Interview with Erik Ravn, Wuthering Heights (December 13, 2003)

Hi Erik, since your last album “To Travel Forevermore”, there has been a change in vocal department - why?

Erik -  I can't really give too many details about this, but there was some personal issues with our former singer, Kristian Andrén. It wasn't anything I was personally involved in, so I have nothing personally against him. On the other hand, on the artistic level, it wasn't an easy job for Kristian to do the last album. It turned out well, but I had my doubts during the process. And with our limited budget, I must be absolutely certain that the musicians will be able to do their job. I'm happy with what Kristian has done for the band, but he was hired on an album to album basis, and on this new one, he simply wasn't the first choice.

And why did you choose Nils Patrik Johansson?

Erik -  I heard a demo CD he had done with a band called Lunatic Parade and which they sent to our management, Intromental. And his voice really stood out. We thought he could do wonders with the Wuthering material, so we got in touch with him, and luckily he was interested. He had a really professional attitude, was very well prepared and really worked on getting "into" the songs.

You have always been the mastermind behind Wuthering Heights, do you decide the direction of the music or is it a band-decision?

Erik -  I do, through the fact that I write the music. In the old days we were more of a team, but back then we also worked more together on arranging the material. Since I now present a more or less finished demo to the guys, it is naturally mostly my ideas that shape the sound of the band. It also has to do with the way I write. I can't jam things up in a rehearsal room, it's a more complex procedure for me to write songs. And furthermore I write the lyrics first and then the music. Since it seems that this is the opposite of what most other people do, it is hard for the others to contribute to the creating proces - considering the somewhat weird lyrics...hehe.

“Far From The Madding Crowd” has some new influences like folk and celtic tunes – howcome?

Erik -  Well, those elements have been there from the beginning. But it's true that they are more obvious than on the previous albums. The sound is certainly more "organic", which also adds to the folkish flavour. And of course using real acoustic bagpipes immidiately transports you to the highlands... But anyway, I like a lot of different types of music. So I naturally get inspired by other stuff than metal. I think that folk music, especially of the celtic sort, blends well with heavy metal. It has some of the same energy to it. So it has always been my aim to blend those things, but it is not something that you just do. It has to be learned like everything else. So the albums have been steps on the way to achieving this aim. Now with the new album I think we're fairly close to the sound I've been trying to create.

You have even a cover-version of The McGalster Clan’s “The Bollard”, why have you chosen this track from an almost unknown band?

Erik -  It has been a dream of mine for years to do this song. I have been a fan of that band for many years, and I have always thought that I could do something with this particular song. So it was great to finally do it, and even to have some of the McGalster guys to play on the album. I think it's a beautiful song, and it blends well with the Wuthering material, I think. It doesn't seem as odd as you would think. And considering the many folk influences in my own music, I think it's sort of the ultimate challenge to do an actual folk song. I think we succeeded pretty well. And maybe now The McGalster Clan (they call themselves PLONK nowadays, by the way) will get a little recognition from people who may not otherwise have heard of this fantastic band.

This album isn’t as progressive as your last one – was it intentional to make a more melodic album?

Erik -  Well if you define "progressive" as "technical" you're certainly right, but I think that is missing the point. Being progressive is when you do something new, and I think we have achieved quite a unique sound on this new album. There's nothing progressive about doing the same odd rhythms that Dream Theater or whoever uses.  But trying to push the limits of what heavy metal can be, is the real progressiveness. But yes, the album is certainly more songbased. Most of the material for all three albums was written during the same period back in the early nineties. Then the songs were grouped together to form a musical journey somewhat reminiscent of the journey in the lyrics. This means that the first album sort of established the various elements in the music, the second experimented a lot with them - taking things a bit to the extremes - and the new album is intended to show things falling into place, really. At least that is the general idea. You know, if the songs are strong enough, there is no need for a lot of technical flash. And I think this album has some really strong songs, and basically that is what it's all about after all.

Do you have any touring plans?

Erik -  Not at the moment. It would be very difficult for us to get together for a longer tour. And I'm not sure there would be financial backing for it. Unfortunately that's what decide those things. But there should be a chance that we could at least do some festivals. It would be nice to meet the fans face to face.

What topics do you deal with in your lyrics and why?

Erik -  As I hinted at earlier, the songs describe a sort of journey, or learning procedure if you like. Sort of a journey through life, trying to find some meaning and retain your sanity in an insane world. It's all based on my own life, though it is presented in a sort of poetic, semi-mythological way. You could say that I'm really writing my own personal mythology. I have sometimes referred to the songs as "autobiographical fairytales"...hehe. The actual inspiration for a given song can be anything really, but I try to somehow place these experiences in a larger picture - every man's place in his own life and mankind's place in the world. It can sound a bit confusing...but anyway, it's definitely not the fantasy story that some people might expect.

I love Tommy Hansen’s production on this album (and the last), I guess you are also very pleased with the job he has done, and would you consider him on the next Wuthering Heights album?

Erik -  Yes, it's great working with Tommy. He has such a long experience in many types of music, so there is a lot of background knowledge to draw on. Not only production-wise but also concerning instruments and amps and stuff. And he's such a nice guy. Very patient about all my crazy ideas. But most of all, as all good producers must be able to do, he knows how to get the sounds that I hear in my head onto the tape. Having worked with him, it's hard to imagine working with anyone else, but time will tell, of course.

I really think your first 2 albums are sadly overlooked, but can only imagine how frustrating it is for the musicians, how do you keep up the spirit and continue making music, no matter how much adversity you experience?

Erik -  Well, it's not easy of course. And of course if I was in this for the fame or the money I would have stopped long ago, but that's not the case, naturally. But a lot have changed in the music business since I started. When I formed my first band, it didn't seem as unlikely to one day live as a "rock star" as it does today, actually. As the business is now, especially in metal, everybody knows that you can't make a living out of the music and that you won't be on posters in a teenager's room. Music has become a product, sold through commercials and MTV and the majority of the audience are apparantly content with listening to crap. So the fact that we still play is in itself proof that we do it because we simply like to play. And of course those music fans that still believe in quality must be very dedicated indeed, and naturally it's nice to be able to supply real music to these real fans.

The internet is a very important source for many metal fans – how do you use the internet and how important is it for you and other new bands?

Erik -  It's extremely important. The more underground heavy metal becomes the more important it becomes to have alternative sources of communication, when the big media won't have anything to do with metal. So it means that even though the metal fans may be more scattered than before, they can communicate relatively easy. And of course it is simply a source of distribution. It can be hard to get your albums in the shops, but then the fans can just buy it directly from the record company on the net, or from online shops or whatever.

How do you see the Danish metal scene at the moment?

Erik -  Perhaps a little better than some years ago. Once in a while a new band pops up that doesn't seem ashamed to play metal. But it's still nothing like our neighbouring countries. And concerning media coverage and the shops willingness to carry metal albums, it's terrible. You would think, metal didn't exist.

Have you taken your name after Emily Bronte's book of the same name or after Kate Bush's excellent song? And is there any deeper meaning behind your name?

Erik -  Hehe...the name has caused a lot more questions and comments than I had imagined. I got the actual idea to use the name, when I listened to Angra's version of the Kate Bush song. But I also like the book, I think it has some of the same atmosphere as the music. It's a rather gloomy tale of fate and big emotions. So I think it fits well, without revealing too much about the band or locking us in a certain genre. But mostly I just like the name itself, regardless of books, movies or songs.

To finish things off – could you pls. make a all-time Top 5 or sort of the 5 most important albums in your opinion?

Erik - Hmm...tough one. My personal favourite albums are:

  • Pink Floyd - "The Wall"
  • Meat Loaf - "Bat Out Of Hell"
  • Sweet - "Level Headed"
  • Tori Amos - "Boys For Pele"
    and I think 
  • Gamma Ray - "Heading For Tomorrow"
    or maybe
  • Helloween - "Keeper Of The Seven Keys"-albums.

And I would say,  except Tori Amos perhaps, those are also the albums that have been the most influential on how I write music myself. But I don't consider any of those as maybe the world's most important album, I don't know if you can really measure those things. But they are definitely important to me.

A bit thanx to Erik for taking the time to do this interview and all the best for him and Wuthering Heights. Also a big thanx to Claus (Intromental) for setting up the interview.

Wuthering Heights - Far From The Madding Crowd

Album out on Locomotive Music