To start, can you tell us a little bit about the history of the band?
Orkan was started in 2008, but have roots long before that. I started playing with Gjermund in 2001, and we have been working together since. We didn´t come as far as to have a lot of music ready for recording until 2010, I think, and then we had to get a band up and running again. We tricked Einar to do some recordings with us that year, and he has been with us ever since. Sindre also joined us on bass about that time. He has been a longtime friend, and played guitars with us in another band in the early 2000´s, so that was really good for us to have him back.
In 2012, we changed our band name to Orkan, and released our debut, ‘Crimson Canvas’. We also started playing live on a more regular basis and got our first proper tour in 2013 promoting that album. Then the wheels started rolling, and in 2013/14 we composed, arranged and recorded our second Album, ‘Livlaus’. This album marked a change in Orkan. We headed more towards the classic black metal genre, and I think this is the album that made us who we are today. It also got the attention of Dark Essence Records, who released ‘Livlaus’ in 2015. And we haven’t looked back since.
What kind of bands were you into when you started listening to metal? And what is it that makes metal important to you?
At the age of six, I got introduced to Iron Maiden, and that is the most important band to me to this day. I also got into other bands, like Metallica, AC/DC and other classic metal bands, but Maiden was to me all consuming in my early days as a music fan. For me, the energy and atmosphere is the most important thing in metal. And it does not hurt if the band have good lyrics to accompany the music. Metal is also part of my lifestyle, but I don´t think so much about that in my daily life. It is part of who I am, being a performer and a part of a music community.
Recently your new album ‘Element’ was released. What does the album title ‘Element’ mean or represent?
The album title for me should be an umbrella that you can put all your songs under. When I had the lyrics to all the songs on the album, I sat down and read through all of them to find a suiting word to describe the feel of the whole album. I had some alternatives, but I can´t remember any of the others now. For me, when the title or lyrics are done, all the alternative verses or titles disappear from my mind.The album contains many descriptions of places in the forests of my hometown, Stord, and I wrote a lot of the album about nature in general, so ‘Element’ was a pretty natural choice when it comes to an album title. It also has the same meaning in Norwegian and English, which I thought was neat.
Where do you get ideas for the lyrics? And how important are those to you? Are lyrics a way of getting your ideas, beliefs of philosophies across to the listener, or are they just there because songs need lyrics?
As I mentioned, I write a lot about my home place. I get inspiration from hiking in the forests, and I try to convey the feeling I get from the forest into my lyrics (a big cliché, I know….) But I also get ideas from other places. I write some about my views on our society and religious themes to a degree, and I also get inspiration from random everyday stuff. I don´t write all the time. I start this process as soon as I get music from Gjermund or Sindre, and I feed off the feeling in the music I get presented. That is the most important trigger for me as a writer. The lyrics have to mirror what you hear. It is a co-dependent thing.
Your lyrics are sung in your native language. What was the reason for this?
For me, it´s much easier to express myself in Norwegian. I also think the Norwegian language fits black metal in a good way. Not that other languages don´t, but for me, it is better in Norwegian.
‘Crimson Canvas’ was written in English, but I was never fully comfortable with writing in English. When I first heard the outlines of the next album, ‘Livlaus’ I immediately felt that this had to have Norwegian lyrics. It had something to do with the atmosphere of the music that just made it feel right to me to write in Norwegian. And on ‘Element’ we continued down the same road musically, so I don´t see myself changing lyrical direction in the foreseeing future.
How do you write your songs? Does it always start with a riff or does it involve some jamming with the rest of the band?
Usually, Gjermund makes a song out of his riff bank, and presents it to me with some suggestions to drum arrangements and we go from there. We work it out in our rehearsal room, and make changes if needed. And after that, I start thinking about lyrics. That is the simple explanation of the process. It has a lot more to it, though. We have to go many rounds to make the song complete, and sometimes I try out different song lyrics to each song. After that, we gather the whole band to finish the arrangement. The vocals, on the other hand, is a process of experimentation in studio. We try lots of different arrangements to make the vocal lines complement the music. We spend many hours on this in the studio. I think the vocals are very important in creating the right atmosphere for each song. That is the most common way, but it is never completely the same. We have to take things as they come. We live in different parts of the country, so it´s always about how it is convenient to work at the time the songs come to life. We also send song ideas between us and work in a distance relationship at times, but whatever works, works.
Black Metal seems to be a very conservative genre. How do you set yourselves apart from the rest? And can your music even be described as Black Metal?
The basis of our sound is definitely rooted in black metal. Apart from that, we don´t spend too much time trying to fit into a specific genre. We have our musical influences both individually and as a band, and our sound derives from that. My conception is that black metal can be conservative, but no one has to follow all of the “rules” to be defined as black metal. Music has to evolve to be interesting, and I like that many bands are pushing the borders of any genre to make something special. At the same time, it is nice that some bands are keeping it true.
As far as Orkan setting ourselves apart from the rest? I don´t know really. We try to make something that is “our” music and sound. We really don´t want to be a copy of this or that. And I hope we can continue to make our unique twist to the genre, as we like to keep it interesting. It is also almost impossible to make something that is completely new, so I guess you can always pinpoint some of our inspirations here and there in our music. But for me, as long as it is good, it is good. In the past we have been compared to some other band here and there, and often people compare us to bands I never heard of or listened to. That is quite interesting. Maybe two bands can share some influences and that can be heard in both band´s music?
Your hometown is Bergen I believe, or more specific an island close to Bergen. This must be of some influence on your music?
Yes, my lyrics are very inspired by my home surroundings as I mentioned earlier. Our previous album, ‘Livlaus’ was written around historical events and places In Stord. ‘Element’ also have influences from the forests of Stord, but maybe a little more subtle. I think this comes naturally for me, as I don´t see myself as a great philosopher. I have to write what I see. Almost like Elvis Costello, haha! As far as the music Gjermund composes, I don´t see him being influenced by Stord, as he lives in a different place… He has his own influences that I have yet to find out about. But it´s not that important for me, as long as he continues to make such great music!
What goals did you set yourself when you started the band and did you reach any of them?
We spent many years from the band´s birth to make the first album, so I guess that was a big goal in itself, to be able to make and release the first record. After that, it was to do some shows and a tour, and eventually we did that too. So, we got that far at least. The first years of Orkan were not very busy, so we did what we were able to do and were happy with that. You can say that the goal with Orkan was to play some heavy music and have a good time, so in that sense we reached our goal. I personally take each step of the ladder one at the time and see where it takes me, and set new goals for each step I climb. Being a realist, I see my own limitations, and try every day to get past the next step. I think we do the same as a collective in Orkan. No plans of world domination in the next few months, but also, no limits. We do what we can, and take what we get.
How do you feel the band has progressed or changed since you started the band?
Our first album, ‘Crimson Canvas’ is a thrash-oriented album. It was a big change making ‘Livlaus’ and our new album continued in the same track as our previous. So you can say that we changed drastically from the first album and found our sound after that. I see the songs we make these days as more homogenous and fluid in the arrangements. I think we have found the sound we unconsciously were searching for in the beginning, but maybe we will change on the next album? We don´t limit ourselves to anything, so it will be interesting to see what happens next time. All of us in Orkan have evolved as musicians as well. Especially Einar, who I think has become a fantastic vocalist today, compared to our debut, when he was new in the band. He also takes the stage with confidence when we play live these days, so he has become a big part of our sound.
Taake plays a big part in your career. Besides being a band that you play in, how does Taake influence you?
Gjermund: My drinking habit hasn´t got better, that is for sure, haha. When we are touring as much as we are, we spend a lot of time together and we listen to a lot of different music. Of course my musical taste has changed / expanded during these years. I have probably changed as a person as well, just by being part of all this chaos:)If I have some new Orkan material, the Taake guys are among the first people to hear it. I also have a lot of respect for their songwriting skills. Hoest in Taake, V´gandr in Helheim and Aindiachai in Ovate, of course I listen to their opinions. At the same time, we have a complete different style of songwriting and a complete different style of guitar playing. People like to compare Orkan and Taake because of the obvious link, but if you try to learn the guitarriffs in Taake and Orkan, you will find there is a big difference... But the overall feeling might be similar, and that´s a good thing if you ask me.
Black Metal is a somewhat conservative genre, as I stated earlier. Do you feel this is limiting you creatively, or does this label make it more difficult to get your music to a wider public?
Gjermund: I try not to think about the limits, because then we make boring music. We have had discussions in Orkan earlier about which direction we want to go etc, but it is difficult to follow plans like that.. I have to pick up a guitar and see what happens, really. The last song on the record, "Heim" is not black metal at all and I guess the whole album is a bit more experimental than the previous one. I have never been interested in labeling our music, but I´m ok with it and it does not have an influence on the creativity. Orkan anno 2018 is black metal with a twist. Let us see what the future brings, I don´t know.
Modern metal is always produced in a more or less clinical way with ProTools and other programs helping bands to create a slick sound. On the other hand you see that about every band releases vinyl again. Where do you see music go in the near future? Will vinyl take over again, including a more organic production? Do extreme music and a slick production even go together?
When it comes to production, it is a matter of personal preferences. Many people like the “well produced” music. I do too, to an extent. But it is always for me what fits the music. Some bands really sound good with the kind of rotten home-made sound, and others demand a higher quality production to project their music. As far as metal goes, I see a trend now with more organic sound. I like that. I grew up with 70´s music so I was raised on artists recording on tape. I think music is going in all directions in the business these days. Some bands are releasing cassettes and LPs. Other bands are doing digital releases only. Bands are making retro music like never before, and others are making completely electronic mess that no one has heard the likes of. There is certainly something for every taste out there.
Are there any non-metal bands that you like and can recommend?
If you never listened to Pink Floyd, you should do it right now. I listen to a lot of different music, and the other guys in the band do as well. I would like to recommend Kraftwerk, the electronica-pioneers. They have a fantastic record called ‘The Man Machine’. Check it out. I also listen to the soundtrack of ‘Omen 2’ these days. It has some amazing choir parts that are totally evil! If you ask Gjermund, he would say Susanne Sundfør, a Norwegian artist in the pop/electronica genre. She is great.
How would you convince the pope to listen to your music?
“Widen your horizon with some anthems from the Norwegian forests”, I would say. And I would also ask him for some music recommendations as well.
When will you be playing live shows to promote the new album?
We just did a tour in Europe with Taake, Bölzer and One Tail, One Head. For the future, we don´t have any specific plans, but we will play when asked to.
Thanks a lot for answering the questions, and thanks also for your amazing album! If there is anything else you want to share with our readers, please do so!
Thank you for the interest in our Band! I hope we are able to come to The Netherlands again very soon, as we are always feeling welcome when playing in your country!