I knew nothing about the history of this Norwegian band TUSMÖRKE but I felt a need to know more so I had to interview them. Anders Ekdahl ©2013
The twilight hour or twilight for that matter is a mythical time in folklore. How much of that mythical, mystical folkloristic stigma do you use in the aesthetics of Tusmörke?
Benediktator: In Norwegian, the word “tusmørke” is a combination of “tus”, from “tusse”, meaning supernatural being like elf, troll or subterranean beings, and “mørke”, meaning darkness; we chose the name because we sympathize with the unbaptized creatures of the night, or afternoon, rather. The lyrics often reflect mystic or romantic experiences, where the obvious reality is transcended and the magic behind the mundane is glimpsed. At dusk the imagination works more freely, opening the possibility of seeing more than what is materialistically speaking “there”. Folklore is interesting because it contains the pre-modern superstitions that I feel make the world a more interesting place.
Krizla: The connection to the subterranean wee people who inhabit the world of dusk is an important aspect of choosing the name Tusmørke. For me, the aesthetics of the world beyond is very important in our music, as well as in our stage performance. Through my songs and my flute playing, I try to convey the feeling of being at a feast with the subterranean people, a splendid and otherworldly feast that will bind the participant forever in the realm of the others, the dark and strange beings of the dusk that live underneath our feet.
What kind of progressive music history is there in Norway? Unless you have a special interest in that kind of music the rest of us don’t get to hear too much about it?
Benediktator: There are several good progressive, psychedelic and folk rock bands from Norway, with a golden age culminating in 1974. Check out Rain, Ruphus, St. Helena, Hades, Høst, Popol Vuh, Folque, Kong Lavring, Junipher Green, Aunt Mary, Prudence and so on and so forth. Some were mere local copies of their British heroes, while others incorporated original elements, mainly culled from traditional Nordic folk music. The samplers Maiden Voyage, Stellar Voyage and Aerian Voyage are good places to start. There are and have of course been interesting crossovers between jazz, folk, pop/rock and contemporary music, as well. There are loads of great artists that virtually no one has ever heard about, mainly because they had little commercial success in a country where the majority of people have very poor taste. In addition, most journalists are notoriously lazy and prefer to write about what everyone else writes about. A concise guide to the history and development of progressive music in Norway is quite a task, preferably to be undertaken by someone else. I suggest you do some research.
Krizla: Progressive music in Norway has always been a scene, ever since the early seventies. However, the live circuit has never been much to write home about in my day. I always felt more inspired by the vinyl collector scene: since music by bands like Aunt Mary, Høst or Junipher Greene was hard to come by in the early nineties when I started to get into music in earnest, an interest in prog or psychedelic music from Norway invariably brought you into contact with beardy types selling second hand records at record fairs and through mail order catalogues. The music was kept alive by these custodians of the strange and rare, more so than bands, actually. It is weird how difficult it is to play the kind of music you profess to be inspired by, and I always felt let down by the majority of bands that claimed to be a prog or psych band, but sounded nothing like the references I thought we had in common. Notable local contemporary exceptions to this rule are the bands Wobbler, Father Robin and Wind.
Do you feel that Tusmörke has a crossover potential? What kind of audience do you think Tusmörke could attract?
Benediktator: We definitely have a diverse audience already, ranging from metal-heads and black metallers to prog-enthusiasts and vintage synthesizer-fans, with architecture students, Oslo scenesters and fellow musicians from various bands thrown in for good measure. Our shows are very jolly and exciting, with costumes, dancing and on-stage banter, so that people come to our concerts even though they don’t really care that much for the music. To our great delight we usually get immediate and positive response from children and people with Down’s syndrome, for some reason. We also appeal to the elderly, at low volume.
Krizla: It is obvious that we have a great crossover appeal, in particular when it comes to the occult and the psychedelic aspects of our music. The terms psychedelic and occult currently pop up so frequently in reviews that they must be considered part of a fad. Therefore, it is a dangerous pair of terms to apply to our music, because it might throw us in with bands that we have nothing in common with. However, the occult and psychedelic music of Tusmørke does seem to appeal to metalheads, mystics, hippies, and progfans alike, making the crossover appeal of our approach to music perhaps more than just a passing thing. Our audience is typically people into dark and strange music, but also people who like the groovy aspects of psychedelic music.
Do you feel that Tusmörke has anything spiritually in common with Norwegian black metal?
Benediktator: That depends entirely on what you mean by Norwegian black metal. What was once a counter-culture is now a part of the mainstream entertainment industry, which we abhor and reject. Regarding early Norwegian black metal, we have explored several of the same themes lyrically and probably share the same feeling of being out of step with current values and trends, resulting in an uncompromising anti-conformist stance. We feel an affinity with Darkthrone and Isengard (or Gylve, to be precise), Ulver and Burzum, for example, but not at all with bands like Dimmu Borgir.
Krizla: When it comes to common spiritual denominators between Tusmørke and Norwegian Black Metal, it must be pointed out that the Norwegian Black Metal scene has always been predominantly spiritually bankrupt and full of posers with no real experience in the occult. From my experiences in ritual magick and life as a scholar with a working knowledge of a dozen extinct languages spanning the high cultures of the last five millennia, I find little to admire in the spiritual aspirations of the Norwegian Black Metal scene in general. In my experience, the scene is based in beer induced ecstasy, something I of course am greatly sympathetic with, but cannot regard as very profound or meaningful as a way to grasp hidden knowledge concerning human and divine existence. Apart from the beer crowd, there is a thriving scene of devil worshippers and chaos magicians in Norway, but I never quite understood their obsession with rot and death. To me, magick is to celebrate life and love. Therefore, I would say that the spiritual common ground between Tusmørke and Norwegian Black Metal is merely superficial, rooted in a common fascination with mythology and occult imagery. We weave our magick to change the world into a luminous manifestation of mystery, love and ecstasy.
What type of bands do you feel that you are close to in spirit and sound?
Benediktator: All bands who like to see their audience dancing and having a good time are kindred spirits of ours. In addition we like to create a sinister and dubious atmosphere, mixing emotions of joy and happiness, wonder and awe. It doesn’t matter what genre they subscribe to, as long as they are serious and like to have a good laugh at the same time. We like our bands to be reckless, passionate, groovy and style-conscious.
Krizla: In my mind, music can be strange and uncompromising and at the same time groove and bounce and appeal to the rhythmic faculties of the body. My favourite song ever is Candy Corn by Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band. It is so groovy and silly and yet so profoundly holy I get the shivers every time. There are not many bands I feel a community with today, in particular because very few bands have an intention of getting their audience to take part in the experience of the music by dancing and getting their groove on. Most rock musicians in Oslo have come to accept that a concert should consist of half a dozen songs performed before a mostly silent and attentive or beer-swilling and shouting audience. We aim for a séance and an inclusive ritual more than a performance of a series of songs. In this sense, the Oslo group Beglomeg is close to my idea of putting on a show.
How different are your sound to older progressive bands sound? How much do you take from the past in forming your sound?
Benedikator: The sound on “Underjordisk Tusmørke” is heavily characterized by the use of synthesizers like Mellotron, Chamberlin and Minimoog, thus making it a lot more ‘60s or ‘70s vintage-sounding than the live experience at our concerts. Our sound is quite unlike that of a lot of other bands in that we don’t use electric guitar in the typical rock or blues tradition, instead making room for a lot of flute, bass riffs and oohs and aahs. We steal in equal measure from the past AND the future, I guess.
Krizla: Our sound is of course different from the older bands because the equipment has changed a lot since the seventies. Although we do use a lot of vintage analog equipment, we also exploit the wide range of possibilities that new technology offers, in particular in terms of recording. However, for my part, the flute hasn’t changed all that much since the seventies. Also, I use mostly old fashioned effects and filters for the Theremin. I constantly listen to old psychedelic and progressive albums for sounds to emulate, in particular the more subtle details, like warbling Moogs in the background or interesting use of delays, echoes and flanged sounds. There are so many great sounds available to any inquisitive listener today; that is a great difference from when I grew up and you had to actually know somebody with an original record by 50 ft. Hose or July to listen to it. Today, everything is available online for a listen. I find that is a great source of inspiration, to listen to all the strange and fantastic tunes from around the world, in particular from the sixties and seventies that have become readily available in the last decade, either as re-issues on vinyl or simply on Youtube.
How would you like to describe the evolution of Tusmörke? Where did it start and where will it end?
Benediktator: Tusmørke is but a brief, ever denser twilight between two nights. It started in darkness and it will end in darkness.
Krizla: Tusmørke has always been a vehicle for personal songwriting and a vent for deeply felt ideas about sound. Now, the lineup is better than ever, with no focus on egoistic concerns such as the wish to become rich and famous and full attention to songwriting and the realization of ideas for great sounds. Tusmørke started out as a corner trio playing medieval music and it will probably end as a group of buskers in a cave in Nordmarka luring wayward skiers to their death.
How much do you work with darkness and light in your music? How important is the lay out and lyrics to the overall feeling?
Benediktator: There is plenty of both, I would say. There is definitely a morbid fascination running through a lot of the material, dealing with occult phenomena and visions of the apocalypse. Hopefully, the listener will perceive more of the bitter-sweetness of melancholia and nostalgia than straight stark suicidal depression in our music. We hope to convey a feeling of the joy of battle and a devil-may-care attitude. Lyrically, themes often come from works of literature, presented in pop form, in a way trivializing high culture through our low-brow kitsch filter. The lyrics are the key to really understanding Tusmørke, if that is what you are after. It is also possible to just enjoy the music for the grooves.
Krizla: To me, darkness is the most pressing quality of reality and of course this influences the lyrics and the music. In my opinion, the light can only be attained by a negation of the dreariness of existence in modern society, through the invocation of love and life. The lyrics to a great part reflect this struggle for wonderment.
What has been the greatest feeling with Tusmörke so far?
Benediktator: For me, the pinnacle so far was the release concert for “Underjordisk Tusmørke” that we had at Mir in Oslo on November 9th with Wind, Moist Vaginas and dj Krokfot. The venue was absolutely packed and so many of our good friends were there, making it a proper celebration of everything we have accomplished so far. It’s fantastic to feel the love and support of people who are important to you and even from people you’ve never seen before, but who feel connected to you through listening to your music.
Krizla: To complete the first album “Underjordisk Tusmørke” was a great feeling, because so much music had been waiting around for this one massive manifestation. I was very eager to finalize a stage in the development of ideas that had been floating around for close to fifteen years concerning some of the songs. Other songs were fresh ideas that it was a great pleasure to see realized in a finished format.
What do you expect from the future
Krizla: There are several more releases in the pipe line and a lot of concerts coming up. Also, we have lots of songs waiting to be rehearsed and more material is written every month, so I can only say that I expect the future to bring lots of more work.
Benediktator: Hopefully, Yellowstone will erupt in a super volcano that will plunge the world into an eternal snow-clad twilight, a never-ending Norwegian black Easter where the remaining 5% of the human race depend on cross-country skiing and cannibalism for survival and recreation. Tusmørke see their role in this as providers of ski instructions and light entertainment. Barring the apocalypse, I expect the album to continue selling well and that we will finish recording the next album by the end of 2012 and have a 12” out in around the vernal equinox of 2013. Hopefully we’ll we doing a couple of gigs abroad quite soon, first of all with Hexvessel in Finland. In the meantime, we have a string of concerts ahead of us in Oslo and we continue rehearsing material for album number three.