After a messy issue number five, number six had some strong guidelines. One was the rising black sun from Trondheim – which has shown to be an ever-burning light and not a quick shooting star. For this issue I interviewed Celestial Bloodshed (although they were a bit short of words). From an old league I took Manes, which were known as Kkoagulaa back then. However, I didn’t manage to make a good dialogue between these two sides.
Fortunately the other interviews worked quite well: Drowning The Light, The Ruins Of Beverast, Vassafor… And it’s good to see that all these bands in this issue (excluding Defuntos, which got a bit boring with time) are still hitting nails in my head.
Besides Nidrosian bands, I wanted to have a view on the labels too, and my choice was Fossbrenna Creations. I enjoyed – and still do – their old school –type demo tapes, which radiate devotion and insight, and I found it more interesting to take a look on a tape label than a more professional one – you know, this entire Nidrosian wave was just rising back then; for example Terratur Possessions was just beginning their glorious march.
After a strong period of quality demos, Fossbrenna Creations withered in the shadows – only to return with four brilliant releases last year. And if you want some examples, you should spend a minute or two with Vemod’s atmospheric and cold Vinterilden or Askeregn’s raw-as-hell Ildjarn worship Undergangsglimt. But how did this return happen in the first place: was it always seen in the horizon and it just required some time, or did everything progress in a quick tornado of inspiration? Mr. Åsli answers:
– Thank you for the kind words! There will always be periods of silence with Fossbrenna Creations, as there are so many other projects consuming my time. It’s a demanding process, doing everything yourself, by hand – from planning layouts to printing and cutting covers to dubbing the actual tapes, one by one. But that is how we like it here.
– To answer your question: the return was always to be seen on the (distant) horizon indeed. Those four releases – Vemod, Astral Winds, Askeregn and finally Vilains Bonshommes – were planned for a long time, but as usual all the different details took ages to sort out. I also had the idea that releasing them all at once was a good idea. I see now that maybe they should have been split up, but you live and you learn.
– Even though I did very little to promote the tapes this time, I feel they have done very well. Obviously people are still interested, even with the slightly different feel about the new releases (“Era II”) as opposed to the older releases (“Era I”), and that is great to know.
In your homepage you mention that there are new releases coming in the future… Can you reveal any details?
– Absolutely. First up is another Vemod demo, with recordings from the same session as Vinterilden. It will almost be a “part two” of sorts, following that one. There are also plans of re-releasing the first Vemod demo, Kringom Fjell og Skog, originally released by Nordkult Rituals back in 2004. If everything goes as planned, that one will be the first of a few tapes in a “nostalgia series” I have in mind. There are at least a couple of hidden and/or forgotten gems from the earlier days of the Nidrosian underground, and I like the idea of releasing them though Fossbrenna, which was always about the obscure and the atmospheric anyway. If I get this through, these tapes will probably be limited, because these aren’t meant to promote the band in a traditional sense. That will be the first time for Fossbrenna to set a limitation for releases.
– Other than that, it seems I will mainly release projects I’m involved in myself in the future. This is mainly because of the fact that there is only so much time I can give these projects, and when delays occur, which they always do, it’s better to know that it will only harm yourself rather than others. Fossbrenna Creations has always been devoted to the circle around myself, and even though it is smaller these days, there is still a lot of creativity going on, and not all of it fits within the frames of the more established bands and projects around here. I think Fossbrenna is a great portal to unleash the more obscure outbursts through.
– In short: some more Vemod, most likely some other related projects, perhaps another Astral Winds tape, and hopefully this “nostalgia series”. We’ll see!
Trondheim isn’t just about the great bands, it’s also about the great labels behind them. And like some bands are doing their thing just for money and fame without any spine or strong ideology, we know that in a business world these leeches are swarming in bigger numbers and therefore dedicated and reliable record labels are not so easy to find. Because in the end the label isn’t just a financial and promotional support, it can also be a spiritual ally who believes in same things than a band. I had an opportunity to get acquainted with Fossbrenna Creations and their founder Åsli, who has released a bunch of great tapes from Nidrosian forces.
So, maybe it’s easier to begin from the start. What was the first main motive to start a tape label?
– Well, ever since I got into Black Metal I’ve been fascinated by the demo tapes. They represent a certain atmosphere and they capture the essence of a band’s early stages; often a time of strong artistic visions and will to succeed in whatever the bands want to achieve. This will fade away or grow even stronger; either way, the demo days will always remain an important part of a bands existence.
– For a Black Metal band, there is absolutely no doubt that tape is the best format for a demo. Back when the idea of Fossbrenna Creations began to take form, there was a lot of CDR demos around, which I don’t think does justice to this form of music. This was the main motive to start a demo tape label (simple as it may seem); I wanted to bring back that ancient feeling and do something for the continued survival of the cassette. Pretty much the same thing as many did for the vinyl some years back (and still do). Also, I wanted to support up and coming bands from my own area, see the next question. Of course, I’m doing it for myself as well. I love these ”shitty” looking tapes, and I want to pack my shelves full of them, for some strange reason. I don’t know why, but I’m certain that you and other tape supporting individuals understand exactly what I mean.
– Now, I’m making this sound like the most important thing in the world to me – it’s not. Formats won’t save Black Metal, or any other type of music. But, this was the beginning. Visions change, everything does. Nothing of this will matter in the end, but I enjoy doing it, nonetheless.
Fossbrenna is well-known for its quality releases of Trondheim bands. So I guess that there won’t be any other bands than those from the Nidrosian circles? Can we say that you are the official promoter and the champion of Nidrosian Black Metal?
– As you point out, I am primarily focusing on Nidrosian (meaning: from Trondheim) bands. That was also one of the main motives for starting this. This particular circle is packed with potential right now, and I don’t think it will end anytime soon. I see no reason to go outside looking for bands to release and promote, as long as everything I could ever want is here already.
– I have however, released two projects outside the aforementioned frames. Skuggeheim – Vinterrikets Konge was released in the fall of 2007, and now recently, Knokkelklang – Kalk og Aske. Both of these contacted me for cooperation, and I gave them what I could offer, little as it may be. Knokkelklang in particular is something I am proud to present. Watch out for this band. Hopefully some great label will pick it up in the future. Skuggeheim attracted some lowlife individuals (time to get off myspace, people), but the demo is good, no doubt. Both these demo tapes are separated from the other releases by their lack of catalouge numbers. And I don’t expect to release any more bands from the ”outside” at the moment.
– The official promoter and champion of Nidrosian Black Metal? Not really, that would be Nordkult Rituals/Blood Chalice. There’s also Terratur Possessions and Apocalyptic Empire of course. With my humble demo tape concept I will always remain in the shadow of the ”big guys”. A position I find quite comfortable, really. Suits me just fine.
As some sort of an outsider (you don’t have a band, right?) how do you see the recent Nidrosian scene? Is it a strong community with same visions and thoughts or more like a bunch of individuals?
– Oh, I have a band. In fact, I have several. My main band is Vemod, which released a demo on Nordkult Rituals back in 2004, and been working on the debut album ever since. There is a split 7” with the mighty Klage coming, almost ready to be released after endless delays, and there should be a promo/demo coming some time before the album. I am also one of the creators of this beast called One Tail, One Head. The first demo is out through Fossbrenna Creations right now, and we’ll see what the future will bring. I did bass and synths for Jammerskrik’s debut album as well, the tape version was recently released by Nordkult. In addition there are several more projects that I’m involved in. Some will be released, others will not, I guess. I don’t think I can call myself an outsider anymore, even though I am not from Trondheim city originally.
– I see the Nidrosian circle as a strong unit, but still filled with different individuals with different visions and goals. Many different paths will be walked from here, you can see it already. The bands differ greatly in music, lyrics and philosophy; this will become only more and more distinct as the illusion we call time passes by. However, I see this from within, and I am aware that it’s probably easier for me to see and feel the diversity than for the listener/reader, but any observant individual should be able to separate the bands and projects from each other. The interpretations of darkness are many.
Besides this concentration on local bands do you have any other standards for your releases? Quality of the music is of course one but are you interested in the bands’ ideological convictions?
– Of course, ideology is very important. I could never release and promote something I couldn’t stand behind myself. It hasn’t been a problem this far, as I know most of the individuals behind the bands I’ve released personally. I know where they stand. However, Fossbrenna Creations is not attached to a certain ideology or philosophy, like for example Blood Chalice. I like to keep things ”simple” here. This is (mainly) for Black Metal, and Black Metal is what it is. There is ideology, there is philosophy; this little demo label will not change anything within these realms. Besides, everything presented through words or sound is up for interpretation, so it’s really up to the individual to take in whatever message there is, and make sense of it for their own. I myself, of course, have a certain philosophical outlook on things, but Fossbrenna Creations is not a channel for these ever-changing paradigms. To answer your question a bit more to the point: I need to be able, in my own way, to stand behind what the bands are preaching, but the label itself does not have a particular ideology.
– On a musical level, there are standards, of course. Primarily, I seek the good old Black Metal feeling, which is unfortunately so rare these days. I have it in me at all times, but to feel a direct connection to it through a recording is something which doesn’t come about so often. Hopefully, Fossbrenna Creations can be a source for just that. Honesty. Dedication. Will. Vision. That is what I look for. A certain obscurity is necessary if I am to release a demo, you won’t find anything too accessable here. I think the future will hold more traditional Black Metal (musically speaking – if one can use such a term) for Fossbrenna Creations, as well as some completely different things, most likely. The three first releases were of the slow kind, but this was something of a coincidence. People expected more of this kind I think, but it was never my favourite style, I just happened to like those particular recordings, and they surfaced at the right time.
– I’m open for a lot, really. The frames are there, but I feel they can hold much within them. As long as it suits my personal taste and vision, there are possibilities. In the end, I am not even bound to the Black Metal genre, but this is of course the main focus and the reason for the existence of this label. This music is not, or at least should not be, made for entertainment, as most of today’s popular music. I regard these dark sounds and atmospheres as rituals, and at best, portals to realms beyond (if done the right way – needless to say, few reach this far). This is what I strive for with my own musical projects, and naturally this is also emphasized when considering what to release through Fossbrenna Creations. This focus will only grow stronger in the future. The journey has just begun.
I have a feeling that after bands like Black Majesty, Celestial Bloodshed and Kaosritual people are more and more interested in what’s happening in Trondheim and you are getting more and more orders around the globe. Is this true and do you see this spreading as a positive or negative thing?
– Yes, that is true. I’m rather ambivalent about the whole thing. People open their eyes for all the magnificent bands and projects, and that is a good thing. But on the other hand, nothing more than a mention on an internet message board is needed to attract unwanted attention. As you know, more than two persons mentioning a band is considered a ”hype” these days, and I don’t really want that to happen. It’s already happening though, and I guess there’s not much one can do. If one has chosen to release ones material to the public, one has to put up with these kind of things. It’s not a problem in the long run, but of course it’s annoying to see individuals misunderstand so completely. I guess ignorance is your best friend, when it comes to this matter. Some bands are bound to get more attention than others. I must say that most of the attention which has been given the Fossbrenna releases or any of the projects I’m involved with has been positive. The more known bands like those you mentioned or Selvhat for example, will have to deal with most of the shit.
– That said: In the end, matters like this is extremely unimportant. True art will stay true art, no matter how many or to whom it may be spread. I try to avoid being manipulated things like status, availability, record labels and things like this when listening to a new band or record (I must admit it’s hard sometimes, but still). I would like to stress the fact that this is, and will always be, unimportant. What matters is the whole feel, the message, and the darkness within the music. This style of music should be like a ritual in itself (as I said), and if it’s done the right way, no outside elements should be or will be of importance. So many forget this today. What does pathetic limitations and ”elite” gimmicks mean in the end? Nothing. It serves no important purpose, in my opinion. What you achieve is pointless cult status among clueless kids and other scum. Nothing I would strive for.
I can imagine that one day your releases will be considered as rarities and people will be ready to pay small fortunes for them in eBay. What do you think about this kind of a future vision?
– Maybe you are right, I don’t know. It doesn’t sound too good to me. I try to avoid this by not limiting my releases. They are sold as long as there is demand, but they are also withdrawn as soon as I think the market is fed up with a certain release. Enough is enough.
One of your trademarks is the very simple appearance of your releases: just plain tapes, xerox covers, nothing less, nothing more. Why such a decision? Do you try to get people just to concentrate on the music or to keep the old school flame alive?
– Very much the latter. This goes hand in hand with what I said in the beginning of this interview. The cut’n paste layout and the atmospheric xerox look is very much a part of the ancient demotape feeling I’m talking about. I like both the nasty, chaotic looking covers (like Min Kniv) and the more noble, organized ones. The visual aspect is vital. I think a good demo can get even further with the help of a fitting cover, and it can do a lot for the experience of the release as a whole. I give the covers a great deal of thought, and I demand to take part in the design of every release.
– I am aware of that my passion for this kind of layout may not be understood by many. Most seem to think the tapes look this way because we (me and the bands) don’t know anything about design. It is, however, done completely on purpose. We want our demotapes to look this way, it’s the point. If people can’t appreciate a real xeroxed cover, it’s their loss. The ancient feeling is alive.
What are the best characters of a tape format in general when you are comparing it to vinyls and CDs for example? I guess the CD-r demos are totally out of the question?
– It’s something about them. I’ve already explained my fascination for demo tapes. They look nice, plain and simple. And of course there’s a certain quality to the sound. It’s something organic and real, as opposed to CD’s. Obviously ideal for a Black Metal demo. Obscurity and distant atmosphere is what we want, not something we try to avoid. I’m also very fond of the personal touch demo tapes often have. It makes them special. I’m not saying the tape is the perfect format for everything – albums should be on vinyl, with tapes as an alternative. I like all formats, to be honest. A well done CD could be good as well. The different formats have different qualities, which all should be valued. CDR is the exception. Yes, they are completely out of the question. Nothing good about them whatsoever!
While you are releasing these simplistic tapes, at the same time the world is drowning into the sea of special packaging, die-hard editions and even in tape releases you can find different kind of cover solutions, gimmicks etc. What is your opinion about this phenomenon? Are these just innovations and examples of quality or just a superficial trick to turn even shit to gold?
– It really depends. Obviously, it’s just annoying to see shitty or even just mediocre releases being spent a lot of money on, then suddenly becoming instant sought-after cult items. Shit can never be turned to gold. One can spend as much as one want on packaging, it just won’t happen. If you have a great album, I think expensive packaging can be tolerated, but there are limits, of course. I want my vinyl to look good, and I’m pleased to see good albums given the attention they deserve. There is a number of good labels out there who know how to handle a release in the proper way. I think, however, a better looking regular version is to be prefered over a limited die-hard edition. I also think labels should spend less on 7”s to keep the price down. Black Metal 7”s tend to be too expensive these days. It’s after all only a few minutes of music we have here. Ah well, trifles.
Like said before, you have concentrated on tapes so far but is it possible that some day you will expand your supply to other formats like 7”s?
– There are plans about the Vemod album on CD, actually. If this will be realized or not, it remains to see. I have also thought about doing 7”s, but there are no concrete plans of any at the moment. Tapes will remain the main focus in the future as well.
To this day you have released four tapes but have there been bands or releases that you have rejected and why?
– I made it quite clear right from the start that Fossbrenna Creations would do only Nidrosian (and related) bands, and that I wasn’t interested in anything else. Still there were a few morons who sent me their useless promos. I remember neither names nor nationality, but they were obviously rejected. I’m sure they got someone else to release their shit, though. The tape scene is growing, but unfortunately packed with mediocre crap. I try to trade as much as I can with other tape labels, but my enthusiasm is often killed by the amount of shit out there, and the fact that some actually use their time and money on spreading some of that stuff is beyond me.
– By the way; at the time of writing I have released five tapes, plus the two without catalogue number, which makes seven in total.
Looking at your releases, do you have one specific favourite? How about in general, which demos do you consider as all-time classics?
– I can’t say that I have. To me, all the releases are quite different from each other, and I hate to compare them. The natural development is heading in the right direction though, and I must say I’m very pleased with Min Kniv and One Tail, One Head. Knokkelklang also proved to be something special. I hope the future holds even better releases.
– All-time demo classics – now, that’s a tough one. Lately I’ve listened to Incarnator – Nordic Holocaust demo from ‘92, something of a forgotten gem. Bathory worship Black Metal, worth to get. Other Norwegian stuff would be Trelldom – Disappearing of The Burning Moon demo, the Taake/Thule demos, the Ildjarn demos, the Manes demos, the Strid demo, and I would also point out Black Majesty – Baphe Metis demo as an instant classic. Oh, I almost forgot Limbonic Arts rehearsal tape from ‘95, excellent. Swedish bands like Setherial and Sorhin had some obscure demos worth listening too. Obviously there’s a lot of gold originating in Finland, past as present. Helwetti was a good band, great atmosphere. The same goes for the Behexen demos, the Warloghe demo and the Nidhoggr demo. The old Greek scene deserves a mention of course, with bands as Rotting Christ, Zemial, Naer Mataron, etc. And plenty more, really. I’m sure I have forgotten a lot of essential stuff, there’s a lot of demos out there.
– Ok, maybe not all of these are ”all-time classics”, but I have mentioned some favourites of mine, and some of these were important to me personally, when it comes to this obsession with Black Metal demos. You get the picture.
And finally we can check the future of Fossbrenna Productions… You just got One Tail, One Head’s demo tape out but will there be any other releases coming out?
– The only one there are certain plans of at the moment is the aforementioned Vemod promo/demo tape which will be released ahead of our album. I could also mention the cursed project of a compilation tape. This compilation was actually intended to be the first release of Fossbrenna Creations, but it’s still not here. No promises on this one, we’ll see what happens. Besides these, there are no concrete plans as of today. Fossbrenna Creations is not like most other tape labels, desperately releasing every piece of crap they come across. Whatever the future brings, people can expect quality.