Interview with Einar Selvik of Wardruna
The Norwegian Wardruna have conquered the world by offering the amazing journey into folk shamanism oriented music. Wardruna has smoothly increased the success during the past years.The group’s fifth opus KVITRAVN just saw the light of day and gives another masterpiece of the great art of Norwegian mythology and folk music. The album is nothing but an amazing release with capturing hymns. Metal-Rules.Com talked to Einer Kvitravn Selvik about the newest album, videos and nature.
Interview and live pics by Arto Lehtinen
How about the Norwegian weather? Do you have a lot of snow there?
No. we had some snow now for a few weeks, but now it’s actually raining away. I live near the sea, so it’s pretty normal for this time of year, very unstable and lots of rain.
I live about one hour to the north of Helsinki and we have about a half meter of snow.
It’s perfect weather to listen to the new Wardruna album Kvitravn. I love it from the first song to the last one.
I’m happy to hear.
Kvitravn, White Raven. I understand that the album is more personal for you than the previous works you have done. Can you describe which way it’s more personal? Of course, the name “Kvitravn” is there.
I wouldn’t say that it’s necessarily personal. First of all, I have to say, the album carries a variation of my own artist name, but it’s not an album that is named after me. It’s more, I would say dives into the same things that inspired me to take that name in the first place.
Traditions, both with the central traditions or my profound fascination for ravens, but also when it comes to the sacred white animals, not only ravens, but all kinds of animals that we see in cultures all over the planet. Where they seem to have this prophetic…
Often they have prophecies connected to them and so on. One of the things this album does is, I think perhaps it goes more in-depth on certain things. It is perhaps focusing more on the human sphere of different traditions, and our relation to nature and so on and how we define ourselves.
In that perspective, more of the songs is a song from my perspective. In that sense, it of course feels a little bit closer, because it actually deals a lot with the human specter of things. I think that’s perhaps why it can be perceived as being a more personal album.
I have always thought the lyrics have always been an important factor in Wardruna. How do you explore or study to have the inspiration?
Of course I’m very much inspired by the old poetic traditions. Not only the old Norse poems, but also Finnish and Karelian poetry is something I find very inspirational as well. These old song traditions and that kind of poetry is something I have as my main inspiration.
For me, it is important to not only recite old poems. It’s more about integrating that knowledge of whatever scene that I’m working with, and trying to own that knowledge and write it in my own words.
In a way that bridges set into the modern time, and what we can learn from it and why it’s worth remembering, et cetera. Of course, this old poetry is full of metric rules and so on.I won’t say that I am anywhere close to the old skalds and poets, when it comes to mastering these techniques. I use them as something to stretch towards and learn from.
Do you have to be in a certain mood or surrounded by f.ex wintertime, when writing material for Wardruna, Skuggsja or your own?
Sometimes. Sometimes you are closer to winter in the summer, because then you have a sense of longing. The same way that the absence of nature can sometimes bring you even closer to nature.
This element of longing for something can be a very powerful and creative, a good creative tool. I would say both, of course nature itself and the seasons. Different seasons can be direct inspirations. It doesn’t necessarily have to be that way.
I have traveled in the Northern part of Norway, like Alta. I have always understood why Norwegian mythology is so inspiring, because the landscape and nature are so breathtaking.
Yeah, it is.
I think that Wardruna has managed to capture the spirit of that breathtaking landscape and offers that to the audience. I think in that way that you have managed to bring that feeling to the audience on live.
Yeah, absolutely. I think that all nature-based culture, wherever it comes from is of course shaped by its surroundings and its resources. Norwegian music and Norwegian art and Norwegian culture are in many ways shaped by our own landscape.
I definitely agree. This is something that is very much reflected in the music and the tonalities that we often see here. It’s definitely a huge inspiration for me as well. You know? Nature here in many places of this land has a very powerful expression, I would say, powerful aesthetic.
Sometimes it can feel very dark and grime also, not only beautiful. I think that’s a thing. We like melancholy. We see the beauty in the dark and so on, because that’s where we live in a way.
You mentioned animals, like ravens. What about wild animals like wolves as you have made videos with wolves. How does that reflect on Wardruna and you?
Of course, animals, whether it’s reindeers or bears or moose or wolves, ravens and snakes. They can be of course very inspirational characters as well. Of course, the Wolf is also present on this album with its own song.
That song, it doesn’t really try to romanticize our relationship in any way, but it tries to go back to a time when we were a part of a circle. I don’t know how it is like in Finland, but here in Norway, we have basically killed all the wolves and only a very few left. A lot of people want to kill them as well.
I understand the problem. I understand the whole conflict. I understand both sides of that conflict. For me, the way I see it, if it has a value, a true value.
All the problems that happen in nature, when you take out one part of an ecosystem, it doesn’t only affect the wolves. It affects the whole nature. The whole cycle becomes imbalanced and we should be the caretakers, the protectors of nature.
Killing them is not a valid solution. We have to realize that living alongside bears and wolves and these predators, it has a cost. If it has a cost, it also has a value. It’s worth it in a way.
You mentioned Norwegians have killed wolves to zero, but here in Finland, there is a conflict between different parties. People living in the countryside tell here in the South that wolves are a really big problem. Whereas people living in the city tell they’re not a problem. I live in the countryside here, so I know the wolves are here. I have seen some.
Yeah, exactly. That’s my point. I don’t try to paint a pretty picture that it’s easy to live amongst the wolf, because it’s not. It is complicated. You have to adjust the way you farm, the way you keep stock animals and so on. You have to adapt it and that’s of course a huge cost, but in the end, I do think it’s worth it.
You are very productive, work and perform all the time with Wardruna, Ivar Bjornson from Enslaved, with Skuggsja, or on your own. When you’re writing stuff, how do you know which idea is for the Wardruna and other projects? Do have some inner feeling, which is suitable for some band?
Often that comes rather intuitively. Sometimes there have been ideas that I thought were for Wardruna, that ended up in Hugsjá or Skuggsja, the basic ideas. I try not to decide. Sometimes you don’t know until you really start working with the song, if it truly fits or not, or fit, or if it’s suited for other kinds of instruments, et cetera.
I have seen Wardruna three times by now, Roadburn, Brutal Assault, and here in Helsinki last time when you played. Hugsja of course, when you played at Roadburn with Ivar Bjornson. You did solo like 2018 at Roadburn called The House Of Holistic.
In my opinion there is some difference between Wardruna and Hugsja. Hugsja has more guitar-oriented, because Wardruna is more melodramatic and bombastic. That’s the way I select them. I don’t know how you see that.
Yeah, yeah. Of course, the premise is a little bit different. When we were asked to do the first collaboration, Skuggsja, the premise was that it was supposed to be Enslaved meets Wardruna. That was of course one very fascinating and cool.
Then a few years after we got an opportunity to write another piece together. Then we decided that we wanted to take it more into an acoustic landscape, more with acoustic guitars and drums. A different set-up. Not a full Wardruna or full Enslaved, but something in between.
I have to say I really enjoy playing within that constellation. We have done some tours and quite a few concerts together. It’s a constellation that I really enjoy working with. It’s a constellation that I really enjoy working with. I definitely think that we might collaborate on some music at some point in the future as well.
It was amazing to realize and see how Wardruna attracts different kinds of genres and people. For example Helsinki, there were all kinds of people, not only metal fans but also folk music people. As for Brutal Assault, there were death/thrash metal fans. They all are there for Wardruna. Somehow it appeals to all kinds of music lovers.
Yeah, yeah. It does. It’s really fascinating. That is something we saw almost from the beginning. Of course, in the very beginning, it was mostly known to metal people because both me and Gaahl, we come from a metal background.
We saw quickly when we started to do concerts, that there were all kinds of people from different ethnicities, all different age groups of people. It was fascinating to see people who are into classical music, come to the same show as the metal fans do.
It’s really beautiful to see that the music has the ability to cross these borders, between language or musical genres. It’s music that doesn’t really fit into any musical genre in a way. It can appeal to many different people I think.
I have noticed that you don’t communicate, talk to the audience that much. Instead, you let the music speak for itself. You thank the audience and talk a little bit. I felt that you’d rather communicate with the audience through the music when I saw you in Helsinki. The people were closing their eyes and enjoying the music coming from the stage.
Yeah, yeah. With Wardruna, it is for me important not to, to communicate in between the songs. I do it at the very end. That’s the only part where I communicate. For me, it has this ritual feeling. It’s about creating a solemn or sacred space for that one to two hours.
Where people can just connect to the music and lose themselves in it to almost like a ritual. I think for people who don’t go to the church or the mosque or whatever, they don’t get those sacred solemn spaces or meetings, where you connect to something that is bigger than yourself.
It doesn’t have to be a religious thing or a spiritual thing, not at all. I think our goal is to create that space, where you can connect to something that is bigger than yourself in a way.
Whether it’s the music or the people around you. It can be anything, or nature itself. Even though our music is mirrored through Northern myths and ruins and so on. When you boil it down to the essence, the core of it is always nature. I think many people see our music also as a gateway to connect to nature.
Speaking about these videos, because nature is a big part of your videos. Your videos have tremendous amounts of hits and visits, over millions. Voluspa had six or 5,000,000 and Raido had 8,000,000. It’s incredible numbers to be honest. Most of the bands only can dream about them. Are you surprised that those videos have attracted so many visitors and viewers from different kinds of worlds?
Both yes and no. When we create a video it’s not like, “This is going to be showed for many millions.” That’s something that you can’t control. It’s of course great when it happens. I think our music is rooted in something that is very primal and very universal in a way.
That means that potentially a lot of people, wherever they come from, can potentially connect to it in a way. I think that’s what we’re seeing.
I think there are a lot of people on this planet, who are really searching for some form of connectedness to nature. Of course, then it’s a natural thing to start looking towards the older nature-based traditions, such as the Nordic history.
That I think is part of why there is such growth, a growing interest for older Nordic history and culture that people are seeking for some form of connectedness or traditions that represent some form of connectedness to our surroundings.
You have worked with Finns, Tuukka Koski and Koski Syvari on those videos. Do they come up with ideas and platforms for the videos? How do you put the ideas together for the videos?
Tuukka and the whole bunch of people who have been part of this video, they’re really great people. We have a very good and close dialogue in that whole process, when we decide upon a project. We spend a lot of time discussing and throwing ideas back and forth.
Coming out with a concept that we feel will give a face to the song. For me, it has been really important. I spent so much time and effort in creating the music.
When doing a video to the music, it needs to carry the same level of quality. Finding the right people has been really crucial in that process. I’m really happy to have Tuukka and Koski Syvari part of it. They have been very important.
In your wildest dream, did you ever dream that one-day Wardruna and you Einar Selvik would be asked to university to talk to students, TV series, and finally have a contract with Sony that it would happen in reality? Was it just wishful thinking?
Of course no. That has never been my focus either. For me, my focus lies in creating the songs that I carry inside me and the songs I want to hear. That’s my main focus. Of course I realized at an early stage that there was potential, because I noticed that the very first time I started to show.
The first demos I did for this project to both people close to me or a handful of people in the music industry that I showed it to. They all reacted really strong to it. I guess that gave me at least an indication that maybe there are more people that feel the same need as I do, to hear these kinds of sounds.
I didn’t imagine it to go this far. As I said it’s not my focus either. I try to create things that I am proud of and that I like and want to hear. Of course, everything else becomes a bonus. It is fantastic to see and also to get all of these opportunities to challenge myself in different formats do great things.
I hope to see you here in Finland, hopefully in the end of June in Savonlinna.(Event site ed.note)
Yeah, Savonlinna. I really hope that that is going to happen. It looks like such a beautiful place and a lot of people have told me it is really a great place.
It’s an amazing place. It’s an old castle
Sooner or later it will happen. If not now, then we’ll definitely return to Finland as soon as we can.
All right. Thank you and good luck with Wardruna
Thank you. Have a good evening.
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