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Laurie Tuffrey , September 19th, 2012 11:53

We speak to singer Kjetil Nernes following their recent ‘Mæsscr’ EP and UK shows

Norwegian noise rockers Årabrot have recently released a new EP, Mæsscr, out now via Fysisk Format, and their ninth release in total.

The EP finds the Norwegian two-piece trading in the crushing riffs of last year's Solar Anus (which finished in a rather respectable no. 11 in our albums of 2011 list) in favour of synthetic ambience and hushed, creepy vocals. They've lost none of the darkness, though, with "human misery" forming the album's creative stimulus. As well as a couple of new cuts, 'The Baron' and 'Solaranus Excerpt', the EP has three covers, of Lee Hazlewood's 'Poor Man' and Death in June's 'The Honour of Silence' and 'Kukuku’ - have a listen below:

We caught up with singer Kjetil Nernes for a quick talk ahead of their final show in the UK (they're set to return before long, though - see below).

It sounds like you've reined things in from Solar Anus with the new EP - why the change?

Kjetil Nernes: Some years back, we did a very long EP called 'Absolute Negativism', and we've also got a record called 'I Rove', and I'd say it's similar to them, more of the adventurous side of Årabrot, the side we don't usually show off, at least not live, but which is still very much present musically in us. It's kind of a side track; as you can hear, it's quite different from what we've done before.

Was it just you and Vidar [Evensen, drummer] on the EP, or did you bolster the line-up with any of your touring members?

KN: Yeah, the writing process was actually quite different too on this one: it was me and Vidar and Emil Nikolaisen from Serena-Maneesh, who produced the album and also recorded most of it. I was doing some recording at home and Vidar did some stuff at his home, and then we got together in the studio and put it all together. Some of the drums were done by Steve [Albini, Solar Anus's producer] in Chicago: there was a drum pattern that we did on the last session, which became the drums on 'The Honour of Silence', which is basically all the drums there is on this album! Definitely bits and pieces put together like a puzzle by Emil in his studio in Oslo.

How long did it take to put together?

KN: We didn't work that long, it was probably around a week in total, but it was scattered over a long period of time: we started recording in August 2011 and then we had another session in May of this year.

Last time we talked, you said that Georges Bataille was a big influence on your lyrics - what kind of things were you reading/listening to for the new EP?

KN: Thematically, it was based around a Norwegian writer called Jens Bjørneboe's trilogy from the very early 70s called The History Of Bestiality. It's about human evil, and he asks why is man evil, which is thematically what we wanted to cover on this EP. So that's why it's called Mæsscr and it's all based on this trilogy, which I was reading when I was 20 years old. It had a huge impact on me and my writing and still is a very important book for me.

How did the Death In June and Lee Hazlewood covers fit into this?

KN: As I said, it was thematically about human evil - picking out Death In June, then, was perfectly appropriate - it fitted the mood of the whole thing perfectly, with all of the gothic tristesse, sadness, loneliness. And also we picked out the Lee Hazlewood song 'Poor Man', more for the hard-boiled, cowboy realism! They fitted the Bjørneboe aspect of the whole thing.

Death In June are a particularly interesting choice - they use a lot of controversial symbolism and mythological reference points - what about them appealed to you?

KN: It all has to do with the atmosphere of the whole thing. I know it's very controversial, and I do have a feeling that we're going to get in trouble in places like Germany, but I think it's a very important issue. It's the same thing with that Norwegian band called Burzum, with Count Grishnackh who burnt down the churches. Whatever Count Grishnackh or whatever Douglas P believe in politically or whatever they do, to me it doesn't matter at all. I should be allowed to wear my Burzum T-shirt at any time without being hassled for being a Nazi. To me there is no Nazi stuff in the music of Death In June or Burzum, and I don't care whatever they think - I do have a feeling that Douglas P isn't a Nazi at all, to me, he's just a gothic, lonely, gay man with a little following!

I've seen Death In June live and there are only the synthesiser people, the old industrial 80s people there and the gothic people. I don't know, you wouldn't say Mute were a Nazi label just because they released Boyd Rice, you know? And you wouldn't say Lemmy was a Nazi because he's into Nazi memorabilia. So, for me, it's important to be able to pick out these songs, because they are good songs and we picked them out for their atmosphere, definitely. We are fans of Death In June, and I think we should be able to say that without being labelled scum of the earth or Nazis.

Does this also signal an interest in David Tibet/Current 93 and the occult, ritual magick, things like that?

KN: Yeah, absolutely, we're big fans, have been for a long time. Huge influence, and we're trying to show off that side of Årabrot too.

What was your reaction to the Anders Breivik sentence? Did the feeling in the country during that time affected the EP?

KN: Yeah, yeah - though the EP has nothing to do with the shooting at all. The studio we recorded in is literally a stone's throw from the site of the attack. It's impossible to not be affected at all by what you just saw out of the window - it affected the piece in that sense, but it's not about the attack at all. It's a piece about human evil, so it fits in that sense, and that's why we wanted to call it Mæsscr.

Have you got any plans for the follow-up to Solar Anus yet?

KN: No, not yet, but it's in the works, definitely, and that will be the proper follow-up to Solar Anus, a full-length album.

When will you next be heading back to the UK?

KN: I'm not sure actually - we had some booking agent troubles for October, so unfortunately, it won't happen then, so it might not happen until February. Hopefully, we'll be back as soon as possible, because it's been going really well for us here in the UK and we have a lot of fun here and the shows we've done so far have been excellent and people are very enthusiastic. You guys seem to understand our vision and our music and our lyrics. English people have a sense of humour that fits us really well!