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Ofdrykkja's David "Pessimisten" Jansson: "During so many years, I had allowed my demons to devour me entirely, but I had now begun to slowly fight my way out of the darkness. I started spending more time in nature…"

Interview with David "Pessimisten" Jansson & Ahlström from Ofdrykkja
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 22 January 2020, 11:07 PM

Inner struggles have been one of the prime challenges of the human conditions. People battling their own personality, their ability to inflict destruction upon themselves. Some never really survived the fight, leaving the land of the living and some simply remain stale, there, but empty. There are those that rise for the challenge, fight and prevail. Ofdrykkja is a meeting ground for the complicated, yet of those who endure and fight onwards. Steinmetal had a pleasure to talk to David Jansson, also known as Pessimisten and Ahlström with the recent release of the band's new and special album, "Gryningsvisor". Expect depth in its beauty.

Hello gentlemen, I am highly pleased to have you for this interview for Metal Temple online Magazine, how has life been treating you mate?

Pessimisten: Lately, pretty good actually. Life really is what we make of it, and I do my best to make it into something to enjoy.

I can only assume that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, when it comes to your personal life, which has a strong connection to Ofdrykkja’s music? Unless you think that this tunnel is rather longer than expected of course

Pessimisten: I do sense a light at the end of the tunnel, but I would rather say that I've managed to light a torch to guide me through it. I haven't yet escaped it, but now the tunnel isn't as dark anymore. I still struggle with the same demons as before, but I don't let them define me. I am in control.

The journey that you guys in Ofdrykkja took in the past three years is something to commemorate. After years of hardship, you found yourself a beacon to hang on to. How do you think that this shining light was shed upon your new album, “Gryningsvisor”?

Pessimisten: Our past sure is a dark one, and a lot of things have changed since the band was founded. If someone would have told me, during the era of our first album, that two albums later, we would stand clean, sober and stable - I would have never believed it. Back then, I didn't even expect to live this long.

And now, looking back on my old life, I see a completely different person. Another person, even. It's almost unreal how much one can change in only a few years. We all have our stories and our reasons for this sudden change. Let me tell you two of these stories.

In 2014, at the age of 32, Drabbad had been institutionalized almost half of his adult life. Nothing seemed to cure him. Known within the Swedish black metal scene for his extreme drug abuse and remarkable self-mutilation, already back in the 90's, I considered it a miracle that he was still alive when I first got to know him about ten years ago. Then one winter night in the year of 2014, he attacked some strangers with a knife, cutting a man's finger off. The incident ended with him getting shot by police, and he received a three years long prison sentence.

He has managed to stay completely clean and sober since that night of insanity. When we met, he was being prescribed pretty much a whole pharmacy, and now he has stopped taking all of his medications, and appears to be doing great without them. He's a great source of inspiration to both myself and others. If this man can get clean, anyone can.

The other story is the one of myself. By the time of Drabbad's incident in 2014, I was struggling to get sober. After a decade of self-destruction, I had grown into a very small man, hiding in my own shadow. Most of my friends had passed away. I was alone, and I had nothing left. During so many years, I had allowed my demons to devour me entirely, but I had now begun to slowly fight my way out of the darkness. I started spending more time in nature, far from my destructive patterns and the few junkie friends who were still alive. This was my first step of becoming the person I am today, as I was to find out that nature actually is able to heal every wound, and my healing had begun.

Two years later, I made the best decision of my life, as I left Västerås and Sweden. Three and half years later, I've dedicated most of my time to nature, throughout 13 countries on three continents. Now spending the winter in the middle of nowhere in arctic Norway, before venturing out onto new continents again.

I decided to spend the winter here to challenge myself to stay in control of my darkness throughout the polar night. The Nordic winter have always affected me very negatively, and I wanted to prove to myself that I have grown strong enough to handle it. So far I've been doing great, even though I'm in a place where we don't see the sun at all between November and March.

In other words, we have survived the long night and are now facing dawn. Sadly not everyone have been as lucky. Our former drummer, Bödeln, didn't survive his night, which proved to be darker and longer than ours. He passed away a couple of weeks ago.

The album’s title in English says “Ballads At Dawn”, which quite explains the hope that entered your lives. In your view, is this may be a pathway to change in your perception of your music style in Metal, a so-called turn of events that may reflect upon your future writing?

Pessimisten: We try to stay on the outside of labels and genres, and as we use Ofdrykkja as a tool of ventilation, it is a mirror of our minds - something of constant change. As long as we evolve as persons, so will also our music. Although we, at the moment, feel like we have found our true path, we do not want to keep our ship anchored to the past. We hope, of course, that we will always keep evolving as individuals and as musicians.

What can you tell about the themes that “Gryningsvisor” deals with? Is that glimmer of hope of the title exists within the lyrical content of the songs or it is rather a mere reminder of an ending era?

Pessimisten: Some of the lyrics do contain some kind of hope, while others do not. It's generally a dark album, but compared to our earlier releases, it contains a more hopeful vibe. If our previous albums were dark nights, this one is dawn.

Does “Gryningsvisor” carry a message that relates to real life, which means other than your personal experience?

Pessimisten: I think it does. It could contain different messages, depending on how you perceive it, but if I was to name one - it would be that every night will have its dawn. And that, I think, definitely relates to life.

Business wise, you signed with Art Of Propaganda, which I believe is a fine choice of a home to release your next albums under. However, why leave behind Avantgarde Music, which is in fact no less of a suitable host for your material? Were you offered other deals?

Pessimisten: I have worked with Sven of AOP on and off for ten years, with Apati. I find him extremely easy to cooperate with, and I see him more as a friend than as a label. We couldn't be happier with our decision; he's doing so much for us. The reason why we left Avantgarde was that we simply were not happy with the collaboration.

Back into the veils of “Gryningsvisor”. I believe that you were able to cross over the labeling to your music, a kind of method that has been an ease for critics, and fans as a matter of fact, to identify a musical path. In your opinion, what makes “Gryningsvisor” special when compared to other albums in its circle, and of course to the past Ofdrykkja albums?

Ahlström: We appreciate that people understand and accept our new direction. "Gryningsvisor" is a new terrain for Ofdrykkja. The core value of how we work with the band is to evolve Ofdrykkja together with how our lives on the side evolves. So what we have done earlier is always a stepping stone to something new. But what makes "Gryningsvisor" special is that the leap for this step is far greater than our earlier steps.

Though soothing as it may be, even in its harsher edges, “Gryningsvisor”’s music felt agonized, still in pain, yet at times providing a certain sense that there is still something to expect. That expectation comes mainly from the keyboards and the profound vocals of Miranda Samuelsson. She gave your songs quite an edge. What can you tell about this cooperation between her and the band? How did it begin?

Ahlström: We had just put together the track "In i natten" and felt that we wanted to try out some female voice on it. By a coincidence I found Miranda's YouTube channel where she sings traditional Swedish folk songs. I thought that her fragile and light feminine voice would fit our music perfectly so I took a shot and asked her if it would be interesting to collaborate with us. Fortunately, she agreed and it went so well that it ended with her contribution on five tracks of the album.

In your view, what does Samuelsson’s vocals symbolize in the “Gryningsvisor”’s reality?

Ahlström: She symbolize a timeless and fragile dimension of the album.

One of the things that I liked about “Gryningsvisor” is that it is not mainly a Metal album, it enables to listener, even though without necessarily understanding the lyrics, to connect to a dimension that is beyond comprehension, a sort of spirituality that is uncanny. How do you find this mysticism within the album? Is that a direction that you aimed for in the first place, less heavy and more to grasp one’s soul?

Ahlström: I think the spiritual aspect just comes as a consequence from inside when you are doing something that you truly believe in. We are grateful that people can recognize that aspect of course but it wasn’t an aim from our side. Though we wanted to have a width of emotions and diverse atmosphere through the album.

How would you describe the songwriting of “Gryningsvisor”? In which methods did you guys work on it when it comes to the perception of a song? Are you a kind of band that usually changes their songwriting style each album?

Ahlström: The musical writing has went through many stages during a longer period of time. But to simplify the method, Drabbad has written the foundation on the metal tracks and I have written the foundation on the acoustic parts. But it has all been a teamwork and the communication has been a lot about to understand what we are and what direction we are going to take.

One of the album’s profound tracks is “Swallowed By The Night”, which is truly an exemplary work of art that had me sitting down, deeply listening and thinking of random things, and not merely as a soundtrack. In your opinion, what makes this song so deep? What are your general thoughts about it?

Ahlström: I think the great part is that everyone has been equally involved in this track. Drabbad made the foundation, Pessimisten wrote the lyrics and performed the male vocal parts. Miranda performed the female vocals and also wrote the singing melodies together with me. And I organized all parts together into a mix. Then we also had Nylonwings who put together some electronic strings.

Which of this album’s tracks is the one that made an impact on you more than others? Please elaborate on your pick

Ahlström: For me it is ”In i natten”. Because that track is the first one where we worked with Miranda. She showed something extra ordinary which made a huge impact on me.

The sound production of “Gryningsvisor” is more or less simplistic, especially when it comes to the fundamental attributes as guitars, vocals, drums, bass. Was it an intentional move or were there other elements in play?

Ahlström: We wanted to elaborate with a sound that harmonized good with acoustics, strings and singing voice parts. There was no clear idea behind but the foundation of electric guitar, bass and drums were recorded first in a studio. Then from that it was more of an experimentation and learning process to get the final result.

Is Ofdrykkja a live band as well by any chance? If so, what are your plans to support your new album. If it is not, were there thoughts to turn the gaze to stages?

Pessimisten: No, we have never performed live, and we have never had the desire to do so. We appreciate the growing interest for a show, but we remain complicated people. Standing in front of a crowd seems like a nightmare to me. Even the thought of the band growing, and to become somewhat famous, often makes me anxious.

What do you think are the main challenges for Ofdrykkja in the coming years? I suppose that there is some sort of enthusiasm that leads you

Pessimisten: I think our main challenge remain the same as always - ourselves. We all still have our demons to battle with. Although nothing compared to before, it is still a struggle at times. My nomadic lifestyle is also a challenge, as I'm rarely around. Yet, we have grown to be much more stable and much more determined. We are way more serious now than we have ever been before, and our mindset are completely different. I am now convinced that one can reach any goal, with just the right amount of motivation. The challenge is to keep that fire going through times when all I want to do is to hide away in the deepest of forests.

Gentlemen, I wish to thank you for this interview. Your time is appreciated. You guys made quite a spiritual album, a gift of nature. All the best.



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