Frode Glesnes: “It is really historical ground we are living on and I do think that is why we felt the urge to have lyrics and stuff based on our heritage and based on our history. There is a very strong presence here.”
Het klappen van de zweep moet je Einherjer na bijna 30 jaar in de Viking metal scene niet meer leren kennen. Gewapend met twee vrij nieuwe krachten staan deze Noren uit Haugesund dan ook als een rots in de branding als het aankomt op hun erfgoed verdedigen. Een dikke twee jaar na voorganger ‘Norrøn Spor’ ligt er dan ook weer een strijdvaardige parel te lonken, ditmaal getiteld ‘North Star’. Viking van het eerste uur Frode Glesnes (zang, gitaar, bas) is een aangename verteller die alles rustig relativeert en bovendien afkomstig is uit een historische streek in Noorwegen.
Vera Matthijssens Ι 15 maart 2021
I think the last thing you did on the live front was the 70,000 Tons of Metal cruise last year, isn’t it?
Yes it was. We went from the cruise more or less directly into the studio and started recording the album and we were more or less halfway I think, when everything closed down. We got to record the drums and stuff and then we just had to postpone everything, because I have kids and some of the other guys have kids. Suddenly we had to arrange home studies and home kindergarten and all that stuff for weeks. When everything opened up again, then we could go back to the studio and finished everything. It is recorded and mixed in my studio – Studio Borealis – so I kind of worked through the whole thing, but since I was preoccupied with all kinds of other stuff, things went so slow. We had to postpone the album actually. It was supposed to be released in October, but we had to postpone it to February.
Einherjer was never a busy touring band. You focused more on festivals and exceptionally you did a 8 days tour. So I guess the cancellations were limited?
Yes, actually this time we thought: okay, let us do this proper. So we had a Norwegian tour booked and we were in the process of booking a two weeks European tour. So we had to scrap all that, in addition to the summer festivals of course. We had to scrap 25 gigs and for us, that is a lot. So when we finally decided: yeah 2020, that is the year we are going to tour, but NO. And who knows what things will be like, the whole touring situation, in a year from now? It is hard to tell really.
I guess there is a higher philosophy behind the album title ‘North Star’, because it is not only the North Star, but it deals with a bigger idea of cosmos and the universe, while your studio is also called Borealis…
The studio link is actually based on older Einherjer stuff, because the first demo we did – about 25 years ago – was called ‘Aurora Borealis’. That is where the studio name came from. But the title… I was looking for an overall title. I did not want a title track, I just wanted a title that the songs kind of fit under. We are always evolving as persons, as musicians, as song-writers and as a band. So ‘North Star’ struck me as a good overall title that reflects a sense of direction and also helps us stay on course so to speak. Also on a personal level that can refer to our inner compass, our inner North Star that can guide us towards our decisions, towards our passion and purpose or whatever you know, the whole direction of life. That was the kind of overall title I found.
Einherjer was one of the first Viking metal bands and remained true to their initial approach, while the genre boomed in a more hilarious way later…
Yeah at the time when everything kind of exploded, we took a break (laughs).
Indeed, from 2004 on… You watched it from the outside then…
No, we were active, but a different band, the thrash outfit Battered. Actually when we returned to THAT scene… the first gig we did after the break was the Ragnarök festival in 2009 – and I was just surprised that such a festival could exist. I mean, a festival with only pagan type of bands and that year it attracted 5000 people in a very niche kind of genre. When we took a break in 2003, that was unthinkable. (chuckles) So I was REALLY surprised when we returned to the scene and did that show. We even played some festivals with theme markets, like the Hörnerfest, all kinds of strange festivals in Germany, but it is cool though.
How do you look back at the writing process? Was there a plan in mind or just go with the flow?
When we write songs, we just go with the flow. We let the song determine the shape and form. We rarely plan too much in advance, I mean, when I write a riff, I don’t think: “it is a cool riff. This song will be like a ten minute epic blabla bla”. You just go with the flow. A couple of albums ago I started with a drop in D tuning on the guitar and that guitar was just placed in a stand in my place right beside where I sit and work. When I get an idea in my head, I just pick up the guitar and record it. That guitar was tuned in drop D for ages, so that explains why all the songs I wrote are in drop D. That feels heavier than a regular tuning. Actually quite a few people have mentioned that the new album sounds heavier than we are used to and my guess is that is because we have more songs tuned in drop D. For the rest, production wise it is exactly the same. Same studio, same mics (microphones), same guitars, same drums, same everything. Also I think that when we start writing material for a new album, we normally start in the same musical frame of mind as we ended the last album. So when we started writing for ‘North Star’, we just started where we left off with Norrøne Spor’. I think style-wise it is more or less the same. Another factor is that we are in the mid forties, we are not changing approach or anything like when you are – let’s say – 20 or 22. If you think four or five years ahead when you are twenty years, compared to 25, that’s a huge difference. You can really change during those few years. But for us, we are in the mid forties and I do exactly the same music like I did five years ago and I will probably do exactly the same music in five years. We don’t really change that much during the last years. I think we have found the sound, OUR sound. We are very comfortable where we are right now, so we don’t want to push any boundaries that we don’t have to push. The boundaries that we are pushing now, are just for ourselves. If we want to check out something in a direction or this or that, but generally this is where we are and we probably are going to stay here for a while.
Concerning the line-up: guitarist Aksel has been a part of Einherjer for 21 years. Now he is gone. Wasn’t that hard to accept?
There was absolutely no drama involved there. It was just the timing. He wanted to focus more on his family. It is not that we are touring a lot, but during the summer there are a few weekends that you have to be away from your family of course and he did not want that anymore. And that is fair. He had been talking about it for a while, I just did not think it would happen. After the cruise he told me: ‘this is it, I am out’. The feeling you get from that… you feel kind of heartbroken, because this is like a marriage kind of relationship that has been going on for many, many years. You feel kind of heartbroken when something like that happens. But then again, you just have to open your eyes and see what you can get out of it. We did not want to go on the other side of the country – or even outside the country – to find new people, so we wanted people that are based in the same area as we are. And ideally more or less the same age. And really ideally people that we know. Out of the blue I just thought about Tom (Enge – Vera). He was just the perfect match and we all know him. He has been a friend of the band for years. He was just perfect.
That is fine, yes, I saw he is from the same town, Haugesund…
He is also a great musician. Originally he is a drummer, a really killer drummer for the last 20 years. He has also played guitar, but I never thought about him as a guitar player. But I mixed an album he did, some solo stuff a couple of years ago. I met him at a store and was like: ‘of course, he plays guitar’. So he blended really well. And Ola stayed with us too, he is an amazing guitarist.
This record ‘North Star’ marks the return to Napalm Records after 25 years. How do you feel about that?
One thing is for certain: you never know what the future holds (laughs). There was absolutely no drama involved on this either. Our contract with Indie Recordings was fulfilled with ‘Norrøn Spor’, so it was time for us to chop around for a new label. We have been on a Norwegian label now for years and we thought, we wanted a European label now from the continent. Napalm were on the shortlist and we quickly came to an agreement. Thus full circle, after 25 years being back at Napalm. It feels good. I am happy with that. They have grown immensely since the last time we released something with them and they have a really strong presence now. They can push our music to the masses way better than the smaller labels we come from now. I think they can step up the game for us, that’s good.
You are all living in Haugesund…
Yes we are! (proud)
What is typical for that place and region?
It is a typical Northern West Coast fishing village, strategically placed between Stavanger and Bergen. If we go way, way back, this was the first king seat of Norway. This is kind of weird. This is where Norway was born. The seaway here, between Haugesund and a small island on the other side, that small passage, that is the place where Norway got its name from. It is really historical ground we are living on and I do think that is why we felt the urge to have lyrics and stuff based on our heritage and based on our history. There is a very strong presence here.
I can imagine! You are true Vikings, because Harald Finehair was buried in a cemetery over there, isn’t it?
Yes this is only 200m from where I am now, where I live. But that is actually wrong, he isn’t buried there, but that’s what they want us to believe. The big statue is placed over there, just to have a monument. They were never sure where he was buried and actually in later years they found out: woops, this is probably wrong. It is not something that the people don’t know, it is common knowledge here. It is the wrong place, but that’s okay.
I think you used that place ‘Avaldsnes’ to shoot the videos?
Yes we did. And that was also the place – it will probably also be on Wikipedia – of this king seat, where the king lived back in those days.
Why are you not in Twilight Of The Gods anymore?
(laughs) I don’t think anyone is in Twilight Of The Gods anymore. There has been talks about a second album. I do think it will happen. It is impossible to say when. It will happen but now it is impossible to get these guys in a room together, because everybody is so tied up at their own end. Then we had the whole pandemic going on. So everything was really hard. But there has been talks and I do think that we will do it again.
Yes, including me. Because that was the thing. The reason I stepped down was because they wanted to tour a lot more. I quit the band and they did one gig! (laughs) Okay guys, one gig? I’m back in. We have been discussing this quite a lot and now we found out that we want to do it with the same guys as the first album. We just need this pandemic to end, then we can book up some cheap flights to write some songs. We don’t want to write songs over email, we don’t want to exchange files and stuff. We want to do this the old school way, exactly the same way as we did last time. We met up in Portugal last time. We rented a house, first for one week. We did not bring any ideas. We wrote the songs then and there and then we took it back home and let the material mature for a while and then we went back to Portugal for another week. We were four or five months later. Then we finished it in London where we recorded the drums. The whole album is kind of written when we are all in the same room. Old school.
Seems the most agreeable way to do it…
Yes it is. It will never work for a band like Einherjer, but for Twilight Of The Gods it was the only way to do it.
Was Costin Chioreanu involved in the artwork again?
Yes he was, he is the best. Costin has been working for us for quite a few years now and it has been wonderful. On this album I think he sometimes knows better than us what we want. Because I tried to explain him what I wanted as a front cover and he was like: ‘yes, that is probably a good idea, but just let me look for an illustration.’ He had a completely different idea, but when he sent it over, it just fit perfectly. He also did some singles covers which are amazing. I just hope that we can have those singles done really soon. I know there was some pressing plant stuff, so problems probably due to the pandemic and that stuff. We did not manage to do it in time, but we get some singles and they will be out some day. I also think they don’t prioritize 7 inches, just full albums. I hope they will be out, because I love 7” and there is always something funny on the B side.