There’s a new power station lighting up the grid, designed to enlighten those into progressive metal and classic rock with its timeless sound. Those behind it are not such new names though as the band rose from the ashes of much the loved Portuguese / Norwegian outfit Ava Inferi. Naturally this means that roots spread further back in time to an artist involved in Mayhem and known as Blasphemer. Rune Eriksen has moved on a lot from then and is proud to chat about brand new album Vol1: Solar the debut from Earth Electric, of course we slipped in a few questions about the past too in this in depth chat.

Hi Rune, congratulations on the new album and the new musical venture.

AN: Firstly it came as a bit of a surprise when you called it quits with Ava Inferi after what seemed to us as 4 very successful albums. You said you to wanted to “break out and get the joy and inspiration back into your music.” Why had things gone stale for you, was it the style you were playing or problems internally within the band or were they simply not getting the impetus they should have done?

Rune: Thanks so much. First of all, I think that Ava Inferi were the band that “were not supposed to be” in many ways. I went through some hard times personally during those years and the band became the outlet for some.. let’s call it “imbalances” for lack of better words. It was in the period where I exited Mayhem as well, and I guess I was doing some soul searching as well as suffering some consequences due to my lifestyle up until that point. This way, the Ava Inferi albums sort of became my diaries, a way to let it all out. Although some of the material on those albums were really great, it was clear that it was too introverted for the majority of the public. It became a wall that I made around myself. “The band had ghosts” as Michael from Season Of Mist once said, hehe. Anyway, being an artist, at least in my perspective, this is the part of the journey. I am glad I got it out into the ether, but at the same time, I guess wasn’t meant to be anything more than a document of this period.

AN: Did you already have clear ideas of what you wanted to do next musically? Did you ever consider taking a complete break away from things and if so what else do you think you might have done after being a musician for so long?

Rune: No, stopping music was never an option, if that’s what you ask? This is what I do and always have done. I mean, I went straight from school into Mayhem, and eventually Aura Noir so this has been my life and passion for as long as I can remember, and perhaps the only thing I really know how to do convincingly as well. In relation to what I wanted to do musically (together with Carmen) after the Ava Inferi exit; we knew from the very get-go that we wanted to shift gear and focus to something more positive. More up-tempo and more energetic music, more extroverted somehow. The first demo 2014 was somewhat more of a T-Rex inspired one, with an aim for more “fun” lyrics and a very easy going vibe. But it got evident rather quickly that there was more to explore, something deeper and more serious, without losing the easier approach and love for Rock Music. Aside of Earth Electric I also started toying with the idea of another extreme band again, but more on that in due time.

AN: One of the first tasks and one people take for granted a lot of the time is actually thinking of a suitable band name. You could say all the good ones are gone. How did you arrive at Earth Electric and what significance does it have to the music you play?

Rune: I guess the initial idea was just to have something that describes us as a collective, as an expressive musical idea. Both Carmen and myself are very interested in living organically, using herbs to heal and so on, I have also been vegetarian since 2000 and the last 4-5 years I have gone to be a vegan. It is in my thoughts and ideas that “everything is 1” and that we can
heal ourselves by gaining understanding about what we have been given to us through nature” and that with scrutiny exploration of the earth and the animals, we find ourselves in a vicious circle. Seems like a small problem to relate to considering everything in our society is basically a war zone, but it’s all interrelated. For me there is nothing more “natural” trying to live as purely as possible, and to try to gain a deeper connection with the earth spirit. So, in light of this I guess it’s fair to state that the name came quite spontaneously. Nothing pretentious or overly complex. More like a tag of sorts. These themes are also something that we deal with in our lyrics. “Earthrise” as an example is basically about “sacred” herbs and how to heal yourself, other topics include activating the Kundalini energy as well as using meditation as a mean to overcome obstacles (Mountains & Conquerors) , the short attention span in today’s society (Sabbatical Moons), the pollution of our oceans (The Great Vast..) and so on. The Endless Road is a tribute to the Gypsy and their magic. The “Tarot Woman” as RJD would have said it. And as I posted on our premiere as well, “there is no rock record without at least 1 song about the Gypsy people”, hehe

AN: Tell us a bit about the genesis of Earth Electric, obviously the intention was always to continue with Carmen as vocalist but how easy was it to find other like-minded musicians to join in?

Rune: Not really. Portugal is not the easiest place to form a band, in my experience. But luckily my circle is expanding so when I found the right bass-player, the right drummer came with him. It was all about that right person to bring the other right person along. I feel now that we have a really strong and focused group of individuals and I am very confident in the 2nd album. This one was rehearsed and completed as a band in less than 4 months, impressive work from everyone involved. .

AN: I read that in the early phase of the band you fleshed out ideas with Luigi “Gee” Anzalone from Dragonforce and Doro band member Luca Princiott, recording some demo material. Was the intention here to gain label interest for the project? Did you even need to look for label interest as you have had such a long-standing relationship with Season Of Mist? Were they interested from the start?

Rune: No, this was not done to gain any interest. I don’t think I’d ever do such a “trick” to gain anyone’s interest. Before Gee joined Dragonforce he was actually a part of Earth Electric. We had some jams in my place prior to him joining Dragonforce, but with the distance and naturally, the very hectic schedule of Dragonforce things didn’t go any further. Luca is a close friend of Gee so we decided to ask him to do the solo´s, but as a guest only. Both artists are tremendous players and they deserve what they got going. No doubt about it. Regarding getting hooked up with a label; we didn’t stress too much about that. But when we attended Season Of Mist´s office party in Marseille some year or 2 ago, the discussion came up and we nailed the deal with label boss Michael. I have literally been with Season Of Mist from the very start of the label so it was a no brainer to me. I guess it’s fair to state that the label also escalated massively due to the release of Grand Declaration Of War, which actually is the biggest selling record on the label as well, and since then the label has been on a constant roll. It’s like a family to me at this point.

AN: I am guessing that Luigi and Luca were never intended as being involved in a more full-time capacity, was this due to them already being busy with their other bands?

Rune: I guess you can say that but also due to the fact that the music changed slightly after the 1st demo. Luca was also just a guest on the demo.

AN: Did you have firm ideas of who you were going to get involved in the final line-up that recorded the album or was it a case of having to frustratingly start from scratch all over again?

Rune: I think it’s crucial that one finds the correct musicians as well as human beings to work with in every situation, be it in an office or in a band. Being able to play things properly is one thing, but they also need to bring something with them, some energy that can fit, be positive and productive. I think we really succeeded with that, having 4, now 5, totally different yet comparable individuals with strong musical capabilities. Regarding starting from scratch, well, I guess when one is an established artist like some of us are, you never really start from scratch. Your work proceeds you for better or for worse and with that comes contacts. I guess this is how we ended up where we are now anyways. On a side note; 1 thing which is kinda amusing, is that every time I tend to start something new, the ones who only or mostly associate me with my older works, gets somewhat puzzled. I guess after Ava Inferi and some of the other works I’ve been doing on and off, they waited for the comeback in Black. But I mean, this is the kind of music that I grew up with, give or take, so this is more like a full circle for me than anything else. I remember Mississippi Queen being tossed out you know, probably my earliest recollection of digging Rock. That alongside Kiss and Priest. This being said, Earth Electric is certainly a band that can last long if we water this plant properly, being the honest output it is. No mask, no theatre, just love for music. I feel we can explore this quite far as well actually, and there are musical clues and ideas all over the album that can be followed up on a later occasion.

AN: Alexandre and Ricardo are both from the Portuguese scene. I know of Grog although their brand of brutal death / grind is far removed from what you play but not Jibóia and Papaya. Tell us a bit about them and where they fit in and what they brought to the band?

Rune: As previously mentioned, both are tremendous artists and highly respected ones as well. Both have been doing their individual things in Portugal for many years now, and actually, I do believe they had a band together many years ago, can’t recall the name though. Anyways, I believe, since they both have distinctive styles, they bring plenty to the table. Alexandre is also playing fretless bass on several songs on the album, which is unusual for bands in our genre. Ricardo has a very classic approach to the drums too, kinda of a Bonham vibe on occasion. Super-stoked to have found these gentlemen.

AN: Were you all involved in working on the actual songs that we hear on the album or were ideas already formulated in your head and just ready to be put together?

Rune: Both. The majority comes from a rather long period of gathering riffs and ideas. Some of the ideas on the album can be traced back to 2014 or thereabout, whilst others came 2 months before we started recording. “Meditate. Mediate” is the latest addition to the songs I believe, and possibly paving way musically for the next album as well. It’s just one of those songs that really stands out IMO and where our different inputs came closest together. I mean, I love the whole album, from “Mountains….” to “Sweet Soul Gathering”. It’s a high quality, fun albeit serious trip.

AN: Daniel Knight’s keyboard parts are very prolific on the album and add great distinction. How and when during the process did he come involved? I take it working on things with
someone in England was not too much of a problem especially when you recorded the album here?

Rune: Well, Daniel got introduced to me by my friend Jaime Gomez Arellano, who produced and mixed the album. They were playing together in a band called Messenger at the time, and since I was lacking a keyboard player, I asked Jaime if he had any connections, and voila, Dan entered the picture. I agree, he did a wonderful job. Super talented and with a good taste for the vintage, “Floydian” aspects as well. The most amazing part is that this was kinda done over a distance, sending ideas and files back and forth through the net. I guess this gives even more credit to the man as I really feel he nailed the vibe we wanted to convey. Efficient and smooth, and actually the most enjoyable recording process I have ever done. If they all could be like that.

AN: Is that actually part of the reason that you came to Orgone and worked with Jaime Gomez Arellano? What was he like to collaborate with?

Rune: No, I have known Jaime for quite some time now, since we did the Twilight Of The Gods album at his London studio some years ago. Ever since we have kept in touch and when I explained him my new ideas for a band, he was eager to work with us. Jaime has an amazing line of great records on his CV and is super professional and has a great insight on things related to recording and mixing so being able to work with him for our debut was a great experience. 100% trust and a good friend. I give him a big credit for shaping the ambiance and the general outcome for this record.

AN: Obviously through your career you have had involvement in playing with various musical styles. Earth Electric like Ava Inferi is kind of different from the more extreme acts of the past. Tell us a bit of what drew you to a style that is more entrenched in progressive and hard rock music?

Rune: It is a bit of what I explained earlier, this “full circle” kinda thing. You know, this is what I was raised on. My first ever big rock concert was Motörhead in Oslo, in 1985 and I remember having borrowed “Overkill” and “Ace Of Spades” from my sister’s boyfriend (who along my sister took me to the concert) prior to the show, so I could get into it and “figure out what it was”. I was 9-10 years old then, and yeah, from there on there was no way back. This is me. Earth Electric is a huge part of my philosophy and also musicality, and to some extent has always been. I appreciate more and more the Rock aspect of things again, I mean, back in the days, Rock turned to Heavy Metal and then eventually more extreme stuff for me, but the few bands I never stopped listening to was Sabbath and Motorhead and a few others. Even if I was an angry teenager, you know? Rock is in my core, so doing this now feels like some sort of fulfilment I guess. I still have interest for and still want to do more Extreme stuff eventually, but everything has its time. There is a full spectrum of nuances to life and its songs, and I start to see the bigger picture as I walk through life. Start to understand that we cannot fully comprehend it all at our level of consciousness.

AN: As far as this sort of music is concerned what groups and artists would you say have influenced you the most? Have you any favourite albums in particular?

Rune: I don’t know, I mean, I still hear lots of Kiss influences in my style as an example. That along with some certain Hetfield and Iommi way of riffing. Maybe even Michael Schenker as well, in terms of attack, as I used to dig that stuff a lot when I was a kid. But my all-time favourite bands will have to be Sabbath, Purple, Kiss as well as early Metallica, 70´s to mid 80´s Priest and quite possibly Motörhead. The all-time favourite album is quite a dangerous
trap as there are so many important bands and albums for me, albums that have been super important at specific periods of time, so I won’t even try going there now.

AN: Then again perhaps I am guilty of trying to pigeonhole you as what you are doing strikes as having no real boundaries with where you are able to take it? Although I guess you are taking a sound very much from the past you are not so much on any retro style trip as such but updating it in a contemporary fashion. Would you agree and does it kind of open things up in the future for anything pretty much going stylistically?

Rune: This is definitely not a retro band, I’d say it’s more of a band that embrace all the great aspects of what I love about Rock. Shouldn’t be too complicated, and with us it certainly isn’t (actual musicality aside). Main rule, main “theme” is to Rock. And do it convincingly. This being said, I sense we will explore further certain aspects of the band more thoroughly the 2nd time around. Try to fine-tune our spacecraft.

AN: Sun, moon, mountain, earth it’s not just the music that has a very elemental vibe about it and it has real feel of nature about things. Did your environment have anything to do with this, any deeper meanings into concepts around the narrative of the album?

Rune: I wouldn’t say the surroundings or environment played any big part of this album, at least not literally, as it’s written pretty much in the concrete jungle of Almada/Lisboa. The album is recorded multiple places, including Porto, Woburn (UK) as well as close to where I reside, just opposite side of the river from Lisboa. Perhaps it’s the longing, the vision we had or perhaps it’s the vintage equipment we used, the more organic soundscapes we tried to achieve or even the result of all of those things. But as I already kinda hinted at, the aim with the band from a musical point is to promote something real, something eternal, as good music is. We have strong ideas how we want it to be presented and also how to get there. It was a careful process, from the music through lyrics and all the way to Costin Chioreanu´s amazing art. In which I guess reflects somehow the lyrical content as a whole as well. The album feels like “1” to me. It’s all connected, it all makes sense.

AN: I have to ask about ‘Sweet Soul Gathering’ as it does stand out as being a bit different. Is that based on something traditional perhaps? I got a bit of a Zeal And Ardor vibe off it but suspect there is more to things than that?

Rune: Fun fact, I only heard about Zeal And Ardor like a few months back, when someone posted a tune by them, I see what you mean, but no, this was not intended to resemble that band. It came about more as an experiment. The actual idea came about from The Doors actually, as one day I was walking around in my neighbourhood listening their albums on my mp3 player.. “My Wild Love” was the original source, hehe. I got this vision of something primal, something tribal, a certain idea of communion that resulted in this melody. Strangely enough, it came to me on the subway on my way to rehearsal one afternoon. I recorded it on my phone, the melody, and while wrapping up the vocal recordings in the studio I finished off the lyrics, loosely inspired by some haiku poems I had read earlier on. Interestingly enough, the song is a tribute to the harvest from the fields, and every time I hear the melody, I see cotton fields in my mind’s eye…. positive tune.

AN: I couldn’t help thinking about the tie from the past with you playing a song called ‘Freezing Moon’ to now doing one called ‘Sabbatical Moon.’ I know you told me just after forming Ava Inferi that you were not missing Mayhem in the slightest. I take it that still holds true? Do you still follow what they are doing in any respect?

Rune: Indeed, that part of me is long gone history. I still pay attention to what they do, well, on occasion and I also meet them once in a while on the road.. I hope they keep running, I know Teloch as well, their new guitar player and he is a great guy and a great musician, so good luck to them and whatever they do.

AN: For those wondering, what’s going on with Aura Noir at the moment and is Twilight Of The Gods still an active concern?

Rune: Aura Noir just completed a new album to be released on Indie Records in 5 months or so, other than that we have been playing a few shows here and there including a South American tour. There will be a bit more increased activity from now on again. With Twilight Of The Gods we are not 100% sure what to do yet. Playing with the thought of doing another one, but time will tell. I have my plate full at the moment, so taking it easy.

AN: I take it the intention is to get on the road with Earth Electric? I can see the music you play having a real widespread appeal and fitting in far and wide; certainly not limiting you to the sort of bands you play with. Indeed it would go down really well at festivals as well as dark clubs? Would you agree, have you any plans and would Daniel’s involvement be a given?

Rune: Yes, I think so. You know, when doing the compositions etc for the album we always kinda had in mind that we wanted it to be great in a live setting. Something that can engage people, get energies flowing. So yes, the plan is to tour and play around as much as possible. We already secured a deal with Dragon Productions, a strong Germany based booking company that holds Primordial and many more top acts so we will see what can be done later in the year or in 2018.

AN: Vol 1: Solar makes intentions more than clear. I take it there are already plans for Vol 2?

Rune: Yes there is. I have a few ideas lying around but we will take our time now. The 2nd offering has to be a monster album, and we will not release it until we are certain we have managed to create just that. Next time, we will do things the more correct way in terms of letting everyone have their input and allow the material to grow more naturally. Vol 1 Solar is mostly my rule and my take on things, so yeah. I am very eager to get started actually, and we will see now over the summer if we start toying with new ideas already. But I wouldn’t expect any new record until 2019. There are things to be done, both in establishing the band in a live setting as well as gather the best possible material for the follow up.

AN: Before we go, it’s wet outside my window and typically miserable English weather. I’m dreaming of sun and Carmen’s warm tones and the music are helping take me there. I have only been to Portugal once and that was for SWR Festival so it was a touch full on. Where would you advise someone looking for somewhere to relax, lose themselves in nature and find gorgeous hidden away beaches to go and visit?

Rune: Portugal is full of jewels, man, and we have magnificent beaches pretty much throughout the entire coastline IMO. But in order to get a deeper cultural experience I suggest locations such as Monsanto, Monsaraz, Obidos, Ericeira etc. Beautiful, old villages, proud, and sort of removed from the claws of evolution. Also Sintra is a beautiful place to visit. Sintra is a village about 45 min by train from Lisboa and used to be a hideout for the royal families back in the days. The place hosts many attractive lodgings and sights and I believe in recent years it was added to the UNESCO world heritage site as well. A unique gem, full of “magic” and “mystery”. Or as Lord Byron wrote:

“Lo! Cintra’s glorious Eden intervenes  In variegated maze of mount and glen.  Ah me! what hand can pencil guide, or pen,  To follow half on which the eye dilates  Through views more dazzling unto mortal ken  Than those whereof such things the bard relates,  Who to the awe-struck world unlocked Elysium’s gates?”   

AN: Not forgetting the country has a very active music scene, we get albums from plenty of bands, labels and PR’s based over there. Where are the good places to discover just what Portugal has to offer in that respect?

Rune: The scene is definitely growing, and the excitement is louder than before, but I must shamefully admit that I don’t have too much knowledge about the scene in general. If I asked my band-mates they would probably offer a lengthy and informative answer to this, but I am not really up to date on anything these days, merely focused in my own thing. I hardly go out as well, my nose is usually kinda stuck in something I need to finish.. I know there is increased live activity downtown, more clubs and offers and more possibilities and also the level of professionalism with the local bands are somewhat more present. My advice would simply be to “be curious” and take a chance on a club at night. If it has dim lights and gargoyles in the entrance, chances are high you’ll strike gold… That’s where the real magic happens.

Thanks a lot for your time, anything else you would like to add?

Thanks for the interview and the support Pete. Excuse my delay, been hectic days. Next time, tea on me.

(Interview Pete Woods)