Fri. Nov 27th, 2020

Interview with Kvelertak – “I always wonder who all these people are backstage who drink our beer”

The Norwegian black ‘n’ rollers KVELERTAK just released their new album “Splid” and are heading out on tour supporting it. The band’s guitarist Maciek Ofstad was kind enough to take some time out of his day to chat about the new album, his views on music and the Finnish audience.

Hi there! First of all, thanks for taking the time to do this interview. How has the year been so far for you guys?

Maciek: Oh man, it’s been awesome! It’s been really good, very exciting. Releasing new music that we have been waiting for a long time, rehearsing with the new band members, which has been awesome.

You just released your new album ”Splid” in February. How do you feel about the record now that it has been released?

Maciek: I am very excited about it. I think it was a very exciting record to write, and it has been a weird-ass year. But I am very proud of what we have managed to do with the recording process and the writing process and the final product. I am very stoked about all the songs and I am very stoked about the sound. Most of all I’m just excited to play new stuff, actually.

How did the writing and the recording process go for the album?

Maciek: They went really fast! We had some of the songs, like two of them in our pocket already for over a year or so. And then when we finally sat down and had time to come home – you know, we played so many shows last summer. We wrote during the fall, and after that, we went on tour with MASTODON and came home from that… And in the middle of all that touring, we tried to just meet up back in Oslo. We spent so many hours in the rehearsing room just jamming, writing riffs and trying to work this stuff out. And then, the second we were finished we flew over to Kurt [Ballou, the producer] to America (laughs).  The recording process was very easy because we had just learned the songs. We stayed with Kurt for three and a half weeks. Everything went so fast – we were there in October and already in February the album came out.

Kvelertak at Tuska 2019

Did you feel like all that touring and writing and recording was at all draining for you?

Maciek: No, not at all! It wasn’t draining, it was the other way around. We gained energy from it because we wanted to write new music. Everyone was involved in pushing the whole process forward. It wasn’t hard at all, it was really fun.  

What songs are you most proud of on the record?

Maciek: It’s still so new that I haven’t had enough time to hate any of the songs (laughs). But I think my favorite is the song called ”Fanden ta dette hull!”, which was one of the songs that really got hammered out in the rehearsing room. It didn’t take that long – we jammed on those riffs for about four or five days, and it was one of those songs where the whole puzzle just made sense piece by piece, and at the end of the week, we had this like a nine-minute song or however long it is.

The album, at least to me, doesn’t sound as raw as ”Nattesferd,” was this a conscious decision?

Maciek: I think we just wanted to go back to the sound we had previously. ”Nattesferd” was really fun to do, but it just kind of evolved somewhere else. Well, not too much, because we did go back to Kurt again, and we missed that sound. It depends on the songs that you stick with, in the end, and when we started to write this record it just felt natural that the songs need to fit a certain sound, and we felt, that this was going to sound better with Kurt.  You kinda make these decisions along the way.

And we had so many changes internally too. I personally missed Kurt on the third record, and I was very happy to have him in the room saying ”this sucks, don’t do that” and ”that’s good, keep that”. When you have been in a band for ten years you need an adult in the room (laughs). When there are six creative people in the band, you need a mentor who decides.

There is a song called ”Crack of Doom” featuring Troy Sanders of MASTODON. How was it working with him?

Maciek: That was awesome! Nothing but amazing. It felt like he elevated the whole track. When we wrote that song, one of the first things we thought of was, that it needs one of those big vocals, and then we said: ”hey, let’s ask Troy!”. We had just come off of a tour with him, and to be able to have him on the record was nothing but amazing. He wasn’t with us in the studio actually, he recorded his part in another studio and then just sent them to Kurt. We didn’t hear it until we came back home.

What did you expect when you opened up the file for the first time?

Maciek: I had no fucking idea! (laughs). Like, we sent him a scratch track, and it was very different than what Troy actually delivered. But I was nothing but very excited when he added his tone and his view on the song, and it just fit perfectly.

A huge amount of your songs are in Norwegian. Do you think that affects the way you guys make music and write melodies?

Maciek: It definitely brings a different sound. It has been a part of KVELERTAK throughout the whole time, and when you sing in Norwegian you get a different expression. But I thought it was also really cool to do something in English too and to try out something new. And I feel that KVELERTAK is such a guitar-based band like we haven’t had a lot of vocal melodies until this album. Ivar has such a big vocal range, so we wanted to utilize that.

Did you ever feel like it was a restriction that you guys didn’t really sing in English before?

Maciek: I honestly think that we just fooled the entire world! (laughs). But that’s what I meant with the melodies being in the guitars. The vocals have always just been a spice on top of the music.

The vocalist Ivar Nikolaisen joined KVELERTAK in 2018. How has it been with him?

Maciek: Working with Ivar has been nothing but awesome. We have been big fans of him ever since we started the band. Ivar has been in many bands that we have been always been fans of. And also his contribution musically is really cool, and it’s very nice to have new blood and new energy in the band. Although he would never admit it himself, he is a very good musician. And playing songs with Ivar is really dangerous because you just won’t know what the fuck the guy is going to do. Anything can happen with him live, and I personally feel like I have to step up my game to follow up on his energy. And I play better in a way because Ivar is very good at connecting with the audience and it feels more like it’s live.

Kvelertak at Tuska 2019

Do you think Ivar brings something new to your sound?

Maciek: Yes, one hundred percent! He has a great vocal range that we wanted to utilize, and he definitely has a different sound than Erlend, although there is no comparing the two. They are two way different singers, but I do feel that he kind of colors the music in a different way. We will see how we will evolve going down the road, but I feel like the whole band has evolved soundwise into something bigger. Now it seems like we can go to some other direction than we could have before.

What sort of sounds would you like to explore then?

Maciek: Every time we make an album we have this consensus, that now we are going to make this fast punk album with maximum three-minute party anthems in it and then we end up with these crazy 17-minute prog songs! (laughs). That’s what we tried to do on ”Nattesfjerd” and that’s what we tried to do on ”Splid”. You never know what’s going to happen until you have the final product. We never know what we are going to write until it’s acually written.

What music have you been listening to recently?

Maciek: Right now I only listen to APHEX TWIN. I don’t really listen to a lot of metal right now. It comes and goes. Right now I am in this electronic world, and I will probably be here for a while and then go back to prog or something I guess.

If you could change one thing about the music industry, what would that be?

Maciek: Hmm, tough question! You know the obvious thing, streaming versus… You know, we were never a part of that whole ”oh we don’t sell albums anymore” thing, because when KVELERTAK started out the CD world was dead anyway. I’m not bitter about the whole ”oh shit now we are in Spotify and don’t make any money from it”.  But something I would like to change… You know, I always wonder who all these people are backstage who drink our beer. I would like to know who these people are! I want to know who these people are before they go to our beer. That’s the only thing I would like to change.

You did mention streaming briefly. So the old question, would you rather go back to the old days of selling physical albums even though KVELERTAK started out in the streaming age?

Maciek: Hmm, I don’t really know… Like, I don’t think CDs are very environmentally friendly, are they? But I do miss going out buying CDs though. Now I don’t even know how to play one, and I don’t even have a CD player. Last Christmas, I went home to my mom and saw this box in the attic full of my fucking CDs. It makes me kinda sad that those times are over, but then again the world moves forward. But we still have the vinyl!

You guys gig in Finland quite often. How have you liked the Finnish audience?

Maciek: I love Finland! I always love going to Finland. You guys are the metal hub of the world! There is no other country more metal than you. You do love your synths though, you are very fond of the synths. But I am excited to come back to Finland, I can’t wait to play there. We have played some crazy shows in there. We have tried the dangerous ”minttu”, and I am very excited to see how the night goes again in Finland. You are never safe in Finland!

Do the Finnish people drink your beer backstage?

Maciek: No! Everyone has their own beer [laughs]. Everyone brings their own Karhu to the show.

Alright, thank you so much. I’m out of questions. Is there something you would like to say to your fans in Finland?

Maciek: I love you, high fives to everyone. I will see you when we get there!

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