OF WOLF AND MAN: FORGOTTEN WOODS

The third issue of Kaleidoscope came out in 2006. I declare with pride in its advertisement, that “Kaleidoscope has found its direction”. Well, this is just a half of the whole truth – although I am still satisfied with some interviews, there are texts which were done quite haphazardly and too impulsively – “oh yeah, a good band, wrap some questions up, that’s it”. Also the contribution of our visiting writer, K. Rajala, brought more fragmentation, although he made good job with his Thralldom interview.

One of the better interviews in this zine is the one with Forgotten Woods, one of my all-time favourites from the Norwegian scene. I’m also glad that I included a good bunch of Joyless questions to this chat.

Forgotten Woods’ “comeback album” Race of Cain was just about to be released, but unfortunately this album was quite a letdown to me – and it was the first crack in the band’s shining armour. I think I understand the band’s intentions to create an album which is obscure, disturbing and a clear breakaway from the earlier, more flowing material, but the songs of Race of Cain weren’t just good enough. Like Kaleidoscope #3, Race of Cain is too fragmented.

Luckily Joyless has kept its magic. The last year’s Without Support was an enjoyably hazy trip to the worlds of both psychedelic rock and blue-shaded post-punk. And of course Forgotten Woods’ brilliant “trilogy” – As the Wolves Gather, Sjel av Natten EP and The Curse of Mankind – is still special for me. The band’s clever flow of riffs and drums puts many of these “post-BM” to shame.

But now enough babbling from me. Read on what Rune Vedaa had to say back then.

 

It’s too easy to make stereotypes, especially inside the music circles. We create them, we feed them, we eat them. For example, if I say the words “Norwegian Black Metal”, I guess you are already constructing some sort of (black and white, perhaps?) picture about screeching guitars, cold atmosphere and so on. But is it so clear in any case? Well, at least Forgotten Woods were not your typical Norsecore band; they crush against the narrow sights of Black Metal still not being untrue to themselves. I guess you all are familiar with this band, so let’s give the stage to Rune Vedaa, the lead guitarist and bassist of this great band.

 So, the most suitable question to start with is: why did you come back, after ten years of – more or less – silence?

   – It helps being back in the same country for the first time in years, obviously… Other than that we’ve all been creating music since we last released something as Forgotten Woods. Olav and Odd Ivar (Nylon) did release a split-ep with Woods Of Infinity a while back under the Joyless name and at least have some material unreleased and unrecorded. I’ve been nursing my main ‘other’ project, as well as my metal project, for a few years on and off, but I’ve been very busy with non-musical activities as I’m sure the other guys have. Other than that we’ve just been overlooking what’s going on with prior Forgotten Woods releases and the boxset No Colours put out.

   – And the reason for regrouping? Art is beyond reason. It’s all about a need to create, with or without Forgotten Woods.

 I guess that your return will be good news for many. However, you differ from a typical (Norse) Black Metal band in many ways. How have people reacted to your style changes during these years? No death threats I hope?

   – Any threats we’ve received was mainly because of outspokenness on our part and not musical changes. The musical changes of the past weren’t too much of a leap from As the Wolves Gather to The Curse of Mankind anyway. However, I don’t think Joyless found a great audience within the Black Metal scene, but as we never paid much attention to anything concerning reviews, feedback or record sales we remained happily clueless about these matters. And completely apathetic.

Despite your outcast lifestyle of some sort – both musically and otherwise – you are considered a part of the Norse BM movement. How do you see this movement from the inside point of view? Is this whole thing just one big useless hype or do you see Norse BM (and yourselves) as a big influence for the whole BM genre?

   – I don’t know what’s going on out there… Norwegian Black Metal in the early-mid 90’s were superior to anything else. I’m sure it has levelled out as it tends to do, but it’s usually a plus to NOT get influenced directly but rather try to carve your own blah, blah, blah… I look more for a certain feel, soul if you will, in music rather than grabbing the nearest Darkthrone-album to copy. I’ve never seen the point with cover bands anyway.

How about when you take a look at your own career and your past releases, what kind of memories do fill your mind? For example your debut As the Wolves Gather, was it a fulfilment of your dreams or just one natural epoch in your musical career?

   – It was a time of strangeness, isolation, coldness and apathy towards basically everything but oneself. The As the Wolves Gather album in itself didn’t mean much to me. The process as far as rehearsals went, was by far a more fulfilling experience. Same with Sjel Av Natten and The Curse of Mankind. The experience was bigger than the result you might say, for me at least. Now we don’t rehearse at all as we live too far apart for it to be worthwhile and we probably don’t need to anyhow.

By the way, which album and song are your favourites from your own discography, and why? And is there anything you regret having done?

   – I regret not recording a new Forgotten Woods album in 1998/99, when we actually had talks about just that. Just never got around to do it somehow… about the songs; In My Darkest Visions from As the Wolves Gather, En Natt med Storm og Ravners Skrik from Sjel av Natten and The Velvet Room from The Curse of Mankind would be my favourite songs. The Curse of Mankind is probably my favourite album all in all. I think we did everything better on that album. It’s about 10 minutes too long however.

And since we’re talking about regret and shame, we can’t omit today’s Black Metal scene, heh… Maybe you came back just to save what there is to save of the glory of the past? Seriously, though, what do you think about today’s scene? It’s definitely different than ten years ago when The Curse of Mankind came out: NS movement, suicidal BM (very close to you sometimes), flame wars on the Internet, bootlegs etc.

   – Flame wars on the internet? My goodness… it’s so harsh out there. Just crazy! Blah… Anyhow, I don’t have the desire to concern myself with any scene or any movement. I condone and support only the individual. Not the lemming. Today’s scene is about as anonymous to me as it was 10 years ago… I like Lurker Of Chalice, who put out the best album I’ve heard since the Thorns album. I check out the usual Norwegian/Swedish (and such) bands whenever they put out a new album (usually a disappointment) and I read Terrorizer sometimes. That’s how closely I follow the scene these days.

As said before, you are making some sort of “comeback” (I hate that word…) with Race of Cain. Could you describe the new material with a few words?

   – Race of Cain will be harsher than anything we’ve done in the past I hope. This is probably because I wrote all the new material for that specific release and I was always leaning more towards the harsher type of metal really. And music in general for that matter. That said however, this is not something I’d like to continue and the material I’m currently writing for our next full-lengths should be heavier and slower, with more toned down passages with possibilities to do whatever we want. Also Race of Cain has unusually short songs for Forgotten Woods I feel, while it should be back to 10+ minutes on the full-length on most songs. I absolutely expect it to be horribly bleak and dark. I have a title for it and a sort of concept, but those matters I’ll just keep to myself as of now. Also what label it’ll be out on is kind of in the dark. We have several offers, but what’s all picket-fenced and shiny is usually fairly rotten when it comes down to it. I have no expectations as far as labels go, but so far Total Holocaust has been 100% supportive and I would love to stay there as they’ve been honest and positive throughout the whole process despite our usual slowness, but I have a feeling we might be a bit too much for them in some ways… However, I certainly hope to work together with THR in the future as well, Forgotten Woods related or not. (The album came out through ATMF and 20 Buck Spin after all. -ed.)

How has your attitude towards music and towards making music changed during these years? Do you still get your inspiration from the same sources, or do you work with different methods and views this time around?

   – Well, this time around I will write most of the material. That’s a major change for us in some ways, but probably won’t be as noticeable for you guys. As far as music goes I like my music to have a certain flowing feel to it, and in that sense I think there might be a difference… There won’t be a riff breaking the balance to put it that way. I do try to keep it Forgotten Woods though as far as atmosphere and general style goes. Lyrically it’ll be forestless, moonless and vikingless. Mind is everything.

 Well, although this is Forgotten Woods interview, I have to ask a few questions about Joyless. I guess the split-up of Forgotten Woods and the birth of Joyless was quite a shock for some people who really liked Forgotten Woods. What were the main motives for these ends and beginnings?

   – Just to get a change from the static world that was Forgotten Woods. We started getting bored and that’s not a good sign.

As a big fan of depressive rock and post punk I really enjoy Joyless’ music. What kind of musical and lyrical basis did you have when you started Joyless? Did it sort of evolve from Black Metal or did you take an entirely different approach?

   – I used to say Joyless was a Black Metal band trying to make pop-music. Not entirely true obviously, but not too far off the map either. We were sick to death with everything concerning Forgotten Woods. Instead of changing Forgotten Woods, we gave it all a new name. I think the best music we ever did is our very early Joyless recordings. I am talking about songs like Room of Velvet Splendour, Blå Melankoli and Your Crystal Fragments. Later on we got to be too much straightforward rock’n’roll for my taste and too little of the dark cleverness fore-mentioned songs possessed.

   – The musical basis in the beginning I really can’t remember that well, but it quickly turned into something very Velvet Underground-esque at times. I love The Velvet Underground, but I prefer listening to them rather than playing music similar to theirs. Lyrically it certainly was different than Forgotten Woods. Absolutely more introspective, and deliberately so. I have many bad memories about writing and rehearsing, how it made me feel/not feel, how I could sense a change in everything, and a massive and general dissatisfaction. I don’t know where I’m going with this. It’s just what it is. Or rather what it was.

Personally I find many connection points between post punk like Joy Division and Black Metal; that same monotonic repetition, empty soundscapes and very desperate and cold attitude towards life. What do you think about it? Can we find that true source of darkness from every musical genre if the music has only been made with a pure heart?

   – I agree on the first part and on the second you are exactly right! That’s the key. Honesty. Joy Division was terrifically cold sounding. And the old The Cure albums were much the same in coldness and greatness. I adore Joy Division.

One of the most interesting works of Joyless was definitely the split EP with Woods Of Infinity. What kind of relationship do you have with them, and what do you think about WOI’s music? How about their black humour, does it get to you?

   – My knowledge of WOI is almost nonexistent. I know what Olav told me and their “humour” might be somewhat retarded and/or warped, but it’s either way not my cup of tea. Unfortunately I don’t know their music well at all. I’ve heard good things though. 

How are you going to weave your way between Joyless and Forgotten Woods in the future? Could it be that these two quite different, but still, in a sense, quite similar bands would feed each other musically?

   – I expect and think it’s for the better that Joyless mainly will be Olav’s beast, while my main musical interest is served best with Forgotten Woods. This because it has turned into two very different bands and I have a vision for how Forgotten Woods SHOULD sound as Olav has for Joyless I’m sure. Another reason would be that our musical taste has gone in quite opposite directions over the years and metal appears to be closer to my heart still, while rock, depressive as Joyless’ brand of it might be, is more Olav’s thing.

But now, back to Forgotten Woods. As your cover arts, lyrics and the general atmosphere of music display, it’s very easy to draw parallels between Forgotten Woods and aspects of nature. How big a source of inspiration is the nature (and the woods) around you? Do you head to the fjords to find ideas and feelings for your songs, or is the truth a bit less romantic?

   – These days, nature is nonexistent when it comes to being an inspiration or a motivation for anything at all. That might’ve been the case on the first album, but it’s no secret that we shied away from those matters already on Sjel av Natten and completely on The Curse of Mankind. I enjoy nature to an extent, but mostly when I can enjoy the scenery itself, by myself, usually when it includes fog somehow. I don’t wander around the woods at night anymore, nor do I go skiing in the winter. I have to be in a certain state of mind to fully appreciate nature in all its glory, but when it comes down to it, I am an art beast, not a fucking athlete… I stay indoors until almost forced to go outside.

Many talk about the mystic atmosphere of nature: how they get some power from Mother Earth and how the forest is their real home and protector. Do you think the same way, or do you have a different view on nature?

   – I practically live in the forest actually. However, my home is with my people and I am the protector. I have no romantic view on these nature-matters. Like I said I can enjoy nature for the scenery, but I feel no spiritual connection with trees or moss for instance.

One central aspect of your band has been wolves if we take a look at the cover art and titles of your first releases. What do wolves represent to you? That grim and lonesome creature has been quite an important symbol for Black Metal for a long time…

   – Wolves always served as a metaphor for Forgotten Woods. I love the title and the album cover of our first album. The Sjel av Natten cover is so-so to put it mildly, but works in its own simplistic way (the original tape version, not the No Colours Records-mLP, which is. simply put, crap). Other than that, wolves has had little impact on our lyrics for instance. Always a metaphor for the loner in a way, but again, also mostly (if not only) on our first album. The individual if you will. Swans have been more a part of our lyrics actually. I was quite obsessed with them for a while.

How about Norse mythology, how big an influence has that been to you?

   – Minimal.

And generally: are you more down to earth type of persons or do you find the spiritual side in your everyday life? Have you, for example, gone through any supernatural experiences?

   – Down-to-earth? I’d take being called down-to-earth as quite the insult. Whatever experiences that might’ve occurred I’ll share with whomever I feel needs to know. As always.

One thing is for sure: the name ‘Satan’ doesn’t appear on Forgotten Woods’ lyrics and cover sheets. Let’s raise the question: what do you think about Satan and Satanism? Usually people say that there can’t be Black Metal without Satan but what’s your opinion about that?

   – There wouldn’t be Black Metal without Venom and Bathory. Satan is a whore for most Black Metal bands to fuck senseless, until they get actual girlfriends to fuck and/or have some kids to go on to being the normal well-adjusted citizens they were meant to be. As far as I’m concerned, Satan as a symbol equals freedom and individuality. This should not be taken lightly in any way. However, the use of spewing out ‘Satan’ in multiple fashions in every song is pointless to us. The need to dig deeper is a must, but only for our own artistic benefit. Not your listening experience. If it works for others that is fine, but it’s not for us. Satan is present, but as the adversary, not the antichrist per. se. As a metaphor for the ego, if you will, not as a goat, sheep or any other herd animal. A lemming state of mind is a wasted state of mind. I have a feeling ‘Satan’ as a word will not be very prominent on future Forgotten Woods releases either. Never know though.

Well, Satan has many forms and ways, and your search and scrutiny for the dark side of man can be considered as searching Satan in man. Word or two about this?

   – My concern for others than myself and my inner circle of family is hardly worth mentioning or give a second thought. I have tried to journey the dark, and the light (as I assume I have one…sort of), side of my mind to great lengths I feel, but now the wish to influence others to search their dark side is more appealing to me. Also, see previous question.

Anyway, the new CD is titled Race of Cain, a strong reference to the Bible and also to mysticism. Do you present some new lyrical statements in these new songs?

   – ‘Race of Cain’ is in this case actually taken directly from Baudelaire, which is in itself a strong reference to the Bible. I always did love the poem Abel and Cain and what it represented in terms of herd-mentality. To me at least. Therefore, the race of Cain to me would be the individuals. As the members of Forgotten Woods very much are. We are together as a band for a reason and that reason is exactly what it was from the get-go; to inflict and hopefully cause massive disturbance in the minds of weaker beings and possibly bring some pleasure to the minds of our egotistical same. This is more calculated these days than in the past. There is a reason for everything.

Let’s stick to the lyrics. I can find many different elements in them: there are softer moments and phrases, but the harsh and very cold atmosphere is also present. Would you say that you like to paint with the entire palette of life or what?

   – Sure. I’d like to think I write about praising life AND praising death. My life, the death of others. Then again, it comes down to the reader/listener… depending of your stance, how does it sound? Hopefully this is the case, that people read and make their own interpretation of any given lyric. This mostly goes for The Curse of Mankind and any Joyless-song I’ve written the lyrics for. What others write I’d leave up to them to explain. To put it nicely, I like contrasts. And I like to use that. However, most metalheads are more into beer and backpatches than lyrics, which is fine and understandable seeing it from a point of view where music is what counts and lyrics are at best rushed through.

A same kind of variety can be found in your music as well. Inherent Emptiness by Joyless and With Swans I Share my Thirst by Forgotten Woods, for example, are songs that differ from each other quite a bit. Where does this multidimensionality come from; is it just the desire to experiment with music or the result of listening your inner voices?

   – I mostly think it’s a result of having a genuine interest in music of all genres and an appreciation of music of all genres. With Swans… is basically our small tribute to The Velvet Underground, which is what we collectively listened to the most around that time alongside David Bowie and The Doors probably. Especially The Doors is prominent on the rest of The Curse of Mankind in Olav’s drumming. If you know your The Doors you’ll easily hear it. Inherent Emptiness was known as ‘the thrash song’ at rehearsals, which is what it is… a ton of riffs, mostly thrashy. What it comes down to for us is exploring different sides of dark music and to make it all come together in the end. We can do whatever we want though AND get away with it. It’ll sound like Forgotten Woods anyway it seems. Joyless will be whatever it turns out to be.

Besides this, I truly enjoy the repetition and the monotonic feeling that you have in your songs. Sometimes your music comes close to some sort of trance or hypnotic feeling. Do you get a same kind of feeling when you play/compose your songs?

   – The feeling I get from composing material to the next full-length is in all fashions the same as the feeling of old… The cold and dark monotonous atmosphere is very much there. Intentional obviously, but still feeling renewed and in tune with how my musical taste is pr. today.

 Anyway, I guess you get something from composing and playing music because you’re back in this harsh business. How do you see the present state of Forgotten Woods, and more importantly, how do you see the future?

   – We’ll see. It doesn’t all revolve around Forgotten Woods. Art is all. The moment it feels stifled or like we’re on autopilot I’ll have no problem breaking all ties. I’m hoping for several more albums though. Better than ever.

Okay, that’s it! Any last words?

   – Thanks for including us and welcome to the beginning of everything unpredictable.

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