PART TWO OF OUR EPIC INTERVIEW WITH JØRGEN MUNKEBY OF SHINING!
Shining (Nor) are not like any other band. While that may seem like a rather bold statement to the uninitiated, one that many wish were true about their band, there’s something about the chaotic fusion between jazz and black metal that just feels so right for the Norwegian masters. Led by Jorgen Munkeby, the band have recently streamlined their sound into their most recent effort, One One One, distilling what makes Shining unique into a more palpable and digestable format.
I actually met Jorgen two years ago while conducting my first ever interview, and it was one of his first two. We’ve since remained on friendly terms, and he wrote an awesome article on dissonance in music for The Monolith. I had the opportunity to sit down with Jorgen for a full and in depth 90 minute interview, the second part which you can read below.
READ PART ONE HERE. PART THREE TOMORROW!
Here’s an interesting question: You said that in Norway, Blackjazz is considered to be a masterpiece, but obviously there’s also a fair amount of people around the world that felt it was just a little bit too much some times. Songs were very long, it was very dissonant.
Then they can buy One One One.
Exactly. Did you consciously choose to shorten the length of songs in One One One? Because, I mean, the longest song in One One One is “How Your Story Ends” at four minutes, 39 seconds.
Yeah, I consciously chose to make them shorter, but not because of the people that might not like Blackjazz because it’s too long or too aggressive, I mean, I don’t care about that. I consciously chose to do that because I wanted to do that. I mean, we made Blackjazz. It is as it is. It’s really aggressive, it’s really hard, it’s a concept album that’s about a certain blend of musical genres. Certain songs that are on the album, their purpose is mainly to help the whole of the album, like as transition parts or something like that, or to give it variation.
I think the same . goes for Live Blackjazz. We kept all of the improvised parts. We have more of them in our live shows than we have on the album. We kept all of that in the Live Blackjazz album. We have stretches where we don’t stop for thirty minutes. It’s a long symphony, in a way. After doing that, I felt like seeing how our music would sound if we could experiment with song structures that are shorter and more concise, and get straight to the point, and remove the filler material.
My personal two favourite songs on Blackjazz are the first one, “The Madness and the Damage Done”, and the second one, “Fisheye”. There’s a lot of other cool stuff there, but at the moment of writing starting on One One One, those were my favourites. Both of them have a clear song structure. You would know where the chorus is. There’s a groove to them. The vocals are an essential part of the songs. And I used that as a starting point for the new material. We felt we wanted more of those songs in our catalogue, you know? So that was a conscious choice. While writing the album I felt that was the right choice. I felt that was inspiring to me to write in that manner, and I haven’t really focused on that way of writing before.
I think I’ve written songs more as a classical composer would do. That kind of approach. You’d only really pay that much attention if a certain part, or if you have a hook that is repeated or not. I mean, a lot of our material is just, you start from one place and you end up in another place, while traditional rock and pop songs, they have hooks and they have choruses that have to be repeated after a certain time. That’s the normal way of writing songs. That’s the kind of music I’ve been listening more to for the the last couple of years, and I’ve been interested in seeing if that would make our music better or refresh it in a way. So that was the idea. And I would also say that the way I listen to music now compared to the way I listened to music twenty years ago is a bit different, even though twenty years ago I had my favourite songs on every album, I skipped to them.
I never listened to the ballads on Vulgar Display of Power. I never listened to song number five and song number, I don’t know, the last one. But nowadays, I don’t have to skip them because I just make a playlist. I listen to music in streaming services. I would say that has made me focus on making great songs. I would say that’s more important to me now. That’s a craft that I’m more interested in now than I was before, probably because I listen to songs that way. I listen to a couple of Dillinger Escape Plan songs, and then I listen to the newest Nicki Minaj, and then I listen to, you know, whatever. You know?
Yeah, yeah! (laughs).
There you go, your credibility is destroyed now. (laughs)
I could have said something really Pitchfork-like. I could come up with some credible name.
You could just be on Metal Archives and hit ‘random band (laughs).
(laughs) That I can’t pronounce? That was the conscious choice, and I feel it’s refreshing. I really love it during our live shows.. I mean, we do combine the new songs with older songs. We’ve made alternative endings to a lot of the new songs that we use live. The endings are a bit longer, and they end up in places where we can start improvisational transitions and stuff like that. So, they’re different live. We haven’t changed. I would say our live show is still the same, but just better. We have better songs to choose from, more songs to choose from. But I think it’s refreshing and, for instance, our single “I Won’t Forget”, I would say, is the most accessible song that I’ve ever made. I’m really happy with it, and I really like it. I still like it and I’ve listened to it so many times. I love it in our shows.
Basically, I feel that it’s refreshing and I don’t miss the filler material, the kind of stuff that a lot of albums has that gives you a break, or makes it varied. I think, personally, I mean I’m not going to tell people how to listen to stuff, but if I wanted to have a slow R&B ballad after listening to four Shining songs, I would prefer–and now insert some credible R&B name here– to have them, rather than having Shining make those songs. I’m not saying that that’s the right attitude, but that’s how I feel at the moment. I don’t miss those songs. We don’t have a lot of those on previous albums. I know that on Grindstone, the 2007 album, we had two tracks that were called something about crystal colours, I don’t really remember it, but they were just transition parts with only a Fender Rhodes thing. And they worked beautifully on that album, dividing that album into three parts. But now I wanted to have like boom, boom, boom, hit you in the face, you know? And then done. It was the thing that felt right for me now, you know?
In all honesty, when it comes to playlists, as you said, in my playlists I have…
Nicki Minaj? In all honesty, you have Nicki Minaj, right?
Uh, no, I was going to say I have “The Madness and the Damage Done”, and “Fisheye”…
But the other songs you might not have. Is that correct?
That is correct.
Yeah. I think that’s how it is. I think that’s how it is with everybody else. They might have “Exit Sun”, but they might be fucking tired after four minutes, and wishing that last five minutes wouldn’t be there, you know?
Yeah, weirdly enough, I actually think my third favourite song on the album is actually “Healter Skelter”. I don’t know what it is, it’s just kind of, weird, it’s all sax and drums, kind of really long intro.
Yeah, I think a lot of people love that song also. Maybe it’s not on their playlist, but it’s a song that kind of embodies the “jazz with metal” stuff. It’s really clear those two elements go together.
We talked a lot about, like you said, those two songs, “The Madness and the Damage Done”, and “Fisheye”, really, really inspired One One One. You can really hear it. They share a lot of common DNA. Especially, I think “Fisheye” is most prominent. And obviously, you have songs like “The Hurting Game”, which I believe its title shares a lyrical. And also, there’s that saxophone passage in the middle from “Fisheye”. And then obviously “My Dying Drive” as well, features that same kind of riff. It’s really interesting, that. As an artist, what do you believe, personally, to be the intrinsic value in referencing previous work? Surely some people could, say, accuse you of recycling.
Intrinsic, is that a value that is built in a certain, incorporated in?
Yes. Does, for example, “The Hurting Game” complement the themes of “Fisheye”, and expand upon them? Or is it just a way to pay homage to your previous success?
J: (laughs) It’s not a way to homage to our previous success. I don’t think it’s that big a success. I’m hoping that the future has more. I’m here to make great music, and I’m not here to pat my own back and say how good I am, you know? That’s not why I’m here. But, to me, the value of referring to our own stuff is, to me, a way of tying things together to make our own little universe. That’s strong enough to not be pulled apart by the fragmented world we’re in, you know? On Youtube, if I have videos that have a certain aesthetics, and I have a logo that resonates with that visual aesthetics, and resonates with the sound, and I have titles and lyrics that you can get familiar with, then… what I’m aiming at is that on Youtube if you see one video, when that’s done, then Youtube suggestions for another song is, more often than not, another band. It’s a bit hard to make a clear identity for a band in this day and age. Especially for us, because we’re named fucking Shining (laughs). And there are Swedish bands, and there is also a book by Stephen King, and there’s the movie by Stanley Kubrick.
There’s a British band called Shining as well. (laughs)
There is. You know? There’s a Dutch band called The New Shining. Did you know that?
No, I didn’t.
So it is hard. And that’s one of the reasons I do that. I feel that we’re building on something. I want it to be one unit. I want it to be something you can go into and look around and find new things. And you can go back to 2001 and look at our older stuff. I want it to be more than just a set of songs, you know?
Yeah. And speaking of all the different bands called Shining, considering the massive musical evolution you’ve made, if someone listened to your different albums, they’d still think it’s fucking different bands. (laughs)
(laughs) Yeah! And then so, that’s another reason why it’s so hard to keep one identity, because we changed the identity. But another reason why I want to do those kind of self-referring things is that I find it interesting. It’s food for thought. First and foremost, the reason that humans started making music, I guess, is to evoke emotions. But, there is another way of looking at music as theory, or as something for the intellectual mind, not only for emotions. You can debate how much emotional focus there should be and how much intellectual focus there should be, and where it kind of tips over to becoming sports, or to becoming math more than music.
I think it’s great that we have different kinds of music, and we have some music that are more math than music, and we have some that is pure emotion and nothing cerebral at all. I personally think that it should be a little bit of both. At least a little bit of stuff for your intellect. So, I like that kind of stuff. I like that Blackjazz has two songs called “The Madness and the Damage Done”, and two songs called “Exit Sun”. It was a fucking hard time trying to get iTunes to accept it. I think on a lot of places iTunes still calls them “Exit Sun 1” and “Exit Sun 2”, while I insisted on saying “fuck you”, I decide what my songs are called. But, we’ve done that for a long time. And I like that, I think it’s fun.
Where does the title One One One come from?
Let me just check something here. The title One One One, I would say has three meanings that I find interesting. There are more meanings. The first is, as a series of ones. When we’re thinking about songs as a series of singles. I still feel it’s really important for an album to have a cohesiveness, to have an identity, so it doesn’t sound like a greatest hits album. Or a sampler, I mean, even worse. A sampler with different bands. That’s something that is new for us, to have that focus.
That’s one version of looking at the title, as a series of ones. Another approach to look at the title is as a Roman numeral number three. As a Blackjazz 3. I know that some people think that a live album isn’t a proper release, but to me it is a proper release. I don’t care, I call it Blackjazz 3. The reason I say Blackjazz 3 is that I think, sound-wise and music-wise, One One One is closer to Blackjazz than, for instance, our previous albums. They’re not that far from each other. Even though there are differences, they sound the same and stuff like that.
The third thing is, One One One in the binary number system equals number seven in our decimal system. And this is our seventh release, again, if you count with Live Blackjazz, as I do. So that’s three way. There’s a numerological meaning to One One One, and there is also a more youth/internet thing with One One One where people write exclamation marks, they write too many of them, and then to, kind of, prove that they know they wrote too many, they write One One One. I’ve seen that. I don’t really know how common it is, but I know that on Urban Dictionary, it says so. So, I think it’s common enough to…
Nine tracks, thirty-five minutes. Do you have any tracks that didn’t make the cut?
No, but I have a lot of parts that didn’t make it. This is how I usually make music: I write, and then I change stuff. And I work on it until it’s done. I do it as a craftsman. I’m not only a trained musician, but I’m a trained composer. I just work on it and when there’s a part I don’t like or think I should change, I change it. Maybe I kind of bend it into shape, or I remove and write another one. Then, obviously, to get these songs down to four minutes, most of them started out as seven minutes, you know. More as something that bands today would call progressive.
I don’t wanna discuss the word progressive, because, to me, that’s kind of ambivalent. Anyway, too many parts. And, so, there’s a lot of parts lying somewhere that’s not on the album. But there are no songs that aren’t on the album. Again, that’s just how I work. Every time I release an album, the label asks me if I have a bonus song, and I always say no. If I had one that wasn’t good enough to be on the album, you wouldn’t get it. And if I had one that was good enough, that would be better with it, I would have included it.
So, any plans for remixes? Would you call a remix album Two Two Two?
(laughs) That would be cool. We made a very nice designed button-up shirt. We used it in the “I Won’t Forget” video, and we used it on the press pictures. And we’re gonna sell it as merchandise, and it’s going to be pretty expensive. That was initially going to be called 222, but we changed it, and now it’s called “Blackjazz Rebel“. Two Two Two is still a name up for grabs. But, we do have a remix competition for “I Won’t Forget“, now.
Yeah. I made stamps, and I have so many people, I think there’s about fifty people working on remixes for that song.
That’s pretty exciting. What’s the plan with them?
So, they’re making remixes and the plan with those first ones is that I’m going to pick three winners. And we’re going to feature those three tracks on our website, and they’re gonna get a shirt. But, it would be cool, if we get a lot of great material, it would be cool to release some of it. But that’s something that we’ll have to talk about when we get it in. And the artist, or the people who make them will have to…
Yeah, to find a way and talk with the label. They own their own material and I don’t wanna get involved in that. But, it would be cool. I’m really excited to hear what people come up with. I love nothing else than people taking our track and just turn it into something completely different. Break its back and really rough it up.
So, as an artist, it must feel pretty good to have lots of people not only really dig your music, but dig it enough to really spend some time to get to know it and mix it through their own artistic vision?
It’s really cool. But, at the same time, I also hope that it helps these people get some attention to their musical abilities and their talents, because nowadays everybody can make music because the equipment that you need to make music is cheaper than before. And you can also publish it on Soundcloud and YouTube, and anywhere. But, it also means that there are more people fighting for the same amount of attention. I find it interesting myself, but it would be cool if it could help great musicians get some attention to their own music. So, that’s another thing with it.
CHECK BACK FOR PART THREE TOMORROW!