Friday, July 7, 2017

Interview with Zorn of ZORNHEYM by Dave Wolff

Interview with Zorn of ZORNHEYM

Before starting Zornheym you were a member of Dark Funeral. What led to your parting company with them and how soon afterward did you start the band?
Zornheym was the stage name I used then; now I've shortened it to Zorn for myself to differentiate from the band name. Sometimes bands just naturally reach a time when members need to go separate ways so I took the opportunity to start focusing on my music, my art, my ideas and my passion for playing the guitar. I am very happy with the path that Zornheym has taken me and I have really grown a lot as a musician/composer since I started working with our debut album.

How many bands were you involved before Zornheym? How much of a learning experience was working in those bands? Did you carry that experience into Zornheym?
I definitely think of and see Zornheym as a band. It is founded by me and I build the foundation for the music and the concept, but now I think we are the point where everyone is contributing to the band’s sound and vision. Before I played with the band you mention earlier, I played with the death/thrash metal band Devian (together with former Marduk members Erik Legion and Emil Dragutinovic). I am also in the sleeping band Aktiv Dödshjälp (together with Roberth Karlsson of Scar Symmetry). I learned a lot from Erik and Emil who had a lot of experience from their time in Marduk. I think you can learn from every experience and sometimes you learn the most from the bad ones.

How long has Aktiv Dödshjälp been active? Are any full lengths available from them?
I started Aktiv Dödshjälp back in 2004. When I discovered Tomas Lindberg’s crust band, Skitsystem, I knew that I wanted to do something in their vein. We have released two demos, two split seven inches and two full length albums. The albums are written as a trilogy with the theme “Death”, “Life” and the last one will be the “Birth” album. You can find the releases on iTunes, Spotify or order them right from their label,

When will the third Aktiv Dödshjälp CD be released? Will it be available from Halvfabrikat?
All lot of the songs are written and recorded. However, I’m thinking of booking Wing Studios and keeping the songs but re-record everything and then add a song or two. It’s pretty much on halt since Zornheym is taking up most of my time. The songs are really good and Aktiv has always been a great way for me to practice songwriting and that is something I really enjoy doing.

How much has Swedish black metal scene grown during your time as a musician?
I think that there are a lot of new interesting bands out there. In the 90’s I wasn’t very involved in the scene; back then I still focused on learning my own instrument, so I can’t compare it to back then. Through my years I have started to get to know a lot of the people that I looked up to as a teenager. I imagine that the scene has grown and I think it’s a lot easier to stay in touch with people these days thanks to the Internet. I mean, you can basically get feedback on your rehearsal tape from people on the other side of the world within a few minutes today.

Who from the Swedish scene have you befriended, besides your former bands?
Somehow I believe that there are more bands than actual musicians in Sweden, since everyone seem to be involved with at least two to four different bands haha… It’s a pretty cool scene I think where most people know each other or know someone who knows that person in that band. So most of my friends play in different bands, some are more well-known than others, even though that doesn't really matter to me.

Does the news and magazine controversy that surrounded Scandinavian black metal still reflect on Sweden, or has it been mostly forgotten by now?
I don’t think they're as controversial as they were in the early ‘90’s, no, but that doesn't necessarily mean that people have forgotten about it. I mean there are documentaries still coming out to this day and stuff about what the scene did in the early ‘90’s.

What documentaries on black metal have you watched recently? Do you think the events from the early 90s were over sensationalized by the press and news programs?
I saw the one about the Iranian guy that moved to Norway to pursue his musical dreams. I also recently listened to a radio documentary in Swedish about the suicide and murder connected to Mayhem in the ‘90’s. I think the press work that way, they are always the harbinger of bad news and always try to enlarge it and strike fear into the average Joe.

Zornheym’s debut single The Opposed is from your upcoming concept album about the inmates being kept at a mental institution. How did you devise this concept?
“The Opposed” is our first single, the second one is called “A Silent God” and these two tracks are both featured on the debut album “Where Hatred Dwells and Darkness Reigns”. Each song tells the story of one of the inmates in the mental institution. The lyrics shows you one perspective of the story, the graphic novel will show you more and the booklet will also have the inmates’ journals written by the head doctor Dr. Bettelheim. The stories are inspired by myths, urban legends, real cases and the spiced with our own twisted fantasy. Before I wrote the first story I studied documentaries of serial killers/killers for two to three months and read a lot about different mental issues. The idea of for this album has been lurking in my head since my mid 20’s… so this is a thought through concept and that has been our aim since day one, to bring the whole concept album thing to the next level.

How did the idea to record a concept album first occur to you?
It was around when I wrote the first of the album trilogy for Aktiv Dödshjälp, “4:48”. I was hanging out with a lot of creative people back then and we used to talk about different concepts we were working. During the years I started growing the idea, feeding it with my love for TV series and movies. I've approached it like a movie that doesn't really end, where you get invited into the characters’ lives and world and really get to know them. I really wanted to do something that could expand and started to live its own life! 

How did you begin to research real life cases for Where Hatred Dwells and Darkness Reigns?
It is a mix of urban legends, our own messed up imagination and real cases. During my time at university, I interviewed a lot people. I've also read about a lot of real cases, listened to podcasts, and two to three months before I wrote the lyrics for the first song I watched tons of documentaries about serial killers. It’s often hard to pinpoint because the stories are puzzled of so many sources.

What university were you attending at this time? Who did you conduct interviews with?
At the time when I started playing around with an early form of the concept I was studying at Linköping’s University. I read a few courses that put me in a place where I was interviewing people that have committed different crimes and had mental health problems.

How many courses in your field were available at Linköping’s?
I read the courses as extra courses when I was studying to become a teacher. I read several extra courses for six months, I think two of them touched this subject and it caught my interest enough to make me want to go deeper.

How did you arrange the interviews you mentioned? If your interviewees were incarcerated or in mental homes, was it a process to schedule the meetings with them?
It was a really long time ago. I remember one of them clearly because it was the first time I ever sat in front of a man that had murdered another person. That person was still in prison and convicted for the murder, or to be exact, he was convicted for manslaughter. He had scheduled times where he tried to adapt back to society. We interviewed him for four to five hours and I remember that after three hours in the interview we got to the part that he was still in prison and that he had killed someone.

Were the documentaries you watched on stations like The History Channel? What docs most inspired the lyrical content?
I have watched so many different documentaries. I’m sure some were from the History Channel. Some I found on various streaming services and a lot on Youtube. For example, we have one song about sleep paralysis we wrote after Scucca and I watched the Netflix documentary called “Nightmare”. Lately I've been listening to podcasts about Swedish journalists interviewing American prisoners on death row to gain some insight into their experiences. With something like that I can find a feeling and then do my own story based on that feeling. So far I think it has turned out really well!

What was the documentary Nightmare about, and how much did it help your lyrics?
Our songs “Whom The Night Brings” & “And The Darkness Came Swiftly” are about our patient with sleep paralyze. When Scucca and I wrote the lyrics for that one we watched that documentary the same night. I already had parts of the background story in my head. We knew that it would be a song about a woman and that she would be the first patient to commit herself to Zornheym due to her sleep paralysis. We used the documentary as a source for “facts” from real cases, so more to get inspiration on how to describe the night terrors. I think Bendler suggested the topic to me to begin with… A few weeks later Scucca texted me after he first watched the documentary and told me that we have to do something about this kind of stuff. When both of them suggested it to me, I had to check it out!

While studying true life cases, did you concentrate on the acts performed or the person’s psychology and background?
It varies. I can base it on a sentence that the person said that touched me or just the feeling I got from hearing the story. Behind the majority of bad actions there’s usually a sad story.

Who is Scucca and what is his involvement in the band besides writing lyrics?
Scucca is Zornheym’s other guitarist and arranger. He’s an Irish guy who I met shortly after he moved over to Sweden through some mutual friends. He does a lot of stuff for the band because he has a Masters in Music and Music Tech which is great because it means I don’t have to worry about any of the tech stuff that I’m not as familiar with. He transcribed the orchestral and choral arrangements that I composed and helped me with the arranging process as well. He also recorded the choir parts and is currently in the process of tabbing out all the songs. He is in general an awesome guy that I’m very happy to have in the band and I feel we work well together!

Where Hatred Dwells and Darkness Reigns is accompanied by a comic strip designed by artist Anu Bring. How did you hook up with her and how well does her work fit your lyrics?
It started out with me following her on Instagram. I was very impressed by her skills and one day she started posting King Diamond portraits that she had drawn and I was like, wow… We have to do something together! I approached her and she told me that her dream was to make a graphic novel, I told her that I had a good concept for it and tons of good stories that needed to be illustrated and now here we are! Her illustrations actually shows another layer of the story. Some lyrics are just reflections of the character, what's going on inside his/her head. Bettelheim’s journal notes give more background to the characters and then comics reveal even more about character. So there is a lot to discover if you get interested in the concept, it is more than just an album with good music.

Where can Bring’s work be viewed on social media?
The first chapter for the graphic novel is published over at our Facebook page. Click here to go directly to the first chapter. You can check her Facebook page to see the vast array work she has available.

Describe the graphic novel that will coincide with the album’s release.
Between ourselves and Anu, we're working hard to finishing it up at the moment, as well as mixing the album. Once it's done we will print it and make a comic book edition of the album. This version of the album might only be available from us, the band, since we are doing so much of this production ourselves. The graphic novel adds more in depth details to the life stories behind the inmates that are confined at Zornheym. It allows us to explore more areas of the Zornheym inmates and story that we can't fit into songs or that would be better explored through an alternative medium such as in a graphic novel.

How soon will the album be released? Will it be available for streaming as well as on CD? How will you be promoting it through promo copies and live appearances?
The album will be released as an A5 Digipack on the 15th of September. We will also have some special edition releases which will include the graphic novel that we are proud to say has turned out to be exactly what we imagined, if not better! It will be available on CD and on all digital platforms. We’ve had some secretive, “dark shadowy figures in a dimly lit room” style meetings regarding a vinyl release, but we're keeping that quiet until we've got concrete plans. The label and PR people have already started doing a fantastic job of sending out the digital press kit and we're honoured to say that our first show is already booked as well. Be sure to check us out at Motocultor Festival in France on the 18th of August.

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