Metal from the old Fjords
Grutle Kjellson and Ivar Bjørnson are founding members of Norwegian extreme metal band Enslaved, from when they were teenagers back in the early Nineties. The band has recently released their 13th album “In Times” and HMA caught up with the guys to chat about it and Norwegian culture.
HMA: Hi Grutle and thank you for doing this interview with Heavy Music Artwork. Regarding your new album “In Times” which came out in March, can you tell me more about the process of the cover and if you work closely with the artist?
Grutle Kjellson: Yeah, it’s the same artist that we’ve used since “Monumension”. We’ve been working with him for the last 15 years. There’s been in these albums: “Monumension”, “Below the Lights”, “Isa”, “Ruun”, “Vertebrae”, “Axioma”, “RIITIIR”, and now “In Times”. Basically, that’s 8 album covers. Over the years, we have kind of adopted a certain way of working. We’ve been growing together as an art team (me, Ivar and Truls). What happens is that I and Ivar have some ideas for the concept, for certain elements. We usually met up in Bergen and discuss the actual art composition, make sketches and so on.
HMA: Regarding some of your songs: what’s the story behind “Thurisaz Dreaming,” or “One Thousand Years of Rain.”, part of the lyrics is in a different language. I think there’s a bit of Norwegian or Icelandic?
Grutle Kjellson: You’re referring to the part in “One Thousand Years of Rain.”? That’s Old Norse, it’s actually ancient Norwegian.
HMA: So tell me more about this song, I hope it’s not about the rain in Bergen hehehe!
Grutle Kjellson: It’s not necessarily rain, but it’s a metaphor for a certain state of mind. It’s about the conflict between humans, conflict within the human mind, within yourself. There’s a lot of mythological references in there to describe that certain mindset.
HMA: Is Norwegian culture the prime inspiration of your music?
Grutle Kjellson: That is one of the sources of inspiration of this. Of course, the lyrical platform has always been the Norse mythology, the Norse philosophy, at least, to begin with. It’s kind of wider now as we add some psychology, some metaphysics, even elements from similar philosophies or mythologies. There are a lot of similarities between Greek mythology and Norse mythology and Celtic mythology and ancient Indian mythology. It’s kind of the same way to look at life. Mostly, they were like sun cults, really, just like Ancient Egypt, lots of similarities.
HMA: Do you consider Enslaved a kind of cultural representation for Norway’s heritage?
Ivar Bjørnson: In one way, I would say that we are a contemporary presentation, like a modern outlook. The basis from our heritage – cultural, mythological and esoteric – and history of the country, that’s the way we find most interesting and it’s relevant for the time we live in. I’m certain we’re representatives of that, but we do like to put our own stamp on it. It’s not like we want to move back and get rid of electricity, and that kind of stuff.
HMA: Is there any part of your culture you dislike or is less represented instead?
Ivar Bjørnson: Typical Norwegian culture is all about “everybody should be Norwegian.” Most of Norway, they want to put the Norwegian costume on, and everyone seems to go on skiing, eating meatballs and brown cheese. That’s what they think is a generalist way of being Norwegian, I think it’s a little bit boring. Instead, it’s more the way that we deal with being inspired by all the cultures. It’s more about taking it as it is, and playing with it as it is and not so much trying to “Norwegianise” everything, which I think is a bit of our national disease in Norway. We try to be thinking outwards and be outgoing. Maybe, we are more into blending than the typical Norwegian.
HMA: Are you going to release any videos for the new album?
Grutle Kjellson: Videos….you know, videos were much more relevant before the Internet, but it still costs the same amount of money to make one. It’s kind of hard to defend spending that much money on a promotion that worked well 25 years ago if you know what I’m mean
HMA: Yeah, that’s true.
Ivar Bjørnson: Also, we’re a bit slow. We just released a video, one of the basic videos for RIITIIR, after we released the new album.
HMA: Are you now considering yourself a progressive extreme band, or is there a bit of black metal in you?
Grutle Kjellson: I don’t think we ever had any black metal elements at all, actually. We have a definition of black metal in the early scene in Norway. Black metal was any kind of metal with satanic lyrics, everything from Mercyful Fate, Darkthrone is black metal or at least some of the albums. Since we’ve never had anything to do with Satanism, we would never consider ourselves as black metal. We might share some musical, let’s say, inspirational heritage with some black metal bands, but we never looked upon ourselves as black metal, we’re not that strict. We don’t think labels and genres are that interesting; it really doesn’t matter. As long as it’s good, it works.
HMA: A tribute album was done in 2011 to celebrate your 20 years of career. Next year, it’s going to be the 25 years of Enslaved. Do you have any plans for it?
Ivar Bjørnson: Yeah. We’re going to do a bunch of stuff. We’re going to start announcing exactly what we’re going to do very soon, but I can’t say now that, from around March we start doing things, and the rest … January, February, we’ll take some time off of touring, start writing some stuff. Then, there’s going to be a lot of celebration for 25 years. We haven’t really done that with our previous anniversaries.
HMA: Sounds good!
Ivar Bjørnson: It’s going to be going more in-depth into certain parts of the career, and so on. It’s going to be interesting, seeing what we do. Very excited ourselves!
HMA: Talking about history, what are your thoughts about the TV series Viking?
Grutle Kjellson: Can I just say something horrible?
Ivar Bjørnson: Good music
Grutle Kjellson: The music is pretty good but it’s as historically accurate as Erik the Viking, but at least that one is funny.
Ivar Bjørnson: I was a bit surprised. I don’t why I thought it would be more accurate. I saw one guy who was an academic person into the Viking history that said he preferred Game of Thrones because that was actually closer. Even with the dragons and all that stuff, it’s closer into the real story but it didn’t try to represent it.
It’s a double-edged sword. It’s good because we get kids interested in culture, not only for the Nordic countries but kids all over the world. They can inspire interest in their own local culture, or whatever. Past that, I think it’s a bit silly to have this kind of chance to represent such a rich history, and not really care about facts.
Grutle Kjellson: Nothing is accurate at all. They didn’t dress like that, they didn’t look like that, they didn’t live like that, and they didn’t build ships like that. I mean, absolutely everything was wrong.
HMA: One last question. How the tour is going?
Grutle Kjellson: Well, this is the last show, at least for the UK leg of the tour. It’s been great. It’s been great travelling around with Grand Magus, nice Swedish people, easy to communicate with, and a really easy going crew.
Ivar Bjørnson: I think we liked the way to do it, also to have the small tour with 2 co-headliners with long sets, instead of having many, many bands with little sets. I think this is an idea that we learned from, we could do it again.
HMA: Okay guys, looking forward to the show tonight. Thank you very much!
Interview by Vixena – Copyright 2015 © Heavy Music Artwork. All Rights Reserved.