About Me

Interview with Borknagar

Black Metal is a sub-genre that hardly enjoys combining or mixing with other music styles or genres. Outcasted and somehow exclusive to a group of listeners, the Norwegian metal band Borknagar keeps proving that Black Metal can be blended with Progressive and Folk, delivering once again another powerful album.
Fall was released on the 23rd of February and packs eight amazing tracks that help us to understand how powerful Mother Nature is. Oystein Brun, gave his voice to Metal Imperium, and explained the development of the new album, the artwork by Eliran Kantor, and even shared a few of his hobbies. 
Both musician and music producer, the guitar player of the Black Metal band will be touring around Europe, presenting the band’s latest release. 

M.I. - Like Immortal, Gorgoroth and Burzum, it seems there’s a whole Black Metal cosmos in Bergen. Do you feel that Black Metal is accepted by the townsfolk today as a cultural tradition or not so much?

That's a good, good question. I think it's starting to become a bit accepted, because they can't deny it anymore. It's too big. In the early days, it was just kind of a bad thing, bad kids, and bad music. Everything was not kind of accepted much I think but, nowadays, Norwegian metal has become such a big thing and, I think that, you know Norway as a whole or the city or whatever. They have to kind of acknowledge it as a big part of the new region identity, at least when it comes to art. We were in South America doing Santiago shows, and Mexico and we were invited by the Norwegian Embassy in Santiago. There was that kind of a little bit blown away, but what's going on here? 
It seems like the grown-ups are starting to accept that Norwegian metal is a big thing. I believe it's changing definitely, but it's still in a formal way. We don't get any much of economical support. If I was playing a violin or in an orchestra, I could probably live easily, just by economical support from the Commune or the state. However, I'm a metal musician, I 
can't do that. So, I would almost say there’s a discrimination in the system, because it's not rigged for metal at this point in time yet.

M.I. - Even though the roots are deeply embedded in Black Metal, Borknagar took a different and more Progressive approach with clean vocals. Should this genre explore new styles in the current days we’re living?

That’s my way of doing dealing with all this. That's my approach on it. For me, this whole, whatever that is, this Black Metal approach mentality, or whatever you want to call, to me it's about leaning forward, and explore music, musically speaking and all that stuff. It's about progression and all those things. I've never seen this conservatism in Black Metal like keeping on to the old. To me that is something that doesn't really work for me, because I honestly believe that music is something that should be alive in a sense and, in order to make music that comes to life, it has to be daring, has to be a little bit pushed forward and forward leaning basically. That’s much more according to the northern spirit, in my opinion. Back in the days, the Vikings they were kind of famous for pillaging and raping and all stuff, but that was just a small fragment of it. The real Viking mentality was about exploration, about traveling, meeting people, inventions, like the boat. To be able to sail up the rivers, for example. This kind of leaning forward and exploring mentality, that's way more now than to me than corpse paint, and doing the same shit as you did back in the 80s.

M.I. - It seems you’re a fan of hiking in the nature. Apart from spending time with your family, venturing in the wilderness allows you to get inspiration for creating music? 

Yeah, I definitely do. I don't necessarily connect music as everybody else, I'm a human being with a life, with my kids, family and stuff like that. I think, my way of finding peace in this life, relax and sometimes charge batteries is going to the forest, down my studio here going to the mountains or whatever, I just find peace. 
We have the classic pollution in this world like climate change and stuff like that, but there is also a nice kind of pollution when it comes to noise. There is noise everywhere you go, in this world there is a beeping phone, or there is a car driving by, or a plane flying over you and whatnot. So, nature is one of those places you can just be you and you know nothing else kind of thing, and that has of course a very big impact on me as a person and as a father, but also, of course, as a musician. I find in nature my inspiration, but I think it's more than just my music, it's me as a person, it's me as basically everything.

M.I. - Have you hiked in the Lofoten Islands?

Yeah, I've been there several times. Actually, my wife is from the area, so I've been there. We have been together for forever basically, so yes. 
It’s a beautiful place, and the aunt of my wife is living there too. They have been running some years ago the pharmacy on Lofoten. We do have family all over the place and stuff, we have been there many times. They have a big Viking village just a the very outer end of Lofoten, which is really, really cool. It's one of a kind. You don't find any place like that in the world, it's really unique. The atmosphere, the lighting and everything is spectacular. 

M.I. - Borknagar has been around since 1994. More than a job, what’s the secret to continue doing to improve yourselves and delivering powerful records like Quintessence (2000), Winter Thrice (2016) and Fall (2024)?

I think it's about being stubborn, and I think for me this whole thing is about this is a life commitment. This is not my career. This is not necessarily even my business. It's just my lifestyle. It's me. It's me doing my stuff in this world and it feels like a life commitment. 
There is no end to it in that sense, in my life at least. I'm going to do this as long as I can and I think during all the years I've tried all my ways, weird ways maybe to cling on to this passion. I've never compromised commercially, because I don't want to find myself in a situation where I have to do something I don't want to do in the name of music. For me, it's the musical independence that has always been extremely important, and of course I know that we don't live in a vacuum, and we depend on people buying our records and we are depending on all that stuff. 
However, that kind of musical freedom is such an important thing for me, and I think that is one of the main reasons why I still do this. I think if somebody back in the day said that: Hey, you have to do something like this or you have to do whatever. At some point it would just turn in to become some kind of commercial beast or something like that. It has just become something that I don't want it to be, because music to me is a very personal thing and again, of course, we don't live in a vacuum, so we kind of depend on Spotify and record companies and all that stuff to be able to share our music. 
In the very basic form music is a dialogue between me and you. That's all about it and it's kind of my way of thinking around the whole music thing. I've tried to keep it as simple as possible and almost a little bit childish. I need to keep this in a way that I find it fun to do. Find it interesting to do, find it rewarding to do and, of course, to protect your excitement. I've probably done a lot of stuff throughout the years that commercially speaking is not the best idea, but it has been required to do that way, because to preserve my own and advance my existence in a sense.

M.I. - The best of two worlds: a musician and a producer with Crosound Studio. Do you find easier to combine your passion with your working place?

Yeah, I do all my work here. This is my working desk, so to speak. I have all my stuff. I know all my stuff, I know the sound here, I know everything here. Definitely, this is where things happen in this studio, but, of course, when it comes to inspiration and stuff, I need to get out. I need to do something else. I need to live life, so to speak.
Through the years I've tried to make this, it’s kind of a lifestyle of mine or a life commitment. I just know what I feel is necessary to be to be able to do this, to be able to, because one thing is writing a song on guitar and record the basic riffs and stuff like that, but a different thing is to produce a song, to kind of form and shape the songs. I'm not just talking about riffs and drum patterns. Now, I'm talking about different guitar tones, mix things together, how should you arrange songs, how should you produce songs.
I think that this is something that a lot of musicians sometimes kind of forget. They think that when they write the song, the song is done and this song is cool, and they're happy with the song. The point is that there is a big, or a huge leap from that to actually releasing a song. I believe this is why this space is a question about producing. It's about how to make this song shine. How to make this song become the best of its potential, and I think some musicians have something to learn there, because back in the days we always depended on the engineer in the studio, or studio budget, or we depended on what kind of amps we had available. That kind of frustrated me, because I want to have a firm grip on my music. I want to know that when people listen to our music, this is our musical wish. It doesn't depend on the studio engineer, studio equipment, or stuff like that. That’s why I've kind of spent the last 10-15 years building my own studio and trying to kind of marry myself as a musician, but also as producer.

M.I. - If True North (2019) was a term in navigation, and takes us back to primordial times, what can we expect from Fall (2024)? 

It's a complex album, first and foremost. It's definitely dealing with one of the most classic themes or phenomena in life, and it's written about so many times by pretty much everybody, so there is nothing new. 
I love Fall. It’s a very kind of layered album in the sense that the album title has different meanings. It might be the waterfall falling down and water, in one hand, is life. We depend on water to live. Without water, we would dry out and die in a blank. On the other hand, falling water is one of the most crushing forces we have in nature, not technology, but in nature, eventually it will grind up everything you know, even mountains, rocks and everything will become sand at some point the future.
That kind of duality in life and the same with the fall of man coming, and downfall of mankind, is kind of a layer to it. This fall change of season, that's very often for human beings, at least from my experience, and maybe more so in the northern part of the world maybe, because the contrast between summer and winter is quite striking. In Norway, we have quite no place, we can have really nice summers, but we also have really harsh winters, the fall, the change of season that always you know is a challenge. 
It can be scary for some people. Even in another way like a new job for some people, changing your routines in life. Some people find that scaring, so that kind of duality, this beauty and the beast of nature, are some of the ideas behind it, and then, of course, when I started to write the lyrics for this album, I always had this very kind of basic idea about all those things that surround us. We don't see, we don't care about, we don't maybe even learn about school, but it's so important for all living and relatively safe living in societies. For example, that might be places, that might be animals, that might be people that kind of live in the outskirts of life or do this fight for life on our behalf. We all know, for example, that if the glaciers in the north and south pole melt down, we’re all going to drown on this planet. It does almost sound a bit dramatic, but it is really dramatic.

M.I. - Just a way to show us that Mother Nature is still here, and we should treasure it.

Yes, it's kind of quite a mix of those things in a sense, and as always, we use this nature as scenery, and the way of expressing ourselves and stuff like that. It depends a little bit how deep you want to dig into the music and lyrics, to be honest.

M.I. - The artwork by Eliran Kantor is truly impressive. What were your inspirations for developing it?

It was kind of a coincidence with Eliran, because there was a music event in Berlin or something, and I was talking with Eliran. He said he was a fan of the band, and his wife was also a big fan of the song Voices.
He expressed that, at some point, he would love to work with us. This was months before the deadline, I decided to call him. Let's just talk, see what we can do here, because we was a little bit short of time, but we talked for three hours and we talked about music, of course, but also everything else in life.
Basically, I just told him that you have artistic freedom, but I want the cover to have somehow to portray the wild nature. The second thing I told him, I want some kind of notion of human existence in a sense. I don't want a human being. I don't want a head or body or anything like that, but I want something to remind us about humanity, and that's all basically. One month later, I got the cover, and it was just mind blowing. He hit the nail so hard that it’s a statement of a true artist, I would say.

M.I. - The song “Summits” brings a little bit Borknagar’s early years, that raw Black Metal, do you agree?

Definitely! That was done with attention, it's something that I do musically speaking. 
I always want to push forward, progress and all that stuff, but I still find it very important to keep my musical roots in a sense. I love that stuff, I love the rough edge to the music sometimes, and there's more kind of a traditional Black Metal edge to it. That’s how we work and how we do it.

M.I. - “Moon” is another one that differs a bit, conveying us to a more Heavy Metal song. Is this a homage to the classics?

That’s right. We are all the guys in the band, especially me, Lars and Simen, we all grew up in the 80s, and of course we have had fathers and we lived up in families that were very influenced by music from the 70s and 60s. So, for us this Classic Rock, this classic Prog Rock, such as Pink Floyd, Uriah Heap and all that stuff back in the day that has of course made an impact on us. It’s kind of where we come from, musically speaking. We have this classic element or whatever you want to call it Rock, Pop, but it is classic wide to some songs that kind of feels very home for us. It's a little bit nostalgic in a sense and musically very, very interesting.

M.I. - Did any video filmmaking take place in Bergen, Norway?

Yeah, the song Summits. It’s not the video, really, it's a visualizer, so it's not supposed to be any musical video, but actually for that one I did all the video recordings myself with a waterfall one hour drive from here. The other videos are the proper videos, like Nordic Anthem and Moon. We also have one video coming today actually in 1/2 hour, recorded in Oslo.

M.I. - A few years ago, you teamed up with the Portuguese metal band Moonspell. Portugal is dying to see you performing! Any upcoming dates to play here?

For this year we will probably be quite busy in Europe, doing a bunch of festivals and we have our European Tour coming which will be announced soon with a quite famous band, and also releasing an album in a not too distant future, and there must be an European Tour in September or October, I guess. 
Then, we have some plans of going to USA and South America, next year, 2025. We will see! Yes, 2024-2025 will be kind of a live year for us and we will do a lot of live shows. We will be around definitely.

M.I. - Thank you very much for the opportunity to speak with you. Would you like to share any messages with our readers and with your fans?

Check-out the new album and hopefully we’ll see you around! Basically, we’d like to thank you and everybody for the kind words. We have got massively great feedback on our album, so thank you to everybody, and hope you find it interesting. Hope to see everybody out there and in a not too distant future.

Listen to Borknagar, on Spotify

For Portuguese version, click here

Questions by André Neves