You are your own master. Be proud of that.
With new album Epistemology recently released through Indie Recordings, MR’s Paul Castles chats to Keep of Kalessin’s Obsidian about the album, its themes, taking on the role of vocalist, the competition for the artwork, Norwegian heritage and being your own master…
Congratulations on Epistemology. How excited are you about its release?
I’m quite excited as this is our first full length in 5 years and I personally think this is our best album to date so I also hope the fans like it.
Did you enter the studio with a clear picture of what you wanted to achieve or did things evolve once you began the process of recording the new material?
Normally, I have a quite clear vision, but on this album I would say that things evolved more over time and during the process of both writing the music as well as producing the album.
What can the fans expect with Epistemology, any new musical directions for Keep of Kalessin?
I personally think that everything is just “bigger, badder and better”. It’s more epic, more melodic, yet harsher and more extreme in many ways. Listeners need to give this album some time until their brain is able to decipher the musical content on this album, so I just hope that people are patient enough in this day of mass-consumption of music.
Does the album have a constant theme running through the tracks or are they all completely different in content?
There is a red line throughout the album, but it’s not a concept album per se. Much of the theme is built around science, knowledge and universal understanding. It has a cosmic feel to it and philosophy also stands strong on this album.
This is the first album with you as singer following the departure of Thebon. How have you enjoyed taking on the vocal responsibility having been the guitarist with the band for a number of years?
It was definitely a challenge to take on the vocal duties. I needed to work a lot in the studio first and then, after recording the vocals, there was some hours spent on rehearsing to sing and play these riffs at the same time. It’s funny though, people ask me if I have changed the riffs and made “easier” riffs now that I’m doing vocals at the same time, but this album is the most intricate album we have ever done when it comes to guitar riffs and while learning to play and sing the old albums didn’t take that much effort, this one really did.
I’m afraid I had to Google ‘Epistemology’. It seems to be about going back to nature and also the limits of human knowledge. What’s your interpretation?
It means “the theory of knowledge” or the philosophy of knowledge. Meaning, it stands for seeking answers and understanding through science and philosophy.
I understand you left the artwork for this album in the hands of the fans by turning it into a Facebook competition? Were you impressed by both the number and standard of entries. How difficult was it selecting a winner?
We decided to make an app for Facebook to hold a cover contest where designers could upload their artwork and our community could vote on what designs they liked the most. The response was massive and we were overwhelmed by the amount and quality of the designs submitted! The band then chose one winner from the top 3 designs voted by the fans. And this decision was fairly easy since I felt that the only one that really captured what the album was about was Jean Michel so I immediately knew that he would win as long as he made it to the top 3. And luckily for us, he did.
How proud are you of your Norwegian heritage and how influential has that been in the development of the band?
Heritage is a strange thing. I’m not sure if “proud” is the word I’d use. I mean, I had nothing to do with them. How can I be proud of something I cannot affect? It’s like the African Americans in the US blaming “history” for their challenges and saying “We have been subject to slavery and worse”. How have you, at the age of 30-something in 2015 been subject to slavery? (Except from the corporate slavery scheme though, but that’s another story). My point is, you can’t blame your ancestors and past generations for what you have or don’t have today any more than you can take pride in what your ancestors or past generations has done or left you with, be it wealth, poverty or mere strength or knowledge. You are your own master. Be proud of that.
Turning the clock back to the very beginning what bands were you all listening to and how significant were they in shaping the music you play today?
At a very early age, I was listening to Dire Straits before I moved on to Guns ‘n’ Roses, Metallica, Megadeth and Helloween before I moved on to Emperor, Darkthrone, Enslaved, Satyricon and of course all these bands have shaped us as musicians.
You have a tour soon with Melechesh. Will your set be focused on the new material and how excited are you about performing this live for the first time?
We will focus on some of the new songs, but also play some good, old classics. We did two shows here in Norway and the new songs are really cool to play live so we’re really looking forward to playing these songs throughout Europe as well!
Is touring something you enjoy and look forward to? What are the downsides?
The touring life can be cool, but there are many downsides to it as well. Being away from your girlfriend is the hardest part, I guess. As well as sharing a bus with 24 stinking men and not sleeping in your own bed.
Are any members of the band involved in any musical projects away from Keep of Kalessin?
We’re all involved in a thrash metal project called Headspin and Vyl is playing with Gorgoroth. I’m also working on some other projects that I hope to reveal more about later.
Congratulations on the album. Any final message for your UK fans?
We hope that you check out the new album and come to our shows! We always have a great time playing in the UK!