Solefald interview from Qvadrivivm #5 (2008)

Absolutely Vital

Interview: Kuronen

In art, politics, entertainment and religion, among many smaller sects of human interaction, there are innumerable depressing tokens resonating the steep intolerance that lies at the root of our current culture. One minuscule sign of this championing of self-made restrictions, the mentally fascist manuals we cipher without end, is the commonly held reservation against the frontierless music of Solefald. Celebrated by those who understand it as a creative and impressive win over tedium, the Norwegian sunset duo’s non-traditionalist art has accumulated scorn, antipathy and unappreciative bewilderment in numbers that far outweigh the positive response it has gathered, thus proving that in our minds it is still fear that encircles things that we don’t know, things we do not understand. Hence we need restraints, norms of sanity and, indeed, ‘normality’ to familiarise ourselves with that which is foreign and alien. Oftentimes we cannot make ourselves acquainted with the unfamiliar because the blocks in eyeshot are too heavy—unmovable in all their conformism. This is when music like Solefald, adventurous and heterogeneous by nature, is deemed homosexual, unworthy, even downright destroyable, as has been demonstrated by the death threats the band have received from black metal purists. While not perhaps as grave as the fatwa once imposed by Imam Khomeini on the writer Salman Rushdie, such actions show there are people (and not just a few of them) in the world who think more highly of regulations, strict codes of behaviour and totalitarian stalemate than freedom, which is a thoroughly sad state of affairs. What says Solefald?

“We have one basic rule—we don’t rules very much, but we have one basic rule—and that is that we shouldn’t let ourselves be limited in our work,” says Lazare, who with Cornelius makes up the twosome. “If we feel like making a flamenco song, then we’ll make a flamenco song, or a reggae song for that matter. I think you should never set musical boundaries for yourself, at least not being in a band that’s striving so much for the untamed creativity. We always try to nurture the creativity and take care of it when it occurs, without pushing it into some concept form or some aesthetic expression.

“We never let ourselves lead anywhere or another. The way things have always worked with Solefald is that we have made the music because we have something to say, and what people expect from us will never change what we have to say. We never really sit down and think about these things. If you sit down and let yourself be dictated by what people expect or what people think you’re going to make, I don’t think you’ll be able to create good music or art the way we always hope that we’re doing.”

The cross-musical act’s 2003 effort, In Harmonia Universali, shows a more friction-inducing face of the band than 2001’s Pills Against the Ageless Ills did, which must be a welcome development to many of those who originally fell in love with Cornelius and Lazare’s unregimented, no-limits approach to music. Employing four languages in the oral presentation and a whole lot of more instruments on the musical front, the labyrinthine In Harmonia Universali arrives like a fever through the clear. It’s certainly an imaginative leap from the nondescript extreme metal morale of Pills…

“At least a part of the expression of one album is usually a reaction to the forthgoing,” Lazare notes. “When we came out with Neonism, that was a big experience and when we sat down and started to write new music, we felt some sort of need to do something a bit opposed to what we did on Neonism so that’s why we released an album like Pills Against the Ageless Ills. When we sat down writing again we again felt the need to contrast what we did. In order to contrast Pills…, we wanted to push the sort of Neonism envelope even further and try to also incorporate some of the basic heavy metal ideas that we had on Pills… into one and that’s how In Harmonia Universali came about. It’s in many ways the mixture of the musical expression on Neonism and the musical expression on Pills Against the Ageless Ills.”

For Lazare and Cornelius, Solefald is not just the average heavy metal youth activity, a convenient path-paver for socialising with the exteriors of the world. The way Solefald has persisted even through its members’ living in different countries (the Cornelius residence is located in Paris, while Lazare challenges the everyday in Oslo) tells heaps about the perseverance and determination these men have for the child of labour they’ve cultivated and nursed for the last thirteen years. For the two Norwegians, Solefald offers a passageway via which to express themselves musically.

“We go around with things inside us that have to come out one way or another,” Lazare recounts. “We try to reach our harmonia universali and Solefald is in many ways our tool. Some people try to be at harmony with themselves by painting pictures, we do it by making music. That’s our blood, that’s what flows in our veins. We have to do this, it’s absolutely vital to us.”

“I can give you Wisdom, Beauty and Power
Turn you into a robot or make you a flower
But I prefer you just the way you are
A smartly dressed criminal, a singing monkey star” 
– Solefald, “Mont Blanc Providence Crow”