Chrome Division – The Final RideMonday, 3rd December 2018
Originating as a side project for Shagrath of Dimmu Borgir, Chrome Division get back to the roots of blues-based melodic hard rock through their records and live performances. Sure you’ll recognize the influences of the 70’s/80’s as well as their love of booze, motorcycles, fast cars, and faster women – it’s all in the name of rock and roll. Recently celebrating their 15th anniversary as a band, their latest studio album One Last Ride will be their fifth and final effort as a group. Reuniting with former vocalist Eddie Guz, they fire all guns blazing in a tradition started with AC/DC, Judas Priest, Kiss, and Motörhead – launching big musical hooks and addictive choruses that make the alcohol flow to party as hard as possible.
We reached out to guitarist Mr. Damage (real name Kjell Karlsen) and inquire about why now is the perfect time to end Chrome Division, learn more about his favorite memories, his anxiety surrounding auditioning for the band – and what the future may hold for his musical output.
Dead Rhetoric: You’ve decided to end Chrome Division after celebrating your 15th anniversary as a band with this final album One Last Ride. What circumstances took place to decide this is the right time to end things – do you feel like you’ve said all you’ve needed to say as a band?
Mr. Damage: I’m sure we could have said more as a band, but the reason for this decision was after Infernal Rock Eternal in 2014 we were actually starting to write the music for this album. There were so many things going on in our personal lives, everybody had something going on that made our progress very difficult to maintain the focus. And then (vocalist) Shady Blue didn’t want to do this anymore, and we were stuck in limbo. Shagrath talked to (ex-vocalist) Eddie Guz and we decided to not let these rock items lie there, let’s pick them up and see what we can do with them. And we decided from there to put out this last record, and we are pleased and very happy we did this. It would have been a shame that these tracks would have gone to waste.
Dead Rhetoric: How did Eddie Guz come back into the fold after being away from the band for many years?
Mr. Damage: It felt very right. He’s got a military background, so his work ethic is very pleasing. He gets things done and they are done quickly, and that’s what we needed. To get some fresh air in and get it done, and that’s what we did. The funny thing is that when we recorded this what took the least (amount of) time was Eddie’s vocals. They were done in two days, I think. He gets in, gets the shit done, and gets out. That was a good experience.
Dead Rhetoric: How did the recording process go this time? Was there anything easier or more difficult on this go around?
Mr. Damage: This time, we hadn’t rehearsed as a band for a long time. What we actually did was play track for track, instead of recording as a live band. We stopped for the drums, the bass, and the guitars- so that took a little bit of time. It was a nice process, everybody was ready and rehearsed the songs themselves. It was a good process, and went very fast. The songwriting took some time because of what I told you here and there.
Dead Rhetoric: I love the Maiden-esque instrumental sequence during “You Are Dead to Me” – what can you tell me regarding this cut, and what are some standouts to you for the new record?
Mr. Damage: The standouts for this record – we wanted to end this with a bang, like a party. You hear it in the lyrics as well – there’s a lot of boozing and girls (laughs). We just want to be honest, we didn’t think so much that this would be the last record when we were finished with it. It went out that way. To have a great time and celebrate life, have a party.
Dead Rhetoric: What qualities do you believe are important when developing and shaping the material that Chrome Division releases album to album?
Mr. Damage: We are trying to make good songs first. All of the other things come after, thinking about the production and things like that. That’s what really it’s all about for us – good rock and roll music, that people hopefully want to listen to. We make music that we are fans of ourselves. We all have our background from Kiss, AC/DC, Judas Priest, and these old school bands. We want to try to take a step back and make melodic rock and roll instead of getting heavier and heavier. That’s how music has developed. And the funny thing is you have new bands developing, like Ghost, they are also very melodic. It seems like people are tired of very fast, heavy music, or maybe I’m just getting older I don’t know (laughs).
Dead Rhetoric: I’ve read in previous interviews online that your writing style is quite different than your fellow guitarist Shagrath when it comes to Chrome Division. How does your songwriting develop, and where do you see your role within the band?
Mr. Damage: I like to present full songs for the guys. And then you take the scissors and you just cut it up, and edit it together. The reason why is I feel just presenting a riff doesn’t go anywhere. I like to present a song, or at least a song idea. I program the drums, I track the guitars and bass- and then I ship it to the guys. Shagrath may say, ‘hey- we should have something else in the middle there.’ And that’s a fun way to work, because he and I – I write the repetitive riffs, and he’s very good at going in to make things a little more exciting. I write with him at these points. Shagrath does the same, but he doesn’t make the whole song when he writes. He will have a riff with some drums on it, or a chorus idea- and we work from there. It works very well I must say.
Dead Rhetoric: Considering most of the members come from a metal background, is it easier to transform yourselves into more of the blues-based, hard rock/metal style Chrome Division embraces?
Mr. Damage: Yes, I think so. It’s no secret that heavy metal comes from the blues and from rock. I started in the band in 2012, and for me it was very natural to go back to the roots. It was a learning curve for me as well, it’s more about feeling and groove instead of playing faster. When you are slowing down, you have to learn not to rush things. I’ve thought as a guitarist this would be easy to do, but I had to work a little bit on this in the beginning. We all learned to play the guitar through Kiss and AC/DC, so it feels like home to play in this style.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you have any special memories regarding your audition for the band – I heard that in 2012 they were impressed with your playing to the point where they didn’t have to try out anyone else?
Mr. Damage: I was so nervous. I come from a little town in Norway, but as a young youth I went into the music stores and bought CD’s. Dimmu Borgir started very early, they were very young when they started and I would see them, buy the records and became a fan. Moving to Oslo, and going for the audition in Dimmu Borgir’s rehearsal room, because Chrome Division shares the same rehearsal room- I was shivering. I had prepared myself, and I just thought I had to do my best and let’s see what the guys think. As you said, they were impressed so I must have done something right (laughs).
Dead Rhetoric: What have been some of the more memorable moments of your time in the band – either in the studio or on the stage?
Mr. Damage: The best memories. I love making music, so all of the recording sessions that we’ve done are very good memories. Highlights- I remember playing Summer Breeze in 2014. That was awesome for me personally, we played in front of 10,000+ people – it sounded great. But of course, just being able to play with those guys, and hearing people listen to our music. I remember playing in Germany at a little club called Picture, it was so hot and the backstage is not backstage, it’s where people get in. When the club filled, then we have to go through the audience to get up on the stage. It’s a funny club- you have to greet 400-500 people before you get up there. And of course playing in Italy and meeting so many people- it’s a blast and I want to do it even more. Let’s hope that we can tour for this record even though Dummu is pretty active, I would really like to tour.
Dead Rhetoric: Many people make comparisons to Motörhead as a direct influence on Chrome Division. Did you ever get the chance to see the band live or meet any of the members in person – and what are some of your favorite memories with that band?
Mr. Damage: I’ve seen Motörhead several times. And it’s a funny thing with that band, they are a band that’s always been in the scene. They always played Wacken and these festivals, and you take it almost for granted they will play. It’s the same thing with AC/DC, people seem to take bands for granted and suddenly they are not there anymore. Of course Motörhead is a big influence for us. I have not met anyone in the band personally – I’m sure Shagrath has though. I’m a big fan of course.
Dead Rhetoric: What are some bad recommendations that you see musicians either young or old commit that they should avoid?
Mr. Damage: I just believe in hard work, that’s what I try to recommend. The business now, it’s very much up to the musicians and the bands to make things happen compared to before. I have not thought so much about it. I just wish I had focused more on music and not everything else (around me). When I was moving to Oslo, everybody had so many opinions. How to make music, what kind of styles, and I remember I was a little lost for a period there. People thought I would have to take care of the economy, this and that. For me, that was a little mistake to listen to what everyone else had to say instead of playing music. I don’t think bands like Guns N Roses or AC/DC were sitting there with their iMacs, they didn’t have them back then. They just focused on music and image and let the circumstances work with you. That’s something that I would advise other musicians younger than me – don’t overanalyze everything. You just have to be positive and make music and the rest of it will come.
Dead Rhetoric: What will you be doing in the future as far as music now that Chrome Division is coming to an end?
Mr. Damage: I have been working on a solo album for four years. I will start working on that again. A solo album that will have some great vocalists that will sing on it. I’ve been speaking to my previous bandmates in my older band Breed – and we may start something again there. I will be busy, and see what happens. Play music and have fun.
Dead Rhetoric: Will Chrome Division do any small touring, or festival sets?
Mr. Damage: I hope so. We have this one tour book in February, a ten-day tour in Europe. I’m really hoping that next year we can do some shorter tours to promote the album and celebrate the band. What happens in the future, I don’t know. If the guys want to do anything, I am here.