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Down to earth

Three Norwegians have spent the summer warming up for Metallica. Our Russia-correspondent meets Bokassa before their show in Moscow.

Text Mats Vederhus
Foto Mats Vederhus

Metallica, with its three giants from California and the small dane Lars Ulrich, are playing a show in Moscow for the first time in four years. In 1991, the first time they played here, it was in front of half a million people, a few months before the dissolution of the Soviet Union and Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. Since then, the Russians have never had enough. And the ones who have been tasked with getting the crowd ready are a small band from Trondheim.

On the radio in the States

The reason? Lars Ulrich is a fan of Bokassa, and played their music on his program It’s Electric in the StatesBokassa consists of Olav Dowkes on drums, Bård Linga on bass and Jørn Kaarstad on guitar and vocals. In November og December, they’re playing a tour of Europe, and are playing some Norwegian cities before that. Next year they’re playing in several Norwegian cities.

We’re followed in past the stage by a big guy called Mik. The mood backstage is one of controlled chaos. On our way to Bokassa’s room we walk past riggers, technicians, managers, and russian security.

In a run down room that most of all resembles a wardrobe for football players are Bokassa. They sit in each corner of the room, as if they’d most of all like to be alone before warming up sixty thousand russians hungry for metal. Even so, they automatically come towards me with outstretched arms when I arrive.

It doesn’t seem like they struggle with being grounded even when they’re warming up for Metallica.

– What I miss most about being on tour is actually being with my daughter, says Linga.

Bigger abroad

Neither Kaarstad nor Linga thinks that Metallica are purposefully promoting Scandinavian bands.

– I think it’s completely coincidental. They’re also bringing Ghost now, but they probably aren’t just picking Scandinavian bands. They’re just picking bands they happen to come across and like, says Kaarstad.

What’s it like warming up for Metallica?

– It’s pretty surreal, actually. This is our fifteenth show, says Dowkes.

– I think this might be our twentieth, says Kaarstad.

It’s discussed as if they’re talking about performances at a local pub.

– Yeah, something like that. There are six left. It’s still very weird to go out on such a big stage and play for so many people, even though we’ve done many concerts now, says Dowkes.

One of the advantages of warming up for Metallica is wider recognition abroad, thinksKaarstad.

– We’re already seeing a boost, but we’ve always been bigger abroad than in Norway. It’s just the last year we’ve suddenly become big in Norway. Our debut record was hailed by Metalhammer, a british journal, at the same time as Norwegian media didn’t write a word. But now they’ve come around, as they often do, says Kaarstad.

Extreme coincidences

The members of Bokassa aren’t old. They could have just finished university. Would they recommend students pursue music?

– I don’t think it’s something that’s possible to recommend on a general basis. It’s so individual, and depends on the person. It’s something you have to figure out on your own, Linga replies.

Kaarstad disagrees.

– I wouldn’t recommend anyone pursue it.

– Extreme coincidences and a good helping of luck have lead us to where we are today, says Dowkes.

Nonetheless, Linga thinks that if «you really want to, and will think about it forever if you don’t do it,» you should at least try.

Bokassa is the second Norwegian band to warm up for Metallica on this tour. Kvelertak was the first band, and Kaarstad has a buddy there – Maciek Ofstad.

– I sent Maciek a text when we got the tour and asked «are we going to handle this?» He replied «you’ll do fucking great,» ends Kaarstad.