VANHELGA : DSBM IS A POSITIVE WAY - INTERVIEW
INTERVIEW WITH 145188 (Jacob Ottosson) (Founder of the band)
"VANHELGA was formed in Linköping, Sweden, in 2001 by J. Ottosson, aka 145188, who got together with like-minded musicians inorder to finally breathe life into his vision, something he had not been able to do with any previous bands and musicians he had worked with. Through music and lyrics VANHELGA, which, translated from Swedish means "Profane", explores the darker side of humanity" (Vanhelga's bandcamp presentation)
POSITIVE MUSIC FOR POSITIVE PEOPLE ! VANHELGA
Vanhelga is a Depressive Black Metal from Sweden created back in 2001...Can you tell us a little more about your fondation ?
It did not start out as a Depressive Black Metal band. I was in another band back then and I felt like it was a waste of time so I decided to create a one-man band called VANHELGA and in the early days it was more about occultism and philosophy rather than DSBM. We don’t like to label our music so as far as we are concerned our music just simply is what it is at the moment, we don’t care if it is considered to be depressive or satanic or whatever the hell people want to call it. We create art that is not confined within any borders such as genres, for example.
As a one-man band I felt that, after releasing “Höst”, I had accomplished and done everything that I wanted to do by myself. That’s why I decided to bring in other members, to evolve and more importantly, be able to express our art on stage in front of an audience. It takes the whole experience to another level and enables me to explore more of the darkness that is constantly devouring my mind. Going on tours for example is a good way to destroy yourself in some sense because life on tour can be very challenging, particularly to the mind.
What bands were you listening to back then ? Which were infuential ?
Dissection, burzum, metallica, in flames, meshuggah and mayhem was few of the ones I can remember right now. There was probably other influences as well but when it happens it is always accidental and not on purpose. It’s important for us to be as unique as possible in every aspect.
In 2009 you released your first demo Enslaved by God...what took you so long ?
I was in no hurry to do anything. I wanted to take my time and try to find someone to release my material that had similar ideas like my own. I am a very introverted guy with mental health problems so things usually takes a lot longer for me than for “normal” people. Also I am anti-social and asocial, meaning that I on purpose avoid contact with other humans as much as possible. This can make things more complicated.
What DSBM means to you ? Is Vanhelga a DSBM band ?
For me DSBM is just a word used to categorize music. We, ourselves, don’t think we are in any category whatsoever. To be in a category or concept, is just one of many ways to limit yourself. One of the most important things for us when it comes to creativity is to never limit ourselves and we take all measurements possible to avoid it. If the music we write turns out to be fucking punk rock or whatever, as long as we think it sounds good, we will still release it and feel good about it. We simply don’t care about genres or different kind of categories of music. The main concern for us is that we are pleased with what we produce, what other people say or think has no meaning to us in this situation.
You have melodic and rock influences in your music. Where did they came from ?
It just turns out that way in the writing process. We are probably, on some level, influenced by things without knowing it but when we write a song we just go through our process and see what happens. We don’t have any rules or guidelines that says “it has to be melodic and rock”, you know? We always try to avoid this kind of thinking.
One of your slogans is « Positive music for positive people ». Do you practise the same dark humor than a band called Lifelover ?
It’s sarcasm combined with dark humor. Well, we have had two members from LIFELOVER in VANHELGA and all the bands in the scene here in Sweden know each other one way or another so it is not strange that we share the same ideas sometimes. I have always been very hard to understand and I like to mess around with sarcasm in combination with dark humor but still keep everything on a very serious level without it getting too “clowny”.
Your first album in 2010 was called Mortem illuminate mea. Can you tell us a bit more about the title and the album ?
The title is roughly put together Latin for “Death Illuminate Me” or “Illumination by Death”. It’s the idea that when we die the whole existence will unravel before us and we will transcend and get access to levels of existence that are impossible to even grasp while being trapped inside the disgusting flesh of a human body.
When I wrote this album I was studying philosophy and occultism twenty-four seven, everyday. I was totally obsessed by it, in a very unhealthy way. It actually went so far that I had to get hospitalized and get help to get my mind straight again.
Where do you think all that hate, depression and negativity came from ? Is it anger ? Is it deception ?
It’s just life. It doesn’t come from one single source, it is a combination of everything that we sum up as existing. Ever since I was born I felt violated, as if someone or something forced me to exist against my own will.
I did not ask to be born and I don’t want anything to do with this existence or the disgusting people who constantly annoy me. I have a few things I want to do before I end my life but as soon as I have accomplished these goals you can be sure I will not be around anymore.
After 2 eps you released a second lp, Höst, back in 2012. There is a lot of Post-Rock elements in this one. Do you have post-rock influences ?
Honestly I have no idea. I am not familiar with the genre and like I said before - I don’t care about genres/categories. As long as I am liking what I hear I don’t mind if it is fucking electronic dance music or whatever the fuck.
“Höst” was the last album that I did everything by myself on and I was in a very dark place. I had recently got diagnosed with Panic Syndrome, and I can assure you that it is one of the worst things you can ever experience.
I did not listen to any post-rock music or anything else at the time. I just had a lot of emotions that got transferred into the lyrics and music of the album. It’s important for me to always move forward when it comes to creating music, I don’t want to repeat stuff that I have already done in the past and I absolutely have no interest whatsoever to sound like any other band. To always move forward into the darkness and the unknown is what we do. We are not a band like Iron Maiden for example, who found a formula that works for them and then just repeat it forever.
Your 20 favorite records ever ?
I don’t have any favorite records, I listen to what I want to listen to at the moment and that’s it. Also I discover new music from time to time so it’s hard to say what would be my favorite albums “ever”.
But I will try to give you a few anyway: Dissection (The somberlain, storm of the lights bane), Burzum (Filosofem, hvis lyset tar oss), Triptykon (Eparistera daimones, melana chasmata), Metallica (Ride the lightning, master of puppets, black album, load), Mayhem (De mysteriis dom sathanas), Megadeth (Rust in peace, youthanasia, countdown to extinction), Meshuggah (Destroy erase improve, nothing, chaosphere), Windir (Arntor, 1184), Iron Maiden (Seventh son of a seventh son).
When i saw the Langtan cover i immediately thought of Dissection. Was it intentional ? A word about this album ?
I believe it was inspired a little bit by the works of Necrolord (the person behind the artwork of Dissection) since this band have always been one of the bands that I could relate with the most throughout the years.
The cover is actually inspired by Finnish folklore, it’s the land of the dead and it’s where everyone ends up after they die. The title “Längtan” means “Longing”, that you really can not wait for something to happen. And in this case Death is the topic. The longing to finally die and leave this miserable life behind in order to hopefully find some peace and rest after years of suffering.
Ode & elegy was released in 2016. It's a very melodic and melancholic dark album. Do you think your music is getting more and more melodic ? Is it a swedish thing ? I mean swedish
metallers are notably known for their sense of melody ? You agree ?
Thanks. It is never intentional when we write music. What I mean by that is that we never say to ourselves “this song has to be more melodic” or “this song has to be more brutal” and so on. We have no rules, we create without boundaries and if we like the result we will use it.
I have not thought much about if Swedish music is more melodic than music from other countries but there is something about the atmosphere here in Sweden and the lifestyles that somehow results in a certain sound. It might also be connected to something genetic, still lingering on, since the old days before Christianity came like a plague and ruined everything spiritual.
Fredagsmys, your last album to date, was released in 2018. Can you tell us what is different or special with that album for you ?
It’s the first album that we ever recorded in a fully equipped studio with a sound-engineer by our side. It’s also the first album which I allowed the other members to contribute more in respect of the sound as well as the writing process.
Also I am pleased with the concept behind the album, it describes in an accurate way the true meaning behind the classic Swedish activity named “Fredagsmys” and how pointless life actually is for the majority of the people here who are indoctrinated into the ways of society. They are basically brainwashed into thinking the meaning of life is to work full-time with 4 weeks vacation per year, for example. You could say that most people here are blind and needs to open their eyes.
"Remember that in the End, everything and everyone will Die so what you might think is a huge problem for you right now does not matter at all in the End. Stay positive!"
Next projects ?
Right now we are in the process of recording new songs. I can also reveal that we have enough material for a new full-length. The plan right now is to try to do as many live shows as we possibly can. Hopefully we can release an EP or split and further down the road the next full-length album. That is how things are looking at the moment.
I will publish this itw in a book i'm writing about BM and subgenres. If i tell you :
What do you think about that subgenres ?
DSBM: It’s supposed to portray an atmosphere of depression, mental health problems, sadness, suicidal thoughts and a mix of desperation combined with moments of hope or joy. But unfortunately from my own experience (meeting bands on tours and over the internet or other in real life situations), it turns out that most people who are involved in the genre are not authentic, they often have very good lives with no problems whatsoever and are mostly interested in having fun and partying. If a band is not authentic you can hear it almost instantly from their music because it does not have the correct mood or feeling behind it. In general I would say that most people who are involved in music are not honest and they just want to fit into a category of people so they don’t feel alone or they think it is “cool” and want to be like the bands they admire. Total waste of time in my opinion. It’s not strange that we don’t get along well with other bands on tour when we are actually suffering from real mental health problems and they are perfectly healthy normal individuals.
NSBM: No comments. I only know that there is a lot of issues around this genre and personally I think that music should never have any fucking political agendas. Music is much deeper, both spiritually and more complex, than the pathetic problems humans have in society. The world will perish in the End so why bother trying to fix something that will not last forever?
Post-BM: I am not exactly sure what this genre is all about but we have toured with bands who are considered to be Post-BM and I guess it is somewhat of a trendy genre at this moment. For me personally, the music has not been interesting enough for me to get more involved in it.
Space BM: I have no fucking idea what this means. Sorry.
Atmospheric BM: I think all music that succeeds in creating an authentic atmosphere falls into this category. Unfortunately it’s like with almost every fucking band nowadays, they copy the atmosphere that other bands have already portrayed before. It’s very hard to find bands with an unique atmosphere, most of them are just sad reflections from trying to sound like this or that band.
Death/Black: I am going to guess that you are referring to music who does a mix of both black and death metal. Well, one of the bands I like the most, Dissection, are considered to do this and I fucking love that band. It’s nice when bands manage to mix different elements and combine them in new ways that are unique and not unoriginal. In this genre, like in all other genres, there are always bands who are not authentic and just try to copy some other band. It’s a shame really, because it is total pointless to mass-produce the same shit over and over again.
Last words for you ! Tell us whatever you want :
Remember that in the End, everything and everyone will Die so what you might think is a huge problem for you right now does not matter at all in the End. Stay positive!