Interviews : Asmegin
With Erik F. Rasmussen
Folk-inspired Viking black metal, anyone? Not many bands do it better than eight Norwegians known as Asmegin. On its first full-length, Hin Vordende Sod & Sų, Asmegin truly impresses the listener with a fluent amalgam or extreme musical genres that will not only make one headbang fevereshly but also dance to the abunadance of traditional, folk instruments. Sounds interesting? Read on and enjoy!
A huge thanks goes out to Neel Kar for helping me out with some questions and the artwork for the interview. Shukriya!
You recently joined Asmegin as a full-time member. Yet before you, the band has been through several vocalist changes. Is it difficult to maintain a permanent line-up when performing such eclectic music?
The biggest problem for us has been to build up a group of 8 individuals that go well together. I think we have solved this problem now.
While Marius is the main man behind Asmegin, it is the crew of other musicians that make the band what it is - a standout blackened folk metal band. How much of the material is written by Marius and how much say do the rest of the members as well as guest musicians have in writing Asmegin material?
On Hin Vordende Sod & Sų all of the musicians participated on some level. Marius did not decide where to put every note. He laid down the frames and the foundations for most of the songs. All the others had a saying because Marius always says "what do you think?" The difference between that and the album we are currently making is that we are now a band of 8 members, not 5 people and a small village of guest musicians. Another difference is that Marius and I make the lyrics and the foundation together, before the rest comes in and paints the music in their colors.
If I am not mistaken, Asmegin started during late 1990s but released its first full length album, Hin Vordende Sod & Sų in 2003. Why did it take Asmegin so long to release its first full-length release?
Lack of time was the reason for the long time. With Marius being key to that album's material, and his outlandishly tight schedule, there simply wasn't a faster way to do it. It won't be delayed as much this time though.
The growth from the Naar Rimkalkene Heves Demo to Hin Vordende Sod & Sų is absolutely astounding. I will go as far as say that the old material sounds almost amateurish compared to the new songs. How would you explain the quickness with which Asmegin has progressed as a band?
Naar Rimkalkene Heves was a demo created under far less professional circumstances, and mostly just for fun I think. The fact that so many dedicated musicians contributed to the HVSS album is also a vital point.
In your biography you describe the music as a merge of traditional romanticism with heavy metal. What is the band's inspiration in terms of romanticism?
The mythic references and traditional folklore we use is all representative of Norwegian romanticism. Everything from the Trolls and the mountain king, to the superstitious beliefs, are symbols of Norwegian romanticism.
What is the backstory on the folk music that inspired the band?
I mean not sure if I understand your question. Do you mean our musical influences within the folk genre? We listen to all kinds of musical style, and each band member has his or her different taste. Marius has his folk inspirations musically speaking from the folk bands of the 70s, e.g. Folque, Kebnekajse, Gryphon, in addition to Odd Nordstoga.
On your website, you say that the songs on Hin Vordende Sod & Sų come from three different musical eras. What exactly do you mean by that?
The earliest music created by the band was mostly Viking metal, then gradually it turned it to a more folkloristic type of metal because of the innate impulses brought by each band member. The latter era is the one we currently find ourselves in on HVSS. So what we mean is the changes the band has gone through musically together with the changes in the bands line-up.
Hin Vordende Sod & Sų came out almost two years ago. Is the band presently working on material for a new album? How would you describe the musical direction the band is moving into?
Yes we are working on the new album. Marius and I are currently mapping out the storyline for the album. The plan right now is to make a concept album, where each track deals with various aspects of the whole story. The music will be a bit more progressive, and probably have bigger balls, but we will remain true to our own sound.
You're signed to Napalm Records, a label that is notorious for its gothic metal bands. What made you sign to Napalm? How do you feel about the label now?
We felt and still feel that Napalm is an honest, fair and clean financially speaking, label which is eager to support our music. They also give us a lot of musical freedom, which is very important for us. We're pleased with their work.
Staying with the label theme, what's unfortunate is the fact that other than your CDs, Asmegin has no other merchandise. Has there been an attempt to make T-Shirts by you or Napalm, and why have these efforts failed?
No, Napalm has been waiting with the merch to see how the sales go. I understand them. They're modest and reasonable, and want to see if there is any market before they print t-shirts or other merch. But now that the sales have been quite good, perhaps they'll arrange some merch soon?
What's inspiring about Asmegin's music is how you wonderfully combine melody, black metal heaviness, and genuine folk touches to create something moving and highly original. What has, in your opinion, been the most difficult aspect of Asmegin to maintain original?
Because of the style of music we play the originality comes much by itself. Few other bands combine as many elements at the same time. The folk bits in our songs are also self-produced. The hardest thing is to maintain a great sound altogether with allowing all the elements to come out to the listener.
The female vocals by Sareeta and the clean vocals balance out the black metal elements in the music with some charming and very genuine folksy touch. What is Sareeta's background and inspiration in metal or music in general?
She has always been addicted to music, classical and metal in particular. Sareeta listens to lots of different things, just like the other members. Not just metal.
Sareeta, if I am not mistaken, is a member of Ram-Zet while Lars is a permanent member of Borknagar. How do they manage to be a part of both bands? Do you feel like playing in multiple bands takes away from one's creativity or is this something that is almost a must for every musician in a Scandinavian country?
Playing in multiple bands is not a problem unless you allow it to become a problem. We all do it practically. I guess it's a Scandinavian trend, because almost everyone does it. I myself play in two other bands. To me it doesn't ruin the creativity, it channels it. None of us are pure folk metal musicians, we play other things too.
A few of my fellow Deadtide writers complained about the use of the baby crying during Slit Livets Baand. I, on the other hand, actually like that song. What is the concept behind the use of the baby crying?
It is representative of the concept of the next song: "Efterbyrden." It was believed that if after giving birth you did not bury the placentas it would grow up to be a sort of "evil twin." So the crying baby is the newborn child.
The band recently performed some live gigs and from what I read, the response has been nothing but positive. How do you manage to transform Asmegin into a live setting? Is it difficult to plan a tour because of so many guest musicians?
We don't use guest musicians. The eight of us seem to suffice. Lars F. plays keys, and an accordion, Sareeta sings and plays the fiddles, and the rest is self evident. So the only problem with planning a tour is to make it work for everyone.
Staying with the same topic, are there some parts on the album that you cut for live performance or is everything played in the same manner?
For the most we play them all, except track 3. We of course drop a few of Lars Are's vocal lines, because sometimes there are up to 18 at the time. But apart from that it's all there.
Marius is an extremely busy member of Asmegin. Along with the band he also runs his own record label, Valgalder Records, notorious for discovering Russian metal band Tvangeste. What endeavors, other than Asmegin, are you currently busy with?
I am a student, and play in two other bands so there isn't time for that many endeavors.
What's in store for Asmegin in the future?
We plan to keep making music and playing live all over the world. And it would be nice to live off of our music! And have some change left for beer, meat, and Jack. World domination, maybe? Just modest things...