Interview: Gjendød (2020) / From The Bowels Of Perdition

Conversation with

Gjendød

Gjendød went through a period of admirable activity from 2016 to 2018, with two full-lengths, two compilations and five demos released within the span of less than two and a half years. Krigsdøger marked the end of that period and you have been laying low ever since. Are you going to end that silence with another full-length anytime soon? What have you been up to recently?

KK: Laid low and waiting for LPs and EPs? Not really, working hard. We are soon finished with our next album. A different approach this time. Krigsdøger’s meaning is that you feel the war before it arrives. Now on next album the war arrives, a war with little briefing or many pauses. Well, some maybe. The album after that one will be after the war (no, I hear your thoughts, not Gory Moore) where we might cry and lick our wounds, but we don’t know yet if we will win or if we will lose. We are still recording the war.

When you look back at the string of releases prior to Krigsdøger and compare all those releases to it, does that album feel like just another recording or do you consider it a crowning achievement of that particular period in the band’s career?

KK: I haven’t heard it in a while. Will hear it again when the LP version is released, but we were satisfied with it. With everything about it really. It’s not a very happy album though. The other guy, K, got very depressed after hours and hours of working on some of the songs. We made 15 or 16 songs then picked the ones that fitted best together. The leftovers became an upcoming EP, a split and some went to the trash bin. But a crowning achievment yes, ok, not an easy album to make, but we made it.

Do you even like the term career being used in the context of what Gjendød does? Do you think that the word mission could perhaps describe your artistic pursuit with more nuance and accuracy?

KK: More like an unpaid chore that has to be done. We have both probably played on maybe 30 unsuccessful albums in different styles and it’s what we do. I wouldn’t know what to do if I wasn’t creating music. It’s an addictive… not hobby, more a lifestyle… of life! Suddenly a song or ten come to my mind and I need to record them. There isn’t even enough time to record all the ideas. Some time must be used for mixing, like 2020 seems to be so far, a mixing year.

Do you see Gjendød as a means of bringing a certain ambition of yours to fruition, are you ambitious people? If so, what would be that ambition? What is the thing you ultimately hope to accomplish with the band?

KK: It might be to make a long journey with a lot of ups and downs. At least this is what I think. Stretching towards the corners and pulling back, three steps forward then jump into a hologram. Ambition has stagnated, we make music we want to hear, but when it’s finished we don’t hear it. If I’m, a long time after we say we quit, still alive, I might have a week where I hear it all in a stretch. No time now, too much ambitions to make stuff, and too little time.

Black metal is the kind of music that usually rushes somewhere, it is seldom patient, steady and disciplined. That said, Krigsdøger is precisely all those things, it is a forbearing record that builds up slowly, very disciplined in its execution, full of glaring contrasts, very colorful, almost picturesque. Livet Ditt, for example, or Å Puste Liv I Råttent Kjøtt, are some of those songs that unfold very patiently and, at the same time, have a notable visual quality to them. Were you conscious of all those things while you were writing the album?

KK: Yes, exactly. We made 16 songs. Four kind of concepts and four songs in each batch. Those two songs you mentioned were made in the second batch along with Hold Pusten and another song which ends up at the split. But contrasts and a float over it was what we tried to make, that’s why we made the songs four by four.

Do you think that the autumnal colours featured on the front cover of Krigsdøger, the painting by Herman August Cappelen, reflect the mood of the album properly?

KK: Hmmm, yeah, maybe, it usually fits whatever the cover is. One holds it, looks at it when listening, and the link almost always fit. That is after you have listened to an album some times.

Speaking of Herman August Cappelen, he was a Norwegian painter influenced by the Romantic movement. Now that Norwegian black metal bands that still exclusively use the Norwegian language and are very conscious to stay true to the original aesthetics of the genre are few and far between, would you say that there’s also something romantic about Gjendød riffs, in a sense that they represent some kind of cultural nostalgia?

KK: No, not really. We don’t have much culture. We have stolen most of our culture from other countries and we don’t talk to each other much. We just have folktales, painters, black metal and Grieg. Our riffs come from our heads. We are tired of everything. I am really tired of drunk people. Drunk people seems to be the only culture I see and hear around me. Fucking drunk loud idiots in their twenties with jogging pants and small socks. Send them to the fronts. Can’t have nostalgia with such despicable crap around.

Well, if Norwegian culture doesn’t have anything to do with your music, could you say the same for the beautiful and chaotic Norwegian nature?

KK: Yes, I could. I think we are so used to being in the middle of it that we mostly take it for granted.

One thing that gives additional depth and flavour to the sound on Krigsdøger is very discernible bass sound, whose presence is particularly prominent during the slower sections. How much attention did you pay to the bass lines while you were recording the album and are you satisfied with how it all turned out in the end?

KK: Many songs are composed on bass, not so much on Krigsdøger though. Demos four and five I think were fully composed on bass. So then the guitars has been made after the bass, and it has worked well, I think. So the answer is very much attention, and we are, or were at least satisfied, but now as always we’re moving forward.

The keyboards on Krigsdøger are more evocative and poignant than spooky or morbid, particularly in songs like Hold Pusten, En Pålagt Byll or the eponymous one. Where did you draw inspiration for that beautiful, almost cinematic keyboard sound? Did you intentionally go for something more melancholic than just plain dark and evil sounding?

KK: I asked K about this. He just shrugged and said Melotrone. I know we used some synth on the album but I can’t remember how it sounded now.

What’s the thing with the drum sound on Om Å Tro? There seems to be a lot of reverb to it. And then, it gets clearer and clearer as the songs go by. Was that intentional?

KK: Hmmmm, what happened there, hmmmm… Never really thought about it. We recorded the drums on cassette tape, so I think maybe the beginning was worn or something. We used that effect before. The last song on the demo five, in the ending where the tape got more and more worn till it stopped. I think the opposite happened on Om Å Tro. Maybe we use two different tapes, I can’t remember.

What is the thing Gjendød is longing for? Death, perhaps? Do you believe that we all have one foot in the grave and are half dead already, simply because we were born and therefore destined to die eventually?

KK: We work our way through this life, making stuff, entertaining ourselves, fight, fuck, generate, degenerate, eat, sleep, struggle, relax and so on. First price for all this is death. Nothing to long for. There isn’t much hope. Longing backwards to where we can’t ever go is more it for me, but not much. I don’t long much. Do stuff now instead. Then suddenly one day it’s over. Congratulations!

When is black metal more in touch with its essence, when it’s loyal to its tradition or when it is completely unrestrained by anything?

KK: In our case, we must like it. Others can do what they like or not. We need contrast and dynamics.

What is the album in your collection that no one would expect you to have?

KK: Oooh, I don’t think anyone cares about what albums I have, no one visiting me has even glanced at my collection. I guess I’m the only one that cares or get entertainment from it. But weird stuff, like the LP from the sixties where a guy talks in his sleep the whole album (he really narrates) is weird to have. I also have some shit music, but I guess most people have that in their collection. I think most people also have rare stuff in their collection.

On Encyclopaedia Metallum website, Koldbrann has been listed as the only reference to Gjendød in the similar artists section. If you were forced to put a few bands in that section yourself, in order to provide at least vague orientation for a lost soul that doesn’t understand where Gjendød comes from and belongs musically, what would be some of the names that list wouldn’t make much sense without?

KK: Well, it is kinda hard since our releases are so purposely different. I can’t remember hearing Koldbrann… I seem to remember very, very vaguely a guy with glasses from the city Drammen that played there though. We are much inspired by other music styles, like soundtracks and tango, and I hope we won’t have any similar artists ever.

How often do you listen to your own music and when you do so, which of your releases is usually your first choice?

KK: It’s been a long time since I listened to the released stuff now. I usually listen to the unfinished stuff, trying to figure out what to do next. I will listen to Krigsdøger when the LP comes, but also the second demo LP, the Motstand EP and the split with Múspellzheimr. Let’s see then what I think. But, if I must choose one to hear today, it must be Dødsrikets Pinsler, the fourth demo. Right now I think of it as the best demo.

In many of your old interviews you insinuated your involvement in other bands, but never actually named any of them. Could you please do that now?

KK: I don’t want to talk about other bands. It’s only Gjendød which is active now anyway. I want to make some more songs with Imamexsanguinator in the future, that was a project I liked, but I can’t see I will have time. We both play on the new Aptorian Demon album which will be released by Kyrck as soon as this corona fever has passed.

Referring to your name that means death anew or re-death, you once said that Gjendød strives to give a new death to black metal by not blowing new life into it, but just by stabbing knives into the whole concept, since it’s already fucked up. Could you please elaborate a bit more on this please? What precisely were you thinking when you said that?

KK: Do I think? Sometimes not at all. But it seems like so many bands are safing it. They must be. I think we drove a safe line with the first demo and Nedstigning. When we continued with the next demos we experimented both musically and with the recording, trying different things. I began playing bass on the second demo, and still do, and we put some old four-track tape recorders to use. It really escalates with each recording. With the nearly finished album we worked too hard I think, I hope the finished product will be rewarding. We have worked almost two years on it now. The next will definitely not be so experimental, we will think more of the overall production. And it’s a new death to our black metal I think. Will we ever wimp out? I certainly hope so!

As mentioned previously, you play black metal the way you feel it should be played. That said, are there any current trends or different takes on how black metal should sound like that you find particularly irritating?

KK: Yeah, I don’t listen too much to new black metal bands, for obvious reasons. But monk choirs, overly dramatic spineless vocals and obvious christian lyrics and imagery makes me hit myself in the head. Again and again.

If you were to know for sure that some of those bands or trends that irritate you come from a sincere place and, just like Gjendød, play their version of black metal the way they feel it should be played, would that soften your stance and harsh criticism toward them to some degree and why wouldn’t?

KK: Hmmm, no. We don’t go after bands and criticise them, we just make music. Other people also make music and some might be good but there still isn’t much time to find it. But if someone show me some crappy music made from a sincere place it means they have bad taste. Bad taste always sucks anyway.

The first song on your eponymous debut demo was entitled Eternal Black Smoke, translated from Norwegian to English. Does that title have anything to do with the notorious church burnings in the early ’90s, is that song maybe a tribute to the early Norwegian black metal scene?

KK: I usually delete what lyrics are about from my mind after they are done, and read them with blank mind a long time after, but this one I remember! I’m always so glad when the pope dies, and so disappointed when I realise that a new pope will appear. The lower nosed half popes gather at a dinner where they try to decide who will be their next leader. A lot of fights and anal sex at those meetings I assume. Anyway, if they can’t come up with a winner of the pope awards the first day, they put fire to their oven which regurgitates black smoke for the people to see that they didn’t elect a new retard. And if one is not elected the second day, still black smoke, third day the same, etc. When a pope is chosen, the smoke is white. So the lyric is about that eternal black smoke. There’s no need for a stupid horny pope creeping around. Hang him with a fucking rope, as that old song say.

What are the songs Om Å Tro and En Pålagt Byll about lyrically?

KK: I try to forget what the lyrics are about so I can read them much later with a blank mind to make up my mind about them. They are very intepretable. Om Å Tro must be about new and old religions clashing blindly into each other, cooperating in breaking down the progress towards a godless world, circumcise this and that, going totally off track. En Pålagt Byll is, I think, also about religion, but it can also be about the black metal scene. Forces of an imaginative war. I sometimes write lyrics in layers with double meaning. But, it is really up to the reader. Then and there when I write them I know what they’re about, but I try to forget them afterwards. But we can also half conceptually look at Nedstigning as going down, down, down under the earth, demos from two to five as trying to get up, but failing and sliding down in the ditch. Krigsdøger, you get up, but regret when you stand on the safe ground because you feel the war comes in all senses.

Is there any deeper bond between the band and your labels Darker Than Black and Hellthrasher Productions or was it just the fact that they approached you first that made you release all your music through them? If someone was to reach out and offer you a better deal, would you leave without second thoughts or would you hesitate?

KK: There has been other offers. The first demo was going to be released on 10” by some french know-it-all imbecile. He wanted the logo in tiff format. He bragged that he once had worked at the studio that had recorded The Who or something, so HE knew that we needed MORE art on the cover and POEMS (!!!) as well, every photo and every art in tiff. When I said the logo was hand drawn then photographed, and that we weren’t going to print a billboard, he got pissed and we said bye. Darker Than Black released the three first demos on LP shortly after. He never asks about tiffs, neither does Hellthrasher. If a label or a band contact us for a split we might say yes, but for albums, most underground labels give basically the same deals, and we won’t leave the ones we trust, if they still want us, that easily.

Now that Gjendød has introduced its two full-lengths into Trondheim’s music canon, would you still say that the first TNT album from 1982 is the best metal album ever to come from your hometown?

KK: Yes, it must be. By the way, thanks for the interview. If you didn’t understand what I meant in any of the answers, don’t worry. No one understands what I say anyway.

 

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