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Liquid Grey - Interview

Interview with: Robert Steen-Antonsen aka Mr. Grey
Conducted by: T.V.

Norway isn't really the country that comes in mind when speaking of gothic rock, but there's one guy who hears on the name Robert Steen-Antonsen aka Mr. Grey and his band Liquid Grey certainly puts this country on the map also regarding this genre. He's active in the music scene for a long time, as he was a member of The Flowers Of Romance and New Zero God. Mr. Grey also took part in many different projects through the years. With Liquid Grey he released his debut album entitled Grey Matter in 2011 which showed that there are no obstacles between typical gothic rock and gothic metal, yet everyone could sense a huge dose of coldness and amazing atmospheric passages that must have its source in the cold Scandinavian air. Two years later an EP, Love Under Will, came out and showed a slight change in the sound, based more on straight rock guitars and heavier song structures, yet that unerring cold feeling remained. In April 2014 Liquid Grey's sophomore album, Arsenic Dreams, was released through German label Echozone and from this point on I can only say that I eagerly await to hear more and more dark music done by this amazing artist. We did an insightful interview with Mr. Grey and he revealed us many things behind Liquid Grey, his future plans, some things from the past, we talked also about occultism, cemetary stories, and much much more.

T.V.: How are you Robert, as you just came back from a "working" holiday?
Robert: Hi Tomaz, I'm fine, and yes I've been to Holland and Greece in order to lay down some future plans for Liquid Grey.
T.V.: I know you've been making arrangements for a live line-up. Any updates that can be revealed?
Robert: Nothing is final yet but it is no secret that I am very fond of various talented new musicians, in various countires.
T.V.: Ok, lets keep this in secret for now. Your sophomore album, Arsenic Dreams, came out in April and I must ask you how are you satisfied with it?
Robert: Yes, I am, this is an album that I really wanted to make and I enjoyed the whole process form the songwriting to the final recordings, as well the mixing and mastering. I also had the opportunity to invite some of my friends to participate on a few tracks and I got a chance to work with Tom O'Conell on the production. This album is packed with surprises.
T.V.: I find it quite different from your debut Grey Matter. In Arsenic Dreams there's much more emphasis on straight rock structures, on the other hand the debut was more atmospheric...
Robert: I wanted my first album to show the connection to the old school bands of the 80's, while with Arsenic Dreams I reveal more about where I am right now, with a hint to the future, to where the next album will be.
T.V.: Beside the huge influence from many well known gothic rock bands you can't deny that there's heard in both albums the influence of Edlund's bands Lucyfire and Tiamat.
Robert: Here's a funny thing, I have always been a fan of Tiamat but I was completely unaware of Lucyfire at the moment that I was making the first album. Now I know that project of course, I had to look it up! I like what Edlund is doing and I think that the Swedish scene has graced us with several good bands and albums. Here in Norway I am one of the very few artists that make darker sounds.
T.V.: Norway is the first country that comes in mind when thinking of black metal. Were you ever a fan of that genre?
Robert: Norway is synonumous for black metal, true... There are many things that I like in black metal bands, the general creepy atmosphere, the long intros,... the almost punk rock attitude. These days I listen to "blackened" bands more than to ussual black metal stuff. I like Behemoth, or SepticFlesh and Rotting Christ, from Norway I still listen to Satyricon.
T.V.: I see that your musical taste is pretty varied and that's recognizable in Liquid Grey's music. Do you think that you risk a lot with the fact of not beign just another The Sisters Of Mercy or Fields Of The Nephilim copy?
Robert: Copy bands are one of the plagues that ruin the music these days! I cannot see the point except that they try to appeal to the fans of the original bands like the Sisters and the Neffs, that you just mentioned. I can only be myself, and do what I like without any compromises and yes take the risk that goes hand in hand with any work on this planet that promotes new ideas and suggests new paths. It has always been like that, if you want to go forward you got to be willing to take some risks.

T.V.: I know, but most of true goth fans (and not only goth fans, metal fans as well for example), want to hear over and over again the stuff that was already done in 80's. Sometimes I feel almost like that everything that doesn't have that prefix is rejected right away.
Robert: True, there are many people out there that keep going back to the old bands and up to a point I like and respect those artists, since they laid the foundations but I do not have any nostalgic feelings... I find 2014 way more exciting than 1983.
T.V.: Let's return back to your new album. You have quite a interesting guest in there, D.M. Kruger from Descendants Of Cain. How this collaboration started?
Robert: Dee is one of the fellow Echozone label artists I have always liked as a musician and on a personal level as well. While I was writing "Dance Alone" I thought it would be fun to do a duet with with him and I'm so happy that he liked the idea and the song and that he delivered such a strong performance on my song. I loved making this song.
T.V.: It's for sure a great song, but my favourite is "Give Me The Rain". Which one is yours if you'll have to choose one?
Robert: I'm very glad you like this track, it is one of my favourites too and making it was a true experience. "Love Under Will" is another one that I like, because the message behind it is so powerful and so deliberating. "Hunger", "Saint Or Sinner" could be among my favourites as well, although I like the whole album and I used only the very best songs that I had.
T.V.: So, you are saying that there is still some unpublished material?
Robert: Yes, I am. Actually I have written a lot of the material of the new album already. After I was done with the material for Arsenic Dreams I just kept writing and writing taking only a short pause for about 20 days. I'm on a very creative path these days.
T.V.: I have one critic though..., what's this with a cover artwork for Arsenic Dreams? It looks so simple and I think that featured music would deserve something more spectacular?
Robert: I could have chosen a more elaborate album cover, which once again is what most people would do these days, but Liquid Grey is not like any other project. The Arsenic symbol on the cover gives a hint to what the album contains without over explaining things. The power and beauty of symbols is that they can inspire with just a few simple lines. They are there for providing the initial spark the rest lies between the songs and lyrics of the album.
T.V.: Fair enough! Both of your albums were released through Echozone. How are you satisfied with this label? Do they reach your expectations?
Robert: Getting a record contract with Echozone a few years ago provided me with the artistic freedom to do things the way that I like as well as providing me with a staff of very experienced people who are also true fans of alternative music. Germany has always had a finger on the pulse of alternative music and I am pleased with the collaboration so far.
T.V.: You also told me that you are preparing some live shows. Any updates about that?
Robert: As soon as I have the line up ready I will be open to do a few shows before the end of 2014.
T.V.: Are you thinking of a proper tour or something?
Robert: There is an increasing demand for Liquid Grey shows out there and I'm looking forward to doing it, as long as it is well organised. I peronally like more the smaller "hit and run" tours than leaving my home for weeks and weeks at the time it keeps the music fresh and raw everytime instead of just going through the moves night after night on a longer tour.
T.V.: I see. In which countries do you have the biggest amount of fans and most demands to play?
Robert: Most of the requests come from Europe and the USA, although I have gotten a very persistent request from as far as India. I am interested to go anywhere where people want to hear my music played live.
T.V.: Hope to see you someday also in Slovenia or at least somewhere near...
Robert: I've been passing through Slovenia as a tourist and I loved it over there, I would definitely like to play in your country, yes!
T.V.: Different subject... Some words about the name Liquid Grey?
Robert: The name comes from an older unreleased song of mine, where those two words appear together in the lyrics side by side. It desrcibes me and my music very well and it has many meanings, from the ruler planet of the Gemini zodiac sign to the mercury that you see if you break a thermometer. It is grey and liquid, it flows but its heavy, love the colour too.
T.V.: And what about the lyrics of yours? Are there any special things that inspires you?
Robert: Everything isnpires me! This album has a strong Thelemic influence, which is more obvious in songs like "Love Under Will" and "Blazing Star" among others, and the artowrk of the album contains references to Thelema and Aleister Crowley. All my songs are directly linked to my own experiences. Some less obvious than others. The language of symbolism is applied everywhere and the listener is always welcome and encouraged to draw their own meanings and conclusions.
T.V.: So, how much are you into occultism. Do you practise magick, are you attending any special magical rituals or ceremonies?
Robert: I have always been interested in those things, since the old days, but mostly in theory reading books etc... from 2007 I started working more and practicing alone or together in several groups etc... In the last years Thelema has been my main practice and inspiration.
T.V.: Let's dig a bit into your past. You were a member of The Flowers Of Romance and New Zero God. What can you say about that period of yours?
Robert: I have played in many bands through the years and the more I played the more I realized that I wanted to do my own thing.
T.V.: Are there beside those two any other names that could be mentioned?
Robert: I have done lots of sessions for others and I have had my own small projects throught the years. Recently I also participated in two different side projects, Thornfields in 2011 and recently Carnival Star.
T.V.: Yeah, I wanted to ask you about Carnival Star. How did this collaboration started and how were you satisfied with the final result of the cover of "Walk Away"?
Robert: Carnival Star started when Producer Mark and myself decided to make some music together, but first he wanted to do some covers just for fun, he suggested that I did "Walk away" and I loved the idea, as long as we changed it a bit, what we did, it was all good fun.
T.V.: Do you intend to work more with Carnival Star?
Robert: we have decided to do a full album, so yes, there will be some of my guitars and vocals in there and my touch in there as a co-producer.
T.V.: Glad to hear that! And as you mentioned before that you're already working on Liquid Grey's next album,... can you already tell us if you have any release date planned?
Robert: No release date yet, since this is only work in progress at the moment and I would also like to do a few shows as well, but I woud like to do an album rather quick this time!
T.V.: Are the new songs in the same vein or are there any surprises?
Robert: There will be many surprises on the next album, I can say that much! On the first album there were some hints as to what was to be expected from the next album and with Arsenic Dreams I have left quite a few hints as to where I am going to go next!
T.V.: I mentioned in the review of Arsenic Dreams that the production is somehow too weak in my opinion. Don't you think that with stronger and deeper sound the songs could shine even better?
Robert: Well, I hope that you will like the new album better then, which I can tell you now, it will be heavier!
T.V.: Must tell you that I love your guitar playing. Tell me who are the guitarist that have been the biggest influence of yours?
Robert: Oh thanks for the compliment! Yes, guitar playing is where I get my kicks, definitely. I have roots in the 70's Black Sabbath, Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, etc... So first I leraned how to play "proper" guitar and then I discovered the alternative guitar of the 80's which I added to my influnces, Billy Duffy was a guy who did a similar thing blending straight forward rock guitar with post punk, alternative sltyles.
T.V.: And that's heard... a perfect blend of rock, alternative and goth. Oh, must ask you... while you were in The Flowers Of Romance you had also some experiences with Wayne Hussey. What can you tell about that?
Robert: Meeting Wayne Hussey and working with him back then was definitely the highlight of my days in the band. I had the pleasure of working with him for two weeks, every day, hanging out, learning lots behind his sound secrets as well as a bunch of anecdotes from his life with The Sisters Of Mercy and The Mission. A very nice guy, and a very talented musician too. The album came out very well too, pity that the band did not appreciate my input and my photos and credits were removed from the album. Wayne is also mentioned as "executive producer"... instead of "producer", so much for gratefulness huh?
T.V.: Huh, that's unfair. Any idea why it came to this?
Robert: Lack of balls is one reason! LOL!!! Lack of respect is another... but it all worked out to my benefit in the end, while the band and the album sank like a stone.
T.V.: And what's your relation with the Greek guys these days?
Robert: I love Greece and the new scene down there is amazing! The younger bands in the metal and goth metal genres are worth checking out in my opinion, bands like Sorrowful Angels, Dimlight, Ritual Of Odds as well as the big names like SepticFlesh and Rotting Christ just to name very few.
T.V.: I thought about the relation with guys from The Flowers... who are now almost all in New Zero God?
Robert: I don't know the line up, they tend to change it quite often. I have a bit of contact with Harry, the bass player, nice guy.
T.V.: Beside beign involved in music what else do you do in life?
Robert: Music is my call in life, and the only thing I do in life.
T.V.: And what's the main goal that you want to reach with your music?
Robert: My main goal is to make the best music I can make, and that people can include it in their lives and connect to it in any way they want to. I'm happy to provide the soundtrack for them, when they make love, or when they sit alone, or when they dance ecstatic and wild on a drunken night, or when they ride a bus or train,... just to be there with them.
T.V.: We talked about Carnival Star, but I forgot to ask you about the other project of yours, Thornfields. What can you say about it?
Robert: Well we made one album with Thornfields in 2011 titled The Desert and someday we might make some more, who knows?
T.V.: And as we talked about Wayne Hussey I'm curious about what do you think about The Mission's last album released last year?
Robert: I did not like that album at all, I will leave it at that...
T.V.: Can you tell me if there's an album recently released that lift the hair of yours?
Robert: I loved the last Behemoth album The Satanist, before that the last Moonspell album Alpha Noir/Omega White and of course 13 by Black Sabbath!!
T.V.: As you mentioned Moonspell. Which side, Alpha Noir or Omega White?
Robert: I loved both CD's, such a brilliant concept to include the Omega White album with... hhmmm "softer" songs with cleaner vocals and guitars etc... brilliant.

T.V.: You already did a couple of video clips, but there's an interesting anecdote with your last one for the song "Hunger"...
Robert: Yes, funny story, it was a cold day and the mood was not good there was lot of tension in the air... but we needed the shots for the clip so I started walking around at the cemetary with my dark sunglasses and all getting weird looks, since there were a couple of funerals that day and I was walking around between the graves posing and doing my thing. I guess that people in Norway are still scared when they see people around cemetaries and churches after all the things that happened back in the 90's... hehehehehehe... I am not in fond of religion but setting churches on fire and stuff it is not in my agenda!!
T.V.: I think that would be all. Do you think we forgot something to mention? And last words are of course yours.
Robert: Thank you very much Tomaz, I hope that we can come to your country soon!!!

Liquid Grey links: Official website, Facebook, Echozone