Lucifer Was interview with Thore Engen
From left: Thore Engen (guitar), Dag Stenseng (flute, vocals), Anders Sevaldson
(flute, backing vocals, saxofon), (back) Kai Frilseth (drums), Einar Bruu (bass)
and Jon Ødegård (organ).
Lucifer Was were established in 1970 in Oslo, Norway. The band played regularly in the Oslo area until 1976. The band was reunited in the 1996 and are still active.
What’s the story behind Lucifer Was formation?
It’s Oslo 1969. The very young drummer, Kai Frilseth knew guitarist Tor Langbråten from his neighborhood. The two of them got together for some informal “boy-room” playing. Just drums and guitar did not quite cut it and they wanted a bass player. A classmate of Tor’s, Arild Larsen, popped by their rehearsal room one day, also in 1969, and said he would like to join. He was most welcomed. Under one obvious condition, though. Arild had to get himself a bass guitar. And so, the trio “Empty Coffin” were in play. After some months the trio had expanded to a five-piece, adding organist Knut Engan and a second guitarist.
One day in 1970, the door bell rang at my parent’s house. Outside stood three guys, totally unknown to me. These creatures were guitarist Tor Langbråten, bassist Arild Larsen and organist Knut Engan. They asked if I, as lead guitarist, and Einar Bruu, as bassist, would join their group. We did accept.
Einar Bruu in 1972.
With two bass players, two guitars, organ and drums, we started rehearsing. “Autumn Serenade” still didn’t do any original material, but by then I had both learned to master the guitar quite OK and also my songwriting had gotten more sophisticated.
The double bass experiment did not work out. Probably because we were not adept enough to exploit the possibilities. Arild Larsen switched from bass to working our lighting system from on-stage. And, we changed our name again. This time to “Ezra West”. I liked it since it’s sounded so close to my guitar hero Leslie West! We did a couple of gigs as “Ezra West”, before changing the name again, to “Lucifer”. Quite soon we realized that we were not the only rock group with that name. Now, after gigging under four names in two years, we were tired of name changes so we just added “Was”.
Around this time flautist Anders Sevaldson joined. Anders still occasionally plays with the group. He is featured throughout on both of our two latest albums, DiesGrows in 2014 and the new one Morning Star.
Then Knut Engan left. After a couple of years, with new people coming and going, something venomous crept into the band and Tor Langbråten also left.
In the summer of 1972, Arild Larsen (18 years and with a driving license) and me, now 16 years of age, borrowed a car and went for a two week camping summer holiday in the Southern part of Norway. One evening we met singer/flautist Dag Stenseng and a friend of his, also on holiday by car and tent. We stuck together for the rest of the trip. After the holiday we kept in touch. We asked if Dag Stenseng and the organ player in his band, Jan Ødegaard, would join forces with what was left of Lucifer Was. The remains of Empty Coffin/Autumn Serenade/Lucifer/Lucifer Was were Kai Frilseth, drums, Einar Bruu, bass, Anders Sevaldson, flute, sax and some vocals, Arild Larsen, lights and me, guitar and some vocals. And the Lucifer Was that still are active to this day, minus Jan Ødegaard, had finally come together. That was the start of developing our own sound with the two flutes trademark. This line-up lasted until 1974 or 1975. Then the band went on hold until coming back in 1996.
Singer Jon Ruder joined the band in 1997. We were booked for a three day prog festival in Stockholm in August 1997, right after the release of Underground And Beyond. Only a week before the concert singer/flautist Dag Stenseng had to cancel for a very adequate reason. I called Jon and asked if he could fill in and he said yes. And since then Jon has been with the band and over the years become more and more vital also as a contributor of material.
Were any members of the band in any other band before formation of Lucifer Was?
Drummer Kai Frilseth and the story of Empty Coffin are already covered.
The second element in the coming of Lucifer Was was bassist Einar Bruu and me. We had been toying with playing together since the age of seven or eight, banging away on homemade cardboard guitars with rubber bands as strings. Those things made sound, but not eh, music. My first band was as a drummer. In 1968. The guitarist was Haakon Graff, later to find fame as a renowned jazz keyboardist, also featured on several of the legendary Oslo based prog rock band “Ruphus”’ albums. The only song I can remember that we played was “Mony Mony” by Tommy James & The Shondells.
I got my first acoustic guitar at twelve. Didn’t know how to tune it, didn’t know any chords. So I wrote my first “song” called ”My Jean”, complete with lyrics, out of necessity to get some music-like results out of my guitar playing. I made up my own chords and the guitar had a more percussive function than as a melodic accompaniment. It must have sounded horrible. But it was the start. After getting a real electric guitar, an Ibanez Les Paul, and homemade working amps, Einar, now having picked up on the bass, and me soon had a band going with a lot of people coming and going. I remember that year, 1970, as being permanently stoned and we played endless heavy jams. The only cover I can recall that we played was Black Sabbath’s “Electric Funeral”. That band was not so fantastic I am sure, but the name… wow, “Evil Crack And The Brothers Of The Black Cross”! That’s heavy. That’s black, hehe.
Dag Stenseng and keysman Jan Ødegaard played in a group called “2 Kilo Extra”. Dag Stenseng also played in another band called “Albert’s Farm”. That band also featuring a future “Ruphus” member.
Singer Jon Ruder found his voice quite late, after he turned 20 and his first band was called Citizen Cane. They were playing a mix of covers and originals. I think most of the members just thought of the band as a hobby. It was during one of their gigs, in 1984, I became aware of Jon’s wonderful and versatile voice.
What kind of music did you play under those names?
Personally I have never heard anything by Empty Coffin. And actually never even wondered what they were about. I asked Kai Frilseth, but he doesn’t remember anything of the music they played.
A call to founder bass-player Arild Larsen shed some light on their music. Despite their heavy graveyard name, the music played were cover- versions of the likes of Creedence Clearwater Revival. Not that dark, maybe… To be fair, Creedence did spook a little too, with titles like “Gloomy”, “Tombstone Shadow”, “Graveyard Train”, “Sinister Purpose”. So, I guess their name was inspired by that, rather than a wish, or need, for being labeled as a “black” band.
When Einar Bruu and I joined in late 1970, Empty Coffin had become Autumn Serenade and progressed to more live work and even had a little house in the more country-like outskirt of Oslo, called Klemetsrud, that they rented a couple of days per week for rehearsals. They also had an old Ford Thames “band-bus” with the name Autumn Serenade in large lettering on each side. Cool. I can’t remember what we played at the first rehearsals together. I know I was not into Creedence Clearwater Revival, which I then (wrongly) regarded as pure pop, due to their hits like “Proud Mary” and “Bad Moon Rising”. We very fast, during 1971, changed the repertoire to much more heavy stuff, at least for that time. Uriah Heep had just released their debut Very ‘eavy Very ‘umble and we played “Dreammare”, “Walking In Your Shadow” and “Gypsy” from that album. I also remember we played a long version of Chicago Transit Authority’s version of The Spencer Davis Group song “I’m A Man”, Jethro Tull’s “Wind-Up” and “Locomotive Breath” from the Aqualung album, Alice Cooper’s “Schools Out”, Johnny Winter And’s version of “Jumping Jack Flash”, Black Sabbath’s “Sweet Leaf” and “Time To Live” from Uriah Heep’s second album Salisbury.
We also played two long 50’s rock’n’roll medleys, which were what many heavy rock bands did in those days. Even if I respect that music very much, Chuck Berry et al, it’s not the music I play privately, or enjoy so much, other than as a very, very important forerunner to what was to come. But one thing’s for sure. Those rock’n’roll medleys saved us many times at gigs, when we were booked into totally wrong venues, crowded by people that did not want to hear Black Sabbath or our own originals. They wanted “real” music like Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry and stuff. I remember a gig were we, after playing a couple of our core tunes, had to resort to play those two medleys over and over for three full 45 minutes sets. The public did not care, or register, as they could dance away stupidly drunk, and we were saved from being beaten up and thrown off stage without getting paid.
I was honestly only interested in playing original music. I thought that was the only way of trying to add something of some value to the music-scene. I never had any desire to be a sheer jukebox entertainer. I realize that the world may need that too, but that’s not for me.
My ego was not such that I only wanted the band to play my songs. I really enjoyed it when the other guitarist, Tor Langbråten, suddenly started to come up with some good tunes, as did the organist, Knut Engan.
I remember vividly the first original we rehearsed. A tune called “Determination” by Knut Engan. This is not the same song as the “Determination” on our fourth album The Divine Tree. Other very early originals were “Scrubby Maid”, “The Meaning Of Life” and “The Green Pearl”, all featured on our debut album”. I wrote “The Green Pearl” in 1971. I was 15, using very basic elements of the Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg’s “In The Hall Of The Mountain King”. As a young teenager I was not into classical music at all, but my teacher gave me the “Peer Gynt Suite” album, containing that composition. I loved that suite to death. Still do. By the time “The Green Pearl” was released on Underground And Beyond in 1997, many, many artists had covered, or used parts of, “In The Hall Of The Mountain King” on records. That was mentioned by several critics, but when I used that theme for “The Green Pearl” in 1971, the only rock group I had heard using a tiny snippet of it was Beggar’s Opera on their first album 1970’s “Act One”. Other early originals were “Darkness” and “Behind Black Rider”, both on the In Anadi’s Bower album.
Did you do any concerts?
Empty Coffin did play a few local gigs. And so did Autumn Serenade.
Ezra West only played live twice under that name. As we got our act more together as Lucifer and Lucifer Was, we played increasingly more.
From 1972 to 1974 I think we played between two and four gigs most every week. Some of them were bigger events and festivals.
Chatau Neuf’s Little Hall around 1972.
How was the scene back in the 1970s? Any other local bands that you would like to mention?
By local, I guess you mean Norwegian? The Norwegian scene for our kind of music was small. Meaning that our “local” local scene, Oslo and surrounding areas, was even smaller.
Looking back now it does not seem to have been that small, but that has a lot to do with the fact that Norway is geographically a large country, bigger that Italy. Norway is not a square country, more like a stretched out tiger with tail and head. But we are few people. Still, today, we are only five millions with a right to get, or hold, a Norwegian passport. That means that there are huge distances from end to end, an in-between. And logically, living in Oslo, meant that we did not know much about what was going on way up in the North or in the West, South or anywhere further away than 200 km. Only a handful groups got the opportunity to record on major labels and get some sort of national recognition. The greatest band, for our liking, was “Aunt Mary”. That band released an OK debut album in 1970, then two great albums in 1972 and 1973. Aunt Mary also put out some fantastic singles, 1971 to 1973. They were good! There was also a quite successful group from up in the North called “Prudence”, who released a great debut album in 1972 titled Tomorrow May Be Vanished. Great live band too. After that they released another four albums between 1973 and 1976, but for me those do not cut it even close to that first one, even if many people seem to like them more. Because they are less inventive and more traditional I guess. Norway also had a premiere guitarist, Freddy Lindquist. Among many successful bands he played with was “The New Beatnicks”. After touring Israel for one full year they changed their name to “Titanic” and became the first Norwegian band to have a chart topper in USA, a single in the Santana style. But that was without Freddy, as he had got a major deal in Norway to record a solo album. The, for 1970, stunning Menu album. Still one of my all time Norway-favorites, along with 1967’s psychedelic “supergroup” “Dream” with Terje Rypdal as guitarist and Terje Rypdal’s own debut solo- outing Bleak House in 1968. Really, really great stuff! In hindsight, maybe the only group of some lasting significance that we actually physically shared the scene and stages with back in the early 70’s was the band “Høst” who released two good albums in 1974 and 1976.
I am a record collector. Been that as long as I can remember. One of the genres I really enjoy chasing is Nordic heavy, prog, art rock of the 60’s and 70’s. I am happily amazed to discover how many fine records that were actually produced in Norway during that period. I have so far found close to 80 relevant releases. At the time they were made I guess I only knew, or liked/understood, 10 to 15.
What does the name “Lucifer Was” refer to in the context of the artistic name?
If we keep to just Lucifer, when we chose it, it was nothing more than a stylistic name in 1970. By stylistic I mean that the name signals what kind of band we were. Heavy, progressive, mystic, mythical. Everybody understands that a group called Black Sabbath were not playing ballroom dance music. The same goes for Uriah Heep. Today a household name, but they were a very spooky band with that sleeve when it first appeared on the magical Vertigo Swirl label in 1970, right on the heels of Sabbath’s debut. We considered those two albums to be two sides of the same valuable coin. And there were Bloodrock, Arzachel, Black Widow, Black Pearl, Demon Fuzz, Dr. John The Night Tripper, Tonton Macoute and on and on. You know, the name Lucifer just fitted into that universe at that time. It had nothing to do with us be satanistic or worshippers of the occult. Those concerns came later, in the 90’s, after the Norwegian black metal guys started to burn down churches, and in the case of the band “Mayhem”, also murder. We will not be associated with that. There is a limit to what is acceptable for getting you name in the news.
What influenced you?
The biggest musical kicks in chronological order: The Beatles, The Mothers of Invention/Zappa’s “Freak Out” 1966, seeing Jimi Hendrix Experience on the telly for the first time in early 1967 playing “Hey Joe”, hearing a track from Muddy Waters’ psychedelic blues album Electric Mud in 1968 on the radio and Black Sabbath’s debut album in 1970. A few progmetal albums of the early noughties, like Lana Lane’s Secrets Of Astrology and Adagio’s Sanctus Ignis. These are all milestones.
Underground and Beyond was released in 1997. What can you tell me about material that appeared on this album? It wasn’t recorded when the material was originally written or am I wrong?
Some of it was recorded. But no good quality, on a two-track tape machine. In 1971/2. Not sure. In 1994 bassist Einar Bruu came to visit and he had got hold of a cassette copy of that tape. We listened to it and that’s when the idea for what became the re-union concert in 1996 was born. Without it a lot of the material would have been lost. Even if I had written most of it I had, at least for the details, forgot most, but for three or four of them.
I have kept playing all along, and in the 80’s I recorded four albums in other musical landscapes. Even had a European new waweish hit single in 1980 that sold 500.000 units and many things were open for me. Kai Frilseth played drums on it and on the album from which that single was taken. The follow up single to that hit was actually meant to be a new arrangement with re-written lyrics for the opening track on Underground And Beyond, “Teddy’s Sorrow”. That was one I had not forgotten obviously. The track, now called “16” (ugh), was recorded very professionally and we even had a finished mix. My then partner in musical crime, Englishman Charles Forbes of legendary “Neptunes Empire” (the man behind the very rare private pressing 1971 album and also pictured on the cover) and me disagreed wildly over the overall sound. That resulted in me walking out there and then. Luckily, that “16” never came to anything and I guess it’s gone forever.
I had not forgotten “The Green Pearl” either. But big chunks of the other tracks were totally, or partly, forgotten. I was amazed of how heavy the track “Tarabas” was, the structure of “In The Park” and “Light My Cigarette”. Anders Sevaldson’s “Fandango” was also on the tape. And “Asterix”. “Asterix” actually has nothing to do with the French cartoon figure that operates in tandem with Obelix, but was the street name for a certain kind of acid. A track that was not on the tape was “Out Of The Blue”. That riff was the last thing the band played together in a final attempt to keep going in 1975. We went to a small farm owned by my folks in the country side of the town, Fredrikstad, an hour and a half’s drive East from Oslo, close to the Swedish border. There we set up the equipment, but about the only thing we played for two or three days was that “Out Of The Blue” main riff. I had not turned it into a song yet, with verses, arrangement and lyrics. Just the riff. That trip was the end of Lucifer Was for twenty years.
Then the re-union gig came up in 1996, playing the same tunes we found on the old tape, plus a few more from the old days. We put in quite a lot of rehearsal time. And as band members in a similar situation will know, there were not like twenty years had passed. Felt like a couple of days. The dynamics were back, exactly as it had been in the past. After the show someone handed Dag Stenseng 1.000 Euros (well, the equivalent in Norwegian Kroner) and said: Hey, you must go in the studio and record your stuff. We booked a good studio, with 24-track analog tape recorder, for a week-end and that little amount was enough for 18 hours worth of studio time. We recorded live in the studio, some of the guitar soloing as well, as heard on “The Green Pearl” and “Tarabas”. Then Dag Stenseng and I put on the vocals simultaneously, starting at 10 o’clock on a Sunday morning. We did that very quickly in spite of the awful early hours for being awake. And even have to sing! Most of the songs retain their original lyrics. I think I only wrote some new verses or changed the lyrics a bit for “In The Park” and “The Meaning Of Life”. After the vocals were done with, I put on the missing lead guitar parts with Einar Bruu “producing”. That meant, after one take, or shall I say try, he said “good” and without even hearing a playback of what I had laid down it was: NEXT! Then we added the parts for the flutes that had not been usable from the live in the studio basic recordings plus a few guitar overdubs and voila! Mix it quick. Finished. That’s how we made our debut in 18 hours.
We didn’t have any record deal as the album was not meant to be an album for release in the first place. Anyway, I thought, why not go for it, got it mastered and sent it to three independents and all three wanted to release it. We went with the Swedish label Record Heaven. Where we still are. Only the label name has changed. To Transubstans.
Would you share your insight on the albums that followed? Underground And Beyond got us re-started.
In Anadi’s Bower gave us continuation. But, this time under more controlled and conscious circumstances. The basic idea for the music though, was to make more of the same as the debut. Record our original early 70’s material. But this time, no old recorded tape was on hand. I perfectly remembered 1970’s “My Mind Said Stop” and 1973’s “Legends”, and vaguely remembered 1971’s “Darkness” and “Behind Black Rider”. I spent quite some time honing these last two songs into the shape they are presented as on the album. “Blundered In Homes” was a song I wrote back in the days, but we never actually played it as such. I’ve always loved The Rolling Stones’ “Paint It Black”. A fantastic song. I found out that the drums and Mick Jagger’s melody-line for that masterpiece fitted quite neatly to the music of “Blundered In Homes”. We only had to change a few chords for the choruses. For some reason we opted to always perform it as a heavy rock arrangement of “Paint It Black”. But recording a version of “Paint It Black” for In Anadi’s Bower would have been an idiot idea. I went back to the original melody and wrote new lyrics to flesh out the forgotten lines. The 11+ minutes long “Little Child” is a re-working based on the remains of what I remembered of that particular long opus. It used to be in the set list. The rest of the material is a mix of material written through the years and brand new tunes. The title track “In Anadi’s Bower” was written close up to recording time. But, no surprise, we played a song back in the days of that title. But for that one my memory was absolutely totally blank. “Windows Of Time” was also a new piece. That’s actually one I personally hold in high esteem. The only song I have co-written with bassist Einar Bruu. Since the track starts and ends with a little bass-solo people tend to think that was his contribution to the song. It is not. Einar Bruu wrote the lyrics. All the basic tracks were recorded live; also the long “Little Child” was recorded in one take. Jon provided guide vocals along the way. For the title track we actually used his live guide vocals, hand held microphone and all, cause why re-do something that good?
For this album we hired a producer, Rolf Kjernet. I had worked with him before on several other albums. I trusted him highly. The only slight downside was that we never seemed to get finished. After we had burned off 400 hours of studio time it finally was. Thinking back, we only spent about 10 hours recording all the basic tracks here! This time we also added two Mellotron players. We do not regret anything. It was worth it. And everybody got paid. But slightly more than 1.000 Euros in all honesty. Very, very slightly more. Recorded on 24-track analog machinery.
The core of Blues From Hellah was originally recorded in 1984, and is effectively THE first Lucifer Was album. It started out as my solo album and was to be called “Planned In Blue” as I at that time was in a group called Plann. My good mate, Igor Kill, who I played with off and on in various settings, played bass and later added some slide guitar. He brought in Frank Marstokk, a drummer he had played with for years. He lived in Denmark at that time as he had gone on to enjoy summer-pop success with a Danish group called “Laid Back”, who had just scored a biggie summer hit “Sunshine Reggae” in 1983. He flew to Oslo and came directly to the studio. No pre-rehearsals, he had not heard a single thing of what we were about to record. After a few run troughs he looked at me and said: Wow! Is it really possible to still play this kind of music? (It’s 1984). Anyway, Igor, Frank and me, with Rolf Kjernet producing and engineering, recorded the whole album live as a trio that same evening and through the night. At 9 o’clock in the morning we were empty. There was one more song to record, but we simply did not have any energy left, so that was just left unrecorded. Later we added more guitar, put on keyboards and some backing vocals, a horn section on the track “Lucilla’s Gone” and maybe some other cosmetics. This is also Jon Ruder’s actual debut with the band as he is one of the trombone players! The album got finished. I hated it. Only because I felt my vocals were far from good enough. I just did not like my voice. But at mix down to two-track master tape it was common practice to make mixes both with and without vocals. That saved what was to become Blues From Hellah. Why? Because in 2002 Jon Ruder was there for the vocals!
Anyway, 17 years have passed since the recordings and it’s 2001. I called Rolf Kjernet if he could make me a CD copy of the 2-track tape master without vocals that he had stored. When I got that, I wrote new lyrics to all the, so far, eight tracks. I had my own vocals on the shelved “Planned In Blue” album to work from too.
I had known the Norwegian contemporary classical composer Dagfinn Koch for a couple of years. One evening we met, we started talking about Mellotrons of all things, and that turned into talks of doing something together for ”Planned In Blue”, now re-born as Blues From Hellah. He arranged the score for the string quartet that’s featured on the album. Then we went to the studio, again with Rolf Kjernet producing. All we had to work with was the two-track master without vocals. We transferred that over to two of the tracks on the 24-track analog tape machine.
We started building and expanding that old “Planned In Blue” material from 1984. We could not do anything with the balance on the two-track “basic recordings”. We had to be careful. I re-learned my guitar solos and overdubbed them note by note to get a more beefy guitar sound. I also played sitar on one of the tracks.
Finally my songs should get proper vocals, not mine. Jon Ruder did a stunning job. Then Einar Bruu laid a second bass that grooved well against Igor Kill’s original bass. Mind you, they did not play the same bass lines. Kai Frilseth added percussion. Then the string quartet, hired from The Kristiansand Symphony Orchestra, was recorded and it worked beautifully. Dagfinn Koch even played viola himself on a couple of tracks.
Dag Stenseng and two other flautists, Morten Seyfarth and Tom Ugglebakken from the experimental progressive group “Gargamel” came and did their parts and we almost had Blues From Hellah.
Even if we already had added a short opening track to the originally eight songs, played solely by the string quartet and flautist Morten Seyfarth, the album was too short. That was solved by adding a Captain Beyond cover, “Armworth” that I had completely re-arranged before we recorded it, again basically live in the studio, only a few months after we had finished In Anadi’s Bower in 2000. “Armworth” features that album’s same line-up, minus flautist Anders Sevaldson and no keyboards.
The fact that Blues From Hellah took 20 years from start to finish is quite amazing, I think. Blending a ready mixed two-track “master” with all the new stuff and making it all gel perfectly is quite an achievement. I bow like a Japanese to producer Rolf Kjernet for that.
Next up was The Divine Tree released in 2007. In 2005 my life got really messed up. Rehab for alcohol addiction for 10 weeks. My family was fed up and after rehab I was not wanted back in the home anymore. My life was so heavy that going to the dentist felt like a nice massage. It was an awful situation, but at the same time I felt remarkable free. I stayed at various places finishing off, or writing, the new material for the album. I guess only the title of the first good Lucifer Was original, Knut Engan’s “Determination” in 1970 links this album directly to the past. The “Determination” on this album is a completely different song. The only memory I have of Knut Engan’s tune is that there was a riff or two and the verses had some ascending chords. And the lyrics? No idea. Apart from the title. The new “Determination” does feature an ascending chord sequence during the verses, like Knut Engan’s did, although obviously different.
I worked closely with Einar Bruu to finalize the material. Discussing the The Divine Tree with him, I knew he frequently was in contact with the earlier mentioned guitar master Freddy Lindquist. Freddy was also running his own studio at that time. We decided to ask him to collaborate on the album as co-producer using his studio. When he accepted it was great as he’s been quite some hero for me ever since I got his album “Menu” in 1970 when I still was very young. It was also the start of a few years’ partnership between him and me as producers also for other artists.
Since I was not really in the best of mental shape at the time due to all the personal demons, hassles and tangles, it was a great help to have such a capacity by my side during the months of recording this album. Freddy also sort of joined the band and added vital elements to one of Jon Ruder and my tunes, “On Earth”. He also played live with the band. Freddy recommended “the Norwegian Jon Lord” Arne Martinussen to do the organ parts. Arne is a marvelous musician and has been with the group ever since. Since neither Anders Sevaldson nor Dag Stenseng were available for flutes, we hired flautist Sven Greni from the progressive group Undertakers Circus, most renowned for their impressive 1973 Ragnarock album, now changing hands for 250 to 300 Euros. Top notch jazz flautist Vidar Johansen also provided some flute. We asked harmonica player Tore Bereczky to participate. He provided his electric harmonica wailing on “Determination”. He’s the loudest player we ever worked with in the studio. Both drummer and percussionist Rune Engen (no family relation) and my first-born son (1986), Andreas Sjo Engen (that’s family indeed) had been full-time members of Lucifer Was for live work since 2003. Both debuted with us in the studio for this album. Rune is featured through-out and Andreas for a couple of solos.
Einar Bruu & Rune Engen (Recording DiesGrows)
In 2000 I had a chance meeting Jethro Tull chief Ian Anderson. We talked music and Jethro Tull history for a couple of hours, in particular his writing process for the 1971 song “Aqualung”. Coming home after that meeting I felt like writing a song. The result became the 10 minutes long “Crosseyed”. The title has two references. Still being in Aqualung-mood the title was derived from Jethro Tull’s “Cross-eyed Mary”. But, I wrote the lyrics as a reaction against Christian fanatic evangelists ringing people’s doorbells, including mine, asking to come in and preach religion. These folks seem unable to be tolerant to other ways of living, other values, because their eyesight is blocked by the crosses in their eyes.
Andreas Sjo Engen
Another new element was that Jon Ruder also provided material. He brought in the music for “Almost Home” and “On Earth”.
Now then, let’s rewind a little. After the string session for Blues From Hellah, in 2002, Dagfinn Koch asked me, why don’t we do something with the whole Kristiansand Symphony Orchestra? That became a reality soon after, even if the whole project that was to become album number five, The Crown Of Creation, took ten years from start to finish. From 1999 to 2009. The album was released on Transubstans Records in 2010.
During these 10 years I was working on and off with this monster, more on than off though, while simultaneously preparing and recording the second, third and fourth albums. From the beginning it was meant to feature violin and harpsichord as key instruments alongside the band. When we, thanks to Dagfinn Koch, got the opportunity to collaborate with Kristiansand Symphony Orchestra and the world’s most virtuoso recorder player, Denmark’s Michala Petri and Sweden’s premiere concerto violinist Jan Stigmer as soloists, the concept took on a new much more advanced life.
I never think of The Crown Of Creation as a rock opera, because there are no sung dialogue. It is a song cycle telling a story. Thematically starting from before the beginning of the universe without time and space, through the development of nature and people with longings, hopes, good and not so good behavior. Ending in the unknown after-death-mysteries called eschatology. May sound pretentious, but it is usually necessary for me to have a plan and overall idea of what I want to achieve when I write and compose. When the record is out for everybody to listen to, I don’t care at all if my ideas behind it and the lyrics come through or not. In general, I want to write in such a way that whatever is there by face value can be interpreted and understood, or not at all, by each listener the way they receive and react to it. May it be as a love story, may it be as a devilish vision of the end of the world. The flags or drapings may carry the 666 number or be blank. I own no absolute truth. My right is to express my own way of understanding the complexity of humans socially acting together. I tell a story from my point of view. Along with fitting music that enhances the atmosphere in every song, mirroring each song’s title and lyrical content.
Dagfinn Koch lived in Lübeck, Germany, at the time, so I traveled to and from Lübeck for some months to work with him. He annotated all my musical lines and from those basics wrote the full-scale orchestral scores. By then I had written ten of the albums fifteen tracks. The remaining five tracks were written and/or arranged in various collaborations with Dagfinn Koch, Jon Ruder and Freddy Lindquist.
In 2003 I briefly met up with Ian Anderson again after Jethro Tull’s concert at Sweden Rock. I had demoed three of the songs with the orchestral parts included. I gave him this demo as I wanted Ian Anderson to be the rock flute counterpart to Michaela Petri’s classical parts. He accepted the demo. But apart from that he, quite naturally, wanted to turn the proposal over to his management. And it resulted in nothing. Instead we turned to Kansas born, but living in Oslo, Deb Girnius. Freddy and I had produced an album for her. She has a marvelous rough voice and is also a very adept flautist and acoustic guitarist. So she stepped in on the flute and did an absolutely stunning job. Deb also contributes vocals. She stayed on with the band until 2013, doing some gigs along the way.
There is no doubt about one fact. This was a difficult album to make. When Dagfinn and I worked in Lübeck, our approach was that the whole album should be arranged for the orchestra in such a way that they could perform it without the rock parts. Except for the vocals, of course. This was never meant to materialize, but it was our attitude for how to create the orchestral music. I knew that there had been several rock bands working with orchestras before us. Like Procol Harum, Scorpions, Metallica. Jon Lord’s “Suite For Orchestra And Rock Group” was something else. That was an original composition, but more in the vein of, mainly, the orchestra playing, than Deep Purple were playing and then the orchestra again. But to keep to the three first examples mentioned above, there was one major difference in what they did and what we did. These bands were playing already recorded material and then added the orchestral arrangements to go along with their tunes. The problem Dagfinn spotted when we listened to some of the albums was that he felt that the rock band and the orchestra were “not in the same room”. Resulting in a situation where the whole thing did not blend well together on record. At least not for a classical trained ear. My guess is it sounded fantastic live, though. And it was not original music written for the occasion. The Crown Of Creation was a brand new piece, arranged firstly with only the orchestra in mind. Therefore we decided to record the orchestra first, to really get all the magic an orchestra can provide with dynamics, natural squeaks from the material in the instruments et al. The rock elements were to be added after the orchestral music and not vice versa, or all together, which is the more traditional way for rock bands working with orchestras.
By late 2002 the arrangements were finished and in January 2003 we hired a mobile studio, including two engineers, and travelled the 250 km to Kristiansand in Southern Norway. We spent four days rehearsing and recording the orchestra. On the last evening, after the music was finished Jon Ruder came down and laid his guide vocals.
Then we went back to Oslo and I started looking for funding and partners to finish the album. I met up with various people, among them Rolf Løvland, of Secret Garden fame and writer of the worldwide extremely big hit “You Raise Me Up”. We even were in the studio discussing next steps. And yet again we bumped in to Ruphus. Their keyboard player for the album ManMade. The same guy that Dag Stenseng had played with in his teenage band, Albert’s Farm. Now he was present in the capacity of engineer.
This came to nothing as none of the involved people really hit it off together. So, after having finished The Divine Tree with the aid of Freddy Lindquist, I thought that he was the right man to co-produce and finish off this large scale album.
We transferred the orchestra tapes over to his studio equipment and started working. My idea of how to add the rock music was to start by adding acoustic guitar to the lot, just to have some rhythmic basics from where we could develop everything else.
I was not prepared for the shock I encountered trying to do that. I just could not manage it. There and then I really understood that a full orchestra and a rock band grooves totally different! A rock band is tight on the beat. An orchestra has a totally different way of “swinging”. You cannot put a click track on such a huge music machine. I gave up.
Knowing Rune Engen to be a very competent drummer, I decided to let him have a go at adding the drums first, so that the rest of us could have some kind of a steady beat to work from. His task was difficult. Not only did he have to provide the beat, but he also had to memorize the orchestral details, and be on the mark for all the arranged twists and turns along every corner. The whole thing was a continuous suite that lasted 46 minutes. After several tries he came back into the control room in the studio. Pale. Scared. He said, I cannot do this and be thinking at the same time. I must just live inside it all and drum away from that inside. His solution was to enjoy some mind expanding caramels and enter the spiritual world playing from there. After a couple of hours he succeeded and impressed us all.
When I started putting on guitars the next day, no problems. We were very careful with what we added of the rock stuff to avoid killing the great sound of the orchestra. When everybody in the band had done their parts and the monster was mixed I felt like achieving a triumph. And the critics were totally overwhelming. One of the journos in England’s Classic Rock Magazine had it among his top albums list of 2010. And he was far from the only one. The front album cover is by Frank Fiedler of the German krautrock/art group Popol Vuh.
As part of the deal with Kristiansand Symphony Orchestra we should play a concert together. That happened in September 2009 when we headlined the “Southern Discomfort Metal Festival” in Kristiansand. There we world-premiered the work, performing the complete The Crown Of Creation live. It went down a storm. What a feeling, standing on the stage playing with that wall of concentrated classical musicians behind us, led and conducted by the genius Jan Stigmer and his Stradivarius violin. In Norway that concert has apparently become legendary. There are some extracts from the concert on YouTube. The sound may not be up to par as it is recorded by a fan using his video camera with sound signals from the mixing board. He got our permission to do it.
By 2010 I had gotten my life more together again. Now I felt ready to start working on preparing a new Lucifer Was album, DiesGrows. It was the same core line-up that recorded The Divine Tree, minus the flautists, that played on this new album. The flutes were handled by Anders Sevaldson and Lise Marit “The Witch” Haugen. She had played live with us for several gigs during the early noughties, so she was already a clan insider. Through other production work I had become very good mates with the owner of Laidback Studios in Oslo, Jørgen G. Henriksen and learned to respect him a lot, as a person, as a musician and engineer. I asked him to co-produce the album.
For this album Jon Ruder and I developed a more extended songwriting partnership. During my rehab months in 2006 I had written a lot of lyrics. These I passed on to Jon, luckily on the outside of my necessary “imprisonment”. Jon, who is a really gifted tunesmith, put melodies to a lot of them, in a singer/songwriter style accompanied by either acoustic guitar or piano. When I had got my energy back he sent all of them over to me, so I could turn them into, to quote him, “Lucifer Was music”. For me personally the circumstances during the making of DiesGrows were double edged. I could not keep from, via the lyrics, to re-live the rehab and consequences of my past lifestyle. On top, and more heavy, both of my wife’s parents and her younger sister died while recording the album. It made the track “Afterlife” especially emotional.
Even if my son Andreas had played live with us for years and also played some guitar on The Divine Tree and The Crown Of Creation this was his debut as fulltime guitarist alongside me on a Lucifer Was record.
Photo: Dagfinn Lervik
What’s the songwriting process like?
Since I seriously started out writing in 1970 it naturally has been done, and still is, in all kind of fashions. The spark is often that I need a title, so I know where the song is heading. For many years I just sat down and played my guitar and suddenly a riff or chord progression caught me. Then I worked on that, making up some melody lines with meaningless words. As a rule I did not write it down, or record it in any way, as I thought that if I had forgotten it the next day it was not good enough. If it was still there I had the skeleton of a song. Think about it, if you on an average come up with four or five such skeletons for years and years it makes up quite a catalog of sketches that you can harvest from when the time comes to develop the songs into finished music and lyrics. It’s a time consuming process. Now I often don’t need anything else to help me but my head and brain, just thinking of the music, the arrangement, the time span of each part over and over in my head. Then I play it. Then I annotate, or put on something to record it as a personal notepad. None of the music is really neither started nor developed by just jamming with the band in the studio or during rehearsals. Of course, if some things do not work, I go back and alter elements, make some adjustments, or just scrap the whole thing. This is the basic process, also if I collaborate with others, whom for Lucifer Was, is mainly Jon Ruder. In these situations there are often both lyrics and melody lines present, and my main task at this stage is to develop it into Lucifer Was sounding music, with riffs, tempo, solo parts, and instrumentation. I am very happy that Jon is so positive and rarely rides his horses for a song to turn out just how he may have envisioned it, but most often accept the treatments I come up with. I think of progressive rock, of all kinds from Gentle Giant to Ayreon to Satyricon’s “Live At The Opera”, as composed rock music.
A rule is never force anything. Just wait for the moment. I feel safe the moment always comes. How fast that moment comes depends on two things, the necessity for it and my degree of concentration. And that is very much up to myself and what I care to do. And there is also this elusive word “inspiration”. I am that lucky I am there most of the time, may it be good times or bad times, broke or well-off. I can always carry my inner life with me and think of it as music and create under almost any circumstances.
Lucifer Was is a band that operates in timelessness. Using the past and the history as something that is alive, working in the present and be open to the future with a certain degree of fear and angst. The sound of the band shall be between the altar and the asphalt, between sophistication and rawness. Some of the musicians are highly skilled and some have a more simplistic approach. That makes an interesting combination, not slick, not utterly perfect (read: boring). I am a perfectionist when it comes to our music, but perfect to me is when I hear, through my ears, what I only have heard within my own imagination. One error and all I can hear is that error. That is unacceptable. I want as few takes as possible when recording. The musicians always perform well, but the more takes, the less energy. If we put in ten takes, they will mostly be good. Of course we do mistakes or go out of tune, the vocals have lyrical mistakes, then a take has to be re-done. But, by doing take after take we will only achieve something different from the first ones, but not necessarily better. An important element in making our music work is that the energy is kept alive.
I am proud of, and hold every record we have made in high regard. That is not boasting own achievements. Because, hell, why should we even consider putting our music to the public if we do not fancy it ourselves? Some performers like to say that they think of their records as their children. I do not. I would not put immature children out there. Who else than their parents actually enjoys children in more than small doses? When an album is finished it is a grown up mature off-spring that is ready for other company than its makers.
Thore Engen (2017)
What kind of process do you have at mastering material for the release?
Ever since Lucifer Was started doing original material, the whole band always got together in one of our homes, sitting down with low amplification, drumsticks on a chair or something, learning the material. In the rehearsal room there is always too much noise for concentration. Everybody that is playing in a band, even the most cultured and refined, knows that the drummer can’t keep from beating unmotivated on a drum, one of the guitarists just has to test a tone on the amp, can’t keep the fingers away from the fretboard making small licks. That is all fine and natural, but not before everybody knows their parts. Nowadays Jon and I record demos of everything at Jon’s home studio and everyone gets a copy and chord sheets and can work from there. That way each musician can learn the basics of the material and be prepared, before getting together for, like always, dry run-troughs and later, amplified rehearsals. Then after, maybe six months of this, we are ready for the studio.
Thore Engen & Dag Stenseng (2017)
Who are some of your personal favorite bands that you’ve had a chance to play with over the past few years?
On stage? Personal favorite bands? None. At least as I can remember hahaha.
You latest album Morning Star was recently released.
Morning Star was sparked off by some tapes I found in my basement in 2015, containing several songs I had written in mid to the late 70’s. Some of them were, in my mind, good and suitable for Lucifer Was. The 20 year anniversary for the release of Underground And Beyond was coming up in 2017. Seemed like an interesting idea to gather the complete 1972 line-up for that one and the In Anadi’s Bower album when Jon Ruder had joined, to make a new album. In addition to the band’s present line-up.
We decided to use two of these old songs, “Tube Music” and “Sunday Morning Griever”, both from 1979. I felt both tracks needed much more flesh to the bones. So I developed them to how they are presented on the album. Flautist Dag Stenseng drew my attention to the track “Sea Of Sleep”, the only song ever co-written by the two of us. This one originally had lyrics in Norwegian and it was always featured in our set back in the days. After some brushing up I think it works great on the album.
Two other of the tracks, “As It Comes” and “A Forest Of Zaqqum Trees” are new songs written in 2016. Jon Ruder came up with the core music elements of “Cold Up Here In The North”. I really wanted the album to feature a long composition. By working very close together with Jon it resulted in the 15 minutes plus “Pure”. I regard his input to this one as invaluable for the end result. After almost one and a half years of writing, arranging, demoing and rehearsing the material, we went into the studio in early January 2017. Also this time with Jørgen G. Henriksen as co-producer and engineer. We had one week on in the studio and one week off every month until the beginning of July. The off-week was used to further rehearse and polish the work planned for the coming on-week. For the first time we used two drummers playing together. Kai Frilseth of course is one and Arild Brøter, also a former member for live work, the second drummer.
The sculpture on the front cover is a special made piece of art for this album. The artist is Dagfinn Lervik.
What are some future plans?
To finally record an album with Norwegian lyrics. Jon’s idea. The writing is on. We are also preparing our back catalogue for vinyl releases. The goal is to release one every three months starting from this summer. Also, we feel an urge to play live again. We have started preparations for that to happen in the Autumn 2019. But, it may happen sooner if something suitable comes up.
Lucifer Was (2014)
Thank you. Last word is yours.
Italian poet Dante Alighieri of the 14th century named the ruler of his Hell Lucifer in his epic poem “The Divine Comedy”. You can meet Lucifer in part one of that poem, known as Dante’s Inferno. That’s it. Just keep religion far out of it. I can’t stand dogmas. That goes for the occult to. Still, I respect that many people do not see it that way and will strongly disagree with me. I respect that too. But me? A true unbeliever in such matters, save for the powers and mojo that comes from within each living creature. Spiced with a little something beyond that. Humanity is quite good at being good, but much better at being horrible. Still, that’s enough for me. To me the mysteries are not mystic anymore and I make my living by not being dead.
Thank you too.
– Klemen Breznikar
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