Cult of Luna
Voivod: Part 2
Voivod: Part 1
Dillinger Escape Plan
The Year In Metal
Dead to Fall
Tapping The Vein
High On Fire
Metal Meltdown IV
Metal/Hardcore Fest 2002
Century Media Records
My Dying Bride
The Year In Metal
Metal Blade Records
Maudlin of the Well
Thrash of the Titans
Dust To Dust
Six Feet Under
Metal/Hardcore Fest 2001
Metal Meltdown III
Pain of Salvation
Children Of Bodom
Cradle Of Filth
Lamb Of God
Garden of Shadows
March Metal Meltdown
Metal/Hardcore Fest 2000
Flotsam and Jetsam
Despite the ever-shifting lineup, Borknagar consistently manages to push the boundaries of black metal into new territory. The band's latest album 'Empiricism' is truly a creative effort combining feverish orchestration, varied instrumentation, intelligent lyrics and epic melodies that set Borknagar's music apart from current black / death trends in the metal scene. Metal Update had the opportunity to speak with bassist Tyr (Emperor, Satyricon) about the new record and what the band will be up to in the months ahead.
METAL UPDATE: Have you played with any of the guys in this band before?
No. Well, when I was in Emperor, we did the tour with Borknagar in the States. That's as close as I have been in the past.
MU: The "Kings of Terror" tour, is that what it was called? How did that go for you? Were you impressed with the turnout?
Yeah. The tour itself went pretty well, and the people seemed very, very interested, and I think it was a very, very cool tour, one of my better ones.
MU: Your current drummer, Asgeir Mickelson, has done the artwork for your last two records. Does he do a lot of art in his spare time? He does a pretty good job.
Yes, actually, he has done quite a few albums, when it comes to the artwork. A lot of the Norwegian bands are using him. Conception is one of 'em. . . and a couple of others. So, his day job is actually being a - what's it called?
MU: Graphic designer?
No, no, actually he's working the computers for a company that handles commercial junk and stuff like that. So, he handles the administrative work for the computer department or something. He has worked in other agencies, but just purely doing graphic stuff, and he actually worked at a place that does this research in graphic and design, and stuff like that. So, he's experienced.
MU: The new record has an interesting title. The definition of "empiricism" is "knowledge gained through experience," roughly speaking. How does the title relate to the lyrics, or what does "empiricism" mean to you?
Oh, it was Øystein's idea, in the first place. I don't really know what the relation is in terms of with the lyrics, and stuff like that. It's more of the album as a whole, I think. It's what he has meant. I think it fits quite well with the - what's it called? - the overall expression of the music on the album. It kind of. . . quite a different type of black metal album, altogether. You have to, kind of, try to unlearn. That's my view on it.
MU: You mentioned the term black metal. Do you still consider Borknagar a black metal band? Would you accept that label? Is that appropriate?
No, I don't really think so, not for this album. I think there are still some elements of it, when it comes to the singing, and the fact that we use some blastbeats, or similar stuff like that, but not really black metal. I think it's very hard to describe or label this new album. I don't think there is a label, one single label, that would fit the style.
MU: How long have you known your new vocalist, Vintersorg?
I haven't known him that long, but he and Øystein have been friends for a few years, and have been in touch with each other on-and-off. They always have been talking about getting together and starting some kind of musical project. So, it was a very obvious choice for Øystein to try to get him into the band when Simen quit.
MU: I know both Øystein and Vintersorg have known each other for a while. Do you know why he did not choose to work with him earlier?
I don't really know how exactly long he has known Vintersorg. When Simen joined the band, I don't know if Øystein knew Vintersorg at that point. That's kind of hard for me to answer.
MU: Were you present for the recording of 'Empiricism'? Even though you didn't go in there every day, probably, were you in the band and part of that recording process the whole time?
Yes, I've been in the band since September in 2000, just a month or so after Simen left the band.
MU: What is your relationship with Emperor?
Emperor I've completely quit. I did the last show with Emperor in 1999, so I haven't been working with them since then. I've been doing some session work with Satyricon for concerts and touring after Emperor.
MU: At this time, are you involved in any other projects or bands?
There's a project that's starting now. It's myself on the bass, of course, and Asgeir Mickelson, the drummer of Borknagar, is also in that project, and so are both the guys from Solefald, Lars and Cornelius. It is a 70's progressive rock type of thing. It's kind of exciting, new turf to have a go at.
MU: Borknagar has been through a variety of lineup changes over the years. Even for this record, you got a new vocalist. You joined for bass late last year, so this is your first record with the band, so-on-and-so-forth. Are you guys gelling together musically? Do you all think along similar lines?
Yeah, I think we have a kind of a similar view on what Borknagar is. I think one of the aspects that makes this work out so well on this album - I can't really speak for the other albums, because I wasn't there so - but especially for this album, Øystein is the main songwriting part in the band. He's kind of the engine of it. He works the music at home, where he utilizes his computer for recording some basic tracks, the guitar. . . drums, or stuff like that. He burns a couple of CDs and that's been distributed between the band members so that we have something to work with before we go into the rehearsal room. We have a lot of freedom, I could say. We're free to kind of decide how much latitude we want to put into the music, individually. I think that freedom is kind of adding to the music, I guess, making it more a journey.
MU: You recorded this record at the Fagerborg and Toproom Studios in Norway. Had you done any work there before?
No. That is my first time in that studio. I've only done some small stuff before that with some local bands from where I live from a few years ago. So, this is my kind of studio baptism. This is my first real recording.
MU: What was your experience like there? How did that compare with the other studios you've worked at?
Well, the thing is that from the previous albums for Borknagar. . . usually they have traveled to other countries to use studios there, and a very big chunk of money is going to the travel expenses. The studio time will suffer because of that, because there's just one budget that's gonna cover all the costs for the whole production. So, when we chose the studio in Oslo, that was also one of the deciding factors - that we didn't have to travel too far, and didn't have to have hotels and stuff like that. We actually spent like eight weeks in the studio, so we had a kind of relaxed way of doing things. We actually had a few days off in between. When you're in the studio all the time, you're too close to the product. You don't get a way to view it from different angles. So, I think that was very good to be able to go home and not listen to music for a while and then listening on the home stereo to some of the work that you have done for a week, and trying to see different angles on it. We could work more effectively.
MU: Were you impressed with the facilities there? Did you find it to be a good studio?
Yes, one of the better studios there in Norway. I don't remember all the equipment, but it was very good.
MU: Your guitarist has pretty much had a different group of people for each of the albums. When Øystein brought everybody on board for 'Empiricism', was he at all worried that the other band members' commitments to other projects would interfere with their commitment to Borknagar? That seems to be what the problem is with Borknagar sometimes. Does Øystein feel confident with the lineup now?
Yes, I think as long as there's communication within the band, and we let each other know our different timetables, things can be worked around that - just give some time before in advance, learn to let these people know what's gonna happen in the future. I think it's working out pretty well, regardless of the other projects that's tied to Borknagar.
MU: If I had to put a label on Borknagar's music, it would be progressive, meaning you guys stretch the boundaries of whatever genre you may have been associated with in the past. I think you guys do a really good job of avoiding any sort of obvious tag. That brings up a question. Who are your influences? What do you guys listen to? Do you listen to Black Sabbath or Iron Maiden or anything kind of weird that maybe people would be surprised at?
Well, of course, Iron Maiden's one of my all-time favorite bands, but the recent years I've been listening a lot to the stuff that Mike Patton is doing with Fantomas and Mr. Bungle, and all that stuff. I really love that stuff. I also listen to some jazz stuff - not really jazz, but fusion stuff, Tribal Tech. I don't know if you heard about them. It's kind of technical fusion. Other than that, I also listen to some of the 70's stuff like Yes and Rush and all good metal - not really very weird stuff, I guess.
MU: I'm reading the lyrics on the new record, and I know everybody contributed to them. You're all kind of thinking along similar lines and similar topics, but this is pretty heavy stuff. I almost had to use a dictionary to go through some of these lyrics. Are you guys well-read? Do you guys study a lot? Do you read science fiction or science books? Does this thing come naturally?
Most of us are reading science fiction stuff like Arthur C. Clarke and stuff like that. Actually the lyric that I wrote - I was sitting at the legendary Elm Street pub in Oslo waiting to be picked up for a rehearsal, and it was two hours, and I was very bored. This was in the, well, in the middle of the day, and I had a pen and a napkin, and I wrote it then and there, so. . .
MU: For everybody in the band that contributes lyrics, are they able to write these off-the-cuff? Do these things spill out pretty easily? They're so wordy and seem to be so well-thought and planned out, I would think that it'd be a little difficult to squeeze this type of thing out, but do you find that, for you and the other guys, lyrics of this nature come fairly easily?
Oh, no, I can really only speak for myself when it comes to the lyrics. I haven't too much experience in writing lyrics. So, this is, I think, the fifth or sixth lyric that I have ever written. The other guys are complicating in their writing process, so I guess it's easier for them like that. I just had a, kind of a brainstorming and just wrote it.
MU: Before Øystein decided on a new vocalist for the band, I know there was at least one other candidate. Do you know who else he considered?
I think it's Øystein and Asgeir that kind of was in contact with a few people. There was one guy from Ireland, and a guy from Chicago, I think, but I don't really know who they were. There weren't really any known metal figures.
MU: I read on the website there's supposed to be a box set coming out. Is that still true?
Yeah, that's still all in the talking process, I guess, but we hope it will come out. It's really up to Century Media to do that particular thing.
MU: Do you know what kind of stuff that you guys have planned to release? Do you have video stuff with audio stuff or rare tracks?
I have no idea. The thought has been that it's just all the albums in one box, I guess, but there might be some additional stuff that's going to come out. I don't really know. We're working on a video, actually, for "Inherit the Earth" which I think will be included on some DVD release that Century Media is doing.
MU: On this record, apparently you guys used some real stringed instruments, is that correct?
No! No, that's not correct, actually. We do use a real Hammond organ and a real grand piano, but I think you're talking about the cello on "The Genuine Pulse" probably, the solo cello that's playing over there. No, that's just a sample. That's just the keyboard playing.
MU: Okay, because I was reading the back of the promo CD, and in the description there it looked like it said something about "authentic strings" on there, so I assumed some players had done that. In Borknagar's music, there's a lot of melodic, slower, prettier stuff, I guess, and you still got the aggressive, black stuff. Do you have any preference one way or the other?
I kind of like the variations - the fact that it is both in one song - that it can be both very heavy and tough parts and some slower, more mellow parts in one song. Variations like that is what my preference is.
MU: For this record, when you went into the studio, did Øystein have the majority of the music already written?
Yes. Øystein is writing the bigger part of it. That's only in a sketch, only the very basic guitars, the very basic drum patterns and stuff like that. All the other members in the band are helping to arrange it after that and putting our stuff into it. So, actually, for the bass, about eighty percent of it is actually improvised in the studio. I was using the tapes that I received to kind of get to know only the different themes in the songs and stuff like that so I knew what kind of scales to use and what kind of rhythm patterns that would fit.
MU: So, just for you as a player, when you go into the studio, do you know what you're doing beforehand? Are you prepared?
Yes. I like to be well-prepared for stuff like that, so I will use the time that I have in the studio in the best possible way.
MU: It's my understanding that all the drums were recorded at Fagerborg, and everything else was done at the Toproom, except for the grand piano parts. Is that right?
MU: Was there a particular reason for that?
Well, I guess it was a monetary issue. The Toproom Studio is the private studio of Borge Finstad, our engineer, and he's only a freelance engineer for Fagerborg. So, he had a deal with them. We had two or three weeks in the big studio, which is Fagerborg, and then we went to the other studio because we had all the equipment we needed in Toproom Studio. So, there was not truly a necessity to spend a lot of money on a big studio that we didn't really need.
MU: Do you have any predictions or see any current trends about heavy metal? Looking towards the next five to ten years, do you see any trends emerging or new styles coming about? Where do you see the genre of heavy metal in the next ten years?
I think it's very hard to prophesize, so I haven't really any real prophesies. I think it's hard to decide on what I should think, if you know what I mean. It can be predictable, but it can also be quite unpredictable, the music of the future. So, I don't really know what to answer.
MU: Is metal still pretty strong, as far as selling power in Europe? For the scene you are associated with, do you guys sell a respectable number of records?
I think we sell around 35,000 copies worldwide. So, I think it's difficult to predict whether these numbers will rise in the future, because mainly the whole music market is not really decided by the consumer. It's decided by the record companies and the producers and designers what people should buy. Currently they are buying stuff like, well, Korn and Kittie and stuff like that. . .
MU: As far as touring plans for this record go, have you guys started touring for this one yet?
No, actually, Øystein is going to be a father in February, so we have to postpone it. I mean, I don't think we can tour until closer to the summer because of what's happening there, just one of those things. I mean, I'm very happy for him, so. . .
MU: When you guys do tour, do you want to come to the United States? Is that part of the plan?
Yes, I think I can safely say that is one of the main things that we wanna do, tour the northern part of America. That would be very cool.
MU: So, are there any plans to do festivals? Do you have any ideas about what bands you'd be touring with or anything at this point?
Not really. We haven't talked with any other bands yet, so we're just in the earliest planning stages when it comes to touring now, so. . . there's over six months 'till we actually hit the road.
MU: On the touring note, because of the terrorism that's happened here in the last couple of months, do you find, in general, that there kind is apprehension among the European bands to come over here? Is the desire still there?
I have the impression that people are kind of hysteric about it. That's my impression. I haven't really talked with any of the other bands that I'm in contact with about the terrorist stuff, but I have the impression that there's an overall hysteria going on. People don't realize that it's probably much more safe to travel by air now than it ever was before with all the extra security that has been added to the whole business. So, I think it's probably much safer now to go on tour.
review of Borknager 'Empiricism'
review of Borknagar 'Quintessence'
"Revolt" from 'Quintessence'
"Oceans Rise" from 'The Archaic Course'
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