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Catching up with Thomas Bolverk of Under The Oak and Bolverk

1. Tell us about your release "Rattus Norvegicus"

Thomas-Bolverk: «Rattus Norvegicus» is UNDER THE OAKs second release. The first one, «Ripped up by the Roots» was released through Wormholedeath the fall of 2020 and the new one was out in the fall of 2023…also through Wormholedeath. As «Ripped up by the Roots» went down very good with listeners as well as reviewers, we kind of felt the pressure when we were making the follow-up. People were taken by surprise with the first one and we were taken by surprise by the amount of attention we got. In reality, we just composed music that we liked ourselves and we took it as a bonus that other people liked it too. For «Rattus Norvegicus», people had expectations and we knew that they would listen differently this time. In the end, we just decided to trust in ourselves and make the best possible album we could. We put a lot of effort into it, of course, and I think that the band had a very natural development in this period of time. One part of that development was that we grew comfortable having one foot in the Thrash Metal camp and one foot in the more traditional Heavy Metal camp. On “Ripped up by the Roots” we kind of tried to be a Thrash Metal band and we were a bit afraid to include the Heavy Metal influences that kept popping up, but in the end it’s only natural. We grew up in the eighties and we listened to Metal before anything was labeled Thrash Metal, so it’s inevitable, I think, that the music will be affected by that.

2. What feeling do you hope people get from your music?

Thomas Bolverk: Well, Metal music is a physical phenomenon, I think. It’s supposed to grab you and make you want to move. We also want you to sing along and put a lot of work into making traditional arrangements with memorable vocal lines and musical hooks. We know from our own musical taste that we prefer music that offer hooks where you can hang your hat…parts that return in the song and parts that give you a sense of recognition and comfort. We love brutality and the heavy stuff, but we also love melody, and we try to incorporate it all in the music. The influences for the music are compiled from a broad array of artists and styles and we try to include our own preferences in our own music, of course. In the end we aim to compose…nothing unique, really, but more something memorable, down-to-earth and solid. If we manage to uphold some originality along the way…only better. Wormholedeath give us total artistic freedom, so everything is facilitated for us to make the best music we possibly can.

3. How do you prepare for recording a track?

Thomas Bolverk: The process for making an Under the Oak song is pretty regular. It starts with me taking some guitar-riffs and putting them in a sequence I find interesting…kind of a pre-arrangement. Then I send it to the rest of the band. They listen and we meet in the rehearsal-studio to work on it. All bets are off in this process, and everything is open for change. We add and remove parts, change them around and try it out altogether on full volume until we have an arrangement we feel is ultimate. We have gotten much better on this process as we’ve become more familiar with each other as musicians, and I think the process of writing “Rattus Norvegicus” was a lot smoother than when we wrote “Ripped up by the Roots”. I think you can also hear it on our latest release that the songs are more comprehensive and that the arrangements are tighter. We are already in the process of writing our third album that will be out on Wormholedeath the fall of 2024, and this process now feels very natural to us…

4. What keeps your passion for music alive?

Thomas Bolverk: A lot of things, I think. Music is a big part of our lives and we’ve been doing it for well over 30 years now. The passion for the music is kept alive by the music itself, I think. Our own music as well as other people’s music. The people of the scene all over the world keep the passion alive. The friendship of your bandmates. The fact that you get better at your instrument all the time. The opportunity to work with something creative. There are many reasons, and I probably forgot about most of them. For us, this is not a phase or a fad…it’s a way of life.

5. Who do you look up to and how have they influenced you?

Thomas Bolverk: Oh…there are so many people…! Ace and Kiss was an early influence. Motorhead, Venom, Sex Pistols and other punk-stuff… Jimi Hendrix and Rory Gallagher. Also seventies stuff like Deep Purple, Rainbow and Black Sabbath… NWOBHM, for sure… Saxon, Demon, Tank, Satan… Definitely Gary Moore… I’m probably forgetting a lot of people now, because influences have been many, also from different sub-genres, and I think all of them make up the musicians we are today…

6. How has your music evolved over time?

Thomas Bolverk: Well, I think we’re still a little bit stuck in the eighties. The eighties shaped us musically. A lot of stuff that you hear when you are young tends to stay with you. We are, of course, better musicians, better songwriters, better organizers and so on…but in essence, I think our philosophy around the music is still the same. We try to make something good, honest and down-to-earth. Something that we like ourselves…and then we take it as a bonus if other people also like it. We’ve always been like that, and we still are…even more… I think it’s difficult to make anything good if you follow a recipe. The music has a life of its own and you need to follow it down its own path…

7. How has your experience been with Wormholedeath?

Thomas Bolverk: We are old friends. Friendships are your greatest assets. Wormholedeath has played a great part in spreading our music (and also :BOLVERK:s music). They give us full artistic freedom and make sure that reviews and interviews are plentiful. We, on our side, try to supply them with a good quality product and play as many shows as possible, so they have something to work with. I am all for personal relationships and I feel we have a very good thing going with Wormholedeath.

8. What is your ultimate goal? 

Thomas Bolverk: We have put the days of great ambitions behind us. Maybe in our youth, 30 years plus ago, we were hoping to become rockstars and live from making music, but this is not something we think about anymore. Now it’s all about the friendship, making good music and getting to play the music live in front of an audience. The good thing about being a musician is that you getter better all the time, even if you get older. Sometimes, age and experience make for better music than the impulsivity of youth. This is not a black and white scenario, of course, but rather a palette of greyscales. There will always be exceptions to a rule. Some young bands are awesome, of course, and some musicians claim that they were at their best in the twenties, but not us, I think. I think we’ve never been better musicians or songwriters than we are right now. Even more important…Playing music has never been this fun…ever…


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