Interview with Ronny and Gylve of Valhall 2009
By Bradley Smith and Vanya
So Ronny, what is new? How is it to finally have Red Planet released? To me it is such a huge leap forward in the songwriting department when compared to Moonstoned and Heading For Mars. How do you view the progression made between albums? And what took so long to get it finally released?
RONNY: It is a relief to have it released. And we are very exited about it. I agree that we have taken a step forward from the earlier albums. When Frank became our new guy on guitar he brought in a new element of creativity and sound to Valhall. This had an effect on every part of our music. When we had recorded the album in 2000 were we very satisfied with final result. Our old record company Voices of Wonder wasn’t too eager about releasing it. They said yes but never showed any real interest in us. We tried out with some other record companies but we did not get a deal that suited us - until Housecore Records knocked on our door. In the meantime, we took a long break and concentrated on other things in life.
GYLVE: Frank came in like a 1970s whirlwind, much to my amusement and comfort - i could whip up the drumming style i grew up with (Grand Funk Railroad, etc) and it was only one bass drum allowed, of course.
(Vanya) Is "Red Planet" supposed to be Valhall's last release ever or are you up to start working on new material?
RONNY: We have plans on releasing albums as long as it gives us pleasure. It is always very satisfying to release the final product that you have worked with a long time. We will soon work on new material for the next album.
(Vanya) After so many years of silence it must have been kind of head-reeling to appear on stage 2 times this year... Then again, what feelings did the gigs at the Metal Merchants Festival and Last Train leave you with?
RONNY: Our gig at the Metal Merchants festival was the first one in many years and we were of course a little anxious because it was just a feeling of starting at the beginning again. But it turned out just fine. We were first on the line-up that day so we played early in the afternoon. So the audience was mellow and slow. The Last Train show was different. Here it was a wild enthusiastic audience and we had a great experience that evening.
There is a strange cross like symbol that Valhall uses on all their albums. What is that symbol and what does it represent to you? How does it fit into the concept of Valhall?
RONNY: We use the symbol to represent Valhall as a part of our logo. There is not any Hocus Pocus behind it. It is just a symbol made for Valhall based on the old norse mythology sun symbol. That is why it fits in. Since Valhall is also old norse and it’s the name for the hall of the Vikings’ final destination when they fall in a battle.
Were you ever afraid that Valhall would be considered a “novelty” band of Fenriz’s rather than a worthy band in its own right? Or has Fenriz’s participation been really beneficial to Valhall aside from a musical standpoint? I mean has he helped get Valhall more noticed than would have happened through normal means?
RONNY: You have to remember that Gylve was a part of Valhall from the start. He was one of the founders of Valhall. And of course in those days he was at the same level as us. But you have a point. Some people can notice us through Gylve, but not many I think, since Gylve has always had a low profile in public with Valhall. He almost never mentions or promotes Valhall in the media. Sometimes it can be even a drawback since almost everybody in the metal scene has some kind of a prejudice against a well known and free spoken artist as Gylve. That can have an effect on people in media.
GYLVE: hell, i never "pulled rank" and try to use my name to get Valhall known - that's why i have a different name on the 95 and 97 albums!!! i even played live with a S/M mask to conceal my identity. but alas, with the nerdy internet it was soon a common fact that i played there, so now my name is on the cover - but that's it. i guess if i really tried to use "my name" to big up VALHALL, you would have noticed already, huh?
You were making doom metal when it wasn’t really trendy and there wasn’t this doom resurgence like there is now. Did you ever feel alone in this regard or did you feel like you were sort of blazing a trail, especially in Norway surrounded by all those black metal bands?
RONNY: Doom metal has never been trendy and I don’t think it is today either. Compared to the other metal genres doom metal bands don’t operate close to the sales figures or the popularity some bands in thrash, death or black metal have. Back in the early 90s there weren’t many doom bands in Norway, at least not in Oslo. Most people were into black metal here in Norway in those days. We have never had much attention here in Norway.
Speaking of that, can you tell me how Valhall truly grabbed its own style? I know it started as a thrashy sort of black metal band and then morphed into a sort of funcore band. But how did the creative minds within the band finally agree on changing towards a doom direction? What were your inspirations at the time?
RONNY: Back in those years, when Valhall started out, we were a bunch of wild guys that need to experience and listen to all kinds of rock music. But in the early 90s we listened more to doom metal bands like Saint Vitus, Trouble and Sleep. We had been listening to Candlemass a long time already. The change happened because we felt was the right step to do.
(Vanya) How would you feel after reading a bad Valhall review? Is this something that could annoy you or would you rather conclude that it depends on who listens, after all?
RONNY: Reviews are always subjective, colored by the reviewer’s background and taste in music. That is why one guy can think that Red Planet is a great album but another guy thinks it stinks. What’s important is that the reviewer explains very well why he likes or doesn’t like the album so you understand it and can take a stand to it all from that.
You seem to have developed a close special place in your heart for your new label, Housecore Records. How did you develop this relationship with Phil Anselmo and what makes this record label so different from other labels? How do you feel about Head Not Found and whatever happened to that label?
RONNY: Phil signs band he likes and not commercial or trendy bands. It’s all about passion for music and a wish for supporting the underground. Head not found was originally Jon “Metallion” Kristiansen’s label. But it was Voices of Wonder that distributed and promoted the bands on HNF. For some reason stopped Metallion and work with HNF and the VoW got the full responsibility for the label.
Do you ever find there is a boundary with the lyrical topics that are acceptable for a doom band to cover? What are some of your favourite subject matters when writing lyrics and what is your methodology when you approach writing lyrics for a new song?
RONNY: This is a tough question. I think it is up to the person who writes the lyrics to determine this. But it would have been rather silly with lyrics like Britney Spears “oops I did it again” or similar on a slow doom song. So in a way the boundary exists in people’s mind but someone always breaks boundaries. For some reason I often end up with lyrics about dark psychic matter. It is not a typical methodology I use. Sometimes ideas come just to my head and I write them down and store them for later use. Other times I write lyrics for the whole song in one session.
What are your near-term plans for Valhall and yourself? New shows? New merch? New members? New songs? Other musical projects? What?
RONNY: Yes all of it except new members and other musical projects. We are working with all of these fields at the moment.
I’ll leave any final words before we leave this planet to you.
Don’t let them fuck with your mind!