With a new album out that might very well be the last we’ll ever see I thought it was best to get an interview with MYRKGRAV done before it was too late. Anders Ekdahl ©2016
Something I immediately reflected over with the title to your new album was that it seemed so final, that this is the end of MYRKGRAV. What’s behind the title to this new album?
-There are several aspects to the title although I only came up with it on a whim a rainy summer day, after deciding that the original album title “Forteljinger frå Finnefjerdingen” no longer was suitable due to all the changed circumstances over the past few years. It is for example correct that it is the end of Myrkgrav as everyone knows it. A decade has passed since the last full-length album, and during that time, loyal fans have shown nothing but understanding for how long it has taken me to finish the new album. As such, the “Thank you and farewell” part of the album title reflects the fact that I am incredibly grateful for the immense patience fans have shown during the excruciating ten year long wait for this album to finally be done.
The “times have changed” part of the album title is pretty self-explanatory if you think about it. I am not the same man now in 2016 as I was back in 2006 when the debut album came out – and neither are the times. The title represents that the man has changed with the times; and Myrkgrav has gone from something that I really loved working with, to become a heavy burden of lacking inspiration. You could also include how the metal scene and music industry has changed in this portion of the title. To be honest I have no idea what is going on these days and how things work, so it seemed appropriate to underline the fact that Myrkgrav in its “old” form does not fit within the framework of contemporary times in the music industry.
However, I’ve learned never to say never. Who is to say I don’t suddenly run into a bout of inspiration and write a whole bunch of new Myrkgrav material? No one knows. However, it does feel appropriate close this chapter of Myrkgrav for now, which accounts for the “final” sounding album title.
Will I as a MYRKGRAV fan find this new album as enticing as the previous ones? What is new this time around?
-At the core, the material is the same as before: extreme metal with folk music elements. The folk elements are however much more apparent on this new album, as it includes not only “proper” folk music passages, but also the use of traditional folk music instruments such as the Hardanger fiddle (Norway’s national instrument) and pixie flute interweaved with the metal aspects in a much more natural, and dare I say, genuine, manner than before. Most of the material was written within a couple of years following the release of the debut album and is not all that different at its core. This should make the Myrkgrav sound pretty recognizable to old fans who know what to expect, while the strengthened folk music elements add a touch of that haunting Nordic Melancholy that represents a new path to Myrkgrav’s songwriting and general atmosphere.
Do you feel that you are sort of the elders of Norwegian folk metal? What state is the Norwegian metal scene in today?
-To be honest I have absolutely no idea what the state of the metal scene in any country is right now, as I haven’t kept track of any of it the past few years, after becoming disinterested in music altogether. There are a few bands that I keep track of, like Dunderbeist and Leprous, but other than that I do not know what’s going on, what’s new and what no longer exists.
I guess at this point Myrkgrav is sort of an elder in Norwegian folk metal, even if that particular small scene was never very popular in Norway to begin with. In fact, the whole Norwegian folk metal scene is often frowned upon by the rest of the Norwegian metal community, for reasons unknown to me. I have however always felt that Myrkgrav has been on the outside of the community, seeing as how it’s a one-man project and I haven’t really been in touch with many of my fellow folk metal colleagues. A lot of people know about Myrkgrav, but it is rarely considered as part of the “scene”, if there is such a thing as a Norwegian folk metal scene at all anymore.
I am fascinated by the fact that musicians still come up with new ways to write songs that haven’t been heard. So how does it work, how do you make your own music based on what influences you? What parts do you pick?
-To be honest I am as fascinated as you by that aspect. I will however say that although I am probably culturally conditioned by the music that I have listened to through my life and it has formed what Myrkgrav sounds like, I have never been particularly inspired by any other music when I compose my own. It’s just its own entity that lives inside me and sometimes shines through in the form of new compositions that I have no idea where come from.
The songwriting process is usually the same. I come up with a lead guitar riff or melody and build upon that, and in a few days the base of a song is done. There are really no parts to pick or not to pick, as I don’t come up with a thousand ideas here and there and put them together; but rather put all my focus on one song at the time and try to make it feel as “complete” and consistent as possible. “Vonde auer” is a good example of a song like this. There is no clear structure to the arrangement, very few parts repeat several times throughout the duration of the song. It’s more of a journey where one part is followed by the next based on what I feel like would be a natural development of the arrangement. It’s almost impossible to describe since it just “happens”. Every musician and artist has his or her own way of doing things, and what is outlined above is just my way – or at least a fraction of the many combined ways that make Myrkgrav songs come into existence.
When you are in a band does it feel like you are a part of a worldwide movement?
-Not really. I have never considered myself a musician or an artist really, as I do not like to identify myself with the things that I do, but rather the things that I am. I’m just a regular person among us all that happened to come up with some music that a certain small niche appears to appreciate. I don’t feel like Myrkgrav is part of something bigger, or that I am part of something bigger because I am Myrkgrav. It’s just its own little universe that is open for everyone to look into and experience at their own leisure. It’s nice to have some kind of legacy that will hopefully be remembered long after I am dead and gone though, I will admit that much. Being able to tell my stories when I am no longer here is definitely the only way in which I feel like I am part of something bigger than myself.
How important is it that you look the part in promo shots and stuff? How important is the graphic side of the band?
-Well, I’m vain as fuck and have been into fashion for a while, so I would say the aesthetic aspect definitely plays a big part in forming the “complete package” when a new release is to be made. Myrkgrav is a concept project, it all deals with folklore, ethnology and local history from the 1600s through the 1800s, so the packaging and promo aspects have to reflect that. Design and aesthetic makes everything more real and filled with emotion and meaning. I’m not particularly fond of how many so-called folk/pagan/whatever bands have cover art and booklets filled with epic battles and monsters and what-have-you. It comes across as cheap and easy. I would much rather keep it personal and different, even if it doesn’t fit in with the norms and ways of similar releases in general. I’m too old and too much of a cynic for cheap gimmicks, and I am positive that my niche following appreciates this fact when the look of a new Myrkgrav release is something completely different from what you would expect from a folk metal band.
What would you say influences your lyrics? How important are they?
-Like I mentioned earlier, as Myrkgrav is a concept project, the lyrics play a major role in the project as a whole. The lyrics are taken from transcriptions of interviews and memoirs of people who recollect the 17th to 19th century, in dialect and as close to the original sentence syntax from the tales as possible. This is also the main reason why it has taken so long to finish the Takk og farvel album, as it is a very difficult process. In the end I had to admit to myself that I was in over my head, and that is why there are many instrumental songs on the album. They weren’t supposed to be instrumentals, but due to the way I had written the songs with loads of guitar leads, very little space for vocal arrangements, and keeping the lyrics true to its source material…it just could not be done although I sought out help from several writers. Still, the songs hold their own with their varied riffs, melodies and arrangements even without vocals, so I figured I’d say fuck it and put them on the album anyway.
Is the album as relevant today as it was in the 70s and 80s? I get the feeling that more and more people suffer from ADD and can only listen to single tracks before they have to move on.
-Honestly, I don’t really believe in the album format myself anymore. Even I would like to get the short but sweet highlight reel from a band rather than a full album that is a lot to digest in today’s fast-paced world. That is not to say I do not personally enjoy albums. But I do think that many bands could put out more true quality material if they focused on less of it at the time. It has the advantage of automatically reducing the amount of filler material, since you only have so much to show for and really have to do your best to make it the best possible for being a short record.
I will say that if there will be any new Myrkgrav material, it will most likely come in the form of singles and EPs. Sure, it’s just a small amount of material and you may feel like you’re not getting enough – but what better way to look forward to the next installment than make something that is small and full of meaning rather than something is huge and filled with bland passages because you can do that with a long player?
How much of a touring entity are you guys? What is a live experience with you like?
-As Myrkgrav is a one man project there have never been any live shows. Only a one-time meet & greet/pre-listening thingy at the Ragnarök festival in Germany back in 2012. That was fun, but you will probably never see Myrkgrav on a stage.
What lies in the future?
-The apocalypse. Just kidding. I don’t know, to be honest. A part of me feels more inspired to write a little Myrkgrav material again now that I have ridden myself of the burden that is this newly released album that has been weighing on my shoulders for the better part of 9 years. But on the other hand, I have very much moved on from music. In fact I now make boots and shoes the traditional way. I’ll probably get tired of that at some point, too, but right now I’m enjoying it. Just like I was enjoying Myrkgrav back in the day. Keep evolving, trying new things and strive towards personal growth. That’s my permanent goal. All the other things I do are just ways to make that happen.