April 19, 2022

Devil’s Bell, the new album by Norwegian rockers Audrey Horne, is coming out next Friday, on Napalm Records and is surely one of the highlights in heavy music this year. We caught up with the band’s frontman Torkjell Rød (or, if you prefer, Toschie) to talk about how you write a good melody or lyric, how Iron Maiden inspired him to become a tattoo artist and the best TV series you maybe haven’t watched yet. Oh, we even started the interview with the weather – it’s a UK site after all, isn’t it?

Hello, Toschie! Is it already spring in Norway?

-Mmm, yeah, it’s starting to get spring-ish. Today it’s raining like hell here but I’m in Bergen and it’s raining most of the year anyway. I’m used to it.

I’m glad I have the chance to talk to you for the first time, because I’ve been following the band for a long time. The new album is really good, so congratulations about that. Did you approach it differently, having in mind the pandemic restrictions during its creation?

-Thank you! Yes, we definitely did. We were on tour before the pandemic started and we had to cut it short because everything shut down. But before we went on tour we had already started talking about a new album. We released a live album meanwhile and it gave us the time we needed not to rush the new one. We wanted to do the new album the same way we did our last one – go down the rehearsal studio, work together as a band and then record it pretty much live. When the pandemic started, the restrictions were however that you couldn’t have more than two people out of your household. We realized it would take forever to record it the way we used to, because we wouldn’t allow ourselves to not follow the restrictions as everybody else. So we decided to start writing music separately. Arve and Thomas, our two guitar players, wrote some music and then they sent it to me to add some vocals and ideas and send it back to them. When the restrictions lifted a bit, we got together and worked on the stuff we already had. When the time for recording approached, we were prepared for the worst case scenario and we even picked up some producers that were not local. Then we decided to record it instrument by instrument and produce it ourselves. It’s good that we changed the way we worked a bit, because we started that way in the beginning for the first three albums and then we started working more together as a band. Now, because of the pandemic, we changed it a bit once again. It’s good to be forced to sometimes do things in a different way. The new album has the freshness of Youngblood, and we avoided it becoming a routine and a habit basically.

What has been your inspiration for the lyrics in the new album?

-I think the main inspiration for my lyrics is always the music. It might sound a bit cheesy but it is. It’s like, if you’re going out of your house, going to a cocktail party, or to work or to a funeral – you dress differently. You dress accordingly to what you are doing. With music, I don’t sit down and think “I’m gonna write about a certain subject this time”. When I get a song or just parts of a song from Arve, Thomas or Espen, I start singing to make a melody line and then I just make up words from the spot to define the way to sing the melody. Subconsciously I always come up with words that fit the music and on this album the lyrics are pretty much darker than on the last one. It’s not just because of the pandemic and things that go on with the world but because the music was a bit more progressive, a bit darker and heavier in a way. Then, when I started working on finishing them, they pointed towards the darker side of the human nature. So it’s not about specific ideas or subjects, it’s more about the way I felt these songs should be ”dressed-up”.

You mentioned that the album sounds a bit heavier than your last releases and that was my thought as well. Devil’s Bell also sounds more immediate and with more songs that could be sung along, in comparison to the previous album Blackout. Can you agree with all of that?

-Yeah, I think so. Every time we start writing an album, we talk about what kind of album we want to make. Not like we schedule our meetings but we do it just occasionally. We actually always end up somewhere totally different from what we had talked about but this time, when we talked about it in advance, everyone agreed that we wanted to make a heavier album. It comes from the fact that when we play live we always love to play the heavier songs. The slower songs and the ballads are always the ones which get the “maybe the next time” when we start discussing the setlist, hahah. So when I started getting the new songs, every next one was even heavier than the last. We had some slower stuff, but these ideas kind of died out in the process. The new album is more in touch with what we are as a live band. We are not a riff based band in the sense that if somebody comes with a good riff, if we can’t make a good melody on top of that, we don’t keep it. To put a comparison, Rolling Stones were more groove and riff based and The Beatles were always more melody based. We were always very interested in writing good melodies, good songs, but not in the radio-friendly sense.

I can totally get that. And taking that a bit further, has the fact that the band has had connections with the Norwegian extreme metal scene helped you in any way through the years or it happens to create confusion, because of your totally different style?

-No, I don’t think it’s been confusing. I think it helped us in a way, because the music that we make is inspired by all kinds of music. We are not set out to be a band in a certain genre, we just wanna write good music. The fact that some of the guys play in more extreme bands helps because we get a different perspective, It would be the same if somebody played jazz outside Audrey Horne. We have worked with a lot of producers who are not heavy metal producers, because we don’t need them to have the same ideas we already have. We need a producer who will look at the music from a totally different angle and say “what if you did this?”. I think Arve, who also plays in Enslaved, who are a very progressive band nowadays, has brought something from that in Devil’s Bell. We allowed ourselves to dwell more on instrumental parts and Arve’s background in Enslaved gives a pretty good understanding of what makes a progressive part in music good. The only time it’s confusing is when people read about the band members and see some names associated with black metal bands and check us out and then say “what the fuck is this – it’s a hard rock band”, haha. But we’ve always seen this as an advantage.

Toschie, the first single, which was the title track, featured a fantastic video, which, together with the song, is a strong nod towards Iron Maiden. Who are the biggest Maiden fans in Audrey Horne?

-Well… everyone! Haha! We all grew up listening to Iron Maiden, Mötley Crüe, KISS, Ozzy Osbourne, Van Halen and all these bands, but when we speak of Arve, Thomas and Espen, those three guys have even toured as a backing band to Paul Di’Anno!

How great is that! I didn’t know that.

-Yes, they did. I think it was early 2000 and they recorded a live DVD in Poland with this band (it’s called The Beast In The East, from 2003 btw). I guy who knew Paul Di’Anno suggested them to him, because they knew all the songs. Especially the first two albums, they can play them backwards and forwards and upside-down, haha! But Kjetil and I, we are also fans. I remember that the first two albums that I bought with my own money were Piece Of Mind and Synchronicity by The Police. So we all grew up with Iron Maiden and they’ve been a huge influence on us, especially on the twin guitars and the way Espen plays bass. In Audrey Horne, we all disagree on music. Usually some of the guy hates the stuff another one likes, but there’s a few of the bands that we all agree on like Iron Maiden, KISS, Ozzy Osbourne and Led Zeppelin. You know, I also work as a tattoo artist, besides being a musician and the moment I got fascinated by tattoos was when I saw an article in a magazine for Iron Maiden, when they recorded Powerslave in the Bahamas. There was a picture of them in the studio and Steve Harris, Adrian Smith and Dave Murray all had tattoos. So Iron Maiden inspired me to become a tattoo artist in some way as well!

Obviously, we all know where the band name comes from, so I can’t help asking you if there are some movies or TV-series that have impressed you in the last years?

-Yeah, there’s a lot of stuff you watch and you say “oh, it was alright” but every now and then there’s a movie or a TV series that inspires you. I’m kind of old school. I keep watching old stuff like The Sopranos, The West Wing, The Wire – the “early” stuff from the modern TV shows. I’ve never been a fan of horror but I like the darker stuff live Seven, the new Batman movie – those are kind of like my lyrics. They are focusing more on the characters and how they struggle with inner demons. Basically movies and TV series where they give a glimpse on why they are doing something and not just what they are doing. Mare Of Easttown is another show I was trying to remember the name of, which I like.

So you probably loved Joker then?

-Oh, a fantastic movie. Absolutely fantastic! That kind of movies exactly. When you get an understanding of why some people do what they do. Going back to Iron Maiden and The Evil That Men Do. I think it’s kind of scary because when you watch something like this, you think that maybe nobody is safe from doing something like that – you just have to be pushed to the absolute outer limit, you know?

You can order Devil’s Bell from HERE