Patrik Lindgren: “We still have the same kind of flame. I mean, we are just as serious about it as ever, probably even more. If we do a new album, we want it to be on par with the standards we have. If we are going to put something out that is new, it is going to be worthwhile, for us and for the listeners.”
Kwaliteit boven kwantiteit. Dat is altijd het motto geweest van de Zweedse Vikingen in Thyrfing. Zo verliepen er alweer acht jaar sinds vorig album ‘De Ödeslösa’ uitkwam en heeft gitarist/componist Patrik Lindgren – die als enig overgebleven origineel lid de touwtjes nog stevig in handen heeft – heel wat te vertellen over de totstandkoming van hun achtste studioalbum ‘Vanagandr’ dat nu in de winkels ligt. De man is juist terug van een aangenaam verblijf in de Zweedse natuur en maakt ons op een rustige manier wegwijs in het nieuwe materiaal.
Vera Matthijssens Ι 6 september 2021
Eight years have gone by since the previous album ‘De Ödeslösa’ came out, but you always kept on playing selected live gigs since then. It was not that the band had stopped for a while. What did you and the band do in those eight years?
That’s a good question. It is true that the band was never on hold or called it a day officially. Officially we were always active in a way, but obviously there was a really long gap between the releases. As you say we did some shows every year, as we used to do. When it comes to creating new music… the first song for this album was written maybe in 2016. I guess from time to time you can consider it as a creative break or something. The older you get, the faster the time flies and the band is not our profession. It is something we do outside pretty much regular nine to five jobs, families and so on, but that being said, we still have the same kind of flame. I mean, we are just as serious about it as ever, probably even more. If we do a new album, we want it to be on par with the standards we have. If we are going to put something out that is new, it is going to be worthwhile, for us and for the listeners. We never put any kind of pressure on ourselves when it comes to complete it, but I have to confess that sometimes there was a lot of time passing without anything happening really. We had a couple of songs done five years ago or something and we felt that they really had potential, it was great stuff. So once there were songs coming out, it sounded really good and I did not want to give up on the album. Early 2020 things started to come together finally. We felt that we had material enough for an album and started to complete the lyrics as well. Then the pandemic came, but it did not really interfere with the plans for the album, not at all actually. Nowadays – not only us, but many bands – do a lot of work remotely when it comes to recording and mixing and so on. We did all the recordings in Sweden. So we had some travelling within the country, but that was never a problem, because Sweden never had a lockdown and I think we are among the most mild restrictions when it comes to travelling. We did all the recordings and the production during 2020 and we could pretty much precede with it as we would have done without the pandemic. So we cannot blame that for the delay either (laughs). The album was done around New Years Eve. I think initially we were kind of aiming for releasing the album during the Spring, for some different reasons we had some discussions with our label and they really advised us to push it till after the Summer. When we took that decision, there was also quite a possibility that there would be some live shows going on in August for a release party. Now this will not happen, but we decided that we would release two singles, try to do some proper promo and make proper video clips for a few tracks and release that during the Spring and wait till August for the album. Now we are one month from there and it is great that it is finally going to be out.
Indeed, that’s a long step-by-step movement to get to the final point…
We did not want to miss out on any of the details. We wanted to do everything very thoroughly: the lay out, the artwork, the packaging and the videos and every thing and that takes some time. I think today there is more than six months waiting time at the pressing factories for vinyl records. You cannot just walk in with an audio master and ask them to release that album in one month. That’s not going to work. Those times seem to be increasing with the pandemic as well. So, as you said, a lot of step by step thinking and planning and just being careful with all the details. But finally it is there.
Let’s have a closer look at some of the songs. The second track ‘Undergångens Länkar’ should be a conceptual piece. Can you tell a bit more about that vision?
Yes, this is kind of the title track really. The album was initially meant to be called ‘Undergångens Länkar’. We felt that it was one of the strongest and most complete songs on the album, which kind of summed up Thyrfing in a good way. Not only on this album, but maybe it has some things from our very early material as well. It kind of has all, in my opinion. So we thought that it would be a suitable title track, but in the end we thought that maybe the title would be a bit long and harder to pronounce and refer to. So we called the album ‘Vanagandr’ which is the name for the creature Fenrir from the Nordic mythology, which is used as a concept theme for the lyrics in that song. In a way you can say it is the title track, even though it doesn’t have the same title. It is hard for me to say, but I think that those who have listened to and enjoyed Thyrfing before, if they don’t like this track, there is something wrong with them (laughs). Because it is like a good summary of what the band has been doing earlier and what we are doing now, almost the ultimate Thyrfing song.
In the sixth song ‘Håg Och Minne’ we hear ravens and a mysterious speech. Can you go deeper into that?
It refers to famous ravens of Odin, Huginn and Muninn. The title is what those names pretty much refer to. That is the basic concept of that song and that’s why we used the bird samples. It is a really different track. We also had the intro and outro part with seeds. It gives it some kind of oddity and maybe it brings a bit of fresh air into the album. I think the album, if you listen to it from start to finish, it is quite intense. There are a lot of things going on and we had a few more intros in that style for a few songs, but we decided for different reasons, to cut them in the end. But I think if you do a 50 minute album, you need these oddities that kind of gives it a break, a bit time to breathe, you know. Even if we love harsh and screaming vocals, if you do a long and massive album, I think you need to have breaks from time to time. The song is in the middle of the album and it is not only the intro and the outro and the samples, but it is quite an odd song for Thyrfing I would say. We tried some new time signatures and there is a bit of a weird rhythm going on in the verses. But in the end it is fine with the rest I think. Diversity is great I guess.
The vibe reminded me a little bit of ‘Kashmir’ from Led Zeppelin…
You are the first one to mention that. I can admit that influence by that one. I don’t think everyone in the band has noticed it even, so you are the first one. The riff kind of reminds of it and also the time signature with the drums doing its own thing. We will see if anyone else notices it…
Now I am curious… Another thing: I miss Peter Löf, because I remember that you told me that your former keyboard player was also involved with the orchestrations. How did you solve that this time?
Yes, that is also a thing that I would probably have included in your first question. Peter officially left the band in 2014. I guess you can say that he actually left directly after the previous album. He was still in the band for a while, but not playing live. Soon after we knew he would call it a day. Indeed, he is a founding member, he was one of the main song writers and he had quite a unique talent and style, which is not easy to replace. That was also something we kind of struggled with during these years between the albums. We tried different people, but nothing really worked out. It is hard to describe what we are after. You have to hear it, and then you say no or yes, this is going to work. In the end our bass player Joakim Kristensson did all the keyboards and orchestration. That was one of the solutions we discussed pretty early on. He was a bit hesitating. I tried to convince him, for quite a long time I knew that he can do it. Probably in 2019, when our last attempt with another solution kind of fell through, he said: ‘Argh, fuck it, I’ll give it a try’. It worked out really well. He knows what we want and he can do it. So all the time we had the solution right in front of us, we just needed him to step up and do it. Of course it is always best to keep it in the band as long as it is possible, so I am really happy how it turned out. Peter was a fantastic musician and song writer and keyboard player, but I think in the end, for this album, I think that there are no people who will say it would have been better with him. The orchestral parts and keyboards are really great and fit the style of the band.
Indeed, it is not too much, you remain harsh, but it is present, I agree. I remember, that guy, Joakim, he started as drummer and then he appeared to be a multi-instrumentalist…
Yes, I think his biggest talent is that he can play almost any instrument if he wants to. He is multi-instrumentalist and song writer, rather than just focused on an instrument. He was never really a big drum enthusiast and really love that instrument. It was maybe more of an accident that he ended up on drums when we formed the band and then he just went on. But when we had some line-up changes, we felt that bass would be better and now he is playing bass and keyboards. Who knows in five years? (chuckles)
It is the first album for Despotz. What happened to NoiseArt? Did they stop?
I think they are still active in some way, but to be honest, it was never really a good match for us and we felt that the last album kind of stayed in the shadows, promotion wise and so on. I don’t know, maybe we were just not right for each other. So I don’t know if the label is still active or not, I think their releases are available on the major platforms, but we were sure quite early on that, if we would do another album, it was going to be on a different label. The cooperation just did not work out, simply. The album isn’t out yet, but with Despotz I would say: ‘so far so good’. We are of course aware that they are not a major metal label. They are a pretty diverse label. They have everything, from pop to singer-songwriters to folk music to rock. It is a Swedish label and they are kind of from the same area, they have the same age as we are. So we have a lot of common friends. We have been discussing to sign with them earlier, but we took up the discussion again and it felt like an exciting thing to try it out on their label. They have quite a modern way of thinking how to distribute and consume music, which we think might help us out, because we are not at the forefront of the music industry now, with the long gap between the albums. So we felt we would be good with a label that is on the edge with technology and distribution of the songs. We will see where it ends up, but so far so good.
For the artwork another familiar face. Niklas Sundin, did you know him before?
We didn’t know him on a personal level, but we have been working with him for the artwork and all the sleeve designs for the ‘Vansinnesvisor’ album in 2002. I don’t know why, but for some reason we just went on after that. We were happy with it though. Years passed by and now we came in a situation that we needed someone on a short notice to work on the project. He was up for it and really good, but I think he is situated in the US right now. We had a lot of communication though, in written form and a lot of ideas went back and forth. He also did the artwork for the singles. I think it turned out very well. It was a challenge, because, as I told you, the title ‘Vanagandr’ is the name of the wolf creature which has been used a lot on shirts and covers… We thought: ‘okay now we need to have a wolf on the cover, how are we going to do that?’ Well, it is not the most original, ground-breaking cover ever, but I still think it has a nice dramatic vibe to it. I think we kind of succeeded there actually, even though the challenge was hard, because there are like ten albums every week with a wolf on the cover.
The song ‘Jordafärd’ – which means ‘Burial’, sounds like a grand finale on the album. Do you see it like this as well?
Hopefully not, but if it is, it should be an epic ending to it. It just felt like a good ending of the album. It is probably the most different track, compared to the other ones on the album. It is quite slow in tempo all through for Thyrfing, it has a bit different elements in it that we are not using a lot. At the end we have soprano Natalie Hernborg’s female vocals on it and in the beginning you hear real cellos playing. It is a bit different track for us and it just sounds like it should be closing the album. For the title and for the concept it should be suitable as well. Well, if this would be the last album, it would be suitable as well, but I really hope it is not, because we feel in a really good state and have confidence in how this album turned out. On the other hand we are not a bunch of young men anymore, with the whole world at our feet. I cannot really tell, but I hope there will be more music out from us in the future. We are a constant band, even though there is quite a few time in between releases.
There are three singles with video clips, made by Patric Ullaeus, a famous director of clips. I found out these were your first experiences for making proper clips. Is that true?
Yes, it is true. ‘Döp Dem I Eld’ is the first one, at least the first one we ever released. We have made a few attempts in the early years of the band, but then it was strictly low budget and unprofessional and just awkward. I am just glad there was no YouTube back then (chuckles). So yes, these were our first video clips and we felt that now that we were waiting so long and we were finally doing something, it needs to be really good from the start. Especially if we are doing a video clip showing the band, the stage clothing and the whole concept, that needs to be really well done or it would turn out really corny. Due to the current situation we knew that we had to do it in Sweden. From a financial point of view, it is not the cheapest country to make a video, but we can travel anyways, so we did it in Sweden. We did quite some research on directors and we finally came to the conclusion that Patric is probably the only guy who could do this in the way we want. We just contacted him. We never really thought that he would be up for it or that we could afford it, but it worked out and we are really happy about that. We could make it happen. So now we have the two official videos and I think both of them are really well in quality. The result is pretty much exactly as we hoped for. I am really happy about it. The importance of the videos and that kind of media is ever increasing. It is continuing to get more important every day, we need to adapt to it. For us it is a learning thing. It has never been our strong side really.
Was it fun to do or a lot of waiting and suffering?
It was a lot of waiting and a lot of caring and a lot of freezing. It was an exciting experience, but we were limited in budget. So we had to do most of the things ourselves without a crew. So it was a lot of hard work, but of course it is totally worth it in the end. For the actual filming it was the first time, so yes, that is an exciting experience of course. I think we couldn’t be happier with this result.
And so you see, after all these years, there are still new and challenging things to do…
Yeah definitely. For the actual filming part, it is not that different from playing live on stage I would say. That did not feel strange actually. We had kind of the same stage clothing and gear and make up. For me it is more of a learning curve with the interviews and clips that are supposed to be done. It is something that we never did back when we released most of our albums. So that is more of a new situation for me personally.
Concerning the recordings I have a list of studios, but didn’t you use your own studio for recording?
We did some recordings ourselves in a few different smaller studios around. Some of it was recorded in what we may call ‘home studios’ or so on, but it is not really a proper studio though. The guitars and drums were done with Jakob Herrmann in Gothenburg. He did some producing as well and some editing work for the other recordings. But vocals and bass and keyboards, they were recorded by ourselves.
Does Twilight Of The Gods still exist?
Euh… I don’t know. I actually left the band around 2014 or something. They went on. They played a couple of shows, but nothing more really happened. I don’t know the official state of the band. I know there was some talking about starting it up again right before the pandemic happened. There is not something cooking, I would say, unless they are doing some things without me in the discussion. But I have left the band, so if they are doing something, they don’t have any obligations to tell me. I was included in the discussion before the pandemic, trying to do another album. For me, I just did not have the time for it. If it happens some time in the future, we will see, but it has always been a difficult project obviously, as there are five members living in five different countries. In these current days it is even harder. We will see. It was a great project and a fun project, but right now it is a bit of a struggle with it.
Do you think it will be possible to open up Sweden for concerts soon?
There are some things happening now, but then it is mostly outdoor for 50 people. Those kind of things. Maybe out in the countryside they put up a very small stage and then they invite 50 people. I think there are some concerts like that happening right now, but for us in Thyrfing, we don’t want to do those kind of things. It is not to sound arrogant, but I think for our kind of music and concept, we really need a different kind of set-up and atmosphere. Unless it is happening on a proper stage indoors, for two hundred people and more, I don’t think it is worth doing really, because it doesn’t suit us or the musical atmosphere. We need some kind of minimum I would say. But hopefully things are going in the right direction. For instance in the US it is already happening. I guess Europe is a little bit behind, but it seems things are happening in Germany as well if you look at social media when it comes to metal. Quite proper metal shows. Open air. I doubt in Sweden. There are no festivals in Sweden this Summer. That is already called off. But I think the club shows that are announced for October, November, they are still on the schedule for happening. So we will see what happens in the end. I know that some venues have been closed down or even torn down this year. There also needs to be a place to host shows. There needs to be backline companies that are not in bankruptcy. So I am probably not the best one to answer this question, but it seems that most of the people think that at a certain point we can just push play again and everything will be as it was, but I think there are also a lot of people who started to do something else in this one and a half year. So we will see. I hope that it shapes up and that we come back to something that reminds us of how it was in 2019.
I think it is a bit too early for big festivals…
At least here in Sweden last year everybody was pretty much sure that it was over then, they started to lift some restrictions and so, but then in October everything just went downhill again. Of course there is a vaccine now, but who knows how that is going to play out either? I think the only thing that we can be sure of is that we cannot be sure really how the rest of the year will look like. Obviously I think things will go into the right direction during the summer, but for the autumn, no one knows I would say. Most people here are just waiting for something to happen, the interest is as good as it has ever been. That’s not going to be a problem (chuckles).
There will be re-issues coming up from the first four Thyrfing albums. Few words about that initiative would be nice to occlude…
The digital reissues are already running on all the platforms. Those albums are available there now and then we are talking a bit back and forth about doing physical re-releases. At this point I cannot really say how they will look like or what they will contain and so on, but I think we will not rush those things either, in typical Thyrfing tradition (laughs). I think it is essential that we try to do them as good as possible and do some thinking, rather than just giving them out on a regular double jewel case format. We will see what we can pick up from the archives and how we will present them, but here will definitely be some physical re-releases, so that all those albums are available for the people who are interested in them, in a physical re-release. So probably not until early 2022 I would say, but we will see.