Kvelertak are a six-piece metal band from Norway whose success back home is stuff dreams are made of. Their brand of metal fuses rock n’ roll and punk (and just a tinge of black metal, for good measure) for a seriously playful sound that isn’t exactly customary for metal bands out of Norway. It speaks to the boys’ spirit that they’ve toured with some of the greatest bands in metal, like High On Fire, and it’s a testament to their music that they’ve been signed to a major label (Sony). I, for one, am sold on their music. For my first time interviewing a band, I had the chance to meet up with Erlend Hjelvik, the band’s singer, on their tour bus when they were passing through Montreal, sharing a bill with Mastodon and Gojira (check out some photos of the show and read the review).

Nairi K.: How do you like Montreal so far?

Erlend Hjelvik: I haven’t been able to do much, I just woke up like two hours ago, so just had breakfast and I’ve been hanging out on the bus. But we’ve played in Montreal before, and yeah, I really like the cit. It feels pretty European I guess compared to the rest of North America. So it feels like a good break from being in the U.S., you know?

What’s something that you really miss from home when you’re on tour? Food, activities…

I actually miss making my own food. That’s basically my main task of the day, making dinner and stuff like that, and that’s one of the things I miss. And just hanging out at home I guess, I’m kind of a homebody.

Let’s talk about your music a little bit, because I only discovered you because you’re on the bill with Mastodon and it’s been a really nice, pleasant discovery for me. I’ve noticed your videos are really different from one another, which is super cool, there isn’t one overall look, and in the video for “Kvelertak” there’s a super fun touring vibe. Who documents your tours?

On that tour, the one on which we did the “Kvelertak” video, we actually had a photographer with us, his name is Stian… I forget his last name, I think Andersen? But he has taken photos of Turbonegro and bands like that before, like really good photos, so he just came with us a couple of days on the tour and filmed a lot of stuff and then he made the video out of it and yeah, it just turned out awesome. It was pretty fitting for the song too, ‘cause it was supposed to be a band anthem, so it was cool that it showed what it’s like on tour for us.

Keeping in that same vibe of it being super jolly, which I think most people don’t expect from metal, the video for “Bruane Brenn” is super fun with the kids playing the band.

Yeah!

Who came up with that, how did you guys think of that?

We just asked a friend of ours who makes movies in Norway — he’s a movie director — and he’s made a lot of good movies, and it’s just kind of his style. We just asked him to do a video and he just did his own thing with it and I thought it turned out awesome cause… [pauses]

The kid playing you is super into it!

Yeah! [laughs] Yeah it was great! And I dunno, I guess we kinda feel like kids when we’re playing music and it’s just fun to like, show a different side of the music. Even if our music can sometimes be dark, we’re also a bunch of guys who like to have fun.

I think that shows a lot in your videos.

Yeah it’s important to include that too.

I noticed that in a few videos there’s an owl, and the first time I saw it I thought it was a live owl that you were holding up and was about to fly off. I’m a really big fan of Twin Peaks (Erlend: Yeah!), and I actually wondered if it has anything to do with like, “The owls are not what they seem?” But what’s the deal with the owl?

Yeah I’m a fan of Twin Peaks too, but I don’t think that’s where it’s from. It’s kinda random, it came about when we needed a cover for a homemade demo collection we made back in 2007. Our bass player just came up with the idea of having an owl on the cover and then our guitarist Bjarte [Lund Rolland] made the cover. He found an owl online and just made the cover himself. And it just stuck with the band ever since, he’s kind of become a mascot.

Do you bring him on tour?

Yeah, actually! It’s starting to get pretty beat up, after a while, this owl, or the owl mask. Like a few days ago the tail fell off, and we had already fixed it a couple of times, so we’ll see how long it lasts. But I think maybe we’ll have to do something different on the next one because it’s just gonna fall apart.

Is the tail dead and gone now?

It’s in the box! So maybe we’ll reattach it.

Who’s the artist for the “Evig Vandrar” video?

Yeah, that’s another friend of ours, his name is Torjus [Førre Erfjord]. We just discovered him because he had a band in Stavanger where we live called Ultra Sheriff, and he made awesome animated videos for it, and then he started studying animation and stuff. So the video for “Blodtørst” was actually, I guess you could call it like a bachelor assignment for him. I think he aced the project with the video, it just turned out great I think. He made the “Blodtørst” video and it was so good, so we asked him again to do the video for “Evig Vandrar.” We have a couple of friends who make awesome videos, so we try to use those people as much as we can.

How’s touring with Gojira and Mastodon?

It’s awesome, yeah! We did this same tour before the summer, with the same line-up and it was a lot of different places. It was more on the West Coast and some different places in Canada, but yeah, it’s just a great tour. They asked us to do it again and it was just impossible to say no. It’s a great bunch of guys and there’s really good chemistry among the people on this tour, and it’s just great being on tour with two of the best live bands in the world. It’s really inspiring to be playing with bands that are that good. It makes us better too.

You think it has an impact on how you play?

Yeah, it’s just so inspiring. We try to step up our game when we’re with bands like that.

Plus maybe when you’re an opening and lesser known band and you’re opening for a band like Mastodon who has a huge following you wanna make sure to impress as much.

Yeah, but we’ve been pretty lucky on this tour and last. I dunno, we’re the first band playing but people still show up early and most of the room is pretty packed already when we go onstage, so that’s a great thing. ‘Cause normally it can be a pretty thankless job being the first band but that isn’t the case at all on this tour, so it’s been great.

I did hear that Brent [Hinds, of Mastodon] has been giving some guitar lessons on tour. Have you taken any classes with him, or maybe shared some riffs?

Yeah I don’t know how to play guitar, but maybe you should try one of those lessons one day [speaking to guitarist Bjarte Lund Rolland who has just walked in]. I think they do it every day and they get paid for it so I think it’s just a good side business for those guys. Both Bill and Brent are doing it.

I think that’s most of my questions…

That was easy!

Photo by Adam Reider. 

I’ve been fascinated by the Siege at Waco and the Branch Davidians since I was eight years old and watched the tragic events unfold nearly-live on CNN in 1993. Admittedly, I was not as aware of the grave implications of the raid, stand-off and siege back then as I am today. Waco, in my eyes, is a catastrophe so epic it deserves to stay fresh in the minds of any concerned citizen living in a modern democratic nation.

I think it would be too glib to call it an isolated event, and even if the threat from doomsday cults is generally a bit of a rarity, the lessons from the Waco Siege have broad implications, especially in regards to the responsibilities of modern media and the potential for State intervention therein.

At the end of the day you need to ask yourself the following question: can media and information be left in the hands of profit-driven corporations?

The United Nations recently decreed that full and free access to the Internet is a fundamental human right. And good timing too the Obama Administration has been using free access to the Internet as a key tool for advancing the democratic agenda in countless Middle Eastern nations yearning to break free from oppressive and tyrannical dictatorships. Apparently, the American government may have played a role in ensuring that social-networking and Internet access remained somewhat open during the Egyptian Revolution, despite Egyptian efforts to prevent this.

Now, we’re also quite aware that the Americans, much like our own impudent thug of a Prime Minister, have been using the Internet, social-networking tools etc. against their own people and have been waging a losing battle against Anonymous, Lulzsec and other revolutionary hacker collectives. Despite these half-hearted attempts at censorship, it seems that the world of privatized and corporate information may very well be on the way out, because democratized, free and reliable information is proving to be the new source of reliability for the youth of the First World.

Very simply put there is a large and growing segment of the population here in Canada, the US and various other nations across the globe that is no longer paying attention to a corporate media which has proven itself unreliable. This same segment seems to value information free from corporate/political spin and private ownership. I would hope that one day, as a result of this growing change in popular opinion, government will mandate that media and information can no longer be bought and sold. That humanity has a right to free, correct information, and that profit-driven journalism is anathema to the proper functioning of a liberal State.

Profit-driven, politically motivated media can be a killer, but we’re so used to having large corporations responsible for providing us with basic though vital information that we haven’t had much of an opportunity to consider what our options are. And if we have options today, they are options that essentially didn’t exist a mere eighteen years ago.

In 1993 a newly formed US government agency, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (attached to the Treasury Department and responsible for prosecuting in-country smuggling and stockpiling of the aforementioned controlled items) attempted to execute a search of the Davidian compound outside Waco, Texas. The Davidians were a non-mainstream splinter group loosely associated with the Seventh Day Adventist movement who took the Bible as the literal word of God.

Their leader was a charismatic thirty-four year old Apocalyptic named David Koresh. Using the Books of Revelation and Isaiah as his guide, he instructed his congregation on the nature and identity of the Seven Seals, the seven signs leading to Judgement Day.

This is not overly unique there have been apocalypse/judgement day cults since the early days of the messianic religions.   What made the Davidians a problem was their apparently massive collection of weapons and ammunition, not to mention the degree of self-sufficiency they had attained at their large agricultural compound.

And so, the ATF was called upon to execute a search of the compound and to take any illegal weapons and ammunition found there, possibly also arresting any key members of the organization. The Davidians regularly sold guns at gun shows and ran their own catalogue as a means to support themselves. It was widely believed that the Davidians had illegally modified rifles to fire on full automatic, and that these weapons might be sold to anti-government militias, or that the Davidians themselves were a potential threat to government, local or federal.

Much like we saw in 2008 when Barack Obama was elected, Bill Clinton’s election also saw a sudden rise in far-right organizations and anti-government militias. A few years prior to the Siege at Waco, the ATF and FBI attempted to serve a warrant at the Ruby Ridge compound of Randy Weaver, a white supremacist. The result was a shoot-out leaving one federal agent dead as well as Weaver’s wife and son.

The ATF was ‘attempting a comeback’ from the disastrous events at Ruby Ridge, and had spent a considerable amount of time and effort establishing a strong local media presence. As it happened, Koresh was identified as a possible serial sexual-abuser and pederast in an article entitled ‘Sinful Messiah’ in the local Waco newspaper about a week before the attempted search. Local media coverage was intense, and Koresh, an apocalyptic who believed the ultimate showdown between good and evil to be the climax of his existence, was now very directly threatened by the exact forces he and his people wanted nothing to do with mass media and big government.

When it came time to execute the search, the ATF was unaware that the Davidians had a) been tipped-off to the coming ‘raid’ by none other than Koresh’s brother-in-law (who himself had been inadvertently warned by a reporter) and b) had been preparing for a direct attack on their compound as a precursor to Armageddon, in which they would be fighting Evil incarnate. Mere minutes before the ATF arrived at the Mount Carmel compound, FBI mole Richard Rodriguez was outed by Koresh in front of his congregation and told to leave so as not to be killed. Rodriguez, with his insider perspective warned the ATF against attempting to enter the compound, sensing the bloodbath that was about to ensue.

What happened next is history. About 80 Davidians and four ATF agents were killed in the raid, standoff and siege. Timothy McVeigh would bomb a federal building in Oklahoma City two years later as a revenge attack and the anti-government, Christian Identity extremist movement was provided a further sense of justification, not to mention martyrs.

Events like Waco, Oklahoma City, Utoya and the myriad of other recent Far-Right terrorist attacks have a common denominator: profit-driven corporate media acting irresponsibly. And this will continue to be the common denominator. A slick, sick machine that manipulates people to commit acts of extreme violence and then viciously attacks those who would dare call them out for their transgressions. Look at the Fox News apologists who claim innocence and undue obsession with the Utoya killer’s purported Christianity to buy themselves a way out of dealing with the real issues. Look at the puppets that deny the merits of gun control for kickbacks from the NRA. Consider the ad revenue generated by comparing the teenage victims of a massacre to Nazis.

This is a machine worth raging against.

Images: prisonplanet.com, dubaidebates.com, eurocanadiannews.com, kennysideshow.blogspot.com, historycommons.org, holytaco.com

Did you know there’s a war going on? One you haven’t heard of? It’s not a terribly well organized war. Not too many people are dying though this is changing, fast.

It’s not very well reported the established media has been slow at coming to terms with what’s actually transpiring here. They are blinded by their own complacency, and this war is partly their responsibility. Yet they, much like the rest of society, continue to look elsewhere, continue to deny their, our, reality.

Over a year ago, the reality came home. The G8/G20 fiasco was perhaps the greatest single broad, collective violation of Canadian human and civil rights the nation has ever witnessed. It was claimed by the Police State that they were acting in their defence, that they were only doing their job. The buck was passed, but the video doesn’t lie. And more than a year later too few have been held accountable. After all, you’ve got to justify building the Police State, and when there aren’t enough terrorists around, you go after your own.

Across the Arctic, one of our circumpolar neighbours is reeling from what was initially reported and in my opinion misleadingly reported to be a terrorist attack. The News Corp owned Wall Street Journal went ahead with that headline today, despite the fact that the Norwegian authorities had already detained a self-described Christian fundamentalist yesterday. The truth is never convenient.

And we’ll certainly know the truth soon enough. The man responsible has been outed by the Norwegian national broadcaster. His home has been raided. His forum posts and electronic exchanges have been found and the picture is becoming very clear. A delusional man hyped-up on thoughts of the impending Islamization of Europe, decided to blow up a government building, and then (dressed as a cop mind you) go on a shooting rampage at a summer retreat sponsored by the governing Labour Party’s youth wing. At the time of writing there are 97 confirmed dead, most of whom are youth. Precious youth gunned down in the prime of their lives because of their political affiliation. Gunned down because preaching racial intolerance and reactionary nationalism sells newspapers, and pulls in advertising. Gunned down because it’s easier to kill your fellow man than to try and understand him. The son-of-a-bitch is apparently cooperating with the police. He is doubtless certain that upon explaining he was merely acting in the defence of his nation, he will be pardoned. Perhaps he thinks he is now a martyr for his cause. It’s sick isn’t it?

Down South, the once great American Republic is being held hostage by the same kind of people who encouraged Norwegian shooter Anders Behring Breivik online prior to his deadly spree shooting. The same kind of people who fuel a deception/propaganda machine, and ultimately, perhaps unwittingly, produce their own home-grown terrorists: Timothy McVeigh, David Koresh, Randy Weaver, William Pierce, George Lincoln Rockwell, Fred Phelps, Jared Lee Loughner, James Earl Ray all of these people led to believe that they could provide the solution to troubled times. It is a solution that comes, invariably, from the end of a gun.

When was the last time the Left produced a bomber?

When was the last time an anarchist assassinated someone?

Who was the last Progressive spree shooter?

I can’t think of anyone, but the aforementioned list (which is far from complete) resonates deeply in my mind. What’s sickening is that there this a collusion, possibly an international collusion of media, corporate interests and conservative political movements. The people involved push their flock to the edge of hysteria, and set them loose.

In other words, there is nothing stopping exactly this kind of tragedy from happening here in Canada. There is no preparation, no equipment, no police force, capable of preventing insane Fascists from acting ‘in defence of their nation’. Just like with Islamic terrorism, you can’t stop it. And the home grown threat is always invisible. Whether it’s someone pretending to be a cop or an actual cop, there’s nothing the State can do to stop dedicated killers, oppressors and those who believe the best change is executed with great vengeance and furious anger.

But perhaps the State can go after the media that feeds this insanity.

I would hope that’s what President Obama is thinking right now. In light of John Boehner’s refusal to accept a compromise to ensure the United States doesn’t go into default, it occurs to me that there is a pervading sense amongst nearly all Conservatives that cooperation is a kind of weakness. The child refused to cooperate, and left the meeting room in a huff with the issue unresolved. This is the Republican Party, holding a nation hostage for the sake of the elites. This is the same party, which through its lobby and media tentacles, has convinced countless ‘lone-wolves’ time and time again to wage their own personal war against whomever they disagree with. Boehner doesn’t need to put a gun in anyone’s hand the NRA’s already taken care of that. Boehner doesn’t need to tell people who to kill, Fox has already declared the Muslims/Anarchists/Liberals (etc, etc) are coming to get us. And Boehner doesn’t need to cooperate to make the American government work either. He’s gambling on an RNC landslide in 2012. He’s gambling on ‘lone-wolves’ to create new problems, new distractions.

Something must be done,

Because it doesn’t seem to be in anyone’s interest to protect the Left anymore.

We’re sitting ducks,

And involved in an undeclared and spontaneous war of attrition with a force that doesn’t seem to place much value on human life in the first place.

* Photos: carissacancel.tumblr.com, thestar.com, mississippiautoarms.com