Explorations On Trembling Earth

Story online since:  21.02.2011 / 12:28:10

In times of "copy and paste enthusiasm" even among high-ranked German sitcom actors, pardon, wannebe-politicians, I think it suits me fine to steal some quotes from a review by a totally unimportant lousy editor called Tentakel P from an online magazine which is so bad that I even won’t mention its pretty pretentious – oooh, oh so avant-garde – title. "This is a positive album and I don't mean cheesy”, Tentakel wrote about "Solens Rötter”, the until February 2011 last album by VINTERSORG:

"Some of the melodies are really weird (best example would be the calm intermission in "Från Materia Till Ande” and the instrumental "Vad Aftonvindens Andning Viskar” which is gorgeously spaced-out) but that is what makes "Solens Rötter” unique; the approach to harmonies and disharmonies are seldom heard and somehow – enlightened.”

Now the new album "Jordpuls” is out. Copy and paste: yippee…!

"Some of the melodies are really wonderful (best example would be the beautiful refrain in "Skogen Sover” and the prog rock outro "Eld Och Lågor” which is gorgeously spaced-out) but that is what makes "Jordpuls” unique; the approach to harmonies and disharmonies are seldom heard and somehow – enlightened.”

But seriously, "Jordpuls” is really a positive and euphonious album. It sounds a bit like VINTERSORG back again on old paths with new found childish inspiration and enthusiasm, combined with his great musical talent: two steps back in the band history while jumping high music-wise. But listen yourself and read what one of the most inspired and still inspiring musicians of the post black metal scene says about his latest endeavours…

Hello, Mister Hedlund! It’s a pleasure to listen to your new album which feels really down to earth! I guess it’s superfluous to ask whether you’re happy with that one, but do you share my impression that "Jordpuls” might surprise some listeners?

I’m happy, we’re happy with the whole album from the songs to the layout etc. I understand your point of view but it actually didn’t come across my mind while writing and recording the album, it just came out the way it did, like it was its’ own entity nearly. I understood that it was a great reference back to our past as a band, but I honestly feel that it has some new things to offer as well, the folk music has a big role but it has gone through a more sophisticated panorama. Still… I think that if you like the old albums you’ll really embrace this piece. It has been a pleasure to write and record it and it has brought back a new spark in our minds when it comes to our thinking of this band.

"Jordpuls” is a simple, and as beautiful as meaningful title for your new album. Did you "find” it on a specific occasion outside?

It’s not one single object/subject that’s presented as the "Jordpuls” (Earth Pulse) it’s more like trying to dig into the matters where Mother Nature speaks to us with her loudest of voices. We’re wearing this planet down still we can’t stop as we want to have this type of standards, it’s not a sustainable way if behaving but still we do it. I guess we’ll "party” to the very end? The painter Kris just took the approach in a brook that goes through the landscape carrying out the basics of the elements.

Reflecting the liner notes that I got with the promo, I think that if there’s a red line on "Jordpuls”, it’s about growing challenges around man and his often too self-centred perspective on his own little life, not aware of what happens around him on grand scale – does that perception come close to the topics you wanted to discuss on this album?

Yes… good boy… it has a lot to do with that. We’re not a Greenpeace band in any terms and have no political agenda of what so ever. So, the lyrics also dwell upon our relation with nature on a more romantic side and our correspondence with science to increase our knowledge about our surroundings. I think the more you learn about what set the rules of the world that we live in the more you appreciate it and get confused by why so many people don’t see the values that we’re erasing with tremendous pace. The lyrical themes also take a personal view upon how you can be a part of nature without exploit it.

Of course you know with what superficial attitude media and record companies throw around with slogans like "back to the roots” to label complex albums in order to give potential listeners a hint of what might await them. Listening to "Jordpuls”, I would tend to the statement that VINTERSORG sounds more playful than ever; not too complex, but with an almost childish inspiration when it comes to song arrangements. Can you relate to that impression? It really sounds like you had a lot of fun playing the songs on "Jordpuls”!

It was a blast to do the album… it felt that travelling back in time and still move forward music wise. I really wanted a more playful attitude to be involved as a really like the naïve side of mankind. Do what comes across your mind and do it with passion, trying not to unfold it in theoretical aspect of which notes go well with each other. More just sit back and enjoy the ride based upon emotions.

My favourite song on "Jordpuls” after some listening sessions is "Skogen Sover”, an almost romantic tune with a great refrain, a song that could only be written and sung by you! What’s the story behind that one and by the way: have you read Kerstin Ekman’s phantastic documentary novel "Herrarne I Skogen”?

That particular lyric is quite old. I write stuff all the time just for the fun of writing and later on I may pick some of it up and create a song around it. That particular lyric is something that I’ve had in my mind for quite some time and it just was the perfect timing for it, still it’s modified from its origin form. The song deals with how we think of the forest as a calm and "sleeping” place at night as the darkness cover the surroundings..but it’s at night the forest wake up. I know Ekmans work and I’ve read some of it but not the one you mentioned.

What other literature impressed you lately, and especially in regard to your elaboration within VINTERSORG?

Actually my time to read others work has decreased drastically in the last years. I still read some and its either scientific stuff or Swedish poetry. Lately I found out that Oscar Levertin was a very fascinating poet and man, he was also a critic of his time and had some very nice ways of summing up what he witnessed.

The last song "Eld Och Lågor” sounds like Seventies Scandinavian prog rock on the rise. Is this a direction you plan to explore more in the future?

I’ve always held the acoustic guitars high and the song mentioned is just a Vintersorg song based upon that, layering it all up in a very multifaceted way to give it a rich and interesting sound to explore. I think that we’ll continue to have these types of song on our albums. And it would be nice to really dig into it and create a whole album or EP with these types of songs, we’ll see how it goes.

As far as I understood "Jordpuls” is the result of your home work so to say since you produced the record all on your own. In how far is it still a compromise in a sense that you would maybe like to use real violins instead of keyboards and generally enlarge the sound spectrum? Do you as an artist sometimes feel small in regard to the endless and ever-growing musical possibilities?

I feel small in the ever growing universe. :-) The more you find out about the world the more frustrated you get, at least I. I mean there’s so much that I want to do and dig into but I don’t have the time our possibilities based upon other facts to plunge into it. And of course that counts for music as well, the better engineer, producer and musicians I get the more I want to perfect it. I’m not a perfectionist in that sense that I want to make a name in the industry, it’s just a thing for me to strive for. If I would lose that ambition I would stop doing all this and try to find my element in other places.

Your harmonic vocal arrangements remind of a decade in rock music which is long gone, yet in contrast to that nostalgic charm your production sounds so sharp that the many details don’t get lost. That’s not a typical sound impression – in how far are you still searching for the "perfect” mixture and what productions do inspire you, especially in regard to your vocal harmonies?

I’m of course into prog rock from the 70’s and I’ve always liked the way the thought about how vocals can represent a song. I often use a lead vocals that I over dub and then a harmony that I over dub four times, then another harmony that I also over dub four time and then some other parts that comes in here and there, also over dubbed. This is my typical set up for a chorus part but of course I place it neatly in the stereo picture so it doesn’t crashes and blur each other out. Vocals are for me an instrument and just playing an instrument on one note, one string or one "head” would be quite boring wouldn’t it?

You could probably attract a much greater audience if you chose to play a less complex and multi-layered type of "pagan” metal or a more "adult” style of hard rock, but you insist on including elements of harsh black metal into your highly melodic and tricky sound – thus you really reach only people who are able to cope with this quite unique mixture and stark contrasts. Do you sometimes think the metal audience could become a bit more tolerant to such music, or do you just feel perfectly alright in your own niche that you share with very few others, like for example Borknagar?

I am what I am and we don’t compromise with our art in that perspective. For us this is the music we want to explore, record and deliver to the people who are interested. I don’t think on commercial aspect when it comes to this, I understand that sometimes it’s a good thing to listen to the record company as they have their vision of how to market an album etc. But when it comes to the actual composing we must follow what we believe in.

I was asking myself whether you took up the main melody line in "Pallisader” from another piece of music, but although torturing my brain, I have no concrete idea, yet I’m sure I know this one… can you help me?

I don’t have a clue. That melody, if you mean the one that’s type of the chorus part just came to me one day when working on another track... and it came with words and all... but it was with other words than the ones that is on the album though. That happens to me from time to time, but I think it genuinely came from a inner sphere.

Is the topic of "Pallisader” inspired by recent developments in Sweden which has long been the demonstration case of a social welfare state, but which has definitely more and more problems in a society which doesn’t meet the "Bullerby” image of the peaceful country?

Naahh... the lyric is just me reflecting on the phenomena of building a palisade. It’s a great shelter for predator etc, but when they were built earlier on, they served as a place to keep your enemy on a distance as well. And if you’re doing it by those standards, I guess you create a society within the society and sometimes it might work to progress, but I see it also as trembling path to follow. As you lock yourself in, you also look yourself up, when you don’t get any influence from outside you prevent the heritage to disappear, but you also loose yourself in what you already have and it’ll be hard to explore your possibilities as a human.

The German scientist Albert Einstein explained that natural science presupposes the belief of an inner harmony of the world (= the cosmos) and he even said that, the greater the challenges ahead, the greater this belief of an inner harmony. Today a growing number of neurologists, psychologists and other scientists open themselves for spiritual matters and here and there the parting line between "rational” science and "irrational” spirituality blurs. Does mankind stand in front of a new and heavily needed Enlightenment which transcends the primacy of the ratio?

I don’t know. I guess when you’ve travelled far on the path of science and try to make it all harmonize in a TOE (theory of everything) I guess you easily feel that it’s all too rational to be just out of random events. For me evolution is so obvious so I don’t spend my time thinking in other terms. What is important is that people try to figure out their way of consuming the impressions around them. If you lay your conscious in the hands of a higher power I think that’s great if you feel it can bring something potent to your life. But my view is safe within evolution as a fact, not just as a theory.

When the first of your albums were released, you started as young "heathen hearted” musician, but soon developed more complex ethical & philosophical perspectives which link your fascination for science with your still not ceasing love for nature. Since you always wrote about these matters and discussed them in interviews, you have long since been recognized as enthusiastic (free-) thinker who obviously inspires others as well. How do you experience the artistic and human influence you had and still have through VINTERSORG and OTYG on younger musicians and fans?

I haven’t chewed on that actually. I just write and talk about the subject that interests me and my perspectives on that. If people are inspired by it and want to find out their view upon it, that’s great. We never claim to have the answers, but we like to explore it ourselves and it’s nice if others will as well. I think we need to educate ourselves as humans throughout life; you have the command in that, not the school system.

Have you already heard "Wild En Bijster Land” by the Dutch band Stormsterk (available for free download on their homepage) which belongs to your obviously inspired and talented fans? If so, how does it feel to hear how one’s own music lives on through the tunes of others?

I’ve heard it and I wish them the best of luck with their vision. I don’t know if they’re inspired by our music but if so it’s great.

When discussing your exciting discography and your input into the music underworld, Mark from Stormsterk and me, both pedagogues ourselves, asked us how your "hobbies” influence your job as teacher, your creativity and moral agenda, when working with kids and youths? On the one hand such a focused and open-minded character like you shouldn’t have authenticity problems like the Norman Normal kind of guy with "opinions” borrowed from mainstream tabloids, on the other hand independent thinkers are – at least in Germany – regarded and treated with prejudices; still one criterion for an engagement in many social jobs is a Christian statement of faith. What experiences do you make?

As a pedagogue I go by experience and theory. I guess that my art is a stronghold for me as a teacher as well as I’m very open minded and good to analyse what comes to me in the relations I come across and how to enter their world of learning. The most important task you have as a teacher is to empower a person to learn him/herself. If you’re able to give a person a tool set to make that happen, you’ve come a long way; then it’s nearly a self going process. Of course there are hundreds of other parameters as well, but if you use all this combined with intuition and five years of theoretical studies along with the plan that govern what to learn about I think you’re on the right path.

From the perspective of someone who listens to your music since the late Nineties and reads your interviews with non decreasing interest, you seem like a man with a sometimes overwhelming creativity and passion. How thankful are you that you could let flow both into music? Given the case you wouldn’t have had this chance: can you imagine that you could have struggled within life much more, e.g. maybe became frustrated or aggressive? What does music mean to you in that regard?

Music is everything if I talk beyond the family constellation. I can’t think of how life would be without it, I’ve been occupying my mind and body with it since I was like five or six years old, I think. So, it’s been a long time friend that comforts me, but still challenges me all the time, a better friend is hard to find. The mystic thing with it is that it comes from me, which makes it a bit schizophrenic in a way... but I like it.

Mister Hedlund, please excuse stealing your precious time and thank you much for enriching us with your more than just music! Maybe we can conclude this interview with an outlook on VINTERSORG’s future and the chance of concerts?

No concert plans are made to this date. I think we’ll just try to challenge ourselves and explore our different sides as humans and musicians.

Thor Joakimsson

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