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SPELLJAMMER's Nick Olsson: "Trying too hard to steer things in a certain direction is seldom a good idea. It took me a while to realize that we had a sound that was pretty distinctly us. It’s kind of like discovering your voice."

Interview with Nik Olsson, Rob Sörling, Jon Rismbo from Spelljammer
by Leanne Evans at 21 April 2021, 1:48 AM

Swedish Heavy Stoner Doom trio SPELLJAMMER are back to take us on the deepest of trips with their sophomore album, “Abyssal Trip”. Metal Temple writer Leanne Evans recently reviewed the band’s deliciously dark album, scoring the masterpiece a firm 10/10. Now, we have the opportunity to delve into the creative minds of Nik, Rob and Jon, and understand more about the creative genius behind “Abyssal Trip”, discuss their experience of the last 12 months and also, find out how Lemmy fits into the SPELLJAMMER equation…

First of all, thanks for taking the time to talk to me guys, how have you all been given the pandemic?

Nik: We’ve been ok considering the circumstances. Sweden was never in any form of lockdown, but we had, and still have restrictions, so it has been really trying times for all of us. I think the rest of the world has viewed Sweden as playing fast and loose with pandemic, but that is simply not true.

Rob: It's weird but you get used to it and, hey, we're all in it together. The most frustrating thing is that no one knows when we will be able to go back the way life was before.

Would you say that your mindsets have changed or adapted over the last 12 months? Is there anything in particular that you’ve gleaned from the life experience Covid has presented?

Rob: Well if speaking of creating music, I think I realized that with the reduced input (from people, live music, cinema etc) that isolation gives, I’ve found it much harder to get the inspiration to be creative. We have been pretty strict and serious about this and the band has just gotten together a couple of times during this whole thing, which of course has brought everything band-related to a halt more or less. So, what we've learned is that it all just sucks.

Nik: I think my biggest take-away from this is that the pandemic really brought out the best in some people, and the worst in some. For everyone's sake, I hope the first category is in the majority.

Before we get to the nitty gritty of Spelljammer’s newest addition to its catalogue of dark stoner doom wonder, I’d love to ask if any of you have been involved in musical projects prior to coming together in Spelljammer, and how any former musical experience may have shaped your identity today?

Rob: I was really active in the 90s, playing in a lot of different bands - not only heavy music but also indie and electronic stuff even. It was all about recording 4-track demos that no one cared about. haha. From there I was pretty tired of playing in bands and didn’t play in a group until me and Nik started Spelljammer.

Nik: I had actually never been involved in anything musically (except for a very minimalist piano score I did for one of my short films), before I suggested to Robert we should form a band.

Jon: I have been in several bands in the past, as a guitarist and a singer. Mostly metal/hardcore bands. But I have never been in a band as a drummer before Spelljammer.

Rob: I urge you all to check out Jonatan’s thrash band Cardinal Maniac with members from Entombed, Motorpsycho, and Kongh - it’s awesome!

Do you feel these strange times have heightened your own individual musical creativity, and do you feel that the intensity of the pandemic has contributed to developing a more profound depth to your craft?

Rob: As I mentioned earlier, no not at all. I hate it and it has forced me into this creative limbo that I think the three of us are fighting to get out of.

Nik: I agree. Last year I didn’t even pick up an instrument for the longest time. Just being confined to my apartment for months put me in a serious writer's block. I did manage to shake it off eventually and the last few months have been ok creatively. Not great, but ok. I still miss playing with the band.

Jon: Yeah, I really miss rehearsing with the band. As a drummer it's harder to practice at home. But, I have been listening to some great music and got a lot of inspiration that way.

I had the pleasure of reviewing Spelljammer’s latest release, “Abyssal Trip”, recently and I must say, it was a flawless face-melting experience! What sort of trip do you hope to take the listener on and what’s their intended destination?

Rob: I hope that the album takes people to whatever place they need to be, whether it helps them get through the day or just serves as entertainment for the moment.

Jon: It has been great to see how this album was received, and I’m very proud of it. I hope it will take the listener through all sorts of emotions. It has a lot of depth, and a lot of dynamics. I think there is something for everybody in there.

Nik: Yeah, if this album can give someone a moment of escape from their dreadful every-day life, that’s great. I leave the destination up to the listener to decide.

Comparatively speaking, “Abyssal Trip” is waaaaaay heavier than your last release, the EP “Inches From The Sun”. Was this an organic step for Spelljammer to push sound to abyssal boundaries?

Rob: Well, yes Inches From The Sun was our last release  but it was actually the first studio recording we did as a band back in 2010, I think. So, hopefully in the 10-11 years that have passed we’ve had time to shape a more profound sound.

Nik: Yeah, that’s true. I don’t think the sonic leap from Ancient of Days to this one was that great.

Jon: I have only been with Spelljammer for two albums. This one, and Ancient of Days. I love all of our music, but I think that this album has a little bit of everything that is Spelljammer. It is heavy, it is fast, it is calm, it is chaotic. It is Spelljammer.

Do you feel Spelljammer will continue in the heavily fuzzed and distorted direction, or is there a new sonic expedition on the horizon? I mean, can you guys get any deeper and darker than this latest release?

Rob: We are not really planning on going any direction. I think it would maybe be foolish to try to steer the sound in a certain direction. We cling to the song ideas that we think are the best and that work best for us as a group. For the moment we have some song embryos that might end up on a new album - some are heavy, some are trippy, some are more laid back … Who knows where we’ll land? For now, at least not me.

Nik: Yes, trying too hard to steer things in a certain direction is very seldom a good idea. I think I did that more in the early days of Spelljammer. It actually took me a while to realize that we had a sound that was pretty distinctly us. It’s kind of like discovering your voice.

There are so many nuances that come through in “Abyssal Trip”, it really does take the listener on quite the journey of sound. There are some very obvious early Sabbath influences, and a heavy Monolord vibe, which work brilliantly. Which bands have been your personal influences across the Spelljammer catalogue and, also, before you became the phenomenal mind-altering trio you’ve become?

Nik: The Sabbath influence is obvious and inescapable. Though I have very little in common with Geezer as a bass player, I still consider him a great source of inspiration both as a bassist and a lyricist. Sabbath aside, I think the bands that have inspired us throughout our time as Spelljammer, remain pretty much the same. The main reason Robert and I started a band together was our shared love for a number of bands, like Faith No More, Kyuss, Sleep, Soundgarden, Melvins and many more.

Rob: For me, as I’m getting older, I find it harder and harder to find new music that really strikes me. To be honest, I haven’t found very much inspiration from the heavy scene in the last 10 years. When people write about us they sometimes refer to bands I never listen to or even that I have never heard of, haha. There are actually just a handful of doom bands that at least I listen to on a regular basis, like Sleep, Acid King, Electric Wizard …

Jon: Agree. I love Sleep, OM, Windhand and stuff like that. Especially the drums! My favorite “doom” albums are albums with great drummers. Like Sole Creation by Kongh, or 2012 by Switchblade. Advaitic Songs by OM is an absolute favorite right now. I love that stuff. But I mostly listen to other genres in my everyday life. Sometimes it is Thrash/Black metal, and sometimes it is Blues/Jazz stuff. And all the things in between.

Which of the tracks on “Abyssal Trip” gave you the most creative fulfillment?

Rob: I don’t know about the most creative fulfillment but I think the stuff that you have to struggle a bit to get to work with always has a special place in my heart. On this record for me, that song is Among The Holy. I wrote the main riff around 2010 and we were jamming it back then, but we didn’t really know where to take it. We picked it up again and Nik rewrote the vocal parts and the midsection and now, ten years later it just fell into place.

Jon: Lake was a fun one to do. It has a different feeling to it, especially with the tempo in the intro and verse. And also with the calm upbuild in the middle. It gave me a lot to play with.

Nik: I would perhaps say Abyssal Trip. I think that was the song that changed the most toward the end, and for the better.

Now moving on to the cover of “Abyssal Trip”, it’s quite the bit of mind-boggling art and perfectly adds to the psychedelic hypnosis the album offers What was the inspiration behind it?

Nik: The artwork was done by Aaron Cahill. It was the one we liked the best out of the ones presented to us. I think I just saw a connection there. It’s sort of grounded but also has this yearning for exploration or escape perhaps. It seemed fitting.

Exploring your other album and EP’s, the artwork offers the same concealed identity of the “person” on the front; does this bear any particular significance or is it intended to convey a message… or is it simply about having cool artwork open to individual interpretation?

Rob: That’s an interesting observation! Maybe it’s our fascination of the unknown, of what is lurking in the depth of the ocean, space or within ourselves that have made us unconsciously choose these covers.

Nik: Mostly I think it’s a cool artwork that fits. I hope people find their own interpretation.

Let’s lighten things up a tad more now we’ve ventured into the profound and got out on the other side! What plans do you have for the future of Spelljammer? Are there any aspirations for collaborations or perhaps some side projects?

Nik: I think the plan right now is to try to compile new material for a record. Even though the album was just released, it’s been a while since we last wrote new songs, and I’m excited to get going.

Rob: For the moment we are sharing new riffs and ideas with each other, but it’s hard because you don’t really know if an idea is any good until you jam it live as a full band at rehearsals.

Nik: Yeah, that’s where the magic will hopefully happen.

What would be Spelljammer’s ultimate festival/performance dream?

Rob: On a frozen lake with the Northern Lights as a backdrop.

Nik: Or in the middle of a desert. Perhaps in the Australian outback.

And please tell us about any gigs you may have lined up… everyone needs a gig to look forward to right now!

Rob: For obvious reasons we only have one gig booked - Gloomy Days Festival here in Stockholm in August, let’s hope by then the smoke is cleared and that we can give you more dates!

Nik: Yes, hopefully there is a not too distant future where there is no pandemic and we can go places and play. I hardly remember what that is like.

Finally, given how rough this last year has been, let’s wrap up our chat on a less profound note, you guys seem to be good sports! If you could have your own fantasy celebrity metal dinner party, who would you invite and why? The rules are as follows: you need someone to cook, someone to provide entertainment, someone to converse with and someone to party with. Covid doesn’t exist, social distancing is surplus to requirements and bringing metal gods back from the “other side” is possible…

Rob: Lemmy would cook, Lemmy to party with and Lemmy to converse with. For the entertainment… Alf.

Jon: Haha! Exactly! Alf – featuring Flight of the Conchords.

Nik: I’m not so sure I’d want Lemmy cooking. I would party with Malcolm Young, converse with King Buzzo, and Prince would provide the entertainment.

It’s been such a pleasure guys, thank you so much for speaking with Metal Temple and good luck with the next part of your journey, we’ll be following you for sure! Now I’m going to go and morph my face into a melted trainer listening to “Abyssal Trip” once again…



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Edited 04 October 2022
 

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