Before yet another assault at London's Underworld, eGigs managed to catch frontman Dolk of Norwegian pagan/black metallers Kampfar to exchange words on last year's 'Profan', how it secured a Norwegian Grammy in spite of the band aiming to pen something unlistenable and Dolk's black metal book that will shock and upset both those within and outside the early Norwegian scene.
How are you?
I'm really fine, actually, I'm better than I have been for a long time. I broke two ribs seven months ago. I did it on stage. I continued the tour for a week. I did it in Brno in Czech Republic and we had one week left of the tour so we did the tour. After the tour, I was in a bad shape because the muscles in my body tried to protect the area and then my chest got locked. The end of that story was that I ended up in hospital. But right now I'm back in business again.
So you're not going to do any crazy antics tonight?
How has the tour with Vreid been so far?
It has been overwhelming! So far every club has been full, pretty full or sold out.
That's awesome. Going back to your most recent album 'Profan' from last year, how did fans and critics respond to this release?
That was overwhelming. We had so much talk about the previous album 'Djevelmakt'. There was so much talk for us in Norway that it was really good for us. You had this Norwegian Grammy thing.
The Spelleman Award.
Yeah, the Spellemann Award, and there's so much talk about that album but we didn't get any award or get nominated for that album. Actually, the guitar player – when that didn't happen – he was a bit drunk and he sent me a message saying "We're gonna make an album that no one understands! We're gonna make it obnoxious and ugly and no one is gonna understand it." That was 'Profan' and that was the album that we actually won the Grammy for [laughs]. It's absurd.
Absolutely! How do you feel about the Grammy win? You beat Enslaved and Tsjuder to get it.
Yeah, we did. It's a huge award in Norway but I think it's more an acknowledgement for my parents than it is for me to be honest. They reacted very proud. I think it's bigger for them than it is for us to be honest but of course it was a nice thing.
'Profan' also saw the first music videos you've released in your career. I know you've wanted to do this for a while so what changed this time round? Was it that you had the budget or you met the ideal director?
We had both actually. We had the budget and we also met one guy through our friends in Hate. We started throwing some ideas and he wanted to give it a shot and the rest is history. We're still working with that guy now. He's really talented and the best thing about it is that he's a Kampfar fan so he works his ass off.
The videos themselves appear to have storylines. What exactly are the plots about, particularly 'Tornerkratt'?
'Tornerkratt' we actually plotted out.
So you instructed the director on what you wanted?
Yes but the whole story is actually bigger than that because it's more about the society we're living in right now. Some people or some governments think they can rule us or bend us and put us in these chambers. In the end, we're all the same. In the end, we go into the same place and this is the theme of this song.
You've quite dramatically changed lyrical themes over the years. What inspired this change?
First of all, me and Thomas [ex-founding member] played together for 17 years and we split apart on views on life because I turned to the left and he turned to the right. He turned to a lot of Christian values and we couldn't continue working together. It was impossible and I think that maybe made me go even further so the chains were free.
You two were very close friends. You're still friends though?
Yeah, really good friends, just don't create music together. It was really nice because we played Blekkmetal in Norway with all these old school Norwegian metal things back home, it was just the once and he joined us on stage playing two songs. This was really nice, really nice.
Nice! It's good to hear about Thomas still being involved in the Kampfar front. The lyrics are visions that you see for Kampfar now. Does the rest of the line up feel that way? Is it a collaborative effort?
Yeah, for sure. That's the beauty of it because we are now four individuals that finally pull the ropes in the same direction.
This is the second time you've used Polish artist ZdzisÅaw BeksiÅski's art. How does the particular art that you used for 'Profan' relate to the music?
First of all, I have to explain that this BeksiÅskiguy is not only an artist in our eyes; he's also a person that we can really connect to in many ways so that makes the art even stronger.
What values does he have that you can connect to?
It's the way he lived his life and the way he thought about different things in life – it's the same as us, sort of. All of us are like outcasts, sort of. Second of all, the images fit all very well with what we want to express. I think it's that simple. It's just the right connection. What's really great too is his family has now started this BeksiÅski art museum in Krakow so he's becoming really huge. He's always been huge in Poland but now he's becoming really huge and people from abroad are coming to visit. I know that there are a lot of bands, that are asking for art all the time but they refuse to give them that but we have made a connection with them. They are so proud of what we do and that's really awesome for us.
Do you think it's likely you'll use his work again on future releases?
I hope so.
Fingers crossed anyway. It seems to work. 'Profan' came out only a year after 'Djevelmakt'. How did you release the album so quickly?
That's a hard question to answer because I don't think I know the answer. I think a lot of it has to do with the fresh blood coming in and making a new start. All of a sudden, it exploded.
So you contacted the record label to let them know you wanted to release a new album? It seems unreasonable for them to demand that of you.
They didn't even need to ask. We contacted them and said we had a new album and they said: "Fuck yeah!" [laughs].
That's a good sign from a record label. Do you think you would ever release something that quickly again? It must have been a lot of work alongside touring as well.
Yeah, that's it. We've been into this bubble for three years now sort of and right now, I think we're empty when it comes to creating stuff and we don't want to try to do something that doesn't work. It has to be right so right now, we don't know what's going on. The thing with this band is that there's new stuff coming every week and I cannot even say what we're going to do in five months now.
When you say 'new stuff', do you mean touring and promotional opportunities?
Exactly. This year, I've been dealing with ten tour packages and we ended up doing two or three. It's impossible to say what we'll do.
That's understandable. It's nice that you have control over when you want to release albums or go on tour.
Yeah, we have a little bit of a focus on the States now so we have to see what we're gonna do, I don't know. We're in negotiations for, I think, the third of fourth time now to go over there with Marduk and it always crashes. Something always happens.
They recently had a tour with Rotting Christ fall through over there.
Exactly, and there's a lot of stuff – issues with agencies and all this stuff. In the end, it's like: "Oh, fuck it!" [laughs]. You don't ever know.
Returning to the Spellemann Award – how did you get nominated for that?
We don't have anything to do with that. The record labels send in their stuff, I assume, and I heard this year, there were around 200 different albums. They had to pick four and we were one of them and that's great.
Did they give you any feedback on why they chose you?
I talked to some that were sitting in the jury - because they have a jury of 12 or 15 people – and I heard some of them said that it was just…they couldn't pass it in some way or another because it was a bit different from the rest.
Do you feel like you passed or failed on your statement that you wanted to make this unlistenable album that no one would understand?
[Laughs] We probably did, yes.
But that's not a bad thing!
That's not a bad thing. It's a more aggressive album but in a more clever way, maybe.
Yes, it's still atmospheric and retains that old Kampfar essence for sure.
I read in another interview that you were working on a book about black metal. Obviously Kampfar have been involved in the scene for ages and must have lots of fascinating stories. What do you plan on putting in this book and do you have a release date?
That's the real time-squeezer for me because I've been doing this for two, three years now and I'm half done! The thing is right now, I have no time for it so that might maybe be a thing that I have to calm down a bit and I have to do stuff like that. I have no time for it and it itches me a bit. I know it's not an autobiography;, it's a story and it involves a lot of people and I interview a lot of people. Unfortunately, many of those people are now dead but we're still a few left.
You might as well get their story too before it's too late. Which bands do you interview members of?
I cannot say anymore but the thing is that the whole idea behind it is that you should hear a different story from before.
Yes, particularly given that it's from one who was actually in a band at that point.
Exactly and there are so many people that were involved that never got to say anything and those are the people I'm most interested in. People don't know who they are if they were not there and I was there. That's my goal.
Who knows when you get the time, but do you have an ideal vision of when it'll get released? Maybe in the next five years?
I really hope so. This book has to be correct and it has to be done when I think it's done.
Do you have a publisher or anything ready yet?
I have that, yes.
That process should be much quicker then! I wish you good luck on that project. It'll definitely be an interesting read.
I hope so too and I know it will.
It sounds like it from what you've said. The black metal scene has already been inundated with so many books that have dug up the same things so many times but it would be nice to hear the story from someone who was actually there.
Yeah. The problem with writing this kind of book is that I still have friends and many people around who afterwards are not going to appreciate it but it has to be like that.
It sounds like an exposing book. Do you think you'll actually lose any friends from it?
Yeah, for sure. It will be quite shocking for someone. I have the opener ready and the opener is going to shock a lot of people. That's the truth.
It's good you're going to be honest.
I have this inner demon that I have to talk to all the time but if I'm going to do this, I have to do it in the correct way and not put everything behind otherwise there wouldn't be any sense for me to write this.
When do you think the cut-off point in the chronology – up to today's scene or just the early days?
It's more or less from the old days but the whole idea is like telling something different and also telling that there were small things that made things happen the way they are now; it could have easily gone the other direction. That's the thing.
What do you think about the modern black metal scene?
I don't know what to say. In some way or another, it's good because now it's more open – people can say more or less whatever they want. In the old days, you couldn't do that. On the other hand, it lost some of the touch, I think.
Presumably you prefer it in the earlier days?
If I could choose, I would probably prefer that yes but I wouldn't go back, in a way.
What are Kampfar's future plans with all your options? Do you have anything set in stone for the near future?
No, not really. The thing is, we set out after the 'Mare' album in 2010 to do three albums. That was our goal, we've now done that and right now, no one knows what we're gonna do because we have not put up a schedule for that. It's art, it has to follow the flow. So none of us know what is going to happen. I can't answer that
That's the end of the questions. Do you have any final words for the readers?
No, not really. The same thing – for me, it feels so good to be back here and play at the Underworld. I really like these kinds of clubs. It's like a dungeon.
Thank you so much for the interview.