Helldorado — Making Hits in Turkey, a Critic’s Favourite in Norway

While visiting a local Stavanger event/booking agency called SUB booking (R.I.P.) back in 2001 I noticed a band setting up to play in the lobby. Now when I say lobby, I mean a well worn and carpeted entrance area filled with boxes, unassembled furniture, empty bottles and trash. Going into a meeting I was told that this was the band’s rehearsal space. As it turned out the bass player Hans Arvid Wassvik was an employee at SUB booking at that time and therefore, naturally, would utilize the lobby as rehearsal space. Now I don’t remember much about the meeting, but I do remember listening to Helldorado for the first time.

16 years later I’m sitting down with the same Hans Arvid Wassvik and hellhorn player Ole Ellingsen, who joined the band in 2008 on the “Sinful Soul” album. A lot of things have changed since 2001 they agree, but what hasn’t changed is the critics' love for Helldorado.

Is it frustrating being in a band with such critical acclaim and not having been able to capitalize more on that?

“Well, in a sense I’d wish the critics’ opinions of us would have meant more for our opportunities. They used to carry more weight and we would most likely be in a different situation if we were at this point in our career 15 years ago”, Wassvik answers. “Still, I think we knew from the start that we weren’t set for world domination. We had a few offers, but decided to stick with CCAP right here in Stavanger”.

CCAP is the legendary Stavanger label run by Tom H. Brekke, which also released, among others, artists like Thomas Dybdahl, Micke from Sweden and Cloroform. (http://www.ccap.no/artists/artists.html)

What are Helldorado up to right now?

“We’re working on our next album. But, you know, we have a very gifted singer/guitar player and he plays with everybody. To make matters worse they actually pay him to play. So, we have to plan for the gaps in his schedule”, Wassvik chuckles, conveying that Dag Sindre Vagle, the songwriter, singer and guitar player of Helldorado, is a full time musician.

“He works with people that plan activities a year ahead of time and it can be challenging for our band to keep up with that level of structure”, he continues implying some limitations found within the bands organisational skills.

Do you still get around to touring?

Absolutely. In addition to gigs here in Norway we tour Switzerland once or twice a year. We play as much as we can. As far as the rest of Europe we do the odd Turkey gig, but we are not able to go there as much as we did before the economic crisis. It certainly shrunk our market as far as venues, festivals and booking agents go”, Wassvik explains.

Helldorado, which on and off still also include former member Bård Halsne on guitar, consist of people who are about half way through life. So I wonder:

Does creativity diminish or change over the years?

“I don’t think it disappears, but I think it changes a bit as far as knowing what works and what doesn’t. Maybe you can lose a bit of spontaneity by establishing too familiar patterns

Are you still able to surprise yourselves when writing songs?

Yes, I think so. But maybe not to the point where we jump out of our chairs…..hahaha”, Wassvik answers. “ We are still very ambitious in our songwriting and think what we are doing sounds pretty cool. We’ve never speculated in making music that we think someone else might like”

How will the next album sound like?

“It’s trumpet-based…..hahaha”, Ellingsen says. “It will probably be a bit more live based without too many overdubs. We’ve always been a live band, a very dynamic band. At a point we had serious issues with compressors killing our dynamic playing. We’re working with producer Ashley Stubbert out of ABC Studio in Etne”, says Wassvik.

Any stories we should hear from your 16 year long run?

“Well, yes”, says Wassvik with Ellingsen nodding conformingly. “We’ve spent some time in Turkey over the years and have quite a fan base there. We’ve toured there several times and it’s been a lot of fun of course. However, I remember we were going to perform live on the largest TV-network and it turned out to be a memorable experience. As we were getting ready, holding only our instruments because everything else was “provided for”, and being brought into the performance room our drummer, Morten Jackman, was stopped. No,no, no…..we don’t have drums, only these two” we were told. So, Dag and I set up, with Morten watching from the other room, only to learn that a technician said “play now” and then the playback started. So we played live as a duo to playback containing drums without the drums, and we did it in front of millions”.

I heard you had a Justin Bieber experience as well in Turkey?

“Yes. After playing in front of 10 000 people, we had to be protected from a mob of fans. I’m sure they only wanted to show us some love, but the security made an iron ring around the band and hurried us into the tour bus. Then the bus started rocking back and forth and we had to sneak in later to collect our instruments. I remember talking about The Beatles and The Stones in the bus….haha”, Wassvik remembers. “Then two days later we played in front of 25 people at a club here in Norway”.

During the 2008 European football championships Turkey’s national football team decided to use Helldorado’s a drinking song as team song. The song being a hit in Turkey had its lyrics replaced with what one can only presume are team related content. A quick youtube search reveals many released cover versions by various Turkish artists.

Not many Norwegian artists, if any, have bragging rights over such an event.

Not many artists are as worthy of crowdsurfing as Helldorado. Join here to support them on a monthly basis and help them be able to buy back their own singer.

Other Relevant Links:

A drinking song — original

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lwgquUb8sC0

A drinking song. Turkish football team version:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YhIspAm9gDI

Helldorado homepage:

www.helldorado.no

CCAP homepage:

www.ccap.no

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