Another Canadian metal act and another interview. This time with EYE OF ODIN. “I” refers to Grendell Skalding, vocalist for Eye of Odin / Atridr throughout. “We” generally refers to Asathor Rogerson, Alexandria Yates, and Grendell Skalding. Anders Ekdahl ©2013
How come you have chosen to sing about the old Norse Gods?
-Three big reasons.
a) When we were deciding on what the “matter” of the new project would be back in 2008 we specifically wanted to emphasize the goings and doings of mundane, ancient folk. People who ploughed the earth and lived and died without apparent consequence to the turning of great wheels. To emphasise the strength of the individual is the ultimate goal… Really the lyrics are more about having confidence and strength in the face of great adversity, and the idea that victory and death are distinctly tied together. It made sense to us because of the second reason to go with an imagined history of the Norse/Gaels of the land that would one day become Scotland. That is generally the topic of our debut album, “Winterborn”. The inclusion of the gods that those common folk invariably worshipped was a matter of consequence.
b) Asathor and I are both of Scottish ancestry, and the link between the Norse and Gaelic folk, the joining of two great houses as it were, is a matter of great historical fascination for us. Because the union of these peoples is largely pre-historic (having occurred some time in the dark ages between the 4th and 6th centures) we had “room” to tell a story–a hypothetical circumstance, a “could have been” or “what if” type scenario–wherein we could focus on the struggles of those ancient peoples without being confined to a specific historical timeline (except in the loosest manner possible). History “knows” the origin of the Norse-Gaels, and it “knows” the end… but the journey in between is a story untold by history. Again, this is the subject of our debut album.
and c) A huge fascination with that mythology, culture, and history made the choice almost inevitable. Without turning to the Classic Period of the Mediterranean, the Norse pantheon was prolific and far-reaching; it is probably one of the biggest influences on culture today–Our days are counted by the names of Norse Gods, and many of our rituals (Yuletide Trees, Eostara, etc) are carried on from the ancient Norse traditions. Ultimately, Norse Myth the source of the great English works of literature. Beowulf, for example, is one of the sole examples of North-Westernern-European epic poetry. The Niebelungenleid also comes to mind. Given that there is such a rich “untold” (compared to classical mythology) history out there. Together with Wagner’s influence on heavy metal, it only seems logical to continue the tradition.
What is that is fascinating about an ancient mythology?
-It tells us something about who we are fundamentally as animals and as people. It gives us a connection to the Earth in a way that more modern mythology simply cannot touch. Ancient religions are popular these days because people are disenfranchised from the haughty, austere scrupulousness of certain modern religions which shall remain nameless.
How come people outside of Scandinavia seem more interested in our ancient history than we ourselves are?
-Well, partly thanks to the Norse-Gaels that eventually populated Scotland, Norse heritage is nearly ubiquitous in this part of the world. Then Again, Canada’s heritage is mostly Germanic in origin. Don’t forgeet the “norse pantheon” and “norse history” applies to areas outside Scandinavia, too. At some point, anyone of Northern European descent has a touch of “Viking” in them. We are talking about prolific sailors and tradesmen with a distinct interest in outward movement and invasion of new lands.
Here in Sweden you can easily be labeled right wing if you even talk about stuff like Odin and Norse mythology. How do you take it back from those kinds of assholes and create a healthy interest for it that has nothing with hate to do?
-This question requires a lot of attention. It’s an unfortunate association that we know too well. We are changing our name from Eye of Odin–a classic name and we will be sad to see it go–to Atridr, a less commonly known name for Odin. This partly because of a band called Eye of Odin that preached hate out of the UK. Even though they are defunct, the lingering stink still remains. If we have any hope of targeting the UK for distribution, (which we do!) we have to abandon the name. We don’t lament. This ship may have a new name, but it is the same old ship that carries us away to new lands and new adventures… and all cultures and creeds are welcome to sail except those who practice intolerance. The truth is any religion or mythos can be tainted by those who work toward fascist ideals. It is important to remember that although the Nazis in Germany were definitely fond of their Viking past they self-identified as Christians not as worshippers of an ancient and (at the time) very dead religion. I’m sure most Christians would rather not recall that ugly fact, but it is true. The Nazi’s weren’t barbarian witches. They were “good christian folk”. The tragedies that were carried out in that time were done so in the name of Jesus, not in the name of Odin. Worship of the heathen gods was distinctly frowned upon in Hitler’s regime, no matter what people say about his fascination with the occult. And that’s really where all of this begins. It’s unfortunately tied in with the German culture–a noble heritage which is unfortunately therefore sullied.The question of whether or not racial hatred and Norse myth are intertwined is something I think relatively moot. All ancient religions and cultures at some point suffered from feeblemindedness, and therefore ignorance. That is where fear and hatred come from. All religions have exclusive properties, and usually they were originally blood-based. But as times changed and societies adapted to incorporate new cultures, religion has to adapt and allow. How to promote Norse mythology free of hate? It’s really a no brainer for us. The music and the lyrics speak for themselves. Today, in a modern sense, I would not say there is any kind of blood-related exclusivity to the Norse traditions. No more than any other, certainly. In fact there is a lot of evidence to show the Norse people were very tolerant of other traditions and peoples. It would be foolish to say that racial motivations never existed in that culture, but the same could be said of any history that spans any significant length of time. It all comes down to fear and ignorance. Those are the sole legs that fascist ideals have to stand on. Without those two pillars, arguments quickly break down. People who focus too much emphasis on blood clearly have the image all wrong. Many people think that because Norse tradition has been interpreted in such a way in the past that the Northern people are supposed the descendants of Odin that it means there is no tolerance of other peoples… that fascism is the logical extension of the text… but again the same could be said for most traditions that involve “chosen people”. A much more fitting interpretation for the “Sons of Odin” would be humanity at large. We, the humans, have been chosen by Odin, and so we are all blessed and all given equal chance to become Einherjar.
I was once asked if it would be funny to see a Chinese person in a band that emphasises Norse history. I say no, it is a shared history for humanity that we all may sing about. I think it would be no less strange than a Scandinavian band emphasizing Japanese themes with their music, like Wintersun’s new record. If you don’t have fear in your heart, you can tell any story you want with confidence; it doesn’t have to be about your great grand father to be important to you.
So we carry that vision forward with our music and our message. The only hatred we sing about is between enemies–and usually those disputes we do sing about are simply territorial.
And for fascist assholes, I only have two words: “Fuck off”.
It is one thing to have a lyrical strategy but how do you write the music to fit the lyrics? What does come first to you, the song or the text?
-Sometimes, when I am lucky, the melodic, rhythmic, and harmonic elements all come together with lyrics, like a sudden inspiration… the song in its whole form comes as if in a dream and it must be expressed. Other times, the music comes first, and the purpose of the tale comes next, and lyrically it is my job to create a tangible relation from the “feel” of the song to the sentiment of the lyrics. Not always an easy task. Sometimes, almost never, the lyrics come first and the song form grows up around them.
Where do you find inspiration to the music? How much of it is a conscious decision and how much is gut feeling?
-The biggest inspirations come from literature mostly, history books, stories, that kind of thing. Often inspiration comes from listening. We want this sound or this energy that we hear somewhere else by some other band, so we try to emulate it. In our own way. Other times it comes more internally. There is an idea we want to express. Due to the nature of the lyrics and the rather focused scope of our story telling, it’s usually a more concentrated effort, although sometimes a song just comes, wholly inspired, “from the gut”.
I gotta say that Nanaimo doesn’t sound like a huge town. What kind of obstacles does it bring with it coming from a smaller place in Canada?
-Nanaimo is small–about 80,000 people, 120,000 in the greater area. We live in the shadow of Vancouver. There are a lot of challenges–namely a lack of venues for our distinct sound, and a lack of a strong, united metal fanbase. Usually the fans of metal are very young, and most of the venues are bars–so there is a disconnect there. Often shows are out-of-pocket affairs just to get people out to have a good time and share in the culture. It would be nice if music were somehow able to be performed for free always, but musicians work hard and like anyone else they need to eat and buy clothes so unfortunately the money game ends up occupying a lot more time than we would like it too. It is a small culture here, like I said, so there is a lot of back-scratching going on. Favours for favours. That can be good and it can be bad… It’s really the passion of the brave few that make the scene come alive here. Then again we are fortunate to have such an active culture so near by in Vancouver and Victoria–but these are pittance compared with the scenes in larger cities in Eastern Canada. I guess the advantage is that because it is a smaller pond, it is easier to become a bigger fish.
What kind of metal scene is there in Nanaimo? Do you get to play live a lot?
-There are, I would say, under 10 metal bands that play actively in the Nanaimo area. We play as often as possible… at best about 20 times a year. When you consider that it’s largely a weekend endeavour, that works out to about half of our weekends spent on stage. We stand out in this area because not many bands are as exciting on stage as we are. We like to make every gig a unique experience.
How much interaction do you have with the rest of the Canadian metal scene?
-Plenty. It is a small pond over all, so acts are very social, within certain limitations. It’s good to cross-pollinate fans. Some of our best friends are in Unleash the Archers, Scythia, and Trollband–and that’s just the “medieval metal” niche… Outside that we also have friends in the punk scene and the rock scene… but unfortunately the scene is largely divided by the prairies in Canada… If you are to the West of Saskatchewan you run with one crowd, and to the East you run with another. Not that it is an antagonistic divide–it’s just geographically inconvenient to cross that large, Winter-bound gap 9 months out of 12.
What kind of future plans do you have?
-World Domination. More specifically, we are taking a Hiatus to change our live show around and make it more exciting, also to drum up interest in our new name and new image. There will be an album sometime in the next couple years called “Songs for the Allfather” — we’ve already recorded a demo for a few of the songs but some still have yet to be completed. It’s our hope that pending the release of that album, we will be able to acquire European distribution in the near future… so hopefully you will hear “Endless Horizon” or “Winterborn” on the radio soon!