, but they’re all being messed up. How frustrating is this?
Kjetil: It’s hard to sayas it’s nothing we can do with it anyway. This was a part of a big picture, a long plan up until 2023 as we pretty much knew what we wanted to do until 2023. So now we need to adjust the plans quite a lot. But I wouldn’t say that the band related matters are the worst when it comes to this situation. We are in the same boat as everybody else. We have tried to promote the new album, together with the label and it’s still going to be releasad as announced, digitally. All the preorders will be sent out so this part hasn’t closed down for us. But all the live plans had to be adjusted.
The release show was supposed to take place on 23rd of May, right? And now it’s going to be a live stream instead of having a regular show in a venue with a crowd. How’s the logistic for all this been adjusted and handled?
Kjetil: There are gonna be some new rules on May the 4th, as far as I know. So hopefully that will make it a bit easier for us to do the live stream. But together with the promoter of the show, we had to make very detailed plans about the show, like for example who can use these toilets or those toilets. I think we were rather early with announcing this live stream, and by now there have been a lot of similar events. Some pressure has built up by now, a pressure on ourselves to make something that’s gonna be extraordinary. We need this live-stream release party to be a worthy Green Carnation show.
So it won’t be just a show where you put on a simple pair of jeans, a tshirt and you show up in front of the camera and sing?
Kjetil: No, not at all. Things also have to be considered from an economical point of view. We cannot lose too much money with this concert either. We are already selling some online tickets for the show. It’s gonna cost us a lot to produce it, we have to rent a lot of equipment and we want to pay the people working for us. So the people buying tickets in advance will get some exclusive stuff in addition to the concert. Maybe live interviews with the band before the gig, we have the world premiere on a music video so maybe they will be able to see first. We are also discussing with the label if we can do pre-release exclusive listening sessions with the people who have the tickets for the show. Mabe a couple of days prior to it we might invite them to a live stream where we talk about the album, the songs and play the music live from the production studio. We’re trying to be positive about it.
What are the financial implications of losing the live shows at this moment?
Kjetil: When I’m looking around at what’s happening in the music world, I see that everyone is trying to postpone events for next year. Long term, I don’t really know what to tell you. I believe we’re going to do the planned shows anyway. I think for us it’s more of a practical issue that when we already made plans to do something else, we’ll have to play live instead. But there is also an interesting thought. For example with Tristania we are supposed to go for a three weeks Latin America tour in September. And the current period should be the time when we’d sell tickets to those shows. But nobody is gonna buy tickets now, nobody knows what’s gonna happen. So that might be the most critical issue for concert promoters and bands. Because of all the uncertainty, people are not gonna buy tickets for future shows now and this has huge economical impact and leads to a lot of uncertainty.
Indeed, a tour is not something that gets announced in two weeks from now and everything happens in those two weeks. There’s a long time of preparation and various parties are involved at different times.
Kjetil: Of course not. And even if Norway would open up 100% on the 22nd of May and we could still go on with the live show with crowd, as initially planned, I don’t think people would come to a concert on the 23rd of May and act like they used to. I think these aspects will be very difficult for promoters and bands, at least for the coming period after restrictions are lifted.
Green Carnation live at Roadburn festival 2016
Do you guys meet and rehearse or do you only work online these days?
Kjetil: We had four days of rehearsals during Easter. We rented this big venue and had lots of space and left the equipment there for these days. We did three days of full band rehearsal and one full day of vocal rehearsals. We brought in our sound and light engineers so we could prepare for the live streaming show. We probably need to do that again, right before the event, so we have everything up and running. We have a very small rehearsal room and we didn’t really want to rehearse there, and that’s why we decided to go for a big place instead, under these circumstances. Me and Stein Roger have worked on a new song. We’re pretty much finished with it. I’m just gonna do the vocals properly and then we have a new nice 9 minutes song and we don’t know what we’re gonna do with it. As you can see, with all our plans being postponed, we might consider going into the studio with it next year and maybe release it like a single. We haven’t decided yet.
I guess you’ve already seen other streamed events. So you’re aware of how empty the venue will be, no clapping, no cheering…
Kjetil: It is gonna be really strange. We rehearsed a bit on this when we were in this big venue, as we had no crowd there. But I think you have to forget about it. Our technical crew has promised to try to recreate a normal concert as much as possible – except the crowd. A loud sound for example, in order to feel the power of the music, as a lot of elements can be lost if you try to do them differently. Obviously you cannot communicate with the crowd
Unless you’re using the computer during the show
Kjetil: Hehe, no, that will be quite srange. But I’ve seen quite a lot of really good live streams and I noticed a lot of the artists saying in the beginning of the show that this is so strange but by the end of the show, it seems that most of them are really enjoying it. So let’s hope for that.
You were supposed to have Anneke van Gierbergen as opening act. It’s a pity she’s no longer able to join you. You have recently announced new opening acts for the new dates
Kjetil: We lost Anneke because of the date change. But hopefully we can do something together another time. The plan was to have Anneke and Tiamat. Tiamat was able to reschedule, but Anneke needed to do her own stuff at that time. That’s a shame, but we’re really delighted that Kari Rueslåtten can join us because she will have somehow the same role as Anneke in the concert.
Was Anneke supposed to guest any songs on stage?
Kjetil: We hadn’t talked about that yet. But I was playing with some ideas that maybe we could do an old song from The Gathering. I am not sure if she would have been interested, but we never got to the point of being able to discuss this.
By the way, do you have any guest artists on the album?
Kjetil: No. The point for us, with this album, was to reinvent ourselves in 2019 (when the album was recorded). Some people were asking if Vibeke Stene would sing on the album, and it’s basically th same argument. First album in 14 years has to be focused on ourselves basically.
Fair enough. You have other shows besides the one we already spoke about. There was one in Romania in March. What about the others? What has happened?
Kjetil: We were supposed to play in Istanbul and Athens, I think this weekend. They have been rescheduled to October. The one in Rome as well, rescheduled to October. Metal Days was canceled and I think they are trying to move all the bands to next year.
Have there been any financial loses for you so far?
Kjetil: Luckily, the only plane tickets we bought were the ones to Romania. They were through KLM and now KLM operates with vouchers that last for two years. So we will most definitely be able to use them again, meaning we haven’t lost anything on that. The only gig we have actually lost so far is the one in Oslo. We’re still working on another date though. Even if it’s not announced at the time of this interview, but it has to be rescheduled. I guess they have more than enough to do lately. One thing that can be quite serious for us is that this year we wanted to do some festivals, some special club shows in areas that we haven’t played much live before – like Romania, Turkey, Greece. And then we wanted to focus on big festivals next year, when the album has been listened to and digested. But suddenly all festvals are fully booked for next year. So this will have quite a big impact on our plans as we cann no longe rplay big festivals neither this year nor probably next year either.
You can just play special shows at the entrance of the festivals then
Kjetil: I actually had this idea of gathering say seven or eight bands and do this travelling festival tour in the biggest cities in Europe, prior to festival season. In May for example.
Good luck. There’s quite a lot of logistics for that
Kjetil: I don’t know if it’s gonna happen as we would need some relevant names to sell tickets and interested venues.
You made some videos recently covering various aspects of the album, so I’m not discussing too many technical details here. People can go on your page and watch them if they want to. But I’m wondering, what’s your favorite track and why? https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC2vfEaTADayEniT7xbG-XCA
Kjetil: It has changed all the time actually. If I have to pick one, I think the title track is the one. It has everything we wanted to say with the new album. It’s quite a complex song, that it’s still nice to listen to, it’s kind to the ear. It has all the elements that we want in Green Carnation 2020 version. It has the heaviness, the melodic parts, the progressive elements that we have developed int he past years. It sums up Green Carnation. I couldn’t say the other songs don’t, but probably this first track does it in a bit of an extra manner.
By the time the albums come out, the band members have already had enough of it and it’s no longer a novelty. Are you still at the stage where you listen to the album yourself?
Kjetil: I have been thinking about that actually. I normally wouldn’t, but in this case I am still listening to it. And this is probably a good sign. Some albums I haven’t listened once we were done in the studio. And it’s not because you don’t like them, it’s maybe because you are fed up with it. We were finished with everything for this album mid November. And this is almost half a year ago, but I’m still listening to it a lot. Of course, we have to rehearse the new songs, even if we have already played two of them live, for two years now. I think at the moment we finished rehearsing ‘Leaves of Yesteryear’ and we have started doing ‘Hounds’ rehearsals.
Are you considering that the autumn shows might not happen either? Do you have any backup plans or just wait and see what happens?
Kjetil: Yeah, we’re discussing that actually. We need to wait and see what happens. With Tristania for example, we have discussed with the tour promoter to maybe reschedule everything in March. He’s looking into that but there’s so many different rules for each country so you have to adjust yourself to all of them. For example, Czech Republic is banning travels in and out until March next year. So you couldn’t include playing there no matter what. Let’s see. I am not sure we will be able to do any of our shows this year.
Back to the financial aspect, at this point in time there’s no big losses as you haven’t made any investments as a band, right?
Kjetil: Except the plane tickets to Romania – which we can reuse – we haven’t bought anything else yet. But when you go on tour, there’s other people involved and those are doing way worse than bands right now. The things for bands themselves might even out on the long term, new possibilities might arise. But festivals and technicians, their business have totally stopped. And venues.
That’s actually my next question. You know a lot of technicians involved with making shows happen. People who are not visible to the crowd, but without them the concerts are not possible. For most of them, this is the only income, how do they manage, do you know?
Kjetil: This is obviously different from country to country. I guess we are lucky to live in Norway as here we have some emergency funds. Even as a musician, or a light engineer or sound engineer you can apply based on how much you used to earn. There’s a certain percent you are entitled to, but it helps you to survive I guess. But I don’t think too many countries are able to do that. So it’s not easy for these people.
You are using ticket master to sell the tickets to the show. Have you seen the discussion about how Ticetmaster has changed their refund policy overnight?
Kjetil: It’s not us who decides nor who sells the tickets. It’s the promoters. This is not something we control. But I don’t think the last word has been said in the case of Ticketmaster. They can not earn long term in having tons of unhappy customers. Let’s see if they understand that. I also had some tickets from them and I haven’t heard anything yet. I was supposed to see Chelsea Wolfe in Oslo but I haven’t heard anything about it.
Me too, it’s a bit fishy to not have any info. That was about it for now, so many thanks for your time.
Kjetil: Sure. What will you use this interview for?
It’s a personal project to try to get in touch with people in the music industry, especially those whose plans have been affected by all these recent regulations and changes and gather information on how they manage the changes, what impact they have and so on. You guys had so much planned and all of a sudden everything is rescheduled and uncertain. I’m glad to hear that so far it seems to be ok for you guys.
Kjetil: I would say that. We don’t make a living strictly out of music and that helps. If we had been five men counting on making money with the band and all the plans we had, we would be struggling a lot right now.
I don’t know what to say here. There’s surely some big bands affected by this, bands who make big money, but then again, these are bands who play arena shows. Not sure I will get in touch with any at this level. And at the ‘smaller’ level I mainly know bands whose members are like you: they have a ‘day’ job and then music is a side project. But if I htink about it, there’s actually plenty of session musicians who play in many projects as drummers or guitarists..
Kjetil: But you also have what you would call a band leader. A person who is behind a project, like for example Jørgen Munkeby from Shinning. I don’t think he has another job for example and they had plans for a Blackjazz anniversary show. You can also look at this from the point of view of the changes that it will bring to the music world. Now all of a sudden everything is based on online streaming. Will people still want to pay for this in two years from now? Will they want the live shows back? It’s unpredictable. I’ve also been wondering about this: we were going to have this release after 14 years since our latest album. Why didn’t we think that we could share it so that all of the world can see it, instead of limiting it to a small town in Norway and to the people who are crazy enough to travel here to see the concert? Why didn’t we think we can play this concert for fans all over the world, like we are doing now? Maybe in the future you’re going to see a combination of bands playing live, but people still being able to see the show if they cannot make it. Time will tell.