“I do not have any ambition to create more useless metal music”. An interview with Kvohst from HEXVESSEL
by Gabriel Szünder
Kvohst played in groundbreaking black metal bands like DODHEIMSGARD and CODE.
Under the name of HEXVESSEL, Kvohst released this year an album called Dawnbearer, that could be considered neo-folk, psychedelic-folk, or no-folk-at-all. In August, Kvohst will be playing with HEXVESSEL at the Dark Bombastic Evening 3 festival. All I could do in this situation was to annoy Kvohst a bit with my questions.
Cartea de Nisip[i] is a metal site, so I will start by asking why does a black metal musician record a neo-folk – or psychedelic folk – album like Dawnbearer?
“I am not a black metal musician. I have never made music in a black metal style. I always made HEXVESSEL music when I sat down with a guitar. I have sung in a couple of metal bands, but the music was not mine. I just helped those bands like DODHEIMSGARD and CODE to make their riffs into songs. I took some riffs and arranged them with vocal melodies and lyrics that turned them into songs. I think of myself as a songwriter who has performed with a couple of bands in the metal style, and now I am releasing my own music, which to me is much more interesting than anything I have been involved with before.”
Does that mean that your metal years are over?
“I have been into heavy metal since I was young and have dedicated a lot of years of sweat and blood to the music and the worship of that music. I do not have any ambition to create more useless metal music, as I think that most of the best stuff comes from before the 90s, and so I make my own form of music with HEXVESSEL. I enjoyed my time with the bands I was in, but I don’t think what I did there with them was anything that challenged the classics that I grew up worshipping. I don’t really think of what I do now as folk strictly speaking but people need labels and directions and they need their music to have instructions. I am seeking out those who don’t walk the constructed lines and fake world of musical rules. I think what I do now is honest and straight from the heart.”
It seems to me that lately a lot of black metal musicians are looking for more “basic” forms of music. Shagrath for example has CHROME DIVISION, King played in SAHG etc. Do you see this as a search for some lost musical roots? I know you can’t speak for other people, I’m just curious about your opinion as an “insider”.
“I have no idea about those people or their music. I think we’re a million miles away from each other when it comes to what we’re striving for. I would consider 90% of those kind of <<popular black metal musicians>> and their pathetic efforts as totally worthless when it comes to artistic expression. There are a lot of extremely talented individuals in the Norwegian scene who have made music outside the realms of metal – such as Czral with VIRUS and Garm with ULVER, but their music is not base or easy-access – it requires a certain amount of understanding. The bands you mention are at best rather dull.”
So it’s something altogether different for you.
“I never lost my roots when it came to music. I have just been working on HEXVESSEL through the years and learning about how to record and write songs – and I never felt a rush to release this as a side-project or an outlet or anything like that. I wanted to wait and do things properly and leave everything else behind before I could give HEXVESSEL my all. For me it’s not about seeking a basic form of music or trying something out or experimenting. I did my experimenting within metal. HEXVESSEL is who I am and what I always stood for. I don’t expect people in the metal scene to give two shits about what I am doing and that’s really just ok with me. My musical roots have been everything from Pop to Jazz to Classical to Folk to Rock – and I never abandoned them. I’ve been wearing my Paul Simon shirt on tour with CODE and proudly so. People who lose sight of who they are, are just hiding. I don’t care if you don’t like what I do, but I would die for it – and I don’t know enough musicians or people into music who would die for what they do. Most of those black metal rock stars are just cashing in, playing the role, looking to get laid and attention seeking. They’re posers and their posing works – they get paid for their worthless crap, people go to their shows and buy the albums.”
Wimps and posers leave the hall…
“No, I think that it’s fine, because what they do is circus – it’s entertainment and not art. I am an outsider when it comes to the <<scene>> and I never wanted to be part of anything like that – especially with the people you reference. I have always been someone who has created on the fringe and sought to change up the status quo when it comes to what I have done in black metal. I have done enough experimenting within that genre for a lifetime.”
You said in some interviews that HEXVESSEL is a very personal project of yours. Does this mean that you had no expectations whatsoever concerning the success of the debut album? Do you think Dawnbearer was well received?
“About the project being personal, I was talking about the music and my relation to it. That doesn’t mean I didn’t think people would like it. What’s personal for me will stay mine if I don’t think people would get into it. I wouldn’t have shared this music if I didn’t think there was something worthwhile in it and something people can relate to.
HEXVESSEL has been gotten the best reviews and had the best sales of any band I have been in. So yeah, I think it was well received.”
In some internet review somebody called Dawnbearer a spiritual rite of passage. Is it?
“Yes. In two ways. Mine and yours. You have to listen and then you will experience it.”
Well, perhaps not mine, but I get your point. As far as I know, Preacher’s Orchard was the first song you wrote for HEXVESSEL. Why was it not included on the debut album?
“I released it on a compilation. It’s a basic song that I wrote when I was young. Not really a song I considered to be worth including on the album. The album is an entire work and not a collection. It’s an album to be listened to from beginning to end and I made it that way – so that people with short spans of attention should go elsewhere to find their easy fix. I enjoy albums as journeys. If people want Preacher’s Orchard then they can find it on the excellent compilation that it was released on. It’s still available from Paradigms Records. I don’t believe in releasing things twice. That’s an anomaly in black metal music but it’s very common in other forms of music – musicians release individual tracks or 7” singles that do not appear on albums. I don’t see the problem with it and I think it’s great to have things to discover from a band. That particular song is not the strongest thing I have written but it’s great that I still get asked about it – it means that people enjoyed it in some way and perhaps they will be lead deeper into the evolving world of HEXVESSEL ‘s music.”
There are two interesting songs on Dawnbearer. More than two, actually, but I want to ask you about two of them. The Death Knell Tolls has a country feeling. Do you like country music?
“The song has nothing in common with country music. <<A country feeling>> is a broad term too, but I am guessing you’re lost up a creek without a map on this one?! Country music is a broad genre. I enjoy some artists work that some people would put in the country music pigeon hole, yes. But they were not an inspiration for this music – not at all. You don’t really have a grasp on the inspirations for this track, so it’s impossible for me to discuss the rather irrelevant subject of country music. I worked with Krügers Medbragte on the instrumentation for the music. You should check them out.”
By country I certainly didn’t mean Garth Brooks. But you’re right, let’s drop it. You also recorded a cover version of a Paul Simon classic. I for one don’t really like It sounds to me more like the deconstruction of the original. Why did you record Diamonds on the soles of her shoes and why this way?
“It’s not a deconstruction of the original. It’s my interpretation. You’re entitled to dislike it, and I probably can understand if you’re coming from the metal scene. If not and you prefer the original then it’s to be understood too. I too prefer the original, of course, but if you didn’t like that then there’s not much to discuss. I would say though that if you don’t enjoy an aspect of this particular track then you have misunderstood something about where I am coming from with my music. The choice to include it was because it’s a beautiful rendition and offers something outside the original to those who would understand it. It has a place in the story of the album and so to get it then you have to get with it.”
It has nothing to do with me coming from the metal scene. I think you are suffocating the song with the weight of your ego. Can you tell me something about your second album?
“It will be further down the path of the 60s and 70s acid-rock, proto-metal and progressive folk vibe. There will be more dynamics to the music as we switch between acoustic and electric instruments. People will get a taste of this from our live show, as we play two new songs. I have been releasing compilations of my influences with all the details on the Facebook page. If you have checked those out then you would know what to expect of the new album. It will be recognizable as my music but with some differences and other elements to expand minds and break curses.”
As far as you can tell, what kind of people are listening to HEXVESSEL’s music?
“Open-minded people. I like them. They seem to be my kind of characters. I hope that what I am doing can help people to get turned on to real music. I interact with fans a lot – I prefer to think of them as friends. I don’t really believe in the relevance of interviews like this when people can ask me any question they want on Facebook and I will reply. In that way, most music media is being made redundant by the social media channels for bands – and I think that’s a good thing.”
Do you look forward to sharing the stage with ROME at the Dark Bombastic Evening 3 festival?
“I don’t know that band’s music. I look forward to experiencing all the bands live at the festival. We’re very humbled to play there. Hails to ROME and DBE3 – we’ll see you all soon!”
In an old Jane Fonda movie called Agnes Of God a nun asks the character played by Fonda „What the hell has the Catholic Church done to hurt you?”. I will ask you the same thing: what the hell has the Catholic Church done to hurt you that now you perform rituals incorporating human blood?
“I don’t perform rituals including human blood in reference to the Catholic Church. I think you’re dreaming!”
We dream different dreams, I’m sure. Thank you for the interview!
“It was an interesting experience. Thank you.”