First of all, I want to thank you very much for taking your time to answer this interview. I deeply appreciate this. I ask you to, please, introduce yourself to our readers.
Thanks to you too, for your interest and support! I`m Kjetil, and I’m the lead guitar player of In Vain.
For those unfamiliar with the band, I can quickly tell you that we’ve been delivering Norwegian progressive extreme metal for ten years now, released three albums on Indie Recordings, including our latest album “Ænigma” from 2013.
How is everything on the In Vain camp? I’ve read that you just played at the Karmøygeddon Metal Festival, how was it? Do you have any other dates that you could share with us? Also, I know this is kind of early, but, are you guys already working on new songs?
Things are going just great! We had a blast at Karmøygeddon, opening the festival an early Thursday evening for an unusually lively and welcoming crowd, and hanging out with awesome fans and bands for the rest of the weekend. With that great experience in mind, I’m kinda sad to say that we at the moment have no confirmed gigs in the near future. Our main focus now is writing songs for a new album, which is scheduled for release in 2015. A bit early to say how the new music will turn out, but I’m certain that we’ll give you both a quality continuation of the “Ænigma” sound, and some original and surprising elements as well.
Ænigma is an album that I highly enjoy/ enjoyed. Now that some time has passed, is there anything that would change or add when it comes to this album? And how was the response from the fans, I know that, critically, it was very well-received! And, overall, how proud are you with this album?
To answer the last question first, I’m damn proud of this album, to be honest! And that’s not just because it’s the first In Vain album I’ve fully participated on, hehe… Although I really appreciate “The Latter Rain” and “Mantra” as well, I feel that with “Ænigma”, we really hit the mark with both song writing and the overall sound. The production by Jens Bogren is also top notch and way ahead of our previous records, but if I had to change anything, I would have wished for a slightly more organic sound, especially the drums and guitars feel a bit over-compressed.
As you mention, the album have been highly acclaimed by the critics, and that have really been the case for the first two albums as well, but this time we’ve seen a huge increase in interest from fans also, which really is what matters the most. We’ve toured more, played more festivals, and the tracks from “Ænigma” are clearly the most anticipated and appreciated by the audiences we’ve encountered. Though some might still hold our debut album as their favourite, I think most fans agree that “Ænigma” is our strongest, most cohesive effort to date.
In Vain has six musicians as members of the band. Please, let us know how do you guys go about sorting through all the musical ideas? And how do you guys work, as a group or individually?
When making new music, we’ve basically worked individually at first, with Johnar beeing the main composer so far. He presents more or less finished sketches of songs for the rest of us, and we then enter the process of editing and improving the songs, create vocal lines and solos, make preprods, rehearse the songs etc. It’s a long and winding road to reach the final product, but it ensures us that we get every little detail the way we want it, perfectionists as we are. So… we’re definitely not the kind of band that enters the rehearsal room and exits a few hours later with a bunch of great tunes. Nothing good has yet come out of an In Vain jam session…
When it comes to the lyrics, for those that aren’t familiar with your work (yet), first, what do they mostly deal about? What influences the band when it comes to writing the lyrics and what are your goals when writing them? To express inner feelings or thoughts, to speak about something that bothers you, well, please, enlighten us?
Well, as it’s Andreas and Johnar who writes our lyrics, I can’t say exactly where they find their inspiration. But the music itself is clearly an influence; with all the different musical moods you’ll encounter on an In Vain album, it’s essential to choose lyrical themes that match the overall atmosphere of each song. So basically, they write lyrics on lots of different subjects that concerns them, e.g. history, nature, personal struggles, thoughts on how society is evolving etc., and they aren’t limited to sticking to a certain theme or concept throughout an entire album.
Also in a way in addition to the previous question, I’d like to know what influences the band when it comes to the more unusual aspects of In Vain. When creating your music, do you add new and new elements from out of the blue, when recording your music, or do you already have everything set in your mind before the recording/ creation of your sound?
The songs are more or less finished up front, but as mentioned earlier, they’ve often been through a long refining process before entering the studio for the final recordings. Still, there’s always room for some improvisation and further improvements in the studio, and different elements or even song structures can be altered in the mixing process. As for the more unusual aspects, whether you think of the progressive parts or various guest instrumentalists or voices, we all agree that they should be there for a reason; to enhance the song itself. We wouldn’t throw in e.g. a saxophone solo just to be special, or just because that exact part sounded cool; it always has to make sense with the song as a whole.
Please, tell us a bit about the cover art. It’s really beautiful. What’s the connection between it and Ænigma? By the way, how important is the cover art, the booklet quality and different versions of the same album for you?
Well, we wanted a cover that would stand out from the crowd, not your average Photoshop artwork, but something a bit more artistic. So the artist Robert Høyem showed us some sketches, and we fell for his style right away. I wouldn’t say there’s an obvious connection between the artwork and the lyrics/title, but we felt that his mystical drawings fit the mood of the music and lyrics really well.
Now, I’m old school, I buy physical albums and appreciate a big chunky booklet to flip through, and though I might be naive, I actually believe that’s still the case for lots of other metal fans as well, they have that certain interest and dedication that makes them wanna buy the albums and support the band. We’ve recently released “Ænigma” on vinyl, which is really cool if I may say, and if we’re able to offer our dearest fans something extra, bonus tracks, videos etc. on the physical formats, I think it’s really worthwhile to put some effort into it.
You’ve been working with Indie Recordings since the release of The Latter Rain in 2007. Since then you’ve released Mantra in 2010, the single “Against the Grain” in 2013 and Ænigma also last year. I do believe that you’re satisfied with them, but I’d like to know from you, how pleased is the band with the work that Indie Recordings has done for the band? I’ve also interviewed many bands that don’t think a label is so necessary nowadays. How do you feel over this?
Yes, we were actually the first band signed on the newly founded Indie label back then, and they’ve meant a great deal to us in terms of distribution and promotion of our music. Having a label to take care of most of the paperwork and stuff, gives us more time to focus on the musical aspects of the business, so I don’t see us taking over the whole job ourselves any time soon. Also, being signed on a respectable label still gives a band a certain mark of quality and credibility, I think, and makes it easier to network with the right people to promote the music even further. But of course I get your point; it’s probably much easier to get your music out there nowadays without a label, at least digital. But I’m afraid that lots of smaller bands and artists, like ourselves, would just drown in the massive amounts of music available online. Especially if you, like us, aren’t able to tour all the time and build a name for yourself that way.
Connected to the previous question and about live shows now, unfortunately, due to certain circumstances, many In Vain fans might never be able to see the band live. Have you ever thought about an official video/ DVD release? And also, tell us how is an In Vain gig and what can the fans expect from it.
Well, we actually considered making a DVD of a show we did in our home town late in 2013, which also marked the 10 year anniversary of the band, but it never came together. I think we concluded that there just wasn’t enough interest in the project to make it worthwhile. Who knows, maybe in a few years time? We did record some multi-angle footage from a few shows on our latest tour, and though it’s not nearly high enough quality for an official release, we’ll at least be able to give you some decent “bootleg” videos online.
After doing quite a bit of touring the last couple of years, I feel we’ve grown a whole lot as a live band, both considering the musical and visual performance. We aim to recreate the massive sound from the albums, and are damn serious about making the songs come out just right, but there are still lots of room for mindless headbanging and groin-stretching power metal poses! So, you won’t get corpse paint, nude women in cages or anything like that, but we always put on a bloody tight and energetic show.
Reading some of the interviews conducted with the band, there were many questions and comments on the love for travelling. I too am a lover of getting to know new places, travelling to get to know different cultures and the real lifestyles of the nations I visit. Could you share with us some of the experiences/ trips that you found to be the most interesting ones?
I guess you’ve read some of Johnar’s interviews, I know he’s quite the Backpacker Baba at times… Personally I do enjoy travelling, but not to the extent that I’d have any exotic or original tips to share with you. I would seriously recommend though – without being too patriotic – a visit to the northern parts of Norway, for the nature and the breathtaking sceneries, the friendly, down-to-earth people and the comfortably cool temperatures..
Now about your musical background. What drove you into learning music creating a band? And what about metal itself… when did you get in touch with the style and which were the first albums that made you love the genre?
Well, around the time I was eight years old, Metallica released their Black album, and when I discovered their back catalogue, there was really no way back, was it? Still truly amazing albums, I think. From there I gradually started exploring and discovering older and newer bands, both in the melodic and extreme direction, at the same time as I still listened to and enjoyed all the awesome early nineties Euro Dance hits, as most kids… Anyways, I didn’t really learn to play before I was 14-15, and I think it was the sheer passion for music and the childhood dream of being a rock star that drove me into it, guess I finally grew tired of daydreaming and playing the air guitar. So I basically grabbed my mums old hippie guitar, and somehow figured it out by myself, step by step… In recent years, I’ve studied to be a music teacher, played in a handful of really unsuccessful bands, but though my rock star dreams have become slightly less ambitious over the years, I get a great feeling of personal fulfilment every time I hit the stage with In Vain.
And so we reach the end of this little conversation that you answered for our website. Again I’d like to thank you for this and wish you all the best in the future. Do you have any last words for our readers?
Thank you for reading this! In Vain will be back with a new mindboggling album in 2015, in the meantime, check out “Ænigma” if you haven’t yet! Keep supporting good music, and see you on the road sometime!!May 31, 2014