Erik Grawsiö (vocals, bass): “My youngest daughter sings in a song, while my older daughter acts in the video. In another song, Markus’s son is acting in the video. So it is a kind of family affair, shot in the woods around Uppsala and in a Viking village”
Voor een aantal bonte koningssagen kunnen we terecht bij de Zweedse Vikingen van Månegarm die met hun stoere zwartgeblakerde pagan/folk metal altijd een zekere authenticiteit bewaard hebben. Dat blijkt ook uit hun inmiddels alweer tiende studioalbum ‘Ynglingaättens Öde’ waarop het kerntrio plus violist Martin Björklund alle registers open gooien om een vroegere Zweeds/Noorse dynastie te bezingen. Bij oerlid Erik Grawsiö zijn we aan het goede adres om daar dieper op in te gaan.
Vera Matthijssens Ι 26 april 2022
Congratulations with the new album ‘Ynglingaättens Öde’, because it is really amazing!
Thank you so much. I am really satisfied to hear that. We are really satisfied with the album. For me personally I think maybe it is our strongest album to date. I think it is a solid and great album.
One can find a very interesting concept in the lyrics. It seems that you have been thinking about that concept for a long time. Can you tell something more about that and how did it grow upon you?
Yeah sure. The concept for this album, and the lyrics, is based on an old Norse poem and the poem is called ‘Ynglingatal’. That poem tells us about on old Swedish/Norse dynasty of kings, here around Uppsala. All the lyrics are based on that poem. The poem includes like 55 verses, but it tells the stories of many kings. It is twenty kings on the Swedish side and then the royal line continues on the Norwegian side, but we have only taken the Swedish kings. But anyways, how this idea was born? A couple of years ago, when Jakob Hallegren, our drummer and lyricist, was studying – now he is a teacher at high school – he had written a paper on this theme. When Jakob told me that he had this idea, that he wanted to make a concept album about ‘Ynglingatal’ I totally agreed.
Then the music needed to be written. Did you base your music on these lyrics?
No, it was the other way around I would have to say. Always when we write songs, it is me, Erik who composes the music and I come up with the songs. I send one song at a time to Jakob and I just sing a sort of melody where I want the words. Then I send it to Jakob and he is absolutely fantastic to put words to my melody. That s how it happens: I compose the song and Jakob comes up with the lyrics. For this album I had written all songs – but of course without lyrics – and I played all the songs for Jakob and Markus and then Jakob remembered his old idea of writing about Yinlingatal. Jakob thought that the new songs fit perfect for that concept, so this is how it turned out.
Fantastic! It must give a feeling of triumph when music and lyrics go together so well…
Yes, for this album I have worked harder than ever. The whole band did. For this album I finally created my home studio. It is pretty common these days I guess, but we had our own little studio at Markus’ place, but now I fixed my own little studio. That was really fantastic, but I can also spend hours and hours in my studio, I could really put my heart and soul in it. I think the songs turned out really well and I am really satisfied and proud of the songs.
I can imagine that a new studio inspires you…
Yes, it is just like that. Inspired to keep on playing and keep on composing. It is a great feeling. When I have this now, I wonder why I didn’t fix this earlier, but I have it now.
Did you finish building the studio because you had more time due to the lockdown or has it nothing to do with that?
A bit of both. As I remember I just fixed the final things in the studio, just before the pandemic started, but the pandemic had definitely an impact on my writing, because it was lockdown, no gigs. We could not meet each other, so there weren’t rehearsals either. It was perfect, my studio was a sort of therapy for me (chuckles), because then I had my music. I started with one song, one melody, for the song ‘Vitta Vettr’ before the pandemic, but for the rest I wrote whole the album during the pandemic.
I can understand, I felt happy from time to time too, no obligations and the hectic things in life had gone…
Yes I can certainly relate to that, because I felt the same. The pandemic was bad in almost every way, but it wasn’t that hectic. You could chill, watch movies or series, you could do anything. It is great that it is getting better and the world is opening up a little bit though. Actually it seems that we can play gigs again and it is great. It is going to be fun. I am looking forward to it.
What struck me is that you open the record with a mighty long epos ‘Freyrs Blod’, more than ten minutes long. A brave initiative. What can you tell about this ‘Freyrs Blod’?
It is a very long song, it is a long opener, as you said. I don’t know if it is a good idea to open an album with a ten minutes song, but we actually thought it was a great song to start the album with. It is going off like a bomb right away, with high screams and fast pace. It is like a punch in your face. At first we did not have an intro for that song, thus not an intro for the album. Usually we have an intro, not this time. The strange sound you hear, six or five seconds before the song starts, that was some kind of intro that we came up with in the studio when we mixed the album, so that was an ultra short intro this time (laughs). The song itself, I really like it. It has a lot of elements that is Månegarm for me: blastbeats, a big epic chorus with a lot of vocals, we have the soft, clean parts in the middle with a bit clean vocals, it is a little bit of everything that we have done the last twenty years. For me it is a great song.
Indeed, even with a violin solo, reminds me of the time when you still had Janne in the band…
Yes, I almost forgot the violin solo, followed by a guitar solo, a lot of different parts. I think it is very diverse.
Do you have someone permanent again who’s playing violin? I remember the guy with the grey hair…
(laughs) You mean Janne. He used to be our violin player, but he quit the band just before we entered the studio to record ‘Legions Of The North’. There were no argues. Janne had too much stuff going on in his life at that moment. So he left the band and right then, we knew a guy, named Martin and he is the one playing both guitar and violin in Månegarm now. At that time we didn’t know Martin, but we knew he was a fantastic musician, so we asked him to play violin on the album because all the songs were composed and done and he did a great job. Martin is with us since that day.
I think you will be proud to tell something about the ballad-like ‘En Snara Av Guld’, because your daughter is singing in it?
Yeah! That really makes my heart pound. This song is a slow and epic song and I wanted female vocals on the clean parts. First the idea was to have Ellinor Videfors. She sang on the last album and also on the final track ‘Hågkomst Av Ett Liv’, but when I listened to the song and the lyrics, I somehow got the idea that it was supposed to be a more fragile voice, a girl’s voice. Ellinor has a super nice voice, warm and with depth in it, but for this one I wanted a different voice, more fragile. Exact at that time, my daughter Lea had taken some vocal lessons. She likes to sing and it sounds good, so now when I have my own studio, I asked Lea: ‘Can you help me out with something?’ We entered the studio, she learned the lyrics and she nailed it. The recording you hear on the album is actually the first take. She did a great job and she was really nervous (chuckles). Not for being in the studio, but she was more nervous when I told her that this album will be released worldwide. She is 14 years old. And another cool thing about that song: this song will be released the 17th of March as our second single and also as a video clip. In the video, my other daughter, she is 16, plays in the video. So my youngest daughter sings in the song and my older daughter is acting in the video.
Wow, a family affair. How many daughters do you have?
Two and also an older so called bonus daughter, so three daughters.
A lot of girl power in the family. But let us go to the men, because you also invited some men for the songs, for instance in ‘Stridsgalten’…
Yes, that means ‘back and forth’ in English. Yes, I invited three fine gentlemen. Jonne Järvelä from Korpiklaani, Robse from Equilibrium and also Pär Hulkoff (Raubtier/Hulkoff), a friend of mine from Northern Sweden. When I wrote the song, in the middle where they were participating, I just felt that something was missing and Hulkoff came up with his deep voice and this throat singing. I just thought that his voice would be perfect. Also the same for Robse, his growls are really amazing. There are many great growlers out there, but we know him pretty well from touring and gigs. And the reason for inviting Jonne is, because first of all I like Korpiklaani and at that time, when I wrote this song, it was the time when they released their new album and I listened to the new album a lot and I really liked the songs. I like Jonne’s way of singing, he has a harsh special voice with a nice tone to it and I thought it would fit perfect to this song. I asked and all three of them said yes right away, so I am really happy that they wanted to do it.
In the beginning of that song you hear mouth harp and a kind of throat singing too…
Actually that voice you hear is Jonne’s voice.
I thought it was, because I know that he has been living in the North with the Sami people…
You are right.
Yeah, the song is a bloody battle to honour Odin I think…
Actually it is about that, but most of all… it is a long story, but – most of all it is about the deeds of king Egen and his actions. Every song on the album is about one king in the dynasty, except the first song ‘Freyrs Blod’ because in that song we have included many kings. But ‘Stridsgalten’ is about king Egen.
You explain that in a very good and profound way to an innocent bystander on Facebook for the second track now. It is interesting to read…
Cool. I am glad that you say that, because that is the whole meaning and we hope that people think that it is interesting. We want to highlight the beautiful sketches made by Kris Verwimp once again and we want to invite the fans to get the idea behind the story and read the lyrics and everything.
I know Kris too, he is from Belgium. You have been working with him for a long time…
Yeah a very long time. Actually Kris has painted every single cover, except for the first album. If I should be totally correct, he did not paint the cover to ‘Nattvasen’ which was released in 2009. We released that later on as a re-mastered version and then he did the cover. Anyways, Kris has been a friend of ours since the second album which we released in 2000. That is amazing and this time, for this album, I think he did a fantastic job. We have met him only once or twice during a concert, but now it is many years ago.
Maybe you can tell something about the making of the video clips?
The first video is for ‘Ulvhjärtat’ and the boy you see in the video is Markus’ son. He is 12 years old now. As we said earlier, this is a real Månegarm’s family (laughs). We filmed the video in the outskirts of Uppsala in the woods. The scenes with Anton and the dog (which is supposed to be a wolf) (laughing out loud) was on a not so nice day. It was snowy, almost raining, wet and cold. You have to think: well yeah, let us stand here for a couple of hours and it is done. We are happy with the result. We worked together with a company called Svartna Film, a friend of ours. I think he did a great job. We have also filmed some clips when I face the big hall, holding the fire and the sword. That part is filmed in the Viking village. We have a Viking village here, about 20 kilometres from our hometown. It is a really nice place with authentic buildings, with a big hall and a lot of houses and stuff. Out there in the Viking village, there is a great atmosphere. It is the atmosphere that we like. For ‘En Snara Av Guld’, the whole video is filmed and recorded at that Viking village. The story of that song is about the Swedish king Agne. He went to Finland to fight the Finns and he did and he killed the Finnish leader, named Froste and besides of that, he was a good man, so he abducted Froste’s daughter, her name was Skjalv and brought her back to Sweden and then he forced her to marry him, but that was of course not something she wanted to do, because Agne had just killed her father and abducted her, but she said yes and she asked Agne: ‘can’t we make a big feast in remembrance of my father?’ Agne thought this was a good idea, but later on these men were drunk and they fell asleep and then Skjalv and her people that all have been abducted, they put Agne out and they hang him in a tree, on a golden chain, a gold necklace that he had around his neck. The title can be translated into English: chain of gold. So that’s the whole story. It is a horrible story, but yet I liked it. I haven’t seen the result of the video yet, but I hope it will be fantastic. It is really a revenge story, she was abducted and she finally got her revenge on her father’s killer.
Let us hope that you will be able to do Månegarm Open Air festival this year!
Yes we really hope so, and as things look now, we can do it. We are planning to do it. It will be amazing! I mean, we did the first edition in 2019 and it was like an anti-climax for many people of course, we are not the only ones. The first edition was big fun and really a success for us. So it was really boring and sad we couldn’t do it. Anyways, we are back with a solid line up and we hope that we can make it. The line up is complete. We have Moonsorrow, Einherjer and many more; it will be great.
It is an amazing line up, only a bit sad that King Of Asgard cancelled… I like them a lot…
Yes me too. We had good contact with King Of Asgard, but it was something with personal matters and we did not ask further. They told us that they could not make it, due to personal matters, so that was a shame, but we did some changes and now on Saturday, on the metal day, Grimner will play. And we have a band from Gothenburg, Hindarfjell who took the place on the acoustic night on Friday.
How come there is also an English version of ‘Ulvhjärtat’, called ‘The Wolfheart’?
We had the idea to make – like Sabaton or Opeth – the album with both Swedish and English lyrics, but then we found out that we didn’t have the time. It takes a lot of time to record everything and in the end we did not have the time, because we had a deadline. We were supposed to go to the studio and mix the album, so we recorded only ‘Ulvhjärtat’ in English as ‘The Wolfheart’ and that would be a digital single later on. Then we release like a wooden box with seven mini LP’s with two songs. Then we decided to record ‘Auns Söner’ and ‘Vitta Vettr’ in English. In the wooden box – limited to 500 copies – you have this mini LP with those two English versions, because of that it is super exclusive because I don’t think that these English versions will be available somewhere else, only in the wooden box. That is cool!