Gazpacho released one of the most beautiful and gloomy albums of the year. A band that has been almost quietly releasing quality music for over 15 years… is finally making a step to gain the recognition it deserves. We put “March of Ghosts” in the “GEMS” category… believing that no one will be left unsatisfied by its dark, wonderfully depressing atmosphere. The guitarist, one of the band’s founding members, Jon-Arne Vilbo told us many interesting things about the band & the music generally… Read below for more…
Hi Jon-Arne… Congrats on “March of Ghosts”. We’ve put it in the “GEMS” category…
J: Thank you! Very happy to hear that so many have received the album so well.
Seventh release for the band… and two years after “Missa Atropos”. It seems that you’re on the peak of your creativity.
J: Let’s hope it’s not the peak, but yes we are pretty much on a roll. Something special happens when we get together to write and things come pretty naturally and easy when we jam. This album was quite extraordinary, as most of it was written in a day… Let’s hope the inspiration continues… (i.n.: in a day?!! That’s almost incredible! Well done guys!)
What did you have in mind when you started writing music for the new album? Did the album come the way you’d been meaning to?
J: Nothing. We approach each new album with blank sheets so to speak. And that’s what makes our music writing process so exciting as we never set out to write about a specific thing. We lay down the music first and get a feel of what the concept/story is about and adapt lyrics and stories towards the mood of the music afterwards.
Back in the day after “Missa Atropos” was released… you said that you had a better new album in the making. Did the new album satisfy you thoroughly after all? Is the new album the best work you’ve done so far?
J: Don’t know who said that, but we always work towards outdoing ourselves from the last album. “Missa Atropos” is a very (personally) dark album with a rougher edge, while “MoG” is more polished. But I do remember playing around with the opening riff where we all thought, there’s something special in this. (i.n.: Jan told that in an interview)
Does your music have to do with a creation of emotions to the listener? Is that what you want to achieve in the end?
J: Yes. We want each listener to put his or her personal stories/feelings to our songs. We have a general story on what we would like to say, but don’t want to steer the listener to that exact story. We write moody music. (i.n.: sure you do… moody and really seductive!)
Where did you get the idea of “March of Ghosts”? What are those ghost telling stories?
J: While writing, everything we see, dream or read about are possible ideas over the course of a year lots of possible ideas come to mind. The strongest idea wins, and this time it was about Ghosts. The various forms in which they appear seemed to suit the mood of the album and it worked very well.
How is the bizarre figure on the cover connected with the lyrics and the music of the album?
J: He’s the main character who has these ghosts tell their stories to. We enjoyed to clay look of Antonio’s approach. Became slightly cold, emotionless with a weight on his shoulders.
Please give us a hint about each one of the songs…
J: Hell Freezes Over I:
The opening track is where all the buried memories and life changing events materialize to the character and show themselves in their true form. In doing so, they lose some of their former power only to gain a different kind of power over him.
Hell Freezes Over II:
Is a visit to the apartment of a woman that ONLY sees ghosts and not anyone else.
Is about someone who is becoming a ghost in their own life. Maybe suffering from depression or a serious loss. The character singing the song is trying to call them back from that void but reaching through is almost impossible, this person is impenetrable and shut off.
We read an article about a Haitian war criminal that had moved to the Haitian community in New York and was functioning as a real estate agent right in amongst his former victims. Talk about a blast from the past!
Hell Freezes Over III:
Is about a woman who has to leave her life behind to go fight her ghosts.
The Mary Celeste was found floating on the sea apparently abandoned by its crew. In the song the crew are still on the ship but have been sucked into the walls of the vessel where their ghosts live. The Irish jig at the end is meant to represent their life force, still on the ship and as strong as ever, but invisible.
What Did I Do?:
Is based upon the wrongful accusation of treason against the English comedy genius P.G.Wodehouse. He was interned during WWII and spent a few years in a prison camp in upper Silesia. When he was released at the age of 60. He was offered the chance to broadcast a humorous account of his life as an internee and accepted thinking it would give him a chance to let his American fans know he was ok. He was not a political man and could not have known the way the war had turned nor the consequences of an English icon broadcasting on Nazi radio. He regretted this for the rest of his life.
In the song we meet his ghost sitting on his porch listening to the gramophone recordings of the broadcast repeatedly trying to understand what was so wrong about these essentially harmless light comedy broadcasts.
The song also deals with our level of involvement in society. Are we by birth under any obligation to take part in whatever political or social system we are born into?
Is about a WWI US serviceman’s ghost coming back as a ghost to hear them play “taps” in his honour at the stadium in his local town. A Golem is a creature of mud, something which there was no shortage of in WWI. He arrives back home but in our time and is horrified.
Is about parents of children who are unable to communicate with them through medical or mental problems. For these parents the children’s souls are phantoms out of their reach.
Hell Freezes Over IV:
Is the end of the story where the character sees his own ghosts in full and understands that he is never alone. The past is always present. (i.n.: very interesting stories indeed)
Where did the recordings take place and who was the producer? Are you satisfied by the overall sound of the album?
J: The recordings are a mix of the Thomas’ studio in Oslo and at our home studios. It’s mixed by Thomas and helped along with by Mikael and Morten Pape (an employee at Thomas’ studio). Very happy with our sound. We actually simplified a lot here and took away many layers that would only muddle up the mix, giving a clear sound.
The video for “Black Lily” is very dark and beautiful… it brought some videos Tool used to do on my mind. Are you gonna release any other videos? If yes, for which one of the songs?
J: We have one more in production, “What Did I Do?”. We have seen the sketches/storyboard and it’s looking very good! I think you can expect it in April some time. (i.n.: swell!)
Antonio Seijas has designed the cover artwork and has also directed the video. You have been cooperating with the guy many years … is he like a part of Gazpacho now?
J: He is. He seems to understand our music so well, that the art fits hand in glove with our music. It comes natural to us to get in touch with him with regards to our albums. He is always involved at an early stage, so he gets the lyrics (in progress) and demos sent down at a regular rate to interpret each individual song.
The reaction from the press has been very positive, so far. What’s more important, to keep the press satisfied or your fans?
J: To be honest, we write music to please ourselves first and foremost. Or else there’s no point in doing it. There definitely is no financial motivation behind our music. So, I would say it in this order ourselves, then fans, then press.
What are your expectations from the new album and your plans for the band from now on?
J: We hope the album will elevate our awareness a notch so we can come to a town nearer you in the future. Never know what to expect on each album, but now with Kscope on board, there is actually a company who understands our kind of listeners who is helping out.
Are there any tour plans as yet? Any Summer Festivals that you are gonna participate in?
J: None so far. We were looking into festivals in the UK, but seeing as the Olympics are in London this year a lot of festivals have been postponed until next year. We are however looking into going to Poland in the autumn and perhaps even Norway (that’s been a bit too long since last time) and Sweden.
How much do you think you have evolved musically throughout the years?
J: Musically speaking we have dived into ‘our style’ (if you can call it that) much more with each album, exploring the aspect of mood music more. I also think that the band works well as a unit, we can write without even talking to each other, we know what we like and don’t like without discussing it… like a family.
How would you characterize every studio album? How did each and every release help you so as to progress?
J: “Bravo” (2003): We spent a good 2 years on this album as we were trying to figure out our style back then. There are some very good tunes on them, although the production may be slightly outdated (and the fact that we didn’t have a drummer back then). Nevertheless a very worthy debut.
“When Earth Lets Go” (2004): We needed to have an album ready for supporting Marillion on the 2004 tour. We had already written quite a few songs, but were not really finished. Therefore I feel as if the production was a bit rushed on this album. However, to this day some of our best individual songs are on this album (as well as songs that don’t really appeal to me anymore).
“Firebird” (2005): Our first album on Marillion’s label. Enjoyed writing this and I was chuffed to hear that Steve Rothery wanted to play on the album (which you hear on “Do you know what you are Saying”). I was in Manila at the time and I remember downloading it off the internet hearing the solo for the first time thinking “my oh my, what a guitarist”.
“Night” (2007): This was the album that started us off in our current style of things. Moody concepts. Written in the formula we try to stick to. The basics were written in the course of a weekend at Thomas’ cabin in the summer where all we had was us, wine and barbecue with a fireplace crackling at night. Very atmospheric time.
“Tick Tock” (2009): Tried the same process as we did with “Night”, with success may I add. We were playing around with a loop of a ticking clock, and then the rest just followed. We then started exploring Russian choirs and Arabic themes. A very creative time for us.
“Missa Atropos” (2010): A dark period. A lot of stuff was written from home on this album and this album is very personal. We got more edgy with this album, and I claim all the songs have this coldness/spiteness (if that’s a word) to them.
“March of Ghosts” (2012): Our first fully fledged Kscope release. Written in a day long jamming session in the studio where we took a weekend of from family and commitment. We’re very happy with the result and has given us inspiration thinking how far can we actually take this, and think if this actually was our profession!
Is writing music and lyrics like a catharsis for you? You’ve always delivered dark atmospheric tunes… but with some positive touches within them. You’re not so pessimistic as you seem to be judging by the music, right?
J: I guess it’s an outlet of creativity for us. We have fulltime jobs and the creative juice from writing music can’t compare to doing your job. Something you are paid to deliver. We aren’t pessimistic by nature, and can actually have quite a bit of humour as well…
Although many consider Gazpacho as a prog rock band you do not like that term at all. I would better call it atmospheric, art rock generally… but what do you think about it?
J: I agree with the term art rock, seems more fitting than what people would associated with prog rock - lengthy songs (yes, we have that as well) with lengthy solo’s (something we don’t feel is necessary in our music). I also guess the issue is that progrock doesn’t have a clear definition of what it is and that’s why we’ve been placed there.
You‘re coming from a country that’s mostly known for its extreme metal scene. Do you feel like a stranger in your own country after all these years?
J: We do, we’re also not really known in our own country. We have kind of given the Norwegian scene a miss throughout the years, and I guess that comes from a certain incident that happened back in 2004 when we supported Marillion on their extensive European tour. Not one word was mentioned in the press (and believe me we gave them the chance) while other very small events were blossomed in the media. I realised it’s more who you know and not what you know that counts. Anyhow, the extreme metal scene is also not that big in Norway, much bigger abroad. (i.n.: it’s very bad not to get recognition in your own country)
Do you feel that Gazpacho should have been more famous after all these years? What has gone wrong eventually?
J: We wish we could have, but you need to be pragmatic about it as well. There are 2 million bands out there, and they all want you to listen to them. Chances of something catching on to you is small. Also, we have our own limits with fulltime jobs, families which prevents us to tour back on back for years which likely would have helped us along. If we were able to stay true to the style we have and not worry that no one will like it (as we did in the beginning), I think that would have helped us quicker.
Do you have any regrets for things that you did or didn’t do for Gazpacho throughout the years?
J: If we were able to create what we are doing now at an earlier stage. We’re not exactly old men, but there were opportunities in the past which may have given us more listeners today.
What are those things that inspire you to write music and lyrics?
J: Historical events mostly or a ‘imagine a scenario of this’ kind of thing. Musically I tend to stick to minor of some form and whatever pleases my ears.
What’s your opinion of people downloading free music from the Internet? What shall an artist do in order to avoid losing money and time?
J: There could probably be endless debates on this, and we aren’t even 100% aligned in the band. Personally, I think it’s a good thing for bands to promote themselves with little/no cost for the listener. And as a result, they can hope that the listener comes to one of their concerts and supports them by buying a CD, a piece of clothing or whatever. But of course, there isn’t all that much money in music anymore, and piracy has part to blame. And practically speaking it means we can’t rely on income from music, we still have to continue full time jobs etc. to support our lifestyle, and perhaps that goes at the expense of how often we tour or come out with an album due to time limitations.
Is Internet a good promotion tool for every band out there after all or it has both helped and harmed bands and the music industry in general?
J: If you’re Elvis or Abba, there’s a good chance people have already heard the music. And the willingness to pay for it when songs are available for nothing is probably small (unless you are a fanatical collector). So, perhaps for the more established ‘old school’ area, this harms. For new up and coming artists, this can help. But, with so many other bands to compete with, you need to be pretty special for anyone to give up some of their precious time to listen to you. And that’s what I think is probably a good result of this - ease of access increases the need for more special/niche music.
As for the music industry, they need to (and have started to) wake up to the fact that things aren’t the way they used to be anymore.
How good is the fact that a whole generation learned to hear music via MP3’s (that have such a bad quality) and they actually believe that music is only in mp3 format… and nothing more? Maybe some of the younger guys won’t even own a single CD! That’s gonna be a boomerang in the end… what do you think?
J: Digital music is here to stay. Many people used to have their CD collection displayed as a form of trophy in their living rooms. I guess some people still do, but as apartments and houses get smaller there’s always a space issue of cluttering up the house. And everything on in a small box is just so handy. However, there will still be the group that enjoy ‘their’ time, perhaps in a very own listening room where they can take out a vinyl/CD and give it a spin. I think we appeal to a lot of these kinds of listeners. (i.n.: yeap that would be me… and I’m very proud of my CD/vinyl collection )
And some weird Questions now!!! Why did you call the band Gazpacho?
J: Gazpacho is cold vegetarian soup. Not what you’d expect, out of the norm (as soup is warm) and also has a required taste, not everyone’s ‘cup of tea’ so to speak. Just like the music.
If you weren’t member of Gazpacho… which band’s member you wish you were?
J: Muse are doing pretty good for themselves. And last time I was at their concert, I couldn’t help thinking what if Gazpacho had this kind of production budget, the potential is limitless… (i.n.: sure… that helps a lot… but I still prefer Gazpacho over Muse!)
Which is the record you wish you had written and why?
J: “Cloudbusting” by Kate Bush still stands strong today and doesn’t sound dated even though it’s quite old now. “Amused to Death” by Roger Waters is also an outstanding concept album and crystal clear quality.
You are standing in front of two transparent doors. Door number 1 leads to a huge garden full of naked models running, playing and kissing around while Door number 2 takes you to the Isles of the Blessed where you can interact with some great ancient philosophers and learn the deepest secrets of life, death and universe. Which one would you cross and why?
J: You’re talking to a married man, so No. 2… Seriously, just think of the “awakening” you get by finding out the deepest secrets of life, death and the universe. Unsure I want to know, it’s always nice to keep wondering… (i.n.: regrettably knowledge is like a “curse” in the end)
Are darkness and melancholy so appealing as they appear to be in your music?
J: I don’t tend to listen to happy music if that’s what you are implying…
How can a band differ and separate itself from the thousands other bands out there… that due to youtube, myspace, facebook… are “bombarding” the fans with new music and info every minute…?
J: Be different and stay true to what you are good at. If you’re trying to write that radio/No 1 hit, remember that millions of others are doing the same thing. If there is something truly unique about what you are doing, than dwell in it and master it.
What are those things that you do not like in the music industry nowadays?
J: The endless battle and court cases against piracy. It’s long overdue that they start accepting the reality of the situation and see if they can come up with better solutions, making it easier/better for a listener to purchase instead of downloading illegally. Don’t quite know if it was a good approach with propaganda films criminalising anyone that downloaded.
Is fiction part of reality… or reality is fiction’s flaw?
J: Good questions, exploring that is kind of the theme in “Night”.
Were you obliged to give just one album to extraterrestrials that would represent the whole human music evolution, which album would it be and from which band/artist?
J: Is that even possible to answer? Start with Mozart I’m guessing. Or even the theme from “close encounters of the third kind”… At least Spielberg thought that was the correct tune.
What do you think of the economic crisis that’s threatening people’s lives over the profit of some rich men? Do we need a revolution again?
J: When was the last revolution? Modern day economic thought has driven us to where we are and there’s a difficulty in getting out of it immediately.
What’s your opinion about the activist group of “Anonymous”? Do the big ones need someone to scare them… or the whole thing isn’t so innocent in the end? Do protectors of humanity still exist out there… or some are just playing tricks?
J: To be honest, all I have seen is a bunch of guys with masks that have managed to hack into this and hack into that. I think it’s a good way to say that nothing is 100% secured. If I see them as protectors of humanity is stretching it a bit far.
Is the European Union condemned to fail in the end? That would probably cause a worldwide domino of destruction at any level…
J: A question followed by a statement. Europe is not the same as the US, one thing that severely differs is that there are cultural differences to business, work, social security, health etc within the region. It’s very difficult for everyone to align to a thought of a single Europe. I think there will be modifications in the future, but a worldwide domino effect… don’t think so.
Who is your favorite philosopher and why?
J: The classics, Plato and Socrates with their approach to ethics and answers to what is moral and what is not.
Who is your favorite fantasy author and why?
J: Guilty pleasure is JK Rowling and Harry Potter, but in real life it’s still JR Tolkien. What a mind this man must have had, although it gets a bit heavy going at times.
Which is your best book that also became a movie… and why?
J: What immediately springs to mind is the “Da Vinci Code”, although I felt the film was awful vs. the book. I am an avid fan of Ben Elton’s books. I enjoy his satire.
What would you do if you were not afraid to fail?
J: Probably a rock star… (i.n.: haha yeah… who wouldn’t!)
Imagine that your girlfriend/wife is selling your whole album-collection just to buy an expensive ring for herself. How would you react?
J: Won’t be much of a ring as I’ve gone digital with my music... (i.n.: no…no digital…!)
That’s all for now dude… Thanx for the music... Please leave a note to Grande Rock readers… Take care!
J: Long live Grande Rock! (i.n.: Thx Jon-Arne for this great interview…)