What to say about Sahg. Well, the Norwegian doom rockers began their career in their native land with chart positions and double spread write-ups in national newspapers with their debut album. They moved on to touring Europe, arena tours across India, and playing festivals such as Wacken, Metalcamp and Inferno.
Fast forward to 2013, the band who cite influences of Black Sabbath, Pentagram, Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple are currently working on their fourth album, entitled Delusions of Grandeur, moving away from self titling as per their previous three. You can find out why, below.
To get the lowdown on the band, and some other really random stuff, I met with cheeky drummer Thomas Lonnheim very recently and here’s what he had to say.
We began with discussing hedonism, and murder, and Norwegian Black Metal. As you do, so you can join us at the tail end of the discussion, as the earlier parts are not for everyone’s ears! Again though, as most of my usual interviews seem to be, there was an awful lot of joking around, so don’t take anything you read too seriously, as you may gather from the photos.
…I can’t imagine an emo Black Metal band…
We never had what you’d call that..what do you call it, that ‘Emo’ thing going on in Norway. Maybe there was one, but nobody liked it.
Maybe Varg had a hand in their demise…
Maybe that’s why the Mayhem vocalist did what he did.. “How do you like our new direction?. “We don’t” Too close to joke about actually, but..okaaaay. Water under a bridge I guess.
Yeah, skull fragment necklaces aren’t really the most overly comedic things ever..
Yeah, I mean that’s the first thing you do when discovering something like that, isn’t it!
Ha! So how many times have you committed murder then, if it’s the usual? I can safely say that my tally currently stands at zero!
I hope so..But I guess if you are a killer you have to tattoo a teardrop, so yeah, we’re both ok.
Good. Now that’s out of the way, give me a little bit of background about Sahg.
I guess it all started back with Thomas [Tofthagen] and Olav [Iversen], um..and a guy called Tom [Cato Visnes]. In Bergen in like, 2008, everybody was playing Black Metal and I guess the band started, just to not play Black Metal.
Wow, wasn’t that just considered Bergen blasphemy?
They just wanted to play something different. Let’s play some music that we listened to when we were kids. Black Sabbath etc, and do that for fun. Then they got signed, and yeah… A rollercoaster from then (laughs) No, it just from there, just progressed.
So it wasn’t really planned as that at all…it just happened..
No, no exactly. It just happened really quickly.
Why are all your albums self titled, apart from this upcoming fourth one, which you’ve named Delusions of Grandeur?
Oh, the story about that actually is..if you see like Led Zeppelin, it’s not called Led Zeppelin one, and Black Sabbath wasn’t called Black Sabbath one, so we thought it was quite funny to call the first album, Sahg One. And then we didn’t think about it until we were going to name the next record, and it was like “No, we’ve started this now” and “Well of course we’re not going to have a two” and that became an argument, and then it was “OK, it’s two”.
By the time the third one came, no-one had more fights, so it was “OK, lets just go for three” and maybe we can just call it a trilogy or something.
Haha, so it’s not actually a trilogy, but basically a con because you all couldn’t decide on any names, so it’s 1,2,3, it’s a trilogy!
Yeah, yeah! Haha.
So what changed then, with this fourth album?
Ah! Well first of all, I guess, one of the band members..left..but before that even, we wanted to make, at least in the rehearsal, …the thing is with this album we wanted to record it live. So we wanted to make some different music and uh, experiment with different things. So as it was going to be recorded live in the studio we had to practice a lot, and Tom [Cato Visnes], the original bass player, he didn’t have time to do that, so it was kind of those little things.
“Sorry, I don’t have time to do that, I have Godseed going” and stuff, it was a whole schedule thing so we said “OK, (laughs) so we need another bassist!” So it took some time to get a new member, and that kind of makes the music a little bit different, but not that much. I can’t describe it, actually how can you describe music. I don’t know. I guess it’s more experimental, more progressive maybe.
So, you’ve basically changed your winning formula, ’cause all of your previous albums have been received very very well and have charted in Norway..
Yeah, we said “F*ck that, we’re gonna make music that everyone hates!”
So would you actually describe it as a weird concept album then?
Yeah, so I heard. (laughs) No, not in general. I think it’s not a ‘concept album’, like a concept album, but all the lyrics were written around one theme, yes. The inspiration of delusions of self grandeur, but yeah, it kind of has a theme and not a concept.
Ok, so it doesn’t follow on from the trilogy, then…
No, this is like the uh, the sidewards step!
Like The new Hobbit, Lord Of The Rings…
Yes! Maybe we should have called the first album Sahg three. That would have been more fun, then we could go back and do Sahg four, and use that and then go back to one.
Call it Sahg minus one, really confuse everyone.
So why the extended period between Sahg three, and this upcoming album, this was a longer gap, do you guys not write on the road?
Yes, we do actually. We actually started making new songs already! I guess because things happened, you know, the things I mentioned earlier. We toured a lot, and I don’t know, things take time.
But it didn’t take long to actually record this latest one did it..only a few days..hmmm. Excuses excuses…
Haha, yeah, yeah, but the recording time was very quickly, but you have to know the songs before, so yeah, it was kinda hard. Well, not hard, but that’s the way I always wanted to make records.
Know your songs, go into the studio, play it together, on tape, so you can play. If you have a mistake, it will be on tape. So don’t f*ck up! It kind of gives you a different approach.
I think it sounds lovely when you can hear a less perfect play-through though, Grohl of course did that with his last album in his garage. Far more gritty, and if you like, more emotional. Warmer.
Yeah! That’s what I like! Yeah! I saw that movie like, four times. Because I was like, finally, somebody gets it.
Old school. Did you record to tape?
Yeah. We did it to tape. We went totally old school. We were supposed to do that on the third one actually. We came to the studio, put up the equipment, did sound check on drums…like…for hours and like, “Now we’re ready!” And we pushed record…and the record machine broke.
So push back to the start….and what…WHAAAT? So yeah, this time we definitely wanted to do it that way. So it’s always been the feel of the band, we wanted to have the band play together.
Yeah, yeah. I think the second one sounds actually more organic than the first one actually too. But I think every album should have their own sound, you should be able to know by the sound what album the song comes from. You record an album and then you move forward.
So with the changes to the sound, and previous glowing reviews etc, what are the stress levels like as it approaches release?
You know actually I don’t think about that. I guess, because why should I? I don’t want to use my time to predict something I can’t predict anyway. For me, I like it. I liked the process of it and I enjoy listening to the album.
You know when you finish an album you’re sick of it, all the mixes and stuff, so when you have a time gap, and then you listen to it again like you are not in the band, so I’ve done that now and I, I really enjoy it a lot.
Do you sit there and air guitar along with it like a fan would?
Yeah! Of course! Because Thomas played great guitar. When you do guitar solos on some other records, you sit there and you go, “Ah, another take” “Yeah, that was good, mix that with the other one” But this one was like, “You’re on, now!” Haha, I think everyone performed really good on this one.
I don’t spose you filmed all the recording did you?
Yeah, actually we did. Some of it. I think actually one of the songs was filmed. Actually that take, the guitar solo, was the one he filmed. We didn’t do too many takes of the song actually, the first day in the studio we recorded three songs. The first song we only recorded once! We jammed a little, then the producer said “OK, the tape is running” and we did the song, and said “OK, let’s go to the next one!” Haha.
Bet that saved a lot of studio costs!
Yeah it did! It did yeah actually! But then again, you kinda get cockier the next day like “This is so easy” and then we got one song the next day.
Haha, you probably played just as well, but the producer must have been thinking, “I’m not going to earn f*ck all out of this if they carry on doing it this well!”
Hahaha, I guess it was when you’re in the studio, somebody says “Maybe it should go slower” and then you end up playing the song a few times in a different tempo, which was kinda boring, so we quit that song that we had started to do and started another one, so we did that other song on the last day.
I think if you don’t get the song the way you like it in the first three takes, move on to the next one because you want that energy. Tom can do that, even like on the twelfth take, he’s like “YEAAAAH! ONE MORE!” “But we’ve finished it….” “Yeaaaaaah! One more time!” Haha, but you really have to move along.
Ok, because I don’t know the track listing of the latest album, I’m gonna have to work off of your current release SAHG III.
I can tell you them all now if you like? Haha.
Would have been awesome yesterday, but I’ve got questions ready for these song titles now. Gah. But here goes. Baptism Of Fire, have you heard about Mars One? Where they are sending the first human settlers to Mars? That’s a pretty harsh baptism of fire. Well, would you go if given the chance?
They’re sending people to Mars? Really? But, but you can’t come back?
Nope. One way ticket…
But, who wants do that? I mean, I’d be the first man on Mars but I’d be here alone, dying alone!
No, they are sending teams of people to start with apparently…with more to follow, building a colony.
I don’t wanna do that, absolutely no.
I would love to. Apparently you can still get Facebook.
Haha, but it takes five years to update. News feed, write status, see you in five years.
I’ve actually applied for it!
F*ck, really? If you win you’ll be like, what the f*ck should I do now. You could probably sell it! Put it on eBay, I got this ticket to Mars, highest bidder. One way.
Mortify. What is one temptation you find really hard to resist…
Just one? Haha. A temptation is not a temptation if you don’t give in to it…
I dunno, I have a few temptations that I can’t ever give into, like kidnapping Dave..
Oh, you mean like that. Hmm. But no, none really, because if you want to do something, you should do it.
Oh, you’re just a complete hedonist…
Yeah. Aren’t you? You look like you would be..
Haha, yeah, pretty much. That obvious huh.
A hedonist with a good conscience. And good morals! A hedonist with good morals, to keep the balance of it. Best of both worlds isn’t it!
Indeed it is. Haha. Hollow Mountain, You have to give a reason why you shouldn’t be sacrificed to the volcano god, the worst reason gets thrown in to save the other members of the band, what do you say…
I guess it’s hard to replace the lead singer so I guess he has to be there. Then Thomas is one of the original band members, and has lots of ideas, so he has to be there, I’ve been there longest too, so I guess Tony, sorry Tony. You’re the newest one, in you go!
Last one in, first one to be sacrificed to the volcano god. Seems fair!
Yeah, well wait… oh, he has children. But me and Thomas don’t. Olav has. That’s really difficult. Ok, I would probably do it I’ll do it guys, I’ll take one for the team! Tell my mum I love her and write me a concept album, all about me, me, me.
Haha, they would be your last words as you fell into the volcano..me me me me me..
Mothers Revenge, everyone has that one huge telling off as a kid and remembers their punishment for it, what was yours…
Oh I can tell you what that was, it happened just once actually. The argument was probably around when I was 13, you know, when teenager brat, is that what it’s called?
Over here we call it a Kevin…
But that sounds harmless! “You’re doing your Kevin now”. But we were eating dinner, and I didn’t want to eat the potatoes, and that was probably the last straw. And she just went (makes throwing upwards motion with his hands) and the table just went up in the air. My sister was just sitting there trying to eat her dinner, and everything went…I had to run, and she was throwing the knives and forks after me … I sat out in front of my house and like, rocked, for two hours..(laughs)
Haahahahaha, that’s amazing.
Until I had to go back into the house. So that was my mothers revenge! And, yeah, I get it mom, too much. Too much!
Bet you didn’t do that again though!
No! I didn’t! But I think it was worse for her actually, everyone that witnessed that probably thought yeah, I would have done the same.
You had it coming…
Yeah, I had it coming! I should have been hit, I guess.
Not so sure your mum would have been too happy about that! Downward Spiral, have there been times were you’ve thought, f*ck this sh*t, I’m out.
Yeah a couple of times, but it doesn’t last long. When the taxes arrive I’m like ah f*ck it, but that is not a good idea. So no, I like to …er…keep it…up (giggles) I think it should be an upward spiral, we want to take you up!
Like a meteoric rise…
Oh, but that would kinda explode before it hits. You love space don’t you…
I do actually, yes. I’m a bit of a geeky space stuff nerd…if aliens landed and said come with us, I’d be like, f*ck yeah!
I always found it fascinating, that when aliens land they always seem to speak English. Why?! And they always land in America.
In one area. Funny that, eh! Actually that’s not true, in Sweden apparently they have regular sightings of some big random glowing orb in one tiny village..
I’ve been there.
It’s probably something in the water..or the vodka!
Probably less things actually.. Somebody should put something in the water!
Burden, now this would be a real burden in your situation, do you get stage fright…
Yes. I guess I do. But not like “Nooooooo, I don’t wanna go on! I wanna go home!” The thing is I like to enjoy myself on stage so I like to know what I’m doing, I think nervousness is when you are going on stage not really knowing what to do.
In the past, of course, but I tend to start yawning, getting all tired and stuff the exact opposite of stressing out. I’m like, relax now. (snores)
Denier (corrects my pronunciation) Denier…that sounds French..
Yeah, but over here, denier is also a thickness of tights...ahaha
Oh! That’s a good thing. You know it would be cool if the lyrics were about that instead.
Haha, would take on a whole new meaning methinks! But, would you dress up as a woman on stage if it was for a charity event…
It depends on the charity I guess.
All you guys all doing a Rocky Horror get up..ha!
Yeah, yeah! (laughs) But if it was a charity for like, cancer, and you had to play in a dress, it would be like, what, what is that! But yeah, I’d probably do it.
I’m sure people would pay to watch…
Me in a dress? I don’t think so!
Not got the legs for it, then?
They could enter for free, but if they wanted to leave… I wouldn’t shave my legs though. Although maybe I should. Depends on the dress I guess.
You sound like you’re warming to the idea..”Hmm, depends on the dress style”..
Well you asked the question! I had to sit myself in that situation cause if I’m actually going on stage, I gotta look my best!
So awesome! Spiritual Void. What would you do if you were offered the job as the next Pope..not dressed as a woman, obviously
Pope! That’s a strange thing because you get your own country. In Italy, and your own bank and a lot of Swiss guards. That’s a strange job. That would be a funny moment though, everybody is waiting out in that St Peter’s Place, and looking for the white smoke..and then I arrive. Ha.. “HELLO!….I’m a Protestant Norwegian! I am your new master!“
Haha, I can picture it now. You’d have a lot of power, would you take the job though..
Hmm, what would I do..I’d say, let’s compare all the news, see what actually happened, and let’s get the pedophiles, so the religion they try to make, could be…could be good.
I’d go in and ban religion. Hi! I’m your new Pope. No more religion, run free my pretties!
Yeah! First thing you say to them. “There is no God!” That would be great though. But, the thing is I wouldn’t look good in red. No, white.
But you’re wearing red, and that looks good…
No, I was meaning white I wouldn’t look good in I think.
Yeah, all that fake innocence..I was just trying to picture you in like, a white Jesus robe. Ok, A more serious question at last! It’s coming up to festival season now, are you heading to any to play…
Yeah, we are playing some. We’re playing Sweden Rock, but that’s the only thing I know…I haven’t looked at the schedule yet! We’re having some time off this summer, doing a couple of gigs but yeah..
Last question. You must get very little time off, what do you spend that precious time doing…
Ah, I make guitars, I’m a Luthier! And I play with other bands as well, I do what I’m doing right now, working! I mean, what do you want to do with time off, sit at home and watch television? No. That’s boring!
We then spent a further five minutes chatting, with Thomas insisting we pose for some really deliberately cheesy face pulling photos (shown above). Then he directed us to pull evil faces. One of which, I apparently look like a serial killer. Joy. I wouldn’t like to meet either of us in a dark alley based on that last one.
Thank you Thomas, for a really fun interview. Will catch you guys on the road next time for sure!
Sahg III Is out now via this link: www.sahg.no/site/releases
Delusions of Grandeur is slated for release in October 2013. Check out the trailer below!