Per Fredrik “PelleK” Åsly is a singer/songwriter from Norway, best known for his solo band PelleK, as well as the symphonic power metal band Damnation Angels. He is also known for covering his many power metal influences as well as metalizing mainstream and Disney songs. He agreed to take the time to speak with me during a break he had in the studio to talk about what he’s working on now, some plans for the future and some things he’s not allowed to talk about just yet!
You just said you’re in the studio; care to tell me what you’re working on?
This is a funny story. Three years ago I was looking to buy a house, and I looked for a long time, and long story short. I found a house where, there’s a house and right next to it there’s an annex, another building right next to it with a studio already built in it. It was one of the studios that the old Mayhem band used to use, so I was like “Oh god, Mayhem, there’s history in this building, I’ve got to have it,” so I bought that house. A few years later I was able to, because of YouTube mostly and because of all the albums, I was able to live for music. So my day is—waking up, eating breakfast, going in the studio and staying there for 12 hours. So I’m always working on something, and right now I was working on a video for YouTube. A bit before that, at the start of the day, I was working on a song for a band, which I can’t announce yet. A lot of times it’s like that you know, they don’t want it to be announced until the song is ready and the album is going to be released.
On the whole YouTube thing, what inspired you to start putting all these covers on there?
I’ve been asked about this a lot of times, but I’m not really sure now that I think about it. When I started out my big goal, and still, is to kind of get power metal out to people, and show them what power metal is. For us who are into metal and have been living that life all our lives, it’s weird to think of it, but in reality not a lot of people have heard about power metal or listen it. It’s not in the mainstream , and that’s okay, but when I was younger, and still to this day, I’m kind of annoyed that there’s not power metal on radio, there’s not more of it, if you know what I mean.
I know that feeling so well, power metal is my thing. A couple months ago I went and saw Sabaton with Iced Earth and ReVamp, and it was such a great show, but the attendance was not as good as it should have been for artists of that caliber.
Sabaton is actually awesome; I’m surprised it didn’t get more people. I was playing, we were opening, a festival called Prog Power USA. We were sitting there eating, because bands get there food in a private place. We were sitting there, only us, that was with Damnation Angels, and Sabaton comes in. I saw them later that night on-stage by the way; they are amazing live, really really good. They all come in and I’ve been a Sabaton for a long time. The thing is, I’ve met so many people over the years, when I meet, I could you could say meet my heroes it’s always a bit disappointing because I know they’re just like me you know, they just singers, they’re just bands. So I was sitting there and I was like “There’s Sabaton, and I love them, and fuck it I’m not going to talk to them, I don’t want to know Sabaton because I love them so much.” So that’s been my new philosophy right now because I do not want to have too much contact with the bands I love because it takes away the illusion for me, looking at them like this different kind of magical entity.
Back to the topic of YouTube, when you started did you ever think that you would have seven full cover albums?
Well I actually have eight because of, well for PelleK I actually have 11 or 12 album, I have seven cover albums and I have one called PelleK’s Pokemon Medley and it’s like 17 songs so it’s a whole album. And Power Rangers as well, that came out today (06/12) or yesterday, but Power Rangers released it themselves, so it’s not my release, but they bought it for me, so that’s cool. But no I didn’t think that when I started out. Now I’m at a place where I have so much technology, so much hardware and software, so much equipment, so many guitars, drum kits, and I have all this stuff. But when I started out I had an acoustic guitar and I had a computer microphone and I thought ‘How can I get some metal out to people?’ I was younger, I really started YouTube, like I’m doing it now, two or three years ago but I really started it when it was kind of new, I made some videos with an acoustic guitar, and that channel is kind of gone now as well, but I just did like “Land of Immortals” by Luca Turilli, or Rhapsody of Fire, and I did a lot of Rhapsody stuff at that time and just stuff I was so addicted to, because I was playing video games listening to Rhapsody and listening to all these great power metal bands, Angra especially favorite one. I wanted to get out there, I started fan clubs for power metal bands to try and do stuff for it. I don’t know how it is now, but especially at that time no one in my city in Norway, nobody knew about power metal. I brought a lot of power metal bands to Norway in terms of getting them to be known and starting fan-sites to them. I remember I was talking to a guy who took bass lessons from the bassist from Angra, and he talked to him and told him “My friend from online, he’s a fan,” and he was like “we didn’t know we had a single fan in Norway.” I didn’t think I’d do as much, I never thought people would care. I just thought I’d do this because it’s the right thing to do from power metal, and I did it. I didn’t really start getting a lot of view, and nobody cared about my videos at first. It took a long time, but the better I got then the more people started caring about it.
Oh I know that feeling, it’s really small here in the US, and that’s really a sad realization I had to come to. I’m used to telling people “I listen to metal,” and getting the “But isn’t that all screaming? Just noooo!
I know what you mean, but I have around 2.5-3.5 million per month and most of those views are from the USA. I get messages from people all the time like “You introduced me to power metal, thank you for that,” and I even get messages from bands and stuff saying “what you’re doing for metal is having a result,” so it’s getting results so that’s the biggest thing for me as well. It’s seeing that it’s actually been working and seeing how people from all over actually subscribe and view this. After all it is power metal and I bring it to them in a different way because I’m a positive solo artist instead of a band, so it’s easier for people to get introduced to, but then they go check into the stuff that I cover, like Blind Guardian, Nightwish, and all these great bands. It does help, and I’m really, really proud that I’m actually able to get millions of people every month because they probably wouldn’t if it wasn’t for me.
You’re really carrying the banner for power metal, so keep it up! I know you said you can’t say much about Damnation Angels stuff, but’s been two years since Bringer of Light came out, and I’ve seen hints that things are going to be happening in the future, are you able to say anything about that?
I can tell you I’m done recording vocals for it. It’s been a long process because the guy who writes it, he really scrutinizes it and he wants it to be perfect, these are songs he’s been working on for a long time. Most of the songs on Bringer of Light were written many years before we made the album because we had been touring with the material for many years before making an album. So when we were done releasing Bringer of Light, Will Graney, the guitarist, had already been working on the material for the next album which is going to be titled The Valiant Fire. He’s been working on it for a long time, so the stuff you’re going to be hearing on the next Damnation Angels album he’s been working on non-stop for several years. I don’t know how many, I’m just gonna guess four or five years or maybe even six years. I don’t know everything about it, I don’t know the details but I do know that he’s been working on it for a long time. I’ve been to England two times, two different sessions, recording vocals for it and it’s gonna be released this year. Details on that are on the Damnation Angels page.
That’s awesome, I was really into Bringer of Light; I can’t wait. It’s been a full year since your last album Ocean of Opportunity, is there going to be a follow up to that?
Yeah, there’s gonna be a new album, I’ve written one song. The thing is that 2013 was a super busy year. I did a tour through Europe; I did a gig in the USA (Prog Power USA); I sung lead vocals for four albums; I did over 100 YouTube videos. I’m in so many things; I work night and day all year. I also released PelleK Ocean of Opportunity, and then by Christmas I had to re-arrange and record, because I play so many instruments on all the albums I’m a part of. And I recorded Christmas with PelleK as well because, first of all, I love Christmas! It’s the best thing in my life, so whenever there’s Christmas I’m super stoked, and my grandparents are getting really old and I just know that they would love a Christmas album. I just thought “I have to get a Christmas album out as soon as possible, before they die,” and in the same of Ocean of Opportunity as well. I was thinking about a new PelleK album in 2014, and I thought I was off the hook by releasing two albums in 2013. (Laughs) I did start writing material, and I’ve got like four songs that are demo level, but the thing is Ocean of Opportunity took so long to write. I feel like when you are making an album, you have to put a lot of work into it because it is not fair that fans pay top dollar for an album unless it is your best work. I’m not the kind of guy who can release an original album every year. Even if I didn’t do 100 YouTube videos, and tours, and all that stuff, and sung for all these bands, I still don’t think I could do it because inspiration and those songs just don’t come whenever you feel like it. I can’t sit down and just get it; every now and then I just get this idea and I feel like it’s a genius moment where I get the idea, the story, and everything. I can tell you the next song is gonna be, because I’ve written one song and we’re probably gonna release it as an EP to kind of be a teaser for the whole album that’s gonna be the same kind of atmosphere, kind of darker. It’s gonna be a way more negative, emotion, gritty experience than everything else you’ve heard from my original albums which have been super positive Disney metal.
I like that you touched on the Christmas album, I really love your inspiration for it. On the cover you have a picture of Santa Claus riding a dragon.
(Laughs) Yeah, of course!
Where did that come from?
That was just the first thing I thought of. I said to the band, because I have a band who plays for me live for PelleK, I told them ‘I want to make a Christmas album, who’s in,’ and the bassist was like “I’m out,” because he didn’t want to do that, but the other guys were in. I said “This is the album cover,” and I hadn’t thought about it, I just said it right away, “Santa riding a fire breathing dragon, and there’s a snowman giving devil horns,” and they’re like “okay, cool.”
That is definitely the most power metal of a cover for a Christmas album you can have.
Right? Yeah, exactly. With some people, you’re always going to have people hating things. Like Slayer fans, you’re always going to have someone who hates anything that’s a bit out of the box. I just knew that some people are not going to take lightly to it. And also with Christmas, a lot of it’s about Jesus, which makes sense because Christmas is about Jesus in religion. So we’re gonna get the people who hate religion; we’re gonna get the people who won’t like “Silent Night” and “Ho Ho Ho,” I was like from the get-go “I don’t care what the songs are about, these songs are frigging Christmas, you have to have these songs!” I just kind of thought if we do it a lot of people will think it’s lame, but I just want people to know as well that we aren’t doing this to put a message out there. The only message to get out there is that Christmas is fucking awesome, here’s Santa riding a power metal dragon, because it’s fun and Christmas is fun!
That definitely captured it. I saw that shirt, I wanted a PelleK shirt, and it had to be this one. Do you have any plans for touring for Damnation Angels or PelleK over the next year, in the US I mean?
I will tell you this, in 2011, 2012, 2013 I’ve been very much on the road, but it’s mostly Scandinavia, and mostly in Europe. This year I was supposed to tour, but something else came up. I can’t tell you what it is right now, but I will be in the USA almost all year starting in August. I’m gonna be in Hollywood a lot, and I can’t say what it’s about, but obviously since I’m doing music full time it’s something to do with that. I can’t say much, there won’t be any touring this year from me, but I will be in the states. Maybe I’ll do a few gigs if I get the chance, but that’s not the plan. But I can’t really reveal anything about it.
I’m perfectly fine with some teasing, because I know something awesome is going to come out of it in the end.
This is definitely awesome, I think people are going to like this, but it’s also going to take a long time. That one won’t be publicly announced for a long time, but I’m very excited.
I can only hope for a US tour.
Definitely sometime, I don’t know with who, but I will definitely will play some more gigs in the USA. When I played Prog Power it was definitely the best concert I’ve ever been to, not only playing there but being in the US is always fun. I’ve been to the US several times and it’s always a good time. I think it’s most people’s dreams to just be there. You can see all these ads on the internet for getting a green card, and I see why. It’s the land of opportunity, it’s amazing there. Everything is cheap and all the people there that I met were super nice. I get treated a bit better because I always get treated by people that hire me to get there though, but everything is good that comes from America. All the TV shows I watch; all the movies; well not the music though, because I love Scandinavian music, (laughs) Power metal, which is from Brazil really, Angra is the best band in the world in my opinion. But I’m definitely coming back, don’t worry about that.
This is my last question, and I to ask it because I see a lot of conflicting opinions about it. Do you happen to have any opinions or thoughts on music streaming and services like Spotify and Pandora and services of that nature?
I think they’re awesome. Like I said, I set out to bring people power metal, and I totally understand that people in bands want to make more money. The honest thing is, bands don’t make a lot of money. I’m in a completely different position because I have so much stuff going on with YouTube and other things, so money isn’t a problem for me. It’s not a problem because my mission and goal is to get power metal out there, and I don’t care if people pay… I tell people everywhere , “if you want to support me by buying my music, feel to do that, but don’t be afraid to download it illegally” and I think that’s awesome because people get that music, they can party to it. I feel for those bands who see it as a big problem, but to me it’s not at all. To me, when I release an album I make an announcement about it and tell people if they want to support me, they can, all the costs are covered and we made all the money from pre-orders. It’s not a big problem for me, that’s why I also kind of support it. I just want people to have the music, and you can’t expect people from poor parts of the world, who can’t even afford to buy their own guitar, to pay top dollar. You make something for it to be out there, especially metal, you have to remember why we’re doing it. If a power metal bands wants to do it for the money, they would have picked a completely different genre. We shouldn’t lose track of why we’re doing it, and it’s to spread the power metal and live that life. If you want to be super rich then you should probably think about doing something else. I totally recommend doing the stuff that I’m doing if you want more out of it because YouTube cover songs, and touring, and having all that stuff going on really helps. You don’t have to focus on all those problems.
Those is awesome, I always love to see that kind of opinion because I’ve discovered so many bands on Spotify that I’ve gone to see in concert and bought their merch.
The fans shouldn’t have to feel sorry for the bands they like. If the band isn’t making money, they probably aren’t doing something right. If the band is touring all the time and releasing albums frequently they should be making money, or they are doing something incredibly wrong. If they don’t have the time to tour, they should be working on more music, or just working more. I don’t feel sorry for any bands, and they shouldn’t feel sorry for themselves. I see so many bands putting links on the internet about how the music industry is dying, and they’re just feeling sorry for themselves.
To see what PelleK released just prior to the interview, look no further than right below!