About Me

Interview with Niklas Kvarforth

Niklas Kvarforth is a force of nature to be reckoned with. The lead singer of the Swedish Black Metal band Shining gave voice to the voiceless during this interview by sharing a few personal insights, career projects, and the world’s perspective after three years of a worldwide pandemic that hit the whole world.
Even nowadays, Kvarforth is still dealing with his own demons and allowed us to learn a little bit more about him and how this reflects on and shapes Shining’s lyrics, as well as other musical projects that Niklas is still involved in. Consumed by the horror of the world, and haunted by the past, the path to enlightenment is still unclear and drives him to create a unique raw sound with a dark atmosphere that even today is popularly known among Shining’s fans.
Acclaimed and revered by legions, hated and abhorred by a few, Niklas talked about topics that revolve around mental illness, his inspirations to create music, misanthropy, and even his most recent documentary on YouTube. Metal Imperium had the chance to discuss this and more from the genius madman behind Shining’s vocals.

M.I. - Mental health is a world’s population condition nowadays. How do you cope with yours? Do you believe help is necessary or everyone’s different and should deal with their own demons?

There were a lot of questions in one, but I can say I just got a new diagnosis on top of my schizophrenia, bipolar disease. I now have PTSD on that list as well. Mental issues are extremely Scandinavia. So basically, I remember we had this lunatic asylum, like in the good old days, and they decided one day that they're ok, they can go, you know, and just eat pills. They just left 15 people on one day because there's no one sick. It's the story, like my love of life.

M.I. - Still within the mental health spectrum. 3 years ago, COVID-19 took a huge toll not only on the music industry but also emotionally and psychologically on people. Did it affect you much? How did you cope with the pandemic, and what kept you busy? 

I was homeless at the time. Everything was closed. In Finland, they closed down the whole shops, every restaurant, every bar for two years. You know everyone was feeling it's a fucking alcoholic. So, you can imagine what's happening. Actually, to be perfectly honest with you, I think COVID-19 saved my life more or less, because, if I would continue to tour back then, I would probably die of an overdose or say the wrong thing to the wrong person at the right time, you know?! I’m not a people’s person. I'm really happy that we got a break, you know?

M.I. - So, COVID came out of the blue as a good thing in this case, right?

Well, it's a good thing, so we call the many aspects. I just believe it's just a flu ahead of the few points and aspects. You know, but anything that reduces the population should be glorified.

M.I. - What are your true inspirations when you are writing the lyrics for the songs? Any personal or specific mindset?

I wouldn't say that it helps me. It's more like it makes me retarded and handicapped because I don’t write music like usually people write music because I don’t like to play ball with people. So, it's a cool expression, actually, I don't play ball, right?
I haven’t written music like in 3 or 4 years, and I was sitting with a friend of mine, a fan of Shining, and he asked about the new album coming. I answered “I don’t fucking know, man”. It was a draining process not having written something in a long time, so I was bad at the time mostly after that because I wasn’t feeling well. The lyrics are written and inspired by a lot of visceral things, more than music. I’m more inspired by visceral art like movies, paintings, etc.

M.I. - So, more visual, in this case?

Yeah, unfortunately.

M.I. - You are often labeled as a genius and a madman. How easy or complicated is it for you to gravitate between genius and madness?

Isn’t that the same thing? You know what it says the little rumors about me and well, I might be back with crazy sometimes, you know, but who isn't? I don't get offended if we think of funny things throughout the years, but I think madness is needed to be able to create something of value. You need a choice in life, if you want to be a musician, for example, or an artist, I think you have to choose the path of suffering, if you want to reach out, in a good way, because it’s interesting. I don't know. I fucking hate everyone right now.

M.I. - Shining’s self-titled album is set to be released on September 15, via Napalm Records. What can we expect from this new album?

First of all, it's not Napalm Records to release it. It's actually my own label called The Sinister Initiative. We just made a license to Napalm, because, we are not able to, and we are three bands on the label, and that's also because I don't want to play ball with other people. I’ve decided to take all the releases and we fix them ourselves. The new releases of the albums, the other albums is like something we could do, but for the new Shining album we don't have the capacity to reach out like Napalm can. We need a signing partner for that, and they've been pretty good. You know, a label it's still just a label. I’m writing the letter, and they're just a fucking postman.

M.I. - Why release a self-titled album now? Most bands do it with the first, or even second, album.

When I wrote the album, I realized that if I was going to continue with Shining, I have to change a lot of things such as, don't have people around me that are fucking idiots. So, I took the people that had like 20 years of experience at least, so I don't have to explain to them how a business feels, because, I’m not a very good babysitter for other people's kids. Actually, the album was supposed to be called something different, but I was talking with Charles and, why wouldn’t we just call it Shining? And I saw his eyes that he got horrified, and said that's not a good idea because he didn’t understand what he really had to release something extraordinary. So, I guess he got a bit stressed over the situation and we have this key thing with Shining that when something feels a bit uncomfortable and you have to question the idea that you're bringing to the table, that means that you're on the right track.

M.I. - Curiously, this album doesn’t have a Roman number preceding the title, as most of Shining’s records have. Any reason in particular?

You’re going to laugh now. I forgot it. The guy who does the artwork […] and everything that's being released on TSI, basically he sends over stuff that he has been doing and I just saw that album says Shining, and nothing else. Oops, maybe the number was gone.

M.I. - As usual, the album features 6 tracks, totally written in Swedish. Why is the number 6 so special to you?

I would love to tell you that it's some kind of mystic story about it, but the fact is that when I sit down, write, I don't think, unfortunately there is something else that drives me. I’m not a guy who thinks that much. I just do things, you know? Like you’ve seen the Dark Knight, for example, they can hold the Joker there. He sees a puppy and he doesn’t know what he would do.

M.I. - Track number 5 is the Erik Satie cover which is an instrumental, another tradition of Shining’s albums. Can we say that you are a fan of patterns? 

It just happens like I said, but Erik was the thing that was actually really interesting, because when I was a young kid there was this teenage movie about a love that should not be, but it had this particular passage in it, that particular piano piece, and you know I've always had it in my mind when I think about it. You know, apocalyptical events or whatever, it's always been there throughout my whole life. So, one day when I was interested in it still, we could see we had another song first that was going to be used. I wanted to connect it with that particular piano song because there's a video on YouTube that you should check out, and everyone who will read them to you should check out. It's like a 14 or 15-minute-long documentary on Erik Satie and his life, and I would like to say that, in a way, is the equivalent of what Shining is today. We’ve always had problems with the media. It’s one of the coolest documentaries I've seen. I know there are fucked up people around the world, but it's just a little mixed race like David Lynch would sit by a piano track, you know?

M.I. - The first single “Allt För Döden” translates into “All For Death”... why is death such a fascinating topic for you? 

I worship death. That's what my whole life is about. I love the paradox of that. When I hear what I say it, but that fits for me what Santa Claus is to a four-year-old. It's everything, and I think that's what always found through my religious side that has always been present in all the albums because it's impossible not to. Historical things of my religion being locked down and being there, but I never wanted to speak about it openly because I'm not a priest. I don't have the gift of language to be able to explain my eternal love for the devil. Death always had a central theme, but this is just more of a love letter trying to get back into my life. Like, when you are right to say that you're sorry and, start lying to them [people], and they believe it. It might sound a bit weird, but I don’t know how to explain my lyrics.

M.I. - The video of the single contains a content notification, due to the heavy presence of blood and violence. Who are the women and man in the video with you? Any friends or family? Any reason for the selection of this group of people? 

I don't have a family, but yeah, it would be cool to beat your grandfather to death immediately, but I don't think I would know that either.
I don't know. The guy who made this Cold Voice documentary, I trusted him, because when he contacted me and said he worked with Erik and blah blah blah. So I called up Erik and asked him if this guy is a good guy, or if he is an expendable and disposable product, and he said he was good, so I let him do the documentary about my mental illnesses. We got to know each other, and I was really impressed with the work he was doing. Then, it was time to make a new video. Anyway, what I'm trying to say is everything's going to be fine. I didn’t do it.
I don’t fucking understand what’s so fucking bad about it? It's the same with the video we did with the stuff thing from the Parliament, during the gay parade in Serbia. That stuff has been showing on the news, but Yugoslavia on the news was not the same stuff. That was bad because Oh my God, it's real violence, I know, and now when I kick someone in the face, that's not the problem. The problem is that when you see their face getting broken.

M.I. - “Cold Void” is a personal portrayal of Niklas. Why did you feel the need to share this documentary?

I did not feel the need at all to do it. Like I said, it was him who contacted me and he wanted to do a project on mental illness, and it turned out so well that they said I had this. I always try to have a little bit of control of what happens when things are being published, and so we decided that the merged company that we're doing, […] which is now also open on American branch, I told them they could print the fucking DVD and start selling them. But no, I had nothing to do with the production. That would be kind of fucking gay, sitting there like, can you please make a movie about my life? How bad do I feel when I wake up in the morning?

M.I. - Apart from Shining, Lice is one of your side projects and apparently is a different sound from the raw Black Metal. Do you consider pursuing to develop this and other side projects in your future career as a musician? 

I have a signing on I think more than 8 albums as a guest vocalist, but with Lice, actually, it's an interesting thing because when we toured in Spain, many, many years ago and there was a band called [Bloodoline ?]. The guy over there plays now in Teitanblood, and we always talked about it because I saw how he treated a person with a hammer. So, I decided we have to do something together. 10 years later, we made a lifestyle and, actually, that guy could be one of my best friends, a very devoted Satanist. Extremely intelligent and extremely skilled at the magical workings of the devil and the person that I have huge respect for and I'm extremely glad to share work with. I just want him to contact me and say let's make another album. It's a fucking weird guy, but I love him. Let’s talk about something else, so I don't want to call him now.

M.I. - If Lice brings a new ambiance and peacefulness to the Black Metal followers, Hostsol, another side project, could be considered its antagonist? 

No, Lice, for example, is something that's written by a brother of mine, a religious brother of mine. What I did with Hostsol is I just sing in it. It's like the guy from one of my old favorite bands, who writes some music, and lives for music, so sometimes if you want to go on a coke trip or whatever, you need to get more money, right? So, you will start another band. I’m just talking shit right now because this is like the 200th interview I do today and I’m really tired. I play in bands, yes. Do I like them? I can't answer that question, but I like the person sometimes.

M.I. - In collaboration with Nergal, from Behemoth, both covered the song “A Forest” from the Post-Punk British band The Cure. It is quite different from the metal genre, especially Black Metal. 

Have you heard our covers, Shining covers? And it's a little bit more different than Behemoth. I have huge respect for Behemoth. That wasn't my idea. Adam called me and wanted me to sing in a song for a new Behemoth album. I said no, and then he said we’re doing some covers too, and said he was doing The Cure. I thought it was a really stupid idea at first, because Carpathian Forest made a cover of the same song on the Black Shiny Leather, and that's an amazing cover. But you know, it's also an interesting thing to work with the band. I've always had respect for him as a businessman, because no matter what people say, he’s a fucking great guy when it comes to getting your money, right? But you know people have so much respect for him, considering that he had leukemia.
He's Polish, I like him, but it's not like we're talking anymore. Sorry for being so hard on you, because I'm too tired.

M.I. - Any upcoming shows in Portugal? We're dying to see you!

Yeah, we are also dying, but Nicholas Barker is going through complete liver failure. He has to do to blood transfusion 3 times a week, and I just came out of mental therapy. So yeah, we can make a good deal. We'll come and play, create havoc on Earth, but it has to be on a Saturday, I think because on Monday, Wednesday and Friday he has to change blood to the doctor. I’m serious, it’s complicated. Otherwise, he can die.

For Portuguese version, cick here

Questions by Sonia Fonseca and André Neves
Interview by André Neves