Internationally acclaimed hip-hop artist and producer White Shadow Of Norway speaks to Metal Israel regarding his experiences growing up close to Norway’s metal scene, the effects of mass media on people’s sanity, metal influence in his hip-hop, breaking into the NYC hip-hop scene and a bunch of other topics. Check out his bio and discography here. No joke. It’s a fascinating read. A huge thanks to Metal Israel’s correspondent Bela Nagy, who is always providing MI with quality news and interviews. Sorry it took so long to edit, bro. DFL.
MI: You’ve got a fair 3-decade experience in the music industry…please summarize the milestones in your career you keep the most important…
WS: Discovering, and falling in love with music much thanks to my dad (RIP). Learning how to DJ, make beats, and produce well, and developing my own styles. Being lucky enough to be able to DJ at parties and clubs from when I was about ten years old. Winning the Norwegian DMC DJ battles in 88 and 89, and being in the world DMC finals the same years. Moving to New York in the early 90′s, and becoming a part of the NY hip-hop scene back then as well as rockin’ all the biggest clubs there, and producing and doin’ cuts on records. One of them “Hangin’ Tree” happened to end up in the Last Action Hero movie with Arnold Schwarzenegger. I guess Sony had the mad connects (laughs). Starting my own label Uncut Productions in 1995. Making, and releasing several successful albums on my own label, and get to work with some of the finest hip-hop artists of all time: legends and underground. Being able to still continue, and make dope music, and release records from now…’til infinity.
MI: You are from Norway, a country with a really huge heavy music history. As far as I know, you are influenced by it, tell us something about that…
WS: Metal was one of the genres I grew up on in the 70′s, and 80′s, and by the early 90′s when I moved back from New York Norway had sorta resurrected the Black Metal styles that started with bands like Venom and Bathory, and had taken it several steps further so I got into that from hangin’ out with some people who were into that, one of them a member of one of the most well known Black Metal bands nowadays, so I got to be around it without being in the middle of it so to speak, but close enough to it so that I heard about stuff like the church burnings, the killings, etc. before the media picked up on it, and when they did it all went haywire which is the exact opposite of what most people into it wanted, I mean, very few of them wanted it to become as mainstream as it did, and just about none of the core members burned churches, but you know how it goes once the media gets onto something, and blows it outta proportions, and yeah that’s exactly what they did, so at that time the police might pull you over if you was a guy with long black hair, and if you wore occult symbols and stuff, so it got crazy, and it’s funny cause all that madness is what made the scene interesting to people outside of Norway, but at the same time it broke up, and ruined the scene in a lot of ways like it’s hard to keep goin’ when you get shut down by the police all the time.
Same thing happened a lot with hip-hop, so I saw parallels between the two cultures though they were way different as well. They were both really underground in Norway in the early-mid 90′s., and really aggressive. They were the kids against a system and society which was apparently perfect but kinda Illuminati like with an elite state that was in control of all the money, and riches, and a society where everything was being laid out for you like go to school, behave well, get a proper education so that you can get a nice job and get paid well, get a wife, have some kids, etc…you know the routine, and if that isn’t something for kids to rebel against then what is?
Another thing I like about both scenes is the opposition against all authority, and that we don’t give a fuck but gonna do things our way outside of the system type attitude, so as far as Black Metal, I wasn’t right in the middle of it but close enough. I got to visit the Hell shop once but it was after Euronymous died so they were naturally closed down, but the Welcome To Hell album cover was still in the window along with the hours they were open. From noon til like 7pm I think, and a friend and I went to a second hand vinyl shop the same day that happened to have gotten Euronymous’ record collection in for sale just that day. Me I wasn’t all that much into Metal at the time as far as buying records and stuff, but I think my friend picked some gems from that collection.
Another thing that got me involved with people into Black Metal was my love for Horror movies. Up until the early 2000′s most of them were totally banned in Norway, and titles like Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Cannibal Holocaust, the Argento and Fulci flicks, Faces Of Death, and so on would get you in trouble if you owned them, and of course you couldn’t buy them at the video shops cause they were all banned so there was an underground who would trade, and sell movies, that I was a part of…mostly buying a lot! (laughs). It was all VHS tapes, and dupes of them back then so some friends would have like 4 VCR’s running day and night copying movies, then they advertised in mags and papers and sold them. To some it became good business so the police would start becoming aware, and would be interested in shutting that scene down for several reasons. First they were banned movies, second, illegal bootlegs were sold, and third the dealers would make a lot of money, and finally of course they didn’t pay taxes either from that, so if the police heard you had banned movies they would raid your home, confiscate the movies, and press charges, so there was always this fear of if we’d get to keep our beloved Horror classics.
I never got busted but at some point most of my friends were so I stashed all my movies at my mom’s house in boxes for a while (laughs). It was totally ridiculous when you think about everything being available on DVD, and online now, but that was only the 90′s so it’s not long ago. What it was really about however was that the governments had finally found the ultimate scapegoat, and would blame any crime on Horror movies. Like..ok, so this kid raped his sister – he watched Horror movies all day. That kid went on a rampage and killed ten people…they found out he had watched Horror movies every day. Some politicians even claimed that Horror movies were a worse threat to mankind than nuclear war. You know what I mean. The hysteria was totally crazy! But there it was man…the ultimate scapegoat.
I’m happy that’s over with now, and that even the censors can see a masterpiece like say Cannibal Holocaust, or The Beyond for what they truly are which is great Horror movies, but back then they were outlawed, and you were looked at as a little crazy if you had too many of them around your house, and that’s the power of mass media for you. It can quickly turn into mass hysteria as it all started with TV documentaries about that kids rented the most violent Horror movies, and so they became a threat to their health according to the media, and then society as a whole because of that, but you know, as happy as I am that those days are over. It also made it special to know that you were part of something considered not all that normal by most people in society, and the fact that it was illegal but not THAT much I mean it wasn’t like you were a killer or a thief, but just a little illegal, added to the excitement of a bunch of teens to early 20′s like us back then.
MI: Metal music is still important in Norway, I mean the kids are looking for it, or you feel that the trends are taking over every year?
WS: I think there’s a scene for just about anything now including Metal. There’s not much Black Metal that gives me that same raw feel like the early bands with a few exceptions. I like that no holds
barred super aggressive, and lo-fi sound of the early 90′s the most, and it’s rare to find that much of it nowadays. Black Metal like most other genres became trendy too, and seeing bands like Dimmu Borgir on the top of the Pop charts here was a weird feeling, but at the end of the day I’m happy more people in general get into more underground types of music cause it shows people are developing their own tastes, and doesn’t just follow what the mainstream tells them to like.
MI: With your music, do you try to put out the same energic vibe as metal does?
WS: Yes to a certain degree, but I’m actually not a fan of too much fuzzy overdrive guitars and stuff in hip-hop. It can work but in most cases it really doesn’t so gotta be careful how much to include that in hip-hop beats, but kept moderate it can be dope.
MI: You run your own record label Uncut Productions. Why did you decide to cut any middle man?
WS: If you want it done right do it yourself, and if you can’t handle the whole weight make sure your team is your fam! (laughs). Uncut started as a label releasing my own mixtapes in 1995, then I signed a couple of acts and put out some cd-singles, then I put out my vinyl EP Back to the True School in 2003, then my albums, as well as I signed Mark Deez, and Infinito 2017 to one album deals. I like running it all myself cause I get to make all the decisions, if I fuck up there’s no one to blame but me, and if I do well there’s no one to pay but me.
MI: In the ’90s you lived in New York, doing it big as a club DJ. What are your experiences from that era?
WS: I went there in the first place to learn and experience where hip-hop came from, and why, so I got a much better understanding of that, that’s kinda hard to explain if you haven’t lived there for quite some time yourself, but hip-hop was much more a part of peoples’ lives there than in the EU when I lived there in the early/mid 90′s. You’d hear it from every car, building, store, you had cats freestylin’ on the streets, all the clubs was playin’ that real shit back then, and just being in the middle of it all gradually made me feel why it started, and why it developed in the directions it did. Plus being in The Bronx and seeing firsthand the poverty, the burnt out buildings, the miles and miles of garbage dumps right next to the main streets, hearing gunshots up the block, and feeling a general fear in the people there, and the same goes for Brownsville, Brooklyn especially, just made me feel that it was obvious that something as creative, and competitive as hip-hop had to originate in that environment cause you know the saying that people are at their most creative when times are hard, and they also push it to survive harder in such an environment.
I also learnt the music biz from the inside from hangin’ out at the major labels like Elektra, and Atlantic, plus some of the bigger hip-hop labels like Profile, Def Jam, and Tommy Boy, and it was during that time I more or less decided I didn’t ever want to be a part of the mainstream record biz but do it independently, cause I’ve always been more into music than business to be honest, but things were better even at the majors back then than now as you had A&R’s like Dante Ross (Elektra), Funkmaster Flex (Profile), Clark Kent (Atlantic), and those were people who knew hip-hop culture, and were parts of it as they either dj’d or produced, and they’re the reason why the majors signed the good artists in that era, and that’s all it takes really. You have to have people from the hip-hop culture on the inside of the big labels, and business cause how else are they gonna know if it’s hip-hop Hiphop or not?
That, low sales, and greed is why the majors sign the wackest shit now. Because it’s easier to manipulate those artists cause they want money and material things a lot more than a KRS-One, or Brand Nubian did, but times done changed, and for the time being the major labels and big corporations aren’t touching anything that even smells of real hip-hop or underground styles of hip-hop, so I guess we gotta force ‘em then (laughs) or better yet just do it all ourselves.
But you know, all that negativity, yeah there was a lot of that in New York, and at the time I lived there it was really dangerous as well, and especially hangin’ out at clubs when there was a hip-hop related party cause someone would shoot up the place quite often. There was a murder rate of an average of six crime related killings every day, and every other crime, and atrocity you can think up, but there was also a lot of love in New York, a lot of unity, and a lot of good times, and people in New York showed respect where due like when I got there all I had to do was show that I knew what time it was with hip-hop, and show that I had skills, and the love for it, and I got that love back so in a lot of ways I’d say it was easier to me to get into the core of the hip-hop scene there than I thought it’d be before I got there, and also not as dangerous.
Like, it was rarely the wild wild west you know what I mean (laughs), where you had to dodge bullets and what have you lol, but yeah it happened, but the most important to me was to finally find a music scene, and people that were into the same things I was, and find a big scene for it, as in Norway the scene was crazy super-duper small all the way up until around 2000.
I left New York when I had accomplished what I wanted which was to live in the place where hip-hop started, to get a deeper understanding of it, and to become a part of the New York hip-hop scene, plus of course kill it as much as I could DJ’ing, and makin’ beats, so when that was acoomplished it was time to move on. I had to get deeper into the art of beatmakin’ as well, and I’m the kind of guy who needs peace and quiet to be creative so I moved back to Norway, and have no desire to move back to New York cause I don’t wanna fuck with the memories of being there in what’s now called the golden era of hip-hop, but at the same time, New York is in my heart man, and I represent NY as much, if not more, than Norway.
Back then I’d recommend anyone heavy into hip-hop to go do the same but nowadays you don’t have to, I mean the golden era, it’s over. There’s still a lot happening though, and you can still go there and hear the old school artists rock clubs etc, but from what people tell me it isn’t the same as it was as when it was all new.
But to sum my long ass reply up! (laughs) Yes fam. It was quite the experience, and to a country-dude from Norway like me who was heavy into hip-hop it was like goin’ to heaven…or heaven, and hell at the same time. (laughs)
MI: You are part of the fresh album from Snowgoons, “The Iron Fist”. How you got involved in the project?
WS: We’ve been in touch since the early 2000′s, and produced records on some of the same labels like Grooveattack in Germany, and we worked with some of the same artists like Maylay Sparks, and Donald D. A few years ago we talked about doing a 12″ single together where we produced one side each, and it would feature various emcees from the US, however different missions, plus budgets, and vinyl sales went down the tubes as the internet, and digital dj equipment got bigger came along, so it never happened, but we’ve been in touch over the years, Snowgoons, and Sicknature produced on Mark Deez’s The Oracle album which was released on my label Uncut Productions, and so I returned the favor by producing, and doing cuts for a track for The Iron Fist album, and it’s most likely not the last time you’ll hear us work together. We’re all from Europe too, and we have similar styles of production, and the same vision when it comes to makin’ that raw hardcore hip-hop so us working together wasn’t a big surprise to most people I guess.
MI: Outside of the groups from Norway, what are your other favourite metal bands, past and present?
WS: I pretty much grew up on Disco, Funk, and Old School Hiphop so Metal is a side-genre to me, but growin’ up I was a fan of Kiss, Motorhead, AC/DC, Ozzy, Dio, Iron Maiden,Venom, Metallica, Mercyful Fate, Bathory, Slayer, Kreator, Morbid Angel, Megadeth, Guns & Roses, and the Norwegian bands TNT, Mayhem, Dark Throne, Burzum, and lately Gorgoroth, and Gahlskaag.
MI: At the time when hip-hop and metal/hardcore got mixed how did you think about them? In this case, I mean the likes of Anthrax/Public Enemy or the Judgment Night soundtrack…
WS: My first memory of that was Run-DMC’s Rockbox, King Of Rock, Walk This Way, etc, The Beastie Boys’ Rock Hard, Fight For Your Right, BDP’s Dope Beat, and when Public Enemy sampled Slayer’s Angel Of Death for She Watch Channel Zero, and I loved all that, but from when PE teamed up with Anthrax, and it became its own genre I think it started to become a bit mediocre, and corny like…ok, this worked well a few times, so yeah!..Let’s make a whole genre! (laughs). That was takin’ it a bit too far I think.
MI: And then what about the Limp Bizkit/Linkin Park’s?
WS: Nah, not feelin’ them at all. No disrespect, just personal taste.
MI: What are the projects you are workin on now?
WS: The Iron Fist album by The Snowgoons feat. Savage Bros. & Lord Lhus just dropped. I produced the track called Return Of The Fist featuring Virtuoso, my fam Grindhouse Gang’s album titled Militia Of Emcees also just dropped, and I produced the joint Crazy (Goin’ Bananas) on that, GHG is Mark Deez, Lord Lhus, Dr. ILL, and Powder. I also produced tracks on the new albums by Klive Kraven, La Dog, and Lt. Mana from Goldminded Records, and I released my Instrumentals 2 album on April 15th that you can get here along with all my other albums. It’s got instrumental versions of tracks from Destiny, Victory, Iron Fist, The Oracle, and more on there. Right now I’m workin’ with a lot of different artists. Some will drop, some won’t so I’m not gonna namedrop for now, but I spend most my time now workin’ on my next producer album featuring various artists which will drop in 2012, maybe sooner.
MI: Last thoughts to the readers of Metal Israel?
WS: Rock on! Peace.