Music, Belief and Beyond: An interview with Hai from Next Life

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Norway’s hardcore scene has a deep and often undocumented history.

(Originally published by ClashMusic Wed, 30/11/2011)

The influences from American DIY idealisms reappear in the decade-long Blitz scene, a radical squat in the centre of town, as well as Oslo’s oldest independent record store/label, Tiger. For the last few years, many Norwegian hardcore shows are built around reunions of great, but largely obscure bands from the 90’s. Yet the scene remains far from dead. Blogs like, “OC State of Mind” run by the guys in Giant keep up with the latest hxc gigs and Oslo straightedge scene. Another band who’s recently emerged and causing quite a stir are Dark Times, who in fact, release their debut EP this week. Dark Times started out as an all-girl trio in 2010 but today, consist of AK on guitar/vocals, Sebastian on bass and Rikke on drums. You can hear the track, “Distrust” from the EP here.

Next Life, however, have been packing serious ammo in Norway’s underground for the last decade. They’ve just released their third full length, Artificial Divinity. Combining hardcore influences with gaming technology, it carries the intensity of Melt Banana dodging spitfires in a Zelda landscape. Formed by Hai Nguyen Dinh in 1999, their aggro- heavy sound originally derived from Amiga chip-instruments, synths… and a love for Zeni Geva. The current line-up has Anders Hangård, drummer from renown 90’s death metal band NoPlaceToHide, and Tormod Christensen on bass. While plenty o’ interviews tell of Next Life’s history, development and vision, I got into an interesting conversation with Hai about weird topics from children’s intuitions, crappy grunge, to Assück.

We’ve been talking about stuff we believe when we’re a kid, out-of this world perceptions we believe are true, but in the adult world deemed absurd. Like when I was six, being forced to speak in tongues. Guess that’s why I believe kids have the most powerful imaginations, especially in their ability to be 100% convinced in the unknown.

H: Sounds like a strong performance! But you understand the power of belief. Think you shouldn’t underestimate the power of many people in the same room… I was strongly influenced by music when I was little. I had a videotape with cartoons and spookey music videos my brother recorded. I think that had something to do with my current fascination with horror. I really liked to become really scared. I still seek out situations I can get really scared and lose myself. Speaking of that. I’m going to live in a big house with a pretty horrific cellar soon…

I remember Baptist ministers once laying hands on me as a kid,”healing” me. Now I don’t know if that was my imagination or a weird spiritual realm, but I swore I saw my leg grow. I really believed one was shorter then the other.

H: Is it?

I dunno. Isn’t everybody’s a little bit? Anyway, there’s something similar in hardcore, that’s magical about this genre.

Absolutely. The power of mass suggestion doesn’t have to be a bad thing at all. A shared common intelligence in a way. But to be honest, I was very seldom in the pit of bands that were cool. I was always into the Norwegian bands which weren’t cool. Like Kort Prosess. At least they were not so cool in the straightedge scene, the scene I felt most related to.

Are you going to For Pete’s Sake on Thurs?

H: I am going to Trondheim on Wednesday to perform with my other group, Verdensteatret, so I can’t go. But Sportswear wrote some very good songs, and in terms of Norwegian hardcore, those old Oslo guys were important for that music.

Do you feel part of the scene? Next Life seems a bit on the outside.

H: I wanted to be part of the scene, but when my music started to get good, I guess it wasn’t sport-y enough. Haha. My first band was Fleshfester… Hardcore was a kind of a lust, a burning desire. The will to revolutionise.

I remember listening to your Assück, “Salt Mine” cover, then listening to the original. The original song is quite chaotic and short, but you push it to another limit totally different to hardcore. I think that’s quite cool.

H: That’s nice to hear. Guess what you’re trying to describe is the drum machine. Metronomic and cynical. Becomes and makes the riffs more cartoonish? Maybe more clear.

It’s like when you hear a hxc riff you can almost hear a human heart beating. But when you guys express it… it’s like…

H: …like an ongoing monster?

Exactly. Sounds like an unstoppable, restless monster.

H: Well I think in Next Life, ”restless” is key. It reflects how I am, Next Life isn’t about war or being negative. Many bands in Norway these days tend to focus on negative things. We can be misunderstood as being an aggressive band. It is aggression but… it’s out of a… generous agenda. For me a perfect bad guy isn’t only a bad guy, but transforms the negative and destructive into something aesthetical and beautiful. An alternative if you like.

I agree. It’s so limiting– it’s like, how many 17th century nihilists or Bataille quotes do you have plagarise before it gets a bit juvenile and lame?

H: No no no, I know. The old grunge scene has lots of elements similar to modern metal/noiserock scene in Norway, like “we’re really tired of our parents and we want to thrash a little and be negative bc our parents didn’t let us”. Uhhh. It’s not a clear vision, not that everything has to be that. But that’s our difference, we have a clear vision.

You said that once before, that you have a spiritual agenda?

H: Yea we’ve spoken ’bout that– It is important for us to create belief. Belief you can succeed with something that is different, if I can put into words because it is abstract. Think it has something to do with creating much out of a little. Don’t over-consume. And that’s also why its very easy for us to relate to old computers, because it has low-resolution, it’s just a tone. You then have to create something with that tone, unlike a violin with a duration ability lo-res doesn’t have. Lo-res is only interesting when you create something with it– we’re really, uh, “opptatt av” (“preoccupied with”) composition and direction.

(cell phone ringing)

Did I just hear a ringtone from Mario Bros.?!

H: Yea! When you get the mushroom.

Wow, that’s such a good feeling when you hear it!

H: Oh yea! Hehe…sends me straight back to the time when i had 100% belief.

No, but just a comment about being free; making music is being able to forget stuff you learned on the way to becoming an artist… I think on the way it’s easy to lose that spirit which came from within when you’re told you have to do this or that genre, or to stay away from things “because that belongs to 80’s”, etc.

Or you feel as if someone’s already done it, and done it 100% better then you ever could so, why bother?

H: Yea, I was inspired by Earth Crisis in the 90’s and loved that kind of riffs and aggression. But I felt it was hard to add something to that universe. Maybe another songwriter could, but I felt it more important to add melodies and elements as my own person. I think when I achieved that for the first time I regained the feeling that I was going to be a musician…. 1999, when I started Next Life.

Maybe the reason I like computer and film music is because it’s so grammatical, its potential to create images is really big. And in touch into emotions. With no lyrics it remains abstract– I’ve always been really inspired by that. But I think in the epic and chaotic moments lays my way of experiencing life. A lot of people think I suffer from hyper-activeness. But I have a tendency to think really fast. I may not always be good at it. But I like it. Hehe.

Next Life – Anti Matter by NEXT LIFE

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