Artist of the Week: The BlizzardJuly 23rd, 2009
There’s a new blizzard of sound carried upon the warm summer breeze these days. Hot out of the cold north of Norway, there’s a new track follow up to ‘Kalopsia’. In collaboration with Norwegian band Gaate, producers Tore Vatle Jensen and Lars-Christian Nyheim of The Blizzard bring us ‘Iselilja’. This outstanding, deep progressive track with traditional folk influences tells the story of an ancient love-affair. Intriguing enough as this may sound, we still don’t understand a word of the Norwegian vocals. So let’s just say it’s really all about the music. And when it comes to music, The Blizzard knows more than well how to deliver an exceptional anthem. Thought ‘Iselilja’ is only the second production of this team-up so far, they sure haven’t been keeping quiet in the meantime’_
Cool beat discoveries
To some, the path towards EDM or dance music is a natural course they’ve been following for years. To others, the dance movement was like a contagious virus they caught at a certain age, to never let go of. Both Tore and Lars were heavily influenced by the 90′s music, that awakened their love for beats. Tore:”I’ve always loved music of all kinds of genres. I started listening to Technotronic, Snap, U96 and similar stuff in the early 90′s. I also had a period in the mid 90′s where I listened to a lot of breakbeat and bigbeat. Like The Prodigy and The Chemical Brothers, to name a few. Later I got into trance, house, progressive and the various EDM sub genres.”
Lars:”For me it started out with those commercial 90′s dance tracks like 2 Unlimited, Scooter, Antiloop and Sash. Michael Jackson has been a big inspiration to me with his cool beats and big strings. Then in the late 90′s I discovered the sound of Ferry Corsten, Tiësto and Armin van Buuren.”
The sound of time machines
Along with their new object of affection, a fascination for the techniques behind it began. Both Tore and Lars started wondering how they could transfer their own ideas into sound.
Tore:”I started playing keyboards when I was 11. A few years later I got a keyboard with a built-in sampler, an Ensoniq ASR-10. It had 2 megabytes of RAM and was a pain to program. But I had some good times with it. Around 10 years ago I bought my first computer, but it didn’t start to get serious before 2002 or 2003, I think. It’s just amazing what you can do with computer software these days. I’ve sold most of my hardware over the last few years. The young music producers of today are indeed lucky. I think I was born 10 years too early. Hehe… often I dream about having a time machine, and going back in time with a powerful computer filled with today’s software.”
Lars started producing under his ‘Zral’ alias, but none of it really worked. Luckily, Lars’ passion lies more within the DJ part of music. Lars:”I started producing with Propellerhead’s Reason in 2003 and moved on to Cakewalk Sonar when I started working with Tore in late 2006. I still see myself more as a DJ than a producer. But I always give Tore my opinions and suggestions.” And that’s exactly what The Blizzard is about. A fusion of ideas, coming together in a blizzard of refreshing, strong sounds.
A good team
Even though Tore had been producing for more than 10 years, he still needed that extra bit of confidence to release his tracks. When Tore met Lars, he shove away a big part of his perfectionism and realised he just had to finish what he started. The first version of ‘Kalopsia’ had been laying around for a while, unfinished. But things changed as soon as Lars heard it. Tore: “I almost hadn’t finished ‘Kalopsia’, since I was getting so tired of the track in the end. But Lars is a very determined person and he has always helped the project forward. I take care of the music production, while Lars takes care of pretty much everything else involving The Blizzard. So it’s safe to say we are dependent on each other and make a good team.”
And so, ‘Kalopsia’ was completed. It didn’t take long before it was picked up by Armada, and became one of the most played trance tracks of 2007. Lars:”I don’t think we could have had a better start. I was very excited when Armin van Buuren played it for the first time as the opener track in his ASOT 300 set.” Tore:” We honestly didn’t expect it to get that much attention. But it’s nice that people appreciate what we do.”
Hundreds of trance fans fell in love with the deep progressive sound in ‘Kalopsia’, and were craving more of this. But even though the Scandinavian guys have plenty of ideas, it has to be said: they’re s-l-o-w. Even though they’ve spread their sound onto several big tracks in the past 1,5 year through remixes for Armin van Buuren, The Doppler Effect, Mike Foyle and Andy Moor, they still kept their fans longing for an original. What’s with the slow-motion, guys? Tore:”Lack of inspiration, I guess… Seriously, I have several half finished tracks laying on my hard drive, but it’s not easy creating something new without repeating yourself to much. We didn’t want to make another ‘Kalopsia clone’. It has to feel right. It doesn’t matter which genres it’s influenced by, but we try to stick to a certain sound.” Lars:”I guess we’re just very picky about what we see as a good track. But we would rather release one track in two years that is remembered than three albums that no one remembers.”
But the wait is finally over! 1,5 year after their first release, The Blizzard is ready to remind you guys what they’re made of. Solid, renewing sounds are found on ‘Iselilja’, a tune like no other. In collaboration with Norwegian band Gaate, The Blizzard brings a mix of traditional Norwegian folk music, rock and progressive trance. A risky choice, considering it doesn’t exactly fit the ‘standard’ 4 to 4 beat, loops and break stuff trance usually gives us. Lars:”Tore showed me an album of Gaate in his studio from 2005. I played the album in my car and soon their track ‘Knut Liten and Sylvelin’ became my favourite because of its progressive vibe and I thought it would make a perfect fit into EDM. I asked Tore if he would want to do an electronic version. He said yes, so I contacted Warner Music and got the parts after a lot of talking.”
With the outstanding vocals of lead singer Gunnhild, ‘Iselilja’ is an exceptionally atmospheric track. In melodic Norwegian, she lifts the deep, dark tune to a progressive tracks that tells you a story.
Tore:”‘Iselilja’ is based on Gaate’s track ‘Knut Liten og Sylvelin’, which again is based on an old Norwegian folk song. Gaate’s version from 2004 has a similar structure as ours. It gets more and more intense as the track progresses. I guess that was what we both liked about it. The original folk song has 40 verses, by the way.”
Knut Liten & his killer tune
Despite our many attempts to understand what it’s about, we still need a Norwegian to help us out. Tore:”It’s a story about a guy called Knut Liten who wants to marry the kings daughter, but the king says he’s not worthy of a princess. So Knut Liten basically tells the king to go screw himself, and swears to revenge his words. When the king later finds out Knut Liten is sleeping with his daughter in secrecy, he sends all his men after him. But Knut Liten kills them all. Then the king has no choice but to give him his daughter’s hand in marriage.” Sounds like a very cool guy, that Knut dude.
On the remix duties of ‘Iselilja’, Armada invited Michael Cassette and Sunn Jellie, who all did a splendid job. Lars:” Yes, definitely. Michael Cassette are two of our favourite producers of the last year, with their groovy and happy 80′s house sound. Sunn Jellie is a rather unknown producer from Ukraine. I heard a track from him last year named ‘Sail’, which I got as a promo on our MySpace page. I totally loved it! Later on I asked Sunn Jellie if he wanted to remix ‘Iselilja’. He did. I really liked the remix he did, but felt it had more potential to it. So we asked him if he wanted to collaborate with us on the remix. So we put our own touch to it. It was picked up on Armin van Buuren’s well known ‘A State Of Trance 2009′ album.”
The coming months
One thing’s for sure: the ‘Iselilja’ package is complete. With this grand release to back him up, Lars is busy touring the world this upcoming summer. Lars:”Yes, I’m getting more and more gigs. Since last year I’ve played in Russia, Ukraine, Holland, Denmark, Korea and Hungary. It’s really strange to sit on an airplane for 15 hours to play 2 hours in a club. But I love it! I was supposed to have my Indonesia tour in Jakarta, Bali and Bandung in the end of July. But unfortunately, because of the terrorist attacks in Jakarta, the tour has been delayed. I’m hoping to have some more gigs the coming months.” Next to that, The Blizzard has more good new stuff in stores. Lars:”We have our own radio show ‘Subzero’ on www.radiovolum.no every first Wednesday each month from 21-22 GMT+1. Plus, you can expect us to play at some nice gigs around the world. We are also going to release our webpage soon.”
And to what else is on the menu in the future, the guys pretty much take things as they go.
Tore: “Let’s just see what happens…”
More info on The Blizzard, check The Blizzard Myspace.