1349 Interview with Ravn
1349 have been at the forefront of traditional Norwegian black metal for quite some time. They understand themselves as the keepers of the true black metal sound and the grimness and aggression of their music is certainly a proof of that. I had a chance to talk with 1349’s front man Ravn about their upcoming Australian tour and their music in general.
Marc: Your latest album ‘Massive Cauldron of Chaos’ is out now almost 18 months. With that distance to the release of the album and having played the material live, what are your thoughts about the album? How does the material work live?
Ravn: At Hellfest we played the whole album live back to back. So we actually know how the whole album works live. It works really, really well. All songs are live material. It’s the first album we have played all songs from live. We had the tenth anniversary of our third album ‘Hellfire’ so we played that album back to back as well. It was actually the first time we played all songs. There was one song we hadn’t played live and that is true for all of our albums. I can definitely say that ‘Massive Cauldron of Chaos’ is a very suitable live album. All songs work really well and were well received by the crowd. Even when we tour and we play old material and new material, even when we just released a single first, and we start playing a new song before the album came out, we start to see the reaction and notice that this is a song the audience really likes.
Marc: Is there already a new album planned?
Ravn: There are always plans. We never stop the process of developing, it’s a continuing process. It has various stages. Right now we are mainly in touring mode. There are some ideas for new material but we haven’t started working together on these new ideas. When we have time to come together we start that process.
‘What was unique about the Norwegian black metal scene was that all bands had their own sound and their own identity.’
Marc: How do you work together as a band when writing songs?
Ravn: There is no strict process. It’s whatever it takes. Sometimes we record a sketch of a new idea so that everyone can listen to it when we come together. Then the whole thing can be completely re-arranged. Maybe we cut out some parts or so. Other songs are just kept the way they are. It just depends how well they work when we come together. One thing is that we just have the guitars, which is mainly how songs sound. Then you add drums, bass and vocals on it. Then you feel how the song works. There is never a blueprint how we work. The focus is always to do what is needed for the individual song. They are all treated individually.
Marc: What are actually the most important features of 1349’s sound and how do these features relate to the history of Norwegian black metal?
Ravn: What was unique about the Norwegian black metal scene and what makes it stand out form a lot of other genres, was that all bands had their own sound and their own identity. So you could immediately hear that it was Burzum, or it was Emperor or it was Mayhem. They all had their individual sound. That’s what I am so proud of that 1349 has accomplished that as well. Regardless of the songs and the album you can immediately hear that this is 1349 and that the identity comes out basically through the songs and the way that they are performed. That is a strength that I think is actually needed and other genres could have benefited from. A lot of death metal bands don’t have such a strong identity. On the other hand, you can ask: ‘Does it really need to have that identity?’ Definitely the sound of 1349 is something we are aware of. It’s a huge part of Norwegian black metal. So it was a very conscious decision from us.
‘1349 was formed with a very specific goal.’
Marc: Would you agree with the statement that a quality band, not depending on the genre, most of the times has an individual sound?
Ravn: I would definitely say that if a band has other bands trying to recreating their sound, basically copying them, I guess you could say, and I agree with you on that one, this is a sign of success.
Marc: The other part of your success is that you have a very stable line-up? What is your secret?
Ravn: It’s hard to explain. 1349 was formed with a very specific goal. 1349 is not a band that was formed by friends that came together and wanted to play music to have fun. 1349 is a band that I formed in the second half of the 90s when black metal had taken a turn that I felt was drifting away from the core what I felt of black metal. When black metal first came out I immediately became a big fan. I felt that this was the kind of metal, the sound that I was looking for and even had my own ideas about. The extremity, the coldness and the grimness in the music. That was also the reason why I was also a huge fan of Slayer because of the aggression and extremity of the music. But when I heard black metal – it was Burzum that I first heard – it added a new layer to the whole thing. I was immediately a fan of black metal. After many years the whole symphonic era of black metal took over and it became overused. It had a huge commercial impact. I don’t say that the commercial impact is a bad thing but black metal started to sound in my ears like all the rawness and the grimness had gone. It sounded more like a gothic pop band with harsh vocals. I’m not singling out any particular bands. There were a lot of bands at the end of the 90s that played that style but the sound was completely gone. All the good features that made out Norwegian black metal were gone. Instead of complaining about it I felt the urgent need to do something about it so I formed 1349. I found people who shared my view. That’s why 1349 was formed. We were visionaries that wanted to keep the old sound alive and bring it back. From there on we took a step back and formed our own band. 1349 wouldn’t have been formed if it wasn’t for the change in style. We just wanted to take care of what we think is the right sound of true Norwegian black metal. I think that is the reason why the line-up is pretty stable. We all feel that we are here to do a job basically, to cherish the heritage. It’s not so much about friendship and making money. If you wanted to make money metal in general is the wrong business to be in. I feel that this reason can be some of the explanation why the line-up has been quite stable.
‘We make music and we label our music black metal. What we bring into it is basically something that is without boundaries.’
Marc: Where do you get your inspiration from these days?
Ravn: We are four very different individuals. We also have a taste in music that spans throughout all genres. Some of us are into Jazz and Techno and of course Metal. There is no specific boundary to the genres we listen to. We are not strictly metal people when it comes to taste in music. There is no specific space where I draw inspiration from. Inspiration can come from different genres. What is important to me and what is my anchor point in music for me is that the music I listen to, has darker feeling and a darker vision and that it comes from the heart. For instance, Nick Cave would be an artist I listen to from outside the metal scene. Those are the types of music I listen to. We make music and we label our music black metal. What we bring into it is basically something that is without boundaries.
Marc: The upcoming tour in Australia is your first down under. What are your thoughts and what can the fans expect?
Ravn: We will do our best as we always do. We will come and bring our aural hellfire as we label our music to your shores. I look very much forward to finally meet the Australian fans. It’s something that we wanted to do for many years. I remember we tried to make something happen back in 2004. It takes a lot of money when it comes to travel and it is not easily organised. It’s been long overdue. I hope people look forward to it as much as we do. Jointly we can benefit from our aural hellfire. I really look forward to it. Not to the flight though. But when you are on stage these things don’t matter at all. It’s all about that hour on stage. We just finished in the US and we also did Mexico. That was a lot of travelling, driving through the desert. I like to compare it to going into a Sunday mode. You try to relax and do as little as possible. You just focus on the job at hand. It’s a mind job basically. When you’re on stage you get into primal mode. It’s all about feeling the music. You don’t think, you just feel. That is basically how it works.