WUTHERING HEIGHTS

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TARTAREAN DESIRE WEBZINE

This e-mail interview with the band founder and composer Erik Ravn of the Danish progressive metal band Wuthering Heights was done by Vincent Eldefors in January 2004.

Hello, how are you doing?
All right, I guess. Iīm trying to relax a bit now, since we are finally releasing the last part of our album trilogy. This is something Iīve been working on for something like fifteen years now, so it actually feels a bit weird.

You have now finished your third album "Far From The Madding Crowd", are you happy with the final result? What has the feedback and reviews been like so far?
Yes, Iīm extremely happy with it. We couldnīt have done it any better. The album turned out exactly as it should, which is rare I guess. In fact we finished ahead of schedule because everything went so well. Both because of the nice time we had in the studio this time and because I think the record is really strong, I actually listen to it quite a lot, just for the pleasure of it - and thatīs really nice. As far as review goes, we couldnīt ask for more. I mean, they were great on the previous albums, but it seems people are going totally nuts over this one. Thatīs cool. I mean if you start playing music to get rich and get laid, itīs most likely that you will be disappointed. But when people tell you that they like what you do, that it means something to them, thatīs really warming. Getting emails from people and so one, that makes it all worthwhile, you know. Thatīs the real reason for doing this - for the fans. I mean, weīre minstrels, right? Weīre here to entertain. And when people feel they are properly entertained, then you have succeeded.

You once again decided to work with Tommy Hansen at Jailhouse Studios. Is that the best studio for the music of Wuthering Heights do you think? Did you ever consider trying something new in another studio?
Someone else could maybe do it as well, I donīt know. But since we had already worked with Tommy once, and knew that it worked, there was no need to change that. But itīs definitely great working with him, because he has so much experience - both in terms of production but also with music in general. He has a great ability to understand what Iīm trying to achieve and also to push the band beyond what they think theyīre able to do. And all this without ever stressing anyone. It was really relaxed and funny in the studio, and I think that really shows on the album - it doesnīt sound forced, it sounds natural and organic.

How much money and time did you spend in the studio?
We donīt actually spend that much time in the recording studio, because we do a lot of preproduction. I basically record the entire album in my home studio, so everything is planned from the beginning and everybody knows what to do. This is necessary if you are doing such a relatively complex production on a small budget. We spend three weeks in Jailhouse Studios this time, and that was all we needed, we couldnīt really do anything more on the album. I īm not sure about the preproduction. I know on the last album I spend almost a year. It was a bit shorter this time, but I donīt know for sure. So itīs really quite silly how much time you spend on making one hour of music...haha! About the money, I would assume that a record like this will cost somewhere between 10.000 and 12.000 Euro. Itīs not all studio costs of course, but there are a lot of other stuff that drains your wallet - transportation and what not.

"Far From The Madding Crowd" was a novel by Thomas Hardy which was published in 1874, is this where you found the inspiration for the album title?
Yeah, though back then I actually just saw the title somewhere without knowing exactly what the story was. It simply fitted extremely well with the idea of the album. And indeed, it is a great book, so nothing to be ashamed of there...hehe...and besides, since the band is also named after a famous book, it is likely to cause a bit of confusion - and I always aim to do that...hahaha!

It seems to me like you have mixed historical touches with fantasy in your lyrics, was this intentional?
Hmm...maybe I wouldnīt exactly say "history" - my history perhaps. The lyrics are basically based on my own life and experiences, my own travel through life. So itīs definitely based on reality - if not "history". But since this probably wouldnīt be very exciting, I tend to write in a sort of fantastic or mythological style. Because I believe that lyrics should also have a poetic value. Itīs not just storytelling, the words should also be beautiful in their own right. And since I am actually writing my own personal mythology this somewhat elevated style fits good. This is of course also why some would call it fantasy. But if fantasy implies that you simply invent something, then this is not fantasy. I would never write something that didnīt mean anything to me personally and that I couldnīt relate to. That would be cheating people.

You have made a good name for yourselves in the progressive metal scene but not much is known about the early days of the band. Could you tell us a little about the first years of existence when you went by the names Minas Tirith and Vergelmir?
There isnīt that much to tell really, or at least itīs not that interesting...hehe. I formed the first version of the band back in 1989 with some mates from school. But living on the outskirts of Copenhagen in little Denmark it was next to impossible to get anywhere with your stuff. Just finding musicians was very hard, most of the time there was one guy missing in the lineup. Anyway, since we didnīt really get any exposure we just concentrated on refining our art, developing the style and writing the strongest possible material. Also you have to remember that already early in the nineties, heavy metal was declared dead, and you just couldnīt get signed. So Iīve really just been sticking to my guns hoping for times to get better. We did manage to release a couple of demotapes - the demo "Tales From The Woods" in 1992 and an untitled promotape in 1995 - and play a few gigs. But it was all very underground. I mean itīs probably good that we were not discovered early on, since our playing skills were somewhat short of brilliant...haha...On the other hand, had people known that we actually played this kind of stuff so early on they wouldnīt consider us a copy of Angra or Symphony X or whoever. But hey, I guess thatīs only natural. No big deal.

Was this your first band experience?
Yes, Iīve never been in another band - Iīve played with other people but that has been outside of the metal world, jazz and stuff - even comedy...damn! hahaha....

Now you have played with many leading Swedish and Danish power / progressive metal musicians, is there anything left to accomplish? What goals do you have today?
Thatīs true, I work with some amazing people. This is a very pleasant experience of course as a musician. I mean, watching some of these guys in action is just incredible. But no, Iīm not satisfied yet. I donīt really know what the future will bring. Iīm definitely not the type who wants to do the same thing twice. I mean, if you think you could do it better next time, you didnīt try hard enough this time, did you? So sounds may change, but Iīm always hunting the good song. You can never have too many good songs. And I have some other weird plans as well, exploring other fields of music. But nothing specific yet. Iīm not really too keen on lifting the lid on my box of ideas...hehe.

What have been the best moments in your career as a musician so far?
I guess making this album, because there was really no downside to it. There was a small hickup when our bass player pulled out two weeks before we were to enter the studio, and I had to feverishly do all the bass parts myself. But other than that it just went great from the word go. Everyone played their asses off and there was such a great atmosphere in the studio because we all felt we were working on something really good.

Are you happy with the work that Intromental and Locomotive Music have done for you so far? What has this cooperation meant for Wuthering Heights?
Intromental have always done what they are here for, and that is solving problems. When your record deal falls through, they get another one. When your drummer quits they get a new and better one, and so on. Also they give the whole thing a more professional edge. You get in touch with people who maybe wouldnīt look your way, if you were not represented by a "company", but was just a regular dude. So itīs a cooperation really, and itīs lasted quite a number of years now, so I guess that shows that it works. They take care of business, we take care of the rockīnīroll :-) As far as Locomotive goes, itīs all very new, so time will tell. However they seem very commited to supporting us, so it looks cool.

For metal fans in general Denmark has always been most famous for producing Mercyful Fate and King Diamond. How would you describe the Danish metal scene since those days and what is it like today?
Iīve never been a fan of King D. Or Mercyful Fate, so I donīt really have much of an oppinion about that. And I guess I got into metal quite late, so I donīt know much about the early scene. But since we havenīt had any new big names for so many years metal is indeed very underground in Denmark. There is absolutely no coverage in the media, there are not many concerts. On the other hand, there are actually a lot of bands - even good ones. So I think it could be better if it wasnīt all so fucking MTV. Hopefully it will be. The main difference between the scene in Denmark and that of our neighbouring countries is, that there really isnīt a "scene". There are people who like metal, but they usually show up at concerts in their regular clothes and short hair. You know, itīs not that much of a lifestyle anymore.

What music do you listen to yourself? What was the latest album you bought?
I listen to a lot of various stuff. Actually a lot of stuff that is not metal. I like folk music. I like seventies rock, both the progressive kind and the more pomp stuff, like Styx for example. I like the organic sounds of that era. People were really stretching the limits of rock music, but there was still a lot of rockīnīroll in it - you had to have catchy songs and all that. Iīm not afraid to admit that I like the pop qualities in music. Though that doesnīt mean that you should get away with doing something stupid. I mean, when I listen to music I want to be entertained and moved. But something thatīs artificial or stupid doesnīt entertain me. If music is just something to be consumed, then itīs not good enough. I think good music should be entertaining but without being meaningless. Thatīs the qualities I look for, the genre is less important. About albums - Iīm a bit of a record collector, so I rarely buy one album at a time, you know I go to record fairs and so on, buying mostly vinyl records. I guess the last "new" CD I bought was the latest from Danish singer-songwriter-rockstar Kim Larsen, one of my biggest heroes, by the way.

What plans do you have for Wuthering Heights in the nearest future?
Possibly we will be able to do some festival appearances, which will take a lot of preparation - it will be quite difficult to get it all together, I think. Other than that Iīm taking it kind of slow. A large concept is finished, it will take some thinking to get on from that point. Iīm working on some songs, but Iīm really taking my time. You canīt rush these things, or at least you shouldnīt.

Any final words for our readers?
I hope you will take the chance and listen to the album, and I hope you will like it, I think itīs a good hour of fun.


Links of interest:

Wuthering Heights
Locomotive Music
Intromental Management