Interview Eivind Lorentzen (Gentle Knife)

"We are proud to be part of the Norwegian progressive rock scene"

(December 2017, text by Henri Strik, edited by Peter Willemsen)

Gentle Knife from Norway are without doubt one of the finest new acts in the progressive rock scene. With a line-up of ten (!) members they already make a difference compared to other progressive rock acts. After releasing the albums Gentle Knife (2015, see review) and Clock Unwound (2017, see review) it's about time to get to know them a little bit better. So therefore we asked co-founding member and guitarist-keyboardist Eivind Lorentzen to tell a bit more about the band and its music.

Eivind Lorentzen (YouRockGuitar,
Credit Gentle Knife)
Can you tell me how you started Gentle Knife and why did you recruit such a large number of musicians?
Eivind Lorentzen: “Well, the more, the merrier, isn't that what they say? The short story of the band is that we grew quite organically from the time when Ove Christian Owe (guitar) and I started practicing guitar together in 2013 and we realized that our exercises became pieces. Brian M. Talgo (vocals), Pål Bjørseth (keyboards), Odd Grønvold (bass), Ole Martin Svendsen (drums) and Ole Michael (Airbag, Oak) gradually joined the band and we improvised and rehearsed various stuff. We quickly agreed that playing covers isn't the thing we wanted to do, and we acknowledged that new music can only exist when it is newly written. We felt that wind instruments were needed in the band, so Astraea Antal (flute, saxophone) and Thomas Hylland Eriksen (saxophone) came in. The group quickly saw the importance of Brian's lyrics, and embraced his artwork and photography as an integral visual trigger and inspiration. These lyrics needed to be sung, so we recruited Håkon Kavli (vocals, guitar) and singer Melina Oz, who was later replaced by Veronika Hørven Jensen when Melina moved on to other projects. In November 2015 Charlotte Valstad Nielsen joined us on saxophone. Being such a large group has characterized our sound with male and female voices, multiple guitarists, keyboards, synthesizers, Mellotron, woodwinds and more. Our sound dips deeply into classic seventies prog with a modern twist on the genre.”

Who came up with this rather strange name?
“The origin of the band name remains our little secret. You are more than welcome to ask any band member at any time, but you will probably get a different answer for each person you ask...”

The debut album
How was it to write and record your eponymous debut album?
“On several occasions in 2014, we travel on slippery winter roads to the SoundLab Studios in Skotselv, Buskerud (Norway) for improvisation sessions and recordings. We realized that we are actually recording our debut album. Our first album was recorded in short, intense sessions with many musicians in the studio, developing ideas. Some of us had ideas where any given song was going to; others contributed by creative improvisation. This fused into a product combining structure and play. Øyvind Engebretsen from SoundLab Studios knew how to capture these sessions on tape. Neil Kernon knew how to make sense of it all in the final mix. His experience from a number of classic records served him well in solving the puzzle of many tracks in a short and intense mixing period. Morten Lund's expert mastering and final touch at Lunds Lyd (Oslo, Norway) gave our debut album a sound that we are very content with to present to the audience. All three did a great job, above and beyond the call of duty.”

Did your debut have the success you wanted it to be and when did you start to think about a follow-up?
“The amount of positive international reviews and interest exceeded our expectations. This drove us forward to create more new progressive rock, and towards more daring compositions, more live gigs and eventually the new album. For our second album more of the material was rehearsed and all band members were now present during a longer writing and recording period, with more attention to the composition. We combined pre-planned recordings with improvisation in home studios and professional sound rooms. We used a mix of collective rehearsals, joint work in studio, home work in smaller groups and individual home studio work. All credits for the compositions and the lyrics are collectivized. There are several good reasons for this. First it acknowledges the contributions of all band members and the fact that the ideas in most cases wouldn't have appeared or matured if it wasn't for the band. In the second place, it reflects the reality of the band. Sometimes two or three people will present an idea, and it will then be radically altered when the group works on it. Both Øystein Vesaas at Lydkjøkkenet (Moss) and Øyind Voldmo Larsen at Lionheart Studio (Oslo) greeted us warmly and facilitated the recordings for our second album. Unsung Productions (Berlin, Germany) did the mix and the mastering. Marcus Reuter and Benjamin Schaefer used their unique sound modelling techniques to enhance our efforts. Lee Fletcher's mastering ensured a fine blend.”

Which bands or artists did influence you and your band members?
“The band members have been influenced by a wide range of old and new prog bands and classic composers: from King Crimson to Opeth and from Henry Purcell to Edgar Varèse, Johann Sebastian Bach and Igor Stravinsky, among many others. Furthermore: reggae, folk, jazz, punk, electronics and electronic dance music (EDM). However, we shouldn't neglect the influences from other Norwegian prog bands, a scene that we are proud to be a part of.”

Gentle Knife (credit Thomas Hysvær

How would you describe the music of Gentle Knife?
“Well, I more or less described our music with your first question, but there's more to say to it especially during the white noise or the bossa sections, but it's not that far off.”

To what extent does Norwegian folk music influence the compositions of the band?
“We sometimes incorporate Nordic folk music while developing pieces of music. Listen for example to Beneath The Waning Moon and Our Quiet Footsteps. Several band members have more or less a background in folk music, but we haven't explicitly used older Norwegian song and dance forms yet. However, we have musical instruments like the langeleik (a Norwegian stringed folklore musical instrument, a droned zither, edt), fiddles and traditional flutes lying around, so who knows we use them in the future.”
Clock Unwound

What does the album title Clock Unwound exactly mean, and is it a concept album?
“It's indeed a concept album. The relentless passage of time is the main theme of Clock Unwound. The lyrics delve into lives overshadowed by longing and disappointment. Plans go wrong, lovers are betrayed and dreams fade away. Yet, as a sense of resignation descends upon a dystopic inner landscape, but moments of beauty remain.”

On the album different lead singers can be heard. Who decides which singer sings on a certain track?
“Normally the singers decide themselves and occasionally they try out different combinations. Sometimes the rest of the band has suggestions. Our keyboardist often does the backing vocals.”

The album was mixed by Marcus Reuter and Benjamin Schäfer. How did this happen?
“Marcus and I knew each other from Guitar Craft courses in the nineties. Marcus and Benjamin had an open slot for mixing and the result is quite fascinating. Just like with the first album, which was mixed by the legendary Neil Kernon, we were again very lucky with our collaborators.”

Who was responsible for the fantastic artwork?
“That was done by Brian M. Talgo. He's an expat American, living the Norwegian dream since 1981. Beside the band, he's interested in painting, photography and writing.”

Does the band have any plans for a European tour to bring your music to the concert stage?
“The band has been gigging quite extensively the last couple of years, including organizing two mini festivals. There's an audience in Norway for progressive music which is a great support for the band. First, we are bringing Europe to Norway. We have already hosted the Swedish Prog Legends Trettioåriga Kriget and in April 2018 − for the third year in row − we invite everybody to a unique evening of massive progressive rock at Kolben Kulturhus. Gentle Knife opens the show, before the renowned French band Gens de la Lune will hit the stage. We will certainly bring Gentle Knife to Europe. On July 15th a dream will come true when we play at the Night Of The Prog festival at Loreley.”

What are the future plans for the band?
“We go boldly wherever the music leads us!”

Thanks for making time to do this interview.
“You're welcome.”

More info about Gentle Knife on the Internet:
       review album 'Gentle Knife'
       review album 'Clock Unwound'

All Rights Reserved Background Magazine 2017