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Dim Gray - Interview

  by Julie Cruickshank

published: 8 / 11 / 2022

Dim Gray - Interview

Norwegian prog/art rock band Dim Gray caused a stir with their debut album 'Flown', and now their follow-up, 'Firmament' is receiving much praise. Their sound is best described as veering between Radiohead and Sigur Ros with hints of Enya, creating a unique and rich listening adventure. The band - Hakon Hoiberg, Oskar Holldorff and Tom Ian Klungland - recently supported Marillion and speak to Pennyblackmusic about this experience, as well as giving an insight into their classical influences and methods of studio recording. PB: Your debut album ‘Flown’ was critically acclaimed and now your follow-up, ‘Firmament’ is making waves - it is a wonderful listening experience rich in depth and texture. Lyrically Dim Gray’s songs often chart deep and gloomy courses - do you feel that living in cold and dark Norway has an effect upon your subject matter? OSKAR HOLLDORFF: Making waves – I see what you did there! I think you’re onto something; it’s cold and dark a lot of the time, and I think Norwegians are also generally pretty seclusive, so it has to have had an effect. But the doom and gloom mostly has to do with the fact that I just don’t tend to like straight up happy lyrics without any form for melancholy, conflict, irony, and so on. They don’t tend to resonate as strongly with me. HAKON HOIBERG: Yes, I think it is easy to be affected by the cold weather and then luckily Norwegians have a perfect excuse to do indoor activities like watching movies et cetera. I have always liked the bittersweet mix of warm and cold. If a song is too happy there is something strange going on, or maybe I have watched too many movies… TOM KLUNGLAND: Maybe on a subconscious level. However, these feelings and states of mind are prevalent all over the world. Loss and longing are universal feelings that anyone can relate to. But yes, there are a lot of people that get “winter depression” up here. PB: Your music is self-produced. Does each one of you have to have the final say on every track, or are some songs personal to a certain band member? OH: This varies wildly from song to song. Some of the songs are essentially written by one person, and the writer will typically be a bit protective about it and want it to end up the way he pictured it. On other songs the process is way more open and collaborative. I definitely prefer the latter. It’s a much more enjoyable process, but sometimes it’s hard to let go of a song that is dear to you if you feel like it’s being pushed in the wrong direction. So it’s a bit of both. HH: It is different with every song. Sometimes you work a long time and it’s hard to explain to others where you want the song to go. Then it’s good to meet and get a fresh perspective, allowing the song to go other directions. My recording abilities have luckily gotten a little better since ‘Flown’, so at times technology helps to explain the vision. Especially when the song is in the early stages. PB: Violin and cello feature strongly on ‘Firmament’. Indeed many of your songs sound like classical pieces. Is this an area of music you feel you may explore in the future? Do the band have any particular favourite classical pieces of music? TK: I think we all listen to and appreciate classical music, and some of us have studied it to some extent. However, I think it's the orchestral and movie score part of the classical instruments that we apply to our music. The dream would of course be for Dim Gray to score a movie! Personally, I’m very fond of the music of Johannes Brahms and Maurice Ravel, especially Ravel’s’pieces for string quartet and Brahms’ 4th symphony. HH: We often mention we want to score a movie and maybe that's one of the reasons it ends up sounding cinematic. The atmosphere is very important I believe. I wish I knew more about classical music. I try to dip my toe in the water from time to time. I enjoy Vivaldi and Debussy, and ‘Danse Macabre’ by Camille Saint-Saëns is very nice! OH: I always get embarrassed when asked about classical music, because I know so little about it! That said, I’ve been trying to listen to more classical music in the last few years. One composition that provided me with some inspiration for the album was Claude Debussy’s ‘La Mer’ – and Debussy used Hokusai’s ‘The Great Wave off Kanagawa’ as the artwork, which is an obvious inspiration for our album cover. Additionally, Arvo Pärt’s 'Fratres’ inspired me to explore the different timbres you can make with a violin. One of my favourite moments of the album was when the violinist, Hanna Nicoline Krohn Moland, came back to the control room after stacking loads of violin tracks on 'Meridian’ using a really weird brushing technique. I asked her if she’d ever played the violin like that before, to which she replied, "Never!” That made me really happy. PB: Your songs are very intricately structured. When playing live, are you faithful to the construct of each piece or do you flow into improvisation? HH: We have some structures but we have sections that allow for improvisation. Sometimes we stretch out instrumental parts if it sounds better live. TK: We mostly stay pretty close to the original arrangements, but on occasion we will rearrange something if we feel it will sound better in a live setting. OH: The song structures are typically set, and any improvisation is within those boundaries. There is for instance some improvisation live on 'Closer’ and 'Avalon | The Tide’, but the song structures remain intact. Maybe we’ll expand on that and increase the separation between the gigs and the albums as we gain more experience playing live with Dim Gray. PB: Dim Gray have recently supported British band Marillion in Stockholm. How was this as an experience, and do you feel you learned from them in any way? TK: It was an absolutely amazing, humbling and surreal experience. The way the Marillion audience met and accepted us was lovely. We learned that Marillion and the Marillion fans have a very special bond, a bond that is something we should strive to build and maintain with our own fans. OH: It was a real milestone for the band, as we’d never played to an audience of that size. And then to get the reception that we did was utterly incredible. At one point I was going to say something after a song, but I couldn’t get a word in for what felt like more than a minute because the standing ovation from the crowd was just too loud. Standing there and taking it in was the most incredible feeling, especially after having made two albums in what has felt like a vacuum due to the pandemic. Additionally, each Marillion member took the time to have a chat with us, which I thought was a lovely touch. HH: It was the biggest concert we have done and it was a massive learning experience both on and off stage. We learned how we should behave visually and how the songs can be presented in the best way possible. It was amazing to play in front of so many people, fingers crossed there will be more concerts like this in the future! PB: Could each member tell Pennyblackmusic which are their favourite bands or artistes? HH: Paul Simon has always been a favourite and a huge influence on me. His arrangements and songwriting is from another world. Brian Wilson, Dire Straits, R.E.M. and many more… A new duo I recently discovered is Rodrigo Y Gabriella, with very impressive arrangements and a big sound using only two guitars. TK: These things are ever changing. I have been diving back into metal the past six months though, so I’ve been rediscovering bands like Bal-Sagoth, Mörk Gryning, and Old Man’s Child. Other than that I grew up with bands like Dire Straits, Eagles, ELO and Genesis , which I still listen to frequently. OH: Right now I’m really into Owen Pallett, Gabriel Kahane and Becca Stevens – the latter’s collaboration with Attacca Quartet is my favourite album so far this year. Once you start listing your favourite bands/artists it’s hard to stop, but some of the ones that have been the most important to me are Porcupine Tree, Keane, Peter Gabriel, Susanne Sundfør, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Eric Johnson and O.S.I. PB: You are touring in September, what are your plans beyond that? Can we expect a third Dim Gray album in 2023? OH: There probably won’t be a Dim Gray album in 2023, but it’s very possible that we’ll spend the year making one! We are also planning to play a lot more gigs, which I’m really eager to do. HH: When we know we will let you know! PB: Thank you,

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Dim Gray - Interview

Dim Gray - Interview

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Julie Cruickshank speaks to Norwegian prog/art rock band Dim Gray about their recently released second album ‘Firmament’, playing with Marillion and their classical influences and methods of studio recording.


Firmament (2022)
Achingly beautiful second album from Norwegian prog prodigies Dim Gray
Flown (2021)

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