Even though the low and slow guitars in these two songs do not play anything alike when it comes to pitches and rhythms, there’s no denying that I took the sonic idea from Sunn O)))’s trademark and gritty guitars. On the other hand, the similarities of the vocals between the two tracks were never intentional, as the vocals were improvised while recording the song in the studio way after it was written. But even the vocal tracks resemble, which is quite fun.
21ST CENTURY SCHIZOID MAN
[youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wqx6m7TVkMc&w=560 “Schizoid blackjazz live”]
There are no direct links between our rendition of the King Crimson classic and John Coltrane’s last ever recorded version of his song “Ogunde“. But ever since the first time I heard this fierce recording of the legendary saxophonist (at the time battling with deadly cancer), it has stuck with me as one of the most powerful things ever recorded to tape. The sheer energy, furiosity and aggression present is enough to blow any tribal tattooed macho metal band off the stage. And as a sucker for distortion, I think the unintentional overload on the recording itself actually makes the track even better, and I definitely think it helps underline the intensity of it all.
Every time Shining find ourselves in a situation with lots of energy, distortion and improvisation (for example at 6:08 in the Live Blackjazz video above), I summon all the angry ghosts from this recording, especially those of Pharoa Sanders, who sounds like a furious elephant finally taking revenge for Cecil The Lion by trampling on the collected trophy hunters in the whole world. Skip to about 5 minutes out in the video track and get directly to the most hefty parts.
“HEALTER SKELTER”, named after the infamous misspelling of The Beatles’ original song written in blood on refrigerator at the murder scene in LA by the Manson Family, is a good example of a song that pulls parts from a wide spectrum of sources.
The first part is a sax driven riff where the standard roles within the band is turned on its head by having the sax keep the time together with the riff, while letting the rest of the band free to improvise. Both of Shining’s two previous albums before Blackjazz had a sax driven song with somewhat interconnected titles (“The Red Room” and “REDRUM”). When writing Blackjazz, I felt this album could use such a song too, but instead of quoting another artist I chose to steal the sax riff from our own song “REDRUM” instead, but bring it back in a more frantic tempo. It’s not the first time I’ve reused ideas and phrases, but it’s probably the easiest one to notice in our catalog.
The second part consists of the hardest 11 bars to learn in the whole Shining catalog, the dreaded “Rytmedelen” meaning simply “Rhythm Part”. This is definitely where all our musicians and light techs have spent the most hours sweating and slowly counting out the rhythms in their head until it has become second nature.
There was a transitional phase between my jazz years (1994-2004) and me going back to re-explore my metal roots, where I totally emerged myself in contemporary classical music and composition. Big influences was Arnold Schönberg and the musical theory of Paul Hindemith (“The Craft of Musical Composition, Book 1” is an absolute must-read), but the French composer Olivier Messiaen was probably my biggest hero. His music was not only full of amazing sounding chords which I loved, but it was also rhythmically built up in a very unique way, especially for western music. Messiaen studied old Hindu rhythms, and had compiled a table of 120 so called decî-tâlas – Hindu rhythms stemming from a theorist named Çârngadeva from the thirteenth century. These rhythms were built upwards from single units (for instance from 16th notes), added together to create longer notes. This fundamentally different way of organizing music from bottom-up is very different to how most western music is built up, where you instead go from the top-down by starting with a bar, and then divide this bar into smaller parts (like quarter notes, triplets, 16ths etc.).
In the library at the Norwegian State Academy Of Music where I studied, I managed to dig up a book with the full list of the 120 Çarngadeva rhythms, and I started the “HEALTER SKELTER” Rhythm Part with the three rhythms called Râgavardhana, Candrakalâ and Liksmîca, then wrote the rest of the part as a continuation and development of these.
To make things even more complicated, the Rhythm Part initally had chords attached to rhythms, which were taken from the grand and heavy opening trombone chords of Olivier Messiaen’s Turangalîla Symphony. But after a while we decided to skip the chords and rather focus on just clusters and noise hits to bring out more aggression and a punkish attitude. But the chords are really cool themselves, and I might use them again in a future Shining song.
The last part of “HEALTER SKELTER” was a little piece that was originally called “Raptor Squadron”. It’s a mix of Meshuggah’s low djenty unison type of playing, combined with Olivier Messiaen’s varying bar meters. There are no system for the meters here, it’s just guided by what I felt like when writing. When learning this part, the musicians had to learn the riff as if it was a melody, and instead of counting beats you just sing the line in your head while playing. This is a much simpler and more musical way than focusing on bars and numbers.
As you see above, HEALTER SKELTER was pieced together with parts taking their inspiration from three very different music genres and times in history. But nevertheless it somehow has survived as one of our most unique songs, and is a track that our audience keeps on requesting for our live shows. Norway’s very own national poet Henrik Ibsen once wrote “Hvor utgangspunktet er galest, blir titt resultatet originalest”, translated to “When the starting point is most arbitrary, the results are often most extraordinary.” I think he’s totally right about that!
Shining’s new record, International Blackjazz Society, will be available this Friday, October 23rd via Spinefarm Records. Pre-orders are available at this location.