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Escape Velocity

A Matter Of Life & Deathcrush: Norway's Noise Punks Interviewed
Wyndham Wallace , February 20th, 2014 04:10

As they release their third single, and on the eve of their appearance at by:Larm in Oslo, Wyndham Wallace confronts Norway's most rowdily entertaining, fiercely rocking outfit, Deathcrush, to hear about Rod Stewart's former drum kit and why they're happy living in the future

Photo by Kaja Bruskeland

"This is just for fun!" Deathcrush cry on their latest, blistering single, 'Lesson #16 For Beatmaster V'/'Fun'. "Is this just for fun?" they then enquire, and it's a good question: their ferocious noise punk is as likely to inspire broad grins as awed faces. The Oslo trio have become one of the most exciting acts Norway has exported in recent years, and their run of singles over the past year has confirmed they've got songs as colourful as their personalities. But although they love mucking about, Deathcrush don't mess around. They may be a riot, but they could no doubt start one too.

Åse Bredeli Røyset and Linn Nystadnes met at school, and – the way they remember it – formed their first band "on the NYC subway on Valentine's Day before we went and bought our first guitars". After Deathcrush's first drummer Andreas Larssen quit, they joined forces with Årabrot's Vidar Evensen, giving him a week to learn their entire songbook before they performed at Roskilde in 2012. It was a fine decision: when they performed an unofficial show at by:Larm last year, the Quietus' own John Doran was forced to warn potential South By South West delegates: 'You are Tokyo. Deathcrush are Godzilla.'

Frankly, he may have been understating things, as Deathcrush prove as lively offstage as they are under the spotlights. As Åse puts it, "Our old drummer taught us that music is like sex: first to finish! Game on!"

When I saw you play last year, I remember telling your manager, 'Only a fool could fuck this up!' So why aren't you already international superstars?

Åse Bredeli Røyset: Are you calling him a fuck-up? That's it! He's fired.

Linn Nystadnes: Ha ha, no, no, no! Chris [Wareing] is doing a great job! Right now he's over in LA, connecting with the stars and stripes, which is a great thing for us. First time round we said no to record labels, but now that we know what works for us, the next step will be finding the right label. We'll keep releasing stuff on Vidar's Norway Rat until we do, so we don't have to jump into anything. But you know, when it's right, it's right.

You've been taking your time, old school-style, rather than rushing out an album. Is this a conscious decision or just the way things panned out?

ÅBR: A bit of both, really. All our one-off gigging – giving us twice as many travel days as gigs – made it hard to find time to prepare and go into the studio. To make it happen, we started scheduling 'four days, two songs completed' sessions. Apparently this is the Darkthrone method. And it's a good one. We realised this suited both our material and our schedule better.

Some bands benefit from using time to develop, but your latest single is a number you've been playing live for a good year or more. Do you simply have too much fun rehearsing and playing live to want to get down to the serious business of writing?

LN: We're always serious, haven't you heard? We've been busy, busy, busy: in addition to playing live, we're mixing tracks we've recorded with Billy Anderson [Swans, Melvins] and Jørgen Træen [Datarock, Annie], designing the artwork, planning releases. We write all the time, but there has been a change to how we go about making songs. When we started out, we lived in our rehearsal room, making ninety-five per cent of our music together. But with so much travelling, suddenly we're all bringing in semi- to finished songs as well.

Your debut single, 'Lesson #13 For Nanker Phelge'/'Fire', was released as a flexidisc with a colourful teen-style magazine. The follow-up, 'Skool's In', was a coloured vinyl 12”. Is your new single really just digital? Where's the fun in that?

ÅBR: [Laughs] It's all over the lyrics, for one! I think the word 'fun' is included, what… twenty-nine times in there?

Vidar Evensen: There'll be a physical object with this one as well. There's an empty digipak CD cover – spraypainted with five stencils, topped with a screen print – coming up. I'm in the midst of finalising these now. Ah, the fumes! It's gonna be strictly limited, and only for sale at gigs and our Bandcamp store.

ÅBR: Yeah, it's an 'emperor's new CD' sort of release. The last CDs we bought were used once, then imported to iTunes, and are now collecting dust at our parents' houses. So instead you get a little handmade piece of art, and a download which happens to grant you access to a shitload of bonus material: alternative music video ending, bloopers, remix kit…

When can we finally expect an album? You promised last year that there would be singles and then a compilation, but we're still waiting. Come on – what's happening?

LN: After 'Lesson #16 For Beatmaster V'/'Fun', we have an EP-ish release planned for spring, so you'll get your fix. If we get the right offer, we'll sign with a record label for sure. Now that we've manifested what we're about, we're ready to hand over some of that responsibility.

One of the things I love about Deathcrush is that you always look like you're having the time of your life. How much time did you spend practising in front of the mirror when you were growing up?

VE: There's a breed of people that can't help playing the air guitar or air drums when a good song's maxed on the stereo. There's nothing more natural than a rocker rocking out. Come on, that's like asking a sportsman why he's running as fast as he can at the tracks! As a kid I was under my mother's desk with my cassette deck playing the drum solo on '100,000 Years' from KISS Alive!, getting all pumped up. I still do this from time to time when we have guests at the Deathcrush crib.

ÅBR: I remember my brother barging into my room when I was a kid, mimicking me in front of the mirror. I remember thinking he got it all wrong: I used the hairbrush mic, not the hairspray. And I didn't stand in front of the mirror. I was placed stage centre – duh!

Vidar, what's it like sitting there watching Linn and Åse? You're clearly a man of rhythm, so don't you ever want to get up there and compete with them?

VE: I'm like, 'Where the hell are they now? Oh, on top of the PA system…' I try to compete with them by hitting harder and more explosively.

Any plans to add a keyboard player and go synth pop? And would she be male or female?

ÅBR: If she were male, we'd stop being called a girl band or, my favourite, a two-thirds girl band.

LN: I always find it surprising that male musicians think it's kosher to exclaim, 'We really want a female bassist!' Are boobs really still considered an asset to make a band stand out? How sad is that? Don't sign your daughter up for the school choir. Get her a guitar! Then maybe we can get past this nonsense…

Was it always your intention for Deathcrush to sound this chaotic?

ÅBR: Well, yes, it was, but we did work our way through all the aesthetics we've ever liked with our old band to pinpoint exactly how to do it, on a song by song basis. Instead of forming an indie rock band, we'd make one indie rock song, conclude, 'Yeeeeaaahh… that's not it', get that out of our systems and move on. Looking back at the very first songs we wrote, it makes perfect sense to me that we were headed where we are now all along.

Is it true that Vidar's drum kit was previously owned by Rod Stewart's drummer on the Blondes Have More Fun tour?

ÅBR: Seriously!

VE: The soul of Carmine Appice's legendary drumming is well taken care of, and is still alive in this kit. He's the inventor of heavy drumming. Just give the old Vanilla Fudge albums a spin and you'll see. The big question is whether he used it both on Rod Stewart's Blondes Have More Fun album and Paul Stanley's solo album. They were made the same year, after all. Does anybody know? Gimme a call.

LN: Actually we have two kits: Rod's old one and the shiny, silver Eddie Ryan custom kit my dad used with his hair metal band in the 80s. In fact, the kits have so many pieces, we only use a little over half of the original kits. We love them both, but favour my dad's. Double bass drums, dude.

Linn, the highlight of your debut single was, you claimed, hitting "a freaking gong". How did that feel? Has it all been downhill since then?

LN: Haha, well, right now I'm mixing a few new songs, and I've caught myself thinking, 'This would do nicely with a subtle gong' more than a few times. You can never have enough hits from the gong. Yeah, yeah, I know our humour sucks…

There's some real retro influences at play here, notably from the late 80s, early 90s US alt rock era. How did youngsters like you stumble on their records?

LN: Sonic Youth was the band that made us go back in time and discover all the amazing no wave bands they in turn were inspired by, so although we've not listened to Sonic Youth for years, we owe them thanks. Most of the bands we love from that era, like Big Black for example, we got into after someone told us they could tell we loved them. After hitting up our local record shop, we found out they were right.  

VE: For me, the early 80s is more Chrome, Birthday Party and Bathory and Throbbing Gristle, Chris & Cosey. In a weird way it seems like those albums stumbled upon me. Sonic Youth never really got to me.

Do you wish you were old enough to have hung out at CBGBs back in the day?

ÅBR: Not really. Wouldn't mind stumbling over some kind of a hot tub time machine and spending a weekend, but giving up all the hip hop, pop anthems and black metal history that came after? I want it all.

LN: You wouldn't be stuck there – duh! All the no wave and hardcore bands that came out of New York in that same era would have been great to witness in their prime, of course. But waiting ten to fifteen years or so to make 'Lesson #1 For Snoop Dogg'? Nah, we're happy living in the future.

Who's been behind your videos so far? And what, in particular, was the inspiration for your latest, inspired – and spectacular – clip, 'Lesson #16 For Beatmaster V'?

LN: The two first videos we did ourselves. The video for 'Fire' started out inspired by Masters Apprentices' amazing video for 'Easy To Lie', where the concept is one guy getting into the music in front of a painting. So we aimed the camera at one of Vidar's pieces of art, opened a few bottles and…

ÅBR: … and an unknown amount of editing hours later, that drunken visual assault was a fact! 'You Now' was a rescue operation after the initial video plans got sabotaged by everything from chemotherapy to 'corrupt files'. And then there's 'Fun'. Now that's a whole different story. When [director] Kenneth Karlstad came to us with this, well... ambitious idea, we knew it'd be a great video, but honestly…? I didn't dream he'd actually manage to pull it off. Enter producer Petter Løkke, pulling in an incredible twenty-person crew, funding and equipment, and he turned this into exactly what Kenneth envisioned. We even had an actor fly in from Bodø, 850 km away.

The new single cover is also inspired by [Body Count drummer] Beatmaster V, in that it's Vidar's take on the debut Body Count album cover. What's that all about?

LN: 'Lesson #16 For Beatmaster V'/'Fun' is one of the first songs we finished with Vidar, whilst Årabrot was breathing its dying breath. Now he's our very own Beatmaster V.

VE: it seems like both Body Count and the Norwegian black metal bands killed different kinds of metal on each side of the Atlantic with their primal anger. So this one goes out to Beatmaster V – RIP [V died of leukemia in 1996] – and all the street level cop killers. Gylve [Darkthrone's Fenriz] may receive his lesson at some other point. In the drawing I wanted to make a toxic, nuclear radioactive spin on [Body Count's] 'Cop Killer' painting.

You're heading to the UK soon to play live. What can people expect? And what can people expect you to leave behind if they let you crash at their flat?

ÅBR: Our merch box, I guess. We have a spectacular way of forgetting it. And if we do remember to pick it up, I make sure the income gets stolen. But we have Beat- and Merchmaster Vidar now.

LN: Looks like we're spending our springtime with London as our base, and we're up for whatever England has to throw at us. We have some great shows lined up, but some of our best experiences have been playing in living rooms, gas stations, fortresses and all kinds of spur-of-the-moment, weird places and parties. New ideas are always welcome!

Don't you get tired of men in their forties like myself turning up to your shows and getting overexcited?

ÅBR: Nope! Our most devoted fan is sixty, and has probably seen us twenty times or more, with the set lists at home to prove it, and videos from every show up on his YouTube.

LN: And that dad in Southampton. How can you get tired of a forty year old dad doing push-ups in front of the stage? And you're forgetting the underage boys sneaking in to see us. Hopefully they'll stick with us till they're sixty too. And all the 'I'm not a lesbian, but, erm…' girls. And the deer-in-the-headlights, 'I don't really like that type of music, but I love you guys!' crowd.

You're the only band I can think of who can use the words 'goof around' and not sound like idiots. What other words do Deathcrush use that no one else could get away with?

ÅBR: 'Necroyolo'. And Vidar can say 'freak' and 'psychedelic' without sounding like a total hippy. I have no idea how.

What's the worst damage you've ever done to yourselves or other people during a show?

ÅBR: Hmmm… Linn's caused a bleeding head and a concussion.

LN: Hey, you forget that time I hit a guy that kept touching my guitar strings in the face with my mic, and then got back at myself by stepping on my own cable, almost knocking my teeth out. And I sprained my neck once. Didn't even know that was possible! Apparently it would have been less painful if I broke it. Worst – and longest – bangover ever!

Do you think the world is ready for Deathcrush, and how should they prepare?

ÅBR: Stock up on tinned foods.

LN: To be perfectly honest, we don't really care if the world is ready or not. People usually don't know what they want or need until it hits them in the face anyway, and, like you know, we tend to make that happen…

What three wishes would you make for Deathcrush's future?

ÅBR: I know this one! You're supposed to wish for three more wishes, right? Well… to play Madison Square Garden before it closes. To have our own action figures, that's important. And finally, to be able to tour in a Nightliner that fits my dog, Linn's horse and every cymbal and snare Vidar lays his longing eyes on. Without financial ruin, human or animal suffering...

This article is also available in the latest edition of by:Larm News

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