In a world were there are so many bands to keep track of I want to bring my two cents in presenting you to this interview with HAMFERD. Questions answered by Theodor Kapnas (TK), guitarist in Hamferð Anders Ekdahl ©2019
How important is the band’s name in giving out the right kind of vibe?
TK: In some cases it is important, but once you’re an established band I’m not sure it makes that much of a difference anymore to be honest. There are plenty of examples of great bands which have very silly names if you stop and think about it. But since many of those bands have built their name up through their music they have managed to make the name recognizable and cool. It’s really hard to come up with a cool band name, especially in 2019 since pretty much everything has been taken. So I guess we’re lucky that our lyrics are in Faroese and we’ve actually managed to get a name which is simple (at least for us!) and fits very well with the concept of the band.
I wanted to start a band in the 80’s but couldn’t find the right people to do it with. What was it that made you want to do the band?
TK: We’re lucky that we grew up in a Faroese metal scene which was very vibrant at the time, so we were surrounded with good friends that were also good musicians. Hamferð was formed when our guitarist John decided that he wanted to start a doom metal band in Faroese, and I think that the lineup came together quite quickly and naturally since he knew which people to call. The lineup did change a bit after the band’s first ever show, but since that it’s been the same guys except for our bass player, which has changed twice. I feel extremely privileged to be able to travel and play music with the guys, we have been through a lot together but it has only made us into closer friends which is not something that you can take for granted.
Personally speaking Hamferð is my first proper band. I had a short project with John, Jón and a few others right before Hamferð started, but we never even got around to playing a show. Before that I never really got the chance to join a band, all the people around me were more skilled than me so I was one of the guys who always was left out. But I guess that just made me work harder and take nothing for granted when we ended up starting Hamferð. And the rest is history.
With so many genres and sub-genres of metal today what is your definition of the music you play?
TK: There is no doubt that our music is rooted in doom metal. We started out as a straight-up doom metal band, and I think that you can hear the influences quite clearly on some of our earlier material. However, I do think we’ve developed our own sound, and we’ve always been very conscious about trying to create something unique and not just follow whatever trends are out there. Nowadays I really don’t like to think about Hamferð as a genre-specific band, so don’t be surprised if we eventually venture even further from our doom metal roots in the future. In the end genres are just a tool to categorize music, but most of the best music out there is difficult to categorize.
How do you arrange the tracks? Is there a method to how you arrange the songs on a record?
TK: For our last two records we have been quite conscious about the order of the songs to create a cohesive flow which matches the lyrical concept and storyline of the album. As soon as we write a song we usually discuss what kind of song it is, where it could fit into the album and how it flows together with the other material that we’ve written. The last songs for an album are usually influenced by the gaps in the album timeline that we need to fill. So it’s definitely something we put a lot of thought into.
I am fascinated by how people can still come up with things that haven’t been done before, chord structures that haven’t been written, sentences that haven’t been constructed before. Where do you find your inspiration to create?
TK: I can only speak for myself here, but inspiration is a hard thing for me to control. Some days the riffs and melodies will come pouring out and sometimes there can be months between good ideas.
We’re notoriously slow writers for Hamferð. Most of us are also in other bands, and I think most of us find it easier to write music for those bands since they might be a little more focused on having fun and less about expressing something profound and unique. I take Hamferð very seriously, and only the best ideas get past our filter. This means it takes a lot of time, but I do think the end result is worth it.
How important is the graphic side of the band? How much thought goes into artwork etc.?
TK: The visual side is a very important aspect of the band. We are a conceptual band, so it’s important to us that the music, lyrics, stage performance, artwork, videos and all other stuff connected to the band are part of the band’s expression. We’re not the kind of band that’d just wear jeans and a band t-shirt and go up on stage and just play the songs. Creating the right atmosphere around the music is important for us, and the artwork is a crucial part of that. Within the band we do have different opinions and levels of involvement when it comes to the artwork. I am quite easy to please, it just has to be good enough, but some of the others are very detail-oriented. So I’ve been doing my best to stay out of those discussions, since I know that the artwork will be good enough when Costin Chioreanu is the guy making it as it has been for our last two releases.
I get the feeling that more and more metalheads too are downloading single tracks. Is the album as relevant today as it was in the 70s and 80s? Is digital killing the album?
TK: The music industry is one of the fastest changing industries out there. The way people consume music has changed fundamentally several times in the last few years, and it’s showing no signs of slowing down. This doesn’t only apply to metal, it applies to how people listen to music in general. In the 70s or 80s you could get away with having a good chorus in a pop song and one good song per album, but it’s not like that anymore. We get bombarded with content every second that we’re awake, so naturally people’s attention spans get shorter and fewer people sit down and spend time actually listening. But I’m not one of the people that thinks everything used to be better back in the day, I think it’s important to adapt to the environment which is around you, also for the metal scene. You’re supposed to look forward, not backwards.
There will always be a place for albums. The vinyl trend is proof of that – a lot of people are tired of just skipping around between songs and want to dig deeper into the music that they listen to. In my opinion the biggest issue with metal releases today is that there is so much stuff released which is homogenized and lacks a strong identity, which is a natural consequence of modern recording techniques, small budgets and the pressure to deliver more music in less time than ever before. I personally perceive that as a bigger threat to what I think metal should represent than streaming. Metal is supposed to be innovative art and counter-culture, not homogenized pop music. There is lots of really good stuff out there, but most of the time it’s just not the stuff which is selling records, at least in 2019. I know I will get hate for this, but I’d say that a lot of the bigger hip hop artists nowadays are more “metal” in their attitude and songwriting than a lot of the bigger metal artists, and that is a bit of a worry for me. We need to keep developing the genre and inject it with good ideas instead of looking over our shoulders to the past.
Are we killing our beloved metal scene by supporting digital downloading or can anything positive come from supporting single tracks and not albums? Will the fan as we know him/her be gone soon?
TK: The way I see it digital is here to stay and we will need to adapt to that. If the music is relevant enough then people will listen to it and the scene will survive. Artists, labels and publishers just need to adapt to the modern day music industry and find different ways to support themselves and get their music out there. We have to face the fact that the golden days of selling thousands upon thousands of records will never come back, and I do think that the industry is slowly adapting. But metal has to be about passion – it’s not what’s going to make you rich.
I don’t think the fan as we know him/her will be gone soon. On the contrary the rise of social media and the ability to directly interact between artists and fans can create much stronger relationships between bands and their fans. And no matter what kind digital technology gets developed nothing will ever be able to replace going to a good show with good people. So I don’t think the scene is going anywhere unless people get sick of the music, and in that case it’s time to move onto something else anyway. Thankfully we’re not at that point!
Is there a scene to speak of for a band like yours? Where do you fit in?
TK: I’d say there is a scene, yes. We have done a bit of touring the last couple of years, and there is a circuit of venues and a fanbase that is interested in our type of music. It obviously overlaps with the doom scene, but also with people who are interested in the Nordic countries, history, languages etc… We are quite conscious about not just falling into a scene and becoming “one of those doom bands”. We feel that we have something unique to express, and we do not want to fall into the trap of making the same album over and over again because that’s what the scene expects from us. We’d like to reach as many people as possible with our music, and the way we see it the best way to do that is to give ourselves complete artistic freedom and see where that takes us.
What does the future hold?
TK: We are just on our way back from Greenland where we have played at Arctic Sounds Festival in Sisimiut, which is an absolutely breathtaking place. The rest of the year we’re doing festivals throughout Europe as well as a possible tour or two, and apart from that we are working on conceptualizing our next album. “Támsins likam” was the conclusion of a trilogy of albums, so we now need to figure out which direction we want to go in with the next record. We have quite a few riffs and ideas, but I’m not going to say too much about that yet. The only thing I can say is that it will be different, just as our three previous albums have been different from each other.