Exclusive In-Depth RockNotes Interview with Per Fredrik Pellek Åsly, aka PelleK
by Erika War
Pellek is one of the world’s top Power Metal artists. Known for his incredible range, Pellek is also one of the kindest, sweetest, most compassionate human beings on the planet. Up until recently he never even used the term “fans”; he just thinks of everyone who likes his music as friends, and only out of necessity to distinguish things clearly he will use the term fans. He likes nothing more than meeting people and getting to know them. Please enjoy this interview, where Pellek covers things he has never talked about before in other interviews, and please support this amazing musician and amazing person.
1-Tell me about yourself; where were you born, what it was like growing up, etc.
I was born in a pretty small town in Norway called Sandefjord. I was into music since I was pretty young but I didn’t start singing or anything. I played the guitar a little, drums; I guess I just sung a bit, a hobby. In terms of growing up, I did have a pretty awful time growing up. There was a lot of problems and I don’t really want to get into it now because things are better now. Its all about family so I don’t want to get into it, but generally since I was about 6 years old I was very interested in music, I guess that started early.
Yeah I was born in a small town in Norway, along the coast, you know a typical Norwegian small town, so, growing up, I mean, what can I really say? I guess I was pretty normal except for all the stuff that happened, there’s nothing really interesting about that, I mean I did like everyone else, I hung out with people, I skateboarded, I listened to music. I did MMA, mixed martial arts, for many years, I had normal hobbes, I never really liked team sports, I liked music I liked to be in bands but I never liked football, handball, I hated that stuff,soccer rugby, baseball, all that typical kind of stuff, I never liked that.
And I was born in a place, I guess you can pretty much call it a ghetto, just basically immigrants, and me though. I was the only person listening to rock and metal and everyone else listened to stuff like Tupac and stuff like that. I also did breakdancing and stuff for awhile but I was the only kid listening to that music and it rubbed off on a few people, but I’ve always been kinda like a fish out of water, a lot of places. but I’m not gonna complain, I mean I always had good friends and always I like people and people like me so I always felt like…I always felt alright with other people.
2-How did you get started in music?
I’ve been in small local bands since I was a kid, and since I was like 6 years old to like 12 years old I had small local bands, one or two local bands with basically the same people. But then I kind of stopped singing and just played the guitar for like 10 years. Then after being a boss in this sales company for a few years I realized that I couldn’t get any farther in that company and my salary was alright and stuff but I just felt like I don’t want to do that all my life, so I quit that job and I sold my playstation and got a guitar again. My old guitar was really bad and I thought I want to spend a lot of time making music and see how that works. I didn’t have a clue what to do I just got a guitar, started making music and I guess this question kind of flows into the next question, which is a very generous question…
3-At what age did you discover you had one of the most awesome voices around and had such an incredible range?
That’s very kind of you to say so, thank you, but I didn’t have that. I didn’t really have an awesome voice or an incredible range, what I did is…when I got that guitar I started making music and basically what I thought would be a good idea was to take that guitar everywhere. I took it to the beach, I took it to the parties, I just took it everywhere. I just played it and sung to everyone. I could kind of sing and I could play guitar, but there was nothing spectacular about it and I just kind of realized that if I wanted to be big in Power Metal and in general in rock and metal and make a life for myself with music, I have to be way better than what I was at that time.
So what I did then, I lost a lot of people in my life, I lost a lot of friends and basically screwed up a lot of things and I basically isolated myself for 3 years and did nothing but sing. Everyday. And I studied my idols, singers that I idolized like Jorn for instance, Daniel Hyman, and all these singers that could do incredible stuff. I wanted to be better than all of them because I didn’t….the more I looked at this, for every month that I spent all alone just getting kind of depressed and just never wanting to give up, I realized I don’t want to just get to that point I want to get farther than most people, and I just thought that I wanted to be the best, you know? So I just, for 3 years I just focused on becoming really good and I started making Youtube videos while doing it, to hear a different take from people, and looking back at those videos now….they’re gone, all of them, but looking back now I can see that I really wasn’t that good. I was pretty mediocre when I started out, just pretty normal and… yeah, 3 years-almost 3 years and just during the process of trying to be the best I got a lot of offers from other bands and people started noticing me.
I auditioned for Dragonforce for instance, people started subscribing to me on Youtube and I started getting a small bit of fame, I guess you can call it, by getting better and now I’m at the point like, for instance, you say I have one of the most awesome voices around and I have such an incredible range, that’s just testament to how hard work pays off really. I was always a musical kind of person but I didn’t have any range to speak about and I didn’t really have a good voice, I just sounded pretty boring when I started.
4-Who are your influences?
Jorn from Norway, (Jorn Lande), Tommy Karevik from Seventh Wonder, Roy Kahn from Kamelot, his earlier work with conception, those three. I mean I want to sing higher than everyone, that’s one of my things that a lot of people think about when they talk about me, it’s like oh, that’s Pellek, I see comments all the time when people see me, see someone singing incredibly high with lots of vibrato and stuff and I hear people, I see I’m becoming sort of this trade mark for high notes but that’s not always how its done, its not really all thats it about me. It’s an important aspect but, like Roy Kahn for instance, the stuff that he’s done lately, before he quit Kamelot, I thought was really magical stuff. So yeah, those people,
5-What is the first band you sang with? Other past bands/members?
When I was a kid I was with a lot of bands….the first band, when I bought my guitar again, early 20’s (I’m 26 now)and I wanted to start music, I actually started a band with my cousin. His name is Anders and we called ourselves Reaching Horizons, based on a song by Angra. That was just him and me and we played all the instruments, and it didn’t last very long but it was a fun thing and it was an important process for me to be able to help me a bit in basically getting out and not being afraid of making a fool of myself, because we did a lot of stupid stuff, didn’t take ourselves very seriously. And I think that helped shape myself into, you know, being able to go onstage everywhere and not be scared.
6-What bands are you in now? Please tell me all about them, style, other members, tours, videos etc
I’m in Pellek, I mean, I am Pellek but it’s also the name of my band. And, like Jorn or Bon Jovi, it’s a band, so yeah, Pellek. Style, it’s Power Metal all the way. On guitars Patrick Fallang, Stian Warlow Braathen on drums and Ingemar Bru on bass. We haven’t done tours with Pellek yet, we’ve just been doing videos and albums and stuff because I’ve been so busy with my other band. Yes, I will get to that, Damnation Angels, that’s my other band, that’s a UK band. They noticed me while I did auditions for another band on YouTube while I was learning. I wasn’t that good yet, but Will [Graney] the guitarist in that band saw raw potential in me. When we started recording the Bringer of Light album with Damnation Angels, which was the first album with them (they did as well) I was at that level where I feel I was good enough to record an album. So it was perfect timing. So yes, those two bands.
But I also sing for many bands, because I’m lucky enough to get very many requests, so I get to live off the singing. Power Metal bands from all over the world contact me and want me to sing for them, and I gladly do it because I need to make money. And obviously I only do really good bands. Many names to mention there but the big focus is on Pellek and Damnation Angels. What I’m most proud of besides that is a band called Qantice. It’s a very exciting project that you’re gonna see more of later. But I only tour and focus mainly on Pellek and Damnation Angels, so that’s important to get in there.
7-How did you start doing cover songs?
That was because…I wanted to be better than everyone else. I had to be able to do the songs everybody else was doing first of all, and then do them better. Or like, do higher notes than the high notes in that song. And the low notes like that. And sing those sentences with more emotion, more vibrato, more feeling, more power, all this stuff. I started doing cover songs to compare myself and see if I can be better than anyone else. And then it just started becoming a hobby, and people liked it, and took to it, so now I just do it because it’s fun and people tell me to do it. So over the week I get thousands of comments from people on YouTube. And people…request different stuff, so it’s become kind of a community now, so it’s just fun.
8-I have heard they are all done in one take, is this true?
Yes it’s true but it depends on what kind of video it is, because well, most of the videos I do in one take. Then again there are some videos that are either too hard to do in one take, or sometimes I just don’t have that much time so I decide to do it in one take and I’m not completely satisfied, so I just do it in two takes.But I just have the camera running and you see two different camera angles….I’m probably one of the few people on YouTube that do this stuff with one take and one camera angle. You can see on YouTube that it’s true.
9-What was your favorite place to play? What is the biggest audience you’ve played in front of so far?
When I was….a long time ago, almost a different life I want to say, I got the chance. It was more of a mainstream thing, but it was still metal, I still sung metal, but I did a show way before I got good enough to be on that stage to be honest, for almost 20,000 people in Telenor Arena, which is huge. That is where all the big stars play; all the mainstream artists play there. And that’s the biggest show. But it really wasn’t me, it was just me and my cousin and some other singers. We were kind-of back-up singers really. But at that time it felt like I was onstage because I was the center of attention. So it was a big thing then. Looking back at it, it’s not the biggest thing, but it was just the biggest number of audience.
But my favorite place to play that I’ve played so far was ProgPower USA. It was absolutely amazing. And that’s your tenth question! Here we go…
10-How did it feel coming to America to play in ProgPower?
It was…I can’t even explain it. It was one of the best things I’ve ever done. I felt pretty bad before going there. I just had a really rough time. And I came over there, and they put me in this limousine, drove me to a hotel, and I just got this experience.
I mean, I’ve been the to USA several times. I LOVE it there, it’s my favorite place. But its just different when you come there and people already love you and it was amazing. I felt like people cared, like people wanted me there. It was amazing. It was incredible. I can’t explain it. So thanks to Glenn for having us and I hope that we get to go back again.
11-Have you ever considered modeling or acting or is music your true passion?
I have been acting a bit. I sometimes act. I’ve even been on a few TV shows locally, not locally but nationally in Norway. I’ve been on three or four TV shows, and I act sometimes, but it was mostly in the past. Lately, for the last five years, maybe six now, I haven’t been able to focus on anything but singing, especially when I had three years when I didn’t do anything but singing. I didn’t do anything else.
So…and modeling, sometimes I have to model to be nice to….for instance the companies that we borrow clothes from for our music videos and our photo shoots for Pellek and stuff. But I model a bit. I’ve only done that catwalk thing once for this Fashion Week thing. And it’s not my kind of thing but I do it to be nice and because people want me to do it. So I just do it and I get favors in return. But my heart and my passion is all about the music and the metal, so I act, I did act, a long time ago, I do a bit of modeling, but it’s not because I want to, it’s generally because people want me to and I get free stuff in return.
12-What type of music do you like besides Power Metal?
I like jazz, that’s the only thing I pretty much like besides Power Metal. I mean mostly, I can’t think of anything else. I love Power Metal. I love jazz, like Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Rat Pack, that kind of music. It’s amazing.
13-What else do you like besides music?
I like to cook. I love to cook. I make the best food, like just natural stuff like just vegetables. I just do the best kind of…yeah, I love to cook. And like I touched on earlier, I’ve been into the fighting scene a lot, doing grappling, and MMA, and Tai Boxing and Kickboxing. All that stuff I did for a long time, but it’s also a long time ago now. I stopped doing basically everything but music and cooking for many years. I love to watch movies, you know, good movies and TV shows. I guess everyone does that nowadays, but I love to watch good TV shows and movies. And I only do it at night because I work A LOT with music during the daytime and nighttime. So it’s like two hours before I go to bed, I’ll cook some good food, I’ll watch a good movie, or watch a few episodes of a good TV show and I go to bed.
14-How is your music received in Norway, England, Europe and America?
We were actually played on mainstream radio here in Norway, and that never happens with Power Metal. So that’s very special. And we charted number 2 on the album list on iTunes, which opened opportunities, so that was big.
In England I don’t really know how we’re doing. We sell a lot of music there from our website, but I don’t really know in terms of…I just can’t look at sales. I have to look at views on YouTube as well. And America is above everything. America and Brazil and Norway are pretty much on top now, and America is like the biggest, biggest fan base. I think like 80%; millions and millions and millions of views from America and still I think like 600,000 views every month or probably more is just from the USA.
15-What is next for you after this tour with Damnation Angels?
Well there’s more stuff going on before that. Now we’re just releasing…today I’m uploading a video where people can pledge to pay to help us with the release of our Christmas album. That will be printed hopefully before November 15th when I go on tour. We’ll have a new music video from the Pellek “Christmas with Pellek” album in just a few days. So the “Christmas with Pellek” album is the main focus now. And then there’s touring with Damnation Angels the 15th and I’ll be back December 1st to practice and play gigs with Pellek. Then just having a nice Christmas, talk to the fans and just make videos. I love Christmas, so that’s why we’re making a Christmas album, because I’m a Christmas guy. So December is gonna be about the Christmas album….A focus on getting the music out to the people, promote that a bit, and getting it on the radio….In 2014 then we will be looking at recording another album with Damnation Angels and touring a lot with Pellek. And then maybe we can even start on the 4th Pellek album in the end of 2014, but that’s not sure yet.
16-You treat your fans amazing well. How do you feel about having such dedicated fans all over the world?
I’m very lucky. I’m very, very lucky. And I wish I could treat fans even better. I mean, but I….it’s only a few months ago I started using the term “fans” because at a certain point you have to say fans in order to make your point come across, but I always just said friends about everyone who just followed me. I’m just like everyone else so that’s the thing. I treat everyone like they would treat me, and when I get to a show and like, ten people stand outside and scream for me, I mean, it’s an incredible feeling. It’s: I get to be nice. The only reason that it’s cool to be, to have fans, is because you can be nice to them. It would give me no pleasure to have people stand there and go like “Pellek” and I wouldn’t have time to talk to them. I would just feel bad. I love to meet fans, I love to just hear how they’re doing. I care about people and especially people who already care about me and I feel very blessed that I can just go to pretty much anywhere and just play a gig and meet people who already care about me. It’s a very special feeling. It’s really magical and all those people are just you know the best kind of support back from me. I always try to take time to have a drink or sit and talk or even go and have some food if I have the time with the fans. And yeah, I love it. I feel very blessed and happy about that.
17-Please tell me anything/ any background info that you think is important or that will help make this an awesome bio/interview:
I don’t know, I can’t really think of anything you can write. There’s some info in here that hasn’t been asked or told before. I think I said a lot of stuff now that I haven’t really said in a lot of interviews…If you need anything more just ask me and thank you for doing this.