Interview with Keiser
Mikael Torseth – guitar, vocals
Interview by Kira Levine
Hello! Thanks for your time, hope that you are keeping safe and well. Please state your name and position in the band.
Hello! Thanks, yourself also, it’s nice to speak with you. My name is Mikael and I sing and play guitar in Keiser.
It has to be said… your band logo is fantastic! Who designed it?
Thanks, that’s nice to hear. It’s designed by a friend of ours, called Elisabeth. She works under the name Emeraldus. Check out her Instagram page, she is so talented.
Keiser formed around five years ago. How did you all meet?
Originally it was just me and Geir. We actually met at a party at my ex girlfriend’s place nearly ten years back, and we ended up studying music at the same college soon after. We had a few different band projects together before we decided to do something serious and form Keiser in 2015. We met William at a gig we were playing with another band we were both in in 2016, and we bonded over our love of thrash metal. As we were already looking to grow our line-up we asked him to join, and luckily he said yes. A year later we were looking for a bass player to fill in on bass at a gig. We asked Jon, who both me and Geir knew from before, and we’re very happy that he stuck around!
When you first started creating music, what influenced you to do so?
We are creative guys, so whenever we hear or see someone doing something cool, we want to recreate it and do it ourselves. It’s the same for music. From the first time I heard The Offspring (which was the first music I bought on CD with my own money), I wanted to be in a band and make music.
Do you have any advice for those wanting to start a band? Were you given some yourself?
Just do it, I guess. Don’t be afraid to suck. Many bands take a lot of time perfecting their first releases nowadays. That way when they release it they’ve spent two years on something that won’t reach a lot of people anyway since they don’t have any momentum. Also, maybe try to gain a little traction before releasing a full length album. We probably could have waited a bit!
How would you describe your sound to someone who has never heard it before?
The core of it is black metal, but I think it comes across that everyone in the band also listens to a lot of thrash metal, speed metal and heavy metal. It’s very riff-based, the song structures are often nontraditional and we like to mix it up when it comes to time and tempo.
Keiser recently signed to Dutch extreme metal label Non Serviam Records. What was the motivation behind this? Were the band with another label before, or is this Keiser’s first signing?
No, we were unsigned before we signed with Non Serviam Records. We wanted to do everything ourselves in the beginning, but found out that we lacked the connections and relationships to really get anywhere. We spent a lot of time sending out emails and getting nowhere, basically. When we finished Our Wretched Demise we sent it out to various labels, and luckily Non Serviam Records were impressed with it and wanted to sign us. So far it’s working out really great. There’s been a lot more attention, reviews, interviews and the pre-sale has been really good.
Your second album, ‘Our Wretched Demise’ is due for release on 27th November, 2020. What was the writing process like? Do you start writing lyrics first and then the music, or vice versa?
I usually start with the music first and write lyrics second. That way it’s easier for me to make the lyrics fit properly with the riffs and the rhythms. I always have the theme in mind when writing, though. Sometimes Geir, William and Jon send me riffs that they have been working on too, and I try my best to fit them into songs. Songs that they contribute to are usually the most unique sounding.
The concept of war is very prevalent on ‘Our Wretched Demise’. Would you say that historical conflicts inspired the album’s songwriting, or more contemporary events?
A little of both, I guess. Mostly the lyrics are inspired by the human spirit when it’s tested in the context of war. Some of the songs are inspired by more specific themes, like the propaganda-themed ‘Scourge of the Wicked’, which is obviously mostly inspired by WWII.
What gear did you use when recording ‘Our Wretched Demise’?
I could go on about gear forever, but I’ll try to keep it relatively brief. For guitars we used my Peavey 5150 with a Bogner 412 cabinet. Pretty standard metal rig, but we mixed it up for William’s guitars with an Ibanez Metal Charger distortion pedal, which sounds really unique. I used my Ibanez RG560 and Charvel San Dimas for most of the guitars, while William used his Jackson King V.
For vocals we used a Shure SM7b, nothing really exciting there.
Jon Einar used a SkarBassOne overdrive/compressor pedal, which is actually designed and made here in Trondheim, for his bass tracks. He played a Warwick Streamer Stage 1, a Peavey Cirrus 6 and an Ibanez GWB fretless.
Geir used a Premier Artist drum kit with Sabian cymbals. Drums were the only instrument we recorded in a professional studio. We recorded the rest ourselves in our practice space.
The album cover for ‘Our Wretched Demise’ is amazingly detailed. Who is the artist responsible for the artwork? Was the painting specifically commissioned for the album?
Thanks! Yes, the artwork was specifically commissioned for Our Wretched Demise. The artist is called Vojtech Doubek and works under the name Moonroot Arts. I discovered his art on Metal Archives a while back, and we’ve worked with him since our first album The Succubus.
Do you have a favourite song from the upcoming release or your previous records?
Hmm, that’s kind of hard to say. Maybe ‘When Fire Rides the Night Sky’ or ‘Scourge of the Wicked’.
Has the global pandemic impacted any major plans for Keiser this year?
Not too much, I guess. We’re planning to do some gigs in a short while. They will probably be a bit different with a sitting audience. Otherwise we’re not that affected. We’re not really a big touring band (yet!).
Is there anywhere in the world that you would love to tour, once it is safe to do so?
Well, we haven’t played outside of Norway before so we still have that barrier to break. UK, continental Europe in general, Japan, South America would be amazing to play, both when it comes to audiences and culture.
Are there any other music projects that you are a member of?
Yeah, we have a few other projects. I’m in a hardcore/punk band called Gnasher and a Metallica tribute band named Whiplash. Geir is in doom metal band Nathr and Funeral Harvest, a black metal band. Jon Einar is in Posthum, a black metal band based around Oslo.
Do you have any interests outside of making music that you would like to mention?
Well, our free time is largely occupied by various musical projects, most of all Keiser. Geir and I work as teachers, Jon Einar as a panel beater and William is studying to be a computer engineer. Other than that, Jon Einar and I watch a lot of motorsports and Geir and William enjoy some gaming.
Can you describe the present Norwegian black metal scene, particularly in Central Norway? How would you say the genre has evolved over the years?
I think the scene here in central Norway is quite strong, not only for black metal but metal in general. I feel like there’s been a bit of a trend with newer black metal bands playing the traditional style, which is cool, even if it’s not really what we’re about.
Can you name some established artists/bands that have inspired you as a musical artist?
Well, I mentioned The Offspring, which was the band that got me into guitar-driven and relatively heavy music when I was 8 or 9 years old. My all-time favourite band is Iron Maiden, who continue to inspire me even if my taste has evolved a lot since I discovered them nearly 20 years ago. As for more extreme bands I have to mention Enslaved, who continue to amaze me with the way they evolve and improve with every record.
Are there any up-and-coming bands that you admire?
There’s a local band named Axe Toss who play a really cool and unique style of anthemic viking-themed death metal that I’m really into these days. They’re from Trondheim too. Check them out!
If you could only listen to three records for the rest of your life, which ones would you choose?
Hmm, I probably need three quite different sounding records to try and stay sane. Here goes:
Blind Guardian – Nightfall in Middle-Earth
The Midnight – Endless Summer
Moonsorrow – V: Hävitetty
Are there any highlights during your career with Keiser that you are particularly proud of?
In 2018 we opened up for Order, a band consisting of a couple of earlier Mayhem members. We got to meet them, which was cool! Other than that we’ve had some amazing gigs the last couple of years. It’s hard to pinpoint specific moments. The release of Our Wretched Demise will definitely be a highlight.
What does the rest of the year and 2021 look like for Keiser?
Our plan is just to play as many gigs as possible, basically! And write songs for our third album. Time moves fast, so it’s important to keep writing and working for what’s next.
Thank you so much and congratulations on recording ‘Our Wretched Demise’! Do you have anything else you wish to add?
Thanks a lot! Nice talking to you. We’ve gotten a lot of attention for our singles and our upcoming records, so I’d just like to say a massive thanks to everyone who’s checked out our new music. Hopefully the rest of the album will get the same reception!
1. Prelude to War
2. Scourge Of the Wicked
3. Cannons of War
4. When Fire Rides the Night Sky
6. Far from Human
7. The Fog
8. Eternal Onslaught
9. Our Wretched Demise