An interview with Niklas Kvarforth of Shining
Originally published in Imperiumi.net, April 2007.
During the years Shining has evolved musically to a direction I find more and more interesting. One could perhaps say that Shining today is more original and more accessible than your first recorded efforts. Has this evolution been a conscious one, are you consciously thriving to make Shining (self-destruction in audial form) more popular, so that it would hurt as many people as possible?
- I've always strived for evolution, as there is no reason in stagnating and I would never repeat myself by recording yet another "Livets Ändhållplats" or do something like that just to remain on the "safe" side, however, I also feel that there's quite a natural progression between all our albums. If you compare our second album to our third for example, or our third to our fourth that matter the "jump" doesn't feel that much exhagerated really. I have always had bigger plans for this band than just remaining in a state where we cannot reach more than a couple of thousand buyers you know, ok, so if the new album has reached, let's say 10.000 copies by now, and might even end up at 30.000 copies I still want more. It's not a quest for fame or anything like that, and most who have followed our career should know that, it's a mere question of reaching a larger amount of people who are willing to swallow my words and that way, give birth to as many future psychopaths and madmen as possible.
I understand that you take it as a great honour if a person commits suicide under the influence of your music. But isn’t such a person (“Shining made me do it“) just plain weak, and might as well have committed suicide because his mother didn’t hug him enough?
- Of course I take honour in having people taking things that far as really ending their very own lives because of my work, any artist thinks the same, even though they might reverse their pride in media because of the controversy in drags along. It's the ultimate ego-trip I guess for any artist to have anyone outside of his/her own life taking his/her work so seriously that they actually act out of it. Nevertheless, concerning the topic suicide and whether it's an act out of weakness or strength, well, that varies. Once a person is being displayed a raw darkness they've probably never felt going through their system before, an easy way out could be found reliefing at the very moment, and yes that is definitely a act of weakness. Yet, if someone chooses to end his/her life because they, for instance, feel they have nothing more to give and that all their earthly errands have all been accomplished, then I would say it's an act out of strength. But I see where you going, and I agree, someone who kills himself because of my work is probably doing it out of weakness, yet, that's what Shining is here for, giving you the answer to your question, helping you taking that very last step of yours.
People who commit suicide always have their own reasons for doing it, but the bottom line is that they want to escape this world. Nevertheless, there are DIFFERENT reasons. Dissection’s Jon Nödtveidt thought that he’d accomplished all that he wanted to accomplish in this world. Then there are the usual “my girlfriend left me and I don’t want to live anymore“ kind of reasons. Do you think there are on the one hand “more honourable“ and on the other hand “more cowardly“ reasons for suicide? In other words, does it matter why one kills himself?
- As said above, the act of for example Jon Nødtveidt, I would consider an act out of strength and I find it truly refreshing that someone takes his mission and meaning that seriously, which I know he did, and also know most of the others who claim to be sincere with their intentions don't. In the end, it does not matter why and who dies really, it is all nothing but flesh in the end. However, my deep respect to Jon Nødveidt whom I had some contact with but unfortunately didn't have the time nor chance of getting to know better, and thank you for the magnificent "Reinkaos" album you, along with Davide and the others managed to produce as your last statement, might come as a surprise to many, but I actually consider that album the absolute highlight of last year, all categories.
Suicide is of course a rather common theme in metal music, and not just in the more extreme forms of metal, such as black and death metal. Bands like the Finnish Sentenced made a whole lot of songs about suicide, but they did so tongue-in-cheek, in a cathartic sort of fashion according to their own statements. Also, Ozzy Osbourne has explained that he hopes that his track “Suicide Solution“ gives strength to all people who think about committing suicide or have had people close to them committing suicide. I mean, there are probably people in the world who get this kind of strength from Shining’s music, and without your music they’d probably have committed suicide already. What do you think about this?
- I am fully aware of that for example, a person who have gone through alot of tough shit throughout their lives, thus having a bit of life-experience to carry on their shoulders, probably can find some sort of relief in the work I publish, however, I have never aimed towards this particular group of people. Shining have always had it's primary target set on the fan who does not apprecitate himself/herself, the fan who rely on ignorance and the fan who want something to rebel with against their parents. Why? Because this group are swallowing each word I, the emissary, am spewing out of my mouth, trying to act like me, feeding on my self-destructive and suicidal ideals which in the end WILL fuck them up. Because if you reach out for the darkness long enough, it will eventually swallow you, and so it does, or the person who have been infuenced by my work react in a more primitive way by hurting themselves and others, thus, creating a chain of reactions which probably drags a few more candidates along, prooving my point. I was nearly giving up my work a couple of years ago as I saw no reaction of such a nature, but I have been blind all the time as there are actually alot of people who I have inspired along the way, and it just keeps growing and growing.
The coin/term “suicidal black metal“ is pretty damn clever, because, as opposed to “dark metal“ these days, suicidal BM seems to sell more. Also, admit it or not (and intentional or not), the news about your alleged suicide and the controversial Halmstad gig were nothing short of an ingenious marketing strategy. You must be happy that suicide and sickness sell? What’s your attitude towards material good, money and so on?
- The only thing that saddens me really about this sub-genre I coincidentelly created back in 1996 is that most of the people who claim to perform this brand have completely misunderstood what my intentions were. Shining has never been about self-pity or fucking madeup anxiety, Shining has always been about extracting and glorifying the very core of negativity and force-feeding it to the listener.
- My "dissapearance" was not meant as a promotional strategy though, as it was a matter of me leaving everything and everyone behind instead of dying there on the spot, things were really bad then, and I didn't have any contact with anyone from my past whatsoever which obviously resulted in wild speculations. The actual "death" was never stated, but simply made up by media and each single black metal kidde with an access to a computer and some forum urls you know. The Halmstad gig wasn't really that extreme as media says it was, I mean, we've had gigs that have been three times worse, yet I guess when we hit the headlines all over sweden everyone knew that promotion as such can't be bought with money so, it was quite good that happened. As you say, suicide and sickness sells, ain't life grand? Currently, I have no place to live and I have barely any money to buy food and so on, and I got rid of all my earthly possessions before I left sweden, so I guess that answers your last question?
Many bands using the coin “suicidal black metal“ have drifted pretty far from BLACK metal, both musically and ideologically. What is the BLACK ingredient in Shining, what does Satan represent to you? Are self-mutilation and suicide somehow connected to your idea of religion, for example? What is your opinion about ritualistic self-mutilation, and is the idea of bleeding for Him in any way related to yourself?
- To begin with, the black metal scene doesn't interest me at all, and I can easily say I lost most of my interest many years ago when I realized there wasn't much action taking place with the exception for a few induviduals who took things "too far", you know. Don't get me wrong, it is when things are taken too far it starts getting interesting yet, I couldn't stand working in an enviroment where basically everyone just pretend. I stopped referring Shining to being a black metal band many years ago as well, because of what I said prior, and yes, in my point of view black metal should be performed by fanatic, homicidal devil-worshippers who live and breath through the Lord, doing his biddings on earth, and yet again, there are perhaps 5-10 acts out there doing that. I, on the other hand have no interest in discussing my religious self in magazines, interviews or anything connected to Shining overall really as I don't find it being a part of either what I do with this band or suitable as I am the only one in the band who actually have any "higher" beliefs concerning the matter.
There are ‘beautiful’ melodies, harmonies and themes on the new album (for example, the calm acoustic guitar and piano passages and many beautiful lead melodies). Do you see them as being beautiful? What do you see as beauty in this world, in general?
- I have always incorporated these elements in my music, but yes, they certainly do come through even more with this album, something which wasn't intentional, any music I write for Shining is never intentional, but this time around it came out that way. What you clearly can recognize when listening to the album though is that very particular, eerie Shining vibe going on, you know, you hear that this is Shining when the first chord opens the album. Back to your question, of course one could consider certain parts as beautiful, macabre, evil whatever, it's all in the eye of the beholder, or ears. It's just a matter of how fucked up you are I guess. What I consider as being beautiful varies from day to day, I can see beauty in drinking the urine of a woman from her nylonclothed feet one day, whilst the other I can see beauty in a decapitation. Everything varies from day to day.
What about having other people in the band in general? Shining is pretty much embodied in Kvarforth, Shining is your vision. How do you feel about involving other people in concretizing this vision, are they just a necessary evil or indeed help you to make Shining better and more damaging to the outsiders, in other words, listeners of Shining?
- Shining has, as you said, always been a portrait of Kvarforth, or at least of the most damanged parts of his psyche, others are still merely considered as being tools I use in order to perfectionize my vision. Without them, Shining would however never be able to play live for example, but then again, they are all replacable and I guess that's why I've had so many members throughout the years. What usually happens is that I have someone getting involved with the band, sharing my vision, or at least pretending too, and after some time has passed and these tools have been playing with the darkness for a while, they all of a sudden realize that it's not a game and either run for their lives or gets swallowed by the the great abyss they have dared staring right into. Now, I have a rather satisfying line-up behind my back so I am actually thinking of trying to let them contribute on the next album, just see where that would lead us, we'll just have to wait and see.
In some interview I read that two of your current (at that time, at least) musical favourites were Coldplay and Kent. Kent I can understand, because they’re pretty melancholic and all, but what about Coldplay and their green humane, pro-life values? Or do you think that a person can listen to and like a band, but doesn’t necessarily have to support the message they’re conveying with the music? For instance, do you think that by buying a Coldplay album, you’re supporting their humane values?
- I can "enjoy" whatever music I find appealing, no matter what the message behind might be, as in the case of Coldplay with their disgusting green, humane mission. For example, one of my favourite records of all time, at least the A-side that is as the B-side tend to get a bit too much, is the christmas album by swedish singer Carola, a twisted, fanatic christian life-lover really, but for me this very recording brings out the absolute and definite darkness within. There is darkness to be found everywhere, you just have to dig deep enough and you can actually find that Carola can provoke the same atmosphere as let's say Burzum. As in the end it's all about atmosphere, right?
Black metal of today is pretty much characterised by limited ‘kvlt’ releases, as if DEATH would come in limited edition!! Not that I think you’re in the least interested in the state of BM today, but what do you think about the idea of having limited releases?
- Man, that was the best expression I've heard in years! As if DEATH would come in a limited edition! I will steal that and use it for my own perverse purpose. Limiting your releases is quite stupid actually, at least according to me, but when it comes to for example a vinyl edition of a record you have already pressed in 20.000 copies on CD, then why not? I can assure you that 95% of the people who are buying the vinyl editions aren't listening to them but rather collecting them and showing them to their likewise stupid friends at parties, and what's the point of having something you don't use? Okay, I used to collect various things in the past but the problem with this is that it becomes an obsession after a while and you will wind up having your entire life based around some materialistic bullshit, something I made sure never again to repeat when I got rid off all my earthly goods. Back to the question, I see no reason in not limited certain releases to please these vultures and selling a few more couple of thousand units, as in the end, the money comes this way, not that way which means I can invest into something useful.
You hate life in all its perverse forms, but you also support and encourage the perversity in people. You must, then, love your hate, because that’s one of the key things that fuels you and Shining, right?
- Yes, it all becomes a paradox, as being oppossed life, meaning nature, people and even yourself. But it is also, as you say, the paradox it self that fuels the machinery as the paradox is a rather painful one, hating oneself, oppossing oneself, and yet trying to find strength enough to reverse these primitive emotions.
Do you think it would be ironic if you died from receiving a fractured skull after slipping in the shower?
- I'll answer this question in a few minutes, I have to go and have a shower.
Any last words / message to Shining fans in Finland, feel free to state it here.
- Black metal kiddies, remember... Death does not come in a limited edition.
Thank you very much for the interview!
- Thank you, actually, this is the best interview I've had the pleasure of answering along the entire promotional campaign.