Guitarist Christian Norgaard – Grumpynators
Interviewed by: Anders Sandvall
Thanks to Fernando Reis International PR at Mighty Music/Target Group for setting up the interview. Promo pictures taken by: John Mortensson. Thanks to Mighty Music for the promo pictures of the band.
The new Grumpynators album titled STILL ALIVE recently hit the stores, so I thought it was time to have a sit down with guitarist Christian Norgaard to learn a bit more about the band, their history, and their music. STILL ALIVE is this Danish four piece’s third album and if you’re into a mix of metal, hard rock, and rockabilly, you’re going to love The Grumpynators.
We spoke about all kinds of topics such as work on the new album, the cover art by Karsten Sand (Volbeat, King Diamond), how satisfied they are with their record label, and the recording of the album in the legendary Medley Studio in Copenhagen together with famous producer Soren Andersen. We also spoke about the current pandemic’s effect on the band.
Hi, how are you doing today? Ready to take on this interview with Metal-rules.com?
I’m doing fine, thank you and sure, I’m ready.
Should we take it all from the start, when and where was the band founded and who is the band leader?
The band was founded in Copenhagen almost 10 years ago (January 2011) by Emil and me, but Jakob and Kasper (our former drummer) were added very soon after that. We were the remains of two bands with the same singer, who moved to Jutland. I wouldn’t say that there is a specific band leader. We have different roles both concerning the creative and the more managing part of the band, but there is no “Head of Grumpynators”.
How was the idea to mix hard rock, metal, and punk with rockabilly first born?
It was mostly my idea. Before Grumpynators, I was touring with Volbeat. At one-point Jakob was brought in as a guest musician for the song “16 dollars”. When he did that, I thought that, as a general idea, it was actually quite entertaining. So that was in the back of my head when we created Grumpynators. But that being said it, it just grew very naturally out of the instruments we play, and the music taste the members of the band have.
Where does the band name Grumpynators come from and who came up it?
It was Emil who came up with the name. He first suggested Zombienators, but we thought it sounded to psychobilly-ish. He then suggested Grumpynators as a comment to the fact that it is a band consisting of relatively seasoned gentlemen, hahaha.
Do the members have an artist or a band in common that inspired you all?
We actually have quite different music tastes within the band, but I would say that we all like the Ramones and Social Distortion.
Back in 2012 drummer Kasper Jensen left the band. Was his departure expected and why did he leave the band?
To say it wasn’t just a little expected would be a lie. As previously mentioned, our specific music style kind of evolved out of our instruments and music taste. We all had different music preferences, but that being said it soon became quite obvious that there was more common ground in the music taste of Jakob, Emil and me. So, it was quite clear that he wasn’t that happy in Grumpynators, and that was it. One day he showed up in the rehearsal room with a six-pack and said that he would like to leave the band. We broke up as friends and are still good friends today. His new band, Stormtroopers of Love, has actually supported us at one event.
The new drummer is Per Fisker (ex- Jackal), how did he end up with you?
A week after (or so) Kasper left we were offered to play support for Volbeat at 5 Danish shows. So, we were in a bit of a hurry to find a new drummer. Per’s older brother René had at one point indicated that Per maybe would be interested in playing in Grumpynators. Per and Jakob are old friends and have actually played together when they were teenagers (roughly around the same time as Hans Christian Andersen lived in Copenhagen, hahaha). So he got a call, accepted the job, and two days after we were rehearsing together.
Back in 2012 you were also opening for the Danish act Magtens Korridorer, how was that?
Fantastic, especially considering that they were a very big band compared to how microscopical small we were at the moment. They are just a group of very, very fun guys and very down to earth.
And the year after you were support act to the well-known Danish act Volbeat, how was it to open for them?
That was also fantastic, and actually also the one event that kicked us into a slightly higher level of bands in Denmark. As previously mentioned Per had just joined the band, and we didn’t have that much time to rehearse, so we were a little shaky, but everything considered it went very well.
In 2015 the band’s debut album WONDERLAND was released. What did fans and media think of it? Was it given warm welcome?
It was definitely given a warm welcome by the fans. A lot of them had been following us for around 4 years when it came out, so they were starting to get a little impatient. The media was mixed. Some of them liked it, some of them didn’t…and it’s been that way for all the albums though we must say that the percentage that likes it has grown bigger for every release.
The band toured a lot in Denmark and performed a lot in Copenhagen, do you have a big fanbase in Denmark?
Relatively big, I will say… But, most importantly they are very committed. A lot of them have Grumpynators tattoos and so on.
The album CITY OF SIN came 2017, did it sell better than the debut album?
Grumpynators have toured a lot in Europe and especially Germany, what’s so special with Germany?
For some reason we just seem to fit very, very well into the taste of German rock fans, and we just love to be in Germany. Good beers and not that far away from Denmark.
The band also toured in Finland and Norway but not in Sweden yet, why haven’t you come to Sweden?
We have actually played in Sweden once, in Lund, but where countries like Germany seems to be a perfect fit, so far Sweden haven’t been that interested. Hopefully that will change in the future.
You have performed quite a few times at the Danish rock club High Voltage in Copenhagen. Do you like that club, and do you hang out there as a private person as well?
Yes, and yes! They are actually in a bit of a crisis at the moment due to the whole Covid-19 situation and lack of compensation from the government. Hopefully they will get by, and also be there when the world is going back to normal.
The new album STILL ALIVE
When did you start to work on material to the new album STILL ALIVE?
About a year and a half ago I would say. The process of making albums nowadays is quite time consuming.
Who writes the music and the lyrics and what are the lyrics about on STILL ALIVE?
We all write music and lyrics. The lyrics are, of course, on different topics but a topic that is often visited is the story about the man who can’t talk about emotions and therefore have poor luck with modern women.
Blood And Bones (Official Music Video)
Have you felt any pressure to deliver something extraordinary on STILL ALIVE?
Yes, but that pressure was mainly applied by ourselves. This was the 3rd full-length album, so I think it would be a little disappointing if we didn’t push the envelope comparing to the previous albums.
If you look back on the debut album and STILL ALIVE do you feel the band have developed musically? If so in what way?
Yes, definitely. We are way better songwriters today, and we understand a lot better today what we can do with the double bass in a hard rock-context.
The album contains 10 songs and clocks in on about 40 minutes. Did you use all of the material you wrote to the album or were there any songs that didn’t made on to the final edition of the album?
We had 20 more or less finished songs when we sat down and sorted 50% away. It was the plan all along to do it that way. The two previous albums almost everything made the cut, and we thought it would improve the quality if we only took the best songs. There was actually a song we played a lot of times live with the promise that it would be on the new album, but it didn’t make the cut, hahaha
“Going Away for Good” clocks in on 4,39 and “Yesterday” on 4,21 which makes them the longest songs, what are they about?
“Going Away for Good” is about a guy who is tired of his girlfriend/wife and is looking forward to the day she moves out.
“Yesterday” I actually don’t know. It was written by Per, hahaha
Still Alive (Official Music Video)
Why did you call the album STILL ALIVE?
It is a reference to several subjects. For one, we’re happy to be here and making happy music, for second that it has been quite some time since the last album, so this is to notify everybody that we are still here and for third a funny reference to that we are not that young anymore.
Karsten Sand (Volbeat, King Diamond) made the cover artwork to STILL ALIVE, was he given free hands to create the cover and are you happy with the outcome?
He was given some outlines, but also some artistic freedom. The whole cover-thing is mainly Per’s department. But, I (and the whole band in general) think it turned out really cool.
How would you like to describe the music on STILL ALIVE?
Like a party rock record. One of our main goals have been to create a record that people (who like rock music) can put on at a party and hear it from the beginning to the end…and that the party is better after you started playing the record, hahaha
Which bands do you think Grumpynatores have the most in common musicwise with?
Social Distortion, Ramones, and the Danish rock group D.A.D.
I read that you call your music “motorbilly”, who came up with that name? Isn’t enough to say we play metal/hard rock influenced by rockabilly in order to keep it easy?
It was actually one of the fans that came up with that name, and I think it’s very befitting. And no, I don’t think that your description covers it, since there definitely also is a punk inspiration in the music. It’s funny, a lot of journalists have very different interpretations of what kind of music we play.
Volbeat singer Michael Poulsen said that STILL ALIVE is Grumpynators absolute strongest album so far and that his favorite song is “Dream Girl”, how does that feel?
It feels good. Michael is a personal friend of mine, but he is also a major player on the Danish music scene, and he has a very good nose for judging what will work, and what won’t work when it comes to music. So, I value his opinion a lot.
Do you have any favorite song on the album?
“Still Alive” has been my favorite from the start…but a funny thing is that all 4 members of the band have different favorites.
Did a lot people show up to the signing session you held at Sex Beat Records in Copenhagen at the day of the release of the album?
Not a lot, comparing to our previous release parties. 30-40 people but that was also kind of what we were aiming for. There couldn’t be that many people otherwise we would have been shut down due to Covid-19 restrictions. So that was fine.
The same night you held a release party at Zeppelin Rock Bar, was it fun?
It was actually a very good evening. As stated, before we couldn’t have a wild party as when we released the other albums, but it was actually very cozy and heartwarming to see all the people who showed up to celebrate us. A lot of people couldn’t get in. Hopefully we will see all those guys again when we release our 4th record.
You weren’t allowed to perform due to the Covid-19 restrictions, but the album was played in the speakers?
Exactly, and Emil and I played 2 songs acoustically.
Have you read any reviews of the new album in media? Do you and the band care about what the critics have to say about your work?
Yep, I have read most of them, I think. Some of them I listen to, if they have anything relevant to say, that might improve the band, and some of them I disregard if it is clear that they haven’t taken time to listen to the record or just are pre-judgmental due to our relation to Volbeat.
Are there any differences in how the foreign media and native media writes about the band?
Yes, definitely. Danish media tends to be more focused on our relation to Volbeat, where foreign media seems to less pre-judgmental and more focused on reviewing us.
Many artists and bands think that their latest album is the best one so far, do you have the same feelings towards STILL ALIVE?
Sure. Wouldn’t it be a little strange if bands didn’t feel that way?
I think the album is brilliant and deserves to be recognized worldwide for sure, are you happy with the outcome?
Thank you and yes, we are very happy. It’s like everything worked out well this time. I think it is, by a long margin, our most complete record so far.
Production, studio work
Where was the album recorded and how long did it take from the beginning to the end to record it?
We recorded it in Medley Studios in Copenhagen, which Soren Andersen, the producer, partly owns. It took us 12 days to record it, and then Soren used something like 5-6 days afterwards to post produce, mix and master the album.
Why did you choose the well-known Soren Andersen to produce the album and how was it to work with him?
We actually had Soren on the shortlist already when we made CITY OF SIN but went with Jacob Hansen which was a childhood dream of mine. Jacob wasn’t available for doing a full album this time, and I had for a long time had a good feeling about Soren. He can produce a lot of genres but, I think his comfort zone is to do hard rock, which made him a perfect fit for us. I think all the rock records he produces sounds really good.
What’s his strongest feature as producer?
That he actually is a producer and not just a guy who records the music. He acts like the 5th member of the band and comes with a ton of suggestions on how to make the music better.
Who mixed and mastered the album and were any of the band members part of that process?
It was also Soren who did that. We all reviewed the final result and it was back and forth a couple of times before we could agree on the end-result, but that said Soren did it without any of us intervening.
Label and management
You’re signed to the Danish record label Mighty Music. Are you happy with the work the label put into the band and album so far?
Yes, I think they have done a great job with a relatively small budget.
For how long have you been signed to them?
For all our 3 albums.
STILL ALIVE is released as CD, download and on vinyl in three different colors in black, orange cloud and red/blue. Are the band fans of the vinyl format?
Well, it ranges from Jacob who is a big vinyl-collector to me who doesn’t even have a turntable, so partly I would say.
Are you happy with how many copies the previous albums sold, and do you think the new one is going to sell more?
I think CITY OF SIN sold quite well compared to the size of Grumpynators, but it looks like that STILL ALIVE will sell more copies. We have gone higher on the Danish Vinyl chart this time, so I take that as a good sign.
Is it possible to listen to the album on Spotify or iTunes?
Yes, on all streaming services.
Are the two previous albums totally sold out today or is it possible to find them in stores or online?
They are both available online. You can get them at targetshop.dk.
Mighty Music have a bandcamp site online where it’s possible to purchase your album, are there many that bought albums there?
I actually don’t know to be honest.
Is Mighty Music releasing your albums worldwide or only in Europe?
It is released worldwide. We have fans in Canada, USA, Japan, Australia and a lot of other places outside Europe.
You work with a management within Denmark but are you working with anyone outside Denmark?
We have Continental Concerts in Germany to take care of all our bookings outside Denmark.
Past and present
What’s the status regarding the Covid-19 (we are currently in September and the pandemic has been going on for over 6 months now) in Denmark, are concerts and so still prohibited?
We have sit-down concerts in Denmark now. I think it is going to be a long time before we see concerts again, as we knew them before Covid-19.
In Sweden not more than 50 people are allowed to gather at the same time, what’s the number in Denmark?
It was 200 during the summer, but now it has been restricted to 50 people again due to 2nd wave of Covid-19.
Do you think the Danish government have done enough in order to keep people safe?
Yes, I do. I think they have done a fine job actually. They weren’t prepared for this whole thing, but they did the best they could do in the current situation.
According to the biography the band was about to head out on a longer European tour, but I guess that’s out of question at the moment, any thoughts on when you’re going through with the next show or tour?
We will play two shows in Denmark next week. But, as stated earlier, I think it will be a long time before we see a “normal” tour again.
The band got a show booked at the beginning of October, is that still on?
Yes, two shows actually. One in Randers in Jutland and one in Helsingor north of Copenhagen.
Dream Girl (Official Music Video)
Are you longing to meet fans live now that the album is out?
Yes, indeed. It has, to be honest, been a slightly underwhelming experience to put out an album in a period where you can’t tour it. We have often referred to the fans as family, so being able to celebrate it with them is surely missed.
How come the band doesn’t have a website?
It’s all a matter of resources. We would love to have a website with a shop where we could sell merchandise and so on, but none of us have had the time to build and maintain it.
The band does have a Facebook page that’s got 6,000 likes so far where you’re quite active, who runs it?
Primarily me. It’s a more direct way to communicate with fans and followers, than a website, so that’s where we focus the energy.
Is the band active on other social forums like Instagram and Twitter?
We have accounts on both Twitter and Instagram, but to be honest we only post something on Twitter once every leap year or something like that, hahaha. We try to be a bit more active on Instagram, and it is also something we would like to prioritize more in the future, but Facebook is still the main communication channel.
Is the band big in Denmark?
Well, everything is relatively isn’t it? We are placed in a middle tier of bands that all can fill small venues, and in that tier I will say that we are probably in the upper part.
What’s the main focus for Grumpynators next, are you going to conquer Europe?
That is definitely the focus, especially now that we have signed with Continental Concerts. The main goal is to win even more territory in the Benelux-countries, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Norway and Finland. We go for the countries where we already have some amount of success.
What does the rest of Scandinavia think of your motorbilly music, are you big in Sweden, Norway and Finland?
As previously mentioned, we have a lot more success in Norway than in Sweden. That’s just how the cards have been dealt. We also have more success in Norway than Finland, but that is more down to logistical reasons because we have to fly every time we play in Finland – which is mildly challenging when one of your instruments is a double bass, hahaha.
What would you like to say to the ones who haven’t heard the music of Grumpynators before?
Give it a go if you like rock music that makes your mood better.
Could you give the readers three reasons why they should buy STILL ALIVE?
1. Good rock album where all the songs are good.
2. I can say, objectively and unbiased, that it will be better for you if you buy it.
3. We want your money!
Well, that was all for me and Metal-rules.com this time around, thanks for taking the time making the interview. I wish you and the band all the best and I really hoping to see you live on stage soon. Do you have any words of wisdom to share with the readers and fans?
Thank you too. Long interview I must say, hahaha. Well, words of wisdom? I guess I would say something like: “It’s never too late” and “Don’t believe in limitations”. We created this band at a time at our life where a lot of other people would have said:” I’m too old to start up a rock band from the ground” … But, look here we are… And we will keep going for many years into the future.