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Netherbird's Pontus Andersson: "The more you try to control your creativity the less it reflects your own spirit and the more it reflects your distorted surroundings"

Interview with Pontus Andersson from Netherbird
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 08 August 2021, 8:26 PM

The end of the line, the final stage of a story that reaches is main event. Things became complex, the scenery ready to usher the listener into the where the last stone is dropped. Evidently, there are stories that must end, and with a strong belief that the Netherbird band knew exactly when and where. After celebrating their previous album, the Swedish melodic extreme Metal unit continued their efforts, pressed hard and came about with an amazing result, simply titled "Arete". Steinmetal convened with Pontus Andersson once again to discuss the album, its musical efforts and its story

Hello Pontus, it is mighty great to have you again for a conversation for Metal Temple online Magazine, how have you been doing in these rather troubled times?

Hey, thanks for having me and great to speak to you again! I’ve been doing pretty good considering where the world is at but it’s all about stamina now - it’s a bit of a marathon and I think we still have a few laps left before we can celebrate.

Mentioning those troubled times, last time we talked everything was alright, only to slightly later to be lost in translation with this awful pandemic. I am sure that these conditions, such as lockdowns, with a sense that it is not certain what can be done to get back to normal, haven’t been easy on you, or were they?

Well, I don’t believe anyone has walked untouched by these events, but everyone’s experience is very different depending on where they’ve been and if they’ve lost family or friends. I’ve spent most of my time in the UK but I’ve also been to Sweden and Australia during this pandemic, so I’ve seen three very different takes on it. I wouldn’t say it’s been easy but I’ve only lost money and time during these events - that’s a cost I can afford any day.

At least for some artists, perhaps even you, the meaning of staying indoors is that you can work on new material, write more, consume yourself with thoughts of what is the next step, and of course, to finish up the trilogy. Would you say that you exploited time properly while being at home at various points throughout this past year and half?

I spent most of my time in the UK where I reside these days and we had a lot of lockdowns and restrictions compared to some other places. Writing “Arete” was a great way to stay focused and moving forward and I guess the lockdown gave us a bit of extra time to really work on our songcraft and I can feel it paid off now that we got a little bit of distance to it.

On a contrary I don’t believe in locking yourself away from the world to find your songs. I personally need to fuel up with impressions and ideas by colliding with life around me and it’s hard to describe your own art and thoughts in a relevant way without a backdrop to project it against if that makes sense. “Arete” was written in the early days of the pandemic so luckily there was plenty of fuel in the tank being having chaos and emotions straight from the tap.

That trilogy that came to life two albums ago, is now ending with your newly, simply titled, “Arete”. First, I have to understand, what is Arete? What does it represent or symbolizes?

It symbolizes the strive for excellence or perfection. It’s a great mountain to climb and everyone dies at the great stonewall without ever knowing where the peak truly lies. Arete is digging up a few of those graves and different aspects of that journey.

“Arete” is supposed to be the final chapter of a story that you began long back, was this album destined to be the final seal, that last nail in the coffin in order to complete the story or you simply thought to yourself that it was the time to finish things up?

It was planned to be a trilogy all along so there was never an option to continue this path after “Arete”. We will leave it to fate to decide what lies on the other side of the summit, all I know is that whatever it is it will grow in the shadows like everything else we create.

The artist Nihil created an artwork that from what I could gather, has a strong relation to the lyrical concept of the album. For me it looks like a tombstone, which is more than enough a symbol of the end, the closing of a chapter. What do you make of it? What can you tell of the artwork’s vision?

First off, I really love Nihil and his art, and we are all fans of his work. This piece really envisions “Arete” and the meaning of striving for excellence… a monument just embraces that concept on so many levels. It’s a powerful symbol that Nihil has created but still the drawing describes a solitary existence of a monument at the edge of time. I guess the final journey is death so viewing it as a tombstone is not far off and most of us die without truly knowing our achievement and it’s left to our followers and next generations to judge if we made a difference and stood the test of time both as humans and in our case as artists.

Where does the person, the ego, the man, stand within the veils of “Arete”? Is the human powerful or rather gets weaker as the story slowly finishes around him?

I believe there’s nothing weak about discovering yourself and embracing that vast journey - for me, a weak person is someone who never challenges their own fears or have the courage to fail or being wrong. Everyone will die but not everyone will truly live and that’s the riddle we all need to make sense of, and power comes to them who makes peace with their fate without backing down from life.

Since it is the finishing touch of a story that is larger than this album, how did it make you feel to close it? Is there a trail of regrets left as this one closes?

It’s a satisfying feeling and it’s a perfect ending for this chapter. We all feel very excited about sharing this opus with the rest of the world but we’re also equally excited to see where the next road will lead us … we will never lose that hunger for finding our next song, lyric, or expression - the day we do I really hope we are sound enough to call it a day and step back into the shadows because then we have lost our privilege.

While the previous “Into The Vast Uncharted” served for me as the journey through vast horizons, into the belly of the unknown, “Arete” is more or less earthly with its music, yet it also has its fair share of melodic intensity, which is hard not to fall into. Even though we aren’t really talking about a lot of time between the two albums, how do you perceive the steps made by you guys to reach the musical climax of “Arete”?

Honestly - by not calculating it. The more you try to control your creativity the less it reflects your own spirit and the more it reflects your distorted surroundings. I think we all spent a lot of time looking at other bands when we were growing up in the “music scene” but these days we have the confidence and musical ability to write whatever comes to mind. It’s a great freedom knowing you’re creating your art for the right reasons, and I believe that shines through our music. If “Arete” is a climax or not, we will leave to hands of time to judge.

Talking about climax, in your perspective, what are the pressure points of “Arete” that make it a proper closing chapter of a larger storytelling? What are the dramatic elements, or the driving force, that take this album forward?

We always strive for greatness as musicians and I still love to discover a new riff or composition, it’s like a drug and you keep searching for that high so it’s a constant drive forward. When it comes to this trilogy, a lot of the force lies with our singer Nephente and his perspective on life and the greater universe, and I tend to see the music as a vehicle for his visions. Our lives have been intertwining for a long time and even thou I understand a lot about his lyrics and ideas, some of its true meanings are hidden for me as well so I still have something to discover myself even when the last brick is laid.

You have already shown your attention to details and meaning to be the closest to perfection on your previous album, and “Arete” is no stranger to these facts as well. Nonetheless, how would you say that the latter continued your development both as a musician and a songwriter?

We tend not to analyse too much and leave as much as possible to intuition. You can start out with an idea of where you would like the album to go - musically or sound wise - but at the end of the day it is the result of a whole band, and everyone brings something different and complex to the table. It’s an advanced algorithm and as soon as you change one factor everything kind of follows and adjusts to the new environment. Our greatest strength and growth lie in our confidence in our art and by not worrying about what everyone else thinks. We are striving for timeless music and if it’s good enough time will award it accordingly.

What can you tell about the experience of recording “Arete”? Were there moments where you found yourself changing things at the last minute, or was it smooth sailing all the way, without holding too many thoughts, just going forward with what was written?

Hah, well it’s never smooth sailing even at the best of times to record an album but we are all pretty savvy and used to the process, so it tends to go fairly easy. I write the music in my studio at home and then I bounce the riffs and ideas with our vocalist Nephente until we got something solid to present to the rest of the band. Since we haven’t been under any real time pressure writing this album, all the changes and adjustments has happened fairly uneventful, and it’s been more like a sculpture that we’ve slowly carved bit by bit until we felt it was complete.

Since the album was made throughout the pandemic, how did that factor affect you guys while the album was in the making? What form of challenges slowed you down as you tried seeing this release completed?

Our recording process looks pretty much the same since we have never been a band that’s knocked out songs in the rehearsal room. It didn’t really make a big difference as such more than the fact that I miss having Nephente close around when I compose the music since we tend to pick up some gems that easily gets lost when I’m on my own. The biggest obstacle was that I couldn’t travel back and forth to Sweden to be a bigger part of the studio work, but our producer Sverker Widgren at Wing Studios did a great job in orchestrating all the file transfers with the different sessions.

When you sit down and listen to “Arete”, what crosses your mind when it comes to the next steps of the band musically? With the album being both sophisticated on its own accord, along with being fluent, is there a way up from here in your opinion?

There is only one direction for us and that is forward. We love exploring our sound and art and if our next creation after this one is viewed as a decline or climb is not up to us to judge … we can only control our own journey and what it means to us - not how others perceive it. We move onwards, relentlessly. It will take a couple of years before I can tell where the album sits in comparison to our other releases.

It is hard for me to select a track to talk about to be honest, each tune on this album captivates with its melodies, tricks and traps. I must say that it flew by me each time I listened to it. Therefore, I ask, which of the tracks would you care to open up and discuss about? Your input is important

I can’t discuss the lyrical part or at least not make it justice since it’s not me writing the words but musically I think “Void Dancer” is a great representation for us as a band since it combines all our influences. We love to write beautiful melodies and to use acoustic elements but the true temperament and beauty of Netherbird lies in the contrasts between the cruel blackened death and Scandinavian folk melodies. Void Dancer reaches most people regardless of musical background and before they know it, they’ve listened to a black metal song not even reflecting on style or genre. I’m also fond of “Atrium of the storm” and especially the outro, I love long opuses that grows and expands so it resonates with me and how I like to present our music.

The previous album displayed a form of sound for Netherbird that was quite exceptional. However, this time around, you went forward with Sverker Widgren, which you already worked with in the past. No doubt that he created an amazing production for you, and this generates the question, what makes your sound on “Arete” fit more to your standards?

I don’t think it necessarily fits our standards better, we are happy with both the albums, but every producer brings a different flavour to the table. Hiili who produced our last album comes from a background of producing platina artist like HIM and has a much more rock-oriented take on it and it was exactly what “Into the vast uncharted” needed. Sverker Widgren is a phenomenal songwriter, producer and singer and comes from a strong pedigree of Death metal so naturally this album has more of those elements. I also think Sverker brought a different take on the vocals being a great growler himself (Diabolical) so it gave Nephente some new angles and input to his craft. Many times, the focus lies more on the guitars and drums in this genre and the vocals are kind of “mixed down” and swept away in effects but Sverker really made great work on highlighting the vocals and exploring some different vocal styles.

Going forward into the second half of 2021, and culture life is slowly rising back, yet not its former glory just yet. How does it look for Netherbird when it comes to shows? Is there a plan towards that or mainly waiting for 2022?

We have chosen to wait until 2022 unless we get a great offer we can’t refuse - the state of the music scene is very unstable and there is a big back catalogue of tours and shows that needs to happen around the world. Me living in a different part of Europe then the other guys during covid puts a lot of stress on travels with PCR tests, quarantine rules etc so yeah, 2022 would be a good time to get back into the mix once the dust has settled a bit. But then again, if anyone got a great offer or something exciting comes up, I’m sure we could make it happen sooner. When it happens, we will be ready.

Pontus, once again, thank you for your time and amazing efforts. Netherbird never ceases to amaze me, and I surely hope it would do so time and time again. All the best. Cheers.

Thank you for taking your time dwelling into our art and for sharing it with your readers, we really appreciate it and look forward to seeing you and all our supporters on a stage somewhere soon. Onwards.


 



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