Alex Møklebust (vocals) and Kim Ljung (bass, vocals) from Zeromancer
August 2021. As strange as life sometimes plays - I just moved to Norway a few days ago for some months, sitting in my new-to-be-home in Oslo and requesting an interview with the Norwegian band ZEROMANCER to talk about the release of their upcoming new album, ‘Orchestra of Knives’, on 24th September 2021. The first three singles have been received with much love and it’s unquestionable that they have been missed. So, a few weeks later - Norwegian late summer evening outside, meeting Alex and Kim to talk about their upcoming new album, the work process, not leaving out the current circumstances of the world situation of course, but also talking about perspectives and the timing; and as it is - about how probably every situation can have its different sides.
Reflections of Darkness [RoD]: Great to see you again. The first question that I would like to start with is actually because I know many people are interested to know how you both are feeling and it’s going, because also Alex, you talked during the last RoD interview with my colleague about your surgeries and it was in May, you told her that you would be able to start walking again in June. So, I wanted just to hear how it is going and how you both feel and are doing?
Alex:It’s going well. I mean, we got a few questions about how life has been the last year and half - two years. Because of the circumstances in the world, but I think we have been really practical during this time. You know, fixing some medical issues and doing the ZEROMANCER album. So, for us it’s been great because we had - I can actually say the work with music, even we had some health issues. But of course, we are not working fast. It’s gone pretty slow, but still I think we coped with this situation really, really good. Especially - well, I can just speak for myself and Kim, and I think both of us handle the situation rather well. So, it’s been all in all - I think it would have been worse if everybody had lots of fun then, travelling all over the world and partying and - I mean - so, you know, it’s just an ego thing, but it helps, when you can’t do anything else. I think it’s been great and it feels even better now that we’ve been pretty busy anyway. I wish we could be more effective and have even more time to write and work on music. But it is, what it is and I think it’s been absolutely as good as it could be in this.
RoD: And how is your leg now - are you able to walk again?
Alex:Yeah, I am walking! I am actually walking with normal shoes again which is great. I’ve been sick and tired of…
Kim:You’ve been in gips for how long? Really long.
Alex:Since the lockdown - it’s been 11 months with. Four months on the hand, three months and then another four months after the operation. It’s been - now I am just trying, you know - have to be - so, the great thing now is that I can actually go for a walk, go around the neighbourhood. And it’s some cloth that does not fit anymore, so I need to walk a little more to fit in again. So - but still, you know, get it to - if we gonna do live shows, I need to get in shape. But I am looking forward to it. It’s gonna be good.
RoD: I guess, it’s still, also in Norway, not so easy to plan shows right now?
Alex:It’s going on, but not really the way we want.
RoD: Sitting concerts are probably not the most suitable setting for a ZEROMANCER show?
Alex:I am not gonna mention what band and where they played, but I saw a good Norwegian, well known Metal band playing and seen all their fans sitting and then headbanging. You know - it looked weird. It looked just strange. But for us it’s an interaction with the audience. A gig is a two-way-communication. So, it definitely needs for us to get back to normal as it can be. Hopefully 2022 should do okay.
Kim:You know, I am listening to the album while driving in my car for a couple of weeks now. And then it’s a good feeling. Really makes me proud listening to the album. All the work that we’ve been through. But it’s also an album to play the songs live. All the songs are rehearsed with the band in the rehearsal studio for playing live. These songs are meant to be played live.
RoD: You’ve been already talking in May about the first two singles and I found it super interesting to hear about the process of writing and re-doing the songs for the album actually in the end as they have been written in many years now. So, I wanted to ask you about ‘Terminal Love’ as it was like - I think, Kim, you posted on Facebook that the first recording was in 2014, so probably one of the older or oldest songs on the album? So, how much the song has changed since then and how easy or difficult it was to fit it in in the album at the end?
Kim:All the songs were, I think, written in 2014 and 2015. And then I was, as Alex told, outside of hospital and then I was going to another place there for three weeks. And I was really like - I just had all of these ideas and I recommunicated very early in the process. So, Alex started programming a lot of the basis, but just to make sure if the song - does it gonna work or not? And you don’t have to spend that much time with the melody and you got some cooler riffs and when the programming is, you know, it’ll tell you. It’s a guidance and it was really early on that we picked the songs that were going on the album. But then nothing happened for many years because we had some other projects - SEIGMEN and LJUNGBLUT.Despite everything for ZEROMANCER. And of course, other stuff as well, but it was just - the songs were not - I think we made some demos and we did some…
Alex:It felt - we still did some other songs and then Dan quit the band as well and it was - all these things happening.
Kim:It was not the right time. There is a timing for everything.
Alex:It needed to be 100 % attached to the project. And at that time, it was weird, because we did not know if we could continue playing or be in the band at all. We knew that we wanted to do music anyway, but it was all of these questions that - you know - which is natural. Because we were family. So, what we did was that we took one of the songs - ‘Damned Le Monde’ - the first edition of that one. Version One. And we did a test recording on how we wanted to do this. And that recording was meant to be released just as a single, just to get started. Not to think of the whole album, but just to get started. But then that changed as well.
Kim:Yeah, because that was shortly before Dan decided to leave the band and then we just decided it’s not right timing at all. And then we did not know what would happen. But we had a meeting with the band, including Dan, where he said, he has a suggestion for a new guitar player. We were really uncertain what to do. Because we did not have that guy in our heads, even though he lives just a couple of blocks away from here and he has been on stage with us in ‘Total’ once. It was really obvious that we didn’t see it. But Dan mentioned him and then also Lorry said “well, I had him in my thoughts as well”. And then from there on it has been so easy with Per-Olav. His commitment is 100 %. Then we went into the rehearsal studio and he was like “These new songs are great!”. Well, we haven’t touched or worked on them at least for ages as we sent him all the stuff. And he was like “This is gonna be a great album! We just have to work.” He turned the whole process into a positive thing.
Alex:We were scared! When Dan decided to leave the band, we were scared of that whole process of getting a new guitar player that would work as personality, technically.
Kim:We were like - are we gonna get? Because we cannot get a guy that is a permanent member, because we don’t know anybody here or…
Alex:And if he doesn’t live here - what about rehearsals? If he lives somewhere else in the country? And Per-Olav lives just a few blocks from here. And he is excellent and he is the nicest guy on the planet. But the best part was that the first rehearsal - he came in, we haven’t rehearsed for quite some time and it was everyone else’s first rehearsal. And he was standing there, explaining us how our songs were supposed to be played. So, it was kind of fun. We did not remember; is it two verses and then the chorus? And he was like “It’s just two, yeah”. He had total control. But when we started working in the studio, he was prepared. He knew everything he was supposed to be playing. He rehearsed better than anyone I met. He was mentally prepared for that. And then it was his first time working with these two old guys. It must have been a nightmare for him. I mean, suddenly both - he had all sounds ready and we just trashed it in something else and just started talking about new parts and “no, we should do that instead and -“, you know, it must have been; I am impressed! Because if that would have happened to me, I would have had probably a rant or something, but he handled it so well. He is such a cool guy.
RoD: He played his first show at the M’era Luna Festival with you guys, so I mean - the smallest show you could find, right?
Alex:Welcome to ZEROMANCER! [laughs] He was great.
Kim:He is happy, you know. I think, he is really happy being a member of ZEROMANCER and releasing an album like this. So, it is a good feeling for us to give something back to a hard-working guy.
Alex:Yeah, he deserves that. He has been excellent. He is a huge part of making ‘Damned Le Monde’ the song as it is now. When he joined in, the song was sort of…
Kim:It wasn’t finished.
Alex:There was something that did not work. Vocally and the chorus in the song was good, the verse was good, but it was - what we did, when singing - the key did not work, the chorus did not work. It was difficult. But then suddenly…
Kim:What happened was that we changed it and said “let’s do it, so it’s best for the vocal”, right? And then we changed the key and a little bit on the tempo and recorded the bass guitar, I think. And then started sending some tracks to Per-Olav and he just sent a new guitar chorus. And I was like “Wow! It’s a new chorus!”. What happened with the song was that the chorus that used to be the chorus is just the last end of the song. That was the old chorus. Now it’s just the last part of the song. And he sent that guitar part and then I immediately just, you know, well - we made a new vocal, some lyrics that fitted and suddenly the song was a different song. And we knew it’s gonna be the first single whatever happens.
RoD: It’s a great one. Good choice.
Kim:Thank you. It is kind of - you have to find the sound to the whole album. Every song on this album is different, but you have to find a song solution and “let’s do it like this. Let’s just -“. We are used to working together. Work in the studio - “let’s not take the easy path. Let’s do it -“; I don’t know, let’s be honest, you know. And it was - I think it set the tone for the whole thing.
Kim:The drum recordings - that were tracked a long time ago.
Alex:That was a test recording.
Kim:Also, the drums for ‘Mourners’ which comes on in the end - these two were recorded many, many years ago.
Alex:So, it is a difficult thing, but we just decided to do it; I mean songs like ‘Worth Less Than Deutsche Marks To Me’ was actually rewritten right before the deadline. But the original version we were sure - there is something right. It’s a good song, but the melody we wrote does not work with the new exit. It doesn’t make sense. So, we redid it close to the deadline. And that is what Kim means.
Kim:With a little bravery. We said “Let’s take this chance”. That’s a 95 %; it’s not enough. It’s gonna be 100 %.
Alex:We got that feeling that it had to be this way.
Kim:But it meant a lot more work on his side. Because Alex has many hats in ZEROMANCER. He is the singer, yes, but he is also a programmer, and he is engineering and he is producing and he is mixing. So, it’s too much on one guy. But now we had the time. That is why this album has taken eight years. Not just because of two LJUNGBLUT albums and a SEIGMEN album and books and the vinyl box and everything. It’s just because there is so much work to be done, you know. And we do it ourselves. So, we needed the pandemic to finish the album [laughs]. No, I know, it’s a very selfish thing to say.
RoD: So, to a certain degree the fans can be kind of grateful too.
Kim:Well, you know, we want to give something back. When the pandemic is over, to the people who are ZEROMANCER fans - we are ready. That is all we want to say.
RoD: Yes. I was re-reading the interview from May and also the one with Kim that we did in December ‘19 and just thought that this time perspective - you know, even like three months ago - now we look at things regarding pandemic and feel differently about it. I am not sure about Norway, but in Germany it was still lockdown in May actually. We just started reopening really slowly. So, imagining concerts being back after 7 months of lockdown was really crazy. And they are still not fully back, but you know. So, and you said that you are a little bit worried that people might experience it as a pandemic album. Right?
Alex:Yes. That is what we are - that is the scary part of releasing new music in this period, but hopefully not.
Kim:Yeah, because if you want to, you read the lyrics and you see the titles of the songs – “yeah, it’s all pandemic”. But it’s written long time ago. And we cannot see the future. So.
Alex:That is the scary part, because we talked about that - “Oh no! People making albums now with song titles that are called ‘Lockdown’, ‘Virus’” - you know. Those songs cannot last. You know, you don’t want to listen to that. And that was our fear. And as Kim mentioned, the song titles can seem as it’s written during the pandemic, but it’s not.
Kim:They are old! Really old. [laughs]
Alex:So, it’s not about that. But of course - you never know. I mean, if you do a show and there is a couple at the show and they break up while we are playing ‘Dr. Online’ or something. They will, both of them will hate ‘Dr. Online’ for the rest of their lives. But that is just how it is, you know.
RoD: I was thinking about this perspective, because it’s a bit like - as you also said about it in the last interview “not being on the same boat, but in the same storm”. Like, it’s the same storm, but even without pandemic everyone would perceive it in a different way. And even with pandemic, everyone is in a different situation. Some struggled a lot, others just a bit, others maybe - yeah, moved to another country and so on.
Alex:That’s why I think, what we are trying to say is, that we are trying to look at it from a positive angle. I know it’s been easier for us in many ways. That is at least how we look at it. And it’s been so difficult for so many others. But it doesn’t help that we complain. So, we just want to inspire. And maybe some people can see it themselves. So maybe somebody can get inspired and forget the pandemic or other problems while enjoying this album. So, we hope that we can inspire people, thatwould be awesome. That’s what we want to do.
RoD: I am pretty sure you do. Are you going to celebrate the release as a band? It’s a bit less than a month left until the release date.
Alex:Not really. Not on the release date. But we need to do it a little bit later. So, but of course we have some sort of celebration, but this time not right now.
Kim:But for us - I mean, we are sitting in Alex’ studio right now. And we have been sitting here for many hours the last year and a half. I have just good memories from this. And it’s been a really cool recording process. It’s been just encouraging and very stimulating, because it’s been constantly creativity going back and forth. And changing stuff, but very focused all the way. Time flies. You know, we thought it’s a never-ending project. Then we had the okays - it’s a CD. I mean, nobody buys CDs anymore in Norway.
RoD: You also don’t pay with cash. So of course not. But at least Germany is somewhat different in this.
Kim:Oh, I like it. You see the final thing and it’s like - wow! We did it! You know. So, for me it’s a big treat when you get this final project from the mastering studio. It is like - now it is untouchable. We cannot do anything about it. It’s just a personal kind of “we reached it”. Of course, we are musicians, so we measure everything in albums. If somebody mentions a year to me - like says 1998. I am thinking: what did I do? What album did we release? That is how we think. It’s all measured in releases.
Alex:It’s true. This process has been really long. It seems like we had horrible times before.
Kim:We got many different ways of working.
Alex:Yeah, and thinking. And I think this time nothing has been a struggle. I think the main difference is that we know that we have to change something, but we don’t look at it as a negative thing and much more work. We just started doing it. We knew, we have to do it - yeah. Let’s just do it instead of overthinking it. So, the work process has been just fun and did not feel like work at all, even though it’s been…
Kim:Lot of work.
Alex:A lot of work. Yeah. It’s been a year and a half. It hasn’t been easy. It’s been other struggle and things to struggle on. But just looking back as year and a half being really creative. We’ve been working really well together. Probably best ever.
Kim:And of course, I mean, if you write songs and you don’t finish them, it will turn it to frustration after a while. So, when we wrote the songs and then you leave them in a box. But the head keeps doing. There are some ideas popping up, that you have to record. But nothing really happens. So, I think that was kind of a relief, when we decided: “now we are doing it”. So, the process of recording, mixing and everything. It’s been just a relief. Because we knew we had good songs. We just needed confirmation.
RoD: And you already got some confirmation from the fans that it’s good?
Alex:The singles have been received really good.
Kim:Also, to me it’s like when I listen to the album - it sounds really like a ZEROMANCER album. Everything is right in place. And I think, in the genre that we are in - Dark Electronic, Synth Rock and all - it’s kind of hard to have your own original sound. But I think, personally I think, we managed to put our signature on this album. It’s really like - it’s just ZEROMANCER. It’s the core of what ZEROMANCER is about. And the whole spectre of the album. So, we are proud. You know, we are proud.
RoD: Absolutely deserved. Even that the songs are not that new actually, but these are great, fresh songs to listen to and there is definitely a strong ZEROMANCER signature on them. I believe, we don’t have that much time left. Is there anything you would like to add or let me tell the people out there?
Kim:Well, we really miss getting on a plane, go to Germany and play concerts and meet the people.
Alex:Yes. It’s that we have to tour an album and now…
Kim:It’s really weird releasing an album without supporting it; it’s a little rough. But it’s the way we have to do it. We needed to get the album out. We couldn’t sit on this. And wait for something. You know - when? We needed to get it out. And it started with the singles, with the remixes, building up to the momentum for the album coming out in September.
Alex:And then we should play live, you know. First time in my life that I actually went back to when I was a kid, and just like dreaming, you know, getting into the dream world and thinking about - maybe one day I can stand on a stage and perform, you know. And that feeling just hit me the other day. I really do miss it. Especially now when we have new music and we really want to present it live. It’s weird.
Kim:It is. But then again, I mean, with a situation like this you appreciate what you’ve done. Because you never take your time to look back. We shouldn’t either. But now we had the time to kind of think about putting things into perspective. What we have achieved over the years. We fought. And we are still fighting for it. And we like the fact what type of band ZEROMANCER is and the position we have. You know, we are not like this big stadium, headlining artist. But we have a position that we are proud of. We have really solid, devoted fanbase. And in that way, we feel like we are a little privileged. The dream that Alex was talking about - we have achieved the dream. Nobody should feel sorry for us, because we are 50 years old and we have been playing thousands of shows. It’s the 20 years old or 17 years old guy who cannot play now. Still, it’s just what we want to do. We are not complicated people. We just want to rock! That’s what we do. We’ve been away from like the limelight for the long time before. It’s been like two years or so. It’s been a long time between a few shows. And I’ve got the chance to see other people in that period of time and I think "wow, they are brave! They hit the stage like; It’s scary. How did I manage do to that? But then I’ve been good the last few years telling myself that going on stage, playing and doing what you love, it’s the easiest thing. Because it’s just what we do. Don’t hesitate. Don’t second-guess. It’s just what we managed.
RoD: I still have goosebumps thinking about the last Berlin show when you just came out on stage at the Pluswelt Festival and people were just freaking out. I just thought - oh my god! It was great!
Kim:Yeah, that was a great show.
Alex:Yeah. I miss it!
RoD: We all do, I guess. Thank you so much!
Alex:Thank you! Talk to you soon.
Kim: See you soon.
Pictures by Tom Lund