Brandishing a Nik Huber Krautster II, Vidar Landa digs into the high E string while Marvin Nygaard holds down the bottom end, and a wall of Orange and Marshall amps bear loud witness. Photo by Tim Bugbee/Tinnitus Photography
What made you gravitate towards fingers rather than a pick?
Rolland: When we started Kvelertak, I played drums. I had just started playing guitar and had never played electric before. I just had an acoustic. And so, I was playing drums and running back and forth trying to explain stuff to the guitarists, so I eventually picked up the guitar myself. I never actually thought that I was going to end up playing. This was kind of a side project that just took off [laughs]. Had I known that at the time, I might’ve started playing with a pick, but it just ended up like that.
Do you use your index finger as a pick?
Rolland: All three fingers, and I use my thumb sometimes. I really like the fact that I can feel what I’m doing, and I feel like I am more in control.
When the three of you are playing tight, unison rhythms, are you conscious of a unified picking technique?
Rolland: It’s all sort of downstroke-ish. It comes down to trying to retain the rock or punk-rock grooves. Since I don’t play with a pick, everything naturally defaults to downstrokes. It’s a self-imposed limitation that keeps it simple and intricate at the same time.
Do you spend time crafting your tones so you’re not stepping on one another?
Ofstad: We’ve become a lot better with that, but that’s just recent, like over the last two years. Before, we all used Orange amps and it’s pretty much been plug and play—maybe grab some pedals you like and do your thing. But we’ve played a few hundred shows now, and we’ve become better at putting ourselves in different positions in the mix. I never thought about these things much, because I just played punk and hardcore. But now it makes sense to do things well.
How do you decide who plays what?
Rolland: It’s just something we figure out in rehearsal—whoever has the most natural feel for something. It usually falls naturally that Vidar will play the rhythm stuff and Maciek will play the more advanced lead stuff. Sometimes we switch it up a little. Sometimes Vidar and Maciek will play lead and I’ll play rhythm, or Maciek and I will play a lead and Vidal will play rhythm. It’s not really something we think a lot about when writing songs.
Ofstad: We all have very different playing styles and, on the new album, it is very clear that that’s a big part of why three guitars work. Everyone very naturally finds his place in the song—everyone has his own characteristic. And Bjarte playing with his fingers sounds way different than what I play.
Nattesferd is self-produced with Nick Terry engineering. It’s your first record without Converge’s Kurt Ballou at the helm. Was there something you were hoping to achieve producing it yourselves?
Rolland: We thought we could produce it without Kurt’s help, even though he was very instrumental, especially on the first record. He helped us tighten up arrangements. We still came prepared and had songs demoed, but it was something we really needed.
Since then we’ve evolved, having played so many live shows, that we felt we might as well just record it live: drums, bass, and three guitars at the same time. The arrangements are also simpler and more live-based. There wasn’t really that much to produce, or left to produce, by the time we got into Amper Tone Studio in Oslo.
Were there problems with bleed-through because you recorded live, or was everyone isolated?
Rolland: We had everything isolated, but we regulated the spillage from the guitar amps so we could hear. The studio had a rehearsal space vibe to it. There were sliding doors so that we could regulate the bleed.
What amps did you use in the studio?
Rolland: Vidar used a really good sounding 1979 Marshall JMP 50-watt head. I used a Friedman BE-100 head and an Orange Rockerverb 50. I also used a Red Rooster copy pedal made by Kurt Ballou and Vidar, and I will use chorus occasionally.
Ofstad: I used an Orange Thunderverb 200 run at 100 watts through an Orange 4x12 cab. For guitars I used my Gibson Flying V90 with Lace Nitro Hemi pickups. I also started to use a Fender Stratocaster, which is new to me, but it works.
What made you pick up a Strat?
Ofstad: Just curiosity and, with the new material, it’s way more dynamic. On the other albums we hadn’t really thought about who uses what, but now, with the new songs, it just made sense. The Strat feels clearer to me than a Gibson, so I thought, “Let’s try it.” There are a lot of Fenders in the band now.
The album does have more of a classic-rock vibe to the overall sound, as opposed to a modern metal sound. Maybe standard tuning and the Fenders and Gibsons have something to do with that? Was it a conscious decision to defy convention in that way?
Ofstad: In the studio, definitely, but it just happened. Bjarte started playing the Telecaster for a couple of songs because he wanted the single-coil sound and it evolved into being what it is.
You both collaborated on the main guitar riff in “Nattesferd.” Can you explain?
Rolland: Maciek plays it, but I wrote the riff. That’s actually a song we didn’t get done for the last record. He’s emulating me, basically, but he plays
it better than me, so he plays it on the album.
Maciek, you play the solo on “Nattesferd.” Do you craft your solos beforehand or are you improvising in the studio?
Ofstad: On solos, it’s always been in the studio. I try not to think too much about it until we actually have to track, because then it’s just natural. I wasn’t going for anything in particular. It just happened. Originally, that was the Strat into the Thunderverb through a Thermionic Culture Vulture, but we dropped the Culture Vulture for the solo. I did use it for the main riff and the solo on “Bronsegud.”
Do you have a favorite track that best represents Kvelertak at this stage of the game?
Ofstad: I enjoy playing all of the new songs, because every track is different. But if I have to choose a favorite it would be “Heksebrann.” It really works live. We played it live at the beginning of summer on the festival gigs and it’s just a really cool song to play.
It definitely has some interesting parts and changes with some nice fingerpicking.
Ofstad: Right, there you go with the Tele—the country lick [sings lick].
It also changes keys from major to minor. What was the writing process like for the song?
Ofstad: The hook in the song, the country thing, started out as a joke at a rehearsal. It was like, “That would be stupid to do it like that.” And 20 minutes later it was like, “Wait a second, maybe that’s cool.” I think it’s good when you write music that you don’t like the first time you hear it. And then you get the “oh shit, maybe we have something here” moment. That’s a good indicator that you’re on the right track.