MetalTalk's Roger Fauske got together with Carmen from Norwegian band SAVN (album review is already on MetalTalk) about the band, their plans and generally putting the music world to rights.
RF: Musically, it is quite a departure from previous bands and maybe not what people are used to from the band members. Was the direction pre planned or was it more a case of the music taking you there? What influenced you all to go in this direction?
Carmen: Hi Roger, great question! I totally agree with you, SAVN is quite different from The Sins of Thy Beloved and Midnattsol. When I became a regular member of the band and the song writing process together started, the musical direction felt very natural I have to say. We never wanted to be a copy of anyone, and nothing was pre-planned or anything.
"Much more we inspired each other while writing songs and got inspiration to something unique that we had never created before. It has never been so easy writing songs, it was this special flow over us, and we felt very creative. We never stopped up and thought: 'No wait, this is the wrong direction'."
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RF: With the song structure, most people will notice the presence of the fiddles where a lot of bands would have the customary guitar solo. It does work very well, but was it a vision from the beginning to have the fiddles so heavily involved?
Carmen: It became clear pretty soon that the fiddles would play a big role in our music, we all thought it fit so perfectly into our songs. I wouldn't call it vision, but song by song we thought: 'here a fiddle should come!', and we felt that it would lack something huge without it.
RF: The music, and particularly the rock scene in Norway, is probably stronger and more varied than it has ever been. Of course Norway is still unfortunately associated musically with the burning churches era but that is slowly changing (it gained notoriety abroad so it is understandable... Jahn Teigen never quite had the same impact!). The irony though is a lot of the bands make it bigger elsewhere as Norway has a tendency to go for the more pop end of the market on occasion. Is that something you can see changing in the future and does it make life as a touring band a little more complicated? How do you see the state of Norwegian music?
Carmen: The funny thing about Norway's rock scene is that we have loads of bands compared to the people living here, but at the same time there are not so many people actually supporting the bands and buying the albums that are made! Perhaps you could compare it with an export article hehe ;) I could be wrong, but this is my impression at least. I know sooo many metal bands only in my county and some of them are well-known abroad, but at home they don't get the same attention. SAVN has got such overwhelming good feedback abroad (including UK – thank you so much!!), but some of the worst reviews come from Scandinavia, can you believe it hehe? Like you mention, touring includes a lot of travelling and that costs of course. I don't know what the future will bring, but I still have the hope that the Vikings here around open up their eyes and ears for SAVN and other rock and metal bands, that would mean a lot to us!
RF: Yes, the market there does seem a little slow, apart from the more extreme metal historically. As you say there are some very good Norwegian bands, the likes of Audrey Horne from the wonderful city of Bergen, and they have the same issues in their home country.
Is the media at fault with the lack of publicity and airtime?
Carmen: Yes, you have a good point there! When it comes to Norway or Scandinavia in general, there are not that many media channels for the metal bands that are not that hard or extreme after my impression. And without media exposure, your music will not be shown to so many people. It's also very difficult to get your hands on CDs in shops here, they almost don't sell CDs anymore and only order a limited number of metal albums. I hope something changes and that the scene get more open-minded to musicians not following trends!
RF: You touched on the songwriting in the bio, but what is the actual process behind it and is it a democratic process?
Carmen: Yes, a very democratic one, which I think is amazing! We are good friends and feel that we can say whatever we want to. Stig started the song writing process some years ago with all his basic guitar ideas, so when I got involved, some songs were already made by him and Anders. I was allowed to make the changes I wanted though, and we started rewriting every song and wrote new ones. We made ideas on our own, and when we met, we worked with developing the ideas together. I felt free to let the creativity flow in every way, and I think that influenced the result. Some of the melodies on the album are the best I've ever made after my opinion. But I could never have done it without the great inspiration from the other two!
RF: Being mischievous... what is your opinion on the music industry today, and how it functions to help the artist and the music (or doesn't!).
Carmen: The music business has changed a lot during the years and also since I stepped into it in the beginning of 2000. I think today it's much more difficult for musicians to survive and the way to success is harder. Now the scene explodes with bands and artists who compete about getting known. The digital world makes it harder to sell real records as well, which again affects the label and everyone involved, which again affects the band. I get the sad impression that money is the most important thing in many cases, and not the music itself.
It's not so much about making or supporting the music you believe in and want to share with other people any more, it's about earning the most money and getting the most attention. But at the same time, I have to say that SAVN has got to know lots of fantastic people who does everything they can to support us, we are actually overwhelmed over the great response and help we are offered. We wouldn't have come so far without the amazing support, we are so grateful for it! THANX TO ALL OF YOU IN THIS PLACE!! (including you and MetalTalk!)
RF: It is definitely about the money not the music. I know this may be an unpopular thought, but I think some of the problem is it is almost too easy for people to record things nowadays – so the market is swamped with mediocre music, almost becoming the norm. Do you have any opinions on that?
Carmen: Yes I agree with you, you have a good point there. With the help of the technological development, it's really not hard to record anything. On one hand it's positive that good bands and artists have more possibilities than earlier to show the world their music. But on the other hand, when the market is so overloaded, the chances for these musicians to actually get heard are not that big after how I see it.
RF: Back to the album - we know about the guitar, keyboards, vocals and fiddles but how were the drum tracks laid down?
Carmen: The great drummer Felix Born recorded it in studio, we are so satisfied with his work! He got some freedom to change some beats here and there, but Stig wrote most of the drum tracks. They were together in studio and cooperated very well.
RF: You sing one song in Norwegian - is that something you would like to do more of or is there always the worry that the language is not widely enough known for a mass market?
Carmen: Yes absolutely, I really like singing in my mother tongue. What I sing feels even more close to me and I enjoy the variation by writing in another language than English. Still, it's not a must for me on every album, it has to come naturally and fit to the atmosphere of the music, that's the most important thing. It felt very natural to sing in Norwegian in 'Lengselens Hånd', I just started singing with Norwegian words. Very often it happens on songs with this Nordic folk feeling, and that was the case here as well.
The first time I released a Norwegian song (on Midnattsol's first album 'Where Twilight Dwells') I was a bit worried that people would think that it sounded weird, and that it wouldn't make an affect on people, but the crazy thing was that I was overloaded with feedback that the fans wanted more. Some asked for a whole Norwegian album, some started learning Norwegian and some have visited and moved to Norway as well! So I never worried about that anymore hehe ;) When people who don't understand the language tell me that 'Lengselens Hånd' is the most beautiful song on SAVN's album and that it goes straight to their hearts, it hits me that music can be really magical.
RF: What live plans do you have at the moment?
Carmen: We would love to tour in the UK and other parts of the world and meet our fantastic fans face to face, but first we have to wait and see how the fans like our new album. The reviews and feedback have been awesome so far, so it looks promising! We have already found some live musicians and are planning the live-band SAVN. We want to have as much live and authentic as we can, we are not big fans of playback. But of course, to hire a whole string orchestra for each concert would be a bit difficult ;) We let you know as soon as we have more info, stay tuned on our homepage www.savn-offical.com and our FB-site! Hope to meet you one day on the road!
RF: So it sounds like SAVN is a long term plan, rather than one project. Will you and the other members still go back to the music you were more known for or can you see it as a more permanent departure?
Carmen: Yes you're right, SAVN is there to stay! We have already started to write new songs and are very excited to see where this musical journey will bring us. I'm still a member of Midnattsol, nothing has changed there, but Stig and Anders are no longer members of TSOTB. Like I mentioned earlier, the musical direction of SAVN came very naturally, and we feel that we can identify with the music 100%. It's important for us to able to develop as musicians as well, so I guess there are few chances that we will play music comparable 1 to 1 with TSOTB. But on the other side, you never know what the future brings ;)
RF: Thank you, Carmen!
Carmen: Thanx to YOU Roger, it was an honor for me! Wish you good luck with everything!