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Norway interview 

Submitted by Juha Harjula on 2007-04-05
New Jersey AORsters Norway are back with a brand new album called Rising Up From The Ashes. It has takne Jim & Co over 6 years to record a new album to follow up their 2000 release Arrival. So I talked to Jim and asked him about the new album and singer Dave Baldwin. So check it out what he had to say about it.
1. Hello Jim, how are you doing?
Jim: Doing just fine Juha, it’s nice to be “back” !

2. It´s great to have Norway back with a brand new album. But why has it taken over 6 years to follow up Arrival from 2000?
Jim: It’s a tangled web we weave, isn’t it ? LOL! Well we were ready to start recording for another record about a year and half after Arrival came out. We went back and forth with our label at the time, Now & Then, for about another 6 months before they dropped a bomb on us…they did not want to pick up the option for a 2nd record. Well that bothered us a lot, since Arrival had done fairly well and we knew a quick follow up record was needed. I continued to have a dialogue for another year with Mark Ashton until terms of a deal were agreed upon. So that makes it 2003 already. Then another 6months with no money coming to start sessions, so at that point we asked to be released from the contract and they agreed. In hindsight, I’m sure they were starting to feel the financial pinch at that time and probably wanted to concentrate their resources on Ten and Bob Catley. So anyway, by this time we are well into 2003 and I buy some recording gear and get started doing “demo’s” of some new stuff. The plan was to get a deal then re-record the drums and some vocals , and remix for label release. So it was late 2003 when we actually started the record and it was complete by the end of 2005, but took until July 2006 to get a label.

3. Are you pleased with final result of Rising Up From The Ashes and tell us about the new album?
Jim: Overall, yeah I am. But obviously we taken a few hits over the “weak” production, that pains me to no end. Fact is, like I told you earlier, we hoped to land a deal get some advance money and re-record the drums and a few other things, remix-it and have it mastered by a top facility. Believe me, we wanted nothing more than to be able to put out a top notch record, still being haunted by the indie production on our first record Night Dreams, which improved somewhat on Arrival, but here we were again with no money at all to redo anything. Besides that, RUFTA is probably our overall best work, with some great band performances.

A big difference is that on the last two, they were essentially Jim & Glenn records, we wrote all the parts and pretty much decided everything. On the new one, I didn’t do that at all. I simply gave a “guide track” to Marty & Joe with a click track,some guitars and keys and a rough vocal by Dave. Then they came to the studio and recorded the parts they came up with. Same with Dave’s vocals. Dave didn’t want to record vocals the same way as Glenn, and wanted to actually cut down a bit on the number of harmonies and parts, so we worked together to keep the NORWAY sound, yet having it evolve in a good way.

4. You have a new singer, ex-Tradia vocalist Dave Baldwin. What happened to your former singer Glenn Pierson and how did you get in contact with Dave?
Jim: Well after getting stalled for 2 years with Now & Then, just as we were to start the recordings Glenn Pierson had some very serious personal commitments that had to be handled and he was unable to contribute to the new record . Since we had always worked together I was holding back not wanting to record too many things until Glenn could start working again. After about a year, I saw this just wasn’t going to happen, so I spoke with Glenn and we made a clean break. We are still great friends, I was just over at his house last week to give him a copy of the new record.

Dave had sang on my 9/11 benefit song Bridge Of Faith (which is the bonus track on the Japanese release) , and we had hit it off very well. He came over to my place to record an acoustic song he wrote, and we got to talking and I asked him if he would sing on the next Norway record. We talked about it for a few weeks, and he finally decided he wanted to do it. He had some reservations, for one he was trying personally to move to a more modern sound and didn’t want to do another AOR/MHR record. But in the end when he heard the songs, and we both had a lot of the same goals, he agreed to do it. At this point Id have to say we’re not entirely certain if Dave will do another record with us or it was a one time thing for him.

5. I think this new album is a good AOR album that goes in a typical Norway style. But on songs like Haunted their is other influences. Has Dave brought new influences to the band?
Jim: Well he really did, but funny thing is Haunted is not one of them ! I had that song mostly written way back when we recorded Arrival. But the lyrics were never done. So I pulled it out of storage, dusted it off and finished/re-wrote the lyrics. I’d say Haunted is one step closer to my heavier influences. I know you cant tell, but in my day I was a real Zeppelin freak and also metal like the Scorpions, Judas Priest (Sad Wings of Destiny is perhaps metals finest hour)and no disrespect to Ozzie who I love, Heaven & Hell with DIO remains my favorite Sabbath record. Id love nothing more than to get involved with a project playing heavier stuff like this !! Anybody reading this Email me ! So Haunted was that little part of me coming out. Id like to do more of it in the future.

Dave brought in a whole new set of influences . A great songwriter in his own right, he brought in his song SAVE ME to the project and we helped each other finish a song he had “Since You’ve Been Gone” and I had “Won’t Let You Down”. Also we wrote Anything At All with Joe Slattery . I’d have to say that Anything At All is probably the song on the record with the most “Dave” influence on it.

6. How do you work when you write the songs? Are eveyone in the band involved or does everyone come up with their ides and then you work them out?
Jim: Except for the songs I mentioned, I pretty much write everything, or in the case of cowritten songs I usually do the arrangements and write the parts. But anyone can bring a song in…it just has to be of a certain quality to be considered. Joe Slattery is a very good “idea man”. Anything At All started because of a little bass riff he came up with and the chords to the verse. That was it…we jumped all over it and it one night made it something else entirely!

7. My favourite song of the album is the fantastic The Power Of Gold, what´s yours and why?
Jim: I like different ones on different days, that’s for sure LOL! , but I like that one for the guitar playing, Anything At All is a favorite because it’s a little different, and I also like the ballad Only One I Need.

8. How has the reaction been on your new album? I gave you 3 and half stars on my review.
Jim: It’s really been great. Once the word got out we were signed to MTM and some promo started to happen, I began to realize that this was being perceived as a “comeback” album by some. I think across the board, the overall reception from fans and critics has been very positive. Perhaps only 3 or 4 out of 100 reviews said they didn’t like it and even they admitted the songs were great… so I think that’s better than a lot of groups out there.

9. You previous album was released on Now & Then. This new one is on MTM Music, how did you get in contact with them?
Jim: It ironic really. Back in 1996 I put up the bands first website, which was found by Magnus Soderkvist. I sent him a cassette tape . He liked what he heard, but he thought it need a heavier production and passed me to his friend Georg Seigl of Aor Heaven. Georg contacted me and on his encouragement we mastered our demo’s and released our first record Night Dreams! After that when we were deciding who to sign with for Arrival, Glenn actuall met with MTM in Germany, but we weren’t able to land a deal. So here we are years later with our “comeback” record on MTM, the label we wanted to be on all along !
You know I must say here, that we are really grateful to Mario and Sebastian over at MTM for giving us this shot. They knew a lot of fans still loved NORWAY and this record is proving it.

10. Are you gonna release this new album over there in the States?
Jim: Probably not. There was no indie label big enough to take it he next level if you know what I mean, and the small AOR/MHR market here is adequately covered by the mail order and online merchants. In the states you can get RUFTA from NEH records, Impulse Music, Wishing Well, as well as, CD Universe, iTunes and any number of other shops.

11. Were you raised by the radio when you were young and what bands did you listen to?
Jim: I really was. When I kid I grew up in a small town only 7 miles from NYC. Growing up we always listened to the AM stations of the day and whenever anything new came out we would run to the local record stores to buy the 45’s . I grew up in the 60’s really, so it was a very heady time! For chrissake’s the Beatles and Stones had a new song out, it seemed every week ! So that’s what formed my early influences. Plus my Dad had a Hi-Fi and always listened to country music and Elvis Presley records. I can still remember blowing that sytem up with my first Jimi Hendrix album! I went on to listen to Cream, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple , Sabbath, Priest, Kansas, Styx,etc. That evolved into the big production bands like Def Lepard, Bon Jovi , etc.

12. What kind of music do you listen to these days?
Jim: Not too much new stuff..maybe Chemical Romance, Green Day and all my old standbys-Beatles, Stones, Todd Rundgren, and I have Sirius satellite radio in my car and house so I listen to a few of their channels all time like Hair Nation and Classic Vinyl.

13. Your from New Jersey, how does the music scene look like over there nowdays?
Jim: Same as the last 15 years, it sucks. Unless you’re already famous(or used to be) there’s not too many opportunities to play besides occasional “showcases” . A younger band could probably exist with constant touring in the clubs, but we, being a little older now, have too many family responsibilities and too many bills to be off sleeping in a van trying to find gigs.

14. New Jersey area is well-known for many great AOR-bands such as Danger Danger, Prohet, Surgin and many more. Do you see any of those guys around there these days ?
Jim: No not all. I’ve only met Russ Arcara from Prophet once or twice and know him by acquaintance with a few other people. Of course Ive met Ted Poley a few times. He’s having an album launch party Feb 17th at a small club in jersey, that Joe Slattery and myself will be at to support him. We’ll also be there to sign copies of RUFTA for any fans who want to pick up a copy. He’s doing an acoustic set with Vic Rivera and later in the night there might be a few jams with the house band. Im bringing a guitar in any event.

15. Are there any plans for Noway to play live gigs with this new album and what you think about playing live?
Jim: There’s no plans at this point, but anything could happen. Since Arrival, we have not really been a functional touring band, so we would have to put the live thing back into rehearsals. We love to play live, but it has to be the right kind of thing.

16. Which of your 3 albums Night Dreams, Arrival and the new one do you rank highest and why?
Jim: In terms of the range of material and the depth of the songwriting and performances Id have to say the new one for sure. I think it showed a maturity in the band that we could evolve the NORWAY sound into something a bit more modern, while still retaining the core thing. We hear it in every review.. ”pure 80’s AOR “ ,but honestly we don’t try for that at all, it’s just what comes out.

17. How does the future look like for Norway? I hope we don´t need to wait another 6 years to see a follow up to RUFTA.
Jim: I surely hope not, hahahaha ! Ive got 4 new solid song ideas I’m working on which will be an excellent foundation to start the new record. We’ve got our fingers crossed that RUFTA will do well enough that MTM will option another record from us. Either way, Id say there will be another in about 2 years. And there will be no f_ _ king around. All money I make from this record will be earmarked for the recording of the next one. I will bring Joe & Marty to a proper studio and we will cut the basic tracks the way it should be done, and I have a well known local producer Im talking with who will co-produce. Norway will finally have the great sounding record our fans and us deserve !

18. Are you involved in other projects that you can tell us about?
Jim: I am working on mixing tracks for Kurt Vereecke’s FROZEN RAIN project. This stuff sounds great. In fact I told Kurt I was mad cause his album is going to sound so great !
He has the fantastic Daniel Flores on drums and Tommy Denander did most of the guitars and solos. There several vocalists, and of course Kurt is a really fine keyboardist so there’s tons of keys. Should be an AOR lovers dream. Im mixing 3 songs for him.

Also I’m banging around in my head a few other ideas….my wife thinks I should do an album of all cover songs that I like…that’s a possibility, really get a chance to stretch out on guitar a bit. Plus I have a pile of old songs that Glenn Pierson and I wrote over the years that we never recorded. Maybe 30 or 40 songs. He expressed some interest the last time we spoke about the possibility of recording some of them.
Plus a friend of mine and I had a private joke for like 30 years now…I always wanted to play the blues. I used to go to open mic nights just to play a little blues. My buddy used to say I’d have to start the “James L. Blues Band” (my middle initial is L ), and Ive often considered it. Id like to find a handful of guys in the area and work up a set of blues and maybe record it live.

19. Ok Jim, I wanna thank you for taking your time for this interview. Is there anything you would like to add or say to our readers?
Jim: Thanks so much for your support. Recording RUFTA was truly a labor of love. Thanks for sticking around for it. Peace- Jim Santos