All has been very busy in the Kampfar Kamp. Delivering their excellent 7th album Profan at the tail end of last year, it seems like they have hardly stopped since. Hitting the road with Gorgoroth and Gehenna on the back of the album they cut a bloody swathe through Europe, returning home to discover the album had won the Spellemannprisen 2015 award, the Norwegian equivalent of a Grammy. They hardly have any time to rest before heading off on tour again in April supporting Borknagar. These questions were sent out a while ago but they only just managed to find time to reply with their answers. Drummer Ask Tyr kindly fills in the blanks.
AN: Greetings again and congratulations on new album Profan. You seem to be on a roll right now and very prolific, it’s only a year and a half or so since Djevelmakt and you toured on the back of that a fair bit. What’s getting the creative juices flowing at the moment?
Ask: Thank you. Djevelmakt was the first album we wrote with Ole, and that gave us such an injection of inspiration that we had to write more songs almost immediately. The same happened soon after Mare, actually, Ole started making little sketches and we soon realized that he was more than a session guy, so he joined as a full member. Still, back then we needed some time to refine the writing as a group, but by the time we started writing for Profan we knew each other so well that things came out quite easily.
AN: When it comes to writing new material is it something you are constantly thinking about when you are on the road or do you have to get away from that situation and really concentrate on it in your own space?
Ask: For us it’s an isolated thing. At home, at the rehearsal place, in a cabin in the mountains, there needs to be a clear focus only on the creation. On tour everything is so busy and unrestful, that writing becomes hard. Hell, even reading a book is difficult on tour, there is constant movement on the road in a way that does not invite focus and creativity. So performing and creating is separated, that makes everything clearer.
AN: Tell us a bit about the recording process this time around. I believe you went to Abyss/Blacklodge Studios and this was the last time that drums were ever to be recorded there? Were things done in a normal way or do you find yourselves approaching every album differently?
Ask: The recording industry has changed with the music business, as there is less money for recordings now than there were 10 years ago. Hence we no longer hire a studio and a producer for a month and live in that studio bubble for that time, instead it becomes more fragmented. So for the last two albums we recorded strings and keys in Ole’s own studio. He gets the sound he wants there, and it means zero cost recording wise. That means we can travel to Sweden to do the drums in Abyss. For us there is a problem with most drum recordings in modern metal, the majority of the actual drum sound disappears, and there is also this use of “perfect” drums that have great sound but no real identity. Instead we have recorded three albums in this great drum room, using a 30 years old Sonor Phonic Plus kit, the recording engineered by true masters of their craft. Then we moved on to Oslo where we did vocals, which was a connection set up by our label boss, where we worked with the very talented Stamos Koliousis. Mixing was done back at Blacklodge, which is in the same building as Abyss, by Jonas Kjellgren, who is such a solid guy to work with.
As for Abyss, this wasn’t the last recording done there, but the mixing desk that has been there since they started recording in this building was sold off, so our album was the last done on the desk that recorded so many iconic albums.
AN: Did everyone get involved when it comes to composing the music and writing the lyrics on Profan and how import is the collaborative process to you as a band now?
Ask: Writing is a collaborative process, most certainly. Ole leads the charge, and then we do some composing in our rehearsal room here in Bergen, where him and I live. Then when the main structure is in place we go to the mountains and focus on the vocals. So when we start recording the songs are done, but the vocals are only 50% done, the rest comes together in the studio. That part is also highly collaborative. On Djevelmakt I wrote the lyrics for two songs, and performed the lead vocals on them too, but on this album it’s all Dolk, but we worked together and built the vocals in the studio together. Daimon is a good example of that, a song where there was a lot of hitting your head against the wall, but then a small digression lead to all the vocals falling into place within a couple of hours.
AN: One thing that always intrigues are the themes and narrative within the album’s songs. Can you give us any insight into things this time around?
Ask: As you may know we have treated Mare, Djevelmakt and Profan as a trilogy of sorts. It is all centred around opposition and the consequences of that. With Mare it was the witches, the representatives of wisdom and knowledge, and the threat people like that can pose to the established powers. Djevelmakt gets dirtier, symbolized by rats in all their misunderstood glory. Then Profan brings the bleak, the personal, the inner voices and struggles, personified by the Daimon who finds there is no hope. This is an extreme simplification, of course, but it’s not really here we communicate the story or thoughts behind an album, it is actually through the music.
AN: The album has a good split of songs sung in Norwegian and in English. How do you choose what language suits a particular song best?
Ask: That’s really just a song by song thing, what you “feel” while working with a specific song guides you in the right direction.
AN: Speaking of lyrics one thing that jumped out at me was the phrase “Icons Of Filth” used in Icons. Are you aware of the English Anarchist punk band of that name haha?
Ask: Nope, never heard of them. Are you aware of the German band A.O.K.? We played with them once, the venue smelled…
AN: Pole In The Ground is an odd title and trying to decipher that one it strikes as having a particularly Lovecraftian sounding tone but I guess it probably refers to something more in line with Norwegian folklore or legend? Care to explain that a bit?
Ask: When you mark something as your territory you can mark it with a pole in the ground, that is where the story of that song starts.
AN: Musically the first things that struck me on Profan was the power, the glory, the might and the swagger of the tracks. It feels like a more energized album than the last couple, it really delivers a punch throughout and feels like you are untethered and simply going for it. Would you agree? Have the brakes well and truly come off this time around?
Ask: I think the energy was wild, yeah. The whole writing and recording process was just full on, no thinking, just get it out, make it materialize, trust the instincts and let it take the shape it needs to take. And then Profan was the result. I think that we have all reached a level where this expression is a part of us as musicians and performers, this is our collective voice and we speak with fluency and authority in our own musical tongue.
AN: it also feels like the work of a band that is going back to its roots and evolving at the same time. The sum of all your work past and present even. Do you feel it’s important to stay true to your origins and how do you look at your early albums today?
Ask: For me, coming in after the first two albums, Fra Underverdenen is one of my favourite metal albums period. The dark and mentally shaky attitude behind that album runs through every song. Since then we have tried to do different things, and some songs have possibly suffered under a lack of focus, or there have been things holding us back, even though many things have also been great about the albums after the first two. But by the time we did Mare the band was at a crossroads, or more at a cliff’s edge, and we had to either jump out and strengthen everything about the band, or we would have withered and the band would have faded out. We jumped, and that has given us a crisp focus and a massive hunger to take this band where it should be.
AN: It was good to see the return of the didgeridoo, was that a nod to the past and who actually plays it?
Ask: The didjeridoo thing came after we did a couple of shows with Geir Torgersen, who is a practicing shaman, and we were working on this one song that needed a lot of “ground sounds”, lots of guttural noise. So we called him in, he had never done any studio work before but nailed the didj and also did some amazing throat singing that made it onto the track that became Daimon.
AN: Another thing that really makes an impression is that orchestral sound that has crept into a couple of songs recently and the atmospheric use of grand piano. What is the idea behind this and who plays that and what I assume is woodwind on tracks like Icons and Daimon?
Ask: That’s all Ole, he has the grand vision when it comes to these things. The man has such a great creative mind, and an ear for details like these. If it was up to me it would have been more naked and raw, but when he brings these things in it just makes the whole better.
AN: You again dipped back into the work of Zdzisław Beksiński. For the album artwork and it’s certainly a striking cover with more than a hint of malevolence about it. Was it an obvious choice and how do you consider the portrait corresponds with the music?
Ask: I think we say everything we can say about it through combining the music with that painting. Beksiński was a true master of his craft, a man who made no claims outside of painting and moving on to the next one. From his early photo manipulation, via the drawings and paintings, to his later electronic art, the man was one of the great visual artists of all time, up there in terms of power of imagery with the established greats.
AN: You also did your first ever official video, how did this go and what were the ideas behind it?
Ask: We have wanted to do this for a long time, but budgets have meant that we didn’t think anyone could keep up with our vision for a video. That changed when we got in touch with Marcin and Red Pig Productions. He came in and impressed us with how he interpreted our ideas, and what he showed us was far above what we had dared expect. So we have found a great partner there, and we will create more little films to fit our music in the future.
AN: Elementally Profan strikes as FIRE through and through, do you think you have an earth, air and water album to come in the future or have we maybe even been taken through these without knowing in the past?
Ask: Mare is water, both in title and cover art, even if you have to search a little for the latter part. Profan is both fire and earth, really. Wind… Maybe we have to make a special wind album, should be quite easy with some wind chimes dangling in one of our North Atlantic storms. 60 minutes of that and we have a winner?
AN: You are about to head out on tour sandwiched between Gorgoroth and Gehenna, that’s a meaty Norwegian bill. What are your expectations and how do you feel about being in the middle of it compared to being the headline act?
Ask: Yeah, that tour was good for us. It’s the first tour we ever did where we were a support act, but we had a great crew, a 60 minute set most nights, and the audience were keeping up with our energy, so it was killer. The bill itself was great, and especially Gorgoroth were solid is hell every single night. We also played with this Italian band Selvans that everybody should check out.
AN: 2015 has been a year with lots going on in it politically and with recent terrorist attacks just happening things are definitely in turmoil. I know Kampfar are not a political band in the slightest but what is your take on things, do you feel that everything is spiralling out of control at the moment?
Ask: I spend my days either in nature or in the rehearsal room, my opinion on such matters hold no weight. From my limited understanding of anything it seems very few people know anything, and unless they are willing to educate themselves for real, the paranoia and hysteria is far too recognisable to feel like anything is worse than before. Different, yes, the world is always changing, but things stay mostly the same for most people. Fuck terrorists, though. Just don’t go blind and think that terrorists conform to one stereotype.
AN: What in particular has inspired you over the year music, films, the arts, has anything particularly stuck out?
Ask: I find most of my inspiration from other sources than art, but I do find it inspiring to see new bands grow, like Wederganger and Fluisteraars as representatives of the Dutch scene, or Blood Incantation and Velnias from the Boulder, CO scene. Anyone who does something out of honesty and desire, who disregards the resistance in creating something, who keeps on going because they have something to say artistically, that is inspiring.
AN: Anything else you would like to add?
Create! Whatever medium you choose, create, it is the fuel of life.