Interview: KAMPFAR
Title: Out of the loneliness

With the successful 2006 comeback release „Kvass“ these convinced Black Metal Vikings could once again put a firm leg the door of the genre.

Accordingly, self-assured in their abilities, the battle-screamer Dolk and his epic horde made themselves not long afterwards to the songwriting for the longed-for album successor.

And these are now proudly present in the form of the new longplayer „Heimgang“. And again, iron followers of atmospheric Viking Metal can enjoy majestically carried songs.

Pragmatic purists, as they have been known since time immemorial, the four participants give free way to their free-spirited playfulness, thus the new plate is accompanied by a distinct range of variants.

Kampfar have also fallen in love with detailed, cursed notes - which opens wide doors for a very refreshing number of surprisingly catchy melodious delights.

When Dolk and his Dutch drummer II13 crossed my path, there was once again a very dynamic development of men's talk.

Please tell a ´bit about yourself and your current situation in life.

Dolk: I have now moved to the total opposite than a bigger city really. I do now live in a small city (by Norwegian standard) more vest called Larvik. And it couldn`t have been better to be honest. Here is life “slow” and one of the best forests, lakes and fjords are to find here! Total Kampfarish! The daily life goes on with Kampfar, girlfriend and house.

II13: For my part I live in The Netherlands, which I’ve done for two years. Fortunately it’s easy to stay connected to Norway, and for gigs it’s actually easier to live here than most other places, as I live close to the centre of Europe. Life is being spent balancing the grinding of daily life and the artistic aspect of being a member of one of my favourite bands.

What do you think of your previous heathen life?

II13: What do you mean previous? A heathen is merely someone who walks against the tide of society and chooses his own path, for his own good. In this perspective all of us in Kampfar stray well away from the life roads people we grew up with have “chosen”.

What are your lifelong dreams?

Dolk: I wouldn`t call it a lifelong dream really. But I have always had a dream/hope for moving to a small place here in Norway called “Hemsedal”. I have a cabin up in the mountains there and I have been there several times each year since I was 5 years old so its almost my second home so to speak. In fact, that was the place almost every lyrics of “Heimgang” also where written. Cause there is something completely unique about that place. So I both hope and guess that I will move up there some time later in life!

II13: My dreams are the same as they always have been, to develop myself, experience life’s many dimensions and learn about the mysteries I have yet to understand.

What kind of personalities do you prefer?

II13: Free minds. People that are able to adapt, people that can be mentor and student in one, people that have a progressive mindset.

Dolk: Can only say that I`m standing totally behind that statement.

Which are the main responsibilities inside Kampfar?

II13: We’ve split the work in the band quite well between us. Musically it’s Thomas that comes up with the melody lines, which him and I then arrange before we record. Dolk takes care of everything vocal related, and Jon brings in his pounding personality and lays down the heaviness. Outside of the music Dolk is responsible for most things related to the label, Jon takes care of visual and internet related things, and I do the booking/concert related work, and travel arrangements.

What are your strengths as musician?

Dolk: My strengths as a musician when you are thinking about Kampfar at least must be that I`m living, thinking and breathing Kampfar 24 hours a day.

II13: I think there are some intelligent musicians in this band. We all focus on making music that speaks to us, and by being honest when we express this people seem to pick up on what we’re saying. We could easily have gone technical and ripped through maniacal blast beat songs with fifty time changes and syncopation all over the place, yet we choose to play music that resonates with our emotions more than our minds. Personally, my strengths as a musician are related to playing musically and leaving my ego behind. The song is the essential part, not whether someone is impressed with my chops. Also, power is an essential part of my musical approach, as this is where the real emotions come out. Wild is better than sterile.

Please give examples of ideas you've had or implemented for the new music of Kampfar!

II13: Changing the beat of a certain part may change the feel of a song massively. An example is the song “Dødens Vee”, which had a tribal like tom beat going on some of it. Replacing that with a straight, hi-hat fuelled beat changed the feel and gave the whole song a lot more energy. Another example is “Inferno”, which is a very linear song compared to most of our other material. It can be likened to “Hat Og Avind” from “Kvass“, as it has this running feel to it, and I was very conscious about keeping it simple and energetic to stay in tune with the great riffs Thomas came up with.

Dolk: For my part have the process for this album been a bit different than it has been for the previous albums. When it comes to the lyrics itself it has been a much heavier process and I have spent much more time in total solitude now during the writing process. The direct texture structure is now done more on it`s own than the case have been on earlier releases. In short words that means that the lyrical rhythm and structure have now been added much more as it`s own song upon the musical songs if you know what I mean. Before the case was much more about adding and adapt the lyrics into the riffs of Thomas` and just follow them in a good way. These time the lyrics and music structure is like two different songs adapting into one unit and that’s definitely something completely new.

Your proudest achievement to date?

II13: My proudest achievement is reaching this point in life, being the person I am because I’ve made the choices I have made in the past. Hopefully I’ll say the same in five, ten or fifty years.

And what are you most proud of at all?

II13: Everything I have created.

What is your biggest regret, and why?

II13: I don’t believe in regrets. You make mistakes, and you learn from them, you put them behind you. Every bad choice I have made has brought me to where I am today. Every fall I’ve taken has given me the strength to face my future in a better way. Hence, regretting anything in my life would mean I wasn’t able to make the best out of the cards I’ve been dealt.

Which are your favourite bands and why?

II13: In the case it’s possible to have a favourite at all, Morbid Angel has meant a lot to me. That said, there is so much good music, some of which goes on the list because of the time of my life when I listened to it, other music because of the impact it still has on me. Morbid Angel’s “Domination” album is in my opinion not their best work, but it’s still so important to me because of the concert I went to when they toured in ’95. That concert showed me how it should be done, and to this day is one of my best experiences in music.

Which are your musical heroes?

II13: A hero is nothing but a glorified image of an ideal. That said, I do have immense respect for the musical skill of people like Gene Hoglan, Trey Azagthoth, Vinnie Colaiuta, Peter Dolving, Carl-Michael Eide and Frank Zappa, to mention a few.

What are the qualities of a good band in your opinion?

II13: There needs to be a unity, and it seems that my favourite music is often created by very different personalities finding some kind of common ground. To use Morbid Angel as an example, the core of the band being David Vincent, Trey Azagthoth and Pete Sandoval, those three guys have very differing personalities and musical preferences, but within the framework of M.A. they create musical magic.

Why do you make this kind of Pagan Metal?

II13: Because this is what comes out when we gather as a group. The style of Kampfar’s music was established 15 years ago, and we stay within a certain frame, but it’s all about expressing ourselves with one common voice.

Where would you like to be in your career five years from now?

II13: Thinking two years ahead is a problem for me, so five years is the distant future. I’d be happy if we’re still all alive and kicking, and if Kampfar is still going strong I know I’ll be very content. The band has developed in so many ways, and I expect it to continue like that until we one day call it quits. Where we’re going only time will tell.

What's your ideal song on the new Kampfar record?

II13: Which of your children is the ideal one? I’m sorry, but I can’t distinguish between these songs as they all have an important place in my life.

What attracted you guys to the current album title „Heimgang“?

II13: The title was something Dolk came up with, and when we heard it we all immediately knew that it would be the name of the new album. It fits with the lyrics and the feel of the album.

Dolk: Of course this album also deals about a lot of topics and myths from the north. But its not fiction or fairytale Metal what we do. The word Heimgang itself is in fact a word that was used here in the North some hundred years ago. The word itself explains the path or connection between our own existing world and the underworld. This specific connection or path was called Heimgang up here at that time. So it’s pure history in fact. When considering this you can say that the whole album is dealing with topics around this theme. Almost 80 % of this album is written lyrically about true events that happen here in the North and events and strong thoughts and beliefs of the dark folkloric stuff people used to believe in hundred of years ago. This is stuff that people have totally forgotten in these days. So you can maybe say that “Heimgang” is a history lesson from the forgotten North then. Hehe.

What do you think about shabby music-industry itself?

II13: The music industry is one of the necessary evils of our world. Without it we couldn’t produce the albums we do, and we’d have to rely on ourselves to reach people around the globe. Of course, there is shit in this business, but I think we manage quite well at navigating our way through it and finding the best path for our band.

What kind of goals would you have in mind if you get a contract with a big major label?

II13: I’d quit the band. Our music does not belong on a major label, and all history has taught us is that Metal and major labels are the road to musical implosion.

What are you looking for in terms of development of musical style?

II13: We go where the music takes us, without planning too much. We could make a detailed plan of how to develop, but we prefer to play what comes naturally to us, and let every album be a snapshot of where we are in life at the time of creation.

How big do you ultimately want to become in music biz?

II13: Personally I have no interest in making it big in any business. I’m into this for my personal pleasure and my need to create, and I couldn’t care less if anybody knows who I am. Making it big is the equivalent of being a celebrity, I’ll be very happy going through life without being a celebrity of any kind.

Dolk: Well there is something here that needs to be cleared out! Kampfar have always been a band that has been true to their roots and the very ground idea of it all. We could have easily gone in a different direction with our music. Unfortunately many people think that if you play Black Metal, you all try to sound like Dimmu Borgir or something. These kinds of statements have really pissed me off through the years. Cause to make things commercial with the music is much easier than people think. If that’s the goal for what “you” want to do with “your” music… well then we don’t speak the same language. Take our new album “Heimgang” as an example… Everything on this album is done and recorded in real time. That means that every thing you hear on this album is actually played by us. Even the drums are played in real time, there is no sound replacements here. People have to be aware of that. Cause to us and me as a musicians this is very important issues of what our music is all about. We could have easily have gone in a more commercial and easy listening direction with our music, it would have been the most easiest thing. But this is, will and have never been our intention with our music. Kampfar is music from the depth of our hearts and it will always be that way. Otherwise I would have done something else than Kampfar. That’s for sure!

Report about a time where you had to deal with conflicts in the Metal genre!

II13: We do this almost every single day. Many places we come to do a show there is a problem of some kind, and then we have to handle it. Diplomacy and a firm conviction in one self helps, as well as knowing what to fight and what to leave. I spend a lot of time with negotiations and there is so much stuff constantly having to be handled that there seldomly is a day without conflict in one way or another. That said, it’s seldom that there is any kind of argument, most conflicts get handled in a positive way.

Dolk: Hehe! Yeah… that’s definitely something we do every day! Also as explained earlier its not only when it comes to lousy business stuff in this genre we have to deal with conflicts, its within the music itself also. That can maybe be of a bigger issue than people think some times.

What's the last book you’ve read?

II13: Just re-read “The Alchemist” and now I’m on “Kafka On The Shore” by Haruki Murakami. Dolk: One of the many great books of Terry Pratchet and the “Diskworld”. Fantasy is something that helps me get away from everything sometimes, So its either fantasy or true historical books that goes in here to be honest.

What (Metal) magazines do you read?

II13: Most metal mags seem to have the same stories for every band, but one very good exception is the Swedish magazine Close-Up. Terrorizer is also mostly filled with well written stories, and as a Norwegian I have to mention as a very important source of information.

Why should listeners buy the newest album CD of Kampfar?

Dolk: In a big danger to say something very cliché here… I say it anyway: because this is the best album so far! Why? Because it has a depth and honesty in the whole outcome of it all, and that is something I think Metal in general misses in today’s scene.

What can you do for the fans with your music that other candidates can't?

II13: I don’t know if we have any qualities that no other band has, but I do know that you won’t find anyone with our sound. We’ve some times been compared to other bands, but reality is that there are no bands I’ve ever heard that sound remotely like us. So in the case that we can bring something unique to the table, it is by being Kampfar.

When were you most satisfied in Kampfar?

II13: Right now. We know each other so well now, and know what to expect, so it’s like a well-oiled machine most of the time. I think we all also feel total freedom when it comes to expressing ourselves within the framework of the band, so it’s a very good period right now.

What are three positive things your other musicians in the band could say about you?

1. Good at finding whatever destination.
2. Good at hitting things.
3. Good at telling people off.

And knowing Dolk’s reluctance to talk himself up, three positive things about him are:
1. A master with words.
2. Great driver.
3. Self sacrificing for the good of the people he cares about.

What negative things would your band colleagues say about you?

1. Shit at relaxing.
2. Shit at singing clean vocals.
3. Very shit at dancing. (Fortunately I never have to.)

If you were an animal, which one would you want to be?

II13: A tiger, any day.

Dolk. Hehe, a bizarre question, but a wolf without doubts!

What spiritual ways in life are you seeking?

II13: I seek my own path, nothing more, nothing less.

Dolk: Follow my own heart, follow my own path… In the Kampfar terms that means… follow the ravenheart! That’s what it`s all about for me!

Do you have plans to have children in the near future?

Dolk: No plans, but yes that may happen!

II13: Personally, no. But Jon has two great kids, so he’s taking care of that bit for now.

There's no right or wrong answer, but if you could be anywhere in the historical world right now, where would you be?

II13: I’d be all alone at Machu Picchu, just hanging out for a couple of weeks, letting my mind travel on it’s own.

What would you do if you won the lottery?

II13: I did, recently. Won € 7,50, spent it on a new ticket. If I win the jackpot I’ll spend most of my life travelling and playing music. Not much of a change from how my life is anyway, really.

© Markus Eck, 23.08.2008

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