Henning Ramseth of Ram-Zet Interview With Metal-Rules.com
Interviewed by Luxi Lahtinen
Norway has not only become known for its fishing - and oil
industries, long-bearded and long-haired vikings, Valhalla, murderous(!)
Black Metal, but also for a relatively growing legion of more
experimental metal acts off which probably RAM-ZET should deserve a bit
larger acceptance and attention than they've been gaining thus far - if
I'm something for pulling the strings of a blooming success'n'fame for
Just recently I was privileged for having a nice talk with "Mr.
Brain" of RAM-ZET, Henning Ramseth 'bout their brilliant debut
album titled "Pure Therapy" for Finland's SPIKEFARM RECORDS,
"calmed-down waters" of a grim Norwegian Black Metal scene,
the future of the band among with some other eyebrows-raising(!) topics
as well. Let's just dive into the intellectual world of Henning
now for finding out all the essential things about this
more-than-promising Norwegian musical miracle..."
... and the first seeds for the incarnation of RAM-ZET were
sown... Well the show is all yours; you tell us?
Well, it pretty much started up as my little "ego-trip". I
just wanted to create music without any worries 'bout genres or thinking
too much what kind of people who would buy it. I wanted to put all the
elements that I liked in different kinds of music into one big picture
and I didn't know at all what the result was going to be like when I
started. After a couple of months alone in my studio, I thought it was
starting to get somewhere, so now I had to add some people to the band
who really could play this kind of shit. I had been in touch with Solem
in a former project and I knew that he would be the man for the bass
job. What I didn't know, was that he got really excited by this stuff
and begged me (HA! HA! HA! He will be mad when he reads this.) to
participate in the band and so also with Kùth who had heard some demos,
he told me at a party that he'd like to have an audition for a
drummer´s job. They both worked out really well …and then RAM-ZET was
Then we got a couple of offers and at the KOVENANT concert in Norway,
Ewo from SPINEFARM RECORDS got the first demo from one of my mates at
TUBA Norway and he liked it. And then after a while, Sami Tenetz of
SPIKEFARM RECORDS got in touch and we made a deal for two records for
SPIKEFARM. We've heard a lot of nice things 'bout the guys and the
label, so we wanted to check it out and finally got a quite satisfying
deal with the company, I think.
When you were offered this deal by SPIKEFARM RECS, did you come
to the terms with the label without any compromises made? I mean,
without changing any terms in that particular contract for better or
worse for any of the parties involved? Was it actually that easy
decision for you to sign the contract in the very first place?
Well, I had a few discussions with Sami ´bout the studio costs, but
it was, in reality, no problem at all to agree with him (or for him to
agree with me….HA! HA!!). I got the understanding that he really liked
the stuff and wanted to work hard to get it somewhere, so it really wasn’t
any problem to sign the contract.
"Pure Therapy" was released on a Finnish label
SPIKEFARM RECORDS. How did you end up having your feet in the doors of
this particular label in the very first place? And were there any other
potentially interesting labels around there that would also have loved
to release an album/albums with you? What made SPIKEFARM´s offer more
tempting and a worth of picking up for you out of all the other offers?
I mean, what the others couldn´t offer what SPIKEFARM´s deal
We got a couple of other offers from V.O.W in Norway and also from
HAMMERHEART and some other labels, too - but I really got a good
impression from SPIKEFARM and it seemed that they would give us the
complete freedom regarding our musical direction which of course is
pretty important. Another thing is that SPIKEFARM had quite a few bands
already and it seemed that they really worked hard with all their bands.
You made me a bit curious here referring to your previous answer.
Namely were you saying that both the offers from VOICES OF WONDER and
HAMMERHEART contained something that couldn´t have provided you a
complete freedom for everything as far as your musical warpath was
No, not really and to be honest, I don’t quite know the whole story
with the Hammerheart thing because I wasn´t the only one in touch with
them. V.O.W. wouldn’t have put enough money into the recording process
and that was the problem. Our musical warpath would have been taken care
of also in V.O.W., I think.
Let´s talk about your music next a little bit... On the press
kit your music is being described as "Black psychotic Power
Metal"; how does that description taste in your mouth? Did you come
up with that label for describing your music - or was it entirely
SPIKEFARM´s commercial ´trick(!)´ to grap people´s undivided
attention by such a hard hitting "word therapy"? Would you
like to define the stuff you´re doing by yourself more accurately by
your own words?
Sami asked me how I thought we should describe this stuff because he
was having a hard times trying to find a genre to fit in with this
music. We talked a bit about it and the way I see it, it's inspired by
both BM and PM along with a lot of other styles... And it's sometimes
pretty psychotic I think, so then we ended up with this description
which I think is OK.
I'm really into using a lot of contrasts in music and I want to give
the listener an opportunity to discover new details every time when they
listen to it.
It's always very hard to find the right description for your own
music, at least I think so - maybe because I always want to include a
lot of different stuff in my songs, so what I most of all want, is that
people listen to it.. .(of course!) and make up their own opinion out of
When I was listening to "Pure Therapy" carefully,
trying to figure out what this stuff was supposed to be all about, I
kind of "quit" thinking of it too much as it´s undoubtedly
extremely hard to find any fitting category for your music. So, that
makes me ask from you, what could you name as your main musical
influences? And what about all those non-musical influences, then...?
My musical influences are all kinds of different music. Some of my
favourite bands are:
SAMAEL, MESHUGGAH, KING DIAMOND, QUEENRYCHE (their early records),
SEPULTURA, SLIPKNOT, DREAM THEATER (at least a couple of years ago), VAN
HALEN (surprise I guess…..??) , SOILWORK and also non-metal bands like
MASSIVE ATTACK, PINK FLOYD, PETER GABRIEL, BJÖRK ...and a lot more. As
you can see, I listen to a lot of different music, in fact, all the guys
in the band do. My non-musical influences……well, that has to be
great movies, I suppose, like "The Shining" "The
Exorcist" and… "Ford Fairlane(!)" HA! HA!!…..It’s
amazing! I never get tired of that one, but I guess it’s not fair to
call it as an influence.
As the detailed info on the lay-out of "Pure Therapy"
tells us, you recorded (and engineered) the album at Space Valley Studio
over there in Norway. Would you let us know what kind of a process it
was actually to get it recorded there? What´s also sticking out from
the credits as far as the additional musicians are concerned, you also
did use a bunch of other guys´ special musical skills on the album - as
I see it, to give more depth and atmosphere for the wholeness; agree?
How did you exactly find all these other `masters of the noises´ for
doing their share of the contribution on "Pure..." anyway?
Obviously you did know a circle of talented musicians from before who
were determined enough to collaborate with you before you even went on
suggesting them a wonderfully strenuous time at Space Valley Studio,
Is this supposed to be one question..??? HA! HA!! It sure was a large
one, but I'll give it a shot anyway...
In fact, Space Valley is my own studio and I think it gives a lot of
freedom to record there because we can work there whenever we want and
we don't have to think about time and are able to experiment with a
number of things that maybe would rush us if we had a time schedule, or
someone "hanging above us".
Not that it couldn't be nice working with a producer, but I think the
creative process during this recording was so great that we didn't ever
miss like working with a “real” producer, y´know what I mean?!
Concerning all these additional musicians, I surely agree with you
that they brought more depth and atmosphere into our music and that was
also the general idea behind it. It's a whole different sound when you
get real violins and a choir, I think. And as you said already by
yourself, they're really skilled musicians, all coming from the area
where I live and it was a great process when we brought them in to the
studio ´cause most of them are not used to work with this kind of music
and they were able to add their own personal touch to it. They did a
really great job and it was a lot of fun at the same time, too.
How did you end up having your very own studio? Where did the
idea for that come from? I assume it had to be a hell of an investment
financially, too - or how it is Henning?
No, actually I haven’t paid anything from my own pocket. It’s all
been paid by "customers". The whole thing started up with me
and a friend of mine who wanted to write songs together with me and on
the other hand, it was also pretty expensive to hire studios all the
time. So we figured out that it would be easier to have our own little
studio. And suddenly, a lot of people found out about our studio and
wanted to do their demo tapes there, so before we knew, we were stuck up
with a lot of customers and that paid the studio, and that´s why we
weren’t able to use it ourselves, HA! HA!!... After a couple of years
my friend got tired of this studio thing, so I bought him out and am now
running the studio on my own. I don’t have so much bands there
nowadays because I want to use more time for my own music.
next, I´d like to ask something every single song/lyric writer HATES
from the very pit of the heart. I was just wondering whether you could
introduce the songs on the album to the all excited readers of METAL
RULES both music- and lyric-wise. Just take all your time you may ever
The song has been kind of build up around melodic fiddle parts. I wanted
to create a big contrast between the staccato riffs and the legato
fiddle stiff and I’m pretty happy with the final result.
As for the lyrics, almost all the "stories" take place at a
mental institution and sometimes it’s a dialog between a patient and
nurses and this is kind of a story when this patient hungers for his
Started up with a creating of the "PANTERA look-alike"
intro/riff and then rest of the song just came up itself. The last thing
that was done for the song, was female melody because I wanted something
into the beginning of the song that could make the riff sound even
The lyrics then… One of the patients got a dream to rule the whole
place. But I don’t really know if I think it’s right to explain the
lyrics too much because sometimes the listener gets a different opinion
than me and I think that’s totally OK. I think it’s nice if people
also have to think a little bit when they listen to our music….. Guess
you agree with me, don´t ya... ?!
FOR THE SAKE OF MANKIND
This is not about a mental hospital. It’s about a
"person/creature" that hasn´t been born on this planet and
was sent to rescue the humans from their own destiny. And he thinks it
sucks, HA! HA!! Again, I don’t want to explain too much. As for the
music, I got the violin part (the chorus) in my head and couldn’t get
rid of it, before I’d have written the whole song. Also, I wanted to
surprise the listener with a queit “woman´s voice” in the middle a
little bit and at the same time, create different moods.
It’s about both a patient´s and a nurse´s "love
story", kind of a weird one. You have to use your own imagination
on this one…???… HA! HA!!…The music… well, it was once again, a
violin part that came up first and then I wanted a chorus to be… ?? -uhm(!),
could I say "pretty"??? I wasn’t satisfied with our 1st demo
at all. If I had been the only person to decide whether to put it on our
album or not, it would not have appeared on "Pure Therapy",
but the rest of the guys and other people were listening to it and
thought, it definitely should be on the record, so I gave it a shot. And
now, it’s one of my favourites.
NO PEACEIt´s about a fight between a patient and a nurse where this nurse
tries to manipulate him, telling him that she wants to do him good.
About the music... I don’t know, but I’ve been told that some of it,
is inspired by DREAM THEATER…??? Well, maybe, but it surely doesn’t
sound like D. THEATER. Anyway, it’s the most progressive song on the
album, I think and a choir in the beginning, is one of the moments I’m
most satisfied with. I love it and a little choir which did a terrific
job on that one. It’s 5 girls, dubbed 4 times, so it’s like 20
voices with really small intervals, with kind of a sick feeling, I
KILL MY THOUGHTS
The oldest song on the album. I´m not too satisfied with this one.
It’s about someone, trying to hypnotize someone……….!!!!! Got the
idea to the guitar riff from some perc. stuff that I accidentally heard.
I don’t even know what it was. The rest is a little rip-off from
several BM songs.
I like to use a delay to create certain moods that in a way, create
themselves. What a stupid explanation, but it has to do. Then using a
simple "metal pumping" at the same time, I got a rather cool
effect, I think. The flute is an old Indian wooden flute, beautifully
played by Tove who is a lovely lady, living in the forest… HA! HA!!
The chorus was originally used in another song as an intro, but with a
little rewriting, it fitted well in.
The story’s about a person who´s sitting in a room with no
visions, no sounds - just emptiness. No knowledge of time, or anything -
just total isolation.
THROUGH THE EYES OF THE CHILDREN
One of the oldest songs I have done. I´m not too happy story behind
this one either, but it got its parts. Especially a really heavy middle
part and the final part are quite neat, I think. As for its lyrics,
well, it’s about people´s trust . Now, this one is a bit dangerous to
explain because I don’t want to use the music to lecture my opinions……Or,
in a way maybe I do, but… - this one is a little hard to talk about, I
think, but… go figure out yourself!!
Now when "Pure Therapy" has been out for quite some
time, have you got any specific information from SPINE-/SPIKEFARM
RECORDS, how´s the selling been for it so far? How much should it sell
in order that both you and your label could be satisfied enough with it
- in your deepest, hidden hopes at least?
I don’t really know yet what the sale’s been like, but I’m kind
of trying to be realistic ‘bout it. There are just too many bands out
there that I think, it takes time to build up a name before you get
known as a band. I think we have got a rather special sound and some
people (like you) really like it and some people think it’s just too
much to handle. I don’t think we’re ever going to be something for
the hitlists….HAH!…..but that’s never been a target for us either.
I just want to create music just the way I like it, without bothering
too much ‘bout the sales and stuff. But it would be a lie if I said
that I didn’t give a shit. Of course we want to sell a lot of records,
but I guess it takes some time to get to that point. For the next
record, I hope some really big distributors could take care of it (I
know Century Media’s been interested), so they could put some money
into marketing for the big countries like Germany and the U.S.A., for
As far as I´m informed by Sami from SPIKEFARM, he told me that
RAM-ZET will be one of the nominees for a forth-coming "Grammy
Award(!)" or something as ´the best metal newcomer´ which will
take place there in Norway pretty soon. How do you feel getting such a
status from people as being positioned as the best new metal act there
in your own country? Do you feel any flattered for achieving such a name
As we speak, the Grammy’s already over and we didn’t win, so fuck
the whole thing!!!!
HA! HA!!… I see it as a nice acceptance for what we do and it was
NOT the best metal newcomer, but the best metal act!! Anyway, these kind
of awards will always be what some people think what´s “in” - and
on the other hand, what´s “out” and it’s really a matter of
people´s different tastes, isn’t it? It gave us a few seconds on the
national TV which is good for a band like us, so I guess that award was
just good publicity for us.
A creative song writing process, as we all know, needs a
certain kind of state of mind, body and soul. What time of the day would
you assume you´re usually in the very best mood, well, let´s just say
- "delivering the goods" the most creative yet unique way
towards your song writing process? And have you ever become frightened
at your ideas sometimes like pondering all these insane yet megalomaniac
outburst of your vivid mind when channeling all your energy into the
darkest depths of RAM-ZET´s own dream chambers of chords, disharmonies,
balance and an ever-blooming rage?
As a lot of other people, I’m always most creative at night. It’s
really not kind of ideas you get when the sun is shining and birds are
singing. Yet, some of the recording on “Pure Therapy” had to be done
at day time, so we had to put up black curtains at the studio to keep it
dark. But when I create new songs, it’s almost always sometime after
I don’t think I’m going to get this problem, ‘cause I think our
style is pretty much hard to describe as it is… and I think I got the
guts to put in whatever comes to my mind…
What do you consider the most challenging thing for doing music
for RAM-ZET? Are you ever having any troubles for finding those most
suitable yet catchiest rhythms and choruses in your lonely song writing
hours for the band - or would you rather see this like your mind most
often works like a Switch-made clockwork; in the other words, you always
kind of get your shit churned out promptly without any major troubles/or
delays, whatsoever? Tell us, is there actually anything there how you
prepare yourself for that creative process? Just anything really... ?!
I think I really have to be in kind of a pressed situation to get
things done because I’m a bit to lazy from time to time and it’s a
rather demanding job to work with this material. I usually collect a lot
of ideas on a tiny tape recorder and then I bring it to my studio and
lock myself in with no chance that anyone could disturb me. Of course,
this can only be done when I’m in the right mood to work, but my
inspiration is always there when I sit down and listen to all my ideas
which I for the most, already have forgotten…HA! HA!!
What ´bout your touring plans, then? Have you already planned
to hit on the road in the near future and what could indeed be those
ideal bands for RAM-ZET that you would like to tour with from coast to
coast, etc? In fact, do you have any countries in your mind where you
have always dreamt to visit to - and to play for some crazy nuts?
Well, it seems we’re only going to do gigs in Norway this year and
then, hopefully, we’ll go on an European tour with some bigger band
next year. I don’t know ‘bout ideal bands to tour with. Someone
crappier than us, so we could sound really good perhaps, HA! HA!! No,
really, I haven’t been giving it so much thoughts cause it probably
will be something quite different from what I think anyway.
I would like to go everywhere!!!! ...but Japan and South America are
places I’ve never been to and would really like to visit to.
In the ´90s, Norway´s music scene was spotlighted by a brutal
invasion of countless of Black Metal bands that were roaming out of the
darkest yet filthiest cellars into the daylight, screaming for revenge
and an unbreakable attention - some of them even going that far where
there was no matter how to gain all this huge attention from the rest of
the world. Church burnings, death threats, murders, goat rapes(??), etc.
- we all still remember the ugly details, don´t we, -eh?! Anyways, how
could you personally see the Norwegian metal scene has been changing and
developing all these past 5-6 years or so, since those days right up to
the very day? It´s no denying that bands like RAM-ZET, SPIRAL
ARCHITECT, THE KOVENANT, RED HARVEST - even MAYHEM among with some other
bands, have really developed into somewhere, kind of showed the way -
out of the traditional Black Metal, or Thrash Metal, or Power Metal into
something totally unique sound. These bands are now all doing music in
their own terms, not really caring of what other people may say or think
of them. As it appears many other bands have chosen to go their own way
and that´s great in my opinion. The main issue over there seems to be a
carefully thought-out music nowadays - and NOT any acts of violence or
murder or rape that definitely could support someone´s name to become
at least known in the every corner of the world even if your music
sucks. So, what do you think all of this Henning?
I totally agree with you, there’s been a huge developing on the
Norwegian metal scene and a lot of really good bands, like the ones you’ve
mentioned. There you can see, Mayhem who’s been a part of it all the
time and they’re really one of those bands there right from the very
beginning, pushing our metal scene for better things all the time - and
at the same time, one of the best Norwegian metal bands today. It´s
In April, there’s a big festival called “Inferno” and 20
Norwegian bands were entering the stage during two days. There’s going
to be a lot of different metal styles to be heard and there were several
bands who really tried to create their own sound. You should also check
out bands like BORKNAGAR and ENSLAVED if you haven’t already… (!)
But of course, it should not be forgotten that all the sick stuff
that happened on the Norwegian metal scene gave a lot of attention to
our country. Bad? -yes, OF COURSE!! - but it kind of opened up the gates
if you see what I mean. (and this is NOT a way to defence church
burnings and murders, I hope you could see that… yeah, of course you
Anyway, it’s really good that today the music speaks for itself and
also a band like DIMMU BORGIR gets a lot of attention in the Norwegian
daily press these days. And that’s because they’ve made some
terrific albums and that’s nice, I think!!
Can you already predict what kind of direction you´ll be
heading towards with your new material? Can we expect something totally
different from you next time around - or do you believe you´re going to
stick to your ol´ formula of sounds and visions in the future, too?
Hey, there has to be some kind of changes, if not, there’s no point
in doing another album, HA! HA!! Agree?? No, seriously I think people
will surely recognize it because I think I’m going to use a lot of the
same elements. But I really want the heavy parts to be even heavier and
the quiet parts to be even more quiet in order to create even more
contrast and still try to keep “the red line”, in a way. Also, we
have now got 6 members in the band who are going to participate in the
whole process and that, I think, will lead to a use of more female
vocals and maybe more violins, too. I think we’re going to combine
different elements in a more complex way. But of course, I have to write
good songs - that´s the bottomline and I don´t want to forget that.
But I’m really happy with the new stuff so far and I think you’ll
like it to. Our next release will be in January or February 2002, I
How would you analyze yourself as a musician ( a tough one, I
I’m pretty skilled with most rock’n roll instruments… and that’s
a fact… nothing I’m just bragging about…HA! HA!! I’ve also been
playing a lot of different styles which makes me somehow quite good at
“understanding” music, if I can put it that way. I’m not very good
at creating “catchy stuff” I know, but I always want things to sound
different than everything else which in some people´s opinion, lead to
my music that supposedly is way too difficult and strange for some of
them. But that’s the way I want it to be and that’s how it’s going
to be. And I have to say that a lot of listeners and critics (like
yourself) really give me some good feedback for coming up with something
fresh and new. That’s always nice to hear (then of course, some people
think it’s a real crap, but I don´t mind, HE! HE!!)
If you were forced to write 6 of the most important rules down
about “how I became as famous as I´m right now…”, what would
those Henning´s golden 6 rules be in order from 1 to 6?
1. I finally did what my heart told me…
2. I got a lot of help from my good friend Erik at Tuba, Norway…
3. And a lot of help from Sami and Spikefarm….
4. I got good musicians….
5. And I’m pretty fucking good myself…….
6. Norwegian Metal’s got a big name…everywhere…..
When being attacked by a straight, violent criticism concerning
your song writing skills and habits, do you ever get pissed off due to
what somebody may have said about you as a song writer personally - or
how this somebody may have put down everything you have done so far
musically? Does this kind of (unfair) criticism make you burst out
The only ones… some local journalist in a newspaper wrote something
so unbelievable bullshit that I had to count to 10 to avoid myself from
doing something stupid. I don’t care so much if people don’t like
our music and are turning us down by some negative comments about what
we do, but when some certain persons can’t even write - or are not
able to tell why they don’t like it, it´s something that pisses me
off!! But mostly, I don’t care and of course, people have every right
to write whatever they want to write ´bout our music. Just hoping the
honesty could be there sometimes, too.
Hmmm… (?), I was just thinking how Norway´s own society
supports all that music life you have going on there nowadays? Do you
think Norway´s music industry is now more recognized by your society
than like, let´s say, a decade ago when f.ex. the metal scene really
started blooming over there?
Nowadays the Norwegian press has been starting to write a little bit
more about the heaviest bands and not just because they’ve done
something negative or wrong. But I think we’ve got along way to go,
before we can get the same attention from people in Norway like your own
bands get in Finland - where bands like NIGHTWISH, CHILDREN OF BODOM and
TO DIE FOR, have all really been hitting the charts!! Impressing…!!!
For what would you like RAM-ZET could be remembered when
there´s no more RAM-ZET?
I would really like us to be a band, worth creating a documentary out
of, HA! HA!! So we could sit back with a tired smile on our faces and
tell people how it was like to be on the top, HE! HE! HEH!!
Well, but in a way if we will be remembered, it has to mean that we
did something for what people noticed us and that’s gonna be nice, I
think. Maybe as a metal band that was capable of adding their own tiny
dimension into Heavy Metal. That would be cool, I guess.
THANXX so much Henning for all your time and efforts for having
this conversation with me and I hope it was really worth it. If you
still have something in your mind you wanna tell to the readers of METAL
RULES, here´s your last chance for that purpose… ?
ThANK YOU Luxi for being so patient with me!! I hope we will do
something like this also for our next release as I really think this is
a nice way to do an interview, even if I’m slow as hell!! But I’ll
be quicker next time around. To the readers of METAL RULES, I bet many
of you haven’t yet checked out “Pure Therapy” and I think you
should really give it a try!! And if you listen to it 5 times and still
doesn’t like it, well… throw it in the garbage can in that case, HA!
I really hope that we could come over there next year and play at the
“Tuska” festival because we just did “Inferno” in Oslo and got a
lot of really good feedback from it. I have to say, we’re a hell of a
live band… and I really hope we could show it to you some day.
For more information on Ram-Zet check out our CD
REVIEW for their album PURE THERAPY and drop by their webpage
©2001 Metal Rules!!