Human behaviour for better or worse – and it’s usually for worse – is a red line throughout the record.
Attan absolutely destroy. Their live show is brutally heavy, bass player Fritz throwing shapes and singer Remi prowling the stage like a caged animal while the rest of the band sweep and move with the pounding rhythms of their unhinged, devastating and discordant blend of metal and blackened hardcore. There’s a sense of palpable danger, an energising and exciting feeling that something unexpected around the corner in their set. It’s physical, it’s engaging, it’s vein-poppingly aggressive in places and it is never less than thoroughly entertaining. On-stage the Norwegian band look faintly terrifying; clenched fist aggression and wild eyes, constantly in motion with a palpable sense of violence lurking beneath the surface. They have one release to their name, the fantastic From Nothing; an EP that moves from brutal hardcore to bleak, depressive sludgy noise in a heartbeat. Off the stage, the band are a totally different proposition, and are, well, lovely chaps to a man. Andy Price caught up with them on their first UK dates around the Damnation Festival.
(((o))): This has been your first time in the UK, how has it been for you?
Fritz: The tour exceeded our expectations for sure. With this being our first time over, we didn´t want to get overly excited, all of us have some previous UK-touring experience and we knew that it could get rough. But there was no need for that, so many things worked out the way we had planned or better, all of the people we met were really good to us and made us feel welcome. A few of the people we got to meet have been working with us online for some time, so to finally see them in person was nice. Also, getting to meet and tour with the lovely Conjurer boys and our label mates Erlen Meyer was a great experience, not to mention having one of our best days ever at Damnation Festival.
(((o))): How do you combat tour bus boredom? Did you enjoy driving on the left side of the road (which is obviously the correct side)?
Fritz: Our driver “Knuckles” takes care of driving on the wrong side of the road as well as entertainment. He is definitely one of a kind, let me provide a short introduction… Struggling to find his place in post-Thatcher Britain, this former miner from the outskirts of Sheffield has been trying to make ends meet by offering his services to whoever’s hiring. This has resulted in a particularly versatile set of skills, and an extremely diverse work history – including driving (obviously), stevedoring, gardening and “other stuff”. He also did a short run as a P.A. for Jimmy Saville, and has cooked for (and dined with) members of the royal family on several occasions. Not bad for a middle-aged homophobic racist misanthrope. Throughout the tour he called his son every day to tell him he was a failure. He also insisted on sleeping in the van, despite the fact that we had booked accommodations in advance. He has a tattoo on his left arm that says “TWAT”, and he has been abroad twice – both times in Scotland.
*Writers note: I’m pretty sure Fritz is joking at this point. Pretty sure. Possibly. Either that or this is a fairly ‘meta’ answer about how they combat tour bus boredom – i.e. by making up comedically misanthropic tour drivers to confuse interviewers…
(((o))): (Laughs uncomfortably) Well, he sounds like fun. You opened up the Terrorizer stage at Damnation Festival – that must have been a hell of an experience. How did it go?
Fritz: As this was our first time in the UK, and we where on at 1pm, we didn´t know what to expect really. The room was 1400 capacity I think, so we thought the crowd might be a bit sparse, but boy were we wrong! Five minutes before we were on the room filled up and we had a blast playing our set. The reception was great, and we made a lot of new friends that day. It´s a special feeling playing for an audience that dedicated. Damnation Festival has a name far beyond the borders of the UK, so for us it was a special thing to be a part of, having known about it for a very long time.
(((o))): The Attan live show is brutally heavy and very visual; I can see that going over really well on that stage and in that room. The anger that you guys carry to the stage is almost palpable, is that a conscious thing? Do you have to do anything to get to the right mental state to perform like that?
Fritz: When we started this band we wanted it to be as pissed off as possible. I believe strongly in the power of aggression as a driving force for good. When channeled right, you can use your aggression to do amazing things, and that is a big part of what this band is about. As for the visual performance it´s just natural; aggression is everywhere, it´s in the lyrics, it´s in the melodies, it´s in the core of the band, so there´s really no other way to do it. We also want to connect with people, and nothing beats true emotions to make those connections.
(((o))): How would you describe your sound to the uninitiated? What are your musical influences?
Fritz: The way we see it; It´s not really up to us to describe what we do. That said, sure, it´s heavy, it’s aggressive, it´s cold and dark, but we like to keep the brush pretty broad for that one, and let others fill in the details. As for influences it´s such a huge subject, but I´ll try to keep it short. We listen to so much different stuff between the five of us, and everything has an influence in one way or another. Some stuff we share and others we don´t. A few obvious things we have in common are Neurosis, Converge and a few others, but we also share everything from Tom Waits to Chelsea Wolfe and Depeche Mode. Another thing we keep between us is a very time consuming passion for good karaoke. Our holy grail on tour is the perfect karaoke bar.
(((o))): There is a lovely warm irony to the label that you’re signed to: Attan, a band from the frozen wastes of Norway’s northern borders, put out their debut EP – the acerbic and brutal From Nothing – on Southern California’s finest label Shelsmusic. As contrasts go, it couldn’t be more cut and dried – frozen misery meets So-Cal sunshine.
Fritz: Working with Shelsmusic is inspiring. We actually had a few other options, but after a quick chat we found a lot of common ground as far as values and philosophy goes, so we jumped on it. Shelsmusic doesn´t do things quite like every other label; There´s a no bullshit/all creativity-vibe to what they do and we connect with that very well.
(((o))): What are the main lyrical themes over the course of the record? What is your band philosophy?
Fritz: Human behaviour for better or worse – and it’s usually for worse – is a red line throughout the record. Whatever theme we take on in the lyrics we always try to bring it down on a personal level so to speak. The subjects might be comprehensive, like for example; environmental issues, surveillance or social inequality, but there is always a human, or individual, aspect to it that we try to tap into. The symbiotic relationship between artist and audience is something we value deeply, so even if we are a band that has a lot to say, we work hard to leave things open enough for others to delve in. It´s in this space everything comes to life. In that sense, we as artist cannot have total control of the outcome, and that really is the exciting part.
(((o))): The last record came out nearly a year ago – hopefully you’re writing some new material, how’s that going? When are we likely to get our next fix?
Fritz: We are pretty deep into the writing of our first full length, but it´s difficult to say just how deep. We approach writing in a dynamic and progressive process where we try to leave room for the music to take us to new places. We have a rough idea of what we want to do, but we will not know for sure before we have the material to make the record reveal itself. Some of the songs have been ready for sometime and we have been testing a few of them live. It´s exciting to see that a new song can lift the whole set to new levels. The writing so far has been great and we feel that we´re working on something special. Hopefully we´ll get it done sooner rather than later, preferably sometime next year.
(((o))): How do Attan write songs, is it a collaborative effort or the result of one mastermind dictator? Long jams or pre-recorded ideas?
Fritz: It´s a mix between pre-recorded ideas and jams really, anything goes! Obviously writing is essential for most artists, but for us it´s the main thing, forget everything else. Playing in bands, there are so many things to take your mind away from what you are there for. The only certain recompense you get from playing in bands is the opportunity to be creative with people you find inspiring. So sharing the creative process is the main thing, everything else is secondary.
(((o))): I’m always keen to find out about new bands and also keen to allow bands to talk about bands that they really like – so who has been floating your boat recently? Who should we be checking out?
Fritz: There are so many good things going on in Norway at the moment, so here´s three records for you to check out. Our friends in SIBIIR released their debut album through Oslo based label Fysisk Format in December. The tracks are devastating, so if you like things dark, fast and heavy be sure to check them out. If you haven´t already definitely go listen to The Gospel by Årabrot, it might be their best yet! And if you want something beautiful yet terrifyingly intense check out Amputation by Stian Westerhus, it´s the record equivalent to the beauty and the beast as Siamese twins connected by the face.
(((o))): What do you think the future holds for heavy music? Is it harder to be in a band in the digital age?
Fritz: I don’t know, heavy music will always be there in some form I guess. With current events being the way they are one can only hope for a rise in driven sincere artists to take things to another level. Digital or not, it doesn´t really matter, art is art and the end product should not be measured by the format in which it is sold. The fact that you can do more by yourself in every aspect is certainly promising though. I think the underground will continue to thrive because of these possibilities, but we have to remember they are not given. We have to fight for them every day.
(((o))): What’s up next for Attan? And when are you bringing yourselves back to the UK?
Fritz: For the time being we´re trying to finish the record, as soon as that´s done we´re looking to get out and do some gigs. We have some festivals set up in Norway for the summer, and we will be working on more live stuff as well. As for the UK, we´re definitely coming back ASAP, we have no plans written in stone at the moment, but it will happen for sure!
(((o))): Finally, we have two cheesy questions that we ask pretty much everyone. 1) If you were an animal, what animal would you be? And 2) If you were a biscuit, what biscuit would you be?
Fritz: We would definitely be our driver “Knuckles”, that dude is a special animal for sure. The ability to be so confident based such a limited amount of information and understanding is like a super power.
Is there such a thing as quiche biscuits? If there is we would be that, if not, toss the biscuit, we´d be pure quiche! *
*Writers note: the quiche thing… this is related to the final night of the tour; members of Conjurer attempted to convince Fritz that quiche is a national staple for English people. Sensibly Fritz was having none of it, and said Conjurer members ended up having egg on their faces, albeit in quiche form. If I had to guess, I’d say Fritz is taking the mickey… Tour hijinx, eh?
The excellent ‘From Nothing’ is available direct from their label Shelsmusic on digital downloads or on particularly tasty coloured vinyl through here.