I’ve been listening to Ascetic a lot lately, in preparation for the interview below. While I love the album, and it is certainly quite unique, I also felt that it felt somewhat familiar. It finally hit me while I was walking the dog yesterday. This Norse album feels somewhat like the masterful Värähtelijä by Oranssi Pazuzu, at least in the ways that it moves me. It’s less about the sound, though they both have some of the same elements – black metal, dissonance, psychedelia – and more about the intensity and immersiveness of each. Anyway, I’m excited to have had the opportunity to chat a bit with Forge about Norse and the album. Read on, then go support by pre-ordering this slab of nasty excellence, which can be done through the Bandcamp link below.
Hayduke X: Norse is back soon with Ascetic. How are you feeling about the album?
Forge: I’m ok with it now. Like anyone who creates stuff, you go through stages of hating it, and then feeling alright about it, and then hating it, and then nearly deleting it all and starting again, and then feeling ok about it. The best thing was, because the album was delayed, because of everything going on in the world right now, I was able to forget about it for nearly a year, and not listen to it. Then I put it on the speakers at home one afternoon, and I was actually pleasantly surprised with how it sounded, how it worked and stuff. I think now I’m at peace with it and pretty happy with it generally.
HX: Across the eight tracks, there is a great deal of complexity. Lots of dissonance of course, but moments of beauty and melody as well. What purpose does all of this serve?
Forge: I think it’s a matter of understanding that you can’t just paint all in black. There needs to be moments of peace and quiet, sort of reflection, to really make the chaotic bits chaotic. So it’s just listening to it, and as I’m writing, try to write it dynamically. I think a lot of extreme metal lacks that these days, where it’s just full bore 100% of the time. There are albums that do that, which I love – I just can’t get enough of them – but I think that if I want something that stands the test of time, I think you need some mountains and valleys throughout it.
HX: I hear many musical influences: black metal of course, noise, drone, but also jazz. What else is in there, in terms of styles, that the casual listener may have missed?
Forge: I have never sat down and said, “I’m going to write a black metal song with some jazz influences.” or, “I’m going to do a drone thing with some noise.” It’s just what I felt the song needed and the direction the song and the album needed to go. Then if people feel that there’s jazz sections in it, or drone sections, or noise, that’s great. The only thing that I return to, is – because I’m a drummer primarily – when I do play guitar, I try to mimic drum ideas in a guitar, in an atonal way. It’s been described as a factory in hell, or a production line in hell. The guitars and drums making these weird, robotic noises.
HX: Tell me about the writing and recording process.
Forge: I run a full time drum recording session business, so I track drums for bands all around the world. Trying to fit in my own stuff in between is always kind of chaotic. Writing wise, I’ll do guitars in a little chunk of inspiration. You know, I’ll stay up until 2 am just writing guitars and recording guitars. Then I might not get around to drums for another six months. It’s kind of chaotic and it’s not a smooth process by any means. It just sort of has to fit in around life. I think that’s good, again being able to have a break and listen back with fresh ears, is the best thing. If you rush everything and try to do everything at once, you can get too buried down, or you can’t see the forest for the trees. So, it’s good for me, to write a section, forget about it, come back, listen, and assess it with fresh ears.
HX: What lyrical themes are on the album?
Forge: Without going too much into ADR’s territory, he takes a lot of inspiration from the huge social divides. He worked for many years as a driver for home call doctors, and as security for them as well. So he’d be going from some of the messed up drug dens and then driving twenty minutes in the same city and going to a millionaires mansion. Being able to see the huge, huge difference in living conditions in only a twenty minute, or five kilometer-ten kilometer radius, was pretty eye opening, I think. That served as a lot of inspiration.
HX: Do you have a favorite Ascetic track? If so, what is it, and why?
Forge: I’m not sure. I go through phases where I like some tracks, and then I go, “Oh hang on. I actually like this track now.” So, not really. Generally it’s the overall vibe of the whole album that I’m listening to. I won’t go listen to just one track. If I do bother to listen to it, I’ll try to listen to it as an entire piece.
HX: Tell me about how the cover art came about.
Forge: Where I live is quite an old, established part of Australia, one of the early settled sections. So there’s a lot of big old buildings and older trees and stuff like that. I remember walking around and looking up through the trees and seeing these creepy looking arms and fingers through the trees. I just took a snapshot on my phone and that was it. Same with a lot of the other photos. I got a mate of mine, John Rushworth who lives in America, to take some photos as well. I really like his photography. We did an exchange. I’m going to do some drum tracks on his EP for him, and I got some photos. It was just whatever I felt fit the music that I had taken, and just went with that.
HX: Is there a live lineup? Do you, or would you ever want to, play live?
Forge: Yeah, we started as a hardworking, live band and did a bunch of shows and stuff back in the day. As I’ve gotten busier with my studio session drum business, live shows are harder and harder to do, just more time consuming and stuff. We do have a full lineup and we do shows. I think we’ve only done one show in the last few years, which I’m totally fine with. I think it’s more of a special event, if you only do a couple of shows a year, or something like that. Otherwise it becomes a bit too much of a grind, especially visiting the same venues in Australia. The same small venues…it doesn’t really feel like you’re getting anywhere.
HX: This album is your third (counting the Pest EP) on Transcending Obscurity Records. How did you connect with them? How has that relationship been?
Forge: I released Pest independently initially, and Kunal heard it and offered to sign us. Then he re-released Pest on his label, Transcending Obscurity. Ever since then, it’s been great. I get along with him really well. You’ve just got to understand that he’s got a system that he runs to. If someone is good at something, you let them do their thing and they can do it to the best of their ability. You don’t need to try to step in and tell them how to run their show. With COVID slowing everything down, I had a few people messaging me who were on the label as well, saying, “Oh, I’m a bit worried. It’s taking too long to release albums.” And I said to them, “Look. Just wait it out. Let Kunal do his thing. That’s what he’s best at.” Sure enough, he’s done an amazing job with the merch and the promotion and stuff this time around. I’m amazed at all the variations of vinyl and stuff like that. So, he’s great. I love him. He’s a fantastic person to work with.
HX: Forge appears to be in about a million projects, either as an official member, or a studio drummer. How do you fit in time for Norse?
Forge: With the session business I run, there is very little time to do my own stuff. But when inspiration strikes, I just go for it. I’ll be up until two in the morning tracking guitars. Then I’ll get up at seven or eight and record drums for other bands for the rest of the day. When it happens, it just happens, and I go for it. Nothing gets in the way. Nothing will stop me. I’ll spend ten hours recording guitars, and I won’t even have noticed. And then it all goes back in the box. I’ll pull it all out later, at a later date, when I’m feeling inspired to do drums, or to mix it, or get Kyle in to write bass tracks and record bass for us. So, Kyle has been a long time member, pretty much. He recorded bass on the last two albums and wrote it all himself. It’s really good to have a fresh perspective on the songs, and different ideas. Pest, I did bass on, and guitars and drums, and mixed. I did everything except vocals. But it’s really good to have Kyle in to add a third perspective on the music.
HX: Where does the band name come from?
Forge: The name is completely irrelevant. It’s just something convenient that people can do a Google search and find us with. I believe a name we were looking at was already taken back in the day. Simon, who was in the band at the start with me was like, “How about Norse?” And we were like, “Yeah, sounds good. Done.” That’s all there is to it. There’s no great meaning to it or anything. It’s just something people can find us by.
HX: What’s next for Norse? New album in 2025 or so?
Forge: Probably. I’m about 80% done writing the next album. I’ve got about four songs left to track drums for. Then there’s some bass. Then there’s vocals to work on and stuff like that. As soon as I finish one, I just turn around and start the next one, because I know if I don’t start it, it’ll never happen. I’ve got to just keep going with it. It’s really good to have an album in the works constantly, so I can take a break from my session stuff. To do something of my own for a bit, just to recharge. 2025 would probably be a pretty good estimate.
HX: What else would you like our readers to know?
Forge: Thanks so much for the opportunity for the interview. Look out for the release coming early October.
Biography: Hayduke X has been writing for MoshPitNation since June of 2016. He is also a contributor to The Metal Wanderlust. Prior to joining the MoshPitNation team, Hayduke published reviews on his own blog Rage and Frustration. In addition, he has DJ’ed an online metal radio show of the same name as his blog, written for TOmetal.com, done interviews for Metal Rules, and collaborated with The Art of B Productions to create video interviews with a wide variety of bands.