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 them.

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 born basically.

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 contained?

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 concerned, f.ex.?

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 it all.

 

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, didn´t ya?

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.

 

Up 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 need now...

THE FALL
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 revenge….

KING
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 tougher.

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.

ETERNAL VOICE
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 PEACE
It´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 think.

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.

SENSE
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 instance.

 

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 for RAM-ZET?

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 midnight.

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 just impressing!!!

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 do!)

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 believe.

 

How would you analyze yourself as a musician ( a tough one, I know…)?

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 sometimes?

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! 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.

Be nice!


For more information on Ram-Zet check out our CD REVIEW for their album PURE THERAPY and drop by their webpage at www.ram-zet.com.


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