Interview with ALTAAR

ALTAAR_BANNERAD_728ALTAAR is the creation of Andreas Tylden and Sten Ove Toft.

Andreas Tylden has often been described as one of the most important characters in Norwegian hardcore during last decade. And Sten Toft has been described as Norway’s ‘king of noise’. Together, they have assembled an all-star team with ALTAAR . These Oslo, Norway based doom-masters are now considered to be Scandinavian metal giants-in-waiting. The self titled ALTAAR debut album will be released through Indie Recordings this February. RAMZINE talked to ALTAAR’S STEN OVE TOFT about the band, their music and their new album:

RAMZINE: You began playing together in 2007 – how would you describe your journey so far?

“In 2007 ALTAAR was just a one man band. After the disolvement of JR Ewing in 2006, Andreas Tylden started in the small to create sounds in his own studio, and two years later, in 2009, the result was the first release of ALTAAR – The ‘Dødsønske’ tape.

I know Tylden, maybe more during this period than now, used to exorcise his demons with this project. I’ll leave it to him to elaborate more about this himself. Anyway, in 2009 I joined in and, after a bunch of sessions, the project grew from a studio project to also perform live.

We soon realized that there was a greater potential here that was left unexplored and we were a 5 piece, now, including Espen Hangård (NoPlaceToHide, KILLL), Didrik Telle (Obliteration) and Kenneth Lamond (JR Ewing). Since then ALTAAR has just gone from strength to strength really. And now we’ve got this album out which is probably more defining for us as a band.”

RAMZINE: In 2011 you went to play at the SXSW in Austin Texas – How valuable was that experience for you? Do you think that SXSW helped you gain any recognition in other markets?

“SXSW is chaos! The most we got out of it was meeting up with some great like-minded people, especially Stephanie and Victor who we stayed with. We did three shows in Austin and some shows in New York and Boston. I did some solo noise gigs as-well. The response was overwhelming after the gigs, even though we where one man down since Espen was back home with a cold, so it was a nice opportunity to introduce ourselves for a small part of the (alternative) metal scene, or what you would call it, in the States. On it’s own, the effect of SXSW wasn’t that valuable for us, but slowly piecing together these tiles in the network, it can hopefully lead to something bit. We’re still working on that puzzle.”

RAMZINE: Your music was described by SXSW as “Droning doom-sludge with black metal aesthetics” – was this a fair appraisal?

“As long as people stay as far as possible away from TNBM then it’s all fine. People can call our sound whatever pleases them, I have no clue what we are up to, but I guess for all musicians it’s hard to define their own music. I think we ended up genre coding the CD version of the new album as Heavy Metal. [Laughs] That’s a wide enough term that nothing really fits into it, [Grins] But I think works for all. Great music is hard to define. I hope we’re in that category.”

RAMZINE: So you signed with Indie Recordings towards the end of 2012. Does this signal the next stage in development for ALTAAR?

“WORLD DOMINATION! [Laughs] It was just a natural step for us to go from releasing stuff ourselves to sign with Indie. They have an impressive knowledge within distro and promotion, the latter leading us to you and to Rock A Rolla! Now we can concentrate more on the music part of things. We’ve signed for yet another album… which also puts a bit of pressure on us, hopefully creating a snowball effect.”

RAMZINE: How important is Norse/Viking folklore in your compositions? Do you take any influences at all from these mythologies?

“Simply put – No. Although we like to play around with and indulge ourselves in more occult history. In a wider term. As for the labelling of our music… the same goes with the meaning. I much prefer not knowing, or not being told what I’m listening to. It spoils the experience. Some things in life should just be left untold.”

563699_10151127771850738_1773139537_nRAMZINE: Your sound incorporates punk and indie rock – and even noise rock – elements – Do you find that you need to include these Rogue elements to express yourselves? Or would you describe your latest output as purely metal ? Would it be fair to describe your work as experimental?

“ALTAAR has become the monster it is, with five fairly different people coming together and inspiring each other – with a wide range of musical influences like the above mentioned genres. And beyond. I wouldn’t say it’s experimental though. Experimental refers to trying out something you have no clue about. We don’t experiment. We know what we do.”

RAMZINE: We have heard that you have played concerts in total darkness. Is that true? What was the experience like? Is it worth the obvious risk (to health and safety) in order to achieve your ritualistic / artistic objective? What is the feedback from the audience after a ‘dark’ event?

“We’ve done quite a lot of shows which you wouldn’t find typical compared to regular concerts. We tend to do things differently. It’s not a desperate need to be weird or anything, but it just so happens that it ends up like that. As for performing a show in complete darkness. That makes the audience into pure listeners. By removing one sense, the other enlightens and the sound experience is at it’s peak. It’s quite scary how overwhelming an experience like that can be.”

RAMZINE: How easy is it for you to present your recorded music onto a live stage ? Do you enjoy live performance or would you prefer to be known as a studio band?

“We don’t do many shows, it’s always been like that. But when we first perform live we always try to make it more into an event. A concert with a twist. Hopefully we’ll do some more shows this [later] year. Nothing is set in stone.”

248789_10151154066670738_180594241_nRAMZINE: So tell us about your long awaited self titled album – What can we expect?

“The entire album is quite a time-lapse. I’ve always lost track of time when I’ve put it on. It’s a lot of variation without being progressive, it is distorted without being pure noise, it is slow without being doom. Oh why bother, go listen to it yourself!”

RAMZINE: How much of your sound has been influenced by the old psychedelic rockers – such as Les Fleur de Lys ?

“That’s more Tyldens department, but hey, great band!”

RAMZINE: You were listed as one of Metal Hammer (Norway’s) “Most exciting bands of 2012”. What was your reaction to this? How have you dealt with the burden of responsibility?

“Well that was a surprising acknowledgement to get, but we didn’t take much note of it. We where already in the making of this album of ours and we just continued [at] our own slow pace. The most important thing we had was our focus and determination … to not being stressed about everyone standing there waiting for an album. In the end it was finished, and I’m glad we took those extra rounds with the album when we mixed it. It’s changed [quite a lot] from where we started.”

RAMZINE: What can we expect from ALTAAR for the remainder of 2013? Will you be touring to support your new album? Any gigs planned for the UK? Will you be travelling back to the US?

“The plan now is just to get that album out there, and let people know that ALTAAR is to be reckoned with. We’ve got some shows lined up but it’s all in the making these days.

If anyone wants us to the UK or US then get in touch. As for the rest of 2013 we’ve planned some small format releases so you’ll hear from us again soon.”

Thanks STEN OVE TOFT from ALTAAR

About Neil Mach

RAMzine Senior Writer - With a career spanning 30 years author / journalist Neil Mach is an expert on the music business and is a reliable guide. He especially loves heavy metal, prog & blues.

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