Interview: Okkultokrati

If you listen to our music, would you really say it's black metal?! We just get that tag put onto it, but yeah I'm comfortable being a punk rock band.

Norway’s Okkultokrati have mixed up punk rock passion with dark rock n roll and a wide range of eclectic influences since the start of their career. They have just released their excellent new album Raspberry Dawn, a culmination of all their influences that has come to fruition now on Southern Lord Records and are currently on tour throughout Europe supporting the album alongside Venom Prison as support on tour with the mighty Trap Them. Gavin Brown caught up with guitarist Pal Bredup and drummer Lars Dalen before their show at Mama Roux’s in Birmingham to hear all about how the tour is going, the new album and its creation, punk as an influence and what they are currently listening to on the road. 

(((o))): You’re on your with Trap Them and Venom Prison. How has the tour been going so far?

Pal: It’s been very good, a lot of good shows and good bands. A generally functional tour!

Lars: It’s been a while since we toured and it’s mostly new material that we’re doing so it’s nice to get that out there. We’ve done some single shows in Norway this year, but we’ve mainly been practising and doing the album so it’s nice to get out here and play.

(((o))): What have been some of the highlights of the tour so far?

Pal: London was nice!

Lars: London was great, it feels nice. All our shows in London have been great. It feels like an important city to nail, there’s a good crowd and we play our best. It feels important, a bit more important than most other shows. It’s a nice vibe in London.

(((o))): Have you played there much before?

Lars: Yeah we play there on most tours. This is the fourth time we’ve played there.

(((o))): What are your plans for the rest of the year once this tour finishes?

Lars: We have two more tours coming up, we have one tour of Spain. Ten days there at the end of November, which is a headlining tour and then we go straight to another headlining tour of the same countries we are playing now, not Britain though. Germany, France, Austria and so on so it’s pretty much broke up until Christmas.

(((o))): You’ve just released your latest album Raspberry Dawn. How has it been reviewed so far?

Pal: Very good.

Lars: I think the reviews I have seen have been good and people seem to understand what we are going for with the album and what we are trying to achieve, the references and the mood of the music. It’s on point, which is a bit rare, but it’s nice because then you know that people are experiencing what you intended for them to experience the album.

Pal: Well said!

(((o))): Has the new material been going down well when you play it live?

Lars: I think so. There hasn’t been many shows yet. We go for it, we mostly play the new stuff. I don’t know how many people here have heard our music before. If they expect or they want to hear something old, I don’t really care, this is the tour we’re doing directly after the album so that’s what we’re going to play.

(((o))): There are a lot of psychedelic and electronic elements on the album and you have a new synth plater too. Did you want to include those elects this time around so you stand out from the crowd?

Pal: I think it’s more about just evolving the sound that we already have, to take it further and in another direction for this record.

Lars: I mean, that’s been something we’ve wanted to do for a long time, we did it a bit on our previous album, Night Jerks and now we do it full time. We’ve added a fifth member on keys and also included that in the song making which wasn’t really done the first time, we decided in the recording stages and it is now that it is a part of it.

(((o))): Are the extra effects part of the live show?

Pal: Yeah!

(((o))): There are also elements of classic punk bands like Poison Idea and Black Flag, but also varied bands with a punk spirit like Motörhead, Joy Division and Bauhaus. Did you want to incorporate the feeling of those bands when it came to creating the album?

Pal: Yeah, I mean classic punk is classic punk and it’s cool.

Lars: And I guess it’s always in our music. We usually start out with guitars and drums, making something primitive and simple and all those punk bands, they are all primitive and simple at the heart of it and you add those different elements.

Pal: It’s a very simplistic approach to our writing.

(((o))): Isn’t the title track of the album a celebration of punk icons like Iggy Pop and Alan Vega? How did you come to create the track in that way?

Lars: It turned out to be, especially when Pal added this certain guitar that’s on there.

Pal: It was like one of those moments when you have a song and you go to the studio and there would be some talk like “we might pull this thing off”, to take it all the way in that direction. There’s no doubt it’s like a rock n roll song and we did it and threw on some tambourines! It turned out kind of classic sounding.

Lars: It’s the kind of thing you have the chance to do and experiment with it in the studio, we had the base of the song and we had some time and you have the right people there to create the thing that you might not have meant to do. It’s one of my favourite tracks and I think it’s a good single.

(((o))): Do you think that modern music lacks characters like that nowadays, that commanding frontman type?

Lars: Maybe, I think it’s a tough thing to require someone to be. The Iggy Pop of 2016 would be Iggy Pop! I don’t know if there are any? The best frontman of our time? I don’t know.

(((o))): You’ve just a video for the song ‘Magic People’ that contains footage of telekinesis. Is that what the song is about and is that a subject that you’re interested in?

Lars: it’s not specifically about that, but our friend who made the video, he instantly thought of that. When he heard the song, he did a lot of research and digging on YouTube and he found a style of video where people do these telekinesis things and he was just watching that all the time and he thought it would fit in well and I think it does.

Pal: And it’s funny!

Lars: It’s not mocking them and it’s not about praising them. It’s just, it is what it is. People spend their time doing this.

Pal: Controlling the elements!

Lars: I spend my time just playing music and watching football all day, I’m not to judge!

Pal: It fits in well, as we all kind of joke about new age people.

Lars: It’s been part of the band for a long time, since the first album. There’s a lot of lyrical themes on new age and alternative religions and the occult. It’s just a part of the band’s expression.

(((o))): You’ve definitely got a punk influence in your sound. Would you class yourselves as a punk band?

Pal: Six years ago maybe, but maybe not now, whatever, punk rock is cool. I just hate it when they call us black metal!

(((o))): Is that just the Norwegian thing?

Lars: Yeah, if you listen to the music, would you really say it’s black metal?! We just get that tag put onto it, but yeah I’m comfortable being a punk rock band.

(((o))): What have been the most influential bands and albums in your life?

Lars: Give a personal answer!

Pal: I like The Spits. There are some bands that are like in the back of our minds when we made this record, we’re finally there where we can incorporate other things we live from metal and punk bands. Emperor’s In The Nightside Eclipse is important.

Lars: A lot if things, and it doesn’t mean we sound like those bands. It’s just their approach and way of building the songs,

Pal: It’s just like the spirit of the record.

(((o))): What was it that got you into punk and music in general in the first place?

Pal: For me it was a weird path, living kind if isolated in the country in Norway and I had no one to tell me what was cool and what wasn’t so I just got it through television.

Lars: I think I’ve been into punk rock since I was ten years old through my older cousin. It’s what you start playing, but I listened to other kinds of rock before that like Nirvana and thrash metal. Record stores maybe too. Just going to the record store after school and just trying to find some hard music and pick out an album based on the cover or a label you recognise. You end up with a lot of crap, but there’s a few gems, more by accident I guess. I think the appeal to me was always that it was aggressive and hard even though there were certainly more aggressive and harder things I could have stumbled upon, but I didn’t so then it was punk.

(((o))): Was there much of a punk scene in Norway when you started out that influenced you?

Lars: Me, and Pal and Henning started the band and we didn’t have much in mind.

Pal: We didn’t really draw that much from local bands, it was more noise rock, but they kind of leaked, bands like that.

(((o))): What music are you listening to at the moment on this tour?

Pal: On this tour, I have one record on my phone, Disintegration by The Cure. I know it inside out! It’s really cool.

Lars: I listen to The Replacements and I made this playlist about hating the police, it’s just songs about that! Scott Walker and Sunn O)))’s album it’s pretty good. 

Pal: Yeah, that’s good.

Lars: [To singer Henning] What do you listen to Henning?

Henning: Kill City by Iggy Pop.

Lars: There’s lots of things I want to listen to but I haven’t done yet. I want to check out the new Darkthrone album and the new Goat album, I want to listen to that too. I also like Jenny Hval, it’s pretty cool, one of my favourite Norwegian acts.

Pal: And Kris Kristofferson!

Lars: So it’s a wide range of stuff!

Pal: Yeah, it’s always a wide range!

Lars: [to Venom Prison singer Larissa who is sitting nearby] And every night I listen to Venom Prison! And Trap Them!

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