The first traces of collaboration:
Rolf-Erik Nyland(drums) and Karl Gudmund Birkely(keys) had known each other for quite a few years when they first decided to play music together. But the road there were strangely long, when thinking back. They grew up 300 meters from each other, and they went to the same school (placed between them). Though the same age, they didn’t enter the same class (there were two classes for each grade, normally). Still, one should think they would’ve met pretty soon. Not so. Years went by, and despite the day they finally became aware of each other and how close they lived (and made a deal to hook up after school, but that didn’t happen, ‘cause Nyland couldn’t find the house...), it wasn’t until all nine years were “served” they started talking music, at long last! Nyland, being a keyboard fanatic, was thrilled to hear that Karl played keyboards, and even owned something as pro’ as a Roland D-10! On their first “rehearsal” they played “Lavender” (Marillion) and “Subdivisions” (Rush), which seemed to be about the music they both had heard. Nyland was then into fairly straight melodic rock (Magnum, Journey), and neoclassical metal (Yngwie Malmsteen), while Karl had a heart for contemporary prog-bands (Marillion and Rush). He didn’t introduce Nyland to them, but he made him give their records a few more turns, ultimately making him a fan of that sort of music.
The completion of a line-up:
After juggling a few guitar and bass candidates in the air for a while, Arnulf Øvre (guitar), that for years had been playing along to albums from Rush, Led Zeppelin and Queensrÿche, entered the scene. He’d went to school in the same class that Karl, and they knew each other well. Nyland also knew him, and had visited him long before he ever visited Karl (being devastated by the fact that the crazy 15 year old bastard sat there and fluidly played solos to Malmsteen’s “Trilogy” that sounded like Yngwie’s own solos!). However, Arnulf’s talent was head and shoulders above that of most people his age, and didn’t seem like a natural choice (in neither their nor his mind...). He played with other people, 5-10 years older than him, anyway. After a while of that, he seemed to prefer playing with mediocre musicians that were good friends, instead of good musicians that were mediocre friends! Therefore, he didn’t much mind when Lars Rikard Kvaal (bass) was taken in, without ever having touched a bass in his life!! Nyland, that had shared classroom with him since he moved there prior to second grade, asked him: “If you were to play an instrument, what instrument would that be?” He answered: “Bass, because not many people play bass”... And he was given the job! Arnulf, of course, had to give him quite a few lessons... Musically, Lars was deeply into Metallica and Queensrÿche, so there was no starting off easy with 120bpm 4/4 three-chords “dansbandmusik”! The line-up completed, although missing an actual singer, the band started thinking about a name. For a while, and mostly in jest, the band took the first letter in each member’s name, and formed the name KARL (Karl, Arnulf, Rolf, Lars). Of course, the man with the keys thought it was a name both beautiful and proper. However, the rest never took it seriously, and Arnulf soon came up with the name “Close Race”. It was under this name they played their first live gig. This was a joint venture with various other acts, in Tromsø 3.march 1990, with Nyland as lead singer behind the drums. The gig was a great success. The other bands either became fans, or hated their guts (JEALOUSY!). They were given much airplay on national radio. The song “No good reckoning” even made it into the top ten on a county radio chart, kicking countymen “Bel Canto” out of the list in the process!
The search for a lead singer:
Not two months later, by the end of april 1990, the band played its second gig, only this time with a singer! John Steve Jensen (the one in the band that wouldn’t need to change his name to get a contract in the mid-eighties), a very able guitarplayer in his own right (considered for that spot back in chapter two) happened to have a voice somewhat reminicent of Ian Gillan. Nyland had played with this guy in previous bands, “Deadly mirror”(!) and “Sacred action”(?), and knew him well. John Steve was the one introducing Nyland to the Joe Lynn Turner era of Rainbow. Maybe it was the age difference, the ever dictionary-summoning lyrics of Nyland, or maybe it was John Steve’s increasing love for Dire Straits... Nobody knows exactly why, but it didn’t happen. Another local band, (I’ll translate here:) Channel 1, had a singer, Geir Helge Fredheim, that was getting better all the time. Who knew where this would end? He was headhunted, auditioned and hired in no time. Nyland knew he was the right choice when he took a line in the chorus of the audition song (“No good reckoning”), and raised it an octave, making the song much more hooksy and powerful! Now, the line-up was complete, and it has stayed the same since.
The shadow years:
After enjoying a year and a half with songwriting, rehearsals and live gigs that pointed to a future as a force to be reckoned with, the army tore it apart (We have general conscription in Norway). Five people were enrolled at three different points in time, making the hiatus long. The band never seemed able to start up again, as the different member’s schedules were extremely hard to sync. If three or four had time off in the weekends, one or two would be over the hills or at work. Location-wise, they split up, and did it good. It peaked when Nyland was the only one living in Storsteinnes, where it all started, while Karl lived in Oslo, Fredheim in Notodden, Arnulf in Tromsø, and Lars in La Paz, Bolivia!!! Still, through all this, the band wouldn’t break apart, and Arnulf and Nyland in particular were frequently in contact, writing songs and planning the future. There was talk of who would be interested in going on, and who could replace the ones that weren’t. The two collaborators found out that nobody could be replaced, and no one wanted to leave, anyway, so here we are! From 1992 to 2001, we’ve been writing songs, playing together two, three, four or all five of us (sending it down with a drink afterwards), and all the time, we’ve had one goal: Getting together and making an album the fans of this kind of music will love to no end.