Oddleif Stensland and COMMUNIC: “We have no boundaries in our music…”
On the occasion that one of the most interesting Norwegian heavy and progressive bands COMMUNIC will perform in the local festival “Be2gether”, we have a direct and warm interview with the band vocalist and guitar player Oddleif Stensland.
Birute: Hi Oddleif, how are you? First of all, greetings from Lithuania where COMMUNIC are going to perform this August. Bands from Norway are not usual guests in our land. What do you know about Lithuania and our metal stage?
Hello Birutë! Well, I don’t know much about Lithuania. I know its location on the map, and that it once broke free from the Soviet Union and regained its independence in the early nineties, but I don’t know any band coming from Lithuania. Really looking forward to visit the country – as we have never been there before. We will fly to Vilnius. Hope to learn more and hopefully we get the chance to explore a little bit. I have heard rumours that you have some of the best beer in Europe as well?
Yes, your knowledge about our country is right. And we are really proud of our beer, we have a lot of sorts of this drink! Well, the stage of your country is very often associated with black metal. Your band is far from that style, balancing between heavy/power metal and progressive sounding. How are you recognized by your national audience?
Yeah, most people think about BM when you think about Norway, but the scene is getting more and more diverse nowadays. More thrash, death and even progressive metal bands are growing. As for COMMUNIC I think that most people that are interested in metal know about our existence, but haven’t actually bought our albums yet. We still have a long way to go, and we need to play more local gigs, something that we have rarely done up to now – so far we have played the most of our gigs in Germany and other European countries that has been more open for this kind of music that we present, but now we are planning several home-country shows and hopefully the responses will be just as good as we experience in most other places we play our show.
Oh, the situation is really interesting. Returning to the past, the germ of your band was a scarcely known formation SCARIOT. Was it a long-living band? Could you tell more details about that act?
SCARIOT was originally formed back in 1997 and released its debut album “Deathforlorn” in 2000 and “Toungeless God” in 2001. I first joined the band in 2002 and together with the band we released the album “Strange To Numbers” in 2003 that I think is a really good album. It was in SCARIOT that I met up with Tor-Atle, as he joined this band at the same time as I did, and we hang out a lot together – in the end we formed COMMUNIC together and quit our obligations in SCARIOT. Later on the band released yet another album with new members.
I think that COMMUNIC is a rather original and interesting band. However, one tries to compare you with other acts, for example NEVERMORE. Are you really influenced by them or any other band or just make efforts to create special and individual compositions?
It seems like we always have been compared to NEVERMORE, and that is mostly because of the way I sing, but we believe that we have found our own unique sound along our way. I can’t say that NEVERMORE is a big influence for us, even though we think it is an amazing band – the main influences we have is combining from the early American thrash metal and later on progressive metal.
Quite an unusual and still exciting combination, I could say. Moreover, I found your music to be in certain touch with your mates GREEN CARNATION. What do you think about the sound of this band? Maybe you even got a chance to perform with those guys?
GREEN CARNATION is a great band. They come from the same city as we do, and they had their rehearsal room in the same building as we had so we know the guys quite well. Bj¸rn Harstad, their guitar player actually played session bass for us on some of the releases and on one show we did in America last year at the ProgPower festival, as our bass player could not play this gig.
Yeah, this information is new to me. On the other hand, I almost “hit the mark” with the question, didn’t I? And what about COMMUNIC style? Or you simply assume yourself to play your music and hate any labels?
It is important for a band to have some kind of a label, so people who read a review and stuff know what it’s all about, and if it is something that they believe they could like. But I think it is difficult to find a genre that actually fits for COMMUNIC. We do so many different things and have no boundaries in our music, but the most close you get is progressive thrash metal.
Have you some influences from any vocalist or guitar player?
As a guitar player I think Dave Mustaine and MEGADETH was a huge inspiration in the beginning of my guitar playing, also the way he was singing and playing guitar at the same time was inspiring in the early days. As for vocals I have always liked Dio, Dave Mustaine, King Diamond, Geoff Tate, Messiah Marcolin, so a strange mess-up of all those I guess would be found in the stuff that I do.
You mentioned really great figures of heavy stage worldwide! Well, you are a trio from the very beginning although play complex, serious and technical music. Have you ever thought about one or two more members to appear in COMMUNIC?
We have tried different stuff earlier in our career. We have always used keyboards in the studio, so on the first European tour that we did we had a session keyboard player along with us and he worked fine, but we all thought he made everything to sound a bit too nice actually. It became more heavy and in your face as a trio so that was the way we wanted to continue. We also tried out a few guitar players because we thought that we needed that to get a full enough sound - but then it felt like some of the dynamics was lost, and then there actually were too much guitars, I know it sounds strange, but it works damn well as it is now, and it is easier to get the band going and everything to run smooth.
You exist only for five years but your technical skills are of very high level. I guess all of you to have years of experience elsewhere. Or maybe you have musical education? Tell more about this point…
None of us has any musical education. What we have learned is coming from different band conspirators during the years. Me and Erik have played together for almost 15 years in different bands so we have done our time in the practice room. It might seem to people like we are coming from nowhere but for us it feels like we have been around for ages!
That’s great. Five years and three really grand and prime albums (the third one is forthcoming at the moment). Good productivity, isn’t it?
This is not the time to relax. Finally we got our record deal that we had been searching for since dawn of time. And as long as we are not touring, we are writing new material. So as long as we have fun playing in the band, and still have cool ideas coming to us - I think that we are going to continue in the same pace in the years to come.
I am successful to be in all of your material including “Payment Of Existence” already. All your albums are very impressive although rather different. Which one do you think is on the top of your creation?
The new one feels fresh and we have huge confidence in this new material, but it will be hard to top our previous two albums anyway. They both got raving reviews all over, and we know that it will be hard to ever top that, but it feels good to finally have some new songs that we can present live and have more songs to pick from. We are getting better as musicians and as a band; and I believe that we still have our best album to come in the future!
And now please do your choice in the following manner. You can see all your releases summarized in the bottom of this interview. Please, mark two or more compositions from each album that you like most of all. Thank you.
Done. Those are: “Ocean Bed” from “Conspiracy In Mind” demo; “They Feed On Our Fear”, “The Distance” and “Silence Surrounds” in so titled debut album; “Frozen Asleep In The Park”, “Watching It All Disappear” and title track from “Waves Of Visual Decay”; finally “The Abandoned One”, “Through The Labyrinth Of Years” and “Raven's Cry” from the forthcoming release “Payment Of Existence“.
You went over big to be immediately signed by the famous Nuclear Blast and all your releases were more or less hailed by reviewers. Are you surprised by the result or just consider your hard and serious work is justly evaluated?
Of course, we have worked hard to come where we are today but we didn’t expect anything actually. We have always done our music our way and never thought about being commercial or selling more albums. Of course, it’s cool to reach a lot of people with your music but it has to be honest and real. We would never sell our soul for this and the only reason why we do this is because we love this kind of music. That is it. If we didn’t have the record deal, we would have made this music anyway, but it wouldn’t be available for people to find. Still, we love the work Nuclear Blast has done for us, and they are a really good place to be and the people working there are metalheads just like us.
And that point is rather important, I guess. Let’s continue, are you proud of the attention to your band like “with COMMUNIC the Norwegian … no, the worldwide … metal scene has a new exciting and forward-looking name to remember...”?
Well that is something that a manager once wrote. I don’t know if proud is the right word but we feel that we have something unique going on, something that you don’t find many bands doing, so in one way it is correct – but that will be up to the listener to judge.
How do you estimate the job of your producer Jacob Hansen, painter Anthony Clarkson and other persons related to COMMUNIC releases?
Hansen Studios has been a great place to record and we have returned to his studio for all our albums, so far he has been really important to the way we sound on CD. We are always in need of professional teamwork, and Mathias Noren that made the artwork for “Conspiracy In Mind” did a great job. Same with Anthony Clarkson who did “Waves Of Visual Decay” and now Jan Yrlund who has created the fantastic artwork to “Payment Of Existence”. We have a lot of dedicated fans who spread the word about COMMUNIC on the Internet, we have important people running our websites, booking our shows and a management helping us out with the more important stuff concerning running this band.
Well, only a few months remain until the festival “Be2gether” and our audience will see and hear COMMUNIC. Is it going to be a part of your tour or just a single show?
This summer we will only play a limited amount of shows and festivals. I just recently became a father for the first time and there are some obligations following that fact. But the day after “Be2gether” we will fly to the UK and play a festival called “Bloodstock”, then we head back home. Later this year we hope that we can do a European tour as a support act for more famous band.
We are going to finish here. Have you some wishes to visitors of Ferrum site and your Lithuanian fans?
Check out the new COMMUNIC album, it will give you something to think about… and see you at the festival site in August. Cheers!
Thanx Oddleif so much for your time with the interview. See you in summer!
Thanks for the support. Cya…