Sunday, November 22, 2015

INI Interview

2015 has turned out to be a banner year for the progressive side of Norwegian metal. Along with stellar albums from Enslaved, Arcturus and Dødheimsgard, Trondheim's INI released their debut If Nothing Is, an ambitious and confounding work of musical iconoclasm. Unable to find much information about them, and needing to know more, I fired off some questions, which vocalist Boeddelen was kind enough to answer.

Dreams of Consciousness: Who is INI and how did you get together?

We are five members in total, and we have played together for some time now. Four of us have been playing together since 2006, and I think it was in 2009 that we got the very skilled guitarist Mats to join the band. Me (Boeddelen), and Lars are step brothers and we started jamming back in 2004 as we shared a thirst for darker metal music. Back then we mostly fooled around with Satyricon and 1349 covers in his fathers basement, recording our performances on camera, thinking of making it big by sending those videos to the bands. Glad we never got that far though as we looked like most metal teenagers, you know, not very cool at all.

Shit got a bit more serious when Lars started musical schooling in high school and met the amazing drummer Vegard, who was already asked to join the first day they met. He had a very varied taste in music and was probably the reason behind the rest of us getting into more unknown sonic landscapes. We later joined forces with Håkon, a very skilled metal guitarist and also an excellent classical guitarist. It was Lars that came to know him at a party, as Håkon wore an Emperor t-shirt and said he played guitar, and that should be a reason as good as any to hire a guitarist.

Håkon however had a malfunction in his brain though telling him to study marketing, and that’s where he met the guitarist Mats, as they were the only two metalheads in their class.

DoC: Please explain the significance of your name INI/If Nothing Is.

The band name gives us the freedom to roam freely among the musical wastes. To elaborate, "If Nothing Is”, is based on a philosophical thesis that nothing is real, and if nothing is real, then anything you do has no real meaning or purpose unless you make it yourself. Thus we allow ourselves to be unchained from the shackles of musical conventions.

DoC: What is your writing process like - do you have a main songwriter, or do you write as a group?

Mainly three of the members are writing the music. Vegard writes lyrics and contributes to the drums, I write lyrics and have done some compositional contributions on our next album. However it's mainly Lars that comes up with concepts, composes and produces the music, and he does a lot of lyrics as well. We write most of the material apart, though with a lot of communication between us ensuring we're always on the same page. Writing music is a huge part of what gives our life purpose, but writing music can also be a great pain in the ass a lot of the time. It is hard work, and everything takes more time than you’d expect, and nothing comes for free. You have to invest a lot of yourself into the music and almost become one with it if you are to derive something meaningful from it at the end of the day.

DoC: What feelings do you wish to elicit with your music?

I must say this is a somewhat difficult question. I would say that we wish to evoke whatever you genuinely feel, as feelings vary from person to person. There is emotion put into every part of our music, as that’s the most important part of our writing and recording process. Though there’s not a single type of feeling we’re talking about here as we, just like our listeners are complex human beings with many emotional layers.

DoC: INI's music seems to branch out from black metal, but do you consider INI to be a "black metal band"? If not, how do you describe your music?

We consider ourselves to be an avant-garde metal band, as that’s the genre that gives us as much freedom as we want. The best part about that is that you can for example combine a folk inspired guitar riff with trap beats, soaring trumpets, sour vocals, sweet potatoes and infernal chili, if that feels right in regard to the musical intention. We think that having to many restrictions is bad for the development of ourselves and for the band. We try to not let all that creative freedom get in the way of the original musical idea though, but rather use it as a tool to make the idea more original and interesting.

DoC: INI spans several styles/feelings within a single song. How do you decide the way these different styles are integrated within the framework of a song - is it a conscious choice to be eclectic, or does it come naturally when you're writing?

We usually have an idea which direction we want to go, and then the songs develop as we go along. On each song we have some ideas that we want to execute, and what happens in between these ideas can either be coincidental or revelation-like happenings. In earlier years we used to strive towards making our music sound like bands such as 1349, Behemoth, Emperor, Ulver, and the list goes on and on. At that time we felt our music lacked some identity, but once we started to walk our own path the eclectic-ness of the tunes grew naturally.

DoC: Tell me about your debut album, If Nothing Is. When did you start working on it and when was it completed? Where was it recorded? How do you feel about the finished result?

That album was started a long time ago. I think it was back in 2009 that the recording started. At that time we were inexperienced with recording, but were determined to do it ourselves. Lars had some recording equipment and we did what we could from what we had. All of this was done in his basement at that time. Later in the process some of the album was re-recorded because of a lot of recording errors done in the first recording sessions.

From there we got Vicotnik’s (the main madman behind the band Dødheimsgard) attention who wanted to contribute to the album with effect tracks, and he gave us a lot of knowledge when it came to the recording and mixing process. The album wasn't done until spring this year though, as Lars focused on music technology classes at university and also started planning our second album at the same time.

The album turned out as good as it could get, and we are satisfied with the outcome. It also contributed to us having a bigger hunger than ever before to release new material. We’re glad that we’ve had mostly good reviews on the album, and the feeling we get from people saying they enjoy the album is really precious to us. In the composition process Lars actually has a goal for every song to make the best piece of music he’s ever heard, and though that might sound cocky it still motivates him to work as hard as he can to try to achieve that.

DoC: You released If Nothing Is independently. What led to you releasing it yourselves? Are you interested in signing to a label in the future?

Releasing the album independently was what we considered the easiest way to get the word out about our existence, and to be honest we just wanted to release the album so that we could get on with our new material as well.

We hope to sign with a label in a near future, and hopefully with a label that doesn't want our souls in return as we need those souls for the song writing process.

photo from Traveling To Norway/Sven-Erik Knoff
DoC: Tell me about your city Trondheim and its music scene - how does it differ from the other Norwegian metal scenes like Oslo and Bergen? Who do you see as your peers?

As far we know the metal music scene here in Trondheim was more vital and inventive 10 years ago, but there is still some interesting stuff going on with avant-garde metal acts like The Soundbyte and Manes. The music scene on other fronts, such as IDM, jazz, electro-pop, hip hop and classical music, are very much alive and inventive though. There are a lot of talented people here, that burn for their music, and truly know what they are doing. I don’t want to say that we don’t have any peers in Trondheim as there are so many interesting musical acts here, but as every avant-garde metal act is very different I can put it this way: We’re the only INI in Trondheim and also the only INI in the world, so we’re not competing with other bands the way I see it.

The metal music scenes in Bergen and Oslo seem to be more alive than here in Trondheim at this time. I think Oslo is doing well because they have a solid base of die-hard fans and devoted musicians as well, and in Bergen they have a culture of their own. Seems like they live inside their own bubble over there.

DoC: What's next for INI?

Next we will release our single Dodecahedron digitally. This will also be released independently, and then we’ll start working a lot harder to get a contract signed with a label. After that we will have our second full-length album ready for release. Hopefully that will be during the first part of 2016, and after that we want to start playing live again.

INI on Facebook

INI on Bandcamp