Lars ‘Lazare’ Nedland: “Hopefully I have written something that you can just listen to, with a sense of feeling in the lyrics here and there, or you can dive fully into it and find a lot of philosophical stuff in the lyrics and in the way it is set up. I hope it can work in both ways.”
We kennen de Noorse zanger en allround muzikant Lars Are Nedland AKA Lazare van eclectische extreme metal bands als Borknagar en Solefald. Toch blijkt zijn muzikaal spectrum nog breder te zijn en dat merken we bij zijn nieuwe project White Void. Progressieve hardrock uit de jaren zeventig met enige bluesinvloeden weerklinkt op het debuutalbum ‘Anti’. Wij hadden een hartelijk gesprek over muziek en het concept met de veelzijdige artiest.
Vera Matthijssens Ι 02 april 2021
I am very glad and surprised to find out you have a new project. When and how did this idea for White Void came into your mind?
Well, it started with the music, because I always sit down and write music. I don’t write specifically for Borknagar or specifically for Solefald. I just make music and then very often it will be very natural: yes this is a Borknagar song or yes, this is a Solefald song. But I started making some songs that did not fit in either of those. I think back in 2017 is when I started to see that I had some songs that were fairly different. Maybe I should do something with this, I thought. And write more material in that vein. Then one year and a half or two years ago I came to the conclusion: well, I have to make this a different band. I had a lot of songs and they did not fit in the bands I have, so okay, I had to do something proper with this. That is when the whole idea of this band started. It took some time before I found the kind of form for it. When you begin a band, you start with a lot of ideas and a lot of thoughts, but you don’t have a particular focus for what you are doing. I used some time to find out that and then I just started recording. That is sort of the projection that the whole project followed so to speak.
Now we see a whole band around you. When did they come in sight, but all the songs were written by you?
Yes, all the songs were written by me, but then I collected different musicians around me for this project than I use for my other things. I did not want this to be like a metal band. I wanted this to be more based on the old school seventies hardrock approach. So these songs are much more blues faced. It has that blues sort of core to it. So I recruited musicians that don’t really come from the metal environment. The drummer Tobias Solbakk does play metal. He plays in Ihsahn as well, but he is really a jazz drummer. The guitarist Eivind Marum comes from a bluesrock background, the bass player Vegard Kummen comes from electronic music. So I wrote all the songs, we just brought all the guys in and melded the songs into a different form. The demos were a bit more straight forward, but the other musicians came around and gave it their flair so to speak. They had a lot to say when it comes to how this actually sounds on the album.
Where there for you kind of influences from bands from that era you want to mention or was it just a mix from everything?
No, there were specific songs as well. I always listened a lot to Coven, the occult rockband from the seventies. You have Coven, you have the early Blue Öyster Cult, always a big influence. I also like the progressive movement from the late sixties and early seventies, like King Crimson around ‘Red’ where they had that kind of raw approach to music. And then I also have a lot of inspiration from new wave bands, the eighties British new wave movement. Especially when it comes to melodies, the vocal lines. Like the early Eurythmics for instance or even Duran Duran. I always loved the vocals of Simon LeBon of Duran Duran. I draw inspiration from many places, but I think most influential for White Void was cult rock from the seventies and the new wave of the eighties.
Indeed, it is a mix you cannot pigeonhole with your superb voice. And the keyboards, like Hammond organ and mellotron, are very important…
Yes, I love Hammond. I have a soft spot for Hammond organs, I love that.
The concept should be based on Albert Camus’ Absurdism. What can you tell about that?
Well, that started much before the band, because I always had an interest in philosophy and I have always read a lot when it comes to philosophy. Many years ago I started to find interest in the sort of triangle relationship between existentialism, absurdism and nihilism. These three ways of thinking, these three philosophies, they have sort of the same starting point. They start with the problem of the absurd. The problem of the absurd is the distance between we as humans need when it comes to direction and sense in life. And the fact that the universe does not give us any direction or sense. The universe is a pretty senseless universe. When you are born, you don’t get a natural understanding from the universe. What am I supposed to do? Where am I supposed to go? This void, that is the spring for all these philosophies. And then they go on different routes when it comes to how they solve that. I was fascinated by these different ways of thinking when it came to that same philosophical problem. I have to say that the sort of solution or the way of thinking to solve that kind of problem I find most appealing is the absurdism of Albert Camus. He stares the problem right into the face and he accepts it. He accepts the fact that it is like that and it turns into some kind of revolt. So you have this certain movement when it comes to acceptance and revolt, which I find very appealing. So I wrote the whole concept out of that basic way of thinking, when it came to that philosophy and I set up the lyrics in a special fashion when it comes to this, because the lyrics that you hear on the album are a sort of stream of consciousness, a reaction to that whole problem of the absurd and how we go about and your own thoughts, when it comes to how you relate to that in your life. Printed in the album will be the lyrics. They are black and there will be red comments. The lyrics follow the actual absurdist approach. So the absurdist philosophies commenting on the stream of consciousness lyrics. The red absurdist comments, they are connected to the metaphysics in the book that Albert Camus released and composes the whole basic philosophy of absurdism. So hopefully I have written something that you can just listen to in the background, and you can get a sense of feeling in the lyrics here and there or you can dive fully into it and find a lot of philosophical stuff in the lyrics and the way it is set up, if you want to. I hope that it can work in both ways.
I like that, because I still see albums as an entire entity…
I was born in the seventies, so I love entire albums. We don’t listen to one song here and one song there. There is a full album and then you listen to the whole album. I hope to replicate at least a little bit of that with this one.
Why the album title ‘Anti’? Has it something to do with space or antimatter?
Well, that has to do with the revolt, going against something. You kind of realize how the universe is constructed and how there is no sense and meaning with anything, Anti is the sort of basic idea of not standing still in that. That is why the common approach is such an interesting approach when it comes to a philosophical problem, because it has the duality of acceptance and revolt. Anti is that basic revolt that keeps you pushing yourself up against this problem and keeping active. It is a short and simple title and anti is a word which is the same in many languages. As a prefix, it is used in many languages and people can relate to that on different levels. So I thought it would be a good starting point to make people interested in the conceptual side of things.
At first sight this absurdism is kind of depressive stuff when life has no meaning, but I am glad that it turns into revolt. That means that you have a will to survive and fight back…
Yes. It doesn’t have to be bad. It doesn’t have to be good. It just tells you about the stance, a way of going into something and the revolt side is important when it comes to that. I think it works well when it comes to sort of giving it true entrance into the conceptual universe.
For the recordings you had the help of your Borknagar buddy Øystein G. Brun…
Yeah! My good old friend! We are playing together in the band Borknagar for 22 years now. So yes, we have done so many things together. Actually the whole production of this album, it started with the whole covid-19 situation. Øystein has built the studio many years ago and he is producing stuff professionally. He has been doing that for many years, he is a really good producer. I sent him a few songs and demos here and there and we just talked slight loosely about maybe when time comes I can mix your songs and produce it. Just having a loose conversation about it. Then in March last year we were supposed to go on a long tour with Borknagar in the USA and Canada. And then of course covid-19 happened. About seven days before we were supposed to play our first gig, the whole tour had been cancelled. We had to play the first gig at the 19th of March and it was cancelled the 12th. That’s a bit of a delver you know. We were fucked. But what we did and what happened, was really cool. Me and Øystein sat down and said: ‘we were supposed to be on the road for five weeks now. Now we are here. How about we just dive into White Void? How about we make it happen with that?’ So that was the sort of kick in the ass that we needed to get things together and get things rolling properly. So Øystein started to set up the songs I already got and I made the last recordings that were missing to have this full album. We worked on the production and mixing it. It was really good fun, because it brought out a whole new dynamic between us, in the way that we work together. I mean, we work together for so many years, but in Borknagar we have kind of tested systems of how things work. Everything is pretty simple when it comes to Borknagar. We have our systems that work. With White Void we just begin from the start. We have to find out how the dynamics work. Also with Øystein not being in the band, just being the producer. That is a new dynamic as well, which is really fun for both of us in which we got a very good result I think. We are both very pleased with how the whole thing turned out..
How did you end up at Nuclear Blast?
Yes, that is kind of a strange story as well. That’s coincidences. The idea was to just make the album first and then reach out to different labels and see if I could get something going. I did not know what we could expect, because the music is different from what I usually do and it is maybe not so easy to categorize and put in a box and sell it, you know. But we got pretty far in the production and we got five songs that were like 90% finished when it comes to production. So I thought: okay, I will just start out to few of the people that I have been working with earlier. One of the good things of being in the business for as long as I have is that you have some contacts here and there, right? So I sent it out to a few and I got some interest pretty fast and started to talk about possibilities with two labels at first. But then Jens Reuter – who used to be A&R manager at Century Media where Borknagar is – is now A&R Europe for Nuclear Blast. Øystein is a good friend of Jens. I met him a couple of times, because of course he was there at Century Media when I was there as well. But I did not deal too much directly with him. That was mostly Øystein’s doings. I just came to think about it, because Øystein produced it and so Øystein asked Jens: ‘I have produced it, do you want to hear it?’ No pressure, not anything like that, just ‘I think it’s cool if you want to hear it’ and Jens said ‘yes sure, just send me a mail about the concept’. So I sent him a mail and a couple of songs and I think it took about half an hour, I got a mail back, saying: ‘Are you up for a call? I need to talk with you about this.’ So that was really fast. I remember the last line, because he really liked the music. He said: ‘I really like to have a conference call with you to talk about this, this is not an offer yet, but I am definitely interested.’ So that was a good start. Then I started to negotiate beside Nuclear Blast with the other record companies as well and I got a few different suggestions. I had a round preparing the different suggestions with a lawyer through everything, to give everyone a fair treatment when it came to everything that had to do with it and then I landed on Nuclear Blast again. All in all that was the deal that gave me the most control, but also with marketing and everything that got to do with it. A very positive story in this case.
Until now there are two singles and you have two video clips for them. Are there still other plans or tell me something about the videos?
Since this is a new band, we wanted this first video to actually show the band. Since we are probably not going to play live with White Void this year, because everything is booked, everything from last year is just pushed to this year, so everything is full, we have to give people the chance to see what we look like and get an idea of the band. So we did a first video for ‘Do. Not. Sleep.’ I work in advertising, I work with films – that is my day job – I directed it myself with a few people that I use at work when it comes to setting things up. The second video is a pretty animated one for the song ‘This Apocalypse Is For You’. That was very different. That was more me trying to get some guidelines to the guys that programmed and animated it. That was a really fun video to make, also a complicated production. Right now I am working on the third video for the next single. We have worked on it two days and we have two more days left to put that together and that is going to be for the next single which is coming in a month I guess. So we want to have a proper visual sight to the band as well. We put a lot of time and efforts into the videos and to the band pictures, making sure that everything is connected.
I think people watch more videos when they are in isolation in these times…
Yes. I see that also with our two first videos now. They get a lot of airplay. That is very good for us. As a new band it is really good that a lot of people get to see us and connect us to something more than the music, so that they have an idea of the band and at least a visual conceptual sight of things.
Yeah when the world closed down you were also one of the first streams I saw, during the Isolation festival of Century Media…
Yes, with Borknagar. That was fun to do as well. Such strange things like that. That worked very well I think.
And with ‘Voices’! That amazing song!
Thank you. That was really frustrating, because we were supposed to do ‘Voices’ live as well. I mean, we never played ‘Voices’ live, but for the US tour it was on the set list. So we rehearsed it and everything. And then everything got closed down, so we still haven’t played it for an audience outside. So it was really nice to be able to do that on the Isolation Festival and have at least a little bit of that live feeling, be able to get the song out live as well.
I know that the artwork is from the painter Jeremy Geddes. How did you come across that?
Well, I collect art, so I am really familiar with art. I have been a fan of Jeremy Geddes for many, many years. And I had this list when I kind of set up the plan for White Void. I have a list of artists I wanted to approach in order to have the kind of cover I wanted. Because I always wanted it to be an artwork. Number one on that list was Jeremy Geddes. He does these paintings that have that sort of absurd quality in the core of them. I love his painting style, he is such a good technician. So I sent a mail to his gallerist in New Zealand, just explaining about the band and telling him which painting I wanted to use and why I was wanted to do such. I don’t know what I have to do to approach you and get the rights to use it, but well, here is the music and let me know if that is something that is possible. Several weeks went by and I did not hear anything. I did not expect to hear anything anymore. I just sent him one more mail again with the songs if he wanted to hear them and then, the day after, I got a mail back saying: ‘this seems to be a cool concept.. Jeremy is happy to let you use the painting for a cover.’ So they just get me the permission like that. So I was really, really glad. Please run through his pages, he is amazing.