Interview with Svart Lotus

Interview with Svart Lotus

- in Written interviews

Hi! What personal experiences inspired the themes in “Som et Vondt År”?
Alienation is amongst the themes of this album. Maybe unconsciously the album deals with Covid and the lockdown and being forcibly separated from the world around you. Growing up unbaptized in a time when christianity was the law, I already knew the feeling of otherness, of being on my own looking at the others without inclusion or understanding.
With this being said, the album deals not only with my own alienation, but also with humanity and technology and how that alienates us from eachother and ourselves.
I personally enjoyed the slowing down of COVID times, but of course it destroyed the possibilities for playing shows and travel. And the polarization and the distraction industry did a number on all of us.

How did you balance innovation and artistic vision on the album?
The artistic vision was paramount, innovation was just a side effect of following the vision.
Svart Lotus is a place for following ideas and visions where they take us, to play music that resonates with something inside us. Black metal is about treading your own path rather than just following someone else. Svart Lotus should only sound like Svart Lotus.

Can you share insights into the creative process behind “Cryptic Lights”?
Cryptic Lights came about last riff first. I had been listening to Kool and the Gang for some time again and reflected on groove and how timing and phrasing has enormous effect on the notes you play. How can the same notes be both funky and evil? And how can these things be applied in a Svart Lotus setting?
The lyrics came by chance as Øyvind, the bass player, had written some lyrics and showed them to me at rehearsals. They were well-written and it became clear quickly that Cryptic Lights had to be Cryptic Lights. This reflection on breath and meditative states tie in nicely with the reflection on timing and phrasing and groove that drives the music.

How does “Som et Vondt År” challenge genre norms?
That is a question that begs clarification. I have stated earlier that Black metal should be free, and go wherever it takes you and above all have an identity of its own.
So as such it doesn’t really challenge any norms, however it seems as time has progressed since the 90s, a lot of people seem to have made up rules for what black metal should be, sound like etc. Sounds like a recipe for boring, uninspired music.
Svart Lotus is black metal the way Svart Lotus wants it to be.

How did introspection influence your songwriting for this album?
A side effect of being a bit on the outside is the endless questioning. Eventually you turn inside for the answers because the answers outside seem increasingly weird and alien.
How can getting a new car help with the emptiness I feel inside? Or a Coca-Cola without sugar but instead some shit that kills your gut bacteria? Or some sneakers endorsed by your favourite person who has a computer?
So the answers must be found within. Being in nature and alone with yourself gives you time and occasion to actually reflect. And I went into the forest with this album a lot. All through the process, to see if it would resonate with what is inside me.

What role does storytelling play in your lyrics?
It might not be a surprise to learn that I was a big pen-and-paper RPG kid. Could not stomach dungeons and dragons because there were too many rules and tables and all that jazz. But I loved the story-based games, where the rulebook could be lost and you could tell a story with your friends (or your own head). I also always read voraciously, so when I write lyrics I try to have some sort of story or at least narrative going on there. However, I try to keep it open enough that people can interpret and make their own meanings. Preaching is for religious people.

How did collaborations with guest artists shape the album’s sound?
I think the absolute biggest impact on the sound is of course Eldur (Fortid) and his amazing clean vocals on «hat og forakt» I had no lyrics for that song. I had no idea. It was an 8 minute instrumental inspired by a villain from World of Warcraft.
I sent som et vondt år (the song) to Eldur since i wanted him to do some clean vocals on that, but as an afterthought i also sent him «Hat og Forakt» and he immediately replied «THIS is the clean vocal song» Luckily Øyvind came to the rescue as the second lyric he had written fit this song and Eldur transformed it to the anthem it is today.
Jarrett of course made the album sound massive and dark and I’m blessed to have him as an engineer, guitar soloist and friend. I knew I needed him to do a lead on the album and cryptic lights had that one part I knew he could lift into the clouds.
Nag is a good friend and lives close to where I live, he has amazing vocals, and of course knows his black metal so I often invite him to the studio to listen to stuff so he can tell me if I’m off track. He added some screams on a couple of tracks and it completed them.

How does Norway’s metal history influence your music?
I am a product of my time and my history. I grew up with a lot of different music, and when I discovered the black metal bands in the 90s it was very clear to me that they were all black metal but they all sounded different and had their own sound. Individuality. That was the most important influence.

Can you discuss real-world influences on specific songs from the album?
The ongoing crisis of humanity is a very real influence on most of the lyrics. Broadly speaking the first 4 songs after the intro deal with humanity fucking themselves and nature up one way or the other. To be specific «Distraction Industry» came to me after reading Shoshanna Zuboffs monumental work «The Age of Surveillance Capitalism» and «The Shallows» by Nicholas Carr.
«Indifference and wrath» is of course a nod to Celtic Frost, whose works inspire me greatly.
«Svart Lotus» is both a tribute to the 90s black metal as well as a sort of blueprint of what Svart Lotus is, there is darkness, beauty, aggression and introspection as well as weirdness in one package.

How did you collaborate with visual artists for the album artwork?
I saw the photo that was to become the album cover of a book a long time ago. I thought it was the perfect album cover. But it had to have a certain kind of music for that album cover to work. At the time I did not feel that Svart Lotus was doing music that would fit that cover. So I forgot it, but as the album evolved I kept coming back to it and I asked Eivin, the drummer of Svart Lotus, to put the logo on the table in the picture and see if he sees what I see.
Svart Lotus is a DIY entity so most things are done in-house, be it recording or artwork.

How do you adapt complex arrangements for live performances?
We practice diligently, and luckily both Øyvind and I sing, so the vocals get taken care of. There will always be some parts where all the 87 guitars can’t be played at the same time. But i try to strip down to the essentials and luckily we are 2 guitarists in the band. For some songs to be considered for live performances I would have to borrow a guitarist or two.

What are your thoughts on black metal’s evolving landscape?
Here is the thing. I gave up on black metal around 1997. I stopped searching for new bands and stopped having my ear to the ground. I still occasionally hear some stuff, but a lot of the newer stuff I hear seems to be lacking a bit in the individuality and originality department.
Certain bands still do amazing stuff and Dødheimsgard’s «Black Medium Current» is probably the best thing I have heard in decades.
Most likely there is amazing stuff going on out there and I have just not heard it.

How do you find catharsis through creating and performing black metal?
The feeling of being onstage and manifesting the music you have been hearing in your head for so long is amazing. I live for and in those moments. It is a way to deal with a lot of things inside that there is no other outlet for. It is the reward for the endless hours of practicing, creating, scrapping, selecting, polishing, recording, re-recording, etc.
Music is hard because you pour your soul and time and effort into something and put it out into the world and there is no guarantee that it will do anything. How many great albums are there out there that no-one heard?

How do you see Svart Lotus’s sound evolving in the future?
It is hard for me to predict Svart Lotus since it is an expression of myself and I change, even though I stay the same. What comes out of my guitar these days is not the same as what came out of it back in 2019 when I started writing «Som et vondt år». All I can say is that Svart Lotus will evolve and become better, and most likely weirder…

What legacy do you hope “Som et Vondt År” leaves for your fans?
I hope it leaves people wanting more. I hope it makes people recommend it to their friends and local promoters and the internet. I hope it gives them pleasure to listen to it, that maybe they want to hear it again, or go back and listen to the other Svart Lotus stuff out there.

What plans for the future? Thank you for your time!
We are working on live performances, but also my guitar speaks to me again so there might be new stuff coming. Thank you for the interview and thank you for reading this far.

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