Hi Pär. How have you been doing these last and silent times for Bergraven? Any news you’d like to give us about the band and related stuff? What are you listening to while answering this by the way?
Hi. I’ve been silent mostly for personal matters but also cause I needed time to write and to create, both with Bergraven and some other stuff I work on. News in the next question. It almost starts to be a tradition to answer interviews and listen to 'Caravans to empire Algol' by Neptune Towers. If I need to change album I tell you during the text.
I recently read you’re already working hard on the fourth album, so I think we could start speaking a bit about that. Can you give us some kind of advance about it? There’s been a huge evolution between every Bergraven release. Will this new recording show as much progression as the previous one or will it stay on the same fields? Which details could you unveil us?
I am working on the fourth album and it’ll be called 'Det framlidna minnet' / 'The deceased memory'. An album about the function of memories and their effect on the/my mind, sometimes nostalgic, sometimes sad and sometimes happy. A subject I’ve been interested in for a long time but now I’ve finally come together with a whole album about it. The music has been further developed and I’ve added new elements both with instruments and with the vocals. Still I have never and will probably never use a synthesizer though. Nothing against people who do but I prefer to create without it. The album is not recorded and there are no dates for it yet either. The songs are 80% ready and rehearsals are taking place irregularly. If there was a strong sound of metal around my past albums I would say that this has developed a more rockier, fuzzier tone but without being anything like straight rock. I want less distortion and people who have heard the demos says its more straight forward, angry and more complicated at the same time. Hard to describe but I guess that would have been the same for Billy Corgan if he was about to describe 'Mellon collie…' before anyone heard it. I wouldn’t even dare to say that this is anything as good as 'Mellon collie…' though. I really hope there will be a release in 2011 but time is hard to find…
Focusing on the previous one, I must say I was heavily surprised to find a better continuation to 'Dodsvisioner', something I thought that couldn’t happen. 'Till Makabert Väsen' showed without any doubt a much more personal way of writing songs and showing your feelings. Does it finally represent the kind of sound you were searching for Bergraven on a global level or is it still just a stop on your way to achieve it? What makes you more proud from that recording?
It’s just another stop on the way. Bergraven is music out of my mind and my mind changes over the years of course so the goal is really a pie in the sky. I remember though having a thought of trying to create music that sounded like certain feelings. The sound of the rays from an autumn sun making a reflection on wet bark. This is of course impossible but to make music and lyrics with a feeling that reminds me of these images have always been a goal. The connection of inner and outer images is very strongly connected to a soundscape I believe and therefore music made with this in mind are often referred to as atmospheric.
With 'Till makabert väsen' I think I managed to develop new song structures. Songs with refrain but still not a verse chorus verse structure. A more complex way of building the songs but still not for the sake of making it complex, instead rather the opposite.
That third album was released by Hydra Head Records, which already took care of the american version of 'Dodsvisioner'. It's surprising to see how they suddenly started releasing Black Metal bands that had an experimental edge, as before that they used to release Post-Hardcore and Grind bands. Were you a fan of the label or some of their bands before you signed with them? How is it to work with Aaron Turner and what did it contribute to Bergraven? Are you an Isis fan? What do you think about their split?
HydraHead has helped Bergraven in the way that they have understood the things I explained to them and been most kind helping out in any way. Aaron must be the least narrow minded person I know (even though we have our strong opinions about Fleetwood Mac and only one of us likes them, wanna guess who?) and from that my ideas have never been turned down or argued against in any unserious way. When it comes to layout Aaron and the Hydra crew are top notch.
I knew about the label before but didn’t think much about them or what bands they released. Isis was a great band especially live but they decided to call it a day.
When it comes to the composition of your songs (on the second and third album), and even if I think Black Metal had a big impact on you, I find a lot of references to bands from the seventies who didn’t focus on one technique or specific sound, but more on how to give a song the right progression and feeling. How much importance do you give to a certain technical degree? Is it above or below feeling when you're writing a riff or song?
The feeling and the atmosphere is priority one, ALWAYS. But sometimes to achieve a certain feeling you need to experiment with complex techniques. Talking about vocals is much more understandable here. Imagine someone recording vocals without any personal touch to his or hers voice, it would be dead boring and even if they are virtuoso singers it doesn’t help to mediate the true feeling behind the lyrics. You need to be personal and that can be either by feeling, virtuoso or both. It’s the same with the music I make, I try to make things personal and related to what I feel. Douglas P with his voice is as important to the music of Death In June as Tom Verlaine’s guitar (and vocals) is in Television. You see what I mean? Personal sound to create atmosphere can be as much dependent as independent on musical skills. Very interesting subject but I can’t write an essay here…
I'm speaking about those two albums because your first one, 'Fördärv', is much more focused on Black Metal, although it started to show some experimentation. Why or how did you decide to take that alternative way and search for a less usual sound? Did you get bored of a style which started to get so much attention, did you discover new musical horizons or you simply needed to explore yourself through music?
A little bit of all. I’ve always listened to almost all kinds of music and sooner or later it will affect the music I make I guess. The thing you refer to here as black metal influence was never enough, I wanted more even then but wasn’t brave enough I guess.
You seem to be a big fan of seventies experimental stuff, as I've been reading a bit on your myspace (and now on your musical blog). How much did that music influence yours? Do you think nowadays music really pushes the limits as much as sometimes we think, or the most of those ideas were already created before Metal even existed? Which artists especially drag you from that era? Was did those influences bring to your way of conceiving music?
Music is experienced very different depending on how or why you make and/or consume it. I’ve never been much into dance music of any kind and I’ve spend hours wondering why. It can’t only be because I’m not a dancer of any kind, is it then something in how the music was made that doesn’t attract me? If the purpose of the music is to be danced to and I don’t dance then of course it’s pointless listening to it, or is it? This has been largely ignored when people talk about music and its development nowadays I think. Every album can’t be for everyone and my music and the stuff I like is not expected to be liked by everyone and for every purpose someone consume music. There was amazingly many things happening in the 70s but I will not be an ignorant pessimist and say that it doesn’t happen today, except when drunk and/or ironic, ha! I think and hope there are a lot of things going on that I don’t know of but I’m still trying to understand the development and the things happening in the 60-70s. I was born with a record player playing the 4 first albums from Queen, the Swedish soundscape composer Ralph Lundsten, Vangelis, C.C.S., Redbone, Charlie Parker (a very necro live recording!!) and I still haven’t finished of listening and trying to understand all of this. Of course I got into black metal and all other stuff later but never changed my musical taste just added acts to it. I own about 2000 records and only about 100 is up for sale so I think my taste has been very stable recent years, though I’m always hungry for new stuff. [Putting an Limbonic Art rehearsal from 1995 on the turntable]
Metal is and have always been a very narrow minded art of expression and that is actually one of the things I like about it in a way. When many metal acts start to call themselves experimental or progressive it is always very much from their own view and not from the eventual style or type of music they add impressions from. They want their music to be looked upon as a collaboration of styles and/or what not. But the main failure as I see it is that it doesn’t blend very well. I mean just as metal has its history every other genre has it as well and that can’t be ignored if you want to incorporate new elements to the music. I don’t say that I have succeeded with this myself or that I haven’t been a victim of the things I describe, but I’ve seen it happened A LOT of times during my years interested in metal music and now I’m fed up actually and mostly listen to the older and/or more ignorant bands who manage to do their thing very well instead of trying to achieve something I think they can’t handle.
Uhu… long answer there and still I think I haven’t said it all, hope you get the point cause there’re still many question down this screen to be answered.
Sometimes I have the impression that people into intense styles of music (Metal, Punk or any other form...) tend to loose the hability of apretiating a softer kind of music, and that drives them not to be able to understand the darkness or depth of feelings other forms of music can have. What do you think about that?
Again if your purpose listening to music is to experience a feeling of darkness etc only you can tell where you find that and in what genre or by what act. I for myself can’t name very many metal acts that makes me experience darkness. I don’t think most people into metal are in it for the dark side of it, I mean the history of metal tells us another story and it shall not be forgotten that you have to specify what you mean by darkness as well. If people miss out on “softer” music because of their liking to metal music only I think it shows even more that it’s not the feeling of darkness but instead the metal music (violence, aggression, anger etc….) itself that is appealing to them. [Putting Rare Bird’s debut Rare bird on the turntable]
A fast choosing one, please let me know which had a bigger influence (if they had any) on Bergraven and why. Which one of them would you like to cover the most on one of your albums?:
THANKS!!!, how I’ve longed for this namedropping nerdy questions nobody ever asks me!
Burzum or Shining: Burzum.
Shining was on their way up when Bergraven started out and I listened to their 7” and first two albums many times but I think maybe only something in the sound may have inspired me. The clear guitars on their second album are very cold and good sounding. Burzum is a major influence and if nothing else for the amazing atmosphere in the sound and vocals. I really like the new album as well.
Ved Buens Ende or Fleurety: Fleurety
Ved Buens Ende was a brave band and I really like their music but I think Fleurety was even braver and their debut album and the “last minute lies” mcd have been played thousands of times at my home. I also think that the atmosphere on the VBE album Written in waters is created equally by the three members of the band because none of them have ever sounded that good elsewhere. It’s hard to tell what band had the biggest impact on me here but I chose Fleurety mostly because of the amazing dynamic used on the Min tid skal komme album.
King Crimson or Hawkwind: King Crimson
King Crimson is a very interesting band in the way that they have never stopped being progressive like almost all other bands who call themselves progressive. I mean progressive music isn’t a genre in the way that it sounds in a particular way but instead it is meant to be progressive and that has been largely ignored by progressive followers. I think the works by the band at the time Adrian Belew joined is their most influential to me (Discipline, Three of a perfect pair and Beat). But of course Larks’ tongues in aspic and Red are major influences. I really appreciate Adrian Belew’s solo work as you may have noticed on my blog. He also recorded the Lodger album with David Bowie in 79 and that is truly a killer! Hawkwind is an amazing band up until the album Warriors on the edge of time (which I also keep as the best of their releases). I would very much like to cover all of the songs on this album or maybe the first song “The psychedelic warlords (disappear in smoke)” from the previous album Hall of the mountain grill. Such a groove and also a feeling of heavy despair and angst.
The Cure or Joy Division: Joy Division
I chose Joy Division here even though the Cure have been well listened to as well. The atmosphere Joy Division created is the differing matter, “The eternal” their best song ever. My favorite song by the Cure though must be “The figurehead” from the album Pornography.
Radiohead or Sigur Ros: Radiohead
Radiohead is the only band I’ve been listening to from these two. I saw Sigur Ros live at the Roskilde Festival some years ago but it was nothing for me. Radiohead have made some really good songs and experimented with dynamics in a very influential way. I’ve mostly listened to the Ok Computer album I think.
Katatonia or Anathema: Anathema
I remember I bought the mcd Jhva Elohim Meth by Katatonia many years ago and really really liked it. It is very unpretentious but has a lot of soul to it. Their best release though must be The sounds of decay mcd and after that I haven’t really listened to them. Anathema totally blew me away the first time I heard them. I mean what singer could ever sound more desperate than Darren White did on their early releases. I think Anathema have learned me to arrange songs, their way of changing riff and building up a song is very unique. After Eternity in 1996 I haven’t been listening to them though.
Nick Cave or Tom Waits: Tom Waits
Both of these guys have been very interesting during their long careers but I haven’t really followed either of them. I have some albums by both but not that I collect anything by them. When the album Mule variations by Tom Waits was released I listened to it day and night and I really love the sound of it and some of the songs are truly brilliant. Nick Cave have mostly impressed me live, I’ve seen him two times. One time with The Bad Seeds and one time without and he do really believe in what he does in a professional way. I remember mostly Caves work with The Birthday Party as something of an influence but hmm not that much to be honest.
Focusing on the lyrical side of Bergraven now, all your recordings seem to have some relation with death (as far as I could understand something). Death always fascinated human being, and is a constant in extreme Metal. But, on a personal level, is there a special reason why you chose it as a vehicle for your inspiration? Have you had any close experience which influence Bergraven in any way? What do you think about all the bands who speak easily and in a cheap way about that subject?
I think I have a healthy curiosity towards death. I mean it would be strange not to wonder if you aren’t religiously (or otherwise) convinced about what’ll happen to you when you die. Death is a serious matter and it’s a part of life, I don’t judge people who make fun of it or joke about it cause I think your relation with death and the closely connected feeling of grief is utterly personal and can’t be taken away of even affected by others. I have encountered death but nothing more than many others so I guess I just have a need to express my feelings and wonder about it in the amount I have done with Bergraven.
Melancholy seems to be the most important feeling your music brings to the listener. From the music itself to your voice (I can’t say about the lyrics as they're in swedish), everything spreads a high amount of that feeling, which is absolutely related to death, about which we were speaking before. Is that feeling the only one from which you feel able to write music? Which is the best mood or situation in which you start building Bergraven's music and, especially, lyrics? What's the real source of your songs, from which you start working: lyrics or music?
I don’t think melancholy and death are that close connected. Melancholy can be a good thing and uplifting in a way but when is death so, if not as a release from incurable pain and illness? I think melancholy is mostly a feeling of accepting the way things are and getting ok with them. It is not necessarily something depressive, which is an illness, I try to see it more like some kind of equanimity towards the life I live. And therefore it doesn’t bring me down the way it’s normally talked about.
A Bergraven song usually starts out with a lyrical idea or a concept that I try to portrait musically. I then add lyrics and riffs/chord progressions piece by piece to make describe the initially thought I had. This has been the process throughout the past 3 albums and also done now for the fourth. I write other music for some kind of a “solo album” as well but there are the melodies more important when I start making a new song.
Do you have any classical influence on that side, from writers or any specific book? What's more important in your point of view, the final message or the way of transmiting it to the listener/reader?
Don’t really get this question but If I understand you correct you’d like to know If I’d been inspired by any classical writers? If so the answer is yes. I’ve been reading a lot of old Swedish literature over the years. The classics of Strindberg, Lagerlöf, Lagerqvist always made impression on the reader. I also like to read Dostoevsky and other more philosophy oriented writers like Sartre and Camus. There are so many classic books that I haven’t had the time to explore more “underground” literature. And also there is the lack of time to read.
If I understand the other part of question correct you want to know whether I prefer lyrics to be correctly interpreted or that the words are more enigmatic and feels/sounds right? I definitely prefer the enigmatic and not easily understandable lyrics. I think they have to have a feeling to them instead of being correct so that a message is interpreted in a single way only. When I talk and write otherwise I am a person obsessed with trying to avoid misinterpretations but when it comes to my lyrics I prefer to hear that people have different opinions about them.
Let's focus on other things now. These last years I feel like some extreme Metal bands (especially Black/Dark ones) are again focusing on searching new limits for their music, and taking a lot of influences from Post-Rock, Prog'Rock or slower/more experimental music, which is great in my oppinion after a decade of "keyboards black vs trve black". What's your opinion about this and, on a more global level, the health of extreme Metal music? How much interested are you about the Black or Death Metal scene in these days and what do they lack of in your opinion?
Hmm I haven’t been following the metal scene for some years now so I can’t really answers this. I find bands from time to time that I chose to listen to but that is mostly tips coming from friends who are still into the scene. New bands I like worth mention are stuff like Jex Thoth and Cauchemar but they aren’t particularly dark or metal so that might not make any sense in this qeustion. I am not very interested in the metal scene anymore so I prefer not to talk about it in a global perspective.
I recently bought the first album of Whirling, a project of A from Armagedda, on which you contributed with the harsh vocals. I liked it a lot since the very beginning because of it's obvious Ved Buens Ende influence. How did you end participating on it? Is it some kind of tribute to that band, as far as you know? It really seems to be. What's your opinion about the album?
Whirling (then called Faceless Phenomena) is something I and A talked about many years ago and he and I made some demo stuff but never got to record it properly. Later on A started to record it and I ended up there to make some vocals and I also wrote some lyrics. It is not meant to be any tribute but I agree that it sounds like some kind of longing for a band that doesn’t exist anymore. I and A are friends but we live too far away to make recordings very often, he is a talented creator of atmospheric music so I hope there will be more collaborations some day.
Do you think Avantgarde/Prog Metal would be the same without the existence of Ved Buens Ende? What did they bring to it? What's your oppinion about Virus by the way?
Like said above I think VBE were a brave band because they come from the extreme metal underground but their influences came partially from other sources and that haven’t always been very welcome. I think VBE played only a small part in the development of something called Avantgarde/prog. The album wasn’t much hyped when released so there must be other sources that made people open their eyes this day. Virus’ debut was good but I never bought the second cause I found it a bit boring. Can’t really tell why but it just didn’t appeal to me the way Carheart did. It sounded a bit like a prequel if you see what I mean?
[The 2nd Mountain album Nantucket sleighride from 1971 made its way to the turntable, not only because it’s a brilliant album, but also cause they’re attending the town where I live today. Needless to say I’ll be there!]
I've been reading a bit your blog, which started on Bergraven's myspace but recently moved to http://oldwindslive.blogspot.com/, in which you post some reviews or opinions about old recordings which are, mostly, far from Metal. Don't you feel all the internet revolution has become a really important and easy tool for music obsessives like us, to discover bands and recordings which would have taken us years to follow and find on any format? What's your opinion about those who criticise that and say the underground has lost its magic because of it? Is it the fault of the internet or of how people use it?
I don’t care what the old underground people say actually. If good music is spread to people who like it I can’t see the problem. If a band doesn’t want to be listened to there’s no point in recording anything and release it. Internet is free to use or not and if some wants to spreading words about music outside it, please go ahead. Humans are lazy in their nature in the sense that if they can achieve something easier than before they do it. It’s much cheaper to read a blog and maybe download music than it is to do compilation tapes and send around the world. I know that this also has to do with dedication and that people, sometimes even myself, finds pleasure in making these old tapes. I guess you have to live with the times and the possibilities and choices given to you.
Last but not least,I'd like to know if the plans to bring Bergraven to the live experience are still on your head or you forgot that? Do you think it can be possible to bring the kind of vibes and athmosphere of an album such as “ Till Makabert Väsen” to a stage?
I don’t know but I want to play live still. It takes time get things together and I don’t know If I have all that time. If I play live I will not even try to achieve the atmosphere from an album, I will try to make something else out of it. A live situation is unique every time and I don’t think trying to recreate the album on stage is something to even strive for. A band is not somebody’s iPod and therefore things will not sound as you might expect it to.
Ok Pär, I hope it hasn't been too boring to answer to all these questions of mine. And I hope I'll be able to get that new Bergraven album very soon. Good luck with all your future projects. If you want to add anything else, go on.
Thank you and I it has not been boring. When I find the time I actually like to answer interviews. Good luck yourself in the future. /P. Gustafsson
Gia Thanatos is a webzine dedicated to music for the apocalyptic times. No matter the scene or genre it comes from, and mainly chosen according to its author's taste.