Interview: Return – The Last Chorus Is Yet To Come

Seems I’m the anniversary man at the moment. First MALLET, then HARTMANN and now it’s time for RETURN. March 27th saw the re-issue of “V”, originally released when the lousy Grunge movement was at its peak and limited to 1000 copies only. So it was the right time to re-visit the album and the 40 year history with singer Knut Erik Østgård.

I must confess, I discovered your music quite late. 1995 was the year, when I found “V” in a bargain bin and I was thrilled immediately. Without the help of the internet, it took me quite a few years afterwards to complete my RETURN collection. Which of all your albums means the most for the band and why?

The debut album means a lot for us all, because these were our first steps in the music genre. For the second record, we were signed by CBS and copies were sold not only all over Scandinavia but in Germany as well. Maybe it’s the CD we are talking about, not only because it has a lot of “hits” on it. In our opinion it’s the longplayer which comes nearest to our live sound! 

Return – (c) Norway’s National Library

Thinking back more than a quarter of a century, has the record stood the test of time?

I think so – we’re still playing a lot of the songs live. We had a break with RETURN a few months after Grunge started to rule the world. I think it was better for us to stop the machinery, We didn’t want to adapt the wave into our sound like so many other bands did. RETURN came back in 2000, refreshed and could play on as if Grunge never had happened. 

Never thought “V” needed any, but are you satisfied with the remastering from Chris Lyne?

We only have heard a few songs at the moment and they sound really great. Chris did an excellent job.

Have you recorded exactly the number of songs needed for “V” or why aren’t there any bonus tracks on offer?

Before we started the recording process, there were about 20 songs to choose from. But Ole (Evenrude) forced us to a hard judgement with our music, so we sometimes were one song short. So when it came to the surprising offer of that re-release, we had no bonus tracks for AOR Heaven.  

Norway must have been a village musically at the time, because well-known producer/ songwriter OLE EVENRUDE supervised the whole thing. How was working with him?

Fantastic – he had a clear vision how he wanted us to sound. Working with him was quite easy, because he is a musician as well. His participation made the record so good. The band wasn’t quite sure which direction to follow, so we needed a strong producer, which Ole was. We became close friends and we did an acoustic show with him in his hometown a few days ago (mid February).

Well known Swedish songwriter Nestor Geli helped with his skills on some of the tracks. How did you convince him to contribute?

That was the idea of Ole or maybe from Dag Finn of SHA-BOOM as well. Nestor helped us a lot with the lyrics by just changing two or three words in a song. Our English was simply not good enough at the time, so his expertise helped a lot.

Tell me about your songwriting – do you sit in your studio and jam around on your acoustic?

A bit if everything. Steinar Hagen, our former lead guitarist, wrote a lot of the music in the early days. That changed a bit for the next albums. I did quite a few songs as well and Henning Ramseth, Steinar’s follow-up, contributed some stuff for “V”. Before it came to recording, we met ourselves to arrange the music. As you know, doing an album in the 80s and 90s was really expensive. Two or three songs were changed in the very last minute due to Ole’s influence, but it made the record better! 

Return in 1993 (c) Marius Nilsen

Don’t you think it was very courageous to start the album not only with two of the softer songs but orchestration on “Life Must Go on” as well?

The band wanted the album to open with some Rock N’ Roll, but the producer’s will won in the end. I learned that a producer has to fight against the musicians and I have no problem with it when the result is better. And a good song will always be a good one, no matter if it’s soft or heavy.

“Goin’ Back” is a very cool song with its GOLDEN EARRING “Radar Love” parts thrown in. Was this intentional or coincidental?

That came accidental. We needed some click track to help the drummer and somebody threw in this idea to make the song sound as it never stops. In my opinion, it’s the most American song we ever did.

“Room In Your Life”, “Ridin’ On A Rainbow” and “Lion’s Eye” are my most loved cuts of the CD. What can you tell me about it?

“Lion’s Eye” wasn’t played live quite often – maybe a few times just after the CD was released. Glad you like the song, because I think, I wrote it. “Room In Your Life” is still in our set until today. I love “Ridin’ On A Rainbow” very much as well – a raw rock song, good to play on stage. The guitar solo is very cool, too!

The quite famous German “H.e.a.t Festival” will take place again in November this year. Have you asked Georg Siegl (AOR Heaven) if RETURN could play there as well?

We played there already a few years ago. It was fantastic, because every person in the room came to listen to your music. We definitely have to show up there again!

Will you record a new album in the not too distant future?

Don’t think so. Doing two or three new songs each year is realistic, but recording a proper album is very much time-consuming. And as a musician you have to look for opportunities which bring you money!

Andreas Höhn

Author: Andreas Höhn

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