I’ve been really blessed this year, one of the most painful and shitty of my life from deaths to death threats, to do some of the most inspiring interviews of my career over the last few months, from Tearist to a recent chat with Killing Joke to this piece with Norway’s Shining. Jørgen Munkeby has taken the Blackjazz concept to new heights, literally. The fucking band of maniacs have made one of their best records yet with the brazenly fierce International Blackjazz Society but also recently shot a concert on Trolltunga, defying death and rocking out with a performance both historic and literally far above the limits most band are willing to go to.
It was very inspiring and enjoyable to speak with Munkeby on his new record, the evolution of jazz and metal’s uneasy alliance, Trolltunga, keeping warm huddling around burning churches, playing with Ihsahn and Melissa Auf der Mar and why you can’t give up if you have a shitty soundguy.
Read BELOW to ascend to Trolltunga with Shining !
Jørgen Munkeby – Where are you calling from?
.I’m near Woodstock, NY. With all the hippies and yuppies.
Is that Upstate, NY?
.Yeah. I almost saw you guys in NYC awhile back when you came through with
We played at Webster Hall. I have a friend in a town called Hudson. Her name
is Melissa Auf der Mar. She was the bass player of Hole?
.I know who she is. She is supposed to be very nice.
She lives in a place called Hudson and that is also Upstate, NY. Have you ever
. Yeah, it’s about a half hour from me. She has a venue there Basilica that
does fucking great avant garde music events. Grimes, Swans, Godpeed You! Black
Emperor, Perfume Genius have all played there. It’s rad. I love the song she
did with Danzig awhile ago. So good.
That’s what she’s been doing, yeah. Since about 2011, I think. I was there
with her to check out the building and her plans for making the studio. We
prepared a few cover songs of stuff that has inspired her like Killing Joke
and Type O Negative. Some other stuff. We played a show there. Not at Basilica
because it wasn’t ready yet but one in that town and one in Montreal.
.Oh man, you gotta come back so I can see you there!
(laughing) I’d love to play there. I keep asking her when she will make music
. Dude, I have a horrible cold right now but I saw your new video and I feel
like a pussy to say that to you!
(laughing) Well, it’s shitty to have a cold no matter where you are. When we
Norwegians go to the UK, a bit South of Norway…I feel like a pussy because I
am bringing a big warm sweater and they walk around in a t-shirt.
.They are ready for football (soccer) all the time.
My theory is our genetics in Norway tells us that when it is cold you have to
put on clothes and if you don’t your body gives you a strong message to put on
a jacket or you are going to die (laughing). When I am in L.A. I get cold in
the evenings and they walk around with their fucking air conditioners blasting
and have no problem with extreme outdoor heat and indoor cold.
.That was like when I went to Vegas once for my friend Sean Paul of The Red
Owls wedding and it was 107 degrees outside and fucking inside the hotels it
is old people super happy at the fucking slot machines even though it has -47
air conditioning. I don’t get it. I’m with you on that, man.
It’s crazy. So don’t feel bad.
.Well, you guys can huddle around the burning churches to keep warm.
(laughing) We don’t have enough left!
.How crazy was it trying to make this new video footage on Trolltunga? So many
people’s minds were blown. It was like Mission Impossible 2 for Metalheads!
Thanks! Well, it was really like you mentioned hard to plan and to tell you
the truth…I wanted to do the whole thing but I felt like if we were able to
record the audio and have some video footage and maybe enough to make a
video…if that happened it would be a bonus. That was always the plan but
there were sooo many things that could go wrong. If it was foggy the
helicopters couldn’t go up. If we’d already put the equipment up there the
drone couldn’t fly. That kind of stuff. Maybe too much rain would make the
amps not be able to run. It was a concert, not just a video and posing on the
mountain. A proper show with a PA and everything.
.Yeah, I saw the people watching you in the background!
A couple hundred people took the hike five hours up and six down! Really the
most colorful audience of any we’ve ever played for! All the mountain clothes
are colorful because you want to get seen if there is a storm or avalanche.
.(laughing) Yeah, no black t shirts!
Nothing like that. SO it was really crazy and a lot of planning. We flew the
stuff up with a helicopter but there is a limited amount of space. You gotta
know what you have to bring up but if one cable is too short you wont be able
to lay the show because it will take five hours to get new stuff. It is the
middle of the fucking mountains. No roads, subway, nothing. It was a lot of
planning. The whole cliff is a bit slanted, so to be able to put drums up
there without them rolling off we had to build a drum riser. We wanted the
drummer to be on the backside because it is kind of small and I wanted to be
able to walk around. So we put the drummer on the back edge but it was a
slanting rock and so we didn’t want to have the riser slide off!
.Worse than spinal tap! Did you have to have other Norwegian bands on standby.
“Hello…Enslaved…we had a problem.”
Yeah, it was something to worry about that someone would fall off the edge. We
still were rocking out and it was natural. So it would be unnatural to
suddenly be stiff. If there is a lot of snow up there you can get blinded and
the altitude is thin. The guys in the band had to be in shape to counter
dizziness. Stuff we couldn’t do anything about. Nobody had ever played a
concert up there or with the loud bass frequencies there was also the option
of the whole fucking thing breaking off!
.I was gonna say the saxophone could start an avalanche!
This is actually kind of on top of everything so there was no higher point
nearby to slide on top of you. But the whole thing was…it’s been there for
ages but it could be the last day of it being there anyday. It was the
craziest thing I have ever been part of and I was super high on adrenaline for
a week afterwards. It was unreal.
. One of the coolest thing about Shining for me is that it feels like you
break open possibilities in music again to push hard for your vision.
I think these kind of things…this is the most extreme version. We played a
live video in the ruins of our old studio which was torn down because the
owner sold the whole place and wanted to build apartments there. So we put up
our stuff and we played in the wreckage as a stunt with one camera. We did one
in the desert between San Francisco and Los Angeles. The idea behind it is
that I have always…we play heavy music and sort of advanced music. Some
parts are hard to play but we don’t use backing tracks. I want it to feel
human and raw ad have that human connection. I want the audience to see we are
playing hard and don’t have the volume high up yet are hardly touching the
strings. This is supposed to be a physical thing. More primal. I also take
pride in being able to not be put off guard by the environment and stuff that
doesn’t work around you. If we’re at a show or something goes wrong and a
monitor mix is wrong because of some asshole or you arrive at the festival and
there is ten minutes before you start your show, these kind of situations
usually led to really good shows. You get in a really fuck you attitude. It
brings extra energy to the music. I’m not saying it is…BETTER to play when
something is going wrong. But I take pride in not letting that ruin the show.
When I was at the Norwegian State Academy of Music from when U was 18 years
and seven years on I studied jazz. Every time I was sick I still went to school
to practice. I wanted to learn how my body reacted when I was sick because I
knew sometime in the future I would have to play a show even when I have the
flu. That attitude follows me to this day and I make sure we are prepared as
well as we can for anything that might happen. We had a rehearsal once where
we had strobes blasting and only that. It was like we almost were seizuring!
.In case you have to go on tour with Ministry, right?
(laughing) That’s kind of where the idea was the Mountain thing was to put us
in a situation where you aren’t in control of the environment. 2,300 feet/700
meters above ground. Edges all around you. No control. That was the idea and
it was really fun. I am happy we came out of it alive!
.It has such rock n roll energy. Jazz is kind of of the world. The black metal
side really came out of Europe and it is awesome like you are “here we are”
and screaming it at the sky!
.I can relate though to what you are saying. I have done some concerts wth my
band GET OUT. lately where I will be an asshole and try and sing the whole
concert without drinking water the whole time to test myself. It is not very
fair to my band by the last song (laughing), but good to test limits. I like
what you said about the fuck you attitude, though. I hate when I see a show
and the sound is maybe shitty and yet the band uses all their set time
complaining over the microphone while the audience is standing right there
twiddling their thumbs. I saw a great Built To Spill show once where the sound
sucked but they transcended it.
Yeah. I definitely agree. It is not the audiences fault. Complaining is the
wrong use to energy. I mean, try to fix it. But it is more “fuck you” to
someone like fate to do it anyhow. That kind of attitude. I love seeing that.
.Soundguys are sometimes trying. Sometimes they are fucking idiots but
sometimes they mean well.
Sometimes not only do they not know what they are doing but are consciously
sabotaging. That has happened! Being dickheads. When we played support that is
usually when it happens. Then after the show we are the best of friends
because they see we don’t give a shit about their idiocy and suddenly they
give up and then they want to help (laughing). There is power in not losing it
because of these setbacks.
.Or they heard “Blackjazz Rebels” and thought, “this band is fucking crazy and
he will beat me to death with his saxophone so let’s behave”. (laughing)
.For the new record it is cool you have some stuff like free form jazz (“Admittance) and
other stuff that is more down the middle industrial rock stuff (“Burn it All”). I was thinking about how
the Stooges sax player just passed away and how that was sad. You are similar
to me in some ways that you push what it can mean to combine sounds from maybe
different worlds. More metal or industrial than punk, but…
Cool, thanks. That’s part of what we are doing. You want to create music that
is fun to listen to and people like, but there is something important…parts
of my life I have liked creating music people like. But most of my life I
wanted to change music, hopefully. To change the course. That’s a tall order
and very few are able to but you might as well try. That would be the ultimate
success. Someone who contributed to that. Other people might think it is
getting rich but in my book making something that added to musical history is
better. That’s something I’m still trying to do. Bands like Dillinger Escape
Plan or Nine Inch Nails have done that, I think. I take great inspiration from
both for really pushing their own unique sound. They got it out there to a lot
of people. A bunch of other bands. That impresses me rather than beng the most
favorite, famous pop artist.
.Yes, that is some of why I love your band or Tearist or Killing Joke who are
always refining what they do. Deeper into the rabbit hole.
We started out in 1999 and at that time I was deep into jazz. I grew up with
metal. At that time Shining stared and after two albums we changed then 2010
Blackjazz came. From being an acoustic jazz band to arriving at Black Jazz
was a huge way to go. We’ve still done some changes but not as big as going
into Black Jazz was. I feel like now we’re after, for me, 20 years of
experimenting with combining from when I was 9 years old…that’s been a trial
and error. When Blackjazz came out I felt we arrived at something right and
natural, like “coming home”. I was able to do the two things I love the most
and was closer than ever to what I want to contribute. I’ve since stuck around
that musical area in some way. One,One, One was a bit more focused. The enw
album International Black Jazz Society blends the aggressive experimental with
the more straightforward rocking songs. So like you said, it is deeper into
the rabbit hole and bigger, stronger, better is the goal.
.I’m friends with some of the band Candiria and they would do some jazz but it
is usually separated. A crazy, mathy riff and then a jazz part. Or you’d have
Zorn and Painkiller and it is this fucked up sound collage or feeling, kind
of. You are making an overall world.
I think you are totally right. That’s how I view Mike Patton, Dillinger, Zorn.
They have been working at jazz combining with metal longer than us but they’ve
done it in a different way, like you are saying. More one thing to abruptly
another. We’ve been trying to make it blend more seamlessly. It’s maybe
generational and that’s how you did it in the 90’s?
.It’s interesting to see how it can evolve for a series of records in a row
and feels like Shining is spearheading that.
That’s how I would love it to be. We coined the name Blackjazz and the idea
was obviously to have a great album name but it was also the suggested name
for our genre in a way. It’d be an honor for other people to use that! It’d be
great if other people were making that as a genre. It doesn’t have to sound
like us. It could be anything that blends jazz and metal and works. Blackjazz
came out in 2010 and also the album After from Ihsahn came out the same day. I
played sax on that album. On a lot of the songs.
.Oh cool! I didn’t know you were on that one. I talked to him maybe two
records after that for this site (read HERE).
Yes, I played on After and on Eremita which came out (laughing) “after” After.
Then he had another one and then I play on a song on one he is making now.
After was not only a great album but I was very present in the music. Not only
up front solos but also in there.
.Not just a gimmick of a saxophone.
It sounds like I was part of the band and natural part, even though I wasnt
really a band member. It was cool because it didn’t sound like Shining or have
the Industrial edge or production but showed it could still work for jazz and
metal. It proves the idea is a good idea and possible in not only one way but
different variations. Other people can do it. I don’t have to be the guy
making everything or be involved at all!