Thor Erik Helgesen: These are beasts that breathe, and the more you dive into why they work, why there is sound, the mechanics as well as the electronics, the more you love them! Such organs got a soul, perhaps not a pure one, but then again: who has?
Ring Van Möbius bracht onlangs debuutalbum ‘Past The Evening Sun’ uit, een bijzonder progressieve plaat waarin het Hammond orgel centraal staat. Wij deden een interview met zanger en toetsenist Thor Erik Helgesen en praatten met hem over hoe hij vanuit de black metal op het idee kwam om iets totaal anders te gaan doen en op wat voor manier dat zijn leven verrijkt.
Door: Bart Meijer – 11 mei 2019
Congratulations with your album, ‘Past The Evening Sun’. It was quite an adventure to experience. As Ring Van Möbius, you are a relatively new band. How did the band originate?
Hello Sir! Yes, I do agree that we’re a rather new band, one year has now gone since we sort of went official with our debut vinyl single ‘When The Sea And The Universe Were At One (Or: The Introduction Of The Octopus On Tellus)’. It’s also been a year since we did our first gig, at a small, cool Prog rock festival in Norway called Haugaland Prog & Rock Festival. Surely, before this happened we had been working for a few years, finding our sound, our approach to the music, building an analog studio to fit our visions, and completing the songs which became the single and the album.
Regarding your actual question: the band’s start. I’ll have to say – it took me by a surprise! I had been doing a rather different style of music for a couple of decades, while also being a growing prog rock fan for the last fifteen to twenty years. It never really occurred to me that I actually could write this music myself, so I had no intentions of doing so, even a week before the band were formed. One day a few years ago I found myself jamming with a great flutist called Ove, playing classical music. I was playing classical guitar, the Hammond organ fantasy was yet to appear in my guitarist mind. We switched over to Jethro Tull, Led Zeppelin amongst others, and we had a good time. All of a sudden a melody line came to me, and I asked Ove to play my poorly sung notes with his flute while I was playing the backing track kicking in the back of my head, leading to the next riff, then to the next, and so on and so on. I couldn’t stop. For hours, days, weeks, months all these riffs just came out, and I had to walk around with a small tape recorder at all times, collecting these strange melodies coming out of me all the time. At some point I figured out I needed a new band for all these riffs, it would feel ridiculous to ignore all this music I carried inside, so I thought for a second. I didn’t know anyone playing any instruments outside the crazy world I’d been living in the last twenty years. Still I knew a couple of guys who could be interested, so I made a couple of phonecalls. These gentlemen happened to be the right guys for the job, even though it took us some time developing the sketches I had, the sound, and the entire expression. None of us had done anything close to this before, and we needed to find our way, later to polish the expression, and in the end it became what we proudly did one year ago. I’m very fond of the guys in the band, we make a great team! Håvard and Dag Olav are very dedicated, dynamic, inventive and crazy, and love to dive into the details, adding so much to our sound. By the way, this was the short version, hahaha!!
What is the idea behind Ring Van Möbius?
For us it’s a place where we can play around with crazy new ideas, sounds, expressions and to make music with a very different approach compared to what we’ve done so far in any other band throughout the years; to speak through ideas and thematic untried so far.
The name of the band is rather peculiar. At first I thought it had some connection with Wagner’s ‘Ring Des Nibelungen’, but when I googled it I found a German astronomer instead. He thought up some pretty complicated things, as does your music. Is there a connection, and why did you choose this name?
For us this is a name reflecting the double sided, yet single sided aspects of our music, and perhaps especially the lyrical themes, without being decent mathematics either of us. Surely, progressive rock may have a mathematical link, if so the principle of the Möbius band would be the one I’d prefer.
The first time I listened to your record I had a little bit of a hard time, because there is so much organ going on. It took me a while to learn to appreciate it, but once I did I really started loving it. Is this music meant for everyone, or are you aiming at a specific audience?
Yeah, I see what you mean. This was one of the parts we had to try out while finding our sound. You see, two of us have been guitarists (and some bass) all our lives, so we figured: how crazy wouldn’t it be to exclude the electric guitar completely? Quite, I’d say! I did actually play guitar in the band the first months, and we had another guy, Bjørnar, on the Hammond organ, mellotron and Fender Rhodes. During that period I got hooked, I fell in love with these vintage key-instruments from the sixties and seventies, and I fell hard! No turning back: I had to get hold of a real Hammond organ, then a Fender Rhodes, then the vintage strange synthesizers, the rotating speakers, and so on and so on. Still not cured: as we speak I’m sitting with my soldering iron next to me, designing and making my own modular synthesizer, like the ones made during the sixties and seventies! Normal people don’t do that, they just don’t! I guess it’s quite obvious that we’re doing quite a lot of strange stuff, and that we’re enjoying it to the fullest. Which again answers your question: we’re doing it for us!
The title track, ‘Past The Evening Sun’, is quite a long track. I always wonder, when bands do this, and maybe you can shed some light on it, is a song like that a natural process? Or do you tell yourselves: “Let’s make a song of over twenty minutes!” and then start writing/creating?
Haha, well, the thing is, for us anyway, you get a feeling quite early in the process whether the material you’re working on will become a concise musical piece, a shorter piece with a clearer expression, or if you’re working on something which needs more space, more time and bigger arrangements, in order to reach higher highs, lower lows, and to connect with the listener on perhaps a deeper level. The material show you the way, usually at a very early stage in the process of writing.
The three songs all seem to interconnect with each other, both musically and lyrically. Is this one story, or several? And what is the story about?
Both yes and no. Even though these lyrics weren’t intentionally written as a concept, they kind of carry parts of the same vibe, and may be seen in a bigger whole without losing the thematic point of this record. I wrote them all at the same time, with perhaps a very certain view on the world, the people and the life we live as human beings. It surely is quite schizophrenic in many aspects, perhaps the title song will reveal this more than the others, but I’m afraid this pervades the entire album on a subliminal level. A combination of realism and spiritualism, occultism, denial, transcendence, stuck in a world, then again, quite the opposite: dualism and non-duality. Naturally this also goes for the music, as they are made for each other, being able to speak not only with words, but also with the emotions created by tonality, beats and musical substance.
As I mentioned, there is a lot of organ in these songs. What inspired you to start playing this instrument? And how does one master it?
As mentioned, I fell in love hard with these old crazy instruments who require quite some love, hours spent soldering, fixing, fault finding and modifying. These are beasts that breathe, and the more you dive into why they work, why there is sound, the mechanics as well as the electronics, the more you love them! Such organs got a soul, perhaps not a pure one, but then again: who has?
Watching the videos you made for the songs on this album, I can see that you guys have a great sense of humor. I like that. Even though this is quite a heavy album (not so much musically, but it makes a big impression), you balance seriousness and humor really well. How important is it for a band to not take themselves too seriously?
Our drummer Dag Olav is responsible for all our videos, and he’s done a great job so far in my opinion! This is easily one of the parts a band talks about doing, but usually it never becomes more than talk. We figured out that the material would be spread on YouTube with or without us, so why not make something more out of it than the typical video just showing the album cover? Dag Olav took the job seriously, and after a few brainstorming sessions he had the entire plot planned in detail. Surely: this doesn’t reflect the seriousness of our music by any means, but then again, the scene is packed with cheesy dudes doing cheesy music videos, we don’t need another one, do we?
So, what do you think about bands taking themselves too seriously? I am talking about the image that a lot of bands are trying to maintain.
Well, I guess I’ve been there myself. Even though it was wholehearted, and true, it was the only way for us back then. I’m referring to my time in the black metal scene, and this might be where one either believes it, breathes it, becomes it or leaves.
Were any animals hurt during the recording of this album?
Does my Hammond organ count?
A funny thing, some of you have been playing, or are playing, in other bands as well. Ring Van Möbius makes seventies progressive music, which is really quite different from, for instance, the black metal of Throne Of Katarsis or the thrash metal of Lobotomized. Can you explain the huge difference between what you do with Ring and what you do with other bands/projects?
We certainly got a different approach to the music this time around, other premises.
And, are there also any similarities between these different styles of music?
Sure, long works with extensive arrangements are nothing new to us.
I wonder when musicians are in several, totally different bands, if each kind of music is an expression of different kinds of emotions or points of view. Can you tell us something about that?
Yes, that might be the case for many. I like to focus fully on one band these days, and my other bands do suffer from this. I only do Ring Van Möbius now.
I am very much looking forward to any material you might be releasing in the future. Are there already plans for doing this, and what can we expect?
We’re planning on recording a new album in a few months, and we’re eager to show you what we’ve been up to in the meantime, quite pleased with the material to say the least! The amount of hours spent making every detail count is hopefully worth it. Naturally there will be progression, our new material is heading in many different directions, so I’m rather curious myself how this will turn out!
Finally, I want to thank you for taking the time to answer the questions. If there is anything left unsaid, please feel free to say it now.
Thank you for your interest Sir. I’d like to thank all of you – our cool fans, who bought our album, and support us in many different ways! We’re looking forward to meeting you on tour!
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