First of all genuine congratulations with your magnificent new album ‘Támsins Iikam’! Thank you for referring to my review on Lords of Metal on your social media. So, let’s introduce Hamferð even more properly with an interview now. How are you doing?
Jón: Thank you very much! We are doing very well, thanks. We are finally releasing new music in almost five years, so these are exciting times for us.
Theodor: Thanks a lot! It feels like we have been waiting for the album to be released forever, so having it just a few days away feels quite surreal and very exciting indeed.
I see that the early beginnings of the band go back to 2008. How did it all start for Hamferð? When and how came the band into being?
Jón: Yes, we are turning ten years old this year, so we’re not infants anymore. Hamferð was originally our guitarist John’s idea. He wanted to create a uniquely Faroese rendering of the classic English and Swedish death/doom sound of the nineties. At that time, there was a recurring international band competition going on called Global Battle of the Bands (GBOB), which had branched out to the Faroe Islands. John wrote a song, gathered the first incarnation of Hamferð, and we doomed our way to the semi-finals with the very first proper Faroese death/doom tune. Right after the competition we didn’t have any big plans for the band, but after some time had passed, it started to seem foolish to just drop such an interesting idea. So we pulled ourselves together, recorded a demo, got great support from our community and started to really pick up steam. And I’m happy to say that almost ten years later, things are still escalating.
My first encounter with the band took place when you supported Týr on their European tour, but what are your memories on that European trek?
Jón: The first thing that comes to mind is “tea with vodka”. This was apparently the remedy for the members of Týr, Moonsorrow and Crimfall when they were taking turns being sick as dogs during most of the tour. It was December and they were all stashed together on a night liner, exchanging germs among themselves. All the while, we were in a van, safe from harm. None of us got sick, and luckily I never had to drink tea with vodka! Oh, and the concerts were great, too!
Theodor: You just don't remember us getting sick, but half of us actually did haha. I remember a hellish drive from Madrid to Barcelona with a puking band member in the back seat. Thankfully we got the good version of the bug, meaning we were only sick for a day at a time. Some of the other guys weren't as lucky...
In 2012 you won the Wacken Metal Battle. Did it open any doors for you on international level?
Jón: Yes, in some ways it did. First of all, it was a brilliant opportunity to showcase our music and live capacity before thousands of people. At the same time, we had a chance to talk to people who liked our music and were interested in helping us with distributing it to a wider audience. So there were definitely some friendships kindled; some productive, some simply friendly. If the “winning” part was important in swaying some of our collaborators, I don’t know. Couldn’t have hurt.
Earlier you released an EP and a full length album on local label Tutl (hey, that’s the one where Týr started as well ). Can you tell a bit more about that?
Theodor: Tutl is a fantastic company that we have been privileged to work with and still do work with. It is not run like a normal record label, you can see it more like a platform for Faroese musicians which lets them release their music properly. I'd estimate that 90% of the music which has been and is released by Faroese artists is released on Tutl, so their impact on the Faroese music scene can't be overstated. They were willing to release our debut EP ‘Vilst Er Síðsta Fet’ in 2010 when we had barely played any shows, and our co-operation for that record was great.
The export of Faroese music has been growing quite a bit over the last couple of years, and we were lucky enough that the release of our second album ‘Evst’ in 2013 coincided with outside investment into Tutl to export Faroese music, meaning that Tutl could offer us a platform to release our music internationally while still staying on our local label. That meant a lot to us, and it meant that we didn't have to go kneeling to international labels and beg them to release our music, since we had a perfectly good way of doing it via our local label who we knew and trusted. However, for this upcoming album we felt that we wanted to try to release ‘Támsins likam’ on one of the bigger international metal labels, so we signed a deal with Metal Blade Records which we have also been extremely happy with so far. You hear lots of horror stories about the music industry, but we have been quite careful with who we work with and pretty much only have positive experiences to be honest. Even if we are releasing our upcoming album, we still work closely with Tutl, both with our back catalogue and with our management, and we are delighted that we have the possibility to work with both these amazing companies.
The new album happens to be the third part of the trilogy, but the story seems to be in reverse. Can you go deeper into the particular story this time and the lyrics of ‘Támsins Iikam’, since your language sounds exciting, but most of us don’t understand it hehe? What is the translation of the title?
Jón: My preferred translation of ‘Támsins likam’ to English is ‘The Body Of Mist’. This is a reference to the main antagonist of sorts, who is inspired by a mythical and deceptive being from Faroese folk tales called the “nykur”. In our version, the true form of this being is black and ethereal; hence the album title. In the story, it enters the lives of a couple who have lost a child and are in mourning. They have become estranged from each other, due to their incompatible ways of processing grief, and the “nykur” appears as a mysterious and alluring man before the wife, ready to comfort and support her. The husband – a younger version of the main character from ‘Evst’ and ‘Vilst Er Síðsta Fet’ – discover them meeting, and in his jealousy he starts following them. However, as previously stated the nykur is a deceptive being
How do you see the musical development on the new album in comparison with earlier works?
Jón: On our previous album, ‘Evst’, we used the idea of having musical concepts, linking some songs to a certain degree. On this album we took that idea to another level, writing the whole album as one cohesive whole that invokes and follows the story very closely. This means that all the songs are linked and should be considered parts of a greater whole, much like movements in a classical symphony. In fact, classical music and progressive concept albums have been our main influence in structuring the album. It has been a new way of working for us, and it is certainly a more difficult and time consuming method. But it was an interesting experience and totally worthwhile!
In addition to the tour with Týr we mentioned earlier, what happened on the live front for Hamferð until now? Any remarkable places, tours or events you’d like to tell a bit more about?
Theodor: Being a doom metal band in The Faroe Islands can be a bit difficult, the population is small so it's quite hard to play live regularly when you play such a niche genre of music. Thankfully we have been lucky enough to have had the opportunity of traveling to lots of different places to perform our music, which is one of the main reasons we are still here today. It's hard to mention any specific shows as we have so many great experiences, but I'll give it a go although I might forget something. If we're talking about festivals, my personal favourite shows would probably be Wacken, Tuska and Dark Bombastic Evening in Romania. Wacken and Tuska were both special, since I had attended both those festivals several times as a fan, so being on stage there was a bit of a surreal experience. And the atmosphere at Dark Bombastic Evening was something really special. We have also played some unforgettable shows at G! Festival in The Faroe Islands. We have done three European tours. The first one was the one that you mentioned, The Dead Tyrants Tour with Týr, Moonsorrow and Crimfall back in 2011. We then did two European tours when we released our second album ‘Evst’, one smaller headline run at the end of 2013 and one support tour for the mighty Amorphis in 2014. We also have great memories from some pretty incredible settings where we've been allowed to perform. In 2013 we had a full concert in the cathedral of Tórshavn, Havnar Kirkja, which is definitely one of the highlights of our career. There is a video of us from that concert performing the song ‘Vráin’ which you can find on YouTube. We also did a live recording during the full solar eclipse in The Faroe Islands in 2015, that can also be found on YouTube. Apart from that we have done a few stripped down concerts in the sea-cave Klæmintsgjógv which can only be reached by boat and has some quite astounding acoustics. We don't have any recordings from there, but if you're ever in The Faroe Islands I recommend going to a Concerto Grotto in that cave.
What can you tell about the writing process for ‘Támsins Iikam’, who are the main composers, how did the mighty songs come into being?
Theodor: For this album I wrote most of the music. The process usually starts out with me writing and recording the sketch of a song and then sending it to the other guys to get their input. Remi will then write his drum patterns, the guys will give their opinions and we'll then continue working on the song until it feels as if it's finished. If we are in the same country we will try to rehearse the songs and work on them in the rehearsal space, but unfortunately that's not the case that often anymore. The vocals and vocal melodies usually come into the equation quite late since Jón likes to have a pretty finished song to write his vocal lines to. For this album I also spent quite a bit of time making choir and string arrangements, seeing as the choirs were performed by Jón and John and the strings were played by two good friends of ours, Andreas Restorff and Torleik Mortensen.
You worked with Daniel Bergstrand for the mix this time. What are your thoughts on this recording process which started in your home country?
Theodor: I have produced all our albums so far and the plan was for me to mix ‘Támsins likam’ as I had done with the previous two records. However, since I both did the quite extensive production and a large part of the songwriting for the album, it felt as if the album needed someone with a fresh perspective for it to reach its full potential. Daniel is one of my personal production heroes and has also become a good friend over the last couple of years, so I asked him if he would be willing to mix the record which he thankfully was. We had the same idea of where it we wanted the album to go sonically, and the fresh ears and experience that Daniel has really helped lift the album onto a level which it probably wouldn't have reached if I'd have done it myself. I think that the result speaks for itself, I really feel that we have crafted a fantastic sounding album with a production that lets the music shine through.
You are now signed by Metal Blade. Congratulations! I think this will open the gates to more recognition… How did this contact occurred and what are your thoughts about this new bond?
Theodor: Metal Blade actually got in touch with us a few years ago and were interested in releasing our next album. At that moment in time we weren't really sure what our plans were going to be, but as we finished ‘Támsins likam’ we realized that we wanted to be able to release it on an internationally renowned label for the music to reach as many people as possible. Metal Blade is obviously a legendary label, they have released a lot of incredible albums and have managed to adapt to the ever-changing modern music industry, so their credentials are undoubted. So we got back in touch with them and had proper discussions with them which convinced us that they were the right label for us. After the setup we had with Tutl, it was a bit scary to sign over to a bigger label which we didn't know as well, but I don't think we could be much happier with how things have turned out.
Jón, one of the reasons for Hamferð’s signature sound is your voice. Not only the juicy growls, but those special clean solemn chants as well. How did you ever start as singer and how did you developed? Are you a trained musician with education or personal development? Any heroes in your youth as juvenile music lover?
Jón: I am not at all trained, and have no particular techniques or philosophy. I probably should. I have been singing since I was about 18 or 19, I believe, and never sang at all before that. I started my first band, Nátt, with some of my best friends, and since they played instruments and I didn’t, there was only one spot left: vocals. It felt really good to sing and I got decent feedback, so I wanted to keep doing it. Nátt didn’t go on for very long, but luckily for me, there’s often a shortage on vocalists. About a year after Nátt stopped, Hamferð came along and the rest is history. I had only been singing for five years when we recorded ‘Vilst Er Síðsta Fet’, so I’ve learned most of what I know while playing with Hamferð. I think you can hear the improvement very clearly from album to album. I hope so, at least!
And what about the other guys? Autodidact or a certain background?
Jón: Theodor has a degree in audio engineering and works at Studio Bloch, which is the largest and most internationally acclaimed studio on the Faroe Islands. He has a particularly musical and artistic family, which I am sure has played a huge role in his ongoing involvement in music. Also, Remi and Ísak have attended musical pre-college in their younger days, but besides that, the instrumental skills within the band are mostly self-taught. We are all the same age, approximately, and have been involved in the Faroese metal scene since we were teenagers, so that’s the general forum where we have “grown up” in music.
Jón, you are also the vocalist in Barren Earth, who delivered the amazing ‘On Lonely Towers’ in 2015. What are the plans with that band?
Jón: The new Barren Earth album is coming out in the Spring and will probably be announced very soon. I am really excited about getting it out there, since it’s a very strange and diverse album. More details to come!
And recently I found out that you are involved in doom band Clouds as well. Please tell me about your role in that band and plans for the near future? How did you come in contact with this international collective?
Jón: I was contacted back in 2013-14 by the Clouds main man Daniel Neagoe and asked if I wanted to participate in this project he was starting. He was inspired by a friend of his who had passed away and wanted to create music that pays tribute to departed loved ones. He sent me the instrumental demo which would later become ‘If These Walls Could Speak’ and I was intrigued. I agreed to join, provided that I could write the lyrics and vocals myself. He agreed and the arrangement continues, where I appear on one song per album. I believe Daniel is currently writing material for the next Clouds album. He always is. He is a workhorse musician.
Famous artist Costin Chioreanu did the artwork. Can you go a bit deeper into that cooperation and tell us about this piece of art?
Jón: We were fans of him and at the time of preparing the album, we had considered contacting him for the job. Surprisingly, he wrote to us first and told and wanted to work with us. It was a no-brainer really, although we were slightly precautious, since he has a very recognizable style. We sent him the storyline and lyric descriptions along with some visual ideas that we had, and when he delivered the finished artwork, our worries disappeared instantly. He somehow found a unique blend between his own style and the Hamferð aesthetic. A perfect match! The cover depicts the dramatic scene where the wife’s life is taken by the troubled “nykur”. The beautiful way in which Costin rendered this otherwise very grim and violent scene still gives me goose-bumps.
You often create grand video clips! Special ones. First of all, please tell a bit about the recordings you have made during the sun eclipse in 2015 (amazing!) and about the song recorded in a church… these are amazing!
Theodor: We have been lucky enough to experience some pretty special settings. The most unique video we have done is probably the one where we performed an “acoustic” rendition of ‘Deyðir Varðar’ during the total solar eclipse on March 20th 2015. I got the idea of doing the video a few weeks before the event, and at first it just seemed to be too crazy to actually work. But as it got closer and closer to the event, we started thinking that it was worth a shot, and thankfully we gave it a go! Playing that song live while seeing the light and colors change around you was an indescribable experience. The adrenaline rush was very intense, since we only had one take, the next solar eclipse in The Faroe Islands isn't due until the year 2245. I remember that it was very cold, but I didn't feel the cold in my fingers while playing. However, as soon as we knew that we had got the take my fingers felt like they were on fire for a few minutes.
The church show was also special. The video works well, but I really think that you had to be there to be able to properly experience it. You need an understanding of Faroese traditions and culture to properly grasp the context of a doom metal band performing in a church, it's not something I was expecting to be able to do so soon. But we tried to do it as respectfully and correctly as we could which led to a truly unforgettable experience. We have discussed maybe doing it again some time, but it is a bit of a dilemma, since it's not always a great idea to do something like that twice. So maybe we'll just keep it as that one unique experience.
And now you have two new clips, so please tell us about the making of the shots for ‘Frosthvarv’ (very special again!) and ‘Hon Syndrast’?
Jón: The work processes were completely different for each of the videos. ‘Frosthvarv’ – which is a live-action short film, really – was directed by Franklin Henriksen and produced by Beinta Haraldsen. Franklin also wrote the script, which was based on my story for the album as well as input from all of the Hamferð members. The whole process from the first draft to finished post-production took about four months and we were able to involve Faroese actors of the highest profile, use a variety of talents working in Faroese film today, shoot magnificent locations, and, in the end, produce a film of genuine beauty. It was an very interesting and rewarding experience, and we will definitely continue working with this format in the future. On the other hand, the clip for ‘Hon Syndrast’ was intended to be a smaller project, and we trusted it to be a simple job for the incredible Costin Chioreanu, who has also designed all other artwork surrounding ‘Támsins likam’. However, being an out-of-this-world talent, he once again exceeded our expectations. Within a presumably crazy weekend, he produced an incredibly well-structured video that complemented the song perfectly and included dozens of beautiful drawings put together through inventive animation.
In February a tour with Downfall Of Gaia is planned. What are the prospects and what are other plans for touring or gigs in the near future?
Theodor: One of the best things about releasing new music is that it gives us better opportunities for touring. After having the album in the works for so long we are just extremely excited to finally be able to hit the road and perform the new songs on tour. As you mentioned we have a 16-date tour with Downfall Of Gaia throughout Central Europe in the first half of February. Straight after that we have a four date Danish tour with the awesome Faroese band Svartmálm and our good friends from Woebegone Obscured. We then have a few weeks off before we have our release show in The Faroe Islands together with the Icelandic band Auðn who have also just release their new record ‘Farvegir Fyrndar’. So we have a pretty packed schedule over the next couple of months and after that we will hopefully have a busy festival summer as well.
If there is anything you’d like to add, please feel free to do it here…
Theodor: Thanks for the interview and thanks for the awesome review of ‘Támsins likam’!