Interviews

Interview: Einar Selvik – WARDRUNA

WARDRUNA—who are widely known for their ability to transcend music genres, cultures, and languages while introducing innovative and genre-creating renditions of ancient Nordic traditions and using a broad selection of both traditional and historical instruments–are excited to reveal the monumental music video for the title track of their upcoming fifth full-length album, KVITRAVN—which translates to ‘White Raven.’ The album is set for release on January 22, 2021, via BY NORSE MUSIC in the U.S. and SONY MUSIC / COLUMBIA RECORDS (worldwide excl. U.S.). The album continues where their RUNALJOD trilogy left off in 2016 with RUNALJOD – RAGNAROK–which charted at #1 Billboard’s World Music charts in the U.S. and Canada.

In addition to the new album, Selvik recently was enlisted to work on the score for the next installment of the Assassin’s Creed®franchise, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla (out November 17). His track “Hrafnsmál – The Words of the Raven” is included on the game’s soundtrack EP Assassin’s Creed® Valhalla—Out Of The North which is out now via Lakeshore Records.


ANTIHERO: How are you?

Einar Selvik: Been good, thank you.

ANTIHERO: What has been the impact of the COVID pandemic on you, both professionally and personally?

Einar Selvik: Well, of course, I guess the biggest consequence is that, well, first of all, we were forced to postpone the record basically for half a year due to production plants and so on closing down for the first lockdown. So of course, that was very disappointing. But yeah, just the way it is. And yeah, of course, we had to reschedule or postpone a lot of concerts and tours and stuff like that. But yeah, it’s a challenging situation where you basically need to have a plan A, B, and C ready at any time.

Personally, well, I’ve had so much other work going on, studio work, with projects like Assassin’s Creed Valhalla soundtrack and stuff like that. So it’s been a very busy period work-wise nonetheless.

ANTIHERO: With something like that, Assassin’s Creed, where you are familiar with the game series or was it a case of somebody just came to you from the computer company and said, “Would you like to do this?” Are you a gamer?

Einar Selvik: I’m not a gamer, but I have played Assassin’s Creed many years ago. And so, I was familiar with the concept and the series. So, I’ve been asked to work on other games as well in the past for several … I’m very picky on projects I spend time on, and for several reasons it hasn’t been the right one up until now. For me, it’s important to like the project in a way, that’s of course one factor. And I felt their vision for the music in this was very much aligned with my own thoughts. And so, it made sense on many levels to be part of the project. It was very ambitious.

ANTIHERO: What was your first introduction to music growing up?

Einar Selvik: Well, ever since I was a small child, I was kind of obsessed with the drums. So, that started my interest in playing music. But I guess I grew up with metal music, classical music and also traditional music, in a good mix. So, it’s something I’ve been … there was a lot of music in my house.

ANTIHERO: What was your vision for the band when you started? And how has that changed over the years?

Einar Selvik: Well, the vision of doing something like Wardruna is something I’d carried since my early teens really, or had this, yeah, had a vision of a project like this. I guess the idea was to highlight things for … Or for me, I felt that there were so many things from the past that, of the past culture, that are forgotten and just lying there in the corner gathering dust. And I wanted to give voice to these things. And I felt that whenever these subjects were dealt with in a musical setting, it was kind of only like a borrow, either lyric-wise, image-wise or maybe one or two instruments in a more contemporary setting. And I really wanted to do a project where the ideal was to interpret these things on their own premises, rather than doing a borrow. So, in terms of using relevant instrumentation, language, sounds, et cetera. But at the same time, it has never been a goal for me to try and replicate music from any specific time period. It’s more about taking something ancient or historical and create something new with it, something contemporary or within a contemporary soundscape. And I feel in many ways, this vision is something that I’ve stood by and been very true to ever since. And it is still, yeah, it hasn’t changed the last 20 years very much since I started.

ANTIHERO: You’ve never been tempted to maybe change the musical parameters and diversify a little bit more and incorporate maybe events that are going on in the world into your music?

Einar Selvik: Well, I think everything … Well, no, because for me, the stuff that I highlight in my music, the themes I work with, they are highly timeless, I would say. And they are very universal as well, even though they come from a time long gone, many of them. They are sort of born out of the nature that we still are surrounded with, in a way. So, for me, I highlight the things from the past that still carry the same relevance as they did back then. And I think for music or for history too, yeah, for music or art to connect to its contemporary listeners, it needs to have relevance in a way. And there are so many things from the past that still speak to us in the same way. For the simple reason that they are relevant, and we can still learn from them and they are worth remembering. The same way that there are a lot of things from the past that don’t carry any meaning anymore. And in my music, I tend to not focus too much on those things. It’s not escapism in a way.

ANTIHERO: You mentioned earlier that you came from an upbringing where you were very fond of heavy rock, heavy metal music. I attended the band’s last Manchester show. Has it surprised you that Wardruna have connected so much with a heavy metal/heavy rock audience?

Einar Selvik: No, not really. That’s something we saw from the beginning, that our audience is very diverse. It speaks to people from many different backgrounds … anything from different ages, ethnicities, cultural background, social background, it borders beyond those limitations in a way. And I guess the metal audience, they have always had a liking to mythology, to history. And also, I would say that there’s a lot of inspiration you can see within the tonality of metal music that you can draw back to both traditional music, indigenous music, to also classical music. So, in a way, it doesn’t surprise me that our music resonates well with … it’s sort of a landscape, people who listen to metal are used to in a way.

ANTIHERO: You’ve also contributed hugely to the Vikings TV series, both musically and also by personally appearing. How true and accurate is that series to you? I mean, do you feel it’s a good representation?

Einar Selvik: I would say certain things are a good representation and other things are not, it’s a bit of both. And of course, a TV series that is set out to entertain the masses, it doesn’t … If you were to make a very authentic Viking age TV series or game or whatever, I don’t think necessarily people would like it that much. It would be a lot of farming and that kind of stuff. So, whether or not it’s a TV show or a game, it has to also play on the popular modern conception of what that time is. So, I think the show is balancing quite well. That’s why they are having such a huge success as well. It’s a balance, in any case, they didn’t make that TV show to satisfy history nerds like me, it’s entertainment, and they do a good job of that.

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ANTIHERO: What about the acting then, obviously you’ve been in the series. What challenges did that present to you as a musician, becoming an actor? Or did you feel it was pretty easy and seamless to act in a series of that nature?

Einar Selvik: Well, thankfully, in a way I got to play myself, which was a huge advantage because I was doing a performance. And of course, in a performance, the act, it’s about connecting to the music in a way, becoming one with what you are singing. And that’s something I have training with and do, that’s my job in a way. So, I don’t think that … But of course, it was a different format and the second they shout action and there are tonnes of people around you expecting, yeah, it was a different kind of pressure that I wasn’t used to. But I felt it wasn’t too different.

ANTIHERO: Just moving on to your new album, you’ve made a video for the title track, I was just going to ask you about the white raven. Was it actually just natural that it appeared for the making of the video? Or how did that come about?

Einar Selvik: Well, of course, that’s been a challenge ever since I decided quite a long time ago to do a video for this song. Because how do you do a video about a white raven without having a white raven? Because they are extremely rare. So, I spent a lot of time, for at least a year, really searching all over the planet for … talking to nature photographers and cinematographers, who work in areas where I know there are regular sightings of white ravens, et cetera. But had no luck other than getting some photos and stuff. But then right before we were going to shoot the video, I came across a person who had a very young white raven in Russia. And so everything went very fast from there. And yeah, it felt like the world was aligning and the gods were giving us that opportunity, I have to say. It was a special thing.

ANTIHERO: So, did it naturally appear when you were shooting the video in that area?

Einar Selvik: No, this is a trained raven.

ANTIHERO: Just moving it on then, regarding the album’s recording process, what recording process do you use? Obviously, studios could have maybe for your style of music a danger of synthesizing artificially, ruining maybe your music, how do you preserve that natural feel of what you do in a studio environment?

Einar Selvik: Well, yeah, of course, the challenge is to capture the instrument and that is, of course, something that demands a lot of work. But I have quite a long experience now working with these instruments. So, I’ve found my ways. But I don’t do this process that I see a lot of, or quite a few bands do, that work with them, that they just sample the instrument and play the tune on a keyboard. I don’t do that. Because first of all, you can hear it so easily, and it doesn’t really capture the instrument at all. And it even becomes a different instrument to be quite frank. So yeah, that whole process can be quite time-consuming. Or I don’t know, I don’t know, for me, it’s a mixture of old and new in the sense that I let … The instruments themselves, they stay as they are, and I play them like they’re supposed to be played in a way. But at the same time, the big sounds, the drones and stuff like that that I use, then it’s more like sampling these instruments and layering them and creating new sounds using them. But that’s sort of a separate element in our music.

ANTIHERO: You mentioned earlier that you’ve been busy during this particular time, creating music and creating things for different musical projects. Do you see yourself creating an album or some music outside of what musical style that you’re known for? Maybe in a different musical genre, or are you perfectly in your comfort zone doing what you do?

Einar Selvik: Well, I am in my … Well, I don’t like using the word comfort zone because there’s not a lot of fruitful things happening within a comfort zone, in my opinion. And so, I always try to grow and challenge myself, developing. Of course, I’ve developed as a musician along the way. And well, thankfully I’ve been allowed to do different musical projects. Like the project I have together with Ivar Bjørnson from Enslaved, we’ve done two records now together and a few live projects with that. And of course, I find great value in doing different approaches to my work. Of course, the core of my music or work is kind of the same but working within different expressions I think is very fruitful. And yeah, something you learn a lot from. So that’s definitely a thing I wish to continue doing alongside Wardruna whenever there is time, and the right opportunity comes.

ANTIHERO: Just a final question then. You’ve achieved a lot in the band’s short history, what dreams, goals, and ambitions do you still have for the band?

Einar Selvik: Well, I don’t really focus too much on that because those things, as long as I stay true to the art itself, in whatever format, whether it’s live or on album, I think the potential of fruitful doors will open as long as you … Yeah, my focus is basically on creating as good art as I can. And I think that’s a healthy approach to it. That the focus is on the art, not on having great success or playing in stadiums or whatever. If those things happen, that’s of course great. If more people enjoy my music, that’s also fantastic. But primarily I do this for myself, I write the music that I hear and see or want to hear. So, that’s my focus.

ANTIHERO: That’s great. Thank you very much for talking to me. Hopefully, this current situation will end soon, and we get to see you again playing live.

Einar Selvik: Yeah. I really hope that too. We are in a state now where everything is up in the air. And we don’t know how things are going to look when things go back to some sort of normality. So, we just have to keep creative, know our constructive focus, and just be prepared for whatever comes, I guess. So hopefully.

ANTIHERO: Okay. Thank you very much.

Einar Selvik: The pleasure is mine. Thank you also.

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Mark Dean

I'm a 40+ music fan. Fond mostly of rock and metal - my staple musical food delights. Originally from Northern Ireland, I am now based in the UK-Manchester. I have a hectic musical existence with regular shows and interviews. Been writing freelance for five years now with several international websites. Passionate about what I do, I have been fortunate already to interview many of my all-time musical heroes. My music passion was first created by seeing Status Quo at the tender age of 15. While I still am passionate about my rock and metal, I have found that with age my taste has diversified so that now I am actually dipping into different musical genres and styles for the first time.

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