VAMPSTER INTERVIEW

1. First of all thank you very much for your beautiful work "Gylfaginning" that really touched my soul. How are the reactions of the press and your fans so far? And what does this kind of feedback mean to you?
I will start by giving you thanks yourself for the kind words! All feedback is important to me as it allows me to gauge the overall reaction to the music. The fans seem to be enjoying it so far, and the press are giving the album some great reviews, so I’m happy about that. Even some friends of mine who don’t listen to metal at all have given it positive reactions, which is something I really appreciate.

2. You do not hide behind a pseudonym and on photos you appear to be the nice metalhead from next door instead of some weird posing metal fellow. Why do you not foster an extreme image and play music under your real name?
Because I began in 2004 under my real name, I didn’t feel the need to take up a pseudonym or anything like that. For some bands it works, but I personally feel it is just a bit of a cliché of this kind of music. I want my music to speak for itself, rather than relying on imagery and so on. I wouldn’t feel comfortable posing for photos, but at the same time I have learned that an atmospheric picture can be essential at times.

3. OAKENSHIELD is your one-man band, only the violin parts were taken over by a session musician, Gareth Evans. I think the violin parts are played really well, so how did you find Gareth? What is his musical background?
I actually went to both primary and high school with Gareth, so I have been hearing him play violin for many years. It was during the recording of Gylfaginning that I was stuck for a violin part (the violin tracks were originally going to be produced digitally) and I saw Gareth playing on stage at a local beer festival. The solution was right there, all we had to do was arrange the sessions and we were sorted. He’s a great player with a bright musical future ahead of him, and there is of course the possibility of him appearing on future Oakenshield releases.

4. All the rest of the music is created, sung and played by you. Why do you prefer to work alone? Where do you see the advantages of working by yourself? Are there any disadvantages when working like this in your opinion?
I prefer to work alone on Oakenshield simply because it is a manifestation of my deep interest in this subject – Norse mythology and Viking history. I enjoy playing in bands as well, and have been in several in the past. Working alone basically allows me to create something that is purely my own, which to me is a great advantage. The disadvantage is that you don’t have the input of other band members, but that is, in a way, one the reasons I began the solo project in the first place. I like a song to end up sounding exactly as it does in my mind.

5. You also produced "Glyfaginning" yourself. What influenced this decision? Weren't you tempted to go to some shiny big studio? And what equipment do you use for your recordings?
I have learned a lot about recording and producing in the last few years through music technology lessons at college, but mainly through experimenting with my own setup at home. The reason I didn’t go to a studio was because I simply couldn’t afford to, and also because I felt that I could produce a worthy sounding album from my own home. For recording I use a pretty basic 8 channel mixer, condenser mics and a DI box. Obviously the drums were produced digitally, but they were the most painstaking part as I had to separate each element of the kit onto its own track in the mix, which took many hours to do. As I mentioned, going to a professional studio is very expensive, and there was also a big time issue as I was working two jobs at the time of recording the album. I’m very happy with the result of the production though, and the critics seem to be also.

6. In 2004, you started out under the name NIFELHEL and released two demos with a harsher, less epic musical approach. Is NIFELHEL definitely a thing of the past or do you plan to release more music under this old banner? Is the Myspace-Site of NIFELHEL run by you and this sideproject thus still active?
Oakenshield is the ‘carry-on’, if you like, from Nifelhel. I decided to change the name of the project last year and a new musical approach just came around naturally as my influences and ideas changed course. There won’t be any more Nifelhel releases, but some of the old songs may be revived and reworked for Oakenshield material. The MySpace is run by me, but I don’t spend much time (if at all) on Nifelhel, all my focus is now on the current project.

7. On your OAKENSHIELD demo, you covered BATHORYs "Home Of Once Brave". Besides FALKENBACH, the influence of later BATHORY works can be felt on "Gylfaginning", I think. Was BATHORY your first meeting with black/viking metal? And what is your favorite BATHORY album?
My first experience of Viking metal was Amon Amarth when I was about fourteen or fifteen. I began listening to Bathory shortly after Amon Amarth, and was totally captured by Hammerheart. The album completely changed the way I listened to and wrote music, and also spurred my interest in the Vikings. Because of this, I would probably say Hammerheart is my favourite album, but it is very hard to choose. Each Bathory album has its own unique sound which is something very special.

8. Which band "brought" you to metal in general?
Back when I was ten or eleven, a friend began playing us bands he had heard of from his older brother; bands like Korn, Slipknot and System of a Down. Something about metal just excited me, and as I grew older I began to learn more about the genres and history of metal. When I was around thirteen I started to listen less to the more ‘childish’ acts and got heavily into bands like Metallica, Pantera and Megadeth. After that I listened more to thrash, death and black metal, bands such as At the Gates, Nile, Immortal, The Haunted, Burzum etc. I think I really started to get deeply into metal back when I discovered Metallica.

9. As West Yorkshire is not generally known for Viking Metal bands...are there any British gems of this genre that you can recommend?
Folk/Viking metal is really picking up in the UK, mainly due to bands like Turisas, Korpiklaani and Ensiferum becoming more popular in the metal media and touring. This has created a tidal wave of British acts playing this kind of music, which is a good thing but can become a little tedious at times. The main group that stands out for me is Forefather, who are of course well known in the genre already. There are also some good upcoming bands though such as Sheffield’s Northern Oak, Shieldwall from Essex, Ravenage from Hull, East Yorkshire, and Annwn, a Welsh folk metal outfit.

10. "Gylfaginning" conceptually covers the first book of the Prose Edda. What sparked your initial interest in Norse mythology?
I have always been deeply interested in history, and my interest in Viking history came about as I began listening to Viking metal. The deeper I got into the genre, the more I turned my interests towards the mythological side of things, and began reading the Eddas as well as some of the Icelandic sagas. I enjoy reading the tales of gods and heroes, and relating the old beliefs to the present day. There is just something about Norse mythology that appeals to me greatly.

11. As far as I can hear, you sing in English though. Why not old Norse? And since English literature has the treasure of "Beowulf": Would this lyrical material also interest you? Why / Why not?
There is a simple answer to your first point, which is that I cannot speak Old Norse. It is something I have wanted to learn for a very long time, as well as Old English, but have not managed to find some serious studying time. There is an Icelandic passage in the song “The Aesir”, which is sung chorally, but people may not have picked up on it as it is not written in the CD booklet. With regards to Beowulf, the original idea for the first Oakenshield release was to be a concept album based on Beowulf. I was somewhat stuck for musical inspiration with this though, and it never came through, although the main verse tune of “Ginnungagap” is based on a riff I wrote for the Beowulf concept. There is always the possibility of just one track based on Beowulf appearing on a future release.

12. Oftentimes the interest in Norse mythology is linked with a pagan / heathen belief. Is this also true for you? If so, how does heathenism influence your daily life?
I personally have no religious beliefs, I do not believe in any gods or God, and do not worship idols. However, as I mentioned in another recent interview, I have an admiration for and interest in many European pre-Christian belief systems. For me, though, mythology and history are purely interests of mine.

13. On your "band pictures", you are shown standing in the woods. What does nature mean to you and does it inspire you to write new music?
To me, nature means an image of the past. When you walk in the woods or over the hills it is like looking at an image of the world before concrete buildings and tarmac roads. Obviously nobody alive today has seen such a world, but when you can look across the horizon and see nothing but deep valleys, rolling hills and flowing rivers it is like being taken back in time, and its something that amazes me. The things that strike me most about the natural world are size and age. To think that our mountains have stood towering for millions of years, some of them completely untouched, and are but a fragment of the size of others under the ocean, is astounding.

14. I think the cover of "Gylfaginning" nicely captures the majestic atmosphere of the album. Who is responsible for the cover artwork? And how are the two birds on it to be interpreted?
The cover for the album was the hardest part of the production; because the album concept is so broad, I could not think of what I wanted on the cover. I spent months trying to think of ideas when I stumbled upon the work of Maciej Duczynski, a Polish photographer. The photograph featured on the Gylfaginning cover is one taken by Maciej in Norway, and it instantly struck me as a potential cover when I first laid my eyes on it. To me, the landscape captured summed up the setting of the album, which is of course Earth, and the dark clouds on the left hand side represented the ominous coming of the earth’s fate – Ragnarok. The ravens on the cover were added by Stefan, the artist who designed the CD artwork and the Oakenshield website. The meaning of these are to represent Odin’s birds, Hugin and Munin, and the show of conflict between them, which perfectly fits the idea of brother fighting brother at Ragnarok; a manifestation of man’s final fate.

15. I first heard of OAKENSHIELD when listening to the "Metalmessage IV" compilation. You have also linked this German webzine on your website. How did you get to work with Markus Eck initially?
Markus is a good friend of Olaf from Einheit and works closely with him and the label. Before I even signed to the label, Markus had offered me a place on Metal Message IV, which I of course eagerly accepted. Markus is a great promoter and adviser; he has genuinely backed Oakenshield over the last year and used his best efforts to really get the project off the ground.

16. Was this appearance on the compilation influential to you being signed to EINHEIT PRODUKTIONEN? Or how did your cooperation with this German label start?
As I mentioned before, I was already in contact with Einheit before Markus, which is how he initially heard Oakenshield. I got into contact with the label by simply sending a demo. I sent the demo to several labels around Europe, Olaf was quick to get in contact and after some months of negotiations, I was offered the contract which I signed in July 2007.

17. Are you satisfied with your label's work? Are there plans for future releases via EINHEIT PRODUKTIONEN?
I am more than satisfied with everything the label has done for me, the promotion has been fantastic and I have received help and advice every step of the way – obviously I have never done anything like this before so I have learned a lot about how the industry works and the importance of having the backing of a good label behind you.

18. As OAKENSHIELD is a one-man band: Do you have plans of hiring session musicians and play live, too? Or is this out of the question for you?
This is definitely not out of the question, but if there are live shows they will be in a few years’ time. For now, I do not have the time to play any gigs. For the next three years I will be studying, but after that, live shows could be a possibility.

19. Although "Gylfaginning" is still fresh and young: Have you begun working on its successor yet? And what are your plans for the future of OAKENSHIELD?
I have a clear idea for the theme of the next release already, but no full songs have been written yet. All the focus is obviously on Gylfaginning at the moment, but in the near future I will be putting fingers to frets and pen to paper...