FROM the mists of the burgeoning rock and metal scene in Bergen there emerged four hard rockin’ beasts, who combined their fire and fury into the force that is SAHG – a band that has evolved and become ever more ‘special’ in this world of ‘vanilla’ rock.
We caught up with vocalist and guitarist, Olav Iversen ahead of the band’s March appearance at Hammerfest VII. And first of we wanted to know that when the band formed in 2005 did they expect to still be playing and recording.
“We had no idea,” said Olav. “We didn’t even think beyond the first album. We were so obsessed with shaping our first creation in our own perfect fashion, that was all we could think of.
“I remember how completely absorbing this band was from day one. It was all about making it sound exactly right, at any cost. And ever since it’s always been one album, one step at a time.
“At the level we are on, you never know what’s gonna happen next. You just keep going, keep working, and before you know it, ten years have passed. It’s been terrifying and completely exhilarating, and we are dying to live the next ten!”Delusions of Grandeur seemed to us to be a more focussed record with a lot of prog elements”.
We put to Olav that this seemed a deliberate plan…
“It totally was,” he explained. After three albums we felt that we needed to revitalize the sound and seek some new inspiration.
It’s not like ‘Sahg III’ was an artistic ‘deficit project’ in any way, but after we had toured that album and started to plan the next one, we saw that the well was running dry and we needed to dig a new one.
“Also, we had become more and more inspired by the new wave of prog metal that was rising, and we wanted to mix some of that into our vintage metal-based sound. So instead of falling into the trap of dwelling in the comfort zone, ‘proceeding as usual’ and trying to squeeze more out of the old lemon, we decided to make the effort it took to find a new approach on our sound.
It demanded a lot of time and hard work, but when ‘Delusions Of Grandeur’ came out on the other end, it was all worth it. Now we feel we have the perfect platform and tons of ideas and inspiration to make a fantastic next album, and we intend to put it out before the end of the year.”
Good news for all SAHG fans – but we also wanted to challenge Olav about a conversation we had when they played Belfast with Audrey Horne a couple of years back.
They included a section of Thin Lizzy’s Emerald in your opener. Afterwards Olav and bandmates insisted that this was not just because they were in Ireland. But was it…
“That was a little white lie, I’m sorry!” said Olav. “We have adopted the solo section of Emerald into our own song The Executioner Undead on many occasions, and we probably will again.
“But it was extra special to play it in Thin Lizzy’s homelands. We are big fans and have a lot of respect for what Phil Lynott and his boys have contributed to the legacy of rock’n’roll, so that was a special and memorable experience, indeed.”
With Delusions of Grandeur being something of an immersive experience for the listener we wanted to know whether one day they will produce something that will be too impenetrable?
“We don’t have that focus,” insisted Olav. “Our aim is always to challenge ourselves and to excite our fans. And in order to do that, I think we need to constantly push the limits of what is expected of us. If you give people exactly what they expect, it’s never going to be impressive.
“We rather want to challenge our fans’ ability of musical interpretation, because we believe that is the way to impress and stay interesting. It may mean we will lose some fans, but I am sure we will win even more.
And Olav is sure that they know their own boundaries.
“…we trust our own limits of how ‘impenetrable’ we will allow our music to be, so I’m not worried that we will get completely carried away into the artistic wilderness.
“Looking at the material we have got cooking for the next album, I am confident it is going to hit the spot with our fans and blow away quite a few people.
With Hammerfest just around the corner we asked just how important are festivals for bands like SAHG.
“We dig festivals!” said Olav. “Both playing them and just hanging out. I mean, lots of beer, lots of good music, and lots of good people. What else would you want?
“Playing festivals is a high priority for SAHG. We love the festival vibe, which is more laid back and open-minded than at most regular club gigs, and our show has always fit well in the festival format. Probably because we enjoy the concept of festivals so much.
“And we are excited about playing Hammerfest this year, we have heard a lot of good words about it, and I am sure it will be great. We played its ‘twin festival’, Hard Rock Hell, a few years ago, and judging from that, it’s going to be one hell of a good time.
Finally – we wanted some tips for first-time festival goers how to survive the mayhem.
“I could say ‘make sure you get enough sleep’ and ‘look after your money and credit card at all times’. But screw that, that’s not what makes a good festival experience.
“Just chill out, have a brew, and make sure you don’t miss out on your favorite bands. Don’t stress and just let it flow, that’s the key to a good time at a festival.”
Sahg play Hammerfest VII, which is at Hafan Y Môr Holiday Park, Pwllheli, Gwynedd, North Wales, from March 12th to 15th.
Interview by Jonny