Tusmørke’s debut album Underjordisk Tusmørke was one of our favorite finds from last year. We´ve been excited about their new follow-up album, Riset Bak Speilet out on Svart Records, and Tusmørke`s Benedikt Momrak was kind enough to answer a few questions so we could get to know the band a bit more. And be sure to catch their upcoming concert on the 22nd!!
BS: Many know you as former member of Lydia Laska. Can you tell us a bit more about how Tusmørke came together? Who are the founders/members?
Tusmørke sort of evolved as I was leaving Lydia Laska to work on my own material. For a while there was a loose outfit called the Few, an improvisational group that performed a couple of times at Martins Badehusfestival and Norbikers MC in Oslo and also jammed extensively, albeit sporadically in Lydia Laska’s rehearsal spaces (wherever that would be at the time, we moved around a lot). The Few included Martin Furan (The Moist Vaginas), Voldswagen (Lydia Laska), Trygve Havaas (Red Wing) and I. For live jamming we were sometimes joined by Eivind Schou (Serena Maneesh), Øystein Sandsdalen (Serena Maneesh/Le Corbeau), David Dajani (Pirate Love), Svenno (Biologisk Helt Feil/Rituell Romfart and others, performing a totally improvised set that one time included a blistering 45 minute version of Sister Ray. I was writing songs on my own at the time, primarily love songs to win my wife-to-be over to the wild side, and therapeutic little ditties about deities, birds and ruins, recorded on a cassette player. This would be for bass and vocals only. Together with Voldswagen and a couple of the guys from the Few, I started recording these songs under the name The Mockery of Life.
After I quit Lydia Laska twice, The Mockery of Life was abandoned, as well. The songs had quickly taken on a bluesy sound that I didn’t want at all. So I got my biological brother Krizla and my spiritual brother Svenno to come play, reducing the line-up to bass, flute, percussion and vocals. We were already hanging out a lot because we had our radio show Musikk, Dans & Drama on Radio Nova. The show was broadcast live from my apartment, which now also became our rehearsal space. The best songs from Mockery were kept and we resurrected some tunes from earlier projects, including Tusmørke, our medieval acoustic trio that had been dormant since 1997. We decided to go with the old name, too, and started playing concerts immediately, late in 2009.
There’s been several line-up changes, first we got Reggie from The Chronicles of Father Robin on synthesizer, then HlewagastiR from Wobbler joined on drums. Svenno and Reggie quit and Deadly Nightshade from Årabrot/This is Music Inc. (who had taken over bass duties in Lydia Laska) joined on synthesizer. The phenomenon Marxo Solinas from Wobbler added synthesizers on the recording of our first album. After a while he became a full member, so Tusmørke in 2014 consists of me, Krizla, HlewagastiR and the phenomenon Marxo Solinas.
You have influences from British 70s metal like Hawkwind to the outer limits of folk and industrial music, which all which fit comfortably into a Norwegian identity, with many of your lyrics in Norwegian. Would you care to comment on any viking/pagan imagery as influence at all?
We are much more concerned with the civilizations and cities of the Bronze Age than the parochial raiding parties of the Vikings; the Viking era is sort of a last gasp of the Migration Period following the disintegration of the Roman Empire and invasions of Huns from the east; hardly a time of cultural growth. The Bronze Age was a time of trade and cultural exchange, before religions became exclusive and iron made local warlords free to ignore old alliances.
We are inspired by how stories and legends have spread through time and space, echoes of far-away cultures richer and more sophisticated than our own. The pagan element comes into play in the folkloristic themes we utilise in our songs. It is fascinating to read fairy tales and myth as a transformation and transmission of older religious concepts, even though that might not be scientifically comme il faut anymore. We are concerned with the supernatural, not dogma. We want to make reality a bigger place through superstition and fancy. We exist in the space where illusion meets delusion.
What we can expect in this new album?
This album contains some of our live favourites from 2012-2013, so it’s quite engaging stuff. We also use guitar on two tracks, which is unusual for us. We wanted to make a luxurious and spooky sound on this album, so expect a display of gilded ghosts, imps in silk and Baba Yaga with a pearl necklace.
Can you explain to our English readers what the new album title means?
It means that there is a birch rod hidden behind the mirror, a whip waiting to be brought out to punish you if you transgress. «Riset bak speilet» is an old phrase or saying in Norwegian, meaning that the scourge is invisible but never far away. We understand this to apply to the way in which we correct ourselves, stopping ourselves from doing things that are forbidden to us by the expectations of our surroundings. We tremble in front of our own scrutinizing eyes in the mirror.
Uhm, random question. Do you think Ayn Rand is overrated?
From what I gather reading references in Morgenbladet and the fact that she is listed as an influence on Anders Behring Breivik, I would say her work has had a great influence on a lot of people for whom I have a deep loathing. It hardly takes a genius to point out that egoism is the natural state of man. Talking about what is natural as if that was some sort of guarantee of quality is to me like lauding finger-painting as a superior art form, since it seems to come natural to humans. The promotion of egoism is odd to me, since I don’t see it in need of any promotional campaign. In life, the trick is finding it in your heart to actually care about other people, not finding a justification for fucking them over.
Any favorite Norwegian authors?
Well, most of the authors I read are dead, but I love Christopher Nielsen and Jon Fosse. I also very much enjoy reading Axel Jensen, Knut Hamsun, Ragnhild Jølsen and Arne Garborg. Garborg would have to be my favourite; his chilling portrayals of religious fanaticism and the «gift» of second sight are highlights of Norwegian literature.
What are some memorable concerts you’ve had so far?
The hands down most memorable concert we’ve had was at Øktnerhuset, Odalen, in March last year. We arrived after dark, myriad stars were piercing the pitch black sky above fields strecthing in all directions still covered in snow and ice awaiting the spring thaw. The venue was a small log cabin that had been used as a juke joint since the 60s, all red crushed velvet drapes and vintage posters inside. The stage was about seven inches high and the room the size of a tenant farmer’s parlour. A jug band played first, creating a proper hillbilly atmosphere. By the time we tore into our set the audience was so amped up on alcohol and lack of oxygen that they started tearing their clothes off. Half of them were half naked by the second number, it was utter Dionysian mayhem, wild dancing, wrestling, feats of strength, beer and wine spilling everywhere. The floor was heaving, microphone stands going every which way and the bass rig rocking and swaying like a ship in a storm. It was incredible, total abandon. People are just a bit sleazier in the country, I guess. Good times.
If you could walk in a bar completely uninhibited, what is the first thing you’d do?
Order a pint? That would depend on the bar. If there was good music, like Black Sabbath or David Axelrod, I would probably do the Momrak dance.
We imagine the perfect setting to see Tusmørke to be a big outdoor festival, or a place like Emanuel Vigeland with stone structure and great acoustics. Ever thought about the ideal venue you’d like to play next?
Playing a concert in the Vigeland Mausoleum is something we’ve wanted to do for a long time, hopefully we’ll be able to do that this winter. Henie-Onstad is a place where we would really like to give a performance. We’d also like to put on a show in Maridalen kirke and Grønland kirke. For non-venue happenings, there is a bend in the river close to the dam at Maridalsvannet that would be perfect for an outdoor gig on a summer’s day. We’re thinking a lot about heading back to Odalen, as well.
Any touring plans once the album is out?
Not really, no. We’re playing an art gallery at Aker Brygge on the 22nd. May in connection with the launch of a new print by Sverre Malling. Other than that, most gigs will have to wait for the autumn since my wife and I are expecting a daughter in the middle of June.