Friday, January 11, 2019

A Ripple Conversation With Christoffer Norén From Cities of Mars

When I was a kid, growing up in a house with Cat Stevens, Neil Diamond, and Simon and Garfunkel, the first time I ever heard Kiss's "Detroit Rock City," it was a moment of musical epiphany. It was just so vicious, aggressive and mean. It changed the way I listened to music. I've had a few minor epiphanies since then, when you come across a band that just brings something new and revolutionary to your ears.

What have been your musical epiphany moments?

I grew up in a family where music was appreciated and we have a couple of musicians who inspired me in picking up the guitar. Mostly we listened to jazz, blues and a bit of funk and rock. But when I was about ten or something I found Sepultura’s Chaos A.D. among my fathers’ CDs and it blew my mind. The brutality was overwhelming and together with discovering Metallica’s Black Album the path was set.

Talk to us about the song-writing process for you. What comes first, the idea? A riff? The lyrics? How does it all fall into place?

Most often the riff comes first. We find a groove that we evolve to something rich and back breaking and try to see how long we can hang on that groove before it gets boring. If we make to the ten minutes mark then we know it’s a killer groove.

But as the body of Cities of Mars is born from the mythology about Mars and what has (?)  happened there for millennia the story is a big part in how we shape the songs.

Who has influenced you the most?

That’s pretty hard to say. I guess that Tool, Pink Floyd, Alice in Chains, Soundgarden and other epic bands from the past influence us all but also newer bands like Mastodon, The Sword and High on Fire puts their mark on us.

Where do you look for continuing inspiration? New ideas, new motivation?

I like to blend in a bit of extreme music with the old goodies to find inspiration for new riffing. The Dillinger Escape Plan, Ephel Duath and Cult of Luna is something that always sets the creativity flowing. Mixing that up with a bit of AC/DC and ZZ Top then you’re all set.

We're all a product of our environment. Tell us about the band's hometown and how that reflects in the music?

Johan and I are both born and raised in Gothenburg. Daniel originates from the deep forests 200km north of the city (which explains the lumberjack/caveman influences in CoM) and moved to the city as he grew older and wiser. Gothenburg has been the origin of many great bands through the years (At the Gates, In Flames, The Haunted, The Knife etc) and had a reputation of promoting young musicians, talent or no. There were a lot of youth recreation centers where kids could go and borrow instruments to practice and start new bands with their friends.

Now days that has changed but back in the day it was a place of marvel for kids with a musical interest.

Where'd the band name come from?

It’s more of a proclamation then a name. It’s the untold stories of Mars and the mythology of Atlantis and Bahb-Elon.

You have one chance, what movie are you going to write the soundtrack for?

We are already writing it. When the adaptation of our music is made real then there will be a sci-fi movie that will last through the ages.

You now write for a music publication (The Ripple Effect?).  You're going to write a 1,000 word essay on one song. Which would it be and why?

I would preferably do the essay on the mythology of the Cities of Mars because the story behind the songs is a pretty massive and thrilling saga. 

But if one song would be chosen I would say “Celestial Mistress” or “Doors of Dark Matter”. CM is a song about our Soviet cosmonaut Nadia searching the ruins of the ancient city of Bahb-Elon and finding the undying Lord, risen from aeons of sleep to the ancient prophecy of a long lost love returning from the stars. DoDM is a multitude of songs describing the journey from Atlantis on Earth to Mars and the foundations the empire to be.

Come on, share with us a couple of your great, Spinal Tap, rock and roll moments?

The first that comes to mind is when we did our first show as Cities of Mars on the Wizard of Fuzz Festival. Daniels was so wound up as he arranged the festival and all that comes with arranging something like that so when we got on stage he walked over to me, looked at me with the stare of a mad man and asked “How do we tune the bass?” Later he told me the entire show is pretty much a haze.

We also had a show booked in the Netherlands together with the Swiss band Echolot. When we entered the place we all got very excited as the venue was really nice. Big stage, massive sound and lights and awesome technicians. But as the night came and stage time started to close in the organizers came to us and explained that no one, NO ONE, would come to the show. Because of bad weather and stuff people just stayed at home. There were even a group of people, maybe twenty guys, in the other room that didn’t want to enter the venue because they were in the middle of a tournament of dart. I mean come on… DART.

Tell us about playing live and the live experience for you and for your fans?

It’s the best thing ever. The feeling when standing on stage and playing songs you have composed to people who appreciate your creations and sings along to your lyrics… It’s amazing. We have a couple of shows that has stuck in memory a bit more than others, where the crowd has gone ape shit. Potsdam, Basel and Le Mans to mention a few where we’ve had blast, not because of the venue itself but because the crowd has been magnificent.

We always enter a show with the mindset that no matter how big the crowd or the quality of the on stage sound we ALWAYS must be better than the circumstance. We can’t get on stage and not give everything we got, not ever. During our 2016 European tour Johan and I took turns getting a cold for two weeks that messed up the throat and had some fever in it and all the goodies but it didn’t matter. When we got on stage we gave everything. 

What makes a great song?

You need to have a groove. No matter genre you got to have that something that gets it going. Groove and a little something that makes it interesting. When things get to stiff or boring you lose focus on the song and it becomes white noise.

Tell us about the first song you ever wrote?

It was “The Third Eye” which is available online and included on the “Celestial Mistress” vinyl as a bonus track. The song is about Nadia on her first day after landing on Mars. How she wanders the red-sanded wilderness of Mars, gazes upon the holy mountain city of Bahb-Elon and the ever watching eye.

What piece of your music are particularly proud of?

Don’t think I can choose a specific piece. Every song so far feels like it has its own important place in our saga. Though the new album is a big step forward in our way of writing music. We have approached the songs in a different way and added more layers in the soundscaping which makes the entire album even more interesting I think.

We’re very excited to see how it will be received.

Who today, writes great songs? Who just kicks your ass? Why?

Honestly I can’t think of one. There are a lot of good bands and the underground scene is thriving but it has been quite a while since I’ve been blown away by something. We Hunt Buffalo's Living Ghosts got close, as did Marilyn Manson's The Pale Emperor. But that was in 2015. A lot of bands that did awesome music back in the day gets a lot of credit for their newer stuff but I honestly think that their new music is boring and unimaginative. Made for the masses and not out of love for their own music.

Vinyl, CD, or digital? What's your format of choice?

Vinyl always feels more real. Today when everything is digital you seldom sit down and listen to an entire album and try to grasp the entity of the art. You put something on in the background the fill the void between your lines of thoughts.

But when you sit down with a physical album things are different. You get involved in a different way.

Whiskey or beer?  And defend your choice

Both. Of course. You can’t have one without the other.

We, at the Ripple Effect, are constantly looking for new music. What's your home town, and when we get there, what's the best record store to lose ourselves in?

Gothenburg. Bengans Record Store is a classic which you should absolutely visit. There are a couple of others ones as well but Bengans has the biggest range of artists.

What's next for the band?

2019 is going to be an exciting year. We’re doing our first release with Ripple Music and we are very pleased with the album. With our good friend Esben Willems from Monolord as our producer and engineer we’ve taken a giant leap forward in our songs and sound. The record will be out in the spring and following the release we’re hitting the roads for a couple of weeks with another band that has had a great 2018. Can’t give you the details yet but it will be sweet.

Any final comments or thoughts you'd like to share with our readers, the waveriders?

We’re very happy to join the rooster of Ripple Music and be part of the family that it is. The saga of Mars will continue to unfold during 2019. 

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