Haavard Creates Mesmerizing Instrumental Folk Tunes On His Debut Solo Album (Interview)
Ex-Ulver and ex-Satyricon guitarist Håvard "Haavard" Jørgensen has created a highly mesmerizing acoustic folk album with his self-named solo-project Haavard. The self-titled album’s musical thread is similar to his former band Ulver’s 1996 masterpiece Kveldssanger. On its 13 tracks, Jørgensen weaves melancholic melodies with folk inspired guitar harmonies, brooding atmospheres and deeply profound instrumental songs utilizing string instruments and mellotrons.
The album features a plethora of talented musical guests, including his buddy and former Ulver bandmate Kristoffer “Garm” Rygg. Jørgensen spoke with me about the early days of forming Satyricon and Ulver, where his inspiration for songs come from, and the process of creating an acoustic solo album and more.
I believe the music for this new album was written, composed and recorded between 2014-2018. What took so long to finally release the album?
(There were) several factors; I was finished with all the songs, at least the guitar parts, in 2017 when I recorded all my guitars. And then I started working on people to collaborate with and have on the album. Some of those people were either out touring or had a busy schedule, so I had to wait because I wanted to have them with me. In 2017 to 2019, I was more or less waiting for people to join. And then the Covid situation happened and then everything was really going slow. After that, it took some time to get the layouts ready and then I took even a longer time to get the printing of the album done because of the huge demand in printing on vinyl and it was suddenly half a year of waiting time. It's just been a series of unfortunate events. I was a bit stressed to start with because I knew that I was finished and just had to wait four or more years, but now I'm just happy to have it released. I could’ve released it earlier this year but I wanted to wait until the right season, because I think it's a very seasonal album. It fits better with the autumn/fall more than the summer and the hot weather. It's a better fit.
Yeah, that makes perfect sense. Since you didn't really have a deadline and you recorded it at your home studio, did you feel a bit more comfortable?
I didn't have any deadlines from the label and that's one of the beauties of being on a label like Prophecy because they want to have the artists sound their best and I certainly don't work best under stress. Sometimes it goes fast, other times it takes time. Not having the stress of a deadline upon myself, it's better. But I was kind of stressed because all of a sudden in 2018/19, a lot of bands started putting out their acoustic type of albums and I didn't want to fall too far behind that. But after just letting that marinate in my brain for a while, then I figured that this album is going to come out when it's ready. I wasn't too stressed, I was just sitting on the fence waiting. It was a lot of waiting for me because I was more or less finished with what I had to do and then I needed to wait for others. But looking back now, it was well worth the wait.
Was it a conscious effort for this album to sound similar to Ulver's Kveldssanger or was it just a coincidence?
I didn't want to emulate it because it isn’t that kind of a record. I see that it has been marketed by the label and other people as a follow-up to Kveldssanger. But that was never my intention at all. I write music in a certain way and I kind of do the same now as I did with Kveldssanger. It's just building on ideas and recording some here and there and putting things together, that was more or less how we did it with Kveldssanger as well. And the element of the acoustic guitar… of course that's similar, and some of the tracks are also quite similar. It could easily be on Kveldssanger back then. But other than that, it's more diverse and more of an evolved album because it's 25 years or so since, and I'm getting older and I have more input and more things that inspire me. Just in writing music I’ve evolved. But it was natural to me and also the fact that I wanted to do more of the arrangements, it's not only the guitar, and maybe a cello or a flute and some vocals. I also wanted to build several tracks quite large with lots of instrumentations and an orchestra. So, that sets it apart from Kveldssanger. (It’s) the first acoustic album from me in 25 years and I can understand why people would assume that it was maybe a follow-up to Kveldssanger.
I get you. I think it's separate, and that's what’s awesome about it. Your melodies sound deeply rooted in your native land's folklore. How important is nature to your music and Norwegian folklore and to Norwegians in general?
The Norwegian people are of course important to me, and I love nature. One of my other passions besides music is photography and I try to spend as much time as possible either in the forest nearby or going up in the mountains. And it's not like I'm sitting on a hilltop and just writing music, it's not about that. With acoustic stuff, I kind of write music that I would like to listen to myself when I have a walk in the forest or up on a mountain. So, I'm kind of inspired in that way. I like to look at pictures or videos from nature, but the music part of it, it comes later. I'm not going into the forest and bringing out my guitar and just start making hymns to the trees or something like that. But it's more like that I have it in my marrowbone to incorporate it into the music. And the folklore bit is important to me, but it's not like I'm thinking about folklore either when I'm writing music and I think it's very apparent on this album. You have inspirations not only from the Norwegian folklore and you have also from nature. One track, “Eastwood,” is actually a Spaghetti Western influence. And all of the songs are written before any of the titles are (done), so I write music just as it comes out. Then I have an idea that I like and then I just progress with that idea. When the song is more or less finished, and I have a listen through it, and then I maybe come up to what it reminds me or the imagery I get in my head is kind of what makes the title stand. Sometimes it's a very good fit for maybe some folklore, other times it's more of an incident or a place in history, or it could be a place in the world. So that's also different for this album. Kveldssanger was more of a fairy tale and very based in the Norwegian forest and folklore, as well with the first album we did with Ulver. It's also a very folklore-ish album. This is not too folklore-ish, but there are elements because there are several things that inspire me when I'm writing.
I was wondering what some of your inspirations were in developing these compositions. You mentioned taking walks or going into the woods. How did you get into that frame of mind with these songs?
The best thing that I can do for myself, because I struggle like many other people at my age and younger is struggling with some anxiety and some stuff going on in life. I find that getting outside, having a walk by myself is always a good therapy. The other thing is sitting down with my guitar is also the same kind of therapy. So I tried to combine them, also with photography. This album is all my three go-tos to have a zen moment or some peace of mind I either go out photographing, or just going for a hike, or I pick up my guitar. And I never sit down to think about what I'm going to write. That's not my approach, it's the other way around. I just start playing my instrument and then all of a sudden I play something that I like and then I just proceed with that idea and then I put it down to tape. That's the beauty of working in 2022 with the computer, you can just layer in ideas all the time. And then you maybe pick them up later and then you have another idea or you get inspired to continue writing on this song or on that song. It's not that I am deciding what to make before I make it. It's more that it just happens.
The only track with full vocals is with your buddy and former Ulver member Kristoffer "Garm" Rygg. What was his reaction to you asking him and then how was his contribution?
It all started in 2014 when he asked me to do some session work for Myrkur. She released her first album M in 2015, and he was the producer of that album. And he called me and wondered if I could come into the studio and just do some acoustic guitar on that album. Then I was kind of inspired being back in that scenery with Kristoffer and doing acoustic guitar on black metal. So I was inspired to write a song and the first song I wrote was a song called “Athena,” and it's the last song on the album. That was actually the first song I wrote and I just uploaded it to YouTube and didn't think too much about it and wasn't planning on making an album at all. Then a guy from Prophecy sent me an email and said that if I was ever to make a full album they were more than happy to release it. Then the year passed and I figured out that maybe I should do a full album and then I talked to Kris already back then to what he thought about me making an acoustic album. Not that he has anything to say about it, but that's very natural to me to talk to him because we have this history. He has been with me all the way as just a partner in the talks and the ideas, not in the music or anything. When I asked him that I wanted him to sing on a song, it was very natural. I think he kind of assumed that there would be a song. It's a song, but it's just a Norwegian poem that he sings on. It was just another thing to try and tie this album to the history of Kveldssanger. It’s not Kveldssanger part two, but it's kind of a historic (thing) to tie the past with the future in a way.
You were a founding member of Satyricon after the disbandment of Eczema. You only played on the All Evil and The Forest is My Throne demos. What were those early days like developing the foundation of Satyricon that would develop even more after you left?
When I started high school I met two guys; one of them was Carl-Michael Eide. He plays in Aura Noir and he plays in Ved Buens Ende. He was also in Ulver and Eczema. So me and him and a bass player called Vega, we met in high school, and there wasn't too many long haired, black-clothed guys in high school. So we made friends right about the second day or something, we started talking to each other. And they had a duo; they played a lot of old Carcass and Confessor. That was kind of new to me because I was more into Metallica and Kiss at the moment. But I just joined because they needed a guitar player. And then it kind of evolved. We did that for half a year or a year and then we found out that neither of us three wanted to sing, so we needed a vocalist. Then we did what everybody had to do back then, we put flyers up in every music store in the city and just waited by the phone.
One day Sigurd (Wongraven, Satyr) called me and he wanted to try out. We brought him into our rehearsal room and I don't remember if it was the first or the second time, we just decided to let's just do this and we kind of did the death metal stuff for a few weeks or months, but it was for a little while. And then we started to drift more into the black metal thing because black metal was starting to blossom in Norway, especially with the Darkthrone stuff; the first or the second Darkthrone album was coming out. Then we decided to write more in the black metal genre and we needed to come up with a new name. Everybody got home with an assignment to find a better suited name for a black metal band. I was actually the guy that came up with Satyricon and I've read so many times in magazines and stuff that Satyricon is based on the movie from Fellini, but it's not actually the case. Because I hadn't even seen that movie at the time. So it was more about going through a dictionary and I tried to find something that fit together.
Before we went on to become Satyricon, we entered a competition in Oslo, which was like a battle of the bands. Through all odds, we won that competition. It was a lot of bands playing a kind of Seattle grunge thing and there was one death metal band and that was us. And we won. After that, there was a falling out and all of a sudden we didn't want to have the drummer anymore and then we hired Frost, who is the current drummer. That was probably ’92 or ’93, and we moved the rehearsal space from where I was living to where Sigurd was living, which was quite a bit away. I remember we were writing the demo with some guitars and added acoustic guitars and stuff and it was very aimed at the anti-Christianity thing and then everything in ’93 just blew up after the church burnings and everything. I'm not a religious guy, but I’m not wanting to go desecrate tombstones and stuff that was kind of what people did back then. There was an opening in Ulver because they had started working on their first demo, which I played on. It was natural for me to go with Ulver and their folklore and more fairytale stuff, which I think resonated more with me and my beliefs. I was probably on two demos and maybe I did some guest work on the first album. I know a few of the tracks that I wrote, especially the solos for acoustic stuff.
What's next? Will you be performing any shows with this project or what's up with some of your other bands or projects?
I'm going to keep promoting this album. I plan on doing the Haavard stuff live. I'm just trying to figure out how to do it because I cannot bring a big orchestra with me every time because that's too expensive. But that would be one of the goals of course to have maybe a five piece orchestra with me. But how I see it now is I tried to figure out how to do this with maybe a few people or maybe just by myself, but I want to do this live, of course. I haven't said yes to any bookings because I want to be ready before I do that. Sometime in the future I will do this live. Currently, I'm working on a follow-up to the Dold Vorde Ens Navn album. We are going to release a new album when that's ready, and we have some shows booked for next year. Then I will eventually start writing a new album also for Haavard. So there will be at least one more with Dold Vorde ens Navn and a couple of more Haavard, I'm sure.
Haavard was released on November 11th, 2022 via Prophecy Productions / Auerbach Tonträger.