My first reaction when I saw the name The Wheel was that this couldn’t be interesting with such a boring name. That changed when I heard the album. What was the idea behind naming the band The Wheel?
-Hmm.., so our band name is boring hah? It’s certainly better than Spandau Ballet or Simply Red, don’t you think? Ha ha! But seriously. Well the name of the band originated from an evening of drinking with a friend of mine. I was moaning about what to call the band and I always liked short band names like Free, KISS, Rush, TNT, Yes, Mountain, or two worded band names like Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, King Crimson etc. So we were talking and playing some LP’s and then the song ” The Wheel ” by Motorpsycho came on and my friend Tos looked at me and said, “Why don’t you just call it The Wheel”? It’s short and it’s a cool name! You got the car thing, but also The Wheel Of Life, the seasons, the Sun etc. It can take on so many different meanings. That’s why I like the name.
When you decide to not name your album anything how do you go about choosing album art work?
-We had different ideas floating around but none of the guys in the band liked them. I wanted a classic cover that stood out from your typical cover of today. Hipgnosis made some stunning artwork for all the cool bands of the 70’s and I wanted something like that or a Roger Dean type of cover. It just so happened that my wife had made a fantastic painting a couple of years ago that fit the vision I had. She’s an remarkable artist. Very creative. So we just took her artwork and made it work.
She did all the designs basically. The layout, everything. I just said, no like this or yes I like that.
I’m pretty intrigued by the cover art. Had I seen the art sans band name I might have picked it up on that alone. What does the album art symbolize to you?
-Well, that’s cool! Thanks! We just liked the look and the colours. It’s art. Hard to explain exactly what it means, you know..?
Your label makes a huge thing of you sounding like Led Zeppelin and other 70s acts. The first thing I came to think of was that you sounded more like a bluesier Soundgarden. What influenced you musically to start The Wheel?
-Well we all have different tastes in this band but a common denominator has always been cool stuff from the past. Whether it’s Jazz, Metal, AOR, Prog Rock, Blues ,Country music or Hard Rock doesn’t matter. Led Zeppelin has been a big influence on both me and Jan Erik as well as Soundgarden. I personally grew up on a steady diet of KISS, AC/DC, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Van Halen, Queen, Led Zeppelin, Ozzy.. The good stuff! But I also love The Beatles, Neil Young, Dire Straits, The Carpenters, Elton John, Bowie, The Eagles, Steely Dan to name a few. A good song is a good song, no matter what category. But the key artist to making me wanting to write songs was Jerry Cantrell. I could relate to his voice, lyrics and music. Dark and heavy. Evil stuff. His solo album ” Boggy Depot” lit a spark! Great stuff!
I gotta say that your label seem intent on selling this album to those of us born long enough ago to remember Free and Van Halen. Who do you see this album appeal to and why should we bother checking the album out?
-Well I think people who love cool rock’ n ‘roll is gonna like it. This album is filled with our own record collection so to speak, in that we wear our influences on our sleeves. We may not offer something new or groundbreaking, but at least it rocks. That’s a given!
Music Buy Mail seems to be as much a mail order business as a record label. What was it that attracted you to them?
-They got a demo of “Lost Soul ” in the summer of 2008. And the reply we got was:” If you guys got more songs like this, we will sign you right away!”. So we just went to work. We had talks with other labels but they were just giving us the regular BS that they’ve always done. Blaming everything on the times, the market, the weather, what have you. Music Buy Mail is a “No nonsense” type of label, were we got treated with respect and got straight answers to our questions. Complete artistic freedom as well, which is rare these days. No “I don’t hear a single” type of stuff. We are all in this together. No monkey business. They are without a doubt the right label for us!
How long in the making has this album been? When does “too long recording” become a burden and not a help?
-We started to record the album in January of 2009. The process went smoothly until Jan Erik got seriously ill during the late fall, and we had to take a long break from the studio. The future of the project looked bleak to say the least. Me and Jan Erik used to drive to Horten, which is a small town outside of Oslo and it’s a two hour drive to get there and back, to do the vocals on a week day. This was a pretty stressful situation in that we didn’t know whether we would get “The Take” or not. But it was worth it. It paid off! And we we’re lucky and driven to make it work! Then the mixing process took some time due to technical stuff. The album was mastered in March of 2011. So yeah, it wasn’t like the first Black Sabbath album, but we got there in the end. We have learned a lot in this process.
Not having any lyrics I have only the song titles to go on and they don’t really tell me anything about the lyrics. What makes a good lyric work?
-Well the way I approach the lyrics is usually through a phrase or a melody. The important thing with rock lyrics is that it’s gotta sound cool. Don’t bother with the meaning of it at first. You can work around that so in the end you sit there and go: “Well this is got to be about …” I admire lyricist that can write from the heart and mind. Like Neil Peart or Steven Tyler and sometimes it happens for me too. Like “Sparks” I wrote the first verse and chorus on a bus, on my way to Jan Erik to work on the song. It just came to me in a flash. It’s as close to real magic you can get when that happens. Fantastic! Other times you have to really work at it. It sucks, but you’ll get there in the end. It’s like homework in a lot of ways but a better pay off. Way better.
With a classic hardrock sound how hard is it to find a live audience? Are there places to play that don’t just want you to churn out all the oldies that everybody else is playing?
-We focus on our own material because we’re not a cover band. If we play any cover tunes it’s because we like the songs. We don’t do stuff we don’t like. It’s never been a problem. So far.
The thing today when touring seem to be these theme tours where you get a bunch of bands together, like an ambulating festival. How hard is it to set up any worthwhile tour when all the promoters wants is more value for the buck?
-That’s a good question. We’ve been fortunate enough to get to play gigs that we want to do instead of flogging around in a van, playing for gas money and beer. We’ve done that with our previous bands but not The Wheel. We are concentrating on doing festivals, support gigs for big names that we like and can relate to. Or else we end up losing the plot and the music. Only time will tell if we make any sort of mark. Fingers crossed.