Backseat Mafia got chance to put some questions to Erlend Hjelvik. Formerly known as frontman, lyricist, and co-founder of the Norwegian party rockers Kvelertak, he parted ways with his bandmates in 2018 and has spent the last two years biding his time and plotting a return to action.
Now, he is a rejuvenated and newly inspired metal warrior, primed and ready to launch his own solo band, HJELVIK, and their thunderous and life-affirming debut album, ‘Welcome to Hel’. Read our review here
First of all, how are you? How are you coping with the pandemic? Any message for your fans?
Hey, I’m doing great, thanks! I’ve been staying really busy, there’s been lots of work to do with rolling out my new album! The pandemic has been a blessing and a curse in a way, the bad thing is that we can’t tour and don’t have the money we need but the good thing is that we can do things at a comfortable pace without being as overwhelmed. There’s been tons of work because this is a new band and mostly everything has to be set up from scratch. So my message to the fans is to make the best out of a shitty situation, take care of each other and use the quiet time we’ve been given wisely!
The new album – Welcome To Hel is set to be released this month. How are you feeling about the album? Was it an easy album to write and record? Are there any surprises to look forward to? How do you feel about releasing it during the pandemic?
I feel very proud of the new album! It’s the first album that I’ve written both the music and lyrics entirely by myself so this music is 100 percent me, hence the name of the band! The recording process was nice and smooth, much thanks to the excellent musicians that helped me bring my vision of metal to life; Guitarist Rob Steinway, bass-guitarist Alexis Lieu and drummer Kevin Foley. It was also great to work with studio engineer Justin Phelps who recorded it and mixed it together with me. I can’t spoil any surprises, but there’s a lot of exciting stuff in store for the future. I feel good about the release date, yes, it sucks that you can’t tour to support the album right away but at least it gives people a chance to properly digest it. They have time at home to fully get into it so when it comes time for shows, it’s going to explode. Touring will be happening soon, at least in a couple of months, so people won’t have to wait too long. It’s also great to give people something to listen to during this shitty time
What inspired you to start Hjelvik? Did you need to branch out and try new things or enjoy the freedom of your own project? Is that why you chose to use your name as the band’s name?
After I left my old band I didn’t have any clear plans about starting up a new band, but after a couple of months off I started slowly getting inspired to create new music and that’s how HJELVIK was born. I got really excited about making music the way I think it should be and had a lot of fun writing it, so yes, you can safely say I was enjoying the freedom of not having to compromise and being able to follow my creative instincts wherever they take me. I chose to use my last name HJELVIK because I write all the music and lyrics along with being the frontman, the choice was partly inspired by what greats like Ozzy Osbourne, Danzig and Dio did when they left their former bands.
Is Hjelvik the band here to stay? Are there other albums and tours in the pipeline? Have you written any material that didn’t make this album?
Yes! There will be more albums and plenty of touring going forward. Yes, there’s one song that didn’t make it because it didn’t totally fit with the rest of the album and because I wanted to fit everything on one LP. We’ll see what happens with it in the future!
With a decade of releasing music, how do you feel when looking back over the years? Do you feel like you have achieved what you set out to do? How does it compare with making music in today’s industry compared to back then?
It feels like a big blurry dream, the years I spent with Kvelertak went by in a flash. It’s been a weird rollercoaster but I’m really happy to have had the experiences I’ve had and everything has been useful to me when it came time to set out on my own. Since I started Kvelertak in 2006 the biggest difference I’ve experienced is the declining sales of CDs and an increasingly bigger emphasis on social media. I was sitting and adding people on the band’s Myspace page back in the day, but I still feel like the internet was more innocent back then. That being said I appreciate the possibilities the internet offers these days though it’s a little hard to wrap your head around everything and being!
Going back over the years, has your approach to song writing changed? How does a track develop with yourself and band members?
In Kvelertak I was writing the lyrics and taking care of the vocals and I haven’t really been writing music on my own until starting HJELVIK. Musically I can have a riff or a more or less finished song just suddenly pop up in my mind and I have to hurry up and get it down, this usually happens the most right before going to sleep or right when I wake up. Other times I will sit down and just noodle around until I suddenly come up with something that catches my ear and then just work on it and see where it takes me. I just go off of my gut instinct. I will record demos with guitarlines,basslines and drums before sending them off to the bandmembers who then send it back to me with their playing on it. We did demos like this for all the tracks on Welcome to Hel before meeting up in the studio and I’m very happy with this method of doing things. I come up with the lyrics after the music is finished.
I’m fascinated by your use of Norse mythology for your lyrics. Do you have a particular tale/story that is a favourite?
There are many so it’s a little hard to choose but the ones involving Loki are usually great, like how he ended up giving birth to Odin’s horse Sleipner or how when the gods finally had enough of him decided to tie him up with his son’s intestines and drip snake venom on him. Lots of great imagery there to dive into for metal lyrics!
I heard you were happy signing to Nuclear Blast. What is it about the label that made you happy with using them to release the album?
They are the biggest metal label so that’s one thing, nothing compares to the power of an independent record label of Nuclear blast’s stature. They have been easy to work with, caring about HJELVIK, accommodating and really allowing me to work the way I do as an artist. That is worth its weight in gold not to have pressure to change or conform and somehow warp your vision to keep the cooperation going. Being with Nuclear Blast feels like I have the support of the world, there are so many hard working people in offices around the world working their ass off to make HJELVIK what it is, to get my music to fans, and that feels great and I’m glad I can also contribute to their success through HJELVIK and inturn support those people working to give HJELVIK to the world.
What songs are you looking forward to playing live when you get the chance? Will we be hearing any of your previous work or is it strictly Hjelvik?
All of them! Well from Welcome to Hel I look the most forward to playing Glory of Hel and Necromance, those will be awesome live for sure. I will also play a few old Kvelertak classics, I will just make sure it’ll be something that fits the rest of the setlist.
Are there any bands past or present you would love to have played with or even been part of?
I can’t think of a good answer here, I’m happy to have been involved with the bands that I’ve been part of in the past and everything that’s happened leading up to me starting my own band HJELVIK.
Difficult to talk about future plans, but what does the future look like for yourself and the band?
It’s not difficult. I’ve accepted the current situation and so, it doesn’t stop me from seeing the future. It’s only a matter of time and the future is crystal clear. COVID-19 will be eradicated, there will be more HJELVIK albums and lots of fun-filled, outrageous touring! We all can’t wait for that! I have a band of awesome musicians, a great crew, great booking agents, a killer label and steadfast manager…we’re going to kick ass together. The future is brighter than ever. Don’t let the stillness of the night trick you into thinking there is no dawn! In this downtime, we prepare…. for touring, finish building the band practice space and band headquarters with my own hands and all the while dream up the next album!
What music are you digging right now? How do you see the metal scene right now, are there any particular Norwegian artists you would love to see make it?
The new Cadaver record Edder and Bile is great. I’ve also been enjoying Eternal Champion – Ravening Iron, Hellripper – Poisons of the Affair and Spirit Adrift – Enlightened in Eternity. There are lots of great Norwegian metal bands with bright futures around for sure, from the top of my head I can recommend Black Viper, Inculter and Mork. As of how I see the metal scene right now I think it seems vibrant and strong based on all the great albums that are coming out!
Check out the video for track ‘Glory of Hel’ taken from the bands debut album, below:
Purchase the album here