Exploring The Next Frontier Of Avant-garde Metal With Norway's INI

Story online since:  26.09.2015 / 02:28:05

Melt: Hi Lars. Thank you for taking the time to chat to about INI and the leviathan that is If Nothing Is that you have recently unleashed from the dark chasms upon an unsuspecting world. I see you’ve also brought some of your co-conspirators along for this philosophical dissection. Welcome Boeddelen (vocals) and Vegard (drums).

To the uninitiated, it might seem as though INI appeared out of the blue (or rather black in this case), yet the band's roots stretch back to 2006 in the guise of Revocation. What brought about the change in name and musical perspective?

Boeddelen: Actually, the band’s roots go further back than Revocation. The band started out as a black metal band called Raate, which later evolved into Revocation, which musically were more in the realms of Keep of Kalessin and The Legion.

However back in 2008, after we had released a demo as Revocation and were working through some new musical ideas, we did not find the name Revocation fitting for how we wanted to be heard or experienced. We also did not want to be mixed up with our, at that time, name brothers from Boston, USA. The easiest way to fix this problem was to change the name, and this time we felt that we needed to think things through a lot more. Deciding was not easy, but we all felt that "INI" was right after some discussion.

Melt: Riddle me this… Where does the band name come from? Put us out of our misery please…

Vegard: INI is the abbreviation of ‘If Nothing Is’, so spelt out in full, the band name is the same as our debut album’s title. The name states the philosophical thesis that nothing is real, and if nothing is real and anything you do has no real meaning, then you can do whatever you want, thus making room for our sometimes musically illogical and schizophrenic outbursts.

In another way, the name simply reads "one zero one" represented with roman numerals. Read this way the "N" stands for the word "nulla", which translates roughly into "nothing". It is not a common roman numeral, but has been used in this sense on some occasions in the old days. If we define INI as a synonym for the number 101, then our opening and closing tracks for this album sets a framework for the rest of the album. We sometimes use the words "one o one", "INI" and "If Nothing Is" in our lyrics, but then it means different things depending on the context.

Melt: Aside from INI, Lars, you also dabble in a little known avant-garde band from the Northern climes. Maybe a few of our readers will know about you guys. I think the band is called Dødheimsgard, or something like that…

Bad jokes aside, Dødheimsgard released the monumental A Umbra Omega this year as well. Do you think that the Norwegian avant-garde metal scene is awakening from its slumber, with new releases by Arcturus and Manes in the last year as well? Or has it been seething below the surface all along?

Lars: First, I must say that it was a great honour for me to be invited to join Dødheimsgard last year and also to contribute on "A Umbra Omega", which is still crawling deeper beneath my skin every time I listen to it. I can easily say that Dødheimsgard has been one of my main musical influences for many years now and the music still moves me in ways no other music does.

The Norwegian avant-garde veterans Manes and Arcturus continue to deliver amazing albums that are expanding the musical palette of the avant-garde metal genre time and again. I haven’t heard of many Norwegian newcomers to the scene though, but then again I haven’t been that much in contact with other acts of the Norwegian avant-garde metal scene besides INI and DHG.

As far as I know there isn’t any real avant-garde metal society formed between the different acts as I guess we're all are busy doing our own thing. I for one use most of my free time expanding on the musical construct of INI by enriching my musical influence, diving deeper into the unexplored corners of sound and musical creativity whenever I've got the chance.

I think the different acts have been active all along beneath the surface, so what seems like a reawakening of the scene is just a result of mere coincidence. The genre is always active below the surface, it just takes a lot of time and effort making unique music.

Speaking of Dødheimsgard, If Nothing Is features contributions by the inimitable Mr. Yusaf Parvez, aka Vicotnik. How does do you guys draw the line between the two similar, yet vastly different musical entities?

Lars: Back in the spring of 2010, I sent Yusaf an email with one of our songs from the pre-production, asking if he would contribute on our album. He seemed very interested so we started working together and became good friends.

I’ve spent some time over the years trying to learn from him, both aesthetics and technological knowledge, as I think he’s perhaps the greatest musical genius of our time. Drawing the line between the bands is actually quite effortless, as music is in many ways a representation of who you are without the mask you conceal your real self with to fit in with the herd, thus our musical products are bound to be different.

If Nothing Is is a very philosophical title. Nihilistic. Desolate. Morose. From the very moment that album opener "101" strikes its first dark notes, one instantly feels like nothing is. Is this a resonating theme that runs through the album?

Lars: The music usually manifests as a representation of my mood, my thoughts and fascinations, as well as the things that hide beneath the surface of the other band members. The overall theme of the music is coloured with the philosophical question derived from the band name, but as you’ve most certainly heard throughout the album the mood shifts quite a bit.

In regards to the overall sound of the album, I chose to mix and master the album without comparing it to other albums so as to give the album a unique sound flavour that would be in touch with the product itself. If one were to compare this album to the releases of big industry production metal acts it would probably sound kinda strange and somewhat lo-fi, but this was the process that felt right for the album.

Lars, you seem to be very much the head honcho of INI, with credits for composing, bass, guitars, cello, backing vocals, synths, beats, lyrics, mixing and mastering on the album. Is INI your brainchild and vision?

Lars: It is. INI is always within my mind and has over time become who I am, the most true representation of myself.

INI's influences are listed as "chaos, cosmos, lunacy and everything inside within what’s behind." These are themes that are subliminally invoked throughout the musical journey of the album. It almost brings to mind Dante’s Inferno in terms of the desolation, darkness and sporadic marriages of light with somber undertones. How do these influences manifest on the album for you?

Boeddelen: It’s up to the listeners to define what they are listening to, but the album is in many ways like a journey through shifting emotions. Just like Dante’s Inferno, this journey is mainly a dark one, but with occasional glimpses of beauty and light.

Lars: I often like to combine musical ideas that at first seems like they can’t possibly fit together, and that process is perhaps what makes some parts of the album seem like a marriage of light and dark, yellow and blue etc.

The album is filled with song titles that are as enigmatic and hard hitting as the band itself. Care to elaborate on the ideas behind the titles, themes and songs themselves?

Lars: Some of the music is based on a lyrical concept, and sometimes it’s the other way around. The lyrics are written by me, Boeddelen and Vegard, so the different lyrics are somewhat coloured with each person's core. Some texts are based on emotion, some are based on some form of hypothesis and others are plain fiction. We wanted to have powerful titles with a seasoning of avant-gardeness to them. Allowing artistic freedom in the spelling created a more meaningful taste in my opinion.

Vegard: The opening track "101" is based on two lines of text that in many ways define what we define as meaningful art. The text lines goes as follows: "To suffocate or to rip off your limbs. The outmost opposite of this art."

The next song "Sovereign" is a fictional story about the calculated eradication of the entire human species, by some form of higher entity.

The title "Juvenihil" is, as you may have spotted, a play on the words "juvenile" and "nihil". The song is a misanthropic philosophical exploration of the following: With regards to how humans treat each other and how our planet is treated by us, is it ethical to bring more children into this world? This of course is meant to be thought-provoking and not to be regarded as the band’s opinion on the matter.

"Anti-Horde", in short, is about the fall of an oppressive leader, and the rise of a rebellion. It deals with the emotions of having your life torn to shreds and blaming everyone but yourself. To counter the oppressive "horde" of mindless sheep under a dictator’s influence, the people must rise and amass to become the "anti horde", hence the song title.

Lars: "Dominant Outlaw Nation" is based on the hypothesis that one could torture someone over the course of several years, so that the person can shortly visit the afterlife and be brought back to life only to tell the world all about it.

The next title "Postapo Calypso" is comprised of the words "Postapo", as in "post apocalyptic", and "Calypso", which is a style of Afro-Caribbean music. It's lyrics are a fictional tale about gladly welcoming the post-apocalyptic era with dance and morbid rituals.

The title "Darkspace Navigator" is the name of a dark God that governs every illogical emotion or unexplainable event. It's an hypothesis to give meaning to the unexplainable, much like how humans always create simple religious explanations for every part of the world that might seem incomprehensible.

The title "Intermezzanine" is a combination of the words "Intermezzo" and "Mezzanine" and is meant as an intermezzo, and in respect to the chaos on both sides of that song: just like a mezzanine it can be a space where not much really happens between two busy floors.

Boeddelen: The lyrics for "Apsylum Absolute" is a lyrical construct about being trapped within your own mind alone with your own reality. The lyrics touch on a theory of that the people we label with severe psychological diagnoses and heavy medical drugs are the ones who truly have their eyes open and can see reality for what it really is.

The name is based on a wordplay as the word "apsylum" is the word "asylum" with an added letter to add a little bit of psycho to the title. The final title "If Nothing Is" is about life and death. How life wouldn't be life without death to counter it, and how "time" seems the only thing to outlive us all. It’s also a song about bringing humanity to justice.

Melt: Musically, If Nothing Is is filled with a myriad of influences and styles. Almost schizophrenic in its systematic approach to harnessing chaos and forcing it into audial submission. Who are the bands that have influenced you as individuals and INI as a whole? Are there any other literary, art or philosophic influences lurking behind the majestic vision of the music?

Lars: All the members of this band have a wide taste in music, ranging from prog rock to trap music, so much of that schizophrenic feeling most certainly has derived from that fact.

I for one am very much into different kinds of music depending on the situation, as I guess is the case with many people that are into the avant-garde. If I want to delve into the weird world of the avant-garde, I might put on an album by Swans, The Soundbyte, Monolake, Phuture Doom, Stagnant Waters, Manes, Igorrr, Atrox, Virus, Ved Buens Ende, James Blake, Shining (NO) or Sigur Rós.

Other times I just want to listen to something calm or catchy like Gorillaz, Daft Punk, Deadmau5, MUST DIE!, Yogi, Caravan Palace, Infected Mushroom, Ásgeir, 16 Horsepower, Radiohead and such.

I find myself listening more and more though to bands along the lines of my old metal heroes, bands such as Koldbrann, The Deathtrip, Mayhem and Code among others. I guess most of the people that are into avant-garde metal ended up here cause they were fed up with a lot of the boring stuff that's being released in the metal genre, such as bands that sound just the same on each album or just the same as everyone else. I've always been a sucker for music and sounds I've never heard before.

Me and Vegard also played in a fusion band (jazz/rock) for many years and both have an education in music, so that has also been a contribution to the different influences of INI. The last three years I’ve been going to the music technology program at the university NTNU in Trondheim, Norway, where among others Trond Engum (from The Soundbyte among other bands) is a professor.

All the teachers there were very avant-garde in their musical expressions. These people had an experimental band of mad music professors called T-EMP who went in real depth on the future of live music expression. Throughout those years I had the time to try working with different musical expressions, such as live sound processing, sound art installations, classical composition, film music, etc. All that I experience is brought into the music in one way or another. After all, we all are just reflections of what we experience, mixed with some genetic preconditions.

When it comes to other kinds of art, it's safe to say we're all nerds in some ways. I think the most obvious influences of philosophy must be from the story of The Matrix, as that was my first "wow" moment as a kid and it changed my perception of the world.

That story though, is probably based on the philosopher René Descartes ideas, and that led me to build an interest for philosophers like Descartes, Hume, Kant among others.

I must say I've been influenced by some films as well, such as Salò, Taxidermia, Der Freie Wille among others. As we're still in our twenties, we are of the video game generation so some of our inspiration comes from there. I, for one, think video games can tell gripping stories in ways no other medium can, so I've drawn much inspiration from series such as Mass Effect, The Witcher, Silent Hill, Zelda, The Last of Us, Fallout etc.

So Nothing Is. Where to from here for INI? Are you guys playing live, conjuring up more orchestrated chaos for a followup record or letting INI evolve as a natural entity?

Lars: The music for the record, If Nothing Is was actually done back in 2012, but we had to do some recordings several times over as we weren't that skilled in recording techniques and thus did some things the wrong way from the get go.

I haven't stopped making music after 2012, so we're pleased to say that our second album is just about done! And before that album is to be released we've got one single ready for release! The way I see it, the music on our second album is going to vastly expand upon the avant-garde metal genre and I hope it will be an album you either hate or love. We will play live again in a not too distant future, but the main focus now is getting the last pieces of the album together and then setting it free to write its own story.

The album is currently available on iTunes, Spotify, Bandcamp, Soundcloud, Spotify, Deezer, Google Play, Tidal and Rdio. Is digital the future, or can we look forward to holding some INI records and merch in our grubby little paws?

Lars: There are many positive and negative sides to digital releases. I like the fact that you can decide to release an album and have it available after just a couple of days, and then be able to listen to it on your phone, computer etc.

I don't know if digital is the future, maybe something better will come along but it is at the very least the "now" and has been for many years. As a music collector though, I must say I really enjoy the close relationship one can get with a physical release. It’s easier to focus on an album when you can sit down, hold the album, read the lyrics and admire the artwork, so we'll definitively release physical editions of our albums as well as some merchandise in the future.

The decision on releasing the album digitally first was due to the fact that our second album is coming together soon, so we wanted to have some time gap between the two releases. By the way, one can get the digital booklet as well as CD-quality sound files if one were to buy the album at

Any parting words for us fellow avantgardists?

Boeddelen: I hope our release has brought you some form of emotional response, be it through goosebumps, nauseated feelings of awe or hate, or something different all together. We hope you stay tuned for more, as we nearly can’t wait to show the world what we’ve been working on under the surface.

Thanks for your time Lars, Boeddelen and Vegard. We look forward to the next chapter of cosmic cacophony from INI.

Melt Kruger

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