Interview with Stein Akslen (Minneriket) for Occult Black Metal Zine.
1.For those that have never heard of you before, can you tell us a little bit about the musical project?
Stein A: The first recordings started early 2014, and incorporated ideas that were a lot older. It’s a solo project, working in my own pace and treading on some new ground. I wanted an outlet for the more traditional and oldschool Black Metal sound, focusing purely on atmosphere, and decided not to tamper with any existing projects and rather start from scratch, letting the project shape itself as I went along. In a way, it’s a romantic and contemplative approach to Black Metal.
2.Recently you have released your fist album, how would you describe the musical sound that is presented on the recording?
Stein A:, On the debut album «Vargtimen» the ambiences of instruments and their sonic position in the musical landscape takes precedence to fuel the creative process. Holistic songwriting, if you want. It’s raw, it’s lo-fi and partly nostalgic, combining the ambiences with the dynamics to present a unique dark sound.
3.Your lyrics cover some Pagan and Existentialism themes, can you tell us a little bit more about your interest in these topics?
Stein A: Somehow I think everything I touch ends up related to those labels, but I’d avoid labeling Minneriket as either of them. The lyrics are very introvert, consisting of both the contemplative existensialism and the pagan imagery as a catalyst for further reflection. Most of the lyrics are in Norwegian, some in English, and I think the ones in English might be more accessible for some, while the ones in Norwegian is closer to heart.
4.What is the meaning and inspiration behind the name 'Minneriket'?
The meaning of «Minneriket» is, literally, «the realm of memories», which describes the romantic approach to the music, partly living in some kind of esoteric, transcendent past. I consider the name as an image for the Mímisbrunnr, the well located under the root of Yggdrasill in Jötunheimr where Óðinn sacrificed his eye to grow in knowledge. A timeless source of wisdom and visions. Several years ago, I released a book with the same title, a limited print-on-demand feature including translations and commentary of an Old Norse poem, and other artistic endeavours as poetry and photography. One of the texts there written almost ten years ago, is a poem in nine parts called «Minneriket», and gave name to the book, and now the band, and were used as the lyrics for the last track on the album.
5.With this musical project you record everything by yourself but have worked with other musicians in other bands and projects, how would you compare the two?
Stein A: Yes, I have collaborated both locally and internationally with other bands, and the creative process is completely different from each band to the next. It all comes down to finding the right combination of igniting sparks and filling voids. Blodsgard is perhaps the most unorthodox approach, where I focus on the lyrics and conveying a state of mind, then Rex, a musical mastermind, translates this into music to create the entity that Blodsgard has become. Working completely solo, like I do in Minneriket and in other ambient projects, has both it’s pros and cons. It’s total freedom, your own pace, and the process of creating from scratch is rewarding. At the same time, it creates limits and challenges, and the lack of input from others during the creation can be just as much a gift as a curse. Either way, the approach you take should be related to the art you wish to present, and in this case, it is a solitary work of art.
6.Your self released the album on 'Akslen Black Art Records', is this a label for your music only or do you plan on expanding by signing other bands?
Stein A: So far I’ve only released albums there by my own projects, Minneriket and V0id&Khaos, and I intend it to stay that way, at least for now. I wouldn’t have the time, or capability, to give other bands the focus they would deserve. ABAR is mostly there to enable an existence and to remain in complete control of the finished material, and not have external labels tear down what you try to do with their incompetence. For this project, freedom and control is a lot more important than the capitalist greed of the music industry, which really has nothing to offer anymore sans promotion.
7.On a worldwide level how has the feedback been to your music by fans of black metal?
Stein A: When you work in a genre like Black Metal, catering to the very few, the feedback is irrelevant to your own sense of accomplishments. Some like it, some don’t. But I do appreciate the feedback when people tell their stories, how the music has touched or inspired them in some way. Moments like that are always powerful, and the best kind of feedback is when people actually connect to your music.
8.What is going on with some of the other bands or musical projects these days that you are a part of?
Stein A: After we spent about five years recording «Monument» by Blodsgard we needed to take a time off from that, and reconnect to it when the time is right. We’ve been spinning plans for our sophomore album for a long time, and I already did some lyrical groundwork back in late 2013, but a new album is still a few years away. V0id&Khaos will have a new Dark Ambient release out in the not-so-distant future, and I’ve already begun the writing on the next Minneriket album.
9.Where do you see yourself heading into musically during the future?
Stein A: Expanding, I hope. I can’t stand being static or in a standstill position when it comes to creativity. My contributions to music will forever be rooted in the darker aspects of Black Metal and Ambient, but I’d love to approach the gothic and melancholic genres someday. I’m not much of a metal fan really, I prefer the black in Black Metal, and not the metal. Hopefully I’ll be able to shape Minneriket into the notorious outfit I imagine it has the power to become.
10.What are some of the bands or musical styles that have had an influence on your music and also what are you listening to nowadays?
Stein A: Mainly Burzum, without a doubt. But of course other bands like Gorgoroth, Mayhem, Seigmen, Trelldom, Vond, Shining (Swe), etc. All these bands cast large shadows, and that’s well deserved. I don’t listen to much music these days, not much new music at least. Mourning Ritual made a great cover of «Bad Moon Rising» that I’ve been spinning pretty much since it got released, and there’s a Norwegian melancholic rock/metal band called I Lit the Sun who released an excellent album called «Horizon» recently.
11.What are some of your non musical interests?
Stein A: Virgin sacrifices and the destruction of public property of course. And a wicked sense of humour. I could list on and on about nature, contemporary art and litterature, but I have a feeling it would sound like a dating ad, so I’ll refrain from the namedropping.
12.Before we wrap up this interview,do you have any final words or thoughts?
Stein A: Thank you for your interest in Minneriket. The debut album «Vargtimen» was released recently on summer solstice both on cassette tape and CD as well as a digital download. There was also made a special box set, containing the cassette tape, a lyric sheet/logo posters, black and white feathers, graveyard dirt, bone dust, human bones and wooden carved runes. I find it important to offer something special to the true fans in this day of digital decay. For those interested, the limited box set is now sold out, but there’s still some CDs and tapes left at www.minneriket.bandcamp.com. The whole album is also available for streaming there. If there’s any wish to interact, Minneriket also has an official Facebook page.