Ahead of Shining’s show in Liverpool, we caught up with Niklas Kvarforth to discuss the new album 8 ½ – Feberdrömmar i vaket tillstånd and touring, and he even exclusively told us about an upcoming photo shoot. Make sure you check it out below.
Firstly could you introduce yourself and just tell us a bit about the band?
I started the band when I was twelve. It’s very hard for me to describe…there are so many misconceptions about Shining because everyone always thought that I was a psychopath and that all the other band members were completely insane. That was in some cases true, but we’ve had so many different members in the past years now. Shining has always been a weapon to be directed against the listener.
We started this sub-genre of black metal and now there’s like a thousand bands trying to do the same thing but they completely misunderstood everything. They thought it was about crying and feeling bad…of course, you have to be able to feel pain and sorrow in order to sing about it. It’s the same as not being able to talk about love without being in love. The problem is that I use this and turn the advantage to me, to put it against the listener, to force-feed them with ideals of what would bring them down.
Throughout the years that has put us in a lot of problems of course, but we’ve been all over the world and at least every second show there’s a death threat. It’s pretty funny. Like, one time in Switzerland we had a bomb under the drum kit, so we had to postpone the gig for two hours because we had to get the police and the military to take it out. And when something like that happens, that was the first time that I thought “fuck, I succeeded!”
You recently released your new album 8 1/2 – what made you decide to revisit some of your older material and rework it?
Because there were a lot of people that were bootlegging Shining, and I made pre-productions for these songs for the third album because Hellhammer had just joined the band and we had no time to rehearse before entering the studio. So he asked me to record it, and I did, but the problem was that the recordings ended up in the wrong hands and wound up getting sold everywhere. So I wanted to do something different rather than just reissuing a bootleg, so I thought it would be cooler to have different vocalists.
What prompted that decision?
I always had that idea, it was a plan from the beginning but now I feel a bit bad about it because I’m a better vocalist than all of them and it feels very bad that people get the conception that I used that to sell records. These days, we sell less records than we’ve ever sold in our whole lives. Because of the internet and the contemporary age of information. People complain about downloading but that’s not the problem. If people download, you have more people listening to it, and they’ll show up at the shows, so I don’t see what people are complaining about.
What was the recording process like?
The singers all did the recording on their own, they didn’t want to have me in the studio because I can be a bit problematic to work with. I trusted all of them, because they’re old friends of mine, so I knew they would do a good job and I didn’t want to interfere with anything.
So would you want to collaborate with anyone in the future or would you prefer to work alone?
Guns N Roses…that would be cool, I mean, Slash is the best guitarist in the world in my opinion, he’s always been. But when I write music, I always do it for myself. I mean, I live off my music and I need it to pay my bills. So of course, if I make an album…I’d never make an album that I’d want to be able to pay my bills but I need it to work because otherwise I’d be a bum. You always meet these bands that go “I do this for myself and I don’t care about the money” but of course they care about the money. But you have to do it from the heart so you have the passion to do anything.
Moving onto touring – you’re approaching the end of your European tour. How’s it been going and are there any interesting stories from the road?
Well this has been the most low-budget tour we’ve ever done. We’ve been playing to 300, 500 people and that’s been a bit strange, but in a good way. Some of the bigger shows…we’ve played to like 50000 people and that’s a lot easier.
If you go to a small venue, it can be quite hard, especially for a band like Shining because I get angry and that’s why we need security. Not because we need to get protected, but we need someone that can bring me down. For the security, 70% of their job is to make sure I don’t do anything stupid. Usually, I’m the nicest guy in the world but I fucking hate metal people. You know, everyone is an individual but they’re all wearing the same clothes! I mean come on, what the fuck, This tour has been horrible, the only good thing has been this guy!
(Motions to Frank, one of the guys in charge of the venue, who just walked past us)
Frank: “This tour has been horrible”? It’s only just fucking started!
Niklas: We also had some good stuff in Paris. It was fun, but I lost my voice after the second date, so I can’t sing the clean vocals at all at the moment. And it makes the anger come out of me, which is a good thing, but I feel really bad for not being able to deliver.
What’s been the best show of the tour so far?
The Paris or the Ljubljana shows. (pauses)…There’s a bad situation in the band and I haven’t rehearsed since 2001. I do all the music and lyrics, but they don’t want me in the rehearsal space because I tell them “this is what you have to do” and if they fuck up, I get angry. So I understand them, in a way, but it would be cool to have a band one day.
On this tour, we’ve gone through so much shit which I’ve never experienced in my life before. Like, two days before the tour I had a minor heart attack, and six weeks before that, I had an asthma attack – and I’ve never had asthma in my life. So now I have to have an inhaler every morning and night, and onstage. But you know, nothing is going to stop me. Only death. I’m a very easy-going person but I don’t accept any problems. I need some life quality and if I don’t get that, I would need to drink.
Is that why you’re drinking at the moment?
Yeah. This is the third day out of the twelve or thirteen days of the tour that I’ve actually drank. We try to do some sober Shining shows, but the problem is that I get twice as angry. I’ve just felt so bad during this tour because I haven’t been able to give 110% because of my voice.
We have about five dates left of the tour now, and we’re finishing in Glasgow, where I have a photo shoot with Skin Magazine. I was going to do this thing for Playgirl but now I’m going to do it with Skin instead. Ever since I started the Shining shop, everyone is complaining because we had women models that we used.
But how are you supposed to model female clothes without a female model…?
Because usually we see that in metal, they have the girlfriends. If you’re a girl and want to buy a shirt, you want to see a good model and say “oh, that will look good”. You don’t want to see a fucking idiot standing with a shirt trying to look good. When I started Shining Legions, I wanted a catalogue, not those facebook-metal people. And everyone was saying “oh, now he’s a sexist.”
You can’t win, it seems. Everyone wants to complain about something.
You’re right. Everyone complains. And with the contemporary age, everyone has the right to an opinion, which sucks. So yeah, I got this offer from Playgirl – and this is the first time I’m ever saying this, by the way – and I said I could do it, but I wanted it to look good, not like a photo shoot where I’m naked and fucking someone, and it looks like we’re in a fucking trailer.
I wanted it to be arousing and this is why I went with Skin. They don’t have any money…I was offered a lot of money from other companies but with her, I will do it together with her and do something for real. I wanted a dark touch for the whole thing and it amounted eleven pages with five pictures. Usually, if a man is offered to do nude stuff they go “yeah, of course, I want to fuck someone”. I’m not that kind of guy, so I said if we’re going to do it, we have to do it like “this” and “this”. I don’t want it to just be about how the actual sex looks, but it’s about how it’s being shot. It’s a good Swiss photographer we’re going to use.
I don’t know anything about pornography today. I watch it, of course, but I don’t know which are the famous models. We needed two girls for the shoot, but luckily our merch guy’s girlfriend is an old porn star, so she helped me to get in contact with those people because I don’t know anything about today. I’m just familiar with the old porn stars.
You’ve got a film maker accompanying you on this tour – how’s that going?
He’s a good guy because he refuses to show me anything! What I told him from the beginning was that I didn’t want him to try and make me look good. I wanted something honest and that’s what he wants to do, to get all people’s different opinions. That’s so cool because every band I meet are like “we have so many problems”. But when they see that movie…nobody is going to complain any more.
And finally, to end the interview – if you or Shining could put your name to any product, what would it be?
Shampoo! Now with this Homer Simpson hair, I need it! I’m always open to do anything. Like, for the Shining Legions , we did this pink girl hoodie and everyone was going “yeah, you fucking sold out!” and I was like “what are you talking about?” Apparently this is how we lose fans, but we’ve sold a lot of them so that’s good to know.