The Nidaros Chapel that graces the album cover of Mayhem’s debut ‘De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas’ (1994), is probably the first association when one thinks of Trondheim. The second will most likely be the label and its roster of Ole A. Aune called Terratur Possessions, that has been flying the flag of the harbour city since 2007. Sure, Snorre Ruch’s Stigma Diabolicum/Thorns and Manes (now Manii) also helped putting the former capital of Norway on the Black Metal-map. But when you really want to get your hands dirty and start digging, you will find so much more… Once getting deeper, passing acts like Beyond Man, Aptorian Demon and Furze; mining the subsoil just near the parent rock, we find the anonymous and highly productive duo K & KK that is Gjendød.
From their seclusion they have released (via Hellthrasher Productions, Darker Than Black and independently) five demo’s, two split EP’s, two compilations and four full-lengths beginning at 2016, one year after its conception. What sets them apart is not so much the style or aesthetic, but rather the way they compose memorable pieces of music and the use of exotic instruments. Aggression and melody go hand in hand, erratically under layers of brutal blast beats and violent riffs. Yet, no release sounds the same or has the same atmosphere. Spokesman KK who is also responsible for the lyrics, bass, drums and vocals, shines a light on a variety of topics. Such as the latest record ‘I utakt med verden’, inspiration, an unpublished book, a slide guitar, a new drummer and a somewhat wet photo shoot.
Can the text of “I utakt med verden” be interpreted as your indictment of modern society? (rest of question continues below the Norwegian lyrics and English translation)
Ja, trær vokser ut av øynene mine
med seirende frukter
de kjemper før de faller
Jeg hører skriket
og vrir meg
Alt vrir seg
innmaten vil si farvel
fra de åndssvakes havn
Ja, elver renner ut av død fisk
De vant før de fløt på ryggen
Ute av takt med verden
Yes, trees grow out of my eyes
with victorious fruits
they fight before they fall
I hear the scream
and it twists me
The offal will say goodbye
With fits of laughter
From the harbor of the feeble-minded
Yes, rivers run out of dead fish
They won before they floated on their backs
Out of step with the world
When (somewhat) translated (feel free to correct the English), I found it quite poetic. Do you draw inspiration from poetry and/or philosophy? If so, would you mind sharing writers/philsophers?
“Your translation might be somewhat OK, and yes, I guess, read what thou will into it, master interviewer, but it was not meant as my indictment of modern society, rather the human core around it. I don’t think I dwell much into other’s poetry and philosophy, I live my life then I’ll die, but I have read many novels these latter years, and it is mostly what I read. I have observed plenty of thoughts, though. Not only that, but I find it easy to see things from other’s perspective, even if they are lame. When I’m looking at the old lyrics I usually can’t remember exactly what they were about, but I usually see I have tried to write in layers, or I’m surprised.”
“One has to work a lot with the lyrics for they are a big part of it, and they must fit. Not just scrawl something the day before the vocals are recorded, then the experience is lost, mostly for us. I always read fiction for entertainment. Lots of it. I read some biographies now and then too, of course, or whatever comes my way. I live in the world of horror, no surprise I guess, but I haven’t gotten afraid yet. I also read fantasy, sci-fi, the classics, the usual stuff. The only poetry I remember reading (not being forced by school) is some Bukowski when I was younger. I went through a lot of time travel books recently. There are often new twists and ideas in those. I have read like 100+ books a year a while now, and it’s getting harder to find stuff I want to digest.”
“As with metal albums, the old stuff turns out to be the best. The Count of Monte Cristo is the ultimate REVENGE book, read it! Huckleberry Finn and all the Mark Twain novels are awesome. To choose an underrated horror writer, check out most books by Richard Laymon. They are often like a nice promenade. Inspiration from all this reading in my lyrics may be subconscious, at least I’m not directly writing about stuff I have read. I just get ideas now and then that I work with, but when you’re shot full of words daily, writing probably get easier. I wrote a book four or five years ago, I still think it’s good. None dared to publish it, though.”
The feeling I get from the music on the new album is a melancholic one, and the lyrics deal with reflection and also indictment, to name a few (the main theme of the record?). So in the grand scheme of your full-length discography: ‘Nedstigning’ was all about going down: the fall of mankind with only a pinch of hope, ‘Krigsdøger’ about the preparation of a coming war, ‘Angrep’ was the war, ‘I utakt med verden’ is about reflection and licking the wounds after the battle… (correct me if I’m wrong). Thus I’m curious: what’s next?
“We are free now. A concept might come during the writing process, but we are not self forced to make anything in this or that direction this time. We will focus on writing plenty of songs, and we hope that Gjendød mk2 will become great.”
Acoustic guitars and synthesizers have already been heard on previous recordings, but an accordion or harmonica and slide guitar are new to me. Was that a hunch or something you wanted to try out and this record was a good time/fit for it?
“It’s neither accordion nor harmonica, it’s a harmonium. We had it available, so we both thought it was a good idea. Both on this latest album and ‘Krigsdøger’ we used a mandolin, actually both albums end with it. The slide guitars were K’s idea, and I think he will experiment more with it in the future. He already has on the upcoming demo tape. We always want to experiment with the recordings and that also goes for the instruments used. I have noticed there has been a very weird guitar-ish instrument in our studio some weeks now. I guess it is something we will use.”
Is your newest release by default your favorite? If not, what release do you think comes closest to capturing the essence of Gjendød?
“No, I think my favorite must be the demo compilation CD, ‘Skygger fra dødsriket’.”
Personally, I think that because you and K have played multiple different styles (maybe still?) prior to Gjendød, that it has shaped or at least contributed to your sound (I hear traces of progressive rock, folk, electronic music?). Can you shine some light on the music, apart from black metal, that shaped and inspires you both?
“I’m pretty narrow-minded musically, really, but occasionally, I shine through for a while and like something strange. You can’t probably hear it, but the song “Utslettelsen” from ‘Demo IV’ is very inspired by Tango. I have very little prog-experience, I play on some (what you can call) albums, but K has been more into this for years. He also plays some Fusion, AOR etc. We both have played some folkish ‘normal’ music as well, but I guess we’re both mainly seated in metal; Black, Death and Thrash, even Grind! What’s common to all these styles is that they are old, new bands exist, but it’s mostly dull, as modern times have been for a while. There is so much greatness released that we must search for.”
In late June you posted a cover “Kingdom Comes” by Mysticum on Facebook with the caption: “Here’s the Mysticum-cover from ‘Hevn! – Demo VI’, which might come to a cassette deck near you later. The first recording with our new drummer TK.” Who is TK, where did you find TK and does this mean that you won’t be drumming anymore? And is it possible that the drumming on the last two albums is more consistent in tempo because of the use of a metronome? (Not that I have a preference, since Krigsdøger’s groove would be killed with one.)
“A metronome was used on ‘Krigsdøger’, but not on ‘Nedstigning’ or on the demos. I hated using it, but it helped returning parts sounding similar though. There has been some stress in some other projects when things go slower and slower due to exhaustion. I don’t think we will use one on the next album though. I’m glad I am free from it and can concentrate more on other stuff. TK has played with K for many years and it suits me well to get a real dedicated drummer. He’s fifty years of age, so he’s a bit young, but he is and sounds really hungry! Drummers are hard to find, and they mostly have their agenda and weird taste. That’s the main reason I started to play drums once upon a time, I think.”
Do you use or have you used ideas, pieces and/or whole songs of the demo’s for the full-length albums? And do you use analog methods of recording exclusively, or are you random as long as the feel is captured?
“We haven’t used parts from or re-recorded any of the demo songs, no. The plan is to do so though, with the new drummer. We’ll possibly use two or three of those songs on the next album, if they fit. We don’t use analog methods exclusively, no. The newest album was done all digital. The plan is to record the drums of the next album on cassette. We have had a good result doing that in the past.”
What are your thoughts on contemporary black metal and the “scene”? And what does black metal mean to you? I get the impression that you respect the so-called “rules and guidelines” of the subgenre, but also rebel against it in your own way?
“I guess some things might be OK, but I’m still partly catching up the stuff I have missed. It is so much good that one always saw the logos of but never listened. I don’t know the new scene. I think it still is the same old guys or hang arounds with new bands, there aren’t much young recruits to the scene, or? I don’t go to gigs or to pubs anymore so I don’t know. Black metal to me… I pressed play on tape for 30 years, it has always been there, in one way or the other. A part of life and everything. Or you can say that underground metal in general has grown into my personality. I feel lucky that I was raised to be an Anti-Christian, all that came and dried into me long before the searching for musical chaotic beauty.”
“I respect what I meant was a rule, and that is that one should think it through and wait until you’re ready. It is ridiculous when someone just starts a Black Metal band without knowing shit and think it’s just to look like clowns, having idiotic names and play fast and crappy riffs. One example, here in Trondheim, I won’t mention the name, you can guess, somebody tried to mock me several times by saying ‘damn satanist’ etc. Maybe it was around ’97-’99… Suddenly he started a Black Metal band just when it got ‘accepted’ by the common folks and the TV/ radio stations. There were so many bands like that that popped up around here, bands without basic brains and build stones. I stopped following it a long time ago. We don’t rebel against no rules, we just do what, we think, has the right feeling for us.”
Why are the candles not lit on the grandiole you are holding in the water near a waterfall(?) in the picture of the ‘Angrep’-booklet? Whose idea was it to do it like that?
“The wind blew out the candles, but I didn’t care because I was going underwater anyway. My plan was to pay tribute to the ‘Live in Leipzig’ and ‘Transilvanian Hunger’ covers, but underwater. Not a good idea or place THAT day. The water was muddy, and the river was high. My woman was going to shoot the photo with an underwater camera, but as soon as I went under I was pulled towards the waterfall with my heavy leather jacket and army boots on. I was able to look desperate and call for help. She came towards me rushing, but the river took her too. After struggling for some time, I could dive to the bottom of the river and kicked the stones at the ground, and somehow that helped. We didn’t try again because we were exhausted, and the candles were gone.”
Anything to add or you want to get off your chest?
“Stay cold or evil! Check out our music or die!”
Gjendød on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Gjendod-1099…