Tales from a Metalhead: Chapter 11: “Lay Your Cards On The Table”

Tales from a Metalhead logo

This chapter is part of a book called Tales from a Metalhead written by Metal Express Radio’s President Stig G. Nordahl. The chapters will be posted one at the time and you can find them all here.

Ronni  Le Tekrø & Stig Nordahl

TNT is the most successful Norwegian Hard Rock band hailing out of the 80s. Obviously axeman Ronni Le Tekrø played an important role with his unique, flashy, fast playing. He is regarded as one of the best in the world by some. The first song I ever heard by the band was “Harley Davidson” off their debut album, which was sung in Norwegian. At this time the band’s founder, Dag Ingebrigtsen, was the lead singer. He founded the band after splitting from another popular Rock band called The Kids. I have never been much into songs that are sung in my own language, but this track blew me away. Ronni’s solo on the track made me pick up my air guitar frequently. I actually played the song with my own band, but the solo sounded a lot better with me on air guitar, playing along with Ronni. Back then, I recorded the song from the radio onto a cassette tape and to this day I have never actually bought the album.

Their second album, Knights of the New Thunder, was definitely a further eye opener when it was released in 1984. The title track is actually “Knights of the Thunder”, but they added the word “new” to the album title to make the acronym TNT out of the “The New Thunder”. They did this later too with the albums Tell No Tales (1987) and The New Territory (2007). At the time the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (NRK) had a Hard Rock radio show called “1001 Watt”. I always recorded as much as I could from this show onto cassette tapes. Right before Knights of the New Thunder was released Ronni was interviewed on the show. He was calling in from the States and they played two tracks from the album. I may be wrong, but I think they played “Thor With the Hammer” and “Seven Seas”. I played the tracks over and over.

The original cover for Knights of the New Thunder.

When the album finally was released I couldn’t afford to buy it right away so I had a friend make me a copy. I was surprised to find that they got a new singer for this album, the American vocalist Tony Harnell. His last name didn’t sound very Norwegian so he’s credited as Tony Hansen on the album for some ridiculous reason. His high pitched vocals totally blew me away. When I finally bought the LP his high hair blew me away too. Just check the original cover! The tracks on the album are very strong and “Seven Seas” was an obvious hit. I remember coming home from school one day hearing “Seven Seas” being played in the living room. I thought someone had left the radio on, but I was shocked to find my mom playing my TNT album. She hates Metal, but really enjoyed “Seven Seas”. She would start the song over when the guitar solo began because that was obviously too noisy for her. That’s the only time in history my mom ever played any of my vinyls. If that doesn’t show that the band had a commercial appeal I don’t know what does.

The original cover artwork depicts two females with bare breasts. They wouldn’t release that version in the States (of course!) so the album was released with a different cover over there. The alternative cover is actually cooler! They also switched some songs for the American market.

I saw the band live for the very first time the same year. They played in Oslo with the Norwegian rockers Stage Dolls as support. They brought along a huge stage production, including a castle and a moving drum riser. The band was on fire and so was I. I remember making it to the front row and even touched Tony Harnell’s sneakers as he put his foot on the stage monitor. Yeah, I know, but I was 13 and it was a cool moment for me at the time… Tony’s voice was in top shape which wasn’t always the case in the following years. Those high pipes are vulnerable instruments.

The band went to the States for a while and came back to Oslo for another show in 1986. This time they played a club called Circus. The next album Tell No Tales wasn’t released until the following year so the set list was not very different from the first time I saw them as far as I remember, but still it was another excellent show! I have a newspaper review in my scrapbook with the headline “Good, but…”. The reporter said there were too many cliches. Hey, they were a bloody tight Metal band that kicked ass. Who needs more? The support band that night was the Norwegian band MissLead fronted by female vocalist Tove Teigberget. She would later join TNT drummer Diesel Dahl’s band Tindrum. She’s an excellent vocalist who unfortunately disappeared from the music scene.

The following album, Tell No Tales, became another classic album after its release in 1987. There are a lot of strong tracks on the album. “10.000 Lovers (in one)” along with “Everyone’s a Star” gained the most attention I guess. Me and a friend have always been fascinated with the opening lines on the latter, “Lay Your Caaaards On the Table….” sung in unbelievably high pitch by Harnell. For fun we called ourselves “The Norwegian Falsettos” and that track has always been our favorite number when we’re in a falsetto mood. Years later we came from a TNT show, with lots of sing-alongs and lots of booze. We were hungry and went to get some food. Not only did we sing “Everyone’s A Star” on our way into the restaurant, but we actually ordered the food with loud falsetto singing. “Add some extra chilli on tooooop”!  That poor guy behind the counter… Well, TNT had an impact on us obviously.

Missed the first TNT interview. Got a signed copy of “Intuition” though

The first time I was offered to do a TNT interview was in 1989 when the band released Intuition. Unfortunately, I couldn’t go so I sent the co-host from my radio show to interview Tony Harnell. The album is not as strong as the two previous ones, but it contains some of TNT’s best songs like “Caught Between the Tigers” (awesome riff by Ronni), “Tonight I’m Falling” and the title track. TNT played an awesome show at the Sweden Rock Festival in 2014. I remember “Caught Between the Tigers” was a definite highlight.

TNT - FireflyThe first time I actually got to interview TNT was in 1997 when the band released the album Firefly. I was in the army when 1992’s Realized Fantasies was released, so I missed out back then. The song “Downhill Racer” brings back memories from the time I served king and country in the cold north. After that the band took a long break. I guess Tony Harnell left the band like he has done several times so Firefly was kind of a comeback for TNT. I did a phone interview with Ronni Le Tekrø live on air from his own recording studio simply called “Studio Studio”. Ronni can talk a lot (!) …and so he did. Some listeners later said it was a good interview, but a bit too long. There is a reason why I like to edit the interviews before airing or posting like we do on Metal Express Radio these days; you can cut away the fluff. The album is not regarded as a highlight in the band’s career. The same goes for the next album, Transistor (1999). They went for a more modern sound, possibly influenced by the 90s Rock scene in general. I asked Ronni to pick a track off Firefly to play after the interview. I don’t remember which track he picked, but he picked it because of its poppy lightness. I remember frowning at the answer.

In 2004 the band made another comeback. I don’t know if they broke up for a while, but the new album My Religion sounded like the TNT we like. What a great album! This time the interview with Tony and Ronni happened by coincidence. I used to work as a sound engineer in TV, and TNT were guests on a show where they played a couple of tracks from the album. After we went off air I grabbed the guys and said we had to do a Metal Express Radio interview as well. The interview was recorded inside the sound room next to the studio.

Harnell left the band again after the following album All the Way to the Sun. This time he was replaced by another Tony, Tony Mills from the UK, who used to sing with Shy and Siam. I had seen Shy supporting Gary Moore in 1987 and I was really into the two albums he released with Siam. Mills moved to Norway which made it easier for TNT to play more shows. Harnell lived in the States, which of course made it more difficult to play frequently. Mills’ first concert with TNT was at a small club outside Oslo. I went there to have a talk with him. He was a really nice guy indeed.  It was great fun to see TNT in an intimate space. Tony didn’t make the highest notes like Harnell, but that got better after a few shows.

Tony Mills made three albums with TNT. I like a lot of the songs, but it doesn’t sound like the good old TNT that I was used to. Mills left the band to focus on his solo career. Unfortunately, Tony got cancer in 2018 and became very sick. Still, In 2019 he released a solid Melodic Hard Rock album called Beyond the Law. We emailed back and forth to set up a face-to-face interview. He had moved to Sweden so it meant some travel time for me, and we had to find time between his visits to the hospital. The interview never took place before he died in September 2019. RIP Tony Mills!

As I went through the old interviews I came across an interview with Tony Harnell that I had completely forgotten about. We did a “phoner” back in 2005 when he released the first album with  Starbreaker. It was a nice chat!

Ronni Le Tekrø has pursued a solo career as well. In 2014 he released the album Mein Ampf, to be followed by Mein Ampf II the year after. He dropped by my office to do an interview about the album. It’s always nice to sit down with Ronni.

In 2007 Ronni even hosted a reality series on TV called “School of Rock”. I bought him a gin and tonic at the bar at the release party and we had a nice talk about old times. Just explaining the picture above…..

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  • Stig G. Nordahl

    Stig is the founder and the president of Metal Express Radio, based out of Oslo, Norway. He has been around doing Metal radio since the mid-eighties. In fact, running Metal Express Radio takes almost all of his time. Is it worth it...? "Most times, yes," Stig says. "My philosophy is to try to give all Metal releases a fair chance to get promoted in one way or another. As you can imagine, it can be an arduous task to listen through about 20 albums every week! Still, I know we have the best METAL dedicated radio on this planet, and that is a reward in and of itself. I hope one day the whole Metal community can and will make listening to Metal Express Radio part of their daily rituals! Yeah, right..."

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