Abakas: The Interview
We were fortunate enough to interview an up and coming Norwegian rock band, Abakas.
Abakas casually brings together elements of different genres in their music creating a universe that is ever expanding with both fantasy and of earthly heritage.
Abakas gives a listener something new and exciting but at the same time something recognizable as they are inspired by bands like Beatles, Black Sabbath, Blue Öyster Cult. Legends that become every day life stories, modern day heroes walking among us - Abakas music is about looking inside yourself and connecting with all times and dimensions. Honest, strong and sensual at the same time.
Who has what role in the band?
Thomas: We are a trio - Rene is playing guitar, I play bass and Chris is on drums. We don´t have any band leader, we put our trust in each other, things go on instinct and whoever has the best suggestion - we go with it. We look at each other as equals in the group. Everyone composes - sometimes someone writes more than the others, but there is always room for everyone.
Christopher: We are a democracy - both in music and other aspects. At least we are trying to be! Everyone has that freedom to be creative, but of course we evaluate things as a group - if it´s good or not. We all sing, we are three vocalists. And we are all producing our music.
How did you all come to meet? Did you know each other well before forming the band?
Rene: Me and Thomas met during the summer 2012 through some common friends in music community, we partied a lot, we were also roommates for about a year and we´ve been through a lot of crazy stuff together! I met Chris when he played for other Norwegian bands - "Konger og Keisere" and "Bassment". We talked at the local festival "Rødnakkedagen" and I thought Chris was a great drummer, he was ´die Scheiße´ as they say! When me and Thomas started looking for a drummer to form the band I offered to contact Christopher, and all three of us jammed together at a big studio and we thought Chris was the right guy! Besides, Chris has a vast knowledge in music in general - pop, rock, jazz... Everything from the 50s and onwards. The only thing he is lacking is probably classical music! He likes Beethoven though!
Thomas: As Rene mentioned we lived together for a while, it was 2016-2017, and that´s when we already composed some of the music we took into the band, a while before we played together with Chris. Well, I also saw Christopher for the first time at one of his concerts with "Konger og Keisere", and I felt like he was somehow held back in his creativity and that he could flourish playing music of a different style. And when we jammed together, I saw Christophers full potential. Besides he is very serious so there was no doubt about him joining the band.
Chris: When we formed Abakas I had just quit "Konger og Keisere" and I wasn´t really thinking about joining another band, it just kind of happened, it was in the right place at the right time kind of thing.
Why the name Abakas? What significance does it have?
Christopher: Well, I didn´t even talk to the band about it yet! (laughing) I came up with the name, and I was looking for something that sounded good and also looked good. I started going through english dictionary for inspiration and I ended up reading several hundred pages, but the word that I based the name on was actually on the very first page - ´abacus´. It´s the name for old times counting frame. I liked the word, but it was a bit too english, and I started to look for its variation in different languages. So what I ended up with was a greek version of it - a mix of written and oral form which was Abakas. It´s also a mix of ancient and modern greek. Like I said it was all about sounding good and looking good, not so much about the meaning. But I guess it has a meaning to me in 2 ways - it´s connected to mathematics and numbers which is relevant to music, and it represents something ancient but still in use to some extent - it´s like a metaphoric mirror for all of our musical inspirations.
Thomas: Our manager Olga didn´t like the name for a while because she thought there was too much of a semantic load to it. So there was a lot of going back and forth with other alternatives at some point, but one day someone outside of the band said that the name Abakas made him think of trolls and mystical creatures from some fantasy world, and we stopped trying to change it as that´s what we were also aiming for - a name that would make people fantasize and Abakas just stuck with us.
If you could only listen for one album for the rest of the year what album would it be?
Thomas: "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" by Beatles
Rene: "On Your Feet or on Your Knees" by Blue Öyster Cult. Live record.
Christopher: "Hejira" by Joni Mitchell
As individual artists what musicians inspire you?
Thomas: The first time I thought about picking a bass was when I was watching a concert by Beatles on youtube and I saw Paul McCartney with that bass. I thought immediately that´s what I´m gonna do in life. Even though I first listened to Beatles as a band, Paul McCartney is my biggest musical inspiration, both as a composer and vocalist. In my early days I was trying to imitate his composing and it gradually evolved into my own thing. Beatles, Black Sabbath - their music inspires me a lot in general, especially with what I do now. A lot of 50-60s music, - Animals, Kinks, Stones, Chuck Berry the list goes on and on.. before i started getting into 70s music. Some other vocal inspirations would be: Little Richard, Ozzy Osbourne, and Joe Cocker which I probably don´t show so much but i really want to! Deep Purple is a big inspiration - vocals and music in general. I also had a long run in punk music - playing in hardcore bands which inspired me to bring that kind of energy into Black Sabbath based music. I have a lot of inspiration from Punk Rock music. I also grew up with a lot of Phil Collins and Sting because of my dad. Genesis, The Police - I probably subconsciously have a lot of creative mind because of that. And with my bass playing it is very organic - I get inspired by different things, I have no favorite way of playing bass though, I try to do different things to make it sound good. Plus I get inspired by what Rene plays when we compose.
Rene: Django Reinhardt from the 20s and 30s - he is a two finger madman. Black Sabbath - I admire them for a song change from one form to another one, we all are influenced by Tony Iommi because he started doing it. He is one of my biggest inspirations. Buck Dharma also did it - starting a song in one form and then going in a completely different direction for the next three parts and you won´t hear the same riff for next 5 minutes and then it comes back and you are like ´Wow! they landed it! Fuck yeah!´ I love Matt Pike (Sleep/High on Fire) for what he is doing with the riffs and solo parts. Singing - Chris Cornell - that guy knew how to sing! I love Paul McCartney for his composing skills. Jan Akkerman from Focus is also a great composer and a guitarist.
Christopher: I am pretty much inspired by musicians who were all around good - performers, writers and producers. My number one musical inspiration is Steven Wilson because he is good example of it. Same goes for Roger Waters in Pink Floyd, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Bob Dylan, David Bowie. They are all consistent through the years and have their hand in every creative aspect. There are some bands that I like a lot. Camel, for example. I basically have a romantic relationship with that band. Even though I play in a rock band I am very inspired generally by soul and jazz music. As a drummer my biggest inspiration is Billy Cobham - he is just off the charts! One of my biggest vocal influences in Glenn Hughes. These are some of my constant inspirations, but I get inspired by rediscovering music I heard before and by new records.
What have you all been up to during quarantine? Do you think is it a setback for a band?
Rene: No! No setbacks! We are doing it live! (laughing)
Thomas: There were some setbacks, like financial problems. Concerts got cancelled, but we still have live streams going on. The good thing is we got a lot more time for other work - making the EP record, going to the studio with a new double single. There were both positive and negative outcomes for us, and we just try to take things as they come.
Christopher: Of course, it affected us a lot economically as Thomas said and probably mentally. But we were fortunate to be in the process of making the record, some bands were getting ready to go on tour when COVID-19 started and it all got cancelled. But now we are at the point where we want to get out there playing concerts and quarantine is still going on so it starts to affect us more. We haven´t been able to practice that much either, but at least when we were releasing ´Runaway´ it was a good thing as a lot more people were staying home listening to new music.
Rene: And on the 23rd of May we have a Livestream from All Studios, and you can find all the information on our facebook page. We encourage people to check it out - we are going to present our EP and there will be another Norwegian band - Hofmann´s Bicycle Days. These guys play a very atmospheric psychedelic rock and you might enjoy it a lot! The live stream starts 20:00 (GMT+2), May 23. You can still watch it after on our facebook page in case you don´t get to see it live.
What has been your best memory as a band? Emergenza in Oslo looked amazing may I add!
Thomas: Thank you! Emergenza was really exciting! And we had one of the best sounds from all our performances. Our Emergenza semi-finals were postponed, so we hope it´s going to be announced some time soon again.
Christopher: Well, my favorite thing to do is when we compose together, and those are my best memories!
Rene: I think my fondest memory of the band is when we were composing the song "Marauder" from the EP and we stopped at the middle section at the same tempo and Chris was like ¨I feel there is a tempo changing! There is a tempo change!" Hell yeah! There is! Let´s do it! And Christopher is ripping it up, and I was like "Ok, we got a riff here!" and Thomas starts playing the riff. And here comes the fucking solo! And I think, that´s a great track and it´s one of my best memories from the band where we all just worship that rhythm change, thanks again Tony!
Thomas: Well, my favorite memory is our first concert - when we played for the first time introducing our music at the local festival. The greatest thing was to see the way the audience responded to it and that people enjoyed our music which gave us the motivation. We understood we had something great going on. That´s when we could actually see our potential.
What inspired your single Runaway?
Rene: So Thomas enters the battle field with a bass riff! "This is a really simple song, it got 3 parts!" and I just followed the riff right there, made a single note harmony - that made the riff, and all other parts came together very nicely. And Thomas already had lyrics for it, we added my second vocal after a while - a really easy harmony and it´s catchy!
Thomas: But the inspiration! I had it in mind that we needed something easy going, something that will introduce people to the music, so I thought it could be a perfect single song. Musically my inspiration was everything from Sabbath to Purple...
Rene: I remember Thomas also heard this one catchy track by Topplock - "Letter from Satan" and he liked it, and when we came to the practice room I thought he got inspired by it too.
Thomas: Yeah, there might be some inspiration from it. Well, in the beginning it was more Sabbathy, especially the main riff, but then it evolved. I also listened a lot to Electric Wizard and Sleep, those kind of bands. The chorus is the most Beatles part of the song. And lyric wise it was a made up character but I put my own life experience into it. I was struggling with these things myself - running away from my problems all the time, wanting to disappear, drive away somewhere. But wherever you go in this world you still perceive things in the same way cause the root is in your mind and problems will still follow you. That´s the metaphor for the song basically.
What is your favorite track off the new EP?
Thomas: "Shine, Grow and Remain" because our co-working was really intense and it was a good experience. It was a fun project!
Christopher: It´s kind of an unfair question, because we obviously like all of them! But I guess SGR is also my favorite song but when it comes to recording I would like to add "Clutch of the Underworld as well".
Rene: "Clutch of the Underworld".
The most Crucial question, Beatles or Stones?
Christopher: The Who.
Listen on Spotify - https://open.spotify.com/album/1BCgVioDMyEHLn5bw0EMCU?si=qgCAn_LRTJ264C2f5UDIzw
Connect on Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/abakasband