Borknagar are on the metal scene for a long time. They are surely not a new band. ”Universal” is their 8th full-length and its a natural step after ”Epic”. Once again you will enter into the well-known musical halls of Øystein G. Brun & co. Øystein, as a main composer has a unique style of creating a perfect balance between extreme metal and peaceful, even relaxing atmosphere. Their newest record is going to be published at 22th february so i took the chance and had a chat with mastermind of the band.
Hello! After few years of silence you have returned with a new issue. Why there was longer pause between ‘Origin’ and ‘Universal’?
First off, time flies as you may have noticed as well. But the most important factor is the fact that we work according to our own schemes. We don’t rush anything just in order to get an album out and so forth. This time around we basically needed the time to re-organize the band as well as the mental side of things. And we did not rush into studio before we were sure that we had a great album up the sleeve. I am pretty sure the gap between UNIVERSAL and the next album will be way shorter. We have already started to work on new songs.
What are your feelings about ”Universal”? Can you compare new album with your previous records? There are definitely some parallels/similarities with ”Epic”.
“UNIVERSAL” feels really good, to be quite honestly. Personally I think it is very different from EPIC in many ways, as I think UNIVERSAL is a more reminiscent as a crossover between QUINTESSENCE- EMPIRICISM- THE OLDEN DOMAIN. This time we really allowed ourselves to be inspired by ourselves, so the intention with UNIVERSAL was to regain the musical core that we had back in the nineties.
Where was ”Universal” recorded and mixed? Who was the producer?
UNIVERSAL was mainly recorded in Toproom studio in Norway, we did all the major work there. But Lars (keys) and Vintersorg (vocals) did their recordings in respective home studios. Me together with the band produced the album, we never let anybody else fuck up our music…haha…
How long did this whole process of composing and writing of music take time? Who was the main composer this time?
Well, we spent something like a half a year to write and arrange the songs. I am the main composer, so I wrote most of the basic structure of the songs upfront and then we started to arrange the material as a band.
Who are the band members now? Were there any changes in the group between ”universal” and ”Origin”?
Lars A. Nedland- keys/Vintersorg- vocals/Tyr- Bass/Jens F. Ryland- Guitar/David Kinkade- Drums and me on guitar. Since we released ORIGIN Tyr and Jens rejoined the band and our previous drummer quit. David stepped in and became the new drummer. So there have been some line-up changes, but I would argue that it turned out as a positive process.
Mr. Vortex himself appeared in the closing track. This song sounds indeed fantastic! How and why did you choose again to back Vortex even only in the last song? Does it mean something more?
We have all been good friends with Vortex after the split back in 2000, so no bad feelings at all. The song “My Domain” was written back in the days when Vortex did the vocals and he always loved that song. So when we finally decided to record the song for UNIVERSAL, we just had to ask him to do the vocals. This song was kind of his song. He said yes and the result is fantastic! That is all to it…
As a matter of fact Borknagar isn’t a live band anymore. But,do you plan to have any live show like appearing only on some special occasions and festivals?
That’s not completely true. Actually we did Wacken last year and we did a small mini tour in Europe. We definitely gonna do some live shows this year but we don’t have any specific plans at the moment. But I am pretty sure we’ll do more gigs the next 5 years than we have done the last 5 years.
As I have already chance to seen ”Universal” is going to appear in few different versions. Please, can you write something about this several version (does it mean that some special edition are going to have some bonus material as well, like bonus tracks, videos or even DVDs)?
The album comes in four different versions: normal jewlcase CD, limited digipack, LP and CD- Box. The jewel case version includes the album obviously but no extras. The limited dig pack comes with a nice wrapping and includes a bonus disc featuring “The making of UNIVERSAL” documentary, iTunes booklet, mp3 version of the album and high resolution wallpapers. The LP comes as a gatefold album with two vinyls’s to make sure the sound is perfect. LP also includes two extra songs. The CD-Box is a real gem! It is called “Dragon edition” and will include, extra songs, bonus disc (same as digipack), extended booklet (featuring liner notes from Gunnar Sauermann/Metal Hammer), Borkdragon patch, Borknagar dogtag and a really nice Borkdragon pendant. I am pretty sure the fans will love this one…
You’re now on Indie Records after so long time that you have spent on Century Media. why did you choose after so long time to change record label? Can you give us some more info about your working with your new label Indie Records?
In short terms, our deal with Century Media expired when we released ORIGIN. I felt that we came to a dead end with Century Media and wanted to try new paths to walk. Indie Recordings came up with the best deal by far and since we knew the guy’s from before the choice was rather easy. The cooperation with Indie Recordings has been great so far, so I am exited where this cooperation will bring us both. We signed a 2 record deal with them.
Your label companions Keep of Kalessin are going to appear on the Norwegian Eurovision contest with the track ”Dragontower”. Nice track if you ask me, but what is your opinion about this matter? Do you think that it is ok for black and extreme oriented metal bands to take a part on this mainstream contests?
Yeah, I think it is cool and they certainly deserve all the attention they get. I wish them the best of luck. But I must admit that BORKNAGAR would never participate in such a competition as I believe our music is just too complex for the huge audience and I would never dream of doing any compromise in order to fit into a concept like that. I would not be able to make a song which is only 3 minutes long…haha..
Do you still remember your old shows during 90s with Borknagar? You did some tours in Europe but you have also visited USA. Do you still yearn to play the shows and can you share with us any interesting and funny story from these tours?
Yeah, we have a lot of great memories from the tours we have done. I must admit that the tour we did in the USA was really great, when looking back. We had allot of fun and we were lucky to have time enough see allot of famous places. World trade center, Niagara falls, late Dimebag’s strip-club, Area 51, Hollywood and so forth…there is just allot of great memories, I can’t pick one specific…haha..
What can you tell us about cover artwork for ”Universal”? It’s again very much into Borknagar’s vein. Who has done it and what kind of emotions did you try to reflect this time?
The artwork this time around is done by the Brazilian wizard Marcelo HVC. In simple terms we tried to make a cover and lay-out which represent the album in a best possible way. We did really put allot of time and effort in the visual side of things this time around. It looks really amazing and suits perfectly to the general expression of the album!
Also, one more thing is important, and these are, of course, lyrics. I suppose they’re once again deeply connected with the nature and other the cosmic forces as well. But, please write down some notes about lyrical side of ”Universal”? What are some of the major lyrical themes and concepts behind the songs of Universal?
Well, we are still loyal to the “Borknagar- universe” when it comes to the general approach of the lyrics. As the title might insinuate this album deals allot with the grand laws of nature. As an example, the song “Worldwide” deals with the consistency of nature and the rules it play by. Whatever we as mankind think, believe or whatever cultural or geographical context we originate from, nature play by its own rules. Mankind basically has two options in life, to play by these rules or not. That’s very roughly the theme of this song but this is also a perspective that partly underlies the whole album somehow, thereof the title UNIVERSAL. The opener HAVOC is pretty much taking the same course, opening with the phrase “Nature is about to regain”……probably one of the most dark and aggressive lyric I have ever written.
Well, I would like to thanks your for your answers and time. Do you have any comment and message for the fans at the end of this interview!
Thanx for your time and support! Keep an eye open for our next album will be our really soon all over the globe. Also hope to see you all on tour somewhere sometime in the future. Take care folks!
Interview by Marko Miranović
Answers by Øystein G. Brun, January 2010