The long-awaited new album by our beloved sleazy weirdos from Norway has finally landed upon us: enjoy this amiable chat with maverick disco-king Czral!
The title ‘Memento Collider’ is quite evocative, suggesting several possible meanings. In which way does it contain the topics addressed within the individual songs?
The title is a nod to The Large Hedron Collider, the machine that’s going to re-create the big bang. I agree, the title isn’t exactly self-explanatory, but I guess Virus isn’t the band you’d seek out if you want self-explanatory lyrics and topics.
Before writing the album, was there anything you wanted to change or expand on in relation to your previous work?
We want a lot of stuff for our music, but once we start working on it it’s like it takes up its own life-form. One could say it gets its own will, and we’re no longer the masters in control. I remember we talked about making «detective-music» on this album. If you imagine the theme to an old Columbo episode, for example. But it ended up very differently. We even have a song called «Investigator» (a song that didn’t end up on the album but will appear on a 7inch single to be released this autumn), confident it’d sound like «70’ies detective-music» but it sounds nothing like it.
‘Afield’ is an ambiguous title, and the lyrics don’t make me any wiser. On military terms, it can mean being on the battlefield, while there is also the level of being misled, led astray or confused. What are you hinting at here?
Afield means being off course and on unknown territory. The song hints at war, you’re right, but its about conscience and indifference too.
What can a ‘Rogue Fossil’ be? After all, fossils are basically stone whereas being roguish definitely entails some sort of activity …
When you ask yourself that question, we have done something right. We are not here to explain anything, or give answers, we are here to evoke your imagination. There’s a different logic to what we do, it’s not normal logic, it’s poetic logic or dream-logic, if you will.
In ‘Dripping Into Orbit’, sea and water are prevalent metaphors. What do they stand for, and how come something can drip into the orbit, meaning upwards?
I think Dripping Into Orbit is about loss, or defeat. I don’t know for sure.
To me, ‘Steamer’ is a standout song because of its shifting mood and subtle tunefulness; how does that reflect the lyrics, and how do you tackle writing such a thing?
Steamer was a collaboration within the band. Whereas songs like Afield and Rogue Fossil were songs that mostly I wrote and had the ideas to, this one was basically written at rehearsal, by all of us. And on this song you see us diverge more than on the other songs. The lyrics are fragmented on this one, but it orbits around the theme of mental illness. Take the sentence «the lamp flies over those nine things on the table», a person who’d notice that is clearly psychotic or severely depressed.
A ‘Gravity Seeker’ must be somebody who is weightless, be it in a literal or figurative sense; why does this person seek gravity while we are all subjected to it?
Or; someone who is searching for meaning. As you age, things become more and more meaningless in tandem with becoming more and more meaningful. Gravity Seeker is, loosely, about ageing and finding meaning. Gravity Seeker is a very positively charged song.
‘Phantom Oil Slick’ is a strange piece and seemingly two-partite while you repeat the text from the first half during the second one. Please enlighten us about this.
Yeah, it sort of devours you and then offers a way out again. A very physical song. Again, I cannot enlighten you too much, the music has a will of its own, but we argued within the band whether this should be the opener on the album or not. I argued against it, and I usually get my will.
Writing such abstract lyrics cannot emerge from common influences from the fields of popular music; are there specific poets you admire?
Paul Celan, Tor Ulven and the other people who write lyrics in Virus, Johannah Henderson and (on the previous two albums) Mat McNerney. I don’t write them alone, I want to be clear about that.
It is hard to pinpoint obvious influences for your unusual harmonies and melodies; could you name some?
Some of the obvious ones: Voivod and Thorns. Some of the not so obvious ones: Grace Jones and The Residents.
Was there a certain point in your development as musicians when you realised that you must swerve from the all-too-conventional?
Yes, quite early. Quite early on, at some stage, I think every one of us found most music boring. At least I did. And I suspect that’s the same for the others, though I don’t know for sure, the other two being such enigmas. I had a period in the late nineties/early 2000’s where I listened only to Coil and avant-garde classical music along with old-shool thrash/black metal from the 80’s. These days I’m more open to music being a key to relaxation. And I can listen to (early) Metallica or Beatles just for relaxation. When I was younger I hated Metallica.
How much of your music stems from improvisation, how much is strictly composed?
I’m not sure. 30/70% perhaps? We like to riff upon some guitar-stuff I’ve made at home, and then we often swerve off and end up with something else. It’s an organic process..
How important has black metal been for Virus, and how important is it now?
It’s important in the way that we’re not, and have never been, a black metal band.
Virus are put into the rock and metal drawer while you are neither the “rocking” nor headbanging type of band; where exactly do you see yourselves?
We don’t really see ourselves, we deliver ourselves. It’s up to others to define us if that’s what they absolutely must and if it’s at all possible.
Would you say Virus are a typical Norwegian band? If so, why?
I don’t even know if we’re a typical band. Here, the other day at rehearsal, our drummer Einar came in with a horse-head mask in his bag, and no drum-sticks. I asked, how are we supposed to rehearse with no drum-sticks, and he said; «I’d like some hay, do you have some hay?»
What you create defies the consensus of what is supposed to be “beautiful” and “appealing”; how do you counter haters claiming you sound ugly just for the sake of it and are pseudo-intellectual?
The haters are absolutely right! We are pseudo-intellectuals and we are ugly just for the sake of it. But I’d like to point out that neither of us are born that way, so it’s all our own fault as well.
Where do you go from here? Virus play music for minorities, so what are your ambitions in the long run if not stardom and world domination?
Virus is something that creeps in unnoticeably. I love meeting people who just don’t know why they’ve become fans.
Photos by Trine + Kim DesignStudio.