Interview with Tantara
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: November 26, 2013
All pictures by Luxi Lahtinen
Tantara, a group of young Norwegian thrashers, has been creating some great Bay Area Thrash Metal since 2009. The band's debut album, Based on Evil, released in 2012, opened many doors for them. No less than Flemming Rasmussen, the knob turner behind Metallica's classic albums Ride the Lightning and Master of Puppets, produced Tantara's debut, and did a great job. The combination of Tantara's Bay Area influences and Rasumussen's production made it no surprise that comparisons with those early Metallica records flew around upon the release of Based on Evil
Tantara received a last-minute call to replace Exhumer on the Slaughterfest European tour and I managed to catch up with the band in Tampere, Finland on October 29th. We discussed Based on Evil and Metallica as well as plans for a new album, some new guns in the Tantara line-up, Isak and Emil, future festival appearances and so on. Read on...
Luxi: Welcome to Finland! As I understand it, this is your first time playing in Finland, correct?
Stian: Yes, exactly. This is our first time playing in Finland. The settings look good; big stage and lots of cool metal people here in Finland, so we are really excited.
Luxi: What do you know about this country, other than our drunken ski jumpers, fast formula drivers and stuff like that?
Stian: Ha ha! Yes, ski jumpers and...
Isak: ... Nokia.
Stian: Yes, Nokia of course!
Luxi: How has the tour been thus far? Are people aware of what Tantara is all about?
Isak: Not every place but in some, yeah. There are lots of new faces, which is natural because we just started out, you know?
Emil: Yeah, some of our gigs have had lots of people. We have played in some places that have big stages, good crowds, etc. so that's always good. Some places have been less crowded; maybe just a handful of people. It's still fun to play everywhere but it's certainly a bit different, you know?
Stian: There has been a lot of variation between the crowds. Some nights we may have had 400 people and others, maybe 10, watching us. But every night is a new experience for us, small stages and small crowds as well as big stages and big crowds. Everything's fine but, of course, we prefer playing for bigger audiences.
Luxi: I'm sure there have been people in the audience who have never heard Tantara before. Have these people come up to you after the show and given you positive feedback or even asked for your autographs?
Isak: Yes, it has happened at some of the shows on this tour. Some gigs are not that crazy and people leave us alone and at other gigs we have experienced pretty fanatical crowds where we are signing CDs, shaking hands, taking pictures or whatever.
Stian: We love all that, man. When I was growing up, I wanted to get my stuff signed by "rock stars." Now people put me into that "rock star" position by asking me for autographs and taking pictures with me, so that's pretty cool, you know? It's a smaller scale, of course, but it's really fun and I really love it.
Emil: You are giving a whole new meaning to the term "rock star," ha ha!!
Stian: (*laughs*) I guess I do, yeah...
Luxi: What have been the most memorable venues for you thus far?
Emil: Overall, I really liked the stage at the Metal Invasion festival in Straubing, Germany (on October 19th, 2013). There was a good crew and people working around the clock for the bands. It was a really nice experience, indeed.
Isak: ... big stage, good sound, lots of very professional stage people, signing sessions...
Stian: yes, we did some signing sessions there, which was awesome and pretty fun, you know? You had to do a lot of stuff there.
Luxi: And you couldn't completely avoid partying either, right?
Whole band: (*laughs*)
Stian: We have been partying every night on this tour. It was two weeks ago when we started drinking Jagermeister. We were shooting for one bottle of Jager every day for 100 days. Then we ran out and felt miserable, ha ha!! We are just having a good time, you know?
Luxi: Indeed. How many mornings have you woken up with an enormous hangover?
Emil: Mornings are the worst for us on this tour. Every time I wake up I feel like "Oh shit, this is awful." Everything's shaking, my stomach is making noises and shit like that.
Stian: But you just grab a couple of beers and everything's fine again.
Emil: Yeah, yeah, you only need to drink a couple of beers and you are back on your feet again, ready and loaded.
Isak: ... back in the line, you know? ha ha!!
Luxi: Metallica's name has been brought up many times in describing the Based on Evil album. How much have albums like Ride the Lightning and Master of Puppets meant to you personally even before Tantara was formed?
Stian: First of all, thank you very much for saying that. Every band wants to be like Metallica, success-wise, at least, but...
Fredrik: We weren't trying to sound so much like them but they did make some great albums in the past that were very influential for us, personally.
Stian: Yeah, we didn't try to sound like Metallica on purpose but the music on Based of Evil just turned out the way it did.
Fredrik: We basically recorded an album of what we liked to hear ourselves.
Stian: We tried to mix some of the influences from when we were younger into the songs on Based on Evil. Metallica, of course, played a big role and we are heavily influenced by them. We don't listen to them much today but there's no denying they had a huge influence on us.
Isak: ...and 80's Thrash Metal in general.
Emil: I think each of us listened to Metallica a lot when we were younger, say, 5-6 years ago. I remember I had like 10 Metallica books and hundreds of CDs, biographies and bootlegs and shit. So yeah, Metallica was a big influence because their stuff was so widely available back then and even more so nowadays.
Fredrik: Metallica's riffs, songs and even album covers were all good. If you liked Thrash Metal, it was easy to get into that kind of stuff back in the day. Thrash was good, you know?
Stian: I can understand this Metallica comparison because we play more melodic Thrash, not like "Death-Thrash" or "Black-Thrash." Metallica played this more melodic Thrash Metal, so it was pretty easy for us to relate to their sound when we were younger. That's probably why we get compared to Metallica of often, because we don't play the most brutal or extreme type Thrash Metal, like Kreator or Sodom. Overall, we are heavily influenced by the whole early Bay Area Thrash scene, bands like Exodus, Vio-lence and so on, but also by Anthrax, who come from New York.
Luxi: Do you feel Flemming had anything to do with the Metallica influence on Based on Evil?
Fredrik: He had no influence on how we wanted our songs to sound but we all know what he did on Metallica's Ride and Master albums, production-wise.
Luxi: When you entered the studio to record Based of Evil did you want to have an old school sound to the album?
Stian: Yeah, that was exactly what we wanted to get on this record. We were talking about that for a long time; we wanted to make an old school Thrash record, and that's what we ended up making. In fact, the production could have been a bit better, especially the drums sound, and I think that will be fixed on the next Tantara album. I am pretty pleased with it, overall. Our next album will sound much better, I hope. We are always trying to improve and every album is going to be better than the last one.
Emil: You always reach a certain level on each of your releases and you hope things are even better on your next release.
Luxi: Since your very successful debut, Based on Evil, which was released on Indie Recording last year, you must have had time to work on new stuff. Can you talk about that?
Stian: Well, I can let you hear a new demo after we have finished this interview.
Luxi: oh, thank you that would be nice.
Stian: We have three instrumental songs on the demo and one is like tem minutes long. It is going to be on our next album. We are really excited about that song. It is heavy as hell and it's probably my favorite Tantara song that we have done so far.
Isak: We have another three or four songs half-done. We are always starting new ideas, so everything seems to go smoothly for us when it comes to songwriting.
Stian: We have lots of riffs and ideas for new song structures and we are working to put them all together and make them interesting.
Luxi: Are there still going to be some Metallica -flavored elements in your new songs, to keep the band and the fans satisfied or will Tantara strive for something different to shake the Metallica tag?
Stian: As said earlier, those Metallica influences are just really in the backs of our heads. We don't think "this sound sounds too much like Metallica, let's just get rid of it." It's automatic, and it's not done on purpose or anything, it's just there.
Isak: I think our new stuff sounds like more than just Metallica.
Emil: I would say we are on our way to having our own identity. We are definitely closer to a more personal sound with our new songs.
Luxi: Does it matter to you nowadays if someone says to you, "Hey, you sound like Metallica"?
Emil: That's not only a great comparison, but also a great compliment for us, I think.
Stian: Then again, it's not only about Metallica and their influence on us. We are also influenced by so many other bands like Exodus, Slayer, Megadeth, etc. as well as more underground (Thrash) bands. I think every new Metal band, in some way, takes something from Metallica, like Avenged Sevenfold. They are a new Metallica. Their new record is heavily influenced by Metallica, in my opinion. I think it's hard, or maybe impossible, to avoid being compared to Metallica. But to answer to your question, I really take it as a compliment whenever we get compared to them. It needs to be pointed out, though, that we don't want to sound like them. We want to sound like ourselves. We are a fuckin' Thrash Metal band more than anything else.
Luxi: Max and Per, guys who played on Based on Evil, are out of Tantara. Why did they decide to leave the band and was it easy to find Emil and Isak to replace them?
Fredrik: Max lived too far away from the rest of us. It took nine hours to come over here for a band practice. He has his work as a tattoo artist too, so...
Stian: ...and Per had other interests in hs life and we had to accept his decision to not pursue a career in Tantara. I feel like the new line-up is the best we have ever had. Isak is just 18 years old and he's a fucking brilliant guitarist and this motherfucker (*pointing Emil*) is such a crazy guy on stage. Just watch him and you'll see what kind of a manic he truly is.
Emil: You are putting the bar way too high for me now...
Emil: I just stand on the stage and don't move much at all, ha ha!!
Isak: We still have the original drummer and the original guitarist/vocalist, so I think we are fine.
Luxi: Yes, it was you (Stian) and Fredrik who formed Tantara in the first place...
Stian: Exactly. We formed the band actually about 4 years ago and, in fact, yesterday was Tantara's 4th birthday, so this band has been around exactly 4 years, and I am really proud of what we have achieved so far. And things can only get even better for us in the future, I believe.
Luxi: What have these new Tantara soldiers, Emil and Isak, brought to the band?
Fredrik: New inspirations, that's for sure. Isak is a good songwriter, and he has different, as well as similar, influences as we do. It's a nice way to change your sound a little bit when you have a new guy in the line-up who has some new ideas. Isak was a fan of Tantara before, so...
Isak: "Was....."? I still am... (*laughs*)
Fredrik: Well, that's what I meant...
Luxi: So, each of you is a songwriter?
Stian: Yes, basically. Fred and Isak are the main songwriters for Tantara, and I am trying to contribute to the songwriting process what I can. I co-write a few songs for the band but its Fred and Isak who are the main songwriters. Emil is working on his own stuff for Tantara.
Emil: I am working with my bass stuff.
Isak: I am glad to have him in the band because he brings in so much energy. But he's also the peacemaker of the band when we are have fights. He's the kind of guy who's always there to cool things off between the rest of us. I am really happy about this line-up. We are stronger than ever, and we are going to fuckin' kick ass.
Fredrik: Emil is also about producing stuff. When we make something, Emil is able to think about it a little deeper than the rest of us, I guess.
Emil: But, overall, we also get along very well with each other.
Stian: Everyone in the band is allowed to make comments about our stuff. It's not like Fred would have an idea and only I have to accept it. Everyone's thoughts and ideas are heard. We are a tight group. There are four of us in the band and everyone is allowed to contribute to the songwriting process freely. That's really the best way to work with this band, I think. Fredrik and Isak do the main stuff, though; riffs and whatnot, and then I come along and change everything...
Isak: It's good to have four opinions and not just one. It's a good thing to get ideas from everyone. When everyone brings in ideas, a song may get even better.
Luxi: When will you head into the studio to record your follow-up album?
Fredrik: Early next year, during the first quarter, I believe.
Stian: Hopefully in January or February, 2014.
Luxi: So, basically, you still need to get 5 or 6 new songs done before entering the studio?
Stian: We have like six songs half-done already, so all the material is there and we basically need to finish those. It's going to be really nice and I cannot wait until we start recording our second album.
Luxi: Will your fruitful cooperation with Flemming Rasmussen continue?
Stian: Perhaps, it's too early to say yet. But there's a great chance that we'll work with him again. We are still discussing things but that's the plan. This also needs to be discussed with our label.
Fredrik: We want to record with Flemming again but if we can't then we will just have to find another person to do the job as well as he would. We may even record our next album the analog way, to get a more warm sound, not like the old school clipping way. I don't know all the details but...
Emil: It's actually pretty simple to do the analog recording, which would get us more of that old school sound on our record and perhaps a real deal.
Luxi: I seem to remember reading that you have some sort of video camera crew with you, and that you are working on a kind of documentary about Tantara, right?
Stian: It's NOT a camera crew, just us filming clips from here and there (*laughs*).
Luxi: Ah. My memory is serving me well again, I see...
Stian: I was thinking that when I get back home, I would publish one video every week via our FB page but, unfortunately, I have been too lazy to do all that. I have lots of video footage recorded from this tour, and I plan to make a one hour documentary about it. When it's ready, we are going to release it via YouTube.
Isak: Both Stian and I are recording a lot of shit every day, so we'll try to put a documentary together out of it. I can already promise you it's going to be one hell of a video documentary about this tour.
Stian: We do a lot of crazy things, so it's going to be fun to watch.
Luxi: Do you have plans to use this documentary for a DVD?
Stian: No, because it's just us drinking, bullshitting and doing other crazy things all the way through...
Luxi: But I guess that's what all the extras on Rock/Metal DVDs are nowadays...
Stian: Including it in a limited digi-pack version of the album might work, with just lots of bullshit, ha ha!!
Luxi: What will happen after this tour? Are you going to take a break from doing gigs and start fully concentrating on songwriting for your next release?
Stian: After this tour, we have three more gigs this year, all in Norway. One gig will be on December 21st, in Vadsø, which is located way up to the north, almost on the Russia border. Besides these gigs, we are mainly going to write songs and try to finish the pre-production of our next album and then go and record it as soon as we possibly can. That's what I want to happen for us next.
Isak: Yes, that's the goal for us.
Emil: And then we are hoping to do a few festivals during next summer...
Stian: Next year we probably won't tour that much but we will try to get more festival shows booked. That's the best way to get bigger crowds, which is important for us because we are just making a name for ourselves. Next year, we are aiming to play at least 10 festivals around Europe and, hopefully, some other places around the world, too. It would be cool to play at Tuska Open Air Festival in Helsinki, Finland next year. We'd just love to play there; that would be the coolest thing ever! That's one of our goals as well as Graspop Metal Meeting in Belgium and some other festivals.
Luxi: As you are still relatively young guys, I am curious to know what you think of the 80's Thrash Metal scene compared to the current Thrash scene with new bands like Warbringer, Violator, Fueled by Fire, Bonded by Blood, Gama Bomb, Evile and so forth?
Isak: I think the Thrash scene from the 80's is very different compared to the Thrash scene that we have now. In the 80's, the scene was huge with so many bands and stuff. It was even relatively easy to make a living by playing Thrash. Nowadays, there are still a lot of cool new Thrash Metal bands out there but it's definitely much harder to make your living at it, and that's the big difference, I think. But the bands nowadays have the same will and passion for thrashing as the bands back then had. That's still there, you know?
Stian: You have these so-called "New School Thrash Metal" bands, like Gama Bomb, whom we toured with and who, by the way, are fuckin' awesome. All those bands, such as Municipal Waste, Warbringer and Finland's Lost Society, play fuckin' awesome Thrash Metal. As for us, we have a bit of a different style, keeping it more like the Bay Area type of Thrash. We feel like our style is quite different compared to most of these new Thrash Metal bands. We try to keep to the roots of Thrash.
Isak: The sound is pretty different because I think all of the Thrash bands today have taken a lot of influences from the 80's, of course, but they have this more modern touch to it. That makes their sound a bit more modern, a bit different.
Fredrik: Thrash Metal bands today are basically the fans of Thrash Metal bands of the old days. They are making new shit, trying their own approach to the Thrash stuff that has influenced them to start their own Thrash Metal bands.
Stian: All of those veteran Thrash Metal bands were inspired by bands like Judas Priest, Motörhead, Maiden, Venom and so on. We are inspired by all of these Bay Area Thrash bands mostly. If we want to make old school Thrash Metal, we have to listen to what the guys from Slayer and Metallica listened to when they were just starting out and learn from them.
Luxi: What's your opinion about the reunions of Thrash Metal bands that have been happening recently?
Stian: If it's done only for the money, then I don't like it at all. It has to be for the music to make sense. Like the Onslaught guys; they came back together back in 2005 or 2006, and I can understand this type of reunion because they did for the music and not just for an extra buck or two. They love to play music. If you want to get back together, do it for the right reasons and not just money.
Luxi: What are some of your hopes for next year with Tantara?
Isak: Obviously, to get our next album out, that's for sure. To release the best album we can, to play our best shows we possibly can, to try to get this band to the next level and keep pushing the limits. Just doing our best in everything, you know?
Stian: Like we were talking about earlier, playing lots of festival shows to get our name out to the people, and just do our best in whatever we can. Our ultimate dream is to make our living from this; to be as big as Lamb of God or bands of that scale, you know? That would be pretty cool.
Emil: ... and that's a long way away. That's a really fuckin' long way to go, indeed.
Stian: Yes, but we are trying and will tour our asses off to get there someday. We are pushing in that direction as hard as we can. Our hope is to continue touring, having fun and making some great Thrash Metal. I think our next album is going to be a very crucial one for us because it should be great. If it fails, then we even might cease to exist.
Emil: It is going to be great, I believe.
Isak: It will be great, it will be just that.
Luxi: That's what we are all hoping for, right? Well, I guess that's all I had in mind, so I would like to sincerely thank all of you for your time and wish you all the best for your show tonight.
Stian: Thank you, and thanks for taking your time with us. That was fun interview to do.
|Other information about Tantara on this site|
|Interview with guitarist and vocalist Fredrik Bjerkø on December 8, 2012 (Interviewed by Luxi Lahtinen)|
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