Some brand new blood from Norway! Guitarist Kjetil tells us about the band’s love for 70s rock’n’roll, Turbonegro and the new Norwegian scene.
Can you introduce the band? Have you played in other bands before?
Yes I can! And thanks a lot for taking the time to have a chat with us! We really appreciate it! We are Razorbats from Oslo, Norway. We have Even Berg on vocals, Stig Sætevik on bass, Knut Wettre on drums and myself Kjetil F. Wevling on guitar. We have been a band for almost three years now and released our first EP titled “Bring it on” through American record label Self Destructo Records in the summer of 2014. We had a minor hit in Norway with a song called “Born in Blood” from that one. We followed up with our first full length album called “Camp Rock” last fall. The album has so far received great reviews from all over the world and was named Album of the year by American webzine Gutter2glitter. The single from the album is a song called “Kids of the 70s” and it was picked up by rock radio in quite a few countries in Europe as well as college radio in the US.
All the boys have been in a bunch of other bands before. A few punk bands, garage rock, grindcore and I was even in a synth pop band for a good few years. When we started Razorbats we went back to the music that had influenced and shaped us when we were kids and sort of started over from there. We talked a lot about The Who, Cheap Trick, Aerosmith, KISS, Alice Cooper, Rolling Stones and bands like that. We wanted to revive that original spark we got from the bands that made rock great in the 70s and 80s. We are of course far too young to be contemporary with those bands, but we all love those bands and they have stayed with us through different periods in our lives and the changing musical styles we have played ourselves. Instead of trying to sound exactly like those bands, we try to revive the function they had as pop bands. Even bands like AC/DC or Blue Öyster Cult were trying to have hits and get played on the radio. There are a few bands like that today, like Foo Fighters, Arctic Monkeys and Queens of the Stone Age, so this is not an original idea. It seems to us that many of the bands influenced by 70s rock today are more concerned with sounding exactly like the old bands than filling a similar role i the pop culture.
From your music influences to the album cover, you seem to be mainly influenced by 70s and 80s bands. How did you first get into bands from those eras?
Music archeology, I guess? If you grew up when The Hives were big or maybe The Darkness and it turns you on to rock music, then you often start going backwards tracing their influences and then you are heading straight to the great rock bands of the 70s. They are in many ways the foundation for all rock music today. That is in some ways what the song “Kids of the 70s” from our debut album is about. So much happened in the years from the late 60s to the early 80s that still influences most of the music made today, from the electronica experimentation of Kraftwerk to heavy metal pioneers Black Sabbath influencing Mastodon. Most of the music made today is just influences from that era put together in different ways.
I grew up with an older brother who liked KISS and AC/DC, so I guess a lot of that comes from him and I had a few friends who liked KISS and Led Zeppelin. Black Sabbath was my favourite band and me and my buddy argued a lot about who was best, KISS or Black Sabbath. I was of course right! Haha. Pop punk bands like Green Day, Blink 182 and the likes were huge when I was a kid and I was into that as well. There was an older punk at our local skate ranch who made me mix tapes with The Misfits and Ramones, so that’s the way I started going backwards when it comes to punk. I don’t really know why those bands resonated with me the way they did, but once I discovered 70s rock all the more contemporary bands just seemed a little bit boring and tame…
Can you tell us about your album “Camp Rock”, when and where did you record it? Why this title?
We produced the “Bring it on” EP ourselves and couldn’t get the sound we had in our heads on tape. So we checked out some Norwegian rock producers to see if anyone had made records that sounded more like what we were looking for. There is a band called Orango who sound both contemporary and retro at the same time, so we had a chat with their producer Kai Christoffersen. He didn’t really understand why we wanted him, since the EP had a pretty good pop punk production and he couldn’t give us that. We explained that we were looking for something different and we recorded one song together to see if we were able to figure it out. That song is the opening track of the record titled “Planet Riff”. We were really pleased with the result and agreed to make the album together. We recorded the album at Calmeyer Studios in Oslo, Norway over 12 days. The studio is pretty small, so we recorded the drums first with the rest of us playing along through digital amps and plug-ins and built the tracks from there. We didn’t have retro-mania in the studio, but there were some vintage Gibson guitars, Ludwig drums and 70s Marshall clones used during the recording. We didn’t go into the recording with a grand plan of making a retro sounding record, but we did our homework choosing a producer that naturally had the sound we were after. It went pretty smooth and we are really proud of the album. Kai has gotten a lot of attention around the world for the production on the album, so that’s a real credit to him as producer as well.
We called the record “Camp Rock” for a couple of reasons. First of all we felt like we were at camp together playing rock music, listening to our old favourite bands, talking about influences, just hanging out etc. The other reason is that some people said we were a bit camp, as in cheesy and tacky. Haha! We don’t deny loving catchy bands like Cheap Trick, KISS, Queen and other bands that a lot of people think are just too over the top or poppy. And we are not ashamed to admit it! A lot bands tend to try and sound like the more underground and obscure bands from the 70s and make it more artistic, I guess. We want to have songs on the radio and people singing along at concerts, so we are a bit overwhelmed by all the fantastic press the album got. We sort of figured that many would knock it, since we went in the complete opposite direction than many do these days. But it seems a lot of rock fans actually were waiting for a new band that didn’t give a shit about underground (hipster) credibility, but just wanted to make anthemic and catchy melodic hard rock! Or as Classic Rock Magazine said: “The perfect soundtrack to your next lost weekend!”. Haha!
Considering your label’s name (Self Destructo Records) and the fact that you’re from Norway, I guess you all got into TURBONEGRO quite early, right? Were you into the BACKSTREET GIRLS and TRASHCAN DARLINGS as well?
I’m a huge Turbonegro fan! I have followed them since the mid 90s when they released “Never is forever”. It was cool, but “Ass Cobra” is the album that really got me hooked. I saw them in a small club playing for 30 people after that one and me and my friends followed them for years. I was there at the first gig they had with Euroboy on guitar and he was so fucking awesome! Totally changed the band with his awesomeness. When they came back in 2003, I toured with them as support act with the band I was in at the time called Surferosa. Turbonegro are one of the biggest rock bands Norway has ever seen and they still get a lot of attention back home. I also feel a lot of kinship with them, in that they most of the time get their influences from the 70s both musically and visually. Like when Euroboy started wearing white trousers like Jimmy Page and Pete Townshend did in the late 70s. They are a bit more punk than us, but I understand that people draw that comparison. Backstreet Girls are great and the guys from Trashcan Darlings are friends of us. Frankie Nachtnebel was in the band before we really became Razorbats and I was on the way to start a band with Chris Doll a few years ago. I think that turned out for best as he now has Suicide Bombers and I have Razorbats! We have done a couple of gigs with Backstreet Girls and our bass player is friends with most of the guys and has played a few gigs with Petter Baarlie’s solo band.
What about the early 00s Swedish scene, bands like BACKYARD BABIES, The HELLACOPTERS, etc.? They seem to have influenced you as well.
Those bands are so important to the Scandinavian rock scene! Love them to bits! Especially The Hellacopters! Got hooked on them when they released “Paying the Dues”, but my favourite is probably “Grande Rock”. I like Imperial State Electric as well. Most of those bands showed us that it is OK to like KISS, Alice Cooper and stuff like that. When grunge was big in the 90s those bands were viewed as passé by most rock fans, but they didn’t care. And then came The Hives and it all blew up big time! I hated Soundgarden and Alice in Chains with a vengeance, so it felt great that those bands came along and utterly destroyed that wimpy, whining, boring scene. Rock should be fun, loud, unapologetic and entertaining. Especially Turbonegro, The Darkness and The Hives epitomised that attitude for me in the ‘00s! Rock was back!!!
Have you played outside of Norway yet?
Just a couple of gigs in Sweden. We are going back to Sweden and a trip to The UK this summer, but we are planning a bigger European tour. It is of course a bit more difficult since we’re not 22 years old any more, have jobs and things like that, but we will make it happen! We have had some offers to go to Denmark, Germany, Italy and Spain, so follow us on Facebook and http://www.razorbats.com for more info. Our goal is to play more abroad next year.
What about the rock ‘n roll scene in Norway these days? Any other bands we should check out?
It’s OK, but not great. EDM, indie-pop, singer songwriters and hip hop dominate the charts and it’s extremely difficult for a new rock band to get any kind of mainstream press or airplay. We have been fortunate enough to make music that people seem to like, so we have gotten quite a bit of radio airplay back home as well as in other countries, but it is a bit of a up-hill battle. The fact that Kvelertak are quite popular in Norway helps a bit, but the general consensus is that rock is dead, which is of course ludicrous. If you go outside of the capital you find that a lot people still love AC/DC, KISS, Def Leppard and bands like that, so I think it’s more the way trends and the press work, rather than that there isn’t a potential fanbase for rock bands any more. Whenever the legendary bands play in Norway they sell out the largest stadiums and concert halls we have, so I take that as a sign that there are people willing to listen if the songs are good enough. So I guess it’s up to us to make records people like and go out and play for them. Build the bands reputation town by town, fan by fan. It amazes me that we have fans in such different places as Russia, Australia, Brazil, USA and France without having toured any of those countries. I think that showes that there still is a very healthy underground for rock music and that a lot of people are open to new bands as well, not just the classic bands from the 70s and 80s. If you want to check out some Norwegian rock bands, I would recommend Smoke Mohawk, Kvelertak, Suicide Bombers, Death by Unga Bunga and Electric Eye. Cool bands!
5 albums you couldn’t live without?
1. Black Sabbath – Sabbath Bloody Sabbath
2. Turbonegro – Apocalypse Dudes
3. Yes – Close to the Edge
4. Led Zeppelin – IV
5. Blue Öyster Cult – Agents of Fortune
Are you into rock biographies and documentaries/movies? If so, latest you’ve enjoyed?
Ohhhh!!!! I love rock documentaries and biographies! Last night I watched the excellent documentary on how The Who made their seminal album “Tommy” for the fifth time or so… I’m also reading a book on Judas Priest now and just finished Black Vinyl White Powder by Simon Napier Bell. It’s more of an industry book, but still one of the best I have ever read! I can also recommend the new Steven Tyler biography and old classics like the Led Zeppelin biography “Hammer of the Gods” or “The Dirt” about Mötley Crüe. I haven’t been able to find a decent book on Cheap Trick or UFO, so let me know if you can think of any!
Your projects in a near future?
So many plans and ideas, but so little time!!! Haha. We have just finished recording three new songs for an upcoming EP that will be out this fall and in October we’ll start recording the follow up to “Camp Rock” with Kai Christoffersen. We’ll probably record it at Calmeyer Studios in Oslo, like last time. We are making songs for an American movie that will be out next year, if they go for one of our songs. We are working quite closely with them, so I have a good feeling about it. A lot famous people in the film, so that would be awesome! The next months we’ll just focus on writing songs for the album and we have about 10 gigs and festivals lined up this summer. The future looks bright for Razorbats at the moment and I’m confident if we deliver some prima rock ’n roll on the next album then just maybe we can do what The Darkness did a decade ago, as some rock journalist think we can!