Warzaw – Freewheel BurningTuesday, 2nd February 2021
Containing members with ties to stoner, doom, and groove metal acts like Shotgun Rodeo and Pelagic in the past, Warzaw is a potent four-piece from Norway determined to deliver high energy heavy metal with many ties to the sound of the 1980’s. Their debut album Werewolves on Wheels features hard hitting twin guitar runs, driving rhythms and tempos, plus solid vocal melodies with grit as well as memorable hooks and harmonies in the key instrumental/chorus sequences. It’s like the perfect balance of Judas Priest, Saxon and others British offshoots careening headlong into some W.A.S.P. and tougher Guns ‘n’ Roses material.
Seeking knowledge to learn more about the group, guitarist Håvard (pronounced like How-ard) Alvarez happily answered questions through our Skype connection. Through this interview you’ll learn more about how Warzaw came together, their video shoots and live performance philosophy, the diversity within their local Norwegian scene and how Warzaw will stand out amongst others, and their hopeful quick turnaround to release another album to the public.
Dead Rhetoric: What memories do you have regarding music growing up – and how did you discover heavy metal and eventually want to perform in bands?
Håvard Alvarez: I always loved music. When I was a little kid, three years old, I can remember listening to Norwegian music that my parents had – a lot of Scandinavian dance music, which is very watered- down Western swing. Pretty much the earliest memories. I started getting into heavy metal and hard rock in junior high. That is where I met Trond (Jullumstrø) the other guitar player in Warzaw. Kind of started with Black Sabbath and grew from there, Metallica, then Children of Bodom from Finland as I was a huge fan of theirs. (Trond) played guitar, and I got inspired from him.
I took some formal lessons, but I was a terrible student (laughs). It lasted for a couple of years, but I got more into the guitar after I quit. In the beginning there was a little bit of classical guitar training, but it didn’t stick. After I stopped going to the lessons, it started to become cool.
Dead Rhetoric: Considering the experience the four musicians of Warzaw have had with other outfits, how did this specific lineup come to arise – and did you know right away the traits that you wanted to pursue musically with your brand of 80’s-influenced straightforward heavy metal, or did this take time to develop organically?
Alvarez: We absolutely knew (the sound) from the beginning. It started with Trond and I getting together with a new band because his outfit Shotgun Rodeo, the personnel were a little bit unstable so he couldn’t gig as much as he wanted to and I was doing my thing, a power trio, so I wanted to play with another guitar player. We decided we wanted to do something that was relatively easy and fun to play live – two guitarists who play solos and it would be a Judas Priest, back and forth thing. The drummer Mats (Sødahl) is the drummer from my power trio, he’s pretty much the best drummer around here and a great guy. The singer came a little bit later, we were talking to another guy first and that fell apart. When Daniel (Rønning) showed up, it was a perfect match.
Dead Rhetoric: Werewolves on Wheels is the debut album – how did the songwriting and recording sessions go for these tracks? Did you feel very comfortable in the studio, and were there any surprises or setbacks that took place over the sessions?
Alvarez: We wrote the record pretty fast. Trond and I decided to get together and write in late 2019 and we spent seven or eight weeks writing and the songs were done. After we demoed the first songs we started to look for the other members, and we got the drummer and singer – Trond played the bass himself. The studio was a really comfortable situation as we recorded almost everything ourselves, with the exception of the drums. That we did in a studio with an acquaintance of ours who has a professional studio.
The thing went smoothly and as we planned it to. The only surprise was maybe how easy it was. The record is pretty rough, and it’s definitely a first record.
Dead Rhetoric: Tell us about the TKS Lowskill artwork that adorns the cover – as it has an animation/comic book type feel to all of the elements that come together. Was it a collaborative effort between the band and artist to reach the final picture?
Alvarez: Most definitely. It was kind of actually my idea. Then I talked to the artist. He had that style from before, so when I found him on Facebook I thought it was going to be a perfect match.
Dead Rhetoric: What did you want to get across with the lyrics – did you hope to match the upbeat, fun nature of the music?
Alvarez: I’m not sure – we were definitely trying to have a positive vibe. So it’s not too dark or emotional in a sense. Just about having fun, a lot of rocking good times at least.
Dead Rhetoric: I also noticed a lot of background harmony vocals supporting the parts. Is that important to have a lot of that for hooks and melodies?
Alvarez: Yes, at least on this first record. Daniel the singer, it’s his first full-length ever. We didn’t know him for that long. He was a little new to the whole thing, it helped his voice and I think this made him feel a lot more comfortable.
Dead Rhetoric: You’ve been able to play this material live last year prior to activities closing down due to the pandemic. What were those show(s) like and how do you believe Warzaw compares live to the studio recordings?
Alvarez: I think it’s even better live. It’s pretty much why we started another band, to have another band we could play with live and is fun. This music is even better live- you get the whole visual thing, and these shows were fun.
Dead Rhetoric: Two videos have been released for “Spitfire” and “The Second Banana”. How do you feel these shoots went and what are your thoughts on the importance of visual content to promoting Warzaw’s efforts?
Alvarez: I think the video shoots went pretty well. Only one of the videos was an actual video shoot – “The Second Banana” video was cut together from band practices and hanging out, but the “Spitfire” video was a more professional shoot. Really hot and took a long time. I think it’s important to give some context with the visuals in the music to see where things come from.
It’s easier to get videos out there now so everybody can see them and listen to the music, but there are also so many videos so it’s harder to make an impact. If you have a lot of people watching your videos and followers, that doesn’t necessarily translate to tickets sold (live).
Dead Rhetoric: What do you consider some of the biggest challenges for Warzaw to move up the ranks in terms of obtaining a stronger following considering the current climate as a DIY, independent act?
Alvarez: Right now as we speak, the whole COVID thing. We can’t go out and play any shows. When things open up again, we will have a fair shot at climbing the ladder, at least locally there aren’t too many bands around here that do what we do. The whole package and experience that we deliver.
Dead Rhetoric: How would you describe the Norwegian heavy music scene these days – as most are well aware of the strong black/extreme metal movement that developed during the 1990’s, but there are many other genres and great support in terms of venues/festivals within your country?
Alvarez: Definitely. There are a lot of genres. I actually don’t know too many black metal bands – most of the bands around here play djent metal. The younger guys play seven string guitars, and djent music. There are a couple of really good progressive type outfits too.
Dead Rhetoric: I would imagine that at this point in your career you are still balancing out your musical career with work/family responsibilities. How do you juggle all these aspects successfully?
Alvarez: It’s not too much of a problem for us because none of us have kids. We have jobs, but there’s nothing that comes between us and the music right now.
Dead Rhetoric: You mentioned early your love of Children of Bodom. How did you feel about the news of Alexi’s passing, and what were some of your favorite albums/memories of the band?
Alvarez: Oh, it was really strange. It’s a guy that Trond and I grew up listening to him. He’s one of the biggest influences on us when were 16-17. He was so young, I thought it was a bad joke. Musical memories are too many. Every Bodom album up to Blooddrunk in 2008 I think were huge for us, and also some of the later work. The Sinergy stuff too.
Dead Rhetoric: What are three of your favorite heavy metal records as far as songwriting and performances, and what’s the best concert memory you have as a fan?
Alvarez: Wow. I think… I have so many favorite records. Right off the top of my head – Hatebreeder from Children of Bodom. I’m a huge Judas Priest fan, so I love Screaming for Vengeance. A solid record. Maybe the first W.A.S.P. record, that’s pretty much a perfect record for me.
Concert memories – seen a lot of great shows. I actually don’t know. When I saw Metallica with Mastadon and Slayer in Oslo, that was very cool. Definitely one of the biggest shows I’ve been to.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you have any specific hobbies or interests outside of music that you like to pursue in your free time?
Alvarez: Not really, I’m trying to stay in shape a little bit. All my free time is related to playing guitar and writing music.
Dead Rhetoric: What are some concerns that you have about the world that we live in, especially considering this pandemic?
Alvarez: I’m not an expert in the geopolitical sense with COVID but I really hope we can get back to shows. You also want to stay safe, I want to keep people safe.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you look at the chemistry and friendships within Warzaw and do they drive the output and live performances?
Alvarez: I think they go hand in hand. We are really good friends, but we have a professional relationship that extends beyond that. We can disagree on something, but when it comes to the band we take things into a professional setting.
Dead Rhetoric: What’s on the horizon for Warzaw over the next year or so – as well as any work you may have for the other bands/ projects the members have?
Alvarez: For the nearest future we are going to release another album. Because of this COVID thing, we’ve been just writing like crazy. Trond and I just finished writing the second record, and we are hoping to hit the studio in a couple of months. Hopefully that record is going to come out maybe in the fall, at least digitally. I don’t think you can expect anybody from Warzaw doing anything else this year at least. We are going to focus on this band.
I think this record will be better. The first record we showed up with guitars and worked on these ideas. Now we have a feel for what we want to do. On this second one, we have it more down what we want to sound like together. Even more guitar harmonies, but the same simple structures. It’s not progressive, but the material is more colorful.