A chat with Bjørnar Nilsen of Vulture Industries

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Bjørnar Nilsen of Vulture Industries live@Betong, Oslo
Photo: Andrea Chirulescu / studiorock.ro

If you're looking for catchy progressive metal with a high dose of 'WTF' element and you haven't yet listened to Vulture Industries, it's about time you use your google knowledge in combination with that name. Or simply visit their website. The Norwegians have been around with this name since 2002 and the début album, The Dystopia Journals, was released on Dark Essence Records in September 2007, followed three years later by The Malefactor's Bloody Register, which can easily be judged by its cover and categorised and I need to hear that. Once you do that, you're either mesmerised by the insanity of their compositions, the vocal versatility and the overall coolness of their sound, or you're in big shock and think it was a bad nightmare. And if you fall in the first category and then you get the chance to see them live, then you're probably in for one of the most interesting and simple live performance on the metal stage - the simplicity resides in the limited number of stage props.

On Saturday, mid May, Vulture Industries got to play in Oslo for one of the 'South of Heaven' events organised by the Betong venue. Before the concert, their vocalist and main composer, Bjørnar Erevik Nilsen saved some time for an interview with me, in which he revealed a bit about the band's future plans, combined with small bits of personal philosophy. Enjoy the lecture, listen to the band's music and, most of all, go see them live. And watch out for when Bjørnar climbs down from the stage and starts wandering through the crowd, as he might pass by and sing right into your ear.

Me: What's new in the life of Vulture Industries? I heard you just signed a new contract with a label..

We just signed with Season of Mist and we're currently writing material for the next album. We have five songs that are ready, and four in the making. We've scheduled to start recording in August, so I hope we will be ready by then. We'll start mixing in October. This time though, the mix will be done in Sweden, instead of me taking care of it. We will work with Jens Bogren who has done a lot of great albums with bands like Enslaved, Katatonia, Opeth. We're trying to look at things from a different angle this time, in order to get some outside perspective on our own mix. I am already so involved in writing songs and doing the pre production, then recording the material, so it's really nice to get some outsider's input.

Me: What does the new contract mean for you? More money, more shows?

I don't think more money per se, but I guess we will be available to a broader audience. That doesn't necessarily mean accessible to a broader audience, but definitely more promotion. We will also have the album out in North America, which didn't happen with our previous releases. I guess better promotion will also mean more shows to come.

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Bjørnar Nilsen of Vulture Industries live@Betong, Oslo
Photo: Andrea Chirulescu / studiorock.ro

Me: Your band doesn't really play the most common of metal genres. What's the weirdest description you heard about your music?

Burt metal

Me: Huh?

Burt metal, like in Burt Reynolds. I don't remember the complete context, but the sentence was something like, 'this is impossible to describe, but for the sake of argument let's call it burt metal'.

Me: Do you guys do often to theatre plays or does anyone in the band have any theatre experience?

I used to be involved into some youth theatre groups when I was between sixteen and twenty. I'm not so good at going to theatre though, but I like the concept of acting.

Me: Is there any directing for the shows you put on stage?

No, there's no choreography. It's more or less improvised and developed throughout the shows.

Me: Are you turning into someone else when you're performing on stage though?

Yeah, actually yes. The performance needs to get at the same level with the music and I am not up on stage being the regular Bjørnar Erevik, the nice regular guy, but I am up there doing a piece of acting.

Me: You're being a vulture?

Yeah

Me: Where does the band name come from, what inspired it and what other choices did you have when you picked it?

It's a hazy story. Øyvind had a band that he started back in ninety eight, playing a quite different kind of music and different line up. I moved to Bergen from the Southern part of Norway and at that time they were looking for a singer. He knew me, so we did some tests and it worked out well. But we didn't feel comfortable with the direction of the music so it soon changed and turned into a completely different band. Hence, we needed a new name. I think the name we found it's more or less a picture of the Western civilisation, people eating each other up. Unfortunately, I cannot remember what other names we discussed back then.

Me: What keeps you doing this kind of music, considering you don't reach such a broad audience with it…

It's what I like. It's a mixture of all the stuff that I love about music. I personally have quite a wide, yet strange taste in music. I like stuff that's a bit bizarre and it needs to have its own soul. I believe that in order for music to be a lasting experience, something you get to still enjoy as time passes, it needs to have a feeling of honesty, of being true. It has to come from deep within the soul. I could probably come up with some catchy stuff that makes a hit, but it would have been shit in the end. It would have lasted for a couple of weeks and then everyone simply forgets about it.

Me: I also guess there's no limitations in your band

No, we always go for whatever feels right. I love being creative.

Me: So I assume being honest and real is the main ingredient in writing your music, but what exactly do you need in order to trigger that process? Do you need a special state of mind, or watch movies, listen to other music, listen to no music at all?

It differs a bit, but my main catalyst for writing is actually walking. When I walk I have this four track app on my cellphone. I walk around and I sing into the cell phone, first I do the beat then maybe a bass line or a guitar line or so. Then, when I go home, I can work it out on the studio. But of course, movies can be a big inspiration, same as reading.

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Bjørnar Nilsen of Vulture Industries live@Betong, Oslo
Photo: Andrea Chirulescu / studiorock.ro

Me: You sing a lot about human nature. Does it mean your walks need to be among people or far away from them?

I usually need to be away from people actually.

Me: As far as the new songs have been composed, do they follow the same lyrics direction or are you aiming at new subjects?

I don't really know what to say, because I haven't started that much on the lyrics. We mostly have music ready. I have the lyrics finished for one song and that one is indeed, more or less the same style. It's definitely about the gruesomeness of human nature. Music wise though, I think this album will be a bit more rock.

Me: Did you ever consider making a musical?

I'd like to involve some theatre related to our music at some point, it would be great. But I've never really been comfortable with the musical thing. It never appealed to me too much. There's parts of it I like, but also parts that bore me. So, maybe I might do a musical, but not call it that.

Me: I read somewhere about your latest release, The Malefactor's Bloody Register, that lyrics wise it is about humanity seen through the justice system. Do you believe in the existence of a justice system nowadays?

I do believe in the existence of an injustice system. I like the idea of some absolute definition of justice, something really clear that you can point to and say “this is justice”. But I don't think that's possible.

Me: That's because of human nature?

Mmmyeah.

Me: How much is the album cover related to this idea?

There's a big connection between the two. The man on the cover is an image of the scale, the symbol of justice. The noose is heavier than the law and the good ideas it might hold. The cover is a photo taken by my girlfriend, taken especially for the album. The character you see there is a famous Norwegian actor.

Me: On the opening song of the album (Crooks and Sinners), there's an old kind of piano like sound, what instrument did you use?

It's some kind of organ with some tremolo effects on it. I don't think you'll find the same sound too often since it has gone through certain processes.

Me: And you also worked with Herbrand Larsen from Enslaved…

He does some of the keys on the album. He's a good friend of ours and I run a sound studio together with him and some others.

Me: So it was easy to just throw in a question

Yea, sure, he's in the next room.

Me: How important do you think it is the fact that the band comes from Bergen? There's quite an established metal (even underground) scene there, home of many internationally loved acts.

I think the musical environment in Bergen has a good tradition for doing stuff a bit on the side of normal patterns and supports following your own ideas. The Bergen county is very good at supporting the local musicians.

Me: No matter how 'creative' they are?

Yea, actually they have been very kind to us. We have some good contacts there that think we have a lot of potential, also we have some very good organisations in Bergen for helping educate musicians to handle the business part of this industry. They have touring courses, how to write applications for this and that, how to do your tax returns, etc. So, from that point of view, I believe Bergen is a good city for music. We also had 'Hole in the Sky' , which was a great festival that brought a lots of the good parts of the metal business.

Me: Speaking of education, is anyone in the band musically educated.

Nope. Only home learning.

Me: I ask this quite often in my interviews and almost nobody answers yes to it.

I think that with metal and rock it is mainly like that. I actually was recording some violins in the studio a couple of weeks ago. The girl had these music sheets and we were looking over at stuff when she started pointing out at the notes saying 'this one is a bit up'. I had to be honest with her and explain that I had no idea where that note was, so it's easier if she pointed it on the screen or something and I will find it.

Me: Was it violins for the new album?

No, we haven't started recording the proper parts yet.

Me: What does proper parts mean? (I'm working hard to find out some secrets here)

Hehe. We're only doing pre-production now. Test takes mainly.

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Vulture Industries live@Betong, Oslo
Photo: Andrea Chirulescu/ studiorock.ro

Me: Do you think your music passes for a party?

No. Well, a really weird party actually. I would like to see that party. Maybe something for Halloween.

Me: I don't know how often you guys have been on tour overall, but how is it to go touring with one of the longest hairs I've ever seen in the metal world. How much time does he spend in the shower?

He's not so bad actually. It's really fun. We get a lot of shampoo questions though. They come and ask which shampoo he is using and stuff like that. And I have no idea, since I don't have that much of a shampoo problem anymore.

Me: You happened to play quite often in Romania, around three times I believe. How come you returned so often there?

The start was made by Doru from Dark Bombastic Evening booking us for one show in Bucharest and we really liked it there. The concert was good and got fantastic feedback. The fans were crazy and we loved so much playing there. Afterwards, I was organising a tour, so we wanted to put in a Romania gig. That's when we did the one in Timișoara, another great place to play. One year after that Doru contacted me again as he was doing the bigger festival in Alba Iulia and wanted us to come back. We couldn't refuse it, since Romania is one of our favourite places to play.

Me: What about current touring plans. Right now you have these series of concerts with Taake and Helheim, but only in Norway, right?

Yea, and this one is the last gig. The only stuff that we have set for now is a gig at Hellfest in France, then one festival in Czech Republic, but we'll probably do an European tour later this year.

Me: After the album release?

No, it won't wait for the album release and we'll probably go again on tour once the album is out. Season of Mist need quite a bit of promo time after they receive the master, and since we don't think it will be out before February next year, we decided not to wait that long with the touring.

Me: Do you prefer festival gigs better or individual tour shows? I like both really. It's very different animals doing small club shows compared to those at festivals. I'm not sure I have a favourite.

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Interview with Bjørnar Nilsen of Vulture Industries
Photo: Kenneth Sporsheim