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Baard Kolstad loves drums, and drums surely seem to love Baard Kolstad back. The young Norwegian music phenomenon bangs his drum set with such a powerful elegance that he cannot easily be ignored, and he should not be. After gaining big notoriety through the web and his participation in the ’Roland V-Drums World Championship,’ he recently became the new drummer for the black/progressive metal band, Borknagar, as well as serving as drummer for ICS Vortex’s live tour.
Toonari Post had the chance to talk with this very nice and extraordinary talented musician about his music, his present, and his future.
Toonari Post (TP): When did you start playing? Why did you choose drums as an instrument?
Baard Kolstad (BK): I started when I was nine years old. I had always been very fascinated with drums and things to hit. My sister attended the local brass band school, and I got very fascinated with their little drumming rooms, full of all those bass drum pedals, Hi-hats, etc. Before I started playing, at school I couldn’t stop banging on the table, causing the complaints of teachers and students, so I begged mom and dad to let me start as a drummer in the school brass band.
TP: Your music is mainly influenced by progressive rock and metal. Who, as a drummer, has inspired you the most, and why?
BK: Yes, that’s correct. Well-noticed! My first real idol, as far as I remember, was Nicko McBrain from Iron Maiden. His big drum set, his entertaining and smiling face, and the lovely music of the band got me interested.
Later, I went on checking out videos of Thomas Lang, and also, Mike Portnoy of Dream Theater. The last couple of years, Gavin Harrison from Porcupine Tree has been my biggest inspiration and maybe the one who is more reflected in my way of playing. I’ve done my Vinne Colaiuta and Dave Weckl studies, as well, and Steve Gadd is a hero! But I’m also really enjoying the modern gospel-style of drumming, drummers like Aaron Spears and Calvin Rodgers.
TP: How would you define your approach to music?
BK: I’m a little impatient as a person; I want things to happen! I have a lot of energy 24/7, I speak very quickly, and stress a lot. I wanna use this energy in a positive way. It’s very often possible to recognize someone’s trademarks and personality through their way of playing. Whether it is a pop song, rock song, or techno, I want to play things as alive as possible!
TP: The videos of you performing on the streets of Norway became quite an internet phenomenon and gave you notoriety. Why did you choose street performance? Do you think this was a core choice that helped your career?
BK: Yes, over the last years, it definitely has helped my career. The fact that the videos went viral, through several channels, amazes me. Today, the internet means a lot; it makes it very available to people. In Oslo, Norway, I have been known as the “street drummer”. I like it!
My street drumming started out as a little project, with buckets and painting cans, to have an income during the summer. I slowly tried to bring a drum set out there, and it seemed to entertain a lot of different people.
TP: You recently won the ‘Roland V-Drums World Championship.’ How, and why did you get there? What did you expect from this experience?
BK: I still can’t believe that. It started out as a contest connected to the local Roland-briefing/commercial; people were able to perform something at the end or upload a solo to YouTube.
It was for winning some of their products. I thought,”Why not?” Everything I participate in is a possibility to show what I’m doing. After a few weeks, I got a message from the Norwegian Roland guy, Thomas Revheim, who is a great guy. He said, “Pack your bags! You’re going to California.” I learned that I was the Northern-European winner, representing Roland, Scandinavia, and Finland.
I had a blast in L.A.! I also fulfilled my desire to talk to some of the judges, such as Johnny Rabb, Craig Blundell, and Michael Shack. I even spoke to Thomas Lang some hours before I got on stage. As for today, I really hope to get more challenges, get connected with interesting musicians from any style, and start building a career!
TP: You recently became the new drummer for the black/progressive metal band, Borknagar. How do you approach this experience, and what do you expect from it? Are you already working on new material with Borknagar?
BK: At the end of 2010, some prog-metal friends and I decided to record a song we had jammed on. We contacted TopRoom Studios in the middle of nowhere in Norway, asking to record it there. A lot of famous Norwegian metal bands had recorded there, such as Mayhem, Big Bang, Borknagar, and Arcturus. We learned that ICS Vortex [Simen Hestnæs] from Borknagar, Arcturus, and ex-Dimmu Borgir would be tracking for us, since the usual tracker was unavailable.
Simen liked my drumming, and we kept in touch. In the summer of 2011, he asked me to record a Metallica cover with him for Metal Hammer Germany. The track was part of a tribute CD to celebrate ‘The Black Album’ 20th anniversary. He liked my playing, and I asked him to contact me if he ever needed a drummer or knew anyone who did. In October 2011, he called me and said “Hey, have you ever heard about Borknagar? It’s kind of 90 percent sure that they will part ways with their American drummer.” That’s a day I vividly remember.
Even though I’m Borknagar’s new drummer, I still consider myself a freelance musician, who does a lot of different things. I have actually never been into playing black metal at all, but I think I will have a lot of drumming input which will fit really well. Of course, everything needs time to grow, but we will not start to work on new material before 2013, I guess. It will be quite challenging to play the upcoming album after this very successful record. [Borknagar released the album 'Urd' in March 2012.]
TP: You also serve as a drummer for ICS Vortex’s tour. How was your debut with ICS Vortex, and how did you feel about playing in front of that kind of audience?
BK: It was a very good experience playing the live-debut gig with ICS Vortex in such a metal country like Finland. I had never played to such a big crowd before, but I had had my concerts with my ex-heavy metal band, Twilight Arise, so it wasn’t a completely unknown and strange feeling for me. Everybody else in the band is in their 40s, having years of experience, playing in worldwide famous bands like Dimmu Borgir, Borknagar, Arcturus, and Satyricon. So far, I had been mainly used to play with other music students around my age. I think it’s very good to also work seriously with more experienced and ’not educated’ musicians, who have their own musical background and success.
TP: Which band or musician, also from the past, would you like to play/jam with?
BK: Where to start… I think my most-dreamed about band to play with is Dream Theater. Since I was 16 years old, I transcribed Mike Portnoy’s drumming parts, learned it, and posted them on Youtube. After Portnoy’s departure, I thought about how much I would give just to play two minutes with the band. A Norwegian prog-band called Above Symmetry would also be a dream. The Brecker Brothers, Sting, Porcupine Tree… The list never ends!
TP: What is your long term plan?
BK: My goal is to be an original drummer, known by people for my creative way of playing and musical approach. I have been very lucky, so far, with becoming known because of Youtube and the rest. I want to continue growing in the most constructive way I can. What the future will bring is never easy to say, and today, I play with some different bands and artists.
I really want to make a living with my drumming, and I know that I need to experiment with different kinds of jobs to make it. I have a lot of solo shows coming up and want to make them interesting and entertaining for as many people as possible.
Visit Baard Kolstad’s official page