Excellent drummer (and a great guy too!) Geir Arne “The Cannon” Dale talks to The Headbanging Moose about the history of his Hard Rock band Humbucker, their excellent new album King of the World, the music scene in Norway, his “dream tour”, his favorite Canadian bands, among some other cool stuff. And, of course, he answers the mysterious question “Who is Dirty Nelly?”
The Headbanging Moose: Let’s start with some details about the history of Humbucker: although the band was created back in 1998, it was only in 2012 with your debut album R.O.C.K.S that Humbucker really became alive. In addition to that, your official website states that “In 2000 the band had five original songs and made a demo that did not do any good for the band. In 2002, due to difficulties combining their day jobs with the rocking, the band called it a day and took a “vacation” that lasted until 2010!” What exactly happened with you guys? And why was that 2000 demo so harmful for the band?
Geir Arne Dale: Well, the demo wasn’t directly harmful for the band, but it was what it was. We didn’t have a singer back then for starters. Three of us shared the vocal duties and let’s face it: We’re better musicians than singers so the demo was made more for ourselves than to make something happen for us. But you know, we believed even back then in our stuff so we shipped it around a bit. Most of the record companies didn’t even answer us. And the few that did were very short in their description of the project’s future: “No!” 🙂
Back then we were only in it for fun, and in 2002 we thought a vacation would do us good as some of us changed day jobs and all of a sudden had to leave for weeks at a time so it became difficult to get the rehearsal routines going as they should. We also was, let’s say, a bit tired of each other I think after heavy partying for four years. We didn’t take it too serious back then. The focus was all wrong. We were all like Ace Frehley and Peter Criss. Taking all the fun right there and then, not caring about the future, so a break was needed. After eight years, in 2010 we started again to see if it still worked. It certainly did and after getting new singer Jan Boen in, we decided in 2012 we had everything we needed to make a record. The before mentioned five songs from 2000 were re-recorded and ended up all on the first album R.O.C.K.S, so something good came out of the old days eventually! The response from that album was mind-blowing and that gave us a reason to do another one as we have just done. Who would have thought that back in ‘02! 🙂
THM: The beautiful country of Norway is renowned for its many Black Metal bands, such as Mayhem, Burzum, Gorgoroth, Emperor, Dimmu Borgir, Satyricon and many others that pretty much helped define that music genre. How was it to grow up as a Hard Rocker in an essentially Black Metal country, and how difficult it is for any Hard Rock band to succeed there?
GAD: WOW! You’ve done your homework Sir! You know the black metal guys did their music and we did ours. It wasn’t hard at all cause in the eighties the melodic hard rock scene was just as big in Norway, if not bigger, and the two genres didn’t do too much together. The black metal bands from Norway have really set their marks on the world. They’ve done a great job for themselves for sure. And all these bands have created more interest for Norwegian rock in general too, so it’s all a good thing and I think everyone that does any kind of Norwegian rock owe these guys a big thank you. They’ve been excellent promoters for all of us.
THM: As mentioned in our album review, King of the World is a truly kickass Hard Rock album. How was the whole creative process for the album? What worked well, and what ideas did you guys have to give up because you felt they were not good enough?
GAD: The writing process was very relaxed as we wrote the songs in between gigs during last part of 2012 and during 2013. We were finished with the last song just a few weeks before we went into studio to start the album. Like I said before, we thought we would only make one album so we didn’t rush anything. We wrote the new songs just as much to widen our live set. When it was clear that we wanted to do a second album, we were almost there with the songs. We recorded drums and bass in our nearest town called Notodden with acclaimed engineer Njal Frode Lie. Then we moved the operation to Trondheim. That’s why we did the drums and bass in Notodden so we didn’t have to drag the drums to Trondheim which is pretty far from where we live. We met up with one of Norway’s most decorated producers, Mr. Hallgeir Rustan. From a small country like Norway, he has produced albums that have sold worldwide some 25 million copies all together and he’s also produced over 40 Top-10 hits in the UK so he knows what he’s doing. I went to school with him in 86/87 and we’ve kept in touch from time to time since then. We all had a great time in the studio except Lars Stian, the bass player, who did his part in Notodden and had to stay home to perform his day job during the time we were in Trondheim. The atmosphere was great with lots of jokes being thrown around. Hallgeir has an incredible know-how when it comes to arranging songs and he did an amazing job for us. He’s the one who founded Stargate you know so he’s a guy who knows his business. When his two partners decided to move to the USA, he stayed home and is doing his thing from there. We can’t thank him enough for the job he did for us and co-producing with him is one of the nicest experiences I’ve had in years! I really hope we get to do it again ‘cause I think we then would be able to develop our music and sound further.
We’ll see… no one knows what the future brings, but I don’t see us do another album without Hallgeir… With Hallgeir to produce and engineer, Beau Hill to mix and master, Mr. Cordelières on the artwork and Hugh Gilmour to design the package and put everything together, we really feel we have found ourselves a “Dream Team” here! I can’t remember a thing that really didn’t work well actually. We had a great time working with this album and it was all a joy.
THM: This question might sound silly, but one of the best songs of the album, Dirty Nelly, seems to be inspired by some special girl. Who’s she? What’s the story behind that song?
GAD: Hahaha! Well, it’s a cool question cause it could very well be for real but I’m very happy to say it’s not!:-) I wrote that song so I can tell you it’s all pure fiction. I’ve never, thank GOD, experienced a girl like that. At least not that I can remember…and I think I would have! BUT: There’s probably thousands of “Dirty Nellys” out there and guys who wonder what their baby’s up when she comes home with the morning light with her boots in her hands so who knows…maybe someone will recognize the situation…:-) Thank you for liking the song. I appreciate that. It’s one of my favorites on the album too!
THM: How about your tour plans to promote the new album? Are you playing only in Norway, or are there already any dates being scheduled for other European countries and even other parts of the world, like North America?
GAD: We are going to tour Norway as much as we can this year. You know, it’s easiest for us as we’re here. But in September we plan to embark on a month and a half tour in Europe. We would most certainly love to tour North America if we could! We have a lot of favorites from that part of the world: Coney Hatch, Triumph, Loverboy, Rush…you guys have produced some serious rock bands during the years so we’ll do it if we can. Only trouble is that it’s so damn expensive you know, so we will have to see how the new album does for a starter and take it from there. But who knows? We would love to shake hands with you at a show one day Sir!:-)
THM: What would be Humbucker’s “dream tour”, I mean, which bands would you just love to go on tour together, and why?
GAD: That’s a great question and a very tricky one to answer actually…there’s so many…but if I have to mention one band, I think maybe a tour with Whitesnake would be great for us. Mainly because of the audience. I think the audience would have picked up on us a bit too as both bands represents the same time period in music style. I think a lot of their fans would have like our stuff too, so some gigs with them would have done us real good…
THM: When Humbucker started in 1998, Hard Rock was still really big on the radio and TV, fans loved buying the albums of their favorite bands, and there were no such thing as illegal downloads, so it was basically a paradise for any new Hard Rock bands and an easier path to success. On the other hand, nowadays any new or independent band has to work their asses off to get some recognition, and even so no monetary return is guaranteed. How do you see this evolution of music and media, and how does it impact what Humbucker are doing or plan to do in the future?
GAD: It’s really hard to say what will happen. All I know is that if people keep wanting music without paying for it, I think the music scene will be very boring in a few years. When all the old heroes and arena bands are gone, few can take over cause they will never get there ‘cause of devastating income. It costs a lot to keep a band alive and if you don’t get a radio hit or something on TV, it’s very hard to make it to arena-level just by touring. I think that if we want new arena bands to continue we just have to pay for their music, simple as that.
But the world moves on you know so we have to adapt in a way. I’m just not sure that we will ever have the time we had in the eighties and early nineties again. We probably never will, but one can only carry on as long as possible and hope something “happens”… My only advice to people would be: Buy the music! Everyone can afford it so why not? Music business today with all the piracy and streaming is like asking a carpenter to build you a new dog house for your Shetland Sheepdog…after putting a lot of work into it, after he’s made an awesome place for your dog, you don’t want to pay him for his work? I just don’t get that…..
Our mixer/masterer Beau Hill in the US said that if we had released this music in the eighties, we would have been instant worldwide dominators. Today that’s not possible. That says a lot…
THM: The album art from King of the World is awesome and couldn’t be more Hard Rock than that. Why and how did you choose Ludovic Cordelières of Rusalka Design for designing the front cover, and how much did the band influence on his process of generating it?
GAD: Thank you very much for those nice words! I appreciate you bringing that up because Mr. Cordelières most certainly deserves it! If you want to see how he made it, and other amazing artworks of his, please visit his website at www.rusalkadesign.com. For an album called “King Of The World”, I don’t think anyone could have made a better cover! It’s just the perfect thing…That “guy” on the cover IS the king of the world! 🙂
The cover was an already existing artwork of Cordelières called “Monarch”. I was searching the internet for pictures to use for the cover (The album was originally going to be called “One Size Fits All”) when his site turned up. I looked at this picture and as we also had a song called “King Of The World” on the album, I just thought that would be perfect and totally awesome for the title and we talked about it at rehearsal and decided to go for it. I then sent Ludovic a mail asking if he would let us use it. Luckily he answered back with a clear yes, and I then asked if we could add some stuff and suggested a couple of things added to make it more “Humbucker-ish” to put it that way and he didn’t mind at all. He’s a fantastic guy and I loved working with him. Everything came back with exactly the right addings and it turned out great. We added the “R.O.C.K.S.” cover under the left foot there and added some more instruments, had our “H” placed on the hat and “Priscilla” on the nametag on the honey box. “Priscilla” is a song title from our debut album, so people who have that album knows “who’s there”… That’s pretty much it. The rest is the original artwork. I asked Hugh Gilmour what he thought of it and he said: “It’s classic, a bit provocative and very rock and roll! I Love it!” For us that means: Perfect! 🙂
GAD: Personally, that’s a very easy question to answer. There’s a lot of great Canadian bands! Always was too! I have to say I’m a huge Coney Hatch fan! “This ain’t love” is one of my favourite songs to date! I love the drum sound on that record! I was stunned when I heard it and I still enjoy listen to them today. Triumph is another favorite. I think that the “All The King’s Horses/Carry On The Flame” track from their “Surveillance” album is one of the finest pieces of music ever made in the genre. The groove and tempo when “Carry On…” takes over is just awesome! And the vocal lines on that song are amazing with one of the coolest “bridges” out there. (As a matter of fact, I had to listen to it again as we speak!) I think Thom Trumbo did a phenomenal job producing that album at the time. Again with a great drum sound exactly as I like it! I had my youth time in the eighties you know so there you go… 🙂
THM: Thanks a lot for the interview. Do you have any final words to all Heavy Metal and Hard Rock fans worldwide, especially to the ones in Canada that have recently discovered the music from Humbucker?
GAD: Thank YOU Sir! You know, we need all the help we can get in this business and fine people like yourself who devote your time to pick up bands that you don’t see on the cover of Rolling Stones Magazine every day, is fantastic! It’s really really helpful and very appreciated indeed! To the fans in Canada who like our music: We are honored that you do! And if you like “King Of The World”, please check out our debut album ‘R.O.C.K.S’ too! Due to change of distribution partners in Norway, the new album is unfortunately delayed worldwide but will be available at Amazon and wherever you buy your fine music during first half of April. We don’t take anything for guaranteed and every new fan is a thrill! If you want to join our Facebook page we would surely appreciate it! Just follow the link here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Humbucker/194616527226293.
Please also visit our website at www.humbucker-rocks.com for more news on the band.
Thank you very much again and cheers to everyone from Norway!! 🙂