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............WinterStrain............ "WE WILL BE THERE"

Karl Gudmund Birkely - Keyboards

Shifting Sands Band Interview
New album..........Shifting Sands
Shifting Sands Reviews
Polar Rock Festival
Geir Helge Fredheim - Vocals
Arnulf Øvre - Guitars
Karl Gudmund Birkely - Keyboards
Lars Rikard Kvaal - Bass Guitar
Rolf-Erik Nyland - Drums
Not any old backing vocalist....
My "Wee" brother
RTTM as described by Deenfan
Reviews of Return To The Mirror
Return To The Mirror Sound Samples + Downloads
My Review Of Return To The Mirror
Related Links
WinterStrain Pictures


Karl moves me close to tears with this keyboard solo on Sail. I am sometimes lost for words with the emotion this brings to the song. What more can I say !!

Born 17th October 1972

Interview from December 2006

Hi Karl. Hope you are keeping well ?


Yes indeed!


So….The Polar Rock festival. Now the dust has settled what was your favourite memory of the concert/weekend/party/company ?


All that free beer kinda took me by surprise....And that you and Mcophie came all the way up north made a great impact. Hope to see you (and more) next year as well! Regarding the gig, I think it was the best we did so far. The general "festival feeling" was awesome. Deenies mooseburger must also be mentioned, the mooseburgers....


Yes the mooseburgers were fantastic. Rolf even cooked me reindeer meat which was also a new and exciting taste !!


It must have been great to have a proper keyboard stand for Polar Rock to the one you used for Z Rock !!  LOL


Looking at the Zrocks keyboard stand makes me wanna laugh. A keyboardists Spinal Tap moment I would say. The Polar Rock keyboard stand was much better, although I couldnt adjust it's height...But it looked much better at least. 


So Shifting Sands… are the keyboards looking now you have started recording your parts ??


We learned a lot in the process when we recorded RTTM. We are using this knowledge now, and gaining new as well. It will be more keyboards than on RTTM. Actually it will be more of everything.


Cool !


Is there any song in particular that sticks out for you on the album ?



It is very difficult this time. All are so good (my opinion).


That’s great to know !


Have you added any new keyboards or sounds that are different to that on RTTM ?



I got my new keyboard at the end of the recording process of RTTM. So I didn’t get to use my Korg Triton Extreme on that album, except for 1 sound on In Your World. The Extreme is a very popular keyboard, and I have heard "my" sounds (sounds that I will use on Shifting Sands) on several occasions already! I still only have the Extreme, in the end it is all about money. The equipment is very expensive! But the Extreme is extreme enough for this album at least!


Are you a quick worker when it comes to recording tracks for the album ?



Nope! But I have my own studio and I record in my own tempo! I like to use the time and test out several scenarios and sounds.



You obviously thrive on the challenge of coming up with massive keyboard solo’s. How easy do you find it to come up with keyboard solo’s on a regular basis ?


Solo's are no problem - good solo's are a problem. Like A. Lifeson in Rush (!) I like to think that solos should be a song within the song. So instead of improvising (which for some can work very good (Arnulf)), I like to compose my solos.



When you do get together with the band to rehearse sometimes you need a break to re-energise yourself when things may not be going the way you want. Do you guys ever change instruments and have a fun jam together ? 



Never. Arnulf is probably the only one who can play another instrument than his guitar. But we have fun jams all the time. The first 1/2-1 hours are serious, then it starts to glide apart and is anything but serious... After 2-3 hours of jamming we are totally exhausted of all the noise and that everybody are trying to play out the others. But we had some outcome of the latter parts of the jams which resulted in a project/fictive band called Xenophobia. 2 songs were recorded in the rehearsal room. Names on the songs or lyrics are not to be mentioned! We actually played one of the songs at our first gig ever, and it was actually a massive hit. Actually I think this one was the only lyric that deenie co-wrote with someone else than himself...deenie, frizzle and myself, some beers, hard liquor and a vivid imagination wrote that lyric.



Let’s say I’m a genie and I grant you one wish for the new album. What would it be?



That people will say; Look. Listen. Behold. This is the new RUSH!



Ha ha !! Good one. Maybe even supporting them !!



You are also doing some work for Lasse Dale’s project which Sir Tony Mills is writing and singing on. We heard A Conflict Of Interest which is fantastic. How excited are you about working on this project and working again with Sir Tony ?



Very excited. I think the style suits me and it is plenty of room for a lot of keyboards. There are no spaces without keyboards! I dont think the material stays behind f.ex Kamelot/Symphony X, which I think are the best in power metal. And that Tony Mills dude.....he is certainly one of the best vocalist right now.



Are you working on anything else we should know about ?



I have some songs meandering around, but I think that they will be WS songs on album no. 3.



Have you ever thought about a Karl Gudmund Birkely project  ??



The thought has been there, but not more than a thought so far. Right now I'm busy with Shifting Sands and The Dale Project.



To date, what has been the highlight for yourself regarding WinterStrain ?



Release of RTTM, Zrock and Polar rock, meeting you, Mcophie, Sicky and Max at Zrock. I hope we all + new members can have a gathering like this again next year.



I hope so to. Maybe you should start to call Mark about being on the same bill as House Of Lords because most of the gang are going to the Z Rock next year !!


Is there anything we should all know that you have not answered already ?





Ok….it’s a straight to the point answer !! LOL


And finally Karl. Is there any message you would like to give to the fans out there who are awaiting the new album??



Be aware, be very aware!



Karl. Thanks again. Always a pleasure to have a wee chat with you. Take care. 

Interview from April 2006
What a weekend  Karl !!!  Z Rock was a blast !!!

How do you feel personally Z Rock went for you ?


I think it went very well. I had a technical glitch just in the beginning of Sail. By a mistake, I stepped twice on the sound switch pedal.... But I think the audience in general didn’t notice it. The rest of the gig was flawless


Do you believe it was worth the effort for the band to travel such a long way for the gig ?


Yes! Would do it again anytime, if the money allows us!


What was your favourite memory of the WinterStrain gig ?


Tony Mills coming on stage and the band played A Battle perfect! Tony Mills backing vox on A Battle gives me Goosebumps!


What was it like sharing the stage with Tony Mills ?


He brought in new energy, he is an awesome singer.


Tony Mills sang backing vocals at Z  Rock for WinterStrain, how does it make you feel that WinterStrain will back Tony Mills at The Polar Rock Festival ??


I really look forward to that!


If I had to pick a songs I thought the band played  the best I would say Mountain Inside The Stone. What was your favourite song on the night ?


I agree, but I also think that A battle was very good.


So how much are you looking forward to playing the Polar Rock Festival as this will be the biggest gig any of the band have ever played in front of ?


Looking forward to that. We will play right before the headliners, and I guess it will be several thousands in the crowd.


You guys were really tight as a band . Considering you have only had 4 gigs and 3 rehearsals were you surprised by how well you actually played ?


We are a really tight unit, also on the personal level. I guess the chemistry is very important. Another thing is that we played with acoustic drums for the first time in many many years. The acoustic drums gave us all extra energy!


Any other gigs planned for WinterStrain other than the Polar Rock Festival ?


Not that I know of.


Is there anything of the weekend in Crewe you would change ?


Nothing, it was a perfect weekend!


Do you have any message to the fans who came along and  supported you at the Z Rock gig ?


It was so nice meeting you all and I think we really got along really well! I am not comfortable with this fans thing yet. I don’t look on them as fans, but as friends!


I can’t thank you guys enough for taking me out for my dinner on the Saturday night. So again, for the record I thank you all so much. Rolf’s face was a picture when the Italian owner said his gold card was refused !! 


That was a good one! And the restaurant was nice and the food was good. You are our tour manager and you have so much for us already, taking you out for dinner was the least we could do!


We had great fun at the hotel over the weekend. What was your favourite memory of the stay at the hotel ?


Meeting all of our new friends!


Well Karl. Thanks again for a wonderful weekend and we will catch up again when I am over in June. I am really looking forward to meeting you again as we had such a great time in Crewe. Are you still taking me mountain climbing !! 


You bet! Bring your camera!




Interview from November 2005


It is now only 6 days to the release of “Return To The Mirror” Karl.

A major step towards your dream. Tell me, what are you’re feelings

 right now knowing you have recorded a full album and it is just about

to get a world wide release!!


Woah, yyieepee! Finally!!!


What are your hopes for this release?


I hope we sell a couple of thousands copies, and that we get many

new great reviews from the Webzines and nice feedback from people

who will buy the CD.


How do you plan to celebrate the release next Monday?


I will be in the south, keeping an ever watchful eye with the guys

that are renovating my bathroom.



What like is the feedback from friends and family towards the

album which you no doubt have played to them?



They are enthusiastic. Though, not all like the music. I think they are

a bit surprised that we made it this far.


The new cd  is already in the process of recording !!  Are you involved

at the early stages, or do you wait on a call from Deenfan as when to

start to lay down the keyboards?



I am participating in the song writing process on several songs,

 however most preproduction start at Deenfans. Either with or

without keys. When a song is finished in the preproduction, I will

get a copy and start recording the “final” keys. I have a tiny itchy

bitchy little daughter studio at my place, and it is a bitch that my

computer went Bananas because I was in a good steam at the time.

I will get a new computer soon though. I send my “final” keys recordings

up to Deenfan who can start recording drums, then the guitar/bass

and vocal. In the end, everyone gets a second chance to review their

own job. Solos (at least mine) are also mostly recorded towards the end.


Deenfan kindly sent me over an mp3 of A Battle a few months back.

I absolutely love the keyboards in this song. Hopefully there will be

more of the same on the new album!?


The Angry Keyboard Sith from the Dark North will be back,

with V E N G E A N C E!!!


Do you hope for live gigs with WinterStrain to promote the album?


Ehh, hrrkk, gkkk; yes



Well Karl, thanks again for taking the time to answer a few

questions from me.


Always funny!


And on a final note is there anything you would like to say to the

fans out there awaiting the release of Return To The Mirror!!







                              Previous interview from September 2005

So, Karl, who gave you the inspiration to chose the keyboard as your


First, I wanted very much to play bass guitar. One of my Best friends at

that time,Animus, played the guitar and it would be cool if I could play

bass. In addition I had already listened a lot to Rush and Geddy Lee!

But it was actually my grandfather that "forced" me to choose keyboard.

He meant that it was a nicer instrument than bass, and; I could play in

the church on Sundays, to weddings and funerals!! Haha! He wanted me

to earn some extra money. So at the age of 15-16 or something, he

bought my first synth ever; Roland D-10.

Do you remember your first ever gig and what was your band called

at the time??

My first gig was with a band called Close Race. It was exactlythe same

line up as in Winterstrain, except that we didn't have any vocalist at the

time.Deenfan did the vocal stuff in addition to the drumming. The gig was

in March 1990, if I remember correctly. It was in Tromsø,Northern Norway's

biggest city, and it was on a "festival" called; "Rock mot rus"(Rock against

drug/alcohol abuse). I was shit nervous in the beginning; there were almost

no people in front of the scene because the band that played before us

really sucked! But after the first song or two it started to get crowded,

and from then it was only fun!

We all know you as RushFANatic on the forum. Obviously you are a

Rush fan!! Impossible to ask, but should you only have 1  Rush cd to

take in your car as your multi changer is broken....what one would

you chose and why?

My favourite Rush albums are Power Windows, Hold Your Fire,Power

Window,Counterparts, Grace Under Pressure. But I wouldactually not

take that album, I would choose "Fly By Night" or "Caress of Steel",

burn them on 1 80min CD/RW. Why??? Because it is a long time since

I heard them last time. I have them on vinyl, and have just received them

on CD. Then I would get the CD changer fixed rather quickly!

What is your favourite drink ??

Beer and Wine, not so much into hard liquor.

Who is your ideal woman ??

I should answer my wife here and I am going to answer my wife !!!  Well I did marry her because she is the one for me ;o)

If you had one wish, what would you wish for ??

Right now? It's Monday, and I wish I was not at work!

Which band member has the most annoying habit ??

And what is it !!!

Animus, without doubt. It seems like every time we rehearse he always

breaks a string or two on his guitar $:(

What is the most frightening thing ever to have happened to you ??

Got a metal splint in my eye as a kid, nearly got blind on one eye.

Tea or coffee ??

Coffee, coffee, coffee, and some tea please!

I you had the chance to play one gig in your life and have one support

act play for you, who would you pick and where would it be ??

I really have no clue! It wouldn't be Rush or Queensryche anyway. It

must be a small band not known to so many; Some Rush tribute band.

Arena; Wembley

What are your dislikes ??

Lutefisk (dried codfish prepared in potash lye),Lungemos (hashed lungs),

Smalahove (boiled sheeps brains), bad brewed Moonshine and more...

If you could turn back the clock and change one thing...what would it be??

Woah!! Hold your horses! It would be that I should have taken some piano

lessons while I still was younger.

Thanks for your help Karl.

It was a blast !!