The name of drummer and songwriter Thomas Berglie (also known as Sarke) may not be as illustrious as those of his contemporaries and fellow countrymen Fenriz and Satyr, but with Tulus he created stripped down, punchy and groove laden black metal from its inception in 1991. Even the implementation of exotic instruments and other out-of-the-box musical additions were already present. For thirty-plus years Tulus stayed true to their own sound and style, and although not always highly active as a band, they are nowhere near finished. Today marks the release of their seventh full-length ‘Fandens kall’, and a perfect reason to get in contact with Sarke to ask him some questions, which we did. Below you can read a report of our phone exchange.
In my opinion, Tulus were like the first black n’ roll-bands (if you can call it that), long before Satyricon and Darkthrone went that route in the early to mid 2000s. Would you say that is a fair statement?
“Yeah, I know. I also think a lot of bands, many years after us, get credit for using a-typical instruments and stuff. But if you listen to our first album ‘Pure Black Energy’ (1996), we used violin and choirs. We liked that from the beginning. So we combined that, groove and Motörhead punk-ish stuff. We brought that into our black metal music, because we are not so much into playing fast all the time, we like the groove.”
About the new album: the literal translation by Google of ‘Fandens kall’ is ‘Hell’s Calling’, would you say that this is somewhat accurate? Or?
“Yeah, something like that… ‘The Call Of Death’ I would rather say. ‘Fanden’ is also a bit like: the devil, In a way. But for us the meaning of it is more ‘The Call For Death’.
Who was responsible for the amazing painting that graces the front cover?
“Kjell Åge Meland and when you turn the picture upside down, you can see the devil’s face actually. If you can find it, you can see it in the river.”
Did you give him the free hand? Or was it a collaboration?
“We gave him some of the new music to listen to and said that we wanted to cover to have a Norwegian touch. We wanted an atmospheric cover. And I like nature, I use it as inspiration. So we told him to use nature as well. I think he did a great job.”
What’s the difference between the new album and the previous ‘Old, Old Death (2020)?
“I would say that the new album is a bit more aggressive. Maybe the production is heavier? It’s still Tulus.”
Compared to ‘Old, Old Death’ I think it’s also a bit more proggy at times with unexpected turns during a couple of songs and the use of a weird sounding acoustic guitar. Don’t you think?
“Yeah, a bit more experimental maybe?”
What I also like about the record is that it comes to the point rather quickly with a playtime just over half an hour. But then again, this has been the case for most of your albums. Why is this?
“You know about how Slayer handled their older albums? Where you got music going all the time and it’s cool all the way. And it’s not one and a half hours or anything, just thirty-four minutes of action and then it’s over. I like that. We like to bring that into Tulus as well, say what you have to say and be done with it.”
Is there a song or songs on ‘Fandens kall’ that you are really pleased with? Or that turned out better than you anticipated?
“The second song “Lek”, that was kind of a special song that I think turned out great in the studio. The first one “Fandens kall” too. But that goes for all the songs, but those two stand out for me. Again, we rehearsed everything so well before we went into the studio that we only were curious about how the production would turn out. We are very pleased with the production, so I think it sounds good.”
You are the main songwriter in Tulus, right?
“Yes, I will say that. We all make songs, riffs and everything but I create most of the music, and I also take care of the direction and the production bit of the songs. I am the glue in the band, if you will.
What about inspiration?
“To get inspiration to make music and everything, it comes in periods. Sometimes you make a lot in one week and you do nothing in a month. Then you do a little bit again. I have to be in a creative mindset to make music, to make riffs and come up with ideas. So I use maybe one-and-a-half/two years to have ideas for a whole album.
So you go and make some, and you change some and maybe you don’t use it after all. You think about it. I play guitar a lot and it’s also when you have a cool riff or some cool ideas that maybe doesn’t fit the Tulus-album. Then you have to throw it away. So you make, of course, several things that never go anywhere.”
Do you write it down and/or make demos?
“I have it on my cellphone. I use my guitar and I record the riffs on it.”
Then you go into the rehearsal space with whole songs?
“Yeah, I can have a whole song but sometimes at rehearsal we rearrange it if it doesn’t work. Or someone in the band doesn’t like everything and then we can change it around. Or create something new. Or some of the guys has another riff or idea that fits the song better. That’s also why we record live in the studio, because it’s like when we are at rehearsal and do the songs. So everybody is involved in the song writing process and we make the final result at rehearsal and in the studio.”
How do you decide what material is for Khold/Tulus/Sarke?
“For me it’s easy to separate them. Because I never make music for each band at the same time. There’s a period for every band when I write. With Khold I work together with guitarist Gard, we do a lot at home and make demos. Tulus is more a rehearsal type of band. With my solo-project Sarke it’s more varied and I take inspiration from other bands. They all have their own style and vibe.”
With your other band Khold you have toured with Carpathian Forest and Behemoth in 2001 and with Satyricon in 2003. But not with Tulus, what was the reason for this? Any plans for touring in the foreseeable future?
“Yeah that’s true. We never toured with Tulus. I think back then Khold was the priority, so from 2000 to 2008/2009 we toured and focused on gigs with Khold. Later with Tulus we did just off-ones and weekends… But we would like to tour with Tulus, if it’s the right tour. Because we are getting a bit older and from 2010 up until now we’ve all had kids. So we don’t want to be away for too long, and we have jobs to pay the bills.
For us it’s not a lifestyle to try to make enough money with the music. But of course if a nice band asks us to go on tour with them it would be easier now, because our kids are older. So we’ll see. What’s important for us is that the people are okay to tour with and that the band is big enough to attract a crowd. It would be great to support a bigger band, I’m not sure who, to do some special gigs with.”
One thing that has occupied my mind for quite some time is: what does Tulus mean? Or is it just a name?
“No. We’ve picked that name in 1991, but I can’t really remember exactly how. I know we looked at a lot of things back then, and we put a few words together. For us it didn’t mean anything. It sounded cool.”
Any last words?
“I hope that people will check out the new album and watch the documentary. Because I think that it is not only for fans of Tulus, but also for people that like music in general, they can enjoy it too, I think. And the thing with Tulus is, is that it’s nice if people can book us. We’re not a very big band, so we can’t choose where to play all the time. It would be great if festivals or bands ask us and we will come.”
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Thanks for a great review with a legendary band!