Founded back in 2004, Netherbird are an excitingly dark combination between Scandinavian underground black metal and death metal, tangled with some goth, symphonic and other influences. Today, I had an insightful talk with Johan, lead singer and founding member of the Swedish band! Have a great read! ;)
pdn: Greetings Johan!
pdn: Greetings Johan!
Please tell me a bit about the time you got the idea to lay the grounds of a band. In your official biography, you guys stated that you had no intention to have limitations regarding the line-up. Why was that specified, was the stability of it in any way uncertain to begin with? And then, some changes did indeed occur with time.
Johan: Hey Laura, hope all is well!
When I, Grim and Bizmark founded Netherbird in 2004 we all had previous experiences from working with bands, and it often tends to become a situation where different people want to achieve different things and in the end start opposing against each other. The result is that so much energy is put into the internal affairs of the band resulting in little or no creativity end up being used to actually write and record music. So we initially agreed that we would only focus on writing music and then we would get people to join us on a session basis for recordings and so on. So for the first 6 years or so we actually only met to write and to record music.
With the passing of time we ended up with a line up anyway, mainly to make it possible to rehearse and to play live shows. In hindsight I actually regret that, we did the same types of compromises that we first set out not to do. We learned a lot, but it also meant that a number of musicians that joined the band never really got a chance to become a full part of it despite our best intentions. We still had the “old” mind-set of a band with session members even when people joined as full members. So we had our fair share of conflict and strains like most bands. Perhaps it had to be like that for a while, most bands know how it is. We still have managed to stay creative but the recordings have taken way to much time in my opinion.
So after the final gig of 2014, our 10th year anniversary show, we decided to end the band in its current form. We are now working to find a form where we will have a core line-up of members and then we then have friends joining as session members for recordings and for live shows. It is not set in stone, but this way I hope to allow for creativity both for recordings and for the live situation. Perhaps I am just impossible to work with really, that could be another reason for having to have this set up.
pdn: What or who are/were your main influences? Knowing you also nurture a passion for visual arts and literature, and guessing they could have something to do with this question, please do share your favourite poets, artists, movies.
Johan: I write the lyrics for Netherbird and despite being a fan of underground black/death metal my lyrics tend to be quite different from most (not all) music coming from that sector. So I guess one could say I am not so influenced by the extreme metal genres when it comes to the lyrics but rather my biggest influence is things I see and read. I want to reflect and ponder upon our existence, so most of my scribbles are just that: thoughts about life, death, passion, loss, belief and lack there of. I write my lyrics following a pattern where I set a title for a song based on the demo track, and then I write the lyrics to explain the title to myself… I try to elaborate the images and thoughts it invokes… like a flow of thought. Sounds perhaps a bit more poetic that it really is, it is a painful and tough process but it is how it is done in my case. I also try my best to keep the lyrics open, non descriptive, to allow for the listener to form their own interpretation. So the listener finding their “truth” in my words when hearing the same song as I heard when I wrote the words creates the songs, when it works the way I want it to.
I have to many favourites to list, but some people have really influenced me lately. The late and great Christopher Hitchens, one of the greatest thinkers of our time. He is absolutely essential reading for any free thinker. When it comes to more classic literature I would urge people to read Kurt Vonnegut, Isaac Asimov and Michail Bulgakov. All masters in their own right!
As for art I think the Swedish master Marcus Larson has created some of the most impressive and strong paintings of all time. We used one of his motifs on the cover of “The Ferocious Tides Of Fate” and the title is my own interpretation of what I felt when I saw his painting. Another token of how different forms of art “communicates” even long after the creator is gone. His legacy lives on and nurtures our art and us.
Johan: These days me and Bizmark tend to collaborate quite closely, so he is the main composer writing riffs on guitar and then we create the arrangement of the songs together. Sometimes he has prepared riffs or outlines of songs, sometimes he writes them ad hoc as we sit down together. Then I take the songs to elaborate on lyrics and he continues to fine tune riffs and forth in parallel. Then we do the final arrangement including the lyrics in the studio as we record. The rest of the band are involved at certain points also in order to provide their feedback and ideas, so it is a collaborative journey. Bizmark and me flesh out most of an album out in two weeks. It is the recording of the final thing that tends to take (too) long. So we constantly try to make the process quicker since the riffs are always the best first time you play them, every iteration that follows kills part of it in my opinion. So in time I am sure we will be able to write and record a full album in less than a month. That way it would be new songs also for us, not just the listeners.
pdn: If you could share the stage with any artist, dead or alive, who would you choose?
Johan: Easy, Quorthon of Bathory.
pdn: Netherbird kind of creates transparency between the borders of death and black metal, and with some added elements, even; you like to 'mix and match', clearly. Is there any other genre you could think about including in an upcoming project?
Johan: All in the band share a profound appreciation of the Scandinavian black and death metal underground. We all think that the most innovative and interesting extreme metal was recorded somewhere between 1989-1994. So it is very natural for us to drink from that well of influences in what we do. But back then bands were not so afraid to incorporate other influences as bands are today. If you listen to a band like Unanimated, their first two albums have a rich depth of influences. So we try to stay as open minded and unrestrained as some bands were back then. So we add what ever feels natural, I would guess more heavy metal and also alternative rock will surface in our future creations. As long as it is honest and dark, I will be confident to say it is Netherbird.
pdn: Do you have a 'best' and 'worst' memory from the history of the band so far? Any near-future plans, prospects of a tour, maybe?
Johan: As I am writing this, summer 2015, Netherbird is currently on hiatus. We have finished our first tenure of ten years of underground recording and touring. Currently we are looking into how we could make it interesting and rewarding to keep the band going for another 10 years. Having a band these days is costly and it takes an enormous amount of hard work. So if we return we do that in order to fulfil new goals, and that would mean recording better albums and play shows that will be something that both our fans and we will be thrilled about for years.
There are of course bad memories and tough situations when you run a band for more than 10 years, but I try not to let that get to me and I do not dwell to much on them really. It is not important from the greater perspective. Lows are needed in order to fully appreciate the highs.
The best memories is with out a doubt the powerful moment when we meet our fans at good gigs, both from the stage and afterwards. That is the pure essence of why I am doing this and I think the rest of the band agrees on this. We would like more such moments, and that is why we now look into how we can make that happen in a way we feel is befitting both our fans and us.
pdn: Thank you, Johan! Is there anything you would like to add for your fans out there?
Johan: Thank you for the interview Laura, and thanks to YOU for reading it. If you are into melodic black/death metal, do yourself and us a favour by listening to our music. You can download all we ever recorded for free at http://netherbird.bandcamp.com (just enter $0). Our CD:s and vinyl is available worldwide so check your favourite store.
Make sure to also visit http://www.facebook.com/netherbird where we post most news relevant about the band. Our eternal home in the shadows is www.netherbird.com.
Thanks, keep supporting the underground metal scene.