KAASIN – Interview
KAASIN – Interview
FOREVER HEADING ON AND ON – AN INTERVIEW WITH KAASIN
Last year I was introduced to a spirited and fiery tune entitled "Runaway Train" by the Norwegian hard rock outfit known as Kaasin, and I was blown away by just how well-crafted, memorable, and classy it all was. While the incredibly talented guitarist Jo Henning Kaasin may primarily be known for his stellar work with the Deep Purple-influenced act that is Come Taste the Band, that could very well change in the future as the Kaasin ensemble are about to unleash a thrilling record appropriately named "Fired Up" that will surely leave its mark on the rock scene, and this group is definitely one to keep an eye out for. Eternal Terror Live caught up with Jo Henning to discuss all things Kaasin and get the lowdown on the upcoming album.
For those out there who are not familiar with how Kaasin came about and how it all started, could you briefly outline the group’s history and tell us a bit about the members of the band as well as its aim and purpose?
JH: It all started in February 2020. After 23 years and great success with Come Taste the Band and the "REIGNITION" album, that band was put on ice in January 2020. CTTB was a fantastic band with an adventurous story. We were working with people like Glenn Hughes, Joe Lynn Turner, Doogie White and so on, and we had both Joe and Doogie singing on our last album. Great fun! But the band needed a break after that and then I found myself with spare time and ambitions. My cousin and KAASIN-bass player, Ståle Kaasin, talked about doing something together and I had this song "Runaway Train", which I thought was good. I said, "Let’s try to put out this song and see what happens." We asked the fabulous singer Jan Thore Grefstad if he was interested in working with us and he was up for it, and that was the start of KAASIN. Benjamin Dehli added some amazing keyboards to the song, and it did very well when it came out in August 2020. Streaming in hundreds of thousands, topping rock radio stations in England, Sweden, and France – what a blast! Then we wrote the song "Revelation" and released it in December 2020 and that song also did very well. With two songs under the belt, we signed a record deal with Pride & Joy Music in January 2021 and started working on the "FIRED UP" album. From my point of view, we have a very strong band featuring musicians with passion, energy, and great musicality. Ståle is a thunderous bassist in the tradition of players like Jimmy Bain and Glenn Hughes. Jan Thore Grefstad has worked with Saint Deamon, TNT, and Highland Glory, and he is one of the best singers I know of. He is up there with Glenn, Joe, and the others. Benjamin Dehli is KAASIN’s secret weapon. A fantastic composer, musician, and producer. I love working with those guys. They make it easy!
Photo Anne-Marie Forker/Forker Fotos
Was the idea of doing a solo project of sorts but with a proper band supporting you something that had been lingering in the back of your mind for a long time? When did you actually start composing material for "Fired Up"?
JH: Well, KAASIN is a band, it’s not really a solo project. I think Come Taste the Band was more like my solo project the last few years at least when it came to songwriting. I had thought of doing something new with other people and I had already discussed it with Ståle Kaasin as early as 2015. We started composing the material for «FIRED UP» in January/February 2021.
As you know, I love your debut album and it is a very solid and captivating piece of work from start to finish. I wasn’t surprised by that, mind you, but what about yourself and your own perspective on the whole process of writing, arranging, and recording the songs – has it been musically and personally fulfilling to you?
JH: Thanks for your kind words about the album. It’s been a great joy to write and record the album. A labor of love! As I said before, we started composing the record in late January 2021 and everyone was really into it, bringing great ideas to the table. We were fired up by the passion and energy everybody felt when writing it. Dehli brought in what was to become "Hidden" and "Chain of Love", I came up with "The Smoking Gun", and then we wrote "We Are One", "Wrong", and "Carry On" together. We met every week for a couple of months and the album was written before June. Quick and to the point. Then we recorded it mainly in June/July and the mix was done in August.
It’s been a musically and personally fulfilling process. I think we have captured the spirit of the great bands from the seventies and early eighties and mixed it with our own musicality and identity and also added some more modern elements to the mix. You can hear that mix in songs like "Chain of Love", "Wrong", and "Hidden". A song like "We Are One" is more like a pure oldie; it’s kind of a tribute to the old days and all the great people I have worked with from that time. AND it’s a great opener!
Do you ever feel haunted by your own sense of perfection when listening to some of the tunes that "Fired Up" is comprised of? Any regrets?
JH: Oh yeah, there’s always something that could have been even better or different and maybe that’s some of the fuel for making another record 😊 I always think we can do a little better. Maybe that’s what I am haunted by. No rest for the wicked, ha-ha. That said, I think "FIRED UP" is a great album and better written and recorded than the last album I did with Come Taste the Band. I don’t have any regrets. My focus is the future and what I can do next.
Could you list a few of the albums that have inspired you the most throughout your career, both musically and lyrically? And now that we are at it, I simply need to know what some of your most treasured and cherished records by Deep Purple, Rainbow, and Whitesnake are and why.
JH: I’ve been inspired by so many different styles, not only hard rock. The albums that have inspired me the most that are not hard rock include "Defender" by Rory Gallagher, which is a superb blues rock album. "Khmer" by Nils Petter Molvær is another one. Atmospheric and heavy, the sound of Norwegian mountains and woods and with fantastic guitar playing by Eivind Aarseth. I also love "Jazz på Svenska" av Jan Johansson. Just piano and bass. Wonderful! And I listen to The Doors and David Bowie a lot. Then there are the hard rock albums; Thin Lizzy’s "Thunder and Lightning" may be an odd choice, but I really like the spirit of that album. Great songs, great playing. The first two Dio LPs have always been important to me and every album of Free. Paul Kosoff was a great player. I think you can hear his spirit in some of my playing, like in Come Taste the Band’s "Slave for Your Love". When it comes to lyrics, I am more into books and poems. Some kind of freedom seems to be what I write about. Freedom of speech is important to me and not to be "fenced in" by some stupid rules or the expectations from the mainstream people. I am a rulebreaker and a rock ‘n’ roller! When it comes to the most important part of my inspirations, we have to talk about the Deep Purple family 😊 My uncle played Deep Purples "Stormbringer" to me when I was a kid. I was blown away by the title track. High energy, groove, great vocals from David Coverdale, funky bass from Glenn Hughes, and then there was this majestic and mysterious guitar solo. Ritchie Blackmore at his best was fantastic. Virtuosity blended with great taste and feeling and with those eastern flavors – I love that! "Stormbringer" is the direct reason I picked up a guitar and started to play. You can imagine what I felt when I got the chance to play all those songs with Glenn Hughes – mind-blowing! My favorite Deep Purple albums are "Burn", "Come Taste the Band" (I love Tommy Bolin’s playing) and "Perfect Strangers". Fantastic albums and great songwriting. Then there is the bluesy side of Whitesnake; "Ready and Willing" and "Come An’ Get It" were Coverdale and Whitesnake in top form. Great records with superb songwriting. I love that bluesy vibe. I think I played those records to the point where they were worn out. I had to buy them again later on. My first Rainbow record was "Bent Out of Shape" with Joe Lynn Turner singing his heart out on every track and Blackmore putting his stamp everywhere. Listen to his solo in "Desperate Heart" – fantastic! However, the greatest and most inspiring Rainbow album for me is "Rising", which is a perfect album. Dio and Blackmore at their peak. From the intro to "Tarot Woman" until the final notes of «A Light in the Black" – simply perfection.
What are your plans in terms of touring "Fired Up"? From my perspective, the entire LP lends itself incredibly well to a live setting and I could easily imagine you performing the entire album on stage. Will you throw in a few Come Taste the Band tunes as well?
JH: We do not have any plans as of yet, but of course, we want to get out there on the road. And I agree, "FIRED UP" is almost perfect in regard to a live setting. The songs vary in terms of tempo, key and feeling. That’s important in a live setting. I always try to get the right setlist in order to let the songs be better together in some way. Some of the KAASIN songs will be extended in a live setting and maybe breathe a little more. I would also love to throw in a few Come Taste the Band songs as well. I think "Tied Down" and "Slave for Your Love" from the "REIGNITION" album will be great additions to a KAASIN concert. Let’s see what happens.
Photo John Sandersen
Musically and stylistically speaking, will your next release be in the same vein as "Fired Up"? I love how your debut offering bridges the old and the new, so it is not as if I think you ought to change a formula that clearly works, but where do you see the next output heading? Will you expand on some of the ideas and themes of "Fired Up"?
JH: I don’t know. We have not made any plans for the next release. It’s got to develop naturally. Hard rock will always be the cornerstone for KAASIN but I personally would like to expand some of our ideas further. It’s great to write and play hard rock songs, but it’s even more fulfilling to do it from another angle or with some new flavors. That’s inspiring. I think "FIRED UP" is more adventurous than "REIGNITION" by Come Taste the Band at least when it comes to songwriting and production. Maybe I will continue in that direction.
With your respect to your lyrics, allow me to point out that I found the ones to "We Are One", "Inside Out", and "The Smoking Gun" rather interesting and that the words in general seem to cover many different subjects and ideas. Can you elaborate on their meaning and subject matter?
JH: Jan Thore Grefstad wrote some great lyrics for the album and "We Are One" is about some kind of freedom and how to reach that freedom. It’s also about the power we can achieve when we stand together. "Inside Out" I think is about human pain, being pushed around, and torn apart. I wrote the lyrics for "The Smoking Gun", and I wrote it in January 2021. I love America, its history and culture, its freedom. What I saw in January 2021 was not my America, so that’s what the song is about. I see democracy and freedom fading away and I don’t like that. That makes me fired up. You can’t hide the smoking gun.
Thank you so much for your time.
JH: Thanks, and the same to you. Great talking to you.