|we are always burning in with a lot of ideas of ours while other doom acts came along and did things we had done years ago, but still had not released.|
The following interview with Einar Fredriksen of Funeral, written in
September and answered in late October of 2002, is relevant and important
for a number of reasons. Not only does Einar, the long-standing bassist,
vocalist and lyricist of the band, provide much useful information about
Funeral's activities over the years, it is also, to my knowledge, the very
last interview that Einar answered before he died on January 10, 2003. Of
course I have never known Einar personally I am only a fan of his music.
But in the little correspondence I have had with him before this tragedy
occurred, he never failed to be friendly to me, and I would like to present
this interview, although left in an unfinished state, as a memory to him and
also a statement of my deep regard for this band one of the first
doom/death bands I have ever heard.|
I'll start with the most predictable question, and perhaps the broadest one, too: what were some of the reasons for seven years of silence between releases? What happened, for example, to some of the core members like Thomas Angell? I see he is credited in the booklet of "In Fields of Pestilent Grief," but no longer a member of the band...
"Well, first off we ran into some major problems after the recording and release of Tragedies in -95. The label we were on decided to rip us off, and its manager Torodd Fuglesteg ran off to Scotland leaving us in ruin. The female vocalist we had back then, Torill Snyen, proved very hard to work with, and we had to give her the boot, right before we went to England to record a new album in -96. This turned out to be a curse for us. It was almost impossible to find a new female singer with the right sound, attitude, and capabilities. In all we went through some 18 different singers in the course of a year, and it was not until the end of -97 that we found someone that fitted the tag. Then we finally started to circulate a "demo" with 5 out of the 10 tracks we recorded in England, titled "To Mourn is a Virtue". We had high hopes of reaping some good critics for this piece, and eventually a deal, as we had put a lot of resources into its creation. We thought that by using the people and equipment behind some of doom's most favoured sons, we would end up with a pretty decent result, at least sound wise, and that this would attract possible labels. So we worked out a deal with My Dying Bride, to go to their studio, Academy, just prior to their recording of the Like Gods of the Sun album, and worked with the producers of acts like MDB, Anathema, Cradle of filth, and Paradise lost, Keith Appelton, and Mags. But alas, even this did not put us out of our miseries. The demo received some good critics, yes, but not one label was interested in investing in a doom metal band like us, much because black metal was the flavour of the month, or at least so we where told.
After this we hit rock bottom as a band. It was like the little flame we all had at least to create our music, was drowned in the ever constant rain that was pouring over us like never before. None of us found much reason to continue, as it felt like we had been banging our heads against a brick wall all those years, and never getting half as far as many bands that we saw growing up in our trail, like Theatre of tragedy for example. And now finally the brick wall had collapsed on top of us, killing all that was left of our dying spirit. Thomas Angell developed cancer, and Christian Loos just gave up, and hit the bottle. HARD! On each of our sides we were all creating heaps of music, but rehearsals where scarce at best, and gigs were an annual event at most. As time went by I picked up the guitar, and together with Anders, we tried to piece together something resembling the old Funeral, and complete some songs out of the material we had been creating individually. So in -99 we hit the studio again, having given up on the Academy recording all together. The new stuff portrayed a much more angry and pissed off Funeral. We had been betrayed, ruined, and left to die. But, by hell, we were Funeral, and already as dead as anyone could well claim to be, so we felt death could not kill us any further, and thus dusted off our black souls and went for it again. This time not to please anybody, but rather to scare as many as we could with a set of remorseless tracks, blinded by our rage, and powered by a newfound reluctance to die. The demo from -99 was aptly named "the passion play", ironically depicting all the misery we had been through. With it we got a deal on Italian label Nocturnal Music, and continued our efforts in the same studio, 'till we had 10 new tracks. But still the troubles were far from over. We still had to go through 2 years of financial debate with the label, hassle with the studio, and problems getting the cover-works the way we wanted before the album "In Fields of Pestilent Grief" was finally released. Which brings us up to date."
Please explain the details of the transition between your early female vocalists, Toril Synen and Sarah Eick, and the new one. How/why did this happen? Where do you see the positives/negatives of each singer? Hanne Hukkelberg's brother (or husband?) also makes an appearance on a track. I suppose this is a talent that runs in the family?
"Torill Snyen was our first female vocalist. She was OK to start with, and we used her on the "Beyond All Sunsets" promo, as well as on our first full album "Tragedies". She had a great understanding of the Funeral ideology, and lived herself into the music like I've never seen before or after. She used to cry while performing live with us, and we never viewed her as a posing figure, just because she was a girl, rather as one of us with the same down-set spirits. Furthermore, she was a bastard at creating the perfect harmonies for her own vocals. Later, Anders and I have had to create all of the vocals and their harmonies, but she did it pretty well on her own. What proved difficult in the long run, was the diva attitude she developed after a while. She started demanding this and that, or she would totally bitch, or walk out on concerts, rehearsals, and such. Also, she wanted more and more to influence the Funeral vocals with jazz type singing that she became very interested with towards the end. This just became unacceptable, and unendurable. On top of that, her singing on our last rehearsals and gigs, was really bad quality, and directly out of tune. We saw it unavoidable to boot her even if it was at a bad time in regards to the upcoming recording in England."
How would you compare and contrast your old material to your new, if you could, in your own words, to those that may have never heard Funeral before?
"Well, the new album is a bit different than the previous ones, but it is still Funeral, with our trademark sadness and depression, just that it is much harder, more aggressive, and more variative. It's not so ultra slow anymore I'm afraid, but it has changed into something different, while still keeping the old Funeral values. It is definitely our HARDEST album ever! It has some symphonic parts in it, and the best female vocals we have ever had. Also, there are some death vocals back on this album. You will be surprised, and hopefully not disappointed.
The reason why we have changed a little on this new album is quite simple actually. We have been making extreme, slow doom for 11 years now, and this time we wanted to try something a bit different. Just to please ourselves, since we are a little tired of making the same music year after year.
'Tristesse' our first album from -93, is still our slowest, most extreme album ever. It has some really sick vocals (deep male chanting/choir voices vs dark, rumbling death grunts), and very down-tuned guitars, to make the whole thing a very depressive, lumbering doom extravaganza, only broken up by small beautiful pieces of classical guitars here and there. 3 songs in 40 minutes!
The 'Beyond All Sunsets' promo from -94, is much in the same vein, featuring some of the slowest Funeral songs ever, but it is much more symphonic in the song arrangements, as well as the sound. The vocals on this album is a female angel-like soprano vs my brutal death grunts again. The songs are very mesmerising and all over this album is unmercifully depressive and heavy. Length is 5 songs totalling about 70 minutes.
'Tragedies' our second full-length album from -95, is much like "Beyond All Sunsets". Indeed it has two of the songs from the "Beyond All Sunsets" promo on it at the end. The 3 other songs on "Tragedies" are also very mesmerising and slow, very symphonic, majestic, and broken up by the classical guitar pieces. Monotone and great slugs of doom, this album counts some 65-70 minutes. It also has the female vocals vs death grunts, but it's less death vocals on it.
'To Mourn is a Virtue' demo from -97, was recorded in England, at Academy studios, with My Dying Bride's producers Mags and Keith Appelton. Same place where Anathema, Cradle of Filth, Paradise lost, and My Dying Bride have recorded all their albums. It's really 10 songs we recorded there in -96, but we didn't have a singer then, so we had to wait until -97, when we finally managed to put vocals on 5 out of the 10 tracks. We decided to release those 5 songs as a "demo", but only to record companies, and not to the public. The songs have a very professional sound, but are still very much doom. The songs are a bit faster than before though, and more variations in the riffs... not so monotone anymore. Here it is just female vocals. But the album kicks more ass than Funeral has done before.
The new one will kick your ass to hell!!! It is VERY heavy."
I'm glad that the classical and operatic elements are still strong in the music, not to mention the fact that the sound is so enormously heavy and emotional! There's been no compromise at all in diluting your sound... one of the many reasons why I so respect this band! How has Funeral remained so level-headed throughout the years, you think, immune to all trends?
"Well, we have always loved classical music, and having a female vocalist whilst arranging our music in a very symphonic manner, we would easily end up sounding "operatic". We have really never been very satisfied with the sound we have ended up with for each album, except for the Academy recording, To Mourn is a Virtue, where we felt we had the best sound we could possibly achieve. The story behind this latest recording is a little special though. First we tried out our usual equipment in the studio, with big stacks of amps, modules, and lots of hardware. But it still didn't produce the heaviness we were seeking for this recording. Then just for the fun of it, we tried using an old rusty amp dusting over in a corner in the studio, and also we used a guitar just lying around there, that had definitely seen better days. Then we miked the little amp up with something like 5 different mikes, designed to pick up everything from sub-low sounds, to the highest discants. The result was just what we were looking for. It sounded really old, crunchy, and rustic. I believe the only effect we threw on top of the original sound of it was a boss turbo distortion pedal or something.
I agree it sounds heavy as hell, and the emotional part of it is partly due to our ever-seeking quest to contrast the aggressive parts with beautiful, sad riffs. Also, we have a lot to thank Kjetil for in daring to let him add his touch of synth on the tracks. And Christian Loos, who suggested we lay a soft touch of synth in Funeral in the first place.
Have we really remained so level headed you think? Well, I guess trends are something we've never really felt any pressure by. However, we have always felt cursed in the fact that we are always burning in with a lot of ideas of ours while other doom acts came along and did things we had done years ago, but still had not released. Still, as far as trends go, I think Funeral was always too small a band, with too far-fetched music for the broader audience. We had our little crowd, which was fine with us. We've never been in this for the money, or the fame. Then we would have quitted many years ago, or been playing a completely different type of music altogether. We do our brand of doom whether people like it or not, simply because we have a need to make it... as a channel through which we can express our own personal frustration, depressions, and pains, if nothing else."
An interesting fact about Funeral is that almost all the present members have played and still play in other bands. It's a group with a rich history music-wise... you yourself have also been involved in Paradigma and Mysticum, Idar is from 1349, Anders was in Odium, Myrkskog and The Flesh, and Kjetil from Disiplin. Does this cover everything? How do you think these diverse backgrounds affect Funeral? Many of these bands are no more while Funeral still exists - certainly that should be to its credit!
"I'm impressed with your knowledge about the other projects various Funeral members are involved with, but your list is not quite correct I'm afraid.
-Idar does indeed play in 1349 as you said. And I believe that's it.
-Anders has done drums in both Odium and The Flesh. His involvement with Myrkskog was only very briefly. His pride and joy at the moment is his project called Fallen.
-Kjetil works with both Disiplin and I believe both him and Anders are working with a little thing called Insect or something.
-Thomas and Christian have both experimented with writing a lot of different material outside of Funeral, and I believe have dedicated some songs to different local Death or Black metal acts. But they have never joined any other bands as far as I know.
-My own projects include having played bass and singing in Paradigma since -97. I also did vocals and bass in The Flesh, where Anders also played.
Certainly this proves that Funeral..."
When "Tragedies" was released, I remember some members were upset with "Tristesse" - I think someone said that it didn't represent Funeral at all. Is that your view now of "Tragedies"?
"That would be Anders I guess."
Are your old, lost recordings, like the 97 and 99 demos, and "Beyond All Sunsets", still available? If not, do you think you will ever want to re-release them, perhaps also reissue the incredibly hard-to-find "Tragedies" CD? Hearing Anders old death metal project, The Flesh, would be cool, too, from the little I know about it...
"Both yes and no actually..."
Years ago My Dying Bride arranged for you to record in the Academy Studio for some (presumably) demo material. Are any one of you still in touch with the band?
"To Mourn is a Virtue...
Christian had some contact with them for a while after we had left Academy..."
Many things have occurred in the underground since "Tragedies" was released. What is your opinion of how matters have changed? The Norwegian world especially has altered dramatically, and not only black metal, I think. Do you believe the underground is going in a positive direction?
"More bands than ever before...."
A different set of questions now. Given the name of the band, I wonder what your thoughts are on the actual human rite of the funeral? This process has remained essentially unchanged for a great deal of time. Do you think a funeral should be a time for grievance, reflection, renewal, joy, etc.? More specifically, how would you want your own funeral to be orchestrated, assuming you wanted to have one in the first place?
"Hmmmm. Strange question...."
Do you think death is the final step in the human ladder, or is there some sort of continuation, maybe some sort of reintegration into a universal consciousness? Perhaps you think, like myself, that this is a matter beyond our feeble speculation?
"It is a matter few (if any really) know anything about...."
In regard to religion, Funeral has always been relatively neutral... I mean, there is a level of nihilism in the lyrics, and the artwork has always portrayed Christian images and icons, but no forthright judgments of religion. Is this something intentional?
"Yes, but we've been very misunderstood..."
Has any new material been written since the sessions for "In Fields of Pestilent Grief"? Where is the next step to go from here, Einar?
"We have written some new material, yes..."
Anything to say in conclusion? Thanks for your time and patience with my questions!
"What can i say?..."
Visit the Funeral bandpage.