Kaizers Orchestra

Kaizers Orchestra

Background information
Origin Bryne, Norway
Genres Rock, Alternative, Folk
Years active 2000-2013
Labels Sony BMG, Universal Germany
Website www.kaizers.no
Members Janove Ottesen
Geir Zahl
Terje Winterstø Røthing
Rune Solheim
Helge Risa
Øyvind Storesund
Past members Jon Sjøen (2000-2003)

Kaizers Orchestra was a Norwegian alternative rock group that formed on 1st of January 2000.[1]

They are notable for being among the first non-black metal Norwegian bands or artists singing in their native language to become popular beyond Scandinavia.[2] To other Norwegians, the band is instantly recognizable both because of their unique, unpredictable style, and because of vocalist Ottesen's distinctive Jæren dialect, shared by four of the other band members.

In 2012, the group announced that following a 2013 "Farewell Tour", they would take a long break.[3] Their final concert was held on September 14th 2013 at DNB Arena in Stavanger, and was also streamed live online.[4]


Early years (1995-2004)

In 1998, childhood friends Janove Ottesen and Geir Zahl released their only album by their band gnom called Mys. Of its 1000 copies, only 500 or so were sold the first year, and they were pretty much ignored. However, they were known well in the area around Stavanger in Norway, having played as the local band Blod, snått & juling, and one of the songs they wrote after Mys called "Bastard" got good crowd response. A line from "Bastard" ("A certain Mr. Kaizer took me in/He is the proud owner of the world's heaviest siamese cat") and the song's overall crowd response became a source of inspiration for Ottesen, and after gnom dissolved after disappointing record sales, he formed Kaizers Orchestra.

In 2000, Kaizers Orchestra recorded the Kaizers Orchestra EP, an EP containing four songs: "Bastard", "Bøn fra helvete", "Katastrofen" and "Dekk bord". During by:Larm, a Norwegian festival focusing on up-and-coming artists, the band's songs were played frequently on the radio. Kaizers Orchestra's special sound and creative use of instruments was noticed by the small, Scandinavian label Broilerfarm. Their first album, Ompa til du dør, was released on this label in September 2001. It was critically acclaimed and became a success, first in Norway, later in Denmark and the Netherlands. The album won a Spellemannpris (Norwegian Grammy) for "best rock album", as well as two Alarm-awards (underground version of Spellemannprisen). Ompa til du dør also made Kaizers Orchestra the highest-selling rock debut to be released in the Norwegian language. The second album, Evig pint, was released in February 2003.

Maestro, Vega, and a book (2005-2007)

The third album, Maestro was released on August 15, 2005 in Norway and Europe. In connection with the release of Maestro, Kaizers Orchestra signed an international record deal with Universal Germany, taking them from one of the smallest labels to one of the biggest.

Their October 5 and 6, 2005 performances at Vega, in Copenhagen, Denmark, were recorded for a live DVD, titled Viva La Vega, and double CD, Live at Vega. A book, written in Nynorsk by Geir Zahl's older brother Jan, called Kontroll på kontinentet was released October 18, 2006. It is close to 300 pages long and include almost 150 pictures documenting the 2005 Maestro tour. At the book signing in Oslo to promote its release over 400 copies of the 3,000 first editions of the book had been sold. The book was also sold during their 2006 "Grand Finale Tour", a tour which included the bassist, Øyvind, painting a picture throughout the concerts and selling it at the end. In 2007, the members of Kaizers Orchestra took a break from playing live. All members (bar Helge) are involved in some sort of side-project, and they concentrated on these in their break time. They only played three shows in 2007; one in Hungary, at the Sziget Festival, one in Norway, at Cementen, and finally at the German art expo Documenta.

Maskineri, 250 Prosent, and Våre Demoner (2007–2011)

Janove Ottesen live with
Kaisers Orchestra in 2008.

On September 6, 2006, the band released information about their upcoming fourth album. The album was recorded in Berlin, Germany, assisted by producer-engineer Mark Howard. The audio mixing for the album was done in Los Angeles, California. The album title was revealed to be Maskineri in December 2007, and around the same time, the first single, "Enden av november", was released. The album was released on February 19, 2008, on Sony BMG. They claimed to have chosen the smaller label instead of working with Universal for more freedom.

On December 12, 2007, Kaizers Orchestra received "Bragdprisen" (Achievement Award) from the county of Rogaland, due to their efforts to promote their native Bryne dialect. Helge Risa was the only one available to show up at the award ceremony, as the rest of the band were busy doing the album mixing.

In February 2008, the band released their fourth album, and toured to support it, recording the audio of all the concerts. Not long after that, in fall 2008, they released a live album called 250 prosent. The live album consisted of what they thought were the best songs recorded while they were in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. The album was released primarily on vinyl, but it was made also available as a digital download through the iTunes Store. They supported the release of that album by a "rarities" tour, playing songs they rarely played live.

After that it was believed they were taking a break, for the members to work on their other projects and work on writing songs for the next album, but on February 14, 2009, they revealed that in January they had recorded several songs for a compilation album scheduled for release on April 20, which was then pushed back to April 27 for marketing reasons. The album, Våre demoner, consists of surplus material from each of their previous studio albums. Both singles from the album, "Die Polizei" and "Prosessen", received a modicum of success. On December 18, 2009, "Ompa til du dør" was voted as the best Norwegian song of the decade in a public poll on the website of NRK P3, one of the biggest radio stations in Norway. "Kontroll på kontinentet" and "Maestro" got third and fourth place in the same list. The band performed all three songs live on the radio after being announced as the winners.

At a press conference in August 2009, the band announced that they were working on a stage musical together with Tore Renberg (who wrote the stage play). It will be named Sonny ("Maestro" abroad), and is based on the text universe and characters from the band's first three albums. Several of the songs Kaizers Orchestra will record in 2010 will be used in the piece. The musical premiered at the Rogaland Theatre November 11, 2011.[5]

Violeta Violeta and retirement (2009-2013)

In January 2010, the band performed new material as part of Eurosonic in the Netherlands. In February, they announced the title of their next album, which will be a trilogy of albums. The album's title is Violeta Violeta and its recording sessions will be financed by the income produced by their tour in February 2010. People attending the tour are to be given special edition versions of the album. They released their first single from the trilogy, "Philemon Arthur & the Dung", in August, 2010. They released the sheet music for their second single, "Hjerteknuser", in October; in the same month, the single and its accompanying music video were released. The first volume of the trilogy was released on January 31, 2011. Stian Kristiansen has been said to be directing a music video for a song from the album, however currently the only video, "Hjerteknuser", has been directed by Thomas Berg. Their tenth anniversary concert, which coincides with the final performance of the supporting tour, was held at Oslo Spektrum on April 9, 2011. The performance was recorded and will be released as the live DVD/CD, Live i Oslo Spektrum on November 11, 2011.[6]

In 2012, the band was awarded Årets Spellemann (Artist of the Year) in a ceremony in their "hometown" of Stavanger. During their acceptance speech they announced that following their 2013 tour, they would retire after thirteen years together. In 2013 they also contributed to the book "Think like a rockstar" Tenk som en rockestjerne,[7] written by Ståle Økland. Their 2013 Siste Dans Tour (Last Dance Tour) ended in Stavanger on September 14, 2013. The concert, which was their last, was streamed online to fans and published on DVD and Blu-ray extactly one year later.

Style and lyrical themes

Musically, Kaizers Orchestra have explored many different genres of music, the most prominent being fast-paced gypsy rock and "Balkan brass". They are regarded as one of Europe's best live acts, with their 2002 Performance at Roskilde earning them several "Concert of the Year" awards, as well as "Concert of Roskilde 2002".

For the most part, lyrics and music is written by Janove Ottesen, although Geir Zahl has also contributed many compositions. By the release of Violeta Violeta Volume 2 Geir has written 18 songs, of which three of them are co-written with Janove. He performs the vocal on seven of his songs on both the albums and live recordings.

The lyrics vary from album to album, and many of the songs' storylines are intertwined, with recurring characters being explored during the course of several songs. This led to the upcoming musical Sonny, expected November 2011, which is based on their first 3 albums. The lyrics of Ompa til du dør consist of stories of a handful of characters involving war, the resistance, and the mafia. Their second album, Evig Pint consists of fewer characters and more focused, darker themes: life, death, betrayal, drugs, and once again, the mafia. Their third album, Maestro focuses on things happening in a mental institution and the corruption involved.

For their fourth album, Maskineri, they attempted to break their tradition and made none of the songs connected, they also stopped using characters. The songs were still stories, but they had no connection with each other or their other albums. After the release of this album they decided to release their compilation album Våre demoner, which consisted of many older songs that were cleaned up, so the lyrical content of that was similar to their first 3 albums.

Recently they have completed the Violeta Violeta trilogy. The lyrics of which are based around 5 characters, a crazy mother, Beatrice; her daughter, Violeta; her father, Kenneth, Kenneth's brother and the girlfriend of Kenneth's brother (an old friend of Beatrice and the maid of honor at Kenneth's/Beatrice's wedding); Cecilia. Violeta was taken from her mother, by her father, and the only way they can see each other is in their dreams. Janove has explained the lyrics are magic realism and they are similar to a Tim Burton film.




Live recordings


  1. "Prosessen, den lange versjonen" (PDF). Kaizers.no. Retrieved 2009-11-20.
  2. Bergan, Jon Vidar (2013-02-23). "Kaizers Orchestra". Biography (in Norwegian). Store Norske Leksikon. Retrieved 2015-03-31.
  3. Stein Østbø (2012-11-02). "Kaizers-sjefer vil til Londons West End" [The bosses of Kaizers wants to go to West End of London]. vg.no (in Norwegian). VG Nett. Retrieved 2013-09-16.
  4. "The final concert to be streamed live!". kaizers.no. Kaizers Orchestra. 2013-08-26. Retrieved 2013-09-16.
  5. Evensen, Mari Rollag; Espeland, Anett Johansen (2009-08-12). "Kaizers Orchestra blir teater" (in Norwegian). Retrieved 2015-03-31.
  6. "Violeta Violeta". Kaizers.no. Retrieved 2015-03-31.
  7. "Katzenjammer". Cameratravel.Wordpress.com. 2013-04-25. Retrieved 2015-03-31.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Kaizers Orchestra.
Preceded by
Recipient of the Rock Spellemannprisen
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Jarle Bernhoft
Recipient of the Spellemannprisen
as This year's Spellemann

Succeeded by
Ole Paus
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