Although Norway may be better
known for its metal exports in the musical underground, Norway (as well as the
rest of Scandinavia) have been the defacto torch bearers of the vintage
progressive rock sound and spirit. Although progressive rock now has roots
across the world, it is here where the highest concentration and density of ‘vintage’
progressive artists seem to reside, conjuring the spirit of the bygone 1970’s
with the fuel of mellotrons, flutes, and psychedelic effects. Tusmørke and their recent debut “Underjordisk
Tusmørke” is an addition to this proud legacy of Scandinavian progressive rock,
and the album’s been receiving some great acclaim from press and media lately,
myself included! Their debut is highly recommended; a twisting, atmospheric
melting pit of everything vintage and 70’s. Check them out!
Hello! How is the weather in
Norway this time of year? J
really varied, we’ve had winter come and go twice so far, with snow and frost,
then a sudden thaw, new snow and then mild again. It’s a bit confusing for the
wildlife, plenty of blackbirds deciding not to migrate this year. It’s also a
bit of pain for us, since we can’t wait to get our skis out to go trekking in
the mighty woods of Nordmarka and Østmarka.
Traditionally, snow before winter solstice is not a dead certainty,
loads of getting your hopes up only to see the snow turn to sludge the day
after it has fallen. The days are short, the nights are cold, Orion is high in
the sky and pretty soon there’ll be twilight around the clock, more or less.
For us non-Norwegian speakers,
what does your name mean? Why did you choose to adopt Tusmørke as a band name?
translates as twilight, basically, but is most commonly used about the time
when the sun is setting, i.e. dusk. We call dusk “skumring” and dawn “demring”,
as well, and “tusmørke” may apply to both. We chose to adopt it as our band
name since it contains the word for darkness, “mørke”, as well as “tus” or
“tuss” (modern spelling), meaning elf, goblin or troll, so it denotes the
murky, shadowy hour of uncivilised, supernatural, unbaptized creatures, like
us. Also, when we started out in 1994, black metal and church burnings and cat
sacrifices were ubiquitous in the media and gradually became a local pastime in
our small town of Skien, Telemark, so we thought of it as a kind of play with
the imagery of evil that was quickly becoming a cliché among young certain
young people in Norway at the time. We are certainly misanthropic, hateful and
grumpy, but not evil in the sense that we yearn to pervert God’s creation or
anything like that. Not on a daily basis, anyways. Twilight is a dubious sort
of half-light, it can be perceived as darkness or as light, just like our music
is an amalgamation of several styles where people tend to perceive what they
expect to find. Metal-heads see us as a metal band, prog-heads think we’re
prog, while we’ve always viewed ourselves as a psychedelic folk band, first and
What’s the story behind the
forming of Tusmørke? I would guess you have met each other through the
Norwegian prog rock scene?
we did. It’s a long story. Tusmørke was formed in 1994 in Skien, a small town
two hours south of Oslo. I played the guitar in a psychedelic rock band called
Captain Cumulonimbus and his Wondrous Cloudship, with Krizla playing various flutes
and doing the vocals while Håkon Andersen played drums. It also featured Rune Seip
on bass and vocals and Gunhild Lurås on cello. After a disastrous stint of gigs
at local youth clubs, suffering abuse at the hands of local 12 year olds in
exchange for a minuscule amount of much-needed cash, the cellist and bassist
abandoned us before the final gig, leaving us as a trio. We jammed all night in
front of a disinterested bunch of chavs in the sports hall of a school at
Klyve, an unprivileged part of Grenland, itself a notoriously unprivileged part
of south-eastern Norway. It is close to our then-home town of Skien, a place
with all the problems of a big city but none of the opportunities. The only
famous person to come out of Skien was Henrik Ibsen. He grew up there, moved to
Grimstad when he was 15 and never came back, much like us, only we were 18 when
we finally left. But I’m getting ahead of myself. We played the “concert” and
decided that it couldn’t get much worse and since we didn’t really need the
other two, we formed the trio of Tusmørke and soldiered on. The idea was that
we should be an acoustic corner trio after the fashion of troubadours and
gallery minstrels seen in Monty Python movies and the Black Adder series. We
played several concerts and did a memorable Advent tour of local shopping
malls, supported by the council. Angry news agents-ladies told us to take our
African bongo nonsense elsewhere. Our former band mate Rune, now turned
juggler, asked one particularly angry kiosk attendee whether she was feeling a
lot of pain inside. She told us to piss off. We did.
the mediaevalesque trio developed into an electric outfit with the joining of
Andreas Wettergren Strømman Prestmo in ‘96, who was really a guitarist but
decided to play the bass for this project. He also played with Fangorn which
became Father Robin and is currently singing and playing guitar in Wobbler. I
started playing the electric guitar and the bongos were replaced by a drum kit.
Krizla continued playing recorder and penny-whistles for a while, though,
before finally investing in a proper flute. Things were falling into place. Not
being completely out of tune and actually being able to hear the guitar meant a
new direction for us.
Tusmørke became Les Fleurs du Mal when we all moved to Bærum outside of Oslo in
1997 and formed a commune there. We rehearsed every day for a long time in a
youth club at Rykkin, a notoriously underprivileged area of ridiculously
affluent Bærum, Akershus. Andreas worked as an activator/warden in this youth
club, so we could rehearse from early morning until 1 PM when the kids would
start coming in. We imported an organ player from Jæren called Trond Egil Aasen
and watched in awe as he hauled a Hammond B-3, Leslie, Clavinet and MiniMoog
into Rykkin Fritidsklubb. Things were looking good. Then Håkon lost interest in
(un)popular music and was replaced by Henrik Harmer, the drummer of Father
Robin. He did an excellent job filling in for Håkon and we did a concert with
White Willow in Asker and a couple of gigs in Skien and Porsgrunn before
recording a 17 minute demo called “Ode on Dawn”. We had an idea that we would
be able to do this on a full-time basis and went on a band tour to London to
strengthen bonds over this new commitment. It all turned pear shaped when it
was discovered that we didn’t all share the same definition of the phrase
full-time. The band split up on the bus on the way back from the airport,
Andreas and Henrik continued with Father Robin and me and Krizla went back our
university studies. Who knows what we could have accomplished had we only kept
pushing forward. Father Robin has yet to release any of their material but are
still recording from time to time, forever postponing the release date of their
now four LP box set. It will be a marvel to behold when it is finally done. In
the meantime, Andreas is with Wobbler and me and Krizla are doing Tusmørke
again, after playing with outfits as varied and unique as Momrakattakk, the
Few, Lydia Laska, the Mornings and the Mockery of Life.
as we were concerned, we pretty much made up our own scene back in the
Skien-era. We were perhaps looking more for differences than similarities in those
days, and felt alienated by the Oslo-crowd who embraced the neo-prog that we
couldn’t stand. Håkon Andersen, the original Tusmørke drummer, is the nephew of
Jørn Andersen who ran the Colours label, responsible for issuing the first
albums by Änlagård and Anekdoten. He
showed us what was what, warning against black metal and telling us that music
can’t be based entirely on hatred (it can) and told us why Flash was really
superior to Yes (it isn’t). Still, we believed everything he told us and
listened to loads of King Crimson, Jethro Tull, Høst, Yes, Gentle Giant, Bevis
Frond, Ethereal Counterbalance, Omnia Opera, Genesis, Univers Zero, Yezda Urfa,
Black Sabbath, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Cream and Black Widow. As far as a
Norwegian prog secene went, we had our fanzine, Old Man Willow, and our book
café, Lunarium, in Skien while in Oslo there was the godawful Prognetik
magazine and the excellent Tarkus fanzine. When we became aware of prog nights
in Oslo at a place called Månefisken, ten years later, the same people were
still active! That is where we met HlewagastiR and Lars Fredrik Frøislie of
Wobbler, as well. While the earlier versions of Tusmørke were marked by being
friends first and band mates second, the current lineup, which is the seventh
incarnation of the band, is based first and foremost on musical merit, roping
in musicians to serve a particular purpose. The sixth incarnation was in 2009
and featured Svenno on percussion and Reggie (also of Father Robin) on
keyboards. They were gradually replaced and finally Deadly Nightshade joined in
2011 so that the seventh manifestation of Tusmørke could plague the earth.
Each of you are involved in
other bands in the Norwegian progressive scene- Wobbler put out a record last
year that I really loved! How do you balance your responsibilities between the
different bands? What makes Tusmørke different from these other bands?
rehearse less often, for a start. Usually, we meet up once a week, and if we
have new material to work on, maybe we put in a day or two of extra work. Apart
from this, we rehearse individually. HlewagastiR is a human dynamo, able to fly
in straight from a gig with Wobbler in Germany, go to work at Teknisk Museum,
meet at rehearsal with Tusmørke the same night and play a concert the following
day. His energy is extraordinary. We are all friends with the Wobbler lot and
even share the same rehearsal space. There is a strong feeling of mutual
support. What separates Tusmørke from other projects like Wobbler is that we
are willing to go on stage and present new material that’s barely rehearsed and
just rely on improvisation to save the day. Inspiration, spur of the moment and
sheer intensity are usually our saving graces. (I nearly wrote insanity there,
but I didn’t. Oh, wait, I did.)
“Underjordisk Tusmørke” is the
name of your new album, and a great album it is! I think it really manages to
capture the vintage warmth of the classic progressive rock very well. What is
the story behind this album? What went into making it a reality?
HlawagastiR and Lars Fredrik Frøislie through Andreas Strømman Wettergren
Prestmo and hanging out at Månefisken discussing the inflated price of the
reissue of Museo Rosenbach’s Zarathustra made the recording possible, really.
Tusmørke had reformed in 2009 as a trio with me on bass and vocals, my twin
brother Krizla on flute and vocals and Svenno on percussion. Around this time,
I had just quit wasting time as the bassist in punk band Lydia Laska and
started rehearsing my own compositions as The Mockery of Life with an assorted
band of local Oslo freaks, including songs composed to win over my wife-to-be
Nadia. I recorded a cassette of songs telling her of my feelings for her, which
eventually resulted in a wedding on the Nile in Cairo with Andreas as my best
man in 2010. In 2009 it hit me that the natural thing to do after quitting
Lydia Laska would be to revive Tusmørke, which had lain dormant for a decade, to rehearse songs
of wonder and magic and enchantment. The inspiration for this came mainly from listening
to the early albums of Current 93, Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV. It
instilled a feeling that everything is allowed in music and that you don’t need
to follow rules. I especially wanted to break the rule that you need a guitarist
in the band. Soon the trio was bolstered by Reggie on keyboards. Svenno and Reggie
quit after a string of concerts, to be replaced by HlawagastiR whom we had met
at prog nights at Månefisken in Oslo, and Deadly Nightshade, a fellow space
cadet from jam sessions in the attic of Hersleb skole, a local school in the
centre of Oslo. We had rehearsed loads of material with Svenno and Reggie in
the living room of my flat in a derelict apartment house in Oslo, so when the
two new members joined and we had rented a proper rehearsal space we chose the
most suitable of these tracks for recording the debut album. We laid down the
basic tracks with Lars in the basement den of the farm of the Frøislie family and
recorded the rest in his apartment in Tøyen, Oslo.
The album artwork for this album
is pretty strange, is it meant to represent or convey anything in particular?
meant to convey the eeriness of the underworld of the subterraneans, a fixture
of Norwegian folklore. The art was made by Camilla Kloster a long time ago; her
art was brought to our attention by Sverre of Fresh Tea, who issued our first
single. We chose the artwork because it features the kind of beings you might
encounter in dreams of elves and also the passage to the beyond, a gateway
between light and darkness, an aperture of pleasure and ecstasy and yet the
entrance to the mundane world.
The lyrics on the album fit the
music very well- “The Quintessence of Elements” for example deals with concepts
of alchemy. What inspired these lyrics? Are there any topics of interest you
might recommend myself and other proggers looking into?
regards to “the Quintessence of Elements”, I’ll let by brother Krizla answer
“The lyrics are inspired by the concept of the philosophers'
traditional alchemy usually presented as a substance or artefact that
enables the magus to transmute base metals into gold. The stone of the
philosophers is also used to discover the fifth essence in nature, the
higher reality beyond the mundane existence constituted by the four
elements of fire, earth, water, and air. The stone, of course, is
really a mystical metaphor for a certain knowledge or insight through
which transformations in the world can be brought about. It may also
stand as a metaphor for the attainment of knowledge about the true
meaning of the world and existence. However, most occult writers tend
to emphasise the material aspects of the quintessence of elements:
there is no end to recipes and methods described to attain this
so-called stone, typically including the boiling of mercury under the
full moon whilst chewing on a toad. Rest assured, this is a smoke
screen for non-initiates, comparable to the methods by which financial
experts turn nature and work into numerical gold through the holy
rites of the stock market. The result will always be false, and
potentially very harmful to the would-be initiate! Now, the lyrics of
The Quintessence of Elements are rather personal, and are informed by
the results of certain mystic and unholy rituals that do reveal the
truth concerning the philosophers' stone and the attainment of the
fifth essence of the four elements. This knowledge is hidden somewhere
on the album Underjordisk Tusmørke and can be found by those who seek!
For those proggers interested in the topic of alchemy, Aleister
Crowley and his Magick in Theory and Practice is a good place to
start, together with Eliphas Levi's Transcendental Magic. However,
these schools of ritual magick are based in masonic and theistic
traditions that I don't really care for. I'm more interested in
rituals based in learning sorcery directly, through experiences in the
magick of nature and through musical improvisation. The fifth essence
that unites the four elements is very close, there is no need for high
priests or self-professed revelators.”
myself I am interested in reading about Egyptian and Ancient Norse mythology as
well as studying various texts concerning the years of migration in Europe
around 300-700 AD. The International Bronze age is a favourite topic, as well
as books on Nordic petroglyphs. There are some really nice petroglyphs from the
Nordic Bronze Age close to where my identical twin brother and I grew up; a
picture of the petroglyphs is featured on the tray of the CD version of
Underjordisk Tusmørke. I enjoy reading Goethe’s
Faust and Milton’s Paradise Lost, the poetry of Coleridge, Rimbaud, Keats and
Baudelaire, the plays of Shakespeare and Ibsen, and of course the Bible and the Quran. For
spiritual enlightenment I thoroughly recommend contemplating the texts of Plotin.
As for inspiration, no amount of reading can match a nice stroll in the
countryside, bird watching and ruin spotting.
On my promo of “Underjordisk
Tusmørke”, there are three ‘bonus’ tracks, with “Ode on Dawn” treading into
full-fledged prog epic territory. What kept these songs off of the ‘real’
album; why were they kept as bonuses?
first two bonus tracks were issued as a 7” vinyl single in 200 copies by Fresh
Tea in 2011, the final track is the only proper recording ever made by Tusmørke’s
predecessor Les Fleurs du Mal, in 1997. We wanted the CD to be like the crammed
reissues of the 90s were every available minute was filled with music. This is
a result of our sense of humour, which arguably is perverse.
I would argue that there are two
major schools of progressive rock at this point- one that tries to merge the
progressive spirit with contemporary rock, and the other that stays true to the
vintage sound. Tusmørke are most certainly adherents to the latter style. Do
you think this ‘vintage’ sound of progressive rock is as relevant today as it
was in the 1970’s?
not care much for the modern age. We neither strive for commercial success nor for
making our music palatable to the jaded masses. Relevance is certainly relative
to the listener; to some we are utterly pointless, to others we are spot on.
What’s the scene like locally in
Norway for progressive rock? Undoubtedly, Scandinavia has taken on a great
significance in the revival of progressive rock…
is no scene as such, just a hell of lot of lone wolves, ha ha! I think a lot of
musicians in Oslo are open minded, there is a sense of community in a way
regardless of genre, there is a lot going on, people hang out in bars, meet at
concerts and so on. We are not concerned with limiting ourselves to being a
progressive rock band, labels like “prog” and “retro” are more damaging than
anything, I find, since they tend to exclude rather than invite would-be
listeners; we are a psychedelic folk band intent on blowing minds and moving
feet. We are not about reviving anything, but rather express our romantic
yearning in a musical form that makes your imagination and body move. The
groove is in the Heart of Darkness and Tusmørke draws breath in time with its
pulse, beating out the rhythm to stirr the air inside your ear and make you
What advice would you give to
young and uninitiated progressive musicians, looking to start a band or get
their music heard in today’s world?
a lot and make good songs, grow old but don’t grow up.
Various Belgian Trappist beers, Norwegian Haandbryggeriet’s
Dark Force and Dobbel Dose, Guiness and Newcastle Brown Ale.
with bacon and Blue Castello.
What have you been listening to
Brinner, The Folklords, Hexvessel, Arktau Eos, Alice Coltrane, Neu!, Fairuz, Death
in June and while writing this interview, the mighty Omar Khorshid, Egyptian
king of electric guitar.
Are there possible tours in the
future for Tusmørke? Come to Vancouver- we haven’t had vintage prog rock around
these parts in quite a while!
love to go to Vancouver, book us and we’ll come!
Any last words for the
progressive community at large?
that which destroys you.
Cheers, and Slainte from Canada!
and skål from Norway! Benediktator