After several false starts, the realisation is finally here as Atle Pettersen got his one true desire with the band The Scheen.
Before accusations of manufactured band come flooding in, the name Atle Pettersen has always been attached to an altogether different experience than the one associated with last year’s singing contest on national television in Norway. You see, before all of the solo treks and talent contests there existed a ‘progressive metal band’ that had run out of steam, through no fault of their own, before any form of momentum could be gained. This initial beginning was as far back as 2005, which has seen Atle Pettersen filling the intervening years with an assortment of musical projects that have been genuinely embraced and viewed as a means of gaining invaluable experience.
Despite participating in various other assignments that required Pettersen’s vocal abilities to be in top form, tinkering in the background was his bandmates from the progressive metal days who, along with Pettersen, rediscovered their energy, enthusiasm and creative juices for a brand new outfit known as The Scheen.
Any allegations of this being a vanity project to help further the career of their frontman Atle Pettersen is far wide of the mark because The Scheen is a properly assembled unit consisting of Robin Ognedal (guitar), Rein Blomquist (bass) and Nickolas Main Henriksen (keyboard), who have been living in and out of each other’s pockets since High School and were all present and correct since the aforementioned progressive metal era apart from recent recruit Tobias Ørnes Andersen on drums. In fact, if The Scheen had worked out first time around, albeit under a different moniker, then the name Atle Pettersen would have been known in Norway for very different reasons as he explained to Famous Last Words (FLW).
“There will be some people, especially in Norway, who will perceive it as Atle Pettersen and his band. We try not to speak of it in that way, as we try to be a band in the sense that The Scheen is something that we have great belief in and that we can make it outside of Norway. Hopefully, that will happen in terms of the rest of Europe and England as people don’t know who I am. Also, the music is good enough and the band is good enough to stand for itself. So yeah, sometimes I worry here in Norway that it could be a problem [Atle Pettersen being an established name] but again, as long as the music is good enough and the quality of the product is good and well-made, then I think people will listen to the band because they like the music and not because they know who I am.”
The Scheen recently released their eponymously titled debut album and it is every bit as good as Atle Pettersen suggests when it comes to quality control and the music representing itself rather than being known for other reasons. All of this greatness was, in fact, set in motion before Pettersen’s participation in NRK’s Stjernekamp, and was still in production during his impressive run in this competition. Therefore, how did it compare for Atle Pettersen coming off the back of recording sessions with The Scheen and then changing into a different suit with the talent contest, Stjernekamp?
“The Scheen is kind of my baby, as it’s really what I want to do, but I’m a person that likes to do a lot of things as well, as I think it’s fun to be on TV and try new stuff such as Stjernekamp by trying different genres [music] I haven’t done before.”
Do you think that there will be some people in Norway who will be a bit confused by The Scheen considering your recent exposure on television with Stjernekamp?
“I am a well-known name and face to many people in Norway, but The Scheen is the music that I want to make, as I’ve always loved rock music and loved playing in a band,” responds Atle Pettersen. “The Scheen is kind of its own little thing as it has nothing to do with Atle Pettersen as a solo artist because it’s all about the music and that’s what’s important for us. We want people to like our music and the band because of the music, and it doesn’t matter who plays in it or anything like that because it’s all about the music for us. We see ourselves as a live band as well, as we have played together for a lot of years, so we know each other really well and play very well together. We lost the passion for the progressive metal from earlier because of all that happened, but with The Scheen we rediscovered the joy of playing music.”
You must have felt under considerable pressure during the recording for the album ‘The Scheen’ and your commitment and progression during Stjernekamp at the same time?
“Yeah, it was a lot of stuff to do, but I love it when my schedule is full as I hate to just sit at home and have nothing to do, so that was just great,” says Atle. “I think it’s good as well when you’re working on an album because it’s such intense work that it’s good to do something completely else the next day and then you have a fresh mind when you return to the studio.”
There must be some positives, as well, regarding your involvement in other musical projects over the years, and your subsequent high profile, when it comes to promoting The Scheen?
“One positive thing about me being well known is that I have saved up financially during the years touring by myself and therefore, as a result, I have saved up the money to do this band. For example, it costs a lot of money to make a record and with rock [music] being a very small market in Norway, you don’t make much money on it either. I think rock music from Norway is very popular outside of this country, but in Norway you have to be one of the biggest [bands] as well. Therefore, it has been part of my plan to do the solo stuff and to get the opportunity to do this band. We have spent a lot of money on the recordings and used a really good producer because we wanted this to be a good product. So that is the positive from the things that I have done [before] as now, finally, I’ve had the opportunity to set up this band that I’ve really wanted to do.”
With ‘The Scheen’ having been recorded in Urban Sound Studios in Oslo under the guidance of Christer André Cederberg in terms of production, the attention to detail throughout was a rigorous process that resulted in a reasonably lengthy period in the recording studio, despite the working days being spread apart.
“We spent six months in the studio but not every day,” explains Atle regarding the recording of the band’s album ‘The Scheen’. “We recorded over six months and we wrote for approximately a year. It was important to us because we were starting a new band and we wanted to release an album that everybody was completely satisfied with. It’s difficult when you come from something where we have played in one band with progressive metal, and I have done pop and rock things, and now we’re suddenly The Scheen and we need to find our way, and that takes time. It’s important to give yourself that time in order to find your sound.”
Such laborious working methods even allowed for outside help when it came to the lyrics, as the band’s ambitions were already beginning to show as thoughts turned to making the transition towards audiences outside of their native Norway. Therefore, attention to detail was everything, especially when transforming your ideas into lyrics as Atle Pettersen shares.
“The music is mainly between the guitarist and me, but also a friend of ours,” comments Atle on the song writing process. “We have produced the lyrics together whereby had an idea and we worked this out together. We also got some help from an American songwriter who helped us in terms of the English language to make sure that it was good because, as I said earlier, we have ambitions to go outside of Norway and tour in Europe and England and it’s important that the language and the lyrics make sense. So we have been working on the lyrics together.”
It is clearly noticeable when listening to The Scheen’s first long player that it is an accomplished piece of work that reflects much experience having been together for many years. Such has been its impact in the FLW office that we have genuinely been bowled over by the level of consistency throughout ‘The Scheen’, but also for the manner in which the album keeps drawing the listener in due to containing moments of deep intricacy, coupled by uplifting choruses and wondrous melodic segments making this album difficult to put down.
“That’s been one of the ideas about this record, that we wanted to make an album where somebody could say that they don’t like the music, and that’s fine because everybody can’t like everything the whole time, but you can’t say that it’s a bad product because it’s quality in terms of the recordings and the production is good.”
With comparisons flying left, right and centre with bands such as the Foo Fighters, Queens of the Stone Age and, surprisingly, Nine Inch Nails, despite The Scheen sounding a closer resemblance to former NIN’s guitarist Richard Patrick’s Filter, Atle Pettersen is keen to point out that there is definitely something of their own identity in the mix, as well, when it comes to their overall sound.
“I know people have compared us to bands such as Queens of the Stone Age and Foo Fighters as we have listened to a lot of these bands but also Coldplay in relation to some of it,” explains Atle. “I feel that we have created our own little sound with lots of elements from different kinds of bands, but also there is a lot of energy in our sound as it’s supposed to reflect us as a live band. If you have seen us live, we have a lot of energy and the music is well played and a massive sound.”
The Scheen is very melodic in places, bringing to mind fellow Norwegians A-Ha without sounding directly like them.
“Yeah, that’s also very important to us with the melodic parts,” acknowledges Atle regarding this reference in terms of the band’s music. “Back in the days when we did progressive metal, one of the things that people said about us was that we were very melodic in our choruses and in our songs. So we have taken that [aspect] with us and added a massive wall of guitars to it.”
Despite the professionalism and genuine talent of The Scheen, there must have been one or two incidents down the years where not everything quite went to plan?
“We have been touring and playing together for eight years now, so there is a lot of different stuff that has happened and not everything should be written down [laughing]! When we released the first single, we were doing this release concert in Oslo where everything basically went wrong. I think during the second song, the kick drum broke down and we were suddenly without a kick drum, but we were fortunate enough that there was a backup kick drum standing nearby at the venue. So we had to stop the gig and fix the kick drum before starting again. However, during the middle of the next song, one of the guitar strings broke and there was no backup guitar! Therefore, when we came to the fourth song, ‘The Race’, we basically had everybody playing it wrong! So it was chaotic, but we managed to pull it together and finish the concert.”
With the band gearing up for more live dates throughout Norway before setting their sights on ventures overseas, there remains one last question to consider and that is whether The Scheen’s lead vocalist is content with the band’s first full-length album or is there anything, in hindsight, that would have been carried out differently?
“That’s a very good question as I think every band, when they record an album, feels afterwards that there are a few things that could have been done differently. Of course you always evolve when you do it, and so there will be something’s that you think you could have handled differently, but overall I am very satisfied. I think it’s the best [recording] the band has ever made and I think it represents us very well. Also, you can hear that we have been recording and performing music for a while, and I feel that we represent ourselves as grownup musicians who know what we’re doing. So I’m very satisfied with the album.”
The Scheen’s debut album ‘The Scheen’ is out now on Artistpartner Records
(Photos courtesy of Jonas Kiste)
I think people will listen to the band because they like the music and not because they know who I am."
Atle Pettersen, The Scheen
FLW - From the Tapes
FLW asked the questions regarding three of The Scheen’s songs from their debut album, and Atle Pettersen provided the answers.
“The idea of that song is about a person in society that we, as people, recognise due to often being stressed out about everything. For example, we’re stressed in terms of what we’ve got to do and that we want to become somebody and that we want to make a lot of money and we’re just stressing all of the time trying to achieve these goals that society has set for us, and therefore we’re kind of sleepless. Then, on the other hand, we’re told what to do in the sense that at this age you go to school and when you’ve finished High School you’ve got to go to college and become somebody. Therefore, we just follow a path and when you’re twenty-five up to thirty you need to have kids, so everybody does that and as a result we’re kind of sleepers; hence sleepless, sleepers at the same time.”
‘I Am I’
“That song is making a statement about believing in your own abilities, despite what everybody else might say. People, especially in the music industry, have an opinion about you and what you’re doing. Therefore, it’s [song] supposed to be about standing up for yourself and do whatever you want and don’t care about all the critics.”
‘Living To Die’
“The song is similar to ‘Sleepless, Sleepers’ whereby we try to achieve a lot of stuff and try to climb the ladder of success when, in fact, we don’t really know what it is we’re striving for. When it all comes together, it all comes down to that we’re just human beings and that we’re just living in the everyday and should enjoy the moment because the more we climb the ladder of success, the more we will lose ourselves and lose what actually matters to us individually.”