Thursday, January 19, 2017

Æðra Interview

1.Can you give us an update on what is going on with the musical project since the recording and release of the new album?

At the moment I am trying to stay as busy as I can musically. As a solo-project that does not currently tour, it can be really tempting to take a break upon completing an album cycle. I’m doing my best not to rest too easy now that I have done a complete record on my own. It was nice being able to step away from things over the holidays and breathe a sigh of relief that Perseiderna is finally finished, but now I am thinking ahead musically with more focus compared to after releasing The Evening Red.

2.Recently you have released a new album, 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?
What I really wanted to focus on Perseiderna was building on the sound from the first album and turning it into something more driving and cohesive. I feel like this album flows much better with smoother transitions and better song structures. As for the actual sound production, what I was going for was a rawer, more human approach to the guitar tone and performance coupled with colder, sterile drum programming and synths. Like the first album, this was an autobiography of sorts for a distinct time in my life. However, as opposed to it being about the closing of a chapter it reflected events that were rather turbulent. As the lyrics deal with moments of both triumph and despair throughout the last few years, I wanted the production itself to reflect that dissonance. The human aspect that can shine through on a record is something that has always been important to me. I loved the production on the first record and had a wonderful time in Redwood Studios, but given the subject matter on the new album I wanted to explore another path. Perseiderna doesn’t sound like a huge polished modern metal production nor a four-track-in-the-forest black metal record. It sounds like the times that inspired this work and, to me, that’s a good thing.

3.This is the first album to be released in 5 years, can you tell us a little bit more about what has been going on during that time span?
It’s been quite the journey. I was actually living in Västerås, Sweden when “The Evening Red” was released in 2011. During the time gap between releases I moved back to my home area in Illinois then across the United States to Colorado. Peppered in between were a few relationships, employment changes, and general life transitions, which led to upheavals of the status quo. Needless to say, there was a lack of stability and a lot of time needed to build new foundations, which didn’t leave a lot of room for music production. Because of this I really wanted to give these songs time to grow and not rush anything. Results are always better this way.

4.What are some of the lyrical topics and subjects you explore with your newer music?
The lyrics on Perseiderna continue the trend in being somewhat of a personal autobiography of sorts for me. So naturally, the lyrics on the new record pick up where The Evening Red left off. While the lyrics on Perseiderna deal with nostalgia for better times in the past and personal struggles, I tried to focus on perseverance and triumph over the battles life throws at us. When penning lyrics about occurrences in my life, I strive to veil specific details around these events somewhat so a listener doesn’t get bogged down with me and can make the music relate to their own struggles.
From a general lyrical perspective, I feel the darkness in life is something to embrace and overcome with your own inner strength, not to retreat from into solitude because one can’t cope. I know full well time spent alone can be used to heal wounds and improve oneself, but I am inspired by the fact my ancestors didn’t row across open oceans just to off themselves in the throes of depression. I want to convey that hope and will to press on in a person’s own journey. Bettering oneself in order to truly thrive is the only thing that matters. 

5.I know that the bands name means 'higher, more exalted, in Icelandic, how does this name fit in with the musical style that you play?
It really all boils down to my state of mind when the project came into being. I originally started this project while I was playing bass and keyboards in another band active in the central Illinois scene from 2004 to 2009. We had a record deal with September Riot Records out of the state of Missouri and were pretty busy playing shows around the region. What I could not get over during this time was the number of bands who displayed absolutely no originality or creativity and simply copied the trendy breakdown-laden hardcore and metalcore that was prevalent then. I know this is probably true in every scene, but it did lead to a lot of disillusionment.
As I improved on the guitar I started stringing riffs together and recording them, but since guitar wasn’t my place in my first band I decided to start my own project for practice. I settled on the name Æðra because I wanted something that would reflect my Nordic roots and push me to live up to the word’s meaning. The meaning and unique characters may seem pretentious to some people now, but really it was just a complete reaction to the watered down musical environment I was experiencing. It was more of a desire to make something different from my peers and go my own way I guess. To be completely honest, I did not really expect it to be heard by listeners around the world when I started this and am very humbled by and grateful for the attention it has received. 

6.With this project you record everything by yourself, are you open to working with other musicians or do you prefer to remain solo?
From a logistics standpoint, it is way easier for me to complete a project on my own. Working alone allows for the music to evolve naturally as intended, and there is no worry about weak links, scheduling issues, or having several members tugging in all sorts of creative directions, which can ultimately kill a project. With that said, however, I really love collaborating with others in a limited capacity. Case in point, it was great working with Danielle and Karen, and their vocal lines added a lot to the tracks “Alpenglow” on Perseiderna and “Horizon” on The Evening Red. But to answer your question directly, I highly doubt Æðra will ever have a traditional full band lineup due to its personal importance and my workflow preferences. Outside of this project though, I’m pretty easy going and play nice with others. 

7.According to the fb page the current location was Denver, Colorado and you are originally from Illinois, what was the decision behind the move and also how would you compare both of the states?
Carlinville is a rural Illinois town of a few thousand people, and while I had a great childhood there comes a point in time where wanderlust kicks in and it’s time to move beyond your hometown. To be fair, travelling a fair amount really sped that process up, which I think is normal for a lot of people after they get into adulthood. I don’t care to elucidate the negatives in explicit detail as it’s my home, but I can’t deny that poor state management, lack of natural aesthetic, and better economic opportunity elsewhere were also primary factors. If you haven’t lived in the rural Midwest, it’s a lot of humid summers, bitter winters, and small towns with very little to see. This environment breeds hearty people, and I feel spending so much time out in the seemingly endless fields led to a more atmospheric bend to my work, but after I finished at the university I quickly took the opportunity to relocate for work.
Living in Denver is much different. There is so much available from a nature perspective because the city is nestled right at the start of the Rocky Mountains. For an artist, especially those who make metal, this access to nature aids the creative process immensely. There is nothing more inspiring than hiking up a mountain, taking in the view and thin air at the summit, and getting the feeling that you and your group are the only ones in the untouched wilderness.

8.On a worldwide level how has the feedback been to your music by fans of atmospheric and melodic black metal?
I never imagined when I started this I would get the positive feedback I have received. On a whole, reviews for Perseiderna have been positive and it has been an honor having individuals from all over the world tell me they’ve enjoyed the albums. It’s also heartening that critical reviews have been constructive and not simply “this album is trash” rants. I am fine with that, and hope to improve on future works.

9.Where do you see yourself heading into as a musician in the future?
I really admire musicians like Devin Townsend and Steven Wilson who often explore other genres outside of the ones to which they’re normally pegged. I have a large backlog of riffs and songs that don’t fit with this project and am looking to get some of those revamped with some friends from back home into a cohesive album. However, I don’t have an ETA or genre description of what it will actually sound like, as it’s an open slate at this point.
As for Æðra, I am already actively working on writing the next album. What has always been a personal draw of metal is the way each nation or culture can put its own twist into it, and I am looking at stylistically incorporating folklore and musical themes from my home in central Illinois into the next record. Additionally, I have always been a huge fan of extended range guitars and recently made the jump from an Ibanez seven-string to a nine-string from Agile. Since my original instrument was a five-string bass, it feels completely natural. I know what you are probably thinking though and don’t worry, the next record will NOT be banjo djent.

10.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?
Over the writing of Perseiderna I found some great atmosphere-focused gems like the bands Hammock, God is an Astronaut, and the album Night by Gazpacho. On the blacker side of things, I often listened to bands like Harakiri for the Sky, Behemoth, Thränenkind, Kvelertak, and Nordjevel while I was working on the latest record. A lot of genres other than metal take up a lot of my listening time as well. I’ve always been a fan of acoustic, prog, more straightforward rock, and certain styles of EDM like trance. I tend to bounce around to other genres a lot, especially when working on Æðra, to change it up since the same metal songs I’m working on are blasting for hours on end.

11.What are some of your non musical interests?
I’ve always loved being active and find it therapeutic to hit the weights in the gym. Living in Colorado has also led to more outdoor activities like cycling, hiking, and skiing. We have an exploding craft brewing scene out in Denver too, so when I need a break from everything I enjoy clearing, or clouding rather, my mind in the river of artisan beer flowing through the city. I’ve also gotten into brewing a bit myself, and have around twelve gallons of mead waiting to be bottled. That’s the extent of drugs for me, though.  We have legalized marijuana here but I am not too keen on the actual product. Other hobbies include reading and keeping abreast with current events.

12.Before we wrap up this interview, do you have any final words or thoughts?
It was a pleasure doing this, and I hope to discuss the next record with you!

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