I’ve been taking a break from music since the completion of the album because it is such a stressful process. With the band members some distance from each other, plus being in the middle of Canadian winter, it’s more difficult to get together. But we will be jamming soon to get the rust off and practice a new set and hopefully be ready for the occasional show to support the new album.
2.You have a new album coming out in April, how would you describe the musical sound that is presented on the recording and also how does it differ from the stuff you have released in the past?
This time I went for a more straight-ahead approach than before. I wanted to make the best nine songs I could to tell my story, and make them all essential and memorable to the album as a whole. I wanted every riff, every solo, every vocal verse to be focused and powerful. Another difference is that this time around there are no instrumentals on this album. While it has always been an important part of my past albums in terms of mood and pacing, nothing really came into mind regarding a new instrumental for this album... it just didn’t fit the mood and story I wanted to tell. This is also the first time I had other musicians help me in the process, so I have a drummer and bass player do their own parts, and my rhythm guitarist and drummer also helped me out with some songwriting and created the first song for my band that wasn’t initially created by me.
3.This is the first album to be released in 6 years, can you tell us a little bit more about what has been going on during that time frame?
After “Godsaga" was released in 2010, I was totally burned out musically. That album is very important to me and took a lot out of me to create as I did it all by myself. Afterwards I basically did nothing music-wise for about a year and half. In the summer of 2012, I was offered to play a small festival in the US, and at the same time, my friends in other local bands, Nicholas Ireland and Mike Grund (Battlesoul) and Morgan Rider (Vesperia) really wanted to help me bring the music to the live stage. Believe it or not, I had never played live before in my life. So we took about 3-4 months to get up to speed with a small set, and we played live for the first time in the fall of 2012. We played about 5 shows between 2012 and 2013, just special shows here and there, then I stopped playing live so I could concentrate on creating the new album which was finished in late 2015.
4.The lyrical topics are a concept album about the Vikings voyages to America, can you tell us a little bit more about the song writing that is present on the new recording?
Another reason why I didn’t start a new album right away after “Godsaga" is that I always need a central theme to work from. I like having that in place to guide me in the writing process of the album. It wasn’t until late 2012 that I discovered my theme of the Norse in North America, and specifically in my own country of Canada. From their settlements in Greenland, they arrived here approximately 1000 years ago on the east coast, first landing in Baffin Island, then making their way down the coast to Labrador, Newfoundland, and further on. More importantly, I also wanted to explore their spiritual friction as they transitioned from heathen ways to Christianity at the time.
5.The band name is named after 3 different runes, can you tell us a little bit more about your interest in Norse Paganism and also do you have any interest in the Paganism or other cultures?
Yes the name is based on three runes from the old North European alphabet. I am also highly influenced by the fantasy author Michael Moorcock, and his universe is based on the relationships between chaos, balance, and order. I chose those three runes to best signify that relationship. I didn’t really become focused on North European mythology until later in life. Before I was a bit all over the place in terms of occult interests, whether it was Satanism, ancient Egypt, Aleister Crowley, all sorts of things. Then I began to focus on the spiritual aspects of my own culture, that of Northen Europe. I’m English in heritage, and in the Norse mythology we find the most complete memory of pre-Christian thought in Northern Europe because it was preserved. Unfortunately in England it was not preserved very well, but when you compare the myths of all North Europeans, they come from familiar roots in deep pre-history so it makes for a fascinating comparison. More recently I’ve become obsessed again with ancient civilizations going back 10,000+ years ago, for example, right now I’m reading a book about Göbekli Tepe in modern-day Turkey which is now the oldest known temple-like structure we’ve ever discovered and continues to wind back the date of the earliest known civilizations.
6.Originally the band started out as a solo project what was the decision behind hiring a full time line up?
Part of this was answered in the previous question, but I had friends in other local bands who wanted to help bring my music to the live stage. It was also an opportunity to have them involved in the new album, and perform their own parts, because my bass playing skills and drum programming skills were fairly limited so it really enhanced the album to have their expertise and own musical take on my ideas, contribute new riffs and so on. When you do everything yourself, you start to go in circles and your ideas can become stale. The last thing I wanted to do was make a “Godsaga II”, so I think their contributions really helped make the new album “Northen" what it is.
7.Has the band done any live shows with the line up yet?
Yes we have done about 5 shows, one in the US, and the rest in Ontario close to where we live. We’ve been lucky to be on some high-profile shows with bands like Absu, Einherjer, and Agalloch, and also had my first headlining show in my hometown which was great. I know it does not seem like much and our live record has been pretty spotty, but with everyone busy with their own projects, and me being the private person that I am, it’s not a priority. I’ve always been happy just making music at home and just leaving it at that. But my friends really helped push me to get out of my comfort zone and bring the music live because people really wanted to hear it, and being able to play for fans of your music and meet and talk with them is a great feeling and very rewarding.
8.The new album is coming out on Hammerheart Records, how did you get in contact with this legendary label?
Hammerheart was one of the first labels to contact me when I sent out my demo way back in 2003. The first album "Sailing the Seas of Fate” was supposed to be released with them, but with some business problems at the time it ended up not happening. We reconnected after many years of building up my discography in the underground scene. I really felt like “Northen” was a strong enough album with wider appeal that they would be interested so I thought it was worth a try to contact them again. They recently re-released my previous albums and we have high hopes for the new album. They've always been a label associated with classic pagan metal and in a way it was like completing a circle from the time they contacted me from my first demo.
9.On a worldwide level how has the feedback been to your newer music by fans of pagan and black metal?
The reactions to my last album “Godsaga” were very positive, and it started the momentum of breaking out of the niche genre I was in. There’s been a progression from the acoustic/ambient type of music in the beginning to more straight-ahead metal with each album. I think “Northen” is the culmination of that progression as this is the most complete metal album I have done. We’ve only just started the promotion for this album, but early reaction has been very positive, and I think it will appeal to the wider metal community compared to previous albums.
10.What is going on with some of the other bands or musical projects these days that some of the band members are a part of?
My drummer Nich is hard at work with his band Battlesoul on their new album. I’ve heard a few clips from it in progress and it sounds really great. My rhythm guitarist Mike started his own band Hexenklad which is black/pagan metal and they are working in their first album, and Morgan is busy working on a new Vesperia album and doing another tour soon. They won last year’s Wacken Metal Battle in Germany which was a huge accomplishment.
11.Where do you see the band heading into musically during the future?
I’ve already got some ideas for a new album, so I’m just at the early stages of setting the theme and overall mood for it. Style-wise, I’m sure it will be very similar to the past of course, but possibly in a faster black metal direction. I’m not quite sure yet. I’d like to tone down the Norse aspects, I think I’ve told enough Viking tales, and SIG:AR:TYR has always been about the greater ancient world, even though I mainly focus on Northern Europe. For example the “Beyond the North Winds” album had a variety of mythical and historical topics. My current fascination with what people were doing on Earth over 10,000 years ago may feed into that. I just hope it doesn’t take 5+ years for me to complete it this time!
12.What are some of the bands or musical styles that have had an influence on your newer music and also what are you listening to nowadays?
My main influences are 80’s metal, as that is the era I grew up in... Iron Maiden, Dio, Ozzy, Ratt, Savatage, King Diamond, and also my favorite guitarists such as Yngwie Malmsteen, Criss Oliva, Jake E Lee, Warren Demartini, and Andy LaRocque. In the early 90’s Hammerheart from Bathory was a major influence of course. In the mid-90s like most people I was really taken with black metal, primarily Burzum and early Emperor. I think there was a long break there was I wasn’t much into metal for awhile, but that changed again in the early 2000’s when I got into pagan metal bands like Primordial and Drudkh. Just great epic music with a lot of heart, and it really got me excited about making music. When I first started out, I wanted SIG:AR:TYR to blend three things: Viking-era Bathory, Yngwie Malmsteen, with a bit of Burzum atmosphere. That’s it! As time went on and I added more and more metal aspects, I followed the path of the pagan metal bands.
Nowadays I’ve gone backwards and I’m mostly listening to 70’s rock… UFO, Scorpions, Uriah Heep, Alice Cooper, Kiss, that sort of stuff.
13.What are some of your non musical interests?
I read a lot, and I like to write fiction when I can, but I’ve had a lot things sit idle while I’ve been working on music for so long. I have some unfinished fantasy type stuff, and also a children’s ghost story I want to get back to. Otherwise, I just have a regular life, I have a full-time career, house, wife, and a dog that takes up most of my time as well! My favorite part of my days are long trail walks with my dog.
14.Before we wrap up this interview, do you have any final words or thoughts?
Thank you for the interview, and I hope everyone enjoys the new album when it arrives. SIG:AR:TYR marches on, even if at a slow pace!