ULVER are currently touring europe the first time. A sensation indeed, as Kristoffer G. Rygg and his fellow musicians found their way out of the band´s own studio in May 2009. The fans were amazed, the band tasted blood. One show in Germany, one show in Austria is on the touring schedule and vampster proudly presents these concerts. So there´s a lot stuff to talk about. The newest member Daniel O´Sullivan talks about his addition to the line-up, the upcoming tour and further plans for 2010.
Hello Daniel. We talked last time at the GUAPO-show in Munich, back in 2008. You told me that you were going to fly to Oslo in the near future in order to collaborate with ULVER as a guest for future releases. Are you now surprised how serious this collaboration went?
(laughs) I am indeed. Initially, around that time, I was just going to play on that album with sixties-covers. At that point, there was no discussion for ULVER to perform live. Things became more concrete when Kris proposed to do that. Since that, my involvement with ULVER has been ever increasing. Now we´re talking about a proper full-length-album, the successor to “Shadows Of The Sun“, and that is something I am going to be involved with. Yes, it´s definitely a surprise how it moved on.
Where do you know the guys from? I know that you played with Kris before in AETHENOR.
Yes, that is initially how we became musically acclaimed to it. On MySpace a mutual appreciation of society is going on. He was into MIASMA & THE CAROUSEL OF HEADLESS HORSES and GUAPO and I loved “Blood Inside”. I think years before I heard some of the earlier ULVER-stuff, but it didn´t grab me in the same way. I was a big fan of “Blood Inside” when it came out. I think from that point it was clear that we were some kind of kindred spirits, or whatever, and we wanted to work together ever since.
It´s funny that you mentioned “Blood Inside” because I´d say that you, as an artist, fit very well to ULVER. Especially because bands like MOTHLITE and GUAPO, which you also play with, represented a side of ULVER that has been very subconscious, but on “Blood Inside” moved a little bit more in the foreground: The avantgarde-side.
Are you referring to the megalomania?
That is something that is very apparent on “Blood Inside”. That is the affinity I found in the record. There are baroque-aspects of it, and the boldness, and, in a more musical sense, proggy-ness. “Blood Inside” is pretty far-out and far-reaching. That´s what it makes a very elaborate and bombastic piece of music.
Yes, we first had this conversation in the studio in Oslo, where ULVER is pretty much based. The first gig was proposed to us, it was the festival of literature in Lillehammer. The theme was too good to dismiss it. That was the initial catalyst to it. I always wanted to do this and kept pushing Kris towards this. We had to get out of the studio and figure out how to arrange these pieces live, and it could be a great show. It took some convincing, and then eventually the money has worked its magic. (laughs)
But it was not too big a step, as Kris had already performed with AETHENOR, was it? Did he taste blood?
I think it helped; he got a taste for it with AETHENOR. But it is a very different concept as AETHENOR is essentially about free improvisation. That is quite a big undertaking to throw yourself into that. ULVER has a lot of expectations, there is a die-hard fan-base and their word spreads all over the place. So if you´re a shit live-band, you´ve blown it. So it was very important to do this correctly.
Was it hard for Kris to perform live? It is said that he is a shy person.
|The wolf packs latest addition: Daniel O´Sullivan|
Is it said? I don´t know if it is said. He is not particularly shy, but he is very nervous about performing live; he always was and always will be. I think the more we play, the more he gets into it. When we tour in February I guess it will take a few gigs for us all to relax and get into it. Kris is not shy, but he is a loner. Conveying the music from night after night perhaps disagrees with him, but there are ways of reinventing it from night after night. That´s what I had learned from extensive touring with my bands. When you have to do the same thing every night, you can fool around a little bit. This is something that we are starting to do with ULVER. Our gig in London was a lot more open in that respect. We were improvising more and taking more risks.
There were rumors that ULVER only started to play live because you simply couldn´t afford your studio anymore. Is that true? I can´t imagine this.
That is not true, actually. It is at least not the sole reason. Money is of course a factor and has given us some incentive to make our shows worthy, but it is not necessary to anything as keeping the studio alive. We do this, we have to change. We have to be aware what it takes to make records. And in this sort of climate music is such a fucked up way; the business of music is in a very bad state. You just have to be creative. This fits also to the evolution of ULVER. The live-setting opens ways for the new record which is a good thing. Change is good.
And that is what ULVER has been proving for more than 15 years.
Somehow it´s surprising, I thought you would continue to play only special shows, now you´re doing a full one-month-tour. How did it occur that you now do such a long tour?
That came through frustration. Because we play a gig and then just go home. And because we all have the desire to hit the road and we think we can do this better, no matter what song in question it is. We want to have another crack at that and put up some momentum and that is difficult to do when you just do festivals. We have also become good friends and want to spend time together and make music. We want to be a gang and have fun on the road just like regular bands do. But of course, this is far from a regular band.
Honestly, I cannot imagine watching a band like what ULVER on a metal festival like the BRUTAL ASSAULT. To me, that´s kind of surreal. I want to see what ULVER in a theatrical atmosphere. Is this also what you think fits best to the music?
Yes, where we can, we request this. Like amphitheatres and auditorium styled spaces. The metal-context as a whole is highly inappropriate. We realized that after playing the BRUTAL ASSAULT, like playing in between OPETH and DARK FUNERAL is quite peculiar. But we got through and we survived. We thought it can´t be any worse than that. We got offered a headlining slot at the WACKEN OPEN AIR in Germany, but we turned it down for that very reason. Playing in front of a crazy amount of people who only want to hear “Nattens Madrigal”, that would be a little soul-destroying for us. It´s better to cultivate our own thing. That is what we always have done, and we continue that way.
That brings me to my next question. What´s the audience of your shows like? Is it a mixture of Black Metal-fans, older people, who are into jazz and art in general, as well as maybe the Trip Hop-crowd?
Yeah, that´s pretty much right. (laughs) A lot of metalheads, a lot of people, who are into experimental and electronic music, and a lot of boys. Just like all the bands I play in. Except for MOTHLITE, which seems to get more a female contingent in the crowd, which is very positive. But a lot of beards, basically. We take girls to the beardless community. But also some women with beards. (laughs)
I got a beard as well.
There are a few beardless people in what ULVER. I think Kris and Jørn are the only ones with a beard.
You already had a beard.
I got a brief beard. I abandoned that. When my face becomes withered, I´ll cover it up. While I´m young and vital, I´ll keep it that way. (laughs)
|“But there is always hope.” ULVER and the life after “Shadows Of The Sun”.|
In November, you´ve written in your blog that some shows have been too much praised by the fans. That sounds like you’re a pretty self-critical band. Is this necessary for a band with your status?
I think when the state is so ambiguous, yes. We are deeply uncertain about this band, about how it is executed live. And we are expressing that. We generally do feel nervous, and we want to do the best we can. It is in a formative stage, by the end of February it will be less formative. But we still reflect everything that we are doing.
Now about the setlist of the upcoming tour. I guess there will be no big surprises, the same songs as you played on your shows in 2009.
There will be a few more.
Can you already tell anything about it, or do you want to surprise the people?
I think, it will be a pleasant surprise, let´s leave it that way.
Can you imagine rearranging some old songs for the tour, like you did on “A Quick Fix Of Melancholy”, where you had the song “Eitttlane”, a remake of “Nattleite” on “Kveldssanger”?
We have talked about that, whether or not it will appear in the setlist. We´re still figuring that out.
You also use visuals on stage. Who made them?
They were made by our member Jørn H. Svaeren and a girl called Kristin Bøyesen. She is a visual artist and filmmaker, and they put these films together.
In some live-pictures I´ve seen the ballerina and Jesus on the cross. These are quite strong symbols. Do you visualize your songs through symbols?
The visuals we selected are fundamental to everybody. They are not really esoteric because what we are trying to avoid is something too exclusive, something that is only understood by some elite. We want to choose symbols that are almost like cliches. Symbols that all people can understand, these are fundamental aspects of a human being. Just like Jesus on the cross that presents sacrifice, death and tragedy. It also asks a lot of questions. It is just the nature of being human. That is something what ULVER is more and more interested in: Looking at the universal.
I´ve read an interview about “Shadows Of The Sun“, where Kris told about the lyrics that it is about the basic, heartbreaking things.
Yes, because they are infinite. And sadness is infinite. These things affect us all.
The line-up of what ULVER on stage is not too big. While one could think there will be playing a whole big-band, it´s mostly the four guys of you and drummer Lars Pedersen.
Yes, but Lars will not play on this tour. On this tour we will work with another drummer called Thomas Petersen. And the other guy is Ole Aleksander, and he provides some of the electronics. He plays in a Hip Hop-group in Norway called THE PAPERBOYS. They are quite successful and had a number one-hit in Norway last summer. And Pamelia Kurstin will be joining us for a few shows here and there as well.
As you have a really wide network of friends, my idea was that you could easily invite a different guest for each show and thus make each concert individual.
And copy our good friends in SUNN o)))? (laughs) It is something we talked about. Attila will join us in Budapest and my friend Hilder will join us in Berlin and there is a chance that Justin Broadrick will join us in London. Yes, there are options. But also, the idea is another cool thing, but it’s hard enough for us to get out on the road. To work with these other artists is quite a lot to organize.
What about the support groups on the tour?
|“If you´re a shit live-band, you´ve blown it.” A mature live-show is essential.|
That´s what I was referring to. Maybe MOTHLITE will do 3 or 4 shows. That depends on whether we can organize that. I am pushing for that.
I believe the future of what ULVER looks really bright. If you won’t do too many live-shows, which would destroy some of your secret aura, your cult status will even grow.
Well, wishful thinking. We are just concerned to make the right decision and make music that is still important and relevant to us. I think the next record will be definitely an interesting one. What came up already sounded really promising.
May I guess that it will head a little bit towards “Blood Inside” again?
I don´t know at this stage. I think it will not sound like anything we´ve done before. I think you can expect another very tragic record. But the tools we use to create that are still undecided.
I think “Shadows Of The Sun” sounded so tragic and final, one could guess it’s the end of the journey.
But there is always hope.
Absolutely. Is it possible that you are the hope for this band because you are the new member that brings fresh ideas?
Young, and vital, and full of potency. (laughs). I don´t know, man. I hope so. I hope I´m the hope. I love the band and it´s a great honor to be in this band, and I´ll do everything I can to make this record the most important one.
I can´t imagine that you fly to Olso each week and jam with the guys in order to write the new album. Do you correspond more through e-mail?
We haven´t been making much music online, it is important for us to be altogether. I’´ve been making a lot of trips to Oslo, not every week, but we have a sort of intensive periods where we work on material. When I go home, I work on a few things there, and Kris and Tore work on a few things in Oslo. But there is a kind of O´Sullivan-residence in Oslo, that’s for sure.
But before this record will come true, there are two other releases. First, there is the collaboration with SUNN o))), in my opinion a logic and not too surprising step.
We know each other. Stephen and I have done various projects in the past, and I performed with SUNN o))) a few times. So yes, it is a logic step even if our music is pretty different. It was an interesting experiment. We are mixing it at the moment. I think it will be finished some time in the summer. It always takes a long time to get in the same room. All are incredibly busy.
What will it sound like? Is it drone and heavy piano over it, then Kris´ voice and some “Clockwork Orange”-soundtrack-synthesizers over it? (laughs)
(laughs) I love the way you dissect the elements. But yeah, that´s it pretty much. Actually, it started out obviously very ambient. And it is, but the fine tuning that we do these days takes it in another direction. I am playing piano on most of it. The things I play, I was thinking more about Sacamoto and people like that. It is kind of the music, that you might not expect from SUNN o))), but you might expect it from an what ULVER record. It´s a sidestep for both bands.
Just like “Altar“?
Yes, I think we will put it to that level. It will be very carefully put together and carefully considered. It is going to be an important record, a liable collaboration.
|“The basic, heartbreaking things affect us all.” ULVER play with well-known symbols and touch their audience deeply.
Compared to this, the upcoming cover-album sounds like a pure fun-thing.
It´s exactly a fun-thing. Kris and I particularly have a very much sustained love for the sixties. We are basically pursuing that interest, that interest with using what ULVER as a medium. So we took key-songs from that era and were interpreting them. Have you heard the original?
Unfortunately not, I´m not that much into the sixties. Maybe I will be after this record.
There are really hidden jams there, some great stuff. We cover the more recognized bands from that era like JEFFERSON AIRPLANE and THE BYRDS. But also the more obscure acts as well, like THE COMMON PEOPLE, GANDALF and THE BONNIWELL MUSIC MACHINE. Really far-out stuff.
When will it be out?
When it´s finished. Which it isn´t. We are working on it, but all we got inside at the moment is this tour because it’s so imminent. We are thinking of finishing things in the studio after that.
I guess what ULVER is a time-consuming thing for you.
(sighs) It is indeed, yes. It consumes a lot of time. But I don´t mind.
Can you make a living of making music?
I have been for the past 12 months. Partially because I dont have the time to do anything else. It´s not like I earn a spectacular amount of money, but I am a musician, I have to choose music else I´ll do music. I´m not really good at anything else.
One last thing, I heard there are some bootlegs from what ULVER on the Internet. What do you think, do they “hurt” you maybe?
This is nothing we have control over and I would rather like that they didn´t exist. Because I am a control freak, and everyone else in the band is to my knowledge also a control freak. It does jar with what we want to put out.
Is it a problem when four guys that work together are control freaks? Doesn’t this cause lots of conflicts?
(laughs) No, everybody is a control-freak, but everybody has his own parameters. Mine are not the same as Tores because he is really technically minded. When it comes to composition, I am very anal, and Kris and Jørn are very anal about lyrics and concept. In a way we occupy different areas which works out. There is also a healthy amount of give-and-take.
Daniel, thank you very much for the interview!
Livebilder (c) Caroline Traitler, Bandfoto (c) Sebastian Ludvigsen, Layout: Captain Chaos