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Kvelertak Erlend Hjelvik - Interview
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Norwegian rockers Kvelertak are only 3 albums in but already have made an impression on many people around the world with their brand of rock, their 3rd album "Nattesferd" continuing on from where they left off on "Meir" in 2013. We speak to frontman Erlend Hjelvik to discuss the album and working with producer Nick Terry of Turbonegro fame.



Steve: So straight off the top of the questions, how would you describe the new album "Nattesferd"?

Erlend: I would describe it as a massive rock n' roll album really even though there's elements of everything from black metal to even country on this record. But we just liked to go away and re-record it live this time so in my opinion, everything just sounds more organic even if there is a lot of things going on in the songs.

Steve: What's your favorite track on the album so far and I guess more importantly, why do you consider it that way?

Erlend: It used to be "Ondskapens Galakse" for a long time just because it seemed fresh to me and we never really made a song like that before. Sort of a little like "Hells Bells" by AC/DC, like the whole mid-tempo groove that's going on so that was a cool song. But now my favorite has been changing a little bit but "Heksebrann" is probably my favorite now, we play it live now on tour and it just feels great to play live and goes down really well with the audience. I just love how it's so long and it's 9 minutes but it feels like it's 3 minutes and that's what's cool to me, it begins with this prog kind of thing and it just turns into this kind of rock song like "Rockin' In The Free World" type thing so just a lot of stuff going on so it's one of my favorites now!

Steve: Awesome! On past albums you have worked with Kurt Ballou of Converge fame, how did this come about originally?

Erlend: Yeah it was pretty easy, we just had a myspace website at the time and just trying to figure out who to record with like a lot of bands that we listened to at the time like Converge and Torch and we liked the sound they had so that's why we hit up Kurt Ballou to be able to record with him. So we just emailed him on myspace with some songs and he answered, 'Yes let's do it', so he was up for it. It was great to work with him on the first 2 but we felt on the third album it was time to do things a new way, to keep things interesting for both ourselves and for the fans.

Steve: Sure! Torch happens to be one of my favorite bands around also.

Erlend: That's cool, me too!

Steve: So how do you think the sound of Kvelertak has evolved over the years?

Erlend: It was a lot more metal in the beginning, more harder and shorter songs but already on the second album we started to venture a little bit more and even wandering off into prog rock territory. Also making slower songs like "Bruane Brenn" on the second album and also "Kvelertak", the last song which is like a rock anthem. So I think the new album is not too much of a departure even though we introduced even more changes to the Kvelertak sound but we don't over analyze things too much, if it sounds good we'll do it is pretty much the approach.

Steve: So was there an overall theme to the new album?

Erlend: Like the lyrics, it's nothing too different from what we've written about before but on this album there's everything from science fiction and Norwegian folklore and history. There's one song about one of the most famous witch burnings in Norway so if it's sinister and evil and it's a cool topic then I'll write about it.

Steve: Was there a reason why the song titles were put out in Norwegian?

Erlend: Yeah when we started the band, I never had any idea that people outside of Norway would listen to it, we just made music for ourselves. But when I grew up listening to black metal, I always thought the songs that were sung in Norwegian sounded the best so I kinda just wanted to bring that element in and it also feels more natural for me to sing in Norwegian. There's enough bands singing in shitty english already I think so I don't need to contribute to that [laughs].

Steve: [laughs].

Erlend: But I also think fans would be pretty disappointed if we suddenly changed where we started to sing in english so we keep it that way.

Steve: So for the fans playing along at home, you guys decided upon Nick Terry of Turbonegro fame to produce the album. How did you decide upon Nick? Was there a particular reason that you sought him out?

Erlend: Bjarte (Lund Rolland) our guitarist has been producing work in studios in Oslo with different types of bands like from rock to metal and he worked with Nick Terry at some point and they worked really well together so we were able to bring him in. We did a test run in the studio where we just recorded a few songs to see how it would turn out and it was just great to work with him, it was an easy decision as he's a great engineer. He did a great job making things sound good.

Steve: Yeah I guess ultimately that's what every musician is striving for.

Erlend: Yeah and we would definitely work with him again.

Steve: That leads me into my next question. Is there anyone that you would still really love to work with either as a producer or a musician?

Erlend: I always say Baroness whenever people bring up bands we would like to do something with. We've always talked about doing something together with Baroness but we haven't been able to make something happen so far but I'm sure we will at some point. It makes sense to do a tour with them or something so that would be cool.

Steve: As a side note, bring them to Australia!

Erlend: Yeah that would be fun, definitely!

Steve: Were there any producers that you would still want to work with?

Erlend: Yeah there's a few. Just on the top off my head it would be cool to do something with Nicke Andersson from The Hellacopters at some point so maybe one day, I know he does some producing work, real rock n' roll records. And we can always use Rick Rubin when we start to get burnt out and he can really revitalise our careers so then we can hit him up.

Steve: So what keeps you excited in heavy music, or music in general as a vocalist? Is there anyone you look at and go 'Wow, they're doing amazing things. Really exciting, really innovative'.

Erlend: I guess the latest band for me lately is Sheer Mag, have you heard of them?

Steve: No I can't say I have.

Erlend: It's a new band and the singer is a girl, she sings like Michael Jackson which sounds very cool. I could never pull that off but they are the most interesting band these days. There's this Norweigian band who's probably my favorite band in Norway called Tusmorke, they are a prog rock band who are really 70's sounding with the whole package and the lyrical themes and vocals, it sounds great so you should check them out.

Steve: Very cool, I might just do that. When you guys are in the studio, is it a collaborative venture or do you do things individually and then reconvene?

Erlend: Yeah before I would say we were more like that but on this album it was a pretty collective effort. We would write together in a practice space and also in the studio, most of us were there pretty much the whole time, not everybody at once. But pretty much everyone contributes like the drummer has an opinion on how the drums should sound and for me it's mostly about vocals and I leave guitar stuff to the guitarists so that's pretty much it.

Steve: Yeah you hear about bands that like to do their own thing and they come back but it's cool that everyone can kind of put their ideas together.

Erlend: Yeah we work pretty well together, when it comes to music we agree pretty much on everything.

Steve: So do you have any plans to tour Australia in 2016 at some point?

Erlend: It might not be this year because we have the U.S. tour now and we have a bunch of festivals this summer and then we're going to do a Scandinavian tour and European ones so I think the rest of the year will be pretty much filled up. But hopefully sometime next year, we would love to play something like Soundwave or something like that again like a festival. But a proper tour would be cool too.

Steve: That should be we HAD a tour like that because it got cancelled

Erlend: Oh it did! Yeah I forgot about that.

Steve: Yeah so unfortunately we don't have anything like that anymore but anyway [laughs].

Erlend: [laughs] We will find something to do, we love playing Australia. We'll come back.

Steve: Do you have a message for the Australian fans?

Erlend: Yeah just hold your horses, we'll be coming over in not too long. At least next year I think. You will have a lot of time to digest the new album!

Steve: Well thanks so much for your time Erlend, I hope the rest of the year is great for you guys. The album is sounding wonderful and look forward to hopefully catching you guys sometime next year.

Erlend: Yeah awesome! Thanks for the chat.

Interview by Steve Monaghan on April 22nd 2016