A month or so before releasing my latest album Hjørleifsljóð, back in 2014, I had been interviewed by the webzine SEER Promotions, which was sharing very inspiring artistic creations and was also asking some pretty interesting questions.
Unfortunately, this website is now defunct as Kat, its owner, decided to focus on other things. With her agreement, I am reproducing here the content of this interview, which I think is giving quite a lot of in-depth information about Askrinn as well as about the various motivations behind my music.
Just take a minute to see if you already knew all of this about Askrinn…
Hello and welcome to SEER, thank you for taking the time to share your music and vision with us.
Hello ! Well it is also a pleasure for me to be invited for an interview on such a nice website !
Firstly, I'm rather intrigued in the name, Askrinn?
Finding a band name is not as easy as it may seem, and it took me some time to come up with this idea back in 2011. Askrinn basically means "The Ash Tree" in Old Norse, the language spoken by Scandinavian inhabitants during what is called the Viking Age. It is an open reference to Yggdrasil, the sacred tree, the bond between the Nine Worlds of the Norse cosmology, as the famous Völuspa text claims it to be an ash.
Yet, although I am using the -inn suffix which corresponds to the definite article, I did not want to use a more explicit name as I also intended to refer to a broad spiritual concept which transcends the Norse beliefs and can be also found in many esoteric systems around the world. While the tree is a symbol of Nature, it is also a symbol of spiritual progression : while searching for his True Self, one may metaphorically extend his branches high towards the sky and his roots deep down the ground. As Above so Below. And as there is not necessarily One Truth, everyone may have his own tree.
What area are you from and does your homeland make an impact upon your music?
I was born in France, and although my homeland obviously did impact my mindset, I would not consider it as my main influence regarding my music (at least not for Askrinn).
Indeed, this black metal project is much more in line with my personal spiritual and historical researches. I am deeply interested in the Norse cosmology and in the Viking culture, so it seems logical for me to compose music that echoes my own beliefs and interests.
In other words, although I do feel linked to the French lores and do enjoy the proximity of the Nature as I can experience it in France, I do not solely rely on this when composing for Askrinn : it is not the world I am trying to evoke in my songs.
Your music is described as Pagan Black Metal, do you have a particular background in paganism?
First off, I choose to call my music Pagan Black Metal as I do refer to Norse traditions, beliefs, and to what I like calling runic esotericism. So there is definitely a lot of heathen vibe involved in my composition process. Moreover, I do want to take some distance with the Satan-praising bands (although I do listen and like their music) as Askrinn's essence is definitely not Satanist. Not even anti-Christian.
Then, I am indeed very interested in pagan esotericism. Reviving the bond people used to have with Nature is for me something important. Through this, I believe one can have a better understanding of himself/herself. So you can say that I do have a background in paganism even if I am not following any specific, predefined spiritual path.
Where is the album recorded and is there anyone else with whom you record with?
The album was entirely recorded in my home studio. All the instruments and vocals takes, as well as the mixing and the mastering were done in my own house.
And, no, I recorded this album completely alone, without any additional musicians. However, this might change for the next Askrinn albums but I cannot say more about it right now.
Now, I'm rather intrigued with a project you're working on - a 14th century Icelandic saga? Please do tell me more!
Yes, it's actually an authentic medieval text on which I based my work for the new album to be released on November 14th. It has been composed around 1300 A.D. and relates a story happening around 700 A.D. Simply said, I see Askrinn like a spiritual progression. Therefore, I decided to select this text as I believe it is a good way to have a first approach of the various themes I would like to evoke with my music. It is a kind of tale which does include a lot of references to the way of life of the Vikings, along with the appearance of several fantastical creatures.
But it also contains several hints of the beliefs of those people, in which Askrinn has its roots. So it is somewhat of a didactic opus, rather easy to understand yet not meaningless. Instead of focusing on, say, mythological texts, I sincerely believe it is much more pertinent to start with some more historical material, hence my choice for the theme of Hjørleifsljóð.
Future goals? Are you currently signed to a record label or working towards this?
Although I am currently mostly focused on the new album's release, I do have some sketches and ideas for the future of Askrinn, as I believe it is important to always keep an eye on what comes next. Yet, since this project is still rather new, I am trying to stay open-minded and avoid going too fast.
Definitely there will be a next album. I have done some researches on various concepts but I haven't taken any decision yet - it would be too early anyways. A music video may also be an option, but not in a very short term due to some technical reasons. I would also love collaborating with other artists (musicians or not, actually), as working with other people has always proven itself very interesting in my previous musical ventures.
As for the labels, I have no plan for now as I really enjoy the "Do It Yourself" approach. The possibility to include some more personal things in the envelope when sending a CD. The easiness of a direct communication with the fans, which is something very important for me. However, would a label get in touch with me with a proposal, I would study it carefully as collaborating with like-minded people is most of the time, like I said before, producing great results.
I see you've worked alongside Christophe Szpajdel, what a neat guy! I really want to interview him some time - such talent. Please fill me in on the process of getting him to design your logo for you?
Actually, I had already a logo which used a simple font I had found online. Bathory-style, you see? It was looking okay but was not really meant to be final.
I had already been in contact previously with Christophe as he had been a partner of a charity Dark Ambient compilation I had organized for the 25th Chernobyl anniversary. So when he saw my initial design, he sent me an email and proposed me to revamp it with his own artistic touch in order to make something looking more professional. He kept me regularly informed about the status of his drawing, and eventually sent me this magnificent logo that I am now using.
Do you think it is even possible to capture the essence of pagan black metal unless one relies heavily on folklore and legends?
This is a very good question. And - don't hate me for this - I will answer Yes and No.
Yes, as I can completely imagine a black metal audial universe filled with sounds that echo a medieval-like esoteric world. With the help of a few authentic instruments it is possible to bring to life a pagan-sounding metal album without too many difficulties, I guess. I can even imagine some lyrics based on the observation of Nature, without any link with any folklore whatsoever, contributing to evocating this universe.
No, because I would have some trouble seeing any authenticity in a work that would not rely at all on some kind of folklore or real pagan belief. Our society now is very far from the Nature, so I tend to believe that referring to older beliefs and tales is quite of a meaningful approach if one wants to capture the real essence of pagan black metal.