Interview with JARLE (Hvàll) KVALE from VREID (April 2013)

Norwegian Black Metal has come a long way since the early 90s, a sentiment that is definitely shared by Jarle (Hvàll) Kvale – bassist and leading Member of the Norwegian quartet Vreid.

Having released a splendid album in “Welcome Farewell”, the inhabitants of the land of frost have decided to promote it through the second leg of the Fire Walk With Me tour, which opened in London on the 4th of April. I met with the towering Norwegian in the backstage area of the pretty run down Camden Barfly for a very enjoyable and fairly entertaining chart which included topics like Metal, art and…Indian opera!

By Yiannis (John) Stefanis

  • Well Jarle, thank you  very much for doing this interview with us. It is a pleasure having you  here in the UK again. The band has been a frequent guest on these shores  but always in support of others but I guess that with an album as  impressive as “Welcome Farewell”, it is only appropriate for you to be the headlining act. I am not that sure about the choice of venue, to be honest – I would have liked to see you guys perform in a bigger venue.

Jarle: Thank you for your warm welcome. Yes, England has always been nice to us and London is one of those places where we get passionate fans no matter what, you know? All the shows we have performed over here over the years have been good and you can see that the people are really into the music. Last year we did a tour in support of Paradise Lost and we played all over England which was something that we liked quite a lot. We have also completely fallen in love with English cider and that is another good reason for coming here (laughs).

  • Especially when alcohol is so expensive in Norway! I have been to Oslo a few times and I remember how dear the prices were!

Jarle: Yes (laughs). So we went out today and bought us a hundred cans of cider as well as bottles of cider to have for the rest of the tour and so we will end up promoting English cider everywhere. That was awesome as it costs one fifth of the price we get back home.

  • Ok, so you are well prepared for tonight’s show which is good. This is the beginning of the second leg of a tour which started end of last year but the support line up is totally different this time round.

Jarle: Yes and this time we are co-headliners for Solefald.

  • What prompted you to change the support line-up for this second leg? Was it your choice or something imposed by the label as all three bands are part of the Indie Recordings’ roster?

Jarle: Well, “Fire Walk With Me” is a Norwegian tour concept. We did a few shows in Norway and then the agency involved on that one approached us for the second leg which we also agreed to do with them. We had already decided, however, that the second leg would not feature the same bands but that we would do instead a new tour under the same name. For us, this feels like a fresh tour in the sense that I doesn’t really link to the previous tour but it is more like a promo release tour for our new album.

  • Well, tonight is the first show of the tour. Do you normally get nervous or apprehensive, perhaps, on the first night of a tour? Do you need a couple of shows to warm up before you reach your full power on stage?

Jarle: Well, normally it is always good to have a couple of shows under your belt in order to reach your absolute best but having done our Norwegian tour recently we feel quite prepared and it is not really important whether it is the first show or not; it is more about whether you will have to face any technical issues or not. If you listen to yourself while on stage and the reaction you get from the crowd is a positive one then everything else will fall into place, no matter if this is the first or the twentieth show.

  • Did you guys perform any songs from your latest album “Welcome Farewell” on the previous tour?

Jarle: On the last tour we played one song which was “The Devil’s Hand” and on the Norwegian tour that we did now we played five or six new songs and as far as tonight’s show is concerned we are going to do five new songs as well.

  • That is indeed excellent news because “Welcome Farewell” fast became my favourite Vreid album. I mean, I always felt attracted by the band’s music in the past  but, if I were to be honest with you, I also felt that there was much room for improvement and further development in your style and sound. Something was telling me that ‘THE’ Vreid album was yet to be created and now that I final have a copy here in front of me I almost feel vindicated, so to speak.

Jarle: I really appreciate you saying that as I also feel the same way. Even though it is a cliché thing to say, as most bands say that they prefer their latest albums, for me this new album is very special. There is something about it that I cannot quite describe…like everything finally fell into place.

Now it is five or six months after we finished recording it and I still feel tired as we have never worked so hard over an album before – working day and night. I was constantly working on ideas to the point where I couldn’t sleep properly. Now we finally got that much needed rest.

In the past, right after all our previous albums were recorded I would automatically start writing ideas for our next release but this time my mind is absolutely empty of ideas! Six months have gone and I have no new ideas – I’ve got nothing (laughs). It actually feels like a blessing because I can now relax and enjoy the album we created – new ideas can wait until later on.

  • If somebody was to ask  me to use one adjective to describe the new album I think that “mature”  would be the right one. This time round you guys sound much more confident and the sound and the production are a real departure from the previous album “V” (2011). You do sound really fired up and that is an amazing thing to hear as a fan. Especially during the second half of the album, the ideas on offer seem to create the foundations for better and larger things to come in future releases! Songs like “Sights Of Old” and “Black Waves” are second to none really!

Jarle: That is also very good to hear. I have to be honest; I haven’t thought of things in the way you did but for me it was more like I felt more focused while creating this new album – it was more like an obsession to me rather than a working process. I had so many things recorded on my hard disc that I really wanted to get out there for people to listen to that half way through the recording process I felt like drowning with ideas that I found difficult to sort in my head.

At some point I decided to move one step back, strip things down a bit and work again from the very core of each composition and let things flow naturally. For me, even though this new album features a variety of elements it is also one of the most direct that we have ever made…maybe the purest album as well…it’s hard to describe it really.

  • My review has been a fairly positive one and I am happy to notice that this has been the case with many others that can be found on both the Internet and on printed magazines. As an artist, a man with vision, do you bother yourself with how your music is perceived by others and by ‘others’, I don’t mean so much the fans as the journalists and the media people?

Jarle: I appreciate reviews, both good and bad, as well as they are the product of a thorough process. I have read reviews quite often when I realised that the author in question did not listen to the album more than two times and that is something that really shows, you know?

Other times you have people simply copying and pasting info from the press release, adding a few extra things here and there but when you read a review where you realised that your music has actually touched somebody then that is something really special indeed.

Even if the rating is not the highest possible, the fact that the music touched them means the world to me. I mean, I make music for myself, that is what I do, but the feeling when somebody is touched by what you have done is pretty special. If a big magazine gives us, let’s say, a nine out of ten rating but the review is another meaningless one then that really doesn’t mean that much to me.

  • It must be a generation thing but, over the years, I have identified change in the/a band both in terms of how things are presented to us visually as well as audibly. “Welcome Farewell”, stylistically, is much different in comparison to any of your previous releases. The artwork is pretty unique and the fact that you can obtain a digipack copy means to me that your label has put some  effort in promoting it. What are your thoughts on this issue?   

Jarle: Our label Indie Recordings has always been pretty positive and supportive of what we do but their reps also told me how surprised they were to have an album as good as this one turned out to be.

They were extremely satisfied with it and they also wanted to make the end product look appealing in every sense, you know? As far as the digipack version is concerned, that was actually our own idea.

I have to say though that much as I liked the bonus track “Fossil”, I didn’t think that it was strong enough or that it had a real connection with the rest of the album. At the same time, this is a song that I really like so I wanted to keep it as a bonus track.

  • Does the fact that Indie Recordings is a Norwegian label help in terms of choosing to work with them – the fact that you speak the same language and understand each other culturally?

Jarle: Absolutely! It makes things a lot easier and, as we know these people really well, it makes the whole process of dealing with them and making common decisions on how to promote our album.

Of course, finding a bigger label would also help a lot in terms of promotion but for me things are not only about that; it’s about working with people that have faith in you and who give you enough freedom to work on your ideas.

  • It would be both unfair and incorrect to describe Vreid as a classic Black Metal band but I guess  that, in this day and age, it is very difficult to find any  well-established Norwegian extreme band who plays classic Black Metal.  That, as far as I am personally concerned, is a good thing as the      Norwegian scene has produced some really unique pieces of work this past decade – work which adheres to no specific rules. Vreid has been around long enough to have witnessed that change happening so I can ask you this: do you believe that there is still enough room for something unique to come out from the Norwegian Extreme Metal scene?

Jarle: Absolutely, I think that there is still enough room. There are many people with strong personalities and motivation currently in the Norwegian extreme Metal scene and these are the people who have helped our music evolve, not caring whether what they play is called Black Metal or Death Metal or whatever. These are people who strive to record their own unique music and who are not afraid to take any chances. It is this very attitude that keeps making people interested in the Norwegian scene and not people who are looking to become copies of Mayhem and Darkthrone.

If everyone was thinking like them, people would have lost interest in our scene a long time ago, you know? As far as I am concerned, I love all those 90s Black Metal bands but to try to recreate what these guys did back then, that would have been meaningless – I would have rather started a tribute band. For me, the whole idea about creating music is to create something unique, to follow your passion. Of course, this is what you find in many countries, but Norwegian bands are always looking to create something that is unique to them.

  • As a fan I find it quite fascinating to see the creators of the scene trying to reach new musical horizons while, at the same time, bands in places like Chile and Germany are trying to sound like Mayhem did back in 1991!

Jarle: With the Inferno festival taking place in Norway, you see people coming from all over the world and they are the people who are looking to find all those Norwegian Black Metal clichés, you know? They think that we are people who are living out in the woods while, the very people who have started the scene are looking at these foreigners coming and they say “what are these people thinking”, you know (laughs)?

Then again, I understand them because what happened in Norway in the early 90s was quite unique and there are many people out there who want to relate to that. Nowadays, more and more things become less about the shock effect and more about creating art and maybe that is not appealing to a young sixteen or seventeen year old who is bitter and has a lot of strong emotions to struggle with but for us, trying to create something “evil” if you don’t really feel that inside is just pointless.

  • As a composer, do you think that there are certain areas that you are not allowed to delve into? Are there certain musical barriers that you cannot cross when it comes to creating new Vreid material?

Jarle: No, there are no barriers whatsoever. This band is about enabling us to create everything that we want to do. Last year we did a few performances with an Indian dance group with whom we played in an Opera house in India and that was something completely different – something that we had never done before. We just wanted to try it out and see how it works, you know? We are always open to new ideas and we are not limiting ourselves at all.

  • I remember reading about that performance and the response you got was quite amazing. The reports I read on the Internet were full of praise for the band so hopefully this will be the beginning of more ‘unusual’ things to come from you guys.

Jarle: For us this was probably a good thing to do for a certain period, not something that we would continue to do now. It was an interesting thing to do, not just because it took place in a totally different part of the world but because it a totally different art form – classical dancing and Indian music. I didn’t know anything about it before we started this project – I just wanted to see how something like that would work out and I think that it worked really well. Now, I see it as being a closed chapter in our career.

  • Well, the tour you are currently undertaking and whose first show takes place here tonight covers countries like Belgium, Germany, Italy and France. After this tour is  over, what are your further plans for promoting “Welcome Farewell”? Will you be performing in any of the well-known summer festivals? Are you working on any videos for the new album?

Jarle: We will be playing some festivals. In June we are going to undertake a two week tour in North America with Melechesh which is another band that I believe does its own thing – they sound much different from us but I believe that they have the same approach in making their own music. We will play with them and a couple of American bands, I think, and that is something that I am really looking forward to. We have been to North America two times before and things have been really good for us over there, so…

  • North America is a difficult market to crack, though, right? It is such a massive country that you need to be touring constantly in order to register your band with the people there and you only really scratch the surface if you play big cities like New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.

Jarle: Absolutely. Of course, I think that if you really want to break into the States then there’s a lot of touring that has to happen but I don’t look at things that way. I look it as having been given the opportunity to tour for a totally different market, you know? Some of the shows we have performed there have been better than the ones we do in Europe so it has been really good for us over there. When people think about America they really think about making it in America and that is a totally different thing I guess.

  • The big bucks are no longer provided by the labels, right?

Jarle: Yes, that is true but the scene is quite strong over there. Many Europeans think of the Americans as being really shallow when it comes to music and everything else but I don’t see that at all.

People are genuinely really interested in the music; they know a lot about the lyrics and they are kind of most interested to meet you after the show and want to discuss things related to the European culture and things like that. For me, America is a very good place to go.

  • And meeting with fans after shows is something that I think you generally tend to do, right? You seem to be quite close to your fans – not the kind of person who would normally lock yourself back stage thinking “I wish everyone would leave so I can return to my tour bus!”. You like to mix with the ‘natives’ (I laugh)…

Jarle: (laughs) We like things like “hey, hello – how are you” (laughs). I think that it is a form of a reaction as when we are back home we tend to be quite antisocial, all of us. We just spend time with our families and don’t go out all that much.

  • Well, every time I visit Norway I feel the need to become slightly antisocial myself, especially with all that beautiful nature surrounding me. When in the countryside I feel very close to a normal state of being which is not      surrounded by thousands of people. Living in a big city is abnormal, to      say the least!

Jarle: It’s a really peaceful and good life, the one we are living in Norway. We are really lucky living in a country that is so wealthy and where people are having an easy and peaceful life. But when we move outside Norway we do like to meet new people. It is very interesting travelling around the world and meeting different people. I don’t want to just stay locked up in a bus – that’s quite boring!

  • Well, your ancestors did travel a lot so you might as well do the same. Jarle, what can I say; once again, I think that “Welcome Farewell” is an amazing album, I am happy it is doing well, I am happy to hear you feeling positive about it and all I can really wish you is good luck and all success in the future. Enjoy tonight’s show.

Jarle:  Thank you.

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