COMMUNIC - Vocalist / Guitarist Oddleif S.
By Arto Lehtinen
Norway is mostly known for extreme black metal bands. Although black metal has a dominating grip in Norway, so called traditional metal bands presenting different styles have piece by piece gotten their names spread through the metal genre. For example, Communic, who definitely came from out of the blue with two incredible albums have managed to show that the Norwegians can create amazing, powerful, and above all, catchy, progessive metal. For obvious reasons, it was about time to get in touch with Communic vocalist/guitarist Oddleif to talk more about the band's success and albums.
Good day to Norway, how is it going in the Communic camp at the moment ?
Hey! Everything is fine. The snow is disappearing, and we are in the writing mode at the moment
HOW IT STARTED OUT
Oddleif, you used to sing in a couple of bands before Communic, namely Scariot, Clairvoya and Ingermanland. But as for Scariot consisting of a lot of talented as well well-known musicians like Steve Digiorgio, Asgeir Mickelson. Why did you decide to pull out of those bands ? Did you feel you were not able to express yourself as a musician enough or did you view the timing to form a new band with a little bit different approach was a better choice ?
To take Clairvoya and Ingermanland, they where both bands that I formed, so those are more like “my” project bands, while in Scariot, I was “only” the vocalist. I had a great time in Scariot, but as time passed and we started to work on new material I didn’t felt that it tuched me as the earlier material did. The music turned into more aggressive passages, and I didn’t find much room for my kind of vocals or come up with good and catchy vocal lines, so I decided to go my own way and do the music the way that I liked it. Im not playing in a metal band just to be able to play with most talented guys, or be in a band with some guys with famous faces, Im doing this for the love of the music that I like, and to have fun with it. For me the timing to drop out of Scariot was done at the right time, because it was early in the process of the new Scariot album, and it would not be fair to the other guys to continnue half hearted from my side, so it was better to leave and do my own stuff. That they broke down the whole band was their decition, but I am glad that they managed to get the album out.
The whole trio of Communic aren't teens anymore as all of you have strong band backgrounds before forming Communic. What have you learned from old bands when playing with them before forming Communic? I mean by that, if you had faced mistakes or how to create catchy songs, being wiser with the business issues...
I don’t think that I have learned that much. I still try to make the music the way I like it and don’t think to much about what everybody else is saying about it. I've never done this because I wanted to earn money on it. Of course it would be nice to get something back sometime, but that has never been the drive for what I am doing. The time we spend in the rehearshal room is the most presious time, hanging out with friends and creating some interesting music together, that is what pays of. Even dough we have been around for over 10 years playing in bands, I think its good that it all needed time to mature, and when I decided to go back and start from scratch everyhting fell to place for some reason.
When, or how, did Communic get started? How was Ingermanland, being your old band, a part of the forming of Communic ?!
I see Communic as more or less the same as Ingermanland, but with another drummer that has become an important piece in the lineup. It is the same bass player in Communic that also played in Clairvoya and Ingermanland, and in both bands I played guitar and did vocals, while also writing the music, the same way as we do today. I had put Ingermanland on ice while I was playing in Scariot, but felt the urge to go back and play guitar again, so I started to jam with Tor Atle, who also played in Scariot at that time, and everything felt so perfect. It was just a short call to Erik and he was ready with his bass at once, and then the ball was rolling again. At this time we had started to work on the new Scariot album, and when we got the offer from Nuclear Blast, I dropped out of Scariot to focus 100% on Communic, and the rest is history. Now we have two albums out and loads of cool festivals lined up for the summer, so for me, looking back, it feels like I took the right turn at the right time.
As far as I know you did only one demo tape, but I unfortunately never managed to get a hold of it to check out. How did you manage to capture such a great sound and quality on the demo waking up the interest of record labels, especially Nuclear Blast who signed you?!
Actually we did two demos, but only one official one. The first one was done in a local studio that we used for one weekend, recording four songs by our selves, to check what we had going, it was acutally after this first “un-official” demo that I called Erik and we started to work on the Conspiracy in Mind demo. Only one song made it from that first “un-official” demo and that was the song “Ocean Bed”. Then we booked a pro studio locally and was ready to record the best songs that we had, and the idea was to get it to sound as professional as possible, so we use a lot of money on the production, to show the potential in the band. Then we bought a cool artwork for the front cover, something to catch the eye, and then we printed only 100 copies. It was sent out to some selected magazines in the first stage, and after several “demo of the month” we had a few record companies that wanted to work with us and the final decition ended on Nuclear, and so far everything has been perfect with the co-operation.
Even though Communic is doing tremendously well right now, have you thought about doing or teaming up with the members of Scariot to work on music or even some releases?
No, that havent crossed my mind. Scariot is doing their stuff at the moment, and every one else from Scariot has new bands and projects that are doing fine by them selves. For myself I believe in focusing on one band and not to be involved in to many projects at the same time.
The last two years have been a successful period for Communic. Has the immense speed and velocity to quick success made your head spin? Is keeping control becoming more and more a harder task?!
Everything has happened quite fast, but we still have our feet solidly planted on the ground. I think it is important to keep the pace, especially when you are a new band, you need to be there all the time, if you don’t want to be forgotten.
ALBUM COVER ART
The frontcovers of both the albums in my opinion present a little bit avantgard art style in a way and another, they definitely look tremendous and the artist must have put in a lot of effort and ideas to create such marvellous covers. How do you actually work with the artist creating the covers, do you usually throw some ideas and show song titles for him to get some ideas for covers and then you double check them how they look ?
I like to give the artist the album title and the lyrics, and also a short description of what we would like to see to get a head start, and then have to create something out of it. Regarding the “Conspiracy In Mind” it almost went wrong. We had an artwork made that was not good enough, and it was one week ahead of the deadline but we was saved by Matthias Noren that had this perfect artwork lying on hold, that was just waiting for our album to come and pick it up. For the “waves…” album, it worked better, even dough the first scetches was also denied and had to be worked over, but in the end everything has been perfect match. We have learned that we need to start early on this matter to get this part of the album correct.
Do you have to ponder and think twice about the connection between the front art cover and a title of the album that these both and different factors would fit together like a glove to a hand?
I like when the artwork gives you some clues, and that can mean a lot of things. I think that everyone can find different meanings to our album covers.
Well could you shed some light on the meaning of covers of the both albums ?!
To take CONSPIRACY IN MIND first, the artwork shows a little girl sitting in a room surrounded by sawblades all around her. This is how I think that we are as humans in the world today, surrounded by danger everwhere we look, take one wrong step and you are gone. And nobody will ever notice or care…
The WAVES OF VISUAL DECAY album shows a man screaming into a television and in the background we see a flash wave and on one side a city, that on the other side is falling apart. The way I see this is that the media today feeds us with information and what we see is the decay. And what we see is what we believe.
WORKING IN THE STUDIO WITH JACOB HANSEN
Communic definitely came out of the blue. What made this both surprising and shocking with that you had such a mature high quality style and the sound and the playing are extremely amazing. Although you have long and impressive backgrounds, but putting the band on the metal map with strong albums had to be determined decision to make an impact on the metal fans, or how do you view this?
It's difficult to look back at your own progress, and to know what it actually means for other people. For me its more like a long process of creativity that lets loose, and are lucky that we are able to release our music so people gets a chanse to grab it if they like what we do. In the end there are so many talented bands out there that if you want to get noticed. We have alvays tried to hold a high standard in the music, making sure that we don’t try to make it easy for our selves, that way it also feels interesting to keep on and create new music, and we have never chosen the easiest way to go, even dough it may looks like the two albums that we put out came like a shock to some.
Both the albums have been recorded from the beginning to the end at the Hansen studios in Denmark, run by Jacob Hansen. He has gained more and more attention as one of the important metal producers nowadays. Choosing the Hansen studios must have been an obvious choice for Communic to gain the best result. Presumably working with Jacob Hansen was quite easy?
I have learned to know Jacob as one of the best producers around. We didn’t pick him because of his name or fame to gain something extra – if that was the option we would probably gone for somone else, but we was searching for a place to record, and his name come up, and it was perfect because of its location in Denmark, just far enough from home to get everything else at a distance, and also the fact that Jacob really wanted to work with us. In the end the result has been just as positive that we was hoping for. Jacob is easy to work with, even dough we was a bit nervous while recording the debut album he made us relax, and working with the “Waves…” album we felt even more at home and dared to try out even more stuff, and take it to the next level.
As you have experience about working in the Norwegian studios and producers, what is the biggest difference between Norwegian and Danish working methods and mentality when recording and producing ?
I don’t think that the quality differs that much, but for us it was important to get focus on the recording process so we wanted to travel away for the time, leaving work and family thoughts at home. We only used like 20 days for recording and mixing, so all the songs was ready with a pre-production before we entered the studio so most details was already penned so we didn’t use the studio to jam out new ideas of finalizing the songs.
Well were you aware of his thrash metal background in the Danish thrash combo Invocator??!
I was aware that most of his earlier productions was with more aggressive bands, but we believed that he could manage the Communic sound as well. I knew that he was the head of Invocator, but didn’t know any music of that band. While in studio we went through his catalog of pure interest and he is a real talented guy.
Presumably the new material is being worked on and composed, written.. Will the new stuff for the third album follow the same traditional path that Communic has done on the last two albums? OR, are you going to explore new musical influences and ideas to the new stuff?
We are working on new material, and in my head most of the things are planned and “ready” but we have a long way to go arranging everything. It will be another slab of Communic material, as we don’t feel that we have to change whatever style we are doing. We will continnue to make the music the way we like it, but we are always trying to be creative, getting new inspiration and taking some challenging turns along the way to make it interesting for us to play and listen to.
RESPONDS AND MANDATORY COMPARISONS
I am pretty much sure you have to be utterly blown away about the huge overwhelming respond and all the raving positive reviews in several magazines. But I assume you were kind of prepared in the first place to receive such magnificent, or...?
The feedback after our debut was totally amazing. We were for sure hoping for good press and results but we know that it is dofficult being a debuting band these days. I don’t think that you can be prepared for what to come after a release. We knew that we had good songs, good productions, but we also knew that we was a far away from “generally releases” with the long songs and progressive structures in the songs, so we didn’t know what to expect.
But don’t you view all the praises and so on would bring and cause a little bit more pressure over the band when working on for example the new material for upcoming outputs cos people out there are expecting it to be as great as the older stuff of the first two albums, or do you just put the whole pressure issues aside and just concentrate on the working and composing ?
We have belief in what we do, and take it as it comes. Sure there are some pressure out there but I think you need to put it aside when working on it. There was the same kind of pressure last time around but I think we managed to focus on creating something that we liked and could stand for, and in the end we was just dying to get it ready to present so people could hear it, and then get out and play the songs live.
Does it bug you that Communic is so often compared to Nevermore? And personally, do you find some essential similarities between Nevermore and Communic ?
As a new band you will be compared to other bands, no matter how unique you are, and to be compared with Nevermore is more like a quality mark then something that I would be buged about. I think that we have managed to create our own sound and style, but I can understand that people can find similarities in my vocal style, but that is the way my vocal cords sounds like and I cant just buy new ones to get a new voice. Im singing with the voice that I have and if people want to compare it with Nevermore I take that as a compliment.
Even though the name of Nevermore usually pops up, you have developed your own recognizable style where the band’s music can be identified. You have melodic, even ballad oriented parts, as well as a plenty of aggressive thrashing elements and of course these progressive elements which all have been tied together. Of course your personal vocals added creates its own touch. But creating recognizable Communic material wasn’t developed in the first rehearsal, instead in the long process of composing and rehearsing, or how do you view this?!
It a long proscess. It’s a part of the mix that we three fellow musicans create together. Of course it can feels like magic at the first rehearshal, and crap on the next one so everything has to grow in time and develop. We are a strange mix, everyone listening to different music and when we stirs our influences together we have come up with the Communic brew. The dynamics are really important, and the groove, so incorperating different moods going from slow to aggressive and then back again is something that we like to experiment with.
As stated earlier Communic has been described as a mix of progressive metal with the technical thrash metal elements. But Communic’s style isn't limited as you can expand the musical influences by picking up various influences and add some ballad feelings to songs?
Its cool to have different moods through an album, and different tempo, some ballad sounding parts combinded with more aggressive parts makes the journey through a Communic album flow quite fast. At least that is what I hpoe it does. We have never made a ballad all the way through but uses it to build up a song to a high point before we crack it down again at some point. Its also challenging and fun to play live, and you can see people in the audience closing their eyes diving into the mood and then crush them into a brutal headturning part.
BEING ON THE ROAD AND THE STAGE...
As Communic is a three piece outfit, do you have to recruite the second guitarist for gigs and festival dates to for a stronger and more balanced guitar sound? I would think that playing complex styles demands another guitar, are you able to handle the playing perfectly even though signing at the same time?
We play all the gigs and festivals as a trio. We have never used a 2nd guitar live. We used a keyboard player live on our first tour, because we thought that we needed it but it felt better as a trio. More raw and the way it sounds when we are creating the songs and rehearshing. I like to believe that I can play it just as well when Im singing at the same time, but we have been focusing on being a tight band so it works pretty well. Sure I cant play two guitars at the same time, but we have been working with the live sound to fit our concept and I believe that it makes us sound even more massive and tight then we would have done if two guitars. Sure if you play something wrong then everyone will hear it bacause you don’t have that 2nd guitar to hide behind, but again we have never tried to make it easy. It makes my work on stage a bit complicated, and I have seen that some have slammed us for not running aroound more on the stage, making circus acts, but it comes down to performing the music and I try to play and sing as good as I can all the time, and when there is room for it I try to move and get the audience move with me.
According to your gig/tour dates you will have, and have had, plenty of festival dates across Europe. Do you view Communic as a more club or festival band?
We like to do both. Clubs are good for getting closer to the audience and it gets more intense, while festivals has bigger promotion potential and you reach out to many people at the same time, but then again more hectic and difficut to get a good stage sound as everything has to happen real fast.
In the club environment, the sounds aren’t definitely always on the balance and more or less are to be honest...horrible. Does it bother you if the sounds are not on the balance and razorsharp?!
The sound should always be as good as possible, but as you say at clubs its difficult and it is almost impossible if you don’t have your own soundguy that know how you should sound and that works to get the best possible balanced sound out. I hate to hear that people had difficult hearing the vocals, and you know that you have been on stage screaming your loungs out, haha…
If I calculated right, Communic have toured across Europe twice. The first one was with Ensiferum and GraveWorm. The second was with Scar Symmetry. What kind of places have you played and how about the reaction of the audience and have you gotten along perfectly with other bands?
We have as you said crossed Europe twice, and both times has been really good and we have learned a lot from these trips. The reactions from the audience in Europe is so much better then we are known with from Norway so every gig that we have done has been a joy from that wiev. One of the best venues I can remember is the Z7 in Switzerland. Great place and nice people working there, and great audience. Germany is also a good audience to play for. The relationships with other touring bands has also worked out perfectly and easy to hang out with over a longer period of time.
You are about to head to ProgPower to the States, which is of course your first visit to North America. Do you expect to open more doors to the North American market with this first visit?
Don’t actually know what to expect. First of all I think that we will play for an audience that are open for this kind of music, at least on the ProgPower festival. We played PP in Europe earlyer this year that was amazing, and will also play the UK edition, so the we are hoping for a cool stop in the states as well.
...AND LYRICS OF COMMUNIC
The lyrical side definitely plays an important role as well (as referred to the lyrics and covers in other questions.). Most lyrics penned by you seem to deal with the everyday and above all its cruelty, are the main source of inspiration for penning the lyrics coming from the newspapers, documents or what you see everyday ?
I like to create music more than I like to write the lyrics. Most times I think that lyrics are just words that you scream out to have something to sing, but then when I sit down to get the actual words down on paper I tend to dwell deeper into it, but it usually takes some time before I feel it statros to get interesting. For main inspiration it differs, but untill now I have been inspired by things going on around us that we, the people tends to close our eyes and don’t think to much about. We like to live in our own sphere and forget about whats going on outside.
How much do you try to deal with topics and ideas from your personal life and experienc for lyrics? Do you reflect your standpoints and opinion on the lyrics?
I try to write lyrics looking like its coming from 1st person view, but I dot leave it to open, as I want it to be more than one solution to whatever it is all about. I guess people with different views on things will find different things in the stories.
Do you ever find the writing process of the lyrics could become a hard task after all when they should match to the music perfectly giving its own feeling as well as atmosphere ?!
Yes, that is the most difficult part of creating interesting music. At first listen the lyrics are just words to the melody, but when you sit down, diving deeper into an album, you are digging to find something. To me it is important with my own music, but listening to other bands I like, I don’t care to much about the lyrics as long as the song rocks.
NORWEGIAN METAL AND FAMOUS FINAL WORDS
Well I can’t help put in this one, the Norwegian metal scene is mostly known for several black metal commanders. Of course we can't forget killer rock bands like TurboNegro. In this case I could dare to say Communic is a little bit exceptional on the Norwegian metal map compared to these known genres. There is however room enough for a different kind of metal in Norway?
Ah, Norway isn't easy when it comes to metal. Extreme metal is quite big and everybody expects aggressive and extreme metal when you say that you come from Norway. It seems like there are more thrash and progressive metal coming strong now, so hopefully we get more of the "melodic" metal from Norway out as well.
Personally speaking, how much do you enjoy digging Norske Svart Metal ?!
Im not that much into Black metal. Looking forward to hear the new Dimmu Borgir album and a new Immortal album, but other that that its only newer Emperor that I think have had interesting stuff appealing to me.
Are there more bands playing more technical and even traditional metal nowadays in Norway (Ok TNT is not calculated now!), does the extreme black metal appeal more to the kids?!
A great Norwegian band that I like is Tömmermenn. Real heavy stuff ans they are singing in Norwegian. It seems like more seems to manage to dig their way out of Norway these days.
All right Oddleif, I thank you for your time and interest to answer the interview and of course if you have something to say as last words, go ahead !!
Thanks for reading, Support your local metal scene and stay true to the music You like. Hopefully we will see ya all on a summer festival 2007.
The official COMMUNIC homepage : www.communic.org
The CONSPIRACY IN MIND video