Ross Allen put some questions to James Last, drummer of Fornost Arnor. They talked about the new album “The Death Of A Rose”, Kate Bush, classic 70’s/80’s Rock & Metal, Jeff Buckley and Tool.

Congratulations on “The Death Of A Rose”, it’s a stunning album. It’s quite different in style to “Escaping The Abyss”, was this a conscious effort or was it a natural progression in the songwriting?

I think it’s a natural progression from the first album. Musically we’ve taken a lot of the ideas that were present on “Escaping the abyss” and developed them a bit further in their respective directions, but always with the feel of the song in mind and not just for the sake of it. It’s a lot more refined and I think we’re all very happy with the result, more so with the positive response we’ve got from it so far.

Was “The Death Of A Rose” the notorious difficult second album to write/record?

Certainly musically a lot of it was quite challenging to learn to play, but generally I think the album was written and recorded pretty quickly, really. Whatever the circumstances, I suppose there is always that little bit of pressure on you to try and top your previous effort, especially with the 2nd album, even if only to prove to yourself and others that you’re capable of doing so.

You once again used the vocal talents of Elle Torry for “The Death Of A Rose”. Who else would you most like to work with and why?

Not sure really. I’d love to work with someone edgy, like Kate Bush or Peter Gabriel, someone along those lines. Someone who can add something unique to enhance the feel of the song that no one else could do.

Fornost Arnor played a couple of live shows last year, do you have any plans for more live shows any time in the near future?

There are definitely plans to get back on the road, hopefully by the end of summer, so watch this space, the sooner the better, as far as I’m concerned.

Which bands and artists have inspired you in the past and which bands are inspiring you today?

Well i grew up on a lot of classic 70’s/80’s Rock & Metal bands like Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Deep purple etc., plus a lot of progressive rock, because that’s what my parents were into. While I still love all that, those are my roots, my tastes have gradually broadened out the older I’ve got, mostly into progressively heavier stuff to begin with, and then eventually into pretty much everything else. It’s impossible to list everyone but the ones that made a particular impact on me include Tool, Slayer, Rush, Jeff Buckley, Joy Division, Nick Drake, Kate Bush, Marillion, Pink Floyd, Emperor, and of course, Opeth, that’s not even the half of them. The people that inspire me are generally the ones I feel who continually push the envelope out and evolve and dare to be unique.

There’s a discipline and focus around all the tracks on the record- How easy are you to work with when writing and recording?

I think the key to discipline and focus is knowing what’s best for the songs you are playing. Personally I’ll always keep an open mind to other peoples suggestions, and if I have something to say then I will say it, as long as people extend me the same courtesy then I think I’m pretty easy to work with. I think that although professionalism is crucial, the recording and writing process is meant to be enjoyable at the end of the day, otherwise what’s the point?

The music business has never felt so crowded or as competitive as it does at the moment- what’s driving you guys on?

I think we all share the same goals, we believe in the music, and this is what we’ve all always wanted to do, and we have all put a lot of time and effort into it. The music business is a notoriously difficult one to get into and even more so to be able to make a career out of, but it is worth the effort all the more if you’re lucky enough to get that far, and on your own terms.

If you weren’t playing in Fornost Arnor, what band would you like to be a member of, past or present, and why?

Difficult one to call really, but if you really pushed me, I’d say either 80’s era Marillion, Rush, or Iron Maiden. In the present day I’d say Opeth, Oceansize, Muse or Mastodon. I love so many genres and styles of music but they are probably the ones that come closest to embodying everything that I like best about them all in one outfit.

TINAS is buying a round: what’s your poison?

Today it would be whatever fine ale they have on tap at the bar. Failing that it would Heineken.

What are your hopes and aspirations for Fornost Arnor in 2011 and beyond?

To establish a good live reputation and to continue to build on the progress we’ve made, musically, and otherwise.

If you could choose one album, and one album only, to listen to for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?

Again, very difficult one. Probably “Grace” by Jeff Buckley. To me that album is just about perfect. It’s got a little bit of everything in it, and it’s an album I’ve never got bored with. Either that or “Lateralus” by Tool, for similar reasons. Ask me again on the day!.

Twitter question: How would you describe what you do in 140 characters or less?

A search for the perfect cohesive balance of Brutal heaviness and Melodic beauty.