Band leader/ vocalist Ronny Thorsen – Trail Of Tears
Interviewed by: Anders Sandvall
Thanks to Tom Hack at Massacre Records for setting up the interview.
Thanks to Massacre Records for providing me with promo pictures.
The Norwegian goth/dark metal masters Trail Of Tears released their seventh album OSCILLATION in April this year and in January of 2013 the band suddenly parted ways. I hooked up with original member and band leader Ronny Thorsen. The vocalist and I talked about the new album and of course also about his point of view when it comes to the bands past present and break up.
Hi Ronny are you today? Are you ready to begin the interview?
Doing great thanks, let’s do it!
I thought we could begin by talking about the new album OSCILLATION that came earlier this year. How long took it to write and record the album?
Well, the actual writing process went pretty smooth and I estimate that we spent around six-eight months on the composing. The problems started when it was time to record, the drum tracks which had been recorded by a session drummer were not up to par and it became clear that those needed to be re-recorded which was a real setback. Once that was in the can we realized that we had a female singer who had not taken care of herself whatsoever and struggled big time to deliver to the required standard. To add to all this we had some technical setbacks and all this combined resulted in a huge delay when it came to completing the record. We finally managed to wrap it up a year or so after the original plan but there were definitely times where I questioned whether or not it was actually possible to pull it off.
What are the lyrics about this time?
I would say that they continue the tradition of how the lyrics have been on previous albums, lots of personal observations about life in general and different things you encounter in your day to day existence. Trail of Tears lyrics have always been of a personal kind, simply because I find it easier to express myself and sound convincing if you have a personal connection to what you’re writing and singing about. Writing fantasy or fiction would not work for me personally.
What have the band been up to in between the release of BLOODSTAINED ENDURANCE in 2009 and OSCILLATION?
The main focus have been touring and promoting the Bloodstained album. We did a couple of European tours with Gothminister and Epica, the usual festival rounds and got to tour China for the first time, so there has been quite a few live shows during those years. And of course, as I mentioned, the process of completing Oscillation took quite some time, not to mention that we were unsigned during this time and finding a new label was also something that needed some focus so all of these things added to the “longer than usual” time between albums.
Does the title OSCILLATION mean anything special to you and the band?
The word oscillation has a wide range of interpretation. For us, we wanted to play around the meaning of duality, balance and contrasts.
The cover art work was made by Jan Yrlund, what do you think of his work?
I think Jan really nailed the cover this time and in my opinion it is one of his best works ever. The cover captures the title in a really good way, with the reflection of the ship. At first glance you see this stranded, worn down ship but the reflection in the water shows the ship in it’s glory days, majestic and beautiful. This contrast mirrors the contrasts in the music and lyrics as well so that is what we were aiming for.
Do you think that the band have developed music-wise since the release of BLOODSTAINED ENDURANCE? If so in what way?
I would like to think that we have always developed from one album to the next, simply because we don’t want to do the same album twice and repeat ourselves again and again. When that is said, we try not to over-analyze the material and go for our gut feeling instead, if it feels good then chances are that it is. I think the most notable difference this time is that there is a really thick melancholy that runs through the entire album like a red line and I think we took that element further than what has been the case in the past.
Both your guitarist and drummer left the band between 2010-2012 was their departures expected or came it out of the blue?
Paul`s (guitars) departure came as a bit of a surprise, at least to me. We didn’t really get any indication that he was considering to throw in the towel but eventually he decided to resurrect his old band Guardians of Time and he simply didn`t feel that he had the necessary time to do both bands, which is fair enough. No hard feelings even though I would have liked him to stay of course. He is still a good friend of mine. With Cato (drums) it was a bit different, he had been a little back and forth and with escalating touring activity he didn’t feel up for it anymore.
New drummer in the band is Bjorn Dugstad Ronnow, how did he end up in the band? Did you knew him from before? How come you didn’t replaced the guitarist?
We found Bjørn after we had posted an add, or released a statement rather, looking for a new drummer. He was one out of 40-50 drummers from all over the world who contacted us and we narrowed those down to a handful of guys whom we auditioned. It became clear pretty fast that Bjørn had everything we were looking for and being a fellow Norwegian made the choice even easier to make. He is still by far the best drummer I have played with. As for the guitarist position, we talked about finding a second player but the less chefs, the less mess (or so we though ha ha..) so we ended up continuing as a five-piece.
What was it like to record the album with only one guitarist? Had his departure any effect on the sound picture?
Every instrument is recorded separately so this didn’t affect the records at all and BE ended up recording all the guitars. We did the same on the Existentia album with our guitarist at the time doing all the guitars. It doesn’t mean that there are less guitars on the record, it’s just a matter of one person recording more layers. The band is titled goth metal masters how does that feel?
Any compliments that are thrown at you is a good thing I guess and even though I always considered Trail of Tears to represent a more extreme alternative to the typical Gothic metal scene it doesn’t really matter to me what people call our music. It just comes down to if you like it or not and for me that is the only important thing.
Studio & production
You once again chose to record an album in Sound Suite Studio in France, how come you wanted to record there again?
I guess it just boils down to the old cliché that if something isn’t broken, then don’t fix it. We have recorded several albums in Soundsuite and I always feel very at home there and we work really well with Terje Refsnes. He knows the band and what we want so that was not a difficult decision to make.
Terje Refsnes and Audun Grannestad produced the album and you have worked with them before. What’s their strongest feature as producers do you think?
Terje has been my favourite guy to work with ever since I did the World of Glass album with Tristania in 2001, he has a great way of pushing you to the limit and beyond and we have become good friends which makes it even more comfortable to work together. We’re on the same page when it comes to sound and what we want this band to sound like. Audun is a good friend of mine and he is also responsible for most of the orchestration on the album, that I guess is his strongest quality.
Where was the album mixed and mastered and was any of the band members a part of those processes?
We mixed it with Audun in his studio here in Norway, this was partly a financial decision and also it was easier for the members to attend the process so we all spent time there during this process. The mastering was handled by Mika Jussila at Finnvox in Finland, whom we have used for all mastering since 2002.
Label & management
You are now signed to Massacre Records, are you happy with the work the label have put into the band and the album so far?
I can’t complain. Massacre has not had an easy job, after all they have been promoting an album by a band who completely imploded just weeks before the release and with limited resources I guess they have done what they can for the release. I have to commend the label for seeing the release through, not all labels would have done the same.
How come you left Napalm Records?
There is no drama involved with this, our contract simply ran out and we decided mutually that it would be the best for both parts that we started looking for a new label home. Their roster has changed a lot and they are signing very different kinds of bands these days.
What’s the biggest difference between Massacre Records and Napalm Records?
The biggest difference is of course that Massacre is a smaller label, without necessarily being a bad thing. I would rather have top priority at a smaller label then to be lost in the jungle with a bigger one.
Unexpected turns of events
You, Endre Moe and Ronnow chose to leave the band in January this year, why?
Well, we never intended to do things this way. In fact tensions had been building for a while and we all had a mutual decision that we were going to release this album in a professional manner and then go our separate ways as it was no longer possible to agree on a future direction. I’m sitting on e-mails that confirms and proves this. Unfortunately due to our female singer’s public meltdown so to speak, and her untruthful statement that I had left the band, this was not possible. I saw no other way than to post my counter-statement and once that was released, both Endre and Bjørn followed. So I think everyone with their heads screwed on correctly will see that her statement was completely false and uncalled for.
Who own the band name?
I own it.
How does it feel to end your history with the band in this kind of way I mean you were after all original member?
It feels terrible and very unnecessary, but again this was not my choice. A troubled unstable person is to blame for this.
What did the fans think of your decision?
I have only gotten overwhelming support from the fans. They are as disappointed as I am that the band ended the way it did but Cathrine’s statement is so full of contradictions and absurdities that everyone with both their eyes intact can see how fucked up her actions were and I think she will find it very hard to be taken serious in the business after what she did.
Cathrine Paulsen and Bjorn Erik Ness is currently continuing under the band name Trail Of Tears, how does that feel?
No, they are not. Nobody is continuing under the name Trail of Tears. That is a closed book. I hold the rights to the name being the only original member. I started the band almost 20 years ago and no one can continue the band without my approval.
What are you’re status with the rest of the band today?
I have a great relationship with both Endre and Bjørn and we are goo friends, as for the other two…well you don’t really have to be a rocket scientist to figure that one out.
Are you happy with what you and the band achieved during the 17 years you were part of the band?
I think we took it as far as we could with the means and resources available to us. It has been a fantastic ride and I have no regrets on my side.
You have written a long letter on the bands Facebook page, is the letter something you can stand for today?
If you are referring to the statement that I wrote after Cathrine’s stunt, then yes absolutely! I think my statement says it all.
Are there any plans from your side to release a live or a compilation album with the band?
Absolutely not. Trail of Tears is a closed book as I said, and needs to rest in peace.
From what I have understand does Massacre Records back you up and not the band, how does that feel?
Massacre have been great during the whole process, I have tried to be as professional as possible under the circumstances and they have done their best to give me the same courtesy in return. I think they understand that this is as frustrating for me as it is/was for them and that the fault doesn’t lie with me.
What would like to say to fans of Trail Of Tears?
As always, I would just like to thank everyone for their amazing support over the years and at the same time offer my regret that the band had to go out the way it did. The band and the fans deserved a more worthy ending but what happened is something that I can’t change no matter how much I wanted to.
Can you reveal what you have planned for the future?
My new band Viper Solfa and the line-up will be launched officially within a month now so stay tuned for that, as it will surprise the hell out of a lot of people!
Well, that was all for me. Thanks a lot for taking the time to make the interview, I wish you all the best in the future.
My pleasure, thanks a lot!
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