We recently had the honour of catching up with TrollfesT’s frontman Jostein Austvik and guitarist John Espen Sagstad – also known as their aliases Trollmannen and Mr. Seidel – for an incredible and detailed interview ahead of their show in London (the review of which can be read here).
We talked about Kaptein Kaos, the glorious artwork for their material by Jonas Darnell, True Norwegian Balkan Metal, songs about chickens, unfortunate tour bus encounters and much more – read it all below!
Could you introduce yourselves and tell me about the band?
Trollmannen: I am Trollmannen from TrollfesT.
Mr. Seidel: I’m Mr Seidel from TrollfesT.
Trollmannen: TrollfesT is the world’s leading exponent of True Norwegian Balkan Metal.
Mr. Seidel: Ten years into existence!
Trollmannen: It’s taken us ten years to reach the throne!
Mr. Seidel: Finally…we have arrived.
You recently released your awesome new album Kaptein Kaos – what’s the response been like for it so far?
Trollmannen: Quite good, I think! Either that, or the people that are unhappy about it have been silent.
Mr. Seidel: Yeah, it’s been really good. I feel that we’re getting better review grades, or better scores on this album compared to the other albums. Usually, TrollfesT is a hate or love band. You get either a good score, or a really bad score.
So nothing in the middle then?
Mr. Seidel: No, but that’s how we like it. A really bad review to us is the same as a really good review because we’ve provoked some emotion, you know? They’re like “I fucking hate this band!” or “I really love this band” but when you have the mediocre it’s kind of just like “hey, whatever.” On Kaptein Kaos, compared to the other albums, it’s been more on the positive side of the scale though – so all in all, pretty good!
Kaptein Kaos is the first album of yours for a while to feature an introduction – what prompted the decision to include one this time round?
Mr. Seidel: (pointing at Trollmannen) He made it. He sent it around to us, saying he’d been fiddling round and making some music, and he mailed it to us. That’s how we work in TrollfesT, it’s basically one guy making the song and he sends a sketch to everyone, then everyone listens to it and we either…
Trollmannen: Comment on it, criticise or try to improve it if they can.
Mr. Seidel: Yeah. He sent the song and I was like “hmm, this is like an intro song!” We hadn’t done that in a long time, and it just felt that maybe this time round, let’s go back and have a little intro to the album, to introduce the chaos that is following!
Trollmannen: Yeah, there’s nothing more behind it than that.
It’s also your most melodic album to date – was that a conscientious decision or was that just the way things happened as you started writing the music?
Mr. Seidel: It just happened! Like I said, we’d make a song – usually it’s Trollbank our drummer, who writes about 90% of the music. I don’t know…it just came naturally. It’s not like we sat down and went “okay, fuck blast beats, let’s start making rock!” (laughs) Jostein made songs, the other guys made songs, and all of a sudden we had thirteen songs and we had an album! And when we were putting them together, we firstly thought that either we were getting old or getting lazy!
So you came up with the concept of the album backstage at Leipzig Heidenfest – what inspired you to make an album about time travel?
Mr. Seidel: Alcohol!
Trollmannen: We were super drunk! I’m not entirely sure. Every other TrollfesT album has been a concept album with a red thread going through the lyrics from beginning to end. On this album, it was time to do that again and we wanted to include a lot more world music in this album and diversify the music a lot more. So we pretty much ended up needing a concept that could encompass anything from Mongolian throat singing via Latin-American party rock to…
Mr. Seidel: Asian folk.
Trollmannen: Yeah, Asian folk music and Argentinean tangos! So in order to not make it about a billionaire and his world travels, we had to introduce another mode of transport. When we hit upon the concept – at first we were just goofing around with the title Kaptein Kaos but I can’t remember who came up with it – but then we started playing with the idea for the lyrics about some dude travelling back in time and impregnating the Virgin Mary and then accidentally becoming God! We thought that was really funny, so we remembered that part.
Mr. Seidel: And whatever Manskow had on tape! We’re very lucky to have Manskow video-taping stuff that happens backstage. And like Jostein said, Kaptein Kaos all of a sudden turned into this Godly person that is responsible for everything that has happened in the universe since day one. So it’s kind of a stab towards Christianity in a way.
Trollmannen: And religion, a little bit.
Mr. Seidel: We liked to have fun about that, we do it on all the albums but this time round it was kind of a deeper stab!
Trollmannen: Yeah, a little bit of a step further. We also thought it would be really funny if everything that went wrong in the world was due to a troll travelling in time and fucking things up! So that was the beginning of the idea, but then it turned out to be a bit more…well, he wasn’t just travelling around fucking up shit – in the Solskinnsmedisin song, they go back in time partying and puke so much in the ocean that life crawls up on land for the first time! It started becoming more about him being the catalyst in all major changes in the world. Like, the tango song is about him travelling back in time and introducing the use of weapons to our primate ancestors in order to make a little bit more action.
Mr. Seidel: More like for his own entertainment!
The word ‘Kaos’ has a similar pronunciation as the Welsh word for cheese, so it seems only right that I end the Kaptein Kaos section of the interview with this question – what is your favourite type of cheese?
Mr. Seidel: Melted cheese!
Trollmannen: I don’t know – I’m not very big on cheese. Well, that’s a lie, I’m very big on cheese but I’m not into the mouldy cheese. I really like Brie, Brie’s very very nice. I’ve tasted some of the other rotten ‘wash rag’ cheeses but they didn’t quite do it for me. (pauses) Cheesus! My favourite cheese is Baby Cheesus.
You’ve now written music about a wide variety of characters – which would you say is your favourite or the most interesting?
Mr. Seidel: By far Kaptein Kaos! It’s unlimited what we can do with him. We can put him anywhere, any time in history and doing anything because he’s a mad scientist and a genius inventor.
Trollmannen: I think Kaptein Kaos for me too, either him or Grublegjøken.
Mr. Seidel: But Kaptein Kaos wins! He’s the king, he’s God!
Trollmannen: He is the catalyst. All phrases belong to Kaptein Kaos.
On a similar vein, you’ve written lots of songs about animals – what animal would you most like to write a song about that you haven’t already written?
Trollmannen: Octopuses. But then they don’t make any sound, so…!
You’d have to get creative!
Trollmannen: Yeah! You’d have to…(makes underwater bubbling noises)…no, that doesn’t go too well with a metal song!
Mr. Seidel: What about Old McDonald’s farm? Maybe we could do something with that!
Trollmannen: Farm animals! Actually, when we were playing in Slovenia, we did have an idea of making a song about a chicken!
Mr. Seidel: Oh yeah!
Trollmannen: Chicken clucking is quite rhythmical.
Mr. Seidel: Was that for the Kaptein Kaos album or Brumlebassen?
Trollmannen: It was Kaptein Kaos – but it was before we started thinking of Kaptein Kaos.
Mr. Seidel: Maybe for the next album…!
Trollmannen: Yeah. But there’s just too many animals to choose!
Mr. Seidel: We don’t actually plan these things, they just come along when you make a song. It’s like ‘what does this song remind you of’ and then all of a sudden it comes to you. Like, we don’t plan to do a song about a dog, that just happened! Before, me and Jostein had gone to a party and it was the last thing he did in the studio. He was like “Espen, hit record, I have an idea for the chorus!” so I hit record and he just started barking! Then we came back the next day to listen to it and thought it was fantastic!
Perhaps I should have asked this near the start of the interview – but where did the idea originate for creating your unique genre of True Norwegian Balkan Metal?
Trollmannen: When we started the band, to begin with, we were more traditional folk metal with our first album. But for me, there were so many folk metal bands coming out of interesting places like Spain or Greece – places with really strong folk music traditions and they were all being inspired by Scandinavian folk music or Western European folk music. So I think we first started it by joking about how we were actually from Scandinavia but maybe we should do the same and look to someone else’s country for their folk music traditions and with that combined with the fact that all of us in the band were, and still are, huge fans of Balkan music in general. It is, by far, craziest and most energetic and ridiculous style of music you can come across! It lends itself really well to extreme metal as well.
Yeah, I find they go really well together!
Mr. Seidel: It’s two different worlds – you have the black metal or extreme metal, which is packed with energy, and then you have the Balkan and folk music that is just packed with energy, so you can’t go wrong when you combine the two! But when it comes to the saying, True Norwegian Balkan Metal, we are just again throwing a stab at all those tied-up asses that play True Norwegian Black Metal. We just wanted to fuck around with the saying.
Trollmannen: Yeah, the whole point of making that a big deal is so we can go “we are TRUE Norwegians, as opposed to all those UNTRUE Norwegians who play brown metal and blue metal!” But yeah, it’s good fun to poke fun and throw a little stick on that fire!
The artwork for all your material is stunning – how did you get involved in working with Jonas Darnell on it?
Mr. Seidel: Me and Jostein, even before we met, both loved this cartoon comic book called Herman Hedning. It’s about this man from the Stone Age.
Trollmannen: It’s basically three characters who live alongside Adam and Eve, in many ways. They are there at the beginning of the world. One of them is a mad scientist and inventor, kind of like Kaptein Kaos you could say! The other one is like a really sweet, loving character who loves fuzzy cute animals and flowers. The third one is Herman The Heathen, who is the main character, and he’s like us – a beer-drinking fat smelly bastard who eats everything he comes across and…
Mr. Seidel: Loves chaos!
Trollmannen: Yeah, loves chaos and general mischief and mayhem! And Jonas Darnell is the man behind this comic book. It all came along when we were making Villanden, after we’d made the Villanden song the duck part came in and we decided that we should make the whole fucking thing about ducks! So we decided to get a cartoonist on board.
Mr. Seidel: That’s because of Brakebein. For that album, we had a comic inside the booklet instead of lyrics and we made that ourselves. So we thought it would be cool to get a real artist to draw the artwork and we ended up sending out requests to a lot of Scandinavian comic book artists that we liked. And Jonas Darnell was there, he replied straight away and was like “fuck yeah, I want to do this!” We just had this wild rubber duck image in our head about Villanden.
The artwork for Villanden is one of my favourites – it encapsulates the duck perfectly!
Mr. Seidel: And that’s the great thing about Jonas Darnell! We just sent a short, brief description and he put Jostein’s words into images. And every fucking time, he surpasses all our wildest imaginations of how crazy our characters are going to be!
Trollmannen: Time and time again he delivers.
On the Paganfest 2013 section of the DVD that came with Kaptein Kaos, there was a mention of Lodd Bolt pole dancing and buying some interesting-looking bee pants. Has anything like that happened on this tour or is it too early days yet?
Mr. Seidel: There’s already a lot of stories from this tour! I don’t even know where to start.
Trollmannen: Actually, I got to see something I didn’t want to see today.
Mr. Seidel: What did you see?
Trollmannen: I was waking up and going to the back of the bus to put on my shoes, and I was wondering if Bokn was still there, so I looked down at his bunk and…well, he’d tried to close the curtains but right in the middle there was a big opening. And apparently at some point, he had gotten really hot, so he had no clothes on and by the looks of his…condition…his dreams were very wet.
Mr. Seidel: Seriously?!
(Mr Seidel continues laughing)
Trollmannen: If it hadn’t been such an awful sight, I would have taken a picture!
Mr. Seidel: You should have! On every trip we have with TrollfesT, it’s all about having fun. We drink a lot and we’re a bunch of best friends travelling together, so something is always bound to happen when there is seven of us travelling together, especially with free booze every night. There’s a lot of stories but probably most of them should be kept a secret!
And if TrollfesT could put their name to a product, what would you choose and why?
Trollmannen: I think it would have to be alcohol.
Everyone says alcohol though!
Mr. Seidel: Maybe a CD that sells well!
Mr. Seidel: Hmm, I don’t know!
Trollmannen: A time machine! That would be cool. We could definitely put our name on one of those.
Mr. Seidel: That would be good. Yeah, a time machine!
Kaptein Kaos is out now via NoiseArt Records and you can check out the brilliant video for the equally brilliant title track below.