INTERVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN
Taking influence from such legendary outfits as Neurosis and Black Sabbath, Norwegian three-piece Rongeur specialise in a raw, heavy combination combistoner, doom and sludge metal.
For pretty much the whole of 2017, the band worked hard on putting together their thought-provoking, angst-ridden and dystopian debut album, ‘An Asphyxiating Embrace’, which came out in March.
The Oslo trio’s bassist/vocalist, Dag Ole Huseby, recently gave me a detailed insight into the lengthy recording process, the reaction that it has got so far, and much more.
How did the band form?
Rongeur is built on the ruins of current bassist/vocalist Dag Ole and former drummer Jostein (of Trollfest fame)’s prog-metal outfit Sju.
In the wake of the disintegration of Sju, Jostein and I realized that we had more to achieve together musically. We contacted Ken-Robert of Ampmandens Døtre, who I had known for ages prior, to find out if he wanted to form a new band. The answer was obviously yes, and Ken joined in on guitar.
We all wanted to make loud, heavy and honest music centred around guitar, bass and drums, but the exact sound was yet undecided, however, I am of the opinion that interesting and unexpected things often comes out of musical collaboration, so when Rongeur started to practice, we quickly adopted a policy that everybody in the band should be allowed to contribute musically.
The result became a melting pot of everyone’s musical influences, that then evolved into one giant angry Leviathan, fusing sludge, hardcore, post-metal and stoner-rock.
From where did the name Rongeur originate?
We wanted a name that was different to what most other bands seem to choose, and also something that would make people wonder about its meaning. I am a bit of a Francophile, and so I choose “Rongeur” as it means rodent in French.
We found the name to be quite funny, but at the same time, to be fitting as the motive behind Rongeur has become to gnaw at all things rotten and decaying in our human existence at both personal and societal levels.
What would you say was your songwriting approach?
The riffs has always been our first priority when writing songs. Either Kenny or I come up with a riff or a draft to a song, which we then all jam out for a while until we are satisfied with the structure.
Even though a few groovy riffs driving the songs is essential, the overall feeling and sentiment of the song is the most important thing to settle. We are not stuck in the verse-chorus-verse-chorus structure thing, and will choose the song structure that best benefits what we want to communicate.
Lyrics comes last, but of course, they are just as important. I always have a shitload of half-finished lyrics lying around, and often utilize those in Rongeur.
What inspires the band lyrically?
Our main goal is to highlight certain things that we are not appreciative about in our earthly existence, such as deceit, ignorance, the abuse of power, chauvinism, etc.
With Rongeur, we try to communicate these grievances in the most intelligent way we know, which is to scream and spit, and hopefully stir some sort of reaction in the listener to the extent that these issues are taken up for consideration, even if it’s uncomfortable.
Art is anyway supposed to be free to challenge and to provoke – that is our desire and goal, but don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of beautiful things about this world at this particular place in time.
Still, to be honest, it is hard not getting affected by all the awful shit going on, and with our latest album, ‘An Asphyxiating Embrace’, we try to emphasize these aspects.
The most important thing, however, is not to get pacified by the great challenges at hand, as in my opinion, these problems are mostly the results of narrow-minded, ignorant and unenlightened human behaviour.
We thus have the potential of making a better world by using our intellectual properties. However, we hold very few answers, and we are not dogmatic either, so it should be up to the listener to decide what to do about it all.
However, let me be clear about a couple of things – I am convinced that to be able to solve many of the human and societal short comings, we need to show more compassion for each other – we need to talk, listen and understand.
Also, we also need to educate people to a greater degree, so we can make better informed choices on the more important immaterial things in life.
Lastly, we need to let people be left alone to a greater degree. Social conventions can be a strait-jacket which stunts human progress. Diversity is good, and society can benefit from it.
Having just mentioned your recent album, ‘An Asphyxiating Embrace’, how was the recording process for that?
It was long. We started tracking all basic instruments live in the studio over a weekend at the beginning of last year, then we did dubbing, vocals and everything else throughout 2017 by ourselves. As we all are rather busy on several other arenas as well, this unfortunately took some time to finish.
Lastly, the record was mixed and mastered at the beginning of 2018. However, as the year went by, the record grew on us and we had the time and ability to analyse it to a greater extent, and thus make necessary adjustments along the way before release.
And how has the reaction been to it so far?
It has been great. We have gotten a lot of great reviews and feedback, and are very humbled and thankful for the reception the record has gotten so far. It is extremely satisfying to see that the record seems to be striking a nerve and communicating the sentiment that we wanted it to.
How is the experience, for the band, of playing live and touring?
Rongeur is a live band and we really dig playing live. We try to sound as live as possible on recordings, and we use a few gimmicks that do not translate well to the live setting.
We are however not a touring band though, as we always have had lot of other musical and personal obligations that has stood in the way of being on tour over longer time periods, but we are still always booking gigs, playing wherever and whenever we can, and have thus played a lot of concerts in the past few years all around Norway.
We might travel a bit more in the future, especially if we can get a few gigs abroad, we also continuously try to be a better live band, and we have a policy of giving everything we’ve got, playing loud with a lot of energy, irrespective of there being one person in the audience or a few hundred.
The ones showing up surely deserve a great show, as I hate seeing pretentious bands that gets affected by the lack of attendance. Suck it up and do your job, which for us is to play rock and roll with a maximum level of energy.
What are your plans for the near future?
Having released ‘An Asphyxiation Embrace’ in March, we have played a few gigs supporting that this spring. The record will also see a release on vinyl on June 1, and we will play a release show in August or September.
The coming summer months, however, are held almost free of any band obligations, as I have to concentrate on other stuff for a few weeks, but in the autumn, we will start playing shows again and are booking shows now.
In addition, we have a bunch of new songs that we will continue working on for a new release, which will hopefully come out early next year.
‘AN ASPHYXIATING EMBRACE’, THE DEBUT ALBUM FROM RONGEUR, RELEASED THROUGH POACHER RECORDS, IS NOW AVAILABLE TO STREAM, DOWNLOAD OR PURCHASE FROM SPOTIFY, iTunes, APPLE MUSIC, AND BANDCAMP.
FURTHER INFO ON THE BAND CAN BE FOUND THROUGH THE FOLLOWING SITES: