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Monday, 11 December 2017 21:19

ENSLAVED

Published in Underground News Written by

ENSLAVED = Ivar Bjørnson // guitarist
Norway, Bergen

AU: Greetings, can you set the scene? Where are you now? And what are you drinking?
IB: It looks similar to the Pacific Northwest, where I am. In Bergen, Norway. Famous for rain here.
And on that note the last thing I had was a glass of water.

AU: Given you are in late October, are you getting sun still?
IB: It gets dark at around 1900hrs, until 0830hrs in the morning. Dark all the time! When you are done
with rehearsals and practice, always dark. Pretty metal actually.

AU: What is going with the band right now, are you getting to tour and promote the album?
IB: We released the new album two weeks ago and have done three shows so far in Norway and
Sweden. It's a warm up for the European tour which starts next week. This is the “pre-tour mode” with
planning and rehearsals, and trying to hang out with kids and family before leaving for a month. And
promotion for the new album. It's quite exciting.

AU: Do you find there is a good way to prepare for tour, a week out? Is there a ritual to get set and
ready?
IB: It becomes a habit with all the touring. You keep a suitcase, you never unpack it. You refill some
clothes and that's it. For me, it is important to get some good books. Some “analog books” with paper.
And some more on the Kindle. Download a few movies and films. And also some music as well, it is
important to have some for the headphones if you do not enjoy the music in the venue lounge. Boxer
shorts and shirts – you can buy anywhere. Special books, you must bring them.

AU: Could you share a book you read recently you really enjoyed?
IB: Neil Gaiman, enjoying his books. Sandman writer. And now “Norse Mythology”. It is so good,
because it is a book of fiction, but also a good one to study for mythology because it is trying to make it
a linear, and more easy presentation of the stories rather than original texts such as the Prose Edda. It's
like reading a Dostoevsky novel, jumping around times. His take is more refined and adapted to how
we are used to reading now. “Homosapiens: A Brief History of Mankind”, by Yuval Noah Harari. A
history of how we came to be where we are. Not so much the evolution from ameobas to humans,
rather how was society invented, how were gods invented as a human activity. How the earliest
societies 10, 20 thousand years back came to form. How these civilizations came about from a practical
means.

AU: We maybe overlook the older historical factors on why our cultures value what they do. Our
technology has usurped our social programming.
IB: Exactly! Drawing the line on why people say things online, but it has its logical history. It's
interesting.

AU: Can I quote a great prophet of our times?
IB: Yes, of course.
AU: The great prophet, Ronnie James Dio, said: “If you listen to fools, the mob rules!” we must remember that everyday.
IB: We must! If I was to play, in this case, God's Advocate, it would have to say in Dio's lyrics, “the moon is just a sun in the night”. So you have the take him with a pinch of salt, for observations.

AU: As you are gearing up for tour, your new keyboard player Håkon Vinje is joining up. Is this the
first tour cycle with him?
IB: We have done about 12-15 shows with him, festival and clubs. We know him well. Socially, we are
totally there. It has been an intense three quarters of a year since he has joined the band. I'm happy we
had this time to join the band, record and play festivals. To go straight to tour might have been rough
for all parties. Tour is not the right place to get to know each other. There are so many external stress
factors. I guess, more time to give each other space than to spend it in fights. We have had that process
already. Learned to know each other and most importantly, played together and learned to trust each
other. It has really raised the bar on the live performance. It has also helped he is 25 years old; the next
guy is 40, and then all the way up until 50. He sets the bar for endurance! He is always full of new
energy.

AU: In listening to the new album, there were hints of exploring duality. The song “Storm Son” speaks to losing touch with nature and man becoming more confident he is above or superior to nature. Do you think this is taking place? How do you reconnect with nature and stay balanced in today's increasingly electronic urban world?
IB: It's a huge theme in this record, and being around the block with many albums and themes, and
lyrics, and explored many things. That is the big question: what is our own nature? We are always
talking about human potential and improvement. A few people in the category of “slacker” or “nihilist”
doesn't seem to be preoccupied with that. Most others seem to be. Then the question is... why? What is
the point of that? That is just one thing that living creatures have in common. That's what moves it, I
guess. Of else, it is would be in a vegetative state. I guess it fulfils some kind of evolutionary goal,
because we want to move around, change things, reproduce. We also seem to want to leave a memory
after we are gone, in the form of monuments, art, music, buildings – whatever we do to immortalize
ourselves. It is interesting that modern man is having that discussion with himself, like if he is above
nature. And can contain it. It is a loss of perspective, because we are also nature and can't really do that
to ourselves. That's where the cognitive dissonance hits. That's where we deem nature to be primitive
and nasty, uncivilized. It's basically putting those same terms on ourselves! That leads to discontent and
alienation. People are not feeling they belong, they cannot find their own nature. We are trying to sever
ties with something that is not possible to get rid of. We are as much nature as the forest or an animal,
the stream, or whatever. We have fooled ourselves into thinking, with concrete buildings and cars and
computers, between us and what we call nature. That we are two separate things.
With electricity, I try and stay away from nuclear radiation and dangerous levels of electricity. To avoid
mutation! Other than that, I think it is useful. Electricity is a like an expression of flames in different
times. One of my favourite album covers is Pure, by Godflesh. They really delved into that, within the
music it was one person as singer, drummer, guitars. And they have this picture from a microscope, and
the human cells are trying to grow on a computer chip. They recognize them as human cells when they
are electrified. Electricity is not so different, it is nature still. It is metals, conductive metals which are
imitating processes in nature. Think of trees; with sending signals. The branches are sending signals back. The tree knows when it is hurt, to send out certain liquids to fix something if there is a breach of the bark. So we are doing with art is imitation of nature, and I feel at home whether in New York City or Vancouver, the big city. This is also an expression of human nature. You can't do just the one thing, you need to have both, to have a balance in today's world.

AU: A challenge on how to find that balance. We use, substances, music, culture, other people.
Balance!
IB: Absolutely! It is a misconception that you have to get away from the city. Okay great, you can
make some fire from trees and shoot little bears and eat them for weeks and weeks. I think you can still
be in touch with nature in the inner city. You can get that input from wherever. Having a little collection
of bonzai trees in the back garden, is the recognition of the concept to make small adjustments in
thought and choices to find that.

AU: To speak to “Sacred Horse”, the bond previously humans had with horses. As transportation, as a food source with their blood and also aiding humans with hunting. A twinned relationship which still persists in some areas of the world with camels, and horses. What do you think is perhaps, today's “horse”?
IB: A good question. It could be in a hundred years that people come back and answer that question
more appropriately. It is tempting, as we have talked about computers and electricity, to point to that I
guess. But the difference, is that it is not sentient on its own. I'm not sure we have a “new horse”, to be
honest. What we discovered from the horse, was healthy dependance in relationships. And this
transferred to inter-human relationships, not like a weird BDSM thing with people dressed as horses -

AU: Phew, that's far out -
IB: Yes, I just realized people do that. One of our trips we were told of a place where we could see
people dressed as horses in a barn room with hay, and could relax and pet them. Oh okay, well people
should do that if they like that. But, lets speak to interdependence. Before that, when “survival” is the
one road, you don't really have that thing where, things are kept and relationships are maintained and
serviced, outside of the instant need – if you know what I mean? I think it developed from “horse runs
fast, we can use this”. But then, “horse needs food, needs water” and they also discover if you provide
affection and some kind of caring outside of “horse did good job, it gets food and affection” but also
next day “horse hurts foot, cannot work, but I still will take care of it”, I think that was also something
that was developed from this relationship. Where man not only took from the horse as a resource, but
became a provider and carer for something... without wanting to exploit it directly, if you see what I
mean?
AU: Yes, you're providing unconditional care and love for your horse.
IB: Yes, exactly, that is the point. That is when it went from “useful horse” to “sacred horse”. And then
these religious thoughts of “where did horse come from” became. We have these people today, we call
them “new age people” who would claim to know what the horse is talking about, what we might call
“horse whisperers” today. They were the first of their kind. This formed some mystical foundations in
medieval traditions.

AU: Certainly Odin in Norse mythology had an eight legged horse Sleipner, who was looked upon fondly as a fast horse.
IB: Absolutely, they are looked upon fondly and centrally in the mythology. Much attention which is given to horses, in many myths. Wolves are given attention too, horses are more central.


AU: In discussion so far, you seen to be open to learning and progression. What did you learn from the creation of this album in particular?
IB: The main thing we learned, or re-learned, was the value of band dynamics in the studio. Since 2008
basically, since the first start of the band in the early 90s, we have been going where the band is
comprised of five musicians who record parts separately in the studio and we have moved more and
more to the collective effort, and recording together. From this effort, we learned, we were right to aim
for that. Because, we spent more and more time for being “a band” in the studio, rather that focus on
individual practice, we have re-learned “being a band”. We might not excel, as musicians, I mean, we
have a lead guitar player who would excel in competitions, but a good drummer and bass player, and
rhythm guitar player – where we really excel though, is when we play as a band.

AU: You have familiarity with teamwork in your band, and that is beautiful. Being from Norway you
must have some familiarity with ice hockey. A Canadian saying is that “you couldn't have a team of Wayne Gretzkys and hope for success” you need to have a variety – you need a goalie, wingers, some enforcers. It's not a guarantee of a good team. You need everybody for team success.
IB: Yes! Certainly!

AU: It is exciting when a band says “our lead single is over three minutes!” and for this album it is ten minutes. Do you think as time goes on, metal fans are becoming more open to progression and saying, for example, “let's break out of a 3 minute format, lets hear a 10 minute single”. Do you feel metal fans are becoming more progressive as time goes on?
IB: Absolutely! I think the way that the digital providers, Spotify and others, they are trying to force
everything into the same format, so that it is easier to control playlists. For us, the model is rigged, it
even makes it monetarily unfortunate to have long songs. I know many musical organizations are
looking to correct this, we pretty much stop earning after three minutes when someone streams our
song. Let's say we have fifty minutes on our album, with six songs. If another band has fifty minutes
and twelve songs – they make double the money we do. And you might say “who cares? It is
essentially double of nothing” yet it is the principle. Those things will be corrected in the long run. I
think, in having this extreme focus on the format of music, they are doing themselves a disfavour. With
bands out there, there is a subconscious understanding that someone is trying to change them. And we
are seeing this, with this album, which we did hear from the streaming services – we should do shorter
songs, because that would help us with our digital commerce. To which we answered politely “fuck
off!” and there would not be point to that. We do unnecessarily long songs! What happened is, this
album has the longest songs we have ever done, and the increasing improvement in digital numbers. So
people, instead of disowning it, are instead appreciating that it is something different. That is what
today's music listener is all about. They want the choice. They can't be sort of pooled into doing what
they did before like the 80's or 90's with a good marketing campaign to sell them anything. That is not
the case today. And that is great. That gives bands like us, which are outside the norm, a fighting
chance.

AU: That's fantastic you're able to find success within today's market place. It's always somewhat surreal to read of a band winning Grammy awards and being tapped for great projects, which you have, and wonder “how are they making it, economically?” and then you contrast with a band, who by anyone's math, is not a culturally progressive band, will be making millions off a simplistic song. This is the game.
IB: Yes!

AU: In doing some reading, you and Einar Selvik of Wardruna, were tapped by the Norwegian
government, in a project called SKUGGSJÁ, to create a musical piece to commemorate the 200 year
anniversary of the Norwegian constitution. Wow! Norway has embraced you, and certainly metal.
What was the experience like to do a song for Norway's constitution? And how Norway's culture is
progressing, or fading? What did it mean to you?
IB: It was an interesting thing to be doing. It was a concert, a full hour, we wrote. It was performed on
an outer stage by the constitution, which was written now, 203 years ago. And what they wanted to do,
they had two specific themes for the celebration of the constitution: women's rights and freedom of
speech. And that is what led them to us. We were a bit in between, you have some of the Norwegian
black metal bands which are extreme, yet not really commenting on, or applying much to what is going
on in society. They are very biblical, or you could say, cosmologic – or even, anti-cosmologic. It's hard
to for the government to value people's right to be satanic, or nihilistic. So I guess they went for us,
because we have some direct comment on our history. In specific, the Christening of Norway. The
transition from polytheistic to monotheistic society at around the year one thousand. At one point, they
wanted us to look at the transition from that, from the constitution in 1814, to today and bring our
comments. We said, “we would love to do that, but with free reign in criticizing” and they said, “of
course”. So we wrote a concept exploring the contrast of the common way of thinking of going from a
circular way of viewing life, in the pre-Christian times where even the Apocalypse was the end of one
cycle and the beginning of another. Compared to today, where everyone is looking at the skies and
throwing threats at one another, you know. The Day of Reckoning is coming. It's quite interesting how
these dynamics affect politics in society. We are surrounded by religious maniacs who spend money
and weapons and lives, on how they interpret religious texts. Also, we were looking at Norway's
history and how people are deemed to be founding figures, and were really horrible people. Today they
would be classified as warlords and psychopaths, on par with Assad in Syria. They used the same
techniques to introduce Christianity in Norway. To try and defend that position of turning our backs to
the old ways, and introducing Christianity, these people were deemed saints and history was rewritten.
We discovered that history was not written in a sequence, that the surprising thing was these things are
openly known in historical circles – and that we have chosen to disregard it. We have medals in their
names, like Saint Olaf, for introducing Christianity. But it is widely known he used torture, kidnapping,
murder, sexualized violence to achieve this, to force the change, to make people Christians. But we
decided to leave this out. People are rewarded for this kind of civil service with medals in his name – it
would be like being rewarded for the Hitler Medal.

AU: To reflect your comment, Alfred Nobel invented dynamite which is widely used in artillery shells for killing people, yet you can win a peace prize in his name in Sweden.
IB: It's all the same. Totally. We are still working together, me and Einar, and it was a very interesting
experience.

AU: I'm so happy that first, Norway decided to choose you. Second, that you had free reign. Third, the product you created and that it has taken hold and found enjoyment in the people of Norway. Kudos to you.
IB: It's cool!

AU: To change gears, what is your most useful piece of guitar equipment?
IB: I mostly have one piece with me, the Fractal AX8, which is where I run everything through. After I
starting using that, it changed everything. Not having to bring a million pedals and patch cables, and
when the sound is displaced, it can be any one of them and it is always the last one you check. So, that
is my most cherished possession besides the guitar itself. It's a good recommendation if you are not one
of those people who does not make a big effort of doing A/V checks on their vinyl and are concerned
of hearing differences in the gear, with digital and analog. If you are like me and can still enjoy a CD of
a band you like, this will be good.


AU: You had some guest players in, which is daring territory for metal bands, and you had Daniel
Mage come in, and play some flute on the track “Feathers of Ioth”. How does one get a guest flute
player?
IB: (laughs) this is good luck on our behalf. He is with a prog band from an island near Bergan where
we live now. We just became aware of them a few years back, they did some gigs at a pub we like to
hang out at and we saw them live. Some friends of ours have a label which has them, and it became
known that their main singer happens to be a brilliant flute player as well. He can do any Jethro Tull
song! So we were rehearsing the song, and our singer Grutle, said “this part should have a flute lead!”
and we knew right away to contact Daniel. We set up a home recording studio and invited him to come
and have a few beers and play. He said “I'm not used to playing metal!” and we said “That's the whole
point!”. This is a point, it doesn't have to be metal. And after 30 minutes, he relaxed and started to play,
and it really suited the piece.

AU: Last words to Canadian metalheads across this frosty land?
IB: It's been a fantastic journey through these years, and Canada was one of the first countries we
played in outside Norway. We played the summer in Montreal, and we have been a lot since then, playing in Quebec, Toronto, Vancouver. Its a really great place of nature, and also the mentality. Right now Canada is a place we are doing very well with our record sales and we want to honour that. We look forward to seeing people in Canada again in February and March.

- ERIK LINDHOLM

Tuesday, 05 September 2017 13:03

INTERVIEW: Neck Of The Woods

Published in Underground News Written by

Neck Of The Woods

Interview by Stepan Soroka

Neck of the Woods have been described as “the most exciting progressive metal band to emerge from Vancouver’s underground music scene in a generation.” If you’ve ever seen them live, you know this is not really an overstatement. I sat down with vocalist Jeff Radomsky and Guitarist Dave Carr on a sunny East Vancouver beach to discuss the band’s upcoming debut full-length.

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