Guitarist Ken Ingwersen, from Norway has been writing, playing, producing, and even doing his own album art for years. He has a long and excellent list of credits including albums by the late Ken Hensley [as part of Live Fire], Wonderworld [Live Fire on their own], Street Legal, and a number of other Norwegian hard-rock acts. The Future Looks Bright is a great follow up to his first Ken’s Dojo project – Reincarnation, from 2010. In this interview Ken details the new album – which includes an awesome list of guest singers. As well he updates us on his other projects and forthcoming albums he’s involved in.
*Check out all the links at the end for info on ordering The Future Looks Bright , as well as various pages.
Can you talk a bit about when & what got this project going – when you started putting songs together [were these all new for this project, or any ideas you had laying around]?
I started working on some of these tracks right after I released Reincarnation. The idea back then, was to keep ‘em comin’ every 2nd year or so. But in 2013, Roberto Tiranti joined Ken Hensley & Live Fire and during the first day in the studio recording Trouble, the energy between Rob, Tom and myself was great. We had an instant chemistry, so I suggested we form a power trio. We released the first album in 2014 already, and it’s now been 3 albums, with one more in the works. So I decided to put Kens Dojo on hold for a while and focus on Wonderworld. But yeah, a few ideas are from back then, but for the most part I wrote it all in 2020.
The album art you did [again]. What can you tell me about it – as far as any inspiration or story behind it?
Well, I was spending a day thinking what the album artwork could be like. I came up with a few not so great ideas. So I turned it around and decided to find an album title instead. During the pandemic I met a lot of pessimistic musicians, but also positive. So I came up with the title The Future Looks Bright without having a song for it yet. After having the title, I soon came up with the idea of this girl coming out of a war zone, looking into her VR glasses and just seeing sunshine and happiness. From there I decided to also write a song to the title and ended up with the title track.
How was the album made – was it all through file sharing, zoom chats, email… or was there any times where you were able to get together with any of the singers or drummers in the studio?
Yeah, most of it was through chats and file sharing. Many of the singers were living in another country than me, and on top of this we had the pandemic, that made meeting people in general quite hard. But most of the songs were quite thoroughly demoed, meaning my drum programming and guide vocals were pretty close to the end product. There were a few exceptions though. Like the drum recordings I did with Lauvdal I engineered, ’cause we were able to meet up. Also the song I did with Chesney Hawkes was written a few years back, so I already had his vocal files when I produced the song.
You enlisted an impressive list of singers for this album. How did you go about choosing who you wanted and then coordinating them with the song? Did you have contact or know most of these guys already?
I’m fortunate enough to be surrounded by great singers that I know very well. So I could easily have used totally different singers on the songs. But I felt like searching a bit more outside my “circle of friends” this time around. Also some of the singers that I originally wanted to work with, couldn’t make it for various reasons. So, obviously I know Truls, Åge and Chesney well from years back, but the other guys I chose out of skills and what I was looking for in each song. Some of these songs are quite hard to sing, demanding a big range and powerful vocals. So I made contact with the singers as the song writing process went on and it became more clear to me what I wanted. I have to say, it’s been an absolute breeze to work with all of them. Highly professional and at the same time giving it all artistically. So I’m pretty sure I’ll contact many of them for my next album too. Although I do like to mix it up and move forward and try new voices and people.
Reincarnation was a good album, but I think this one is better. Was there anything you learned from making the first album that you liked or disliked and made sure to repeat or not this time around?
Thank you. I guess!😆 Well, it’s been 11 years since my first album. So obviously I am a slightly different person now. More mature one could wish. (Hehe). But I faced the same potential dilemma this time as the last time, and that is the fact that I have such an eclectic taste in music, so there is a lot of different stuff I wanna do. I decided to follow the path from the first album and keep it within the frame sort of, but still do a variety of songs – meaning a John Mayer inspired song or a brutal metal song wouldn’t fit in. So I guess that was somewhat of a learning lesson. Not to go completely off the tracks, even though it’s been 11 years and taste, skills, age and what not, have changed quite a bit. This time around I also ended up writing a lot more of the songs by myself, whereas Reincarnation is very much a collaboration on the songwriting side, not necessarily something I wanted to do, but the pandemic forced me to work more alone, and also now I had the time to dig more into the words and melodies. I ended up enjoying that process more than I expected it too.
The first track “I Wait For Nothing” is the one you’re not credited with. Where did this song come from?
That’s a song written by two friends of mine from a few years back. It was a pure pop song with female vocals on the demo. And very different from my version. But I always found the song really great, so that’s one of the first songs I recorded. I felt I found a cool riff to it and added a signature melody to it and made it my own. It was a good way to start the process, having an already written song in the box, so to say. Like, okay one down 9 to go. Easier to move on from there.
Can you touch on lyrical ideas for a few songs? The title track was obviously inspired by what’s going on in the world lately. Did current worldly events inspire much else or are many ideas take from personal experiences?
I’ve never seen myself as a lyricist, I’ve always been a part of the creative side of it, bouncing ideas with other songwriters etc. But I don’t feel it’s my strong side. I feel more drawn to melodies and chords. So when I write lyrics I tend to follow some intuition and write down the first things that come to mind, then I tweak it from there. I like it to be fairly abstract and not so personal.
There are 2 songs that you co-wrote with the singers, and both stand out – “Gone” with Chesney Hawkes and “Never Forget” with Andrew Freeman. Can you tell me about their involvement in these songs – be it lyrical ideas, etc..?
Chesney wrote all the lyrics on “Gone” by himself, so that was a good old top-liner working on a track kinda thing. “Never Forget” was a different story. I did some blabber’ish guide vocals for Andrew to show him the melody I had in mind. The idea was for Andrew to write completely new words to it, and he sort of did, but he kept a lot of the words from my silly guide ’cause he felt it suited the song very well. I think he did a good job at making nonsense into something that made sense. It’s a quirky song with some quirky lyrics and it all makes sense some how. Andrew basically had the same approach to it, as I do when I write lyrics. Tweak the first ideas into something more proper.
Can you give me a few antidotes on songs you are particularly happy with, songs that came together easily, favorite riffs or solos?
That’s a tough task. I find it hard to pin point some of the songs. I think it’s too early. When I’ve lived with the album for some years, it’s easier for me to point out the stuff I’m happy with and what I think I should’ve improved. I do think “Longhaired Blues” came out very well, as I had already recorded a lead solo on it some years back, but re-did it all, and felt that I did a much better job at it this time around.
There are 2 instrumentals here. I really love “Longhaired Blues”. Can you tell me a bit abut your guitar influences and inspirations for such pieces? [I am reminded of how Gary Moore and David Gilmour can get so much feeling in their playing]
Those are 2 of my favourite guitar players, so I’m glad you mention them. The songs have a different story behind them. “Longhaired Blues” was written years ago, and I “released” it as a track on MySpace, back when that was the shit. It was a song I dedicated to an old friend who sadly committed suicide. There was no Spotify or anything back then, so it was my way of paying respect to him and put out a song. When I started working on this album, I had some files lying around that I started to look into. And this one I still had the recordings in the system. At first I figured I’d release it exactly like the first version, but then I started listening to it more closely, there were parts I wanted improve. Then I startet to re-record some parts, but the guitar sound was quite different…different guitar, different amp, different year and so on. So I did it all from scratch and it turned out way better. I’ve always been drawn to the more melodic guitar player like Moore, Gilmour, Beck, Knopfler and those guys, when it comes to instrumentals. There is a big world of Guthrie Govans and Joe Petruccis out there, and they can do some amazing stuff, but it’s not for me. I like songs and melodies….also when it comes to instrumentals. “Cuarenta Dias” on the other hand, was the first song I finished and sort of kicked off the idea of completing this album. It was the beginning of the pandemic, I had time on my hands. I was calm and wanted to record an instrumental that was in the vein of Gary Moore, but still me. The title comes from the origin of the word quarantine, which was the 40 days the ships had to wait in the harbour before they were allowed to enter land. I programmed the drums as usual on these instrumentals, but those two songs are the only ones I decided to keep the programmed drums and not replace them with a drummer, I felt it worked fine.
Would you ever foresee yourself doing a full album of such instrumental tracks?
Not really. I just find it very boring to listen to albums like that as a listener, so why would I give the world another album I wouldn’t even listen to myself? 🙂 I like proper songs and I like great singers, so that will probably be what I’ll do in the future as well. But I do like to throw in a few instrumentals, if I have any good ideas lying around.
Any plans to make any videos for promotion?
Honestly I haven’t had the time to sort it out. It would make sense to do it, but due to the fact that most of the singers are at the other end of the world, creates a practical problem. We could of course send each other video files. It is something I consider for sure, but no solid plans at the moment.
When the pandemic settles down do you would you maybe put a band together to play songs from your solo albums or have a few shows with a few of the singers?
It would be fun(!), but it’s not very likely to happen. I do consider this project to be a studio project and because of all the various singers I think it would be hard to put a band together that could reflect the album(s) in a proper way. But never say never. It really depends on demand. Booking (paid) gigs is a tough job. I do play live with a couple of other bands, where the booking situation is a bit more streamlined. But with this project it would be starting from scratch. But of course, if someone wants me play anywhere, I’ll put together a band for sure!
Can you explain a bit about how this album is being put out, it’s not through a label [Frontiers, AOR Heaven , etc..] . So I’m curious how it’s being marketed as opposed to taking it to one of the labels [mentioned, or other]?
Well, honestly I didn’t bother playing it to any labels this time around. It’s such a tedious process. Few labels to choose from. If any of them show any interest, then you get a shitty offer. Then if you sign, you get a release date next year. It’s just too slow for me. Having a label that actually does some work for you is great. Doing it myself obviously doesn’t create any big buzz, but I do like to be in control and own my own master recordings. So it’s just a bonus to me, if anyone listens to it and buys. To me, the most important thing is being creative and leaving some sort of legacy.
There is so much great rock music – Metal, AOR, etc.. coming from Norway and Sweden, and you’ve been part of that scene for so long. What is it over there that this type of music and all these great newer bands thrive there? It’s like that region has become the center for great new metal & AOR.
I don’t know for sure. There’s probably a complex answer to it. I think it’s a mix of good economy, meaning that we are forefront when it comes to technology and making use of it to create music. We can also actually finish something without external help, whereas a great band from let’s say, Brazil will have a harder time executing it. We also have a long tradition of solid melodies. I think our love for good melodies is the key musically. Most people here also speak and write fluent English, which is a bonus. We also embraced MTV and Sky channel in the ’80’s and got very inspired by great pop music. This can be some of the reasons I believe.
What is the current status with Wonderworld – is their plans for a 4th album?
Indeed! As a matter of fact, we are pretty close to finishing it already! It will be a very different album than the previous three. We have decided to pay our respect to Ken Hensley on this album, so we have recorded 10 songs chosen from the live set we used to play with him. Obviously we need some help in the organ department, but it will be more guitar oriented and in the veins of our previous work. I’m super happy with the recordings and the plan is to release the album this year. I can’t say more, but we should have some more news soon 🙂
You are also part of an upcoming project on Frontiers called ‘Zelbo’. Can you tell me any details [aside from what’s in the press release at Frontiers] on your involvement, what to expect, and/or when ?
True! Dag Selboskar (Da Vinci) is an old friend of mine. He had a lot of songs that he wanted me to listen to. I really liked it, so I suggested a drummer and a singer. I play guitar and bass on the album, and I’ve also produced and mixed it. It was great fun to do, because it’s very different from anything I’ve done before. This is more AOR…sort of. But also a bit of West Coast. But all in all very positive, upbeat songs. We finished the album a year ago, but I think Frontiers wants to release it at the end of this year.
You worked with Ken Hensley [RIP] for a number of years, and played on a few studio and live albums. Can you talk a bit about that period – anything you learned from Ken as a performer and/or songwriter? And any highlights on record or on the road?
Yes, I ended up playing with Ken for the last 15 years of his life. It was a big shock to me and the other guys in the band when it happened. When you play with someone for that many years, you become more than bandmates. He was a band leader, but even more so, a band member. That was very important to Ken – to be one of the guys in the band. I learned so many things from him, I don’t know where to start. What comes to mind now is his way of treating people with respect, not taking yourself too seriously, stay playful and add a bunch of humor!
Can you explain the whole Live In Russia release – as it lobbed off all but 1 post Heep era song. Who’s idea was that? And can you recall the show and what else was played? This album seemed to come and go pretty quick.
To be honest, I didn’t know it was being recorded. I just thought the cameras were there for the big screens. Also, I had no idea that we were gonna play 40 000 people! I figured it was a regular 3 000’ish gig, so I didn’t even bother to bring a backup guitar. I don’t remember the set list exactly, but we definitely played a lot more songs, non-Heep songs that is. But they decided to release the most obvious songs I guess. The album was to be released in Russia only and I guess that is true. I still haven’t listened to it…I’m not so good at listening to my own performances…(hehe), but I think it turned out pretty good from what I understand. The mix and everything was done really fast and I had no part of it. But a great memory now in retrospect.
Any other projects on the go? and how are you keeping sane / busy during the pandemic?
I’ve been keeping sane through this pandemic by being busy in the studio! I basically recorded 3 full albums during this year with Ken’s Dojo, Wonderworld and Zelbo. So when I’m done mixing Wonderworld I will try to enjoy a couple of books this summer and work on that studio tan. Haha. Now, finally things seem to be slowly going back to ‘normal’, so I guess there will be some gigs later this year. Then I will slowly start working on new songs for Dojo and also Wonderworld… as soon as we can meet again:-)
To purchase The Future Looks Bright on CD go to www.kens-dojo.com
Apple Music: https://music.apple.com/…/the-future…/1567759615…
KJJ, 06 / ’21