APRIL 19th 2018

MYRKGRAV EXCLUSIVE

Welcome to Metaltitans, we are here talking with Lars Jensen, who is the composer, vocalist, guitarist, plays the flutes and does the programming. He also has some session members for MYRKGRAV. The band is from Åsa, Ringerike.

1. Tell us what made you decide to put Myrkgrav together and to choose folk metal?

It’s pretty much the same story as with any other serious musician: I just wanted to write the music I would like to listen to. During my whole upbringing metal has been a constant (heck my mom is a bigger metal fan than me), so it wasn’t too hard to figure out which way to go. I’ve always been interested in Scandinavian folk music from the 17th, 18th and 19th century, and creating some sort of fusion between that and the metal I was more familiar with was a no-brainer.

2. Is it hard to be the only member creating everything?

Yes and no. It’s nice to be the one who has the final say in everything, especially when you are a bit of a control freak like me. I suppose it might have something to do with me being an only child. The downside is that unless you have honest colleagues, it’s hard to get a second or third opinion on compositions. Fortunately, I have met several like-minded people over the years who have helped make each song and release reach its full potential.

My biggest struggle has always been arranging vocal lines, though. I’ve always written the songs from start to finish in instrumental form and only then started thinking about lyrics and vocals for them. This is actually why so many songs on Takk og farvel; tida er blitt ei annen are instrumentals. After 9 years of trying and failong to come up with lyrics and vocal lines – even with the help of colleagues – I simply had to say, “fuck it” and release the songs as instrumentals.

3. Where do you get your inspiration from to write the songs and put the music together?

I have no idea. I’m sure that some part of it comes from stuff I’ve heard over the years and subconsciously incorporate in my own work. But I’ve never been directly inspired by other bands, music, nature or anything like that. I’ve always felt like the music just came from inside of me with no clear rhyme or reason. Note that I wrote came, as I haven’t been able to write a single new tune since about 2010. The fire burned out. Hopefully a spark will light a flame in the future though, since it would be nice to be able to compose some kind of music, no matter the genre.

4. You have lived in Åsa, Ringerike all your life, so you sing about what you know, do you think you would get more ideas from other places if you ventured away?

I’ve actually lived in Turku, Finland for the past five years, studying folklore and ethnology at Åbo Akademi University. I found it to work completely opposite. The more academic knowledge I have about a subject or theme; the less interesting it seems. Knowledge isn’t always power.

5. Have you been in a band before?

I was the singer in Sworn for their first album, The Alleviation as well as the singer and co-composer in Quadrivium for our demo, EP and first album Adversus. Note that I have only been a studio member – I actually had to quit Sworn when they set to go on tour, due to anxiety and other mental health issues. I met the rest of the band once to rehearse and see if I might not be able to do it, and I couldn’t make a sound into the microphone. Took the next train home and left all that behind, haha.

6. How long has Myrkgrav been around?

It was founded back in 2003. With a 15-year history, you would expect Myrkgrav to have more releases under its belt, but alas. There’s the 2004 Fra Fjellheimen Kaller… demo, the 2006 Trollskau, Skrømt og Kølabrenning debut album, 2009 Sjuguttmyra/Ferden Går Videre 7” split with Voluspaa and finally the 2017 Takk og farvel; tida er blitt ei annen farewell album.

7. I read somewhere that this is the end of Myrkgrav, is that true?

Yep, or at least Myrkgrav is on hold indefinitely.

8. If so, why, do you have another idea for music, or this has just run its course?

I hope I take after my uncle, who after many many years of not playing music since the height of his career, suddenly got back into it in his late 40s and 50s. I can’t promise there will be any more Myrkgrav, but at least I hope I’ll rediscover the joy or composing music. All my instruments are collecting dust at this point.

9. Tell us what people can expect to hear from this album?

Just a natural progression from previous releases really. The folk music elements are much more prevalent than before thanks to Olav Mjelva’s amazing hardanger fiddle parts, and there are less screaming vocals than before – to fit the slightly more melodic overall sound. The songs are perhaps a bit more diverse also, more variations in tempo and rhythms, with unexpected twists and turns. The song Vonde Auer is a perfect example of what the album is all about.

10. I have never heard of the town Åsa, can you tell us a little about it?

It’s actually not a town at all, but a small village in the middle of nowhere, about 20 kilometers outside the nearest town, Hønefoss. There’s beautiful scenery; a lovely lake where I am fortunate enough to have a wooden boat I can enjoy a sunny summer day on; hiking trails galore and very peaceful. After living in the bigger city Turku in Finland for five years, I am so looking forward to moving back to Norway and the countryside. City life is just not for me, no matter how convenient it is.

11. When you are not working on Myrkgrav, what might we find you doing?

I make handmade boots and shoes under the name Østmo Boots. Been at it for about two and a half years now, using traditional patterns and construction methods from Scandinavian footwear history – but with a sleek modern twist. You can check out my work on Instagram, where I go under @ostmoboots. A few years into academia, I found out that doing handcrafts was much more rewarding to me personally than writing papers all day long. So at this point I’ve put my studies on hold and try to live off of shoemaking. Oh, and the name Østmo boots comes from my great-great-grandfather, Karl Johan Østmo, who was a cobbler and shoemaker in Åsa in the beginning of the 20th century. Heritage is the only constant in everything I do, haha.

12. What type of music do you enjoy?

Oh, this and that. There are very few bands that I keep track of these days and genre doesn’t really matter. I honestly can’t list anything specific, as the truth is I don’t listen to music very often at all

Maybe 1 hour per week or something? It might sound strange coming from an established musician, but I just prefer the sound of silence in general.

13. Myrkgrav is a new name to me, and I am sure to many, so tell us a little about it.

As mentioned earlier, it was founded in 2003 as more of a melodic black metal band. The style quickly evolved to the current folk metal sound you can hear today. I am the master of everything in Myrkgrav, but I quite often use guest musicians to take part where I know that someone else could do a better job than me. I give the guests pretty much free reign over their parts, since I’ve found that most serious musicians bring a lot more to the table when allowed to express their artistic freedom rather than being told what to do. That’s pretty much as close Myrkgrav comes to being a band rather than a project.

The heart and soul of Myrkgrav both visually and lyrically is local history and folklore from the areas around where I grew up in Norway. The lyrics deal with both the darker and more funny sides of everyday life a few hundred years ago. There’s a certain morbid humor to be found in folklore and local history from that day and age, and I’ve always tried to match the atmosphere of a song to a fitting story that gets turned into a lyric. Most things are very thought through with Myrkgrav and very little is left to chance. Heck, I worked on the Takk og farvel album for 9(!) years before I released it.

14. What is next for you?

Who knows. First of all, my fiancé and me are moving back to Norway sometime in 2018. I tend to jump between fields of interest every few years, so I honestly have no idea right now what might be next. I just know that it’s coming, I’m going to obsess over it, and pour all my heart and soul into until I get bored and move on.

15. Is there anything you would like to add here, that I might have missed asking, but you want people to know?

I would just encourage people to both buy and stream the new Takk og farvel; tida er blitt ei annen album. I don’t care much about money, but all streaming royalties go to me, so I can restock leathers and such when making boots. Buying the digipak version of the album will fund a future release of the album on vinyl. Only good things come from listening to Myrkgrav. No bad times.

Thank you very much for taking the time to do this interview with Metaltitans.

Thank you for having me! And for your patience when I did not have the time to answer this interview for months.