Congratulations on a fantastic album!
Rolf -Thanks! I’m glad you like it. I think I do, too, but right
now I’m a bit fed up, to be honest!
Arnulf - Thank you. I'm very satisfied with this record. I still listen to
it myself from time to time, and enjoy it. That's pretty good when you think about the numerous listenings throughout production
Karl - Thank you very much! I think it shows that we have grown and learned from the experience we got
recording RTTM. I am very pleased with it.
How did you come up with the name Shifting Sands ?
Rolf - It
happened in the studio, while waiting for some kind of process to finish. Your mind wanders as soon as you let go, ‘cause
you’re concentrating so much during the sessions. While pondering the likenesses – common ground if you will –
of our first and second album, I got to thinking about these reference points as landscape and landmarks. Symbolized by the
unchanging band name, WinterStrain.
Navigating through the wilderness, guided by the mountains that are always in the same
spot – and cliffs by the shore, if you’re in a boat. And then I started thinking about the desert and how the
landscape may change completely after a sandstorm. Shifting Sands...
At that moment, it occurred to me that what we are
doing is a bit like that. Everything changes, and some of your reference points are fata morganas. All in all, both life in
general and WinterStrain’s journey has been like that. On the cover, WinterStrain is the reference point and Shifting
Sands speaks of change.
15 years for the first album to be completed….3 years for the second ! You are
finally getting the hang of making an album ! lol
Rolf - Well, it was a bit faster this time around, but I wonder
if not a few of those 15 went into this one, too.
Return To The Mirror had songs that were quite old on it. What was
the oldest song used for Shifting Sands ?
Rolf - That’s just the thing I was hinting at. We used some material
this time, that was fifteen years old by the time Return... was released. But we refreshed the songs. Rewrote big or small
parts of them.
Arnulf - Company was probably the oldest one. The chords to the verse, bridge and chorus have practically
not changed at all since 1990. All the instrumental themes and solos have been written in 2005 I think. Rolf’s lyrics
and melodies had to be rewritten around that time as well, since the old ones were lost.
Rolf - Yep. The subject matter
changed completely in the process, too. In essence, it's a completely fresh lyric, with only the title surviving from the
You did quite a bit of upgrading for the studio before you started recording Shifting Sands !
- Yes. For the first album, there was no way I could afford to use acoustic drums. I had no drum set at the time, and I was
just finished building the studio. Synth drums are cheap, and can be connected to your computer, which doesn’t have
to be very powerful to deal with the midi notes.
Later, I came into a streak of luck, as I made the most incredible bargains
on everything I needed. I got a proper acoustic set for an incredible price, and found the best cymbals and the best double
pedal in the world, after a Scotsman’s haggling. Next, Geir-Helge hooked me up with a mixing desk, a full set of microphones,
and stands. Then I needed a snake, so I could move the desk to the control room, so Alf could tweak the drum sound properly.
You’ll love the sound of this, Steven: When I came to the store to pick up the heavily discounted piece, they couldn’t
find it, and the only other snake they had was in a different league completely. But since it was the only one they had, and
I had travelled far to get it, I got it for the price we’d agreed upon. It came down to something like an 85% discount!!!
course, the old computer, now four or five years old, couldn’t cope with having to record a whole bunch of audio tracks,
and play back all existing tracks simultaneously. So, I had to build a new one. And now, no bargains were made. This was two
years ago, and it still beats the shit out of everything that is advertised by the big chains. It can do only one thing, but
it does it extremely well. We also have the best audio card in the world.
I know I’ve done some more stuff... I got
new software, new monitors... another mixing desk for the rest of the instruments... and Geir-Helge bought a proper microphone
for vocals, and donated to the studio.
You also have your own studio in the house Karl which means you don’t
have to fly north to Rolf’s for recording sessions. What kind of set up do you have ?
Karl - I have a
PC which I use both for internet and as studio machine. I use Sonar 6 as software. I have an Echo Audiofire external soundcard.
A Yamaha 12 channel mixer. I have no monitors but an AKG headset. On SS, I had a Korg Triton Extreme which I recorded most
of the keys on. A few months ago I sold it and got the Korg M3. I used sounds from the M3 on the intro on Memory Beneath The
You again have Tony Mills doing backing vocals. Will Tony always be used on WinterStrain albums ?
- Always is a big word. But I can’t see any reason why he shouldn’t. I feel he’s become a part of our sound.
He’s a bloody genius in his trade, too. And we know each other well now. Barring a very odd or unfortunate development,
I’d say he’s in forever.
Again the mix of your lead vocals and Tony Mills backing vocals works extremely
well. You must be delighted that Tony has continued to work with WinterStrain ?
Geir Helge - Yes very glad to have
him on board!
Rolf - With RttM, we had the album almost finished before we came to work with Tony. This time, we knew
all along he'd be in, and we left the music open to his creative input. I think this had something to say for the way the
backing vocals are more important this time.
Even with a great singer like Tony on board, you add some voices too,
Rolf - Yes. Last time, it happened because we thought we'd do all the backing vocals ourselves, and because I have
quite a different range than Geir-Helge. I added some falsettos and some very deep voices. On SS, surprisingly, I do a lot
more. Some deep voices, some whispering, some backing lines in tenor and a bit of lead. Most of these lines emerged while
writing the songs, and they worked so well along with Tony's harmony blocks and GH's lead vox that they stuck. Towards the
end of Company, lines from all three of us interweave, and I think it's a great effect.
There is a bit of secrecy
about how the album is being sold. Can you shed any light on the matter ?
Rolf - Last time, the worst
thing that could have happened to me, happened: I couldn’t get hold of my own album. We were supposed to get a box of
cd’s as soon as it was pressed up, but Jonathan Stranger had the album weeks before I did. I got my first copy by way
of buying it online, like any other fan.
This time, we are in control. We’ll be able to press up as many cd’s
as we like, and we can sell them any way we like. Our label, WinterSongs, is here to stay, and it’ll make sure we can
continue spending a lot of money on making the albums as good as possible.
What are your thoughts on the business,
now you’re entering this side of it ?
Rolf - The way I see it, the middle men must go. If bands outside the Platinum
Club are to sell 20% of what they used to, something has to give. People want music, and some people want to buy it. They
want proper albums. The physical album. These people might be few, but they are important to us, and we are important to them.
Neither they nor we truly need anyone else. The musician needs the listener and vice versa. Of course, there are other players
who might be of help, but through the golden age of the music business, more and more roles were conjured up, for more and
more people to make as much money as possible. Sad thing is that the fans paid a lot of money; the musicians got but a small
fraction of it.
With the internet now in every home, it shouldn’t have to be this way anymore. Already, everybody
who’s interested in music knows how to find exactly the music he or she prefers. Do a search for “prog melodic
rock symphonic magnum rush marillion” or whatever, and see what comes up. Maybe “WinterStrain”... huh...
*listens to samples or whole songs* Cool...Click and buy. It is only a question of time, and just about everybody will have
grown into what is a bit new today. You can pay for music by PayPal, credit card, or have it appear on your phone bill. Several
other solutions are under way.
We’re working on distribution for Shifting Sands, but I see that as something that
will become more and more pointless in the future. If you have a webshop, you have world wide distribution. Period. But it
might be wise to not assume every potential WinterStrain fan on earth is... there yet.
Are you excited by the prospect
of selling your very own album instead of some record company ?
Arnulf - I’m very excited. It gives us more
freedom and control, and might give us some money as well. But of course it calls for more work done by ourselves. So it’s
a new and open road ahead.
Rolf - That's a very good way of putting it. I think of the process we are going into now
with this album as a journey. We will explore new territories, and end up having a good map we can use for the third album.
- Yes! Very excited. It feels good that we take care of things ourselves now. We know that things were not taken properly
care of by that record company. Still, we made some impact with RTTM, so the hopes are high for Shifting Sands.
- The thought is very tempting. It gives us more freedom and many possibilities. But it also means a lot more work in many
Geir Helge - Yes and no. Yes for the rights to own our own songs and getting their moneys worth. No, because
of all the extra work we’ll have to put in to get them out to the listeners, festivals, magazines and shops.
are your hopes for Shifting Sands taking into account you guys were happy with the first album just to get your name on the
Geir Helge - Well, we are pretty much in the learning process still and every step is new ground for us. Now maybe
more than ever but if we succeed to get this album out to the consumer, they are in for a treat!
Rolf - I hope the
fans we’ve already got like it.
Arnulf - Well, I hope that anyone who wants to hear our music, can get themselves
a copy. Of course I hope for massive sales, but I have no real ideas of much we could or should sell. We have to sell a lot
less than last time to get some money out of it anyway.
Lars - First of all I hope the ones who liked RTTM will be
satisfied with SS, and that the ones who know the name WinterStrain will see that the snowball is rolling with more energy
and strength, and hopefully they and new people who haven’t heard RTTM will pay attention to this one.
Better feedback both from fans and press, that’s what matters most. If someone writes about us, anything, then we have
made an impact. I have not so big hopes of earning money on this hobby of ours. But if we do, and if it finances possible
gigs and/or new equipment, then it would be great.
Rolf - I have repeatedly heard people claim that if the money went
to the artist, they would pay for music. Let's see if this is an aspect that really carries any weight.
Was the album
fairly easy for you to write or were there some songs you hoped to be on the album did not make it ?
Rolf - A bit
of both. The writing has never been difficult. It all just comes, all by itself. It is a pleasure. However, the studio sessions
aren’t always. One song got lost on the way, for instance.
Making the album takes considerable time. The studio
is in your house, Rolf. Did this cause any kind of strain with your family? And I also believe you became a father for the
second time before the album was complete!
Rolf - My son was born smack in the middle of the “Return to the mirror”
sessions. “Shifting sands” was almost finished, ready for mixing, when my daughter was born! I think my wife is
the most tolerant and patient person on earth. The biggest strain I’ve felt is the soul-wrenching that goes on all the
time in the studio. It’s bloody hard, picking apart every little fragment of your songs like that. It’s not something
I understand you spent countless hours with the finished album going over every song with a fine eye and ear
making sure every song was as clear as could possibly be ?
Rolf - Yes, that is an important thing, because after
recording a full album on more than forty tracks per song, there is a lot of buzz and click going on in the background. You
need to look at what sounds you want and which sounds are noise. After the mixing is complete, I do another round through
every track on every song, to listen for snap, crackle and pop in the soundclips. This process takes one or two days per song.
And it’s bloody boring. But it needs to be done. The end product is better for it.
Who else was involved in the
production of the album ?
Rolf - Arnulf has got a fine set of ears, and will pick up on everything I miss. Alf Vesterelv
(the man famous for serving Tony Mills alcohol where ever he goes) is a genius, and a relative, and he helped me out with
positioning the microphones on the drums and all the mixing desk twiddling that comes with it. Tommy Granli is clever as hell
when it comes to various studio plugins and strange software. He helped us out with some problem tracks we had.
you got the album mastered at Mad Hat studios again. Owned by Mark Stuart of Magnum fame. Although it was Sheena who mastered
the album this time, I believe she was very surprised by the quality of your production !
Rolf - She was certainly
happy about actually hearing all the instruments, something that apparently wasn’t as given as I thought it’d
be. She said we’d done a brilliant job. I am blushing with pleasure. She knows, of course, that our equipment isn’t
high end, and that none of us is called Mutt Lange.
Back to Shifting Sands now ! What are your favourite tracks
on the album and why ?
Rolf - Gone, for being the best opening track I could have dreamed of. And Memory beneath the
sea, for being just about the best thing I’ve ever written.
Arnulf - Most of the tracks really. But the ultimate
favourite at the moment is In the arms of the night. Possibly because it’s the heaviest track on the record, and the
one with the meanest guitar sound. We played it live 2 years ago at the Polar rock festival, and it really worked live. In
its earlier form we played it live in 1991 as well, a live favourite already back then. Just to listen to the record I would
say that Memory beneath the sea is my favourite . It just has this haunting, epic feel to it. Gone and Company are also among
Karl - My favourites to listen to must be: Company, Confidence, In The Arms Of The Night, Gathering
Day and Memory Beneath the sea. We have not played the songs a lot but we did play Inner Voice and In The Arms Of The Night
and both were fun to play. Especially In The Arms Of The Night . But I suspect that also Gone, Company, Gathering Day,
and Memory Beneath The Sea will be fun to play live.
Lars - Gathering Day. It has a great progression, it's powerful
and a great piece of music. Memory Beneath the Sea. For me, often most the lyrics come after the melody but on this one the
lyric gives me flashbacks to some hard years of my life. It's a great song with a very strong lyric and I understand why Rolf
considers it the best WinterStrain song so far. Gone and Inner Voice are also up there. The album opens and ends with very
strong songs which for me is and have always been important.
Geir Helge - Every one of them has something special about
them. Themes or parts that just get under your skin. I have some favourites……. but I’m not going to tell!
A question for Geir Helge .I feel on Shifting Sands your voice has really matured. Like a good wine !! Were
you more at ease because you had already recorded Return To The Mirror and with Paganize The Evolution Hour.
Helge - Well thank you ! The whole studio experience is for me a learning process. Every take I learn something new about
my voice. My limits, my force and ability to blend in with the music. I reckon that until now I`ve used parts of my potential.
This will grow with the experience. Being the live vocalist that I am, It`s in the connection with the audience the magic
I hear you are about to start work on your very own studio in your house?
Geir Helge - Well
this is a slow process. But I hope that most of the vocals for the next WS album and the coming Paganize album will be recorded
there. It will give me the advantage of making the vocals on “good” days. And not stressed by low budgets and
Were any of the songs written about real life experiences ?
Rolf - There are three different
categories, this time: Real life experiences, the real world, and fantasy/fiction. In general, lyrics come from strong moods
or feelings, usually derived from a picture visual only to the mind's eye. It is impossible to avoid getting personal at times,
but you don't have to have gone through the exact same experience to relate to the words.
Do you like to re-write some
old songs knowing you can make them better or do you much prefer to work with some fresh ideas ?
Karl - When they
turn out as Company and In The Arms Of The Night it is fun. We had forgotten parts of both of these songs. But Arnulf
the magician knew how to sew them together again. And the result I think is much stronger than the old songs on RTTM, which
we kept like the originals. But new material will always be more interesting.
Arnulf - Both old and new ones have their
charm. I believe the reason why we re-wrote some old ones, is that they had such good qualities that we didn’t want
to lose. With Return to the mirror and Shifting sands we wanted to use some of the real old ones. We could’ve used all
on RTTM, but we wanted to save some for Shifting sands as well, to even things out. From the look of it, there won’t
be any real oldies on the third album.
Its another solid performance from yourself on bass guitar Lars. Company gathers
strength the more I play it. You did an excellent job here and this is my favourite song for your bass playing. What is your
favourite track to play on the album ?
Lars - Gathering Day followed by Inner Voice, Gone, Memory beneath the Sea
How difficult was it recording the bass for Shifting Sands considering you now live in Poland ?
- Me and Emilia have been living in Norway for a year now.. But recording the bass tracks was a little stressful as they had
to be finished within the end of January 2007, when I went to Poland. If I’m not wrong I think it took three weeks which
is fast in the world of WinterStrain. Thinking back I wish I didn’t have the time pressure on my shoulders but we made
it, so in the future, sometimes, a time schedule could be something for the whole band to work faster.
With Return To The Mirror and Shifting Sands, Karl and yourself rise to the challenge of solo’s on every song. Now I’m
not saying it’s a competition between the two of you but does it help keep you guys on the ball by trying to better
yourself on each solo knowing the other one will come up with something special.
Arnulf - The only song were I really
thought about that aspect was on Company, where we have these duels going on. There it would be silly not to pay attention
to what Karl was doing. For instance, his last solo in the middle is just crazy, really fast stuff. I sat in the studio, puzzled,
and thought: How can I top that? I soon discovered that I couldn’t, so I started my last part with something slower
and melodic instead , before building it up to a climax. Regarding the other songs, I focus on my themes and parts, and try
to come up with some good melodies and add some craziness now and then. I know that Karl will create magic in his themes,
so I don’t have to worry about that. It’s no competition at all, it’s about complementing each other.
- I think Arnulf has outdone himself on this album. There are MANY “goosebumps” guitarsolos. It is not a competition.
I think we both know how to make solos that fits into the “landscape” of the song. If it turned into a competition
on who can play fastest for instance, it would sound horrible. A mix between fast and melodic is what makes the best solos.
But, there are still an unnecessary overweight of guitarsolos!
Inner voice is going to be used as an instrumental
for a work video. The web site will be getting around 50,000 hits per month ! You will be hoping this will bring in new fans
and also more album sales !
Lars - 50,000 is a lot of people and sure some of them will like this kind of music
and will check it out. It'll be very exciting indeed to see what will come out of it.
Karl - Thats a lot of hits and
I am sure that a few will get struck by the music and maybe investigate further!
Geir Helge - Of course I do!
Arnulf - It certainly can bring us new fans. The power of the internet can be immense if one ends up in the
right places. And this might be one of those.
You certainly like to write the odd epic ! Sail on Return To The Mirror
and Memory Beneath The Sea on Shifting Sands. Whet exactly is Memory Beneath The Sea about ?
Rolf - It isn’t
exactly about any one thing. But it’s a deeply tragic story, that haunts me even today. It is about choices you make
to make things better, only to end up wondering if you made the biggest mistake of your life when you did what you did. It
is about making a great sacrifice for an even greater good, then wondering if it was without meaning, and if the end result
is pure loss. In many of these cases, you will never know.
The story in the lyric is about a people that left their island
home, because it was about to sink. Picture a time when they would have no easy way of knowing whether their island truly
sank, eventually. They had to adjust to what ever place they went ashore, and their whole culture was eventually wiped out.
Looking at this, one person starts to wonder if they’ve won or lost their lives.
This was the picture I got into
my head, and from which I wrote the lyrics and the melody. It is a fantasy tale, but the feelings are real and strong.
I could just leave you guys for a minute I would love to bring in Stein Øvre, brother of guitarist Arnulf. Hi Stein.
What was your inspiration behind the design for the album cover ?
Stein - Rolf gave me the title a couple of years
ago, so I had plenty of time
pondering on how to visualize it before I actually started working on
the cover. From early
on the ideas dealt with metaphysics. The initial
idea was a concept of layer upon layer of different landscapes. I
that you would see all layers on the front page, with one by
one layer taken away as you read through the booklet. Or the
After some time I found this idea too obvious, I wanted something that
didn't say "Shifting Sands" that
explicit. The idea I ended up with
was to depict a face which holds several emotions at the same time.
What you first
see as a complete picture changes and disintegrates
when you examine it closer. This was before I even had heard much of
new music. After hearing it this just clicked, I saw that it could
reflect the wealth of emotions inherent in this album.
main image was inspired by a mask described in Philip K. Dick's
book "A Scanner Darkly" (a movie adaptation using an innovative
technique was made a few years ago). It's a mask that
consists of constantly shifting facial features.
A great inspiration
when it comes to how I decided to do this
technically is the English illustrator Jasper Goodall's
) work for the band Muse. And
subconsciously I think I've been quite inspired by the works of
Salvador Dali as well.
In retrospect I can see hints of Dali shapes
And I'm fond of details that add more to the original
idea, that can
make even me find new concepts in the images after it's finished, like
when I'm examining it while doing
something like this interview. But I
won't go into that here...
I believe you used many layers to come up with the
design ? Also
putting the band members into some of the designs on the album cover !
Stein - Yeah, several bundles
of layers indeed! To a large extent I've used
flat artwork which is filled with two dimensional objects. This adds a
collage like dimension that I like, not too polished. I tried
to find a way to integrate band photos into the design. I
using some live photos I shot at a concert at Notodden a few years ago
(plus a couple from the Polar Rock concert).
There's a good stage
lighting in the Notodden photos. This made it possible to use them as
if they are reflected onto
an object (in this case some stone/drop
like shapes) or captured inside the object. On the front cover they
as reflections/colours in the object than regular photos.
Can you tell us a little bit more about your designs and what
for a living ?
Stein - I work as a graphic designer at the Oslo office of the Scandinavian
Creuna. We are a full-service digital agency, which means that
we have a wide ranging expertise within communication for
and printed medias. This is exciting, because we are in a position to
push the envelope on many occasions.
We're not only giving our clients
the solutions they ask for, but come up with solutions they didn't
think of initially,
both when it comes to how to communicate, in what
channels, and how it's done with the possibilities of new technology.
mostly work with large companies, so to have this approach is
crucial when it comes to be able to good and inspiring work.
focus is on developing visual identities, but I do layout work and
some web as well.
My background is
in the cultural sector. In the 90s/early 00s I did a
lot of record covers, magazines and books. I still do a few record
occasionally in my spare time - like this one! Lately I've also
started experimenting with motion graphics, and in a few
months I hope
to both show some of this work as well as a more comprehensive and
updated portfolio of design work at
my site steinovre.com. Right now
this old looking site is a split between my not very updated design
portfolio and my
cd-r label neiffelink, which has a couple of releases
by Animus, Arnulf's solo project from some years back. In time I
have to put the Neiffelink stuff somewhere else, but for now you can
listen to samples of Arnulf's tunes here:http://www.steinovre.com/n_animus.html
I'm also making music, but it's sample based and more connected to my
design work in the way that I put together
sounds in the same way that
I work with objects on layers in photoshop or illustrator... You could
have a listen if
you like, but I have to warn you that this is far
from the instrumental excellence of WinterStrain...:-)http://www.myspace.com/jerneiffel.html
Thanks Stein !
Now with most bands, after having released an album there comes the live dates, or gigs ! Do
you have anything planned ?
Rolf – We are laying plans for what, where and how. I have nothing confirmed to
share with you, but it's gonna be good...
Have you thought of nipping Tony Mills ear for a few live dates supporting
TNT as they tour Norway ?
Rolf - I’ve talked to him, yes. Don’t know if there’ll come anything
out of it, though. It must fit everybody’s schedule.
How long before you start work on Winterstrain album
number 3 ?
Rolf - It’s already under way. We’ve put it on hold for a while, though. First, to get this
one finished, then to have a bleeding break. But there are songs written already. I’m guessing four or five fairly well-shaped
Rolf, you always give Tony Clarkin a mention as an inspiration and in 2007 after many years as a fan, you finally
got to see Magnum live for the first time. You must have felt like a kid in a candy store !
Rolf - It was unreal.
Clarkin is the most important song writer on the planet, from my point of view. Chords, lyrics, melodies, production, guitar
playing... he’s just so complete. This is the guy who wrote “The bringer”, “Staying alive”,
“The spirit”, “Vicious companions”, “How far Jerusalem”, “Vigilante”, “Wild
swan” AND “Stormy weather” AND a whole bunch of other songs... and none of them can be mistaken for any
other. The lyrics for the “The eleventh hour” album alone should have secured him instant immortality.
Magnum live was like nothing else. It was solid, wonderful... I don’t have sufficient words.
In 2006 you passed
on a copy of Return To The Mirror and a personal letter to John Payne (who was touring with GPS at the time) .
- Well, the good dr. took it upon himself to bring John this album and this letter. I have, sadly, never met the guy in person.
But that is something I mean to rectify. He’s another tremendously important and incredible musician and song writer.
I’d love to see him live one day.
I saw GPS two days after the gig he received your cd and letter and spoke
to him about it. He was delighted and said it was a very nice letter !
Rolf - Wow! Yeah, I guess he gets a few
of those, but I just had to. He’s been in a most unthankful situation. I wanted to send a different message.
think we better call a halt to the interview. But before we do is there anything you would like us to know that I have forgotten
to ask ?
Rolf - I could always tell you that all my dreams have come true. I am very content with everything.
It’s a struggle at times, but mostly an inner one, because being an artist is being a bit weird. Neil Peart mentioned
in his “A work in progress” video something about the hardest thing for the wife of a writer to learn: When he’s
looking out the window, he’s working...
Well many thanks for your time and honesty. The best of success for Shifting
Sands and good health to you all.