Interview by Miriam Cadoni
Attending Wardruna‘s concert feels like being trasported in a different and magical era where everything was so different and at the same time simple. Main leader Einar Selvik is not a mere storyteller: through his songs and effort, you can the palpable connection of how the modern era is clearly connected with the past. Despite I have met several transportation problematics for reach the location, I managed to collect this amazing interview. Read and travel with us!
Hello Einar, thank you, I’m so sorry for the delay!
Einar: No problem!
How are you and how is this European tour treating you?
Einar: I’m very good! Of course it’s very intense being on a tour like this, doing many shows and… yeah, performing this kind of music is quite demanding. It’s very personal and I’m not very good at doing things halfway. It has to be all-in every night, of course I feel that, but I try to rest a lot in-between and just focus on my stage and to what happens on stage. So far the tour has been absolutely fantastic, it’s been sold out every night and yeah, we receive a lot of love, it’s fantastic! I’m very happy!
About touring, I saw that since 2009 the numbers of gigs and tours are increased…
Because I’ve read it started as a studio project, but it wasn’t meant to be live?
Einar: No, I really didn’t know if it would work live… Yeah, I was encouraged to take it to the stage and we did and yeah, we felt it worked and, of course, the reactions were very, very great on it. It was quite enjoyable to do it as well, what we always tried was to limit the numbers of concerts… and even today, you know, we said “no” to most concert requests, because we want to be still very selective, so even though we tour more and more, it’s still quite… yeah, selective! I don’t want to get tired of my own music, so it’s also about that, protecting the art. I wanted it to be special every night and I want to be able to do it for long every night, every concert we play… so it’s finding the right balance!
Recently you’ve released the whole saga, all the three albums. The first one is “gap var Ginnunga” which it was released back in 2009, so after ten years – since you’ve started this saga a decade ago – what do you think of having achieved so far with this release?
Einar: Well, actually, when you think of it, it’s almost 20 years, because the first album I’ve started recording was in the early 2000, so that first album took me seven years to record actually! Of course, from where I started then up until now I’ve been finally able to release the complete thing. Yeah, it’s something both on a personal level, I feel I’ve grown a lot as a human being, I’ve learned a lot as a human being. The whole cycle has – I guess in so many ways – being a sort of initiation for me as well: I mean, I’ve learned so much and I’ve been allowed to experience so much, but also in the musicology of it. I still feel like I’m a novist, I still feel like I’m learning a lot, that I’m still… yeah, that I’m still just learning these things! Yeah, you can sort of feel and it makes also sense conceptually that in the first albums a lot of these things were new to me, even recording was new to me and many of the instruments were almost played like a child in many ways! That makes sense, because the album is very much about creation and beginnings, so it’s small seeds… so I feel the album trilogy also has that story, got a development in it. Things become more complex and then you break down again.
Connected to this end of the cycle, I’ve read about your last announcement about the signing, your partnership with Columbia/Sony Music. I think it’s good, but of course many people will wonder: “Yeah, now Wardruna goes with a major label”. I know that maybe you’re not entitled to say so much in this moment, but how will you be able to mantain your ideas or your attitude without being disrepresented or your musical message being essentially distorted by marketing ?
Einar: Well, no, that won’t be an issue, because anybody who knows me and knows how I’ve been working for all these years, they know how protective I am with my art and how uncompromising I am in terms of this. The reason why Wardruna came where we are is because I’ve been saying “No”. I’ve been really uncompromising when it comes with my art, like heart comes first. You don’t sell albums by these cheap marketing treats, because people will see through, and personally I’m allergic to that! So it’s a “Non-issue”, basically, because I will never choose the work with anybody who… well, where I wouldn’t have a full control of my own art. That’s the beauty of this relationship, this is so… coming to us, to our world, it’s not the other way around in a sense… and they also understand that what makes Wardruna. So I will just be uncompromising as I’ve always been. Music will be created by the same artistic parameter that has always been there. Fans should not even worry one second about this.
I know that last year, around this period, you’ve released your latest album, “Skald”. It’s a bit different, because it features mostly your solo material. I want to ask you about its general production, the lyrics… Which is the main point?
Einar: Well, I guess in early 2013 I started to do, well I was invited to come and speak about my work in different settings, both in schools and in festivals, because they wanted me to talk about my approach to historical music and the creative concept behind Wardruna‘s music; then I decided I also wanted to perform some of the songs, like stripped totally down, and show people the ideas behind it, taking down into a more “skaldic” format in a sense, that is much closer of course to how it might, to how music might have sounded like in all our times, in a sense. I don’t know, the response was so overwhelming to it, so I continued to do this more and more, even I’ve done tours with this kind of setup, combination of talking and performing these songs in this format. Basically, the decision of doing an album was because there were so many fans who contacted me, both on the shows and on emails, social medias, they wanted a release, they wanted to be able to listen to these songs also home… so the album is basically a gift to those fans who have demanded it. They wanted to have these songs released as well. After the trilogy, it felt like a natural timing to do it and we wanted to do it more like a live recording, I didn’t want it to be like perfect. It should be like a person standing there and singing a song, yeah, capturing the moment, rather then just making everything sparkling and perfect, like most modern music is like that, so I wanted to change it.
You said that people called you at universities and school in order to talk about your art and history. Do you have any recommandation to start reading about it?
Einar: Yeah, you know, I do recommend people to study first the primary sources, for understanding how we know about things, it’s important, but it is of course difficult also. I do recommend people, you know, today there’s a lot of interest for, like, esoteric, tradition, runes, all these things and, even though it’s more challenging, I do strongly recommend people to take the travel and start reading books with a little bit of academic starting point, because it’s so easy to climb into trees that don’t have roots. So much of these modern books of runes and ancient Nordic esoterism… hem, I’m not saying they are necessarily wrong , but they are very different from the original, so if they wanna know how things really were, then I recommend you to not start out by reading books like that. Maybe they can be good for inspiration and good ideas and stuff like that, but it’s important to know where these ideas come from, because modern runes are very different from the older. You have to remember that these are traditions that are born out from our society, which is very far from us. That means that the power of words, the power of being able to manifest words using symbols… that was a great art! Only a few people knew and of course it had a total different power in our own society. That necessarily will create a change in how we perceive them today, but there are many things from the modern rune which in a sense would make much meaning. I don’t think that each rune would necessarily have any magical power on their own, or at least they have a little evidence suggesting it’s more when you use it into words, when you did sorcery with runes back then it was by words and repetitions, most likely, never singular… Of course you have divination on that part, but you know, in any case whether or not it’s runes, it’s ancient instruments, it’s ancient poetic traditions, mythology, I suggest people to start in an academic way, or at least finding some trustworthy sources that have Academic basis. Some of the Academic texts can be very dry and difficult to read, of course, but still they are good books that have that starting point at least. Before you sort of go into your own into a deep approach to it, that’s how I try to do both with my approach to musicology but also in terms of mathematics? I don’t always have both, I start out with what we think we know about the things and then move into the deeper parts, because for me it’s not important to necessarily copy the past. It’s more about taking something old and making something new, but still it will resonate much stronger if you’re actually, if the way you’re doing actually comes from somewhere, it has deep roots. If they have deep roots, they’re being stayed back and if they go very far back, that means that they are in many ways related to other cultures, because that’s the thing you see. If you go far back in time, whether or not it’s mythology sorcery or musicology, then you see that it’s very similar all across this planet and I think that it’s partly a great part of the reason why our music resonates with people all over the world as well, because it’s born out of ideas that are so primar, that are so incoded in us and so old. It feels familiar, so even though my packaging is Norsk, if you open the wrap is universal, it’s timeless. That’s the point.
Thanks necessarily for this interview! My last question: which are the next plans for the next year?
Einar: New album! And that’s what I’m working hard on right now. I can talk too much about it at this point, but I’m working a lot on the new album and at some point next year the plan is to have a release. I hope to be able to share more about it soon! That’s what I hope! Let’s see!