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Åge Sten Nilsen


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Åge Sten Nilsen, best known as singer in Wig Wam, Ammunition and as a solo artist, expands on his singing career and what the future holds with regard to new music and live gigs.


Who were your influences in the early days and have you always wanted to be a singer in a band?


It was Elvis Presley that brought me into music in the first place. My parents were both Presley fans, and his songs were the soundtrack to all the road trips of my childhood. Then later I got addicted to The Beatles until I heard Sweet. Which led me to Queen and Kiss. The latter made me want to learn how to play guitar, and becoming a guitar player was really my first motivation into my rock ‘n roll career. When my first band needed one of us to sing though, I volunteered. But I soon found out that only focusing on being a singer was way easier that doing both, and we already had two guitar players in our band suddenly, so I put my electric guitar to rest. By then I also had been influenced by singers like David Coverdale, Robert Plant and so on. I thought it was cooler to be the frontman playing with the mic stand ha ha! I didn’t pick up the electric guitar on stage until Mr.Mårtensson had to cancel his Ammunition gigs, and I had to fill in the guitar hole as good as I could.


Your recording output appears to start in the late 90s. Can you give me a summary of what you were doing prior to this?


My first release was actually in 1991 with one of my first bands, Heads ’N Tales. We only released a single though, called “A Million Miles Away”. Then in the mid 90’s I was a part of  TV entertainment group on the Norwegian Broadcasting that released a CD containing a collection of the cover songs that we performed in the tv show. The tv show was Norway’s take on the US “Late Nite Show”, and was the major tv show on the biggest tv channel here every Friday. This was when I first started to be recognized here in Norway. It was scary as hell!


Have you ever auditioned for the vocal spot in any other notable bands?


Not really auditioned. But I was contacted by CoreLeoni, Gotthard’s guitar player Leo Leoni’s band, when Ronny Romero had just quit the band. I recorded some songs as a kind of “audition”. I did my own interpretation of the Steve Lee songs you know, but when they wanted me to record it again, asking me to sound as close to Steve Lee as possible, I lost interest. Steve Lee was a great singer, but being a copy of someone else was never why I started to sing in the first place. Not even in my own Queen show do I try to sound exactly like Freddie Mercury. I have to interpret it and make it personal you know. Even with TNT back in the days…yes, I kind of auditioned for TNT as well when Tony Mills was about to get fired. I was having a terrible time in Wig Wam back then and was on the lookout for another band. Ronnie Le Tekrø, TNT’s guitar player, and I had been writing some songs together and hit it off very well. Also, Victor Cito Borge, TNT’s bassist and I had just become close friends (I later recruited him for Ammunition), so when Ronnie asked me if I would consider joining the band I thought, why the hell not. I spent some days at Ronnies studio recording vocals for some of the songs that ended up being on the “Atlantis” album. And I was literally taken by surprise that the guys wanted me to sing it like me, rather than trying to copy Tony Harnells or Tony Mills sound. I was actually offered the gig but I turned them down after I was presented the terms….no song writing credits, no cuts of Merch, no this and no that and 500 pounds a gig…I remember standing up telling them, ‘this was actually only a bunch of No’s and the same fee I had when I was 18 playing the bars…so No from me’, and then I left the building. Tony recorded the album with them and we never spoke of this again. I brought in Ronnie on one song for my third solo album though. Got back to Wig Wam and we made the “Non Stop Rock ‘n Roll” album and actually had our best year ever creatively and personally speaking. 


You have appeared on a number of albums over the years. Do you have a favourite and why?


Right now WIG WAM’s latest album “Out Of The Dark” is my favourite. I simply like my voice better these days. It’s got more personality and I think the songs on “Out Of The Dark” are all killers.


But to be honest I hardly listen to my own music you know. You live with the songs 24/7 when creating them and recording them. After the release I almost never go back to listen to it. Been there done that if you know what I mean. 

 

Do you have any plans to release another solo album?


Yes in fact I do. But this time I will finally make a Hard Rock solo album. You see, whenever I decided to do a solo album in the past, I wanted to do something totally different from what I did in the band unit. I figured, why the hell would I use my Hard Rock tunes for a solo album, when I already had the band of choice using it for. That being Wig Wam and Ammunition. Even though Ammunition’s debut album was kind of a solo album in that respect. It was supposed to become a solo album until Erik Mårtensson suggested we’d form a band together. My first solo album was released  in 2000, before Wig Wam was established. But in 2006 I decided to re-release it with a different tittle and some extras. Called it “Wolf & Butterfly”, and more or less re-released it to kinda stay tuned with reality. The Wig Wam image had by then occupied so much of my identity that I felt a need to get grounded if you like. That’s why I wear my old man’s shirt on the cover. “GLAMunition” was really kind of an emergency plan to be honest. We were supposed to record what was to become  Wig Wam’s “Non Stop Rock ‘n Roll” in the fall of 2008. I had taken 3 months off the road with my Queen show to work on the album that should get us back on the road in 2009. But just weeks before getting started, Trond, our guitar player and producer, postponed the whole production because he was too busy doing what was to become his Dracula project with JORN. This meant that we wouldn’t be releasing a new album in 2009, and that we wouldn’t be touring. So I decided to make a solo album and just jumped into the ring with a good friend of mine, the former A1 singer Christian Ingebrightsen producing it. Back then my goal was to make an extremely diverse album. No songs should be anywhere close to any of the other tracks…I brought in Ronnie Le Tekrø on one song, Kee Marcello, the former Europe guitarist on another, a soprano etc. I love that album by the way, because it really had NO boundaries. It brought me out on the road in 2009 with a solo band, and I did my first solo tour in Japan supporting Enuff Z’Nuff. Then later I did a couple of singer/songwriter solo albums, “Smooth Seas Don’t Make Good Sailors” and “Crossing The Rubicon”. Those were more like necessities in terms of dealing with a lot of  trauma from my divorce and how I lived my life in the most hectic days of Wig Wam’s career. Lots of stuff that I needed to get off of my chest, you know. 


Now, I’m so eager just to make the best possible Rock album and get my solo band out on the road whenever Wig Wam isn’t playing.


Was it an easy decision to get back with the guys in Wig Wam and release new material?


When it finally happened it was an easy decision. I had been avoiding the guys for 6 years you know. When we broke up in 2013 it wasn’t at all a clean break-up. There were so many issues, so much bitterness. When we finished our last gig I just told the guys, this was our last show…goodbye. I couldn’t stand the guys anymore, and just wanted to get out. So for years, I received invitations from the Norwegian Broadcasting for us to re-unite on national tv etc. But every time I told them ‘no fucking way’. But after seeing Trond for the first time in 6 years, and we started to talk and heal our wounds together, seeing it from both sides, it started to feel natural to try to work together again. Then after reconnecting with Bernt and Øystein I told the guys about some of the requests that had been received, and we took baby steps towards getting together for rehearsals and writing songs. We also decided that we should try to tone down the image from the past a bit, focusing a hundred percent on the music only. Our comeback album “Never Say Die” was such a pleasure writing and recording, it really felt like a fresh start. But it was kind of weird getting into the stage personas again…this time without really being the stage personas if you see what I mean. But it all came very naturally after a while in second skin.


Your song “Do Ya Wanna Taste It” appearing on the tv show Peacemaker must have given the band a big boost in popularity, what do you make of it?


Are you kidding me! It meant the world to us! It exposed us to a whole new market, and is the main reason why we finally can play in the US. 


Right now the song is about to be used for the game platform Mortal Combat and expose us to an even bigger market. 

 

Some vocalists are on strict dietary regimes or gargle with special liquids. How have you kept your voice in tip top shape all these years?


The way I keep my voice in shape is by living my life as positive as possible. I drink, I smoke (not on a regular basis anymore though) and party when I feel like it. I don’t believe in regimes that keep you from having a good time and living your life. I mean, you need your sleep and to avoid stress. Apart from that, I just live my life and try to warm up a little before my gigs. 

 

Do you still get the same buzz out of singing live as you did in the past?


Even more so. In the past I could get a bit nervous and afraid my voice would play tricks on me. These days I know my voice so well, that even on a bad day I will know how to get around it some way or another. It’s like driving a car you know. The first time of having your license you feel kind of tense when for example driving on icy roads. Then after some years on the road, you know how to manoeuvre the car and don’t think too much about it. When you overthink and get tense and nervous…that’s when the accidents happen. But of course. There’s always a chance of getting TOO careless as well. Been there done that. Won’t happen again! The buzz these days is all about the positive adrenaline rush and appreciation of  being able to go out on that stage and do what you love to do, knowing you’re in a great band.


Are there any musicians that you have not worked with, but would like to in the future?


Oh plenty!!! I’ve had the honour of working with musicians like John Norum, Micky Dee, Ronnie Le Tekrø, Tony Carey, Dan Reed, Bruce Kulick, Erik Mårtensson, Trond Holter and more, so I already feel like winning the lottery. But there are of course a bunch of other names I would love to work with as well before time’s up. Neal Schon being one of them. What a fantastic guitar player he is. There are a bunch of names I would love to play with, write with and write for. 

 

What is the music scene like in Norway?


The Rock scene is actually getting better. There are quite a few new cool bands out there that are working their asses off on the club scene, and like in the rest of the world live clubs are getting fewer and fewer. There’s a damn cool band from Bergen to be aware of called Notörious that opened up for Wig Wam on our recent tour in Norway. Looks like we’re taking them with us as support on the next Norwegian tour.

 

You seem to be involved in a lot of different forms of media throughout your career. Acting, theatre, TV work, radio and obviously live music. Do you enjoy all aspects of your work and would you consider acting in a feature film?


I think I have done every aspect of the business by now, and now I’m getting more and more into writing songs for other artists. I’m currently signed to a publishing company called Arctic Rights, and do session work with all kinds of song writers. It’s extremely exciting and rewarding to give birth to surrogate babies and see them grow up with their new ‘parents’ you know. Speaking of acting, as a matter of fact I almost got a major role in a Norwegian movie called “Head Above Water” (Hode Over Vannet) way back in the early 90’s. We were two guys competing for the role, and I lost because I was a little too young for the part. The guy who got the job was a Norwegian pop star called Morten Abel. I would love to do movies, but so far I haven’t had much time to pursue it. But I know there is an actor inside of me that would love to have a bit more attention in the future.

 

Have you or would you consider producing other bands?


I’m more into the song writing part than the producing part. I know what colours I would like for my songs you know, but to produce an album for someone else…I don’t think that it’s my cup of tea. Maybe, if I had written most of the songs on it, or if it was a band I was managing and was responsible for. 


Is there a possibility of another Ammunition album?


You know, after making the first Ammunition album, which really was a solo album produced by Erik Mårtensson, the band was called Age Sten Nilsen’s AMMUNITION. After the Wig Wam break-up I was longing for a new ‘family’, and after the band was formed I really wanted more involvement from the guys. So I asked them if they wanted the band to be a BAND. They all wanted that, so we dropped Age Sten Nilsen and became a band. I even invited the guys to get involved in the writing process and speak their minds and share their creativity. Fact is, nobody got more involved, think they all were too used to having me being the motor of the band, so the next album was pretty much written and recorded the same way as the first one. Erik and I were working together from scratch, and the guys were just playing the parts we had come up with during the demo recordings. Then Erik started to get more and more busy with his main band Eclipse and couldn’t even make all the concerts, which was starting to wear me down. There were many occasions where I had to play guitar as well, because Jon (our main guitar player) couldn’t do all the parts alone. We actually got together without Erik around 2018 to write songs together. We wrote and demoed 4 new damn cool tracks, but I’ve been waiting for Jon to lay down his guitars since then ha! So unless something VERY strange happens I guess Ammunition continues as a solo project from now on, in my name. It will more or less be the same music and some of the musicians will be the same. Already talked to Erik about producing it too. Let’s see what happens. I have so many songs, so it’s just a matter of timing and time.


Is there any unreleased recorded material from your days in the bands you’ve been involved with that could be released?


In 2025 I will celebrate 40 years on stage, yes I’m getting old, and I’m planning a release to go with the tour that will include demo tapes and oddities nobody has ever heard before, plus a best of part.


You appear to be incredibly busy throughout your career. What do you enjoy on your downtime?


I like being busy you know, and I don’t get bored with doing the same material over and over again. After a tour with Wig Wam I go off and do some solo dates, then some Queen shows, then I’ll spend some weeks doing sessions and write some stuff in my home studio…ha… there isn’t much ‘downtime’ is there! But I do have my dog Saga, a Gordon Setter, so I get out quite a bit these days. I have moved to a place called Melhus not far from Trondheim with great wild life. I’m actually thinking about hunting too. Apart from that I still enjoy partying and taking care of my property, watching movies with my wife, going to concerts etc like everyone else.

 

With the live circuit back up and running, is there a possibility of seeing you perform in the UK again?


Definitely. We are currently looking for a new agent for Europe after our previous one got health issues and had to quit. But so far our Scandinavian agent hasn’t received any requests from UK worth mentioning. Which probably means there isn’t much of interest in the band over there I guess. Which means we really should get over to create a demand you know! 


Do you have anything else in the pipeline at the moment that you can share?


Right now we are writing for the next Wig Wam album, and I have started to work on my solo album. 2024 will be a hectic year for sure. Apart from that I’m doing the “We Will Rock You” musical in Norway. We did a run in Oslo earlier this year, and will be doing other Norwegian arenas next year. I’m also writing on Christine Grande’s, my wife, debut album. She’s into Country Rock, like Carry Underwood, you know. So I’ve been doing a great deal of duet gigs with her, and we’re now planning to find her own band. She’s a great singer and an awesome live artist. 


 




 


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