In 2007, after six studio-releases, a Norwegian Grammy award nomination, worldwide touring with bands such as Mastodon and Opeth, critical praise, and the amassing of devoted legions of fans across the globe, Norway’s Extol seemingly disappeared without any explanation. But Extol are now back.
Cryptic hints began appearing earlier this year on an unheralded web site, hints that suggested a film might be in the works. Predictably, fans began wondering if new music might be on the horizon as well. Now, we know more.
First, a documentary film about Extol is indeed in production. It will reportedly include extensive archived material from touring and recording, as well as interviews with artists from Norway and other nations, music journalists, and fans from all over the world. And of course, it will include exclusive interviews with the members of the band.
Second, Extol are indeed at work on new music, with plans for release of their fifth studio album by 2013.
To help finance the documentary, which is co-produced by Extol’s Peter Espevoll, the band started a “crowdfunding campaign” at indiegogo.com with a fundraising goal of $20,000. With time still left before the campaign closes, the goal has been exceeded — raising more than $25,500 at the time of this writing.
The documentary is being directed by Åsmund Janøy, and today we’re stoked to publish NCS writer Andy Synn’s interview of Åsmund, as well as a separate interview of Peter Espevoll (here). Åsmund’s interview begins now:
So, first of all, tell us a little bit about yourself? Your background, etc, where you come from, where you’re going… who is Åsmund Janøy?
30-year-old dude born and raised in Norway, though living periods in both Paraguay and Denmark. Filmmaking, fatherhood, basketball and music – love it.
My professional background is from animation. I moved back to Norway in 2004 after studying in Denmark, and founded a small production company with my older brother. Since then I’ve worked on TV series, commercials, short films, documentaries and feature films.
How did you hook up with the guys from Extol?
Peter from Extol dropped into my life some time ago when my wife introduced me to her best friend’s husband (sound familiar?). Without knowing that he was the vocalist for anything, we formed a “sauna club” within the first hour of meeting. The rest is, as they say, rock’n’roll history. So our professional relationship is based on several hundred hours of fishing and sauna.
How/Why did you decide to do the documentary in the first place?
Since I’ve only known Peter personally while Extol was on hiatus, I’ve always been really fascinated with his impressive but somewhat obscure career. And up until last year, these were all ‘campfire stories’. Last summer, the Extol members started to talk about making some new material. Peter then presented me with an idea; combining archived footage with some new interviews, and making a DVD for the fans. I work with films and TV on a daily basis, and he asked if I would be interested in making it with him. I was never in doubt at all. Some odd weeks later, we had developed an idea for a much larger film than originally intended; a-feature length documentary chronicling Extol’s past, present, and future. We grew really passionate about the concept and have never looked back.
How shocked were you by the hugely enthusiastic response from the band’s remaining fanbase?
Reading all the comments, mails, and responses the last few weeks has been amazing, no doubt about that. Since we knew about the new album and documentary approximately a year before anyone else, I had a lot of time to dive into the history of Extol. The unique and amazing fans are such a big part of that history. So with this as a backdrop, I was more moved and impressed than shocked. It almost seems that Extol’s audience has grown since the hiatus, which is really impressive.
How have you compiled all the footage – the documentary is covering a huge period of the band’s history after all?
These kind of processes are always somewhat comical; Peter came with his two boxes of CD’s, Vinyls, VHS, DV tapes, t-shirts, backstage passes, posters, and magazine. And David did the same. So the first couple of months was spent digitizing all of the collected footage and building the archive. Everything from pictures of their first ever concert, to video of the last show of the Blueprint tour. I’m really looking forward to sharing all of this. And boy what I wouldn’t give to hold on to that t-shirt collection after this production is done.
Could you let us in on what sort of things you’ve seen so far, documenting the band’s reformation and the new album process?
There’s not been any slamming doors yet. It is not that kind of band, not that kind of monster (pun intended). These guys have great natural chemistry. Combined with their long history and impressive musical talents, kind of relieves them from the usual pride -based conflicts. In other words, so far it’s been a fascinating journey in modern creativity. Talking about the new material; when something is this good, you can feel it already in the ‘making of’ process. That’s really cool to be a part of, because we all feel it. Same goes for the film, it feels really good! I only hope I’m able to present the complete story and all the nuances that are actually there.
What are the guys like as personalities – how, from your outside perspective, have the band been working together?
The three current members are impressively different and at the same time so much alike. They share a sense of humor and faith, but their t-shirts tell some interesting stories; Ole wears Rush, David wears Extol, and Peter wears Living Sacrifice.
But they are working well together with enthusiasm and gratitude. Instead of being packed in a studio for an intense two or three week period (like the recordings for the other Extol albums), they’ve had opportunity to acclimatize between rounds.
Any amusing/embarrassing stories you want to share, that may or may not make the final cut?
A lot of dancing and harmonized singing!… Bonus material?
What’s your aim – personally – with the documentary? What is the one thing you most hope to achieve with it?
Personally I hope to tell the story of Extol in a way that will be fascinating for everyone. While giving fans an exclusive insight into the history and creative process of the band.
As a documentary film-maker, how exactly do you go about a project like this? How do you involve yourself, how do you decide what to shoot, what gets cut, what gets kept, etc?
My job is to look for ‘the story’. The actual history, the ever-present conflicts, and the human destinies. But as opposed to other documentaries I’ve been involved with, making a film about artists like Extol gives me the opportunity to present someone’s body of work as well as telling the story. That’s an aspect about this project I really appreciate. Music as a weaving thread through the fascinating story that is Extol.
Ever tempted to do a “Phil Towle” (the performance coach who famously became a tad too involved with Metallica during the filming of “Some Kind of Monster”) and try and join the band?
Of course I have! I think Phil Towle opened the gates for all to follow! One day, a «Phil Towle» will get the spot he deserves in the band!… No, distance is key. But I have to admit that after the first vocal session for the new album, I palmed my forehead and said; «No, Peter, I have to get a line in there! Anything, as long as I get to scream.» He laughed and said that it was too bad the vocals were done for the day.
How do you keep yourself from becoming too involved, especially if/when things get stressful or heated?
Good question. Since the heat-level has been moderate at worst, keeping from involving myself in all the good times is much harder! Keeping my distance is truly challenging but really important.
As a fan of the band (I assume) what’s your favourite Extol song/album?
I am not what you would call a traditional metalhead. But that’s what I like about Extol; their ability to combine hard-hitting metal with everything from 70’s progressive rock to chord progressions borrowed from the fusion bands of the 80’s. My absolute favorite is a controversial one; The Blueprint Dives. Amazing production and great diversity in songs.
As a music fan, what are some of your favourite artists? Anyone you’d like to recommend to our readers here at NCS?
I’m afraid the readers of NCS would be enraged with my recommendations. Nik Kershaw much?
Any last words to share with everyone?
We’ve joked a lot with the word «epic» in this production, both film and album. But it is epic. And we really can’t wait to showcase it. Thanks for all the support we’ve gotten along the road and thank you NCS for your interest in this project.
EDITOR’S NOTE: To learn more about the progress of Extol – A Documentary, visit the project’s official Facebook page HERE or the Extol Film web site via this link. And just because the producers’ campaign goal has been exceeded doesn’t mean that additional contributions won’t be useful. Commitments can still be made up until Oct 23 at 11:59 PM PT at this location — and some very nice perks are still being offered to contributors.
Here’s the latest video update about the film featuring Åsmund Janøy and Peter Espevoll, which they made shortly after the funding goal was reached: