August 12, 2016

Interview with UTMARKEN

I interviewed Mathias Gyllengahm about his musical path, his band UTMARKEN 
and debut album but future as well.

01. Hi Mathias, how are you ? :-)
Hello Krissy, am doing fine. I’m still on “vacation” (which means working as much as possible on the next album, haha!)

02. Back in 2015, you founded UTMARKEN. What is the birth date of the band ?

If there is a date, it is the 18th of March, when things started happening for real.

03. How did the creation of the band happen ? 

I had begun recording some rough ideas that I put out under the name “Norrsinnt”. Demo material. They got noticed by some people in the business and some tunes were more in a broader direction while other were a bit more atmospheric. The ones that got attention were the broader ones, and so I had to put together a band. I was already collaborating with Benny and Jörgen, thus we formed Utmarken.

04. How have you met your bandmates ?
Me and Benny met via our spouses 6 years ago. Jörgen and Janne are friends of his. Micke is a childhood friend of mine. I found Robert on Facebook because his long beard caught my attention, haha!

05. What means the word UTMARKEN, and the band name to you ?
It was something I just wrote in one of the videos for the early material. I don’t know where it came from, but it stuck in my head and I recall that I had very special feeling when I wrote it down. I wrote something like “2016, Utmarkens år” (2016, the year of Utmarken). It was like I threw a spell or something by writing it down, haha! The people that caught interest in the material actually thought the band name was Utmarken, so Utmarken it was.
The word means land in the outskirts. “The outfields” is probably the best translation. It is land that is in use, thus not to be exchanged with the wilderness. To me, it is where I live and where I find my inspiration.

06. This year was released your debut and impressive self-titled album. Was the whole album process, good and without disturbance ?
Haha! No, definitely not! Everything about Utmarken is like the work of someone reading a manual backwards. There was a lot of stress and a lot of rework, bumps in the road and detours into unknown territories. It was very exhausting.

07. I felt like some Heavy Metal influences while listening this self-titled record. How much do you like Heavy metal ? …and Folk Metal ?
I wouldn’t define myself as a “metalhead” as some do. I have had many different periods of my life where I have listened to a particular genre or artist almost exclusively, but heavy metal has always been there. It is the genre that is closest to my heart, by far.
Folk metal is new to me. I didn’t even know what it was when I started, but I don’t claim to do anything original. My approach was to merge traditional folk music with metal/hard rock. I believe heavy metal is the modern folk music. No other genre has more devoted fans or broader support by, well, just ordinary folks. That’s folk music to me.

08. How do you like folk music and traditional folk ?
Traditional folk music is also new to me. I stumbled upon the nyckelharpa by chance, I needed something that fitted my new material, and Lasse who sold it to me has given me an introduction (I hope I’ll have the time to dig deeper into this). Other than that I haven’t reflected over folk music much in my life. There are some pieces, those really melancholic and epic ones, that I have always loved. The shifts between minor and major. I believe there are harmonies and signatures that are typical for Scandinavian folk music that are also prominent even in popular music from around here. I believe those elements have always been with me, although I haven’t noticed them, and those are what I try to recreate, in a hard rock/metal context.

09. So, twelve tracks complete your debut full length. What are the songs about ? 
1. Strömkarlens son : Strömkarlens son roughly translates to “son of the ‘Nixe’”. Näcken (Nixe?), or “strömkarlen” (the man of the stream) who is a mythological creature of this region. He is depicted as a naked fiddler who lures people down into the dark waters. In this song I’m linking myself back to this mythological creature, as his son, with the mission of dragging people down below the surface with me.

2. Välkommen till Norrland : Welcome to Norrland. This is, to me at least, a humorous piece where I overdo the mentality around here and paint a picture of this region with overly dark colours on a broad brush. Norrland, hell on earth, looted and plundered, where booze runs through the veins of its stubborn and melancholic inhabitants... 

3. En stadig puls : A steady pulse. To me a very positive track, about finding strength. Breaking the paralysis.

4. Till skogs : To the woods. I think this is my favourite. A song about freedom, throwing off the shackles, turning away from the broad, comfortable, easy path laid out ahead of you for a simpler life, but a life of freedom.

5. Tystnadens röst : The voice of silence. A song about a deep longing for freedom, nature and the authentic.

6. Dråparen : The slayer. To me it is a song about facing the unknown. Facing fear, and that salvation lies in overcoming it. Life is a never ending struggle. Fight or die.

7. Vintern : The winter. I think the major theme of this song is about facing and surviving difficult times, in the shape of a long, cold winter.

8. Regnet faller : Rain is falling. About making critical and irreversible decisions, choosing the difficult path. About never giving up.

9. Häxkonst : Bewitched. About being under a spell, not being able to see nor find your way out of the woods...

10. Bleka toner : Pale notes. Nature, in all its glory.

11. Yxtid : Axe age? References norse mythology. The coming of war, the end of the world and cheerful and uplifting topics like that.

12. Norrland är mörkt nog ändå : Norrland is dark as it is. The doom and gloom of this region. The suffering and the struggle here through the ages. Famine, starvation, cold and hard winters... Wathing in melancholy. Taken way over the top.

10. Can you explain the front cover of the record ?
Lack of time and art skills, perhaps! It is an elk skull on a practice target. It looks badass on merch though! Elks have been intimately connected to this region for thousands of years. I can often see elks pass by on the fields outside. I believe the elk is our totem animal.

Now let’s speak a bit about you, Mathias. :-) 

11. Have you got previous musical projects before UTMARKEN ?
None that have been serious. Some plants obviously need a lot of time before they’re fully grown. I  did some parts on the latest album of Draugûl though.

12. There is another project of you that is named NORRSINNT. What are all differences between UTMARKEN and your one-man band project NORRSINNT ?
I think I described it a bit earlier. The material pulled into two main different directions. I think the foundation is the same, but the expression is different. Utmarken is the exoteric one. The easily accessible. Norrsinnt is the esoteric side of the material. I haven’t had the time to explore that  side as much as I wish.

13. How did you start with Music as musician, vocalist, keyed fiddler and all? What is that path that’s reached you here ?
Ouch, that is a question that could make me fill up pages, but I type more than enough anyway so I’ll try to stick to the facts. I started playing acoustic guitar when I was 10 or something. I remember I used to be ordered to accompany my classmates and the teacher when we had musical classes at school. What a sight… Electric guitar at my 13th birthday. At 16-17 something I was in my first band and started to try to sing a bit more seriously. It was a most awkward spectacle, and the band split up quite quickly after an ego-fight (I was one of the egos). Later I got into a cover band where I got a lot of training vocal wise. I don’t see myself as a musician though, but vocals has been the one “instrument” I’ve actually focused on the last years. A most interesting instrument. It doesn’t just involve your entire body. It involves your soul as well.

But, like I said, there were never any serious attempts until a couple of years ago, and it was when I returned back to the countryside again that all this music and words got into my head without leaving me any peace. It was like everything fell into place. It was like everything in my life up to that point had merely been training for it. It has felt more like an obligation than a hobby. I couldn’t just walk around with these skills and abilities and not do anything with them. It is my duty to use them. That is what I believe life is all about. Doing that one thing that only you can do, that you want to do for yourself, and do that it with all your heart. At least try your best, in order to be able to look yourself in the mirror later. It was a big hurdle for me to overcome, but I’m glad I did it.

14. Is Nyckelharpa difficult to learn ?
I wouldn’t say I have learned it by far. It helps a lot to have guitar experience though. The bow hand is the difficult hand.

15. How do you work with composition ?
I usually get a melody and some words in my head. I record them, often on my phone. I collect all those little pieces and pick them up later. Often I find out that some of them fit together. The actual work consists in putting the puzzle together, glue them together into something bigger.

16. Nature seems to be another big influence of you, isn’t it ?
Yes, it is. I didn’t understand the effect it had on me until I met it again. It has become something I need. It’s not enough to just go out in a park with people around. On the other hand, there are no parks around where I live.

17. Do you have other things that influence you for both band projects ?
Many things. It really inspires me is to explore places where I know hardly anyone else goes. Forgotten places. Best is when I stumble upon an ancient find, signs of people that have been there hundreds, maybe thousands of years ago. One of those finds that is not even registrated or investigated. I can hold the same rock they moved to make their cooking pit, it gives me a very strong and direct connection. I guess it should be classified as an odd hobby but many people do much stranger and more destructive things which are considered perfectly normal.

18. Are you the main and only composer for UTMARKEN ? so is in future ?
All songs on the first album have been written by me, except for the guitar solos, and Benny has done all the drumming. The guys have been a good sounding board though, and I have them in mind when I write. They’re a most important part of the spirit, they are the people of Utmarken! They were also part of the mixing process. For this second album I was hoping that we could do more collaboration together, but it appears as if I’ve already recorded a whole bunch of songs during the vacation when we couldn’t have rehearsed anyway... Hmm… I feel a bit bad about it though, both Micke and Benny are talented songwriters, but it is also difficult to merge different styles together and if everyone should have a say about the material next album wouldn’t be finished in years. Now it is possible to actually have another album out next year, which I feel is necessary if we want to do some serious shows next summer. But who knows what will happen in the future.

19. Future…. Do you have some plans for UTMARKEN future ?
Hopefully new album out before next summer. Then we’ll have to see what happens. Then it is up to the Gods, all these uncertain factors that we cannot control. It is extremely unlikely that a possible third album will be out as quickly as the second one though.

20. Do you plan some gigs and festival with UTMARKEN for this year and 2017 ?
I hope so, but it is part of the uncertain factors. We can ask for gigs, but we cannot book ourselves to festivals. Someone else has to book us, other people need to believe in us. We have had great response and support from those who have found us, and we’re most grateful for that, but I don’t think very many have found us yet. We’re asking around, that is no secret, but there are many, many bands out there that want the same spots, and just to get someone on the other side to take 5 seconds to read a summary of the great reviews (which I believe is all that is needed to catch their attention) of the album is very difficult.

21. I know your full length is available at Einheit Produktionen, but is it available to other stores, CD like digital ?
It is available digitally on at least Spotify and iTunes, and physically through Nuclear Blast, and others as well.

22. Now that you are signed under the flag of Einheit Produktionen, do you have any other wishes ?
It would of course be a really good thing for us at the moment to get some shows for the right audience.

Thank you for the interview, Mathias!
My sincerest thanks for your support and for letting me ramble around on my keyboard here. 

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