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If you are a fan of classic 70's styled symphonic prog then I'm sure you have some Wobbler in your CD collection. This Norwegian outfit are one of the best at what they do. Having recently reviewed their latest disc Rites at Dawn I wanted to dig a little deeper. Here's my conversation with keyboardist Lars Fredrik Froislie. 

Wobbler

Jerry Lucky: Many have probably already heard or read how you guys got together, but tell us the short story of how Wobbler formed.

 

Lars: Morten, Kristian, Martin and I started Wobbler in 1999. We grew up together and sort of developed our musical taste together. For instance when Morten would tip me to listen to Gentle Giant, I’d tip him about Museo Rosenbach and so on. Wobbler was made to make the music we love, which is early 70s prog rock. No-one was making this type of music anymore (that we were aware of; at least not since Änglagård in the early 90s, which we also like a lot). We are aiming for a certain feeling, sound (and I mean everything from snare-sound to type of plate-reverb and microphone-placements, as well as instrumentation) and style of such bands like King Crimson, Genesis, Yes, ELP, PFM, Gentle Giant, VDGG and so on. Tony (vocals) joined before Hinterland was recorded (2005), and left around 2006/2007. He was of course willing to sing those two minutes of vocals on Afterglow (also since had played those songs previously as well) which came out finally in 2009. In late 2009 Andreas joined on vocals, and here we are now with Rites at Dawn, which was released in May this year.

 

JL: I’m also interested in how you chose the classic symphonic prog genre as your style of choice?

 

Lars: I’ve never really thought about that. I guess the reason for that was that it wasn’t really so much of a choice, but rather something we just had to do and felt like doing. This was the type of music we mainly listened to and inspired us the most, so it’s of course just a natural thing for most bands. Of course also one day we also found out we had too much hair, beard and analog keyboards, that not playing prog would just seem wrong. But there’s something about this genre which is so strange; it was almost like a secret, underground thing in a way, disregarded by most people. We just want to make great music without caring for trends, economical goal or any other non-musical stuff which has destroyed much of the music since the 70s. It is supposed to be only about the music!

 

JL: Do you recall that first prog record you heard that made you say…that’s the kind of music I want to make?

 

Lars: It happened gradually at least for me. When I was about 13-15 years old I was mainly into late 60s psychedelia, Led Zeppelin, Yes, Black Sabbath and so on. One day I saw a documentary about the Isle of Wight festival in 1970 where this one band had its debut concert, with a mad keyboardist who was throwing his Hammond organ around, stabbing it with knives and so on, and I think that was a turning point. From there on I found bands like King Crimson, Gentle Giant, Genesis, VDGG, Univers Zero, and so on, as well as the Italian ones like PFM, Banco del mutuo soccorso, Museo Rosenbach, Maxophone and many, many, many, many more. Still it took some time for me to understand it was “progressive” rock I was listening to (it was just a name of the genre for me, and I didn’t think any more about it’s original meaning), so the whole “this isn’t progressive since it’s been done before” criticism we always get thrown after us, was not something we had even thought about until way into Wobbler’s second or third year (or even longer…).

 

JL: Is Wobbler a full-time gig or are there day-time jobs that need to be juggled?

 

Lars: None of us make a living of Wobbler. All of us have jobs on the side. Actually I’m a student (I’ll deliver my master-assignment in art history in a month), and I do mainly music on the side (film-music, helping people record and mix albums, run the record label “Termo Records” and so on). I think you have to play live a lot more than we do, if we were to make a living of Wobbler (and even then, most of the time playing a gig is just a minus-project for us, mainly because of all the gear).

 

JL: You have three discs out as of this point…each one is a bit different…if you had to describe in a sentence or two each disc to someone who’d never heard the band…what would you say?

 

Lars: Hinterland is gentle, calm, down-tempo, yet dynamic and at times even brutal. Afterglow is raw, up-tempo and more intense. Rites at Dawn is somewhere in the middle, and it has much more vocals, and is perhaps a bit more rock-oriented (I think it’s got a more Blue Oyster Cult feel to it). The Nordic feel and medieval is a bit more absent on Rites at Dawn, but by the looks of it, this will return with our next album more than ever – though of course still a bit early to tell at the moment. Things just have to flow naturally, and we must play whatever we feel like playing, or else it’ll just lose its meaning. On Rites at Dawn we finally began to master the recording studio, and getting the sound we heard in our heard. When we recorded Hinterland, it was the first time I ever set foot in a pro recording studio, so it was all very new to us.

 

JL: It seemed to me that your latest disc, Rites at Dawn, is a little less complex or a little less busy and even more on the classic symphonic side. Is that a fair observation? Or did I miss something?

Lars: No, you’re right! The two first albums were both made in 1999, so it should have been a double album. Rites at Dawn was made 6-7 years later, so naturally it sounds a bit different. We also got everything a bit in perspective compared to when we first discovered all the classic prog bands (which peaked around 1999, at least for me), which can be both good and bad I think. This time we focused more on composition than before. Actually that’s wrong to say, because even a song like In Taberna (from Afterglow), which perhaps may sound like we took a bunch of riffs and just tossed them into a random order for then never to repeated again, was actually not random at all and pretty much made in one go, with intentional twists and turns. But the last album, Rites at Dawn, may have a bit more “normal” compositions, which of course is just a natural development and reaction of what we made previously (just like those first songs we made were a reaction against, or the total opposite of the music we played before that, before Wobbler in other bands). So if this also will happen on the next album, we’ll just have to wait and see. In such case I guess it should be a dark, Nordic and complex album.

JL: What’s the response been from fans and media to your music?

Lars: I think it’s been very good. I was actually a bit surprised by all the Yes comparisons – sure we’re huge Yes-fans, and definitely have been inspired by Yes here and there, but I think this album is much, much more that a simple Yes-clone. Also Andreas sounds a bit like Jon Anderson or Chris Squire, so that of course helps as well. Anyway, there’s always people who prefer the older albums and vice versa, but that’s part of the game. The main thing is that we are very happy with this album ourselves! I have to admit it was nice to be well received by the big prog-magazines (Classic Rock Presents Prog and Eclipse Magazine), so that’s very nice. Also it’s interesting to hear how each reviewer has a different favorite-song from the album, which is a good sign, since I think all the songs are quite good and have a different appeal.

 

JL: How does Wobbler approach writing…what comes first? How does it all come together?

 

Lars: It depends. Each song has a different story. But the main rule is that everything goes thru the band-mincer – some of it is even written collectively (especially parts of Hinterland). But arrangements are almost always something we do together as a band. So even if one of us is credited as a “songwriter”, the arrangement-part must be emphasized, since very often a lead-melody is written on top of an ok riff, which can take it into new heights and often into new territory – making the composition drastically changed. Specially Andreas did an amazing job on Rites at Dawn, where he wrote many vocal-lines (like an instrument) on top of old compositions (since he joined just 2 years ago), which caused us to lengthen some parts, and change parts quite drastically.

 

JL: Your songs are sung in English…what motivates the decision to sing in English rather than Norwegian?

 

Lars: When we were recording Hinterland we were at a cross-road: should we sing in Norwegian or English? The record label, The Laser’s Edge, was very much for English lyrics, so we ended up on that. It would be cool, however to release a Norwegian version of all our albums. Oh, and of course Italian versions as well.

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