Bergraven Interview Review
by Mark Hensch
Mark Hensch of www.thrashpit.com: Thank you very much for taking time out of your hectic schedule to answer my questions. Dodsvisioner is an incredible album, entirely worthy of the heaps of praise it is bound to reap in the coming months. I'm hoping that this interview will inspire even more people to check out your project and support Bergraven in the future. First off, what significance does the name Bergraven have?
Bergraven: The name is from the two words Berg (meaning "mountain" in Swedish) and Raven (which is the same in old Swedish as it is in English, not the bird but rather the colour). I see it as a metaphor for a black mountain of thoughts, concerning death, inside. It fits the overall thinking behind the band.
MH: Dodsvisioner translates from the Swedish into "Visions of Death." What does death mean to you and why is it so vital that you write music about it?
B: Death is the end of life as we, or at least I, know it. There are so much unanswered questions and there is a darkness connected to it that inspires me to write lyrics. I cannot see why people continue to ask me this question, is there anything more inspiring than the things we do not know everything about? Everyone is confronted with death at some point and it has a very interesting effect on people that I seem to feed on. I do not mean in the sense of "death has something for all" rather that I have thoughts and feelings about it and I write about it; why, I cannot tell.
MH: Many people find death to be a frightening, scary event. Do you feel the same? Why do you think humanity has always reacted to death like this?
B: Death can indeed be very frightening and truly horrible, but it can also be very beautiful. The thing that frightens most is the unknown or so I believe. The history of reactions to death is probably the same answer. We do not actually know more now about it than we did some 1,000 years ago. Things we do not know about scares us, and that has always been the case for humans.
MH: If you could die in any way, how would you go?
B: Never thought of it. Death comes when death wants to.
MH: The music on Dodsvisioner is utterly unique, being totally unlike any one thing I've ever heard. How do you manage to juggle so many aspects of a band by yourself and still maintain an identity?
B: I write music from the lyrics I write and it ends up this way. I do not want my music to sound like everybody else's, so I never use riffs that sounds like something else, or at least I try to. I have not heard all the music in the world unfortunately! I work a lot with my lyrics and music and they change all the time, the final result never sounding like it did in the beginning. This is the way I work and I cannot explain why.
MH: Seeing as you are Bergraven's main force and sole-member, will there ever be a chance to see Bergraven in the live setting?
B: I try to start rehearsals with some other people for this purpose. I want to do a tour after I have recorded the next album. I am looking for others to join in on Bergraven but I have not found any one yet that shares my visions of music 100%.
MH: Dodsvisioner's lyrics are sung entirely in your native tongue of Swedish, which I feel adds plenty of atmospheric tones to an already powerful album. Why did you choose this route as opposed to the increasingly popular English one?
B: Swedish is my mother tongue and it is the only language I can relate to 100%. I am not good at any other language so why try to write something that could be so easily misunderstood?
MH: Speaking of English-speaking peoples, Americans will have their copies of the album distributed by Hydra Head Records. How did the deal with Hydra Head come about and where do you hope it goes in the future?
B: I hope that I can continue to work with Hydra Head in one way or another since they have been amazing to work with so far. The deal was all thanks to Håkan at Total Holocaust records in Sweden who send a copy of the recording to Aaron Turner. They seemed to like it and wanted to release it and that is just fine with me. I do not want the music of Bergraven to be hard to find for those who might like it so it was overall a good deal.
MH: They say a musician is his own worst critic. What is the worst song on Dodsvisioner and why?
B: A very hard question since I do not think about the album as different songs actually. All passages and parts have their own function and they are needed to be where they are. I do not think there is any really bad part, I like my own music and I do not feel bad about that, I rearrange and change all the things I am not satisfied with before I record it so I do not have to hate it when it is released.
MH: I hear all manner of awesome bands in your sound…Enslaved, Bathory, Agalloch, Xasthur, Lurker of Chalice/Leviathan, Deathspell Omega, and even Pelican! What are some of the artists who have influenced you the most and why?
B: I cannot say that any band has influenced me more than any other, as I listen to a lot of music and I try to portray my feelings towards things I hear. I do not make songs out of a cool riff, I make them out of my lyrics and that could be a reason for me not sounding totally like any other band. I like bands and musicians that have a great deal of depth in their music and give me the right feelings---actually, it could be anything. I think I started making my own songs listening a lot to Sonic Youth many years ago---they proved to me that you did not have to use any normal song structures or tonal language to set up a strong feeling. Bands have done that before them but when I was a child and listened to them I did not know of any other like them, I think. They are still an amazing band.
MH: I think so many people have enjoyed this album so far as it is very hard to classify musically. Do you see yourself as being alone in the world or are you tied down to some preexisting genre? What would you call your music if you had to describe it?
B: I just make dark music and people who "enjoy" darkness will hopefully like it. Some tend to say that it is black metal but I will not say that because it is not Satanic and that is the essence of black metal I think. I am not pro-evil or pro-anything at all for that matter, this is purely feeling. Since I use the instruments and sometimes the sound of metal you might want to add metal in the dark music, so I usually stick with dark metal. I will use more clean guitars in the future and hopefully more ambient sounds so I guess you will end up call it a lot of things before I die haha! I does not matter to me what someone calls it.
MH: As a European able to view things a bit more objectively than us over here, how do you see America? In my opinion we aren't doing very well for our image in the rest of the world, but perhaps I'm wrong…
B: I have no opinions about America actually or any other country for that manner. I am too busy about myself trying to get along. America is the land of the free and the land of possibilities isn't it? That sure sounds nice to me.
MH: There is something inherently hypnotic about your music. What do you think the role of the subconscious is, and how do you use it to further your agenda?
B: I think the subconscious is very present in our lives; it makes us do things and act honest. I can be really out of this world when I work with Bergraven (never doing drugs though), and I can get really hypnotized by the sounds I make and reading the lyrics and even just coming up with the ideas. When in this stage, I might never hear the phone or anything else! The music I make comes from my inner soul but I can not tell if it is the normal me or if it is my subconscious making it for me.
MH: The biggest question many have about death is the afterlife. Are you a religious person, subscribing to any particular notion of salvation, or do you perhaps think that death is the only real peace?
B: I am not a religious person by definition, I believe in certain things but that could not be translated into being a religious person. Death is the unknown and I do not know anything about the unknown. Of course I can speculate and relate to things I have gone through, but you make up your own salvation and believe in it until something else is proven. I will never preach for anything or try to convince anyone with anything concerning this. I have reason to believe in an afterlife or a spiritual world but what is the point of preaching that to others?
MH: You had a guest vocalist on Dodsvisioner. How did that come about and what can you tell the uninformed about the bands he plays in?
B: Mannevond from Koldbrann and Nettlecarrier (I think he plays the bass guitar in Urgehal too) is a really good vocalist. His vocals for the song "Inkvisitor Renegat" from Koldbrann's first album are truly amazing. I wanted someone else to do the vocals for that song since it is not personally mine. We talked a lot over the internet and I offered him the chance to sing and he said yes. He made the song really harsh and that fits perfectly with the lyrics, which he rewrote in Norwegian.
MH: Last question---what lies in the future for Bergraven? I've heard you're already working on the next album, so what can you tell all of us out in cyberspace about it?
B: The new album will be more dynamic and I think more of everything. It is more complicated in guitar playing and will have more focus on the bass guitar. I will experiment with different vocal styles too. The working title is Asketens enda prydnad ("The sole adornment of the ascetic") but that is not decided yet. No plans have been made either when it will be recorded. After that I hope to go on tour but no one has offered me that yet so I will carry in making my dark lyrics and music.
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