Dear Heljarmadr, this is really an honor! I welcome you, from all the staff of Blessed Altar Zine. Thank you very much for accepting this Interview. We are all very excited about this and there are many fans of Grá, Cursed 13, Dark Funeral or Domgård who read our publication, so I think this is a great event for everyone. (Dear reader, please check out our review of Grá's new album "Väsen" here)
-This year you are in the center of the scene for having released one of the most interesting black metal albums so far this year. The sensational "Väsen". An album where you have managed to get a sound with much greater depth, in some way a little cleaner, if the expression is allowed, comparing it with the most raw sound of your previous works. A feature that feels wonderful, as you sound with an unprecedented forcefulness. Who was responsible for choosing the current sound concept?
I produced, recorded, mixed and mastered the album myself actually, with my own studio equipment so I thank you for the great compliment! I spent many many hours/days/weeks/months on the edit and mix before I was finally satisfied with how it sounded. I always make sure an album (although raw in sound) sounds good in my lousy car stereo as that's where I listen to music the most. If it doesn't sound good there (and of course also sounds good in my home stereo and studio monitors) it's not good. A friend of mine recommended the plugin from Sonarworks called Reference. It comes with a special microphone that helps you analyze and eliminate unwanted sound made from the room you're mixing in. This was extremely helpful as my mix came closer to where I wanted it when listening to it in other sources than the studio itself. I'm not, a mixing guru or even schooled but self-taught and I learn a lot from every mix I make. I think "Väsen"; came out exactly the way I wanted it to so I'm very pleased with the outcome.
-Can you tell us a little about the writing and recording process? Do you have any method to achieve the goal or let things flow?
If you don't have a schedule or a deadline you're pretty fucked and time will just slip between your fingers. I started writing demos already before our last album "Ending" was released. One song became the single "Ramsvarta Tankar" which we released last year. People ask why it wasn't included on "Väsen" and the answer is that it didn't feel right to record it again and we had other songs that better fit the "Väsen" album so "Ramsvarta Tankar" is a stand alone CD-single. We had never done one of those so we thought, why the fuck not? Let's do it! For the B-side we recorded a cover song. But back to "Väsen", I do let things flow but when I feel that there's enough essence to work with I start making deadlines. I do not always hold them but they help me focus on the task. We started with recording the drums in 2017. We weren't pleased enough with the results so we actually recorded the drums again, which was a great thing to do because it changed many things for the better on the album. After that it's the usual procedure. Guitars, bass, vocals. One thing that I REALLY like about recording myself is that I can work with the post production and details for a very long time if I want to. I spent a lot of time on the keyboards and acoustic guitars for example, to make them sound just RIGHT! Same with the vocals, I don't want to record phrase by phrase but preferably a whole verse and maybe even two in a single take. That gives it a dynamic that I think somewhat gets lost when going piece by piece. I can clearly hear which parts are longer and more demanding and how my voice reacts to the intensity. It's more "live". I can talk about this forever but I think you already have enough of my studio rants by now.
-Another thing that I found very satisfying was the cover art. Was it the artist's decision to do it that way or was there a previous concept that had to be adjusted?
We decided on the cover theme at a meeting face to face. We went to Uppsala and spent a couple of hours discussing what we were looking for and we left early demos of the album to Axel (Torvenius) for inspiration. Then I have been bouncing ideas with him throughout the process until we were both satisfied.
-I would like to ask you a question a little more personal. What does Black Metal represent for you today?
Black Metal is the Devil's music!
-And what do you think it means for people who listen to this music or listen to Grá?
To most listeners, not much I suspect, apart from it being music that they enjoy. On the other hand I know that it does mean a great deal to many of our supporters and to those I salute! I guess that if I can provide even a tiny piece of darkness into a person that doesn't have it to begin with then I have won.
-I, in particular, consider myself a big fan of the Swedish black metal scene. There are artists from your country who have served as a source of direct inspiration for the beginning of a project like Grá?
Well of course we have been inspired throughout our carreer by bands that were around before us. We made the first EP back in 2010 as a tribute to the past, but I have been an active musician since the mid 90's, therefore I think it's harder to say what is the influence or not for a band started 15 years after I begun playing music myself, aside from just being a listener. The Swedish bands were probably more inspiring back in my early days but my musical taste reach far beyond just listening to metal music and I think there's not many influences or references to / from earlier Swedish bands on "Väsen" at all. We have our own style and pave our own way I think.
-And, since we are talking about sources of inspiration, are there personal events in the life of any of the members of the band that have influenced or served for the composition of the songs?
Of course, there are heaps of shit to dig from haha!
-Grá is a band composed of musicians who already have a long career within the scene, and who have passed through several bands. Some of important renown. Currently you must have a pretty tight schedule, when traveling to play live. What is the most satisfying thing you can absorb, on a spiritual level, from the experience of constantly moving to perform this activity?
The feeling of breaking new ground is pretty fucking awesome to start with. Even when you return to a place it's usually been a while and you meet friends that you rarely get to see because of geographical issues.The spiritual side of it happens on stage, when band and audience use each other to rise above the mundane level of existence, if only for the time of a concert, it's worth the long hours of sitting in a van/bus/plane/cab every single time!
-And, therefore, I must ask you about the opposite effect of performing such an exhausting activity. Are there negative things that can affect the performance of each of the members, or get to saturate physically or emotionally, while traveling?
Of course, it's not a glamorous life being in a van day after day with only half your make up removed and full of sweat because many clubs don't have showers. Eating truck stop food every day because the travel schedule is tight. Putting on your sweaty stage clothes night after night because there's no time to let them dry properly. Waiting in a non-existing or extremely small backstage room for several hours before the gigs with loud music and the smell of spilled beer all around. It's the opposite of comfort actually and few people realize this. But all those things are during limited amounts of time and every time we look back at a tour it's with great and proud smiles over what we have accomplished and we realise that we, in fact, enjoy every single bit of that compared to sitting in a factory day after day with only the weekends to look forward to, and when the weekend comes, being too tired to do anything anyway.We always make sure to be well rehearsed and as fit as we can before heading out on the road, not to ever have to compromise when it comes to the performances.
-Being a band with lyrics that deal with concepts such as ancient spirituality, for example. How you see the current state of the world, taking into account the behavior of the human being and the influence that technology has on him, increasingly present in daily life?
Well, in fact, even a simple thing like a sharp knife was once upon a time very sophisticated technology. The world is shit and it has always been shit. At least when it comes to the era when humans started to think and became smart enough to start brainwashing each other with religion.
-In some way, making music is a way of being connected with creative forces that transcend our mere existence. Is there any special gratification that makes it possible for you to be able to play and perform actively as professional musicians?
If you by gratification mean talent I'd definitely say yes. Most people can learn how to imitate something, learning scales on the guitar, playing fast on the drums and so on but not everyone can create with it. I think there's a difference between being a musician and a composer. Just like there's a difference between being a truck driver or an engineer that develops trucks for example. I'm not a great guitar player, I don't know a bunch of scales, I suck at playing solos but I can create and I adapt my creations to the level of my skill.
-Finally, is there a message that you would like to give to the people who support you unconditionally and who enjoy your art?
Well, I would like to thank everyone for the support throughout the years, by coming to the gigs, getting your hands on our albums and merchandise and so on! The response for "Väsen" has been fantastic by both press and fans and that makes us even more proud of what we have created by blood, sweat, tears, and hate. Salute!
- Andreas, for my part I want to thank you deeply for your predisposition and kindness. I hope that you continue to grow and strengthen day by day as musician and as human being. A big greeting from Blessed Altar Zine!
Interview by Sergio