Once in a blue moon, someone does something fresh. So refreshing, you smile like a goofus gooofy goof. Gerilja’s new, first, debut album this year, ‘Step up your game’, is that to me. Like waking up, unzipping your tent only to find its a beautiful morning, and you’re in the Amazonas. Needless to say I have been chanting L.I…L.I.G..H.T…N.I.N.G you’re free, DEATH!..DEATH! all summer.
It’s not easy editing an interview about everything from time warps to the revenge of the animals, self inflicted isolation-turned serious Battlestar Galactia-obsession, to one scientist’s real life tragedy, to how the apocalypse will manifest.
But here’s what I got outta Oslo-rebels, Gerilja.
SF: It seems you guys have influences from videos in 80s, 90s? Anyone in particular you’re trying to make homage to?
A: Um, it’s more like the aesthetics of the decade. You can probably say we’re into the way they perceive the future, from an 80’s perspective.
Some of my favorite sci-fi movies are those 80’s where the future seems so cool, even when it’s super dystopian.
O: I think that’s a big influence in our music, — how disappointed we are— that we’re now living in the future, and the future sucks! (laughs)… no spaceships or anything….
Yea. That we still got wheels on our cars.
O: Exactly, and cell phones. That’s it. Where’s the spaceship?
“Step Up Your Game” shows some really solid production. Were you ever concerned on how to execute it live?
A: It has been, but it’s not like we decided to make it a big production. I don’t think we can make cool songs with just guitar, bass and drums – ‘cus we tried that and it didn’t work for us at all– so we needed synths and drum machines to… make it interesting for ourselves.
O: And to keep that futuristic sound.
So you spent a lot of time figuring out the live set.
O: Yeah, we had a pretty hard time figuring out how we wanted to play live,
A: Before we did the record, I bought the synths of what we wanted to sound like. If you think our record sounds futuristic, or sets you in that mood, it’s the synthesizers, because they are from that era. But what we did, when our record was done, took all the files we can play live out of the… hard disk… (laughs) I sorted through them, and ended up with the stuff we absolutely need to play the songs the way they’re supposed to be. Ottar plays drums on a click track, for example.
O: We got a backing track. What you hear live is pretty cut to the bone.
Alecz, you can really shred… hehe. Like some Def Leppard shit. When did you first pick up the guitar?
O: I can answer that. Yngwie Malsteen.
A: I picked it up when I was a kid. Played the saxophone originally… It was the classic shit, we had kids on the same street listening to music and showing me stuff. Plus our parents were really into rocknroll, so they would take Simon and I to concerts.
Where are you from actually?
A: Oslo. Lambertseter.
O: I’m from Trondheim.
A: I think my shredding ability is somewhat….over…
Haha. Well, that’s for us to decide. So you and Simon are from Oslo. Let me ask, Oslo: Is it a terminal black hole or… a breeding ground for creativity?
O: I dunno. But I do know there are two time warps in Oslo.
TWO TIME WARPS????
O: Yes, TWO time warps. One is from Botanisk Hage to Grønland.
A: There’s a wormhole??
O: No, no. It’s the opposite of a wormhole. It’s supposed to take like three minutes, but it’s impossible to walk it in less then fifteen. The other one is Tollpost Grønland as well… So, Oslo is a black hole.
Like Alf Prøsen says, “da må du lage moroa di sjøl”* Anyway, about time warps, black holes, and how we’re living in the future—I just like the idea of you as the soundtrack to the apocalypse. What would be your soundtrack to the post-apocalypse, if you had to be DJs to the end of the world?
A: It would probably be like, there’s a lot of music that’d soothe the apocalypse, because it’s written from that kind of vantage point. But I think the apocalypse is going to be a lot sneakier….
A: I don’t think so… something nice, where people laugh… like lots of pop music. I reckon it’s going to be really absurd (laughs) might be absurd, but a giant PA system blasting pop music. Some mix of horrible and enjoyable.
O: Jean Michel Jarre?
So many know this album was many years in the making. Five years or something like that. What are you next plans- Do we have to wait five years for the next album?
O: Nope. We’re writing as we speak. The plans is: to release some videos, tour, then go back to the studio to make a new record. That’s the plany-O.
A: We’re touring in Sept and October.
O: Things are going to be much faster now that we found a label.
I’ve been listening quite a lot to your album, been my soundtrack for some months. Your lyrics are original, I feel. Like “Elevate” is about a mad scientist obsessed with stuff, and there are psychedelic trips. Which you can find in other lyrics as well, but, is there are theme?
O: Not really a theme but….
Interesting, didn’t think about it that way.
A: Yea, “Elevate” is about a historical person. He was a scientist; it’s a really weird story. He was called John Parsons…
O: A science prodigy.
A: Yea, self-taught. He figured out in the 50s ….He had this American chapter of Alstair Crwoley’s brotherhood. And then he was approached by Hubbard, the Scientology king, and asked him to do a joint business venture. So Hubbard took his money, gold and girlfriend… and left. So that lyric is the story of his life. And he died in his laboratory, in an explosion.
O: Well, I think for my the album is that everything is fucked, and going downhill, and you have to go down with your flags raised high.
Cool. Make as much as noise as possible. There’s a reason a lot of people compare you to 80’s references– over the top, epic, etc. Fine line between madness and genius—but we didn’t find those things in Jump!.
O: Yea, it’s still party rock, but party rock for the apocalypse.
So I made my own version of what your songs about, and had a conversation with a girlfriend, who’s also a big fan. She was like, “Oh no, it’s about how the animals are taking revenge over the humans, and how nature is like fighting back… and the animals come outta the forest and start killing the humans and stuff.” You talk a lot about animals in your songs, in “Mirage” even.
A: “Animals” in particular, was an epi-song. In the States, this manager of this Zoo decided to kill himself. But before he did he let all the animals free. So there were like lions, tigers, and stuff just walking around.
O: …So they started walking around the streets. What happened was then, some fat sheriff said, “Shouldn’t we kill these animals before they get hungry?”
…So its not a reference to 12 Monkeys?
A: No, no, this stuff happened, in the news and everything.
Are any of the songs real life stories? You already told me about the Mad Professor and the animals? “Mirage”, “Pink Twilight”, maybe?
A: Mirage is kinda funny. I was locked up watching Battlestar Galactica for weeks. For weeks. I didn’t do anything else.
O: Part of the decay.
A: I kind of…
O: Kind of??
A: …became fascinated with one the characters. So I decided to write her a song. Because I was so emotional at the end of the series. Because it was so beautiful…
O: It seemed like a good idea at the time.
A: So it’s a love song. The new Battlestar, by the way.
“Step up Your Game”, the album title is a pretty strong statement. I wondered who’s it for? Yourself, to people, a message to other bands, or?
O: It’s like a slogan, people should step up their game morally and ethically. Try to be your best, be nice, and think about the environment (laughs).
Alright!! Sounds very positive. I guess it could also be a hip-hop like, “we’re this good, what are you gunna do now???”
A: Well it can mean that too. Really, it was over this email. Something I should deliver to Ottar, something of that nature, and Ottar said, “Step up your game, det funker ikke(this isn’t working)” and I responded, Hm, maybe that should be our album title. Simon wanted to call our album, “New Life In the Blast Zone” but he got voted down, 2-1… No, but it’s also for ourselves, and there’s not that much cool music out there. Ok, there is, but at the same time – but you have scenes with bands where they all sound, or at least close to, the same. I think people should…
O: Question authority.
A: I think people should make the stuff that they want, have a good time, not try to please the… what’s the word? The imaginary critic.
For some reason, I found myself listening to your album whilst in the woods. The woods is a very suitable environment for your music, I think. What is the ideal place for people to listen to your songs?
O: In a speedboat. At full throttle.
And during the Viking Age, because the boat would fall off the edge at some point….
A: Yea, that’s true. So, when the world was flat– on a speedboat, headed for the end of the world. That’d be the perfect place.