Great Art Rock is back and it’s hunting a Demon: Q&A with Gazpacho

Gazpacho were formed in Oslo in 1996 by childhood friends Jon-Arne Vilbo and Thomas Andersen along with Jan-Henrik Ohme (later joined by Mikael Krømer, Lars Erik Asp and Kristian Torp) and released their debut album ‘Bravo’ in 2003. Signing to Kscope in 2010, the band released their sixth album Missa Atropos followed by the acclaimed March of Ghosts in 2012. While Missa Atropos was a concept album that dealt with themes of death, fear and loneliness, March of Ghosts was a collection of short stories telling the tales of a variety of characters from beyond the grave.

Demon is inspired by a conversation Thomas had with his father a few years ago where he spoke of a dark force moving through history. During the conversation his father recalled a business visit to Prague in the seventies where he visited the family of some of his hosts. The family lived in an old apartment, recently renovated after a fire. In the debris, an old manuscript was found. The manuscript was written by a previous resident, for which no records existed other than that his rent had been pre-paid for many years. The manuscript contained various ramblings and diagrams which formed the basis of a diary, of sorts, of the man. He claimed to have discovered the source of what he called an evil presence in the world. This presence, ‘The Demon’, was an actual intelligent will, with no mercy and a desire for bad things to happen. The author wrote as if he had lived for thousands of years stalking this presence and the manuscript contains references to outdated branches of mathematics, pagan religions unknown to the present world and an eyewitness account of the bubonic plague. So crazed were the writings that the document was donated to the Strahov Library in Prague, where it was thought it would be of interest to students of psychiatry. The thought of this mysterious figure that had lived through the ages, hunting the ‘Demon’, seemed like too good an idea not to write about. Thomas presented the idea to the band who were just as inspired by the story, and with Jan Henrik, he started writing the lyrics based on what they thought the manuscript would reveal, drawing inspiration from previously ‘discovered’ diaries and manifests. The story is told in four parts, ending with ‘Death Room’ which are the last words of the unfinished manuscript written just before the disappearance of the unknown writer. Written over two years, the band have described Demon as the ‘most complicated and strange album Gazpacho has ever made’ and whether the manuscript is truly the work of an obsessed madman or an urban legend it has certainly provided the basis for an interesting twist on a concept album.

Here is our Q&A with Tom regarding the new work and life with Gazpacho.

Q: You are often compared to the likes of Radiohead or Sigur Ros. How would you describe Gazpacho and their music?
A: I know Jon, our guitar player is into those bands more so than our other band members. Gazpacho has turned into a band that I find almost impossible to compare to any other bands. That is also very much intended as there is such a huge amount of music being released these days. If you are going to release something it should at the very least be original both in sound and idea. I would say the biggest inspiration is Kate Bush as she reinvented what an album could be. The ninth wave from hounds of love being the most obvious example.

Q: Where do you get your inspiration from?
A: I think the inspiration comes from struggling with understanding the concept of being alive. It’s a beautiful experience with a horrific ending and living is an art in itself. In Gazpacho I feel we have managed to make a soundtrack that helps create a mental space where it is possible to have a short break from reality. A safe place. Not necessarily a happy place but somewhere special.

Q: How did you decide to make music together?
A: It evolved naturally as we have all been doing it since we were kids. We fell together very naturally as we get along well and most importantly, when we work together, magic comes naturally and easily.

Q: How does a Gazpacho song come to life?
A: It usually starts with a jam, either over an established musical idea or from scratch there and then. Once we have something that excites us we start molding it in the studio, adding bits and taking things out until it’s done. After that we add vocals with focus only on mood and melody. The lyrics at this point could be yesterday’s newspaper or just general gibberish that our singer comes up with on the spot. This does sometimes become quite funny, I remember a very sad song that in demo form had the lyric Mazda, oh mazdaaaaah, Mazda. After vocals are done we rearrange the song to fit the now finished vocal melody. Then we write the real lyric based on what the song sounds like it’s about and record the final version. Piece of cake.

Q: Your new album Demon is due out on March 17, how is it different from your previous works and what should the public expect from it?
A: Demon is different because there was never any compromise in any way. Usually when writing and an idea appears that might be bit strange you’ll censor yourself but in the case of Demon we let it all hang out and gave the songs what they wanted. This has resulted in what to me is music that is true to itself. I think if you buy this album you can expect an interesting experience. The album is designed to be a trip through the thoughts of someone who claims to be stalking a Demon and it is a trip. It’s a soundtrack to a film you have to make yourself and if you’re up for it you’re in for a ride.

Q: The track Death Room is a wonderful 18.30-minute suite with constant changes in rhythm and atmospheres. What does the song represent?
A: Death Room is the attempt to musically and lyrically describe the dying thoughts of the Demon. It contains memories, such as those of a mass murderer who finds his victims calling him into the deep when he is swimming at a beach, to a bomber Pilots internal debate on how real the lives in the cities glowing in his bombsight are. All the little stories and memories add up to create the mind of the Demon and this is its final thoughts.

Q: Do you prefer working in the studio or touring?
A: They are two opposite worlds. Working in the studio is introspective and controlled. It’s extremely satisfying when you know you are making something good.
Touring is great fun and over the years we have made so many friends on the road that it feels like one big long family reunion. I can’t say which one I prefer as both are about communicating something and sharing something with the listener.

UK dates:
14 UK, Leamington Spa, Assembly 
15 UK, London, O2 Islington Academy* 
with support from label mates Se Delan (Justin Greaves & Belinda Kordic of Crippled Black Phoenix) and * Bruce Soord & Jon Sykes (The Pineapple Thief)

Gessica Puglielli
Visual/Web Designer, Digital Marketing Strategist born in Lecce (Italy), I currently live in London. Between 1998 and 2005 I collaborated with Michael Jackson’s staff and in 2000 I had a meeting with the man himself. I founded Rebel Rebel in 2013 and so far it has been an exciting journey. Some of my favourite artists include Michael Jackson, David Bowie, Skunk Anansie, Depeche Mode, Pink Floyd, Archive, Kraftwerk, Arcade Fire, Radiohead, Anthony & The Johnsons, Gazpacho, The Maccabees, Led Zeppelin, Brian Eno, Beethoven, Bjork, Steve Wonder and many others. I feel a deep connection to animals and Mother Nature, which led me to choose a vegan lifestyle. I like playing electric guitar, photography, cinema, art, entertainment, travelling, playing tennis and browsing London.