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ROCKWIRED INTERVIEWS HANGFACE

ROCK N ROLL FANTASY
DAGGI “DJ” HELLING
OF HANGFACE
TALKS WITH ROCKWIRED ABOUT FREAKSHOW, WOMEN OF A CERTAIN AGE AT STURGIS

AND
WORKING WITH EDDIE KRAMER
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INTERVIEWED BY BRIAN LUSH

HANGFACE is the sort of rock n roll Cinderella story that only happens in the movies. Usually it’s the kind of story that gets written by CAMERON CROWE (ALMOST FAMOUS). It is a story that began in darkness (North of the Arctic Circle in the country of Norway) by five young men willing to chase that often elusive rock n roll dream. It was a journey that had these Norwegians hop-scotching back and forth from Europe to the U.S. and getting lost in the enthusiastic responses to their live sets.

Here is where the fantasy comes in. Their debut CD FREAKSHOW is due out in stores on November 15, 2005 and boasts production credits by legendary rock producer EDDIE KRAMER (JIMI HENDRIX, KISS and GUNS & ROSES). How many bands would kill for a chance to get a legend producing their first LP?

The band itself is one of the more interesting rock n roll packages to come along in a while. It’s easy to pin it all on their Norwegian ancestry but it’s their sound (rooted in the hard rock tradition of bands like STONE TEMPLE PILOTS and AUDIOSLAVE) that makes them stand out. As far as their packaging is concerned, one only needs to view the striking artwork on their forthcoming CD sleeve to know that these purveyors of hard rock are putting artistry back into rock albums thanks to art director MATT TOUCHARD and photographer ASTOR MORGAN. 

At the time of this interview, HANGFACE’s touring schedule had been interrupted by hurricane KATRINA. (They were to play a series of dates in Louisiana) I spoke with the bands rhythm guitarist and backing vocalist DAGGI “DJ” HELLING. Here’s how it went. 

I hear that you were supposed to play New Orleans?
Yeah. We were supposed to play a lot of places in Louisiana. Places like La Fayette, Baton Rouge. A lot of these places aren’t there anymore. We have friends in New Orleans including some people from our management company. So we had to call off the tour and regroup in LA. We were supposed to go on to Florida but now that’s been cancelled because this new hurricane. (HURRICANE RITA was 72 hours away from the Gulf Coast the day this interview took place. It never hit Florida.)

What does HANGFACE mean?
It’s translated directly from Norway. What a lot of people don’t realize is that when foreign bands come to America, a lot of them have names that are already taken by American artists so we thought lets directly translate something from Norway so we don’t run into that problem. One meaning of the name could mean moody, as in “Why the long face?” or it could mean waking up on Sunday after spending Saturday night partying and looking in the mirror. So it could have both a positive or a negative meaning depending on how you want to look at it. 

How did HANGFACE begin?
First of all there are very few rock places in Norway. It’s a very pop friendly country. It's either pop or black metal and HANGFACE isn’t any of those things. We all met in this town called TROMSO, which is above the Arctic Circle where there is 24 hours of night. Me and the lead vocalist (BJORNAR FLAA) are from the south of Norway and the others (Bassist HOGNE RUNDBERG and drummer ESPEN HOGMO) are from the northern part of the country. So we met up there, started playing together and that has been the line up ever since. 

Who influences HANGFACE?
There’s a long answer for that. The lead singer (BJORNAR FLAA) likes everything form Irish folk music to Death Metal. I like a lot of blues. I love U2, METALLICA and a lot of guitar driven music. The drummer (ESPEN HOGMO) is a big fan of IRON MAIDEN. The bassist (HOGNE RUNDBERG) loves the BEATLES and the RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS and the lead guitarist (TOM ESPEN PEDERSEN) likes GUNS AND ROSES. HANGFACE is a combination of sounds from the 70’s 80’s and 90’s all put together.

How is an American audience different from a Norwegian audience?
An American audience is awesome. They aren’t afraid to let you know if they like or dislike what they hear. An American audience has a lot of energy that you can feed off of. It’s like going to a football game. It’s loud but in a positive way. 

You played QUART (Norwegian Rock Festival) three years in a row.
Yes. We shared a stage with people like NO DOUBT DAVID BOWIE, BJORK and ALANNIS MORRISETTE and its rare that anyone is ever asked back let alone three times in a row. 

We touched on this a little earlier but what’s the music scene in Norway like?
It’s a very pop country. There is only one national radio station there and it’s extremely limited in what you hear or have access to whereas in the US you have choices and the was why the band had to make the decision to leave Europe and go to the US to work with EDDIE KRAMER on our album. It wasn’t something we could turn down. 

You walked right into my next question. How did you get to know and work with EDDIE KRAMER?
We were on a self financed tour one year and one of the places we were playing was a music industry seminar called SOUTH BY SOUTHWEST in Austin TX. During the day they have seminars and in the evening you have executives checking out new artists. EDDIE KRAMER was the guest of honor and he’s worked with legends like JIMI HENDRIX, KISS, GUNS & ROSES and all the way up to VELVET REVOLVER. We ran into him and gave him a demo. He lives in New York and he wanted to check us out and we told him that we would be playing CBGB’s in New York. We put his name on the guest list and he didn’t show up. He called us and apologized and we told him about our show at the WHISKEY A-GO-GO. He didn’t show up for that one either. When the tour was over we went back to Norway and he called us and apologized and asked if we’d be busy for the next few months. We said no and he said “Good, because I want to produce your first album.” How could we refuse that?

And this debut album is FREAKSHOW.
Yes. The street date for it will be November 15, 2005 from RED EYE DISTRIBUTION. 

Explain the artwork of the album cover.
The art director is a man named MATT TOUCHARD who is based in New Orleans

Oh no!
He’s all right. He got out in time. Anyway, he won four awards for the artwork he’s done for the CD. It’s like their version of the Academy Awards. It’s the highest award given in his field. Anyway, the song FREAKSHOW is about reality TV and that’s why you see all these Television sets on the CD sleeve and the woman who is a sea creature under water and human on land. When we first set foot on America, the first thing we noticed were these characters with these talk shows like OPRAH, DR. PHIL, and JERRY SPRINGER. It was kind of like “Welcome to America!” but to be honest with you it’s got nothing to do with the people. Americans are the most friendly people. But back to MATT TOUCHARD, he just wanted to bring art back to album sleeves like the old days where you had all this artwork to look at while you were listening to the music. Particularly for bands like LED ZEPPELIN.

It’s great that artistry is coming back to the packaging of rock n roll.
That’s good to hear. These days it’s too easy. All they seem to do is pose for a picture and that’s it. But if you’re JENNIFER LOPEZ, that’s all you need because she’s so beautiful.

What was it like in the studio with EDDIE KRAMER?
I was really nervous and intimidated. I mean, he’s worked with legendary guitarists. He’s worked with SLASH and JIMI HENDRIX. Now we’re good friends and he’s great at capturing the vibe of the band or the faerie dust as we call it in the studio and when tensions were high, he’d tell us stories about KISS or stories about SLASH. I mean, the man is rock history and anyone who wants to write a book about it just needs to talk to him. He’s great with using ANALOG and mixing it with PRO-TOOLS to make a great sound. The whole experience was great once we got over the pressure. 

It couldn’t have been easy.
I’m no JIMI HENDRIX and I’ll be the first to admit it but because I’ve worked EDDIE, I’m real confidant in what I do now. The band had Thanksgiving at his house last year and now he’s more of a family figure than a producer in my eyes.

Any plans for videos
Yes. On the last tour we had a video photographer with us. We’ve got a lot of footage from the tour bus and backstage. We have a video for FREAKSHOW on our website (HANGFACE.COM) but we need a new video because there were only four of us then. We’ve just recently added a lead guitarist for the band

TOM ESPEN PEDERSEN?
Yes.

What’s the strangest thing that’s ever happened on the road?
Positive or negative?

Either or.
The best thing is the incredible hospitality of the audiences. People we’ve met on tour have given us keys to their homes and let us stay in their houses so we didn’t have to sleep in our tour bus. That was amazing. The most absurd thing was when we played at Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in Sturgis SD. This guy came up to us and said “I’m gonna show you guys what Sturgis is all about!!!” We had the camera rolling and this guy walks us over to the other end of the bar where his 55 year old wife is standing on a barstool. Then she bent over and she had no underwear on and she was rubbing the lower parts of her body and I got whiplash from turning my head away too quickly. It was disgusting. Nothing’s topped that yet. She looked like someone who’d play bingo with my grandmother. We recorded that on video and I’ve never wanted to see it.

What do you want the audience to walk away with?
Music is something that everyone has a strong opinion about. If someone sees us and they say “I don’t care for this kind of music but man, what a show!” that would be fine. Or if someone says “I love this kind of music and I love this band” that would be better. If we don’t do that, than we haven’t done our job.

What are you future plans?
We’ll be doing a west coast tour from Vancouver all the way down to San Diego. But right now things are constantly changing. You’ll just have to visit HANGFACE.COM.

How’s LA treating you?
We love it. We’re surrounded by good people. This is a city that can wear you down or build you up. So we’re grateful to be around good people.

OTHER ARTICLES:
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READ THE MOST RECENT ROCKWIRED ON-LINE EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH HANGFACE HERE