Saturday, December 26, 2015

Interview: Heljarmaðr (DARK FUNERAL/ GRÁ)

   With a steady spot in the history and future of black metal, Dark Funeral have presented their new vocalist, Andreas Heljarmaðr, just last year. After finally seeing this legendary, mainly Satanism and anti-Christianity -themed band at Metalhead Meeting 2015, I had a little chat with Andreas about his numerous projects. Enojy!

pdn: Hails, Andreas! In a Swedish interview, I read that you were introduced to extreme metal at an early age, before your teens, if I am not mistaking. Which were the first important bands that you remember caught your attention and lit up your interest in metal?
Heljarmaðr: Yes that's correct, I must have been around 10 or 11. My cousin and I snuck in to his older brothers room when we were kids, borrowing albums from him which we copied to cassettes for further listening. I remember that one of the cassettes had Bathorys Blood Fire Death on one side and I think it was At The Gates or something like that on the other.
I remember that when I was introduced to the now classic Scandinavian stuff like Darkthrone, Enslaved, Emperor, At the Gates, Dissection, Dark Funeral, Marduk, Ophthalamia and so on, something really woke up inside of me and that's when I started to take up playing music myself, back in the mid 90's. I also liked the Greek band Varathron a lot.
At an even earlier age I was exposed to Iron Maiden, AC/DC, Megadeth and so on. Usual story I guess. I think the first album I bought myself was Iron Maidens ”No Prayer For The Dying”.

pdn: Please tell me what Dark Funeral meant for you prior to joining the band. Were you a fan, or did you guys know each other?
Heljarmaðr: I think my first contact with the music of Dark Funeral was through that first Blackend compilation, probably among the best compilations ever made. By the way, why aren't there any cool compilation albums anymore? I don't mean those that a label releases with a magazine or whatever just to sell their own stuff but those with real thought and concept behind them? Anyway,  then the ”Secrets” album was released and it was so fucking intense!
I have lived in same the town as Lord Ahriman originate from (I come from even further up north originally but moved down to Luleå in my teens),  but he is older than me so he had already moved to Stockholm when I moved there and we never actually met back then. We found out recently that we do share some old friends from up there though.
I've never had any contact with Chaq Mol or Dominator before but I did meet the whole of Dark Funeral when they invited Grá to be the support band for the 20:th anniversary show in Stockholm last year. After that gig we started to collaborate in silence until we unleashed the ”Nail Them To the Cross” single in late 2014.

pdn: What about Grá, how was the idea of this band born and which were the first steps?
Heljarmaðr: Me and Dimman (the drummer) formed Grá as a vent while writing material to the Cursed 13 album ”Triumf” back in 2010, shortly after the split Cd we did with our friends Domgård. We felt that we weren't coming anywhere so we just jammed around at the rehearsal place and the first Grá EP was born from there. We recorded and mixed everything really fast and in the moment. We asked around if anyone would be interested in releasing it and were amazed by the positive response. It was eventually released on Cd by Greek underground label SonicDeath Armageddon and we made that first video (Klagan och Längtan), with a crappy camera and no knowledge of video editing, to accompany the release. When we realized that it would actually be released properly we dared to start with the outlines which we had discussed loosely, to make a concept around Charon and the passage between this life and the beyond. A concept which ended with the new album, suitably called ”Ending”, which just hit the stores.

pdn: Could you describe the state of mind you are in while performing?
Heljarmaðr: When I go on stage it feels like my aware mind is withdrawn from my body and I watch myself from behind or around, outside of myself. Something possesses my body and I'm aware of it every second. After a gig I feel completely drained of energy and it takes a while to recover.

pdn: What is your connection with/affinity for Iceland (if any)? As I know, your name, and also Grá was partially inspired from the language.
Heljarmaðr: This seems to be the most frequently asked question at the moment. Both Heljarmadr and Grá are Scandinavian words. My affinity with Icelands ends with the historical ties we have regarding linguistics, mythlogy and so on. Many things were kept alive there longer than it was on the Scandinavian peninsula. I don't see it as being inspired by Iceland but rather reclaiming pieces of our Scandinavian heritage. I have a bunch of Icelandic friends and I would like to visit the island at some point but that's about it. I would also like to do cultural research on parts of the British isles for example.

pdn: You were and are involved in quite a few projects. How do you manage to do a hell of a job in all of them, considering the hours of a day are...well, limited? What does your schedule usually look like? You must be a busy person, and of course you probably need time for more than music!
Heljarmaðr: This year has been absolutely crazy regarding the amount of work versus time. For me the key is to make sure to not leave any loose ends, finish things up and don't add more things than you can manage to complete. In a band there's always others that are also involved and it's not the best thing to keep people waiting because you have taken on a burden you can't carry. When I joined Dark Funeral I wrote a list of things I wanted to finish up before the summer and I did actually make it all happen. That's my best advice actually, make realistic plans ans don't leave loose ends that'll come back to bite you in the arse.
It may seem like I have thousands of different projects going on but in fact I have (and have had) everything (well... mostly) planned for a long time ahead.

pdn: Do you have any other passions except music, activities that you invest time and attention in?
Heljarmaðr: I have but the last years I've put all my focus on music, you should strike while the iron is hot. Creativity comes and goes and practice makes perfect so I've been exploring that side of myself 100%. I do miss reading though, I rarely let myself have the time for good reading. I actually have a huge bunch of books that I've bought during the last years but haven't had the time to read. I also like to travel and visit historically interesting sites.

pdn: We haven’t talked about Cursed 13 yet; any plans? Have you ever thought of taking this act outside of Sweden, or your main focuses fall on the other two projects?
Heljarmaðr: There's only one certain plan and that's to get a new single out, two brand new songs to be released by Carnal Records on a luxurious gatefold 7” vinyl during 2016. After that we'll see what happens, Cursed 13 has never been a fast band when it comes to release new material and I want to keep it that way. No rush, no stress, it'll happen when the time is right. I'd love to take Cursed 13 out on the road but that's just not up to us really, it's up to the promoters to book us and I see their dilemma, Cursed 13 is not a big name and it's expensive to bring bands from Sweden. Should we get a good offer we would gladly accept of course, but we're not hunting for it.

pdn: We’re all curious! What is up next for Dark Funeral and Gra, regarding new material, tours?
Heljarmaðr: Regarding Dark Funeral we have lots of things going on. We're working on the new album as well as preparing for upcoming festivals and so forth! Keep yourself updated on the websites and social media! There's darkness in the horizon and a smell of death surrounding the future, that's for sure!

With Grá the priority has been to get the final chapter (the new album, ”Ending”) out there. Next step will be to finally release all the old albums on vinyl. That will be concluding the work we started 5 years ago, all according to the original plan. Where to go after that? Time will tell...

pdn: Thank you for your time! Is there anything you would like to add for your fans, friends?
Heljarmaðr: Thank you for your time and interest! To all fans and friends out there: thank you for the massive support! See you all on the road. /Heljarmadr

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