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Borknagar's Lars Nedland: "But at the end of the day, we just view ourselves as guys who just want to make the best music we can make."

Interview with Borknagar from Lars Nedland
by Justin "Witty City" Wittenmeier at 27 May 2022, 7:47 AM

On May 11th during the Nashville, Tennessee run of the Devastation On The Nation 2022 tour, Metal Temple writer Justin "Witty City" Wittenmeier had the chance, nay the honor, to set down with keyboardist/vocalist Lars Nedland!   He was a gentleman, very well spoken, and we talked about everything from the weather to music’s healing effects on mental health.

Borknagar was actually the first black metal band I ever got into.  I don’t know if you remember those thick ass century media catalogs they used to do back in the day that had their albums and small descriptions of each, but there was one that had a small interview with Oystein talking about how Vintersorg came to join the band…

Lars:  Yeah?  That is cool we were your first black metal experience!  And I do remember those catalogs!  You found us there?

Yeah I was thinking, “What the hell is a Vintersorg or Borknagar?” so I randomly bought “Empiricism” and “Quintessence,” and the rest is history.

Lars: *laughs Oh man I am so glad to hear that.

So the most obvious ice breaking question: What do you think of this terrible Tennessee heat?

Lars:  *laughs  Well, I’ve actually been to the southern states before so I have experienced it.  I mean, we haven’t played here before but the heat did hit me when I did visit.  But you’re right…we get here and open up the bus doors for the first time and “Whoosh!” and you say, “Jesus Christ! What the fuck happened here! *laughs

Other than the obvious reason of the pandemic, what took BORKNAGAR so long to make it back to the states?  I’m sure you had your reasons but…

Lars:  Well, we did the odd festival here and there but the truth is all of us have families and obligations.  When the kids were really small touring wasn’t what we really wanted to do.  Most of us now have kids who are old enough to “deal” with daddy being away for a few weeks at a time. So we started back up doing European tours since, of course, that is closer to where we live and sort of took it from there.  We did the Latin American tour and then we set our sights on the United States, knowing we just had to come back.  Then 2019, things started to map out with Devastation…then of course, covid shut us all down a week before we hit the road. But the venues were very cool with rescheduling twice….then we got the courage…you kind of have to just try it again, you know?

It seemed to me that America took so long to get its shit together with covid…

Lars:  Yeah all the countries seemed to have their problems with no clear right or wrong way…I mean, we see that now.  It’s hard, it just has to take its course.

You just have tour when you can, something like that could happen again…

Lars:  Yeah it just might when it gets colder I strains and all.  But hopefully it just becomes this season thing we have to deal with.  But third time is the charm and we are so happy to be here!

Honestly, I was amazed the tour came here since Nashville is so well known for country music and not necessarily metal, or even extreme metal.

Well we are playing at the rock block, aren’t we?  *Laughs.  But I listen to metal but I also listen to other styles as well, I’m just a music lover.  I’ve been to Nashville before but I think what we have here in this city and also with the bands on tour is just a love for music, you know?  But there is something to a town like this, one that has a heritage and vibe just buried into the fabric of the city.

I definitely get that same vibe from Borknagar.  You guys are very progressive, and you have always stretched the confines of the genre.  It used to be if you weren’t talking about satan or playing a thousand miles per hour, then you weren’t black metal but when you guys came in with that second wave you kind of changed the game.  Do you as a band feel the same, like you have achieved the desire to do something different?

Lars: I think so, definitely.  The main thing about Borknagar is that we never set limits on what we can or cannot do.  I mean, when we write something maybe it ends up not being something that will work with all the other stuff but we aren’t afraid to experiment and try other elements. We love a lot of different music, including progressive. Me personally, I really love the prog movement from the late 60’s, early 70’s.  I think we have a little bit of that in our music and even some Norwegian folk music. So yeah we are kind of a melting point.

Is it hard to include all these different influences and elements into your song when writing/recording an album?

Lars: Honestly, we don’t think too much about it. It is more along the lines of we right a song and we just ask ourselves, “Does this feel good?  Does it feel right?  What works and doesn’t?  In a way, it kind of dictates itself.  We as a band can always sort of feel if something is resonating in a good way.  We just have a feeling and that has never been a problem to navigate that.

Your own role has kind of expanded over the years, you do a lot of the vocals on “True North.”

Lars:  From “Winter’s Thrice” and onward me, Oystein, Simon, or Vortex I mean, we work much closer together now when it comes to composition and recording.  So this time around, me and Simon took to the studio and we just spent a week there just doing vocals together, me and Vortex.  We push each other a bit and that is one of the things that makes Borknagar progressive…we have an openness.  We work on things together.  The grand master will always be Oystein of course but we have definitely been more open over the years working together.

ICS Vortex has now been back with the band for a while, having rejoined when Vintersorg was still on vocals.  Was that a smooth transition to have him rejoin?

Lars:  Yeah!  It was a natural thing!  He left originally because there was no way he could do both BORKNGAR and DIMMU BORGIR once things kicked off for them.  There was nothing problematic with that with us in the band…you only get so many shots like that in life, you know?

Dimmu Borgir were getting pretty big, definitely can’t blame him!

Lars:  We stayed friends of course and we brought him back to do one song on “Universal,” and that sort of reignited our flame together.  At the same time, Vintersorg was growing away from the band…

And he had that injury as well…

Lars: Exactly, that was definitely part of it.  He lives in the north of Sweden which is actually a long way from us and he has three kids…a job and his own life.  He had a lot going on so he started growing away then he had the injury which kept him from playing live.  So we sat down when we started the last album with him and told him and it would be his last…he understood….

That is great that you guys are such good band mates and friends that having a conversation like that didn’t turn sour or hurt anyone…

Lars:  Yep and that is always why it is so cool that the “Winter Thrice” song has all the vocalists on it!  One big happy family!”

How did you guys get Garm to do vocals for Borknagar again?  No offense to him but he seems like he is so removed from the scene these days.

Lars: Well he’s a really good friend of ours and a super nice guy…he’s really down to earth so we approached him with the opportunity and he was really into it. I mean, your right, his feet aren’t really planted in this music anymore but he comes from this music, you know?

Borkngar and Ulver are very different musically but it’s the same passion.  I do like Ulver and though it isn’t black metal, or even metal, that passion is still there, the passion that Borknagar also shares.

Lars: and he still has love for the genre still so it was just fun!

My three year old daughter really likes the “Winter Thrice” video.  She doesn’t seem to like too much other metal but she loves that video.

Lars:  *laughs, that is great to hear!

True North” is three years old now basically, did you guys ever get to do a proper tour on it before now?”

Lars:  Nope, this is the first proper tour, that is the strange thing!  The world just paused and the years went by…then all of a suddenly we can play again so this is the first tour for this album and doing a European tour in the fall!  We are doing everything this year that we were supposed to do in 2020.

So it is still a fresh album for the band since you are just now getting to play it?

Lars:  Yeah it’s weird to think about that whole dynamic.  When we are playing these songs on stage they still feel very fresh to us.  It doesn’t feel like old material although we have started to write songs for a new album, after the summer maybe.  But “True North” is still new to us too.

What’s the foundation for a new Borknagar album, where do you start building the songs.

Lars:  Music first. Usually, I write skeletons of songs and so does Oystein and Simon.  Once we have everything, we look at each other’s stuff and starting coming up with ideas…cutting, editing, that sort of stuff.  It sort of grows organically from that.  I think with the vocals we will do what we did last time..singing together, pushing each other…makes for great dynamics for the album and good for creativity.

You have some of the most in depth lyrics…I mean, you write songs about numbers, physics, universe..nature…

Lars:  It’s funny…Oystein brings in the nature part and I bring in the philosophy parts.  For “True North”, we tried to bring those subjects together.  We looked at each other’s lyrics and connected the dots.  We cherish the nature of Norway…it has so much beauty so we try to capture that with the lyrics. But we make sure there is a bridge between the lyrics and music.

The world we live in…sometimes seems like humans care very little about nature…

Lars:  The political nature of that has been tackled many times but I think there is also something to just reminding people why we love nature, why it is great.  Just…if you take one step back and try to look within yourself and find that place where you and nature meet…you’ll find that it is more important to you than you thought before. So I think maybe there is a different kind of activism within Borknagar.  Nothing preachy, nothing judging…just trying to reconnect people to that love.

Wild Farther’s Heart,” is one of the best songs on the latest album.  I wouldn’t call it a ballad per say but it is definitely different.  When writing the songs, was there any concern it may be too different from some fans?

Lars:  Actually that was written by Oystein about his father’s passing.  We as a group sort of gathered around helped him fulfill that idea about that song.  So it was so personal that I don’t think he cared what someone else might perceive from it.  But yeah, it is a calmer song but we can be calm as well and still sound very Borknagar.

Let’s talk about “Voices.”  It isn’t as bad as some people but I do struggle with anxiety and mild depression.  The song really speaks to me and it seems like “Voices,” is a song about struggling with one’s inner self…

Lars: Yeah…it was written in a pretty open manner so it is kind of a statement of a feeling of desperation…of not being able to escape something.  That could be different things, and will be different things for different people but for most people they will relate to that feeling of not being able to escape something…that is just follows you wherever you go.  It finds you, there is no way to exercise it. That is the basic idea of the song…why it has that repetitive pattern because psychology for some people the issue just repeats forever…that feeling keeps coming back again and again.

I don’t have a bad life…but I have three kids…I work a lot of hours and sometimes I just want to explode but that song just sort of…helps calm me down, so to speak.

Lars:  Man, that is really nice to hear.  If our songs can help you or other fans, other people, then that is just amazing to us.

Was the song always at the end of the track listing during writing?  The album starts off pretty aggressive but by the end “Voices,” kind has a different tone.

It is clear during the demo stage of the album that “Voices,” had to be the last song.  I mean, it is hard to follow with something like that…It is definitely an intense song in its own way with a certain finality to it.

Is the band cognitive of the affects or influences you have had on the black metal scene?

Lars:  I mean, as we travel and tour we, of course, get compliments and told things by various bands and fans.  But at the end of the day, we just view ourselves as guys who just want to make the best music we can make.  We certainly don’t think we are better than anyone or any other band…we just want to write and play the music that we write and play, you know? Of course, it is nice that people come to our shows and buy our records/merch.  But it’s nice if a fan shows us their Borknagar tattoo or if someone tells us that one of our songs means so much to them.  I think that is really nice, I am happy we can make a difference to someone and their lives.  


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