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Enslaved este cu siguranta una din cele mai frumoase calatorii muzicale pe care Norvegia o are de oferit. O trupa ce s-a reinventat constant si totodata a reusit poate sa uneasca doua lumi muzicale aflate la pol opus, Enslaved a insemnat o mult necesara renastere muzicala in domeniul muzicii extreme. In 2015, Enslaved se intorc in Romania pentru un concert la Rockstadt Extreme Fest, ocazie cu care am discutat cu Ivar Bjornson despre nevoia de a reinventa, calatoria muzicala incepand din vremurile controvesate ale Norvegiei, standardele in muzica, Roadburn cat si showul din Romania.

 

(English below)

Ce e cu adevarat interesant la acest album e ca intr-un fel reveniti la radacinile vikinge, dar in acelasi timp continuati sa extindeti universul muzical Enslaved. Desi nu cred ca ati parasit vreodata aceasta tema 'vikinga, dar asa umbla vorba pe Internet.

Cred ca am fost mai directi cu acest album si am folosit o muzica ce poate fi mai usor asociata cu tema vikinga. Nu a fost intentionat, pur si simplu s-a intamplat. Cum ai spus si tu, am fost destul de constanti in acest sens cu precedentele lansari, probabil ca acum a fost mai usor de observat.

In ce priveste reinventia Enslaved, o vezi ca pe o provocare odata cu fiecare album sau este mai degraba un proces natural, imprevizibil?

E exact cum ai spus si tu, natural si imprevizibil. Nu are sens sa incerci fortat sa schimbi ceva. Teoria mea este ca un muzician isi transforma albumul intr-un Univers personal, iar atunci cand il termina...e gata. Insa acea parte a Universului Enslaved este explorata, comentata si interpretata pana in punctul in care eu personal sunt gata sa merg mai departe.

Insa aceasta nevoie de a te reinventa ca trupa, in multe cazuri poate fi fortata, iar un muzician poate ajunge atat de confuz incat sa ofere ascultatorului o lucrare muzicala deloc placuta. Cum poate urma un muzician calea ce dreapta?

O intrebare buna! Nu consider ca orice trupa ar trebui sa se reinventeze si cu siguranta nu cred ca orice trupa e in stare sa faca asta. Uita-te la scena Black Metal; e un lucru sa reusesti cu dogma 'nekro Black Metal' pentru ca fiecare slabiciune poate fi interpretata ca un 'fuck off!' sau ceva similar - e minunat cand o trupa canta dezacordat s.a.m.d. Apoi auzi al treilea, al patrulea sau al zecelea album in care incep sa schimbe macazul si sa se considere adevarati muzicieni rock, apoi incearca diferite dinamici si teme lelodice ce sunt cu mult peste capacitatea lor ca muzicieni, iar in final suna ca un proiect de liceu. S-a intamplat cu trupe care au ajuns cele mai mari in scena Black si Extreme. Cred ca ar fi fost mai ok sa nu inventeze nimic si sa ramana la acea formula nekro.

Enslaved 1

Ce e interesant la noul album este productia curata, foarte orientata catre scena progresiva, chiar cu un feeling old school. E totodata ironic pentru ca albumul nu are neaparat atat de multe influente 'prog', e realmente mai catchy. Spre exemplu, Building With Fire a ajuns una din piesele mele preferate din catalogul Enslaved.

Am avut o singura viziune in fata: sa lansam un album ce poate reprezenta cum sunam noi acum ca instrumentisti si ca trupa. In prima faza am inregistrat in formula de trio, insemnand eu (chitara), Grutle (bas) si Cato (tobe) - intocmai pentru a fi cat mai autentici si a oferi atmosfera bruta pe inregistrarea de baza. Asa ca un mod in care poti 'ajunge old school' sau 'autentic' corespunde cu idealul muzicii progresive. Nu avem o tinta directa catre astfel de rezultate, insa In Times a ajuns un rezultat al idelor noastre muzicale ce in final poate fi descris doar ca un mix intre Extreme Metal, prog, rock n roll, muzica contemporana sau experimentala. Si iti multumim pentru complimente!

E de laudat aceasta abordare a productiei, fara triggere, fara distors cat casa, fara nimic masiv. Crezi ca o astfel de productie are potentialul de a distruge elementele naturale ale unei trupe?

Cu siguranta! E interesant pentru ca unele astfel de productii au supravietuit - spre exemplu vechile albume Morbid Angel sunt mult prea procesate insa suna bine pentru ca muzica si aranjamentele instrumentale sunt atat de solide. Insa multe trupe comit suicid cu ceea ce e perceput ca un sound bun; cand in realitate ofera o productie foarte impersonala si construiesc o bariera intre fani si ei, astfel limitand drastic orice posibilitate de conectiune.

In ultimii ani ati luat foarte in serios vocea clean, melodica. Chiar am citit niste comentarii cum ca fanii prefera acum mai mult vocea clean. A fost dificil sa adaptati muzica de la soundul clasic la parti vocale mai complexe?

Nu a fost niciodata o problema; totul a evoluat constant si independent, iar muzica a fost influentata de partile vocale create, insa eu compun muzica din perspectiva instrumentala.

In anii 90 ati fost una din putinele trupe care au ignorat intreaga controversa iscata in scena muzicala din Norvegia, chiar daca la un moment dat aceasta serie de evenimente a fost descrisa ca o incercare de a elimina un cult religios fals si de a readuce vechii zei, deci cumva legat de toata aceasta lume vikinga. Putem spune ca ignoranta s-a dovedit cel mai bun lucru pentru o parte din formatiile de la acea vreme?

Cred ca ne-a obligat sa ne punem intrebarea daca suntem muzicieni sau activisti. Pentru noi era destul de clar ca atunci cand vrei sa ajungi un artist, trebuie sa lasi deoparte orice pornire rebela. Trebuie sa luptam impotriva monoteismului prin muzica si versuri si incercam sa promovam gandirea filozofica si nu un punct de veredere politico-populist. Pentru noi a fost o decizie pe care am luat-o constient, insa rezultatul a fost foarte important, asa ca da, ignoranta a fost buna la vremea ei.

De ce crezi ca subiectul ramane atat de discutat, chiar si dupa 20 de ani?

Cred ca e vorba de nevoia oamenilor de a asimila ceva ce le este strain. Intreaga poveste cu tinerii care au luptat intr-un 'razboi simbolic' pentru idealurile lor e atat de straina intr-o lume in care cea mai mare ambitie a tinerilor de 20 de ani e sa apara la un reality show. Putini stiu ca exact ce motiveaza aceste reality showuri a motivat si ce s-a intamplat in Norvegia; egouri, oameni ce aveau nevoie de atentie, etc. Doar cativa au fost cu adevarat motivati de adevaratele fundatii filozofice. Si nu sunt cei care inca fac subiectele articolelor de specialitate.

Te-ai gandit vreodata sa te muti din Norvegia?

Nu chiar - dar pentru mine e mai mult vorba de Bergen, nu neaparat de Norvegia. Daca ar fi sa plec din Bergen, probabil as alege Islanda, Suedia sau New York. Insa stiu ca in Bergen vor ramane pana la moarte.

Enslaved 2

Sunt curios cum ai abordat intreaga poveste cu Roadburn. Sa alegi trupele, chiar si pentru o zi, pare dificil, doar sa te gandesti din aspectul financiar cand vrei sa iei o trupa si organizatorul iti spune ca nu exista suficienti bani.

A fost o provocare. Strategia mea a fost sa incep cu trupe pe care chiar le doream cu adevarat, indiferent de clasificarea de trupa mare, medie sau mica. Am fost pus la curent cu bugetele pentru headliner si ale sloturi si am stiut cate trupe pot avea in acest pret. Am ceva experienta in a lucra atat pentru trupa mea cat si pentru productia unor festivaluri sau concerte, asa ca dupa o vreme a devenit foarte usor. Dar cel mai important este ca fiecare trupa a acceptat aproape imediat, inclusiv cu bugetele pe care le-am avut.

Ai lucrat impreuna cu Costin Chioreanu, e probabil singurul artist vizual roman implicat in scena metal internationala.

Este un tip foarte ok! Si cel mai important, este unul din cei mai talentati artisti vizuali pe care eu i-am intalnit in acesti 25 de ani de cand sunt implicat in scena metal. A inteles foarte bine ce vrem sa exprimam si e uimitor sa lucrezi cu cineva ce poate duce ideile tale artistice la un cu totul alt nivel. Sunt foarte fericit si privilegiat pentru faptul ca vom lucra cu el si pentru viitoare proiecte.

Iti aduci aminte de primul turneu Enslaved? Cred ca a fost undeva la inceputul anilor 90.

Da! A fost in februarie, 1995, alaturi de Marduk. Turneul s-a numit 'Winter War Tour'. Ce experienta minunata. Sigur ca sunt si detalii pe care le uiti, insa pentru mine va ramane una din cele mai mari si importante experiente, nu doar ca artist si si ca persoana. O perioada minunata!

Anul acesta va intoarceti in Romania la Rockstadt Extreme Fest. Nu stiu daca ai aflat, dar festivalul are loc chiar in inima muntilor, iar scena este inconjurata de padure.

Da! In sfarsit! Ne-am simtit atat de bine cand am cantat in Romania in 2013. Asa ca invitatia la Rockstadt a fost una foarte placuta! Nu am stiut nimic despre locatie, insa am primit recomandari foarte bune de la prietenul meu Bjornar din Vulture Industries, atat despre festival cat si despre organizatori. Locatia e perfecta pentru Enslaved! Trebuie sa recunosc ca nu stiu atat de multe despre Romania in general, ci doar istorie recenta, democratia dupa Ceusescu, istoria tulburata din jurul sau, miturile din Transilvania, faptul ca tara are o istorie atat de vasta..Sper ca dupa Rockstadt sa am mai multe cunostinte despre Romania. 

REF 2015 sponsori almost final

 

 

1. What's really interesting on this album is that you're somehow going back to your Viking roots while expanding your musical universe. Atlhough I don't really think you left anything 'Viking' out of the previous releases, but that's just the word around the Internet I guess. Care to comment on this?

Ivar: Well, I guess we have maybe been a bit more direct again on this one with using music and words that are more instantly associated with the “Viking” theme. It is not something we have done very intentionally, it more or less just “happened”. As you say, it has been a constant in our works all the way, so it was probably a more noticeable thing for others than for us.

2. Regarding this constant reinvention of Enslaved, do you see it as a challenge to create something different with every album or is it more of a natural, unpredictable thing?

Ivar: It is exactly how you describe it; as a natural, unpredictable thing. It’s no effort put into trying to make things varied or anything. My theory is that I as a songwriter immerge myself so deeply into each album as a defined universe of its own, that once it is done; it is really done. That part of the musical Enslaved-universe is explored, artistically debated and interpreted to the point where I am really ready to “move on”.

3. But this need to reinvent yourself in a band, it can also be a forced thing in alot of cases, so a musician can really get confused and create a very unatural piece of work. How does one musician stay on the right path?

Ivar: Good question! I don’t think every band/ musician needs to reinvent themselves, and I certainly don’t think everybody is able to. Look at the Black Metal scene; it is one thing to succeed with the dogma of the “nekro Black Metal” thing because every “weakness” can be described as an intended “fuck off!” or something – it’s charming when it’s out of tune and so on. Then you hear their third or fourth, or tenth album and they get ideas that they’re “real” rock musicians and start to try dynamics and melodic things that is WAY over their heads and it sounds like a school project. This happens to bands that are among the biggest with Black and Extreme Metal. I think they would have been better off not inventing anything, but just sticking to the nekro-formula.

4. It's very interesting that In Times has a very clean production, very oriented to the progressive scene, even an old school sort of feeling. How did you approach this? It's also ironic because the album has so few 'prog' influences, it's actually more catchy, I mean 'Building With Fire' is now one of my favourite Enslaved song.

Ivar: We approached it very literally with one vision in mind: to make the album represent how we sound as instrumentalists and how we sound as a band. In order to have any effect of the live recording; we record everything first as a trio with me (guitars), Grutle (bass) and Cato (drums) – so this needs to be quite “authentic” in order to get the full atmosphere onto tape. So I guess our way of “going old school” and “authentic”/ “real” corresponds quite nicely with the prog-ideals. We don’t really aim for these things to happen, so it’s more a subsequent result of our somewhat mixed up ideals that is a big weird mix of Extreme Metal, old prog, rock’n’roll, contemporary music, experimental this and that etc. Thanks so much for the compliments!

5. I love this natural approach on the album, no fancy triggers, no extra distorsion, no massive stuff. In your point of view, does this sort of production destroy the natural elements of a band?

Ivar: Yes, totally, it is utterly useless to shove production in front of how you really sound. Of course some stuff survive even that – some Death Metal classics like old Morbid Angel is overprocessed but sounds killer still because the music and arrangements are so incredibly strong. But most bands kill themselves with their perceived idea of good sound; where they are actually making their expression impersonal – thus creating a chasm between themselves and the listeners that takes away the possibility for any true connection…

Enslaved 3

6. Nowadays you're taking alot of interest into the clean, melodic vocals.  I actually saw some comments that the clean vocals are sounding better than the classic growls. Was it hard to adapt the music from the classic sound to some more complex vocal pieces?

Ivar: It was never a problem; the music has mostly evolved independently and the vocals followed – of course, the music has been inspired by the moods the melodic vocals creates, but I create music from an instrumental perspective. In this case I do think it’s the chicken that keeps coming before the egg.  

7. Back in the 90's, you were actually one of the few bands that ignored the whole controversial story on Norway's metal musicians, the whole satanic thing, church burnings and so on, even if the whole thing was described at some point as a attempt to eliminate a false religious cult and bring back the old gods, so it was somehow related to the whole Viking thing. Can we apply that 'Ignorance is bliss' was the best thing for some bands at that time?

Ivar: Well, I think that it really pushed forward the question for us all if we were musicians or activists. And for us it is was already then very clear that to be an artist you have to lay other aspects of being rebellious aside. We have to fight monotheism through words and music, and try to influence for philosophical thinking in the place of populist-political views that fills our head.

So I would say it was quite a conscious choice for us, but the outcome was so important for us that yes, ignorance would also have been bliss.

8. Why do you think this topic remains so discussed even after 20 years when, in theory, everybody moved on?

Ivar: I think it is just another boring example of people finding weird things that is alien to their own lives exciting. The whole thing of young people going to a kind of “symbolic war” for their ideals is so alien in a world where 20 year olds’ biggest ambition is to be on a reality show, that it makes people fascinated I guess. Little do they know that so much of it was really motivated by the same stuff as the reality shows; some big egos need to be famous, being cool etc. Only a few were actually motivated by any “real” philosophically sound foundations. And they’re not the ones who got (and still get) the headlines.

9. Did you ever thing of moving out of Norway to another country?

Ivar: No not really – but it is about Bergen for me, not Norway. If I couldn’t live in Bergen, I’d go to Iceland, Sweden, New York or something. Bergen is the city for me for the rest of my life.

10. I'm curious how did you approach the whole Roadburn thing. I mean, curating a festival, even for a day, seems like a difficult idea, just to think if you want to get a certain band on the lineup and the organiser tells you there's no money for this.

Ivar: it was quite challenging. My strategy was to start with the bands I really wanted, regardless of they were in the classification “big”, “medium” or “small”. I got info from the promoter on the price range for the different types of bands; I knew that I could have that many bands at this price, that many at that price and so on. With some experience from planning for my own band and also working on the other side of the table producing festivals and concerts, it was quite easy after a little time. Most importantly, EVERY band said yes immediately; within the budgets we had – that’s what made this possible!

11. And you're working with Costin Chioreanu on this, he is probably the only romanian artist involed in the international metal scene, also a good friend. He's a very cool guy!

Ivar: He is indeed a very cool guy! And more importantly; one of the most talented visual artists I’ve encountered in my soon to be 25 years in the scene. He really, really understand what we want to express. It is amazing to work with someone who can take our artistic ideas that step further through his talents. I am very happy and privileged to know that we will be working more with him in the future!

12. And now you're going on tours to promote the album. I'm curious if you remember your first Enslaved tour, I think it was somewhere around the mid 90's?

Ivar: Yes, sure I do! It was in February 1995, with Marduk on the “Winter War Tour” in Europe. What an amazing experience. Of course there’s some details you forget, but most of it is etched into my memory as it will remain one of my biggest and most important experiences; not only as an artist, but as a person. Great times!

13. This year you're coming back to Romania, at Rockstadt Extreme Fest. I don't know if you know anything about the festival, but it takes place right in the middle of the mountains, I mean the stage is literally surrounded by a forest. What do you know about Romania in general?

Ivar: Yes! Finally! We had such a great time in 2013 when we played in Romania the last time. So the invitation to Rockstadt was extremely welcome! I did not know this about the location, but I have been given extremely high recommendations from my friend Bjørnar in Vulture Industries about the festival and the promoters. It sounds great with the location; perfect for Enslaved!!! I have to admit I don’t know too much about Romania in general. I know some recent history; the democratization after Ceausescu, the insane history surrounding the dictator, the Transylvania mythos, that the country has a rich history of art and music. I hope that I’ll come home after Rockstadt with some more knowledge about Romania. Please teach me!

 


REF 2014: Making of


REF 2014: Meet and greet


REF 2014: Ziua 1


REF 2014: Ziua 2


REF 2014: Ziua 3


REF 2014: Ziua 4


REF 2014: Public


Riff concert la Deva