In a world were there are so many bands to keep track of I want to bring my two cents in presenting you to this interview with OGRE. Anders Ekdahl ©2019
A band name says more than thousand words, or does it? How important is a band name to get people interested in your music?
-I think band names are pretty important, for sure. After all, it’s the first thing that people are going to notice, right? I’m not going to claim that we have the most original band name in the history of band names, but we certainly thought for a long time before landing on OGRE. We wanted something simple and forceful – just like our music.
When you finish a recording and then sit back and relax, what kind of feelings do you get? Are you glad it is finished? Does the anxiety grow, not knowing if everybody will like it?
-I’d say that it’s a combination of those two feelings that you describe. I absolutely love that moment when the album is finally mixed, mastered, and sequenced and you can listen to the whole thing as it is meant to be heard. To me, album sequencing is a lost art and it’s something that the three of us pay a lot of attention to, so that moment of hearing all the tracks in a row is really cool. At that point, I also think it’s important to move away from listening to the album as the musician who made it and start listening to it as a fan would. That way, you stop hearing all the little errors and what-ifs that are inherent in any recording and start enjoying it for its overall sound, if that makes sense. All of that said, there’s definitely a lot of anxiety once you know the album has been sent off for pressing and there’s nothing you can do to change it. It’s in the hands of the fans (and the reviewers) at that point and that can be a little daunting!
To me as a metalhead I often wonder if there is something special to the whole Northwest region of the US because so many original bands come from there, and has for a very long time. How do you feel about your region of the world?
-Well, we’re from Portland, Maine, not Portland, Oregon, so I can’t say much about the Northwest metal scene, other than agreeing with you that a ton of great bands have come from that region. However, I can say that the Northeast is just as impressive in terms of its music scene! Though Portland, Maine is much smaller than the Portland on the other side of the country, we have a fantastic scene of super supportive bands and fans here. If we extend south into Boston, Connecticut, and New York, and then even further south towards Philly/Baltimore/DC, then it gets even more impressive. Over the years, we’ve definitely connected with a lot of the bands from the Baltimore doom scene, so in a lot of ways, it feels like we’re part of an extended East Coast metal family.
Today I get a feeling that the promotion of a band lands a lot on the bands themselves so how does one promote oneself the best possible way in order to reach as many as possible?
-With the rise of social media as a promotional tool, things have changed so much in the past twenty years since we started the band. But, even back then, we relied heavily on technology and the internet to spread the word about our band. In fact, if I had not joined various forums (going all the way back to the original Stoner Rock Mailing List and the Hellride Music forum, among others) and reached out to various people in the scene, I’m not sure what would have happened to our band. So, to answer your question, I think that bands need to reach out to those in their scene, don’t be afraid to make connections, find other like-minded bands, and work hard at it. With Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, it’s so much easier to connect these days, so there’s no excuse!
Today we have all these different sub-genres in metal. How important is that you can be tagged in one of these? Why isn’t metal enough as a tag?
-On the one hand, I guess I understand all the labels – they help fans figure out what types of bands they might like and they help bands find like-minded bands and labels – but I do think that the way that bands are pigeonholed into specific genres can be really divisive and frustrating, esp. in the metal scene. That said, I’m not gonna lie – there are bands in certain genres of metal (which shall remain unnamed to protect the guilty!) that we will try to avoid when it comes to playing gigs and such. Sometimes clubs will throw together shows with a whole bunch of random “metal” bands, and while diversity is good and all, those gigs always end up being a bit of a mess. Metal fans can be fickle indeed, and they often won’t stick around to listen to bands outside of their preferred genres, so in some ways, it’s nice to find your niche and create a scene around a specific sub-genre. In an ideal world, though, I agree with you that all we really need is one genre – METAL MUSIC (as Rob Halford would put it).
What importance is there in being part of local/national/international scene? Does playing in a band make you feel like you are a part of something bigger? I know it does to me knowing that in some slight way I was a part of the Swedish death metal scene in the 90s.
-A few years ago, Kerrang! released something that they called the “United States of Metal”, which was an on-line map of the US and, for each state, they chose one band that represented that state’s metal scene. When we saw that OGRE was the choice for Maine, it was one of the most fulfilling moments in our career. Sure, this was just one writer’s perspective, but it certainly was a proud moment, seeing our names on a map with such biggies as Metallica, Pantera, Melvins, COC, and Anthrax. Even more exciting is when we hear from fans around the globe about how much they love our music – or when we have played in countries as far abroad as Japan and Russia. None of the guys in this band are ‘scenesters’ in any way – we’re way too introverted for that sort of socializing nonsense – but simply having a hometown support system, as well as national and international fans, validates everything we are trying to do.
Ever since I first got into metal the art work has been a main motivator in buying a record. What part does art work for album covers play in the world of the band?
-Well, considering that our drummer, Will Broadbent, is a graphic artist who has done the artwork for our last three albums, you certainly can say that artwork is a HUGE component in the world of OGRE. Add in the fact that many of our songs are influenced by sci-fi and fantasy novels or dark moments in history and it’s clear that visual imagery is key. Will is just an amazing artist and some of the most enjoyable parts of making our albums has involved the brainstorming sessions when the three of us sit down and start bouncing ideas around for artwork. Will is so good at taking those ideas and visualizing them, and even though the artwork for each of our last three albums (Plague of the Planet, The Last Neanderthal, and Thrice as Strong) has been unique in style and feel, Will has managed to perfectly capture what each album is all about while still maintaining a unified ethos. The painting he did for our current album, Thrice as Strong, just might be his masterpiece – wait until you see the inner gatefold!
How important is having a label to back you up today when you can just release your music on any sort of platform online? With the ability to upload your music as soon as you’ve written it the freedom to create has become greater but are there any negative consequences to music being too readily available to fans now that every Tom, John and Harry can upload their stuff?
-We are an old school band, so we believe that having a label is incredibly important. We self-released our debut album, Dawn of the Proto-Man, and while that certainly was a satisfying endeavour, I have no interest in repeating that process. Since then, we have been blessed with the labels that we have worked with, all of which have supported the band by giving us artistic freedom and making sure our music was promoted and distributed to the best of their ability. We couldn’t be more excited to be working with Cruz del Sur this time around, and we hope that this is the start of a long relationship with the label.
What is a gig with you like? What kind of shows do you prefer to play?
-Let’s see…I think that most people would say that we are really loud (big surprise there) and that our live sound is way bigger than our sound on records. In fact, that has been one of our challenges over the years of recording…How can we approximate our live sound in the studio? It hasn’t been easy, but I certainly think we are getting there, especially on our last two records. Back to our gigs, I’d also say that we are pretty loose on stage and we like to have fun up there – every note isn’t going to be perfect, we’re bound to have some technical difficulties, but we are going to do everything in our power to get people in the audience right up to the edge of the stage and banging their heads. Our hometown fans in Portland really are the best, and there’s nothing better than playing a mid-winter gig on the stage at Geno’s (Portland’s best club, hands down), when it’s snowing and freezing outside, and everyone in the club is just going crazy.
What lies in the future?
-Right now, we’re just focusing on promoting the new album and preparing for a big gig at Geno’s in Portland on Saturday, December 14th – it’s a combination of an album release show and a celebration of our 20th year together as a band, so it’s bound to be a lot of fun. We’re working on an extra-long set of material that will highlight the new album while also including songs from all our albums, so we’ll be pulling out some tunes we haven’t played in a while. Beyond that gig, we are really hoping that this album might open the doors to some gigs farther abroad – we would love to play at some of the big European metal festivals and maybe even do a European tour, so if there’s anyone out there reading this who might be able to help with that, please let us know!