“Technology must never take over and leave the actual artist a slave under its whip!”
Interview by Jason Guest
Hi Jonas. Thank you very much for taking time out for this interview and congratulations on Karg (reviewed here).
Hi Jason and thanks for supporting KoA!
It’s been two years since …to North (reviewed here). Musically speaking, how has the band developed since that album?
I think we just kept on working from where we left off on …to North. What happened is probably that it turns more and more into our own style as we write what we personally gets satisfied doing, creating our own sound. This album took quite a while before we felt where to turn but whence at it things just automatically took shape. The sound and material on Karg is much more stripped down and riff-based which makes a somewhat new approach for being King of Asgard but I really feel this is where we feel most safe and personally satisfied. We kind of step back and rely on power combined with epic moments. The development between all three albums has been very natural and when thinking of it one can actually hear what’s going on and the direction is somewhat clear. We’ve accomplished our own identity but more need to be adjusted.
For you, how does Karg differ from …to North? Does it mark a progression for the band?
Some as above, into a more direct and stripped down approach. What’s most obvious is the attitude and fierce musical image which we’ve worked on mainly to underline our lyrical concepts as well as the word “Karg” (Swedish word for ‘Barren’) which we used as a guideline throughout the creation of this album. What it also proves is that we more and more create the music we personally appreciate the most and is close to our hearts. We’re more true to ourselves and hopefully this will be appreciated by our followers as well. So I would say that it is the general expression that is the biggest difference. The honesty.
When writing for Karg, did you have an idea of how you wanted it to sound or did each of the tracks and the whole thing take shape as it was being developed?
It started off in all sorts of directions but once the first, say, two songs were close to finished we knew where we were heading. By this time we also came up with the album title, “Karg”, which by its mere significance has formed and influence the atmosphere through the whole process, musically, lyrically as well as when considering art and pictures, etc. We wanted it to sound bare, sterile and infertile combined with what one usually associates King of Asgard with. The absence of bliss. It was both ways, we went with the flow as well as we were determined of a certain goal.
How long were you working on the material for the album? Is it all new or is there material that you’ve had for a while?
We worked on the songwriting, in full focus, for about a year on this album. The last song was finished just a few weeks before entering Sonic Train Studios but nothing’s set until it’s on the master tape. We constantly change things during the writing process going back and forth. Same goes for the recording, things that pop up like background choir, guitars in different harmonies and stuff like that are carefully taken care of. There are parts written during the …to North session or even earlier that never fit in the songs or for whatever the reason. So there are older material but I would say about ninety percent is written, arranged and completed within that year. No complete ideas or whole songs from previous sessions been used, just fragments and parts.
The title translates to English as “Barren”. What inspired this title and how is it reflected in the music and lyrics?
Guess the most on this topic been said. “Karg” set the overall atmosphere covering the music. Imagine a dead landscape lost of all hope. That was what we aimed for or at least the hopelessness. It also affected the lyrics in a way but not in the same manner as they are all individual and stand alone. Furthermore we used it as inspiration through all art, layout and band pictures. It has not meant everything but has had an impact and influence on much of what we have done. A new and quite interesting way to work. Provided you have what you should aim at.
In the promo material, you say that “lyrically, we have come closer to our own immediate surrounding and ancestral heritage, based on old legends and tales from our home region, a tribute to our fair and historical countryside.” Why did you turn to your ancestry and surroundings for inspiration? What do they mean to you?
Simply because it’s just around the corner. We drive and walk by all these historical remnants and stories of our own past daily. We’re already in it so why not take advantage and tribute it and bring it forth to others. This is a part of us and it’s a great deal of the ground we trample and when thinking of all events and startling stories one really gets overwhelmed and proud of the area we live in and thus we’ve chosen to bring it forth.
How does the band write? Is it collaborative or do you bring individual songs to the band?’
Me and Karl (Beckmann – vocals, guitars) are responsible for the songs. We work close together on all ideas and put everything together from first until the last stage. He writes the most and the main parts and I bring in the details and structure everything, along with him of course. It works really good as we know each other very well and complete each other with our slightly different background and musical directions. All in all it turns into King of Asgard. From there on we bring it to the rehearsal place and further adjustments are being made along with the other guys. It’s always under construction and nothing’s set until the day of recording but I would say the songs are close to album structure before we enter the studio both music and the words put upon it.
Can you tell us about the artwork? How does it relate to the music?
Well, it’s a custom-made piece for King of Asgard, say, inspired by old and traditional art. It is yet again, as on …to North, Mattis Frisk that is responsible for the art work on this one. He’s been working on a concept we gave him being exactly what one can see. It depicts a mountain full of mysteries and legends. This mountain is located close to where we live and it’s called Omberg. The reason why it’s on the cover is because it kind of captured the whole picture/atmosphere of the album. Yet again the sense of the word “Karg” being present as well as there are a song on “Karg” called “Omma” (the Queen of mist) which is based on a story out of many myths/legends covering that particular mountain. Mattias also did lyrical illustrations for each song as well as, along with us, the overall lay out. We’re keen on the looks of our stuff and there is thought laid on everything concerning King of Asgard, be it the visual side as well as the musical side to it. Thus I would say the art also relate to the music, at least it is obvious for us.
Who designed the artwork? What drew you to them for Karg? And how much direction did you give them in its design?
I did the design or the instruction rather on the album cover. I know personally Mattias (artist) really well so we worked close together until we reached the final result. So it’s been driven in our direction all the way. He also did illustrations for each song, a pictorial presentation of the lyrics one could say and on that he had more free hands except from the direction of the actual lyric.
There’s a theme of nature in the artwork for all of your releases. How important is album artwork for King of Asgard and its music?
That’s right but it was never intended. Never even thought of it either actually but you’re right for sure. Artwork and everything visual in King of Asgard is very important and we put much effort in getting it the way we want, be it art or photos. We want the whole concept of KoA presented in a professional manner and thus music, production, art and what else is something we take great care of. All constituent elements must go hand in hand, or at least that’s what we aim for. We’re also surrounded by many great artists so we’re fortunate to get to work with the best people, according to us, that is.
You’ve worked with Andy LaRocque at Sonic Train Studios again for the album. What does he bring to the recording process and what did he bring to this album?
Yep, it’s our third time around at Sonic Train Studios. I guess it’s a steady relationship we’ve built up and it’s a comfortable and a somewhat safe choice as we’ve got limited recording time in the studio. We have returned to Sonic Train Studios and Andy because it is very comfortable and great to work both with him as person/engineer/co-producer as in his studio. We have built a strong partnership where both parties are pleased and work very effectively together. We are both driven to constantly take this a step further and with Andy as co-producer it gives us a lot and we push ourselves constantly to the ultimate. Andy is an awesome dude who has the right tools for us as a band to use and thus to accomplish what we want to achieve. All of our sessions at Sonic have more or less functioned the same way. They’ve just turned more professional and more effective. So I would say he brings the best out of us and push us further when we stagnate. No specific things but of great importance.
Has his approach changed in any way since you’ve been working with him?
No not really more than that we feel comfortable and know each other really well by now. He knows how we work and always check where we want to head and from there we start and he tries to bring us and guide us in that direction.
Technology has become an increasingly dominant part of recording in recent years. How do you view its use? Do you think it’s had a significant impact on musicians? And metal in particular?
Uh, I’m not very good at technology and don’t really have the interest but sure I see the point. I think it works pretty much the same but it brings much more comforts and most important that it saves a lot of time during a recording session. It’s both good and bad, it depends on how one use them. Technology can be disastrous when overused but an asset when used just for its purpose. Technology must never take over and leave the actual artist a slave under its whip! I’m mostly into death metal and black metal in particular which could be the reason I tend to hold it (technology) on distance.
What’s your view of the internet and its impact on music (social media, downloading, etc.)?
It’s really good; things happen fast and many more have access to one’s music and so forth. Small bands almost have the same opportunity as bigger ones and it’s a great tool to use. Of course less good, thinking of downloading and decreasing record sales but this is how the market looks like and it’s merely just to adjust or get lost in process. It was maybe better or more fun before but now everyone’s got the same conditions. I think on King of Asgard’s behalf it has just been positive.
What are your tour plans for Karg? Will we be seeing you in the UK?
Unfortunately no tours or festivals planned at this moment. Right now we’re putting all our focus on the release of the album with some interesting stuff, still to work on, coming along this summer. Hope though to see our UK followers one day!
What does the future hold for King of Asgard? Early days I know as the album is yet to be released (22 July 2014), but is there more music in the works?
We’re always at work. Not much to talk about on this stage though so hold your untamed horses, haha. There’s a music video coming in short though, so we’ve been working.
Thanks again for taking time out for this interview. Do you have any closing words for our readers?
Keep checking in for more goodies coming during the summer until the one and final Karg is unleashed upon thee! Horns up – you all followers of the King and first and foremost Jason and The Midlands Rocks! Cheers!