Congratulations with your sophomore album 'The Death Of A Rose'! It left me in awe and therefore we like to introduce the band a bit more to our readers by following questions… How are you and how are the reactions on the album so far?
I'm very well thank you. We have received some fantastic reviews so far. I'm very happy with the sound of the album, and the reaction from fans. It's nice to know that what we do is of some interest to people.
As I found out the band was founded in 2005 by you (Greg Chivers). What were the intentions with the upcoming band at that time and what can we see as main influences?
When I started the Fornost Arnor, we played symphonic black metal band, much like early Dimmu Borgir. I was always heavily into black metal and that was pretty much all I listened to. When the original Fornost Arnor line-up went their separate ways, I branched out my musical tastes. And with that, a new line-up formed… with a new, more progressive sound. I wanted to keep the name as it was already established in my local area.
What did you achieve in the time between the foundation and now that we hear 'The Death Of A Rose'?
The music is far more technical nowadays. We've set out to be experimental and to try new things, but, at the same time, make sure the music is memorable. We now have two albums with major distribution backing. The sound has changed a lot but that's something that will always happen with a band like Fornost Arnor. We'll always be evolving and experimenting with new ideas and sounds.
The lyrics on your debut 'Escaping The Abyss' should deal with a personal conceptual theme. Can you tell a bit more about that?
Yeah, it's very close to my heart and in a lot of ways. I can't stand playing some of the songs from it. I was very close to someone, for whom I gave up everything. Even though, at the time, I didn't realise how much. The original Fornost Arnor line-up had collapsed during this time, but I was happy and didn't care. Like all good things, it all went tits-up (so to speak) and I was left with nothing. The result of it saved me though. I picked up my acoustic guitar and wrote 'Escaping The Abyss'. The album was something I had to do, it was written for closure.
I think the band went through a couple of line-up changes after their debut release. Can you tell a bit more about the people who worked on 'The Death Of A Rose' I think most of them are active on more than one level in music business and thus multi-talented?
Myself, James Last, Will Hall and Sam Austen are the current line-up. After the album has been pre-written, our producer, Sam Wale, puts forward additional ideas, adding layers to the individual tracks, giving the album a bigger, better and more complete sound. We have additional vocals provided by Elle Tory and Jon Phipps. Both of whom are experienced with in the music industry. We're more than happy to allow Elle and Jon to contribute ideas as well. It's always great to hear what people from outside the four of us think. You have the opportunity to expand your music so much more.
What about live experiences in the past for Fornost Arnor?
We have done a few shows, which have gone down extremely well. Unfortunately, the reality is that we all have full-time jobs. We all live in the real world, unlike a lot of bands, it seems. We have to put our lives first. Having said that, we're currently rehearsing for a couple of shows in November. It's something we all really want to do. It's just finding the time for work and the band.
And in the meantime, what does Fornost Arnor mean and why this choice for the band name? Is there more influence in your lyrics/works from Tolkien or only the band name?
I do love Tolkien's work. How someone can bring an imaginary world like that to life is unbelievable, I was just really into it. Fornost always seemed like it had the most interesting people. It was necessary to add 'Arnor' as I believe there is a German black metal band called Fornost. Someone got a bit funny with us for being called Fornost a few years back because we weren't 'true' black metal, which made us laugh. The addition of the 'Arnor' part makes it sound a lot cooler I think.
Well, although certainly a signature sound, Fornost Arnor sometimes make me think of Opeth (and I am not the only one) How do you cope with this comparison?
Ah… not another comparison. That's how it makes me feel. Okay, I can understand where people are coming from. It's an achievement, I feel. No one ever gets told they are like Opeth. They are extremely talented; it makes me proud that people think we are talented as well. It does get to me a bit though. We are a lot faster, probably more technical if I'm honest. When I get to work on writing the next album, it will be a progression of 'The Death of A Rose'. I don't think people will be mentioning it again, with a bit of luck, as we will have further developed our own sound by then.
Can you tell a bit more about the lyrical topics on 'The Death Of A Rose'?
It will take me forever. In short, I feel the part of the world I'm from is falling apart. No one has any pride; it's a very negative vibe over here. Our media forces us to believe what they want us too.
I saw a nice video of 'Nameless Fear', so please tell us about your activities of making images for your wealthy music…
It's something we should do more of. Again, it's finding the time to do it, finding the right balance between the band, work and life away from the band. It's very important to keep the band active though; I'm working on a few more video clips at the moment, some of us playing live, some of us rehearsing etc.
Are there plans to play live in future?
Yeah, we will be playing at the end of the year in the UK. I really want to play in mainland Europe and Scandinavia though. I think our sound is more accepted over there than it is in the UK. At least that's the feeling we are getting. We don't really fit into any current musical trends that are popping up in the UK at the moment.
Both albums are released on your own label, Witch-King Records. Was it a decision on purpose to maintain the DIY mentality or was it a necessary evil? Are you looking for some label support in future?
To be honest, since I have been involved in the music industry, I haven't witnessed a great deal that makes me want to sign to a label that is separate from the band. Plus, I'm not expecting to be approached by any major labels at the moment either... They may want to surprise us however, you never know. We are never going to be a 'fashionable' band, so to speak. We don't really have that 'metal' look either, or where costumes and all that sort of thing. We are only here for one thing, the music. Record labels want to make money out of bands, and, I'm not in the music business to do that. CDs are so overpriced these days, and I can understand why people download music for free, you have to accept that to some extent. If you price your CDs at £15, for example, no one will buy them… and people wonder why records stores aren't selling CDs in the quantities they used to ten years ago. If I can break-even with what it costs to make the album and promote it, then that's all I ask. I can dictate how much we sell the album for, when to make an album, and how long I have to write it. There is nothing better than that. We price our albums quite low and make them available from our own Witch-King Records Webstore. That way, there is more incentive for someone who wants to check us out to grab a copy of one, or both, of our albums. People haven't got the money to be spending £15-plus on a CD. As I mentioned earlier, we do have a major distribution deal in place in addition to this, and our CDs are available in a lot of other stores online, some reasonably priced, some less so, unfortunately.
Fun fact: the band is named after the capitol of Arnor, a kingdom of the Dunedain, where you label is named after their arch enemy, the Witch-King of Angmar. Care to explain this contradiction?
Ah… very good. I am a big fan of his work, as I mentioned earlier. It's such an amazing world that is created. It's got a lot to do with the whole 'good and evil' thing… it reflects the musical compositions.
To end this little Tolkien related sidestep: How did you guys liked the movies by Peter Jackson, and what do you expect from his coming feature: The Hobbit?
The films are fantastic, even though the CGI looks really dated already. 'The Hobbit' should be just as good. I'm glad they are still filming in New Zealand.
What are the plans for the near future in general?
Play more gigs and write the follow-up to 'The Death of A Rose'… and hope nobody mentions Opeth this time! To be honest, there are worse bands we could be compared to, right?
And to occlude: how and at what age did you ever get into music and finally metal? Did you have some lessons or autodidact? How did your taste develop through the years?
I have always been into music. And nearly every genre… Brit-pop, rave, indie, pop, the list goes on. Even now there isn't a lot I don't listen to. Metal is something that, in all honesty, I actually listen to the least nowadays. I started playing guitar in about 1998. I never took it too seriously though. I never wanted to learn technical pieces. I've always been happier writing my own music rather than simply playing other peoples music. I got into metal about eleven-twelve years ago. It started with bands such as Sepultura and Fear Factory. I moved on to Cradle of Filth and Dimmu Borgir. From there I was heavily into black metal… Dark Throne, Marduk, Gorgoroth etc. Nowadays though, I'd rather just chill out to some Eddie Vedder and play my acoustic guitar.