Gra @ The Black Heart, London
14th December 2018
Interview by Demitri Levantis
When Swedish black metal group, Gra dropped by London this evening with support from local talent at the Black Heart, The Independent Voice caught up with vocalist Helharmadr to discuss the band’s exploits, new album and plans for the future.
How are you doing?
Good, been in London for two days and enjoying the town, had a few days off so been going around the town enjoying it.
Is this a tour you’re on?
It’s three days in the UK, tomorrow we go to Cardiff and a gig in Manchester as well. First time in England for us.
What do you think of England so far?
Lovely. Very nice place.
Talking about your latest album: Vasen, what does the title mean?
It can mean a lot of things, mainly supernatural entities and if you look at the album cover you can see what I’m getting at.
How is it different from your other albums?
The main difference is when we started the band we’d make these conceptual releases, like make two albums and anything in between to make sure we’ve covered everything. With the previous album called ‘Ending,’ it was the end of that so we now felt ‘don’t have barriers or concepts,’ just make songs that comes from us naturally instead of fitting into a bigger picture. The songs are stand alone and not conceptual.
So what does Gra mean and why choose it as the band name?
Well, we began it as a side project. Me and Dimman the drummer, we were playing in a band called Cursed 13 and we were finishing up their last album and got into some writers’ block and played just whatever we wanted. That became the first EP, very roughly recorded and improvised. We thought to make the name more simple than Cursed 13 so went for ‘Grey’, as originally it deals with death and the transition, so you have a grey area so it doesn’t cover the colour grey but the in-between period, like limbo.
Have you guys faced any problems from political groups like Antifa trying to shut down black metal gigs, have you ever had anything like that come your way?
No, nothing at all strangely. We’re not a political band and the only problems I face is I’m in Dark Funeral so we face problems with the church now and again. And that’s fine, to be honest.
What do you make of the Swedish Metal scene at the moment?
I don’t know I’m not out that much; because I’m in Dark Funeral I’m travelling a lot doing the whole world, Sweden is just when I go home and recharge my batteries, I rarely go to gigs at all in Stockholm. I go out everywhere in the world but when I go home I just want to be alone and recharge.
Are there any countries in the world you would really like to visit or play in?
Well, South Africa would be cool and Australia. We’re going on the 70,000 Tons of Metal Cruise to Haiti, so we’ll see a lot of interesting countries there. Unusual countries to go to. Egypt would be good too.
Do you have a personal favourite country or festival at the moment?
There’s a Swedish festival I love to play that’s about three-hour drive from Stockholm and out in the countryside so not easy to get to. It’s small and underground and conceptual, we’re playing with Gra there next year. Played there with Dark Funeral too and it’s like hanging out with friends so always a fun time.
Are there any new bands you think everyone should check out?
That’s another thing, I don’t really listen to a lot of music because I’m out playing extreme metal all the time. Because of that I normally listen to softer rock or country music like Willie Nelson or Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, so I’m not really digging metal that much. This is a question that comes up a lot and I rarely have any recommendations. Not because there aren’t any good bands; there are hundreds of good bands but by the time I discover them they aren’t new anymore.
What advice would you give any fans reading this who want to start a band?
Ask yourself why you want to start a band. How far do you want to go? And if the answer is you don’t want to go that far, then don’t. If you don’t have goals and targets it’s going to be like so many of the bands I’ve been in. I’ve begun things that start good but run into the ground because they don’t know where they’re going. In the age of the internet, if you don’t have instant success, a lot of people give up so ask yourself: are you willing to take the long run or not? If you are, go for it but if you think it won’t happen fast then don’t do it as making it can be one in a million.
Seeing as the year is almost over, how do you think it’s been for the band?
It’s been quite intense, we released an album on CD and vinyl and a cassette will come soon. It’s been well received and we haven’t done many live shows this year, I think this is number three. We’ve done live tours before with past albums but not been doing much of that this year so hopefully next year we’ll do more. I’ve been away with Dark Funeral a lot but this is new territory so it’s good to go new places with Gra.
Finally, what do you enjoy most about being a musician?
That’s a tricky one. I don’t enjoy the flights, the waiting, the constant travelling or early mornings but it all adds up when you walk on stage and just leave yourself behind, it’s like a nirvana moment where you step outside. It’s the same when you’re in a studio environment when you’ve been working on a song for so long and you finally start to record them and get the mix perfect; it’s those brief moments that make up for years and years of hard work.
Thank you so much for talking to us and best of luck with the gig tonight.