«I was always curious about the way people thought...»
Interview with Forndom
In the middle of Spring Ludvig Swärd of Forndom came to Russia with two live performances in Moscow and Saint-Petersburg. Along with his project we heard an acoustic set of Grift represented by Erik Gärdefors. Our team members spent some time with the Swedish musicians during sightseeing, soundcheck and just basically hung out together, which later lead to one big talk with Ludvig that summarised it all.
Hello Ludvig! Welcome to Russia! Glad to see you here again. How are you?
— Hello. Yeah, it’s nice to be here. I’m fine, currently in the middle of recording the upcoming album. It’s almost done, just finishing the last songs now. It feels a bit tireful, because I’m also a full-time student now, so there’s a lot to do… but it’s fine.
The new album is coming in the near future?
— It is probably going to be released in September. Even if it’d be finished now, it’ll take some time to finish everything. But during this time two or three singles will be released.
Looks like there’s a lot of work to do
— It’s quite a short album that will only have six songs and will last about 35 minutes, but I didn’t want to have too many tracks on it, because in my opinion, if you’re going to release your music as an album then it should all fit together and there shouldn’t be any separate songs that have nothing in common between each other. I don’t understand the point of releasing an album with no strong ties between its’ songs and the idea. That’s why all of my releases are quite short because I like it when everything is completely united and kind of related. This album is actually finished. It was written on piano and was done about a year ago, in 2018. But there were a lot of tryouts on keys and I wanted to change it somehow, make it more neat and professional that it has been before.
So you were wandering for the right sound?
— This took a while. And as I really liked what I had written on piano at the same time I didn’t want to let this grow, so putting this new sound to an album required some extra time. There were also a lot of personal things going on and that is another cause I took a little more time to overthink and finish everything.
Getting to the next question: what was the actual birth point for Forndom as the musical act?
— I’ve been having a Tumblr page with my photos for a while and I guess I came around some other page with music on it, which lead to thought that it’s a really good combination between visual and audial components. I’m not active on Tumblr anymore. Yet there’s still a page, but I don’t post anything there now. The main idea is that I’ve realized that it’s a very good thing to do: it’s like you’re making a movie, but picture and sound are separate. That page had music that was completely different from my own, but the main thing is that it had created the idea of making music by myself and combine it with photos taken at my local area. And there also was Draugrinn live performance at Arosian Black Mass (I think it was in 2011 or 2012 perhaps) in Swedish Västerås that made a huge impression on me. By that time I didn’t knew her personal, but I was completely taken by this kind of music and it made me realize that I want to something alike. But it was never meant to be a serious thing until some moment.
«Arosian Black Mass» Västerås, Sweden. 23-24 November 2012
Generally, it was basically started as «just for fun»-thing?
— Like some kind of an art project, I would say. Not like something with the intention of being popular in any way. And I guess there are many people that are putting me in some genre of artists inspired by folklore, Vikings and all this thing, but I’ve never liked this kind of frames that are usually just an effort to control chaos, but I’ve never been so much into that.
So Draugrinn live performance was the final turning point?
— I’d say so. It was a part of Wardruna before, I think I’ve started to listen to them around 2008, shortly after the release of their first album and then I saw them performing in Norway. But the real starting point for me was actually Draugrinn. Even if, of course, the sound was inspired by Einar and his music, it was never something this way. It was something different. I see many comments like I’m some kind of «copy of Wardruna» and etc. but there was never any intention to it. Actually, the new album will have much more classical music influences: like I said, it was written on piano, but there’s not a whisper of it in the final recording, which all was done with other instruments. But speaking of classical ones, you’ll hear the violin there. And of course, the harp like I used before and some other special sounds. It’s much more classical this time. And you’ll hear some parts of it tonight (smiles).
Really looking forward to such a surprise! And speaking of photography now: do you have some special shooting technique or use any equipment to take such deep and misty pictures?
— I only have an old Canon 60D. I’ve started to take photos with my phone in the very beginning of this «smartphone era», but the camera there wasn’t so good so I bought this camera and started to use it, switching to more professional equipment. Speaking of technique, the main idea is just that I don’t take any pics when the weather is sunny and there are no tricks with the way of editing them. I just play a bit with contrast and all these basic things just to make them look darker and that’s the main idea why I don’t shoot under sunlight actually — it totally ruins it.
Södermanland County. Instagram: @forndom
So the whole technique is to wait for the right weather and catch the moment I guess?
— Now it is. But in the early days I’ve used a lot of filters and layers. For example, I was using a blanket to combine its texture with the photo so the final picture will almost look like painting. But I don’t use that anymore, it just really takes too much time. Speaking of photos, even if it was the reason I created this project, being honest, I don’t usually go out and take many photos now, because I’m too busy with other things.
Many of your pictures (actually most of them) show us some field and forest landscapes, northern nature, even some ancient runic stones. Is it the area you are currently living in or you’re living in town and getting out of it to take some photos?
— No, I live by countryside, quite close to my parents. You know, for me family has always been important and we really want to always keep in touch. I really like this area and I’ve just been stuck in there, really. Even if I study in Stockholm, I prefer going there for two and a half hours and get back home after. So, it’s five hours per day, yeah, but I’d rather do that than live in a big city where I just don’t feel any kind of inspiration. It’s like when we walked around in Moscow today I felt completely uninspired, but in the same time it’s really hard to play in the countryside, because no one would come. The main idea is that cities (no matter where they are) have never inspired me at all. So I’d rather stay in the countryside.
So you just like to keep more natural lifestyle?
— Totally. I’m really much into open fields and such things, because those are usually more cultural area of a country actually. For example, runic stones are usually found exactly in such places. They don’t always stand deep in the woods or something, but in the fields that were cultivated by farmers in old times. And we can’t say that this land was «untouched» or something, because the actual landscape had changed a lot with all the years of cultivation works and collecting of crops. But in the area where I live there’s a lot of information from this strollers from the XV century, who were passing this areas and describing the landscape by writing about it. They described how the fields are full of mounds everywhere. But in this area today there’s maybe only ten percent of it left. It’s quite a usual problem for archeologists that farmers just ruin everything with their works on this soil. But at the same time a lot of remains of the old times could still be found in Sweden, where we have a lot more of this things saved than in Norway actually. Just because Norway mostly have mountains and we have more fields.
Let’s hope at least all these remains will be kept safe and protected.
— Yeah, I guess they are protected even by law. But, you know, Norway made such a big commercial thing out of this historical evidences. I mean, they have so much of it in Sweden, but it has never been made into some kind of show or whatnot. And I’m sure many people would be interested to see this things, but…
They are just not selling it to people?
— No, not at all. They just take things for granted and don’t really care about it much. But on the other hand, it’s quite nice to visit such places without hordes of tourists wandering here and there. I think old Uppsala had quite a huge amount of tourism, but other great places are usually empty, so you just can be there alone with your thoughts and feelings.
And in the recent interviews it became obvious that you’re not very happy with this «Vikings» series stuff, Marvel movies and all the way the modern world goes in general.
— Yeah. And I don’t know if it is because I’m studying the particular topic of North religion and beliefs, but the thing is when you’ve learned and read so much about it and obtained more clear and objective perception on the entire subject — and then you see this people, who are portraying things like completely wrong with this weird haircuts or even that thing with horned helmets, I find it really ridiculous. So I’m more focused in creating something that would be focused on my view of Scandinavian culture. It’s really hard to explain the idea, but this movie of Nicolas Winding Refn we talked the other day, «Valhalla Rising» — I think the entire atmosphere there without particular details is more close to the Scandinavian culture then it’s shown in all these fancy movies, which all look like they just took a person from the modern age and put him or her in a different time. I’ve never been much interested in some historical happening, but I was always curious about the way people thought and all the spiritual parts of existence in the old times. But I think this is getting completely lost in this popular movies and series.
Do you declare any aim of Forndom as a project to navigate people for what’s right and what’s wrong or you just mostly doing it for yourself?
— I think that people should be allowed to obtain their own opinion about this. If I see that someone’s wrong I won’t try to tell them my truth, just let it be as it is. I guess the only way you can influence some people is to recommend them better books to read and study on the subject. But the thing that bothers me is that some people are always waiting to get everything fast and easy, choosing the shortest way and not wanting to do much work or study much, which is only encouraged by today, when you can find information everywhere and don’t need to check it or think of it at all buying some popular book that was written by someone who has never studied the subject and just followed this «hype» thing.
Forndom@St. Petersburg 2019
And do you have any strong relations between some artists from the scene or maybe label mates or you are more of a lone person?
— Speaking of Forndom it’s just me. I’ve been playing in other bands, but this thing with other people when everybody in the band makes everything — it’s not really working for me. So, of course, I can work with other people, but I want to be the one in charge of everything. Now when I play live we cooperate with Dennis (an old time friend from my high school time actually), who plays in Swedish heavy metal band Night. And I also got another guy in the band playing percussion, who is a part of other band on my label Nordvis. And when it comes to music that I listen to (speaking of other bands on this label) we are really close to each other and have really tight connections between musicians and artists. And we all always meet at this festival, Nordvis Höstfest, which is held by the label and on other occasions. So, we all have good relationships between each other, like one big family or brotherhood, whatever you should call it. I think all of us are similar in a way of how we look upon music and everyone can relate to others’ creations. And I sincerely won’t change the label on any conditions — I’m really stuck with Nordvis. And I even promised to myself in the beginning that I won’t sign at any label if it won’t be this one and shortly after it they literally contacted me. It was really funny.
«Nordvis Höstfest» Oslo, Norway. 21 September 2019
As you mentioned Höstfest, my next question is a kind of related to it: what was the most memorable performance on some festivals or some local gig for you?
— It would be stupid not to mention Russia [smiles]. It was my third performance and I was standing in front of 3000 Russians. It was together with Wardruna and was really amazing to make this kind of performance, even if I was really nervous and shaking I’ve sat on a stage then and it was totally crazy. But except for that I was also playing in Austria at Funkenflug, this small place in Austrian mountains where they have a festival. The sound there could not be the best and such, but you don’t really care, because of such an amazing area to have a concert. I think it’s 200-300 people there every year there and it’s not like anyone can come, really closed community. So it was one of the most special places I’ve played and I have really good memories from that.
And as we are here in Moscow today I can’t miss this one: what are your thoughts on Russian culture in general? Maybe you like or strongly dislike any authors, filmmakers, musicians etc.?
— I really like this dark Russian movies, like «Leviathan» was recently and also Andrey Tarkovsky, who made «Stalker» and many other great works. But I’ve been quite bad in reading Russian literature, even if I maybe should read someone. Besides, I really like Russian classical composers a lot, Rachmaninov for example.
«Leviathan» Andrey Zvyagintsev 2014
«Stalker» Andrey Tarkovsky 1979
So you’ve met more with a classical side of Russian music?
— Yeah, I really like this dark atmosphere of it, where you can feel all this melancholy comparable to some folk music as well. So, regarding Russia it’s mostly about the music for me of course. But not the modern side of it I guess, more of an older and historical stuff.
And as always, you’ve told us a little about releasing Forndom’s next album quite soon and maybe you have something else coming in the visible future, some plans?
— I think I’ll make a few more videos for this upcoming album, like more of a music video with the footage of some landscapes and nature, just like my pictures, but in a bit of a different format. So that’s the only plan for the nearest future in general. Even being serious about this project now, I don’t want to have some kind of big strict plans or whatever. I’m just happy with how things are going. Of course, I have some ideas about the music. So the upcoming album will be called «Faþir», which means «Father» and covers different subjects, historically seen like Odin or Jupiter, generally being about more cultural stuff and relations. And following this concept there have to be «Mother» I guess, that will be more connected to nature and roots. So that’s the concept I have in mind, but we will see what the future will show us.
April 5th, 2019. Moscow
Interviewer: Valentin Chernov
Copywriter: Hateful Visions