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Interview and Live Review – Bokassa at Fuel, Cardiff on 21st October 2021

Review, Interview and Photos Simon Kneller & Stefan Putwain

On arriving in the mighty city of Cardiff, the photographer, Simon and I, were happy to take in the sights and to grab a quick bite to eat before heading to Fuel. It was good to hear that the venue for the night was a sell out and it being our first gig since February 2020, we were eager to meet Bokassa and catch up with their plans after the release of their stupendous third album, ‘Molotov Rocktail’.

We caught up with Jorn Kaarstad & Bard Linga in a noisy bar because going backstage was ‘out of bounds’ for obvious reasons. The interview was conducted in a Past, Present and Future way with Bard joining us later on.

 Past; We began by asking how the band was formed and the initial ideas behind it. Jorn: “The band really started in  April 2013 with the first rehearsal of the original line-up. I worked together with the first bassist (Eirik Angard)  and wanted to make songs with a funky hardcore feel and initially it was just the 2 of us, however Eirik knew of a drummer he played with called Olav Dowkes and the first Bokassa line-up was completed. Due to many reasons we have now settled on our current bassist who has been with us for 5 years Bard Linga” The first album ‘Divide and Conquer’ was released in 2017 to good reviews and followed up by ‘Crimson Riders’ in 2019. There has been a definite progression in the ability of the band and the musicality of the band culminating in the current release, album number 3 ‘Molotov Rocktail’.

 Present;  The bands current album has received generally positive reviews and Jorn stated the album cover, featuring a Pink Pegasus with a warrior (Greek Hero Perseus)  riding it, was all his idea! “I was looking on Instagram for artists and came across an image by Moon Patrol and I instantly thought, if there was ever a cover for an album called Molotov Rocktail, then this was it! “This has been the easiest album for me to write. In 2019 the band did between 70 – 80 shows and were getting better and writing the whole time as well” A recurring theme of the interview and, indeed, the album is the bands refusal to be pigeon-holed into one specific genre. “We write and play music we would listen to ourselves” Jorn added “Fans who are open to listening to new music and different genres will be excited by this album however, those who like to stick to one type of musical genre probably won’t get this album”.

The obvious question about the impact of the pandemic on the band and releasing the album during such times was brought up. “The album was recorded in early May 2020 and we had been sitting on it ever since. The band were excited to get out and play the 6 UK dates to promote the album. Sadly the rest of the tour was cancelled. We have had a great tour so far in the UK and the fans’ reaction has been incredibly positive.
Jorn mentioned the Norwegian rock scene is quite niche and it is very difficult for new bands to break through past the Norway metal scene and into the European circuit.

No interview is complete without asking about British food! Jorn is a big lover of the Yorkshire pudding although Olav is the band member most likely to try a Chicken Tikka with an Egg Sandwich!

 Future, Jorn mentioned a small support  tour with Mastodon is on the cards plus a one off show in Norway supporting Judas Priest and then, depending on the circumstances, a couple of festival appearances.  Bokassa are definitely a band on the rise and the future for this trio of musicians is certainly looking bright.

After the interview concluded, the anticipation of a great night ahead made us both smile wider than Cheshire Cats. The Norwegians are normally quite reserved as a people, so it was nice that we could have a great conversation with singer/guitarist Jorn, and bassist Bard, beforehand.

So for our delectation this fine autumn evening were a trio of trios. All three bands sporting three band members.

Haxan

First up were the highly impressive rockers, Haxan. The club had filled enough for us to be tightly packed in and this triumvirate representing South Wales/South West area did not disappoint. Sam Bolderson providing some meaty riffs with her guitar and the solid rhythm section of Harriet Wadeson on bass and Jess Hartley on drums were the perfect complement. They breezed through their set and are clearly consummate performers destined to make their mark in the coming years. Celebrating the release of their debut album, ‘White Noise’ in 2020, the stand out tracks, ‘Skeletons’, ‘Nine Lives’ and ‘Black Sheep’, the crowd definitely warmed to them and that set the tone for a cracking night. Haxan definitely won a few more friends and influenced a few more, definitely ones to watch for the future (8 out of 10)

Florence Black

Next were the trio hailing from Merthyr Tydfil, Florence Black, bringing their brand of rock to the party. Clearly these guys carry a decent following and the reception they got when they took to the stage was awesome. Their debut album, ‘Weight of World’, garnering plenty of attention and a popular crowd. With Tristan Thomas on guitars, Jordan Evans on bass and Perry Davies, completing the line-up on drums. Florence Black’s fusion of solid riffing with some slightly more progressive moments reminiscent of early Marillion on ‘Sun and Moon’ will, no doubt, be the next big things out of an already brilliant Welsh music scene. ‘Can You Feel It’ and ‘One Way Out’ being the other singles released from their debut also receiving a ringing endorsement from the multitude. Finishing their set with a smashing cover of ‘Breadfan’ made famous by Metallica but originally written by Welsh rockers, ‘Budgie’, this rounded off a great homecoming performance from the boys in Florence Black. (9 out of 10)

Bokassa

Bokassa then took to the stage to perform their brand of ‘stonerpunk’, determined to have a great time despite issues with the sound. It didn’t faze them in the slightest and the crowd were treated to a run through of neo-classics from the latest release, ‘Molotov Rocktail’. Bashing out the singles, ‘Hereticules’, ‘Burn It All (P.T.S.D.E.A.D.)’, ‘So Long, Idiots!’, ‘Careless ( In The Age of Altruism)’ and the stoner anthem ‘Immortal Space Pirate’, among the highlights of a well-received set. The banter between songs was priceless and there was a feeling that Bokassa would be happy in any environment, playing to 2 people or 20,000. Olav, the drummer, revelling in his Welsh connections, Bard, the bassist, thriving off the atmosphere and Jorn, the guitarist/frontman, clearly enjoying the chance to perform for a welcoming crowd. (9 out of 10)

 

It is clear to me that this was a pivotal concert in the lives of these bands. There is plenty of potential in all three to give me hope that they will be popular on the festival circuits and may even break into the big-time with some really solid material. I feel very privileged to have caught these bands at this stage of their careers as I believe that their collective followings will only grow further.

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