In which way is “Kvitravn” a new beginning for you after the preceding album trilogy?
Einar: I see “Kvitravn” as a continuation rather than a new beginning. The Runaljod trilogy was such an all-consuming project that took me around 15 years to finish and during that time there were of course a lot of ideas that was set aside for later. At first, I must admit that it was a bit challenging and overwhelming to suddenly have such a wealth of possibilities for the next project but once the focus and direction was decided there was no looking back. In many ways, this album deals with the same Nordic animistic themes as the trilogy but I would say that it dives more into detail on certain traditions, concepts and myths.
2. Einar, did your solo work in any way change your perspective on Wardruna’s music?
Einar: Well, generally speaking I would say that Wardruna is something organic that will continue to grow and evolve through everything we experience and learn. When I started giving lectures, workshops and solo concerts, it gave me a lot of new insights and perspectives on both my own singing, on the older poetic traditions as well as performance itself.
3. Do you have an explanation for the worldwide interest in Scandinavian folklore and the accompanying traditional music having been created in recent years?
First of all, I would not say that there has been a very big increase of what I would define as Nordic traditional music. However, in the last 5 years there has for sure been a large growth of bands that make music inspired by older Nordic and Norse traditions and cultural themes as well as making use of historical instrumentation.
When it comes to the massive contemporary interest and fascination for Nordic history, folklore and culture I think there are several reasons for it. I believe there are many people around the world who seek some sort of connectiveness to nature and towards traditions more aligned with nature and animistic ideas. The Norse culture was left alone from Rome and the Vatican for almost 1000 years longer than the rest of Europe, thus got to keep and develop our ways much longer. Also, the conversion to Christianity was not a grassroot movement but one that came from the top – meaning that most people kept their ways for a very long time. This makes the many of the pre-Christian traditions up here in the North much more accessible and “closer” than in many other cultures. So, I believe that for many people the interest for the Norse is in many ways functioning as a sort of gateway to other animistic ad pre-Christian traditions – because the similarities between such nature-based cultures is simply striking when going far enough back in time.
4. How does songwriting generally go about in the Wardruna camp?
Einar: I write and find most of my inspiration when I am out walking. That is sort of my muse and when I most often envision the songs. Sometimes a song can be born out of working with my instruments or words and concepts. Sometimes the theme of a song has such a strong “image” to it that I instantly hear the sound of it. Then it I go back into the studio and start “chasing” down the song.
5. How much do you improvise, how much of your music is strictly composed?
Einar: There is quite a lot of improvising going in in the process of chasing a song. I don’t work with “normal” song structures but aim to let the song take me where it wants to go rather than me forcing it into a predetermined grid.
6. Are you specifically inspired by other bands or artists or does the subject matter you are dealing with direct what you create musically?
Einar: I wouldn’t say that there are specific artists or bands that I draw inspiration from directly, but we are all in one way or another inspired by the various forms of culture we are exposed to. I generally don’t listen much to music at all since I work so much with it all the time. But when I do it is very often Nordic traditional music or various types of indigenous music.
7. Where do you source the many traditional instruments from that you use. Do you build them yourselves?
Einar: When I started working with Wardruna around 20 years ago there was very little interest or information about many of the instruments I use. Luckily there were still some builders of some of them. Others I was forced to either build myself or have someone else build them for me. I did both and went through a solid “trial and error” process where I made quite a few shitty instruments along the way. These days the interest for these instruments has grown evenly with my decrease in time to spare for instrument building and so I luckily have some great people that make instruments for me now.
A deeply natural sound demands unconventional recording methods – under which conditions was “Kvitravn” recorded and produced?
Einar: In my way of working it is the themes themselves sort of decides what the given song needs when in comes to instrumentation, sounds, time and place of recording and so on – all with the intention of getting as close as possible to the theme itself. So, I guess the less conventional methods on this album would be the outdoor recordings where both ambience, instruments and singing were done in places or under conditions that reflected the content of the song.
How do the cover art, lyrical content and title interconnect?
Einar: Ravens and their place or function in folklore, myth and symbolism as well as ideas around sacred white animals – are recurring themes on the album and blend well with the artwork I would say.
The raven is only one of many “spirit animals”; why did you choose to highlight him, and which others are, to you, of note as well?
Einar: Well, apart from being an animal I personally have a deep fascination and somewhat of a totemic relation to, the Raven is a very central animal in Norse/Nordic tradition with its seemingly and often human traits as well as mythical connection to the deities and to death. The trickster and the messenger. In Old Norse mythology the raven is also the animal personification of the human “mind” (Hugin) and “memory” (Munin). Looking at other historical sources as well I would say that if the people of the north ever had a common “totem”, it would be the raven.
To which degree is the work you do spiritual or inspirational and “mere” craftsmanship or execution respectively?
Einar: My music is a balance of all of the above. The songs are of course featured with a great deal of various personal input but I am always very conscious about having balance and leaving a lot of room for the listener to have their own experiences and interpretations as well as the possibility to enjoy them equally well – regardless if you are a spiritual person or not. Since most of the subjects our songs deal with are timeless, universal they are well suited for being relatable regardless of mine or the listener´s personal beliefs.
How did your collaboration with Kirsten Bråten Berg come about, and did she actively contribute in writing?
Einar: I have had the chance to meet and perform alongside Kirsten a few years back and I also know her daughter Sigrid who is also one of the featured singers on the song Andvevarljod. When I was working on the song, I could clearly envision having a choir of traditional female singers in it. I asked Sigrid if she would be up for helping me gather some people and thankfully, she was very much up for the task and arranged for a fantastic group of prominent singers – including her mother and the living legend Kirsten. Their role was performative and wasn’t part of the actual songwriting.
In dealing with mythology and old beliefs, how much do you yourselves as people support the respective ideas, for example animism. Generally speaking: How can one learn not taking ancient lore at face value but rather instructive in a figurative sense and on a meta-level?
Einar: Animistic ideas are very much at the heart of what Wardruna is about and very close to my own worldview as well. Personally, I think that regardless what faith or worldview one follows that including the core animistic idea of viewing nature as something sacred and something the humankind are a “part” of rather than a “ruler” of – would be very beneficial for us all and for the earth itself. Any nature-based culture is created and shaped by its surrounding nature and recourses etc. – and so that also means that many of these old traditions also carry a lot of information and wisdom that is still as relevant today as they were long time ago – in some case even more so.
A lot has been said about the meditative character and healing qualities of repetitive music, drumming, mantras and so on; do you follow this also with scientific interest?
Einar: Yes, most certainly. The conviction and knowledge and about the undisputable medicinal (among other) effects of song (both singing and being sung to), soundwaves in various frequencies, rhythm has been around since ancient times and is strongly backed by both science and logics. For me it is essential in all my work to seek an understanding of not only “what” but also the “how” and “why”. Magic is real but the modern conception of what magic/sorcery is or was, is very often misguided and colored by certain religions as well as influence of the various pop culture version of magic or sorcery.
Lindy Fay Hella is the only constant Wardruna member besides yourself, how did you meet?
Einar: When I started working on Wardruna in the early 2000´s it was already clear to me that I wanted a female singer with a unique «primal» voice character to join the constellation. After experiencing Lindy-Fay Hella perform live in Bergen in the same period I immediately realized I had found a perfect match for my vision and was determined to get her involved in the project. Thankfully, the interest was mutual and shortly after listening to some of the first work-in-progress demos in 2005, she did her first recording for Wardruna on the song Bjarkan.
How is Lindy involved in the writing and recording process?
Einar: Lindy-Fay is an essential part of our sound and has contributed on both arrangements and compositions for Wardruna since the beginning. Her work is mostly being creative on the vocal arrangements but since she is such a force of nature when it comes to voice character so I never fully know what direction a song will take after she has done her magic on it.
For artists with a metal background: What makes Wardruna so appealing to this scene?
Einar: I think the metal scene has always been drawn to this type of aesthetics and to ancient cultures. Also, from a musical perspective, our songs are very melodic which is also very central in many forms of metal. There is also a clear relation between tonality of metal, classical music as well as Nordic folk music so all in all I find it very logical why our music might appeal to someone who is into metal.
How, if at all, does black metal’s misanthropic outlook reconcile with the holistic, life-affirming quality of Wardruna’s music?
Einar: Well, the premise of this question implies that I agree that black metal is generally misanthropic, which don’t, and find it therefore hard give a meaningful answer. Wardruna is Wardruna.
Even more broadly: Where is the difference between re-hashing an alleged past, shallow nostalgia and contemporary relevance, which you attest to Wardruna?
Einar: I wouldn’t say that tapping into nostalgia is necessarily shallow or irrelevant. Escapism can be good meditation and inspiration but perhaps not always very constructive or relevant for the contemporary reality. In the end I guess it depends on what your aim and intention is. For us the “mantra” has been “Sowing new seeds – strengthening old roots” and the idea is that if you want to make something grow then I believe in the importance and constructiveness of looking ahead more than you look back. The past and the roots are of course important, and they are always there to guide and give direction.
How do you asses the recent emergence of several groups not unlike Wardruna, for example Heilung?
Einar: Generally speaking, I think it is great to see a growing artistic interest for both Norse/Nordic and other older cultures. There are so many things from old and indigenous ways that I think is worth remembering and giving voice to!
What other kind of music does Einar Selvik listen to these days?
Einar: To be honest I actually don’t really listen very much to music. Much due to the fact that I am spending so much time working with it. But when I do it can be any number of things, often various traditional music. It can be music from all sorts of genres really. If it speaks to me in some way or another, I don’t really care much about what genre-label it carries.
How are Wardruna affected by the current pandemic?
Einar: The Covid-situation has of course had an impact. First and foremost, on the fact that we had to postpone the album release as well as several tours. But there has been lots of other things to do, especially with studio work on the Assassins Creed Valhalla soundtrack.
How do you view it from a historical perspective?
Einar: I think that is too early to say but things like this seem to go in cycles and in various forms. We also see that there are many examples from history when something moves too far in one direction, there comes some sort of counter reaction. But who knows – the one thing that is certain at this point is that a great change came abruptly and threw everything up in the air – and we are still waiting to see where it all lands.
How do you want to set this music to stage, once it becomes safe again to do concerts?
Einar: The new music will fit very well into the way we are already working. We are constantly growing and developing our live setup as well and will definitely do our best to give the audience a unique experience when they come to our concerts!
Where do you go from here? What could be the logical follow-up to “Kvitravn”?
Einar: There will of course be more albums in the future but at this point it will also be both good and healthy to catch my breath for a while before entering into another creative deep dive. It has been a long and very intense period now with both creating this album as well as the Assassins Creed Valhalla soundtrack. But who knows?! These things are also hard to fully control.
The forthcoming and fifth album from Wardruna, Kvitravn, will be released on January 22, 2021.
Kvitravn musically continues where the Runaljod trilogy left off, yet it marks a distinct evolution in Wardruna’s unique sound. In a rich musical tapestry, Wardruna use a broad selection of both traditional and historical instruments such as Kravik-lyre, Trossingen-lyre, Taglharpa, Sootharp, Langeleik, Crwth, Goat- horn, Lur, Bronze-lur, flute, Moraharpa, and the record also features guest appearances by a small group of prominent traditional singers, spearheaded by Kirsten Bråten Berg, one of the most important custodians of Norwegian traditional song. Throughout eleven songs, Kvitravn discusses Northern sorcery, spirit-animals, shadows, nature and animism, the wisdom and meanings of certain myths, various Norse spiritual concepts, and the relation between sage and songs.
CD Jewelcase with slipcase and 28-pages booklet Black 2×12″ 180 gr. LP, gatefold, 28-pages booklet
Pre orders available now nervegas.com.au/wardruna
ABOUT WARDRUNA The Norwegian music constellation Wardruna are renowned for their innovative and genre-creating renditions of older Nordic traditions. Composer Einar Selvik initiated the group in the early 2000s. Since the debut album in 2009, Wardruna have had vast worldwide success, transcending music genres, cultures and languages. The group has previously charted in both Germany and the UK and topped the North American Billboard World-music chart for several consecutive weeks. The group’s massive musical contributions to History Channel’s TV series VIKINGS has exposed their music to a broad audience worldwide. Wardruna merges the academic with the pop cultural and their thorough and serious approach has made them one of today’s foremost communicators of Norse culture.
Wardruna have carved a rich, polyphonic and dramatic musical landscape that honours the ancient past without gimmick, whilst simultaneously illuminating meaningful expressions of Norse tradition through intrinsically detailed contemporary composition. Beyond genre, theirs is a sound that must be truly experienced.
• Top international scholars on Old Norse studies today use Einar’s work to exemplify how music might have been executed in earlier times in Scandinavia. • Einar Selvik has lectured about his work with historical music in Universities such as Oxford, Denver, Reykjavik, and Bergen. • Wardruna has over 60 placements of music in the History Channel’s hit TV series VIKINGS, in addition to substantial work on the actual music score of the show. Einar Selvik has starred and performed on the show on two occasions (in season 3 & 4). • Together with Enslaved, Wardruna was in 2014 commissioned by the Norwegian government to write and perform a music-piece for the 200-year anniversary of the Norwegian constitution. • First concert was held in front of the near 1500 year old Gokstad Viking ship in Oslo and Wardruna is the only band ever to be allowed to hold an amplified concert at the Viking ship museum. • Performed sold out shows worldwide, including major festival headline appearances (Red Rock Amphitheatre, Castle Fest, Hellfest, Summer Breeze, Roadburn, Echoes & Merveilles, Rock oz Arenes, Rock the Coast and many more) • Independently self-released 3 albums • Billboard World Music No 1. in the US and Canada
Wardruna discography: Runaljod – gap var Ginnunga (2009) Runaljod – Yggdrasil (2013) Runaljod – Ragnarok (2016) Skald (2018) Kvitravn (2020)
Mary is a photographer and a writer, specialising in music. She runs Rocklust.com where she endeavours to capture the passion of music in her photos whether it's live music photography, promotional band photos or portraits. She has photographed The Rolling Stones, KISS, Iggy Pop, AC/DC, Patti Smith, Joe Strummer, PULP, The Cult, The Damned, The Cure, Ian Brown, Interpol, MUDHONEY, The MELVINS, The Living End, Foo Fighters, Smashing Pumpkins, Rage Against The Machine, The Stone Roses –just to name a few - in Australia, USA, Europe and the Middle East. Her work has been published in Beat magazine, Rolling Stone magazine, Triple J magazine, The Age Newspaper, The Herald Sun, The Australian, Neos Kosmos, blistering.com, theaureview.com, noise11.com, music-news.com. She has a permanent photographic exhibition at The Corner Hotel in Richmond, Victoria Australia.
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