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Interviews Tantara

Interview with guitarist and vocalist Fredrik Bjerkø

Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen

Date online: December 8, 2012

Pure Bay Area-sounding Thrash Metal from the north, via Norway? Sounds weird and exotic, doesn't it? These four horsemen (or Norsemen), only in their twenties, have been digging deep into the Bay Area sound to find the very roots of it. As they show with their new band, Tantara, they have done an incredibly good job at it.

Tantara has basically re-invented the legendary, angry, violent and heavily riff-based Bay Area sound on their debut studio album, Based on Evil. They even went as far as hiring Flemming Rasmussen, the man behind classic Thrash albums like Ride the Lightning and Master of Puppets, to produce Based on Evil.

Vocalist and guitarist Fredrik Bjerkø enlightens us about Tantara and the band's modest master plan to be the next big name in the world of Thrash Metal...

Luxi: First off of all, congrats on getting your debut full-length album, Based on Evil, out. You must feel pretty darn good having it finally released by Indie Recordings, right?

Fredrik: Thanks! Yes, it feels REALLY good to finally have the album out. I mean, we've invested so much time and effort on this album and had a really good feeling about it. Especially since our first label fucked up BIG TIME by being a shitty label. Sorry for the harsh words, but that's really how we felt about it. But after a year-long wait, it's finally out on the best metal label in Scandinavia, and one of the best labels in Europe!

Luxi: As for the recording process, do you feel like Based on Evil ended up exactly the way you wanted and possibly exceeding some of your hopes?

Fredrik: The recording process was really good. Doing it with Flemming made us sure that it was done the right way, and that gives us the comfort to focus 100% on our own tasks. It went really well, and we're satisfied with the end product! But of course, after listening to the album for a year you always hear spots and parts you think you could've done differently, but overall, we're happy about it!

Luxi: The tunes on your debut album all vary from 5 to 9 minutes in length. Was this a sort of tribute to those long, melodic and riff-filled songs of the Bay-area sound of the past?

Fredrik: When it comes to the duration of the songs, it's more like we feel that we need that length to express ourselves. 2-minutes songs are aren't for us and we don't feel that we can bring our "message" home in that short amount of time. But if you look at it this way, instead of having 10 or 12 songs that equal an hour of total playing time, we'd rather put 8 songs in that same hour. I mean, as long as you don't get bored listening to it, what's the problem? Some songs are more like 2-3 songs in one. Let's take "Trapped in Bodies" for example; starts heavy and thrashy, later it goes over to a melodic part, which totally changes the mood, and later back to some really fast parts - 3 "songs". It is the same with "Prejudice of Violence"; first 6 minutes, hard and fast, the last 3-4 minutes soft with clean guitars and solos.

Luxi: Besides the clear influence from the one and only '80s Bay Area Thrash Metal scene, is there anything else that you would say has been an influence on Tantara's sound?

Fredrik: Our influences can pretty much be anything. Of course Thrash, but also maybe some classical music, or just plain classic Heavy Metal. We just take things from everywhere and add our own touch to it!

Luxi: Was Flemming Rasmussen the only candidate to produce your debut album, or were you considering any other producers for Based on Evil?

Fredrik: At the start, Flemming was just a wet dream (ha-ha!), so we were not really sure. But after he gave us feedback and wanted to make our album, he was the only candidate. We live in Norway, and if one of the best Metal producers in the world lives a 6-hour drive from where you live, you go there!

Luxi: Did Flemming feel it was important that your debut album have a sound like the one on Metallica's Master of Puppets? Did he talk much to the band about this?

Fredrik: No, there were no talks about having a sound similar to those albums. We just wanted it to sound different from all of today's overproduced, compressed and "robotic" Metal, so it ended up closer to the older sound than the new one, and thanks for that!

We recorded it with as much analog equipment as possible and then converted it into ProTools. We used NO click track for the drums and almost no editing so it is almost live. We captured more of the soul of the music, if you know what I mean! And we're pretty happy about it!

Luxi: It amazes me, being as young as you all are that you were capable of recording such a strong and mature sounding Thrash Metal album as Based on Evil. There's definitely a chemistry with this band where everyone knows 100% how Tantara should sound. To create an album like this must mean you rehearsed these songs together like there was no tomorrow. What's your secret?

Fredrik: Ha-ha, thanks dude! But there's no secret, as far as we know. We just make music how we think it sounds best, and since we like what we like, it will sound like that, with our own touch! The thing that is KINDA funny is that we really didn't rehearse that much when we made the songs. We live far from each other, so we only had the chance to meet during holidays. When we met, it was like, "Okay guys, we have 3 days to make a song, GO!" After a few days it was done and recorded. That's pretty much the same story for all the songs written after 2009! In most cases, we bring our riffs and together make the rest of the song, and sometimes, we go into the rehearsal room with no ideas at all, and just start jamming and later end up with a song! One of those songs was "Trapped in Bodies."

Luxi: Unfortunately, there's probably going be some ungrateful naysayers who may accuse Tantara of being a clone of this band or that, without considering that Tantara didn't want to re-invent the wheel but just to get it rollin' smoothly again. Any thoughts about this?

Fredrik: We just make what we think sounds cool and original, but of course, there will always be some guy claiming we're not original in any way. To be honest, we don't really care about that. I mean, most of the people claiming that probably grew up with Thrash in the 80's and are "Nazis" about new Thrash bands, but hey, 30-40 year olds are not our main audience (but HELL, I am going to be there in the crowd, even if I'm a bloody 44 year old man – Luxi). Our main audiences are the kids of today, those who will attend Metal concerts in 5-10-15 years. How many of today's active 80's Thrash bands will be playing live then? If you want to see and experience how Thrash will sound best in the future, you should really give new bands like us a chance. Like it or not, we will continue carrying the torch for this type of Metal, to us, the purest form, Thrash Metal.

Luxi: It's actually kind of funny to realize that Tantara started out as a "talent show" project in the fall of 2009 and has evolved into a strong Thrash Metal unit. Did you ever think that it would get to the point where there would be a Tantara full-length studio album, or was that your main goal right from the beginning?

Fredrik: Ha-ha, yeah, that's kinda cool! But here in Norway, that's probably how most young bands start up, attending a talent contest. If we were in our mid 20's, it probably wouldn't have been like that. We didn't think that it would evolve to what is has now, but when we realized things were going seriously, we went all in - and that has paid off!

Luxi: The band name, Tantara, is derived from a Latin word, meaning a blast, as on a trumpet or horn. Did you choose that name because it also describes what the band's music was supposed to be all about: about having a blast whenever somebody listen to your stuff?

Fredrik: No, it wasn't! Ha-ha, it was just random. We wanted to have a cool band name, with only ONE word. We're pretty much against the long name trend in Metal, so we would never have a whole sentence as a band name. "As I Take On My Make-up" is not a good name. (If you got that one, BAZINGA).

Tantara was just a random word I found searching the Internet for words which would sound cool as a band name, so that's how we ended up with that!

Luxi: What kind of things does today's Thrash Metal scene lack, from your point of view?

Fredrik: It lacks the soul and the sound from back in the day. It doesn't compare, if you know what I mean. And that's where we are trying to fill in the spots!

Luxi: Would you say that Thrash Metal is making a sort of comeback in Norway, a country that is known mostly for its huge Black Metal scene? I know you have some quality Thrash Metal acts in Norway such as Equinox, Red Harvest, Blood Tsunami, Imbalance, Aura Noir and the like, so obviously Thrash Metal is still pretty strong in Norway. Correct me if I am completely mistaken...

Fredrik: I would say that it's not. You can't compare us, style-wise, to most of those bands, we sound so different. Most of the other bands are hugely influenced by Black Metal and whatever. We don't think mixing Thrash with other genres is the way to go, it's not Thrash anymore, it's Black/Thrash. If a band claims to be a Black/Thrash band, they're just as much a "Thrash" band as a "Black" Metal band, but they won't claim they're a Black Metal band either, if you get what I mean? Confusing? Ha-ha!

But my main point is that you really can't compare us to most of the other Norwegian Thrash-influenced bands. There's a reason why we say we're a Scandinavian Thrash Metal band, and it's so we don't get compared to the other bands influenced by Black Metal. We would rather be compared with other Thrash Metal bands in Scandinavia. For example Sweden has a strong up-and-coming "pure" Thrash scene.

Luxi: How important do you think it is for Tantara to play some gigs around and to get the band's name on people's lips?

Fredrik: Gigs are really important to us. Unfortunately, it has been almost only gigs here in Norway. We really want to play outside of our country more, so let's hope that happens in the near future.

Luxi: You also seem to love playing cover songs live, especially some of Metallica's classic songs like "Creeping Death," "The Four Horsemen" and "Master of Puppets" but also there's been "Bonded by Blood" by Exodus on your set lists. Besides covering both Metallica and Exodus, what other songs have you covered when playing live?

Fredrik: Yup! We mostly cover the songs we KNOW the audiences like, and we happen to know they like Metallica, Exodus and Slayer songs. Other songs we have covered are Pantera's "Art of Shredding", Slayer's "Raining Blood" and Exodus' "A Lesson in Violence". We have also covered "Crazy Train" one time! That was fun song to do.

Luxi: When Tantara performs live, what kind of show do you promise for the attenders? What people can expect when they get ready to see you on stage?

Fredrik: They can expect us to give everything and perform our best on stage. Whether it's 2 or 2000 people, we will give out best! Who knows, maybe someone in the audience is a person with good contacts in the business?

Luxi: Are you aiming to get Tantara on a tour in the coming months to help lift up the band to the next level and get more widely known around the globe?

Fredrik: We're going on a small tour in Norway in a couple of weeks, but I don't think that it will get us more widely known around the globe! Ha-ha!

But when that's said, we really hope to get on a big ass tour soon! We'll see...

Luxi: What are some of your goals for 2013? I guess a follow-up record could be one of those things that you have already nailed up on your rehearsal place's wall that you would want to accomplish in 2013. Anything else?

Fredrik: We're not really sure, to be honest! But the second album will hopefully be recorded during 2013. And from then, we will take it as it comes.

Luxi: Have you any new songs written and do they pretty much follow the same recipe that you used for your debut, with an emphasis on lengthy and very riff-based Thrash Metal?

Fredrik: We have 2 songs already made, one really long song, and one that's a shorter one (5 minutes or so). If they follow the same recipe is hard for us to say, we'll need a person from outside of the band to decide. But we kinda follow the same recipe; we make what we feel we should make.

Luxi: If you got the opportunity to become a mentor for the Metallica guys for a day, what would be the 1st three things that you would teach to them so that James and co. could find their way back and start playing Metal after all these years of being completely lost?

Fredrik: Wow, that's a really hard question. It's really hard to say, but if there was ONE thing, it would be for them to find the "rebel" inside again. I mean, when they made their best music they were hungry and hated all the "fake people" aka "glam metallers." When they got rich they didn't care anymore. I can't really blame them; a lot of people would've probably done the same.

Thrash is aggressive and angry, so it makes sense that you have to be angry about something to make angry and aggressive music. Metallica were angry at the scene back in the day, just like we are today. Being angry gives you a drive you can't get anywhere else. But again, when you're the biggest Metal band in the world and have shitloads of money, you're not angry; you're just happy and are having a good time. I think that's why Metallica doesn't make music like they did; they're too happy with life (which is also good for anyone, I guess).

Luxi: Seriously, make sure Based on Evil finds its way to the hands of Metallica guys. Flemming could well be your privileged mailman ;o)

Fredrik: Ha-ha, who knows! If they somehow read that Flemming has produced a new Thrash record, who knows, they might be curious enough to check it out somehow.

Luxi: I think I got it all covered about Tantara, for now, I mean. Thank you for taking some time to get this interview done and all the best for you and Tantara in all your attempts to conquer the world. Any last comments for the readers of The Metal Crypt, perhaps?

Fredrik: No problem dude! We like good questions. In the very same breath, we would like to thank our fans for the endless support - and spread the word!

Other information about Tantara on this site
Interview with Tantara on November 26, 2013 (Interviewed by Luxi Lahtinen)

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