Interview with Bokassa – “We never dreamt this big.”


Imagine being in a band and dreaming about what you could achieve possibly with it. A show with METALLICA might be a stretch too far, so you don’t even wonder about what could happen… But then it actually happened to the Norwegian stoner punk band BOKASSA. Not only were they invited on tour with the legendary thrash metal act, but drummer Lars Ulrich has also called them insanely fucking cool, and deemed them his favorite band.

In the middle of the tour, METALLICA took BOKASSA for a stroll to Hämeenlinna, and we had the opportunity to talk to frontman Jørn and drummer Olav.

Can you quickly say your name again, and then later I’ll know which one is which.

Jørn: I’m Jorn, I play in Bokassa. 

Olav: I’m Olav, and I play in Bokassa. 

How are you guys doing?
Jørn: Really fine, actually. 

Thank you so much for this interview. I guess it’s a huge opportunity to tour with Metallica – how’s that experience been so far?
Jørn: Fantastic! 

Olav: Really cool, a great learning experience, and a great tour. 

How has the organization of the tour been? I’m not sure how big you are in Norway, but this is a huge opportunity that you haven’t experienced yet.

Jørn: No, we have not played stadiums before. We’ve played some big festivals, but never a stadium, so that is always a lifetime opportunity. 

Olav: It’s unlike anything we’ve ever done before. 

Assuming you usually play on smaller stages, how is the experience on stage? Have you felt like you’ve needed to learn to play shows like this?

Jørn: Yeah, we’ve played some big festival stages, but they’re not as big as this. Metallica also have the catwalk that you can walk out on. We planned it, we rehearsed a lot before the tour, but you can’t really plan the catwalk because you can’t understand what it’s like before you do it. But we just ran down there and rocked out. 

How do you rehearse for these types of shows? Is it very different than what you would do for a normal gig?

Jørn: The only difference is the in-ears.

Olav: So it took some getting used to, but not really. 

Jørn: I still hate it. [laughter]

There’s also a lot that can go wrong, I assume.

Jørn: I did that in Norway. I had some problems because you can’t hear anything on stage if you don’t have a digital mix, so I much more prefer it old school, having something in my ears and big monitors that play. But he likes it.

Olav: It’s been fine for me. 

Jørn: To be fair, I hated it before these shows. I just don’t like the sound. 

Obviously, a lot of people are coming here for Metallica, but how have the crowds reacted to Bokassa? In general, not just today.

Jørn: I think we have done what we hoped to do, winning over a lot of fans. People tend to come early to catch our show, which is cool. The reaction has been really great so far. We don’t know about Finland, but a lot of the places, like Sweden and English and Germany, some people know us. Not, of course, to the extent of Metallica, but there are people there who have heard us. But I don’t know about Finland. It could go both ways. 

Is it your first time playing in Finland?

Jørn: Yes, so it’s exciting. A good debut show! [laughter]

I think a lot of people will remember this one.

Jørn: Exactly [laughs]

You guys recently released a new album. How has it been received since it was released?

Jørn: Very good. Really good reviews. It’s hard to measure, but our first record got really great reviews, so we were hoping that we wouldn’t do worse on the second album, but I think it’s been the same. Our fans seem to dig it and we’re happy with it, which is the most important thing. 

Olav: Measured by your own tastes. 

How do you guys usually write the songs? There are a lot of things going on, a lot of influences, and it’s very consistent. Is there a different approach that you take in comparison to other bands?

Jørn: I don’t think so. Just write the songs and they come out how they come out. We don’t have a specific approach. We just write what we write, I guess. 

Has the tour so far had an impact on the band?

Jørn: Yeah, for sure! We’ve gotten a lot more fans and we can see, which is really cool, in the streaming numbers from the towns we’ve visited, we see them go up. It’s nice for us. 

Olav: Yeah, it seems that a lot of people who see us at the shows actually go home and check us out. 

Jørn: Even if it’s just a small percentage, it’s still like a thousand people because there are so many people there. 

Yeah, there are over 50,000 people here today, so I can assume. 

Jørn: Yeah, if it’s 1% of them, we’re happy with that. 

I was asking before about the reactions – I think the most important one was from Lars Ulrich, that you’re his new favorite band or something like that. How do you feel about that, since Metallica is such a big band?

Jørn: It was an honor. 

Olav: It was easily the coolest thing that’s ever happened to us, when he played at a show and talked about us afterwards. Then he talked about inviting us to the Metallica show in Oslo and then inviting us to be a part of this tour.

What are the plans after this tour? Will Bokassa have some headlining shows as well?

Jørn: Yeah, we’ve just announced a headlining tour in Europe in November/December, so that’s nice. 

Is that also as a result of this tour that you’re able to do a headlining tour, or is it because of the new album?

Jørn: It’s because of the album. We’re going to tour the album. We would’ve done it anyways, but it helps to visit some of the cities with Metallica first. 

Are you coming back here as well?

Jørn: Not to Finland. We are allergic to licorice [laughter]. 

Do you have any expectations from the show, regarding the audience and things like that?

Jørn: I have this idea – I don’t know if it’s true – but I have this idea that Finnish people are fucking crazy.

Olav: At shows.

Jørn: Yeah, at shows. And in general [laughs] because they just drink vodka and eat licorice and go crazy, so I’m hoping they’ll do that tonight. That’s my impression of Finnish people [laughter]. Always drunk and happy. Hopefully they are tonight. 

Let’s see, I cannot promise anything, as I’m from Belgium [laughter]. Have you had any cool things happening while on tour with Metallica? Any stories?

Jørn: I think every day is cool, pretty much. Things happen all the time. 

Olav: Things happen all the time.

Jørn: I can’t think of anything now, but we think every day is cool because we wake up as a part of this. Last night was really cool because we were all sitting backstage with some beer, and our tour manager texted us to come to the stage now. We were like, what? Everyone? Even the tech guys? He said, “All.” We thought, oh shit, maybe someone’s drunk, and then we came in and the Metallica guys were having a big barbeque and stuff, and had a slingshot where we shot oranges over the river. That was really fun. 

Olav: Yeah, they bring a whole grill with them on tour. 

Jørn: They bring steaks and sausages and stuff, and had beers for us. That was really cool. 

Does this feel at all like a dream come true?

Jørn: Of course, but then again, we never dreamt this big. We never thought this was possible. We never dreamt of playing football stadiums with Metallica. 

Olav: It’s bigger than a dream come true in ways. 

What were your expectations for the band, if you never dreamt this big?

Jørn: Of course we dreamt of stuff, but never that big because I didn’t think that was realistic, you know? But they’ve come true. 

Olav: We dreamt of maybe opening for Clutch. 

Jørn: That would’ve been really fucking cool. 

Olav: That would’ve been a dream come true for us. 

Maybe Clutch will hear this interview and bring you on tour next time.

Jørn: That would be like… whaaat? That would be awesome [laughter]. 

What are the plans for after your headlining shows?

Jørn: Relax?

Olav: Then we’ll probably do a tour of Norway, because we’re just doing three dates in Norway this year. Then we’re doing some big shows and then we’ll do a tour of rural Norway and hopefully a lot of summer festivals, and then perhaps a new record.

But you don’t have any pressure to produce a new record within 2-3 years?

Jørn: No, I guess if we didn’t write anything, our manager would probably complain, but we haven’t heard anything yet. The record’s still fresh, so we want to tour it a bit. 

For the people who’ve missed out on the Metallica shows because they sold out so fast and would like to see you during your European tour, what would you say is a typical Bokassa show? What can they expect?

Jørn: A lot of energy, huge riffs, great choruses, some stage banter, some sweat, some beer, and us hanging out after the show!

Olav: Yeah, pretty much!

It will be quite exhausting, I think [laughter]. 

Jørn: It depends on the next leg. It’s a long ride, but we usually try to hang out and say hi to people after the shows. 

Olav: It’s really nice to meet and talk to the people. 

Selling some more merch [laughter].

Jørn: That never hurts. 

Do you guys have any last words for the readers?

Jørn: You go, licorice boys! I don’t know what that means, but I wanted to say it.