Interview with Moloken!

Moloken is a band that plays many different genres and isn’t easy to categorize and doesn’t want to be either. I’d call it metal, but it feels like they’re on a mission to find their sound. Drawing influences from both death, doom and black metal – along with some top-notch stuff from the 70’s progressive rock. They come from the deep north, in the cascading forests of Umeå. The band currently consists of Jakob Burstedt (drums), Kristoffer Bäckström (guitar/vocals), Nicklas Bäckström (bass/vocals) and Patrik Ylmefors (guitar). I got the opportunity to talk to Patrik and Kristoffer from the band some months ago, and they got back to me very recently. Which means that this interview has a time-perspective of questions asked some months ago, so things have progressed since then. I asked them about the Hotet Från Skogarna releasegig, their inspiration, how they’d throw a party and other vehemently complex subjects that’ll be riddled within secrecy.

So what’s the history of Moloken?

Patrik: – We usually say the band started to play in 2007, but the roots actually stretches back a few more years. Nicklas and Kristoffer are brothers and Jakob used to play with Nicklas in two progressive rock bands. I guess you could say the band was formed like most bands are; people just know each other and want to make music. A guy called Johan Öman was also a part of the band for some time but I replaced him in 2009. A really great guy and talented guitar player, but I think he thought the band was getting too serious for him to commit to. Personally that’s not an issue, I don’t know why you’re in a band without being serious about it.

Have the babylonian firegod Molok inspired your choice of name?

Patrik: – Not at all, actually “Moloken” is an old swedish word for feeling gloomy or down-hearted. When abroad people ask about the name all the time and here in Sweden think it’s pretty strange to name your band after a mood.

By now you’ve played at the Hotet Från Skogarna-releaseparty – how was it? What other bands did you like?

Patrik: – It was really cool and well-organized. It was a pleasure to be there even though I was pretty tired and spent a lot of time trying to get some sleep (like I usually do before we play, it’s almost becoming a habit…). I really only saw the last band of the night which called themselves Djävelskap and they were really good and nice guys too. I was expecting some kind of grind or crust but they sounded more like a serious Turbonegro. Kind of. Anyway, definitively worth checking out and I hope to see them again sometime.

Kristoffer: – We finally got some retribution since our last show in Östersund fucking sucked.

So for some reason you’ve been laying low for about 6 months before – what was the reason behind it?

Patrik: – Real life.

Kristoffer: – A lot of reasons.

What would you find at a party thrown by Moloken?

Kristoffer: – Small private party, obscure music of all kinds, expensive alcoholic beverages and soda.

Patrik: – Hopefully the four of us, with me playing music nobody wants to hear.

You’ve also played over at P3 Rock – could you tell me more about it?

Kristoffer: – Well, we have been featured on the show with every release we’ve done, so its safe to say that they dig our shit. They played the last track of the album Åland and its a pretty unconventional song even for that show which is cool.

Why did you pick Discouraged Records? Do you get full artistic freedom?

Kristoffer: – Well, I am the owner of the label, so yes full artistic freedom indeed.

Patrik: – We were talking with a couple of labels before we released “Rural”, but nothing really worked out the way we wanted. Either we were getting bad deals or just found out the labels  didn’t walk the walk. Releasing through Discouraged means being in total control of the product from start to finish. A bit more work, mostly for him of course, but on the other hand we’re not handing anything over to anyone else (apart from art work and the mix, but we have our hands all over that too…).

Your latest album Rural have been getting some good points at different magazines, what are you most satisfied with on that record? Did it turn out the way you wanted it to?

Patrik: – Overall I’m pleased with the record. It’s weird and I like that. I’m also very satisfied with the way we were able to play with dynamics, with very loud and very quiet parts and several steps in between instead of just being on/off (or clean/distorted as is mostly the case in the metal genre). The production is satisfying too, but we really took our time with that. The album is also a lot more diverse and has a wider span than “Our Astral Circle”. I guess I’m somewhat responsible for that as I’m easily bored and also has a slightly different aproach to the guitar than Johan, whom I replaced, had. His playing always fits the song really well while I try to mess it up a bit and force it in another direction.

Kristoffer: – I wanted the album to be rawer, even more down to earth than our astral circle and it really fits the song on the album, which comes as no surprise cause we made the sound changes while rehearsing. So like every time I record Moloken, my goal is to capture the magic that we create while rehearsing and playing live. The sound, the vibe, dynamics, anger, lust, sadness.. all the things that occur while we are playing the songs we write. And most of the bands today are occupied with other things surrounding being in a band rather than focusing at the core of what makes any music good… the feeling.

What kind of musical influences do you gather from the 70’s progressive rock, 90’s death/doom and black metal? What are the primary noticeable influences from those decades?

Kristoffer: – The experimental but disciplined lust from the 70’s prog rock, the dark groove and force from death and doom scene and the eerie chill from black metal is a good way to describe it. Bands worth mentioning is Katatonia, Opeth, My Dying Bride, Rush, Marillion, King Crimson and Breach.

Patrik: – It’s hard to talk about influences and the whole “extreme metal meets 70’s prog rock”-thing we sometimes talk about isn’t really an easy formula like that. Where we really draw our inspirations from varies a great deal, but how it turns out is an altogether different story. As an example I really got inspired to play some groovy doom metal when I heard PJ Harvey’s latest album “Let England Shake”. To me it comes very natural how to bring elements of that kind of playing into metal. And then the ideas and songs really live their own lives. But if name-dropping is what you want then I mention Death, Morbid Angel and Mayhem. That’s three bands that still resonates with me.

I like the aesthetics of the record, it also seems like your records are pretty dark in their aesthetics and the latest one feature some mean looking ravens – what are your main influences aesthetically? What makes for a good Moloken artwork? Who creates the album art?

Patrik: – All artwork have so far been done by our good friend Kenny Lindström at Organic Level and we have given him a lot of both freedom and feedback in the process. For “Rural” I actually had some ideas that I wanted to try out myself but could never find the time to do it. Maybe I give it a shot in the future or at least make some t-shirt designs? Time will tell, but we’re not necessarily stuck with Kenny forever and personally I like when bands surprise me not only with the music but with the artwork as well. I love the stuff Kenny has done though but is at the same time itching to have a go at it myself.

Where do you normally listen to Moloken-records, what’s the ultimate setting for it? Or do you tend to avoid to listen to your own music?

Kristoffer: – I only create music for my own introvert pleasure and for me Moloken is like a huge playground for creative outlets of the dark. It has to be honest and really good, otherwise what’s the point?

Patrik: – A large reason to make music for me is to create something that I feel is missing, so of course I listen to my own stuff from time to time. The best setting to listen to any music is alone laid down on the couch, preferably with the booklet in one hand and a beer in the other. When we released “Our Astral Circle” a review mentioned it would go really well together with a Yeti from Great Divide Brewing Company. It’s actually one of my favourite stouts and I really like those kinds of reviews. It’s a nice twist to music reviewing instead of just doing the regular name-dropping.

It seems like you like Finland quite a lot and that the finnish like your music too – why do you have such a good relationship?

Kristoffer: – Finnish booker Esa Valkeajärvi from Blow Up That Grammophone contacted us and booked us on a mini tour back in 2010. It’s been love ever since.

Patrik: – I’m actually half-finn, so I’m biased, but the crowd and promotors in Finland have just really stepped up and treated us very well when we’ve been there. The finns are also very easy-going (contrary to popular belief…) and it’s always a blast to go there.

When are you going to march out of the underground and start selling bubblegum pop records?

Kristoffer: – Hah.

Patrik: – Maybe when Yeti is available at the gas station or my local supermarket?

Are you anticipating any new release this year from any band you’re fond of?

Patrik: – Not really, it’s hard enough keeping up with everything that’s already been released. I guess you could say I’m waiting for the new album from Converge, but otherwise I’ll just check things out when they hit me. I have a broad taste so it’s hard work being up to date all the time.

What’s your greatest memory of Moloken and where have you gotten your best live-experience?

Patrik: – A though one. I guess we should save the answer to that one to the day we calls it quits and become nostalgic old geezers? I have a hunch most great memories will just be strange incidents on the road or maybe we’ll romantizice the very idea of sitting in a bus together for half a day just chatting and listening to music? Being in a touring band is a lot like being kids I guess and I have no problem with that.

You’re also currently assembling your powers to do a tour – where will there be a possibility to see you besides Norrland?

Kristoffer: – Besides the label’s festival in September,“Discouraged Fest” in Umeå, we only have plans for gigs in the south, so yes.

Patrik: – ‘Like’ us on Facebook or whatever and you will get all the latest news as we always post our tour plans and information about the gigs when and where they’re happening.

What untamed force of nature would you most likely be?

Patrik: – I would like to say I would “rock you like a hurricane” but I’ve always been more fascinated by volcanoes.

Kristoffer: – Ocean.

So – what makes the genres you’re residing in so good? Why have you primarily chosen those mentioned?

Patrik: – We haven’t really chosen our genre I think, it just sounds this way when we play together. But the interesting thing with metal and hardcore, when done correctly, is the diversity and intensity of the bands and the feelings they convey. I’m drawn towards that. I like a lot of different music though but metal and hardcore have a certain seriousness that is fascinating. In a way they’re genres that’s easy to mock, but when done right they’re impossible to ignore.

Kristoffer: – When we started out, we just said that we wanted to make heavy music and scream our lungs out, since then we have gotten like a qatrillion different labels what “genre” we play. Despite that, some people get it, some don’t. A label is just a label, it will be clearer in a few years.

What other bands would you like to recommend from the same branch or a nearby one that you’re sitting on?

Patrik: – Recently I discovered Dodecahedron and I think they’ve something interesting going on.

Kristoffer: – Bergraven!

So when you’re coming up with an idea for an album – where do you usually reside when brainstorming?

Patrik: – So far there hasn’t been that much of organized brainstorming behind the albums but more like an organic process that ultimately lead to albums being recorded. But I’d love to change the way we work and the thought of constructing a mood board before a single song to a new album is written appeales to me a lot. The rest of the band seems interested in the idea so we may actually try something like that.

What could one expect when attending a live-show with Moloken?

Kristoffer: – Psychedelic, hypnotizing, intense wall of dark groove mind fuck.

Patrik: – We have heard that we’re louder than Manowar and are obviously on drugs.

Have you recorded any material that didn’t fit the bill on anything you’ve released so far?

Kristoffer: – We did a song on the “Our Astral Circle” album that just didn’t find a place with the other songs. So we just kept it a secret actually.

Patrik: – It might just be released somehow, sometime…

Will you be releasing anything new this year?

Patrik: – We have almost half an albums worth of material written already though, but we need to go through everything at least one more time and straighten some stuff out. We’re also discussing the possibility of making another EP or maybe a split with someone else and there’s also the issue of releasing it through Discouraged Records or maybe working with someone else in the future. There’s always things happening and being talked about, but nothing solid yet. Hopefully there’ll be a vinyl version of “Rural” happening sooner rather than later. That’s our main focus at the moment.

So – where do you normally record your material? How is the creative process in the making of one and do you have any in-studio anecdotes of your three releases?

Patrik: – XL Studios in Holmsund has so far met our needs. The creative process is usually some sort of organized jamming with one member bringing in an idea of a song and generally working as a master-mind. Who that is varies though and Jakob writes a lot more than people may think. The strangest anecdote has to be the time when Nicklas had to play without shoes because somehow they produced noise that got picked up by the bass and amp. The trouble-shooting for finding that noise wasn’t easy!

Kristoffer: – Recording the vocals for “We All Face the Dark Alone” EP in a sauna!

What kind of album art would we likely see on the fourth release from Moloken?

Patrik: – Ideas are coming and going all the time. Right now I think we should be working on getting an idea of what kind of album we want to do next and the rest will just follow from there. We have some songs and a vague idea of where we’re heading, but right now we’re in the middle of it all and stuff will almost certainly change or evolve.

If you’d be doing a split in the future – which band/bands would you pick as your partner in crime?

Patrik: – We have been discussing it with our friends Kongh. We’ll see what happens though, it may well happen with somebody else instead or maybe not at all. I’d love to do something with The Arson Project too but we haven’t had the oppurtunity to discuss it. Yet.

What would you say is the general lyrical influence for your records and in particular your latest release?

Patrik: – Generally our lyrics are about the darker parts of human life and psyche. This record has more focus on personal failure and desperation. It’s very close to home so to speak.

Thank you for this interview! Do you have any words of old wisdom? Could you grant me three wishes?

Patrik: – No miracles happening at this moment, but thanks for the interview and anyone who’ve read this far deserves a thank you too!

Kristoffer: – Hell is in your head.

Watch their video of the great song The Titan Above Us:

Do also listen to their latest album Rural on Soundcloud:

You can also find them over here:

Homepage: http://molokenband.tumblr.com/

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Moloken/173309830892

MySpace: http://www.myspace.com/moloken

YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/molokendoomcore

Soundcloud: http://soundcloud.com/moloken-1

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