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Kai Nergaard (Griffin)

Interview with Kai Nergaard from Griffin
by Grigoris Chronis at 28 September 2005, 12:28 PM

You've all had the following experience before: while listening to a great traditional Metal album, you think the band is a newbie and - after an initial 'research' - you find out 'bout three or four (or more) albums released in earlier years you've never even seen not once.

Well, labels and distributors suck at times but - on the other hand - Norwegian Metal act Griffin's axeman Kai Nergaard stamped my guts with his non-stop in-your-face answers (e.g. check the Season Of Mist or Blackie Lawless paragraphs). Let me buy you a beer on your next stop here, my friend!

Kai, hello from Metal magazine!

Hello to you all. Let’s rock!

Roll it! The first thing I’d like to comment on is your latest studio effort, Lifeforce. The impression I got from the overall atmosphere (apart from the music) is that I think that the result of this great album was a mix of several factors. Surely a lot of people involved in this than just the band. I mean: a crystal clear/powerful production, it really must have involved many people working for this effort. You must have had a helluva time while recording, plus a great team work!

Well, let me tell you something; It was hell!!! It’s the first time I’ve really felt exhausted after recording an album! We decided pretty early on that this was gonna be a professional album from start to finish and we wanted the best people around us to help accomplish that. We told everyone to push us until they were pleased, not like oh, I’m so tired… …let’s just say it’s good enough. That’s why we had 3 engineers working around the clock. This is definitely a team effort involving a lot of other people than just us.

Tell us anything you want about the time you had Andy LaRocque. It’s really great you cooperated with such a legendary Metal musician!

It was one of the best experiences I’ve had as a musician. You won’t believe how nice, professional, down-to-earth and honest that guy is. He did magic for this album and he’s a Heavy Metal craftsman, you know. This is what he does, this is his life and he knows all the tricks. It’s truly a form of art for him. I will definitely work with him again!

To the music itself: Do you believe that Lifeforce has the potential to drive Griffin more ‘upwards’ regarding - especially - the No Holds Barred album (2004), which is anyway a fine release?

I hope so; who knows. I mean this is a good Heavy Metal album but let’s face it, it’s just a Heavy Metal album and the competition is tough! It’s not like we’re inventing something new here, we’re just hoping to keep the classic Metal alive and kicking. Anyone who can appreciate that will definitely like Lifeforce. I really like No Holds Barred but it suffers from a little poor production. It has a little raw feel to it but hey, that’s cool sometimes. I hope that we will somehow get the opportunity to play a little more live, meet cool people and do good interviews like this one.

Kai, I’m - in general - glad that Griffin do not tend to reduce the 80’s feeling the guitars have in favor of any neo-Euro Power Metal keyboards or endless harmonic vocals. You seem to walk fine on the thin line between power and heaviness.

Thanks dude, to me the term Power is the same as Heavy and there are so many sub-categories in the genre… I can’t even separate most of them. We like to define ourselves as simply being a Hard Rock band which combines melody with heaviness.

There’s definitely a variety in the new album, meaning up-tempo tunes mixed with mid-tempo classic Metal songs and a general tendency to cover all requirements the average Heavy Metal follower would have. How much are fans an influence for every new Griffin album? Do you feel restricted sometimes, ‘divided’ between something you’d possibly want to experiment on and the ‘stamp’ that Griffin has featured during all these years of career?

No, we don’t feel restricted and that’s really the point. If it sounds good enough, we’ll record it but of course we’d like to make the songs varied, otherwise it gets boring. I feel that this album is a tribute to the genre with power, melody, fast and hard songs. We actually tried to experiment on this album with sounds, effects and some other bullshit but it didn’t feel right. We’re not that kind of band. There are too many Metal acts trying to re-invent the scene all the time and we’re like if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.

Agreed! Really, what’s the feedback you’ve had so far from the fans and the Press concerning Lifeforce?

Kind of like what we expected. Some are really, really great and some are like Oh, this has been done before type of thing, but it seems as the general opinion is surprisingly good.

Do you believe that Lifeforce really shows Griffin’s desire to show clearly that Norway ‘exports’ also other Metal bands apart from the Black Metal ones? I guess you were fed up of all this extreme stuff. Is it just hatred or do you happen to like some of these bands?

You won’t believe how fed up I am with that thing. If you’re from Norway, people instantly recon you to be a Black Metal act. The press outside Norway is shocked when they hear Lifeforce. Most of these bands are losers who can’t play and their followers are pale, fat, predictable, silly looking suckers that are in it for the trend, not the music. Luckily, the necro bullshit is not that big any longer. Even the Black Metal from Norway sounds more and more like classic Metal these days. I mean, we’re the kind of band that likes to have FUN. I’ve never understood why someone actually WANTS to walk around WANTING to look and feel miserable.

Anyway, I think that traditional Metal countries (Germany and the rest of Central Europe, Italy, Greece and Spain) will ‘treat’ you nicely, since it seems you have quite a good reputation over there!

Yeah, well, it looks promising so far. We’ve been touring some of those countries before, even with Black Metal bands and we just want to prove to them that we kick ass and have the guts to do what we want, even if we’re from Norway. I think some of them were really surprised to see that.

Kai, Lifeforce also marks the second album for the FaceFront label. Did you have any reasons not to ‘update’ your contract with Season Of Mist? In addition, how did you end up with FaceFront? Even more, Massacre?

We actually have 3 labels now. In Asia it’s a label called Spiritual Beast. In Norway it’s FaceFront and in the rest of Europe it’s Massacre. Season Of Mist didn’t like us and we didn’t like them. They wanted us to sound like Anathema or something and we were like Fuck Off, we play Hard Rock! FaceFront kind of picked us up after that and released No Holds Barred. We got great promotion in Norway but their distribution outside here sucks, so we had to look for other alternatives. I don’t think No Holds Barred is available outside Norway and Japan. Too bad, really.

We know that… Anyway, Griffin on stage: Let’s talk first ‘bout the Wacken fest, in 2003. Maybe the biggest European Heavy fest and Griffin was on the bill. Just share with us anything you can recall regarding your appearance, plus the fans’ reactions!

I remember clearly that our old wreck of a bus broke down 4 times on that trip! You can check out pictures on our website, but it was cool. Sure, it’s an honor to be playing there. The reputation that festival has is well deserved. We were treated really good and we ate at the same table as Anthrax! Later we got wasted with the guys from Children Of Bodom!. The concert was recorded and filmed for the 15th anniversary Wacken CD and DVD. Just being there with all the metalheads was magic.

As a music fan, which artists/bands did you have the opportunity to watch on stage? I bet there were many of your idols performing live there.

I never had the opportunity to check out Death Angel before but they kicked some major ass! Saxon was cool, too, but it got kind of boring after 2 hours. We were only there on the day we played, so we didn’t get to see all that I wanted.

Another astonishing live experience - I guess - must have been the W.A.S.P. support slot in 2004. What was the feeling there? In addition, what’s finally goin’ on with Blackie? Is he really acting like an asshole with other less famous bands or is he just the classic little talk artist?

He’s an asshole! I mean this is not just a rumor… He actually is a total prick! We were not allowed to use the bathroom 30 minutes before W.A.S.P. went on stage and were almost pissing our pants! Can you believe that? Someone told me that he’s totally paranoid because someone pulled a gun at him backstage once or something. I don’t know. However the gig was one of the best we’ve done.

To the future: there must be a set of shows - as we’re speaking right now - for the promotion of the Lifeforce album, right? Any fixed dates yet?

We’ve done what we wanted to in Norway but we’re working on something BIG next year around April/May. This might even take us to Greece for the first time. I pray that it will work out but it’s a financial question and it will cost us a lot of money. I’m hoping, though!

Really, why didn’t Pete follow you in your last Norwegian gigs? Who handled the vocal leads out there?

A guy called Rolf. He’s done a great job for us. He’s the perfect, sleazy frontman and enjoys being on stage. He’s got tons of attitude and sings really good. Pete never felt comfortable in a live situation.

Kai, in Internet days of our world it seems that - at last - bands and fans can come really close enough. There’s mutual ‘feedback’ and I think this can only be for the best of music. Your opinion? I guess you use the Net as much as possible?

Yeah, man, I’m totally addicted to it. I even bought a web cam. I mean, I’m a total loser when it comes to cell phones and mp3 players but I just can’t live without the Net. I respond to every mail I get and I’m actually honored to be contacted by someone that likes our music. Everyone gets an answer and some of those who contact me have become close friends of the band. We take them to rehearsals and invite them to parties. It’s cool!

Norway hasn’t offered any major quantity of bands in the non-‘extreme’ Metal history, but all these artists feature a great level of quality. How would you explain this? Does it have to do with school education or anything similar?

I’m not sure but there haven’t been many bands of that style in Norway for a very long time. I guess no one had the guts to pick up a guitar and practice. Heavy Metal was almost banned here in the 90’s. Some are starting to play again now and we hope to be in the frontline of exporting good, traditional Norwegian Metal to the rest of the world.

Speaking of these bands, can we have a brief sentence on the seven following acts?

TNT: They wrote one of the best Metal songs ever recorded, called Seven Seas in 1984. Great guitar player but their singer is a total fuck up.

Stage Dolls: A little softer than TNT but had a few good, AOR oriented albums, Commandos being one of them. I remember getting laid a lot to that album!

Conception: The closest you’ll get to Norwegian Power Metal. Split up now but are having a reunion gig these days. Their best album is Flow.

Absolute Steel: Haven’t heard them but they are on the same label as us, I think. Not to be taken too seriously, I guess. I mean, look at the name.

Witchammer: Never heard of them either but I think it’s a Doom band with quite a cult status here in Norway. Split up.

Dimmu Borgir: I actually like some of the newer stuff. They got a powerful sound!

Mayhem: Toured with them in 2000. Great drummer but not my cup of tea.

Kai, thanks a lot for your spare time! We truly wish all the best for the band and the new album! Your last thoughts?

I’m just honored and feel privileged to talk to you. Hope we get the chance to meet you all and play for you in the near future. Check out Lifeforce, people, you might even like it. Thanks for checking us out!


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