Oystein Brun Of Borknagar In Nature
Borknagar is one of the premier Norway bands that blend metal with traditional folk elements. For over fifteen years, Borknagar has continued to release album after album of highly-rated music, and they are soon to release their tenth entitiled "Urd." I had a chance to talk to mastermind Oystein Brun about "Urd," it's emphasis on nature, and the mythology it derives from.
Buick McKane: How are you doing?
Øystein Brun: Very good, and how are you?
Buick: I’m very good also, thank you. So you have an album coming out soon called “Urd,” and you’ve been streaming the song “Roots” for a while now. How has the reaction been from your fans?
Øystein: Oh, it’s been great. We’re very satisfied with the response. And it’s been getting good reviews too.
Buick: I really love the cover art and you said previously that it fit with the core of the band. How does it do that?
Øystein: It’s very natural look, I think. It goes along with the theme and mood of the album and stuff like that. So I think it, kind of, had a wooden feeling of the artwork; it’s a wood carving. It’s actually from some old statue from the Viking age of Norway. It’s really kind of famous, I think. So, yeah, the whole color, it’s just seems very natural for the album and the feeling of the album, I would say. I think it looks great. My main point is how the color captures the mood of the album; you know, the core of the band. So yeah, I think it’s perfect.
Buick: Great. And what does the title mean?
Øystein: It’s kind of a long story. It’s basically Urd is something that deals in the past of mankind and stuff. Urd is the name of one of the Norns in mythology which decides the lifeline of mankind. It’s kind of mystical and kind of interesting, the idea behind it. You have the second Norn which is Verdandi, he represents the power of the present, and then you have Skuld who represents the future. And these three Norns are the deciders of the life of mankind, and it’s just terrific concept. I use it as an analogy to describe how man’s past has affected the present. The lyrics have a more philosophical approach to it. There’s lot of things that you can read between the lines, so to speak, in the lyrics. And there’s a lot of philosophic things, I mean…there’s a lot of philosophical ideas and stuff; it’s not all this looking up to the sky and looking at the stars and cosmos. But what I wanted to do with “Urd,” with the theme and concept behind it was I wanted to turn my whole head back to the Earth, the micro cosmos. I don’t want to go National Geographic on you, but nature is human a bit more; where did we come from, from what did we spawn, the core of existence. So the whole concept behind “Urd” is about the very beginning of time. It’s kind of complex, but it covers very much the lyrical content and ideas behind the album. And it also gives a very good framework, I think, to the expression of the album. And, as I said before, the main point, main headline, of the album is looking into the past. So that’s the complexity of it.
Buick: Do you get any of your lyrical material from the climate change that’s going on?
Øystein: Of course. I mean, nature is a big part of my life. I’ve always been very fond of it being pure. When I was young, I’ve gone off and played my backyard, my playground, was basically the trees and forest. So I have a relationship to nature, of course. I’m not an activist, of course, it’s not a political thing, it’s not a religious thing. For me it’s like trying to learn by nature rather than just learn about nature. People still have a connection to nature, it’s just that people are just watching movies and documentaries on BBC or whatever, but it’s something very different, actually being in nature, feel nature, and actually learning by nature. I feel like just a few hours walking in nature or hiking to the top of a mountain gives you a very special feeling and it’s also emotional. You feel so little, yet you feel very strong because you climbed the top of a mountain of the highest mountains. For example, it’s like the storms are coming or the bad weather is coming, “Okay, I just have to get out now because I will die.” It’s a dreading fear of humans to actually die. Beauty of nature is always something I have professed in my music; not really preaching, but it’s more trying to control my feelings, my thoughts, my ideas about the whole thing. Of course, seeing all of those things happening around the globe, pollution and all this stuff, it’s not a good thing. That’s more, like, political. But after all that, I want to show people the beauty of nature, I want to show people the importance of nature which I think is important for all people.
Buick: Maybe once people see the beauty, they’ll get into the politics to try and save it from the politicians.
Øystein: Yeah, maybe. But I think the time of politicians is dying. To me it seems like its broken and not working. People have to change their attitude towards nature. It’s about respecting nature and realizing that you’re actually a part of nature and dependant on nature. And if you fuck up, you’re going to fuck up the situation for yourself as well. So we are living in the midst of a lie. We think we’re okay when there are large parts of the world in which people are living poorly. We’re still kind of living a false existence. Norway has changed; there’s no snow, there’s just rain. Even the old people here say there is something happening, this is not normal. So it’s kind of worrying, but people have to change their minds and learn something. We don’t profess of preach, but try to show the beauty and grandeur of nature.
Buick: Absolutely. This album is also different because your bassist ICS Vortex is back for almost a year now. How did his presence contribute to the album?
Øystein: There’s the musical side of it and there’s also the personal side of it. He’s always been a good friend of the band during the last ten, twelve, eleven years. He had been doing Arcturus and we had been doing our own thing. So it feels good to actually start working with him again as a musician. And, of course, he’s an amazing musician; he’s most famous for his vocals, but he’s also famous for, you know, his whole bass work. And also, of course, and not least, the bass tracks that are down on the new album is amazing, I think. So I think he pushed us in a very, very good way. What can I say? He just fits best somehow. We’ve had Tyr in this band for the last ten years, but, anyway it kind of feels better with him and it feels so good to have him back. He also helped pick the name for the album. We usually choose the name last when making an album. For me, the album title is important because it frames so many ideas and so many different lyrics and gets back to the core of the band. So, anyway, that’s he made his mark on the album.
Buick: Great. Last year, you also parted ways with your drummer and hired Baard Kolstad. How has he been working out?
Øystein: Great so far. He’s a great drummer. I will say, he is probably one of the best. He’s so talented. He’s, like, twenty-two and he’s just playing…oh, man, it sounds like he’s been playing drums for forty years. So he’s just fantastic. David Kincade started work on the album, of course, but Baard has done an amazing job; he was in a school for drummers so he’s doing this seriously. So I’m really, really looking forward to doing another album with him.
Buick: Do y’all have any tour plans yet?
Øystein: Well, I would like to say yes, but we don’t really have tour plans. We have jobs and we’re fathers. It’s a time issue, it’s a problem. We are working on plans and we are definitely trying to do something in the not-too-distant future. But I can’t promise I’ll tour for two years, but we will do something in the U.S. We’ll just have to see.
Buick: Is there anything else you would like to say?
Øystein: Check out the album and hopefully some people in the U.S. will like it. Thanks for the support from all the fans. We are getting a lot of good feedback on the album so we are really happy and satisfied with it.
Emily is an avid supporter of the New Orleans scene, often filming shows and conducting interviews with local bands to help promote their music. She also runs her own site dedicated to the New Orleans scene, Crescent City Chaos.
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