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Norway’s Shining Blend Black Metal and Jazz Into Something Unique

Shining are ready to expand their reach with BlackJazz. Shining are ready to expand their reach with BlackJazz.

 

Norway’s Shining aren’t your average metal band. In fact, they started out as a jazz group. But they’ve managed to crack into the mainstream of their native Norway, and now with a new album, BlackJazz, they’re set to take over the rest of the world.

Their unique blend of jazz and black metal is the brainchild of Jørgen Munkeby, who we had the chance to catch up with. We talked about everything from the culture of black metal to how ideas get expressed through music.

RosebudMag: The critical reception for the new album has been very good. Are you surprised that such a unique record can be so widely embraced?

Jørgen Munkeby: I would say that we’ve released crazier stuff before, so compared to our other stuff, this one is more accessible. To me it’s natural that this one gets wider recognition that before. But I can’t really compare it.

Obviously it is pretty crazy compared to most mainstream music, but still our band has been around a long time in Norway and we’re pretty established. We’re on the top 20 best sellers list, and we play on the big festivals. So in Norway we have managed to get a sort of mainstream name, so I know that it works.

But a lot of people wonder if people have a higher tolerance for loud and hard music in Norway than in other places. But I can’t comment on that because I’ve only lived in Norway. But I’m happy to see that people like our music.

RM: You touched on something interesting there about Norway, which is that I think in the culture there, music is quite different, specifically black metal. It seems to me that around the world and certainly in North America black metal is a niche genre. But it seems like it’s more culturally significant in Norway. Is that fair to say?

JM:Yeah. We’re a small country. We’re five million people in total, so when we manage to create something that has the power to spread around the world and make some waves, then we need to embrace that.

Norway was the birthplace for Norwegian black metal 20 years ago, and in the beginning it wasn’t something we embraced. But now it seems we’re passed the dirty history with it, and we’ve actually managed to start to look at it as an art form.

And it does actually have something in it that represents the Norwegian history. It coincided with the thousand-year anniversary of Christianity in Norway, which was forced upon the country. I mean, no one living now was alive then, but we read about it in history books, and it wasn’t the best part of our history.

The Nordic symbolism was sort of hijacked by the Nazis in the Second World War. They loved the Nordic and Viking heritage and used that in their propaganda stuff. That made it hard for Norwegians. After the Second World War we wanted to distance ourselves from that kind of imagery.

But it was time with black metal; the young people felt it was time to take it back. And you could use it to provoke because our parent’s generation wanted to distance themselves from that stuff. And that coincided with rebelling against Christianity and celebrating our Viking heritage.

Anyway, black metal has elements in it that are very Norwegian. I think people can see that now.

RM: You guys are the first band I’ve encountered to blend jazz and black metal. Did it seem like a new concept when you guys were starting out?

JM: Did you say jazz and metal?

RM: Well, jazz and black metal. There’s been jazz influence in metal before.

JM: I wouldn’t say that I know of a lot of bands that have done that. There are some bands that have put a saxophone in here and there and tried to expand their harmonic palette, and tried to push the boundaries around.

But I think what’s unique about us is that we started out as a jazz band, an acoustic jazz group. The jazz expression is something that’s in our blood. It’s not something we picked up in the past couple of years.

There are other bands that are experimenting in that twilight zone between jazz and metal, but all the ones I can remember started out as metal and wanted to pick up some jazz elements. And you can hear that.

When I was young I listened to metal music long before I listened to jazz music, but we’ve been playing jazz for over 10 years. In my mind, I’m equally familiar with both art forms, and I think that makes us sound different than a lot of other bands.

RM: Do you think it’s important for a band to try to advance their genre, or is it equally valid for a band to just put their own spin on a tried-and-true style?

JM: I think people can do what they want to do. The only thing that’s important is that they make great stuff. You can do that by focusing on a very narrow thing, or you can make great stuff by having a wide horizon and try to combine stuff in new and fresh ways.

In my life it’s been really important to have an open mind and be interested in new things and learn new things. I’m not saying that’s important to everyone, but I think in general it’s important for human beings to have an open mind and try to learn new things every day.

RM: I agree. I think it’s important to be expansive in our thinking rather than restrictive.That said, is there a genre or type of music that turns you off?

JM: If it’s oppressive or has racist undertones, that really turns me off. Also, very vulgar, I don’t know what it’s called, but when it’s just about drinking and fucking and being dumbass, that kind of music doesn’t really interest me. But it’s not really about the music; it’s about what the music represents, what kind of lifestyle and meaning.

RM: What is it important for you to express through your music?

JM: I hope our music brings a lot of energy to people, and I hope that energy is positive. It’s aggressive, but I think it’s positive aggression. You know when you see something is wrong and you want to change it? That kind of aggression.

And I want it to be something that excites people and brings something new. Music, I think, is something that is intended to evoke emotion. But music also has an intellectual side. I want our music to combine those two things.

© Copyright RosebudMag.com, 2013



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The first single from Shining’s new album, BlackJazz.
Last modified on Tuesday, 25 June 2013 20:22

Happy is a regular contributor to RosebudMag.com and has written for various other publications, including Black Belt, Inside Hockey, and FoxSports.com. He transitioned to life as a writer following a decade-long career as a touring musician. He lives with his son in Vancouver, British Columbia

Website: www.rosebudmag.com/hkreter

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