Thursday 3 April 2014

Interview with Dolk from Kampfar

With Kampfar celebrating 20 years of performing their legendary brutal riffs. Heather Blewett recently got the chance to interview lead vocalist - Dolk. 

Heather reviewed their excellent new album - Djevelmakt - earlier this year and she said this about the album- "Being from Norway and playing black metal inevitably produces certain expectations, Kampfar meet if not exceed that expectation with ‘Djevelmakt’. For a band that has been active for 20 years its incredible how they still manage to progress as a band and continue to push those musical boundaries. I’m throwing it out there, one of the best black metal albums I’ve heard this year."

SL) First of all congratulations, 20 years of Kampfar what a great achievement! How do you think you’ve achieved such longevity as a band?

Dolk) Thanx. Hmm 2 decades, hmm what to say? To quote Robb Flynn "Everyone than hasn’t managed to keep a band together for 20 years or more, doesn’t know what it’s all about. They may think they do, they don’t!" That’s for sure a true sentence.

I should know cause I couldn’t do that either. Thomas left in 2010 and there was just me again. (With Ask and Jon of course) But it felt like I failed massively and personally I was all alone again at that exact dark moment when this became a reality, that’s for sure!

I personally didn’t have any high expectations to be honest back then. Because I had been creating Kampfar's music for almost 17 years together with Thomas. So I did almost not see any future for the band back then. It was total darkness. But then Ole came along and the rest is history in a way. He turned it all around, flipped it all over and all that phrases. He just made me feel more devoted than ever before again. So life works out in mysterious ways some times.

But then again it’s just insane to think about 2 decades. Especially when seeing all kinds of voted metal lists in magazines that handles the best black metal albums from the nineties etc. Like one in Sweden that I saw just a couple of months ago and seeing our debut album ‘Mellom’ got voted for at place #7 out of 100 or something.

I can for sure tell you that this was not the case for us to feel back then. But by time things always change in a way. But to answer your question Hmmm. It really hard to answer that. But a lot of my old friends are now dead due to drugs or other shit. I am pretty sure the road was split in 2 ways some decades ago for me and I chose to walk the path with Kampfar. That’s why there is not strange for me to still be here with Kampfar. (Even though I had some dark spots during the road walk with Kampfar during all these years)

What more is there to say really? Kampfar is my life!

SL) ‘Djevelmakt’ was released earlier this year, what a fantastic album. Surely you must be thrilled by how well it has been received. How important is it to get positive reviews by credible critics and magazines?

Dolk) It has for sure been overwhelming. In the end it’s always the public eye that puts a judgment on your work. Even if we create music in a very personal way, still it would of course be a big lie to say that critics do not matter. Of course it does. So the critics have been a personal blast for this album so it’s all good.

But to be honest I think this is even more important for the record label ‘cause after one week since release, the digi CD is now soon to be sold out already, the first pressing of the vinyl too. Not long now before they have to press up the 2`nd pressing I guess.

The album in general are starting to hit all kinds of charts here in Norway now, we sell more physical albums than the last 10 years in fact. And I assume that is important to a label hehe.

SL )Djevelmakt’ delves into some dark concepts, as well as taking an anti-religious standpoint. Are these concepts based on personal feelings and experiences?

Dolk) Everything I/We do is personal Yes. So the lyrics are for sure very personal too. Without this approach towards what I am doing in Kampfar, Kampfar would not have survived for me personally. So of course my life , my dark times, my light sides in my life does matter for the outcome of the lyrical content in Kampfar, and indeed that is the case for "Djevelmakt" too. More than ever before in fact and the thematic in "Djevelmakt" is not only based upon religion and the anti human sides of that thematic. It’s for sure a much wider expression than just that. It’s like you say.... a much wider expression about human existence in general. But of course at the same time personal as fuck to me!

SL) Kampfar incorporate paganism and Norse folklore into the music, whilst very much remaining a Black Metal band as oppose to "Viking Metal". Is it something you are conscious of, not to smother the music too much in Norse themes to avoid such tags?

Dolk) Hehe, well yes you are probably right here! No I have not to much nice words to say about all the ‘Hey Ho metal’ pagan bands out there if that’s what you mean.

But I do not have any war against them either, its maybe more a fear or even irritation about being compared with these bands all the time. So for once and for all: Kampfar has nothing in common with those bands.

We belong to the black roots of metal, Period! Just because of that I feel it’s less likely that we will bring in some heavenly golden traditional instrument in our music too. But it’s of course impossible for me to say what we do in years to come of course. But I see it less likely to become a reality that we will do that to be honest.

But yes indeed we have folk, pagan roots in our music, but it’s more hidden in the metal itself. More than just adding something folklorish that even my mother enjoys, if you know what I mean?

Kampfar have always been about honesty. In the very beginning I was labeling Kampfar's music as "Norse Pagan Folklore Metal" due to that the content was not about the satanic clichés and our music could not be compared to typical black metal at those days. So you see there was never a goal to surf on the Norwegian black metal wave back then. But as anything else, things get destroyed when a ton of others seems to follow with the term "Pagan". So when the so called pagan style became bigger with all this "Hey Ho" bands the term "Norse Pagan Folklore Metal" became equal to all these "Hey Ho" Pagan bands and people began to talk about Kampfar in the same terms. Well that was never been my intention to play this sort of metal.

SL)Who were some of your key influences when starting the band?

Dolk) Hmm, Well what can I say?

When I was a kid around 10 years old or something. My teacher in school asked everyone in class what we were going to be or wanted to do when we became adults. There was a lot of police and firefighter answers among the boys there as you can imagine. My answer on the other hand was: ‘I want to play metal; I want to play in a band’. It may sound like a joke to you, but its not. I was already back then pretty sure of what I wanted to do in life. And metal was my life even back then. I have got long hair since I was 9 years old. And I still getting comments from some of my friends back from school about that comment or statement that day. But I was at least pretty sure of my goal back then.

So when Mock (my previous band from 91-94) split up there was never an option for me to stop. So Kampfar was created the same day as Mock split up. And the rest is history.
I guess that has been my lifetime story in a way. I can not answer it any clearer than that. It’s just who I am. That’s why there is not strange for me to still be here with Kampfar at least. I have not thought so much more about my achieved goals and not achieved goals to be honest. Kampfar is my life it’s that simple and it’s just a bonus to meet people that adore and find things very meaningful in life due to what I/We do in Kampfar.

I think from the very early start with Kampfar. Goals were not about selling a lot of albums or surfing on the black metal church burning wave if I may put it that way. If that was the case I would have easily done satanic black metal with corpse paint and all that shit. As mentioned that would have been the easy way.

So to conclude this question I think the most correct way to answer this is that I still have the same goal with Kampfar as back in 94. And that goal is to be able to look at myself in the mirror every morning knowing that I do this with honesty and self pride and without regretting anything. It can not be done any other way!

But influences were still those things that got me into this in the very beginning I assume, old Bathory, King Diamond, Mercyful Fate and even Kiss. I think more or less all that impress you during your lifetime and especially those things that hits you at a very young age influence you in a way or another even if you want to or not.

SL) Does being from Norway and playing Black Metal incite any pressure, particularly when you were starting out as so many big names emerged from the Norwegian BM scene?

Dolk) Compared to today’s scene, I guess it’s all about music and even the search for fame now. But the New Norwegian bands of today cannot get the same respect these days. It’s just pure and simply impossible! But some seem to surf on the wave from the past of course and getting credits still for just being Norwegian. But that becomes more and more seldom and an underground phenomenon I believe.

But where is Kampfar in all this? Do we feel a pressure to be holding the old school banner? No! Not at all.... Kampfar have always been walking its own path and we still do! But we have deep roots in this of course!

SL) The Norwegian Black Metal scene has a very interesting yet quite brutal history, with the church burnings, murders and Satanism in the early 90’s. What do you make of all of that? And do you believe that it was pivotal to what Black Metal became?

Dolk) Uhh, you ask me to answer an almost impossible question to answer with some short words here. But ok, where to begin with all this. I get questions about this all the time, that’s why I started to write a book about all of this. It’s not because I want to become famous or anything ha-ha, definitely not, but I need to get this out of my system. I have chosen to write this book for a reason. I wish to tell new stories about what really was going on in some ‘circles’, especially here in Norway back in the period of the early nineties.

There is not going to be, uh, just another book about the ‘Infamous Norwegian Black Metals golden age’ I can assure you! And some people will be up for a shock! But there is still so much work left here, but I am on the run, so its coming! Sooner or later that’s for sure! And then this question will be answered in a better way than now.

But back then my world was about, death threats, watch my back for enemies all the time, and about a full mailbox full of letters every day from people in the world and Norwegian scene. I got around 30 letters every week back then.

The scene was so much stronger back then here and all the words meant something. Today it doesn’t. But as a paradox it may sound like my worst enemies back then was not the church or Christians or whatever. It was people from the black metal scene in general. It was an internal war going on back then and the brotherhood was not that great as people seemed to talk about with glorified words these days.

But of course then again, the scene was more alive, both the local one and the worldwide one back then. Today there is hardly any local scene left. It seems like it has left the building with only us "Old guys" back. So it’s really not comparable to today’s scene.

I do not wish to sound patronizing, controversial or anything here. But ask yourself this question: Where would Norwegian Black Metal  be today, without all the church burnings and the murders? And ask even this "for those old enough to remember". Where would Norwegian Black Metal be without Kerrang? I guess the last one there I would like avoid to even explain a bit further, but the front-page of Kerrang back then made a huge impact to the rest of the media interest and even history development back then I would say. Even more than people can imagine these days I guess.

The snowball started to roll so to speak back then and it all became just crazy and out of hand. I am really not disrespectful when saying this, but music came second back in those days!

Even though of course we cannot deny the fact that there was a lot of massive classical black art that came out of all this back then. Classics which is just impossible to deny the quality of today. I am not that stupid. I just like point out something here that people don’t seem to think about too often.

SL) Kampfar are playing with Hate in London this April, we don’t see you in the UK very often any other plans to play over here?

Dolk) Yep, the 3rd of April we are doing London/Camden and "The Underworld" again! It’s so "gritty" there and the crowd is amazing every time. I just love it. That’s how it should be! And the very next day on the 4th of April we are doing Rotterdam and Baroeg. Another gritty but great underground place! So of course we enjoy this intimacy. We have chosen these clubs for a reason. Kampfar wants to pay a tribute and pay attention to those who have always been there!

With "Spreading The Plague MMXIV" Tour we take with us Hate from Poland, Velnias from the US and the Northern warriors Iskald from Norway. All of these bands belong to the true hardworking underground! That’s why this tour is so great. Kampfar is underground, that’s were we belong!

We are in fact a bit disappointment that we couldn’t get more dates in the UK now on this tour. But one promise! We will return stronger. But until then... Why not pay a visit in London?

SL) Thanks for your time.

Dolk) Thanx a million for the support! Spread the plague!

Interview by Heather Blewett

Thanks to Dolk for taking the timeout to talk to Heather at Sludgelord HQ.

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