Erlend Hjelvik is frontman for the Norwegian blackened punks Kvelertak, or at least that’s the subgenre we’re going with this week, as they’re one of metal’s most original properties, and Erlend’s life is just as fascinating. Coming from one of the planet’s most virile music scene, and being one of its most instantly recognisable figureheads, we sat down to pick his brain.
“I don’t approve of organised religion in general. Christianity has been a big thing in Norway for a while now; the teachers in school standing up and reading huge passages from the Bible, and the kids having to decipher what it all means. I never cared for that, I am an atheist. I think you are seeing it have less of an impact in Norway these days, it’s becoming a lot more secular now. Which I think is a good thing.”
“I think we have it pretty comfortable in Norway, so I think that black metal has come as a reaction to that. It’s a reaction against our nice society, mixed with the woods! Politically I sit pretty far in the middle. There is no party that I want to vote for because I don’t feel that any political party agrees with me fully. It’s weird that people would come into a party and just agree with everything that party says – the truth always sits somewhere in the middle of very extreme opinions. Who is saying that in politics? It’s so divided. It just seems more like one-upmanship rather than an actual opinion.”
“For me, the first thing I ever got into was The Prodigy – Music For The Jilted Generation and The Fat Of The Land – then I got into Metallica and Slipknot, and after that bands like Dimmu Borgir and Cradle Of Filth came along. It was just a natural progression for me to explore this. I wouldn’t give The Prodigy much credit though, I just listened to metal when we started the band – we’d all play World Of Warcraft in our basement and alternate between metal and power-pop. I think that Kvelertak is just all of us managing to find a middle ground from all of that music, it just melted together.”
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“Norwegian festivals, we have shit loads of them, with all kinds of different music. From hip-hop to indie music, they mix everything in together, and we play most of those festivals too, so we’re used to that being the norm. Also the national radio stations are pretty much like a pop channel… but they play us too! That’s pretty cool. It’s just a pretty small country, so you can’t help but keep bumping into each other. It’s a good place to grow up making music.”
“For me, it’s just one of those things that I always think about alongside metal music. I think about the album and I think about the artwork that goes along with it, it’s just another cool thing that makes up the package of this music. I hate it when they modify artwork so that it looks good on your Spotify thumbnail rather than on vinyl. I think we’re going to stick to doing it that way.”
“[The owl] came about when we wanted artwork for our demo in 2007. We essentially needed a cover, and our guitarist Vidar made the cover with the owl on it – it then just became a mascot for us. The next thing was make a t-shirt with him on, we really ran with it. When the second album came out we made the mask. It’s just a cool marker for the band, it’s a thing that people can associate with the band. And we survived the trend where it seemed like every band had an owl on the front cover of their album, Devildriver and Nightwish both did it, and I’m pretty sure I don’t want to see that trend come back again.”