Hi guys! Congratulations with your excellent debut album ‘Ett Fjärran Kall’. Let us introduce Fornhem with this interview. How are you doing at the moment?
S: Thank you for your kind words and support! I’m doing fine. More than fine actually because of the overwhelming positive feed-back that we are receiving for our album. An ego-boost for sure. I am Solbane and I play guitar and other string instruments in Fornhem. I will answer your questions but Vaftrudner (drums and vocals) will answer some questions as well.
In 2013 Fornhem was founded. How did you meet each other and how did the idea to create your own music developed?
S: Vaftrudner made an ad where he was searching to join or start a new band and he put it up in the music store in the city where we live (Norrköping, Sweden). Shortly thereafter I went to that store and spotted the ad. I got interested and contacted him. Initially we meet to form another band or to play another style of music. However, those plans folded and instead we slowly began to shape what became Fornhem. While rehearsing and talking about music in general and discussing what we could play, it soon became obvious that we had a shared love for the minimalistic, meditative, repetitive, almost hypnotic music of Burzum and other musical acts that deal with similar things. We tried it out and realized we could make it work and create such music of our own. After a while we more or less unconsciously added the folk music influences to be incorporated into the music. And the rest is history as they say…
Is Fornhem your first band or did any of you have some experience in other bands before?
S: I joined my first band in the early nineties and have been in various bands ever since then basically. But it’s the first time I’m in a band that is a duo. I have played different styles such as punk rock, classic rock, blues, heavy metal, thrash metal, black metal and now adding black metal with folk music influence to the list! Not that I am famous or anything but Meadow In Silence and The Grand Trick got some recognition back in the day and can still be found in different place on the net.
What were your initial musical influences, the spark that gave you the intention to create music and please give us your thoughts about turning this into a very personal interpretation…
S: I think it must have been Beatles or Deep Purple that got me hooked when I was merely four or five years of age. I liked the sounds, the songs and the performance of those and other bands. You know, they looked cool and it looked so interesting to sing and play in front of thousands of people! I also learned early on that those bands created their own music (while also playing some covers) and for me creating music has always been more interesting and fascinating then to play other people’s music. I think that bands such as Beatles, Deep Purple and many other bands were pioneers in many aspects, but for me the most important aspect has always been how those bands managed to combine so different sounds and music styles and make them into a whole. That has always inspired me to combine different types of music when I create my music. Fornhem is after all a mix between black metal, meditational and folk music with a little touch of classic metal/rock.
Lyric-wise you also have interesting topics. Can you go deeper into subjects like old Norse mythology, history, poetry and the mysteries of nature and the specific way you use these topics in Fornhem?
V: The Norse mythology has interested me ever since I was a kid and got in touch with it at school. When you grow older, you don´t get to read that much about it though in school so I´ve studied it on my own and a bit at university. I find that the overall attitude towards the subject, both in school and in the academia, is that the Norse mythology is somewhat of a childish fantasy story with giants, trolls, gods and magic. It´s a subject where there is always a touch of smirking at, even though you try to deal with it seriously in those departments and that you take the written sources (which were all written by Christians, not to forget) literally. I think that´s stupid. In my view religious or mythological texts should never be taken literally, then you miss the points. I suppose that´s why I found it interesting to see how the subject was treated in the occult area. The people there dig deeper between the lines and unearth new perspectives, which I find interesting, especially Ekortu´s books.
For this album I used the Norse mythology as a lyrical frame, but I don´t necessarily see that as a constant theme in our music making. The Swedish (and Norse) poetry has been my main inspiration and I feel the urge to explore the Swedish poetry more. Maybe put music to a couple of my favourite poems or write somewhat different lyrics which deal with existential questions, not necessarily clad in Norse mythology. We will see…
S: We write all these things about old times, history, mythology and nature and so on. It would be easy perhaps to conclude about us that we are some nationalists or national romantics and that we are longing for “the good old days”. However, I think we are not like that. Rather we are melancholy dreaming of places and times that neither of us have ever experienced and perhaps never have existed except in our minds and fantasies. It is a longing, or pining, for something, for sure, but it is a fantasy…
How do you look back at the writing process of the lengthy songs? How do you filter the ideas to keep that momentum alive, because in despite of the length your music is very dynamic…
S: Well, obviously, we have filtered quite much of riffs, chords, beats and song structures. We are really determined when it comes to evaluating the quality of our music. Good enough is not good enough for us if you understand what I mean!? The songs have become quite different from where they started. Usually I have a riff or some chords or V has an idea of what he would like to hear and then we try it. We work on the songs until we feel that they are finished. And that can take a while! I do not doubt that we have worked for more than a year with some of the songs on the album. We rehearse the songs, record them to listen to at home and I try out various ideas for a second, third and fourth guitar and possible other instruments and I start to practise that and record together with the rehearsal recording so that me and V can get a feeling for how the songs will eventually sound. Then V ponders the lyrics and we also evaluate the recordings. Maybe we should play another riff there or use another drum beat or maybe we should add something here or repeat a part in the song for much longer? For instance the song ‘Úrdjupets Svärta’ had a completely different part in the middle section of the song. We liked it but didn’t feel that is was the right thing for Fornhem to use and we just knew we could come up with something more fitting. So instead we worked up a completely new part for the middle section and that proved to be something of a favourite section for many including ourselves.
Can we see nature as a kind of catalyst between ideas and result? In this respect, can you tell a bit more about the environment you grew up in and how it shaped your identity?
S: Well, I was born and raised in a city and I lived most of my life in various cities here in Sweden. But I really like the nature and take walks and hikes and just look at and experience the wonderful nature. However, in a way I think that living in the city and having these longing feelings toward nature maybe creates something special!? I mean, by not being in nature the longing to be in nature makes it possible, for me at least, to create the music, sounds, lyrics and vistas that we make up in Fornhem. If I lived in a cabin in the woods I probably wouldn’t get the impetus to create this kind of music or have such longing feelings for nature and pasts long gone (or totally made up!) Does that make sense? Maybe not… Anyway, I can’t explain it better than that…
V: I grew up in a small town right by the sea. I´ve spent much of my time in the archipelago and in the nature surrounding this small town. When I was young and felt that one can conjure up the experiences I got from being close to nature (by discovering Bathory´s Nordland albums for example) a craving of creating music was born. Needless to say, it took many years before a result of this craving was realised, but I now feel that with this album I fulfilled myself in some way.
Folk influences pop up in the quieter moments, but not the cheerful jolly variant. Can you tell how you see this folk vibe personally?
S: I hate cheerful music in general and especially cheerful folk music! We can absolutely not have any happy music in Fornhem. That’s not what we are about. Sad, atmospheric, darkly emotional folk music is perfect for us. I like those mournful sad little melodies that come from loss or longing or heartache and so on. I would say that folk music is integrated everywhere in the music not just the quiet parts. Basically, folk music can be played on any instrument I think and the main reason we are using folky sounding instruments like horn, acoustic guitar, mandola and psaltery is to create dynamics in the songs and in sound. I think it sounds good to incorporate instruments that are not noisy in this type of music since it creates not only the dynamics that I’ve mentioned but also the lineage from the times of old.
What struck me: not only black metal is your guidance, but also classic rock elements, surely audible in bass playing in the title track for instance. Can you tell a bit more about this segment in your music?
S: I think that the classic rock influence is more of a hidden aspect of our music. For me personally, I grew up on the music from the late 60’s and early 70’s because of my parents. You could say it’s in my blood and I think it automatically influences the way I play guitar and the way I think about music. That being said; all types of music are connected and all metal stems from the core of blues-based hardrock so such an influence is only natural, I think. Sometimes that simple truth about music and metal is forgotten or over looked… By the way, the ultimate minimalistic band is AC/DC, am I not right!?
The title track which occludes the album is my favourite. It has a kind of catchiness and dynamics I can hardly put my finger on, on the other hand even horns are used, etc. Well, can you tell a bit more about this composition?
S: That particular song is based on two chord sequences and it’s very simple at its core. Dm, Am, Cm and Gm for the first part of the song and Em and D on the second part of the song (the Burzum part at the end). That is the whole thing! Then I use different playing techniques chord arpeggios, tremolo, variations on the themes, and adding melodic parts on the second and third guitars and so on.
V: The process of this song was very interesting for me as a drummer. I tried to keep it as simple as I could, still doing some small variations to create the feeling (or illusion?) that the song is moving forward while Solbane maintains the same basic riffs. When we played this song I had somewhat of shamanistic sensations, time seized to be and so did the world, you are just in it in that moment. I understood something the philosopher Joseph Campbell once said: “Eternity is here and now”. It took some time to get some inspiration for the lyrics for this one, but when it came I wrote the lyrics right away without a pause. I don´t even think that I´ve changed them. Some people might read some nationalistic undertones since I paraphrase a bit of the Swedish national anthem in my lyrics for this one, but that´s not my main intention. As Solbane stated above, we are far from nationalists. I wanted to use that in a different way, in my mind the lyrics are about an old man who feels that the old wisdom of living close to nature is forgotten. New ideas and thoughts of “civilization” are destroying this world. He craves to join his forefathers and do not wish to be in this world anymore with all its stupidity, so in a very romantic setting he drowns himself.
The production is ace (and this is sometimes tricky in the genre you play I think). Please tell us about your recording adventures with Erik Wärn and Devo…
S: We think the production is ace, too! Thanks a lot to Erik Wärn and Devo for creating such ugly but beautiful sound for us! I think that they both have good ears for sounds and what goes together or not, but they also had a huge respect for what we wanted to achieve in terms of sound, atmosphere etc. Obviously we wanted a bit of rawness from the old school black metal with more natural sounding drums (no typewriter clicks here!) and guitars that aren’t exactly thin but definitely not thick and down tuned. But at the same time we didn’t want it be too noisy and sounding a bit pretty almost. At least to our ears it sounds a bit pretty but I know some people think it sounds too lo-fi and noisy and old school. Well, what can I say? You can’t please everyone and we aim to please ourselves in the first place!
What about the search for a label to release the album? How did the contact with Trollmusic come into being?
S: We actually searched for a label that suited us and that were interested in us for some time and we were very close to stop looking and releasing the album by ourselves. Luckily we got in contact with Thor at Trollmusic who gave our album and our thoughts a good long time to bloom in his mind. He got interested, obviously, and we started to discuss the terms of releasing the album through Trollmusic (and Prophecy Productions). The collaboration with Thor has worked really well this far and we are more than satisfied.
I know you are not playing live, but are there any plans to do it someday?
S: We are not against the idea of playing live. We are not a real band, since we are only two, so playing live would require some more musicians; drummer, bass player, three or four guitarists… but it’s not impossible that it will happen since we have discussed increasing the line-up for Fornhem just recently. However, making new songs for a new album is our main priority!
What about the visual support for your music? Any plans for video clips (or in this case more soundtracks hehe since the songs are long)? Some words about the artwork would be nice as well, because I found out that some personal photos are used in the layout and so on…
V: Well, so far the visual aspects of our music have been my photos. Sure, I had some ideas for some kind of video in my mind, bits and pieces, but nothing we spoke of realising yet. So far, I think my photos represent our music in a justifiable way. My idea was to find some motives that worked well together with the lyrics and the music and the overall concept of nature. I´m really satisfied with the result especially after Dan Capp´s editing. I think we have managed to produce a really beautiful release!
What are the plans for the near future?
S: Promoting the album and create new songs and rehearse them… and also to drink beer and meditate!
If there is anything you’d like to add, feel free to do it right here…
S: Thank you Vera and Lords of Metal for this interview and your interest in Fornhem! To the people out there that read this interview and find it interesting; join us on Facebook and buy the album through this location or here