Icelandic hard rockers Sign have just released their fifth album, 'Hermd', their first since 2007 release 'The Hope'. In advance of the band's album launch party at Austurbær, Reykjavik on February 13th, we decided to see if Ragnar Zolberg, frontman and founding member of Sign, (and member of Swedish prog band Pain of Salvation) had time for a chat in between blowing up balloons. Fortunately for us, he did!
Hello there! Please describe yourself in five well chosen words…
Obsessive, stubborn, reckless, adventurous, musician
‘Hermd’ is Sign’s first album since 2007 – we are great believers in the seven year cycle here – but, in your words, why the hiatus?
Firstly because in 2008 I had the personal need to do something different than what everybody else was expecting from me. So I made a couple of solo albums where I could take a journey and really expand my horizon only to come back home stronger. Secondly, while I was going through my hippie phase I knew that the time wasn't right to make a rock or metal album, instead I waited until I was angry again.
And thirdly because I've been playing and touring quite a lot with Pain of Salvation, and since making a Sign album pretty much is a 24/7 work for me (for several months) the timing had to be just right.
You say it is your ‘darkest, heaviest’ to date – why is that?
I feel that being a grown up Peter Pan is so much harder than being a teenager Peter Pan so there is slightly more angst to deal with. And also because the heavy-metal kid inside of me was really pissed off for being put on hold for so long so we made up for the time lost.
And there’s a duet with Lay Low! How wonderful. How did that come about?
Initially it was my wife's idea that I'd do a piano driven ballad similar to what I had done on my solo album "The Circle". So I wrote this song called "Because of all the Ash". I immediately heard Lay Low's voice in my head and asked her if she wanted to sing on it. To my luck she really liked the song and performed on it so beautifully. I still get a chill I down my spine when listening to her on there. She really shines on this song.
That was a dream come true, and he definitely lived up to our expectations! When we came in, he listened to the songs and gave us his thoughts as to what could be better and then he spent a whole day just to figure out how to get the perfect drum sound for the album (a lot of bizarre mic techniques were involved) and then we recorded the basic tracks as if we were working on analog equipment, no edits or copy-paste. Instead he worked our drummer Leo Margarit up and made sure that he nailed all the songs.
And finally, if you were an animal, what would you be and why?
My animal spirit is a wolf. In the way that I care a lot about my pack, while I also love to travel alone. I don't speak that much and when cornered I can become very mean.
And let that be a warning to you, dear readers! Thank you Ragnar, and all the best for the new album.