Monday, January 12, 2015

Myrkgrav Interview



1.Can you give us an update on what is going on with the musicla project these days?

I just released the new single a few weeks back and so far the feedback has been good. Making Vonde auer a single was a bit of an impulse move, as I was wanting to showcase something off the upcoming full-length that I can never seem to finish. Breaking it down into smaller pieces that are easier to handle seems to be the way to go. In other words, I am working on the second full-length record, and as of right now only three songs need vocals, two of which also lack lyrics and vocal arrangements right now. I’ve always found writing vocal arrangements to be the most challenging part of songwriting.

2.Recently you have released a single, how would you describe the musical sound that is presented on the recording and also how does it differ from the stuff you have released in the past?

I would simply describe it as genuine folk metal, seeing as how the song incorporates traditional folk instruments as well as melodies inspired by Norwegian folk music – all while maintaining a strong metal fundament. Seeing as how Myrkgrav is now a well-established project with an 11 year-long history, it’s a little difficult to draw parallels to the sound of other bands, but it does at least fall somewhere between “traditional” folk metal bands like Vintersorg, Månegarm etc. and more contemporary folk bands like Fejd. On the first Myrkgrav album these true folk parts were less prevalent; in other words Myrkgrav has evolved more towards its own flavor of folk music – though the metal roots will of course always be there.

3.While you have released plenty of single's, ep's and have been a part of a split over the years there has only been one full length album, can you tell us a little bit more about it?

Following the release of the debut album (Trollskau, skrømt og kølabrenning), there was a lot of drama surrounding the record label I was on. In the end they failed me and all the other artists miserably – to such an extent that there are somewhere north of 1700 copies of the Trollskau album hidden away in some basement in Germany – that I became quite frustrated with the whole music scene. By that time I’d already written most of the songs for a second album, but I had a hard time finding inspiration to finish it when I knew that there would be no way to get the record out since I was tied down to a record label that had sole rights to release new Myrkgrav material until 2012. At the same time I was struggling personally with anxiety and depression, which certainly did not aid in making a new Myrkgrav album a reality. It’s only after I became better and moved away from the unhealthy place I was in back in Norway that working with music became possible again – though far from as easy or “natural” as it had once been.

4.What are some of the lyrical topics and subjects you explore with the newer music?

The one thing that has been consistent with Myrkgrav over the years is the lyrical and visual theme: folklore and local history from the forest areas around Ringerike, Hole, Lommedalen, Sørkedalen from the 16th, 17th, 18th and early 19th century. It is a rich material do draw from, ranging from the morbid to the lighthearted and funny. I usually go with whatever fits the atmosphere of any given song, where for example Vonde auer instrumentally is both upbeat and melancholic at the same time; so are the lyrics. History is full of interesting gems that deserves a second chance to be admired by the people of today.

5.What is the meaning and inspiration behind the name 'Myrkgrav'?

Concerning the name Myrkgrav, it’s actually a bit of an “oh god why…” subject for me. It was in fact not me who chose the name of the project, it came from a third party as a suggestion and the 16 year-old über-Black Metal kid me thought it sounded cool, meaning “dark grave”. In later years I have pondered time and time again to change it into something else, but I am saving the name I have in mind for a different project that may or may not see the light of day. That name is also based on folklore from my homelands.

6.While this is mostly a solo project you do use some session musicians, have you ever thought of turning this project into a full time band?

I’ve definitely been thinking about it now that I live in a typical student city with a lot of young musicians, but I’ve more or less come to the conclusion that a lot of Myrkgrav material is difficult to recreate live due to the number of different instruments and musicians with very distinctive sound signatures I’ve had accompany the project over the years. The Hardanger fiddle is for instance very prominent in the new material, and I would either have to sample it as playback live or get someone from back in Norway to join the project – which is very difficult in its own right since talented Hardanger fiddle players are few and far between and usually have very little interest in metal music. A lot of the Myrkgrav vocals are also based on harmonies and choirs, which would require all other musicians to be able to sing well in addition to play their instruments well – and I honestly think that’s very hard to come by unless you pay professional, educated musicians to do it on a full-time basis. I am not willing to sacrifice key ingredients to Myrkgrav’s sound just to be able to play live, so I’ve put the idea of making the project a full band on the back burner, for now.

7.A couple of years back you had moved from Norway To Finland, can you tell us a little bit more about this move?

At the time I was living in a very unhealthy environment in Norway, completely removed from all my friends, acquaintances and possibilities of pursuing my interests. I had originally intended to move to Trondheim in Norway to study Nordic literature, but I passed on that opportunity when I met a young Finnish woman who was to become my significant other. Since I had nothing other than beautiful scenery holding me back, I quit my boring desk job, packed all my shit and moved to the outskirts of Vaasa in Finland.

It was a very rough first year, adapting to a new culture and social etiquette as well as coming to terms with the fact that all my official papers of having done good work and such back home in Norway did not count for squat. It was a very bureaucratic process that I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy, and it did indeed change me as a person.

After I’d gotten my bearings straight in Finland, I applied to Åbo Akademi university to study folkloristics and ethnology – and although it’s indeed been challenging to take up university studies as an adult, it was definitely the right choice for me. The subjects and teachings of academia have opened up my eyes as well as opened doors for me I would never otherwise have thought to look through, and I’ll hopefully become a Master of Folkloristics in a few years – fuelled with lots and lots of inspiration to use it both professionally as well as musically.

8.According to the Metal Archives page you stand on all anti racist positions, can you tell us a little bit more about it?

Unfortunately the folk/Viking/pagan metal scene is riddled with a lot of strong ideological ideas. I just did not want anyone to think I am a part of that with Myrkgrav. Don’t get me wrong, as a cultural researcher I know that everyone is free to keep whatever ideology they want, but some of those are more destructive and aggressive/hostile than others and I prefer to keep my distance from such political agendas both on a personal and professional level. Cultural differences will most likely always be a thing, and as long as you recognize that as a fact instead of thinking one culture is more “right” than another, you’re good to go. It’s actually rather sad that I’ve had to spell it out, the fact that I’m not a racist or such – when I personally think that should be the default assumption. It’s such a hostile world out there.

9.Currently you are unsigned, are you looking for a label or have received any interest?

I would venture as far as to say that in today’s music world, traditional labels are becoming irrelevant and redundant due to their lack of effort to get with the times. The possibilities you have as an independent artist are in danger of vanishing as soon as you sign with a label that doesn’t truly look out for the best interest of their artists. Today it’s so easy to get your music out there via the Internet, crowdsourcing etc. that a record label is mostly just needed for production of physical product as well as promotion. Personally I’m not convinced anyone really knows what type of physical product they will want in 10 years right now, so I’m holding out until that becomes more clear. There have been numerous record labels interested in signing Myrkgrav, but I feel like the only common factor with all of them is that I have to sacrifice way too much of what is my part in the whole project versus what I get back for it. The result is of course what is available to fans today: smaller releases in digital format that don’t reach beyond the most devoted fans, although with the new single I did in fact hire Metal Message to do some PR work to get the word out there that new stuff from Myrkgrav is being released.

10.On a worldwide level how has the feedback been to your music by fans of black, viking and folk metal?

It’s funny, because almost everyone I’ve spoken to that knows Myrkgrav’s music from various releases can’t wrap their mind around why Myrkgrav is still considered a “small” project – they think it’s worthy of being up there with major names like Falkenbach, Moonsorrow, Vintersorg, Týr and the likes. Overall I’d say the feedback I get for each release is positive, although there will always be those who don’t like the direction something is going. With Vonde auer for instance, some have said they thought there weren’t enough screaming vocals – while personally I think more clean vocals allow for a more complex diversity in the band’s sound. Like the saying goes, there’s one in every crowd… Any feedback is good feedback though. The worst part is when you here nothing and there’s this void between you and the listeners, which makes it difficult to see why you should keep releasing anything instead of just recording everything for your own ears only. Luckily there are some die hard fans who are quite vocal about what they thought of the latest they heard, which always makes it interesting to put new stuff out there. I’m pretty surprised Myrkgrav is as popular as it is, seeing as how I’m just some average joe who knows nothing about music theory and still manages to compose what generally seems to be labeled as quality tunes.

11.Are you involved with any other musical projects or bands these days?

Not really. Between my studies and other hobbies there isn’t much leisure time, and I only really work with Myrkgrav once in a blue moon. It may seem odd, but I don’t consider myself much of a musician at all really, and don’t think I’d do all that well in a band. I’m an average guitarist and singer at best, and I thrive much better in a studio situation where I have as much time as I want to do everything exactly the way I want.

12.When can we expect new music and also where do you see yourself heading into as a musician in the future?

Honestly, I don’t know about the first part, and as a musician I am probably going to revert back to being a hobbyist. I’m no longer an enthusiastic teenager that lives and breeds music – although my hobbies and interests are much the same as they have always been. I guess I’ve just lost that childlike sense of wonder in what I can do with music, and I’m happy to just jam around or write the occasional tune that doesn’t necessarily fit into any given genre or project. Making a job of your hobbies always seemed like the worst imaginable idea – which I had to learn the hard way, so I’m happy to keep music a much smaller part of my life and be grateful for the joys it brings; rather than stressing out about it and being miserable. The next Myrkgrav album is almost finished though, so I’ll at least finish that with pride and joy before I “retire”!

13.What are some of the bands or musical styles that have had an influence on your newer music and also what are you listening to nowadays?

It might come as a bit of a surprise, but I don’t listen much to music at all. There are a couple of bands I try to keep up with, like Dunderbeist and Fejd, but in general listening to music doesn’t influence me or inspire me anymore than say, reading the newspaper. Music doesn’t bother me or anything, it’s just not that big a part of my life. I cherish tranquility and silence more.

14.How would you describe your views on Paganism?

I don’t really have any views on paganism, other than the fact that I am sure contemporary Pagans are probably very happy to be allowed to believe and act out what they believe – and that’s how it’s supposed to be. Freedom of speech and acts is completely fundamental as long as it does not directly or indirectly harm someone else. I know this sounds like political correct bullshit, but I am just not that into beliefs and ideologies in general. I’m just another child of today, living the individualistic lifestyle that has been so common since the beginning of the 1990s.

15.What are some of your non musical interests?

I skateboard, and I’m heavily into fashion. Back when I was a teenager (before metal corrupted me ;)), I was an avid skateboarder. Somewhere along the way I just stopped, and I’ve been living a very sedentary lifestyle since then. Mostly I started skating again because when you start getting older, it becomes really noticeable if you don’t stay active that you’re not doing your body any favors, but when I started relearning old tricks and such I remembered what kind a pure, unadulterated joy it is to finally land something you’ve been practicing for months. As for fashion and menswear, I don’t think that needs any further explanation other than the fact that I am somewhat vain and like to give an outward presentation of what I feel like on the inside – sharp and well executed, but based on organic matter from the earth itself. Lots of wool, earth tones and warm layers is where it’s at!

16.Before we wrap up this interview, do you have any final words or thoughts?

I would simply like to thank you and your readers for your time and note the fact that Myrkgrav is where it’s at because a teenager had a dream – and went for it.

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