BVST Meets Kvelertak: Interview with Guitarist Vidar Landa

[This is a transcription of an audio interview. To listen to the recording, please scroll to the bottom of the interview.]

Let me set the scene. I meet Vidar Landa, one of Kvelertak's three guitarists, at Katacombes an hour or so before the show. It's raining outside, which means that we're now forced indoors to do the interview. Trouble is, the opening bands (Black Tusk and The Great Sabatini) have to soundcheck. We decide we're going to risk it, and try to see if we can get the interview in before the soundchecking actually starts. I pick a spot upstairs, somewhat behind the speakers, but above the band, in a curtained off area with couches, hoping that the curtains will cut some of the ambient noise.

Angelica: I'm here with Vidar Landa from Kvelertak, and thank you so much for meeting with me and for talking to me about your new record and all this good stuff. But first things first, how's Kjetil doing, how's your drummer doing?

Vidar: He's doing good. It was actually worse than we thought, but he's getting treatment, and he will be fine for the next... we go back home in three days, and then we start doing festivals, so he should be fine by then, but he'll need to rearrange his drumming style, and stuff, so yeah, hopefully it'll work out just fine.

And Jay's fitting in nicely?

Yeah, he's great, he learned all the songs, he's cool to hang out with, it's been good. We miss Kjetil, but Jay is awesome.

Yeah, it's too bad I guess.


So before we jump in, I guess, is there a question you don't want to be asked?

Uh, not really.

Okay, you mean you won't mind if I ask you again, like everyone does, why you guys sing in Norwegian and not... 

No, you can, you can do that.

No that's alright, I'm sure it's been answered like a million times.


So we're really lucky because this is one of only three Canadian dates that you're doing on this tour.

That's right.

Suddenly, drumming starts in the background, and we laugh, because we've barely gotten started, but opt to try to soldier through regardless.

How did Vancouver go?

Good. It was one of the best shows of the whole North American tour that we've been doing. We didn't really know what to expect because we've never been to Canada before. It wasn't sold out, but it was packed and the crowd was awesome. It was just really good. Sketchy neighborhood, we played at the Rickshaw Theatre with all the heroin and junkies all around, but it was cool.

Yeah, Vancouver's got a bit of that going on for sure. And did you have any trouble getting across the border?

No, it was easy. 

Okay, cool. Yeah, ‘cause that tends to be somewhat...

Yeah, I heard about that, I mean, it's harder getting into the States.

That's how I feel about it, but every band's experience is different, I guess.


You guys are here supporting your second record Meir, which is more in Norwegian, and people that listen to this show know that it's more of what was on the first record...


This is where the band starts checking for real, so we realize that we can't keep doing this here. I offer to move to the basement, so we do, perching ourselves on a bunch of beer kegs near the washrooms. Vidar has been holding the recorder, which he pauses, so the audio cuts out while we relocate.

So as I was saying, people that listen to this show regularly, they know that this record is more, you know, more big riffs, more big hooks, and so congratulations on that...

Thank you.

Congratulations also on the fact that you guys debuted at number 1 on the Norwegian Top 40 chart...

Yeah, we did. Crazy.

... and it's been there ever since.

Yeah, well it hasn't been on number one, but yeah, it's still on there.

So here's the thing, this is what North Americans can't understand at all, because there's like, no mainstream support for heavy music really and not much for rock music, but really heavy music is totally out of the question. Are you a pop band in Norway, are you considered a mainstream [band]?

I mean, yes and no. We have a lot of mainstream fans in Norway because they play us on daytime radio, so it's just weird, but I think Norway's always had that. Of course, Satyricon a couple of years ago were listed on daytime radio when they did Volcano with "Fuel for Hatred", so I guess there's a tradition for having hard music on the radio in Norway... with Turbonegro it's the same, when they come out with a new record, they're listed on the radio, same with...

The drummer that's currently checking ramps up in intensity. We duck into the men's washroom to continue. It smells vaguely of piss, but at least the sound is somewhat dampened.

... Nick Cave all that kind of stuff, dark stuff, is normally very popular in Norway.

So, what's it like then coming to North America and kind of having to start from... because if you're popular and getting mainstream airplay you must be selling big places and playing big crowds... what's it like to have to start from scratch?

It's cool. I mean, I like it, I don't know, it makes it more diverse. We play Norway and play big shows, and headline festivals, and then we go to Europe... Europe is starting to be really good now, it's almost like Norway, but then come over to the States and kind of do the small shows and you interact with the audience in a different way and meet different people. I don't know, it's just, it's cool, I like the opposites of it. Of course, like this stage tonight, we can't even fit on it. Hopefully when we come back... I'll have to almost like build my own stage on the side of the stage. 

Yeah, it's a little tight, but I've seen you guys play before and you kind of, you wander around...

Yeah, we'll make it work. 

I read somewhere that Erlend was saying he likes it because there are a bit more metalheads in the audience in North America than there are back home.

Yeah, definitely well there is, I think there's more metalheads here at our shows but also I mean,  the shows in Norway are bigger, so there's a lot of metalheads in them, I think we have more underground fans here, I guess there's more crazy people at our shows here

You mentioned that you have a diverse audience, and I found this amazing photo floating around of James Hetfield and the Crown Prince of Norway...


... hanging out at one of your shows in San Francisco. What's it like to have the support of your country's royalty when you're in a metal band? 

Yeah, it's cool. Well, he's always been really into music, when he was younger he always went to festivals. He's kind of untraditional in that way. I mean, he said we're the heaviest thing he listens to. It's cool, I like him. 

Yeah, I mean for us, Canada is under a monarchy also, right, but I can't even imagine that, not in a million years. Speaking of royalty, though, Hetfield, right, metal royalty, rock royalty, Dave Grohl gave you guys your first gold record for your first record, is there anybody that you'd like to meet still, like, is there an icon or an idol you'd like to meet?

Yeah, I mean, for me, growing up being a hardcore Guns N' Roses fan, I guess meeting some of those guys is the only thing that's kind of left. 

Would you still like to meet Axl, despite all of his...

Yeah, I was hoping to meet him when we played LA and his tour manager came out, so I was having this little hope that he might show up, but he didn't though. But yeah, still, I mean, I heard all the stories...

Speaking of which, actually maybe you can tell me a little bit more about this, I was doing a little Googling, and speaking of Guns N' Roses, you were on a TV show that put together a super group...


... that made a cover of, is it all of Appetite that you covered, it wasn't really clear, I couldn't figure it out.

Actually the thing was that they were doing a 25th anniversary thing of Appetite for Destruction at a TV show and they asked some Norwegian musicians to join in that they knew were fans of the band, so we did just this one TV thing where we played "It's So Easy" and it just got, not big, but, you know, festivals started to give really good offers that they wanted to see us do the whole thing.

Oh, so you guys toured it!

No, we did two festivals.

Oh, cool. 

It was pretty cool, yeah.

That's awesome. Eäsy Böyz is the name of it, I'll be playing that later, I'll cut that in there somewhere. 


Going back a bit to the new record, or even the old record, since it's been a while, well, since you guys ever played here. What are you the most looking forward to playing tonight? 

I dunno, just, for tonight, I'm just looking forward to seeing how we're going to fit on that stage, how we're going to work it out. I heard the presales are really good, so I'm really happy.

Oh cool, that's good! 

At this point, Vidar realizes that we can close the door to the bathroom, cutting out much of the background noise and therefore no longer needing to yell over the din at each other.

So, I know that on this record the black metal influence is still there, but I know that you guys have been trying to kind of distance yourself from it a little bit, or at least that it's just one of the genres that's in the music that you make.

Yeah, it's not that we're trying to distance ourselves from it, it's more that it's never really been black metal.

I guess my question is, have you gotten any negative feedback about it, ‘cause in the 90s, you know what I mean, Entombed, they were like "oh, not black metal enough", have you gotten any kind of, like...

I mean, not really, on the first record we've have Taake, Hoest is singing on it, Nattefrost who's been in Carpathian Forest, a lot of those guys from those black metal bands have supported the band, but yeah, there's always those people, but I mean those people wouldn't like it anyway. "This isn't black metal, so I don't like it," and it's true, it's not black metal.

So what do you think purists, or people who... because Kvelertak's music is so pan-genre, there's so much stuff going on, what do you think people that are really into genres, and especially in metal, there's this desire to slot everything in, what do you think they're afraid of?

I don't know, I mean, I've never really understood it, or, I mean, when I was 13, 14, I got into black metal, and for a while, that was the only thing I could listen to and it had to be that heavy, if not it was shit. But I mean, you grow up and you experience that there's a bunch of other cool stuff out there. So, I don't really understand it, to be honest, I mean, teenagers will always be teenagers, but we have a lot of grownups that are the same way...

Yeah, for sure, that's true.

But I mean, they just hang out at the black metal internet forums...

In their basement!


You guys have been all over the US, is there anyplace that you've played or anyplace that you've been that you were just like, wow, this place is amazing?

Yeah, California is a favorite, Texas has always been really good for us, I really like Portland, but we played DC a couple of days ago and we've never been there before and the show was crazy! There were a lot of people coming out and I just wish I had more time in that city to see all the museums...

All the cultural stuff...

Yeah, I went to the Lincoln Memorial but we only had an hour to get around to do stuff. We've been to a lot of cool places.

How about food, did you eat anything interesting?

Oh yeah, we call this "food tour", every tour we're on. We actually have our own Yelp account, where we review the restaurants we go to on tour...

Is it under your name?

Yeah, yeah, it's under Kvelertak.

Oh cool! Awesome.

So yeah, we've been eating lots of food...

So I'm culturally bound, because you're in Montreal, have you had a poutine yet?

A what?

A poutine.

What's that?

Oh well... okay, so this is the thing that we do here, it's fries, with cheese curds, which is like raw clumps of cheese, and gravy poured over the top and like, bacon or beef or whatever, so if you're in town tonight and need to eat something, this is maybe what you might wanna do. It's super typical and it's like, it's the thing. 

I'm kind of just tired of all the fried food, fried food and cheese on everything, but, yeah, I'm gonna try it out. 

If you wanna go in the opposite direction, there's a really good vegan place nearby.

I'm vegetarian, so that sounds good. 

Oh yeah, that would be good for you then. Okay, so, you know, I guess you get interviewed a lot about, like, I saw the thing about your favorite American beers and stuff like that, but I was wondering if there was something about Norway that you wish that North Americans would know, something that you wanna share...

About Norway? There's probably a lot, but not, I can't really come up with anything interesting right now to be honest.

Okay... it's too far away?

Trolls, are pretty... 


That it's true, and they're actually there, and that's why they're building all these... masts, I don't know what you call them, in the forests to keep the trolls away. Not many people know that...

They need to watch the movie The Troll Hunter...

They can watch that movie to understand what's going on.

That was a fun surprise, ‘cause you guys have a song on the end title, I didn't realize that until it was over.

Yeah, that documentary was very good. 

I feel obliged to point out here that during this part of the conversation regarding trolls, Vidar's face was absolutely deadpan, and I was completely unable to read whether or not he was joking, hence my response, just nervous laughter. I'm sure he had quite the laugh about this later. "Haha, gullible Canadians!" Or maybe not. I'll never know.

Well I guess my other questions are, since I heard you name a bunch of songs off the album in Norwegian, but since obviously North Americans are not, you know, it's not their first language, I was wondering if you have any particularly funny mispronunciations of anything on your record or any names on your record that you've heard. 

Yeah, I mean, most of the songs, I think it's funny when everybody says our song "Bruane Brenn", everybody says "Braun Brenn", it's like, sounds like burned bread... I don't know, but then most people are getting better at it, now people actually can pronounce our name.

Yeah, I remember hearing some interesting versions of it when it first came out.

I don't really have, not necessarily any funny stuff, no, not really.

You released a whole bunch of videos for this latest record, are you going to do any more?

Yeah, we're trying to do a video for every song on the record.

Oh, awesome!

The next one is probably going to be an animated video from the same guy who did the Bloodthirst ("Blodtørst") video, so he's going to have more time and a bigger budget this time around to do a new animated video, so that's going to be the next one. We'll see, we'll try to make one we have an idea with some friends of ours that make movies in Norway, might just give them a camera and see what they come up with, stuff like that.


And hopefully that will turn into a DVD where you can just listen and see the whole record with all the videos.

Like Appetite, they did that for, didn't they do that, no, they did Guns N' Roses Welcome to the Videos.

Yeah, yeah, they did that, and also Use Your Illusion 1 & 2 had a lot of videos that kind of go into each other.

Yeah, that's true. Okay, well, I guess tomorrow is your last day in North America, in Toronto, and then you're going back, you said, a couple of days after that...


... and then festival season...


... and then fall's going to roll around...


... and I guess Europe is going to be...

Yeah, we're going to do... there's been some talk about Australia and Japan in September, I don't know what's up with that right now, but hopefully before this year end we'll be back in Australia and do Japan for the first time. We'll definitely come back to North America to do a tour in the fall time but we don't know what, if it's going to a support tour or our own tour or whatever, and then probably Europe again, and then do it all over again.

So you're getting a couple of weeks back home here and there wherever you can.


Well, it's a living I guess. 

It is.

Vidar goes on to record a couple of promos for BVST and CJLO, and then we chat briefly about food before he heads back to meet up with the rest of the band for a bite to eat before they hit the stage later that night. Against all odds, his fears must have been allayed somewhat, since all six of them fit on stage, and reigned total destruction down upon the eager audience. Do not miss this band the next time they're in your town! As for the final audio quality of my recording, given that "true kvlt" black metal is prized for being practically unlistenable, I'd like to think that this interview is one of the most "brvtal" ever recorded...



--Angelica hosts BVST, Wednesdays 7-9 PM EST on CJLO.