New album – Recording drums

I’m very proud and excited to announce that I will be releasing a new full-length solo album in 2019! You can follow the whole process – the writing, recording and mixing of the album right here on my web site. I’ll post news updates, in-depth written features and video clips from the studio.

This weekend we’ve been recording drums for the new album. Once again Henrik Fossum (Airbag) and I returned to Subsonic Society studios where we’ve done drums and mixing of all of the Airbag and my solo albums.

Bjorn Riis - New album 2019

Long-time collaborator, Vegard Sleipnes, who also run the studio, engineered the recordings and he’ll also mix the album in November when, hopefully, all the recordings are done.

As much as I want to evolve and explore new sounds and ways of doing things, I also believe in the fact that there’s no reason to change things if it’s working. We know this studio and Vegard knows us, both what we want and how he can challenge us.

Time and money is obviously a part of the whole production so being able to just come in and put down the tracks in an enviroment that makes you comfortable and relaxed is very important.

Bjorn Riis - New album 2019

All of the demos were completed a couple of weeks ago so we used these as the backingtracks and sort of a guide for Henrik but I also give him total freedom, well… more or less… to come up with ideas and suggestions.

Obviously he knows drums much better than I and part of the reason I choose him for my albums is that I know he’s extremely versatile and creative.

I wanted a slightly different sound this time based on the material that I’ve written so we went for a fairly tight and stripped down kit with a 70s feel in mind.

Bjorn Riis - New album 2019

For some of the stuff we ended up using a 1940s Ludwig kick that has this amazing low end thump. We also experimented with different types of snares and cymbals for each song and certain passages.

Not sure how many mics we ended up using but Vegard loves to just throw a bunch of ambient stuff around the room. I’ve no idea if he ever ends up using them but it looks pretty amazing though!

Next up is recording bass, acoustic guitars, pianos, vocals and of course lead guitars. Stay tuned for more updates!

New album out 2019!

I’m very proud and excited to announce that I will be releasing a new full-length solo album in 2019! You can follow the whole process – the writing, recording and mixing of the album right here on my web site. I’ll post news updates, in-depth written features and video clips from the studio.

Ok, so if you’ve been following me on my Facebook page I’m sure you’ve already seen me posting a couple of pics of me recording something new this summer.

Bjorn Riis new album 2019

The Coming Home mini album got released in February and I started to write for a new album and the follow-up to Forever comes to an end soon after.

The writing process for this album was a bit different compared to Lullabies and Forever. Lullabies was very much me wanting to finish a lot of the stuff I had laying around from not having used them with Airbag. Forever started out with the title track that was written while I promoted Lullabies and that sort of grew into a new album.

This album was written really fast, over a period of 2-3 weeks, and all of the songs are new. There’s no left over material or ideas that’s been laying around. I knew I wanted to make a new album and I pretty much picked up the guitar and started writing.

Now this might sound cocky but over the years I’ve developed some techniques that allows me to put down new ideas really fast. Ideas for a song can pop up at anytime and I use my iPhone a lot to write down lyrics, ideas for an arrangement or record a couple of chords and riffs.

When I get home I can pop into my home recording studio and within 30-60mins I’ve recorded a very basic draft of what might end up as a song.

I wanted to do things slightly different this time. I wanted to keep a lot of the initial ideas and recordings because they often have that nerve and spontaneity that’s often lost by trying to make everything perfect on the 54th take.

I wanted to have the feeling of a band and although I record everything separately with either myself or additional musicians, there’s something about not overdoing things. I’ve arranged the songs with the band in mind and what we’ve been doing live.

Is it possible to translate this song to the stage? That’s sort of been my goal but certainly no rule. Limiting yourself often generate new ideas and ideas that perhaps wouldn’t have emerged if you have too many options and tools available.

OK, so I think I’ll leave it with that for now. Be sure to stop by once in a while and keep your self up to date with all the latest news on my Facebook page.

We’ll record drums this coming weekend so see you then!

New album – “When can we hear it??!!!”

My new solo album, the follow-up to Lullabies in a Car Crash (2014), is announced for 2017. In the coming weeks and months, I will take you through the process of making this album. From writing the songs, to recording and eventually releasing it to the world.

One question that I’m getting a lot is “why can’t we just hear it already!”. Why not? Well, there’s still lots to be done and it takes time.

We’re in the very final stages of mixing. All the songs are finished and I spend most evenings either in my home studio or at my engineer’s, mixing the songs. It’s sometimes a painstakingly long process but also a very enjoyable one.

We’ll go into the mixing stuff later but as I said, it’s a long process. Still, there is a deadline. Part because I need to deliver to my record label but it’s also a deadline I force upon myself. You never finish an album. You just have to draw a line and let it go.

Bjorn Riis new album 2017
All the recordings are done in Apple’s Logic X.

The songs will be mastered in medio December. In case you don’t know, mixing is putting all the recorded tracks together, with effects and all, and making it work into a song. Mastering, is making that mix sound good on the different formats, like CD, vinyl, digital download etc.

Mastering usually takes somewhere between 1 day up to a couple of weeks, depending on how good the mastering engineer is and how picky you are at the receiving end.

Meanwhile, I’m working with Airbag’s vocalist and graphic designer, Asle Tostrup, to finish the artwork for my album. We hire photographers and come up with ideas and design for the front cover, booklets, labels etc. There’s also promo and marketing material. Everything, including the mastering of the album, should be finished around new year.

So, from there it should only take a couple of weeks right? Well, no. There are a number of reasons why you still have to wait a few months. I need to wait too!

When the large record companies needs to press 50k or 100k LPs, they come first in line. It’s great that there’s been a huge revival of the vinyl format but while no one wanted vinyl, all the old plants either shut down or, got rid of their old machines. Now everyone want’s to press vinyl but the plants can hardly keep up – which is why so few titles are reprinted these days. You better get that first edition! 

Anyway, it takes time to press vinyl and CD and print the artwork. Also, before you even begin to press, you need to make sure that everything is OK. You get the test press. Making vinyl, in particular, is such an organic process and you really need to be hands-on. I want to do the proofing myself. Others have their producer do it for them. Once that’s got the thumbs up, hopefully by the first run-through, you tell the plant to start pressing.

While all of this is happening, we slowly start to promote the album. Now, you already know that I’m releasing the new album and some sites have picked up on it but, hey let’s be honest, I’m a small act. It’s not that all the magazines and web news rooms and whathaveyou are waiting for a new album from Bjorn Riis. Weird, right?

Bjorn Riis new album 2017
My home recording studio. I do all the vocals and keyboards here and some of the mixing.

So, you got to start the process by slowly building on something. It’s strange, because we live in a world where everyone is easy to reach through all the social media. I mean, who reads magazines anymore? Well, that’s also the problem. It’s extremely hard to be noticed and to get the news out there when everyone is just browsing through today’s events on their phones.

You need to create a buzz. You need to get people talking and sharing. I’m, and Airbag, are lucky because we have such devoted fans all around the world and we know that word spreads fast because of you but nevertheless, it’s a long road to walk.

It’s also the case of reaching each market with the right impact within the right time frame. Sure, you can release and album digitally as soon as the master is finished but then you would spread everything too thin and people will have forgotten about the new release once the physical formats arrive months later.

So, the album is mixed, mastered, printed and the promoting is well under way. Then it’s distribution. Digital formats takes a few days, maybe a week, to be up on all platforms. Physical takes a lot longer.

Back in the 60s, 70s and even the 80s, an album got released in the US one month and in Europe weeks or months later. I know, because I could read in Metal Hammer or Kerrang magazine, when the new Kiss album was due but I still had to wait weeks before we got it here in Norway.

Now you can’t do that. People want the album the day of release. Social media has made the world a smaller place in some ways and while there is a financial aspect for some artists – you don’t want the album leaked while half the world is waiting for their copies – my concern is that I want everyone to hear it when it’s out. I don’t want you to have to wait and that means that we have to make sure all territories have their copies at the day of release.

So, where does that leave us? Well, you do the math but my point is,- as much as I want you all to hear my new album right away, there are lots of things to be done and we need to make sure it’s done properly.

I hope that made sense and that you got some insights on how it all works.

Check in soon! 

- Bjorn

New album – first sound clip

My new solo album, the follow-up to Lullabies in a Car Crash (2014), is announced for 2017. In the coming weeks and months, I will take you through the process of making this album. From writing the songs, to recording and eventually releasing it to the world.

As I write this, we’ve mixed 5 out of 7 songs and the mastering of the album is set for medio December. Still, there is a long way to go before the album is hitting the stores.

It’s been, almost to the day, three years since Lullabies. Since then, I’ve been busy with writing and recording with Airbag and we, as I’m sure you all know, released our fourth album, Disconnected, a few months back.

Most of the new album, was written simultaneously as the material for Disconnected, which was a new experience. While Lullabies mostly consisted of material I, for whatever reason, hadn’t brought into Airbag, the new album is all new songs.

The new album is very much a trip back to my roots and love of heavier music and movie scores. A strange combination, perhaps, but it’s always been there in what I’ve done with Airbag and on the last album.

So the question is, how do you make that to really be the main focus and not just a part of the whole sound? We’ll get back to that later. 

I can’t really tell you how proud I am of the new album. For me, making music is a very personal experience and there are periods that are just horrible, when you want to delete everything and start all over.

But there are also periods when I realise that I’ve managed to create something special. When you’re in that zone, or flow, it doesn’t really matter if you’re the only one who gets it or like it. It’s about pushing yourself and finding creativity and inspiration when you don’t think there is any.

So, I’ll leave it with that for now and a small taste in the clip below. I hope you will stop by once in a while and please feel free to ask me questions and suggest topics you want me to write about. 

Recording the 4th Airbag album!

New Airbag album

It’s exciting times! We’ve started recording our 4th album and the follow-up to Greatest Show on Earth. I’ve been writing new songs since last fall, starting in the middle of releasing my own album, and we’ve spent the winter and spring rehearsing and sorting out the arrangements.

Henrik, our drummer, tracking drums this weekend at Subsonic Society in Oslo, with engineer and long-time Airbag collaborator (and bass player in my live band) Vegard Sleipnes. We plan on wrapping up the sessions this week and the rest of us will be laying down bass, guitars, keys and vocals throughout the summer and early fall.

Be sure to follow the recording process on my Facebook page and on Instagram.

My home recording studio

Bjorn Riis - My Home Recording Studio

I write all my music and record the demos in my home studio. Most of Lullabies in a Car Crash was also recorded and mixed here. It’s a pretty basic setup in a small room but it serves its purpose. The simplicity of it allows me to focus on the important things.

In this feature I’ll let you into my home recording studio and share some tips and tricks that I’ve learned over the years. I’m by no means a professional record producer. I’m constantly learning and I think what’s important, above anything, is to spend a lot of time experimenting and exploring the full potential of the gear you own. All sorts of fancy mics and plugins won’t make your songs better.

Please feel free use the comments field under the article for sharing your tips and experiences.

Read the My home recording studio feature now.

Lullabies gear guide

I had great fun recording guitars for Lullabies in a Car Crash. I got to explore new sounds and write stuff for guitar that I hadn’t done earlier. Most of the guitars, both electric and acoustic, was recorded in my home studio. The bigger sounds, mostly the solos, were recorded in the Airbag studio, where I have the big setup. I also used a POD a lot. I don’t really care how I get the tones and long as I get what I need for that specific part.

In this feature I’ll share some insights from the sessions and you get to see all the gear used on the album. There’s also a detailed list of all the pedals and effects used on each song and part.

Read the Lullabies in a Car Crash gear guide now.

Recording guitars for Stay Calm

Bjørn Riis - Stay Calm recording session

Most of the guitars on Lullabies in a Car Crash were recorded either in my home studio or at the Airbag rehearsal/recording studio. For Stay Calm, I did all of the leads in the Airbag studio, with the big set up.

There are two solos on the track. One acting as a bridge before the break down and one at the end of the song. Both were recorded with an Electronic Orange Pig Hoof (red MkI) Big Muff clone straight into the amp. No modulation or boosting. I wanted a classic tone similar to David Gilmour’s tone on Animals’ Pigs (Three Different Ones) and what I did on Redemption with Airbag. A silicon fuzz could have worked but the Big Muffs is slightly smoother sounding and seemed to fit the track better.

For the first solo I used the Laney Lionheart L20 for a slightly darker tone and distinct mids scoop. The Muffs sounds aggressive but sort of mellow at the same time, with a fat low-end and crispy top. The second solo was recorded with the same Big Muff but with the Reeves Custom 50 for a slightly brighter tone and more mids. This makes the two solos sounds similar but yet different, with the last one being distinctly more aggressive and brighter sounding.

Listen to the full version of Stay Calm here:

The guitar is my main Strat, with a Seymour Duncan SSL5 bridge pickup. I’m using the Laney speaker cabinet, which is loaded with two Celestion V30s. I record all high gain parts with a Shure SM57 placed 1.5″ off axis and 4 inches away from the grille. This adds a slight natural compression and warmth to the otherwise bright sounding Big Muff.