Reflections on the lyrics brings new revelations. There demos brilliantly sold out in a few days, now Åskog have released first debut full length. We talk about their history, album, and plans. This interview is conducted over audio recording and are with both bandmembers.
Can you introduce the band for readers, who have not yet heard it?
[Adam]: We, are Åskog, from Vänersborg in Sweden and play melodic black metal.
How did the two of you meet each other at first?
[Lars]: Adam had a band called Murdryck and he was looking for a bassist and I guess that we had met sometimes before.
[Adam]: We had some friends in common.
[Lars]: So, we knew each other!
[Adam]: You were my next-door neighbour we had never actually spoken.
[Lars]: …and Adam needed a bassist, he asked me, I tried it out and it worked very well – later I became the singer as well.
[Adam]: And then you played guitar, and we found that we work well together, regardless of the project, we have the same outlook on how we want to play music and how it works with our day-to-day life. There are no pressure for us to be out playing gigs, so we are in a studio and and the rehearsal room every week. It fits our lifestyle and our timeframe, and we like the same stuff, so it is easy for us to work together. That is basically how we met and how this band came into existence.
Directed at Adam – You are originally from the United Kingdom, when did you move to Sweden and was that related to your music?
[Adam]: No, it was not, I had a girlfriend from Sweden back when I lived in the UK, we were going to start our life together and so we moved to Holland in 2001, but for various reasons that did not work out. It was easy to find a job, but difficult to find a place and when we found one it was awfully expensive. I quit my job and she was pregnant with our daughter, so we decided we would move to Sweden.
I have been here since 2002, the years have gone by, that is nearly 20 years ago, it had nothing to do with music it was just a coincidence that I came to a country that is well known for extreme music. I also got to play with some bands that I listened to but never met. Playing in Lord Belial for six months, a band I first heard back in 1993, that was surreal.
How can it be that you chose to not move further with Murdryck, but instead chose to start all over with Åskog?
[Lars]: Basically, Murdryck is Adam’s project I think he feels like it is his project and then he for instance dictates how the vocals would work, how the bass would work, and how to describe that…?
[Adam]: I wanted to make Lars more involved with musical ideas and be more part of the band, we had already released two albums [Murdryck red.] and we already had a change of vocalist. I wanted a more consistent band and something where we both was in from the start. I do think that we will do this for a while, we will probably always work together, if we are at the same location and it works. I think partly I want the consistency. I want to split the bands and not feel like I am compromising my own music.
[Lars]: If you had to give me more freedom in Murdryck, it would had sounded like Åskog basically…
[Adam]: I think to get Lars more involved by giving Lars a 50 / 50 incentive on everything from the economy to the decisions, that he also feels that he was part of it, and I think that worked with Murdryck we would struggle to get together, we were not always motivated. When we did this with Åskog and decided that Lars would be absolute 50% on everything then, suddenly we had this bitch creative drive and we managed to get an album done in six months and for us that is unheard of.
How did you reach the decision of Adam standing for the music and Lars for the lyrics?
[Adam]: I think it evolved that way, Lars does both compose and play guitar, I do not know if I can call you a multi-instrumentalist? [directed at Lars], but he can do a lot, as we find it difficult to merge our musical compositions together.
[Lars]: Right, they are quite different from each other.
[Adam]: We do try, and we will try again with the next album or EP. But when we decided to write the lyrics in Swedish, it was much easier for him to concentrate on that and for me to do the music. That is probably why we came up with the album so fast as soon as I had a song, he had the lyrics. The songs and the lyrics take most of the time, he never had to wait for music, and I never had to wait for lyrics, that way it came together, it is not set in stone. I still like to have Lars’s input with the music, and strictly it is not 100% my music he takes care of his vocal lines, and composes the bass lines, and I am the choirs in the background.
[Lars]: And we compromise about other stuff in the music too.
[Adam]: He has a production hand, in a way the music is my problem and my initial ideas, but if I put his name on everything that makes it look like it is his bands. [Laughs] To be serious he does have an input, I write the songs, but we form the songs together that is the short concept.
Directed at Adam – Do you find that Lars has helped you develop as a musician? You have earlier stated in an interview that you, after having written a song, pick it apart and remake it again. Do Lars have inputs which makes you consider the music from a new perspective?
[Adam]: I do not know about as a musician I see the musician part as playing the instrument but as a composer and with the products for sure. He will say this part sucks or this part is best to be put somewhere else, or this part needs to be shorter.
He helps me keep things a little more concise from a composition perspective. There is also a lot of ideas in the studio, we make the best of that. I would like to think I have also helped him in some ways, to accomplish bringing a product out you have not done that, on that level, you put the music out at home, but you never on a CD from start to end.
[Lars]: That is why you do all that with taking contact with other people, I cannot manage that.
[Adam]: I do a lot of the economy and music and the mixing that is my role, and he does the production as well and more artworks design and decisions, like he is taking care of the lyric videos for “Måne” and “Vinter”. Lars is much more creative and good with the videos, stuff I do not like doing. I am happy that he can take that from me, are you happy?
[Lars]: Yeah, I am happy!
Directed at Lars – I could ask you the same, have Adam helped you develop, I read you had not done a lot of lyric work before?
[Lars]: I always had interest in poetry and playing with words, I always had that interest, I have written a few lyrics before… But I do not know what happened…
[Adam]: You worked with things in a singular perspective you do a song maybe, but with this we focused on albums and the whole product maybe that is the biggest difference?
Do you guys have a favorite track on the record, what is it and why?
[Adam]: My favourite track changes, it depends how long you have been working on it and then you leave it and come back to it. I do have a soft spot for “Tid” I like a little bit more of groove that is on that, I do not know if it is the chorus of the pre chorus, but I dig the big vocal choirs Lars does in that song.
I am a little bit more traditional with my music, I like a lot of black metal, but my first love is heavy metal. It also got a little bit more heavy metals riffs and it is straight forward, for want of a better word: It is almost like a pop song in structure, whereas the other songs are a little bit more freeform, and your favourite? [directed at Lars]
[Lars]: As for me I really like the track “Vinter” it is an epic song and it progresses in a way that I like, becoming more chaotic and stuff, I like the lyric that I wrote in it, for me it is magical. [laughs]
[Adam]: He means his lyrics not the actual song [laughs]
[Adam]: I like all the songs, in hindsight there is maybe a few parts of the songs that I do not enjoy as much as I did at the time, but the last song we wrote for the album was “Aska” and that was written very quickly. We ran out of time and we promised the record label that was going to press the vinyl that we would deliver the master tracks by the end of January, at the end of December we did not have a song. I very quickly wrote a song and I sent it to the drummer, and he very quickly recorded it.
But when it comes to the final product, I really like our song I think it came together in a way that worked. The power of it and the contrast between the mellow guitars and the distortion guitars. Your voice as well [directed at Lars] I like the vocals on it, did we do those last or were they hanging around from before, I cannot remember the order of the lyrics?
[Lars]: I cannot remember either. I changed little parts, that I had put more thought in.
[Adam]: It is not difficult to come up with a track listing. When you release everything on the Internet, and you have a band camp site, and you have YouTube and Spotify. You see what people listen to, and how many times they listen to it.
This is a bit soul destroying people that are listening to the stream and not the CD do not listen to the whole album, they listen to the first track, some people listen to the second track and then a little, fewer people listen to the third track. Sometimes you see on statistics that no one listen to the last track, you do not want to just put all the best tracks at the front so that people are hooked, you still want to have an album that reflects the journey. We talked very much about how we were going to have the tracks.
We are also aware that you with the Internet must lock people in with the first song. Within the first ten seconds but at the same time we do not want to be writing music to please people on the Internet. We want a product that we enjoy and that still represents, that musical journey from start to finish. Which is what we did, in the end we did not put all the best tracks from start to end, we put them where we thought they were required.
[Interviewer]: You composed the album to be listened to on a media, more than on a stream?
Who composes the drum tracks before the session drummer records them?
[Adam]: I do the drum tracks. In Murdryck I always did the drum tracks myself, I do every detail of the drum tracks. With this band the first couple of songs, but when we decided to hire Rodion Belshevits it was easier for me to, make them like a skeleton basic drum track and let him work with it, so the basic beats were always there from the demos, but he influenced it.
How did you decide on using nature as a main element in your music, and specifically regarding the dichotomy between good and evil in nature? Most people on these latitudes have a very romantic picture of nature.
[Lars]: Nature is a part of us, it is easy to write about, easy to see and nature is very grim if you want it to be, and if you see it in that way. I like to write about the difference between evil, black, and white, the contrasts I think nature shows us that.
[Adam]: When we started the band, we talked about what we were going to do as a theme and I have always said to Lars if you are going to write lyrics, write about something you know, that makes it easier for you than if you come up with stuff. You need to research it if you do not already know about it. That was primarily why we came up with that theme.
[Lars]: I also had an interest in nature and how nature works, and I do forestry in my own cabin, so I know it very well.
[Adam]: And to answer the other part of the question I think people do romanticize nature a lot, it is easy to romanticize when you live in the environments that we do, in a city or in a house and everything is comfortable. You can look at nature as something that is just beautiful and makes you feel good but if you are living in nature, I do not think you would have that same attitude either.
[Lars]: That got me thinking about something when I write the lyrics, I use genuinely nice words to describe the horrible, that is what came to mind.
What are your own inspirations musically – what do you listen to now?
[Adam]: My inspirations come from heavy metal bands like Iron Maiden, W.A.S.P, and then I like a lot of Cathedral and Paradise Lost and more death metal bands like Carcass mostly from the 90’s. I guess in black metal I was really into Marduk and Cradle of Filth the early stuff, not so much the new stuff as I don’t like what they do, and I listen to Bathory.
There is a hell of a lot of influence for me, but mostly from late 80’s early 90’s mid 90’s. I have probably gone back to what I used to listen as I find it is difficult to find an interest in modern music. I am always working with my own music and a lot of my extra finances goes to this music and I feel that I have a trouble with modern production being too sterile and clean, it lacks passion a lot of bands does.
I am sure there is a lot of good new music out, but it is nothing I have never heard before, I do not think that what we do is unique in any respects either I just think we make good music, that we enjoy, and that is all it is about for us.
[Lars]: As for me I listen a lot to bands like System of a Down, old Death, Arcturus.
[Adam]: Burzum – we both listen to.
[Lars]: Burzum, Marduk but I think I like the more progressive music.
Will you be working with different topics on future releases?
[Adam]: We talked briefly about how we will continue with the same and I think inevitably you hit a wall just writing about nature all the time, but we have in mind to bring in other topics, but that depends what you come up with… [directed to Lars]
[Lars]: I do not know what I will write about…
[Adam]: I cannot see you writing about robots and wars in the future but…
[Lars]: Who knows [laughs] no I do not think so either…
[Adam]: We flirted a little bit in one song with the supernatural and bringing in a human element which did not really exist in our other songs, we talked about maybe evolving the lyrics in terms of starting with nature and those organic things and then move into humanity and maybe different eras it is a loose concept its nothing that we set our hearts on, it all depends on what Lars does and it also depends on what I come up with musically, they both need to fit.
What does the future hold in regards with new releases, do you already have something planned?
[Lars]: Not planned, I mean the album was released today, when it calms down, I am sure we will do something.
[Adam]: We talked about, maybe an EP, we might do another demo, the demo went well. It has been a good marked for us, a lot of people bought the demo it was surprising how well that was received, we came out of nowhere and it sold out within a few days, it was strange. The album has done ok with pre-orders, I expected a little bit more, because of the demo. We want to experiment a little with recording the next release.
Lars came up with the idea we might do it live, like a live recording in a studio and not have the album so produced, but if we do that it will only be a demo or an EP. I like the idea of doing something raw, but when it comes to it, I chicken out, I do like my solid production, and working on the mix.
I think we will be a band that does not make the same sounding records ten times over, I like to think we will experiment, but at the end of the day: We play music for us, this is not for anyone to listen to, if people like it great, and if people buy it good. We enjoy the process and if we like what comes out, that is what people will get to hear.
I can read that you guys have chosen to not perform live. Won’t it mean a loss of income? In a time where more and more decide to stream music instead of buying physical medias. Do you think you might change on this position somewhere in the future?
[Adam]: We do not want to play live as we do not have the energy for it, that it is the main reason. We would need to have other people, we would need to have a drummer We would have to rehearse on a weekly basis, and we are not interested in that. We both have played live and we both know there is little rewards for it, it got nothing to do with income, and with physical media or streaming.
Right now, it is good because of the virus, people are staying home, and I know some people that own record labels, they are all saying, that in the moment business is good: They are selling CDs and vinyl’s, and they are a little bit worried that when all of this [Corona red.] is over, we are all not going to be spending money on physicals anymore.
They will be back to the gigs and socializing and spending money on restaurants, it has been interesting this year, it has been good to us as a band financially people are willing to spend a little bit more, as they have more to spend.
You have said that if you get a good sale on your music, you will use that for visual products in the future, what kind of visual products did you have in mind? When you will not perform live, have you considered a live stream?
[Adam]: Life stream is the same problem we need to have a band and neither of us is keen on it being a two-man stream with the machine and half the music on a computer then all you be getting is Lars’s vocals live and my guitar.
[Lars]: So probably not.
[Adam]: If get the money in from this album, we have more money to spend on the next album we would like, to be more extravagant and spend more money on the visuals. It would be nice to have professional touch to it. It is about what are we willing to risk, just for the two of us pressing CDs and vinyl’s is a couple of €1000 almost, and that is when we do it as cheap as possible.
It is still a lot of money if you cannot get it back, if we have more income, we would be able to do a bit more production wise and make more. A big problem with the Internet is that you must be quite visually appealing and that part we probably did not work on extremely hard, we do not take pictures of ourselves and we do not wear makeup, and we are not out buying clothes – all the time creating photographs.
It is difficult as people do decide with their eyes, if you have a good album cover, and nice band pictures and you look the part it is much easier to get attention and sell. We are poor with the visuals, but we want to be true to ourselves, it is not a problem if we do not sell a lot of records as we still need to send them and pack them, and it is a hell of a lot of work, sending stuff out all the time, we just need to get our money back.
[Lars]: that is our goal, at least.
[Adam]: That is our goal. So that is how we see things…
I would really like to say thank you very much for the amazing interview to the both of you. Hopefully, you will find some good format for the next release that will be blowing us away.
Assignments: Reviews of Releases and Concerts and Interviews. Nerd on all levels (finding releases, bands and labels) - Giving the editor gray hairs... Active: 13-12-2019 - 27-08-2022 Favorite genres: Blackened Death Metal - but listens to all kinds of metal and rock!
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