Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Interview: Next Life

Next Life

Next Life is a duo that touches metal only marginally, or at least: metal how LotFP perceives it. Nevertheless they join the ranks of those recent groups that blend heavy guitars with the odd sounds of old time video game consoles. Interesting enough for me to listen to the short eruptions that form their first recorded effort Electric Violence and contact Hai in Norway, the half of the band with Vietnamese roots.

Is it the short attention span of today's culture that makes for such short songs, or is it the lacking substance of your ideas and ressources?

We have always been very inspired by computer game music and hardcore punkrock. Both of these genres tend to have fast and short compositions. Much computer game music, especially from Japan, has a strongly ongoing drama that keeps progressing until a certain point (about one to two minutes) and then repeats itself. It is possible to recall this in many 2D games where music plays a great role in the narrating of a story, and also it has to keep up with the high tempo of fictional universes built upon simple elements.
In our case as with computer game music, I guess it is a way to keep up a high level of intensity and at the same time not to become monotonous, so that both player and listener become occupied with constant progression untill the next level appears. In a way it should match the tempo of modern consumer culture such as TV and newspapers, but as we try to be untraditional in terms of emotions and drama-building, the songs may - as compared to pop-culture - often remind of "find one/many error(s)"-pictures. There is something wrong that keeps them from becoming TV- or radio-hits, which we find great in terms of being progressive, but also a little bit sad because less people will get into the music.

In terms of longevity, can you think of Next Life as a long-standing outfit that in the future will be revered by a group of fans and spoken of in terms of "classic songs", like bands from the old days of rock?

Hehe, I think that would be the main goal of every artist - to be remembered and to be influental over time. The music scene today has become so big with different artists and styles, and as you said, they most often only succeed for a short time before the next big thing comes up. Even the bands that I am most inspired by such as Zeni Geva, Earth Crisis, Assück and Infest have barely made it to the "history books", so from these observations I cannot see that Next Life will survive any longer than most of today's underground artists. If Next Life or even some of the songs were to to become classics in the future, then we would consider this band project a success.

Is Next Life serious, in that you want to convey anything special beyond the sheer fact that you mix old 8-bit-sounds with elements close to metal?

The mix of 8-bit music and metal has become a style. In Next Life, the goal has always been to mix different genres in order to create an arena to cover our complete musical potential. The style itself is less important other than for maybe describing the music. We actually use anything that we find spine-chilling (again something we have learned from game music), but since me and Trond both grew up and worked a lot with 8-bit sounds plus hard rock music, these genres often surface in our music. The fact that Trond creates many of the sounds we use on Commodore 64, and that many of our base sounds are from Commodore Amiga and various old-school consoles, has certainly put us into the 8-bit metal genre. Actually though, we would more like to call it "electro-violence" as this is a more open and correct expression for us. We are much inspired by digital universes, not only 8-bit, and there has always been a great portion of the hardcore subgenre "power-violence" as we see it.

Would human vocals work well with your music?

We tried that in 2006 after “Electric Violence“ was released, and it did solve some problems live-wise, as it is easier to create high energy on stage the more people are on it. But we did it too fast and without a vision that was clear enough. It resulted in an electro-clash and kitschy musical expression that we simply could not live with, being so proud and happy with developing music purely based on rhythm and melody. Instrumental music is really an abstract expression that will become unique more easily than if you add a person's voice, face and lyrics to it. We want to explore music as an expression itself. Alos, we never stop being fascinated by the fact that there is no real answer to why human beings react how they do to different tone combinations, rhythm progression, the way songs are composed and so on

Do you sample sounds only or do you also actively implement and manipulate them?

We do whatever it takes to fit any of our sounds into the music, both sampled and generated. We never sample tone combinations or a complete rhythm, as we want to compose as much of our music as possible on our own. Manipulation is most often necessary for sampled sounds to fit into our songs, but we do sample voices from movies and computer games. In these cases the samples have not been altered much except for some EQ-stuff.

Where do your musical roots lie, and why do you think that guitar music, the attitude behind it and old video game sounds match one another?

I guess this has partially been answered above, but here is the story concerning myself: I got a Commodore 64 in 1984 and became addicted very fast to the games and sounds. I remember playing Exploding Fist so loud that I blew the speakers on the TV at home. In 1987, I learned to play guitar and got into better and better bands by the years. However, it was hard keeping bands together for a longer time in the small town I came from, either because people needed to do other things, or just because they were too bad musicians. So in 1995, I started using my Amiga as drum machine to play really tight riffs together with my older brother and a friend. In 1999, I visited my home country Vietnam for the first time. Driving by car through the entire country and at the same time listenening a lot to The Last Ninja 1 & 2 and Zeni Geva who used synthesizer in metal music in a way that I found very innovative and inspiring, the vision became more and more clear. What really meant something to me at that time was experimental punkrock and game music. These also had something in common, as game music has many connections to rock and metal, after all. Then I went back to Norway, and voilá.
It was hard to predict if Next Life would succeed in getting any listeners, but I chose to do it simply to cover my own needs to listen to very hard, dynamic and melodic music. It was only when my friends convinced me to do a show that the project became a band.

What is "Kampfkultur"? - It sounds kind of martial.

In order to earn money from art and music in Norway, one must have a registered company. I decided to call mine "Kampkultur" instead of "Next Life", as I also do other things such as theater, gallery, film, and so on. Next Life is a division of the company Kampkultur. I like distinct and straight-to-the-point music and colours, I have also always been inspired by political art, although I mostly work without words or lyrics. It felt natural to name the company after that. The company itself is not supposed to be a war institution, but as war and politics obiously are reasons for people to do anything, the art around it has become very strong as well. It is this art that Kampkultur draws its inspiration from – alongside more positive stuff as the divine, friendship, astrology and technology.

Is it necessary in post modern times to gather elements from various fields to create something that is supposed to be "new", or do you see any possibility for an artist to produce original art just out of him- or herself?

We live in times of much information; you cannot grow up without getting into the many music styles that exist, and that in itself can become a limitation. The culture around you becomes the universe in which you can choose and to which you relate when creating own stuff. But how did the earlier composers come up with new styles? I guess it happened over time (with some exceptions), and we will hopefully see over time that our generation will bring orginality to different fields in one way or another. That aside, I quit watching TV at the same time I founded Next Life to not be too informed. I can say that it has left me with a certain lack of knowledge about society and social development, but hopefully, it also has done or will do something to Next Life that is positive.

In this context, how do you see your band's abilities to progress - are you a flight of fancy as a musical entity, or can we expect a certain development? Have you already said everything you wanted to say, and if not: what is there in addition?

We want to keep the future open for Next Life. In that way, it can perform dramatic changes more easily if desired, and we may become influenced by things left unconsidered so far. However, I also admit we always try to lay out strategic plans in order to forsee problems regarding the music industry and our audience to legitimate the name Next Life, which for us means many things. To be one step ahead of ourselves and the music buisness is one of them, and as we see it, that won't come out of pure improvisation.

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