#KnutHassel 🇸🇪 #Interview

8 min read

Shhhh… can you hear that rumble? It’s not a menacing and violent storm; it’s more like a faraway thunder that resonates in the distance, calmly and with no end. Dark, repetitive and mesmerizing riffs, along with seductive and hypnotic vocals… Well… maybe it’s time for you to know about Woodland, a Doom Metal band hailing from Sweden. Guitarist Knut Hassel took his time answering some questions for Blessed Altar Zine, in order to know a bit more things about Woodland, and also about himself.

Hi Knut, thank you for agreeing to this interview. First of all, who are the members in Woodland and what’s everyone’s task in it?

Knut Hassel – guitar
Kjell Bergendahl – vocals, guitar
Peter Johansson – bass, additional vocals
Fredrik Haake – drums

Since you’re not new to the music scene, can you tell our readers what other bands each of you are or have been involved with?

Knut: I have been playing guitar in every possible genre since the mid seventies. In the nineties I was in Destiny, based in Gothenburg. Destiny probably is one of the first really Heavy bands to come out of Sweden. In the late nineties I moved from Gothenburg 1000 km North, and eventually ended up in a seventies style Hard Rock band called Gudars Skymning (Twilight of the Gods, in English). We have released seven albums so far. In 2016 I started Karmanjaka as a one man Black Metal band, but it very soon became a 5 piece. We have produced 4 albums so far, and are pre producing our fifth this summer. Our latest album “Gates of Muspel” received killer reviews from all around the world so we have very high hopes for the future now!

Peter and Kjell have a history together in Thalamus, which released a few albums and were active up to early 2020. Fredrik is involved in Hollingshead and a Psych Blues band called Badge.

How was it that you four decided to join forces to bring Woodland to life?

Knut: Me and Peter had been talking about doing something together on and off since 2012, when we first met at Sweden Rock Festival. The problem was that we lived 500 km apart back then! Then two years ago when I moved South and ended up 200 km from him, we started to hang out a bit and then Peter, Kjell and I decided to have a go at making some Heavy Doomy music. Fredrik joined us a few months later.

How would you define your music and/or style?

Knut: It’s always hard to categorize music, but we are based in Epic Doom, tinted with dark suggestive themes. We have a lot of dual guitar harmonies and go for soaring vocals to top it off. We stay away from any rules or forms when writing, which have led to that our music draws from many genres. We like the depth that it lends to the songs.

What inspires you guys when writing your music?

Knut: Things we read and stuff we run into in life, history, philosophy, religion, people, the world, the darker sides of humanity, etc. Also of course music and art in general is a great inspiration. We all have our different individual musical influences, to draw from.

Do you have the chance to physically rehearse together often?

Knut: It was very tricky during the covid, and some of us live far apart, so it has not been easy the last years, but we’re back on track now again. Me, Peter and Kjell have been seeing each other every few weeks or so to write new songs, so that has kept us going a lot of the time.

Having released two songs so far (and I must say, they are very very good!), how pleased are you with them? And, is the band working on more new material?

Knut: We are very excited about the songs and think we have found our own style within the Doom genre. We are working on about 10 songs at the moment, apart from the four we are releasing now and in the near future. I must say that it has been very easy for us to come up with great ideas for both music and lyrics, there is no shortage in those departments at all!

Now, in order to know a bit more about you… when did you start playing guitar, and which was the first band you were involved in?

Knut: I started out as a 13 year old learning the guitar at school in the mid-late seventies. We had two hours every week with a really cool guy who taught us every instrument needed to form a band. He also took us to concerts with all the big bands hitting Sweden between 1976-1979. I also played the cello for a few years in the early 80s. My first really serious band (I was involved in smaller bands and a few local musicals and shows in the mid 80s) was Destiny, a Gothenburg based dark Metal act that was up and rising at the end of the 1980s. They had released two albums and were recording their third when I came into the picture, so I ended up not playing on that album, which they regretted later on. I stayed in the band until 1999. Unfortunately things evolved really slowly with this band, so the album I wrote with them before the mid nineties (“The Undiscovered Country”) didn’t get recorded until 1996 and saw release in 1998. Then I moved far North and we couldn’t agree on how to handle the distance, so I left Destiny then.

Is there any guitar player you consider a big influence on your style? And anyone you admire a lot?

Knut: Classical music in general, Medieval and Folk music was a big part of my parents’ collection. So that is where my base is. I listened to a lot of different players in my early years, and the ones who I admired then were guys like Michael Schenker, Uli Roth, Tony Iommi, Alex Lifeson, Gary Moore, Steve Howe, Jimmy Page, Van Halen, Alan Holdsworth, Yngwie Malmsteen, etc…. Later in the 80s I discovered Marty Friedman, who I think is out of this world!!! I think Iommi, Schenker, and YJM are the ones that are more visible in my playing today.

Which are your guitar routines? Do you practice every day?

Knut: I have a day job, I teach English and Swedish. I cannot make it without the bread coming in. I only practice when I have to learn something that I cannot play. I mainly play for writing stuff. I hammer out riffs and ideas, or a lead. Since I’m in three different bands at the moment, and just joined a pop project, I really try to be productive. So, sometimes it’s every day for hours when I have the time. Other times there can be weeks between taking up the guitar. But I kind of need to step back from the guitar sometimes and let it be for a while to keep the inspiration coming.

Can you play any other instrument? Are you good at vocals?

Knut: I don’t like singing very much. I do like playing bass, and have played on a few recorded songs with Gudars Skymning. I also used to play the cello as I mentioned earlier.

Can you tell us the very first song or band that got you into Metal?

Knut: Apart from Black Sabbath which I consider to be the godfathers of Metal, and their first albums, and bands like Judas Priest and Accept, I never really listened to heavier music until the late 80s. Then I discovered Cacophony and Megadeth. And then I started playing with Destiny and got into Savatage. But that was it really, until 2015 when I rediscovered Black Metal, which I in the 90s thought nothing of. Since then Black and Doom has been a major part of my musical diet.

Which bands were you listening to when you were a teenager? Are you still listening to these nowadays?

Knut: I got into Sabbath early, and Zeppelin of course. I listened alot to Symphonic Rock like YES, Genesis and Rush back then too. Deep Purple, UFO, Scorpions, Lizzy and Uriah Heep took up a lot of time, as did Frank Zappa. I was into KISS for a few years in the 70s and went to their first concert in Sweden 1975. The only band of those I still listen to is Black Sabbath. Sabbath will never go out of style!

Which kind of music (band, genre…) it’s special for you, meaning in an emotional sense?

Knut: Medieval music, Black Metal of different kinds.

What does Metal music mean to you in your life?

Knut: It has a calming effect on me, and it’s a way of life. It’s in my blood ever since I first heard Black Sabbath in the early 70s, I guess. That said, I do not listen very much to music today, I don’t have the time or need since I’m so much involved in my own music. Being a musician in general is very rewarding for my well being. I don’t think I would be around now if I didn’t have my playing and musical outlet.

What’s the best part of being a musician, for you? And the worst, if there’s any negative thing?

Knut: It’s very rewarding on a personal level, creativity makes you feel fulfilled in a way nothing else really does! At the same time it’s very frustrating that it’s so hard to make a living as a musician. It’s so backward that so many think that the musician is the very last one to get paid for their work. Everyone else comes first, and the one who creates the music is last in line.

Talking about Karmanjaka, another band you play in… I must say your latest album “Gates of Muspel” is really impressive! (And for those readers interested, I had the pleasure of writing a review about it a few months ago). How are things with this band? Are you doing any gigs in the near future?… Maybe you are writing new material nowadays?

Knut: We’re pre prodding a new album, starting in July. So we’re hard at work already, and have tons of more or less finished songs, riffs and ideas! We aim to get out gigging later this year.

Many thanks for your time and your answers, Knut. Anything else you want to add?

Knut: Stay Metal, in today’s world and circumstances it’s more important than ever to unite under the Metal banner!

Interview by Sílvia

Check out Woodland music in the video below. You can also follow & support the artist and his bands in the following links:

Knut Hassel



Gudars Skymning

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