RAGNAROK - JONTHO & BOLVERK

Here we are in London for show 13 of 21 on "The Last Atonement Tour" with Death Metal legends Immolation, how has the tour been so far and how have the crowd reactions been considering its a Death and Black Metal line up?

Jontho: We were a little bit nervous when we started the tour because it was Death Metal and Black Metal but it figures out that Immolation and Ragnarok work really well together. The two other bands on the tour play really fast Death Metal so its kind of like having a relief when they have us hit the stage so the crowds have been great. Especially with Immolation as they seem to draw the Black Metal people in too.

Bolverk: A lot of Black Metal people have been coming out to the shows so its been a great mix between genres.


                                                    



This time last week saw the release of your 9th studio album entitled "Non Debellicata" via Agonia Records. I believe that "Non Debellicata" translates into "Not Eradicated" in Latin? Can you tell us a bit about what this album title means to you?

Bolverk: It means "Not Defeated" or "Never Defeated". The actual story is from 1286 when the Earl of our county who was a pirate actually, was endorsed by the British to rob Danish and German merchant ships after the German war. Scotland took Norwegian ships and imprisoned them as collateral and then he wrote a letter to them saying that they think we are weak and that we wont put up a fight but then he said "just beware because we will never be defeated" hence "Non Debellicata". They finally caught up the the old Earl and put him on a sun  wheel, they tied him to the wheel and they would break a limb. They would then wait for him to wake up again and they would break another limb. Also the city has "Non Debellicata" on the crest for the city so we asked to use that crest but they weren't very forthcoming with the idea.

Is that what your going to do to the Mayor for not letting you use the crest for the album ha ha

Jontho: Ha ha no but we put it in the lyrics. Actually the football club in our city, they were using it and the supporters were too and we wanted to use it. We spoke to the Mayor asking if we can use the crest etc on shirts but he was like noooooo ha ha. So we found an old one from way back.


"Non Debellicata" is ferocious and relentless album in which the intensity barely drops throughout the album and it seems as if members of the band have really upped their game on this album with yourself (Jontho) and Malignant really fulfilling your new roles within the band. How did the writing and recording process for for this album go and how do you feel that you have adapted to taking over vocals in the band instead of being behind the kit?

Jontho: Oh yeah definitely and especially in the studio. So on the last album there was more "me" in the drumming because I think I did drums for 3 or 4 songs on that album and then Malignant got into it so I was more like lets try this and lets do that, this is my idea, this is your idea so which is better but this time he had the say on it and we helped each other out that way.

Bolverk: And we pressed the tempo because we know that we always play faster live so we pushed ourselves in the studio, we can do this faster, we can do that faster.

Jontho: But we did it faster without destroying the songs. There is a funny story actually as I was wanted to speed up one of the songs up and do it faster but Bolverk misunderstood and  he thought that we had to do ALL the songs faster.

Bolverk: I actually tracked the guitars for 13 songs, it took 35 hours in one weekend and I totally misunderstood him. Jontho called me and said these are a bit too fast and I said "well you asked for it" and then when I came into the studio he was like "I just meant that one song" ha ha.

Jontho: So there was 3 or 4 songs that we took down a bit but the whole process and the cooperation worked really well and with me on the vocals I managed to relax more and feel more comfortable. "Psychopathology" was more bam bam bam more of the same things but this album is more of a complete album. We have found our sound.

"Non Deballicata" has raised the bar for you guys and it is one of the Black Metal albums of the year for me.

Bolverk: "Psychopathology was good but this is better.

Jontho: We actually made 20 songs for this album

Bolverk: Yeah it was 20 songs. We rehearsed 16 of those songs, recorded 13 songs and then put 10 on the album. We killed a lot of darlings along the way, Jontho would say we killed a lot of your darlings ha ha so there has been a lot of work into this album.

Jontho: He can use a couple of his darlings in his other bands though ha ha. I think that we have actually come to a point where we understand each other and what type of Black Metal that we really want to play. We have found a feeling and an expression that we like and I think with this album it is 100% with the lyrics, the layout, the pictures, fucking everything.


                                                                      


You (Jontho) spent 21 years playing drums in the band and you have spent the last 4 years as the bands vocalist. Which do you personally prefer when it comes to writing and recording but also when it comes to playing live shows?

Jontho: Now I prefer vocals more because I have now done a great job at putting the drums behind me. When we did our first show in Germany in front of 750 people with just a fucking microphone, I was just so so nervous and I felt like I needed to hold something in both hands so I found a chain to hold along with the microphone to feel more comfortable but then I forgot a load of the lyrics.

Bolverk: It was a horrible horrible night.

Jontho: I was thinking "fuck this shit, I'm going back the the drums" but then they motivated me, we carried on and then went into the studio and I thought that I was just going to write all the lyrics a piece of cake but it all just went to fucking hell and i was just thinking "back to the drums" but then after a few shows, we did the album, got some good reviews, more motivation from the guys and my stage personality really helped as that was what I survived on because I had this stage personality before, that's not me bragging its just what I have been told in the past, which is what a front man needs.

Bolverk: Also you were the ugliest ha ha

Jontho: And the craziest ha ha. Also my brother Hoest from Taake, he has this personality on stage that I really like very much and I really saw that when he played and that's also why he was the vocalist for us so it's not that I am copying him but I can imagine me and him on stage together, like at the Inferno show and that's just two wild men on stage both going for it.

Bolverk: I would say inspired by him.


I would say that he is one of the people who has the biggest aura around them on and off stage so if there was anybody to be inspired by then he would be one of them.

Jontho: He is a mad man and I would say that with the screaming side of vocals, Gaahl, he is amazing at that. When you look at him he stares straight through you so I'm trying to mix in some of that as well but when everything comes together, that is who I am. It's become a big part of who I am.


                                  


You started Ragnarok 25 years ago way back in 1994. Ragnarok have always been one of the finest Norwegian Black Metal bands out there but why do you think that Ragnarok have never quite managed to take that step to the next level like of some of your peers because you certainly deserve it?

Jontho: I know what you mean. The problem is that from the start you had the Black Metal bands, then the church burnings and then we started. Then when we started we were like the second wave of Black Metal. If Immortal and Mayhem are the first wave then Ragnarok, Dimmu Borgir and bands like that was the second wave. Dimmu Borgir just went to the commercial side of things. I'm also friend's with a lot of people in the Swedish scene with bands like Dark Funeral, Dissection, Marduk so we just fell between two chairs so to speak. Also in the beginning we played with a Viking Metal theme to not be like everyone else and then we had line up changes all the way. We were on our way to be signed to Century Media in 1996, then one of the guys had to go to the military so things slowed down so we had a lot of chaos throughout the band.

Bolverk: We also kiss no ass what so ever.

Jontho: That's for sure. Also I decided that we go more brutal, we keep the make up, add more blood and we just kick the audience in the face, in a good way of course and that's been our thing. We are one of the few bands still doing this and sometimes people call us the Norwegian Marduk but that is how we have always been. The sad thing about it is that I played in a Black Metal band since 1992 so I have been on the scene since those guys started those other bands. Also you have the media who like the other bands that have gone more commercial and of course labels want the money. Promoters have been afraid to give us the same attention because we are more brutal.

Bolverk: But we are still here now with Immolation, 2017 we were here with Marduk. We are not the greatest of net worker's but we are here for the music.

Jontho: Now it tastes good and we are just being us. We are not trying to be somebody else so fuck it.


In Ragnarok's music you can obviously hear the Norwegian Black Metal sound but there are also elements of the Swedish Black Metal sound in your music. What are your feelings on each Scandinavian sound and what separates them apart for you?

Jontho:  That's hard because that's what I have always been about, the Norwegian music and the Swedish music but back in the days where there was this Swedish and Norwegian Black Metal war, I was friends with people from both sides. It was just mixed up so I felt that I had no side because musically I like both. I think bands like Marduk are the music I prefer because its more in your face and the other is more atmospheric. I do of course like Emperor, Mayhem, Taake, all of those bands. I'd say I'm more into Taake and Urgehal as they are from the same scene as us.

Bolverk: The influences that go into the music are way broader than the music from the Swedish or Norwegian Black Metal scene. Everything from Led Zeppelin, Rainbow and up to anything and everything that we have ever listened to.

Jontho: That's also a great thing now from being more mature that I can say that I can listen to Depeche Mode or I can listen to whatever because that's who I am and I'm not trying to be a certain someone.


I totally understand what you mean because I personally generally only listen to Black and Death metal but there is one band that I listen too outside of metal and that's Muse. I think that he is one of the greatest musicians in the world.

Jontho: Oh yeah there are so many great musicians out there but there is also a lot of crap. You will find some quality in every genre though.

Bolverk: I can sit at home and listen to something and I look at it as if it were to be played in Black Metal and how would it sound.

Jontho: I can listen to some classical music and if you just take a guitar and shred that it will become a fucking awesome Black Metal riff. Black Metal is close to my heart but I can listen to anything that is quality.


With a new album just being released, what can we expect from Ragnarok heading into 2020 and will we see any headline tours or festival appearances?

Jontho: Not many official plans as it's been a little bit quiet regarding that kind of thing but we are currently working with South America and the States so that is my main goal at the moment because the festivals are being so difficult right now. We haven't been getting the offers as the big companies have been buying the festivals. We would like to play a lot of festivals next year.

Bolverk: It will probably help now that the new album is out and getting great reviews and it's building momentum.

Jontho: Yeah it does and I can see on our Spotify that since we started this tour and with the new album being released, we have gone from like 5000 subscribers to now 16'000 subscribers already in the space of 10 days so things are already happening and Agonia are doing a great job of promoting the album. Our main goal is to keep working really hard to get us to the next level because we want to play to more people and show them what a great fucking band this is.


"Non Debellicata" is availbale now via Agonia Records





   

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