Some Things Get Lost In The Mix – An Interview Feature With Despereaux
By Simon Gore
On a warm, Oslo summer evening, I got together with ¾’s of Oslo hardcore band, Despereaux – Guitarist/vocalist, Emil Solbakken. Guitarist, Simen Trippestad and drummer/vocalist, Per Åsmund Reymert. We gathered in Per’s Torshov apartment, overlooking the serene high street. Amongst the records, guitars and DVDs, a corner was dawned by an opulent art installation of a shopping trolley filled with empty beer cans. After preparing coffee we sat down to discuss the bands initially unintentional “double” release, their durative relationship with their music and how sometimes things just get lost in the mix, or on top of cars.
Hugging the Cactus was recorded as a follow up to their groundbreaking 2014 debut, Luna Pars Fortuna but has been in the making for some 2 years and will be unleashed to the world in August. Whereas their June 2017 release Cursed, featuring newer material was turned over within a couple of months. The conception between the two works is heavily contrasting. Yet both feature their signature, textural avalanche of absolute raw capacity teamed with a fresh and unconventionally inventive playing style. Both works demand and consume every fibre of your consciousness, sonically cascading into unexplored expanses of Scandi-Hardcore.
SG: So, gentlemen, here we are. What a lovely day. You’ll be impressed to know I’ve done absolutely no preparation for this. You recorded Hugging the Cactus some time ago?
ES: 2 years ago, in Alesund.
SG: I’m not going to pretend I know where that is.
ES: On the west coast, it’s beautiful. But the record wasn’t finished until August/September last year because we did all the vocals and one guitar track our selves. We spent too much time on it for it to have ever come out until now.
SG: Which studio did you record it in?
PÅR: FrontRow Studios with a guy called Fredrik Ingebrigtsen. He’s done a bunch of cool things and we worked with him in high-school on our un-released first album.
SG: You should do a Snöras thing – go on a 5 year hiatus and then release your first recordings on cassette.
ST: That will be something to do when we’re super lazy. Take 10 years off then just say “here you go”.
SG: I saw some pictures from your time at the studio and it did look like very good fun. Did Fredrik just act as the engineer on the record or did he play any role as a producer?
PÅR: He doesn’t want to be named as a “producer”. He just silently, has this presence. He will never say anything unless you ask him, and if you ask him, he has a very subtle way of answering.
SG: Was it mixed in house?
PÅR: Yeah Fredrik mixed it there and it was mastered by Alan Douches at West Side Music in New York.
SG: Do you have a release date for Hugging the Cactus?
ES: Yes we do, finally. The 25th of August. The same as Queens of the Stone Age.
SG: Are you doing a release party?
PÅR: Yes at Revolver in Oslo on the 25th.
SG: So you put out your new EP, Cursed on the 6th of June. That was recorded this year, way after Hugging the Cactus. How did this come about?
ES: There’s this guy from Westerdals. We played a split gig with his band, Languil 2 years ago at Last Train. We kept in contact and when he was finishing his BA degree he chose to record us as his major assignment. He also mixed and mastered it for free. It was good enough to release and we had been quietly occupied with the other album so we put it out.
SG: I crashed the studio session and it did sound incredible when you were tracking it. That release was digital only but are you doing physicals for Hugging the Cactus?
ST: Yes, we are. Vinyl actually.
PÅR: I think it’s logical to look at Hugging the Cactus as the natural follow-up to our first release, Luna Pars Fortuna. Because it’s this sort of mirror image thing. Conceptually it looks quite like Luna Pars Fortuna.
ES: The cover image is by the same photographer.
PÅR: 6 songs on Luna, 6 songs on Hugging the Cactus. The way I have looked at it is because the Hugging the Cactus saga has claimed so much of our energy that Cursed was a blessing in disguise. To track three songs, have it released and not worry about anything else was great fun for us. I think I’m going to cry when we release Hugging the Cactus because it’s taken so long. We just want to move on. But it is very good and we are proud of it. I think people will like it.
SG: So you multi-track record?
ST: Yes. We did talk about trying to record something live.
ES: Maybe with a video
SG: I have philosophies about multi-track recording. I used to multi-track everything, especially with bands or recording myself. But my view now, from a band format, is that if you are writing in a live environment, with the intention of taking it out and performing it live, by multi-tracking, you’re actually removing the main intention of the music.
PÅR: You set us up didn’t you.
SG: Not at all, it’s just me blabbering shit, again. But I think it would work really well for you guys.
ES: It’s not about skill, but we’re really trying to catch a nerve when we’re recording stuff. It’s not that it has to be perfectly on time or on click, it just that all of it has to feel right to all 4 of us as we all write the songs, no one’s just in the band – everyone’s contributing. That translates into the studio as well.
PÅR: One thing that we sort of do, sometimes, is listen to previous recordings. Like that we did with that one recording from our Radio Nova show with you, Simon, we were trying to capture certain semi-improvised live things. Emil does a lot of crazy shit with the guitar live that’s sometimes impossible to work out again if you try and dissect it.
ES: And vocal stuff too – when you’re in the moment and full of adrenaline and do out-of-the-box things without thinking.
SG: Like a semi-conscious thing that you don’t always remember.
SG: Which reminds me, you’re currently my wife’s favourite singer.
ES: Hahaha… singer! There’s a lot of good vocal on the next release, from all of us.
SG: You’re all doing vocals on it?
PÅR: We can say yeah, even Simen is doing vocals on it. He has a very low voice.
ST: I can’t actually hear myself on that recording. I think it got cut away.
PÅR: That’s the thing about Fredrik, when we’re talking about subtle producing, he basically told us before hand what he usually does. He said “people send me mixes and I just edit things out in some places and if they like it, they like it.”
ES: He said that when he was recording with his band and some of the other guys were really persistent on what parts they wanted to keep, he just said “well, some things get lost in the mix”.
[LOLs throughout the room]
SG: Other than the records, have you made any other merchandise? Because I hear there’s some pretty good Despereaux merch on the black market.
ST: There were some pretty cool T-shirts and some buttons/badges…
PÅR:…I just got what you’re talking about.
[turbo LOLs throughout the room]
ST: The thing with these T-shirts is that we printed very few of them. We were going to take them to a gig we played in Stavanger last summer. I think it was you, Per, who put them in the box.
ES: They were in the box, we were moving them to make space in the car, he put the box on top of the car before we drove off…
PÅR: I’m not sure why I’m being mentioned here because I wasn’t part of the gig.
ST: …oh no. That’s right you weren’t.
PÅR: I was in Sicily and you have the nerve to blame me.
ST: The short story is we drove off with them on the roof of the car. They were not still there when we arrived in Stavanger.
ES: They were sick.
PAR: So, they are somewhere. We’d appreciate if you could mention it in the interview, because we want them back because there’s some money in there too.
SG: What if you get 30 random people turning up to your release party, all wearing your lost T-shirts?
ES: The funniest and saddest part is that Lars had to get a fake, American zip-code so he could get it shipped here from the USA, so he wouldn’t have broke even if we sold them all. I think we’re ordering from Sweden next time.
SG: So are you breaking the silence on the live front?
PÅR: The first gig after the release party is a big event in the Norwegian hardcore calendar; a festival by Jompi Myren from Ieatheattacks in Harpefoss.
ES: It’s going to be sssssssssssick.
SG: Shit, when is that happening?
ES: 9th of September. It’s like 45 minutes north of Lillehammer and we’re playing with a lot of good bands – Sibir, Bokassa, Kambodsja, Naga Siren (shameless plug by Emil)…
[at this point Per answers his phone]
ES: That’s pretty fucking unprofessional
[Per continues the interview]
PÅR: Yeah it’s going to be pretty awesome and we are planning some more shows after that.
ST: We did talk about doing some touring with Ieatheartattacks as we did last year but the schedule might be a little tight but we’re pretty open and willing to play.
SG: Other than the next release and the shows, do you have any new work in the making or plans to record again?
PÅR: We have a shit load of songs and ideas. There’s some sort of dread and excitement about going in and working with each other again but it usually takes a lot of time so it sort of has to be processed. It’s a good thing, I think, to invest a lot of time into the songs. But with Cursed, we didn’t spend a lot of time on it, we just went with it, so I think we will just have to minimise discussions and kerb any Tom-foolery. We’re a little too focussed on details.
SG: You have to be though.
PÅR: I think so.
SG: Is there any noticeable differences between the two releases, on a compositional or production level?
ES: There is a lot of differences. I think the songs on Hugging the Cactus are a little more genre based, like it’s traditionally closer to hardcore than the first release. It’s pretty straightforward but still quite clever as compared to most hardcore bands.
PÅR: Hugging the Cactus is a bit more progressive. But I also think that the production on Cursed seems a lot more dynamic but that has a lot to do with us four just knowing what we’re talking about now. When we were recording Hugging the Cactus, only Lars really knew had to go about making certain sounds. I still don’t know how to properly tune a drum kit.
ES: We just know more. We’ve played a lot and spent more time in the studio and kind of know, what things are going to sound like once they’re mixed and mastered. The next time we record we can step it up a notch by using the right equipment.
ES: We have actually used a lot of time trying to just focus on the sound and not taking it for granted, you know. Both when it comes to our gear and when we go into the studio and have a really clear idea of how we want to sound. Whereas before, we took in more with open arms and tried out whatever the studio had then tried to work it from there. In that sense, Cursed is actually closer to our live sound.
SG: You guys have got some new toys? What did you use on the records?
ST: I used a new Fender Jazzmaster on Cursed but on Hugging the Cactus it’s my same old Telecaster without any effects.
ES: And some of Fredrik’s Telecasters. I, at least used an American standard Telecaster. But I’ve had a lot of guitars in and out since then. I sold the best one I had though.
SG: Not the white strat? Why did you sell it?
PÅR: That fucking pissed me off. I heard about it from someone else, too. And it looked really good on you, Emil.
ES: yeah it was a mistake, but I’ll get another one eventually.
PÅR: I actually heard it’s banned to use a white Stratocaster these days, it’s blasphemy.
SG: What about Lars?
PÅR: Mostly his red Epiphone. Well he actually had to pawn that bass. He pawned it to me. Whenever he’s in a bad financial situation I have often come to his aid to rescue his toys. So that bass has actually been in my possession a couple of times, but now it’s his again. But I’m happy that you’re asking me about toys because I sort of get left out, being a drummer. But I have my own snare and I am going to buy another kick pedal because mine broke, but we have this Luna Pars Fortuna/Hugging the Cactus theme where nobody has ever seen our drum kit…
SG: Was it a transparent vistalite?
[dead silence in the room. No one got the joke]
SG: So any plans to record again?
PÅR: Not as of yet but we’ll get a live video done first. We just need to chose the songs. I think the songs off the album, Hugging the Cactus are good enough. Even though we recorded it as an album, we ended up cutting it down so it is actually a 6-track EP. Some time in the future we may release the whole thing so people get to see what the whole vision was.
SG: Some things get lost in the mix, you know.
Despereaux – Hugging The Cactus Due August 23rd 2017