Airbag are back with a new album after four years of absence and they have returned in great way by releasing one of their best albums, if not the best, to date. Vocalist & songwriter Asle Tostrup had a chat with Grande Rock about the new album, the band members’ parting, and their new music experiments among other interesting things…
Airbag band pic
Hi Asle. I’m glad to have you on Grande Rock. “A Day at the Beach” is a stunning album on the whole. It’s one of your best works so far, if not the best!
A: Well thank you very much, that’s very kind.
So, do tell us what has happened these 4 years between your previous album and the new one?
A: We did a lot of promotion and touring after releasing “Disconnected” in 2016, continuing in 2017, and Bjorn did a couple of solo albums and some touring as well. When Anders and Jorgen left the band, we took some time to think about what we wanted to do next, and how we should approach a new Airbag album. We felt we had to do something slightly different, and take the time we needed to get it right.
Did Anders Hovdan’s (bass) departure affected the band and in what way?
A: Obviously it’s sad when people you’ve been playing with for a long time leaves. We were also good friends, still are, and had great chemistry as a band, so it changes things. But it also meant we had to bring in other talent, and that gave us chance to work with Kristian Hultgren of Wobbler, for example, which has been amazing and helped us to go in some musical directions we otherwise might not have.
Hence you decided to go as a trio with the participation of Kristian Karl Hultgren on bass. Will there be a permanent bassist on the band? Have you found the right guy yet?
A: We’ve not decided to get a new permanent member of the band as of now.
What affected your songwriting style this time? Did you decide to try out new things and for what reason?
A: I think our new situation as a trio working with other musicians, and also the time passed since the last album, made us want to try some different approaches. We spent more time discussing arrangements and production and trying out different things in our various studios, as well as more time rehearsing and playing together as a band – a very inspiring and fun process.
Pink Floyd has always been a major influence for the band… but do you feel that this time you’ve managed to go beyond that in a way? And which were the reasons for that?
A: We’ve always been inspired by a lot of different bands and musicians, Pink Floyd among them, but I think we found our own way quite early. People hear different influences based on their own musical background, I think, and if someone compares us to Pink Floyd… well, I’ll take that as a compliment.
Do you feel that “A Day at the Beach” is an album that showcases the “Airbag sound” as it should be after all these years?
A: It’s hard to say. We sound the way we do now because that’s how it comes out now, but it’s a fluid and not a very deliberate process for us. I think any album is a kind of a snapshot of where a band is at the time it is created, and a mix of many influences from creative ones to societal and personal ones all coming together. In that sense I think we’ve managed to show who we are as a band today on this album, perhaps with more success than before.
What does the album title “A Day at the Beach” declare and how it is (if it is) connected with the cover artwork?
A: The title is inspired by the lyrics on “A Day at the Beach (Part 1)”, a song that Bjorn wrote about the contrasts in our society, about us and them and how we allow ourselves to ignore the unpleasantness of things. The artwork reflects that in the contrast between the title and the image, although slightly understated.
Give us a hint about each track…
A: “Machines and Men”: Unrelenting…
“A Day at the Beach (Part 1)”: Chilly…
“Into the Unknown”: Soft…
“Sunsets: Catchy…
“A Day at the Beach (Part 2)”: Smooth…
“Megalomaniac”: Finale…
Where did the recordings take place and who is responsible for the production, the mixing and the mastering? What has changed in the way you record and what do you think of the final outcome on the whole?
A: The album was mixed, and partly recorded, at Subsonic Society studios in Oslo, by our longtime collaborator Vegard Sleipnes. We also recorded in our own studios. Production is done primarily by Bjørn and me. The process is basically familiar – we work on the songs together, producing premixes as we go along that are continually tweaked and improved upon. I think what’s new is the time we put into trying different approaches and new sounds, and playing with different people in a very open and creative way.
Do you plan to release a lyric or concept video at some point and if yes for which track? For instance a lyric video with sci-fi background would be perfect for “Machines and Men”.
A: We have no concrete plans.
What are your expectations from the new album and what do you wish to achieve with Airbag over the next years?
A: All we can hope for is that people enjoy the music and like the album, and we’re very happy and thankful to have received great feedback from all over the world. We’d really love to be able to go out and play for more of our fans world-wide – as soon as that becomes possible again.
Now with the “lockdown” around the world which is the best way for the fans to support their beloved bands?
A: The lockdown has hit the entertainment business hard, and in particular perhaps artist who depend on touring for their livelihood. Music fans can make a difference by supporting their favorite bands on-line when there’s an opportunity to do so – for example by buying their music, digitally or physically, paying to see streamed content etc. – and also purchase tickets for shows that have been rescheduled.
What do you think about this corona-virus thing? How will it affect the music business and people’s lives in general?
A: Well, It’s hard to predict. Obviously we’re witnessing a speeding up of the shift towards on-line media that really started years ago, and the music business is all over that. It’s a good thing in the sense that artist can still reach a lot of people, but for many it’s hard to see how to make a living that way in the current model. As for people’s lives in general, it’s not for me to say, really, but it does seem to me this crisis has exposed certain weaknesses in our world that needs fixing.
It’s time for our “weird questions”!!! Are “social media” a “compulsory part” of music biz these days or bands, artists & labels can do without them as well?
A: As a fairly cheap and sometimes effective marketing platform it’s hard to beat, but I don’t know about compulsory. There’s also a lot of noise out there. It’s all about finding a way to reach your audience, and I’m sure a lot of artists are doing that fine without social media too.
Is there a particular book you can’t recommend enough?
A: Sadly, I read far too few books. Mostly listen to podcasts these days if not music. However, I do think The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams, should be in every home on the planet.
Top TV series for someone to watch during the “lockdown” and not only?
A: I would recommend “Dark”, for some great German time travel Sci-Fi, and Ken Burns’ “War” for a nice history lesson.
What are those things that you do not like in the music industry nowadays?
A: Don’t really have an answer to that.
What do you think about the “downloading & streaming issue” of our time? Do you prefer the streaming services better or not?
A: I’m not sure there’s much of an issue anymore. Downloading and streaming is how music is distributed to the masses now, there’s no getting around that, and we would certainly never have got to where we are without it. At the same time vinyl has had a comeback, and that has always been an important format for us too. I guess it’s good that people have a choice and can enjoy the music in whatever format they prefer.
What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the words:
A: Rockstar: Hard…
Progressive: Good…
Eurovision: Not so good…
Music Realities: Um…
Fill in the phrase… “Prog Rock wouldn’t have evolved the way it did, if it hadn’t been for…”
A: Wouldn’t know how to complete that sentence, I’m afraid.
Which are the best 3 Prog Rock albums of all time according to you?
A: Sorry, no opinion there either.
Which is that band that you’d like to be part of (any time & era)?
A: Difficult to answer. Radiohead, post “OK Computer”, would be interesting. Or The Jimi Hendrix Experience – just to see the magic up close.
Which do you consider to be the best male & female vocalist in rock history?
A: There are so many, but Janis Joplin and Freddie Mercury should be up there I think.
Which is the composer/songwriter who influenced rock music the most?
A: Again, It’s hard to single anyone out. It all depends on how far back you go. That rock wouldn’t be what it is without Elvis has become a standard thing to say – and it’s true, but then you can trace him back to earlier and lesser known artists within blues, country and R&B as well, or go forward and think The Beatles, Hendrix, Zeppelin etc.… and the list goes on.
If you had the opportunity to invite any musician, living or dead, to play on your album whom would you choose and why?
A: Would be great to do something with David Bowie, just to have that voice on the album, and of course to be able to meet the man. Such a terrible loss.
If you had the chance to travel in time… where would you choose to go? To the past or the future and why?
A: I’d go back to the mid 60’s, and travel constantly for a few years to catch all the great ones of that era – too many to mention – playing in the great venues in places like London and New York, ending up in a field somewhere in Bethel.
What are your views on Artificial Intelligence (and its scary-as-Hell implications!), which is seemingly around the bend and could be fully developed sooner than we think? Are we, as humans, technologically going off the deep end (like lemmings)?
A: I know a lot of smart people have great concerns when it comes to AI, like Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking. Personally, though, I fear what humans in our current culture would use intelligent machines for, much more than the machines themselves. Right now at least, human stupidity seems to be our biggest problem, not intelligent machines. Let’s work on that.
That’s all for now Asle. Thank you very much for talking to Grande Rock. Wish you the best for the future to come. Take care dude!
A: My pleasure, and thank you very much!