Lords of Metal
Arrow Lords of Metal

Vulture Industries – interview met Bjørnar Erevik Nilsen (vocals, guitars, keys, percussion)

Bjørnar Erevik Nilsen: “The theme of the album is basically how I see the world, what’s happening around me, painted in a bit stronger colours, with a bit sharper edges, to make it a bit more interesting as a piece of art. It is about old men desperately trying to secure their own legacy and risking the world burning in the process. It is like a monster hiding under your bed to keep away from the monsters of the world. It is about my fears, and it is a bit about being nice to each other.”
De muziek van het Noorse Vulture Industries is moeilijk onder te brengen in een vakje. Met ‘Ghosts From The Past’ is het vijftal toen aan een vijfde studioalbum waarin elementen van gothic rock, post punk, alternatieve rock en een snuifje progressieve rock haasje over spelen. Toch maakt dit een aangenaam geheel, zodat we eens ons licht gingen opsteken bij zanger, multi-instrumentalist en hoofdcomponist Bjørnar Erevik Nilsen en dat werd een eloquent relaas van een bevlogen muzikant.
Vera Matthijssens Ι 4 juli 2023

Congratulations with the new album. I like it very much!
Thank you. I am glad to hear that. I am very pleased with it myself, so I am glad to hear that other people can enjoy it.

It has been a while, but that seems to be normal with the pandemic and things like that… The previous album ‘Stranger Times’ came out in 2017. Can you resume what happened after the release of that former album?
Yes, I guess the main reason why it took so long to release ‘Ghosts From The Past’ was not so much the pandemic. It was more because two of us became parents. I got my first born on the day that I was supposed to go in and do like the final mixes on ‘Stranger Times’ and then do the adjudgements on the mix. So that was postponed back then, but after a week it was safe, so I was able to go into the studio and do the final fixes. Then we focused on mastering and we managed to do some touring, but then after that, properly go into a creative mindset while having small children seemed pretty difficult to me, being the main song-writer. After our first born came the next child two years later, so it was a time of very little sleep and spending a lot of energy in that. When it comes to being creative in Vulture Industries, you cannot just do it half an hour here and there. You have to properly immerse into the material and kind of ‘live it’ for a period to get where I want to be with the band and make full songs, not just easy tunes, but something that really conveys and bring the listener in to make something that needs more than just a quick listen. And to be able to create that, I need to go deep into it and stay there for a long while. Having small kids around then, that was difficult, so it took some years, but now we are there.

Good that the vibe returned! Indeed, in the infosheet is standing that the album was created in a period when big changes occurred in your personal life and in the world…
Yes, in the personal world it was children arriving and in the world the pandemic and the war. It seems that the world is shifting towards totalitarian regimes. This is scary stuff! It makes you think a lot about this kind of things, where the world is heading and what you have brought them into, the children. Of course, one is hoping for positive change and maybe to some degree we can be able to contribute in that respect hopefully.

Yes we should stay positive, although it is not easy sometimes…
(chuckles) I believe if you are a bit kinder to the next person you meet, the next person will be a bit kinder to the next person he meets, which will be positive for the next person he meets and so on. At some point that might come back to you and in the process, you make the world a little bit better.

That is well said…
It is not going to fix everything, but it is worth trying.

Is there a kind of theme on ‘Ghosts From The Past’?
No, the theme of the album is basically how I see the world, what’s happening around me, painted in a bit stronger colours, with a bit sharper edges, to make it a bit more interesting as a piece of art. It is about old men desperately trying to secure their own legacy and risking the world burning in the process. It is like a monster hiding under your bed to keep away from the monsters of the world. It is about my fears, and it is a bit about being nice to each other.

These are deep emotions. I can understand that you have to concentrate on it when composing, instead of being distracted by the noise and sounds of the world around you…
When it comes to inspiration, everything can contribute and everything can be a trigger. It is like a mirror of who we are. It is a window into our souls. We bring everything that we are into our music and in that respect, everything that we experience and everything that we have experienced is a part of that influence which makes the music, if that makes any sense.

Is Vulture Industries a band which has toured often until now?
Yes, I think we played 150 shows until now in total, which is not extremely much, considering that we exist for a long time, but I guess following the release of our second album, we intended to have at least a short European tour each year. Lately last years were less, because of the pandemic and also because of changes in our private lives, but we surely hope to get back on the road again. One of the main goals of doing music, is to be able to travel around in interesting places and see places and new people that you would not be able to meet if you were not doing this and also seeing it from a very different side than you would have as a tourist for example. So I find this very rewarding. Of course lack of sleep and lack of hygiene on tour are not so much fun, but I still like it. Like being a travelling circus or something like that. It is like diving into a very singular experience, it is very much a bubble. You exist on the side of everything else when you are doing a tour. It is what you are doing now and that’s all. Then you come back home and okay, it is cold shower: back to work, back to normal life.

Don’t you have problems to make that click?
Not so much anymore, but when we were younger, we were partying harder when touring. It took me a couple of days off at work to sober up (laughs). But now it is pretty fine.

What is for instance a place that really struck you with the band?
We travelled most of Europe. I think of European countries, there are not that many that we haven’t played. We have not been in Portugal. We have not been in Ukraine. We have not been in Kosovo and a couple of smaller countries. But most of the bigger music markets, we played multiple times. I guess one of the countries that we connected the most with is Romania. I don’t really know why or what the cause is, maybe there is some kind of inner link or something with our expression that clicks with the mentality of Romanian people. We also have lots of friends from Romania. We worked with Costin Chioreanu for multiple albums, he is a Romanian artist. He did the artwork for ‘The Tower’, for ‘Stranger Times’ and also multiple videos for us and also other collaborations. The Dordeduh guys are also good friends of ours and Edmond Karban was working with us on ‘Stranger Times’. So I guess there is probably some kind of similarity between The Romanian and the Norwegian mentality that works in a way.

Oh yes the Dordeduh guys are very friendly. I talked such a long time with Edmond…
He is a fantastic guy! I don’t see him so often, but I still consider him as one of my closest friends.

I think that Vulture Industries can also be successful in a scene larger than metal only. Did you already experience something like that?
With our music? Yes, I think what we are doing is quite broad. It includes elements of lots of genres. It is not like we set out one thing, to go from there and there to make some strange mix and I don’t think it turned into a strange mix either. I think we have a quite distinct personality that shines through, even if we fall within progressive rock for a part or we are post-punk or we are closer to gothic metal at some point, or doom or whatever. I think all of our stuff can be really distinctly heard as Vulture Industries. It is easy to recognize the band once you have heard it a couple of times. Okay that was a little bit aside of the point. Well, our audience is very diverse and there are fans of many genres. I wonder, are there so many people that are only into technical death metal for example? Don’t people listen to multiple genres really? I guess most people do. From that perspective, it kind of makes sense that a band can also cross genre lines without being a problem. It is possible to really appeal to people interested in various things.

It is true what you say, most people have a broader taste than one segment only of the subgenres…
When we set out to make music, we wanted to make an experience. We didn’t want to be limited to a specific genre and I guess this can resonate with most people who are interested in music, especially in music you have to immerse in, a true experience. We make music that I think can work for many people, but of course, when you like us, who are diverse, it is also a bit difficult for people to market it. That side gets a bit fucked up, but it is what it is.

How did you ever get into music in your youth?
My first experience with playing music was playing – how is it called? A small tuba? – in a school band. That was my first experience with playing music, but it was not so much for me. I really wanted to play the drums at that point, but they did not need a drummer in the school band, but later when I was fourteen, I got a new friend and he got an older brother. I was playing bass guitar, I was really into it and my friend, he had also picked up playing bass guitar, and he was putting together a band. I couldn’t play anything that was relevant at that time, but because they needed a guitarist for the band, I had to play guitar. So that was like my first gig with a rock band. We were playing cover songs. Nirvana, Alice In Chains and some Norwegian bands… After a couple of years, we started writing music ourselves and I got more and more into writing music. I guess my stage personality sometimes got a bit in the way of the singer (laughs). Eventually we stopped this band and I started something new. Some of the guys followed, but in the end the vocalist that we had at that time didn’t fit so much in what I was making then, so I started singing in that project too. It was just a demo band, it was never released. Well… then I met Eivind – which is the guitar player of Vulture Industries – during this period. We did not do regular military service, we did civil service instead. It was during this civil service I met him and I showed him these demos. He was looking for a singer for his band – which was called Dead Rose Garden – and he heard these demos and got interested, but I was living at a different place at that moment. I was living close to Samara, he was living in Bergen, but after civil service I moved to Bergen to study and then we got into contact again and he asked me if I could try out for the band. It really worked out and a bit later it turned into Vulture Industries.

Ah now I have the whole story, that is nice! Your music reminds me a bit of another Norwegian band Madrugada. Do you know them?
Yes yes. I like various music. ‘Majesty’ is fantastic and I also like most of the first album, but I think the first album is the only one that I actually have.

Is there a special reason why you changed from Season of Mist to the Norwegian background of Karisma Records?
It is on Dark Essence. I work with Dark Essence, so it is very easy to be there. We were super happy with Season of Mist. Everything was fine there and Jessica was doing promo at Season of Mist, but with the work pace we had and since we released a single earlier on Dark Essence, it made more sense to do this album on Dark Essence. We discussed with Michael at Season of Mist we should do it as a split release or something like this and he said: ‘Go ahead. Do it yourself. It is not a problem’ and we did that and we got Jessica on board for promotion, so the connection was still good.

How do you think about making video clips? Is it something important in your vision?
I guess so. It is a part of the presentation that we are doing. So far we have been lucky to have worked with lots of talented people to make these video clips. For instance Costin does the animations really great, also the more regular movies that he did, for example ‘Something Vile’ for the last album, was great fun. Sometimes it is good to make a fun video, but it also has a layer of seriousness to it. Anyways, we did not really have a firm idea of what we wanted to do for that video in advance, but Costin was coming over. I don’t remember what was this specific reason for him for coming over, I think maybe he was there for Beyond The Gates festival, and he put in some extra days, so we could work on the video. Anyway we got this idea with the lonely dinosaur. I think we got this idea on Saturday and we were supposed to start filming the day after, so we had very little time to work this through and get the props that we needed. I started searching for a dinosaur suit. We didn’t found a dinosaur suit that fit me. We found one for children, with some modification my wife fit into. So she ended up being the dinosaur in the video. My kid was just some months old at that moment, we brought her to the shooting and he was walking around in the dinosaur suit. It was great fun to film that video.

I am jealous that you live in Bergen with the seven mountains.
Yes Bergen is fantastic. I like the city and I am very grateful to live here. I am not from Bergen, so I am allowed to say that Bergen is fantastic. Even though most people from Bergen actually say it as well (laughs). Of course, compared to most of the European countries, it is not a big city, but on a regional scale it is a big city. It’s got that smalltown atmosphere. Really nice and you are always close to nature, which is fantastic.

The artwork was done by Kim Holm. With the surrounding waves, I would not like to be in that ship…
(laughs) No. We originally had the idea to do this image as a photo, but we realized that it would require enormous amounts of work to actually get it together. We were not sure that it would actually work. Then we thought a bit more about it and we thought: ‘okay, we need something that looks a bit rough. Kim, he’s got a style that looks rough. He can do this’. I checked with him and he was basically all booked up with work, but he really wanted to do it. So he made some space to do this for us and he did some tests that didn’t work out but then he tuned it in and then it really worked. I never saw the one that he disregarded. That’s what he told me anyways. He did some test that did not work out but then when he really hit the nail on the head, he really nailed it and I am really happy with the artwork. It turned out really great. The idea about it is: you are in the middle of an ocean, you are in a boat. You  have an umbrella, so you are shielded against parts of  the elements, but you have no idea where you are going, because you have no control.

And that goes together with the themes of the album of course…

How did you actually come to the name of the band Vulture Industries?
That is not a very interesting story (laughs). I was recruited by Eivind and at that time the band was called Dead Rose Garden which did not fit in with what we turned into when I joined and other people were changed in the line-up. We change style, so we thought that we needed to also change the name. We were just playing around with putting words together and see what worked.

To occlude some words about the guest appearances. I like it a lot, it is so unexpected…
We used Hans’s saxophone a bit in the past, with different players I guess, the first introduction of saxophone was on the second album ‘Malefactor’s Bloody Register’, but anyways I think it is something that we really managed to incorporate into our sound in a better way on the later couple of albums, because we managed to make more space for it. I think this is one of the main things on ‘Ghosts From The Past’, we managed to make more room for the good ideas to breathe and grow and fulfil themselves instead of putting lots of stuff on top of each other all the time, which we sometimes did in the past which can be nice, but it can be too much and a bit of an aggregating listening experience. I think now we made proper room for the saxophone and the trumpets to develop and take their part in the soundscape. Hans Marius which we used for both those instruments on this album is a fantastic talented man. A super nice guy to work with. He is a professional. He plugs in and plays and we only have to add nuances to get the right feel on the takes. Yes it is a real pleasure to have him on board and he was also with us on our 20th anniversary concert in Bergen last month. That was really nice, to have trumpet and saxophone live. Much nicer than having backtracks which we did a lot in the past. On this one, my wife is also contributing a bit on vocals, which was really fun. In ‘Tyrants Weep Alone’, the last track. I think I was experimenting a bit with harmonies and I could pitch my own vocals one octave higher and I realized I sounded like my wife (laughs), so I asked her to do these vocals and it turned out really nice.

Social media