A Talk With
Christian Nørgaard (Guitar)
Questionnaire by Stefan
We all know that the world of music has uncountable subgenres in promotion and new ones are added on a regular basis. From Copenhagen, Denmark comes a four piece those who introduced a new style of music called “Motorbilly” which means all about a blend of Hard Rock-Heavy Metal-Punk and Rockabilly. Totally unfamiliar with it before until I heard/reviewed Grumpynators’ first full-length album entitled “Wonderland” through Target Records. Felt strange first time I was listening to the cut, I couldn’t get a full grip on it. Now hearing all of the songs for several times, the uncomfortable feeling I had in the beginning seems to fade. I like to learn something more about this remarkable band who recently has brought a new phenomenon on the market, “Motorbilly”!
Q: Welcome at the house of Metal To Infinity webzine Belgium! Where are you guys coming from?
A: Well, as you said in the beginning we are from Copenhagen, Denmark… hahaha. I (Christian Nørgaard) live in the center of Copenhagen, and the other 3 guys live in the suburbs of Copenhagen.
Q: Who came trotting up with the idea to set up a band like Grumpynators?
A: It was actually created a little by coincidence. Emil, Jakob, and our former drummer Casper were playing in a Rockabilly-band, called Taggy Tones. Taggy Tones’ lead singer, Jess, and I had just started a small rock’n roll-project in the same rehearsal-room. Then Jess was offered a leading position at Graceland Randers (a tourist-attraction in Denmark where a guy, Henrik Knudsen, has build a 1:1 scale model of Elvis’ home, and uses it as a museum and restaurant). That meant that both my Taggy Tones and my little rock’n roll-project stopped since Jess was the singer in both of them.
I knew Emil and Jakob well from back in the days when I was a technician/acoustic guitarist in Volbeat, and they were supporting Volbeat with Taggy Tones, and we had always really enjoyed each other’s company. Then Emil called me and asked if we should sit down and see if we could come up with something. Emil was tired of playing classic rockabilly, and wanted to create some harder stuff. I on the other hand actually liked the rockabilly-touch, cause I have always played hard rock/metal, but we then came up with this compromise which is the DNA of Grumpynators sound today.
Q: How the other band members were found and what were the predefined ambitions once the line-up was completed?
A: Well, since Jakob also was without a band, and Emil’s brother, it was a no brainer to ask him. The funny thing was that he played double bass, which isn’t the typical weapon of choice in hard rock, but since we wanted to give the music a rockabilly touch, it seemed like a fun idea to let him play that instead of a typical electric bass. As a drummer, Casper Jensen came along since it was his drums that were in the rehearsal room… Hahaha… Casper stayed with us for the first part of the jobs, and the first demo, but he was really more into progressive/modern rock, so his heart was never that much into it, and eventually he quit the band.
After that we started searching for a new drummer. It was whispered in our ears by two of our biggest fans at that time, Rene and Tony Fisker, that their little brother, Per Fisker, was considering to start drumming again after a 10 year break. Contact was made, and the first time Per was in our rehearsal room everything just clicked. You couldn’t hear that he had been on a break for so long. He just played along like it was the easiest thing in the world.
Q: Please introduce all of the players and their individual musical background.
A: On drums we have Per Fisker. He played in the Danish hard rock band, Jackal, from 1987 to 2006. In that period the band released 4 albums. Per lives in Hvidovre a suburb to Copenhagen where he grew together with the crew from Mercyful Fate and other hotshots from the 80’s and 90’s metal-scene in Denmark.
On double bass we have Jakob Øelund. He was one of the founding members of Taggy Tones 25 years ago, where he played the drums. Later he switched to double bass and never looked back. He has played bass on two Volbeat songs, 16 Dollars and Lonesome Rider, both live and on the studio recordings.
The lead-singer, Emil Øelund, is Jakobs younger brother. He also played in Taggy Tones, but wasn’t a founding member. For a small period of time he also played with the famous Psychobilly band, Necromantix.
I, Christian Nørgaard, play lead-guitar. I have previously played in some unknown metal-, and rock-bands. From 2004 to 2009 I was technician and played acoustic guitar in Volbeat. I have played acoustic guitar on four songs on Volbeats “Guitar Gangsters and Cadillac Blood”-record.
Q: You just introduced a new style of music called “Motorbilly”. Can you explain this a little more closely?
A: I think it was a fan that called our musical style that. The thing is, that it is rockabilly with hard guitars and powerful drums… But it is not psychobilly. It has more of a hardrock twist to it, a little like Motörhead. And since Emils voice by coincidence also reminds a lot of Lemmy’s voice we thought it was an appropriate name.
Q: By which artists the band is influenced?
A: It ranges from Johnny Cash to Green Day and Metallica, and in between we have Motörhead (off course), The Offspring, Social Distortion, Volbeat, Stray Cats and AC/DC.
Q: Using an acoustic double bass instead of a usual electric bass guitar is quite remarkable and infrequent. This instrument adds value to your music?
A: It puts a limitation to what you can do musically. It took some time to figure that out. The thing is that it kind of always shuffles a little bit, so if you play a straight 4/4 mid tempo rock beat it often won’t work. That is a curse but also a good thing, cause that limitation actually makes you more creative, because you need to fit the song to that kind of frame, and that is actually quite inspirational. Soundwise I also like the special touch it gives. A double bass isn’t as powerfull as an electric bass, but it has a very cool slap-sound, that gives the sound a very good energy… especially when we are playing live.
Q: First real duty was playing for a live audience at the Barnyard Rumble Festval (Denmark) in August 2011. Did everything went smoothly, what about the present spectators? By the way, what kind of festival is this.
A: The overall theme of the festival the 50’s. So it is primarily Rockabilly and American Cars from that period. I wouldn’t say everything went smoothly, but it was pretty cool anyway, and the music was well received despite the fact that it was a lot harder than the rest of the bands that day.
Q: More bookings came in, more gigs were played… one of the most significant must be when Grumpynator played as support act for Volbeat, right?
A: Without a doubt those 5 jobs meant a lot to our future success and fan base. It was also great fun to do. One year before that we did 5 similar support-gig for a Danish rock band called Magtens Korridorer. They are pretty big in Denmark, and therefore it gave us a good Danish display, but Volbeat was and is internationally speaking the biggest band in Denmark, so therefore it was without comparison the biggest support-gig we have ever done.
Q: How is the contemporary musical kinship with these Danish greats?
A: It is very good. As said earlier Jakob has played on their two latest releases, and Michael Poulsen and me have been personal friends from back when he started Volbeat, so we usually celebrate New Years Eve together and stuff like that… hahaha… I also use Michael a lot when I’m having doubts about different stuff in the musical business, since he has been around the block a lot more times than I have.
Q: In between all those live performances, you also created a five- song demo plus an EP. Due to I never heard one single track of these recordings I’d like to ask some more explanation on this matter.
A: I think it is very normal to create some demos, which both records in all fairness were, since none of them were released by a label. They have both been recorded in Gainfactory in Copenhagen, but I mixed the first one very poorly… hahaha… and the second one was mixed by Torben Lysholm from tunetown.dk. The first really was a trial balloon to see if this would work as recorded material at all. The second one was created in a rush when we got the support job for Volbeat, and we realized that we only had 5 “public” songs that people could hear. Therefore we created 666 rpm very fast end released it the week before the first Volbeat show. At that time Per had just joined the band, so though it is Per that play on that record, it is material created primarily by Emil and me.
Q: In what ways both releases have influenced your further existence?
A: Both those releases were used as to shape what sound and image Grumpynators should have. They also helped a lot in figuring out some musical rules on how we could write songs with this rather unusual instrumentation we have. But they have definitely also enabled us to have an audience before we released our debut-album, so that’s nice.
Q: The moment has come to spread the word of Gumpynator’s first, full-length cut entitled “Wonderland” that’ll see the light of day early July 2015. With a view to an official release, you’ve signed a deal with Danish label Target Records. How the deal came to be?
A: Target Records were distributing the first three Volbeat records in Denmark, so I have been at a couple of Volbeat-Christmas Lunches where Michael Andersen, the CEO of Target, also was present, and we talked at those occasions. When we had finished recording the debut, it was therefore very natural to send the master to him. The whole office at Target liked it, and soon after that we closed the deal… Simple as that… hahaha.
Q: By whom the album was produced – by whom the songs were written and what about the lyrical content?
A: The album is produced by us and Jakob Gundel at Gainfactory, who also engineered and mixed the record. It was mastered by Jacob Hansen. The entire record is written a bit more in collaboration than the demos. That means that everybody in the band has had inputs to the writing process both musically and lyrically.
Q: What is your impression after listening to the end result? Give me a rating on a scale of 10 and if there’s something that doesn’t sound good to the band, speak freely.
A: In general we think that it sounds really good. It was a hard process to get the sound right, because it is hard to mix a double bass with powerful drums. That has also been an issue on the demos. We actually think we got it right in the end, and I’m quite certain that Jakob will get the offer again when we record our second album. But there is always room for improvement. I think I would rate it 8 or 9.
Q: To discuss the new “Wonderland” album wasn’t an easy task to do. If felt so unusual first time I’ve heard the album but I have never doubted your musical skills. Following my own heart, I gave the album a fair rating at the end and like to know about some other media sources’ opinion on your new effort.
A: I actually think it was a very good and insightful review you wrote, so thank you for that. There has been mixed reviews I would say. In some of them you can read that they haven’t even heard the entire record, some of them did a thorough job, some of them liked it and some of them didn’t. One person even speculated in that we did it just to make easy money… That’s one of the most idiotic thing I ever read.
Then you really don’t know shit about how the music industry works today… hahaha… In general I have big respect for reviews where you can read that they have taken the time to listen to the record. Then its down to a matter of taste, and the majority of the reviews where they have heard the album, they have also given it fair ratings I think. When I think about it would say that it has been very well received by most of the magazines that I read personally, so I’m pretty happy about that.
Q: Name a few of you favourite songs, what makes these so special?
A: Well, each member of Grumpynators have their very own favorite songs actually. I really like “Walking in the night”. I think it’s a perfect mix of AC/DC-rock’n roll and traditional rockabilly. I would also emphasize “A life without you” which stands out as a very different Grumpynators song. It was written entirely by Emil, and besides from his uncle, who plays the cello it’s also only Emil that plays on that song. I think the lyrics on that song beautifully describes the process of losing a person close to your heart, and the feeling of not being able to imagine a world without them.
Q: To whom would you like to recommend the album and for what reason?
A: I would like to say it’s for everyone… at least that’s what the sales team from our label would want me to say… hahaha. No, it’s for people who like rocknroll the old school way, for people who likes Motörhead, Volbeat, Social Distortion, Green Day, Bad Religion or Stray Cats. I don’t think it will have that much appeal to the typical emo-rocker. It’s an album for people who likes to listen to rock while they drive in their car and who likes to have a party while listening to rocknroll.
Q: Those unfamiliar with Grumpynators, I’d like to recommend them to have a look at the great video for the song ‘The Stalker’ right HERE. By whom the clip has been recorded?
A: Emil Vinther Sørensen. Google him! He actually has made some pretty cool videos. He has also filmed our next video which in being edited right now.
Q: Meanwhile, the period of summer festivals have been launched, where will you guys play the next couple of weeks/months?
A: Unfortunately we haven’t got around to play any festivals this summer. Booking for that kind of stuff starts before Christmas, and our record wasn’t released at that time. But, we will be playing in Cologne and Berlin (In Germany) the 10th and 11th of July. We will also be playing in Odense (Denmark) the 31th of July, which is the day before Volbeat plays their only European show in the same city.
Q: By the way, what can I imagine from a Grumpynators live performance? Each venue you guys walk the stage must be a hot boiling evening where Rockers and Metalheads unite as one… a wild feast where alcohol is generously poured down the throat, right?
A: That sounds like an accurate description… Hahaha. No, really it is actually a very mixed crowd of rocknrollers, metalheads, men, women, young and old who normally have a party and drinks A LOT of beer and whiskey. We are known as a good live band. Every member of the band is married and has 2 kids.
When we play a concert or are in the rehearsal room it’s our time off from daily day work. Everybody in the band loves to play music and party, and I imagine that people can feel that.
Q: I hope everything can proceed as desired and like to thank you for the good information given throughout the past conversation. Maybe you have some final words to our visitors? Skulderklap !
A: Well, thank you too for taking the time to make this interview. To be honest I didn’t know Metal To Infinity before I read your review of our album, but it has surprised me in a good way as a cool and serious webzine… And for all you guys who will take you time to listen to our album or maybe even attend a concert after this, thank you too. It’s you guys that makes it fun for us to do what we do.