Some bands fly under the radar then when you first hear them, you wonder how the hell have you not found out about them sooner? Grand Alchemist is one of those bands. Known amongst the underground black metal scene but yet not many have truly taken the time to appreciate their music. The Norwegian symphonic black metal group has been putting out music since 1998 (technically 1995) so it was great to take a moment to talk with Sigurd and hear what makes his brain tick.
TMF: Hello, please introduce yourself
GA: Hello! This is Sigurd of Grand Alchemist. I have been in the band since the very beginning and am the main psycho behind the music and lyrics.
TMF: How did Grand Alchemist form?
GA: I started the band in 1995 together with Stolean, under the name of Morrheim. We recorded two demos, “The Midwinter Frost” and “Forever Night Infinity”, but didn’t distribute these any further. Morrheim was more traditional Black Metal and when the musical expression changed in 1998 we felt that it was time to also change the name into Grand Alchemist.
TMF: How did your band members meet?
GA: I have known Stoelan whole my life. We grow up together and did later developed the same taste of music. We met the other guys through the local music seen in our home town, Holmestrand. This is a really small town, with about ten thousand citizen.
TMF: How did you start getting into metal music?
GA: My parents were old hippies and I grew up with bands like Rolling Stones, Jethro Tull, Genesis and Led Zeppelin. In my early teens I started to listen to Guns N’ Roses, Metallica and most important: Pantera. Pantera brought my attention towards the extreme ways of creating music. This was about 1993-94 when the Norwegian bands Emperor, Darkthrone, Immortal and Satyricon started to release their masterpieces. I still think that Emperors “In the Nightside Eclipse” is the best black metal album ever recorded.
TMF: What inspired you to do black metal?
GA: The situation back then were different from now, first of all. Black metal was quite controversial in its expression and had an unconventional approach compared to other genres. This extreme image of the music excited me a lot.
TMF: What inspired you to go into the symphonic style?
GA: I have always liked classical music and electronic music, but it was first when I heard Emperor I wanted to compare these styles.
TMF: What inspires your lyrics?
GA: I try to steer the lyrics throughout a dark and expedient state of mind. Feelings like extreme happiness, sadness, frustration and displeasure are pathologies and viewed as a symptom of disease, rather than a healthy and dynamic behavior. In today’s institutionalized society, such contradictions or emotive acting-outs are seen as social divergence. I believe that this kind of dark mental study is necessary because it enlightens your mind about the fucking world you are living in and make the relation between your body and mind more complete.
TMF: What inspired Disgusting Hedonism?
GA: Well, our main goal were to pick up the themes from “Intervening Coma-Celebration”, but do a more holistic and professional album. We wanted the contrasts to be sharper and create a more powerful and aggressive guitar-wall, but still let album be atmospheric and symphonic. I think we have achieved that.
TMF: What is your favorite song you have written?
GA: It is difficult to pick just one song, but since you ask I would said Requiem (An Ode to Agony) on Disgusting Hedonism.
TMF: What are some of your favorite bands?
GA: I listen to many different kinds of bands. To mention some of my favourite bands these days I must say High on fire, Neurosis, Emperor, Tool, Alice in Chains, Genesis and Black Sabbath I do also listen to classical music, primary Beethoven, to mention one legend, and electronic music like Shpongle, Aphex Twin and Boards of Canada.
TMF: What genre of metal do you dislike most?
GA: I like to keep my focus on music I like.
TMF: What bands would you like to tour with?
GA: That is a hard one, hehe. It is about being realistic or not. A dream is of course to do a tour with for example bands like Emperor or Tool.
TMF: What is a usual show like for Grand Alchemist?
GA: We like to do our shows intense with no talking between the songs. We do often play to or three songs right after each other, with no breaks at all. During the breaks, we are often using ambient sounds to keep the wall of sound constant. It has been some years since we did a concert and we will do some shows in the future, for sure. Right now, the band is spread all around Norway and the members are involved in other projects, so we are not able to rehearse that regularly that we used to. In order to perform satisfying concerts we need to practice as a whole band.
TMF: Have you worked with any other bands?
GA: Stoelan and I are working on a project named Diogenes these days and are planning to do a album later this year, I hope. John is playing drums in DHG and they are planning to release their new album soon, I think. Besides that, I have just done some local stuff with friends, just for fun.
TMF: How do you get inspiration for writing new songs?
GA: My inspirations are vast. Sometimes a theme just pop up in my head when I am doing anything else than playing. Most of often I sit down with the guitar or piano, take a beer, and just jamming. When something sounds cool and record it at work on it later on. I feel that I have the source of a new song when I see a red line throughout some themes. It is somewhat hard to explain because this process is very intense and transcendental. After a while, it is as if the songs are starting to live their own life.
TMF: Is there another album in the works?
GA: I have material enough for a new release, but this is still on the drawing table. The focus right now is to get the Diogenes album completed. There are no plans for a new release very soon, but I do not want to wait ten years like we did with Disgusting Hedonism
TMF: If so, what will it be about? Any title ideas or themes?
GA: It is kind of vague yet so I don’t want to go into that many details, but it will definitely sound like Grand Alchemist, hehe.
TMF: Any plans of touring North America?
GA: We have a very poor budget, so we have no plans in the near future. However, this is of course something we definitely would like to do!
TMF: How did you sign with Lydfella?
GA: The people at Lydfella are old friends of mine, and we needed to get the album out. When they suggested that they could do it, I could not agree more. The fact that we are friends makes the cooperation a true pleasure.
TMF: Any last words for the public?
GA: Thanks for the support! I am always flattered to see that people like our music and want to know what goes around in my head. Cheers and horns up! Sigurd