Nordagust are a symphonic progressive rock band from Norway and they have recently released their great debut album “In The Mist Of Morning”. I had the pleasure of doing an interview with two of their members, Ketil A. Berg and Daniel Solheim.
Before we start with the interview: can you introduce yourself? How did the band come together?
Ketil: Nordagust are Daniel Solheim on lead vocals, guitar, keyboards and even more instruments, Knud Jarle Strand on bass guitar, Jostein A. Skjönberg on guitar, keyboards and backing vocals, Guro E. Strand on guitar and keyboards, Sissel Os on keyboards, samples and choir and me on drums, percussion, kantele and accordion.
Daniel, Knud Jarle and I started Nordagust in 1999, after the 5-piece symphonic prog band Ocean disbanded the same year. It was a natural progression, musically. The three of us were thinking more and more of experimental music based upon minor keys, folk and classical music. Jostein joined in 2008, Sissel in 2009 and Guro in 2010.
What about the band’s connections to the Northern mythology? How did it influence your music and lyrics?
Ketil: We have always been interested in history, of course Norse mythology also, and what later turned into Scandinavian folklore. In Nordagust’s early days we were brewing Mjöd after old recipes, and were reading about – and discussing – the runic alphabet and the meanings of each and one of them… The logo or symbol of Nordagust was originally drawn, so it looked like it was carved in wood – like some decoration from the Viking era or early middle age. I wouldn’t say that In The Mist Morning is very influenced of Northern mythology or any other mythology, more by nature itself. Other songs we recorded for the demo Naudr are obviously more “Northern” in its expression. However, you will never be able to put us into any “viking metal” category. As a matter of fact, we are also interested in religious history and Finnish mythology – and paganism. This was practiced by Finnish settlers in the areas that we are living in – where the forces and the souls of nature were essential and decided whether you would live or die.
As a conclusion, I suppose all these reflections around belief, faith and superstition do influence both music and lyrics.
What are your other influences, speaking of music?
Ketil: I am inspired by Norwegian traditional songs and folk music, old American blues, British prog and heavy rock from the late 60’s and early 70’s, the Swedish prog scene, the sounds *and* the silence in the woods. Roughly speaking.
Daniel: I do find some inspiration in Norwegian folk music and in Edward Grieg’s way of composing. I never try to copy anything because my highest wish is to make music that is completely my own. But I have found a lot of inspiration in many of the things I like listening to. And I think maybe some of the first music I liked has inspired me most, such as Grieg, the early years of Barclay James Harvest, Jethro Tull, Pink Floyd, Genesis, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Uriah Heep, Eloy, Camel and King Crimson. Later on I listened to a lot of classical music, various folk music and bands like The Third And The Mortal, Arcturus, Anekdoten, Landberk, Anglagard and Sigur Ros. Sometimes I get inspired of anything that sounds organic and emotional. And I want to mention that I also find inspiration in the mighty realms of mother nature.
How long did you work on your debut album? Did it turn out the way you wanted it to be?
Ketil: Oh dear… Daniel’s first sketches of this album were presented early 1999 and we were in every way done with this material already in 2003. We discussed in conclusion if we should sample the sound of a stone falling into water and began to wonder what type of rock would sound most natural. Then we realized that the CD was done. Maybe we could have done something more “perfect” today, but that’s not the point. In that case I think the original force more or less would have faded away.
Daniel: Some parts of the music were composed back in 1996, together with the members of Ocean. But most of the songs were composed between 1997 and 1999. We did some rewriting and rearranging in 2001 and recorded it between 2001 and 2003. Musically it turned out to be the way we wanted it. And we like the fact that it sounds organic.
How are the songs composed? Do you work as a band in the writing process as well or does only one band member think of songs? And who writes the lyrics?
Ketil: Essentially Daniel is the creative force. He has – more or less – all the music and the lyrics in his head. At least he has a basic idea about how it should be. I come up with supplemental ideas and would suggest sounds, tones or fragments to complement the songs.
Daniel: As I mentioned, some parts were composed together with the members of Ocean, some other parts I composed together with Ketil, but most of the songs were put together by me. But I remember struggling, trying to create music that would contain all the moods and emotions I felt inside. And I can say this for sure: In The Mist Of Morning contains a lot of strong emotions.
Could you tell us something about the recording of the music? How was it to use so many unusual instruments?
Ketil: About the “unusual instruments”: It’s some kind of misunderstanding printed in the press releases here. We delivered two CDs to the record company, In The Mist Of Morning and Naudr. On the last mentioned we used many weird instruments and objects, but on In The Mist Of Morning the most unusual instrument you will find is the kantele – the Finnish national instrument.
Daniel: The music was recorded in our rehearsal room. We did it the way they did in the seventies, to make it sound as organic as possible. Additionally I spent many hours in the woods recording birds and other sounds.
Was it easy for you to find a record label? What do you think of the current problems of the music industry?
Ketil: We didn’t break any doors to get attention. It took a good two years from making the latest demo version to us signing the contract with Karisma. We know that we are not making mainstream music, so we didn’t expect to be drenched with contract offers – on the other hand the music scene is searching for originality, so, on a good day, we thought we had a fair chance.
Daniel: I’m not sure I like the fact that you don’t have to pay for music anymore, you can just download it for free on the internet. In a way this is good, because the music is more available for everyone now, on the other hand it may be the ruin of every committed musician.
Did you have plans to release your music independently? What do you think of this concept, especially DIY internet distribution, in general?
Ketil: We don’t have any plans to release our music independently. We are very pleased with the cooperation with Karisma and they also have an option on releasing our next album. I know that “do it yourself“ often is associated with the alternative music scene but we don’t have the record company’s contacts or their opportunities of marketing or distributing the album. All in all it is the advantage of an ordered system. Not everyone can be equally good at everything, we realise our limits.
What are your plans now, after your album has been released? Are you working on new material already?
Ketil: We have been rehearsing most of 2010 on In The Mist Of Morning material and are looking forward to present it on stage. Surely we will play a couple of our other compositions too. Strange enough – for five years ago Daniel, Knud and I were sure of one thing: “We are never ever going to do this on a stage!” Based on the reactions we got during and after our first and only gig in Bergen, we planned different… About our “new” material: We have a lot of it – more or less ready – that deserves further attention. It is correct to say that “it is in the same landscapes, but perhaps to other seasons”.
Are there any plans to go on tour and if so, where are you going to play?
Ketil: No plans at the moment.
Do you have any final thoughts or comments?
Ketil and Daniel: We want to say thank you to you and everyone that supports us!