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InterviewsNorway's Wobbler Unleash 'Rites at Dawn'

Posted on Sunday, July 24 2011 @ 09:03:07 CDT by Pete Pardo
Progressive Rock

There are plenty of modern progressive rock acts that pay homage to the great bands of the 1970's, but none do it more successfully or spectacularly than Wobbler from Norway. Now a few releases into their career, Wobbler have recently put out what is perhaps their greatest achievement, the classic Rites at Dawn, a feast for anyone who loves the vintage sounds of 70's prog rock. Sea of Tranquility Publisher Pete Pardo recently caught up with Wobbler's keyboard wizard Lars Fredrik Froislie to discuss the new album, their influences, vintage instruments, live concert plans, and just about anything else that makes Wobbler so damn cool.

soT: Rites at Dawn is the bands third full length release since 2005, which compared to many progressive rock acts is actually pretty prolific. How long does it take to put together an album of this nature, from the beginning of the writing process all the way to the recording and mixing?

Lars: It's quite a lengthy process. Each album has a different story when it comes to how it came to be, but this latest was pretty well-documented in our recording-diary on Most of the material for both Hinterland and Afterglow was made the summer 1999 during a very creative summer, but it wasn't recorded until many years later. Much of that material was also made together on rehearsal. The material for Rites at Dawn was made around 2006-7, and the recording of this album began in 2009. This time we had made pretty good demos for the songs when it was presented to the others for the first time, so things went much faster in that respect. But of course everyone contributes (like always) to the arrangements and often comes up with their own twists and each musician makes it their own. When we began recording Rites at Dawn we actually didn't have a vocalist, yet the songs were intended to have much more vocals than previous Wobbler-songs, so it was quite exciting. Then of course Andreas came and saved the day (to say the least)! Simply the perfect vocalist in all possible ways!

SoT: From Hinterland, to Afterglow, and now to Rites at Dawn, one can hear a natural progression and maturation of the band. How satisfied are you with the new CD, and do you feel it best represents where Wobbler is in 2011?

Lars: I think it's the first time everyone is very happy with the result - from the sound, production and actual songs/lyrics. I've seen some people feel this new album is a too big difference from the previous, and I guess both a new vocalist and of course since there are so many years since the material from Hinterland and Afterglow was made, so I can understand that. For us it was a natural progression, and this time we worked hard on making more "normal-sounding compositions" (thought they're still quite strange if you ask me). Then again, we worked hard on making "un-normal", more linear compositions for Hinterland and Afterglow (where we were more into the idea that repetitions were boring; play one bit and more on to something different for then never to be repeated)…

SoT: One can hear the influence of Yes, Gentle Giant, The Moody Blues, PFM, and King Crimson in your music. Can you talk a little bit about the background and influences of the members of the band and how it all comes together to create 'Wobbler music' ?

Lars: I have to say we all have quite similar taste in music. We're all fanatic 70s prog-fans; Martin and I even took Italian language courses just to understand the lyrics of our favorite 70s Ita-prog-albums. Most of us have known each-other since childhood, and we started Wobbler when we were in our teens. I guess to a certain extent we shaped each-others musical taste as we were discovering various new (um... old) obscure music and presented it to the others in the band. Wobbler is very much a democratic band where everyone has an input on everything. We definitely quarrel a lot, trying to push thru our views, and that of course colors the music (mostly) in a good way.

SoT: I caught the band live at NEARfest a bunch of years ago-have you been approached to play any prog festivals here in the US since then?

Lars: Yes. I'm not sure if I should reveal anything right now – as you never know how these things work out. I usually don't have any expectations in this business – only when I'm actually on the plane and know there's no way back I know it'll happen.

SoT: Has the band played any live shows at all in Norway or surrounding Scandinavian countries?

Lars: Yeah we've played lots and lots; at least 4 times in Norway since 1999. We're hoping to play our first gig in Sweden this fall, which is something we've talked about since Hinterland was released. We were actually planning to play much more after Hinterland was released, but Martin got stabbed, I got a massive lung-embolism, while Kristian and Morten destroyed their backs while lifting an amp. So we had to cancel quite a few gigs obviously. But now we're healthier than ever and we plan to play as much as possible - wherever we're invited.

SoT: The new album features plenty of classic prog sounds, from Rickenbacker bass, Mellotron, Moog, and Hammond. Were all authentic instruments used on the album, or did you have to use, especially on the keyboards, samples of the vintage instruments?

Lars: Yeah like always we're very strict when it comes to this. Everything you hear is the real deal (including the "as wonderful as it is rare – as long as it actually works, that is…" Chamberlin M-1). I think it's an important part of the whole experience. The thing is that I both play better on the real deal, and they simply sound the best. And if we didn't have the actual instrument, we'd rather use something else. For instance on Afterglow, we weren't able to borrow a harpsichord, so we used some very good alternatives; taking it sort of a neo-baroque approach by using a Hohner Clavinet D6 and a Roland ep-10 (el.harpsichord from 1973) which worked out very well.

SoT: There's a more rocking feel to some of the songs on Rites at Dawn, especially on "The River" that represents a slightly more bombastic turn for Wobbler, compared to perhaps a more pastoral feel on the earlier material. Do you feel the bands songwriting is morphing more in this direction?

Lars: There's definitely a more Blue Öyster Cult-like feel to some of the songs on this album. I also think Kristian who wrote most of "The River" was partly influenced by Motorpsycho (among many things). But of course we can't really play like any of those bands, so it went into the Wobbler-mincer and came out like something completely different. I remember I tried to push on as much saxophone, bassoon, piccolo flute, chamberlin-brass and Mellotron-mandolin as possible on that track to approach a kind of Maxophone/Latte e miele type of sound. Anyway, it's a bit too early to say how the next album will be. I'm guessing and hoping it will be just as different as Afterglow was from Rites at Dawn (though I still think it sounds very much like Wobbler).

SoT: Though the term 'progressive rock' would suggest that the music should 'progress and move forward', it seems that most fans prefer acts who play in a style that pays homage to the great bands of the 70's. Are you comfortable doing this, and does the band concern itself that perhaps you aren't 'progressing' and trying something completely new?

Lars: Ever since we started the band the idea was to go back to 1973 and pretend the last 30 years hadn't happened. We play "progressive rock" not "progressive" rock (…what-ever that may be today... Whatever it is, I'm sure I'd hate it). The most important thing for us is to play good music, and if it sounds completely original that's great, but it all comes down to making good music and really nothing more. On these albums we've tried to capture and re-create the magic of the prog-bands from the late 60s/early 70s. I didn't even know the type of music I liked happened to belong to a genre called "progressive rock"; for me it was just some fantastic sounding LPs I found in my brother's LP-collection when I was a child. Later on i found out that this type of music wasn't only called prog rock, but it was also a genre that was highly criticized and disregarded by as good as everyone. So in a way we took on a anti-trend mission, and proudly shouted from the highest rooftops while combing our beards and smoking our pipes: "we play prog rock god-dammit!!!!"... I've always seen a similarity to the norwegian black metal on this point, though there are other similarities as well, but that's a different story.

I have to point out that we're not a "museum-band"; I hope it sounds vital and true. We live and breathe for this music! This music is sort of a reflection of ourselves, and in a way we are living prog-clichés - all of us originating from the Norwegian hinterland: Andreas lives inside a tree in the middle of the forest (nursing a baby-deer and playing a harp by the local lake), Morten is obsessed with trains and beards, Martin is a historian and plays crumhorn in a renaissance orchestra, Kristian is a librarian, shepherd and carpenter (though not the typical type of carpenter, since he only utilizes tools from the viking age and wears a robe..), and I'm an art historian who operates a mill out in the forest and spend literally all my money on old keyboards.

Finally i'd like to point out that when we use vintage instruments, it's simply because those analog sounds just sounds most appealing to us. It really doesn't matter if they're from 1570 or 1970, and of course the same goes for our influences.

SoT: There are many exciting prog rock acts on the scene today-are there any that the band follow and admire?

Lars: I hear Änglagård is recording a new album, so I'm definitely looking forward to that! Also I'm a huge fan of another Swedish band, Gösta Berlings Saga. Not sure if they go under the term prog, but the Norwegian bands Motorpsycho, Jaga Jazzist and Shining are great. I also hear the new White Willow album is very good!

SoT: ) Now that the band has released what is undoubtedly one of the finest prog albums in 2011, what does the near future hold for Wobbler, say over the next 6-18 months?

Lars: Wow thanks! We're NOT going to do like we did when the two first albums came out, - which was…. Not much! This time we're gonna play as much live as possible, and we're gonna start to work on some new material right away. The material I've made so far is rather dark and medieval-ish, so I've got a feeling the next won't be so uplifting as Rites at Dawn at times is. Who knows – maybe it'll even sound "progressive"… No, I guess we'll just keep making what we feel sounds great without thinking too much about anything else.

Pete Pardo

Photos Courtesy of the Wobbler Website

(Click here to read our review of Rites at Dawn)

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