Thanks for taking the time to talk to us. If you don’t mind, can I ask about you being the first Metal band to enter the Eurovision Song Contest? What ever made you consider entering?
"The boss for Eurovision here in Norway at the time, Per Sundnes, told the media that he would even consider black metal bands. This was just at the time when I had written ‘The Dragontower’, and I knew that this was a very catchy song so I decided to send it in and see the response. They liked it and offered us to enter the contest and why shouldn’t we do that when we’re offered the opportunity?"
Metal appears to be Norway’s biggest musical export. Do you think Norway was more open to a metal band representing them at the contest?
"Yes, I think Norway is one of the few countries where that is even possible."
How much did it raise the profile of the band, nationally and internationally?
"Nationally it raised the profile a lot. Internationally, not so much."
Bringing things back up to date… It’s been five years since the last album, with an EP release in between, and you’re back now as a three-piece. How do you feel, musically, about the position of the band now?
"The band is stronger than ever! I think that the new album is our best to date, and the reviews coming in from all over the world seems to agree with me. It is without any doubt that we have a very strong album out now!"
You produced all the previous releases. Was it a natural choice to take over the vocal role?
"After we split with Thebon, I had to really think if this was something I wanted, because it would mean a lot of work and a lot more resting on my shoulders than it already was. But I thought that since I produced all previous singers, I should be able to produce myself and push my own limits as well. It took some time and was a lot of work, but now I’m really glad I decided to finally step up and take the place as the front man for this band. We are getting good feedback on this on our live shows as well!"
Has the change in vocalist opened up more creative possibilities, regarding the writing process?
"Well, I don’t have to explain anything to a singer anymore! I can just do it myself. So the band is more streamlined, and the working process is moving faster than ever. So I don’t think it will be 5 years until the next album!"
Good! Talking of the writing process, there must a fair amount that doesn’t quite fit, especially when creating 7… 8… 9 minute tracks. How much material gets cut out the final tracks?
"We cut out a lot… but not so much parts of a song, as entire songs. We wrote 19 songs before recording this album and there are only 7 full songs on the album, so we have a lot of material that doesn’t fit on an album like this. Some of it will probably be released some time, but many songs will probably also just fade into oblivion."
There was an ongoing theme running through the ‘Armada’ and ‘Kolossus’ albums. Was this a result of material being written and not used?
"No, ‘Kolossus’ was written entirely on it’s own. We had some leftovers from ‘Armada’, but that material has still not seen the light of day."
Will ‘Epistermology’ mark the start of a new theme, that we could see continue in to another album?
"I think that the band has moved on to a more mature path and I think we will continue in that way on a couple of albums, but not necessarily keep the same theme."
The album has received superb reviews, with many saying you have an ability to surprise the listener album after album. What do you think will stand out from this new album? What, if anything, will surprise those listening to it for the first time?
"Hopefully, they will be surprised by the quality in the songwriting. I personally don’t think the speed or the clean vocals or any details like that is our best parts, but I really think the atmosphere and the songwriting is what separates Keep Of Kalessin from the rest."
The cover artwork is amazing. What’s the story behind the competition? Why open it up to the fan base?
"We decided to make an app for Facebook to hold a cover contest where designers could upload their artwork and our community could vote on what designs they liked the most.
The response was massive and we were overwhelmed by the amount and quality of the designs submitted!
The band then chose one winner from the top 3 designs voted by the fans. And this decision was fairly easy, since I felt that the only one that really captured what the album was about was Jean Michel, so I immediately knew that he would win as long as he made it to the top 3. And luckily for us, he did."
Do you think that creative industries should have that mutual respect for each other, and be openly more supportive of each other?
"I think everyone should have more mutual respect for each other and be more supportive. I think the metal community should be more supportive and not bash down every band that is trying to make it on this planet. Use your energy on supporting what you like instead of hating on what you don’t like!"
You said, after the release of ‘Kolossus’, that you were not big enough to headline in States. Five years on, has that now changed? Any plans to return to the States on a headline tour?
"Not really. I don’t think we’re even close to be able to headline the US so it doesn’t look like much is happening there in a while."
We’re looking forward to seeing you perform at Incineration Fest in London, in May. We think it’s an epic line up. Are you looking forward to being apart of it and being in London?
"Yeah, this is one of the shows we’re really looking forward to this year! See you there!"
Any final words for the fans and our readers?
"Thanks for the support! Check out our new album and see you at Incineration Fest!"
Incineration Festival takes place on 9th May at the Electric Ballroom, Camden London.
Interview by Jamie from Devils Gate Media
Devils Gate Media is a partner site to Belfastmetalheadsreunited. It is a growing vibrant site, which we are proud to be a partner of, and have our reviews and interviews appear on.