Trond Engum Guitarrist from The 3rd and the mortal & Soundbyte: “I doubt there will be a musical reunion as The 3rd and The Mortal”
I cannot be objective when talking about The 3rd and the Mortal. Since my youth – in my twenty years old- I listened to the EP “Sorrow”, which literally changed the world, I could not understand that a voice (Kari Rueslatten) will interpret as if it were the voice of a siren and transmitted so many emotions, added to the melodies of the guitars and rhythms that I had never heard. At that time of my life I needed peace and feel welcomed, The 3rd and the Mortal gave me that… and more. They are still a cult and underrated band, coming from the city of Trondheim, Norway, where different cultures converge, they take everything and make it their own. It must be the most beautiful band that still remains hidden in Norway along with the Beyond Dawn, they were covered by the hordes of Black metal groups.
I have the honor to share with you this interview with guitarist Trond Engum, who over time formed another musical project called Soundbyte. Let’s take a look at Trond’s account of nearly thirty years producing music at Nirvanic levels.
How was your childhood and adolescence? Tell us something about your life and how did you come to music?
First of all, thanks for the introduction and the kind words. Music has always been a large part of my life. I was lucky enough to have access to instruments from a very early age, enabling me not only to listen, but also to perform. As long as I can remember, music has therefore been a part of my life in terms of being surrounded by it, as well as it became a way of expression. During adolescence and forth musical curiosity grew to be a driving force in exploring musical boundaries.
Trond: how did the idea of creating The 3rd and the Mortal come about?
Before we founded the 3rd I had been playing in a metal band together with Rune and Geir (also 3rd members) for several years. I also went to the same school as Kari, and we had played together at some occasions. Kari and Finn had a band together at that time and we shared the same rehersal room. It just happened that we joined these two bands together to create The 3rd and The Mortal.
Where does the name The 3rd and the Mortal come?, what does it mean?
The name was taken form a song that we wrote just after we have joined together. The song was never released, but the name was kept as a label for the band since then.
How did you see the whole wave of Black metal bands that emerged in Norway, did you somehow feel part of that musical movement? Do you think that affected your music, so that it was not better known throughout the world?
Black Metal emerged and was rapidly growing at the same time as The Third and The Mortal came about. A lot of bands both expanded and followed the Black metal path. Yet we found and sought something else. That to be said; the time spirit and its music naturally inspired us somehow, but we had already stepped out of the musical boundaries and created a voice of our own. The Soundbyte is my personal project, still with that ambient, darker melancholic string in it. Concerning why my music is still a bit hidden is mostly a consequence of my focus on creating, rather than the publisity part.
How did they take the departure of singer Kari Rueslatten and how did they find Ann Mari?
Throughout the years The 3rd And The Mortal crossed paths with several excellent artists. Creating and exploring music both as a musician as well as a band bring about reflections on movement at different levels. As Kari proceeded towards other interesting projects, we found another briliant voice in Ann Mari that suited the avenue we walked at that time.
Did you ever think of making music for movies or a play for the theater?
I have made a lot of music for both theatre and television and enjoy it a lot.
Does the way of composing in The 3rd and the Mortal come from improvisations or more rigid structures? I get the impression that you are more immersed in jazz than rock.
I would not say that the style of composing is more in one genre than the other. What I can say is that the inspiration was always towards the rock expression even though improvisation (meaning the collective improvisation) became more and more part of the expression as we went a long.
The productions of all their albums are incredible, all the albums were recorded in Trondheim, from what I understand; and the production was in charge of yourselves? How was the process of creation and recording, mixing, etc … Did you have bands or producers as examples to follow?
Thanks for the thumbs up for the production. Yes, everything was recorded in Trondheim, and we worked in collaboration with several great local sound technicians. For us the production was always directed more towards the musical arrangements than specific recording techniques, but we definitely explores the sonic possibilities that was found in the recording studio at the time.
How do you see the evolution from your first EP “Sorrow” to “Memoirs”, both aesthetically and in music production, do you think there is a logical advance?
It is possible to hear that they are done with different technologies and approach to composing. One example of this is that Sorrow composed and rehearsed before recording and recorded live on tape, while memoirs is composed and recorded digitally layer by layer. Both strategies are valid but they both put their own watermarks on both the compositions and productions on those examples.
Did you manage to tour Europe? I understand that you played in Mexico City, on the heels of Theater of Tragedy, in 2001. How was that experience?
We did tour Europe on several occasions, and also played in Mexico City as you mention. The latter was an great experience, and I was honored to be invited to play with The Soundbyte in Mexico during the festival in Chihuahua and Juarez in 2017. That was another great experience, an amazing festival and surronded by fantasic people!
How do you integrate nature, animals and ancestral cultures into your daily life, what role do they play in your life?
Living and growing up in Norway, (wich means “the way to the North”) clearly has an impact on who I am. Both the nature, the culture, our history and our contact with other cultures are parts of my identity, how I perceive, create and interact in the world. We have four seasons of the year, all different in colours and temperature. These changes of scene I am close on everyday trough the view from my studio.
Please, name me the 5 movies and 5 books that marked you the most?
It is hard to say what has marked me the most since everything is colored by the context it was experienced in. But for movies I like many of the works from David Lynch, Coen brothers, Nicolas Winding Refn, Lars Von Trier and Stanley Kubrick.
When it comes to literature I would like to highlight two authors which I have been reading lately. One is the Icelandic author Jon Kalman Steffanson (the trilogy «heaven and hell», «The sorrow of angels» and «The heart of man” – the other is the Norwegian author Jon Fosse and his currently ongoing septology.
If you had to make an analogy of the album “Painting on glass” with some painting, what would it be and why?
I think I have to refer to a Norwegian painter, Kåre Tveter (1922-2012), and his works rather than one single painting. Kåre Tveter was most known for his motives from Svalbards arctic landscape. He developed his visual expression to become an unique floating naturalistic, abstract voice. I like to watch his paintings because there is always something new in them, depending on the light and perspective you see it from.
What do you know about Latin America and Chile?
Latin America has always fascinated me. I think it is the rich cultural history, the architecture, the people I have met that gives me a sense of connection to that part of the world. During the years I have made several friends in Latin America and is one of the places i have an attraction towards. About Chile I know that Chile and Norway have several common features. Both are longstretched countries with diverse landscape, from steep, snowy mountains to great plains, woods and fjords. Both countries have both cities and dispersed settlements, a long costline, and diverse ancestral cultures. Though Chile clearly has a better climate, and a larger population:)
How did your Soundbyte project come about?
It started as a solo project back in 1998 in order to explore more experimental musical ideas outside the 3rd and the mortal. It has since then resulted in 4 full length albums, and allowed me to push my bounderies of expression in other direction. The project is still going strong and currently working on a new full length release set for 2022.
Many criticize the most mainstream music, but there is a relationship between the underground and the mainstream. How do you visualize this relationship in your music and how do you see the current music industry globally?
It is difficult to say something in general about this relationship since it is so many faceted. One perspective being part of the underground for many years is that I experience that many of the musical concepts that has been developed and are known in the underground for years are sooner or later transferred and translated for use in the mainstream. On the other side I learn a lot from the mainstream concerning bringing clarity to the good ideas (In my experience these can easily be hidden when always trying to push further in the creative process). Through this I have also learned to finish all my ideas even thought the result sometimes challenge my aesthetic expression.
Is there any chance that they will reunite with The 3rd and the Mortal?
We are still very good friends, some of us still play together, all of us still meet socially. But I doubt there will be a musical reunion as The 3rd and The Mortal.