On January 22, 2006, we find
ourselves in the Melkweg in Amsterdam to attend the Music Against Cancer
festival. A musical benefit put together by Eric Gijsen-Muziekprodukties
in order to raise funds for the Dutch Cancer Foundation (KWF). All the
bands on the bill are donating a show today, the Norwegian band Trail Of
Tears will headline the festival. Tonight will be the final show of a
four-day tour of the Netherlands. Prior to the show we are given the
opportunity to interview the obviously fatigued singer Ronny Thorsen.
I am not very familiar with
your previous albums, could you start by giving us a brief history of
We got the band together in the early nineties, well, 1996 or 1997
actually. Back then we sounded even more different than we did a couple
of years ago. In fact, there is quite a resemblance between what we did
back then and what weíre doing now, although our sound has really
evolved. In the beginning we did more straightforward stuff. The
keyboards and female vocals were added in a later stadium. Up till now
we have produced four albums, the last of which (ĎFree Fall into Fearí)
was released February 2005. the first two albums were released via the
Dutch label DSFA Records, we had signed a two-album deal with them in
1998. ĎDisclosure in Redí was released in 1998 and was followed by
ĎProfoundemoniumí in 2000. We then signed with Napalm Records for three
records so we will release at least one more with Napalm Records.
Your latest album ĎFree Fall
into Fearí was released almost a year ago but Iíd still like to ask you
a couple of questions about this album.
Sure, go ahead.
On your latest album we find
youíve made a major change in your musical direction. The Gothic-like
metal has made place for a more Deathmetal-orientated sound. Why did you
make this change?
At first we did not intend to leave out the female vocals completely.
But the last few years there had been an explosion in this genre.
Female-fronted bands were popping up everywhere, especially in the
Netherlands. So to keep the music interesting for ourselves we had to
make some changes to our sound. And then there was also the fact that
our last female vocalist Cathrine Paulsen wanted to take a whole
different musical path. So it was no longer possible for us to work with
her. We still wanted to use female vocals on our albums, we just wanted
them to be less prominent. When Cathrine left the band most of the songs
for the new album had already been written and at first we considered
looking for a new female vocalist but we soon realised that the songs
sounded fine without a female voice.
So when your female vocalist
left you actually made a conscious decision to change your musical
Thatís right. Like I said earlier, we had to approach the song writing
process completely differently because thereís a large number of
female-fronted bands out there right now. Donít get me wrong I love
these bands but it seems like nowadays the record labels will sign any
band that has a female singer. In my opinion there are only a few of
these bands out there that are offering something new. Many things have
been done for years, just not on the same level. So it was very
important for us to come up with something different. Looking back now I
must admit that some changes might have happened too fast but you canít
ignore the fact that weíve had the same line-up for eight years now,
apart from the singers. Over these years we produced four albums and
although the latest album sounds quite different we are still the same
musicians. And our sound is still recognisable, I guess we still sound
like Trail Of Tears, but with a different sound if you know what I mean.
The songs are more to the point now, they donít have a hundred layers of
keyboards anymore. We kind of undressed the structures of the songs.
How did your fans and the
press respond to the changes?
With the fans itís like a fifty-fifty thing. Half of them love it and
the other half would prefer it if we stuck to our old sound. We also saw
this happen in the past when we released the previous albums, sometimes
you lose fans but you can gain new fans, too. The reviews from the press
on the other hand are good. The interesting thing is that we are now
getting good reviews from various magazine from different countries that
used to give us bad reviews or none at all.
You have two singers now. How
do you write songs and lyrics, is it a joint thing?
Besides myself Kjetil Nordhus has now joined the band fulltime as a
singer. He also plays in Green Carnation, but he is not new to our band.
Heís worked with us for years now, heís sung on our other albums and
heís also been on different tours with us. The most part of the songs is
written by our bass-player and guitarist. Over the years we have
collected some good recording equipment at home. This way we can all
record our ideas and then play them for the others when we come together
to practice. We donít write the melodies and lyrics until the music has
been completely written. Kjetil writes about twenty percent of the
lyrics and I take care of the rest. When I want to start song writing I
try to leave town and go to a quiet place in the heart of the woods. I
lock myself up there for a week and get the lyrics done. I know Kjetil
does the same thing.
Did you have a larger budget
for the last album and, if so, did this influence the recording process?
We recorded the album in Norway although we initially wanted to record
it in France like we did the previous album. The French studio was fully
booked so we decided to record in our home town. Green Carnation had
recorded their last two albums in this studio. I wasnít very happy about
recording there at first. Right at the beginning we had some technical
problems like a computer crash and the producer was very hard to work
with. We planned to record the album in six weeks but it took us nine
months in the end. The main reason for this was faulty studio equipment
and incapabilities of the producer.
Did this influence the album
in any way?
Yes, we expressed a lot of anger in this album. I felt I could do two
things, either ventilate my aggression via my lyrics or kick the
producerís ass. We had almost the same budget for this album as we did
for the previous one (ĎA New Dimension of Mightí). We were able to
manage easily money wise because we were staying in our home town. We
could go home at night and didnít have to buy expensive plane tickets.
Being close to your home and family is definitely an advantage of
recording in your home town. On the other hand itís also good to go far
away from home and leave it all behind when youíre recording. It works
better this way for me. If you can just go home every time things are
not going the way you want, it will take an eternity to finish a record.
You need to have some pressure.
Were the songs completely
written when you went into the studio?
Most of them were, yes. We did change some stuff of course. We added
some things and left some things out. Most of the songs have turned out
different than we had planned, though. Itís not a bad thing, it just had
to do with the production and the studio.
In retrospective, are you
content with the final product or are there maybe some things that you
would liked to have changed?
Actually I always want to change things afterwards, but it has to be
that way. The day you make a perfect album is the day you quit because
you can never top that. I am of course very content with the album, but
itís not the album I would make at this moment in time.
On your website it says that
you have already written some songs for your next album. Enlighten us?
Yep, we have seven or eight songs practically finished. But we havenít
chosen a studio yet and we donít know when we will be recording the
album. Hopefully this will be half May or in June and then we could
release the album in September or October. It all depends on money, if
the budget is sufficient then this will be the plan. I canít tell you
much about the songs yet, we have the structures for seven or eight
songs, not the whole songs. The songs will definitely be more
orchestral. We are even considering using more string instruments, which
makes things more complicated because it means we have to find the right
musicians close to the studio. Like I said, we still need to decide on
Speaking of budget, what are
your sentiments about all the illegal downloading of music?What
can I say, on the one hand itís a good thing. If you like a band but
have no money you can still listen to their music this way. At least a
band can gain fans this way. Of course downloading has quite an impact
on bands our size. I really donít care if people download music from
Metallica. Theyíre going to sell five million albums anyway. The problem
in our genre is that for us the downloading thing does make a
difference, if the bands that have almost made it would sell a few more
albums, then they could live off it.
I think thatís a reason why
concert tickets have become so expensive!
It is. The bands need to get paid more to cover their expenses that way.
How did you get into the
Oh, thatís real long ago. I started listening to metal at a young age
and I had a cool cousin who gave me different things to listen to. I was
about eight or nine I think. And when I was ten my dad took me to an
Iron Maiden concert. I grew up with the rest of the band in a small
place in the south of Norway. Everyone knew each other. A couple of guys
that are also in Trail Of Tears now had a cover band back then. They
played Sepultura and Pantera and occasionally some Death metal songs.
Their singer was twelve years old then and he wasnít a very convincing
grunter. I liked the extreme vocal so I gave it a try. I was sixteen
Which bands do you listen to?
I listen to everything from Dark Throne to David Bowie. Iím a great fan
of heavy, dark singers like in Arcturus and Samael; dark, atmospheric
vocalists. If I had to name an absolute favourite it would be A-HA, a
Norwegian popband. And also Emperor. Thereís quite a contrast there but
my philosophy is that you need to give every style in music a chance. It
sucks that so many people just listen to one type of music and assume
that everything else is crap.
When youíre listening to
music, do you pay extra attention to the vocals?
Of course you listen to whatís your own speciality, but itís all about
the composition as a whole so I try to enjoy music in its totality.
How are you going to get
round the fact that you donít have a female vocalist for your shows?
Some songs we simply wonít play anymore, especially the stuff from the
first album is hard to do. But we will always try to play songs off all
the albums. Kjetil will also take on part of these vocals. On the album
before the last there are hardly any female vocals so thatís easier to
How do you feel about playing
the benefit concert today?
Itís a real good thing, I wish they would do this kind of thing more in
Norway. We feel honoured to play here today. Itís heart-warming to see
how many bands and other people came to show their support today. I feel
itís important for bands to do this kind of thing. Almost everyone knows
someone that has cancer or knew someone that died of it. This is our way
of giving support, you donít have to be a doctor or scientist to do
Weíre almost done, one final
question: How do you see the future of the band?
We hope to finish the next album soon, but this depends largely on the
budget. Then we can make plans for the rest of the year. When the album
is released we want to promote it as much as possible. We just want to
get out there and play! If we get the chance we will also make up for
the Mexican tour which was cancelled last fall, and then we want to
visit South America, weíve never played there before.
Is there anything youíd still
like to say to the readers and fans?
I would like to thank everyone for coming to our shows the past days,
there was a lot more people there than on our last tour in October,
Thank you for your time, we
hope to speak to you in the future.
No problem, see you next time.
We would like to take this
opportunity to thank Natascha and Ivo and of course
Eric who is responsible for this great initiative!
(Martina Schouten / Eugene Straver)