Communic – The Deepest of MindsWednesday, 6th December 2017
Originally labeled as Nevermore knock-offs, Norway’s Communic have managed to pull together a career that has exceeded expectations — including their own. Their 2005 Conspiracy in Mind is a bonafide must-have, a shining blend of progressive and dark metal, a pattern continued with the following year’s Waves of Visual Decay and 2008’s Payment of Existence. But, it wasn’t until 2011’s The Bottom Deep did the band start to tinker with their sound. The Bottom Deep’s unrelenting darkness, inspired by tragic real-life events, prompted a reevaluation of sorts on all fronts. As day-to-day responsibilities took hold, Communic eventually regrouped with the excellent new Where Echoes Gather, something vocalist/gutiarist Oddleif Stensland was more than happy to discuss with us…
Dead Rhetoric: In some ways, it feels like Conspiracy in Mind was released yesterday. What are your recollections of that time?
Oddleif Stensland: Yeah, I agree. Times flows fast, and I guess that album has proven the test of time, and I hope all our releases will do that. I remember that I was a bit angry at that time, ha-ha – because I was singing in another band, and I was trying to get my own songs into that band, but was never granted the credit to bring my own songs, other than lyrics into that band. So that was the main reason to form a different band to make my own songs happen. Lucky for me, the demo was a hit, and we got a major deal with Nuclear Blast. Of course, I quit that band to focus on my own stuff, but sometimes you have to choose your own path abandoning one ship and sail on with another. Maybe someone will blame you for their sinking ship… I think I read somewhere that someone had stated that it was a plot and that I have had a “conspiracy in mind” all the way, but that is just funny. I am a creative soul of nature and will try to pursue my own goals. But thinking back, it is funny that those songs that was not good enough, ended up to getting Communic signed to a great label, and here we are today, still continuing this path that we started back then.
Dead Rhetoric: In many respects, it has some of your strongest songs (“The Distance” “They Feed On Our Fear”). For a debut, it’s awfully mature and plotted the course for future Communic albums. Do you agree?
Stensland: I agree that it is a strong album. An album many of our fans bring up, and wants us to play songs from. “They Feed on our Fear” is probably one of my favorite song to play live. And as you say, this probably plotted the course for our band, but that was the music that we created, and that is the music that we still do today. Of course, the music takes some different directions, life takes different directions, and my life often gets absorbed and exposed through my music – but we have always been true to our own rule – “there is no rules.” We do this for the love of music and not for the fame or the money or whatever. We have never made it easy for ourselves, but I guess the media and press has always been good to us. I probably spent ten years on those debut songs before anybody even cared to listen to them. “They Feed on our Fear” as we talked about, dates back to around 1993 or 1994 when I wrote the riffs and melody lines to that one. Sometimes I feel that it was a bit ahead of it’s time, and I was not a good enough musican to actually make it right or good enough. At that time I had probably only played guitar for a year or two. Still looking for people to play with, that could make me sound better. I still today have many ideas from that time period that I never put to use as I always write loads of stuff that just ends up in an archive waiting or as I joke around with that it is till incubating to be born at the right time. Kinda funny, I never practiced playing guitar up during the years, just used it as a tool to recreate some melodies I had in my head, just a tool to write music.
Dead Rhetoric: You’ve maintained the same lineup from the start. What keeps the three of you together?
Stensland: That is true. We have stayed together since the beginning of 2003 now, maybe a bit before that. We are actually quite proud of that. I think it is a matter of respect. We have always waited for another when needed, if some need some time to recover or find back the energy, an injury, or something else, personal matters that needs to be attended, we have tried to understand, work around it, wait it out and get back stronger – together.
Dead Rhetoric: For a band that is a power trio, is there any desire to ever add another member? Or, do you think that would spoil the chemistry?
Stensland: We have a special chemistry that is tight. We have tried at some points to add more people to the band, but it is something about that trio dynamic that glues us together. Peter Jensen was with us in the beginning and he was a great match, great guy, but him living in Denmark made it difficult, and I want to be a band working together in the same room, face to face, going to rehearsals together, creating the songs together. A bit old fashion maybe, but most of the magic happens when we practice together. We have tried different guitar players also over the years, just so see if we need it – but always felt it became to much guitars ha-ha. We have a special dynamics as a trio, and adding a second guitar just made it more messy, not so clean and tight. And adding keyboards just made it a bit to cheesy – Don’t know if it will be like this forever, but as long as we can pull it of live with only three guys on stage, that is the way we proceed. Sure it makes it more difficult, more naked, no one to mask out your mistakes, but we try to deliver emotions and feelings, and that tight power directly to your face and so far this has worked out for us.
Dead Rhetoric: Can you explain the delay between The Bottom Deep and Where Echoes Gather? And, why the change in record labels?
Stensland: To make a long story short, there was a few twists and turns along the way. The six years has foremost been family oriented for me and Tor Atle – and daytime jobs as well. But we have worked hard with this release now – on and off for the whole time actually. We even celebrated our 10th anniversary in 2015 for the release Conspiracy of Mind. Following the release of The Bottom Deep in 2011, we did a great tour across Europe, and we were already planning our next move. So mid-2012, passing into 2013 we were working on arranging and picking the songs and ideas we wanted to work with for a possible new album. During the end of 2013 we had more or less the ideas for a follow up ready. Pre-production was done early 2014, and in June 2014, we entered DUB studio to record the drums for the album, planning an early 2015 release. During 2014, I also had another son born that made me do some changes on my priorities, my third child so at this time I wanted to focus on my family. Not long after the drum recordings, Tor Atle had also had to focus on his family life as he also got new children into the picture, so we kinda took it slow with the rest of the recordings of the bass and guitars in this period. As I said earlier, based on respect for bandmates and the ones around us, family first then the band, so everything dragged out a bit. In 2016 we began talking to Nuclear Blast about making plans for the release. At that time we had spent to much time working, or not working on the album (depending how you see it) that NB ended up freeing us from the contract. No big deal, we respected their decision and we changed focus and headed into negotiating with AFM for a release, and signed a contract with them early 2017. I feel that leading up to the release now, changing label and all that fuzz that actually took a long time to sort out paperwork and prepare all over again has been really re-energizing for us as a band.
Dead Rhetoric: Right away, Where Echoes Gather feels brighter, more progressive, a bit less dark than its predecessor. Was that intentional?
Stensland: Maybe not to make it more progressive, but more colorful, I think. We never sit down an plan to make it progressive or difficult… But after The Bottom Deep, I was lacking the joy of playing that I had as a youth. That was an album based on depression, sorrow and grief, pretty dark and heavy shit, so quite demanding on me personal. I was missing the core of why am I doing this. Understand me right, I love that album, probably the most important album I have ever done, but I wanted to find back the joy, the fun, the excitement of experimenting, making music a bit more challenging for my mind, both for ourselves, and for our listeners, and we know that this is probably not going home to every metalhead out there, but we never have payed to much attention to what people expects from us or would like us to do, we try to follow our own path anyway. This one is more back to the roots, and I am glad that I decided to look this way to get back on track.
Dead Rhetoric: I love the twin two-part songs that kick off the album. What helped spawn this idea?
Stensland: Cool, thank you. Well some have told us that they don’t understand the reason for us doing it this way. First reason was the fact that we needed a video track that was four minutes, and that is not easy to find a four-minute long Communic song, ha-ha. I think of the songs as a whole, but with a lyrical paragraph that gives some more input to the story, but in reality there is only six songs on the album. I also felt that only leaving eight-to-twelve minute songs on the album would be a bit to much for the listener to grasp over, so I was fooling around with this idea of splitting them into parts and that was how it turned out. Some like it, some might hate it, but when we play those songs, we play both part one and part two together as one.
Dead Rhetoric: Communic has always been environmentally and socially aware in its lyrics. Do you follow news and current events?
Stensland: I don’t want it to be to political, but sometimes I kinda find it hard to ignore whatever that gets to me. I follow the news like most people, but are also aware that the news we see is most likely not the complete picture or the truth on the other side of the camera eye. The topics in my lyrics is normally an outlet of my thoughts, blended with some imagination, fantasy but also reality and linked to the media picture. My thoughts and mindset at certain periods through life, and things that inspire me, or irritates me – is what drives me to write these small stories that turns into lyrics. It’s not a concept album in that sense, but it has a connecting pulse going through all the songs on this album I think, binding them together. Based around the destructive behavior of mankind and the effects of our actions and what we do in life, just as we see on the news everyday. Also the effect it will have on every aspect of our future, from the personal effect on the individual up to the larger, cosmic picture. Whatever you do in life that matters to you, write, compose, bring up children etc., will echo on forever telling your story long after you are gone. About our connection to the earth, stars and the moon. Our forefathers connection to earth vs this modern connection “around the world” (the web and electricity f.ex) It’s about respect for the individuals, respect of the nature and the wonders of it all, but also linked to all the hate and anger that goes on around us in our modern world. We forget to open our eyes and see what goes on around us, focusing on our own success. It’s about life and death, finding back to the pulse of the earth… I have a lot of questions in my lyrics, but not that many answers.
Dead Rhetoric: With a new record deal and album, do you feel like Communic is, for lack of a better term, “back on track?” Will the band be more productive now?
Stensland: It fells like we are back on track. New album is just out, I already have thought for what could be the next album, we still have small kids, and daytime jobs so the time will tell. But at the moment I am building a new studio that I hope will make us a bit more productive and get a faster working method, but lets see how everything turns out.
Dead Rhetoric: Finally, what’s on your agenda for the rest of 2017?
Stensland: It is a bit early yet, we are hoping to get a cool tour going, playing some festivals, get back on the road some more, but it has to make sense. We are looking into some bookings, trying to figure out what to do at the moment.