Yours truly recently had the great pleasure of reviewing the latest record by the Norwegian prog-rock act that is Wobbler and suffice it to say that I was utterly blown away by its wide musical scope, the brilliant flashes of creativity and inventiveness that course through the whole glorious thing, and how playful and wildly dynamic it all sounds. Entitled Dwellers of the Deep and boasting four wonderfully sprawling, lengthy compositions, this is one of those unique albums that looks to both the future and the past. RAMzine caught up with the talented ensemble in order to discuss all things Wobbler, so enjoy our little chat with the guys and do not forget to check the two gems that are From Silence to Somewhere (2017) and the aforementioned Dwellers of the Deep out.
Greetings, and thank you for taking the time to talk to RAMzine. How are you doing? For those out there who are not acquainted or familiar with the history of Wobbler and your discography, could you briefly tell us a bit about how and why the band came into existence and where you guys initially met?
Kristian: Thank you for having us! Hope you are well. Although it sounds like a cliché, Wobbler basically met through music. Me, Marius and the former guitarist, Morten, grew up in a rural area outside of Oslo and were best friends even before music got us. Martin and Lars grew up under similar conditions in another rural area further out. The two camps met in high school and we were severely suspicious of each other. By then the first three of us had a rock band in our part of the district and Lars and Martin a trio in theirs. By rather infantile means we buried the hatchet and started to make music together. Back then Marius also played drums, so we drafted Lars on keyboards to form an instrumental band called Oter (Otter). Martin was by then into the local black metal scene, but all of us remained friends and sometime later on Lars, Martin and Morten decided that enough was enough and formed a progressive rock band. Morten sort of asked me one day if I wanted to play bass in this project. I still don’t know if I was their first choice. I would’ve cried my way in anyway.
Was launching a 70s-inspired prog outfit something that had been on your collective minds for a long time prior to joining forces?
Lars: When you’re 16-17 years old, time goes very slowly, so back then it seemed like a long time even though it was a matter of months. Morten, Martin, and I played together at a music contest for kids/youths and that eventually evolved into Wobbler when Kristian joined.
Kristian: I loved 70s progressive music back then, as well as some current bands like Red Hot Chili Peppers, but I didn’t think that much about joining a band in the retro style. It just sort of happened; one of those sudden choices you do when you’re a teen. But of course, I loved playing with the other guys, so that was a huge factor as well.
I was blown away by the awe-inspiring playfulness and diversity of your latest offering, the inspired and inspiring Dwellers of the Deep. Now that you guys have had some time to distance yourselves a little from the whole creative process, how do you feel about its four compositions and are you perfectly satisfied with the outcome?
Lars: Yes, very much so. It sounds very close to what it is supposed to sound like, at least in my head. This was a problem with our first albums actually; they sounded better in my head than they did on the recordings, which was a combination of bad recording and/or bad/not optimal playing. Not that it’s that bad, and it’s not applicable to everything on those albums. Anyway, it’s satisfying to now understand how to create a such and such sound without that old frustrating miss and try.
Kristian: I think a creative process always leaves something behind. I’m totally satisfied with Dwellers as it is now, no doubt, but it’s the small things. The sound is top notch, it’s more that we in the band know all the other paths certain passages could have gone down. To some extent it would’ve been great if we recorded all versions of all songs/themes, but I’m more than happy with the Dwellers version that came out of it.
Marius: I think the songs turned out pretty much how they should have. For my own part there’s always something with the guitar that I wished I´d done differently after listening to it for a while, but there is less of that on this album than on the last one.
Martin: It took a while for me to grasp the different qualities of the record. Not knowing what I’ve been a part of, almost. I knew it sounded like Wobbler and that the record probably would be okay. After a couple of months, I really appreciate the work we put in, both musically and in terms of the sound.
How long had you guys been working on it? To these ears, it sounds like a labor of love and I cherish the way in which all aspects of the album correspond to (and enhance) each other. Listening to it is akin to embarking on an inner journey.
Lars: The basics for ‘By the Banks’ was something I had lying around since 2011 from right after the Rites album. ‘Five Rooms’ and ‘Merry Macabre’ were basically jammed into existence or made at the rehearsal space, while ‘Naiad Dreams’ was a song Andreas came up with right at the end of the recording process. The actual recordings began in summer 2019 and finished summer 2020. Check out the recording diary on our webpage, we filmed much of the recording process.
Kristian: If you count the years from when the ideas were first conceived it’s more than a couple of years. I think I made the two main bass passages on ‘Five Rooms’ back in 2017. Back then I didn’t think of them as Wobbler material, but I think one of our strengths as a band is that we’re able to build on each other’s output to such a degree that a singular form can become multi-layered.
Could you elaborate on the meaning and significance of the album title?
Kristian: To me the title refers to all things hidden inside humanity, in a way. The feelings and notions we don’t visit on an everyday basis, either because we’re afraid of them or simply because we don’t acknowledge them for what they are. So, it’s definitely not a concept album in the vein of Journey to the Center of the Earth.
Andreas: Thematically and lyrically, the process leading up to this album started on Rites at Dawn and continued on From Silence to Somewhere. Rites is quite uplifting and has a kind of «awakening from a slumber» feel to it with moments of clarity and wonder. Silence is a tad darker with an emphasis on transformation and embracing change whilst Dwellers of the Deep seeks to explore the depths of the human psyche and emotions.
The cover artwork is outstanding, and I was wondering how that ties in with the words and lyrics to the songs as well as the overall concept and idea of the record? It is s stunning piece of work that complements the music beautifully.
Kristian: The cover art is taken from the German scholar Athanasius Kircher’s 1665 treatise Mundus Subterraneus and depicts all bodies of water on earth linked by underground waterways. The lyrical theme of the album is what lies inside us humans in the form of feelings, instincts, and the unknown, so the physical underground world of Kircher serves as a metaphor for the psychological deep in us as human beings.
Andreas: I think it’s a very fitting illustration of how the currents from within flow up to the surface and how the streams find their way down into the deep in a kind of symbiotic, unending dance.
What specific bands inspire(d) you to compose music of your own? What things in life fuel your imagination with respect to coming up with riffs, melodies, and words for Wobbler?
Lars: Too many to mention, but obviously the progressive masters from the early 70s are a huge inspiration. ELP, King Crimson, Genesis, Yes, PFM, Gentle Giant, Maxophone, Museo Rosenbach, Kebnekaise, Banco, etc, as well as everything from Black Sabbath to Vazelina Bilopphøggers, through Amon Tobin, Darkthrone, Air, Grieg, and Jan Johansson.
Kristian: It probably started out with a combination of all the music I listened to when I was in my teens. In addition to the usual progressive greats from all over I also had a fascination for classical and early music from a young age. When I heard bands that managed to combine some sort of classical style into rock, I suddenly looked at the concept of a rock band with completely new eyes. I realized that I didn’t had to play rock after a certain form. The freedom to do just about everything inside a song was very appealing. Inspiration can come from almost anything; it’s more of a mood thing, at least for me, especially nature and my own thoughts/concepts of the world as such, I guess. Sometimes material also gets developed just by noodling around on guitar, bass, or keyboards as well. Suddenly a riff or melody come along, and I can spend hours trying to expand the idea into a larger form.
Marius: Just about everything that one has listened to over the years, I guess.
Martin: I the days of yore I was really inspired by all kinds of seventies prog. File sharing had just started and after some time I got a quite substantial collection of music from all over the world. These days I get more inspired by what people that are close to me accomplish.
Could you tell us a bit about your musical upbringing? Did you grow up in a musical household?
Lars: Not really, except my brother and cousin who played in bands and rehearsed in one of the houses on the farm where we also ended up the first ten years of Wobbler’s career.
Kristian: My parents are very musical, but none of them expanded beyond singing songs at parties. My first musical experience was my mother sending me to classical guitar lessons very early on, but that didn’t stick. After that I picked up the saxophone for my primary school’s marching band and played simple tunes on my sister’s grand piano before I met Marius, whose father was a professional guitarist. Former Wobbler guitarist Morten also played the guitar, so I had to find a rock instrument as well. In order to form a band with them I had to choose between bass guitar and drums. I ended up with bass and it sort of rolled from there.
Marius: Both my mother and my father were musicians – vocalist and guitarist, respectively. My father made a career out of it for two separate periods in his life whereas my mum hung up the mic when I popped out. There were all kinds of music in the house in my earliest childhood.
Martin: Not really, I started drumming at the age of nine in the local school marching band.
The current Covid-19 pandemic notwithstanding, do you harbor any wishes to tour your latest record and perhaps do some shows either in Norway or abroad next year (or as soon as the pandemic allows for such, that is)?
Lars: Not really. I like solitude, and thus meeting people and being social is a rather energy draining activity for me.
Kristian: Yes, I’m looking very much forward to play Dwellers live for an audience. The songs on Dwellers show a different side of Wobbler to a certain degree. I’m always very excited about doing new stuff live.
Marius: Hard craving is more like it!
Martin: It would be great to present the record live. I’m as motivated to develop my musicianship as I ever was.
Just out of curiosity, are there any Wobbler compositions that you are particularly fond of performing yourself be that in rehearsals or on stage? Which of your tunes do you get the most out of immersing yourself in?
Lars: It depends on the feel and sound of the band that evening. Sometimes it can be nice to play ‘This Past Presence’ where we do this long, improvised middle section. If everyone is on fire and the sound is good that evening, it can be very nice indeed. Many of the Wobbler songs are rather exhausting to play. You often have to be at least two parts ahead, to make sure the sounds are adjusted correctly on either the Mellotron, organ, or Mini Moog; that the volume is right, the amount of delay/reverb, etc.
Kristian: I always enjoy playing ‘From Silence to Somewhere’ and ‘Imperial Winter White’. ‘Silence’ because it tells a story all the way through but at the same time it changes significantly, making the different sections part of a whole. I enjoy ‘Imperial’ because of its hard-hitting and intense moments. It varies so much from start to finish that we have to keep focused at all times. In a sense, ‘Merry Macabre’ is a combination of those two approaches, and it’s probably the song from Dwellers that I’m looking forward to playing live the most.
Marius: ‘Fermented Hours’ and the song ‘From Silence to Somewhere’ are personal favorites from the previous album. ‘Five Rooms’ and ‘Merry Macabre’ are two performance favorites from Dwellers.
Thanks once again for your time – much appreciated. Any words of encouragement to the awesome readers of RAMzine?
Kristian: Stay safe and healthy and use this forced self-time to explore music outside your normal genre.
Marius: Sincere wishes that everybody stays safe and sound in these trying times!