I’ve recently come across a Swedish one-man band called Fyrgast. As I’m curious lately about all Black Metal related, I checked it… and I instantly liked it. A lot, ‘cause it’s raw, dark, ice cold and with that special sense of “raging storm” that’s present in a lot of Swedish Metal acts. Oh and with an atmospheric envelope that makes me shiver… Vidar Wetterhall, the only man behind Fyrgast, kindly agreed to an interview for Blessed Altar Zine. Aaand here it goes…
Hi Vidar, thank you for your time answering this. First thing I noticed when I was searching for information about Fyrgast is how productive the past year was for you. How do you do it? I mean, three albums in 12 months, it’s not that you’ve been sleeping a lot!
Vidar: Haha. Actually I try to sleep as much as I can. I also work full-time and have a family. But I wrote the major part of the material I’ve released during a period of three months when I was between two jobs and then I just had a lot of material to choose from. Still do.
So nowadays I just go back to my demos and put together the songs I think fit together and I rework them so they become fresh and new. I must have written probably around hundred ideas or more during those three months, because it was all I was doing for a period in my life.
I do write new stuff and incorporate it with the old as well, but now things have slowed down and I take my time to refine the material I have. If I look ahead I’d almost have music laying around that I have started on for a good 10 years hehe. I’m in this for the long run to say the least.
What inspires you to write your music? And lyrics? Can you tell us what they talk about?
Vidar: I rely on stuff I already heard music wise. It’s still those records with Mayhem, Burzum, Marduk, Dissection, Pantera, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and that sort of stuff that gets me started and many other bands and genres. But inspiration to me can come whenever. I can be making a toast and a coffee and look at a tin jar and find a new title for a song.. I can be stressed and don’t really have time and then inspiration just comes like titles for several albums. A picture can start things for me.. It’s in everything and always a combination of living life, having lived life a certain way or just something I read, hear, experience or see. There’s never shortage there for me. I’m probably a bit deranged or ”extra ordinary” as well, so that helps hahaha.
The lyrics though, they are often inspired by historical events like the plague/dark ages, mythologies, vikings, or they are about nature, mysticism, self enlightenment or just something I feel fits the song. As I already have titles lined up and lyrics I just listen to a new song and pick something. There is a frame though for what the lyrics could/should be about out of respect to the music so it’s crafted in my interpretation of what the bands I listened to usually sang about. Some things would never fit for example, without being specific. Fyrgast is pretty much a tribute to all those bands from Norway and Sweden during the second wave of Black Metal lyrically and the music is more like a tribute to both first wave and second wave Black. That’s why you could also hear some more Hard Rock sounding riffs or solos here and there. It’s the image I had in my head when I wanted to develop the Iron Maiden or the Heavy Metal aspect of the second wave Black/Blackened Death bands from the 90’s when I started this in 2006. The image I had in my head was Black/Death Metal people that grew up on regular Hard Rock banging their heads to this with devil fists raised to the sky, because that’s pretty much how I see myself. Like a Hard Rock kid that got seasoned in Metal and is now somewhat mature..or overseasoned, he he he.
Being only you in charge of everything in Fyrgast is a lot of work. Well, ALL the work literally. What’s the best thing about being alone in a musical project, for you? And, do you have any negative feeling, any lack?
Vidar: The best thing is to see the whole picture from start to finish and knowing that no opinions that anyone else has matters. No annoying thoughts that come from nowhere or like somebody getting grumpy because they have an opinion that they praise while disliking the stuff you do. The bad or hard side of it is that you have to have your own filter so the healthy thoughts others might have are left out, you have to be self critical and have the stamina to be self critical and open to criticism.
For me this isn’t a problem – none of it, because I listen to other people close to me or whom I respect and I usually know if something I’ve done doesn’t really cut it.
But yes, a lot of work. Sometimes music, sometimes artwork (something I do alot to relax at nights so I got tons of that ready as well, for years to come actually).
The best thing though is being able to do this from home, no rehearsals and no obligations. I can have weeks where I do nothing, when I don’t even look at a guitar and then one day when I do it non stop ‘til I drop! I never force anything. I only work when I’m inspired and have time.
I don’t really lack anything. I’ve learned a lot in the process and I do everything, but I will however – going forward, send away my music for someone else to master. That’s a new step I think I need to do. I have mastered my stuff as well prior to this, but I feel that my music could reach another level if somebody who has that real skill and craftsmanship would do it for me. I think people in general will appreciate this as well. All the rest I will keep doing myself.
When did you start Fyrgast? How did you come up with the idea of producing your own stuff all alone?
Vidar: I got the idea for what would become Fyrgast back in 2006, when I recorded two songs with the help from a guy I knew (I was in his home studio recording vocals for his project). Then I called the project Antagonist and the idea was to combine Heavy Metal / Iron Maiden with Blackened Death/Black Metal or Dissection and Emperor to be specific. I got the idea because I thought I already heard a lot of Maiden in Dissection’s music and I wanted to expand on that.
The songs sounded like shit though because I was using a guitar somebody had thrown away that ended up in the factory where I used to work (environmental work with electronics). We smuggled the guitar out, an Ibanez lawsuit les Paul and I used that one.. good times, but the guitar probably ended up in that factory for a reason.
Anyways, nothing much happened after that. I played in a lot of bands at that time and vocals was my main instrument.
I always wanted to have my own studio so I started learning about that and buying gear while I was studying at the university. By 2016 I had learned enough to get back into my ideas and I recorded two songs. ”Fafnesbane” and ”Dark ages”. I showed them to my friend and he couldn’t believe that I had recorded that stuff at home. I had a lot going at the time so nothing much happened then either, years passed and then one day I got the news that my friend had died. By his own hand so that sucked.. You know I don’t have any words about that, but I was shocked, angry and I felt a lot of different things, but I decided I was going to write an album in his honor and that turned out to be ”As darkness swept the lands”. From there my inspiration to keep going has just rocketed into what Fyrgast is today. Always working on songs and all the rest that comes with the music business. Promoting yourself, building a network, meeting cool people and new friends along the way. Being productive.. yeah. Learning more about all aspects.
Were you in other bands before?
Vidar: Yes. Many of them. Some are more or less active and some guys have quit music. But I’ve done all those things as a singer/growler. I’ve had some good times for sure, but also many dark moments personally back then. I’m actually enjoying NOT being in a band these days. If I want somebody to help me I have people to help out close to me. I’m on my own, dictating my own terms and I never look back on those sweaty rehearsal area days that were pretty much fruitless anyways. Getting paid in beer for pub gigs, no thanks.
You’ve just released “Echoes from the Past”, on May 5th, 2023, which is in fact a compilation of songs. This time you’ve signed to War Productions and there will be 50 copies available in cassette, besides the digital version. Is this the physical format you prefer for your music?
Vidar: Yes, that’s right. And let me just say I really enjoy my label as well. It’s turned out to be a real friendship and we have similar thoughts, me and War Productions. I prefer any format that the label wants us to do, actually. I love that tapes have come back to conquer the world again along with vinyl. But you know, CDs, pls, tapes. I’m up for everything! Limited edition stuff on tape is super cool and who wouldn’t want to buy something that’s only 50 copies??! There won’t be any more, so it’s unique. I could do thousands of CDs as well, but I’m not under the impression that my music is demanded in that sense. We do underground shit and the fans are there so we want to give them special stuff that is for them. I enjoy that and I listen to underground stuff myself so everybody wins. I see myself as an artist in between the 50-300 copies per release and I think that’s just being realistic. And I couldn’t be happier. I love my record company and my fans to death!
Have you thought about recruiting some musicians and playing your music live?
Vidar: No. I don’t want to do live because I don’t enjoy it. I like being creative and I’d rather release two albums for my fans a year than having to be on the road or play for peanuts in my own town where only people I know or drunk people show up. I like that others do live and I have MASSIVE respect for people touring the world in the name of metal and making a living out of it, but that’s just not me. I have days when I don’t even want to be around people so NO.
How do you see the Metal scene in the Nordic countries? Do you think there’s something inherent to your land (the amazing landscapes, the cold, maybe something in the air…) that confers Metal from up North a characteristic sound?
Vidar: That’s a good one! Well, I don’t know, maybe the cold helps, or nature. If I have to think about it a little more though, I guess growing up and watching other bands take pictures in the forests and doing that sort of thing in combination with your own interest in such things gives a spark that kind of just pushes you towards it.
I remember watching the booklets of different bands like Marduk’s ”Opus Nocturne” when they were posing in the woods with corpse paint, swords, axes and stuff gave me a sort of ”that’s cool” vibe. Because to me personally I grew up near a forest and spent a lot of time there. To me it’s soothing in the woods. No musts or anything, just freedom, but as an avid history reader I also imagined different places in the woods being old battlefields or you know.. Corny AF! But I think this kind of music thrives on the emotions you get from solitude in the woods. Looking at those pictures and hearing the music it’s like ”It paints a whole picture”. I’m just as calm listening to this kind of music as I am taking a stroll in the woods, no matter how chaotic the music may be.
But I guess to know if it’s something about the woods or climate here – One really has to go to those who invented the music and featured on the pictures in the woods and so forth. It’s inspiring, but about the origin I have no clue..
What do you think about the underground Metal scene? Do the less known bands have real chances to survive in today’s world, without musicians having to sell a kidney or so?
Vidar: I think one can release music and I think you should go for it if you are compelled to do it, but to live off of it is another story. I have a full-time job and I know other people who do too. Few have the fortune to live off of music, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. If money is what drives you – you’re in the wrong business hehe. To me there’s a higher value in self enlightenment. That’s actually priceless come to think about it. And to have a guitar and blast off a couple of solos every now and then. Also priceless! What more do you need?!
Now, if you allow me to ask you a few more personal things, let’s start with: which bands were you listening to as a teenager? And nowadays?
Vidar: I grew up in a home where my dad played a lot of 50’s music. Rock n roll like Roy Orbison, Gene Vincent, Johnny Burnette and that sort of stuff, but at times he also played Scorpions, Deep Purple and that sort of stuff. I listened to all of it, still do, but it wasn’t until later when I started to look for things myself that I found stuff like Nirvana and that sort of thing, what was on MTV hehe. Then you started digging deeper and it just started something. If I heard for example Nirvana, then I wanted to hear what they listened to so then I’d go for The Pixies maybe and so on, so I just expanded rapidly and ended up in Hard Rock eventually, and from Hard Rock to Metal and Blues and from there to all the other stuff, you name it and I’ve probably explored it. I’m a real music nerd. Not too fond of just being handed something from the radio though. I enjoy digging and I enjoy the whole ”now I’m in a US power period with Savatage, Raddakka or whatever”, or now it’s Black label ALL albums from start to finish! The same with all Mayhem, Darkthrone, Slipknot or Korn albums or whatever. Like I said. A NERD!
At what age did you start with music? Which was the first instrument you learned to play?
Vidar: I was 11 and it was guitar. We were all guitarists in the band though and I sucked the most so I eventually got behind a mic without any skills. It was terrible. Then I got into a Hardcore band to scream for them since a classmate who had heard me screaming in the corridors in school asked if I wanted to scream in his band haha. One summer I borrowed a Judas Priest cd from our local library and I was amazed by Rob Halford’s voice on ”Exciter”. Growing up I had always been somewhat of a cartoon freak and I used to emulate the voices from the show so upon hearing Judas Priest I was like ”Hey, let me try to emulate Rob’s voice, how does he do it?!” I practiced through the whole summer that year and it sounded awful because I was a teenager with voice cracks, but one day the voice cracks were gone and I had figured out how Rob does it and I pulled it off! After that I just kept going, whenever I heard a cool voice I tried to emulate them. I taught myself everything I know that way. Later when I focused more on the guitar I followed the same mantra. These days I know my limitations much better though hahaha. But I’m still learning as long as I keep exploring.
Taking a look at your current “you”, would you say you are in your dreamed place? Maybe you are on the path to get there?
Vidar: I’m there! I’m releasing music, people listen to it and I talk to many interesting souls out there. I’m free in my creativity. I need nothing more. Well.. Maybe just to release even more music and projects. Maybe do some guest work if somebody asks nicely haha. Or I’d just say yes anyways.
Do you have any particular wish in life? How do you see yourself in 25 years?
Vidar: I would like to just continue on with Fyrgast until I’m too old to manage and do some other musical projects as well in different genres. Just keep on releasing music as long as I’m inspired. There’s always something musical going on in my life.
If you had to pick only three albums for listening to them forever, what would these be?
Vidar: This is too hard! But I guess I could make a half-assed effort.
- Pantera ”Cowboys from hell”
- Judas Priest ”Defenders of faith
- Dissection ”Storm of the light’s bane”
I could easily choose some other stuff from many different genres and it hurts me to only choose three, but for Blessed Altar magazine of course I will choose three haha.
Do you have any musical “guilty pleasure” you can confess?
Vidar: I’m guilty on all charges. If you’ve heard me singing to a Spice Girls song it’s probably true, because I don’t care. Never have, never will. Life is easier without hold ups and musts.
But I love Country for instance (the old stuff) and I know a lot of people despise that, so – Here’s my middle finger to them! Merle Haggard is TOO GOOD!!
I also love NU Metal, but I’m not ashamed of that a single bit! I grew up listening to it and it stuck with me. I love the anger and angst in it. I also enjoy West coast G funk from the 90’s.
What does Metal mean to you in your life?
Vidar: Everything. I’m pretty much a certified metalhead. I listen to it every day. Still a huge fan of the music and it still gets me excited. I’m sorry to see Black Sabbath ending, Slayer ending, Judas Priest with all that happened with K.K Downing and Tipton’s illness.. Alice in Chains or Pantera, you know I always return to Pantera and I miss what they were not just as Pantera being an awesome band, but all the goofy home videos, the likable guys in the band, but also the vibe that I think nobody really has measured up to. I could mention Dissection there as well. No more music there for obvious reasons, but it just feels like Reinkaos was the perfect ending. As you might read I’m very much into Metal and a lot of different stuff so yeah, big meaning in my life and I grew within it and it molded me as a musician and person.
Many thanks for your time, Vidar, wishing you the best things to come.
Interview by Sílvia
Check out Fyrgast if you want a great dose of Swedish Black Metal with a raw sound, perfectly wrapped in a dark atmosphere. Support this one man band, support the underground.
**Please support the underground! It’s vital to the future of our genre.**