Norwegians Kvelertak kick off their headline UK tour next month and new album Meir follows on March 25.
RUSHONROCK editor Simon Rushworth caught up with lead singer Erlend Hjelvik to talk Norse mythology, Metallica, trolls and more.
rushonrock: To a UK crowd who have yet to experience Kvelertak how would you describe the experience?
Erlend Hjelvik: I’d just say that we put absolutely everything into our live show. We just try to have as much fun as possible on stage. We rock out as hard as we can and we’re a really energetic live band.
rushonrock: How excited are you to be heading out on a UK headline tour?
EH: We love British audiences – every gig is different but in the past we’ve been given great receptions in places like London and Manchester so we’re hoping for the same across the UK. It’s at least as good as playing back home as far as we’re concerned. People don’t seem that bothered that we sing in Norwegian – they sing along and seem to know the words.
rushonrock: With that in mind do you have any plans to write any songs in English?
EH: Not at all. We’re going to stick to writing and singing in Norwegian. It’s what we’ve always done and what we do best. You look at bands like Rammstein and they’ve never compromised to such a point that people expect them to sing in their native tongue. The kind of music we play suits the Norwegian language. And there are too many Norwegian bands singing in bad English already!
rushonrock: If people still aren’t aware of Kvelertak they might know your music through cult film Troll Hunter – how did you end up on the soundtrack?
EH: We just got an email one day with the synopsis of the film and an offer to provide some music. We got the impression it was going to be like a Norwegian Blair Witch project with trolls and we weren’t too far wrong! We thought it sounded pretty cool but I had no idea the film would become as big as it did. In the US we meet a lot of people who discovered Kvelertak through that movie and it’s clearly helped our profile and got us a lot of new listens. I really enjoyed the film – it contains a lot of Norwegian humour.
rushonrock: Your first album focused on Viking and Norse mythology – can we expect more of the same on Meir?
EH: Actually, no. On the new album we’ve stayed clear of that sort of stuff. I don’t want to be writing about the same subject all of the time. It was just what I was reading about at the time we were putting together the first record and it rubbed off on the songs. I don’t have a set formula for a song that I write – I just pick things that inspire a good lyric. You can boil it down into something effective – the new album’s all about a doomsday scenario. I just write about what’s in my head right now.
rushonrock: Do you grow up learning about Norse mythology at home or did the first record require some hefty research?
EH: We don’t learn too much about it at school because a lot of the subject matter is considered quite dark. I wish I could have learnt more. Most of the subject matter I had to find out for myself. Norway has been pretty much Christianised for a long while now so it’s not as if we actively celebrate Norse mythology as a nation. But there are so many fascinating stories. There are a lot of great subjects that naturally lend themselves to heavy metal lyrics. The first song on the last album translates as Wolfman and it’s a story about how everyone turns on each other. I loved writing about that.
rushonrock: When you arrive in parts of the UK for the first time will you feel just a little bit guilty about the bad behaviour of your Norse forefathers?
EH: I won’t feel too guilty about it. I don’t think it’s anything to be ashamed of. Anyway, most of the time the Vikings were just trading weren’t they? I went to the Jorvic Centre in York when I was a kid and I remember seeing a lot about trading. But I wish I’d paid more attention – me and my friends were more interested in causing trouble. I just ran through the museum and I must have missed all the raping and pillaging…
rushonrock: So are you proud of the mark your ancestors made on the UK?
EH: Yes I am. It’s not something I spend too much time thinking about. But on reflection I definitely feel the Norsemen made their mark in a positive way.
rushonrock: You’ve been billed as metal’s next big thing – does that expectation weigh heavily on your shoulders?
EH: I try not to think too much about that kind of stuff. We just write the music we want to write and try not to believe the hype. We do the best we can and never take ourselves too seriously. Of course the buzz right now is interesting. But I’d like to think it comes back to the quality of the songs. I think we’re bringing something new to the table and hopefully it sounds fresh. It’s still metal – which has been around for decades – but it’s metal with a twist.
rushonrock: How has signing to Roadrunner made a difference?
EH: It’s pretty crazy being attached to those guys. When I was a teenager most of the metal I listened to and loved came out of the Roadrunner stable. Now we’re on the same roster. It’ll be fun to see just how the relationship works out.
rushonrock: So what bands shaped the Kvelertak sound?
EH: In my teenage years I was mostly listening to Metallica and I’m still into older metal now. Of course I got into black metal as a kid growing up in Norway and until a few years ago I was still very much into that scene and listened to as much music as possible. I like Venom and they were definitely one of the building blocks for this band.
rushonrock: What does the three-guitar attack bring to the table?
EH: It definitely helps us to create a different and more vibrant sound. It allows each guitarist to really concentrate on getting his part right and it’s great when we can deliver different sounds within a song. I love Iron Maiden and it’s never done them any harm having three guitarists.