Borknagar - Interview
What can you possibly say for an introduction for Borknagar and Vintersorg? Perhaps unceremoniously both bands are lumped with the dreaded ‘black’ metal label by us, which really is not indicative of the repertoire both Borknagar and Vintersorg hold in their arsenal. Daring, and creative Borknagar and Vintersorg have time and time again proved to break down the walls in our perceptions of modern day ‘extreme’ metal. I caught up with Vintersorg via email and mailed him a few questions in regards to the new ventures from both bands.
Firstly thanks a lot for taking the time to answer these questions Vintersorg. How's everything going in both Borknagar and Vintersorg camps?
Well, it’s quite hectic. Now when the recording of the upcoming Borknagar album is done, the nearly as hard job starts, all the promotion, including interviews and internet chats, etc, etc. But I feel very confident with the album and think that reviewers will be pleased with what they hear, it’ll maybe be an album that take some listening sessions to fully explore, but it has a large growing effect from my perspective. With Vintersorg I work as usual, writing lots of new songs, both music and lyrics, and now we head for a touring Europe in September. To conclude: everything is working all right, but it’s a lot of work to do. Öystein G. Brun once tagged Borknagar as 'epic metal', that was during the release of "The Olden Domain", do you still that label accurately portrays what Borknagar is today?
In many aspects YES! What I least mean with ‘epic metal’ is big great pompous arrangements mixed with the vast and origin forces of nature. But still the newer Borknagar albums may bear a slight more progressive and astral feeling (from my view), but I would still label us as "epic metal". The framework of Borknagar is very present on the upcoming "Empiricism", but I think that the fuse of new members adds bits of different things, the scope has just got wider. But it’s easy to hear that it’s Borknagar from the first five seconds you’ll hear from the CD. It’s a very natural development for a band that always wants to try a new angle to approach things.
Recorded in around 7 weeks "Empiricism" took almost double the time as "Quintessence". Is that because song structures have been that much more complex, the guys making sure every detail is 100% accurate or what?
I would say it’s both of those things and also that we worked in a different way this time. We recorded in the hometown of most members (as you may know Öystein and me am not living in the OSLO area) and that also made it possible to work more, when the true spirit is there. But I think that the music in some sense is more varied with more layers, and it’s very important to find a proper balance between all instruments and sounds, and that takes time. We could probably have done it quicker, but why rush and keep mistakes when you have the budget to do it more perfect. We also did a gig at a festival during that period, and we had to rehearse the older songs which we didn’t had our minds focused on, as all our thoughts and feelings concerned "Empiricism" so it was several factors that made the process longer than previous albums.
You write essentially all lyrical content for Vintersorg and Öystein writes the majority of the Borknagar's material. How did "Empiricism" pan out?
On the new album nearly everyone in the band have been involved in the lyrical writings. Öystein has written the most for us, four I think. I have written one, Lars two, Tyr one with additions by Öystein, and Asgeir and Öystein have written one together. Even if we have so many writers I feel that we still keep the concept within certain frames, and that is good. Otherwise it can easily be a bit too divided and the title doesn’t stand for everything written on the album, and personally I really like the title to have a close bond with the lyrics. For the next album I don’t know how we’ll handle things, but I think we all like to set our mark on the lyrics and if we manage to pull it off as we did this time I think it can be a wining concept.
ICS Vortex's vocals were technologically enhanced greatly through "Quintessence", particularly during 'The Presence is Ominous'. Will "Empiricism" feature any major technological influences with your vocals?
Ok, I know that everybody will compare us, as what he did was great and unique. But I stated when I joined the band that I would do my own thing, still do something different than I do in Vintersorg, to keep it separated. I must confess that I was a bit worried that I would come up with Vintersorg lines, but as the music Öystein write is different than mine, it was quite easy to find a new path. And after I had done the lines to one song the standard was set and I just kept working, and I must say that I’m very satisfied with the vocals in all aspects, and I think you’ll find some technical brilliance in there, it’s a vast vocal region to search through as I use lots of different styles to give the album more dimensions. I’m very pleased how it all ended up, still not too pleased that I’ll just sit back and don’t try to develop, it is constant work.
Being such a busy sort of guy, do you get to listen to a lot of music? What are your favourite bands at the moment; metal and non-metal?
I can never answer this type of questions properly. I listen to everything that appeals to me, may it be metal, progressive rock, jazz, electronic. As long as I hear something fresh and innovative (well, still it has to be quality music of course) I listen eagerly. For me there are only two categories, good and bad. I try not to waste my time listening to the wrong (bad) one, still you can’t avoid it totally as it’s played everywhere, in the grocery store, the elevator, etc, etc. I listen a lot to a band called Omega right now, good old 70´s progressive rock opera.
Both Vintersorg and Borknagar figure heavily in more 'grand' lyrical content, more universal topics. Both "Empiricism" and "Visions of a Spiral Generator" song titles seem to be indicative of this. Does it help for you that both bands overlap with each other in that respect?
It’s good that the others’ ideas and mine are in some form of synchronicity. That makes it a lot easier to write, when you know that even if you step out of the line and ask the really large questions of our existence, the other will probably not say it’s too progressive, if it’s not just rubbish. Hehehe. So for me it feels nice that we have kind of the same way to look upon such things. Still I avoid writing about the exact same topics in Vintersorg that are present in Borknagar, but you’re right about that we’re hosting the same fields.
Borknagar and Vintersorg are deemed 'black' bands. Do you feel that is an accurate representation or would you prefer to see the two of them more 'removed' from that genre of metal?
I can’t say that I’m offended by being labeled as black metal bands, but still it’s not true in its full scale. I think Borknagar has a larger black metal essence in the musical cocktail than Vintersorg, but still I use the harshness of black metal in Vintersorg to give it that needable spice. I see both bands as quite limitless when it comes to the musical side we work inside the metal frames but with the intention to expand those laws. Vintersorg lives out of all contrasts, and Borknagar I may not be the right person to ask as I haven’t written any music on "Empiricism" but I think we work with contrasts there as well. To just label it as black metal is to see upon it too narrow. But we don’t think so much about it it’s more you guys that needs to label it. Hehehe.
Asgeir Mickelson plays drums on "Visions from a Spiral Generator". Was that just a one off or do you hope he can feature more frequently on future Vintersorg releases?
We haven’t recorded the album yet, I’ve only done preproduction on it so far. He will though do the drums, as I see him as one of the best drummers around in this musical area, and he asked if we need some help with the drumming part, and how can you turn down on such an offer? I haven’t thought about the albums after that, but I would like to hear him on more Vintersorg albums, time will tell.
It has been quite a while since "Cosmic Genesis" has been released. In hindsight are you completely satisfy that Vintersorg made the transition from Swedish to English? Were fans happy with move? Will Vintersorg ever move back to recording Swedish material?
From the beginning when the fans heard about the transition they were quite upset you could say, but then when the album came out they saw that it was a strong and very much a Vintersorg album still, so they changed their opinion a bit. Still you’ll find two Swedish songs on the album, as I love to sing and write in my home tongue. On the upcoming you’ll find three Swedish songs, so right now I’ll continue the blending concept, we’ll see in the future, it all depends on how I feel. But as I see my music as universal I want many people to understand my words, and then just writing in Swedish is limiting.
Are trying to strive for anything remarkably different with "Visions from a Spiral Generator", will there be anything genre shattering incorporated into the new album?
As always I try to approach it from a different angle, to dare myself to find new hidden parts inside me that can be a part of the writing process. And I’ll know that people will reflect over that when they hear the "Visions…" album, but still I’m Vintersorg, so the music is effected by that, and I think in the future when people talk about Vintersorg classics some of those will be taken from "Visions...". It’s a strong and innovative album.
The Vintersorg DVD? How is that going, far from being released, or just round the corner?
We did the completing shooting of interviews, preproduction studio shot, Ballerina Audio visit, rehearsal and other rare and private shootings last week here in Skellefteå, so know the audio mix and the last visual engineering will take place, but it will take a while as I’m responsible for the sound mix and am quite busy. But it’ll be a DVD with the running time about 90 minutes, a lot to explore.
Are promotion and touring going to be paramount to both new releases from Borknagar and Vintersorg? Or are you going to sit back, take it easy and let the albums speak for themselves?
As stated before the new Vintersorg isn’t recorded yet so I don’t know about touring after that one, but we’re heading for the road now in September. We’ll do some live gigs quite soon with Borknagar in Norway and Century Media is working on a tour. That’s all I know for now.
Well I can't wait for both new albums from you and Borknagar! Cheers and good luck in the future.
For The Elements (1996-2006)
The Archaic Course
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