THEATRE OF TRAGEDY

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TARTAREAN DESIRE WEBZINE

This interview with the guitarist Vegard K. Thorsen of Theatre Of Tragedy was done through e-mail in January 2002.

Hello, how are you doing?
-Personally, I'm not doing too badly. Quite pleased with the upcoming album, and I guess I speak for all of us on that.

Your new album "Assembly" will be released in early March. Will it continue in the vein of "Musique"?
-Yes would be the most correct answer to that, in that it's closer to 'Musique' than any of the other albums. But at the same time it's a bit different. The overall sound of both the songs and the production is somewhat more mature than 'Musique', more confident, maybe. Programming and rock-solid guitars still go hand in hand, but the balance is better.

A lot of people are probably still disappointed with the complete stylistic change after the "Aégis" album (which I think is one of the best albums ever released). What do you have to say to them?
-Ehm...maybe 'hello'?
There seem to be many people out there who feel ToT betrayed them with the release of 'Musique'; to some even 'Aégis' was like treachery. Personally - and again I believe I speak on behalf of everybody - I don't see that there should be a bond of loyalty between a band and the people who listen to their music. The old albums are excellent for their genre, so I can understand that people who were expecting more of the same were disappointed, but as they say; shit happens. Deal with it.
We've had many good discussions with people about this, but unfortunately there have also been a select few who were hostile, even resorting to threats. That's sad, mostly on their part.

You were among the first in creating a whole new sub genre of metal that has been adopted by bands like Trail Of Tears, The Sins Of Thy Beloved and Tristania, what do you think of these newer bands?
-Many of the people who prefer the earlier albums are of the opinion that these bands took up where Theatre let off. I guess I agree to some extent. I don't mean that they sound like Theatre-clones or rip-offs; they all have their distinguishing traits. And if we were to try and compete with them in that genre, with the current line-up, they would probably run circles around us ;)

When the band started out as Suffering Grief back in 1993 did you ever expect to become this big?
-I doubt it. The ambition was there, I guess, but no one actually expected even to be signed. Or so it may seem, as the band jumped on the first record deal they were offered.

Can you live off your music today or do you engage in any other activities?
-We do try, but it's not easy. Both Liv and Frank have their studies, Lorentz, Hein and myself work in periods, when there is time. Raymond is the only one who puts all his time into music-making...and Terry Pratchet novels.

Will you be supporting the new album with a tour and in that case where will you be going?
-There will be a three-week European tour starting at the end of April, probably the 27th. The tour was initially supposed to be longer, but regrettably the personal agenda of some members didn't allow for a longer tour. As a result the tour will concentrate on the Northern European countries and Scandinavia. We were planning to play Finland, seeing as we recorded the album there, but we'd lose too much time travelling. It's a pity, though, because the last tour went so well on all levels, so we were really looking forward to getting on the road again. But hopefully we'll be able to do gigs in the countries left out of the tour over time. There are also plans for doing as many festivals as possible. Apart from that the dates and venues are still to be confirmed.

Isn't it hard keeping together a band with six members and Liv Kristine living in Germany?
-Actually, it isn't as hard as one might think. It probably has to do with the way we work. ToT isn't your typical rock band that hangs out in the rehearsal room doing jam sessions. Usually we alternate between working with ideas in the rehearsal room, at Raymond's home studio, or simply alone. Then we get together and work on things collectively. We then record demos, burn them onto CD-Rs and send them to Liv. Alex (Krull) has a studio where she can work on her vocals. We're also going to experiment with file sharing over the Internet. It's almost business-like.

Will Liv Kristine be releasing any more solo efforts?
-Liv is working on her own material, but at the moment her hands and her Filofax are full working with ToT and finishing her studies. So there will _possibly_ be a new one, but the timing is very uncertain.

Five albums into your career, is it still as fun making music now as it was in the beginning?
-Well the band has been constantly changing on many levels throughout its existence, so people haven't had the time to get bored ;). But admittedly there are times, when things aren't working as smoothly as we'd like, when it all feels more like a chore than something fun. It can get a bit too 'serious', and our way of working has taken away some of the charm of the old rock-band-in-youth-club-days. But playing _is_ fun, doing music is _great_, and there is so much to learn. And to avoid getting too tired we all have our little bedroom projects, just to relax and play.

Do you know where you have most of your fans?
-It's commonly assumes to be Germany, but it may well be South-America. When playing Mexico in December 2000 there were massive crowds, despite the tickets being mindshaggingly expensive. And I know for a fact that people came from the US to see us. But those were probably more interested in the older material. When playing the new stuff, the most enthusiastic crowds were in Sweden, where we hadn't played before the tour last year. But then again, the live versions of the songs off 'Musique' were well received all over Europe, even by people who were sceptical about the album. So it's hard to tell.

Last year Vegard K. Thorsen joined the band as a new guitarist. Has he been playing with any other bands before ToT?
-I've played in a couple of local bands, but none of them ever got past the demo-stage. One of the bands I was in actually 'warmed up' for ToT back in 93-94, at really small, local venues.

Do you know what your former members Eirik T. Saltrø, Tommy Olsson, Pål Bjåstad and Tommy Lindal have been up to since they left the band? I know that Tommy Lindal had a band called Imperium and Tommy Olsson has just released the debut album with Elusive.
-Apart from the Tommies Lindal and Olsson, the former members haven't done much in terms of music. Pål has disappeared from sight, and Eirik currently holds a position as manager/coordinator in the largest newspaper in the region.

What kind of music inspires you today, what can one most likely find in your stereo?
-Oh dear...
This is what you'd probably find in stereos: Raymond alternates between gangstah-rap and Kraftwerk; Lorentz is a bit of an omnivore, but likes his music catchy and melodic; Frank is industrial rock-guy, and a sap for Nine Inch Nails; Liv seems to listen to a lot of female artists like Madonna, Britney, Cher and Barbara Streisand, but she also has some hilarious Neue Deutsche Welle CDs. Personally I've been playing Dive, Klinik and Wumpscut a lot. Anything harsh and electronic works. But as to what inspires people...hard to say. I don't think it's ever a band, an album or a genre; it's that little detail here or there, a good chorus or catchy beat, little things that make you go 'damn! I wish I made that'.

Do you have any advice for young musicians trying to make it big?
-Get a manager and do anything he says! ;)
Being successful is no exact science. People write long articles and books ob how to be successful, but the sad truth of it is that luck seems to be a major factor. I've seen many talented bands just wash away because there were never at the right place at the right time (which means they were in Norway, a musical Bog of Sadness).
But anyway, chances can probably be increased by not compromise on your opinions too much, and keep clear lines of communication. You may hate your band-mates, but it's better to let them know than just tag along. It might not be obvious, but it will reflect negatively upon the band.

Any final words you would like to add?
-Well, when I was but a mere sprout, and first started out playing in a band, a wise, almost middle-aged man told me this about writing song-lyrics: "If your message is so important, write a friggin' book".
Good point.
Thank you for your time.


Links of interest:

Theatre Of Tragedy
Nuclear Blast