“I grew up with Pantera, Sepultura, Death and Entombed. I started playing at nine years old and practiced playing my saxophone with metal albums!” Shining saxophonist, guitarist, vocalist and composer, Jørgen Munkeby, is clearly as proud of his metal roots as well as his jazz heritage. Ghost Cult caught up with the blackjazz industro freak to discuss the latest album and all things related.
The new album One One One attempts to condense all the musical genres Shining employs while condensing them into a more direct song based format; a series of “hits” if you like. How did you set about achieving this?
When I said I wanted to create a set of hits we are not taking about hits in the way Nicki Minaj has them! We just wanted more concrete song structures and a greater focus on the vocals. Our previous music has been composed in a more classical fashion without much repetition.
What was different about recording One One One than the previous opus Black Jazz?
Black Jazz was a conceptual album with long songs and a title taken from Venom’s Black Metal and Ornette Coleman’s record Free Jazz. This was the way we set out to define our own style of music; I am really proud of those songs but you certainly wouldn’t have them on your IPod playlist. When starting One One One we wanted to take the more straight forward songs from Black Jazz – ‘The Madness and The Damage Done’ and ‘Fisheye’ so we used them as a starting point for writing shorter more straight forward songs. I wanted to focus on making each individual song standout more while retaining the energy of the band and having an album that would flow well as a whole. I know our music can be hard to absorb but I would rather the listener pressed pause, took a break and came back to it than writing more simplistic music which does not excite me!
Improvisation is a big part of jazz music. You talk about using more standard structures on One One One and the Live Black Jazz record sees a lot of improvisation. Will you confine improvisation exclusively to the live arena?
We have actually made alternative endings for at least five songs from One One One for live use. We will continue to improve and will adapt the new songs to the live setting. As far as live albums go I’m not sure when we will do another one, because they are expensive to make, and a lot of live albums are just used as bonus CDs or cheap shit produced by bands fulfilling a contract with their label as a gap between studio albums. I have no interest in that I want to make great stuff. We have no interest in just playing a four minute song, talking, and then playing another; we will tie them together. It is important to retain the energy level.
You wrote an article recently, regarding the evolution of music, where you said that “Today’s extreme music is tomorrow’s background music”. How important is it for you that Shining is considered to be a cutting edge act that continues to push the boundaries of musical genres?
It’s not important in itself, what is important is that I feel happy and confident with the music we are making. It felt right to be extreme and aggressive on Black Jazz’ and this time it felt right to produce songs which were fun to play. I just focus on the music I am writing not how it will be perceived.
You have combined jazz, prog, metal and industrial music in your work. Are there any boundaries that Shining will not cross?
There really are no rules. The only consideration is how can we make our music better? There are no genre barriers. We had an opera singer on one of our earlier albums and we are constantly open to change. What we have done lately is we have leaned towards that of a metal band. We haven’t used melatrons or strings and timpani drums but you never know what we will do in the future. I could have chosen to change the band name when we started writing Black Jazz as the music was very different but I chose to keep it, as Shining has evolved all on its own while retaining an experimental spirit.
In 2013 the world appears to be catching up to the diverse music scene Norway has, other than black metal, why do you think it has taken so long for this to happen ?
Norway is a really small country of five million people, so it’s not weird that we have not exported that much music. People only had the pop band A-Ha other than the black metal scene. The black metal scene got a lot of attention so it took a lot of people time to look for anything else. It wasn’t until acts like Satyricon and Mayhem changed their sound that people in the metal scene began to open their eyes to other types of music in Norway.
Indeed it was that innovation which drew you to working with Black Metal musicians such as Enslaved and Ihsahn. What made you want to work with these artists in particular?
After studying contemporary jazz music for years and playing the music of John Coltrane and artists like that, I wanted to produce music that belonged to my generation and country. The jazz music I was playing belonged to black American jazz musicians and I wanted to produce something that belonged to my generation. I returned to my old metal albums which reignited my love for rock and metal and I found new stuff like Meshuggah and The Dillinger Escape Plan. That led to Ihsahn and Enslaved getting in touch. They saw something in Shining that interested them and it really helped us with getting on the track that led us to Black Jazz. It opened my eyes to how the Saxophone could be used in heavy music. Working with Ihsahn really helped me because I was working with him around the same time I was recording Black Jazz. Listening to metal again and being inspired by it felt like coming home!
What do you look for in a musical collaborator and who would you like to work with in the future?
We don’t have any collaborations planned at the moment but there are a lot of musicians I admire and would like to work with. Off the top of my head, Trent Reznor, Marilyn Manson, The Dillinger Escape Plan, Meshuggah, Skrillex! Skrillex has defined dubstep. We have a remix compilation where fans are rearranging the track ‘I Won’t Forget’ and there have been a lot of dubstep style entries. What’s great about dubstep is it sounds really aggressive which is what I like about it. You can hear that he comes from a rock background when he makes music too!
You worked with Sean Bevan (Nine Inch Nails/ Marilyn Manson producer) again on ‘One One One’ why is working with Sean so special?
Sean has been working with us for three albums and I wanted to involve him even more this time. As a co producer he helped with the direction of the songs and stripping away parts that weren’t that interesting. He came up with ideas for arrangements with me. I am most happy with ‘I Won’t Forget’ which is a song he was most involved in. We understand each other and you need that when you make art together.
What do you make of other extreme metal acts like Yakuza and Ephel Duath who have tried to combine jazz with metal?
I haven’t really checked out Ephel Duath but I will do. My feeling is that these bands like Yakuza and Sigh are different from us, because they don’t come from a jazz background, which gives us a unique feel and way of approaching music; where I see bands like those guys and Meshuggah coming from the other direction. There are a lot more metal bands that seem to be ready to experiment with jazz but I think it would be very cool to have more jazz musicians trying to do what we do.
You haven’t booked many festivals for this year. What are your touring plans?
The record is out just before summer, so we are doing Festivals in Norway with European festivals next year. We will be touring the U.K. and Europe October/November time and we will be touring the U.S. after that. There is a lot of interest in the U.S. considering how little we have toured there; we have only done ten American shows. We want to get over there this fall and spring next year as well. That’s the plan. We can play jazz festivals or metal festivals. In Norway we do a lot of different stuff so it is important to mix it up. The new generation of music listeners don’t care about genre. They want to listen to Lady Gaga then The Dillinger Escape Plan. That’s the future of music. I spent the whole of last year in the studio and I am now in the mood for playing live. I hope people take the time to check us out.