you, dear reader, might have enjoyed black metal for the corpse paint, lavish
leather outfits and Satan worship, if you were weird like me you listened to it
for the educational value. Andreas Hedlund, also known as Vintersorg after the
band he founded in 1996, sings about his passion for science, astronomy,
philosophy and nature. Long before I peeled off my metal spikes and put away
the impaled bovine heads, I spent hours absorbing his thought-provoking brand
year-old plays multiple instruments and leads about half a dozen other projects
including Borknagar, Fission, Havayoth, Cronian and Otyg. Despite having cult
status among fans, he rarely performs live and instead focuses on his job as a
primary school teacher.
incorporates folk and progressive elements, and has been labeled everything
from space metal to avant garde. But one thing is for certain, if you have
never heard someone scream about Christopher Columbus over blast beat drumming,
you're in for a treat.
recently called me from Sweden and while my 13 year-old self wept tears of joy,
we chatted about being a black metal school teacher, his favourite scientific
theories and man’s relationship with nature.
When did you become interested in space,
science and the earth?
my interest in these subjects came along with the fact that I was born, in a
way. Of course I didn’t really investigate it from the very beginning. When you
are a newborn, you don’t have the ability to understand who you are and what
you are in this kind of world. But as soon as my mind woke up, I was very
interested in all of the subjects that refer to man and nature. I live quite
remotely from big cities. I live very far north in Sweden quite near the Polar
Circle actually, so I’ve always had these elements around me, the elements of
nature. For me I didn’t actually think of it as an interest because it was just
my ordinary life. Then of course when I grew up I understood that you could
choose a life from another perspective - if you are living in a big city or if
you’re living out in the desert or whatever. My mind was just open from the
beginning from where I was standing. As a child, you just relate to what you
see around you.
Why did you start to write about this
stuff in your lyrics?
know really. For me it was very natural to write about this stuff because that
was the world I was growing up in. Of course when you spend so many years with
these kind of surroundings you start to get more interested in them. I was
learning more about nature so when you are learning more about nature, you are
learning more about science. From the beginning of course I was looking at
nature from a visual point of view, but after a while you start learning about
the other stuff behind the obvious visual kind of things. I always felt a very
strong connection with science, nature and folklore. I don’t see that they are
opposites. Folklore is of course a kind of pagan belief, but they saw nature
from a different perspective they didn’t know about science. I don’t blame
them. I think folklore still has a place in life. Of course from our historical
perspective, but also from looking at nature with a romantic perspective.
Do you have a favourite scientific
theory that you think one day might be proven to be true?
Some years ago I kind of soaked my mind with that
stuff for 24 hours a day. I follow the progress in science but not as
frequently as I did five, six, seven years ago. I believe Stephen Hawking’s
theory called T.O.E (Theory Of Everything). I think somehow you can find out
the theory that connects all of the other theories together, but that one is of
course very obscure and hard to translate into our way of thinking. I think
there is one great theory that will connect all the other theories. I see
wholeness in everything actually.
You are a primary school teacher. What grade and what subject do you
I teach children everything from when they are six
years old. I teach several subjects right now.
I teach scientific stuff, I also have done some social stuff. I work all
my days with children and I think that’s the best way you can have a
relationship with humanity because children are so new into this world. They
have all this curiosity, they are so open minded. Many adults are also open
minded, but when you are a child you don’t have this baggage of cultural stuff,
this baggage of religious stuff, you don’t even know what they are. I really
like to work with kids because they are so curious about stuff. They want to
learn. In seventh grade your mind is filled with other things, your
testosterone increases [laughs].
Do any of the students, parents or teachers know that you are a
progressive black metal singer?
Yup. I’m 39 years old, so I have parents that are
at my age. I live in a small town so they know me perfectly. They know me as a
musician and also some of them are my friends and that’s no problem. I’m a very
open minded person. I’m very open with who I am and what I do. So everybody
knows what I do and everybody’s cool with that. Everybody actually thinks it’s
really cool to have a teacher that’s kind of a… well they think of me as a rock
star, but I don’t think of me as a rock star. You know the drill.
Are you ever tempted to yell at the
students in your black metal voice?
I don’t really do that. Of course kids push your buttons, your invisible
buttons at times. But there’s a thing that I do when I go into the school
building, I remind myself that the first rule of working with kids is don’t let
them push your buttons and when they try to do to it I remind myself that he or
she is just trying to do that. But I’m not getting offended by it, so I stay
very cool and it’s whatever. I don’t really yell at the children at school with
my black metal voice but if you ask my kids at home, they may have another
theory about that.
What made you choose a steady
occupation over touring full time?
of kids again actually. I became a father 9 years ago and before that I was
kind of having that debate with myself. Like am I going to become a
professional musician all year long? So then I had a son and then it was not a
debate for me anymore. It was very clear. It was about the time I was pursuing
my teacher degree so it was very natural for me to stay at home, have my
daytime job and be with my kids. Then two years later I had a daughter, so for
me it’s been a very easy choice to stay at home and be with my children. But I
like to do some gigs now and then. So now we are doing some festivals and
stuff. With Borknagar, everybody in the band except the drummer has kids so everybody
is kind of in the same position.
One of my favourite songs of yours is “The
Explorer.” Can you tell us about the concept behind this song?
all, that album [Visions from the Spiral Generator] was kind of a leap in
another direction. I wanted to make it very clear that this how I feel about
life and everything. The song “The Explorer” for me is kind of a statement -
that is a little bit who I am. I refer to other explorers in the lyrics a
little bit, but for me I see myself as an explorer as well. I don’t know
everything, I’ve never been the kind of guy that thinks “Oh, I’m the best in
the world, I know everything, I have the authority to that or do this.” For me,
I’m totally the opposite. I’m a little bit of a curious guy. I’m a little bit
of a shy guy. I think “how is this going to work? What is this all about?” Some
would see this as a kind of insecurity, but I know who I am. I always try to be
a better person. I want to see how I can benefit things in the world and also
that will mean I will be a better person. But also I’m totally a nature freak.
I’m not a Greenpeace freak, personally I think they are using the wrong means
to do their thing. I don’t quite know how to put it so let me use an example: you
see a bulldozer going to put down a rainforest. They drill a hole in the
bulldozer’s gas tank, so alright the bulldozer isn’t going to devastate the
rainforest, but the fire will.
Your two most recent
albums Jordpuls and Orkan are part of a series of four albums, one dedicated to
each element of the planet.
Why did you decide to move from space back down to
For me, I couldn’t really let this kind of stuff go away.
The four elements have been my guiding star since I was kid, you know. Of
course the four elements in the classical theatrical way isn’t really how we
see the world now days cause that’s from the old Greek stuff, but I still like
the four elements as kind of a symbolic theme as to how life is built up, how
we can feel it, how we can see it, hear it, everything.
You’re not the cliché
black metal musician. You don’t wear corpse paint or just sing about negative
themes. You’re an open-minded family man. Does that seem strange to you?
Well I haven’t really thought about it that much. Someone
would probably think that I’m not the right one for the job at some times, but
on the other hand I like black metal for all of its aspects. I like death
metal. I like progressive rock from the 60s and 70s. I like heavy metal from
the 80s. I like so many different kinds of music, so I have never tried to
adapt myself. I try to express something and I try to express it out of
passion. I really feel like I have a kind of addiction to music.
Your folk band OTYG
has recently reformed. Can you tell us about the line-up and if you plan to do
No shows planned at the moment, but we are doing a new album
with totally brand new songs. It’s going to be something really special
actually. All the members that have been in the band are going to be on the
album. So the drummer from the first album is going to do like half of the
album and the drummer from the second album is going to do the other half. It’s
going to be a big happy family thing.
You are constantly
creating new music. How do you stay inspired?
I would say you are asking the wrong guy, cause I don’t
really know! I’ve been addicted to music since I was like four to six years
old. I’ve done a lot of stuff in my life. I’ve been a caretaker. I’ve been a
car mechanic. I’ve done so much different stuff work wise and now I’m a teacher,
but music has been my best and most comforting friend since I was very young. I
can’t really imagine my life without music. Some people really don’t care about
music at all, but for me it’s like a drug. It’s a very friendly drug because it
makes you really think and it makes you feel. I can’t explain it more than
Scandinavia always seem to have a strong connection to nature. Why do you think
I don’t know really. For me, I’m so bred into it that I
don’t really know how to answer. I think everybody is interested in nature, it
just depends on where you are living. Here in Scandinavia there are not that
much people per square mile so everybody has a relationship with nature in one
form or another. But also in terms of the definition, what is nature? A city,
isn’t that nature? Well from my point of view its not really, from my point of
view nature is a thing that man hasn’t made, but it’s a tricky kind of
question. Nature has so many elements that appeal to man. For example, you have
a black forest. It appeals to a lot of emotions, so it could appeal to like
fear or it could appeal to excitement. It’s totally different depending how you
see it. Nature has so many things that man is dependant on and also has so many
feelings wound up in it. I think it’s very natural to use that kind of force as
an inspiration source.
I heard you’ve
actually gone and lived in the wild before?
Yeah, between 96 and 99 I lived in a cabin in the woods. But
of course I had some connection with the outside, I cut back into my small town
from time to time to get some stuff but for three years I lived in an old cabin
and it was actually one of the best things I could do with my life at the time.
Yeah, and it just fulfilled my vision of how life could be.
When you wake up in that old cabin, it’s 2 minus degrees indoors and you know
you have to get up and make a f**king fire. [laughs] You know in the winter I
had to go to the lake, and make a really big hole in the ice with an axe to get
water. You know that you’re alive when you do that kind of stuff.