A man of many projects and of a dual vocal orb that is sonorous and scathing, Swedish extreme metal vocalist Vintersorg (real name: Andreas Hedlund) is enjoying yet another productive year in 2012. Borknagar, his "main" act, released the inspired Urd this spring to strong reviews, aided by the re-introduction of bassist/vocalist Vortex, who has teamed with Mr. V for what arguably could be metal's top vocal tandem. Not to be outdone, Vintersorg (the band) released their seventh album Orkan this summer, another collection of starry, folk-infused progressive metal that bears Mr. V's all-Swedish vocal stamp. Suffice it say, the man could do a full-length with just yodeling and it would be worth listening to.
The Vintersorg journey has been a winding one, punctuated with adventurous side bands (see: Cronian, Fission, and Waterclime) and must-have releases, including 2001's brilliant Cosmic Genesis and its 2002 follow-up, Visions from the Spiral Generator. Through it all, the singer has come to embody the term "progressive," never remaining static, and always on the hunt for new territories in which to explore. Here in the now, though, Orkan, Borknagar, and a full slate of projects are the focus for the ever-kind Swede, who was kind enough to catch up with Blistering for a chat...
Blistering.com: This is yet another busy year for you, first with the new Borknagar and now Orkan. Are you enjoying the ride and good press?
Mr. V: Yeah, it’s a busy year but I feel that I have so much musical inspiration and visions that it doesn’t really feel busy. We’re not doing that many shows either which of course, gives us more time in the studio. I think that Orkan is liked by the most...both media and fans, and we’re very pleased with how it turned out ourselves. So, we’re enjoying the trip and have more music loaded inside us that just need to get out.
Blistering.com: What has brought about this spurt of productivity, especially from the Vintersorg side?
Mr. V: It’s about timing mostly. Some years the focus has been on our other bands and not only Vintersorg, so now some of the other musical outfits has been in a “slumber” for a year or so, so it was room for a new Vintersorg album. And the Borknagar album just happened at the same period and my role there is bit different, mainly focusing on vocals so it doesn’t take all of the 24 hours a day. And my interest in life is narrowed down to family, music and work. Nature is also a huge interest, but I have incorporated my nature interest in my musical work.
Blistering.com: The lyrical focus of your albums appears to have drifted away from the scientific/mathematical aspect to nature. What has made you explore this side more?
Mr. V: Everything is nature, science in all its forms is a way to explore nature and how it’s constructed and how we can learn from those discoveries. But I was inspired to write about the more “earthly” side of nature and not that much about the cosmic aspects, as some of the previous albums has a stronger bond to. Still, I couldn’t resist including some of that as well but it bears a more romantic approach than scientific. This is also the second album in a sequence of four albums where every album is linked to the theme of the “four elements.” The last album was earth and this is air.
Blistering.com: This is the third album in a row with predominantly Swedish lyrics. Are you finding new and exciting ways in which to fit the language to your voice? Is there a language you prefer?
Mr. V: Well, I wrote English lyrics for Vintersorg some years ago but all my other bands/projects are using the English language as well. So, after a while I missed the Swedish language in my musical journeys which lead to that I tried out some Swedish again and it felt very good. Now I have Swedish in Vintersorg but in the other bands we use English…so now I have two languages to explore. But that doesn’t mean that I’ve closed the door to write in English again for Vintersorg, we’ll see where inspiration take us.
Blistering.com: To that point, your voice if anything, has held up rather well over the years. What can you attribute that to?
Mr. V: I’ve always used my voice in the music I’ve been playing, from the beginning mostly with the growling style but also with an interest in the more “clear” vocal area. It took me some years to find my style/region/range/ etc…but since then, I can’t really imagine to stop doing vocals. I’m not trained professionally and I know that I’m not using the right technique, but as long as it turns out the way I want, I don’t think I need to learn it by the book. Emotions are the essence of music from my point of view and I do it by heart and feeling. I’ll just keep singing the way I do and I think with every album I find new nuances in my own voice.
Blistering.com: Cosmic Genesis is widely considered the album that helped establish your name on a global level. What sort of recollections do you have from that time period?
Mr. V: It was a crossroad where we needed to find a new path as I felt that the two previous albums became very alike. I needed a different expression and a fresh musical horizon to feel inspired to go forward with the band. So, it was time to actually do something a bit different and the change to English opened a new door and boosted my musical energy. I also became interest in having a bit of more twist and turns incorporated in the music.
Blistering.com: At time of its (Cosmic Genesis) recording, did you have any idea what it would do for your career?
Mr. V: No, I never think in patterns like that, every album has its causes and its course and we just try to write and record adventurous and interesting music and don’t really think of what the current album is going to take us. I still like that album as it was kind of a paradigm shift in the Vintersorg camp.
Blistering.com: You had a stretch for a few albums where you employed some rather high-profile guests, but the last several Vintersorg albums have been just you and Mattias [Marklund, guitars]. Do you think you'll ever bring in outside members to work on a Vintersorg album again?
Mr. V: On the new album we have a guest appearance by female vocalist on one track. About the mentioned session members: it was awesome and they really contributed to the albums with their skills to make it what they are. I don’t know if we’ll have other session members in the future, but we’ll stick to a two-piece band on a permanent basis. We know each other so well and have been doing this for so many years.
Blistering.com: Is there anyone you're itching to work with outside of Vintersorg and/or Borknagar?
Mr. V: There’s a lot of people that would be interesting to work with and especially from the prog/symphonic world of the 70’s. I’m just a big sucker for that music style as it’s so progressive in its real sense.
Blistering.com: For you, is it hard to believe that it's been over 10 years since you joined Borknagar? It feels like yesterday, doesn't it?
Mr. V: Yes, it feels just for some years ago. But a lot of things have happened during these 10 years and I have very positive memories. We now just continue with what we did on Urd and I think that we many more albums in us.
Blistering.com: Back when you first joined Borknagar and Vintersorg was starting to take off, you became a teacher (correct me if I'm wrong). How are you managing both your regular job schedule and the time you devote to both bands?
Mr. V: Yes, I’m a teacher. I work full time actually and it can be a bit tricky to make it all work out as I also have a family with two kids. Still, my interests are in the three mentioned areas: family, work, music, so somehow it all ends up OK. Time is my worst enemy, though.
Blistering.com: Are there any other projects you're working on? It's been a few years since the last Fission and Cronian album(s), you know...
Mr. V: Recording mode for Fission, Cronian, Gravisphere and Waterclime…did I mention that we already have started to work on the next Vintersorg album?
Blistering.com: Finally, what's on the agenda for the rest of 2012?
Mr. V: As you all read the question above you’ll know where I’ll be…in the studio!